Scattered reflections on a first week

First week of lessons at Payton complete. Here are some thoughts.

  • Everyone is so friendly – students and teachers alike. Thank you for such a warm welcome.
  • The walls at this school talk to me. This is scary. “Mr Judge, could you send down Tamara for early dismissal.” Does the intercom disrupt the flow, as suggested in the Teaching Gap?
  • “Do all British men wear a skirt on Thursday?”
  • If I don’t sign in when I arrive at school, I don’t get paid. But, there is no dress-code, so I get to wear sandals. Swings and roundabouts.
  • Last year I taught 50 students. This year I am teaching 150. Eek!
  • I teach the same thing three times in a day. I am teaching exactly the same thing as other teachers, and broadly the same thing that has been taught for the past few years. All of this is new for me. What is more important – autonomy or consistency? Efficiency or personalization? Where is the space for improvisation?
  • I have already had to tell students to stop working so hard. Never had to do this before.
  • The average age of teachers is maybe 20 years older here than at School 21. The dynamic shifts. “You don’t have any children so you can stay longer”.
  • I randomly generated a seating plan, and for one class all the black students ended up on one table. True randomness in action, and ironic given the fact that the teachers just spent a week thinking hard about how to ensure equity in the classroom.
  • I have an awful American accent. American is truly a different language. Americans don’t understand how I write the unknown variable x, they don’t know what the loo is, they think that everyone has had tea with the Queen. Being an outsider means digressions in class are fun and frequent.
  • Competitive Math is a new and strange beast. Cheating is a big issue at the school – students desperate to up their grades to ensure easy flow to Ivy League.

How to strike the right balance between slotting into a well-oiled machine and disrupting it in a friendly and effective way?

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