Clinical Teaching Day 1; Rumination on Roles

My first day as a clinical teacher went very well. Except: I’m exhausted!

Right now the coordinating teacher and I are together in the same classroom throughout the day. She’s running the reins, and I’m just observing, sitting at the side. Eventually I’ll be able to lead some activities. I’ve done that before when I’ve substituted for the same groups of students across a continuous week or so, but this would be more serious, especially as it’s long-term.

The day began quite early; my alarms blasted off at about 4:30am. I showered & got ready, and Wifely Kate cooked breakfast:

iPhone pic by me, public domain for you. Food by Kate!

How awesome is that? The coffee was ready and everything. I was able to write fiction for about an hour and fifteen minutes — quickly revising (line-editing) an older, completed story so I can re-submit it; didn’t quite finish, since I’m having to fact-check some details — and then I headed to campus, the lunch Kate packed me in tow. At noon-ish I discovered she’d left a note in my lunchbox. The note talked about how proud she is of me. I got teary-eyed!

The coordinating teacher uses a Promothean ActivBoard (I’m not sure if the link points to the exact same model) in some very effective ways. For one portion of the classes, she shows multiple-choice math questions on the ‘Board, then the students record their answers using controllers — all students have one on their desks. The coordinating teacher shows the results on the ‘Board — as a bar graph; looks like something off Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? — and uses them not just to motivate the class (the students love the video game-y vibe), but also to hone in on the students’ misunderstandings of the material in order to explain it again. Good real-time assessment.

Weirdly, one of the few TV shows I really like

The ‘Board can even export the collected data, so at a later time, we can analyze the answer statistics more precisely to spot recurring troubles. Totally something out of a Tim O’Reilly project.

Since I was mostly only observing — catching up to speed on this campus’s schedule, rules, etc. — I focused on watching one student at a time. (I’ve blogged before about developing observation skills. As for characterization, can a writer quickly notice in real-life what makes another person absolutely unique?) I noticed a boy whom I think might need glasses. Squinting, tilting his head to see better, putting his face inches from his paper. There’s a school program to address vision issues, but I’m not sure how prompt it is. Watching how in need and at risk students are can be upsetting. I’ve seen it before, substituting.

This particular student is enthusiastic, often raising and waving his hand even before the teacher asks another question. His enthusiasm hasn’t been disruptive. He seems to be a bit in his own world — smiling to himself, thinking his own thoughts. Good kid.

After leaving the campus, I went to Stay Wired! Coffeehouse and Computer Service for two hours, where I’m helping out as a computer tech. After my two hours were up, I informally sat in on a meeting for Democrat Cathy Hirt‘s campaign for the Fort Worth mayor position. There, upon being asked, I talked a little about my experiences and observations working for the local public school system.

I have to confess I’m bewildered about the relationships between my roles as a writer, teacher, newbie activist, blogger, and tweep (Twitter person). For example, working as an activist differs from volunteering for a political campaign (as I did for Bill White), from working for one in an official capacity, from blogging reportage or opinion about it, from incorporating observations of a campaign into a fiction project, etc. It’s a bit unnerving when you’re sitting there with a few people talking local politics and you’re trying to figure out which hat you’re wearing, so to speak. I have no real idea how to resolve these mini-conflicts, and there’s no one right answer.

The convention for blogs to be frequently updated conflicts with my personal preference for long-form or at least mucho-revised writing; and, when I’ve tried to blog long-form writing in the past, it’s often come off as too complex (Latinate, twisted syntax…) and hasn’t been revised well enough — a bad compromise between careful long-form writing and a quick blog post. Really, if you’re blogging long-form pieces, you’re essentially writing e-books. Since I consider myself a non-commercial writer (i.e. my goal isn’t profit; that possibility is a fringe benefit; I don’t mean that I consider myself highbrow — I try not to think in those terms), I’m not against the idea of eventually releasing more of my creative writing (fiction and otherwise) under Creative Commons licenses, but I sense that right now, I still need the bigger bullhorns and reputation-build of established venues (i.e. magazines, publishing houses).

Vika covers Metallica’s Orion

The increasing online success of vkgoeswild (Vika Yermolyeva) has been a bit of an eye-opener for me. I thought she was cool before she joined forces with Dresden Dolls drummer Brian Viglione (Hipster cultural capital snobby-stupid FTW! =p). Vika supports herself by receiving online tips and selling customized transcriptions online. Other artists and bloggers have figured out similar business models (search through Boing Boing for many examples and discussions). But for creative writing, I just don’t excel at the very short, very quickly written form, which seems to be necessary to any feasible online business model I can actually think up for right now.

Besides, I love teaching!

4 comments ↓

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#2 Kathryn on 02.01.11 at 3:29 am

Andy, becoming a teacher? I can see that really fitting you — at least, if you convey and share your enthusiasm for …. things (you’re enthusiastic about whatever you do, so whatever it is you may be doing, I mean) with kids, you’ll do such a great job. I bet a bunch of Texan kids can do that! Be sure to let them know classical music is cool, too, you know. Because not many kids in Texas think classical music is cool… errrm, you know what I mean.
Anyway, please please don’t be upset with me for making this comment — I feel a bit mean making it. That’s so lovely that your wife made breakfast for you (I enjoy doing this so much for my boyfriend when he goes off to work) —– but is that BOTTLED water on your table?! I know the tap water in Texas is hardly the best, and I also even question whether or not it’s safe or healthy to drink long term. In Georgetown, it smells like chlorine and makes my stomach turn. But these one-use plastic bottles are really awful. Even if you recycle them, they still take up resources to make, to strip up, and the plastic from them isn’t *really* reusable. And the bottle caps, too, are a big problem that just ends up in the seas.
I’ve been trying to find ways to reduce my use of plastic, and it’s surprising how easy it can be sometimes — bar soap instead of shower gel, steel water bottle instead of one-time plastic bottles, canvas or backpacks instead of plastic grocery store bags (I get tired of the confused looks and questions when I INSIST I don’t want a plastic bag)…. vinegar and some baking soda instead of shampoo… (it works very well!)
So here are some of the websites that really opened my eyes about the importance of this:
http://noseconenews.blogspot.com/2008/03/sea-of-plastic-twice-size-of-us.html
http://www.storyofstuff.com/
And if you ever wonder how to do without the plastic packaging that comes along with a product, this is a great resource to find out about different ways:
http://myplasticfreelife.com/
I don’t mean to be such a grouch about a part of something that was very endearing, but it really caught my eye and it’s something I’m very concerned about.
Finally, I know that in Texas, with so much land, it’s hard to see much reason for being more conservative about things like this, but after living in denser areas, you have to ask yourself — where does all the garbage go?

#3 Douglas Lucas on 02.01.11 at 8:07 am

Kathryn, thanks for the info. We’re definitely working on getting water filters — ones targeted to our individual plumbing, even! — as well as some water-carrying gear (canteens?) so we can ditch the one-use plastic bottles. Would save money, too.

#4 Kathryn on 02.02.11 at 3:16 am

I should confess that when I go home to Georgetown, I also find myself wanting to drink water that comes in bottles like that. I really don’t know what to do when I’m there for drinking water — the tap water is too awful. So good luck finding a good, long-term solution! I know it’s a pretty standard brand, but I think their quality is outstanding and the bottles seem to last a lifetime: http://www.sigg.com/.

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