It’s been a few months of teaching. The feeling of fear of kids looking at me is, expecting me to talk is pretty much gone. I have my lessons ready and they are on near autopilot. The bigger anxiety now is will my information be age-appropriate, will they like it, will they be engaged.
You see, each age range, each set of students comes with their vocabulary and their own abilities. Some kids know what I plan to say and I worry about making them bored or them taking over the class and bring the other children down.
Another worry is will I give the right attention to the right kids. Some kids who have problems need more time and attention or they begin acting out and affecting others. The biggest problem is not in giving that student attention, but giving that attention to two or three students who need that attention.
Sometimes you give so much time to one student that you make something truly amazing like this girl in class who created a pretty kick-ass autonomous trash can, but you risk forgetting about another student and their equally amazing work just doesn’t get to the place where it could. It happened in class where I had to hear the mother of a student tell her daughter: “It didn’t work or you would have brought it.” I later went to the room and found an awesome little boat that she never took home. I sad to hear something like that from the mother of a talented child.
It’s interesting to also see how perception changes of students once you get to know them. I start to see that it is impossible for me to know them if I simply preach at them. When I give them a chance to create I get to see them as they are and then I can truly impact them as then I can help them realize their talents and just noticing their talents can help them in huge ways. Of course, that is very difficult when the class is 14 or 15 kids, which might sound like a small class but it is a lot. Think about it, how many kids could you watch at once and teach engineering and science?
What is interesting now after a few months is observing this strange primal animal that is inside of children. They will lie, a lot. Even when it is clear that they are lying, they will lie. They will try to steal, they will try to get away with things so you have to watch them and they will yell and some will resort to fighting and being cruel to each other with very little thought of how it feels. I also realize that sometimes I discipline kids for small things because they have been doing a lot of small things throughout the day and the kids that are generally behaved will do a big thing that I will let slide because they have been good.
I’ve had to realize that while I thought I knew a lot about engineering, I knew very little about managing students and teaching. As a result, I read a couple of books: The Philosophy of Teaching by Nathaniel Sands which explains how to teach kids in very general terms, and Classroom Management for Elementary Teachers by Michael Cimicata. I’d say the two books are not enough but as you read a few books you start to get a little better at managing classes. However, one thing those books can’t teach is curiosity about children and the desire to teach them engineering. That I think has to come from inside. It is easy to become tired and jaded so I have to continuously remind myself that it is not their fault when they are bored or misbehave, but mine.
One thing I learned about engineering as a result of teaching engineering is that while I know how to engineer things, I know very little about how we got to now, meaning all of the inventions and inventors who created the world we inherited today. Because kids love stories, I had to teach myself about how we got to now. This means it has been pretty interesting for me to learn about the evolution of cars, planes, photography, and of the lives of different engineers. For instance, as a result of learning about cars and cameras, I learned that the inventor of the first photograph Nicephore Niepce was the brother of the inventor of the internal combustion engine, Claude Niepce. Both of them died poor as they were not able to commercialize their invention which is all too common for engineers of original inventions. It is as if so much energy goes into making the first that there isn’t the energy to make money off the first.