Academic journal article Afro - Hispanic Review

Do Now

Academic journal article Afro - Hispanic Review

Do Now

Article excerpt

When you wrote on the board you tilted the chalk against the wall at an uncertain angle, so that the lines you drew were barely visible: Do Now. Define sugar for somebody who's never tasted it before. The principal who'd been sitting in the back of the classroom observing, noted it, the way the wall absorbed your voice every time you spoke. Later, afterschool in the office, he says, "That happens sometimes with new teachers, Miranda. Not being able to understand how they are seen or heard." He crosses his legs. Nailed into the wall are the principal's degrees. Amherst. Harvard. A portrait of him sitting on a rock in Thailand from his days in the Peace Corps, his tiny wiry frame, folded over, elbow upon knee.

You nod, trying to look humble and smart. You remember how once while staying late to submit quarterly student evaluations, you stood up from the desk, stretched your arms behind your neck, and walked down to the soda machine outside the teacher's lounge, where you overheard the principal talking about how stupid you are to the fourth grade science teacher - a short, red headed runner from Boston, who's planning to quit in two years and apply to law school. This is the same woman who slowly smiles at you in the mirror over the sink in the bathroom, while saying, "How you doing today?"

She laughed with the principal.

Now, he's sitting and smiling at you in the office.

"Teaching is performance," he says.

There's something about his face that you would like to break in half, something which you would like to disassemble.

When you drink with friends and they get tired of hearing you tell the same stories about your kids, you often break off from the conversation, stare into a corner of the bar and imagine the principal walking home at night: It is completely dark. A fast food joint sign rattles with light. Three men approach him and ask him for all his money. And a basic helplessness flattens the smiling sides of his mouth.

You want him to feel that way.

Surprised. And humiliated.

"Let's talk about today's Do Now." He reaches over the desk to turn on the fan.

In the past, you've explained to him that you designed the exercise in order to teach imagery, but in terms of explaining the prompt that day in class to the kids, he says, you struggled. "There are also issues in terms of how you visually cue the classroom and many problems with this assignment. Because first it's not concrete enough for fifth grade." Perhaps an interesting idea, but not well articulated. And you struggle with keeping momentum. For example, you take too long. "You write the Do Now on the board while class is in session instead of writing it before the students show up." And as a result Alexander Moreno started whispering in the back, and you didn't turn around quickly enough to reprimand him, so the other students began talking, too.

You are a shy woman! In the past, you've ignored initial challenges from the students and so, unchecked, the class turns quickly. "There may also be an issue here with the consequences you set in the classroom," he says. That is, the children sense there are none. And, in the past, you've expressed that you believe if you take the misbehaving child outside and talk to her earnestly and honestly in a forgiving manner that the behavior will stop.

When side conversations in the classroom increased (to an inappropriate volume) you didn't turn around from the board to correct it. Instead, you fidgeted with the chalk. This may also be because you were nervous about being observed and afraid of trying to correct the behavior and failing. When you did turn around, you smiled. But the principal noted a slight agitation because your lip began to twitch. A tick. A tell.

You asked the students. You pleaded, "Do you understand? Pretend you are describing sugar for somebody who's never tasted it before. Okay?" Then Katrina raised her hand in the back and said she didn't get it. …

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