What I Should Have Told My Interviewers

I interviewed at KIPP NYC’s three elementary schools this weekend! My day began with a demo lesson for 1st grade science at KIPP Infinity, then proceeded into a whirlwind tour of the three schools where I interviewed with the teachers and school leader of each school.

A staple of any school interview is a debrief conversation about the demo lesson. Upon further reflection, what I should have said was…

“I made one major miscalculation, and that was assuming that the first graders who have been working on sink/float and push/pull the last week, had learned those words in the context of the ‘force’. When I asked the students, ‘What is force?’ at the beginning of the lesson, I assumed that they would easily tell me, ‘force is a push or a pull’. My lesson aim was for them to apply the word force in a context that would be unfamiliar with them, and to explore the idea that we design tools that reduce the amount of force we need to use to do a job.

Problem was, when I asked, ‘What is a force?’, one student said, ‘Force is a brain’. My face fell, that’s when I realized the prior knowledge I thought these first graders had was not there. It wasn’t until I got to ‘What do forces do?’ where I received an answer that I could work with, that forces make things move.

I could have adjusted course much more fully than I did. In the demo lesson, I sent them off to work on a writing component at their desks and circulated widely as well as called out examples of strong writing that explained what it took to open a binder clip (a push or a squeeze… all examples of forces). I adjusted by giving them more time to write and more individualized feedback. I also adjusted by doing a lot of call and response in the front where we practiced saying “A force is a push or pull that changes how an object moves.”

A stronger response would have been to change the aim entirely and make a split-second decision to pull back from applied forces and focus more on the actual word force, integrating more call and response so that students could practice saying ‘force’. ‘Say it with me, “fff” “fff” “fff” “or” “or” “or” “ce” “ce” “ce” “force”!

Then we would have modeled writing using the word force together as group practice before having the students independently write.

Finally, there when the student responded ‘Force is a brain’, I could have asked ‘Why do you think that?’ That would have affirmed his response as well as given me that time to do the mid-course correction I proposed in my reflection.”

Clearly, regardless of what the KIPP NYC decisions are, I learned a ton about elementary teaching! Thanks, KIPP NYC.

Update: I received the job offer!