Sunday, March 4, 2012

Thoughts from a Student Teacher Week Seven

I have decided that from here on out I will always be tired. The reality of how long I stay at the school hit me when Mrs. C clocked out Friday afternoon. 54 hours. I was at the school 54 hours give or take an hour. Yes, technically I could leave at 3:30, but there is still so much I can help with and so much I can learn in the extra time I am there. So I accept that I will be tired most of the time.

I’m not really sure if I learned anything new this week. We did have the Mock Writing standarized test so I was able to sit in a room for four hours both Tuesday and Wednesday. What an ordeal the State puts these kids through! It was hard for me and Mrs. C to sit there for that long and we weren’t even taking the test.

I’ve been reading some of the popular Youth fiction that comes in and out of our classroom. With the help of the girl who let me borrow her book I finished The Hunger Games trilogy. Many of the students are signing up to be the next one to check out this trilogy from our shelves and it is so much fun to connect to them through literature. I also found out that one of the boys who is actually able to read above 7th grade reading level loves historical fiction, especially surrounding wars. So over the weekend I made him a list of Civil War, WWI, and WWII novels that I have personal read. I hope that he will enjoy these books.

Another student kept asking me about the college I graduated from. He told me he wanted to go there and play soccer so I emailed the admissions counselor and he sent me a admissions packet to give to the boy. The counselor even addressed the letter to him. It was so much fun to watch the boy open his packet! He said it was like Christmas and when he saw the letter with his name on it he kept saying “It’s for me!” I don’t know what is in this boy’s future, but I hope that he realizes he can have dreams and his dreams are attainable.

There are rumors that a couple positions are opening up. The principle has encouraged me to take my Generalist 4-8 exam. I have to admit I’m excited. I’m not sure if God wants me to stay at this middle school, but I do know it would be a joy to continue to work with this team. I look forward to seeing how all this will turn out.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Thoughts from a Student Teacher Week Six

One of the things that has surprised me is how much I’ve come to love these kids! I guess I’ve passed the stage of being exhausted and have come to a point where I really enjoy it. Each day/week I seem to connect with another student. I learn more about them and I try to tell them how much I care about them. They aren’t just faces anymore; they are special people to me.

Which comes to a question I have for you? As a teacher can I write to my students? I LOVE sending cards of encouragement so would it be appropriate to send out a card every now and then to my students? I’ve decided that although the subject I teach is important the most important thing I could do is show these students that I care about them, that I think they are special, that I think they are smart, that I think they can be anything they want to be.

This week I haven’t really taught because of our subject matter; however, on a relationship level I have connected more this week with the kids than at any other time. There are two girls that I have been discussing a book series with. One of the girls actually let me borrow her book! It is a book I’ve been waiting to read for weeks.
One Hispanic boy came in this week and put his hand out to shake mine. But when I went to shake his hand he started performing this fancy hand slap with fist bump. So together we came up with a “handshake” that only we share. J One day I asked him why he wanted to keep “shaking” my hand. He told me, “Cuz you’re cool, Miss!” I always look forward to his grin in the afternoon, which happens to be filled with braces. Moments like that make my day.
I also experienced a very emotional parent-teacher conference. The student began to cry and get angry about her situation at home on top of what was going on at school. This girl has to face so much at only 12 years old! I felt led to speak to her in private. I really feel that God spoke through me as I told her that I cared about her and that my heart hurt for her. I encouraged her to come to me if she ever needed someone to talk. I pray that God will be close to her and help her through her situation.

What an amazing week! I am thankful for the situation I am in. God knew right where He wanted me to be and I am learning so much here!

Thoughts from a Student Teacher Week Five

During this past week I taught a mini-lesson every day, every period. At times it was pretty boring thinking about how I would be teaching the lesson almost 20 times during the week, but then there would be a group of kids that would sit down with me and really have fun with the topic. To make the lesson more fun I had them answer questions using individual wipe-off boards. All they had to do was write the letter of the answer, but they got creative and began writing a word or sentence using the letter or even drawing detailed pictures. It was nice to be able to laugh with them and know that at the same time they were learning. Although I don’t like the monotony of teaching a lesson more than one day, I loved having only 3 to 5 students at a time to teach. It felt very rewarding.

I still have not found a discipline strategy that works best. At the middle school we hand out STEPS when the students misbehave, but they have become so used to them that the ones who misbehave don’t care. Usually the STEPS book is used as a threat. There has to be a better way!
To motivate students to be quiet and read for a certain length of time I’ve promised a couple of pieces of candy which seems to work, but I hate bribing them! Any of your suggestions would be appreciated.

To maintain a supportive environment I reassure the students that they can do it! Their answers and participation is important. If they are really leery of answering I tell them I understand the topic might be difficult, but I really want them to try. Sometimes some of the students’ answers blow me a way and I have to high-five them. It is so enjoyable when a student that is quiet speaks up and has something good to say, or if the student is usually a behavioral problem, but that day they contributed to the class. I’m sure those are the moments teachers live for.

Thoughts from a Student Teacher Week Four

I’ve decided that student teaching is an emotional roller coaster. At least it is for me at the middle school. The first week I was pretty scared of 7th graders and what I was seeing at the school, the second and third week I became excited and thought it would be amazing if I could get a job there for the fall, then this week I had doubts about even becoming a teacher. I think part of it was I was exhausted and emotionally vulnerable and I believe Satan was using this opportunity to attack, but God is good and He daily reminds me of how He loves me and that He is walking with me.

I was also able to express my feelings to Mrs. T who, though not my official mentor teacher, helps me just as much, or more than Mrs. C. She gave me a hug and told me what I was feeling was normal and that in the end I would know what I was supposed to do. This pair of ladies is a blessing to me! I don’t know what I would do without them!

I had an interesting conversation with a boy on Monday. My class was paired up to read some expository passages and answer the questions that went along with them. Everyone in the class are struggling readers, but there are a few like this boy, I’ll call him A, that thinks he is a little bit better than everyone else. He complained that his partner, G, was a slow reader and that He should read more than her because she was too slow. G is a sensitive girl who is very quiet and I could not believe that A was picking on her. I took him aside and told him that what he said wasn’t nice and that in our classroom we are supposed to build each other up, not tear them down. I told him I didn’t want to hear him say those things ever again. A was became serious and a little dejected and then he went back over and began to read with G. Looking back, I wish I would have told him to apologize but I didn’t. I hope that this was a learning experience for him and next time he will treat his peers with the kindness they deserve. It felt good that I could invest some time in teaching a life-lesson.

Thoughts from a Student Teacher Week Three

Once again another good and exhausting week at the middle school! We began our repeated readings schedule on Monday and Tuesday so I had my own classroom all day long. The largest group I have is 8 kids. It went very well.

To answer some more of the journal topics I think I’ll start with “How do I plan for and engage in professional development?” Often, things like this happen spur of the moment. For example, Thursday I attended a 504 review. Mrs. T and I had talked about me possibly going to one and then at the last minute I went. The review wasn’t anything exciting, but I had never really known what all the school does for kids with learning disabilities so now I feel like I have some more information under my belt. To add to this, I go to any teacher meeting I can go to and whenever Mrs. C goes to talk to the principle or any other colleague I am her shadow.

To give students opportunities to participate actively I usually ask questions and call on each one at some point in time or another. I often call on those who raise their hands last or those who don’t raise their hands. I do this because I want to tell them that I know they are smart enough to answer. I want them to know that being shy is okay, but sometimes it is okay to get up the courage to answer from time to time. The quiet students are often the smartest ones who are just unsure of themselves.

I’m realizing that managing student behavior is the one of the hardest things to do as a teacher. There was a few times this past week that Mrs. C was gone for several minutes to a whole period and I had to make sure everyone was getting to work. I finally found my “teacher” voice and realized that with this age group sometimes you have to raise it to get their attention. I also had to give out Steps to four students due to their incessant talking which was not pleasant. I’ve realized that it is easier to give them chance after chance because I just don’t want to punish them for their bad behavior. I want them to like me, I guess, but I’m realizing that I’m not there for them to like me and providing a calm learning environment is more important than winning their favor.

Thoughts from a Student Teacher Week Two

The second week of my student teaching experience has been amazing. Not just because I have learned so much, but because I feel so at home at the middle school. I am blessed to have Mrs. C and Mrs. T as mentors and their faith in me constantly amazes me.

1.     To create a better learning environment I would like to change how a new concept is introduced. Of course, I really don’t have the power to do this every day, but when I am teaching I can certainly try. I’m not a fan of how Mrs. C does not use her activity board or chalkboard to write on. I understand that some things are turned around, but I believe that her method of holding up a sheet of paper with the state standards up, hoping that everyone can see it is ineffective. I certainly would not be able to read it from several places in the room. If you are going to do that, why not use a big poster that you can write on, or print out handouts so that each student has their own to read. However, I can see that sometimes it does make the students have to really focus so that they can hear her read the state standards, but the ones that decide to zone out for a second miss everything.
2.     How do I manage student behavior? So far, I’ve only had to remind the students to focus and get back on task. I had one incident where I told a girl to stop talking and she said she could talk if she wanted to. This was the first week. I told her that she was not to speak to me in that manner and that next time I expected her to say “Yes, ma’am.” Since then I haven’t had any problems. However, Mrs. C is always there to handle major issues so I am curious to see what I will encounter as I take over my own groups.
3.     In Thursday afternoon tutorials, to encourage students to participate actively, I have called on students to read and I have tried to ask a lot of questions to encourage discussion. I felt like my first tutorial was a success, the students actively discussed the passages and questions we read and we had an enjoyable time together.

Thoughts from a Student Teacher Week One

As you may have noticed, I am very behind in my blogging! However, I have a good reason for my absence. I have been student teaching, full time, at a middle school here in town. This past week I clocked in approximately 53 hours! I have been keeping a journal that I turn in to my supervisor and thought I would share it with the blogging community. So here is my journal from week one of my student teaching adventure....

So far, my student teaching experience at the middle school has been exciting, emotional, and tiring. There are at least 3 things that have surprised me this week:
1.     How strict the teachers are on the kids. There are some things that my mentor teacher will not let slide that I think are small and I feel that when she holds them accountable on it, her reaction could make the student act out more. This is something I have to think about a little more. I also feel that it is important to “wipe the slate clean” at the end of the day and start the next day fresh, but Mrs. C (as I will call my mentor teacher from hear on out) will bring up the student’s wrong doings of the previous day which I feel makes them upset again, causing them to act out. It is amazing to me that every little thing a teacher does affects the students in some ways!
2.     The pressure of the upcoming standardized test is excruciating!!! It is like a black cloud hanging over all of our heads. Yes, the teachers teach the state standards, but constantly they are telling the students “This will be on the test,” “If you don’t work harder you’re going to fail the test,” “Guys, we don’t have time to goof around the test is coming!” Everyone is running scared. The teachers do not know what is on the test and they tell the kids they do not know what is on the test and everyone is running scared! For me, it is hard to enjoy learning in this kind of environment.
3.     I had no idea how tiring it is to be a teacher. The last four days I have been up at 5:30 am so that I can get to the school at 7:15 am. I’ve stayed at the school until 4:30 or 5:30 every evening!! I know that in reality I can leave when the other teachers leave, but when my cooperating teacher stays I feel like I’m going to miss something! One night she gave me a 2 inch stack of paper of things to cut out. I still have bruises from the scissors! Being a teacher is exhausting!

The most rewarding experience so far has been participating in Mrs. C’s SIOP class. She has a group of 8th graders who primarily speak Spanish. They are all on very low reading levels due to the language barrier. Yesterday, one of the boys was taking an A.R. test on one of the books he was reading and I found out that his goal for A.R. points for the year is 16. He has 36 points!! He has already surpassed his goal! I so admire these kids. I took 6 years of Spanish in high school and college and hardly know a thing. I know how hard it is to learn a language and that if you do not work hard you will not succeed, but these kids are working hard and they are speaking English and raising their Reading Levels and exceeding students who take for granted that they can read English. I feel that I will learn a lot from this group!

The biggest way Mrs. C has helped me so far is that she believes in me! Not only does she tell me that she believes in me she also tells the kids. She has told the kids that I am her partner. They do not know I’m a student teacher (though if they are smart they have probably figured it out by now). Also, at the end of the day she will hug me and tell me that I am a huge help to her. It makes me feel pretty special. J