Saturday, January 29, 2011

Brought to you by the letter “C”

Remember as a kid, or in my case occasionally as an adult, those episodes of Sesame Street and their theme for the show? There little vignettes would be based around the number 4 or the letter P, for example. At the end of each episode a little announcement would notify you that, “Today’s episode is brought to you by the letter P.” Well, it seemed that this week was all themed around the letter C. More specifically, staying CALM and involving myself in COLLABORATION.

I’ll touch on remaining calm very briefly. Let’s set the stage. I’ve been mentally preparing for my first observation since the timeline for this semester had been posted. Cut to the week of the observation and I was going to tell the students the day before what was going to take place and so forth. When I wake up Wednesday morning, the day before the observation, what is posted across the television screen? Shelby County Closed! Yep, a Snow Day. In my mind it was the worst thing to happen but it turned out to be the best thing to happen. Things didn’t go exactly how I had planned. In fact, I left out a really cool activity that would have had the kids up and out of their seat. However, instead of thinking and over thinking the day before, going through each step of how I wanted things to go, I had no choice but to go into the classroom Thursday morning calm and letting things flow however they would flow. It was certainly a very “teachable moment”.

Collaboration was also a central theme for me this week. In preparing for class lessons, I tried getting as much feedback from my ST and other teachers in order to be better equipped for when I am on my own in my own classroom. What I also enjoyed was being able to meet and have dinner with my fellow classmates as we discussed our anxieties, stresses, frustrations, and also the joys of this journey. It’s good to hear that someone else is struggling in the same area. Sometimes you can beat yourself up with the “I’m the only one” mentality. On the flip side, it is also great to be able to receive/give advice on how to handle a particular situation. We talk about the Think-Pair-Share strategy for our students but I think about how teachers and educators can be uplifted, or how much more diverse and effective instruction could be, if the spirit of collaboration became a priority in our schools.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rookie Mistake

For the past week or so I have been grading student packets on installment loans. It is a significant part of their grade and my ST has been lenient in giving students class time to work on them. The stack of packets has been piling on my desk. Because I knew they would need them to study for midterms, which start on Wednesday, as I finished a group I would hand them out. I was excited about handing them out because it was also helping me put faces with names. My ST took me aside and said that in the future just make sure that I have all packets graded just in case students are tempted to cheat or “conveniently” place their packets where it is “convenient” for their friend/neighbor to see.

That was a great Aha! or Duh! moment for me. I mean, I know how creative kids can get when it comes to sharing answers/work. However, I just got over-zealous in receiving that satisfaction that I was actually learning students’ names. My ST and I talked about it and she said that over time you will get to know your students. There will be some classes where you have to keep all papers because cheating will occur and there are other classes where you know that the students won’t even think about doing such a thing. There will be some classes where you can step out of the class for a brief minute and other classes where you probably shouldn’t risk turning your back. It’s all just another example of how no two classes are exactly the same.

Lastly, one lesson from the reading that became relevant to me comes from Straight Talk for Today’s Teachers. The author discusses that the first hand up does not equate to smarter because there is not always a connection. Boy was she ever right! Sometimes the first hand up is not even relevant to the subject. As we were going over practice problems, I asked a question and one of the students who rarely participates had their hand up. I called on them ready for the answer and they ask, “Can I go to the restroom?”  I smiled and asked them to wait but inside I was really cracking up inside. It turns out they did know the answer but “other things” needed to be tended to first. This is also part of Teaching 101; you can’t reach a student unless there basic needs have been met.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Let's begin...

“Ahhhh! I’m student teaching this semester.” This was my mental exclamation as the day drew closer for me to begin this wonderful journey. I say this was my mental exclamation because I thought that if I shared my feelings then some would try to make me feel at ease by telling me how not to feel. Instead, I wanted to feel however I was going to feel and work through those feelings. Even the sub-title to this very blog is in reference to what some have told me about their own student teaching experiences. There is a line in the movie, Adventures in Babysitting (a classic in my eyes) that states, “nobody leaves without singing the blues.” This is how student teaching was explained to me by a well meaning individual. I’d say I have done very well working through my feelings. Yet, make no mistake, at the days leading up to my first day as a student teacher there were certain points where a Kathy comic, in one of her overwhelmed moments, would have been an appropriate description.

Although in the days leading up to student teaching I was a ball of emotion, all that changed the first day. I was anxious but for different reasons. I was anxious to get to know the students. I was anxious about how I would reach them. I was anxious to see how I would learn from the mistakes and challenges that would arise. I wanted them to like me, but I now realize, thanks to authors Fay and Funk, that what I really want is for them to respect me.

This initial blog may be a bit longer than the ones that follow but I wanted to take a brief moment to introduce you to my educational home for the next several days and weeks. The principal, my ST, and the staff at Shelby County Area Technology Center have welcomed me and made me feel so at home.

The classroom; quiet and still before students arrive.

Below is a picture of my desk. I’ve been busy grading papers. I’ve even had one incident of explaining to a student why they received the grade they did. It went well. One of my most “teachery” moments so far, happened when a student pulled up a chair and we worked through a few problems together. When we had worked through a few, they said those thrilling words that educators love to hear, “Oh I get it now. Thanks!”  I was thrilled to just have a student approach me so early in this process then to top it with that….awesome!

Don't worry no one sits in that desk in front of mine.
No squished students on my watch!

The past two weeks ended with my ST being absent. That meant it was me and a sub…on a Friday…with class after class of Juniors and Seniors already talking about prom. So here comes the test. Their main teacher, my ST, was gone; how much could they get away with? How would I react? Love and Logic discusses the “savings account approach”. Giving the students the ability to make choices over things and that when it is time for the teacher to need to make a necessary decision (a withdrawal), there is less resistance because of the deposits made. Today there was a lot of chit-chat going on with little work being turned in. So I started with the heat. Did they want it on or off? Then, you can either choose to work alone or in groups of no more than 3. The talking eased up. These are just small deposits but they are necessary if I plan to have any successful withdrawals.