Being Taught to Teach

Why Can’t I do the Work for My Level?
November 23, 2011, 5:29 am
Filed under: Dilemmas


I student teach in a 4th and 5th grade split.  There are eight 4th graders and seven 5th graders.  The class is extremely racially diverse, however does not represent many second languages.  I have a student in my class who is a 5th grader with abilities above and beyond others in his class.  Most of the students are somewhere on the grade appropriate reading spectrum, for 4th and 5th grade this is between 0-W.  Many of the students are reading at grade level, but in the earlier letters for that grade.  Shawn reads at level X.  In math the 4th graders are learning angles and the 5th graders are reviewing them because of some holes in their learning from last year.  Shawn’s appropriate math level is algebra.  Often Shawn appears quite bored with regular material and as a result of this as well as ADHD (he has recently started on medication for this and it was a factor for the following incident) he tends to act out during lessons.  During math he typically works from his own math work book that is appropriate for his level.


During one particular day the students all learned a game, Angle Rangle.  While the teacher had made the pairings for this math game, Shawn had just come back from being with the resource person at the school.  He had been looking forward to math all morning.  My CT had pulled names of 4th graders and they were asked to pair up with a 5th grader to do their games with.  Robert picked Shawn as his partner.  Because he had been out I explained what the game was that Robert wanted to play with him.  Immediately Shawn was upset.  “Why do I have to do that? I never have time to work on my math.  Why can’t I do the work for my level?”  Shawn tends to be heavily oppositional. In this moment he was not only defying what his teacher was asking of, but making another student, Robert (who could easily be set off in his own emotional disorders about something like this), feel unwanted as a partner.  I tried to get Shawn interested in the activity by re-explaining it and hoping that he would want to play with his friend.  After a moment of trying this, Robert was called to be pulled out by the resource person. My CT made sure that no feelings were hurt and Shawn was set up with his Algebra, but what do you do in those other moments?


Shawn is a case where yes, he is far ahead of some of the other children in the class and is very proud of that, however he does need a lot of work in some subjects as well as social interactions.  How do you balance when a child needs to be working at a higher level with his need to learn to work with others?  Having Shawn work with other children in the subjects he is less proficient in might help, but would that lead him to be poor at working together in a subject that he is ahead and confident in?  How do I make sure a student like this is getting everything he needs?


Oh what things they say…
November 15, 2011, 8:13 pm
Filed under: Kids Say the Darnedest Things

Yesterday there was an adorable comment that I had to post from one of the kindergardeners at my student teaching placement.  I was on yard duty and two girls were playing on the tire swing.  The girl who was being pushed said to the other, “Do you like the wind, I do, the wind is my friend, it pushes me.”  Precious.


Today was picture day at my school.  I think one of the younger kids thought that meant that in addition to having your picture taken you also bring in photos.  At recess she was sharing a small family photo album with some of my 4th graders.  As they were flipping through the pages one of my girls asked, “Is that your dad?!”  The girl said no and then tried to explain that it was one of her aunt’s boyfriends (this was a younger aunt).  My student asked, “Did they get married?”  The little girl’s response was awesome and I wonder which parent or family member she was repeating: “No, whenever she loses weight she gets a new boyfriend, it’s weird.”  I couldn’t help but laugh and then told them I had something in my throat to cover it up….oh children…

No Time for Life
November 12, 2011, 5:47 pm
Filed under: Student Teaching

I am more than half way through the semester and have had no time to post.  School has been tough and busy, busy, busy.  Between students teaching, my 7 classes and trying to do all the reading, papers and lesson plans…I have very little time.  I have thoroughly been enjoying it though.

The classroom I am in is very unique.  I have several kids who have some sort of emotional disorder and or learning difference, ranging from PTSD-ADHD-Oppositional Deficit Disorder.  The class is small, 15 kids, and I feel that if it were a larger class I might actually have an easier time with these kids because they wouldn’t necessarily keep butting heads with the same kids over and over…I could spread them out.  My Collaborating Teacher (CT) gives me lots of freedom and has been very supportive of everything I want to do with the kids.  Did I mention it is a 4th/5th grade split?  That makes it tough.  In both of those grades there is so much content and it is difficult to really divide up the kids and make sure they are all learning what they need to learn.  I have learned that I am not interested in split classes, it is just too hard.  I would, however, like to have kids for two years the way this class ends up being.  My two years would be with one age group of kids and move up with them as they end their year.  I think having that continuity with a teacher and for me as the teacher would be really amazing.  We have been talking in class so much about the importance of getting to know your learners so you can better teach them, but it takes the better part of the first half of the year to do that!  Then you only have another few months to really use that knowledge???  It makes so much more sense to be able to teach them for two years.

I have been learning so much not only in class, but from my kids.  I am excited to be a learner of learners for the rest of my teaching career.

Staying Current With Kids
November 3, 2011, 6:31 pm
Filed under: Morning Meetings, Student Teaching

After I went to an Occupy Mills meeting on Monday afternoon I wore a solidarity band to school on Tuesday.  I had spoken to My CT in the morning about the possibility of talking to the kids about Occupy on Wednesday morning before I headed out for the march.  She was in support of this.  Throughout Tuesday several of the kids asked me what the band was.  I didn’t give them very detailed answers because it was usually an interruption during class or while they should have been doing something, but I responded that it was a solidarity band for Occupy and that we would all have a chance to talk about it tomorrow.

I went home and planned the morning meeting for the following day.  I wanted the kids to think about protest before we talked, so their morning work was to get their writing folders and respond to both of the following questions in two or more sentences: What does the word protest mean to you?  Can you describe an example of protest from history?  After they had, had some time to respond I gathered them at the carpet and we read my morning message: Dear students, There is a movement happening in our backyard, country and world.  It is called Occupy.  Have you heard of it?  Today there will be a protest and march in downtown Oakland.  Do you know why people are protesting?  We will be doing an activity that addresses why.  Have a wonderfully windy day.

Once this had been read and the murmuring comments had been calmed I asked for some people to share what they had written before we talked about Occupy.  The overarching definition of protest was to fight or stand up for something you believe to be unfair.  I was amazed at how many examples the kids came up with.  They spoke of Cesar Chavez, the Civil Rights and women’s rights.  Natalia also brought up Occupy and I used that to segway into the discussion for the day.  Many of the children knew about Occupy Oakland, but that is all.  They thought it was an Oakland based movement and had been confused by my listing of country and world on the morning message.  I talked to them about how Oakland did not start this movement, but has taken it up and that many parts of world have stepped forward to support the movement.  The children who did know about the Oakland one understood the gist of what the movement was about and kept mentioning two key words, unfair and money.  I had an activity ready for us to do and I was hoping it would make clear reasons for this protest and help those who didn’t know anything about it see why people would do this.  Before I brought out my money cards I talked to the kids about how food (using the specific example of a box of cornflakes) has gone up 33% in the last few years, at this point my CT chimed in to make sure the kids knew what that meant, then I went on to say that gas had doubled and yet wages (explained this because of a question) had gone down 10%.  I then explained this in terms of allowance.  After the kids had begun to understand this I brought out my activity.  I said that all of us would represent the entire population of the United States and that my 20 green $ cards would represent all of the United States wealth.  I drew a name from our jar and Natalia happened to represent the one percent.  She got 8.6 cards (I ripped one for her) and had to lay them out in front of her.  I then drew three names and they represented the next top 19 percent.  They got 10 cards to share between the three of them.  The twelve of the rest of us got 1.4 cards to share.  To make it even clearer we ripped the cards so that each of us had a tiny piece.  I think the kids had a very clear visual of this from this exercise.

The final piece of this discussion was about what the solidarity band was, how symbols can be powerful and the difference between violent and non-violent protest.  I was really excited to have been given the opportunity to talk about this with my kids.  I was impressed by how much they knew and I tried to get them to talk more that I did whenever it was an option.  The difficult part of this task was trying to make sure that opinions of mine stayed out of it.  I wanted to present the children with what was going on without influencing them…however they all knew I was headed to the march after class.

Tricks over Treats in my Class
November 1, 2011, 5:13 am
Filed under: Dilemmas

Here is another teaching dilemma.  Any suggestions are welcome, however it maybe difficult considering many of these situations are a result of the specific individuals in them and cannot be generalized.

Halloween seems to have taken its toll on my kids.  After the long trek about campus to get their goodies, many of the children, particularly the boys seemed at each other’s throats.  There was one pair in particular, who normally gets along just fine, that had it in for each other that day.  Robert and Mike would not leave each other alone.  If they weren’t making faces at each other from across the room they were poking or taping each other.  During read aloud, my CT was reading Halloween poems and Robert got so animated making faces at Mike all the way across the room that he was asked to take a break and sit with me.  I had been sitting at a table with a relatively quiet, shy girl and her eyes widened as Robert angrily sat down with us.  He was obviously upset and I tried making a few suggestions to him quietly so as not to disturb the others.  “Can you try to ignore Mike? Can you sit so you won’t have to look at him?” Robert had expressed that it was Mike who started making faces and is always staring at him (if you talk to Mike he’ll say it is the other way around). “No, he’s always doing it.  He’s just doing this (makes a face) all the time.  I hate him.”  The girl across from us looked at me and the way I looked back, she knew it was not an acceptable statement that Robert had made and she knew that I knew.  The tough part is there is a wide range of diversity in temperament and management types in my class.  In Robert’s case pressing him further would have spiraled the situation and I could sense that he would lose it.  He had already been asked to move and the areas that are typical quiet zones are not available during read aloud. Robert’s anger took the rest of the read aloud time to subside and throughout he continued to mutter things under his breath.  I knew that this was really just a reaction to a long day and being frustrated and tired; again, Robert and Mike typically get along, but is it alright to let these hurtful words slide sometimes in the face of a larger meltdown?