Being Taught to Teach

Reflecting on Morning Meeting
October 16, 2011, 6:14 pm
Filed under: Morning Meetings, Seminar Journals, Student Teaching

I have been taking on Morning Meetings on Tuesdays and really been enjoying it.  Two Tuesdays ago I led a meeting on the word respect because I think my kids needed to revisit this idea.  On Monday of that week their art teacher sat down with them to talk about what has been going on and why she has been feeling this lack of respect from them.  She discussed how they had been good for her in the past and wanted to know what they could do together to make her feel better about coming back to the school.  I had been planning on doing this respect lesson, but it was nice to have a little refresher and something to tie my lesson to directly.  When they came in the students read the morning message that asked them to think about what respect looks like, sounds like and feels like.  They were asked to take a post-it back to their desk, write something and I would know they were ready when they were sitting back in the circle.  This worked out pretty well, I think a time limit might have helped, but for the most part they were back quickly and ready to participate.  We discussed the word together and they were able to share their examples.  After this little discussion I assigned the two helpers for the day, Omar and Mallory.  Omar had to do the first part of our activity.  I had an index card with the letter R written on it.  It was his job to take the tube of toothpaste I gave him and “refresh” our understanding of the word by racing the R in toothpaste.  The kids were a little surprised by this and I think didn’t quite know what to make of it, as Own worked we discussed the word more and what we could do to show it.  Mallory said, “not use rude words,” I thought, perfect, because that led me into the next part of the task which she would help me with.  I told them I realized that the R I had written didn’t stand for respect it actually stood for rude!  Then I said we needed to take back the word.  It was Mallory’s job to get the toothpaste back INSIDE the tube.  Of course this is difficult and nearly impossible to do (I gave her a popsicle stick to try with).  The students made the connection, I think Maya said something along the lines of, “It’s like the R is a person, the toothpaste tube is another person and the toothpaste is the mean words used.  You can’t put the words back, it just becomes a mess.”  From here we talked about then need to keep rude thoughts and words in because once they get out there it really just creates a big mess that is hard to clean up.  I thought the lesson went really well and the kids related it well to what happened the day before.  I was really excited to hear that later in the day the kids brought it up again while I wasn’t there.  my CT told me there was some disagreement and some said it was like the words coming out of the toothpaste tube!  I think giving kids these hands on opportunities to connect to an idea that they talk about so often in a different way really helps it stick.  I just hope I can apply that to academic subjects as well as social ones.


Reviewing my First Observation
October 2, 2011, 6:07 pm
Filed under: Seminar Journals, Student Teaching

                I had been really nervous about doing my first observation and excited to try this lesson with the kids.  I am glad that Sam had me look at the good things that came out of the lesson, because my initial reaction was to look at all the bad.  Of course I knew the lesson would not go perfectly and there are so many things I can learn from, but hearing that two of my kids really got it and were excited about their learning was fantastic.

                After going over everything I realized I really need to stick to what I’ve planned, I need to step up and assert myself.  I really think things would have gone much more smoothly if I had stuck to the groups I had decided on and not let the thought that kids wouldn’t like it cloud my judgment.

As far as how the lesson went for the kids, I was surprised at who had difficulty with it, found it challenging and even who succeeded with it.  I was hoping it would not be a far step from what the kids had been doing along the lines of factors, multiplication tables, etc.  Although some found it challenging, I think they were also excited about the opportunity it presented.  Natalie especially verbalized how challenging it was and I think that is important as I never hear her say this sort of thing.  I think by throwing in lessons that connect, but are challenging and different the children can get more engaged.  Also, although I was confident in Paul’s ability to do this lesson, I was so excited to find that it was Jack who was expressing the results I was really seeking.  One great thing that has come out of the lesson is that my CT and I talked about how well those two boys worked together.  I know they may not achieve the same level they did in everything, but I think this duo may have more of a chance at it when they work together.

After this lesson I realized I really need to work on having a signal with the kids (I tried out the “If you can hear me clap” once, twice, four times, etc. today), stick to my lesson, my way and not second guess myself, and finally I realized that I have to start getting comfortable in front of the class at the board or overhead so I do not exhaust myself by working individually with every child.

First Time Alone…
September 18, 2011, 5:58 pm
Filed under: Seminar Journals, Student Teaching

I had to be with my class, by myself for the first time this week.  I was a little nervous about it, but also excited.  My CT and I talked about the fact that there are going to be teacher meetings every Wednesday from 9:45-11:00 am.  For this first one we decided to have me just finish up whatever activity the kids would be doing around 9:50 and get them ready for recess.  Then after recess (10-10:30) I would do a read aloud with them that would lead into the writer’s workshop assignment.  I took the book home that I would be reading to them and practiced going through it and thought of a few questions to ask as I went along, making sure it connected to the assignment to come.  Then Wednesday came.  For some reason my kids were as rowdy on Wednesday morning as they usually are on Friday afternoons.  I was a little panicked.  Getting them to recess wasn’t difficult, it was what came next that I worried about.  When time was up for recess and we called the kids to line up, I talked to the first three girls who got in line.  I hadn’t been planning on recruiting help, but because of all the acting out in the morning I felt I needed to.  I told the girls what we would be doing next and said that I really needed their help to make sure we stayed on task and that everyone was listening to what I had to say, they quickly and happily agreed.  Soon the whole class was there and we went in.  It took a few minutes to settle down on the carpet, nothing out of the ordinary and then I explained what we would be doing for the next half an hour.  I explained that their next writing assignment would be for their own kingdom or country, so what they wanted to pay attention to in the story I was reading was how the author makes another world come to life.  Then it was time to start the story.  As we have been learning in Fredi’s class, as a teacher you don’t want to stop and ask questions on every page.  That will tend to break up the story and make it more disjointed.  I decided to go with the method she had shown us of talking about the title before hand, asking pausing in 2-3 places and then really discussing at the end.  The title, “Roland the Minstrel Pig” already contained in it a vocabulary word I wanted to talk about.  That is how we started, as we went along there were two more vocabulary words I stopped on, lute and palanquin.  I also asked one predictive question, but I think everyone found it pretty obvious the fox was plotting.  During the reading several people made comments and as long as they were related to the story I did not try to curtail them as I like the idea of thinking out loud in this read aloud setting.  However, if there were ever side conversations going on Maya would pipe up and ask everyone to pay attention.  After we had finished we discussed how the author made his world different than ours, “The animals have clothes”, “the pig sang”, which led to a more all encompassing statement from Mallory, “They act like humans.”  This was able to give some of them ideas to get on with their writing.

I wasn’t sure if it was ok to ask the children to give me a hand, but it produced such good results!  I didn’t think I would have them working so quietly on their writing when my CT returned and the 2nd/3rd teacher also thought that it had gone well.  My CT and I have been talking about how to get the transitions in the classroom to be better and one thing she brought up was a buddy or partner system.  I think after seeing how the kids can be when I asked for help it might really work to pair people up to make sure the other is getting everything put away, getting to the carpet on time and transitioning well.  What do you think about that sort of system?

Appreciating Diversity
September 11, 2011, 5:55 pm
Filed under: Seminar Journals

I know that different families, cultures, neighborhoods, and cities lead to different ways of thinking in the children they raise.  It is amazing that this begins with the way we talk to children before they can even respond.  How do we make sure to pose questions to our class in a way that is accessible to all of them?  How do I make sure to incorporate lessons that are socially relevant to my students?  I would like all of my students to find what we are studying interesting and something that they can relate to, however I know that not every story will reach every child, but maybe if the children feel a sense of community amongst themselves they will want to learn about each other’s culture.

I realize that where ever I teach I will probably have students of varying backgrounds, growing up with different languages at home.  I just hope that I am able to build a trusting class and school community so that my students can not only be proud of their differences, but celebrate them.  I would like the first weeks or so of my classroom to have a fun project that has to do with their home life.  I would like the students to be able to do a project about themselves and their culture at home.  Ideally the children would have the option of doing this in whatever language they felt more comfortable doing it in so it can be a piece about them that stays true to their identity.  However, I know that children are always very sensitive to differences, would a project like this bring about too many?  Would a project in which I try to celebrate cultural identity end up hurting the culture of my classroom by singling out children for the vary reasons I want to celebrate them?

Goals at the Beginning
September 4, 2011, 5:49 pm
Filed under: Seminar Journals

Having been in the classroom for a few days now and looking back on my volunteer hours in the classroom, I have come up with a few more goals for myself.  One of the things that is always at the forefront of my mind in a busy classroom is how I can maintain control and authority.  I feel that this is a goal that will be achieved over time with experience.  I will need to build my confidence to accomplish this goal, but while it is lacking, I can really feel it.  Even in just being in charge of a small group, what happens when a child is just done with the activity?  How to I convince him or her to continue with the rest of the group?  I know that there are different techniques for maintaining order and the classroom that I am in will displaying only a few of these techniques, most likely the ones that my CT believes will work best with the specific students and dynamics of our particular classroom.

As I gain more experience with the kids I’m sure I will begin to pick up on these things, but it is my goal to get good at it.  Going off what I discussed in my last journal, knowing my subject matter is also really important to me.  I think that this might also somewhat help with classroom management, at least with the keeping kids engaged part.  If I know and thoroughly understand my subject matter and how the kids in my class would interact with it or think about it, I may have to concentrate on management less because I should be able to come up with lesson plans that are thoughtful and engaging for them.  It is my goal to not only master (or begin to at least) classroom management, but knowing my subject matter and the kids in my classroom so that I can better engage everyone during class.

Week 1 at Mills
August 28, 2011, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Seminar Journals

I am finally back in school and being taught to teach.

Major emphasis has been put on building community; building community among our peers and cohorts, in our classrooms, in our school, etc.  And I think it is fantastic.  I don’t think I have ever learned so many name in such a short period of time.  So far I think I have all the multiple subject grad students’ names down (there are about 22 of us) and maybe half of the single subject people, I have a pretty good handle on the 16 names of the kids in my 4th/5th grade split despite only spending one day with them and I am working on all the professors/advisers/supervisors.

One thing I really enjoyed was being able to be present at the first day of school for my first student teaching placement.  I am in the Mills Children’s Center, in the 4th/5th grade split.  There are about even numbers as far as 4th and 5th graders and boys and girls go.   I spent the day prior to school starting helping my CT (collaborating teacher) get the room ready for the first day.  She is new to the school and because of that she is still getting a feel for thing herself.  I have a feeling we will really be learning alongside one another as the semester progresses.  The only concern I have after the first day (well really morning, since I wasn’t there all day), is the real difference that my CT and I saw as far as the children’s listening abilities.  I am not sure if it is due to my lack of experience or maybe even my being closer to the years of my first days of school, but what she and I saw differed greatly.  I thought the kids were doing a wonderful job, especially for all the challenging cases we have in the class, of listening to directions and doing as they were told.  Miss A on the other hand kept telling me that we would really have to work on listening right away.  Under the circumstance, it being the first day of school, having just gotten back from what I presume to be various unstructured summer vacations, seeing all their friends for the first time in months and meeting two brand new adults, I think the children did a great job.  I am hoping that after a little more interaction Miss A and I will get on the same wave length and/or I will be more comfortable sharing my difference of opinion with her.

After doing some of the reading for one of my courses I have come up with some goals for myself.  I have never led a lesson plan for a class before, I have always merely assisted, or worked with small groups of children.  Thus, of course one of my major goals is to get really comfortable and passionate about the material my student will be learning so that I can implement a well planned, thought provoking lesson plan.  I realize that being new to this I am going to make mistake and need help and might not get it right the first few times, but that is why I am here studying, to get good at creating interesting lesson plans to get kids excited to learn.  For my Introduction to the Profession of Teaching Diverse Learners Seminar we had to read a short article, “Why go to school?” by Steven Wolk.  Wolk introduced several ideas throughout the piece and one of them really stuck with me.  The idea of integrating several subjects into one lesson plan or project for children.  He discussed the idea of  inquiry-based projects, having children investigate and analyze a topic that really speaks to them as an individual.  I really like this idea of trying to combine several subjects (or at least starting with two), making an inquary-based assignment and giving the kids some autonomy in picking the topic so that they are actually doing a project or learning about something that sparks their interest.  Without this kind of thought provoking assignment Wolk is right, we are just handing out worksheets for the drones of tomorrow’s work force, rather than the type of people who will think critically and question what they do before doing it.

My goal is to create at least one cohesive assignment like this that will get the kids excited to do the work I ask of them, rather than just taking home another assignment to work on during the commercials of their favorite TV show. –Speaking of TV shows, Wolk touched on how much time children spend with media and how that time actually outweighs the time spent in school.  This made me think of books on tape (mp3) and whether that is something that has been looked at as a teaching aid.  I know that literacy is something that is an important part of all children’s learning, but if you can get children to listen to thought provoking, interesting books on tape wouldn’t that just add to their growth as a student.  The best scenario would be having a book on tape as well as having the child follow along in the book, but even if you could get them to replace a small fraction of their media time with a book on tape that they merely listen to I feel like it might be a step in the right direction to getting them excited about reading, after all it isn’t so long ago that families used to sit around the radio for stories and imagine the scenes rather than watch them on TV.