Tuesday, October 27, 2009

8th Grade Horror

So....I've started my second placement in an 8th grade Language Arts and Spanish class. All I can say is OMG!! The last two days has absolutely been the most dreadful experience ever!! There are about 6 interns from my program at this middle school and all of the CT's except for one treat us like the scum beneath their toes. All we do is push papers all day and work on our work from the methods course we're taking. The CT's do not interact with us at all and it is almost like we are a burden to them or something. Not to mention, I have had almost ZERO interactions with the students because all I do is sit in the back of the classroom! Thank goodness I get to leave that heck hole and go back to my 5th graders a few days a week for the after school program!! Since I consider myself to be an optimistic realist, I know that these teachers really don't want us around, but I am HOPING that by some miraculous event, things will get better. Oh, did I mention that the Spanish teacher knows exactly NOTHING about the Spanish language??!!!!! AAAAAHHHHHH!!! Okay, I know that not everyone who teaches a foreign language has majored in it like I have, but geez, to say you only took 3 courses in college 10 years ago is really sad. To top it off, she gets all flustered when she says something in Spanish when I'm in the room so she refuses to let me say anything in Spanish...I think it's because she doesn't want to look bad. That is definitely not my style and I would never make anyone feel like that. These teachers see no place for us in their classrooms and let me tell you, I'm not feeling much like being there either!!! Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Math Lesson = SUCCESS!!!

Friday October 23 was my last day in 5th grade for another 6 weeks. I will be moving to a middle school to teach 8th grade L.A. and Spanish for 6 weeks...excited and nervous all at the same time!! I will still see most of my 5th graders each week at the after-school program but I will definitely miss being with them during the day!

Well, my CT has been under-the-weather for a couple of weeks now and at lunch to go to a much needed doctor’s appointment. Since I had planned to stay for the whole day anyway, I just told her that I would teach math that afternoon. As much as I wanted to do it, I was terribly nervous on the inside. Math has been the subject that I feel the least comfortable with teaching. I always feel like I need to prep more for math than any of the other subjects and even after much preparation, I still do not feel prepared to teach it so I usually just walk around and help students while my CT teaches. Anyhow, the topic of the day was problem solving, an area of difficulty for many of the students. Since I knew I was nervous and the kids did not want to touch a word problem with a 10 foot pole, I pumped myself up, had a ton of energy and made the students active participants in the lesson. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many of them engaged in the lesson at once. I think for a split second, they actually enjoyed problem solving with word problems!!

This experience taught me two very important lessons: one about myself and one about my students. In regards to myself, I learned that preparation is the key to confidence. Before my CT left, I looked over the math lesson in the teacher guide, reflected on the problems and solved them on my own. I thought about the points of the problems that would not make sense to the students and how I would make it clear to them. Taking this time to become familiar with the topic helped me when I was in front of the class because I knew what I was talking about. I knew where I wanted the students to be at the end of the lesson which made actually getting them there a whole lot easier!

In regards to my students, I learned that they model the energy and enthusiasm that the teacher has for the lesson. When I told the class that we were going to work on word problems, I cannot even count the number of sighs and moans I heard!! However, when I started talking about the problem with incredible energy and excitement, the students sat up and paid attention to me. Initially, it was probably because they were trying to figure out if I was half-crazy or not, but eventually I think it was because they were involved in the task of solving the problem. Another thing is that students need to be validated, especially when dealing with a topic that is often challenging for them. Students would volunteer to share an answer and if it happened to be incorrect, I would praise them for trying and working hard on it. I would ask them to go back and see if they could figure out where they went wrong in the problem. When the students heard my praise, even if they had the wrong answer, they still felt like they had something to offer. I think this increased their levels of confidence ten fold and also helped them to be more critical of their solutions and the steps they took to find the answer.

I want to go forth in teaching with the same enthusiasm and confidence that I had today. Everyday may not feel as great as Friday did, the students may not behave as well as they did on Friday, but the students deserve to get my best every day. It is all worth it to see students who normally do not share their thinking at all, feeling comfortable and confident to do exactly the opposite. Energy is truly contagious; when the learning experience comes alive, everyone is able to reap the benefits. This day taught me the incredible influence that I have on my students. At the end of the day, one of my students asked me if I like math because I seemed so excited when we did the problems together. Even though math is by far my least favorite subject, if I can convince my students that I love it, I am absolutely doing my job!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sticks and Stones

Something happened today that was one of the most hilarious yet saddening events of my life!! In the afterschool program, the other student teacher and I had devised a plan for splitting up the rather large group of students. I think I spoke to this in a previous post, but for whatever reason, the students never want to be in my room. I honestly think it is because of my no-nonsense approach to classroom management. If you are doing what you should be doing, we will have the best time, but if you are not it won’t be that way at all. If you can’t show me that you can handle the responsibility that comes with being a 5th grader, than you cannot enjoy the things that responsible and respectful 5th graders enjoy.

Back to the story…so we came up with a plan so that the students that were with me one week would rotate to Miss S’s room and her students would then rotate to my room. We put them on a 1 week rotation so we wouldn’t have to worry about students asking us everyday if they could be in her room; everyone would get there chance.

Well today was the day that our classes were supposed to rotate. Before we left to go down to the classrooms, the coordinator of the program came to us with a “revised” class list that he created. He wanted to split certain students up and also to put an end to the ingenious rotation plan we created. As soon as he said that, Miss. S and I knew that this was going to get real ugly!!! So we had my CT, who also works in the program, announce the changes. We didn’t want to have anything to do with it! She is a tell-it-like-it-is kind of lady, so she wasn’t to concerned about their reactions. She called one group of students, the ones that would be in my classroom to line up at the door. Then she struck the knock-out blow….she told them they would all be in MY classroom!!!! AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!! You would’ve thought they found out they were being shipped to the moon! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such long faces before in my life!! So while the students in my room were in deep mourning, the students in Miss. S’s room were having the celebration of their lives. They were bragging to my kids like they just swept the opposing team in the NCAA Championships!! INCREDIBLE!!! This was hilarious, but I’m not gonna lie, I felt kind of sad too! The reaction that these kids had to being in my classroom; the huffing, puffing, and stomping down the hallway along with comments like “I don’t want to be in your room”, “Man, I’m not coming back to this program if I have to be with her!!” in addition to a few tears, really made me feel bad. I have never said a mean or cruel word to these students, so to hear these comments dished to me, I was hurt.

I have high expectations for my students…end of story. I wish they didn’t dread being in my room, but it is what it is. They know that when they come into my room, though, that I am totally committed to making sure they understand the content, become more responsible and are socially and emotionally well. If this happens to exclude them liking me, oh well. It has really taken me 7 weeks to utter those words and actually mean it. I still get sad when I hear the discontent some feel, but at the end of the day, I know that I my goal is to give them what they need. Their words may hurt sometimes, but as long as they don’t start throwing sticks and stones at me, I’ll be good!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I'll Be There

During the afterschool program, the students spend the first hour working on homework. Since there are so many 5th graders, we divide them up so that each room has half of the 5th graders. This particular day, the students in my room were working on publishing a writing piece so I was pretty busy setting up the computers while at the same time helping other students with their math homework. Kate, a student working in the other room, came over and asked me if she could read her fluency piece to me. In a sort of flustered state, I told her that she could read with me once I finished setting up the computers. So, she was just standing around in my room, and I encouraged her to go to her room and work on something else. I told her that when I finished, I would go over and get her. Time passed by and I completely forgot to go over and get her. Since she was not in my room, I couldn’t use her face as a reminder to go and assist her.

This was a very difficult situation because I know that Kate really wanted to read to me. She has been encountering a lot of problems with peers talking about the way she dresses and acts. I have made it a point to be there for her and encourage her to be comfortable with who she is and what she wears. Because of this, I think she has connected with me in a way that she hasn’t with other teachers. When I saw her at the end of the day (before even realizing that I had forgotten to read with her) she looked at me and had a very sad look of disappointment. It did not register with me why she looked so sad, but looking back, I know it was because I let her down. This situation was very upsetting to me. The next day, I approached her and sincerely apologized for forgetting about her. I explained to her that I was not trying to blow her off. I told her that on Monday, if she wanted to read with me, I would make sure that it happened. She gave me a hug and said it was okay and she wasn’t mad. She had an enormous smile on her face and happily walked back to her class.

I can see how some would think this situation was insignificant. It wasn’t like I flat out lied to Kate or forgot about her because I was surfing the internet or chatting with the other student teachers. Even though the reason why I forgot about her may be “valid”, the disappointment that Kate felt was also valid. I believe that Kate’s desire to read with me went beyond her wanting to get done with it so she wouldn’t have homework. I think it was her reaching out to me and in this case, I let her down. I’m not being harsh on myself; I just want to set a standard for meeting the needs of students beyond instruction. Furthermore, even when I do get sidetracked (which will more than likely happen again), I understand that I cannot be above apologizing and protecting the feelings of my students.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Takin' Over!!

I know it's been a while since my last post, but I have been SWAMPED!! I'm not writing much because I have to do this stupid project for my methods course and on top of that, looking over lesson plans because my CT is sick and will be out tomorrow!! YIKES!! This will be my first take-over and I'm scared stiff!! I have a lot of issues with behavior in my class and that's when my CT is still in the same room!! I am doing my best to be optimistic and positive about tomorrow but I must admit I've got butterflies! Now, I need to get find the strength to focus on my methods work so I can finish it and make sure I'm ready for tomorrow!! Wish me luck!!