Sunday, April 25, 2010

Making Time for Interventions

My last day being the lead teacher was Friday. My CT was absent all day and I was only present for the morning so it was a whirlwind of an am!! I taught the Math lesson in the morning so that the substitute teacher would not have to worry about it. The lesson was on Stem-and-Leaf plots and I actually think it went pretty well. I spent a lot of time going over the concept and doing quite a few whole class examples. Most students seemed to understand the concept, but one thing that I think about frequently is when I can pull the students who don’t get it and work in small groups with them to help them understand the concept.

I know that my Math curriculum will look different next year, but it is so important to find to provide for interventions wherever possible. I feel like failing to do so simply allows for those students to fall through the cracks. If it is my goal to make sure all students succeed to their highest levels, I must create opportunities consistently through the day to help those students who may be struggling. In my current classroom, I have pulled struggling students when others are working on independent practice problems. This worked fairly well, but it was difficult to provide assistance to students working independently when they needed it. The battle still wages in my mind on how to help all students within a very tight window of time that is the school day.

How do you provide interventions during your Math block? What other suggestions do you have on helping struggling learners during the school day?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Realize....

Today was the second to last research day before our State Fair Showcase tomorrow evening. Students have been researching information about a state they randomly selected. They have been researching information about this state’s government, economy, early inhabitants, statehood, political features, and physical features. This has been a very long and tedious process because many of my students struggled to find information in books and on the internet that was not “right there in their face”. This is a skill that takes time develop, but you can only get it if you actually read the information in order to find the facts. Since there are still some students conducting research, while others are done creating their poster boards and began working on a second state, this was a very chaotic time. I felt like I needed to be in 18 different places at once!

My CT helped out quite a bit today and I cannot imagine what it would be like to do all of this by myself. I have been giving a lot of thought to what things will look and feel like when I am in the classroom by myself. I know that things will be more stressful because I will not have an extra set of hands, but because of this, I will need to be incredibly organized in order for things to flow the way in which I want it to.

After I pass my certification test :) I plan to spend my time looking at pictures I have taken of primary classrooms, books, and other resources that will help me establish a system in my classroom that is most conducive to learning.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Welcome Back

It felt so weird being back at school today, especially since I feel like I’ve been away for so long (2 days in the last week). I got to school early, like I usually do, so I had some time to get things ready and get back into the swing of things. This is my last week being the lead teacher and I feel such a sense of relief. Next week, it will be so nice to just work with my small groups, grade a little throughout the day and help out during lessons when needed. I have given some thought to coming back some days after I graduate, but I’m not sure. I definitely plan to come back for the trip to the zoo and their 5th grade Promotion. I, however, have a nightmarish vision of coming back to help out and being worked like an animal while I am here and being more stressed out than ever. Then again, I could be using that time to review for my Language Proficiency Test and just enjoying some R&R. I figure I really need to soak up this time I have being behind the scenes while I can!

I have some really great observations set up for the week of May 3. I will be observing 3 outstanding teachers at my school in 3rd grade, Primary Cross-Cat. and 2nd grade. I am thrilled to be able to observe the second grade room because of my new position as a 2nd grade bilingual teacher. This particular teacher has great command of literacy work stations and that has been a passion of mine all year! I plan to take lots of notes and help out whenever I can.

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's Official!

Today, I officially accepted the 2nd grade bilingual teaching position!!! It took much thought and reflection but I am at peace with the decision I have made. I visited some of the bilingual classrooms (kindergarten, 3rd, and 4th) and had the pleasure of sitting in on a Reading Recovery session conducted totally in Spanish. The district places a strong focus on bilingual literacy and students are taught to read first in Spanish. It was incredible to see everything that I have learned and implemented myself about reading instruction (Running Record, reading prompts, Writer’s Workshop)! I am excited about teaching in both languages and fostering bi-literacy in my students.

In the second grade classroom, I will teach in English for 30% of the day (focusing on English Language Development) and Spanish for 70% of the day (Reading, Writing, Math, Science, Social Studies). This percentage breakdown may be altered to include a slightly higher percentage of English Language Development. My principal told me that because of my Reading endorsement, she thinks I would be a great fit at second grade, a grade at which data shows the bilingual students become stagnant in their English Reading scores. I am encouraged and eager to work toward this challenge.

The school staff was very friendly, but it always feels a little awkward stepping into a space that is not yet yours. I know how I felt before I became acclimated at the school at which I am student teaching, but now I feel such a strong connection to the incredible people I have been able to work with this year. I cannot wait to truly become a part of the staff.

I am truly blessed to have a full-time teaching position for next year. :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Here's the Run Down

I was a nervous wreck all day, waiting for a phone call from the school with which I had an interview yesterday. Just thinking about the fact that I had an real, live interview just yesterday boggles my mind! Well, I was busy all afternoon helping the new interns get acclimated to the district, but I was dying to check my phone. I went down to the room and checked it around 2:30 and of course, there was no phone call. I was a little disappointed and began wondering if they were going to stand me up. Then, my CT told me that even though they had not called me, they actually called her to check my references!! For whatever reason, I guess I did not think they would actually do that. Every other job I have applied for just kind of takes your word that you are good…I guess this is real life!

Anyway, I went back to be with the other student teachers and at the end of the day, I checked my phone and I had 1 missed call from the school and a voicemail….oh boy. This was it. I was so excited and so were the other teachers in my building. They asked me to put the message on speaker and I did. We were all huddled together in the middle of the hall way, waiting to hear a decision and of course, the principal asked me to call her back. She dished no information over the phone. When we heard this, there was a collective sigh of disappointment because we all wanted to know right then! I love those ladies….they are an awesome group of teachers who have supported me throughout all of this!

Okay, so I called back and left a message. She was in a meeting. An hour went by and I decided to call back. She said that she and the interview committee were very impressed and she would like to offer me a position as a……..2nd GRADE BILINGUAL TEACHER! So, in this very instant, I felt totally elated that I was offered a job, but then the reality set in that I would really have to make a decision about whether or not I want to wait for a position in the district in which I am student teaching or take this opportunity.

I met with the principal at the middle school here in town that I have been in communication with and she talked to me about the two possible vacancies for next year (6th grade writing/reading and 8th grade Spanish OR 6th grade self-contained classroom teaching history, science, math with struggling students who do not qualify for special education services). She made me feel more comfortable about possibly working with the 8th grade staff that I had such a different experience with, but I am not a big fan of teaching middle school Math and Science either. I think the biggest factor with this situation is that she cannot guarantee me that I will absolutely have one of those positions next year. I know she would do all she could to make it happen, but there is no guarantee. In this job climate, 1 in the hand is worth two in the bush.

I will tell the principal of the elementary school my decision on Monday, after I go for a visit to the bilingual classrooms and talk with the director of curriculum and instruction for the district (per the request of the director and the principal). I will be doing a lot of thinking and reflecting that I will make the best choice for me. I just feel so blessed to be able to say I have an offer on the table!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

First Job Interview

Today I had my very first interview for a position as a Spanish teacher. This was a position that I was called about an interview a couple of weeks ago and soon after they called back to tell me the position was no longer available. Well, it is available again and I had my interview this morning. I was nervous but definitely not as much as I was with the anticipation of the interview a couple of weeks ago. I arrived about 20 minutes early, as my interview was at 9am. School starts at 9am so the principal was very busy. I did not get called back for the interview until 9:20. The anticipation almost killed me as I watched 3 other teachers enter her office with note pads and pens. Then it hit me, they would be participating in the interview questioning too!! YIKES!! I silently hyperventilated, then composed myself.

I greeted each person at the table and then they introduced themselves. Interviewing me were the principal, office manager, bilingual teacher, and a 5th grade teacher. They began to ask questions about me personally and why I was interested in the position, my experience student teaching. Not so bad, right?! Then, the bilingual teacher told me that she was going to ask me some questions in Spanish….OH BOY!! I knew that this was a definite possibility, but now I knew I had to put my language skills to the test. I haven’t taken a Spanish course since Spring Semester 2009 and haven’t had a serious conversation in Spanish since then (except when I had dinner at a Mexican restaurant about a month ago!).

Well, the first question she asked was one submitted by another bilingual teacher. It was incredibly long and very confusing, but I did not want it to seem like I didn’t understand it, it just was poorly written. After the interviewer read it a couple of times, she too agreed that it was poorly written and came up with her own interpretation of the question for me to answer. This helped quite a bit. I know I probably did not speak as well as I would have liked, but the interviewer told me at the end that my Spanish was beautiful so I guess that counts for something, right?!

Okay, to make a long story shorter, they are considering me for two positions. One is as a Spanish teacher (what I originally applied for) and the other is as a 2nd grade bilingual teacher (did not apply for). The Spanish teacher position did not entice me at all after the explained it. The Spanish teacher pushes in to all of the classes every other day. She has no room, but rather a desk in the library. All I could think about was having a cart that I roll around the school with all of my things in it because of the seemingly nomadic nature of the position. After I heard the description of that position, I was excited to hear what they had to say next. The principal said based on my credentials, she believed I would be a great candidate for the position. The principal asked what I thought about this proposition and I said it sounded exciting, but I was a little nervous about how prepared I would be for the position. I am a Spanish major, but have taken no course work in ESL nor Bilingual education. I am absolutely open to the position and if offered, would do whatever it took to be fully competent and qualified to teach in that position.

After the interview, she asked if I could come back in an hour to meet with the director of bilingual education for the district. OF COURSE! I returned and she talked with me in Spanish and then switched to English (complimenting on my Spanish too!). She then told me that I would need to apply for type 29 certification- Transitional Bilingual Certification and take the State Content Test- all of which would have to be done and successfully completed by the end of the summer.

I never considered bilingual education because I was not highly qualified to teach it. Now that this opportunity has possibly presented itself, I am curious and very interested in investigating this option.

There was another person coming in for the interview after me and the principal said she would let me know tomorrow about her decision. I felt like the interview went well, but I won’t know for sure until tomorrow.

I am still considering a possible opening with a the middle school I student taught at for 6 weeks, but I am struggling to know in my heart what would be the best fit for me.

What advice do you have for how to know what and where I should be teaching. I want to make sure I make the right decision, but I have no clue what that may be.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Evaluating my Evaluation

Today I debriefed a Guided Reading lesson I taught about 1 month ago with my building principal. I wasn’t too nervous because my principal is very laid back and does not make situations tense at all. I thought she would tell me all of the things she noticed during my lesson, but she did not. Instead, she pulled the trick that I have become all too accustomed to- “How did you think your lesson went?” When this question was first posed to me by my student teaching coordinator, I must admit that I was a little irritated. I did not want to hear about what I thought, I wanted to know what she thought! I have learned that they do this to help you self evaluate and also to gain more insight into why you taught the lesson they way you do to make more informed evaluations.

There were two important things she noted. One was the fact that both me and my CT taught our Guiding Reading Groups in totally different ways (1 more teacher centered and the other more student centered). I personally believe this difference in style can be attributed to the fact that I was working with my stronger readers, while she was working with the group with the more profound reading challenges, who may have needed more direct scaffolding. She also asked me, in a perfect world, what my G.R. lesson would look like. I talked about the literacy work stations, management board and spending the majority of my time with students who needed the greatest level of intervention, and having more fluid groupings. It was nice being able to talk about some of these things and gain more confidence and comfort with articulating aspects of Best Practices. Whenever I have a job interview, I will know exactly what to say…I just need follow through!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Making the Most of It

Although this was a very busy week for me, I took out a chunk of time last night to write my formal lesson plan for my writing lesson for today. I have not had much feedback on how effectively I teach writing and I wanted my CT to evaluate me on this subject. I gave my CT the formal lesson plan and a camera because I wanted her to capture some of the lesson in pictures (to include in my portfolio, of course!). She took some pictures but did not really take many notes on my lesson. When I asked her about it, she said that she totally for got to take notes on my lesson and that she would do it right then (3 hours after my lesson was taught). I was a little frustrated because I know that she was getting her sub plans for Monday together during my lesson. The comments that she did end up writing were very generic and her simply affirming my success with the things that I said I wanted her to pay attention to. How can you give me feedback if you are not even watching the lesson?

So, I’m going to do my own self-evluation:
I taught a lesson on Persuasive Writing. We read Hey, Little Ant earlier and the week and came up with reasons why the kid should squish the ant and reasons why he should not squish the ant. Today, I wanted students to write a paragraph for one reason why the kid should not squish the ant, using ample secondary support. We reviewed the story an the reasons we came up with for both sides. Then I had students determine which two ideas they felt were most important about why the kid should not squish the ant. I told them that they would choose one of those reasons and write a paragraph, but first I wanted to model it for them.

Prior to the lesson, I chose one reason to support why the kid should squish the ant and wrote a paragraph modeling the incorporation of a topic sentence and support. We read it aloud and students helped me identify the examples for support I included. Next, I had students select partners. One partner would “talk long” about reason #1 (which was selected earlier in the lesson) for two minutes. After two minutes the other partner B would talk about reason #2 for two minutes. While each partner was talking, they were to discuss support about why that reason justified not squishing the ant. After they discussed with a partner, we shared out some of the examples they used for each reason. Then I sent students back to their desks to write 1 paragraph about one of the reasons, reminding them of the topic sentence and supports that needed to be included. After 15 minutes, students shared out their writing whole class and we gave Thumbs Up to that person when they were able to identify the required components within their paragraph.

*I think that allowing students to choose their partners made their conversations have more substance because they wanted to talk to the person they chose to work with. I have learned that if I want students to focus on a certain skill when working in partners, they are more likely to engage in the skill if they are able to choose their partner (of course with the expectation that all talk and behaviors are centered on the focus of the lesson)
*Creating a paragraph to model the focus of the lesson helped students to understand what I expected of them when they wrote their paragraphs. It also helped me to think about what aspects students may struggle with because I went through the entire process myself.
*I gave each partner a letter (A or B) so that they would know which reason they needed to talk about with their partner. If I were to do this lesson again, I would have had the paper letters prepared ahead of time because it took about 3 minutes of my time to find the paper and marker to do it during the lesson.
*I feel that by incorporating the conversational piece in the lesson and modeling the paragraph for students made them feel more confident and prepared to go back and write their own paragraphs. I was so pleased to see all of my students engaged in writing when they went back to their desks.
*Overall, I think the lesson went well. I prepared quite a bit for it and I think that preparation resulted in my students being able to apply the skills and focus of the lesson in their own writing.

~In these last few weeks of my student teaching experience, I am doing my best to turn every negative situation in to a positive. I want to end this year, walking away with as much growth and preparedness to teach and this is a great way for me to ensure this happens~

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Teeter Totter

Today was an emotional roller coaster for me. I called the school this morning to confirm my interview for the K-5 Spanish teacher position that was supposed to be on April 9. About an hour later, they called me back and left a message saying that the position for which I was going to interview was no longer available because instead of offering Spanish as a foreign language, they decided to offer….yep, Mandarin Chinese! They apologized for the inconvenience. I spent so much time over the last 24 hours stressing and worrying about what if they offered me the job and then I had to decide whether or not I wanted to take that position or wait for one in which I was more interested. I feel such a connection to the district in which I am student teaching, but the whole waiting game is what is driving me crazy! I prayed about the situation but still felt like I could control the situation. Today I learned that there is no point in stressing about things that have yet to come to fruition. My faith shows me that God will put me exactly where he wants me to be and when he wants me to be there. I have learned a very valuable lesson in trusting that all things will work out the way they are supposed to. I still don’t know where I will find employment but I am going to be open to the options that present themselves and be confident that I will be lead in the direction I am supposed to go.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hodge Podge

I had a talk with my CT during our CAL today about what I wanted to focus on during these last few weeks of student teaching. We reflected on the growth that I have made and the fact that I want to spend time tweaking and improving some of my teaching strategies. One of the issues that I brought up is the trouble that I seem to have with following through with authentic assignments that I give my students. For example, I wanted my students to complete their Black History biographies and be able to publish them so they could be displayed in the hallway on a bulletin board. The students completed them and they were graded, but it has been very difficult to get all students to publish their work. Now that it is time to move on to persuasive writing, I find it very unlikely that students will be able to have their work displayed. I also talked to my CT about how I wanted her to give me more informal feedback regarding my teaching.

Surprisingly, she agreed that she should focus more on paying attention to my lessons and that she would do a better job of that. So, needless to say, I was a little disappointed to see her texting on her phone throughout the entire afternoon! Oh well. I will have to continue being my own self-critic. I can only try so much, but I am honestly just appreciative of the fact that I was able to sit down with her and talk some of these things out. One a totally different note….I got a call to come in for an interview for an Elementary Spanish teacher position!!!!!!!!!!!!! They called my permanent home and left a message, hoping that I can make an interview at 1pm on Friday….yes, this Friday. It is such short notice, but really, what am I going to do…say no??!!! I think not! Wish me luck!