Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Halfway Through

This week is Week 8 of my student teaching placement. The halfway mark! Thusfar, the entire experience has been a roller coaster of emotions, frustrations, victories, and laughs (One student called me "mom" 3 times today!)

There have been days when I've left school beaming, extremely proud of the way I managed the classroom and presented the material. There have also been days when I've left school with my head hanging because things just didn't go my way. I think this is all part of being a teacher. Kids are unpredictable, and sometimes, when you've never taught a certain lesson before, it can be a total flop. Sometimes, even if you come in prepared, with a great attitude, you can end up feeling very defeated at the end of the day. It's important to take those experiences in stride and use them to grow.

Each day, I feel more and more like a "real teacher." Though doing it all on my own still seems an arduous, if not impossible task, I feel more confident about taking on the role of a classroom teacher. Classroom management, which I have always identified as a weakness, is something I continue to work on. I have learned a handful of strategies from past field experiences and my current placement, which I use on a daily basis. Even so, there are some times when I can't get the class to quiet down. That being said, I have made great leaps since my first week of teaching this group. My supervising teacher is a great mentor and has given me a lot of tips and support in this area!

Something I find difficult in this particular setting is the required curriculum. On some days, the material I am required to present can actually be very useful, and, at times, very engaging. However, most of the time, I feel that the information I am relaying to the kids is not as "meaty" as it could be. Though a couple of my students need to be learning those basic phonics and language arts concepts, it seems like most of the class would benefit from something a little more challenging. For example, every day during phonics, I feel like the kids already know most of the things I'm teaching them. [Kids who are reading chapter books (roughly half the class) don't need to be filling out worksheets about what sound "oo" makes!] And I truly dislike how many worksheets these kids have to fill out. Even so - I feel very comfortable teaching phonics, high frequency words, and language arts.

Math is something I find difficult to teach. I have never been a math person, and it's difficult for me to verbalize seemingly basic concepts to a group of students who are learning them for the first time. I also think it's hard to explain the same concept in multiple ways, which I know is necessary in order to teach different types of mathematical thinkers. I do enjoy the hands-on, student-driven nature of the Everyday Math curriculum.

As of now, I am teaching everything except writer's workshop. After this week, it will just be me, completely alone. (Scary!) My biggest fear about this is that my student with an IEP for behavioral issues will have a meltdown without any aides in the room. I feel unequipped to deal with that kind of thing, especially if it turns violent or out of control. Luckily, I have a radio in my room that I can use if I need assistance. Hopefully, it doesn't come to that! Also, I worry that some students still don't see me as a "real" teacher who they need to behave for. I'll continue to dole on consequences and rewards so that they do see I'm in control, and deserve the same respect as any other teacher.

Like I said before, teaching is a really complex and crazy career. I am stressed out thinking about doing it all alone, but I have a lot of hope and excitement about the future. Wish me luck as I enter the second half of this wild journey! :)


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I like you berry much! How-to make fruit valentines.

These are the valentines I made for my class!

Super simple! All you need is:
- white, green, yellow, pink, red, and orange card stock
- an x-acto knife
- scissors
- google eyes 
- glue stick 
- sharpie
- a hole punch or heart punch

I used a heart shape for the berry, a circle for the orange, a half circle for the watermelon, and an oval (cut with squiggly scissors!) for the pineapple. Simply cut out the shapes, glue them together, and write a message on the back! I made mine on Microsoft word, but they would be just as cute handwritten :)

Sunday, February 1, 2015


I'm really enjoying my time student teaching! Sometimes I get exhausted or frustrated, but that's all a part of being a teacher. 

As of now, I'm teaching phonics, high frequency words, math (parallel), and language arts. After this next week, I'll be adding on Daily 5 guided reading/skills groups and possibly writers workshop. 

The more time I spend in someone else's classroom, the clearer my vision of my own classroom becomes. There are so so many things I love about how things operate in my class, but of course, I have my own unique style and tastes, so my class wouldn't run exactly the same. 

Some things I love: 
- Classroom management: I think Class Dojo is a brilliant system, and the techniques Mrs. H. uses to quiet the class are so great. 
- Daily 5: I can't imagine NOT using Daily 5. Though mine may not look exactly the same, it will probably be pretty close!
- Phonics with songs and poems: Yes. Yes yes. I can't even explain how valuable I think it is to have music in the classroom. Which brings me to..

Some things I'd tweak:
- Music, art, and hands-on engagement: though I see glimpses of these things each week, I just truly hope my future administration will allow me to include all of these on a daily basis. The curriculum books are so strict and scripted that, at this school, it's not really possible. But they're in 1st grade..!
- Fewer worksheets: Worksheets are a quick and easy way to have kids practice skills in any subject...but are they really effective? I estimate that our kids do 5 worksheets a day, with 1-3 for homework. That's..a lot. Wouldn't they learn grammar rules or spelling words or math concepts more quickly (and remember them more easily) with a song, an experiment, or through physical activity? 
- Authenticity: Maybe I'm still in that college-aged, teacher-in-training, head-in-the-clouds mindset. Maybe there simply isn't the time for schools to make room for authentic teaching that introduces kids to cultural, ethical, and human rights concepts. But, there needs to be time. For MLKJ day, we did a read aloud about Dr. King. I couldn't help but think how important that subject matter was. We could've done stations or explorations to learn more and truly understand how important he was to the history of our country. No time. 

 I hope that, in the future, school boards and educational policy makers will understand how much truly important material is getting pushed out of the school day to "improve test scores." Teaching is about people. KIDS. Let's focus on making them into great ADULTS with rich understandings of our world. That's what school is there for...right?

- E