Friday, February 5, 2010

Student Teaching Day 10


Day 10

The End

The last day of my teaching experience started like most of the others.  We had warm up sheets, the two minute math test, pledge to the flag, etc.  For the math lesson we started with watching some of the Schoolhouse Rock videos on multiplication.  After the videos we did some multiplication activities and ISTEP sample problems.  Maybe my post on play vs inquiry had a small effect on Mrs. J.

The children went to music and gym today.  While they were gone Mrs. J. and I talked while she planned lessons and I graded papers.  She showed me the highly scored scoring rubric she had filled out to send to my college. Even though it wasn't all flowers and sunshine, I received high marks from all involved.

The afternoon writing activity was a small group project designed to teach descriptive writing,  The students were allowed to pick their own groups.  The four high ability girls banded together.  The boys stuck together.  The below grade level students grouped together.  The results were not what we expected.  The high ability group and the two groups of boys spent most of their time arguing and correcting each other.  The low ability group worked together and produced more descriptive sentences than any of the other groups.  It was fun to watch.

We did a few other activities and took a few tests as the end of the day approached.  The students turned in their work and got ready to leave.  On girl took Mrs. J  out into the hall to tell her something urgent just before the students were released.  I found out later that the girl had a surprise gift that she wanted Mrs. J. to deliver to me.

Here is my parting gift:

My friend N__ had brought me a Valentine card.  Hannah Montana Wizards of Waverly Place star "Alex" was neatly holding a Jolly Rancher apple flavored sucker.  My first valentine from a student.

After the students had left Mrs. J and I discussed how things had went and what we had learned over the past two weeks.  We both had a great time and worked well together.. Mrs. J, who had said on day one that she never wanted to have another student teacher for 8 weeks, invited me back to do my student teaching in her classroom.  I could have not wished for a better evaluation than to be invited back to teach again.

I have made many new friends over the past two weeks.  I have strengthened some professional relationships.  I have learned about children and about myself.  I discovered new things about office politics and the interaction of school departments.  I learned how to use a Promethean board, electronic voters, and two different document cameras.  I discovered how to co-teach and how differentiation works in the classroom.  I made a great connection with my friend and mentor Mrs. J.

I learned that a handwritten card and an apple sucker can be the best gift in the world.
Happy Valentines Day N____.

I'm going to go eat my sucker, look at all of the photos I took this week,  and miss my students for a little while.

Thanks kids.  Thanks Mrs. J.   I'll miss you.

Student Teaching Day 9


Day 9

Today was another normal day.  The morning work and math lesson symmetry went well.  Everything was fine until we went to the computer lab to write our final copies of the persuasive letter we wrote this week.  Things went downhill in a hurry.

The students were very needy.  How do I ..... over and over again.  These students have been doing similar exercises on these machines since kindergarten.  They should know how to type a document on a word processor.  The computer lab teacher and Mrs. J agreed.  It was hard not knowing who to help and who to let struggle a bit more.  I made some mistakes that raised the tension level in the room.  Students made some bad choices that further added to the stress.The overall computer lab experience was terrible for all involved.  Maybe this is due to the lab environment instead of having computers in the classroom.  Some ed-tech types say that labs are bad.  Technology should be like air - unnoticeable and everywhere.  I am inclined to agree, but if there were 5-10 computers in each classroom, then the classroom teacher would be responsible for teaching and coaching technology use.  The experience level and teaching capabilities are widely varied among the teachers.  Would putting computers in the classroom give all students an equal opportunity?  I'm not sure.

I was able to witness a few of the students have some social difficulties.  A few of the boys had a fight difference of opinion at recess.  This led to one boy being shunned at lunch; no one would sit with him out of fear of getting into trouble.  The shunned third grader, a normally rough-and-tumble type, had a tearful meltdown at the lunch table.  It was not the warm-fuzzy teachable moment you read about in the textbooks, but it was an opportunity for growth. I think the class troublemaker learned a bit of the unwritten curriculum today.   Sometimes the lessons taught by playground politics are just as difficult to learn as long division.

I got to witness a bit of the emotional stress that teachers must endure.  One student's family is going through a break-up.  The child seems to sleep (or not sleep) in a different place every night.  Another student will soon be evicted from their residence. Knowing these details of a child's life places a strain on the classroom teacher.  I do not know how a teacher could not be affected by the events happening in their students' lives. If a teacher is not affected by these issues, perhaps they are in the wrong profession.  I've barely known these kids for a week or two, and I'm losing sleep worrying about them.   How do teachers deal with this for 180 days and year?

Today was not the best day of my teaching experience; but they can't all be great.  Another teachable moment for me.

On a brighter note, I was invited to sit with the teachers at their table during lunch.  I've made it to the big time in the lounge.

Student Teaching Day 8

Day 8

Final Evaluation Day

The day started with the usual morning routine, but with one exception.  We had a class meeting where Mrs. J explained some changes in procedure. It was the end of the grading period and time to move one step closer to fourth grade.  No longer would she prompt them for missing work.  If it's not turned in - too bad.  This is now grade 3.5 and the requirements have changed.  Some students will be unaffected by the change because they always turn their work in on time.  Other students, the ones with poor grades and a poor history of getting work in on time, will have to change their ways in order to keep their grade from dropping further.  The tough-love message of the day might motivate some students, but others just don't seem to 'get it', as they say every day.  Perhaps this is a lesson for the parents as well as the students.  I wish I could be around to observe the results of the changes.

We had a visit from a new guidance person this morning.  Our new  visitor gave a presentation on bullying.  Her lesson included some role playing games to demonstrate what a student could do in certain situations.  The content was good, but the delivery was off.  Most guidance presentations I have seen have this same problem.  I believe that a trained guidance counselor has a valid place in the school, but might not be the best one for presenting the message.  In elementary school the student-teacher relationship is strong.  The classroom teacher knows the students better than anyone else in the school building.  I think it might be best if the guidance personnel assisted the classroom teacher in planning and delivering the content, and let the teacher be the one that delivers the message; either alone or co-teaching with the guidance staff.

One bright spot of the morning was when two members of a island of students assisted a third during the guidance lesson.  The group seating is starting to foster some sense of community.

The afternoon brought my professor and my final evaluation.  The lesson was a flip chart on the IWB about reading and context clues.  A short quiz using the voting devices followed the lesson.  Mrs. J gave my professor a voting remote and told her she had to play along.  My evaluator seemed to be taken a bit off guard, but participated in the exercise.

The lesson went....OK.  Not a slam dunk, not earth shattering, and nowhere close to the best thing I have ever done.   It was just OK. It could have been better if we had written our own lesson, but we opted to use one from the Promethean web site.  The overall review from my professor was favorable.  She was impressed with my tech skills, classroom management, and teaching style.  I received another fantastic review.

With the last visit from my college now behind me, I can finally relax and enjoy the next two days in the classroom.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Student Teaching Day 7

Day 7

Today the students entered the room and had to search for their desks.  All of the students (except 2) had had their desks placed in groups of 4 or 5.  I expected grumbling and confusion, but the 3rd grade group handled the change with little disruption to their morning routine.  Morning worksheets, breakfast, lunch choice, Star Spangled Banner (and they still get the words wrong) and all of the other familiar morning activities occurred without issue.

The day's schedule was a bit altered from the norm.  Junior Achievement took up part of the day.  The visit from the guidance counselor didn't happen today.  We worked on math more than usual.  Math is where the biggest event happened today.

Some students go to the resource room for math.  Since we had an extra lesson today, these students were still in the classroom.  Mrs. J gave a short review lesson on the IWB, and then the students were split into groups to work on multiplication using unifix-type blocks.  The students were instructed to take 18 blocks and see how many different ways they could represent the total; 2 groups of 9, 3 groups of 6, etc. I offered to take two of the students that normally do not stay for math.

One girl (I'll call her H) in my group was a bit reluctant to try the activity.  I worked with her slowly and she started to grasp the exercise.  With tongue protruding out of the corner of her mouth, she stacked, counted, and re-stacked the blocks to find all of the possible combinations. When I showed her that there was a pattern (3x6 and 6x3, 2x9 and 9x2,...) I saw the light come on.  She was so excited that she had to go up to the front of the room and share her discovery.  I was happy to see that her classmates nodded in agreement and let her have her moment of glory.  Many of the at/above grade level kids could have easily shot her down, but they did not.  I felt a sense of community and family in the classroom.  H had her 15 seconds of fame and then we moved on to the next activity.

The new seating arrangement seems to be working so far.  There is a little chatting, but there is also some collaborating and mentoring going on at each island of desks.  It is fun to watch them try to help each other without giving away the answer.  I look forward to watching them work together the remainder of the week.

My professor visits tomorrow afternoon for my second and final evaluation.  I am teaching a language unit on the Promethean board, complete with a quiz using the remote voter units.  I ran through the flip-chart once.  It should be easy, but I'm still a bit nervous.  I did accidentally bring the Promethean board's pen home in my shirt pocket today.  Maybe I'll sleep with it under my pillow for good luck.

Student Teaching Day 6

Day 6

Inquiry vs Play

I am enjoying the inquiry based math instruction in this classroom.  Watching the children construct their own strategies can be quite exciting.  Mrs. J does a great job of letting the group members share their ideas.  The children feel safe enough in the environment to share ideas without the fear of giving the wrong answer.  They all seem content to be traveling down the same path of discovery as they learn about multiplication.  The mixture of teacher led discussions at the white board, partner work, and seat work appears to be working well.

The language lessons I have witnessed have used a different approach.  Learning the parts of speech is accomplished with a mixture of textbook lectures, worksheets, IWB activities, several doses of the Schoolhouse Rock videos, and some games.  Today we learned more about adverbs while we played a game similar to Scattergories .  The students (and adults) had a fun time playing the game.

I'm not sure if math is more difficult than language or if the difference in teaching methods is having an effect, but it is clear to see that the students do better with language than math.  I know that learning multiplication is difficult, and I understand that constructing knowledge takes time, but...... I believe that the reason that the students excel in their language skills is due to the presence of play.  The games, music, and videos grab the students' attention and keeps them excited.  Inquiry based math is...well... it is still math facts.  Maybe some more music and games in math class would inspire a few more 'light bulb moments'.  Maybe it's just too soon in the inquiry process and the ah-has will come in a few weeks.

The technology used in the classroom today got me a little more excited about how my hometown school feels about technology.  I was greatly pleased to see Open Office and TeacherTube being used in the classroom.  Free and open source software used to be unthinkable in the walled garden.  I'm happy to see a shift, for the sake of the students, the teachers, and my tax bill.

After school Mrs. J and I decided to take the desks out of rows and try placing them in small groups.  The students were grouped by compatibility and by ability level.  Each group has at least one child who is below grade level, at grade level, and above grade level.  It will be interesting to see how the kids react to the change tomorrow.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Student Teaching Day 5

Day 5

Friday was similar to the rest of the week.  We used manipulatives in math more than we did earlier in the week.  One child had something to share (or show-and-tell, as we called it when I was in school).  The class had two 'specials', Music and Gym.  Nothing out of the ordinary happened other than it was Popcorn Day.  Every student either paid $0.25 for a bag of popcorn, or received it free for having perfect attendance.  I'm normally against food for bribes rewards, but this seemed more like a party for everyone than a reward for perfect attendance.  Perfect attendance for the grading period should be valued more than a bag of popcorn.

I'm beginning to get a feel for how the classroom dynamic changes when some of the children leave and go to the resource room for remediation.  With a group of about 12 students left in the room, the instruction becomes more individualized.  Students seem to enjoy the smaller class size and more personal interaction with the teacher. I can only hope that the students pulled out to the other classroom (staffed with one teacher and two paraprofessionals), are having as good of an experience.

The tension in the building is starting to build.  You can almost feel the grip of THE test starting to squeeze.  So much rides on the test scores.  The students don't understand why it is important, but they know that the grown-ups really think it is important.
It's amazing what you learn when you eat lunch with the students every day.  I can see the anxiety building in many of their eyes. They are genuinely worried and they aren't sure why.

Does it have to be this way?

Field Guide For Change Agents

What did you do today?  I remotely collaborated with a group of educators and helped create this presentation.  Most of them were at a conference in Philadelphia.  I was in Indiana. We made this in less than an hour.

Check out this SlideShare Presentation: