Student Teaching Reflections

Week 10: 5/7-5/11

This past week was a full one.  Even though I started out sick with a fever and being sent home, missing a full day, and really only having three days to teach, those three days were chock full of experiences.  Some were good, like getting to observe another classroom and going on a local field trip to see one of our own students star as the Music Man, but some were more difficult like coming up against a resistant student, constantly preparing for the M.S.P. (Measurement of Student Progress) and finding time to finish my T.P.A. (Teacher Pedagogical Assessment).  Although, it was full and at times overwhelming, I was able to persevere and complete the week with time to spare to enjoy some of the much needed sunshine.

Starting the week not feeling well was something I thought I could push through.  But as the day wore on and my fever escalated my abilities to connect with the students in a valuable way diminished and I was sent home.  I took the next day off to recover and thank goodness because I felt much better when I returned on Wednesday.  Wednesday was a BIG day in C-6 for one of our very own was starring in the musical The Music Man as the lead.  Although, this trip took away from valuable instructional time at a time in the year when review of conceptual attainment and consistency in instruction is imperative, the students, my mentor, and I all fell it was worth it.  The swell of pride as we watched the courage it takes to be a lead in a production, understood the time, devotion, and hard work he put into staging this show, became an important life lesson that we could not have taught in the classroom.

This week I was able to observe a straight 4th grade classroom and see the differences and similarities that are unique to each, straight grade and multiage, learning environment.  Although, the teacher that I observed is my mentor’s teaching partner the deliverance and style of teaching are very different.  There seemed to be more direct instruction with large group activity as I observed a social studies lesson about the Oregon Trail.  This was a Storypath where the students participate in “family units’ and have to make decisions based upon incidents that occur similar to what would have happened on the Oregon Trail; flash floods, death of a family member, all the food going bad, etc.  This is an ongoing exploration of culture, society, and historical significance through the re-enactment by the students.  It was very dynamic and the students seemed really excited about learning and participating in the journey.  The classroom had an entire wall covered with a map of the United States that they developed at the start of the year.  The social studies curriculum yearlong has been focused on the development and progression of the United States, its growth and settlement, over time.  For the Oregon trail the student have depicted where they have been using yarn to mark their trail and are involved as a group of settlers and family units to decide where they will go to end in Oregon City.   I really enjoyed seeing and hearing different classroom management styles and I feel that this will only help to improve my own ideological preferences for interactions with future students.  I look forward to visiting a kindergarten class this week and am sure that I will glean just as much from the younger age student-teacher interactions and classroom management style.

Lastly, I was once again, in the midst of the pressures of both the T.P.A and M.S.P. preparation for the students, confronted by a defiant student.  Each experience with this type of challenge demands that I seek additional help from my mentor teacher and principal, thus, affording me the opportunity to learn valuable management skills.  I understand the vital necessity for a good relationship with not only other classroom teachers but more importantly the principal.  This partner-relationship offers a team of support for difficult situations and allows for multiple experienced perspectives to be shared.  I am thankful that I am able to see this in action, participate in, and I will continue to seek out developing this style of support in my future employment.

Student Teaching Reflections

Week 8: 4/23- 4/28

This week, although busy with the extra event of a job fair and school wide focus on screen free week activities, proved to be relatively “normal”.  I felt a new comfort being in front of the students teaching more fully throughout the day.  However, the pressure of the TPA and other graduate school requirements has begun to take its toll and I find myself unbalanced.  Trying to teach well and trying to be a successful student are not always cohesive and I wonder if the pressure from graduate school requirements and TPA expectations is counterproductive to the benefit of focusing on actual student teaching in the classroom.

This week I was involved in another job fair and, although, the prospects of employment are somewhat bleak the experience of talking to and with educational employment professionals is a skill that improves with practice.  Job fairs provide opportunities to talk and seek out different school districts.  I have enjoyed the experience of learning about what different districts have to offer equally as much as I have enjoyed sharing what I have to offer that is unique.  The reality for me is that my choices for job opportunities are limited as I do not have the luxury of relocating.  However, I was able to speak with a few districts nearby and hear what they have to offer, what is available, and what will possibly open up in the future.  I additionally sought out opportunities for getting on my local substitute list and began the process required for that.  I feel that continued participation in job fairs and possible employment experiences only strengthens my comfort and understanding of teaching opportunities that are available.

In school this week, a focus on supporting a “screen free’ week offered students that extra challenges, activities and opportunities to participate in community events.  This “screen free week” program hosted a slew of after school activities and multiple assemblies within the school.  Although, these assemblies cut in to some instructional time, students seemed to really enjoy seeing and participating in different educational experiences and having  fun!   Friday offered the last assembly of the week.  This assembly focused on the “safe and caring school” campaign that our school has been implementing all year.  Students from different classes performed skits and sang songs with the shared theme supporting a safe and caring school environment.  Teachers, administrators, students, and community members were honored for their individual participation and the role that they play in supporting a safe and caring environment.

Lastly, I have been struggling with the splendor of feeling more comfortable and effective in the classroom versus the pressure and overwhelming expectations for graduate requirements and the requirements of the TPA.  Time and involvement in the classroom, working with my mentor teacher and the students, provides a foundation that supports improvement of my personal leadership and teaching skills.  Through a constant development and practice of applicable skills and experience I feel as if I am becoming a better teacher, each day.  However, the tasks that are required for completion of the TPA and my current graduate course seem to be contradictory to the benefits of actual classroom experience.  The pressure and extensive time commitment to each of these latter requirements seem to support time away from the classroom both mentally and physically.  Planning for in class lessons, mental acuity, and reflection on actual current teaching is lessened with the extreme amounts of time and planning required for TPA and graduate requirements. This is not to say that I am not completing each assignment, but my observation is that completion of these requirements comes with a cost, and that cost might just be contradictory to the benefits of actual in class experience. I have to question are these overwhelming requirements really helping to support better teaching when actual teaching time and focus is diminished? Needless to say, I am looking forward to completing these tasks as I feel that the real and true experience of teaching and participating in a classroom provide me with better tools to adapt and create lessons.  I look forward to full involvement in the learning environment where I am able to support students, encourage learning through multiple modalities, and participate in effective best practices, rather than just write about it.

Student Teaching Reflections

Week 7: 4/16- 4/20

This week proved to be exhausting, exhilarating, challenging, frustrating, educating and extremely fun as I was able to take part in a three day camping trip at NatureBridge in the Olympic National Park temperate rain-forest as the teacher.    While, I have been on over nights like this as a parent chaperone, going as a teacher is a wholly new experience that affords a completely different view.  First, the logistics of getting a trip like this to run smoothly is a mountainous job.  Second, this type of “classroom” learning experience forces students and teachers to adapt and be flexible to different styles of learning and teaching as the NatureBridge staff educators take over.  Students learning outside the “regular” classroom through hands on activities support a “real-life” experience rather than just mimic real-life.  Each day offered many occasion to strengthen their social bonds and unify as a group.  Additionally, I understand the importance of timing, when it comes to field–trip planning, as the rest of the week became very hard to motivate and focus the students.  Each day on this trip I was encouraged and my convictions that I am entering the right profession were reaffirmed.

Leading up to this week there was an enormous amount of planning.  Filed trip communications with parents was comprehensive!  Information including; important notices,  monetary obligations, transportation, chaperone notification, scholarships, fund raisings, medical release forms, logistical information, chaperone requests, constant emails, etc., began at the start of the year and continued until the day we left.  Needless to say, this type of learning experience takes careful planning and organization of epic proportions.

The week started as the students loaded onto the bus early Monday morning.   Once seated and secure, which in and of itself is no small feat, all 29 students and nine chaperones were off on an adventure that I am sure will not soon be forgotten. The bus ride was, well, a bus ride… for two hours.  The kids were very well behaved and although one student got sick there was little to no incidents to report.  Upon our arrival we were greeted by the extremely friendly and knowledgeable staff.  They shared their expectations for and of us while we were there and got us sorted into our field study groups.  Once completely suited up for the continual rainfall, students broke into their groups and headed into the forest for a day of exploring and learning.  The beauty of this awesome program is that not only did the children get to learn from different teachers, the staff, but they were able to experience learning from an even more important teacher, the rain-forest itself.   The tall native elder trees,  covered in moss and ferns, every shade of green, dripping in a wet mist and filled with natures beautiful song, became the most powerful educator and the classroom for the next few days.  It was wonderful to see many of the students become immersed in science, nature, and the awe of what the forest had to teach them.  As we hiked throughout the forest and the park the kids learned about temperate rain-forest ecology in a very real way, one that they could never have experienced in the regular classroom.

Just as important as the lesson of forest ecology was the lesson of interdependence within our small learning community.  Social learning opportunities within our small group, between our group as a whole and throughout the NatureBridge facility was established as we shared the space with not only each other but other schools, too.  We had our community meals in a large dining and shared stories of the day, personal family-life, and individual experiences as relationships were strengthened and emotional well-being of the students was supported.  These shared times encouraged the building of relationships and supporting the character for all students.   If you ask the students they would tell you that these were some of their favorite times; just good camp fun! As important as the educational aspects of this type of environmental learning are, the social opportunities to grow as a member of a group hold equal value.

Lastly, Thursday and Friday of this week were difficult for motivating and gaining student attention.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep, maybe it was the excitement to share and chat about individual experiences, but I think, if given a choice when planning, I would schedule a trip like this to end on a Friday.  Even my mentor teacher and I felt the toll of the awesome adventure.   I, admittedly, was just as tired as the students on Thursday but was able to refocus by Friday.  I think the kids could have used a weekend to recover before getting back to regular work.

I would have never traded this experience for staying behind in the classroom.  I feel very fortunate to have been able to participate in an outdoor educational program with the kids under the guidance of my mentor.  I know that I will be better prepared for any future classroom’s outdoor educational experiences.  I now more fully understand the value of this experience for both academic and social learning.

 

Student Teaching Reflections

Week 6: 4/9-4/13

This week proved to be a very exciting one for many reasons.  First, it was our first week back from a long spring break, and the student’s enthusiasm, to be back with their friends and in school, was palpable.  Secondly, our class is preparing for a three day field trip and our class’s excitement grew with each lesson.  Lastly, on Friday the news that our school will not be closing was announced to audible sighs of relief and hoots of joy.

After a ten day break from school it was nice to see the students walk in fresh and ready to be back “to work”.  I don’t know if this was particular to our class but I seemed to notice an excitement throughout the school from kids in the hallways, in the playground, on their way to lunch and even in other classrooms. Student’s just simply seemed happy to be back.  As I began to teach math for the day, fully expecting to have to re- teach much of what we were working on before the break, I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the students had retained the bulk of the concept for fractions.  We had full review day on Monday and then Tuesday a unique fractions unit review assessment.  This assessment, that I created, was a bit like musical chairs.  Each student started on one of the nine stations an independently worked through that station for an allotted amount of time.  The rotation was complete when each student had finished each station. This assessment seemed to go well and the feedback the next day when we reviewed the test together was great.  The kids really seemed to enjoy moving about between questions and like the variety of problem solving opportunities to show their understanding of fractions in different contexts.  I was able to better understand what “holes” I needed to address for further understanding of specific skills for individual students and better plan for future lessons.

Secondly, the students in the class have been actively participating and excitedly absorbing all the information we have been teaching about the Olympic Temperate Rain-forest.  We are headed to Olympic Peninsula Institute- Nature Bridge for a three day immersion in the unique biome that is the temperate rain-forest.  Because of the focus on the temperate rain-forest we were able to teach about the ecosystem specific to this amazing biome.  Throughout the week we lived and breathed the temperate rain-forest through study of the Tree of Life, the Temperate Rain-forest Food Web, expert study of the Northern Spotted Owl, development of our Cognitive Content Dictionary (CCD) or academic vocabulary, inquiry charts, sentence patterning charts, layers of the temperate rain-forest, chants and poetry, and much more.



However, the highlight of the week, for the students and me, had to be the dissection of owl pellets.  While at first I was unsure what to expect, (I never had the opportunity to do this before) this proved to be an amazing hands on way to explore, create, discuss, hypothesize, infer, cooperate, and learn for everyone involved. The student’s paired up and worked together and their enthusiasm soared as they began to search the pellet for bones structures to organize.

It was amazing to see these young scientists discover complete sets of bones from ingested animals.  As the students explored they hypothesized what their owl had eaten and categorized bones accordingly.  Then, as they matched and developed full sets of bones, they were able to process the cycle of life in the temperate rain-forest with a bit more understanding. All in all, I think that this will be a learning experience that neither I nor the kids will forge for a long time.

Lastly, as I have mentioned before, the school that I am working at has been on the proverbial “chopping block” for budgetary cuts for the upcoming school year 2012-2013.  The news was announced on Friday that there will be no closing of the school for next year to much elation and relief for staff, students, and families.  However, this relief might be short lived as it is still in the talks for closure the following year 2013-2014.  The moral, at least for the day, was better and it was nice to see many people smiling.  I am constantly aware of the pressure that this type of closure and budgetary crisis’ puts on everyone in a district, town and community.  People become divided and angry.  So, for at least today, I can say it was nice to see the mood elevated…even if it is temporary.

Student Teaching Reflections

Week 5: 3/26-3/30

This week was a short one, with the students, but did not lack in new teaching experiences.  With only Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday with the students we made and effort to focus on review of concepts already learned and to introduce our study of Temperate Rainforest before the long spring break.  Additionally, we worked hard to complete accurate assessments before Thursday and Friday when parent teacher conferences were scheduled.  Although, I have been through this experience with my own children as the parent I have not yet participated as the teacher.  I was impressed and amazed at the complete confidence and support that my mentor teacher shared with each student and parent. Each conference was unique to the student and allowed the parents a myriad of information about their child’s academic performance and social growth. Each conference was filled with details of student progress and yet offered glimpses of personal achievements and social growth.

The quick 30 minute conferences do not allow for unpreparedness and by no means was my mentor teacher unprepared.  She has a system of filing that gives each student a drawer with pertinent information and student work to share with each parent.  When it is time for conferences she merely has to organize the paperwork and she is ready to go.  This paperwork includes assessments for reading fluency and comprehension, samples of student math work, writing samples, and M.A.P. testing scores.  She provides both numerical and pictorial graphs for parents to visualize and understand their child’s academic successes as compared to the national and school district norms.  In advance she has students write what they are most proud of for each area; writing, reading, mathematics and social skills.  Each student shares these proud accomplishments as well as goals for the remainder of the year.  The student becomes an active participant in the conference.   What captivated me the most was the depth that my mentor teacher understands the individuality of each of the students.  She “gets” individual student learning style and social well-being.  She supports not only academic but social growth for each student and throughout the conferences was able to share with parents support for any concerns they might have.  I was also able to witness as one student who has struggled for years, finally qualify for the support of a I.E.P.   This turned out to be a relief to everyone; the parents, the teacher and most of the entire student.  She now will receive support to support her academic success and the skills to apply for future learning environments.  It was amazing to see how closely the special educational staff and the classroom teachers work with students and parents all to benefit academic growth.

I feel very fortunate to have participated in such a seamless parent-teacher conference schedule. Although, each conference is only a 30 minute session, in this short amount of time everyone seemed well attended to and their needs were met.  Each conference provided specific individual student details and provided a deep understanding of each student. I am sure that in the future I will develop my own routines for conference time.  For now I am glad to say that I had the experience of witnessing conferences from a teacher perspective.  I hope that when I have a class of my own I will be able to connect as thoroughly with each student’s individuality and offer support for parental concerns as well as my mentor.

Student Teaching Reflection Week 2

Week 2-March 5-9, 2012

Reflections

On Monday, of this my second week of student teaching, I was afforded the opportunity to learn from a substitute.  She is the prodigy of my mentor-teacher and graduated from the Seattle Pacific University M.A.T. program just last year.  It was great teaching alongside her and seeing how comfortable and at ease she was with the children and the flow of the daily classroom schedule.  It allowed me to see that I, too, will feel more and more comfortable not only in the role of teacher but with the curriculum and schedule in the class as time moves on.

I continued this week to focus on third grade math and started to feel at ease and more effective in my mathematical teaching style.  A common flow began to emerge in this small group as we continue to develop a pattern and routine for our math time together.  As I only have nine students in this group they are easily manageable both during whole group instruction and individually as they work on mathematical concepts and strategies.  I feel somewhat challenged by the pace of the curriculum but am optimistic that I will improve on pacing skills as the weeks unfold.

Science has been a tremendous focus for the class for that last two weeks and we worked hard to finish a science unit before the kit was due back to the district.  Because of this intense focus, students were immersed in a unit that involved force and motion and did so with real enthusiasm.  This unit utilized scientific concepts by applying them to a standard vehicle and then to a vehicle design challenge.  The vehicle design challenge enabled students to meet specific requirements and design a vehicle accordingly.  The students loved this.  They applied their learned scientific concepts as they related to force and motion to develop their group challenge vehicles.  They were forced to work together to designs, test, and redesign, if necessary, their vehicles to complete this challenge.  The students were excited about science and it was fun to see them making the scientific connections from the unit and working together cooperatively to complete the challenge.

This week also brought the real opportunity for discipline.  My “newness” as the student-teacher was being tested by many of the students and because of this I was forced to start utilizing the tools that have already been set up in the classroom for management.  One such “test” resulted in a student challenging me and then continuing to challenge the systems in place for disciple.  This student put up such a fight that the student was sent home from school for the rest of the day.  I was involved in a meeting with the counselor, my mentor teacher, the student, and the mother to discuss what happened.  We discussed what actions led to the discipline and developed a plan to support the student’s opportunity to make better decisions/choices in the future.  Additionally, I had to send three other students to “catch-up club” for incomplete assignments and not turning in work.  The honeymoon is over for the students.  The students now understand that I expect them to behave and participate in the same fashion as their teacher and that I will response to their behavior accordingly.

All in all week two provided me with challenging opportunities that forced me to examine my personal teaching style and adopt the necessary skills specific to my mentor teacher’s classroom style.  Each week seems to teach me a completely different lesson.  The first week was flexibility. This week the lesson I learned was classroom discipline and follow through for behavior management techniques.  I acknowledge that this will be different wherever I end up teaching but that I will need to have some hard and fast rules that I stick by regardless of my location.  So far, solving problems, making good decisions and being respectful seem to be three that I see myself using often and supporting for both academic and social growth of my future students.

 

 

EDU 6363 Language Arts, Social Studies, and Arts

Search for Meaning- EDU 6363             

The need to incorporate character education in curriculum is essential for supporting not only community in the classroom but communities outside the classroom and within the world.  By supporting and developing a strong community of students that not only practice the vital skills necessary for cooperation with in a community but advocate for thoughtful, respectful, reasonable, and civil rights for all individuals. I define character education as providing supportive guidance for cooperative learning within communities by learning, practicing, and modeling and growth through trial and failure and for the fostering of civil regard toward one another.  I am not all together sure that all parents, teachers, administrators etc. would be on board with my definition or my idea of how it would work.  In fact I see a huge challenge in our society for any failure at all being an acceptable form of learning.  I read a fascinating article in The Atlantic called, How to Land Your Kid in Therapy by, Lori Gottlieb, that chronicles the despair our children are facing today in a society where everyone is a winner or more simply put  how the cult of self-esteem is ruining our kids.  Written from the mother’s point of view, which is essentially our role when the student is at school by virtue of ‘Guardian Ad Litem’, the expectation is to not only educate students academically but socially as well.  One story the author reflects on is whether or not to tell her young son that a friend had died of cancer. In the end she does and although he asked a lot of questions, “he did not faint from the truth.” Instead, “my trusting him to handle the news probably made him more trusting of me, and ultimately more emotionally secure.”  (Gottlieb, 2011, p. 67)   Emotional intelligence is a key component for character education.

That’s what we want right?  More emotionally secure students through a process of habitual personal discovery in a safe environment that incorporates character education.  The value of allowing for failure ceases the constant accommodation and praise for every single student, no matter what the effort, but rather supports and recognizes appropriately earned accomplishments.  Woven tightly within any academic and social classroom structure should be character education.  The Nord and Haynes lecture provides distinction between education and socialization, training and indoctrination. Indoctrination or socialization is, “…when we teach (or socialize) them to accept doctrines, or a point of view, uncritically.” This can be observed in young children when adults provide rules, i.e. you must share with your sister, and children learn to accept this behavior without question.  “We educate them, by contrast, when we provide them with a measure of critical distance on their subjects, enabling them to think in an informed and reflective way about alternatives.” (p. 4).  Especially, in the primary level we see evidence of indoctrination and socialization, but just as vital, if not more, is the need to provide disciplined modeling and repetitive behavior that allows for reflective character building opportunities to be discovered.  What are we teaching children if everyone get a medal just for showing up?  We need to teach students that strong character will serve them well in this world not that their character doesn’t matter!

One way this could be introduced across curriculum is by determining characteristics that matter to you and your school/classroom.   For example pick an important words or slogan to put throughout the school and classroom i.e.; Perseverance, Tolerance, Responsibility, Respect, Determination, and Work Hard, Be Nice, or There Are No Shortcuts.  As a class make an “T” chart of what these look like and sound like i.e., Tolerance looks like everyone working together, looks cooperative and respectful, Tolerance sound like each person in a group having a chance to share their ideas even if they are different and contrarily each person listening to one another’s idea.  Then, repetitively, ask the students to share how they have used tolerance and provide an example (they can refer to the “T” chart).  This repetition allows students the opportunity to practice important character experience and verbally define each characteristic.

Lastly, I have to, once again, share an article, What if the Secret to Success is Failure?  The focus throughout is on character education and emotional intelligence.  The following is what happened when two educators were searching to define the “science of good character.”

Seligman and Peterson consulted works from Aristotle to Confucius, from the Upanishads to the Torah, from the Boy Scout Handbook to profiles of Pokémon characters, and they settled on 24 character strengths common to all cultures and eras. The list included some we think of as traditional noble traits, like bravery, citizenship, fairness, wisdom and integrity; others that veer into the emotional realm, like love, humor, zest and appreciation of beauty; and still others that are more concerned with day-to-day human interactions: social intelligence (the ability to recognize interpersonal dynamics and adapt quickly to different social situations), kindness, self-regulation, gratitude. (Tough, 2011)

I think somehow all these characteristics hold value; our job is to share and impart the value, the action, and importance with our students.