Friday, September 30, 2011

Week Five: The Substitute

This week in field, my classes had a substitute teacher on Tuesday and Wednesday, so my week went something like this: planning for substitute, substitute, and post-substitute review of worksheets completed while there was a substitute. What did I learn from this experience? I will absolutely NOT give my students worksheets when there's a substitute unless there's no way around it! The worksheets were all either clearly created at the last minute or taken from the book and weren't enough to keep the students occupied for an entire class period.

Additionally, it is SO important to have a backup plan whenever you're using technology...even if you, as the teacher, aren't there! My cooperating teacher planned to have one of his classes complete worksheets on the library computers. First, he neglected to reserve the computers for the class either day (though luckily it was a small class and there were enough). Second, there were problems with the internet both days and the network started blocking ALL of the websites except for Google. This meant that the students had to try to search for everything on Google and find the answers in the short blurbs under the links.

Besides the worksheet chaos, the students in World Studies started industrialization...the unit I will be teaching formal lessons from. My cooperating teacher showed me the list of lesson topics he wants to cover within the chapters and I have absolutely no idea how to teach any of the topics I saw on that list. I have a couple of concerns. First, I don't feel like I can easily spend a whole period teaching just one of the topics on his list. Second, I was bored just looking at the am I going to make them interesting for my students? Even he thought they were dry topics and encouraged me to try to be creative with them (a good sign, but I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to do that). In the meantime, I'm reading the chapters and I hope that there's something there that piques my interest!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Week Four: Mmm...Peaches! :)

This week was week one of field placement! Though there are times I think that I may be learning as much about what I do not want to do in my classroom as I am about what I would like to incorporate in my classroom, it's a positive learning experience either way. Watching the students hold a mock Congress, follow basic Parliamentary procedure, and debate/vote on the bills they created certainly gave me valuable insight into my students. It highlighted what issues they feel are important, and in listening to their debates I got a sense of their beliefs and those of the community as a whole. The hardest part was keeping my mouth shut and letting them take the debate wherever it was going to take them!

My favorite debate, by far, was the representative democracy debate where the bill (presented by the representative from Georgia) proposed making peaches the national fruit. To hear their conversations, with comments ranging from "I like strawberries better, can we make it strawberries?" to "But I don't like peaches!" to "If we make peaches the state fruit that will boost the economy of states that produce the largest quantity of peaches" was a priceless teaching moment (not to mention hilarious)! It blew my mind that a class of ninth grade students would be contemplating the economic implications of declaring a national fruit!

I learned a lot of little things about my teaching style, what my classroom will look like, and how I want my students to learn. In short, I'm developing my teaching philosophy. Wednesday morning, I was the first one in the classroom; I got to turn on the lights; I got to greet the students. It seems like such a little thing, but for a few minutes I owned that classroom and those were MY students. That's when I realized how vital the "little things" are to teaching.

That morning, I realized that I would be the teacher with the to-go cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate/whatever (that morning it was chai) in hand, and I recognized the significance of something I would never have thought of before. How often do you have a chance to contemplate the symbolism of a to-go cup? Yes, I actually sat around and thought about it. What does that to-go cup say to your students when they walk in the door? How can something as simple as setting down or picking up that cup be used as a teaching tool? It's all relevant...maybe contemplating my morning chai isn't the most important thing to consider, but it got me thinking!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Week Three: Anticipation

Right now, I am mostly just excited (and a little scared) to be in my field placement starting Monday. I miss being in a classroom, miss working with children, and I miss the way I feel when I'm in a classroom working with children...I won't say teaching because I don't feel like a teacher yet. I still very much feel like a student, and I'm not sure when I'll actually cross that line between student and teacher. I hope to get at least a taste of it this semester, but I know I won't really be there until I'm student teaching and then when I have a classroom of my own. At the moment I'm just trying to grasp how very much I have to learn!

This semester has already changed the way I think. I've learned so much more in my classes because I took the concept of text-to-self to heart, facing my own personal demons while learning, and ultimately realizing that everything in our lives is connected. Life is interdisciplinary. It's amazing how much you can change if you "be the student you would like to have in your classroom", whether that means participating more in discussion or reading ahead in the textbook. Everything in my life suddenly became educational. I had a rough week, but it doesn't look so bad when I realize just how much I learned from the setbacks. No, I certainly don't want to repeat the experience but at least something beneficial came of it!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Week Two: Asking For Help

Sorting out my thoughts long enough to write even a comprehensible blog post is a challenge. My brain keeps tugging me in completely different directions and I'm getting input and advice from so many sources that it's hard to synthesize all of the information tumbling around in my brain. I think perhaps that alone has taught me more from an educational perspective than anything else this week. Students get overwhelmed, whether they're college students tackling Senior I.S., classes, and life or they're high school students navigating their own classes and personal lives. The actual events, the actual problems, the actual circumstances may be different, but ultimately we face similar obstacles and challenges.

So often it seems as if teachers only recognize that a student is having difficulty and take action when it's too late, when the student has already fallen far behind. What we need to recognize is that the easiest time to address potential problems is when we see that a student is overwhelmed but not yet to a point where they cannot function effectively in the classroom. I wasn't even aware that this academic limbo existed until I found myself stuck in it, and maybe that's because it is usually such a short window (either because the student pulls him/herself out of it or they fall quickly). Regardless, it's something that should be addressed when possible, and there are warning signs in student behavior even if they're still handing work in on time.

Yes, it's imperative that students learn to ask for help, but speaking from experience...that isn't always easy, especially when that means that you have to open up to a person you may or may not completely trust. It's hard for some students to admit that they have too much on their plate and they don't know how to handle what they already have. This is just one more way in which teachers must understand the needs of their students on an individual basis. While some students thrive under pressure, others may crumble. If a teacher can establish rapport with students, it makes it infinitely easier for a student to approach a teacher and ask for help when it is needed.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Week One: Initial Thoughts

The first week back has been characterized by a plethora of emotions; it has been exhausting, wonderful, terrifying, and completely overwhelming both on a personal and an academic level. While this summer I grew in so many ways and on so many levels, both as a person and as an educator, I was ready to be back in a classroom...ready to learn...ready to be back in field placement. Returning to Wooster isn't without its burdens, like chasing a cockroach around my room at two-o'clock in the morning, but being in an environment that promotes critical thinking on a daily basis more than makes up for it.

From the very first day of class I was struck by the sheer amount of knowledge and skill sets I have yet to acquire. It's impossible to sit there and NOT realize that one day I will be responsible for my students' brains, for that gray matter, for establishing foundations for the rest of their lives. I knew that as teachers we had the power to make a difference (a difference I have experienced firsthand), but the physical evidence is overwhelming.

From that very first chapter of reading I realized that in this class I would be learning as much about myself as I would about the teaching profession. Under other circumstances, learning about the parts of the brain and their various functions might not have made such a profound impact. Now I know that the hippocampus is responsible for my short-term memory loss after the car accident last semester and that I may very well be able to thank brain plasticity for my ability to return to the college and pick up where I left off.

Despite all the emotions, I am thankful to be back, and as daunting as the prospect of one day being responsible for the minds of my students may be, there is no doubt that I am in the right place and ultimately pursuing a profession that I love even now.