Saturday, April 28, 2012

Week Thirteen: Final Thoughts

It was hard to grasp the fact that this week was my LAST week in field, especially because I won't be going straight into student teaching. I miss the classroom already, my cooperating teacher, and all of the middle schoolers whose classes I'd taught and whose papers I had graded. I finally realized just how much I had connected with the students in my classroom. The students' responses to my last day girl  didn't know it was my last day and had been planning to bake me a cake, one boy jokingly cheered (and then told me he'd miss me), another called "have fun in college...if that's possible" as he walked out the door.

This semester I felt like I found the perfect balance, connecting with my students but still maintaining authority in the classroom. For the first time I had a chance to experiment in the classroom, and I had a cooperating teacher that was able to stress the fact that "you don't need to teach it like me." She gave me the freedom to discover what my identity was in the classroom. I made mistakes, I learned from them, and even though I didn't see it happening, I grew as an educator. It's fantastic to be able to look back and realize that I wasn't nervous getting in front of my students, I finally reached the goal I set for myself at the beginning of the semester and I'm not really sure when it happened, just that at some point I reached the level of comfort in the classroom that I was hoping to attain.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Week Eleven: Feedback

While verbal feedback and communication is essential in the classroom, the ability to communicate effectively through written feedback is equally as important. Written comments are useful in that they may provide a record of student performance and progress that may be referred back to. However, in order for this feedback to be useful to students, parents, etc. it must be utilized effectively. For instance, it is important to give feedback that students can use to improve their performance in order to meet learning objectives and expectations without "giving" them the answers. That means that comments should guide students rather than correct them.

Additionally, the language used when praising student performance should be equally as descriptive. Rather than using words such as "good, " we should be able to describe WHAT they did well, WHY their response or perspective is valuable, HOW they might improve, etc. Simple descriptors make a world of difference in written communication. Instead of doing a "good" job, I would much rather use words such as insightful, interesting, or effective. The same goes for "negative" feedback. Also, in addition to comments, I LOVE using other visual forms of communication (underlining passages or words to look at, editing/grammar symbols, etc).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Week Ten: A Change of Pace

Having a week off of field was definitely a change of pace, though I also definitely missed being at the middle school. I'm beginning to grasp the fact that this was our last week to really sit down and talk about teaching as a class and that, for many of us, the upcoming weeks are the last classroom experiences we will have before student teaching.

That having been said, I appreciated that final opportunity to address questions and gather resources with strategies that will hopefully help keep us from getting stuck in the "rut". I feel like those will help us a lot when planning these final few lessons and working on our units, and it's a constant reminder of the importance of the student-centered classroom. Which of these strategies do you think you would be most likely to implement? Why?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Week Nine: Goodbye Spring Break, Goodbye Israel

It was wonderful to be back in the classroom this week, and to be able to jump right back in after two weeks of Spring Break, six thousand miles away. It was also remarkable to me how much education had been on my mind during those two weeks. Our last day in Israel, as we sat around in a circle in Jaffa on our last night, I remember explaining how the trip had validated everything I believed about the importance of experiential, student-centered learning and how it had served to solidify my teaching philosophy.

My greatest intrinsic reward this week was the excitement of my students and the exclamations of "she's back!" It was also interesting to see how the dynamics of the classroom had changed, however subtly. Aside from some unrelated hiccups, it was clear that the change in the weather and the proximity to their spring break had affected behavior in the classroom. I was made aware of an increase in student misbehavior and while most of the students remained focused during class this week, it was obvious which ones my cooperating teacher had been referring to. Though, everything considered, it was a surprisingly normal week.