Sunday, February 26, 2012

Week Six: Diving In Head First...Yikes!

So far my field experience has been fantastic. I've been engaged in activities with students EVERY day, and my coteacher definitely isn't afraid to hand over the classroom and let me dive in headfirst (twice already). Most recently I've been working with the students who are behind on their work and had an alternate activity to work on while the rest of the class worked on a symposium activity having to do with the crusades. This has given me a fabulous opportunity to observe classroom dynamics, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I can compare her second, fourth, AND fifth period classes.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I've been staying at the middle school during third period when my cooperating teacher has a planning period, and it has been a wonderful opportunity to familiarize myself with the school (she gave me a tour and the principal gave me a t-shirt), meet other teachers, watch some student presentations in other classes, learn to use the SmartBoard, and grade student papers! Not to mention, it's a great time to bounce ideas off of each other and discuss how the classes went and how we can modify them for the upcoming periods.

I love that she creates a positive, student classroom environment and the ease with which I have transitioned into a position of authority in the classroom. I appreciate the freedom she gives me in terms of how I approach activities, classroom management, etc. Even when she turns the classroom over to me she reminds me that I don't have to do it exactly the way she did and to feel free to do whatever's comfortable to me. The fact that I have been so involved in the classroom makes it far easier to jump in and teach a lesson despite the nerves.

My goal throughout the remainder of my placement is to achieve the same comfort level I have working with smaller groups of students when I'm addressing the class as a whole. It's frustrating when I feel as if I've finally figured out who I want to be in the classroom and what that's going to look like and then get up there and NOT be that teacher. It's clearly just a matter of working out the nerves, but I'd really be able to cross that threshold!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Week Five: Idealistic vs. Realistic

Setting realistic expectations...I know this is going back to the basics, but it's something I've always struggled with. I think we all have this idealistic view of the world and what we can accomplish, but sometimes it's hard to tone that down and look at what is practical, what is doable. That certainly doesn't mean that we don't constantly push ourselves and explore our limits, but it does mean knowing where we stand physically and emotionally and recognizing that saying "no" is an option...even when we WANT to do everything.

Establishing these limits means figuring out what the individual steps are and creating realistic timeframes for accomplishing those goals. It's something that applies to nearly every aspect of teaching, from involvement is extracurriculars, professional development opportunities, and our ability to effectively plan lessons/units and cover all of the material in one short year. Beyond trial and error, have you discovered strategies for making sure that your goals are manageable and realistic?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Week Four: Georgia

This weekend I went to Georgia to do I.S. research (woohoo, Copeland funding!), and finally had the chance to meet the Vietnam veteran who has been the focus of my research for several months now! He and his wife are not only some of the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure of working with, but they gave me the chance of a lifetime...a chance to touch and experience history.

Yes, I had already conducted numerous interviews on his experiences before, during, and after Vietnam, but it wasn't until my trip to Georgia that everything came together (and I was the dope on the plane grinning and happily explaining my research to anyone foolish enough to ask about it). This time I had a chance to connect to history on a personal level, to discuss not only what happened then but how it influences the way he perceives current events. I had a chance to look at the world through the eyes of a teacher, a soldier, a leader, and a citizen.

Even given the short time we had known each other, I was treated like family and in just a few short days I felt like family. I was awed by the willingness with which he gave away items from Vietnam that he had held on to for years, and I returned with stories, photographs, slides, and personal items...his ammunition belt, an extra Vietnam ribbon, combat bandages, and his mess kit complete with creamer and sugar packets from his C-rations. I touched history. Never have I felt so honored or the importance of my research weighed so heavily on me.

My research has afforded me with a valuable, eye-opening experience and a chance to engage my field (both history and education) on a personal level. What experiences have you had or do you hope to have that inspire you and allow you to connect on that level?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Week Three: A Kamikaze Personality

The kamikaze video we watched in class this week (above) was both hilarious and inspirational...and certainly left me saying "I want to be in THAT classroom!" However, along with that statement came the realization that as much as I would love to be THAT teacher, it just isn't me. As effective as that demonstration was for one particular teacher, it isn't something that I could pull off in my classroom simply because it doesn't fit my personality. Similarly, I'm not the teacher smashing a cellphone mockup with a sledgehammer or doing the dance of the parallel lines either.

The key is, of course, to modify these basic ideas to reflect who we are as educators. I say "as educators" because, while who we are doesn't change when we enter a classroom, we emphasize different aspects of our personalities when we are in the classroom than we might outside the classroom. The question is, how do we begin to explore humor in the classroom? The style that works for me isn't necessarily the kind of humor that I can utilize myself, so how do you make the transition from knowing what doesn't work for you in the classroom, to knowing who you ARE in the classroom?

Random Fact: The word kamikaze translates to "God wind" or "Divine wind."