Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pulled In One Hundred Directions

It's been a week since that magical Friday, "The Day They Loved To Read." When I re-read that post, I realize that one of the reasons for that day was to build up my positivity, love of teaching and love for my students so that I would have the energy to make it through this week. My cooperating teacher is part of a team that does reading inventories on every student in the school to determine their reading level. The entire week I had a sub, so that she could do testing. The particular sub that I had this time was a very nice woman, but after seeing that I was taking the reigns simply sat back and relaxed. It's not that I wasn't used to head teaching the past few weeks, but I was used to the co-teaching atmosphere that my cooperating teacher and I had cultivated. Doing it alone was a great experience, but utterly exhausting. 

I'm proud of the way that I stuck to plans this week and kept our classroom on track for learning. We accomplished all the things we needed to do in that week. Another thing that went well this week was the many conversations I had with students surrounding discipline and other issues. The behavior of my class this week was particularly squirrely and unfocused. I had many conversations with them as a whole, about how their many conversations needed to stop. 

One student, my trouble maker, was upset because he had to move his card three times, which resulted in him being moved to the time-out room. He was crying so I had a conversation with him outside of the classroom. All I hear the entire day long with these kids is "nu-huh," "no I didn't," and "but he/she was talking to me." My teacher and I have really been working on teaching the students that it's their responsibility to include us if someone else is about to get them into trouble and not to try to solve their own problems. I actually felt like I had a productive conversation with him, until the next day when nothing had changed. 

Another thing that happened this week surrounded my ELL student with the most limited academic English. For most of Monday and Tuesday, whenever intense learning took place, she so completely disengaged and whenever I asked her to please open her book, or asked her a question, she would execute the slowest shoulder shrug, reeking of boredom. So finally, during an independent work activity, I asked her what's been going on, and told her that I noticed the past few days that she didn't seem to care about school at all. 

Then her eyes filled with tears, so I took her out into the hallway. She began to cry harder, saying over and over "I'm so mmm.... I'm so mmm..." at this point she's sobbing and I'm trying to get her to take some deep breathes and calm down. She finally gets out "I'm so mad." After she can speak, she tells me how the words in the science book are too hard and the reading stories aren't interesting, and our reading questions are getting harder and that her dad doesn't speak English and her mom can't read English. My heart is breaking even as I see through my classroom window that there are nine hands in the air. I feel spread so thin. How am I supposed to give the time and help to every student who needs me? 

I talk with this student about how I know some different ways to help kids learning English, and that she needs to show me how hard she can try. We talk about circling the words she doesn't understand and meeting together to make sure she understands her homework before she takes it home. I tell her that she can do it, but it's her job to ask the teacher to say things in a better way for her to understand, and that means no more shrugging her shoulders. She surprises me by throwing her arms around me and telling me that I'm a good teacher. 

We walk back into the classroom and I help her get started on the work, but her words have left a paralyzing thought in my head. I'm leaving in two weeks. What will she do when I'm gone, or when she has the teacher who has no idea how to help an ELL student? I look around the room, and I feel that about every one of my students. Where will the be in 5 years, or 10? Have I made enough of a difference in my short time here? I am realizing now how much of teaching is letting go. I can't give more than my very best. 

This week I learned that teaching IS being pulled in one hundred directions, and juggling the needs of every learner in your classroom. It's about truly seeing students and helping them reach success in every way you can. In the next week, I have a mock interview with my principal and am visiting a few different classes. I hope to help my students in every way possible as I transition out of their lives. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Day They Loved To Read

I must reflect and share about Friday, (my "what went well" for the week) and it will go down in history as "The Day They Loved To Read." Friday was so magical, that I immediately came home and wrote down all of the details so that I would never forget. Here is my story:

       I had stumbled upon these books a few times in the past, but I noticed them at Trinity's library and had a thought. I knew how effective these books would be with ELLs and low readers, but my hopes are to teach in 3rd-5th grade. Would they even like them? I decided to rent my college’s collection of the books and bring them into my 3rd grade student teaching placement and see how different kids responded to them. Mostly, I was curious if some of my advanced readers would even be interested in what they call “baby books.” So I hand “There’s A Bird On Your Head” to one of my students reading at a 4th grade level. I’m pretending to work on something but really, I’m watching her face. Slowly she starts to smile, then I can hear her chuckle, and then she’s laughing and running over, saying “Miss B. this is so funny! Look at this Piggie! Look at her face!” She gets it; she sees the magic too.

Later, it’s free time. Half the kids are taking a reading test with my cooperating teacher in another room and the other half are zoned in on some arcade game on their computers. I mourn momentarily that no one whips out a book to read for free time (one of my classic moves as a child) and I find the student I’m looking for. I show “Elephant’s Cannot Dance” to my lowest reader in the class. He has the problem of trying to read quickly and he looks at the first letter in every word and guesses what the world might be. Consequentially, his comprehension is about zero when he’s reading on his own. This is one special kid though, with a fantastic personality and a determination like none other. 

In the spirit of preparing to act this book out for my Lit class, I ask him if he’d like to read with me. I’ll read the parts of Piggie, and he’ll be the Gerald the Elephant. On our very first read-through, he’s got the character of Gerald down. I immediately channeled my inner Piggie, sweet, funny, innocent and equal parts insane. With every page we are becoming more and more animated and my student has not made a single mistake. We are getting louder, breaking out into fits of laughter occasionally, like when Piggie deadpans “You have got to be kidding me” and when Gerald can’t seem to get any of the moves right. We are dancing and reading and my student jumps and hops and stomps his feet as Gerald cries “I have tried and tried and TRIED!” A few of the students around us have lost interest in their computer screens. They are watching us with goofy smiles on our faces. 

By the end of the book, he wants to do another. We pick “I Will Surprise My Friend!” We move to the front of the room, a couple of girls are recruited to play the squirrels at the beginning who give the two friends the idea to scare each other. No one is staring at their computers anymore. What follows is a mini-production for the 7 students not at the front of the room. We are crouching down and crawling around a chair (our boulder) and the students are watching and laughing. After we finish they run at me, and the six books are snatched and little productions are formed. I hear “I want to be Gerald!” “I HAVE to be Piggie!” and everyone is in love with reading at that moment in time. I sit back, sweating from my acting exertion and watch all my students make crazy faces and twirl around the room. 

Eventually my cooperating teacher comes back, we return to academics for the last hour of the day and I can’t stop beaming. Everyone takes glances to my desk where the books rest. We get ready to dismiss and I catch one of my students trying to stuff the books into his backpack. He freezes when he sees me. He’s considered a trouble-maker and is punished often. I just smile at him and tell him that he could borrow these books if only they were mine. At this moment in time, I’m cursing myself for not owning every single one of the books that my students loved to read. I tell him that we can read them together the next day. He wails “BUT TOMORROW IS SATURDAY!” I tell him, “Monday, then, it’s okay.” He returns my smile and nods his head. 

After my cooperating teacher takes her line of students who walk home, I can’t seem to end the exhilarating feeling of reading these books with my students. It was classroom procedure before I arrived to watch a video on youtube while we waited for bus riders to be dismissed. But today, this magic day, the busses are all running late and the internet is out from a rain storm. They groan until I pull out “Elephant’s Cannot Dance.” Many of them weren’t in the room when I had read before, but through the whispers of their classmates had heard about it. They cheer. I decide that I can’t bear to tell one of the eager hands raised that they can’t play a part this time, so I assign them all the role of Gerald. They dance and laugh and read in unison. I heard one of my students laugh for the first time, after 15 weeks in the classroom. The bell calls for their dismissal and we line up. Usually the girls all clamor for a spot to hold my hand on the way out, but the two most shy boys in the class ask to please walk with me. Everyone hugs me before getting on their bus. Something has changed in their eyes, and reading did it. I swallow tears as I walk back into the school, never feeling prouder as a person, and thanking God I brought those library books to school. 

So that was my Friday, and it's never been more clear that teaching kids in my own animated way to love to read is what I want to do. I felt life I must have been reflecting light, like every color imaginable was shining off of me in little bright rays, but that's just what reading does for you. I probably should articulate that what I learned from this week and this experience is that children respond to enthusiastic teachers and that engaging them in a unique way is what gets them excited about learning. 

I feel like what didn't go well this past week was my final observation. It was another illustration of the many things in the classroom that you cannot control. It was picture day, and I was informed about an hour before my observation that the paid students from my class would be pulled from the class (coincidentally) at the moment my lesson began. The lesson was on subject and object pronouns, a brand new topic for my third graders. I did the best I could teaching to half the class, and keeping students focused as they slowly trickled in. I think that if this situation were to happen to me in the future, I would move the lesson until we could all be present. 

In the week ahead, I hope to finish strong my last week of head teaching. My teacher is a part of a group of 5 that will test every student in the entire school's reading score, so I will have a sub the entire week, which makes me feel like the one in charge! I need to be observed by the principal this week so that she can write the letter of recommendation that she offered to write for me. Also ahead, looms the end of student teaching. This experience and these kids have changed my life in such immense ways, I dread the day that we say goodbye. 

Schmidt Chapter 7: " "Great Teachers Are Escape Artists"

Chapter 7 of "Classroom Confidential" focuses on getting out of the classroom and into the community. What we have discovered about community-based learning is that it is a highly effective strategy for engaging ALL students. It put's students in charge, they're academically and socially rigorous, it requires students to access and develop wide ways of knowing, it's active, it had meaning in the real world. 

After reading this chapter, I am posed with the question "How will you use the community in your own classroom?" I find this hard to answer because it is so dependent on the classroom and community in which I will teach. That is why I found the section on "Tips for Exploring Your Community" on pages 144-146. I plan to take a field trip after the first month or so of school, having students make maps, scavenger hunt and journal about what they observe. 

It is also terribly important to document epiphanies. I want my classroom to be a safe space for all questions and concerns. I love the idea of using photography, giving me insight into the things students are drawn to and observe. Schmidt says "Photos make great conversation starters or visuals for presentations. They can also be used as a starting point for drawings and murals (page 147)." 

I want to try every single one of the ideas on pages 159-161. I think it is so important to let students share the information that they work so hard to learn. Schools are a part of the community and I think it is important for that to be made aware of by all. It makes are students lifelong learners, engaged in their community, and challenged in their learning. Community-based learning is one of the greatest tools of educators today and will be a vital agent in my future instruction. 

A Catch Up Post

I'd like to start off this post with a little insight as to why I have been absent in the last few weeks. In the chaos of life, I had the hardest time finding uninterrupted time to simply sit and reflect. I take that as a testament to how my life will be in the future. The important things are never easy. This has taught me a lesson about making time for reflection and I have been staying a few extra minutes every day to jot down some thoughts about what went well that day and what I need to improve. 

This will be a catch-up post on the week before Spring Break. 

Head-teaching continues to go well. I feel in control of the classroom and my management continues to improve. The only thing that isn't going well is the general amount of chatter in the classroom. The students aren't misbehaving, being respectful, or interrupting the class, but there seems to be a constant stream of low noise. Most of our days are ending with everyone on a warning and a few people everyday have lost recess. My cooperating teacher and I discuss some different actions we can take. She mentions that around October of the previous year, a similar thing happened and she started sending weekly reports home for how many times a student received a warning, lost recess, or finally got a major referral. We decide to do the same thing and explain it to parents during conferences. (And since this was a few weeks ago, I can say now that we've seen serious improvement in this area.) 

One thing that really went well was a lesson that I planned teaching about matter. We were focusing on a discussion of solids, liquids and gases. I taught a lesson teaching how the particles behaved in each state of matter using moving images and having students pretend to be a particle in each state in their desks. The next day, to review, we had a discussion outside and then I made a few different sized boundary lines in chalk. The students illustrated solid particles, liquid particles and gas particles (where they got to run around the playground for a minute.) We came back inside to take a quiz on the information that everyone passed. 

With these two examples, I learned the importance of holding students accountable for their behavior and introducing kinesthetic movement into a lesson. It's vital to classroom success to communicate student behavior to teachers. Few students will go home and tell their parents that they got a warning and even fewer may tell them that they lost recess. When parents are in the know, we see a general increase in positive behavior. 

During this week, I also read Chapter 10 from Schmidt: "Great Teachers Are Insurrectionists." This was a very emotional chapter for me to read because it is something I care about so deeply. It is the very reason why I want to teach. I believe that teaching SHOULD BE insurrection. To quote myself, my sophomore year of college: 

"I want to teach because I am as passionately a social rights activist as I am a lover and facilitator of learning. I realized that the struggles of multiple populations have been ignored. This is something that I cannot accept. In the spirit of Dr. King, and all those who came before and after him, let us scream out our imaginings for a new kind of education; an education system that support those from every different tongue and background, a system that celebrates differences and strives for who we can be together, a system that runs on dreams, but one that becomes a reality. I have a dream that I will teach the students who have been labeled and discarded to the very boundaries of education. I have a dream that the voices of everyone in this country will cry out strong and brave. I have a dream that I will see this country open its arms to the new possibilities of what lowering the barriers in our own minds creates."

I believe that this mission laid out in chapter 10 of Schmidt is possible even more important for a Christian educator because we are called to see every single person we encounter as a creation of God and made in His image, just as we are. My faith leaves no room for discrimination. It is also a mandate to not tolerate racist perceptions of others. That means that my role in the classroom is to wake children up to the realities around them (though many of them are aware) and to take action. This is where the instructions on page 220-224 come in handy. 

I hope to continue my passionate journey as a social justice educator and Christian, committed to making a difference. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Most Exciting Blur

In the last couple of weeks, life has just flown by. I'm amazed at how I have somehow transitioned from the semi-typical college student, with so many freedoms to this almost adult/teacher. I wake up early to get to school about 45 minutes before students arrive to organize myself and my materials. I teach almost all of the day and am continuously energized by it. I stay a bit after school, thinking about how the day went, getting things ready and making notes on tomorrow's lesson plans. I go home, grade, and think about what I will do the next day. And yet, it's not limiting. I love every second of what I am doing. 

This past week was filled with excitement for me. The reading ISAT was over and we headed into the math session. The week before, my cooperating teacher had asked if I felt comfortable enough writing lessons for this past week. She also told me that I could do pretty much anything I wanted academically because we couldn't really move ahead with our reading series until testing was over. I was brimming with joy thinking about having the chance to work outside the limiting box of BASAL readers. 

I planned enthusiastically, deciding to introduce my students to classic and authentic literature as a read aloud. I settled on "Tuck Everlasting," a personal childhood favorite. So, I came to school that Friday before last week, ready to introduce the book and the direction for the week ahead. I had planned a fantastic pre-reading activity, a questionnaire to engage thinking about themes in the book. Students had to check agree/disagree to a couple statements like "It would be wonderful to live forever" and "It is okay to hurt one person in order to save many." I couldn't WAIT to "break them free" from the confines of the material they were being taught and to push them forward into a level of higher-order thinking. 

How very silly I was. 

We settled into our questionnaire first thing in the morning. The students hardly knew what to do. I explained it a little more, but they seemed confused by the fact that there was no right or wrong answer. They became even more frustrated when they neither agreed or disagreed with the statement. After a small amount of discussion, I  began to read aloud. I don't know how recently you may have looked through the first couple of chapters of "Tuck Everlasting," but it is filled with poetic language, describing the setting of the town and countryside, the behavior of cows and how hot the summer was; no dialogue, no character interaction and not much suspense. The book does get really good after the first few pages, but as I read, there was chatter and a high amount of movement around the room. The times when I looked up, I saw sleeping, boredom and confusion. Mrs. Martinez tried to help, saying that maybe if the students could read along on the ELMO (the technological device that displays something through a camera on the SmartBoard) they might have an easier time following along. No such luck. I realized that this was not working. 

Later on Friday, during our plan period, I gave Mrs. Martinez the lesson plans I had written for the next week. I had modeled them after the many I had received from her, short descriptions for the activities planned for each time slot, that's it. After looking through them for a minute, she asked about a few of the activities I had referenced in some textbooks from home. I had just listed them by activity. She said that the lessons were okay, and that I could hand them in, but that she was going to make back-up plans, because it didn't seem that anyone could follow them. 

It was my second defeat of the day. 

I knew that my plans, both in my head and on paper weren't where they needed to be, but I had no idea what "there" looked like, much less how to get them there. I went home pulled out "Tuck Everlasting", my plans, a large cup of coffee and thought. I had one major realization almost immediately. In being released from Trinity-style lessons, I had somehow under compensated. Just because I wasn't writing four pages, didn't mean that I no longer had to think about each of the learner's in my classroom and how they needed information to be presented to them. I realized that I had forgotten about the two deaf students in our classroom, who join us after the morning read aloud. The activities that I planned could not reference a text that they would have no involvement with. I tossed my plans in the trash, deciding that I would embellish further on each activity, and would create each necessary worksheet or packet ahead of time so that a sub, or my teacher could easily follow along. 

I looked at "Tuck Everlasting." My students showed no interest in the book, even though I was reading it aloud. I suddenly became aware of the fact that my student's had almost no interaction with literature, outside of small picture books or the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series. I couldn't just throw something at them that would require a new level of focus without making sure that it was also engaging and meaningful to them. I needed a new book. I reached out to teachers that I knew, compiled a list, spent some lovely time at the book store and two hours later I had finished reading "There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom" by Louis Sachar. 

It was like a shot of adrenaline to the heart. I knew that this was the book I was looking for. It was short, funny and engaging, all while being meaningful and leaving the reader with a great message. The main character, Bradley Chalkers (a bully and school outcast) even helped me sympathize with a student that I was becoming increasingly frustrated with. I rapidly planned the rest of the week, until I could picture it in my head. My literature activities needed to be on a small scale, so we spent Monday making mini-books to respond in and the student's loved it! 

I showed up on Monday and immediately told my teacher how I had realized the mistake I had made in planning the lessons. I asked if we could look through a rough draft of the plans on Thursdays so that I could incorporate suggestions before I turned the lessons in on Fridays. I shared with her everything I had realized about how the ISAT days needed to go and how I had changed everything. She shared that she was proud that I had done all of that and critically evaluated myself. That's when it all fell into place. In those short couple of days, I realized something at the core of teaching. If you are second-guessing something, it's for a reason and something should be done about it. I also had the nice reminder of how pivotal reading is in the development of a human being. On the very first day of reading aloud and looking at my own class's Bradley Chalkers with renewed vision, he asked if he could eat lunch and spend recess with me in the room so that he could make me a comic about the book. 

In the week ahead, I will implement my second week of plans. Now that I am teaching the whole day, I hope to continue to incorporate reflection into my routine so that I can continue to grow. In reading the book by Louis Sachar, I have remembered how much I love reading and literature. I want to continue to search for books that will inspire the students. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Schmidt Ch. 6 and The 8th Week of Student Teaching

The big buzz word of the last few weeks has been ISAT. The tests begin this next week and we have been in a rushed flutter of activity to do last minute preparations for the 3rd graders. A couple of weeks ago, the principal decided that since many 3rd graders are underperforming in math, we had to take drastic measures to prepare for success. Two weeks ago, in our team meetings it was decided that we would group all the third graders by ability in a specific tested area and each teacher would teach a group for about 45 minutes on that specific area (measurement, number sense, geometry). We did it a total of about 5 times in the last week, and by the end I wonder if we made any difference at all. I think for the Math groups to have been effective, they need to have been happening for the entire year because it took student a while to adjust and learn appropriate behavior in this time. In experiencing students from the other third grade classes, I realized what an exceptionally behaved group of students I had and how well our classroom is managed. 

Another thing that has been happening this week is major referrals due to computer use. One student (G.D.) had posted up a picture of Taylor Lautner (actor in the Twilight movies) shirtless as her desktop background. I had felt badly when I heard of that because I actually did not know that the students backgrounds were supposed to be of themselves. I had seen the day before a background of the same actor (albeit clothed) belonging to G.D.'s best friend. But since the behavior was inappropriate her mother was called and a major referral was written. 

I.G. is a student who is really struggling. This is his second time in 3rd grade and his grades have been continuously dropping. His mother even called my cooperating teacher asking what was going on, because she has been taking away all of his distractions. During a time when the students were working on "Study Island," I walked past I.G. and he was artfully editing a picture of himself on Paint. So I closed the program, made sure he was logged into Study Island and had started a lesson and warned him that the next time he was going to move his card.  I then was helping some other student when I noticed I.G. logging onto Paint again. I asked him why and he responded with a blank-stared "Huh?" and "I wanted to save it." I asked him to move his cad, made sure he understood that he needed to be working on something else for now. He nodded and I walked away. After the time was over, the students shut their netbook lids and lined up for a bathroom break. I decided to check I.G. computer to see if he had gotten anything done, and was greeted by the same picture on Paint. So I discussed it with the teacher and along with a major referral, he is grounded from the computer for two weeks. 

It was a real wakeup call to the trials of technology in the classroom. I just feel at a loss with a student like I.G. He doesn't display any academic interests and seems unfocused. Any time you speak to him and direct a question at him, he responds with the same blank face and confused look. I wonder if he has any sort of attention disorder. It's something I think I'd like to observe and evaluate more, but the question is how? 

In the ISAT filled weeks ahead, I hope to learn how to best encourage students during this testing time. My teacher has laid out a schedule with Math games, fun-filled centers and no Reading program. I think it's great, but that this time could be used to focus on thing there aren't often time for, like Science or Social Studies, I however have been instructed to think of a fun/art center to teach this week. I may not think that's the greatest practice, but I am not a veteran teacher and I have never seen what these tests do to students. 

In Schmidt Chapter 6, I read a lot of information about writing. It seems that in this placement, the focus is neither on teaching creative writing or how to write academically well. No matter what grades I happen to teach in the future, I know that I will be teaching writing somehow because I believe it to be of extreme importance. 

I love the strategy of using journals in the classroom. I beleive it's a great way to help students practice writing in a more relaxed way and to make writing a habit. I think that my favorite information is on pages 133-134. I love the idea of having jump starts for students who are intimidated by writing and pairing those journal prompts with reading other fiction in diary format (page 134.) I would love if I could introduce some of these writing techniques in this placement. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Schmidt Ch. 11 and "The Blur That is My Life."

After reading this chapter in "Classroom Confidential," I was feeling slightly overwhelmed by the amount to consider when preparing for communication with parents when I am a teacher. I agreed with everything that I read in this section. I want to be the teacher that knows the culture and makeup of her student's families so to show care and preparation for conferences. I want to be prepared for every situation, but as a teacher, I cannot realistically have every perfect response assembled. Part of my future career means surrendering perfection. 

I feel informed in preparing for communication with parents because this chapter has a basic checklist of things to consider including being: proactive, positive, frequent, clear, basic, attention grabbing, appealing, inclusive, timely, and error-free. After reading all of those things to remember and checklist, I was feeling like it was not possible to create the perfect communication. But I know that a teacher who cares and conveys effort to parents doesn't need to worry about perfection.

I really resonated with this segment "It may seem like there's a universe of cultural practices out there just waiting to be discovered, but with very little time on your hands, you may worry that you'll never learn enough fast enough to avoid cultural gaffes. But remember, parents are eager to help you. They're very forgiving when they realize that you have an authentic interest in their cultures and are passionately committed to the education of their child (p. 244-245)." 

In other news, I had another productive blur of a week. I absolutely love working with this class and doing this all day, every day. The days have started to blur together. My cooperative teacher and I have really settled into a routine of cooperative teaching. We communicate clearly about how the days are going. She has said that she feels like we work really well together; that I focus or talk about what she forgets and she does the same for me. 

One thing that I did this week that I think went really well was some of our RtI review. I talked with Mrs. Martinez about the benefit of having the students create poster to review some of the major Language Arts tools that they may need to remember for ISAT. I grouped the students off and led them through the process of reviewing, gathering information, creating rough drafts and working together. I had one partnership that was very frustrated at working together, and I simply discussed different things they needed from each other and that they were in 3rd grade and I expected them to be able to work together. In the end, they created a great product and they said to me: "Miss Blasen! What do you know? We were such a great team!" I think it was such a beneficial thing for all of the students to work on.

Next week, I hope to help my teacher prepare for ISAT and transition to the next unit. Mostly, I will teach they regular topics, but I assist her in test preparation and review. I hope to learn about the most effective ways to prepare students for this kind of test. My goal is to be up and moving through the classroom and following my teacher's lead up until ISATs. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Settling In (Oh my goodness this will be my 5th week!)

Before I reflect on the past week in my student teaching experience, I want to take a moment to respond to a couple of questions I have received about previous posts.

"I’m wondering if this new awareness of how you are managing your class is different than what you expected. How did you reach this conclusion?" The classroom management portion has been slightly different than what was expected because it is more of a co-management technique. I had never fully comprehended before how vital it is to know students. I have a slight idea of who the students are, yet I know more about textbook strategies for management. After teaching them for a year and a half, Mrs. Martinez absolutely knows this group of students and knows what will work and what won't. I had always pictured classroom management to be an in-depth process that students were involved in from day one, and I would use many different strategies to control the classroom. Yet that is not the classroom culture that I walked into. I can either be frustrated that it's not exactly how I pictured it, or I can go with the flow and learn how it is that Mrs. Martinez knows how to deal with each student and I can take that learning into my future classrooms. I have chosen the latter, or course!

"Your description of math shows you are using best practices in your teaching. Why did it work well? How did you know?" That math lesson was breaking new ground for me, because I had never been in a placement where it was my responsibility to teach an entire math lesson. I started by thinking about what I didn't like about math when I was in school and what I did like about it. I came to the conclusion that getting students interested and engaged was most important. So I decided to teach median and mode with out very own set of data, collected in partners around the room and out of our seats. I perceived such excitement from the students when they were allowed to get up and move around. However, I knew that it would involve a clear explanation of what they needed to collect, how they would do it, and behaviors I would not tolerate. Once I laid that all out, students followed. Mrs. Martinez and I equally went around the room helping groups. Then we collectively analyzed the data. I could tell that the lesson was working well because nearly all of the students were understanding and those who weren't were asking questions and following along. When I introduced a new method for finding the median, we got up in a line and modeled our set of data. It was an experience of joy realizing that you taught a lesson that incorporated many intelligences and that after informal assessment, realized that almost every student had grasped the information. 

On Monday, I walked in prepared for a typical day and needed the 30 minutes before class began to gather myself and get everything in order for my teaching. I walked into the office saying a cheery good morning and my response (along with the good morning) was that Mrs. Martinez wasn't in today and that I would have a substitute. The principal, looked me in the eye and said "Sasha, take charge. I want you to take charge." So with a new set of butterflies in my heart I set about trying to prepare. The day was slightly more chaotic and I had to teach more lessons than what I was prepared to do. But the sub and I worked really well together. We had a couple of behavioral issues that I had to address and that I did. I followed through on discipline and experiences some freedom in getting to do some activities that weren't "by the book" but that the students really enjoyed. 

One of the things we did was that I pulled up a picture of the night sky and students got to take turns coming up to the smartboard drawing their own constellations. We did this to illustrate how constellations can be unique to the viewer and can be difficult to see without the lines. At the end of the day, The substitute, who had been teaching and subbing for 30 years, said to me "I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed today. I have seen a lot of student teachers and you are by far the farthest along and most in control one I have ever seen. You handle issues in the classroom so well. Where I struggle with the words to use in a difficult situation, you have them. You are a natural." I couldn't beleive the amount of praise she was giving me, but I could tell that it was genuine. I appreciated it so much. It's not often in the "real" world that we are encouraged so, and it was very energizing and refreshing. 

This week was mostly just standard teaching. I am comfortable in my role as teacher and using best practices like discussion, visual concept maps, technology and games to engage students. I took over the RtI time this week and we focused on finding the "Main Idea" in a text.  I was able to find and create some really engaging SmartBoard lessons that helped the kids practice. Then we played a board game called "The Main Idea." The students really enjoyed it, but it took some work to make it effective as opposed to general mayhem (which it was the first day). After the first time playing the game, I thought about how I could make it better. Teams needed to be at table groups instead of all around the room. Each group needed to have their own dice to roll instead of waiting to pass it. Each team needed a stack of new "main idea" cards at their table so I didn't have to hand out new ones after they got the right answer. After I implemented the new strategies, it went incredibly smoothly and everyone had a lot of fun. 

One of the most exciting things that had happened this week was getting to spend time working with the ELL student whose parents don't speak English and often seems confused. When I attempted to discuss her with Mrs. Martinez, she made a comment that she thought this girl had "more issues than what we can address in the classroom." I wasn't sure if this meant that there were extreme issues at home or that she thought she had special education issues. The implication was that she couldn't succeed. Because of my ESL minor, and how I feel about teaching these students, I took that as a challenge. The next day, during their practice reading assessment, I worked with Kelly through it. I realized that her vocabulary was lacking and it was keeping her from having even a basic understanding of the questions. Once I had explained to her everything from what "fins" are to what it means when a question asks you to "draw a conclusion" she came up with all of the correct answers. I wanted to whoop with excitement and I did tell her how very proud I was of her and how smart she was. 

The next day, Mrs. Martinez asked what I was doing with Kelly. I explained that she was incredibly intelligent but that her academic language was such a struggle that she didn't have the basic foundations that other students had. I wanted to explain to her strategies that she could use on her own when working with multiple choice questions. Mrs. Martinez, after realizing that I wasn't giving her the answers, seemed very excited about what I was doing. It was such a joy to have that breakthrough with Kelly and talk to Mrs. Martinez about some ESL strategies that she could use. 

In the next week, my responsibilities increase even more as we prepare for ISAT. I have found confidence in my voice and Mrs. Martine and I have discussed ways that we can help every student succeed by using visuals and teaching good strategies. I want to see myself rise to the challenge and go above and beyond in helping these students prepare. It will take a lot of work, because we plan on reviewing all of the RtI focuses and creating posters for the room. I can't wait to see what the students produce. 

"Great Teachers Are Ringmasters" Schmidt Chapter 3

In starting this chapter, Schmidt asks us, "What's the bid idea about behavior?" The minute I laid eyes upon that question, my mind immediately had produced an answer. Behavior is everything! Without wanting to make it the total focus of everything in my classroom, I have believed behavior to rest near the bottom of some sort of classroom hierarchy of needs. Maslow's hierarchy of needs shows us that without certain things, we cannot be concerned with the higher aspects of the triangle. 

A good classroom example of this would be that a student who has not eaten breakfast yet will not be concerned about doing their academic work. Their biological needs come first. In reading the rest of the chapter, what I had believed has been reinforced and added to.  

I have been having some slight adjustments and growing pains when it comes to behavior in my classroom. The classroom Schmidt describes in the beginning of the chapter transported me into mine. Often, the instructions to complete something is met with a flurry of sharpening pencils, asking to go to the bathroom or their backpacks, getting up and grabbing something that they don't need or blank staring at a piece of paper. Some student tells a joke to his table and they all erupt in laughter and hands go up uttering the same phrase over and over: "I need help." 

All of these varying behaviors are motivated by one of two basic instincts. The students are seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. As pictured above, without a feeling of safety in the classroom, students often won't reach higher order thinking. It rings so true in my classroom. Many of the students feel as though they are unable to complete the tasks laid out for them and express frustration in many ways. Currently my cooperating teacher and I are working with each student on different days, teaching them necessary strategies and helping them realize that they can achieve success. I believe that helping them realize their abilities has helped many students become more focused. 

I have ultimately learned that whenever I witness an odd or frustrating behavior from a student, to ask myself "What are they hiding?" I can't wait to be in my own classroom where I can employ some of the strategies listed in this chapter. In my current classroom, I don't feel like there is enough room for variety. I don't know how it would go over if I were to suggest that students complete an assignment or project that was of their suggestion or tailored to their intelligences. The reading program has become the structure and deviation from that would result in re-teaching behavior and management. Yet there must be something I can do. I want to be the teacher who plays music to energize the classroom or lets to students draw out concept maps but without instruction in doing any of these things, the students lose control, or spend too much time coloring and not showing that they grasp the information. 

Some of the other techniques listed I have found that I already use, such as self-encouragement or eye contact. I have a few students that whenever they have lost focus or are making a decision that they shouldn't be, seem to find my gaze. I give them a look, either a "is that the choice you should be making?" look, or a "you can do it, keep going!" look. They respond well to that. 

Ultimately, I hope to take what I have read from the chapter and look for ways that I can introduce some of the concepts into my classroom, to make it a better environment for all of it's members.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Oy Vey... Classroom Management!

This past week, my third in the student teaching experience, was pivotal in becoming a teacher who disciplines in my class of third graders. Every single day was a struggle for behavior. By Tuesday I was fed up with how I was handling the outbreaks, unfocused back table, poor line/hallway behavior and complaints of "he said/she did." So after school on Tuesday, Mrs. Martinez and I had a conversation where I invited her to help me.

I explained first that I was frustrated at how every single transition I would get a flood of students that crowded the back table if I was sitting there. I loved to be helpful to the kids that needed help, but I was turning people away, and found that with some students, they didn't need help, they just wanted my attention. It was also frustrating because they would come to the back table and not focus on instruction or directions, or be called back to their seats. Often times, I would tell them to wait for directions, listen in their seats first, or only come back if they had something they needed help on. 

I offered up a couple suggestions, but ultimately she recommended that I sit at her desk and she sit at the table and I could circulate to help students. I felt a little odd packing up an moving to her desk but it certainly solved the problem. It ended up being a really good solution for our specific group of students.

The other problem I was having was hallway behavior when I took them to and from specials and lunch. I would be repeating myself constantly about staying in a line, in order, and not speaking to each other. It would take us a very long time to get from one place to another and I was not effectively disciplining to promote my expectations for their behavior. So Mrs. Martinez suggested that I have a conversation with them the next morning about my expectations and how I was disappointed. She said that it would mean much more if it was a conversation that would come from me. We also discussed effective ways that I could use classroom management with the class. As I began to implement her plan and hold firm to it, behavior began to change. 

In the last week it became clear to me how very important having a constant awareness of how you are managing your classroom. Along with instruction and other factors of teaching, I must maintain management for the class. I continue to grow in teaching the reading material and keeping students engaged. I had a great experience this past week teaching math, getting the students out of their seats and working with partners. 

In the week ahead, I hope to take on the challenge of planning the RtI time. The focus will be  on teaching the students how to discover the main idea in a story. With my new commitment to management I believe that the students will have more focus while I'm instructing. I hope to have more of a comfort with discipline when necessary and be fair at all times. As always, I'm looking forward to another week!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Great Teachers Are Curiosity Seekers" Schmidt Chapter 4

This chapter of "Classroom Confidential" was an emotional one for me. It included information about culture in the classroom, examples from culturally competent teachers and practical ways to teach in culturally responsive ways. As many White educators entering the field, I have a very unique view of my own culture and experiences and how that relates to teaching. 

Though my face is the face of the dominant culture, I have had different cultural experiences. With a mother who was born and raised outside of the United States, from the first moment I can remember, she challenged my sisters and I to dissociate ourselves from the mentalities of dominance and superiority that can be engrained in the Caucasians in this country. I attended a very diverse Elementary and Middle school that was effective at tackling big questions of diversity and encouraging us to see the beauty in every culture. As an ESL minor, I have spent many classes poring over books like We Can't Teach What We Don't Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Students by Gary Howard and Tongue-Tied: The Lives of Multilingual Students in Public Education edited by Otto Santa Ana. Multicultural education is one of my greatest passions, and quite possibly lies at the very core of why I feel called to teach. 

So this chapter served it's purpose in reminding me what is most important to me as an educator. While I read, it hit me that making the choice to be a culturally competent teacher and facilitator of multicultural classroom management will be the greatest and hardest thing I may ever do. It is a journey that requires dedication, commitment, and constant growth. In this chapter and in the book by Howard listed above, I learned that so much of the journey involves knowing myself and my students. I love the ideas suggested like talking to parents as experts to learn about culture and doing family interviews. 

Something that I encountered in the Santa Ana text above and was reenforced in this chapter of Schmidt was that this choice is about more than just being culturally competent or doing the right thing. It's about the safety, sanity and affirmation of the students in my classroom. When the educational system does "school" wrong, we tear down students of other languages and cultures, push them towards cultural conformity and ultimately strip them of their cultural identities. 

I walk away from reading this chapter refreshed and feeling empowered to facilitate change. I actually have purchased two of the books mentioned in this section (Teacher by Sylvia Ashton-Warner and There Are No Shortcuts by Rafe Esquith) to promote my growth as an educator. The biggest challenge right now is being a student teacher and feeling like I can't do everything I want to because it is technically not my classroom. Yet there are still things I can do. I can greet each student by name, I can work towards including all students in discussion, I can be more conscious of wait time, I can tie the curriculum to student experiences (pages 84-85). This is something that I hope to make serious progress in this semester. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Great Teachers Are Power Brokers" Schmidt Chapter 2

What exactly is "eptness?" Eptness is a word that describes completely my desires for the culture that I cultivate in my classroom. I beleive that a classroom is a community that works as a whole to journey towards educational achievement. It means that I surrender control, apathy, and dullness that can exist in a school setting. In a culture of eptness, students take on the roles of both learners and guides. Everyone shares in the decision making processes involved in learning. They are students that see any obstacle as a chance to shine. Real-world issues are seamlessly integrated in an ept classroom. In the second chapter of "Classroom Confidential," Schmidt introduces many key behaviors on how a teacher can promote a classroom culture of eptness. 

The first behavior is to "model being a learner." She shares that students often have misconceptions that teachers know everything and have all of the answers. It is up to us to challenge students and help them to see that we too are constantly learning. That is the role of our brains. I will do this by remarking on the times when I learn something new, modeling the questions that I might have about something we are about to do, and bring in things like books or newspapers to show students that I am always taking in new information. 

Another behavior is to "model risk taking." It is so important to teach students that public learning is risky, mistakes happen, and we learn and grow from the mistakes we make. It will be easier to handle if they have seen an adult model how they might deal with failing. I will do this by making students aware of the new things I am trying with them in class, and if things don't go well, discuss it with them. I will use language that promotes this like: "We may be wrong, but let's try anyways." 

A final behavior to promote eptness that I would like to try is to "challenge old habits." This can be difficult because it may be difficult to plan ahead for, but it involves realizing that many habits exist in school that have no benefit at all to the students. It means having an awareness of the moment you realize how monotonous you may be and can incorporate new ways to change things up. This is something that I will continue to work on. This semester, I'd love to incorporate some new thing to do during the class bathroom breaks instead of just sit silently or read. 

I do know that I want to strive every day for a culture of eptness in my classroom. I want to advocate for imagination and curiousity. I want to be partners with students in learning. There is a handy self assessment on page 37 that I plan to check to see how much I grow in this area in the future. 

A Case of Judging Too Quickly

As I review my posts from last week I realize how much information I had received in such a short time. Here I sit, reflecting on my second week of student teaching, wishing I could hit pause long enough to figure out how everything could be so drastically different in a few short days. I entered into the classroom on Tuesday still feeling a bit insecure about my relationship with Ms. Martinez, yet hopeful and determined to use everything I had learned and know about myself as someone who works well with other people to build on our professional relationship. 

Because I began teaching the first time slot of the day this week, I felt there was so much that I wanted and needed to discuss with her, from my confusion with planning lessons using a scripted lesson plan to incorporating science/social studies in the classroom. After a nudge from Professor Mattson reminding me of some of the communication tools we worked on during student teaching, I committed to trying some of them. I started by extending an invitation. After a quick question from her asking if my planning was going well, I took a deep breath and gave it a shot."Could you help me understand how you plan and execute this scripted material? My sense of the program is that it feeds the information to students and that the 'Anchored Discussion' doesn't often produce the intended responses in students." 

What followed was a great conversation about how she has been struggling a bit to with certain aspects of the material. She began by agreeing with me and acknowledging that there were difficulties to consider when planning. I so appreciated that we were able to have a conversation about something that I was struggling with and she was able to pour wisdom into me. Because of our talk, I realized that the Pearson text was like a map, and that I had power to decide the way our journey looked, as long as students had understanding of the target skills. 

For example, one of the biggest issues I was having was with the daily concept talk, where the class had guided discussion about the "Question of the Week." As we discuss, I am supposed to be producing a concept map that answers the week's question. On day one of the unit, I am encouraged to say to students: "How did people long ago explain groups of stars in the sky?" The student response follows in the teacher's edition like this: (They told stories, or myths, about how stars got there.) And finally, I am told to say: "Let's add myth to our concept map." 

First of all, I am not sure what third grader would respond like indicated in the parenthesis above. Most of my students had to have the question broken down for them to understand it. Second, that doesn't feel like the student has really had a valid role in the creation of the concept map, like the answers are predetermined. So on my first day teaching, I decided that we would build our own concept map from the discussions that we had each morning and add any valid responses, as well as reminders to how we got there. Also, we would add the unit's "Amazing Words" to the board as we defined them. 

I found as I talked with them, students were able to give examples about how we answer our questions about nature or explain nature (like finding things out on the Discovery channel) and that the more they talked, they showed me that they had a real understanding of the question. 

The map is not finished, we still have two more days of discussion, but I have really found that this new spin on a technique listed in the book helped my students grow. Actually putting up the map (which wasn't something Ms. Martinez did before) helped me incorporate   something for those who have visual intelligences. It was a great reminder for all the students and they continue to use it as we discuss the question. Another great thing about this entire experience was that I realized that the Pearson program was not the "death sentence" I made it out to be last week. I can still be passionate, creative and visual while following the layout. I judged too quickly. 

That was hands down my biggest mistake so far. I waltzed into my placement and thought that everything was figured out and set in stone after a few days. I have had such a shift in paradigm since then, about nearly everything. It's like I put on "take it slow" goggles. I am lucky that I was proven wrong. I misjudged the role of curriculum, I misjudged my cooperating teacher, I misjudged the entire experience right out of the gate. I sit, humbled and know that my role is not to just let things happen to me and react to them. If my cooperating teacher and I are having issues, it is my job to communicate effectively. 

In the next week, I begin taking over another time slot of instruction, and I hope to continue to plan effectively and passionately teach. I have learned that there actually is a management plan put into place, and that I was observing the week after break craziness and getting back into routine. So I hope to exercise discipline with students with students when needed to establish that I am a teacher who needs to be respected like any other. Once again, I also hope to post more often. The last week was crazy, but I know that it will help me in the long run. Let's see if I can actually manage that in the next week! 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Great Teachers Are Equal Opportunists" Schmidt Chapter 1

When studying Education, much discussion is devoted to the multiple intelligences. It's all rooted in the work of Howard Gardner, who put together a theory that showed the world that there are more ways that a person could be "smart" than simply having a high IQ score on a test. As a teacher, this is something that I beleive is a very important focus, since many students may be struggling against misconceptions that they are not intelligent, due to their experiences with standardized testing and complacent educators. 

Out of the nine intelligences, or "smarts" as Laurel Schmidt refers to them in her book "Classroom Confidential," my lofty goal would be to find a way to incorporate each intelligence into my instruction and classroom environment. It is an unrealistic expectation, I believe, to plan that every single lesson perfectly connects and promotes the specific intelligence of every single student. But the journey to effectively incorporate them into your classroom begins with knowing your students. It has been my experience that though most people have what I would call a "top" intelligence (the one that they are most strong in), many have a couple that are also helpful expressions for them. 

I hope to provide the chance for each student to have a role or chance to exhibit their strength in their intelligence at least once a grading period. I think a helpful way to do this, is when creating projects, homework, or assessment, make sure that a variety of intelligences are included for a student to choose to give evidence of their learning. The focus on including all of the intelligences is incredibly important, because it ensures that each student feels seen, heard, and encouraged, all of which are vital to learning and success in the classroom. 

When the correct amount of focus is put into the multiple intelligences, it means that your classroom buzzes with activity and creativity. In the first chapter, Schmidt begins to describe something she calls "full brain learning." It is the learning that takes place when the mind is fully engaged and the multiple intelligences are stimulated. 

Imagination, creativity and passion for learning are the things that I crave in my classroom, and they are the tools that must exist for full brain learning to take place. To encourage this type of learning, I plan to incorporate the arts into my instruction whenever possible. The arts can appeal to different intelligences as well, whether it means performing a skit for the verbal/linguistic and interpersonal students, creating a tableau for the kinesthetically strengthened, or painting a mural for those gifted intrapersonally. This promotes the connection between the brain and the activity in the hand, therefore promoting full brain learning. 

This chapter of "Classroom Confidential" is brimming with good information and tips about using projects, information about specific intelligences, or things that teachers need to do to nurture their students and create the best possible environment for learning. My goal is to take advantage of this resource through out my teaching and continuously holding myself accountable to fostering all intelligences in my classroom and using full brain learning. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Longest Week of My Life

In the days before my student teaching placement began, all I felt like I could do was hold my breath. All I had in my bank of knowledge was a brief and awkward meeting that had occurred before Christmas break and the (extra) Teacher's Edition to Hoover's scripted reading program. I couldn't picture how the days would be structured, what the third graders were like or the relationship that my cooperating teacher and I would have; and oh, how I wanted to know. I just wanted to picture it, to be in it. So as I laid in bed, tossing late into the night, I imagined every scenario that could possibly happen. I eventually lost consciousness, of course, and then it began. 

The first day of any experience, in my opinion, is often a blur of overstimulation, excitement and the struggle to guzzle in every aspect of your surroundings and commit those images to a neat flash card in your brain that will never fade or disappear. This placement was no different. I am thankful that we begin by mostly observing, because it gave me the opportunity to furiously scribble down my reactions and thoughts to everything before they passed through me and were forgotten. 

There is so much about this specific time that is awkward and new and strange and good. I feel that I know so much about teaching; I have near fully developed ideas of how I want to manage my classroom, things that I'm passionate about (social justice teaching, using authentic literature), and how I want to teach. Yet, the situation I'm in is still one of learning, which I wholly appreciate. This is not my classroom. I feel the tension of that sometimes and  I sure hope that it's normal. I have never been in a school that has so much technology resources available to them. Every classroom is equipped with a smartboard, and each student has their own netbook that stays in the classroom. I have never been in a school that spends 160-220 minutes per day on Language Arts instruction. For those who share my  terrible concept of time, that's the whole day, except for lunch, specials (art, gym, music, library), a 15 free time, and a 50 minute math lesson. 

Still during my first day, the students were instructed to view six images from the story they had just read that were in sequential order. They opened their netbooks and were told to go into Word and "retell" the story, writing a sentence that corresponded to each image. Mrs. M. reminded them that they did not need to be on the internet for this activity, since the images were displayed on the smartboard. I began to move around the room. I noticed a student opening internet explorer as I walked by, so I knelt down to his desk and reminded him that he only needed to be on Word. With attitude, he told me he knew and that he was going to the Pearson website (the student/teacher resource site that corresponds to their reading program). I was struck back a little by his tone with me, so I gulped and muttered "okay." I realized that I had no idea what to hold firm to, and how to guide students following someone else's management plan. 

After the day was over, Mrs. M. and I walked silently dropping the kids at their busses outside. I was feeling like our relationship was strained and uncomfortable. My attempts at questions or professional conversation were quickly dealt with and dismissed, like a checklist of things to do. The difficulty here is that it makes me more insecure in seeking her help, advice and wisdom, all three of which I need and value. She did end our time together that day by telling me that now that I had an idea of how things go and who needs more focus, she wanted me to circulate and be more helpful. I appreciated the direction that she gave me, yet it was paired with a slight frustration that I had been wanting to get up and move all day, but that I somehow felt that I needed her permission. 

The brightest part of this day was popping in the office on the way out and introducing myself to Dr. Mays, Hoover's new principal. She was incredibly warm and welcoming and offered to take me on a tour the next morning. Since I felt that I had absolutely no idea what was going on at the school, I appreciated dearly the chance to take in the big picture. On the drive home I processed, and determined that I needed to be more assertive and involved. 

I showed up on day two ready to begin again. Mrs. M. and I discussed some of the students she wanted me to concentrate on. One was a student with a speech IEP, another was a energetic and distracted student, and the other was one of her two English Language Learners (ELLs). Mrs. M. was excited when I told her that I was minoring in ESL instruction and could focus on giving these two students extra support when I could. 

The tour was so very special, everyone was open and encouraging. It became clear in the next few days that everyone I met remembered my name and continued to ask me how my experience was going. I was so grateful for the one-on-one time with the principal to talk about my interest in teaching, passions and impressions of the school. When the other staff members found out that I was student teaching with Mrs. M., the positive response was overwhelming. One teacher smiled while still clasping my hand, "You have a great, great mentor to learn from." That helped push me past the little sensitivities I was feeling about our relationship and set a strong goal and reminder to learn all that I can from this cooperating teacher that I am working with. 

At the end of day two, and every day since, Mrs. M. lets me pull the guided reading groups to the back of the room and work with them. This first day that I worked with a group, I was thankful that I was working with the two ELLs along with two other students. She gave me the "Strategic Intervention Low-Level Reader," which was a simple text that supports the story the class is reading together. The class story for this and next week is called "How Do You Raise a Raisin." The class had already read it twice at this point, had discussed it both times and I was now given a book called "Raisins" which simplified the process of "raising" a raisin. The students seemed disengaged, surely bored at this point by discussing raisins for the third day in a row. Thankfully I was armed with plenty of ESL strategies. We used hand  motions to model the process of planting a seed, picking a fat grape, laying it the sun, and waiting as the sun beat down on our grape, shriveling it into a raisin. The students perked up and were able to better describe the process and use their vocabulary words. 

I fell into a routine after Wednesday, learning something new each day like procedures for taking attendance, breakfast/lunch time, recess, bathroom breaks, dismissal, and gave my first spelling test. I am now in charge of all of these things, and often work with a few students in the back of the room staying on task. I learned a great deal about the kinds of technology used in the classroom, and at the same time discerned what technology still made the students lose interest and how I hope to change that when I teach. 

My two biggest struggles of the week were observing her classroom management and trying to swallow this reading program and all that it entails. Her classroom management plan seems weak and unenforced. There is a wall with a pocket for each student containing four different colored notecards signifying a certain reward/punishment by the end of the day. All students start on "high-five" which are the rewards that they receive and can spend at the school store, the next level is warning, the one after that is loss of free-time, and finally office-referral. This system has potential, but often it is used as a threat that is not followed through on. It just doesn't seem to be a huge care of Mrs. M. to strictly manage the classroom environment. I don't want the classroom to be a boot camp style where no movement is allowed, I just don't understand why the students are allowed to walk around, grab books during math, or walking over to take a lego piece to play with. From what I observe, since the students aren't always held accountable for paying attention, the class transitions to an activity and a handful of students have no idea what is going on. It makes me worried for when I begin to teach, how I should frame things to not step on my teacher's toes. 

My second big struggle is with the reading program. I have a diverse bunch of feelings about using scripted programs like this one. I see how helpful it could be to teachers and there are an absolutely incredible amount of resources that come paired with it. I however mentioned earlier that I am a proponent of using whole language programs and authentic literature in the classroom. I am incredibly frustrated by the stories that serve no purpose than to further a specific vocabulary list and target skill. I don't like handing the "low-level" readers to students who ask why they can't read the "high-level" reader about California field workers on strike in 1965. Obviously there is not much that I can change about the use of the reading program as a student teacher however, I'm feeling limited by how much I can challenge myself and my students while still fulfilling the standards and topics in the textbook. 

Still, I am looking forward to the next week and what this experience will teach me. Beginning next Wednesday, I will be teaching the first time slot of the day. I hope to find myself able to rise to the occasion managing the classroom and using my scripted teaching material. In the experiences I've had this week, I hope to be a slightly more firm and "teacher-like" presence in the classroom. This means upping my discipline and holding students accountable to my standards of behavior as well. I hope to begin blogging a couple of times in a week, so that not every post is quite so long. 

And so ended the most emotionally-packed, transition-y, and observational week of my life. I can't wait for the next one.