Sunday, January 22, 2012

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! 


  1. This path of learning to be a teacher is such a profound privilege and I'm happy to read some of your journey! The concept map can be SUCH an assist in reviewing, "WHat did we say this AM/yesterday? As I read the question again, I'm thinking...can I add any more? No? Let's read x and see if we can discover any more..." (Giving kids a role "I need some good detectives to find..." is a fun motivational tool!)

  2. Sasha,

    I really appreciate the concept map. I have always been a visual learner and using a concept map and key term from what the students are learning is great. Just from the picture that you posted I know you grabbed the attention and interest of all of the visual learners. Thanks for including the picture of your work; it’s nice to see what you are working on with your students.

    Jessica Colvin

  3. I love your concept map. It's a great way to adapt scripted learning to your style of teaching. I am sure the visual learners (many at this grade level) caught on much more quickly.

    Keep your lines of communication open. You are doing well trying to relate. As long as you are open to suggestions and you rely on Ms. Martinez's expertise things will go smoothly. I can honestly say I learned from my student teachers. It's not a one way street.

  4. Sasha,

    I’m so proud of you. You took a risk and it worked. I think you learned so much about yourself, your cooperating teacher, and what /how to structure your lessons. You now feel that you have power in your planning and that is a great thing!!

    Your vision for teaching the lesson on day one, worked. Well done!
    I’m glad you feel that you can now be creative and visual with the curriculum.

    Your learning is clear and I’m glad you had this paradigm shift.

    I look forward to reading how classroom management goes in the week ahead.