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!