Category Archives: Feedback

Culmination

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Reader’s Workshop is in its very last few days. We’ve pre-assessed students, taught specific targets, post-assessed and built projects. We’re now displaying the projects in the library.

This unit has been a very interesting journey, and I feel as if I have really learned a lot as a teacher during the ride. I definitely know some of the things I did well (creating engaging lessons and allowing students to do as well as read), as well as the things I didn’t do so well (not to rush through lessons so much, work at being more organized for myself so as not to appear so scattered). And I know what I would do differently next time in my execution of the teaching part (More structure during group discussions? More involved lessons toward the beginning of the week?). I even have a vague idea of what I might change for next time (Should I be more involved in group discussions, or leave myself out of the equation? Maybe students should have a more defined assignment to bring to group discussions, much like Literature Circles?). I haven’t graded the assessments yet (Patti and I are grading them together to ensure continuity in grading), but I will be curious to see if the work we did in class changed students’ understanding and synthesis/evaluation of the subject matter. I’m really hoping that it has, but it is the first time this sort of thing has been done at the secondary level in this school with these students. So, in my opinion, any growth is encouraging.

In general, this year has been a tremendous learning experience for me. I’ve learned a lot about teaching, a lot about learning, and a lot about myself–strengths and weaknesses included. I know what it means to have integrity in this profession, and while I don’t profess to know everything about teaching or even my subject matter, I know my learning curve next year won’t be so great. I have no delusions of grandeur—that I am the best teacher to ever hit the classroom, that I am better than my peers, etc. But I do know that I work hard and that I am confident in my abilities. Much more so than when I began this year.

There are several things I want to focus on for year two of teaching (like securing a job, first of all!): classroom management, organization, streamlining classroom practices, parent contact and connections, and especially reaching my students on a more in-depth level. I also want to learn more about socio-economic factors, diversity as it pertains to the classroom and community, and I want to find ways to bring community aspects into the classroom (including community service, social kindness and developing a sense of global awareness in my students).

I’m going to be reading some books over the summer to give me some ideas and tips for going about remedying some of these problem areas (suggestions are welcome!), but teaching is always fluid. There will always be things on which to improve and room for growth. It’s part of why I chose the profession I did—because being a teacher requires being a lifelong learner.

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Facing the Music

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Today has been an exercise in patience.

The day started with my leaving early for work to stop at the grocery store in order to buy some foods that Ancient Greeks might have eaten. I struck out trying to find fresh figs and pomegranates. So instead, I gave up on the pomegranates and found some dried figs. I also picked up some feta and brought some Greek olives from home to let them try.

I got to school and began preparing for the day when I got a message to go to the office. It turns out that one of my students had talked to his grandfather (who is his guardian) about the project he turned in the day before. The project was a small poster on a Greek god or goddess that had been assigned to each student. This student chose to do the poster on a very large piece of poster paper. When he brought it to show to me, I told him that his poster looked beautiful, but asked him if he remembered what the size requirement was. He told me that he never heard anything about what size the poster was supposed to be, but it was explained several times throughout the course of 3 days.

Well, this student went home and told Grandpa that I said nothing about his project but that he did it wrong. So, the meeting in the office was about how I am making this student feel inferior and that he can’t do anything right. I assured his grandfather that that had not been the case, but he told me that I was wrong and that if I was going to be that way with students I shouldn’t be allowed to teach (Cue big sigh here). He then proceeded to tell me that his grandson was teased and tormented by his classmates and that during band class, other students were hitting him with their instruments. I let him know that I would make sure to bring that up to the band teacher.

I chose not to say that this student’s behavior invited torment. He often seemingly begs for other students to pick on him. I’m not always sure how to handle that, but luckily he will be moving into a more intensive program at the semester. I hope that helps him with some of the social issues he seems to have. He has a lot of other problems going on at home and he could use a boost right now.

The rest of the day was just as problematic.

I pitched my new incentive program to my morning class and they were apathetic to it. They don’t buy in, they don’t care, and it’s evident that they do not see me as an authority figure. I’m giving it until the end of the week and if they are still not into it, I will have to try some other measures next week. I had hoped not to resort to negative reinforcement, but unless I can come up with another plan, I have no other options for that class. They talk over me constantly, and I can’t seem to get their attention. This has a lot to do with starting off on the wrong foot, I think.

In contrast, my afternoon kids are really into the star student thing, and they are excited about potentially getting a reward at the end of the week. They are making an effort. We talked a lot about making our classroom a community and they are really taking that to heart. Interestingly, having the same talk with my morning kids had zero effect.

It seems like I am complaining a lot today. It’s been a rough one for me, and I came home and slept for a couple of hours. It amazes me how much student teaching takes out of me. In reflection of the events of the day, I think this is just a difficult week. I honestly had not anticipated transitioning into student teaching being this hard. Perhaps that is my own hubris, or my ignorance in never having been in this position before. But the rest of the week has to be better. I’m determined to be good at this. I just don’t feel it this week.

More Management Issues

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Classroom management (of course) tends to be an issue for me, as it is for every new teacher. I am finding that the more my classes have me for a teacher, the more often they misbehave or are off-task.

Yesterday was a particularly difficult day for me. My morning class was rather non-responsive, and I felt myself being more negative in direction than I generally am. I tend to like to focus on positives, because I don’t think anyone really likes to hear what they aren’t doing right all of the time. However, yesterday I found myself constantly telling them that they need to listen, they aren’t paying attention, etc. As a result of my direction, I could feel the class slipping away from me. I find that, in general, I am harder on my morning class than on my afternoon one. I have thought about what the reasons for this might be and what I’ve come up with is that I am intimidated by a select few students that ruffle my feathers a bit. Consequently, I am over-compensating.

In the afternoon, I was observed by my university supervisor. I have to say, first off, that I really appreciate her visits. I don’t look at them as another way the university is grading me, but as an opportunity for an outside opinion of what happens in my classes. I welcome her observance. Anyway, the afternoon class was the complete polar opposite of the morning. They were noisy, off-task, impossible to bring back together, and I was very close to losing my patience with them. My university supervisor noted that toward the end of the class, I began to get a bit stressed with them. I agree; I was having an impossible time getting them to pay attention to me. We were beginning a new activity that required a lot of instruction from me, and had many steps to it. While I feel like the students executed things well, it’s the talking over me and over one another that I couldn’t handle.

After the school day ended, my supervisor gave me some really great tips on management. While I loved what she offered up, it was actually what I brainstormed with my mentor teacher that ultimately gave me the idea of what to change in the room and with myself to get the attention I want from my students. So, starting Monday, I will have a classroom meeting with each class, and introduce a new plan. Each day, two students (one on either side of the room) will tally every half hour. They will be looking for students that are on-task, have been respectful, and have raised their hands to speak. At the end of each class period I will place a star on a chart for the daily 5 students that received the most tallies. At the end of the week, there will be a reward for those that have done well.

I realize that this system doesn’t take into account those students that will not buy in to the idea. Unfortunately, there will still have to be some students that choose to make me write them up. However, I’m fairly confident that for most of my difficult students, it will only take one write-up to change their attitudes. I hope I’m right about that.

So, today I went to the teacher supply store and purchased everything I will need to implement my new management plan. Now to get it all ready. Update coming soon.

The Longest Lesson

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Classroom management is a struggle for every new teacher. Personally, I think it’s a struggle for almost any teacher, because I think it’s something that we learn more about every year as we progress through our careers. I’m no exception.

Today, I definitely proved that. I managed to turn a 35-40 minute lesson into an hour and a half without even trying hard! For the first time today, I taught a lesson from the social studies textbook on Ancient Greece. It’s a fascinating subject. Well, to me it is. My sixth graders…well, that’s another story. It started out alright. I had a plan: students would read for a paragraph or two, we’d discuss it a bit, and then we would work together filling out the worksheet on the effects that Grecian decisions had on the advancement of the society. That was the plan. What I hadn’t counted on were the derailing questions from inquiring little minds. They wanted to know everything from what a tyrant is to why England doesn’t have a king. Or why did England have more than one queen named Elizabeth. They decided Hitler was a tyrant (which, of course, they’re right about) and that Alexander the Great was the son of Aristotle (I had to set them straight there). While these questions were derailing, though, they were on-topic and were all part of them discovering connections between history and themselves.

Personally, I loved it. But, there is a time limit in which I have to teach, and I didn’t realize it, but at least a third of my class had checked out halfway through. Luckily, my mentoring teacher was taking notes for me and gave me some immediate feedback after the lesson. She told me that choosing a few key people on the outskirts of the room to focus on (body language, social cues) would help me to determine how long my lesson should be. In other words, if kids are getting bored, it’s time to move on and revisit it later. Varying the way I ask questions, or ask them to answer questions will also help. For instance, asking for a raised hand on one question, and then telling students to write answers down, giving them a moment to do so, and then randomly calling on students. This will keep them more engaged (hopefully), because they never know when they will be called upon to answer. Having students discuss the answer to a question with a neighbor is also a good way to engage them. She suggested using popsicle sticks to draw names to answer questions as well, and I like that idea. I may have to find some and try it.

I’m usually fairly good at utilizing the entirety of the classroom, but because of the nature of the lesson today, I had to stay anchored to the overhead (or so I thought). My mentor teacher suggested that having a student take over reading, and circling the room at least once would ensure I have no sleepers.

So, today I learned some very valuable techniques in driving the lesson the way I want it to go and holding to a time limit. It’s amazing the amount of things a person can learn when another is observing her. This afternoon’s class will be another adventure because I’m being observed again, this time by my University Supervisor. Although being observed does make me a little nervous, I welcome it. It’s a great opportunity for me to grow and evolve as a teacher, and I want to be the best I can at what I do. This is just another step on my pathway to getting there.