Monday, April 20, 2009

Keeping Track

One of the most challenging aspects of teaching this particular class has been keeping track of which kids are out for which activities or meetings during the day, then trying to catch them up on what they missed, or hold them accountable for work they forget or neglect to turn in the next day.

You get the ESL/Language assistance group that returns when the social studies/science period is half-over. You have the band kids, the string kids, kids with lessons and kids that visit the school counselor for one-on-one sessions, kids that go out for speech therapy, others for special help.

Deciding on how to keep track of kids is one thing. A second is reminding them to remember their responsibilities, a third thing is keeping track of what you assign, a fourth whether or not they have fulfilled their responsibilities and a fifth, what you’re going to do about it when they don’t follow through!I had a conversation with my co-op today about these things.

She has been keeping track for me because I was struggling to do that and still teach at the same time. I can’t interrupt the flow of instruction to deal with the band kids who were leaving and coming back half way through one lesson and returning during another one.Then you have the kids that are going on vacation during the middle of the school year, for an entire week, and they want their work in advance. That’s my favorite. Remember when we took vacation in the summer?

Now kids go on entire vacations during the school year, and they are somehow allowed to do this. Whatever happened to keeping your kids in school so they can learn?Pulling them out only makes things worse. They miss all that instructional time and then they have work they need to make up…work that can’t be done on the road. What’s a kid to do when they miss math for a week and one concept builds on the next? How do you make that up? You don't.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Checklist. That's a compound word, "checklist."

I just fell asleep in the bathtub and woke myself up snoring. There was no danger of drowning, I had already drained the tub. I just hesitated too long getting out of the tub and fell victim to the sleepies.

I've decided to make myself a list to get my mind on the finish line, with true focus. Make that two checklists: one for now, one for after I graduate. The first will be a list of things I need/want to accomplish over the next two and a half weeks.

1. Finish my portfolio (this is a biggie)
observation reports

2. Be observed by my school principal (ditto)

3. Finish painting the bathroom.

4. Celebrate my birthday with the girls.

5. Throw my Pampered Chef party.

6. Get my hair done.

7. Go get a massage.

8. Graduate.

9. Try and find interim employment after I graduate (hopefully teaching)

10. Get some leads on some jobs.

It's pretty crazy in a fantabulous sort of way. Fantabulous. A new and improved compound word.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Turning 32 in 2

I'll be celebrating my 32nd birthday in just under two days. Yup. The big three, two. 30 plus two.

I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What Works and What Doesn't Work

What Works
Carefully planned and executed, step-by-step instructions.

What Doesn't Work
Assuming your kids know what you're talking about and that they have the knowledge and sense to figure something out instinctively as you go along with a lesson.

What Works
Giving specific praise for specific acts of behavior you see your students doing.

What Doesn't Work
Saying "good job" or another generic compliment that will eventually sound insincere to a student.

What Works
Taking the time to notice and praise the things a student does right and give constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement.

What Doesn't Work
Nagging a child about their weaknesses. Children aren't encouraged by negative forms of criticism that embarrass or tear down.

What Works
Taking the time to give a kid extra help, even if your busy.

What Doesn't Work
Repeatedly putting off remediation and hoping the kid will pick up the skills he needs through Osmosis. Instruction and guidance must be intentional. You don't get in shape by skipping workouts and your children won't perform unless they are properly nurtured and trained.

Cresting the Hill

I'm almost at the top. Like a roller coaster cresting the top of a hill, my arms are up in the air and I'm getting ready to scream like an adrenaline junkie skydiving out of an airplane...

At the end of this experience, I'll be screaming like Mel Gibson's character William Wallace at the end of the movie Braveheart..."FREEDOM!"

I love my placement, my kids and my co-op, not to mention the other teachers at the school, but there is something quite satisfying and even liberating to know that I am reaching the pinnacle of my student teaching experience and that it will only get "easier" from here.

Easy is a relative term, in the eye of the beholder. Yes, my teaching hours will decrease, but my responsibilities haven't lessened, my focus is only shifting from one set of tasks to another. I still have my portfolio to finish, interviews to prepare for and applications to fill out. Oh! And I still have to find a job, but I've decided that I'll cross each of those bridges when I come to them.

I'll all about preparing for the future, but living in the present. If I thought only of what COULD happen, I would miss what IS.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Making a Connection

It doesn't happen everyday, in every lesson, but I figure the longer I do this, the better I'll get at it.

I'm talking about making a connection with my students. I'm talking about watching the light bulb go off in their heads and on their faces. It's an awesome sight when they really grasp a concept you're teaching them and it feels good to know that they now know what they know because of you.

Today was 2nd Picture Day. Kind of like 2nd breakfast, kinda unnecessary (unless you're a hobbit) but fun and interesting to experience none-the-less, if for nothing else than for the free comb.

We were leaving the gym after getting pictures taken and there were some volunteer moms there working the table where the kids go for last minute touch ups to their hair. It also happened to be the table where they hand out the free combs to the kids. You know the kind. Like the one that Fonzarelli carried in his back pocket.

I noticed some of my kids were in the process of going back over to get a comb before they left and didn't have an opportunity to get one before it was time to depart, so on my way out I went up to the table and asked the mom, and the general photo staff within earshot if I could have two of them. The mom told me "Well we don't really have enough" just as the photographer was telling me to "Take five!" So after an awkward moment they got on the same page I was able to leave them with my thanks and me with two combs and I was able to give them to the boys as a souvenir when we got back to the room.

Something that little, made their day. That, and having their teacher go out of her way to do something nice and unexpected, just for them. It was just as great as the "Ah hah!" light bulb face.

Lessons learned:
The hard work of student teaching pays off.
You never know unless you ask the right person.
It's worth it to go out of your way to make other people's day.

Yeah Baby!

Student teaching, prepping for interviews, getting application materials together, housework, keeping up with friends, exercising (well, I've already dropped that ball for the present time), and getting ready for another house party... Yeah BABY!

Yes, I'm tired, but I'm loving being alive and enjoying the blessings that God has given me, because I'm sick of dwelling on what I don't have (kids, wealth, new car, teaching contract, curtains, new furniture, a nice lawn, painted house, finished house projects) etc.

I've lost 20 pounds!
I have an AWESOME student teaching placement at a really great school with wonderful teachers.
I've got an ultra supportive family and fabuloso network of friends (especially girlfriends) who are rallying around me to offer encouragement, pray for me and send cards my way...just when I need them.
I'm about to graduate with my teaching certification and my MA in Education baby! Yeah!

How wonderful!!! I'm also going to be 32 years old in a week. A week from today. I have a wishlist on, I like flowers, my birthstone is a diamond, and I only do well with surprises that are over and done kidnappings...fake or otherwise. Seriously...I fight back. Do NOT consider that a personal challenge.

Thanks for sharing in my joy and for being a reader.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cooperative Learning, How to Foster a Class that Works Together

How do you get 24 children of various ethnicity, backgrounds, ability levels, and social challenges to work together? Don't ask me. I thought YOU knew. I'm in the process of digesting Harry Wong's "The First Days of School." I'm reading his take on Cooperative Learning and I'm interested in what he has to say about how I can foster a teaching environment in which children BLOSSOM and don't feel threatened.

He talks about a global community and of preparing students to live and work within it. He wants to discourage students from competing against each other and get them to focus on competing only against themselves, striving for their own personal bests.

I'm brainstorming ways for them to be able to feel more secure but also about ways to foster personal growth and confidence through self-assessment and metacognition.

Fringe, Sarah Connor Chronicles and Other Jazz

Anyone else like the TV show, "Fringe" on Fox? I'm also diggin' The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Speaking of the Terminator-esque show...the new Terminator movie with Christian Bale is coming out in May!!! Woohoo!

I love sci-fi and future-istic stuff. How 'bout you?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Lesson on Assessment

We've started investigation 2 in our unit on water. To wrap up investigation 1 I had to give an anecdotal assessment in which the kids had to write a letter to some campers who erroneously pitched their tent next to a stream at the bottom of a slope next to a creek when it rained. The kids have to tell them why that wasn't such a hot idea.

The kids didn't have access to a rubric ahead of time. It's because I didn't know that one existed. It's hard when they're getting assessed and they've never been camping and they're magically supposed to apply new concepts after only a short time of exposure to them. I felt bad for not helping them more by telling them that they need to really think about what they know about water and drop some hints. I just thought I was supposed to give it to them and let them show me what they know. Apparently, they still struggle at this age to mine their own mind mines for gold. They still need a conveyor belt to bring it to the surface for them.

Next time, I'll make sure I try and reinforce the concepts learned in the investigations and point out that they will need to make sure to list three reasons plus explanations to score a 4. Today I learned that successful outcomes don't just happen, they are orchestrated by a maestro.

To bring the gold to the surface you have to dig deeper.