Thursday, February 24, 2011

In control

     Well today was crazy. My co-operating teacher was unexpectedly not there. At first I was told that I'd be taking over the class (omg!) but it turns out the class would split into the other two 5th grade classes. Not that my students assimilate into their class or anything, they kind of just sit quietly in the corner/s doing busy work for hours. Most of my day was spent going back and forth to each classroom helping the students with various problems. It was actually pretty tiring, and not quite as useful to my learning as actually teaching a lesson would have been.
     The being said, there were times when I was solely in charge of the class. I suppose overall I did alright, but I came to the realization I have very little control over the classroom. One I'm reflecting upon now is a particular student that engages in a lot of back talk. I am now considering in my mind that perhaps I enable this by engaging in the backtalk. That is, she yells "WHAT DID I DO?!" and I argue with her, or something to that effect. Anyways, I'm working on it. I am not going to go back on what I've said about being authoritative over authoritarian, but I suppose I am seeing why many teachers choose the authoritarian approach. It's easier. It's much less time consuming. There's much less thought involved. Where as the former shares mutual respect between the students, the other demands respect from the students. I've been told I have a "laid back" approach.  I'm still working on how I want to manage the classroom, but I know I don't want to take the easy route. I aspire to be one of those teachers that wasn't so hard on students. While this is proving to be a challenge, my belief in moving in this direction is affirmed by the large percentage of teachers I see that are indeed overly strict with the students. Still learning.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Belated Mathematics

     Well my time after school today was busy setting up for my belated valentine's dinner, so sorry about that. On that note, at school last Monday, everyone made kind of a big deal about Valentine's day. I guess with Chrismas and other religious holidays being unmentionable nowadays, a holiday like Valentine's Day which is just cultural (I think) and about showing affection is a popular thing to celebrate.
     So one of the students is struggling with their multiplication table. I guess they just don't get the concept. Even something like eight times two ends with an incorrect answer. The real problem is that we're on long division and fractions and because she is behind with multiplication she is having trouble with these algorithms too. I had been telling her to use the internet to find a multiplication table, or to ask her family for help, but let's just say she can't get any help and she hasn't been able to get on her computer. So I told her I would print out a multiplication table for her and bring it in. I'm sharing this because I thought it was a good solution to this student's problem. Of course, ideally I could give her strategies to figure out multiplication problems without the chart, but time is really pressed.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Adding Fractions of Voices

     So the issues with the hallway continue. I want the students to be able to whisper (no one must know this however.) The problem is, sooner or later someone goes from whispering to talking quietly, which is still ok. But then, someone starts to talk over someone else, and the noise just multiplies. Later, I tried to teach a lesson on a math subject that many of them are struggling with, but a few of them were being a bit disruptive. Even with my best efforts, I just couldn't get these students to quiet down; not until the teacher came back that is. Despite this, I still believe in my way of managing. I just think the problem arises when instead of me being the one dolling out a reprimand or punishment, it's "I'll tell Mrs. _____ on you!" Not that I worded it like that of course, but it is effectively the message that gets across.
     Now if you'll excuse me, I have a math test on fractions to type up.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I am usually very patient, and seldom do I ever get upset.

     I'm mad. Well, just mildly upset I suppose. Why might I be mad you ask? Well, we are currently doing long division. About half the class gets it pretty well, while the other half of the class is relatively confused. We could take the students that are relatively confused by it and arrange them in a somewhat reliable order as to who is more and less confused by this, by I wouldn't do that. That is why I mad. I wanted to take all the students who were confused, seven of them, and go over the stuff again. Teach some mnemonics I thought of and some other stuff. My teacher thought I should take the students that kind of get it first, explain it to them quickly, then help the students that are totally lost. I disagreed with this, the biggest reason being there just wasn't enough time. I'd never get to the second group; the students that really need the help. However, that's what she wanted me to do so off I went. Sure enough, more and more of the students that apply themselves gathered around me for extra help and I ran out of time. Meanwhile, the students that are totally discouraged and need the most help are sitting at their desks just staring at their work with no idea how to do it. Then they're assigned homework that they have no idea how to do, and their parents apparently sleep all day so definitely can't help them with their difficult math homework, so yeah; I am mad. I am upset that the teacher did not let me focus on the lowest achieving students first. I also don't see how she (e.g. impossible) could have taught these kids the material in the short amount of time we had anyways. Hopefully I will get (that is, the kids will get) the opportunity to work with the students that truly need some additional instruction with this essential subject.
     In other news I have quite a bit of lessons I'll be teaching tomorrow. Things are going smoothly for me in general and although I have a lot of work on my to-do list that is piling up, I am definitely developing and have no doubt that things will end well—so long as I keep this up. Let's just say that February vacation will be a welcome break... just before the final sprint.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stricks and stones

     So today I happened upon a girl (not of my class) rather upset and gathering a crowd around her explaining how some people had picked on her older sister. Not sure how to handle it, I just observed, until the group dispersed. I forgot about the event until later when I heard more details regarding this specific event from teachers discussing it. Apparently there's a bit of bullying going on. I thought it was interesting how the teachers all discussed it together and decided how they would handle it. Options included: "Just separate them. Problem solved." "Tell the Assistant Principal, then it's 'their' [the administration's] problem." "I'll talk to so-and-so. Then I'll get to the bottom of it." And etc. But what really is the best way to deal with bullying? After all you can't make someone like someone else. The more you force something like that the quicker it's going to not work out.
     So much time has passed since I was in elementary school, it's easy to forget that I had my own perception of each other student in the class. It's easy to think that everyone in class are friends with each other but more often than that students seem much more apathetic to each other. Certainly, some have their friends, but some don't make strong connections to anyone, day by day. If only the students could all band together under the idea of us vs. the man. If only the students could all see how similar they all were and how if they worked together and everyone was friends with each other, they could help each other. Oh well, that's why we grow up, I guess. Anyways, I'm really against bullying, and in my own classroom I plan to have a bunch of strict rules about it and stuff.

Monday, February 14, 2011


     The lesson plan on light went great! I was not sure how much the students knew about light so I decided to have a bunch of little experiments around the room at stations for the students to circulate about in small groups. It worked out! The students seemed pretty into it and mostly worked well together. Upon reflection, my directions on the handout I had typed out and given to everyone were not clear enough, which turned into me explaining each of the five stations 5 times each as the groups cycled through. Although I am just realizing now  that that actually worked out better for me. Giving my supervisor plenty of opportunities to see me interact and explain things to the students is probably a good idea. On the subject, my supervisor liked the lesson too. Inquiry based learning is the way to go when it comes to teaching science. Also, I had prepared these five experiments, he noticed all the different materials I brought in. I was freaking out the night before and didn't get enough sleep, but it all worked out in the end.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The rise of a new dictator...

     I had to lay the hammer down today. Put my foot down, enforce the law, "be the man," or whatever you want to say. Not because of my teacher though, it happened because if me. Well, because of the sudents to be exact. I've mentioned the hallway before. Well basically I've been letting them do as they please, for the most part. However, there are classes going on, so the volume they produce has to be reasonable (we can all agree on that.) One student was screaming and pushing today and I had to quiet her down; unfortunately she wouldn't listen. This same student acted similarly yesterday too, and that day as well she just wouldn't quiet down. Something had to be done. I even gave her plenty of chances today, but she just kept at it, so I had to do it. I had to report her behavior to the teacher and watch some privledges get taken away. I got her into trouble. I guess this is what teachers have to do sometimes. I think I'll feel better about it when it's my own classroom and my own rules that I'm enforcing.
     Concerning punishment and the enforcement of rules, I do think a great deal about it. I think about the behavior that is being enforced or discouraged from any particular punishment. I think about the changes this might influence on a developing individual. If there's one thing I'm for, it's individuality. I love people expressing themselves and being themselves. I worry how strict rules and guidelines could mold people to be unquestioning and too passive when it comes to authority. After all, as we can see all over the world right now, there are times when one should not and must not listen to authority. How do we teach that? On the other hand, self control is a practical and nessecary ability in today's world. While I think if someone wants to start singing and dancing randomly, then they should. It's a beutiful thing. But then again, if I started doing that say, in the classroom when I was supposed to be say, teaching—I may not be becoming a teacher after all... and then there's being inconsiderant and disrespectful too, which is what was happening in this case, as I pointed out to the student several times.
    I know I didn't do anything wrong, but I sure feel bad about it. I guess I'm just a big pushover. Hopefully my philosophy of "give respect; recieve respect" will be an effective classroom management strategy. Well, as long as I don't become that teacher that has obviousyl let power gone to their heads and get off on punishing students then I think I'll be ok. I guess some people just aren't prepared for handling the power that one has over these kids as their teacher and it really changes them. I wish I could study that more.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Some get help...

     Last night was the parent teacher meetings. That went well; much less painful than I thought it was going to be. Coincidentally, all the parents of the students that are doing well in class came in, while the parents of the students that appear to be struggling did not show in. Hmmm... Anyways, it was very interesting seeing the parents of the students. One interesting case that I will share: There is a student that smells deeply of smoke every morning. (A quick aside, why do parents smoke near their children? In my eyes it's abuse.) Her mother who happened to come in was quite charming however. Still, my eyebrow was raised (on the inside) even while she presented herself as a responsible parent. I later learned (from the teacher) that the mother apparently is just telling us what we want to hear and the young girl in question appears to be suffering from neglect of a sort. What does one do? What does a teacher do in general when parents are not meeting our standards of parenthood? Where does one draw the line on irresponsible parenting? How can a teacher in their limited role best help a child with such profound problems? Maybe I should have gone for a job with Child Protective Services... I could have helped clean it up or something.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My time to shine!

     I taught another lesson today and it went awesome! Even better than my first! It was on similes, and entirely of my own design. To tell the truth, I actually authored the lesson some time ago; it was originally about metaphors. I really thought it was pretty good though so I just modified it to be about similes (practically the same anyways.) Anyways, the lesson went like this:
Grab their attention with some similes from some text we all read together. Discuss the meaning, Tell them exactly what a simile is. Share some of my own similes. Explain how to create a simile. Have students create their own similes. Walk around class helping students (5-10 minutes.) Let students share this similes. Then have students pair up. Instruct students to each select one of their own similes and choose a noun from it. Then swap the noun from their respective simile to the other. Give examples and cleat instructions so as to not cause confusion. Walk around answering questions while students work on activity (1-2 minutes.) Have students share the new similes. Discuss meaning. Compare meaning of simile with a simple sentence (i.e. Swim like a fish vs. Swim very well.)
     And that's basically the lesson plan (with a good amount more organization and some additional details.) It want really great! The students had fun with it, they were engaged, and my supervisor thought it was great too. My next lesson plan is a science activity and it is about light. I haven't made it yet, I've got a couple days. I also have plenty of resources to use! Flashlights, magnifying glasses, color light thingies, the works. Now is my time to shine! (get it?!!?!?)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Only bored sometimes.

     So I have experienced around four different schools now and have seen lessons taught in over six different classrooms. My school's education program has done a great job in giving me a wide array of experiences with which to model myself from. Now that I am student teaching, I feel I am well past the point of observing. I am ready to teach, I feel, and have little to gain from continued observing. I wish this entry was more than just me griping but alas, I am simply whining about stints of boredom in my day.
     It would seem that starting about now my work will be picking up somewhat exponentially. This was expected, although still stressful at its onset. I will make every effort to stay committed to my daily blogish endeavor to the best of my ability.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Rough day and Harsh Grading

     So today was a rough day for me. I overslept, the lesson I made in Word 2007 couldn't be opened on their word 2003 computers, I did a bunch of little things wrong, forgot to prepare for another lesson, and had uncomfortable exchanges with my co-operating teacher about grading and classroom management. I've said this before—I am worried I won't be able to meet my teachers standards of discipline. That is, I am totally authoritative, whilst she is authoritarian. I don't think I could be authoritarian if I tried. But now I feel some pressure from my teacher to be more enforcing of rules. Furthermore, I am worried at how this will effect my development as a teacher. For example, a student was yelled at today for running their hands along a stone wall whilst walking in line. I know, from college classes etc., that some kids are just tactile and touching and feeling things like walls helps calm their nerves and what not. How can I scold children for acting our normal and acceptable behavior? In addition, maybe I'm just used to the A-F grading system, but I can't stand the 1, 2, or 3 system. Sometimes known as check, check plus, and check minus, this is a totally incomplete grading system. There's no in between! Being forced to use it just makes me see how limited it is.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Professional Ice Skaters (to be)

     So today (Friday) was another great day. I kind of taught a lesson on adding and subtracting decimals, which was very similar to the lesson yesterday. The lesson also went very similarly, however there one was big difference, instead of my supervisor watching silently the co-operating teacher was there. The students were a little less active, and once a student yelled out an answer—which is what I wanted, that's what they were doing yesterday—the teacher interrupted my lesson to scold him for not raising his hand. I did not really appreciate that but today was even more informal than yesterday so I guess I can't complain. I just hope she lets me control the classroom when I teach my formal lessons in the future. (By formal lessons I mean fairly lengthy lessons of entirely my own design, such as if I have the students play a game I created.)
     That bit aside, we also went on a little field trip! Just for a few hours, all the fifth grade classes in my school went ice skating. At first I wasn't going to go on the ice, but after being prompted to I put on some ice skates and there I was. I only fell down four times! (I'm a biker not a skater.) There was one student who fell down, apparently, over sixty times. I only know this because one of her friends was following her around counting her falls the entire time. I found this particularly amazing! Many students were very careful to never fall down (although they probably did a few times anyways.) Many students also took a few breaks here and there. But not this student, no matter how many times she fell down she got right back up and kept on trying to skate. Over and over, she would just get up, start skating, sometimes get some good speed going, and inevitably tumble down. While her friend thought it was humorous the number of times she feel, I was amazed at the number of times she got back up. So all in all, I had a great time. I'm having a hard time following the "Don't be their friend" advice though, especially after an activity like this.
     There was some more work done that day, but at the end of the day the teacher gave the students some free time to do whatever they wanted to with. A whole twenty-five minutes. One student wanted to play connect four with me, but the teacher had me go and make a bunch of copies! I did so with a smile of course, but ooooohhhh did I want to play Connect Four. I am sooo good at that game and proving my mastery to a bunch of awed fifth graders would have been ever so sweet... That's not very professional is it?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Taught my first lesson - No work at all!

     So today I taught my first lesson! Things got kind of crazy beforehand though. I have a supervisor that is supposed to come in and watch me teach lessons from time to time. I had been e-mailing him beforehand but little did I know his replys were going to my junk mail soooo when I called him just before I left for school this morning and was told he'd be coming in less than two hours from the time at which we spoke, I was naturally surprised. Well, seen as how I had no lesson ready to show him, I was kind of freaking out. I'm pretty good at keeping a level head though so I just went with it (although he ended up coming in a few hours later, which was good.) Anyways, during the lunch period beforehand I prepared a math lesson. My supervisor showed up before the students got back and actually gave me some more ideas too. Then the actual teacher leaves the room because there's some really important meeting she has to go to and I'm there all alone (with my supervisor watching that is.) Ok, no sweat. I got this—ok ok I was nervous—but I settled them down, I got their attention, and then they just jumped in! Oh and what a surprise, even though it was a math lesson about addition and subtraction in the thousands, the students were engaged and yelling out answers (followers of my blog might remember that the teacher has reached some level of exasperation at the "unresponsiveness" of the class.) This is just a small confirmation to me that students will be better learners if you treat them with respect and not yell at them too excessively. Hmm, some deep thoughts about punishment here, but I'll save those for the next unexpected day off.
     Speaking of, the teacher informed the class today the due to so many of these unexpected days off,  we'd be losing some days from February break. Oh, if only you could see the forlorn look on those students' faces. The teacher said, "Face it, you don't need a February break." Which was instantly met with head shakes and frowns all around the room. The teacher reacted to this with surprise, citing how many unplanned days off they've had already! It was at this point I realized that I had the same look on my face as the students and was also reflexively shaking my head. Not that I don't enjoy being there or anything, I just love, y'know, lounging about and etc. Hmm, in the future, I hope I can figure out strategies to make this feel like a fun thing to do everyday instead of "actual work." "Actual work" is boring and monotonous. I really enjoyed teaching my lesson today, that was fun and engaging. I suppose when I'm calling the shots (i.e. actual job in my own classroom) and not just taking notes or making copies half the day, then this slight feeling of "actual work" will dissipate. In any case, I will do my best to control my inner self to not associate teaching with the idea of "actual work." I'll come back to these thoughts another time too.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Increased effort on a day off

     Two days in a row without school. Hmm, teachers sure do seem to talk about the weather a lot...
     Moving that aside let's just gt right into a thought I've been having. This thought started with a conversation between two teachers I overheard where one teacher expressed that she would never work on the weekends. Everyone needs a break after all but on the other hand, were we not just discussing how important teaching is for the future of society? Basically the quandary I am getting at is how much should a teacher put in to their jobs? There is certainly a lot of room for increased effort in the profession—a teach could always put in extra time to improving lesson plans, hosting an after school activity for something similar, organizing some other special program, or getting involved with community. On the flip side of the coin there is the standard "nine to five," just coming into work at required times and doing the bare minimum required of you. Although I've reached no conclusions at this time I suppose teachers with the mindset that this is just another job are what people mean when they say that "some people shouldn't be teachers."  I agree with that to some extent, after all if there's no difference between this and say working in an office cubicle to someone then why did they choose this? The extent to which a teacher involves themselves with students and school outside of the classroom is a question that I will certainly be touching upon again. For now I'll just leave these thoughts here.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Stress and the NCLB

     Finally had school, and it looks as though the following days may be canceled again too. This is, in a way, good; although I like getting into routines, I love breaking routine. So viewing teaching as a prospective career (not that I actually have any other realistic options after five years of college for this) I can feel hopeful that random acts of nature will keep things somewhat unpredictable.
     On that note, I've been posting a lot about the hardships of students and especially the flaws of teachers. I'd like to now take a blog to reflect on the hardships of teachers. Teachers I have encountered seem to be under a lot of stress. For one there's this new thing called accountability, meaning if a student fails a subject it's pretty much the teacher's fault. While it makes sense to me and I don't disagree with it, it does probably add to teachers' stress. Going along with that there's all this high-stakes testing. For those who do not know—many public schools' funding is determined by how well the students do on their standardized tests. High test scores equal higher increased funding, while lower test scores equal decreased funding (This is from the No Child Left Behind Act.) If a school's test scores sink too low, the school can be characterized as a high-needs school and possibly be taken over directly by the government. You basically don't want to be working there when/if that happens. There's a bunch of other stuff too but moving on; with this kind of system a problem arises. You may have heard of this: Teaching to the test. It's when students learn how to take a particular test instead of learning actual concepts and subject matter not on the test (like history.) Sure students learn something and the school gets more money, if i works out, but students are less equipped to problem solve in the future and much important curriculum is left out. (Did I mention Social Studies?) That's the controversy anyways. A lot of people don't like or agree with standardized testing or with the way classroom curriculum is changing, so I guess there has been some debate in the teaching world the past decade or so. How will I avoid teaching to the test while still giving my students the skills they need to complete the test? I (am going to) have bills to pay after all. I can't just give up my job because I think the students need to know about the fall of Rome more than having another expository writing drill.
     So with all that said, there's basically a lot of pressure on teachers. It is a pretty important job after all. Kids are the future! If the next generation isn't educated then what hope do we have? With this mindset in peoples' heads, there is all sorts of criticism and scrutiny out there for the teachers of today's youth. In conclusion, teachers can have it rough. There's also apparently a lot of politics in the profession which I think a lot of people that go into the field aren't prepared nor were they looking for. Good teachers have probably been pushed at for stupid reasons somewhere sometime before. Of course, none of this worry I'm expressing actually applies to myself. I can totally handle it! That's why I'm not deterred at all; I look forward to the challenges ahead. However, for the average person out there, being a teacher might be for stressful than they had originally thought, and I just hope that this stress does not impair their ability to give quality educations to their students.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Just an update.

Well, it's Saturday so I do not have school. I guess most full time jobs have weekends off right? Anyways, I probably won't update this blog every Saturday and Sunday—I'll save my extra thoughts for holidays and unexpected days off. However, if I do have anything to share I may make a weekend post, so be sure to check back. I'll be checking others blogs anyways so maybe I'll think of something.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Facebook Blues

     Wow, another unexpected day without school. I guess this is what I should get used to. Not that I'm complaining; random days off are pretty nice. That being said I expended all my extra thoughts yesterday. Hmmm... Well, I've been considering deleting my facebook. I've heard some of the stories: teacher goes on a vacation, pictures (four) of her drinking alcohol in a bar show up on facebook, "parent" complains, she is subsequently fired. There are other instances out there too. While in the recent past I've been more careful as to what pictures of me show up on facebook, who knows what random snapshot of my past will come back to haunt me. It's almost humorous how one can work towards something for so long, and then some small oversight can take it all away. On the other hand there's a number of people I really like out there that I may have a hard time connecting with without facebook. Moving on to a job and someday my own place of living, it'll be even harder to connect with people. Everyone has a social need, how will that be fulfilled? So, to delete the facebook or to not delete the facebook. What do you think?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Additional Thoughts: Who I am and what I am to do.

     There was no school today, so I'll just share some more thoughts I've had.
     Think back to the best teacher you've ever had. I hope everyone has had at least one teacher that really helped them. Now think back to the worst. I'm sure everyone has had at least one teacher that just... did not help, in any way. I can certainly think of a few teachers that I just hated being around. I can also think of a few teachers whose class I looked forward to all day. Of course, every student is different and has different needs. While I always appreciated the kind teachers that would seldom discipline students, maybe other students would take advantage of that. In other words, where as I benefited from one style, others benefited less.
     Another thought I've been having is how much I empathize with the students. That's probably a really good quality, like how when they're bored, I can really feel their boredom. However, I've been thinking that maybe I am identifying with the students more so than the teacher. Like, here I am, back in 5th grade. I'm some kind of boy genius or something but I'm a 5th grader. "Awe maaaaan we have to learn about some guy who crated yahoo!?0 This sucks I want to go play xbawks." Or something like that. What I'm saying is I'm not thinking of myself as a teacher. I don't know, maybe I'm just making stuff up. I'm just trying to decide the kind of teacher I should be. Or maybe, the kind of teacher I can be.
     I don't know about other peoples, but I went into teaching because I wanted to make a difference. There's easier and better paying jobs out there (apparently) that I could have gone for, but I wanted something that could make me feel self-actualized. Anyways, just for the record, I am not nor have I ever been deterred from this job despite many warnings of the difficulty, hardships, politics, and other miscellaneous quips concerning the profession.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Maybe s/he's going to..? - And other tainted beliefs.

Today started off slow but was interesting overall. A writing prompt in the morning asked the students to write a story from the point of view of a hockey puck; a number of them didn't understand. I went around explaining point of view to them and I think they got it. Yeah! Self-actualization! Another interesting moment: We were reading about Deborah Samson ( and the teacher asked the students for predictions on what might happen in the chapter called "Leave me, I am going to die." One student said "Maybe she is going to cut herself?" The teacher played it off like 'kids say the darndest things' but I thought it could be a red flag. The entire class is always so sullen it'd be hard to tell if one was actually depressed...
     Moving on, during lunch the teachers eat together in a lounge. The past two days I sat with my cooperating teacher but the lounge was packed today and I wasn't eating so I relinquished my seat and sat off to the side. I overheard some of the teachers chatting about how one male student of theirs was just "creepily staring" at another female student's behind (this was probably from a higher grade.) I also heard the comment that "he'll be registered for sure one day" (I image they mean as a sex offender.) Also, to remove any doubt, when other teachers asked "who" they exchanged the students names around. Both the male and the female he was staring at. Obviously I feel this is pretty inappropriate for teachers to be chatting about, at least in this negative way, but that's not what I wanted to talk about. What I really thought about was, if you really are concerned with a student's behavior towards the opposite gender, for example perhaps a male students shows significant hostility towards female peers, how do you handle it? I guess it's just not my responsibility to help a student in this kind of development, but if I could not help but be concerned, what to do? I'm pretty sure teachers lose jobs for just like, mentioning the existence of sex to students (pregnant teachers, obviously the work of the Stork) although maybe as a male working with children I'm just a tad bit paranoid at how people will perceive me. Anyways I concluded that if you were to take it upon yourself to address such a topic, it would have to be with the whole class (and obviously in an appropriate way.) Even if it really was geared just to benefit one student, that student couldn't be singled out. As a final note about this, when I was in elementary/middle school, I never imagined that the teachers got together in private with each other and chatted about the students... I wonder what they said about me. I wonder what assumptions they made...
     I've written enough for now so I'll just sum this last thing up quickly. I had a nice little debate with a teacher about the DREAM Act today (If you don't know about it you should look it up.) I'm all for it, I think it's great! She was pretty opposed to it. She said she used to think my way, but her beliefs have been "tainted" by some of the things she sees as a teacher (There is a high probability it would help a number of the students in my school for that matter.) She's against people getting free rides through life. I figure people have it rough even/especially if they get some money from the government. I also didn't think she fully understood what the DREAM Act was so I was mostly just relaying facts I've heard. Anyways, I love debating. I just couldn't resist. Hope she doesn't give me any negative report because of it, but I can't worry about things like that if I want to act genuinely.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

5th grade - Or Purgatory?

Ok ok it's not that bad. But I truly had this thought watching the way the students dragged themselves along from one activity to the next. What exactly happened was this: The students wait together in the gymnasium for their teacher to pick them up and lead them to class. They leave in a specific line order which the teacher constantly reminds them that they had better be in. The teacher also tells them to move to a certain location and stop and wait. She is additionally strict about maintaining absolute silence the whole time. So this morning (just my second day mind you) she tells them to stop at the foot of the stairs, however, they don't. The line shuffles halfway up the stairs when she notices and yells at them to halt. "We were supposed to stop here. L***, you've been the line leader since the beginning of the year. You should know..." When the line gets to the classroom (moving in silence the whole way) the teacher noticed L*** smiling. "Is something funny L***?" And so the student stopped smiling. This seemed pretty strict to me. I know this is considered an inner-city school and the students probably need some level of discipline to stay on task but this just feels down right oppressive. A close friend of mine has also visited many schools in this area and has told me that "it's a theme I see a lot of in these schools—no talking. Ever." I don't know how I feel about this. School is where we get socialized. It's where we learn how to be social. It's an important skill! With kids being on facebook more than actually conversing with friends it seems even more important now. And yet, the only time they are able to talk to each other freely is for about 1 hour a day at lunch time.
     This led me to think about the importance of a "happy" classroom. For a teacher, how important should the atmosphere of the classroom be? A teacher's job is to make sure students are learning the essential skills they need to know. Students enjoying themselves at all is not necessarily necessary. So should teachers even care? I want to believe that a happy student will be more interested in learning, but what if it doesn't statistically make a difference? (They aught to do a study.) The teacher told me that I'll be escorting the students in their line myself soon. I wonder if I even can be so authoritarian; I truly believe in an authoritative approach.
     On a lighter note, when the teacher left for a moment leaving me watching over a few of the students in the hallway, they started asking me how old I was. I wasn't sure if it was appropriate so I told them I can't tell them, but then they started to guess. I kept telling them even if they guessed it I wouldn't tell them, but they did that strategy where they just start at a low number and go all the way up. When they went by my age, I couldn't help but give a little grin and... they picked up on it!!! They guessed my age and when they dared me not to confirm I couldn't say anything, they had me after all. Then the word spread faster than you could say "no talking!" The entire line all of a sudden knew how old I was. It's not a big deal, but it was pretty funny. Too bad exchanges like that will seldom happen because the students are just constantly being drilled for standardized testing all day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Don't be their friend - My first day.

     Today was my first day student teaching—basically I'm a volunteer assistant teacher, or in other words, an intern. Pretty much my whole college career has led up to this. Once your interested in pursuing education as your major you immediately hear about student teaching. Anyone who was or about to student teach had survived the rigors of the education department (known at my particular school) and was now in the big leagues, or so it seemed. Now it feels like a transition. I am no longer a wild college student, I no longer live in the dorms, I will no longer be seeing friends every day nor staying up late every night playing video games. At the same time, I don't have an actual job and do not have the accountability placed on me for having such a job. I suppose anyone who had an internship would understand. Anyways, that is an explanation of my position and an introduction to the blog. On to my first day:
     It's funny. I was so nervous in the weeks leading up to this day. This morning however, I was pretty calm. It just felt like another field experience to me (which I have had an ample amount of thanks to my school's program). Perhaps I was hiding my anxiety with my infallible sense of humor (as I often do) but in any case, I felt ready. I had a folder, a notebook, a pen, and I was crazy cold! It was -3 degrees out there! Had to be mentioned... Anyways, I got in the class, reintroduced myself to the teacher (we had met weeks before) and chatted about anything that may be relevant while waiting for the students to arrive. It was a while before the teacher let me introduce myself to the students, which felt very awkward to me. I felt like they were all starring at me thinking "Who's that guy?" Well I eventually was able to introduce myself and then the only task left was to try to familiarize with these kids. I'm usually really bad with names but I was given the idea to make a seating chart, which I did. Sitting there for around 2 hours as the teacher taught regularly gave me plenty of time to just look at a student's face, look at their name, look at their face, recite their name, and repeat for every student. Then do it again. And why not, again.
     Hmmm, as an aside, I'm new to this blogging thing. So far I've kind of focused on the benign parts of the day. I'll try to get to the point...
     Early in the day the teacher asked me to create a new homework chart. Just the name of each student with a bunch of grid space (for stickers; joy.) I accidentally skipped over a student's name and when she complained her name was not on the bored, I quickly apologized and ran over to write her name in. I also light heartedly said I would write the lines in for her too. She seemed pleased and sat down. Immediately afterwards she raised her hand to volunteer to share a writing prompt she had wrote. I wondered if, after being treated in a respectful way (as opposed to being treated like a child) this motivated her to want to share. Well, it turned out she was one of the students that seems to like to volunteer a lot, but it was an interesting thought I had.
     Another moment that struck me significantly was in the morning as I chatted with the teacher. Among our conversations she gave me some advice, instructions, etc. Anyways, what had struck me was one of her suggestions to me. "Don't be their friend. That's my only request." Of course I can understand that to some level. It was one of the first thing I learned some three years ago during my first field experience. Kids need an authority figure in their lives. They need someone telling them where to go and what to do (that's the theory anyways.) If I go down to the kids level, such as playing tag or chatting about video games, I am seen as another kid in their eyes, and that's not what I need to be. Whether that's right or wrong it's something I've been taught and I've been thinking about the extent of this philosophy ever since. That's how I understood why I shouldn't be their friend, but I hadn't thought about the previously described philosophy in the same guise as a "friend." Can a teacher not be a friend to their students as well as an authority figure? Can a friend not also be an effective leader and teacher? Perhaps her advice only applies to a student teacher only around for a six week program, such as myself (leaving my previous field experiences, never to return, tore at my heart strings to say the least.) She later reminded me to "Keep it strictly business." I suppose I will just have to see what happens. Kids just naturally befriend people sometimes, and I can't help but be genuine. I feel it is one of my strengths.
     A final interesting moment today occurred as I watched the teacher run a short lesson. Throughout the day (before and after this event) the teacher complained and confided to me how her students are highly unmotivated and, especially during class lessons, unresponsive. This characteristic of the class was demonstrated to me during such a class lesson which was about the students reading some short text and understanding the content. Do you know who Jerry Yang is? Perhaps, we are on the internet after all. Well, I had never heard of Jerry Yang before. Why? Because I couldn't care less who Jerry Yang is. And if someone like me who listens to NPR when driving doesn't care who Jerry Yang is how can a 5th grade class possibly be interested? So the text that the students had to comprehend was about what Jerry Yang did, the kind of person he is, and his favorite ice cream or something. The teacher asked her simple questions testing the students comprehension of the text, "What is Jerry Yang doing while his friends are playing outside?" To which she got no replies. She described this as "pulling teeth." She continued this until, fed up, she condemned the students to writing their responses silently; all the while Jerry Yang's face broadcast over them on the projector, smiling. Jerry Yang is the creator of by the way. All I'm trying to say here is that I know fifth graders are typically unmotivated, but choosing some material that is somewhat relevant to their interests might help a little.
     That's all for today, let's see what tomorrow brings.