That’s A Wrap!

Although I was able to release teaching back to my CT this week, I decided to continue teaching for additional practice. I was observed by my school’s principal as well. She stayed for 15 minutes and meet with me for feedback. She said I did a wonderful job, my students were engaged, understood the material, and there was nothing that she saw that she would have changed. She also said I could list her as a reference on my resume. She gave me great career advice and encouraged me to choose my schools wisely. I was nervous having her observe me. Some days I feel like an experienced teacher and some days I still feel like I have a lot of developing to do. But I am happy that I had the opportunity because her feel back definitely increased my confidence.

On Friday, my students threw me a lunch party. We had snacks and they bought me flowers and both of my classes made me cards. My CT and our connecting teacher also put together a bag for me for everything I will need for my first day of teaching. I appreciated it and didn’t realize how much my students really were going to miss me until I was leaving and they all ran to the door and were looking out the thin little window thinking they will never see me again.

Its interesting how my experiences have changed me in two years. When I began in the fall of 2013 I wanted to be a 5th grade math teacher. While I still prefer intermediate grades, I prefer being a reading/writing teacher and wouldn’t mind teaching 6th grade. I like the ideal of teaching only one subject and doing it the best I can. I know I still have a lot to learn to become the teacher I want to be, but I am willing to make the necessary steps to do so.

I plan on going back to my class and subbing when needed, chaperoning on the field trips, and attending their 5th grade graduation. My students taught me more than I could have imagined about myself, teaching, and juggling life challenges and responsibilities, and I will never forget them!

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The End Is Near…

This week began the first official FSA Reading testing. It was extremely beneficial to be able to preview the first administration of the test as an intern who wants to teach the 5th or 6th grade without it being my first year of teaching. Both to my surprise and relief, the FSA was very similar to the practice FSA. This made my CT, our team teachers, and myself happy because our students should perform well, considering our last few weeks of review were built from the concepts discussed on the practice test. But those results will not be in for several weeks.

One thing I disliked more than anything in school was doing any work I considered to be pointless. That meant work that covered concepts and skills I already felt that I mastered or work I knew my teacher was not going to grade. I’ve ways been uneasy with feeling like my time was being wasted. And when I began my Practicum in 1st grade and noticed that my CT gave students work with no intention to grade, I was disappointed. I figured after more than 10 years, teachers would find an alternative to the dreaded “busy work.”

It wasn’t until my internship this semester that I understood why work that wasn’t going to be graded was assigned. Students need practice. I couldn’t shine being graded for absolutely every attempt I made in school. My grades probably wouldn’t have been as good as they were. Reflecting, teachers never made the purpose for ungraded work clear. We were always assigned work and never discussed it again. Such work also provides time for teachers to catch up on grading previous assessments and preparing for upcoming lessons. 😉 I am now a supporter of the “busy work” train, as long as it’s used for intentional purposes.

As the end draws near, I think more about where I see myself in the educational field. While I do not believe I will be a teacher forever, I’m starting to like the idea of middle school, 6th reading and writing. When I started my journey in the MAT program I was certain the only passion I had was to teach math. With my gained experience in all subjects, it’s interesting to find myself wanting to be a reading teacher when reading is the subject I disliked the most. It’s funny how time and experience changes things.

Final Observation

Today was my final observation of my internship. Since the FSA is next week, we have been reviewing concepts and skills to help students work more strategically on their test. Today we reviewed the FSA ELA Practice Test. The main focus of the lesson was getting students to understand the structure of the questions: how many responses each question asked for and what each question was specifically asking in terms of content.

The overall lesson was satisfactory. I believe students understood the objectives that I was aiming for. They correctly answered questions when asked and successfully worked through questions that were challenging. If I could change anything, I would have given each student a copy of all the questions, as opposed to only specific ones, but because of school printing rules, I was unable to do so. I also would have like to give a different form of assessment. However, do to the objectives of this particular lesson as a preparation for the FSA, having student respond to an extended response questions and providing feedback was the most appropriate choice.

During my previous observation, no disciplinary issues occurred that required attention during my lesson. Today, there were many. Two students’ cell phones rang, one group had a brief argument that required me to move a student, and many of my students were not focused. I understand that the end of the school year is approaching and students are worn out, but with the biggest year of the year next week, I expect their all right now. I believe I handle each situation appropriately, I just wish they didn’t occur during an observation, as I’m sure no one would want. I had to review rules for working in groups, take cell phones, and move a lot of clips (our schools behavioral management system) at the end of the day.

Thinking about my 12 total observations, I have definitely grown as an instructor. I was extremely timid and stuck to my lesson plan verbatim, I didn’t know how to provide feedback to students’ answers, I didn’t know how to answer questions students asked, and I was nervous that my students would sense that I was terrified of making mistakes and tear me apart (not literally). But now, I am way more flexible than I expected I would be. I am completely fine deviating from my lesson plan, and often do so because during the moment I will see that my students need redirection or additional support and I am willing to make the necessary changes. My students understand that I am still learning as a preservice teacher and do not act unreasonable when I make a mistake. My feedback to students and my redirection of their thinking has also make a complete change from when I began.

The next two weeks of my internship will consist of FSA Reading and Math testing. While teaching will be minimal, I am going to use any opportunity presented to try strategies I didn’t get to during normal, non-testing weeks and do research of practices I am interest in.

A Little Forgetful

With the pressure of the upcoming FSA, on top of my own tests that I needed to pass, I forgot how much fun a teacher could have with their students. When I arrived to my class on Tuesday my CT told me I’d be filling in for her at the 5th grade donut fundraiser later that morning. I didn’t think much of it since I have been taking her place in most things these past few weeks. But when I walked into the cafeteria and saw all of the 5th graders all sitting in front of just enough chairs for the 5th grade teachers and donuts tied to strings and wooden sticks, I knew something was going to be different today. And you could probably guess what happened – 5th grade teachers sit in chair, students hold donuts tied to strings over their heads, and teachers try to eat donuts the fasted without using their hands. The winning teacher won donuts for their class, and I unfortunately didn’t win but it was a great experience! The classroom atmosphere was energetic and focused the remainder of the day. I think the fact that I as the teacher was put on the spot make me seem less “authoritative” in a good way, like personable. I’ll have to remember to do activities that make me approachable when I am in my own classroom.

Not too much out of the ordinary happened this week other than having Good Friday off. This week and next week will consist of reviewing for the FSA.

Second Round of Observations

Observation week is always stressful for me. The days leading up to an observation always seem to have the most things that go wrong, or include so much homework from my classes that planning my lesson is impossible. This week consisted of two formal, back to back observations (one from my CT and one from my supervisor). Interestingly, this happed for my first round as well.

My lesson with my CT was a reading lesson which was to include an audio file that would be played to my students in an effort to enhance their listening skills, and we would also be working on our abilities of organizing information. But, have you ever planned a lesson based on a text you didn’t have access to? That was what I had to do this week. Both the resource teacher and the district reading coach, as well as the three ELA teachers on my team could not locate the audio file we were going to need by the time I left my placement the day prior to my observation. Obviously, planning was close to impossible; but thankfully by the time I arrived the next morning we had access!

I spent an hour of my morning planning my lesson. Not the most ideal amount of time, but all things considered, my lesson went well. The lesson took a lot longer than I anticipated, but I consider it time well spent because my students understood the content. I mentioned that this was an audio file – meant to be read by a computer. Well, a series of unfortunate events occurred that morning which led me to have to read the manuscript aloud to my students. One of the main purposes of listening to the audio file is to practice listening to a read text because this will be a component on the FSA, which is two weeks away! I haven’t had my post-conference yet, but I heard through the grapevine (our neighboring teacher) that my CT said I did well.

I like that I had the opportunity to read the text aloud because the next day when we listened to it from the computer, I noticed the computer read “live” in the context of being a place where someone resides, as opposed to a company “going live,” or viral, or starting up in a new location. Little opportunities like that allow me chances to help stress the importance of listening closely, working on comprehension skills, and using context clues to help determine meanings, which are all areas my students struggle with.

The following day was a Writing observation on editorials. Because I did not have to rely on recommended or required materials, I had the opportunity to choose editorials that I felt would work best for my students. I believe the overall lesson went well. There were no extreme behavioral problems, participation was high, and my students understood the purpose of the lesson. The biggest thing I would have done differently was model the group activity I had my students complete before assigning it to them. I ended up having to stop their work after a few minutes and explain that all components of the activity needed to flow together and make sense.

One good thing about being in a departmentalized classroom is that you have the opportunity to reteach the same lesson and become more efficient with each class. The second time I did this lesson (not formally observed), I provided an example before the group activity. This allowed the students to immediately know expectations for their task. Additionally, one of the groups’ members made one student cry because they were not listening to him. I removed him from the group and had him sit with my CT where she allowed him to do the group activity on his own (this was a good idea I had not thought of). Tis situation gave me the opportunity to have a quick mini-lesson on treating others fairly and our expectations for group work.

Formal observations are often tense. However, they never fail to make me double check my plans and heavily consider if my students are learning what they need to be learning, in a way that’s most effective. Reflection is always my favorite part because I find more positive things in my abilities that I hadn’t noticed before.

 

Student-teacher

When I am not teaching during my internship, I am tutoring student-athletes at my University. Over half of my days are so consumed with being a teacher, that I often forget that I am still a student. This week I scheduled to take my FTCE Subject Area K-6 Examination. While all my classes that I’ve taken during my program have taught me a lot of the information I needed to know for my exams, I still purchased a study book to help me focus on the important concepts. Because I’m currently in a language arts classroom and I am a college math tutor, I had no doubts about my abilities to pass these subsets. Social studies and science on the other hand worried me.

My study habits were intense. I read the WHOLE book. I took the diagnostic test, both full length practice tests, and the mini assessments at the end of each chapter. When taking the tests, I timed myself as if I was taking the real one. There were days that I skipped lunch at work to study and I went to bed two hours late each night to study a little more. Thankfully, I passed each subset! Yay! But after my test, I reflected on my study habits to see how I could use them to help my students (both elementary and college). While there are points that I noted and will share, the biggest motivator I had was intrinsic. Of course I had to pass to graduate, but I truly wanted to pass for myself. My students at both levels take tests because they are assigned in the class they have to take. No one wants to fail, but most people won’t do the work if there is no mental or tangible benefit to them. This experience was related to my inquiry project. As a teacher, or even if I end up in a different career one day, I have to remember one important thing: instilling intrinsic motivation provides a purpose, therefore, increasing chances of success.

In other news, this week our LA team had the opportunity to plan next week’s lesson with the district reading coach. She was there to offer supportive higher-level advice. Nothing was too out of the ordinary of our normal meetings, but it was nice having the opportunity to talk to her in a comfortable and personal setting.

Next week we are doing editorials, about food critiquing. I am excited because my co-teacher gave me the approval to bring in something edible for the students to try that way their editorials can be authentic and have a real purpose. Being able to put my own ideas on the lessons to provide a more genuine experience for my students helps me continue to look forward to each new week!

Lesson Planning Blues

When I first began my teaching journey, I didn’t expect that maintaining my immune system would be such an important part of my job. For the second week in a row, I have caught the flu. I do not usually get sick, and if I do it’s a minor head cold. But, as I’ve been immersed in the elementary school environment, I constantly find myself sick. As unfortunate as this is, it has helped me become more aware of the health issues that are current in our environment. It has also made me more mindful of things like washing hands, coughing, sneezing, touching, etc. as it relates to my students. As important as it is for me to not miss school, it’s significantly more critical that students are present to receive their education. I am constantly promoting cleanliness and sanitation when possible to protect everyone around.

One problem that I became faced with this week was about the outline of my weekly lesson plans. When I was in my Practicum, the only time I made a lesson plan was when I was having an observation, and for that I used the USF Lesson Plan template. Otherwise, I saw my co-teacher and her team using the Planbook program. So, now that I am teaching fulltime and did not purchase a lesson planning program, I organize my plans in a manner that is easiest for me to view my whole week and compare subjects. With this, I have been turning in my outlines to my co-teacher and she has not really given me feedback, and I have not been asking for feedback because I took her silence as an “OK” of my formation.  It wasn’t until our neighboring teacher looked at my plans and burst out laughing. My co-teacher and I looked at each other confused and asked what was wrong and the teacher never gave a response. My feelings were hurt to say the least, but when I asked my co-teacher her thoughts later, she didn’t know what was wrong with my outline.

Well, I went home that night with it on my mind and reorganized my outline (I split my subjects so that each had their own block, instead of one big one). Luckily, the next day the neighboring teacher asked me to plan with her during specials because she missed our planning meeting. I figured this would be the moment in which I could compare our planning styles and get her feedback on anything I could improve. As it turns out, she writes everything instead of typing like me because she is “old school” (her words) and what I was missing from my plans were the LAFS. As you can imagine, I was relieved.

This week our students tested for the FSA Writing, but I will talk more about that in my next blog because our resource teacher will be teacher two lessons when we come back from Spring Break that I want to be able to reflect and compare on.