Monday, December 8, 2008

Goodbye Letters to Students

Over the weekend I finished writing goodbye letters to all of my freshman English students. After nearly 60 letters, I feel it was a job well done. :) I've always been a fan of writing personal letters to people. I used to write them to family members for Christmas or New Years and felt it was appropriate to share supportive sentiments with the students I've grown to love during my student teaching experience. They're not very long letters, just a few distinct messages for each student. I feel the more individualized education can be, the better. So, this is one way I hoped to show individual attention and support for this group of students. In addition to handing out letters during my final week of student teaching, I'm asking students to fill out a survey, providing another opportunity for feedback from students about what they learned and how I taught. The form students will fill out is uploaded below:

End of Class Survey

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Countdown Is On!

I'm wrapping up my student teaching experience at Benson. I have a week left at school, before I finish up my final class for my graduate degree in education. Once that's done I'll officially apply for my diploma, send in my application for licensure in Oregon, and then wait for my license to come through. Hopefully that will happen in early to mid-January. I plan on substituting for the remainder of the year, scoping out schools in advance of my first full-time teaching job next year!

Teaching at Benson has been a lot of fun. I absolutely love all my students, despite how frustrating they can be as a group sometimes. I'll miss them a lot, and I feel like it's unfair that I only get to teach them for the first part of the year. I'd rather stay (and get paid) by finishing out the year with them. :) Oh well, at least I'll be able to come in and sub once in a while for Rob. That's also on my to-do list -- market myself as a sub!

Oh, one other thing... the best part of my day yesterday was getting a "My Favorite Teacher" slip. :) Another teacher at Benson has the kids fill out these little papers once in a while, either an "I'm struggling" slip or a "My Favorite Teacher" slip. I had an anonymous sixth period English student write about why I'm his/her favorite teacher. Apparently, I'm really nice and help a lot with English homework. It was, I'm sure, something small for a student to do, but it means a lot to me. In fact, I think I'll include it in my portfolio as proof positive that I get along with my kids so well!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reflection Time...

My student teaching experience has been challenging, encouraging, frustrating, motivating, educating, inspiring, and a lot of fun! I truly lucked out in finding such a wonderful cooperating teaching to work with. Rob is laid-back, cheerful, kind-hearted, and a great educator. He is also one of the busiest people I know. He has taken being involved in the education community to a new level, with memberships and positions held in the Oregon Education Association, the Portland Association of Teachers, the National Education Association, and just about any journalism educators group you could think of. He has been a great help to me as I navigate my way through the first steps of my new career.

I also feel lucky to be working with the students I have in class this year. There are times when the classes can be very disruptive and wild, but take each student out of the context of a wild classroom, and I like them all so much. I am so excited any time an unruly student is caught paying attention in class. I am also delighted when students come by after school and at lunch just to say “hi”. I thought before coming into this experience that the most important thing to me would be the personal relationships I develop with students, and that inclination has turned out to be very true. In fact, I believe one of my strengths as a teacher will be my natural ability to get along with my students. We have a lot of fun together, and I hope that continues from year to year. Another strength is that I am a very motivated, self-directed, organized teacher. I could easily see how this career could overwhelm me if I wasn’t all of those things.

My weaknesses so far seem to center on slowing things down for my students. Because of my tendency to keep everything so tightly organized, I tend to rush through lessons, (especially on Fridays when we have shortened periods), just to ensure I get everything done I am “supposed” to get done. However, it is important I do not lose students in the process of being so efficient. The same goes for how I direct questions at students. I need to work on slowing down my questioning so all students have proper time to respond. Furthermore, classroom management can be a challenge, and there is and will always be room for improvement to that end. The longer I teach the more tricks I will learn and be able to utilize in class for more effective classroom management. My strength of getting along so well with my students is something that will enable me to progress further along in classroom management. It is easier to manage students who like a teacher than students who do not!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

6th Period Freshman English: Shakespeare's Words, Day 1 Romeo and Juliet

Students come into this class already quite rowdy from lunch, and it’s hard to get them to initially settle down. I’ve tried passing out an assignment at the door and found that doesn’t usually help much, so today I wanted to first focus on putting students in a new seating chart. I thought they did a pretty decent job getting into their assigned seats, but as with each time I rearrange this class, I find new problems I didn’t know existed. For example, I haven’t found a good place for Charles to sit yet. Now that he’s next to Zane, the two of them won’t stop talking to each other. He’s also bugging Kahreana. Donald was pretty adamant about not wanting to sit on the other side of the room, and Tori seemed to feel the same way, so that was one of the more difficult transitions. Furthermore, when 4 students arrive late to class, it only disrupts the entire process, and I then have to refocus my efforts there.

It took way too long for students to stop talking and focus on the writing for the warm up. Some students never even wrote anything, if not more than a sentence at all. I felt like they’ve been trained to shout answers at me, and that’s my fault. So, today I tried to get them in the habit of speaking one at a time in class, instead of speaking up whenever the feeling so moves them. J As you said, it takes two weeks to learn anything new in class, so we’ll see how this goes. Students kept talking and giving me productive things that added to the discussion about their warm up, but I wanted hands raised, so I reminded them of that quite a bit.

The KWL chart was an interesting activity, as many of the students didn’t write everything they knew. In fact, as is true to form, the 5th period students did A LOT better with this activity, so I found it frustrating to see so many of those charts barely touched or written on. I did, however, feel like the discussion about the charts went rather well. Students had a lot of good questions about Shakespeare and the play. They seem to be truly interested, and I can easily see how Romeo and Juliet truly resonates so well with this age group.
During the lecture, while there was still a lot of talking, I saw quite a bit of genuine interest in what we were talking about. I like that PowerPoint quite a bit, and think the students found it interesting, too. Toward the end of it, it seemed like they’d had enough and it felt like it was dragging a bit and getting too loud.

To that end, the next activity was rough. I told students I’d give them 10 minutes to come up with 2 words, and when not very many of them were working on the assignment, I took half that time away. That was, in my opinion, the most difficult transition. Students use the excuse of, “But this is homework”, and it doesn’t work for me! I hit this point earlier in the class than I did with fifth period, so that’s why I included starting on words and sharing them aloud. I thought students did better when we started sharing words. I also understand that many of the students didn’t come up with a word in class because the environment was so chaotic.

Transitioning from the new words discussion to getting the Holt readers went better. By giving them exactly one minute to get their book, it seemed like a good motivator, almost like students were in a race. They got the job done a lot faster than I’ve seen before.

Finally, reading through the Holt textbooks went pretty well once they got settled back in their seats. I appreciate having students volunteer to read out loud in class. They seemed interested in what we were reading about, and most students seemed to truly follow along with what we were reading.