Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Student Teaching

Student teaching was definitely a unique experience. The first day, Lily, Meredith, and I were simply told to sit in the back of the classroom. We were not even introduced to the class. This went on for several days. The kids did not even know our names! We simply entered the room and sat in the back of the room in our chairs each day. We figured that our teacher did not understand our role in the classroom.

After three or four days, we were given the Pre-Algebra class of five students and our own classroom. The teacher continued to write the lesson plans; however, at least we were actually teaching. After a couple more days, we approached the teacher about us writing our own lesson plans. By now, she was beginning to get more comfortable with us being around the room. She instantly gave us both periods of 8th grade math and the Pre-Algebra class. So, we began writing lesson plans for all three classes. Between the three of us, we each taught five class periods per week. We were even making worksheets and tests for the students. We were also grading all of their work. The teacher was simply recording the grades in the grade book and planning for her new home. While we taught and graded, she shopped for kitchen tables, chairs, and silverware.

Student teaching, however, did prove to be very rewarding. We were actually in front of the room teaching each day. In addition, we were preparing for the upcoming day. So, student teaching was very beneficial to me in that fashion. In addition, I realized the struggles and obstacles that teachers are faced with each day. Many of our students could not simply add and subtract negative numbers. In addition, some of them ha d trouble with simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I constantly wondered how we were supposed to build upon a foundation that was not stable and contained many cracks. Our job proved to be very difficult. Math is a building process. If students do not master one concept, how are they supposed to move on to something new? At the close of this month, I did have a sense of pride and fulfillment. I asked myself this simple question, “Did my students know more now and have a better understanding than they did from my first day?” My answer was “Yes!” Thus, I knew that I had a made a difference in their lives.

Meredith, Lily, and I made an excellent team while student teaching. We were all very supportive of one another, and we seemed to compliment each other’s weaknesses and strengths. We worked extremely well together. We had a lot of fun with the Pre-Algebra class. Since it was a small class, it was easier to do activities and get to know them better. During the first days of class, we made and used a masking tape coordinate plane on the floor. This proved to be very helpful and beneficial to the students. They actually learned the concept of the coordinate plane. On the last day of class, we made “the yarn web.” On Monday, we stayed after class and draped yarn over and everything that would sit still. Each student was given a different color of yarn. They had to unwind the yarn throughout the room. As they progressed, there were math problems attached to the yarn. It proved to be a fun activity for the kids.

Indeed, student teaching taught me a lot about being a teacher because in a sense, we were the teachers. I learned about the ups and downs of being a teacher. In the end, though, I am still glad that I decided to become a teacher. It is worth it! I have always heard that you never forget your first students. I will never forget any of these students, especially the five Pre-Algebra students. Each of them had unique situations with different problems. I know that Meredith, Lily, and I made an impact upon their lives. As I continue to teach, my goal is to impact every student in some form or fashion. I hope that my future years of teaching are as successful as this past month. I will always remember that my teaching experience began at Oxford Middle School with those five students.

Video-taped Lesson Plan

I have never liked to brag on myself, but this time, I may have to. As I watched the video, I saw someone that I had never seen before that day. I was actually watching myself as a teacher. I suddenly realized that I was teaching the future generations, and I thought that I was doing a pretty good job of it.

As I watched the tape, I noted many items. I began the day with five problems for boardwork. The boardwork was review problems from the previous day’s lesson. I spent a great deal of time on boardboard. I actually spent a little too much time on the review of the previous day. I guess I wanted to make sure that the kids fully grasped the concept from the previous day because it was connected directly to my lesson. Next time, I will try to shorten my review some.

As I watched the video, it appeared that I had a lot of energy (although I was not feeling well that day), and I was excited about the material that I was presenting. In addition, I tried to bring the material to the student’s level. I always like to connect math to the real world. That way, kids cannot say, “I will never use this.” With this particular lesson, we were studying about solving inequalities. So, I used this analogy. We pretended that one of the students was a truck driver who hauled logs. The student had to cross a bridge with his loaded log truck. I gave the students the weight of the truck (800 pounds) and the weight limit of the bridge (2,000 pounds). I then asked the students to express how many logs could be hauled as an inequality. The students quickly realized that the truck could pass safely over the bridge with logs less than or equal to 1,200 pounds in weight. As I said, I like to connect the kids’ learning to real world experiences. This was the only one that I used for this lesson. I would actually like to have used more real-world experiences in my set.

As I taught the lesson, I got a lot of feedback from the students. I asked them many questions. I wanted to make sure that they understood what I was saying. I asked questions such as, “Why is this so?” I wanted to check for their understanding. I even assigned them certain problems to work. While they worked, I walked around the room and observed their work. I could then assist them one on one if they needed more help.

Overall, I believe that I did a good job of teaching my lesson. I developed the set, presented the procedure, checked for their understanding, and closed the lesson. I believe that I was fully prepared for the lesson. In addition, I believe that I presented the material in a form that the students could understand and grasp. I do, however, see some areas that need some improvement. I need to work with time management, and I need to offer some other words of praise other than “Good.” However, overall, I believe that my video of teaching was a success.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Cold-Calling Experiment

On Thursday, I used the cold-calling experiment with 7th and 8th grade math. I began by writing each student’s name on a card. I gave them a worksheet to do during class. Once they completed (or were suppose to have completed) the worksheet, I used cold-calling to go over the worksheet. The students were sort of "taken off guard" by my experiment. Some of them began to frantically work through the problems just in case they were called on. In addition, I had one student who was beginning to doze off. As I began the process of calling out the names, he instantly "woke up, " and he began to pay close attention.

I found the cold-calling experiment to be very helpful and beneficial. There are many benefits to this method. First, every student is called on at some point. Thus, you do not get the same students answering the questions over and over. Second, it checks to make sure that the students have done their work. As I call on each student, I can see what type of responses they are giving me. Thus, I can gain a simple assessment of who did their work and who did not. Third, it encourages students to do their work. If students know that they will be called on in class, they are much more likely to do their work. Lastly, students have to actually pay attention in class because they never know when their name may be called. Because of all these benefits, I plan on using the cold-calling method in my classroom. I believe that it keeps a check on the students’ activities and knowledge.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

My First Weeks

Now, three weeks have gone by since I began the Mississippi Teacher Corps. Time really flies because we are so busy! Each day, I get up at about 6:15 to be at Oxford Middle School by 7:30 A.M. From there, it is rush, rush, rush! I teach from 7:30 - 11:30 A.M. each day. Some days, I teacher 8th Grade Math for the full four hours. Other days, I teacher Pre-Algebra for about two hours. Once I finish teaching, I run to grab some lunch. Then, it is off to Mrs. Monroe's class from 1:00 to 4:00. By 4:00, I am absolutely exhausted! However, my day has just begun. I then must go home to prepare for the next day. This normally involves me sitting at my kitchen table for a few hours writing lesson plans and making worksheets for the following day. In addition, I have to find time to read and write blogs :). Thus, it seems as if I have to remind myself that I need to eat and sleep!

In the middle of all this, there is a new house. For two weeks, I have been trying to buy a house in Desoto County. I never knew that buying a home was so difficult! Last week, I went to Desoto County three times. So, on top of everything else, I am busy with buying a house. I am on my third house now. Something keeps happening when I find a house. On the first house, someone wrote a contract 12 hours before me! So, it is always something! Now, I think I have finally found a house! The contract is pending on it. I went up yesterday (Saturday) to sign some more paperwork. We hope to close by July 15. So I'm excited! I'll have to have everyone up once I get settled.

These last few weeks have been extremely busy and challenging. Do I feel a little overwhelmed? Sometimes. The important thing is that these last few weeks have been very fun, and I will always have lasting memories. In addition, I have made lots of new friends through the program. It is always a lot easier to go through something when you see about 25 other people going through the same thing. These past weeks have flow by so fast! It is hard to believe that we have already been here three weeks. We only have seven more days of student teaching, and July is just around the corner. I am looking forward to the remainder of the summer. I think the rest of it will be just like the beginning, fun and rememorable.

The Reluctant Disciplinarian

The Reluctant Disciplinarian by Gary Rubinstein is an excellent book. It contains funny, but accurate information about a teacher’s first years. As I read the book, I began to think back to how some of my former teachers handled their own classrooms. Since I decided to become an educator, I have visited with many teachers. They offered some of the same advice as Rubinstein.
In his book, Rubinstein mentions that all teachers need to perfect "the teacher look." Mrs. Jackie Carver, an educator, also told me that a good teacher look will be very beneficial to me. Mrs. Jackie Carver certainly possesses the teacher look. Although she never taught me, she did help raise me. I remember how Ms. Jackie could simply look at us in church, and we would instantly stop whatever we were doing. She definitely had a gift. When she would look at me, it would send chills all the way down my back. I knew to instantly act right, or there would be major consequences. To this day, I still dread the "Ms. Jackie Look." I hope to acquire this look and use it to my full advantage.
Also, Rubinstein says that yelling at students does not work. He is absolutely correct. A few months ago, I visited my former math teacher. (She actually retired this year with 30 plus years.) She said that yelling at a class never works. I remember that she never raised her voice in class; however, her classroom was always under control. She even had excellent classroom management skills. In short, yelling does not help manage a classroom. If anything, it helps to lose control of a classroom.
Gary Rubinstein’s book provides some major insight for first year teachers. It provides good advice, and it can serve as a guide for new teachers. It serves as an outline for what teachers should and should not do during their first days and weeks. The main thing to remember is that the ideas inside this book are accurate because Mr. Rubinstein has already seen his mistakes. He knows what does and does not work. Thus, as a new teacher, I will use his experiences and advice. I found that the answer section at the back of the book was very beneficial. It provides answers to common questions that first year teachers have. In short, I found that Gary Rubinstein’s Reluctant Disciplinarian is an excellent tool for new teachers.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The First Week

This week, Lily, Meredith, and I have been teaching Pre-Algebra at Oxford Middle School. (II must add that the three of us make a great team. We work very well together :) ) Although, we only have five students, they each need individual attention and help. This week, we have been studying the coordinate system and the slope of lines. They grapsed the concept fairly well, but they all needed some reenforcement and review. In addition, we discovered that many of the students could not add or subtract negative numbers. This is a concept that should have been mastered at an earlier point. Thus, it seemed as if we were paddling against the current of the river. So, we took two days for reinforcement and review.

The first day, we put a coordinate plane on the classroom floor with tape. We also drew a coordinate plan outside with sidewalk chalk. We went outisde and played a game (that Lily designed) using the coordinate system. After the game, we returned to the classroom where we used the tape coordinate plane. We used the coordiante plane to reenforce the game and their knowledge of the coordinate system. They seemed to have a good understanding of the coordiante system. Now, it was time to go back to adding and subtracting negative numbers. We used the number line to visually show them how the process worked. They began to grasp the concept; however, they still needed help with the concept. Today, I actually taught a review. I reviewed all the aspects of the coordinate system and negative numbers.

I realized that students learn in many different ways. The coordinate plane on the sidewalk and classroom floor are excellent ideas. They Work!! They are great tools for the classroom. The war for them to master negative numbers has begun. Many battles have been won, but there is still work to be done. As the days progress, I hope that they will win the war and master the concept of negative numbers.