Monday, June 14, 2010

Resume Building or Character Building?

Or maybe a little (lot) of both. I do love my summer job, but I'm entirely too type A sometimes. I'm totally okay with going with the flow when it comes to schedules switching around, but it bothers me when there doesn't seem to be a reason for the craziness. Also, the supply closet bothers me. I have 6 Leapfrog pads, and only one charger. Those numbers don't jive. So it looks like I'll be picking up some batteries tomorrow afternoon.

That said, I'm having a great time with the kids, and hopefully it'll be something that principals will be interested in when they read my resume. I'm also finding it really interesting to see the progression of reading levels. I'm teaching K-7 Reading, and I think this experience will be very helpful to me when I begin teaching high school English. One of the main concerns in secondary education today centers around students not being able to read on grade level. Hopefully some observation of the process from the very beginning will give me some insights that will be helpful as I begin teaching.

I also noticed that this month's book club on the English Companion ning is on Teri Lesesne's Reading Ladders, so I'll definitely be keeping an eye on those discussion boards.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Challenge

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to present a new technology to veteran teachers at an MTT workshop. It was my first experience presenting in a professional capacity rather than as a student myself in a university or high school classroom. One of my goals as a teacher is to continue to develop professionally through attending, and hopefully one day presenting at, workshops such as the one I attended yesterday. During the course of the day, my fellow interns and I were challenged to write an article about our experiences with this technology for an educational publication. I am very excited (and nervous) about this opportunity! I want very much to become involved in the wider world of educational research, but it's also incredibly intimidating. I feel like I don't know where to start! I'm an English Ed. major, and so have had more experience with writing than most, but I'm still not quite sure how to go about writing an article like this. My questions from this post are: How did prominent figures in the field of education make their start in the area of publication? What are the editors of an educational publication looking for in the way of an article? How can I use this experience as a springboard to further my own professional development and growth?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Violence in Schools

We had a somewhat eventful day yesterday. Actually, down on my end of the building it was extremely uneventful, for which I'm incredibly grateful, but there was an incident involving a student with a gun in our school.

While it was happening, the only thing we in the classroom knew was that we were on lockdown. The principal communicated over the school PA system that the entire school was on lockdown until further notice around 8 am. Apparently, a student brought a gun to school (although no bullets were found). Another student told a teacher, and that teacher notified the appropriate people and the situation was contained and resolved quickly. We did remain on lockdown for quite a while, just in case, and we ended up keeping 1st block all the way through 3rd since testing was delayed. According to my teacher, this is the first time that our school has had an incident of this nature.

On my part, I was extremely impressed with the way faculty and administration reacted to and dealt with this potentially nightmarish situation.

My question is, how are students supposed to sit down and take a standardized test (that has a direct impact on their future) after an occurrence like this? It bothers me that so much weight is placed on standardized test scores without taking any other factors into consideration. Such as whether or not there was a gun threat at their school on the day they tested.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Graduation Exam Week

This week students at our school are taking the graduation exam, so everything’s been just a little bit weird.  They’re testing in our classroom, so we’ve been displaced to a rather drafty room at the very end of the hallway, next to the outside doors.  We have mostly seniors, so only a few still have to pass a portion of the exam.  The library has something called Teen Tech Week  for students without discipline referrals who want to go and play the Wii or Xbox while other students are testing.  The library’s funding has been consistently zeroed out for the past few years, so they sell snacks and drinks during graduation exam week in an effort to replace some of that lost funding.  Central Office employees have continued to maintain a presence in the building during testing, which is a little nerve wracking. 

So far, the only problem has been what to do with students who don’t have to test and haven’t gone to the library.  My 1st block class is currently studying Shakespeare’s Macbeth, so we’re having a Shakespeare film festival.  I love the idea of exposing them to more of Shakespeare’s work, and it’s so much more fun for them to watch the DVD’s, especially when classes are off of the regular schedule and they end up spending four hours in one class and skipping another altogether.  However, there is always the question of whether or not it’s appropriate to show full-length movies in class.  I think as long as they’re connected to actual class work, it’s great, but I’m only an intern.  :)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Professional Development

I've had the opportunity of attending several workshops and seminars this semester for the purpose of professional development. So far, they've all seemed to be interesting and productive (which contradicts everything that I've ever heard about professional development before this placement). Yesterday, I went with my cooperating teacher to a Vertical Teaming meeting. Our high school is attempting to connect with its feeder schools in order to better prepare students for each subsequent year of school and to make the transition from elementary to middle and middle to high school easier. I thought it was a dynamic meeting full of wonderful ideas, but there was one significant drawback. Only one teacher from another school came! There were three teachers from our high school, one 7th grade teacher from the middle school, and zero teachers from the elementary school. Sadly, our meeting tended more towards the horizontal rather than the vertical. It's a shame that more teachers didn't come and join the conversation, they missed out on some valuable dialogue about student progress and strategies to improve our schools.

As I was observing this professional development meeting yesterday, I started thinking about professional development in general, and my personal professional development in particular. I love going to these meetings and seminars and hearing what other teachers have to say about their classrooms and teaching in general. I become re-energized after listening to other teachers discuss their problems and possible ways to solve them. It reminds me that every teacher is also a learner, from brand new interns like me, all the way to accomplished veteran teachers.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


3 things I have discovered as a student teacher:

1) Yes, students WILL sleep in my class, despite how undeniably fascinating Shakespeare (and similar subject matter) is to the average teenager.
2) No matter how fascinated I am with said subject matter, they will still sleep in my class.
3) As much energy as I put into sharing this fascination with words and language with my students, they will put the same amount of energy into, you guessed it, sleeping in my class.

2 things I find interesting about sleepers:

1) It's not a passive form of resistance. They have to actively block out my voice and all action around them to slip that far into a sleep-coma. Especially when I'm standing right beside their desk.
2) They seem to be able to get through a whole REM cycle while sitting in a horribly uncomfortable desk with a binder for a pillow. Frankly, it's kind of impressive. If only I could borrow that ability for long car rides and airplane flights.

1 question I have:

How do I rip the blanket of sleep off of my classroom and actively engage students in the subject matter?

Okay, so I'm not being entirely fair or accurate. The truth is, most of my students are awake and participating during class time. However, there are always those few that truly seem to believe that the purpose of 1st block is to catch up on sleep from the night before. Take today for instance. We had just finished watching movie clips from Macbeth and were moving on to read the play aloud. Not the most scintillating activity I admit, but better than listening to a recording. As we're reading through the play and chunking text, I make it a habit to wander around the classroom a bit in order to better supervise students. As I wandered back towards the front the noise got louder, and I realized what it was. One of my students was SNORING! Once I realized what was happening, I tried to surreptitiously ease over and wake her up. I stood by her desk, tapped her desk, no response. Her groupmates noticed what was going on and whispered to her, trying to wake her up, no response. By now, most of the students in the classroom knew something was going on. I generally feel uncomfortable (as a student teacher) tapping students on the shoulder to wake them up, but I tried that too, no response. By now I was out of ideas, and I swear, the snoring was getting louder. As my cooperating teacher walked over to see what was going on, the student finally woke up. I felt so incredibly inadequate as a teacher!

So, back to my original question. How do I encourage active participation in the classroom? I want class time to be a fun and engaging learning experience for my students, but how do I get through to those students who lay their head down as soon as they sit down and simply don't respond? I've tried incorporating more strategies into my lessons, especially strategies for during reading, which I think help a lot. However, there are still a few students who go straight back to sleep as soon as they find out whether it's for a grade or not.

I want to do better. I want to provide a better learning experience for all of my kids, and I want them all to gain as much from class time as possible. Not just an extra REM cycle.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Students As Teachers

During lunch today my cooperating teacher shared some exciting news! After being approached by three students in our AP Language class, who had questions and concerns about the educational system in general and how class time is used in particular, she has extended to them (and to the rest of the class) the option of becoming responsible for a certain amount of class time. The idea is to give students the opportunity to focus class time on what and how they think that they should be learning. The topic came up after some of our students discovered that they wouldn't be receiving class credit for a hands on program that they're involved in, and that instead they will still be required to take a lecture-based class on the subject in order to receive credit. My cooperating teacher has also written a blog post about this project detailing more about the situation and the students.

I'm very excited about the opportunity this provides for student led lessons and discussions. After all, isn't one of our main goals to encourage students to take control of their learning process so that they will receive the maximum benefit of class time? I am wondering exactly how it's all going to go though. Will students take responsibility for the section of material that they'll be expected to teach? Will they take away everything from this experience that we would hope for? Like responsibility, accountability, passion for learning? Will this experiment be a success?

I would love to hear anyone's thoughts on this, please feel free to comment. :)