Reflections : First Observation

This week i had my first official student teacher observation. This had me prepping for three days, reviewing teaching strategies , going over the lesson multiple time with my field teacher and of course occasional flash of “what if’s”. Of course i over prepared, and underestimated my self and ended the week feeling like hard work paid off. With reviewing and reflecting what i can do to fine tune my teaching strategies, I went over the whole process of the week in my head. I spent a week thinking about, planning and over preparing for one lesson. A forty-five minute lesson, that though ended in student successes and an accomplished feeling on my part , the fact doesn’t escape me that it was one lesson.
I know that I am a student teacher , still learning and always will be . But i am wondering how prepared i am becoming if all this preparation is an accurate depiction of what my life will be like next year in my own classroom. On one hand I am tempted to set a goal of shorter preparation for the next observation, but than what of all the thoughtfulness that went into this lesson? Yes, there is a way to balance time management with developing and implementing lessons ( notice the S at the end) for entire school days. But how do I keep the reflection and thoughtful preparation of knowing my student context, differentiation , testing new teaching strategies and curating engagement? The answer may lie within this post , and the challenge may be to find a time management style to accommodate this thinking. But until this shines brightly in my over head student lightbulb, I will continue to search through my reflections.


Teaching with Urgency Part One

When I suggest that we need to “ teach with a sense of urgency” I’m not talking about teaching prompted by anxiety but rather about making every moment in the classroom count, about ensuring that our instruction engages students and moves them ahead…”(Routman, 2003, p. 41).


This quote makes me look back on my preliminary observations during the September experience this past fall. What Routman is shedding light on is the importance of making every minute of every school day matter. Routman talks of the idea that the stressed and tense teacher will produce students who are also stressed and tense. If this is the case, fluidly transitioning from lesson to lesson becomes a challenge. This reflects in her own teaching style, “ I am relaxed and happy when I am working with my students.”

The connections I am making between my own student-teacher observations and reading Routman are those of the urgency we must have in teaching is imperative, and that urgency is not the same as rushed or stressed. Sometimes I observe teachers feeling the pressure to complete a lesson to start another lesson on time. Sometimes it seems difficult to use the available time given per lesson , more specifically reading, and making that optimal learning time.

When this happens, I think, some teachers have a tendency to fill the time lost or try to make that up by adding a filler activity to the lesson. The outcome being a lesson that could have been an engaging, and achieve optimal student learning, turns into a haphazard cloud of what could have been.

I have been lucky enough to observe in my cooperating teacher is the way she uses every minute of the school day. When a lesson cuts into another lesson time she makes the best of it. By that I mean, she is quick to incorporate reading or writing into the two lessons. By integrating the reading and writing component it enriches student learning. It also models to students that we use reading and writing skills in all aspects of school. From science to time with an art docent, the students will find engaging reading and writing components in the lesson.

This seems like the most effective way to get the most out of the whole school day, by integrating subjects and being urgent with the teaching. As a future educator I foresee myself not waiting till I need to think on my feet to test our integrating subjects but rather utilize every minute of the school day by planning on integrations. This, paired with teaching with a sense of urgency will lead to optimal learning for myself and students.

Post Holiday Post

The holidays are finally over and the school year feels refreshed and renewed with the new year! I am writing this post from my new iPad and iPad app Boggsy : part of trying more technology with school – so far so good!

I remember as a student i always loved coming back to school after the holiday (totally normal), I was excited to see my friends and loved that the school year was almost over! However, as i view this post holiday as a teacher I see things a little different through the teacher lens. I am neither refreshed nor renewed in the wake of the aftermath of christmas cookie and new year resolution devastation. I am exhausted and woke up monday morning wishing it was really sunday morning . My New Years resolution of starting off the new year incredible organized has been rough. needless to say that though it is indeed new year with bright educational beginnings my revised NY resolution is to be more fogiving to myself and students as we wrap our minds around being back in school. Happy New Year everyone.

Note: there is a picture of a great ideaof incorporating student voice in reading discussions but the students can write out their thoughts on paper and support those ideas while going around to different posters. more on that later 🙂


Half way to Full Circle

The beginning of my blogging began with the beginning of my teaching program. I was incredibly hesitant, dare I say frustrated with the prospect of “having to blog” (insert heavy sigh and eye roll). The first quarter was rough. I struggled to blog, the idea of having to blog on top of everything else required in my life only added to my developing discontent for it.
With two more quarters passing me by I surprised, however, to find blogging an effective tool for reflection. Blogging has become an outlet for my deeper thinking on some heavy educational topics. It has pushed me as a writer- something I normally feared in my coursework. The Blogs I look back on that show this growth is my first blog and my most recent. I can clearly see the style which I write change from a stiff formal platform to more relaxed and reflective. I am no longer concerned with length or if “I sound deep”.
This past quarter has been one of growth in terms of my commenting on my classmates blogs. The number has gone up and the questions and ponderings have strengthened. I love that I feel more confident to respond to a classmates blog, and relish when we actually communicate back in forth! I also find it incredibly helpful to read their responses and find myself thinking deeper on the questions I bring up.
As we have reached our half way mark for the program, I am excited to see where my blogging takes me in the next few quarters and beyond the program.
Happy Holidays everyone!

Reflections : round two

Reflective thinking is exhausting as a student teacher. There are so many outlets for it, blogs, tweets, social media, journals and of course coffee meetings with friends and co-workers. With the end of this quarter nearing, and the pile of coursework getting higher and higher, it makes me think how our students handle this reflection. It saddens and angers me some when I overhear a teacher saying “ they just don’t get it” or “ in one ear out the other”, or worst “ my students are just unmotivated to think about this stuff”. This is simply not true. Student has just as much as reflection as we do, It just doesn’t look the same as ours. What makes this idea terrifying is that their reflections may include thoughts of “ I don’t understand this..” or “ Miss. So-and-so is really hard on me..I don’t get it..”. I think it is up to us to give them some more reflective tools and outlets so we can see where they are at in learning and what is weighing heavy on them. Besides journaling or blogging I am still mulling the ideas over, so any help or ideas will be greatly appreciated below!

Power of Language

The learning targets for the read aloud with my 8th grade Language Arts class address the battle of internal conflict. This target was addressed using the main character of the read aloud book. I wanted students to draw from what they have learned from the ongoing unit on heroes in literature to identify the constant struggle of internal conflict of the character as well to draw from their own internal conflict. The second target of this lesson was for students to understand what duel identity is, and how it relates to conflicting internal struggle of the main character. The book chosen for this lesson was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
This book was appropriate for the students because it fit within the unit of Hero’s in Literature that our cooperating teacher was teaching at this time. I choose this book not only because I believed it was a rich, thought provoking story but because our student body has already dealt with internal conflict of duel identity. Many, if not all behave differently at school then at home or with their peers than with siblings. However, the internal conflict, like that observed in reading the Odyssey or dissecting movie clips of Batman, is a challenge that not only superheroes or mythical men deal with. It is a challenge we all face and sometimes fail at.
I told the students why I opted not to ignore the languages because I felt it pertinent within the context of understanding our main character. These lead into a great whole group talk of the power behind language. Many of the students shared when someone makes fun of them or they make fun of others that its results in strong feelings. This response was amazing to me because we as teachers also forget the power behind language. We sometimes talk for many minutes at a time to our students and don’t stop to think about what meaning they are grasping behind our words. This reflection was powerful for me because I want to be mindful of the language I use towards my school and students.

Star of the Week

“…structure begins to be revealed and will soon be carved in stone…a ruling class will notify others of their acceptance, and the outsiders learn to anticipate the sting of rejection.” –V.G.Paley
The quote above caught my attention immediately. Feeling a painful thirst for the meaning behind this phrase, I drank in the opening passage, honing in on the words sting and rejection. They play so well together I thought; I also noted the knot in my stomach while reading them. This guttural reaction surprised me, and then it didn’t. Vivian G. Paley speaks of the very present and worrisome part of life: rejection. I want to address the issue of rejection to my students. I will ask them what should the rule be when we play? I hope they will come up with something clear and bright like Paley’s, You Can’t Say You Can’t Play.
This understanding can come from classroom norms, like doing a Star of the Week. A star of the week will share about them once a day all week. Monday is interview day (the class interviews the star), Tuesday is favorite book day and so on and so forth. The whole week students will write a letter to the star (incorporating letter writing and reading) and on Friday the star will pick a favorite letter to read aloud to the class and draw the next star of the week out of a jar.
This helps stave of rejection because the students will be learning about one another and contributing to the classroom community. Part of student rejection stems from misunderstanding and not knowing one another. Star of the Week not only incorporates reading writing standards for students but opens them up to their classmates and classroom community, bridging the gap between acceptance and rejection.