Week 2 Teaching Summaries

The scary thing for anybody that’s about to read this is that they are summaries of my daily reflection journals to Dr. Z., though I’m aware they seem like novels… That poor man for agreeing to be my supervisor, huh? As a disclaimer, he definitely knew what he was getting himself into! :)

Day 4: I did my first full lessons today with ELA 8.3 and 8.1 today :) !!! I wasn’t really “nervous” to have my first day of lessons, but I definitely appreciated the push that Ms. C gave me last week to do my first lesson today. I’m really happy that she did … the longer I waited, the more uncomfortable jitters I may have gotten moving from observer and helper to class leader, whereas after a great last week, I was pumped to jump right in today. So I emailed my lesson plan to her yesterday, … her response after she looked over it was: “You are a goddess. Your lesson plan is so detailed and thorough…” Yay :) She used my plan in the first class after Crew and in the class after lunch (I taught the other two classes)… I was proud of myself to see that Ms. C liked and valued my plan enough to use it exactly, and also that she was able to follow right along with what I had had in mind… I was thrilled to see that what I had prepared was actually realistic, both in terms of time distribution and also of the quality of its execution!… After I led the first class in discussion and reading, there were only a few minor changes to make for the second class that I did, which I am so happy with on only my first day of lessons at my new school!… my students!! I don’t blame them, but I definitely think they’re testing me a bit. It was challenging juggling everything today: working on names and faces, being confident in my lesson plan and sticking to it, and making sure everything was generally running smoothly… We both agreed that I improved between the two classes, which I’m happy with. I’m a person who enjoys reflection, is comfortable analyzing myself, and wants to work to make my teaching better… While I enjoy hearing what I’ve done well, of course, the thing I want most out of the semester is to give 100% of my mind and heart to grow and learn and enjoy the experience. And those goals will involve celebrating my successes, but also hearing the things I need to do better. I’m happy with where I’m at right now, but will always welcome the challenge to work harder and do better. It’s go time! Today, we all rowed to the lighthouse, it was a good day :)

Day 5: …. After the amazing responses I got last week when I remembered a good amount of the 100 names, I’ve made it my project for the rest of the week. I even brought home the seating chart so that I could go over names and bring their faces to mind. I can’t believe my memory has been as good as it has been with all these names and faces, but I’m not going to question what I credit as a huge part of my success and student relationships so far!! Having specific goals for the week, such as remembering names/faces, has made the long process of becoming a great teacher seem a little bit more feasible. Taking on an accomplishable, measurable task for the old to-do list each week is much easier to do than become an awesome teacher overnight… As a result of a Lost Boys vignette we’ve read recently, I’ve been asked multiple times to define what a female circumcision is. I don’t remember having “handling awkward but necessary situations” on our syllabus in Methods class… (I’ve decided if I ever have a mortal enemy, my revenge will to have them say “clitoris” in front of 25 8th graders with a straight face…) There is no way to be prepared for all the day-to-day crazy thing that happen, but it’s an entertaining challenge.

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The current text we’re working with.

Day 6: Have you ever bonded with students over an outfit?… that’s exactly that happened today between me, basically all of the 8th grade girls today, and my cheetah print cardigan hahaha… It was absolutely ridiculous how in love with my clothes they were. Ms. C told me at the end of the day that she overheard a few girls whispering that they liked it and that she’d also been advised to dress more like Ms. Barsevich, which she thought was quite entertaining… But there is something to carrying oneself professionally and dressing up. After the “late pass incident” while journaling to Hanscom at Central, I’ve learned my lesson! Knowing I look 17, I don’t need to dress like I’m double my age (not that that’s old or anything :) ) but there definitely needs to be enough to have clear distinctions between myself and the students. As my favorite Irish author Oscar Wilde said, “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” … I tried to open up both one-on-one and whispered group conversations in order to continue building rapport with my students. You know the phrase “you attract more bees with honey than vinegar”? Yup. The two main students’ comments I’ve heard that are negative about other teachers this past week and a half summarize into s/he hates me and s/he is so unfair… And I’ve learned from the past that all my students will not necessarily respect me from Day 1 as I’m introduced to them from Springfield College and say I want to teach them. I’ve been having to earn it. I’ve said this five times already, but names have been absolutely huge. Saying “hi” to a student before they do, giving a small smile in class when we make eye contact, finding something for them to succeed in when they didn’t know the question or were refocused to pay attention will build up that relationship and respect. The extraordinary things start in the details. Noticing a hair cut, asking a follow-up question to better understand an answer, making a student laugh, etc. And as much as I love English and know that reading and writing are extremely important, I’m not sure any of those lessons will sink in if my students and I don’t respect each other as individual human beings first. I definitely think that after a week and a half I’m made excellent progress with them. Ms. C tells me they love me already, and I think she means it. :) When the students heard that Ms. C would be out tomorrow and I’d be taking over, there were no groans from anyone in the classes. That in itself is a small victory. I’m a bit nervous of how things will go having all the classes to myself for the entire day, but I think I’m ready to jump in. Tomorrow will be a true test of how far I’ve come in the past semester and also the past few weeks. Hopefully I have enough tools, tricks, and keys to have a good day with my students!

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The ACTUAL cardigan of obsession.

Day 7: So today was my first time teaching ELA classes 2 and 4, second time teaching ELA classes 1 and 3, my first time teaching through a whole day here, still in only my second week, with the added challenge of Ms. C being out. Yikes. Obviously, I was a little nervous, though not as much as I’d have thought I would be. My day with our classes overall went well, though some of the classes were definitely testing me behaviorally (chatty and trouble listening)… Some good highlights:

The first class went absolutely awesome :) !! They responded well to my restructuring whenever they began to lose focus and the class ran so smooth. They got through everything I asked them. I was incredibly excited to start the first class off on such a great note.
— A few of the students said “good job teaching today, Ms. Barsevich” as they left which made me really happy. This class definitely knows I care about them and want them to learn.
— I’ve inexplicably become *** and ***’s new project. They’re trying to “set me up” with a young math teacher they’re in love with haha awkward.
— Though I had my strict face on almost the whole time trying to keep the group on task, I got a big hug from *** (who is super shy) on the way out.
Whew, I’m exhausted!! Overall, I’m happy how the day went teaching 4 straight without Ms. C here. There’s definitely room for improvement, especially in the behavior management department, but I’m happy that I rose to the challenge today and did my best.
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And I have to share part of Dr. Z.’s response:

CONGRATULATIONS ON WHAT SEEMS LIKE A GREAT START TO YOUR SOLO TEACHING CAREER!! YOU LEARNED A LOT ABOUT YOURSELF, ABOUT THE KIDS AND……………………………………………………..YOU SURVIVED! LOL YOU EARNED YOUR WEEKEND!

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First Week Teaching Summaries!

I’ve been meaning to reply to a couple of emails asking how my first few days of my Practicum went (so sorry for neglecting those), but you’ll get your patience’s worth of plenty juicy details now :)  Every week, I plan on extracting a couple of stories from the journals that I write daily to Dr. Z. and I’ll share them here!

 

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Day 1: I could not have asked for a better Day 1 with Ms. C, her students, and the school!!!…  As soon as I walked in this morning, she was so excited to see me and showed me the desk area she’s set up on the side of the room for me, which was labeled with my name on a big, pretty sign and comfy chair (also labeled!).  I was surprised and flattered.  She had my station all set up with the new text (a non-fiction collection of vignettes by Sudanese refugees!) that the classes have just begun to read, along with a folder full of notes on policies, expectations, procedures, and calendars for Renaissance and the 8th grade classes.  Ms. C and her crew also created a scavenger hunt for me to get to know some important people and places throughout the building, and I had two friendly students as my tour guides!…  I felt immediately at home and happy…  Ms. C has locked in a positive tone for the semester right off the bat by making me feel important and deserving of this opportunity, and her effort showed she is dedicated to helping me improve as much as possible, which really meant a lot to me…   Her positive energy is contagious, and the genuine commitment to teaching and love for her students is something I hope to embody as the semester goes on…  Just like Ms. C, all my new students were extremely friendly and welcoming — asking lots of questions about where I come from, what college is like, what other colleges I applied to, how I was liking Renaissance so far, and general interest things.  And I asked lots of questions back…  Renaissance students as a whole seem to be bursting with personality.  The students today had thoughtful comments and really set the bar of the high expectations that Renaissance as a community challenges their students to.  I loved the feel of the school’s community as I walked around the halls today, which are decorated in positive, colorful quotes, images, displays, bulletin boards, and trophies…  One of Renaissance’s mottos is “Work Hard.  Be Kind.  Get Smart.”  Absolutely perfect.  They have structured, school-wide “Habits of Work” that include: “I come to class ready to learn; I actively and respectfully participate in class; I assess and revise my own work; I contribute to the success of group work; I complete daily homework.”  As a whole, the school seems big on reflection and motivation, all towards big picture life goals, which are meaningful to the students…  I guess I was kind of overwhelmed but in good, impressive ways today with just how much effort the Renaissance community puts into their school, teaching, learning, and students, and how much effort they expect back.  I feel like this school is certainly a inspirational place to work, teach, and learn.

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Day 2: After Day 2 with Ms. C and classes, I definitely know that this is the type of school that I want to wake up and go to every morning!!  One reason for this is that it seems like basically everybody there actually wants to be there.  Attitude is huge…  One of my goals and strengths of today was remembering names of students…  I had a small reward today with a student I am already beginning to grow fond of, whose paper I was able to give back to her without asking for her name, like I needed to with some of the others.  She actually shouted, “YESSSS! MS. BAR KNOWS MY NAME, Y’ALL!!”  It made my day…!   I noticed that the others whom I was able to call by name responded even more readily and friendly…  It’s human nature to want a person to learn one’s name… “They don’t care what you know until they know you care.”…  Today Ms. Cote had also planned a simple way for the students to get to know a little more about me by setting up a Q&A session.  She gave them small slips of paper at the beginning of class, on which they could write a question for me.  I got a lot of “How old are you?”, “Where do you go to college?”, “Where are you from?”, and “What should we call you?”.  There were more questions that I enjoyed answering: “What’s your favorite food?”, “What types of books do you like to read?”, “Do you play sports?”, “Favorite TV show?”, “Most embarrassing moment?”, and the more gutsy ones: “Are you in a relationship?”, “Are you married?”, and “How many kids do you have?”  There was also some I found pretty insightful: “Why did you pick Renaissance out of all the schools?”, “How long will you be staying with us?”, “How are you willing to help us?”, “Have you always wanted to be a teacher? Why?”, “What is your dream career?”, “How is your day going?” (I found that thoughtful!), and “Do you like it here so far?” (possibly the easiest one to answer :) ! ).  The last group of questions really got me thinking.  The question about how I ended up at Ren. shows the deeper thinking that there are more school out there, and that those schools are different than theirs.  Why am I there? is a pretty solid question, that was a great thing for me to think about, and better yet share!  The class loved hearing my answers.  If they’re all already becoming invested in me, I have an even bigger responsibility to get even more invested in them.

Day 3: Today was another day big on relationships…  as I roamed the room simply checking in with students, those who had questions began to trust me to help them as much as I was able, beginning to call me over without hesitation.  I was proud of myself to see that they weren’t only calling over Ms. C for questions, but that they were okay with asking me for help too after only three days.  I want to establish this presence of being a teacher alongside Ms. C, rather than just her assistant, and she’s already been great at displaying confidence in me to the students, which is an invaluable help…  So although I began asking the students about what they were working on in order to get to know them and more about the project, it turned into a helpful push for them to regain focus…  Basically, by asking more questions in response to their original question, they were able to answer the question themselves…  I guess sometimes being helpful doesn’t necessarily mean having all the right answers, it can be just asking the right questions!…  Ms. C also set me up with the grading of 5 paragraph essays that the students completed the week before I arrived…  I was nervous at first, trying to gauge whether I was being too easy or too tough, but the straightforward rubric she uses left little to no wiggle room for subjectivity…  The rubric also had boxes for comments, which I used to back up the scores I gave on the rubric with details from their essay that were good, things I liked or learned, and constructive criticism for improvements.  I made sure to have a balance on each essay, because as my typically over-achieving student self, I know how much good feedback from a teacher can mean to a student.  Though the essays followed a set of guidelines and requirements, the topics (which students were allowed to choose) varied widely about things they liked including: Mom, swimming, steak and cheese sandwiches, drawing, Boston cream pie, etc.  I love it!  The more I learn about these students, the better I will become at making the lessons relative and meaningful and the better our relationships will be.

The Night Before Student Teaching

Tomorrow is my official last first day of my undergrad. career, and I’ll spend it immersed in the wonderful experience I’m about to embark on for my teaching Practicum!

Today, all Prac. students had a big meeting with our Ed. Prep. Department who laid out all the expectations and requirements of our semester.  They gave us helpful guidance and procedure tips to make our semester the best possible and to help us grow to be extraordinary teachers.  There was a bunch of veteran teachers and supervisors there to give us advice about anything we wanted, and they were certainly a great resource I took advantage of.  I can’t believe this has come up so soon, but at the same time it feels like I’ve been waiting for forever!!

My cooperating teacher seems like such a wonderful person, the school environment seems phenomenal, and I have been lucky enough to be assigned with the greatest supervisor I could dream of.  I’m surrounded by friends and professors here at SC who are supportive and just as excited for this part of my journey as I am.  I know I have friends and family rooting for me back home, and most importantly after last semester, I’m finally believing in myself that I can really do this.  I’m ready to put my entire heart into the career I know I’m meant to be in and be the best teacher possible for all my future students.

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At the end of the school day and school year, I want to be able to reflect on the differences I have helped make in my students and my school.  I want students to trust me with their education and also with their questions, thoughts, and curiosities, their problems and successes.  I want to be a teacher who is in touch with their students, their interests, their needs.  Teachers have the wonderful opportunity of making a real difference in the lives of their students every single day of every year.  And while we know that not all teachers are extraordinary, that not all teachers take advantage of the opportunity to be a part of the positive growth of their students, I don’t want to let one day go to waste.

I can’t imagine another profession that makes an impact quite like teaching does.  I want to be a teacher who is reflective, positive, open, realistic, encouraging, fair, smart, responsible, funny, organized, motivating, creative, flexible, and helpful.  I think these qualities are possible for me.  I can’t say that I remember all the homework assigned or vocabulary definitions learned from my past teachers who I would consider my greatest, but I do remember that they cared about me, had high expectations of me.  They were funny and fair.  These qualities will go hand in hand with the skills and content I will teach to make my classroom a place of engaged and meaningful learning.  I know I may not be extraordinary at the beginning, but the challenges I face won’t even come close to stopping me working hard and wanting my students to work hard.

I will also be a teacher who reflects.  Dr. Z. and I will journal daily to each other on my process, and I couldn’t be more excited.  I have so much to learn from him along with working with my cooperating teacher, and I trust both of them with all the challenges I will face, knowing that they’ll be sources of guidance who will also celebrate in my successes.

Here’s to an exciting, challenging, and rewarding last semester  and here’s to extraordinary :)


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