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!
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.
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.