Week 3: Teaching Summaries!

Day 8: Today begins the first full week of my time at Renaissance! I had it easy my first week with the Ed. Prep meeting and the snowday after the first day. Then last week was MLK Jr. Day. So my first Monday at school is in the books! I’d wondered if I’d see a difference in behavior, it being the first morning of the week, but I think college kids complain more than these kids did about it being Monday morning. Thank god I’m a morning person, or I’m not sure if I would survive in this career. Especially because some kids require a teacher who’s energetic to wake them up that early in the morning and I’m definitely fine with being the person to do that :) …

I’ve been doing my best to be as active as possible with Crew. Yesterday, I baked away on Funfetti cupcakes for the bake sale today, and I sat at a table in the lunchroom today with *** and *** publicizing for the selling of Valentine’s cards/lollipops (both as fundraisers). I was going to help run the bake sale at the basketball game that was supposed to be after school today, but because of weather it was cancelled. (We went around to classes at the end of the day instead… Made over $110) Helping the girls at lunch for the next few days will certainly be interesting. I enjoyed being able to talk to them about things not necessarily related to English class, but it is also a test on our relationship moving into different grounds between English class and lunch talk. I think it’s a good thing for the students to see me helping out and being involved in other settings besides just teaching occasional lessons and being in Ms. C’s room. And it’s good for me to see them in other settings too!

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Day 9: I am exhausted. I guess it’s a good thing that I’m putting all my effort into my day to day things that I enjoy, but I feel like my brain needs to shutdown when the clock hits 2:50!!! The school days have been going well, and I feel as if I’m getting the hang of their routines and procedures. The students are all used to me now, and a few, especially crew members, have occasionally come talking to me about their problems with friends, etc… Greeting every student outside of the classroom door before every period and just sparking chit chat when appropriate has made the fact that I am a part of their classroom become just another of their routines… One thing I’ve been trying to focus on this week is the motivation of students to do their assigned reading for homework… No matter how many times it is stressed to students that there will be a quiz after each homework assignment of reading, there is still a solid handful give or take that just doesn’t do the reading for whatever reason… One on one, I have been doing my best to encourage their effort and motivation. I explain the fact that getting to partake in the class discussions and activities are rewarding for their learning, they get to share their ideas and opinions, ask questions, make predictions, get clarifications, etc. and hear those of others…

One student who I’ve been specifically working on is *** (who was) was missing the huge first Target assignment of the semester, which was his 5 paragraph essay. I knew he hadn’t done it, but I’ve asked him every single day since I noticed it was missing from my grading pile whether he worked on it the night before. Can you believe my excitement when he finally said “Yes, Ms. B, I actually did because I knew you were going to ask me again today.” … He came into class all excited that he had a draft of his essay and thought he was ready to turn it in. But when he handed me five separate pieces of paper for each paragraph, my heart sank that it wasn’t in the proper format… His face was disheartened when I told him that he needed to condense it into the usual standard format of an essay. In the hope that he doesn’t completely lose interest or become overwhelmed about the fact that what he had done so far wasn’t enough, I made a point to have a quick chat with him when he handed in his quiz”…

Day 10: Yesterday, all after-school activities were cancelled due to weather, and apparently the sleet and general icy-ness carried over throughout the night. Needless to say, I was in for a little bit of a shock when I had to slip and slide to the parking lot this morning and found my car completely covered in nearly a half inch of quite solid ice!… even manned with my enormous muscles and razor-sharp ice-scraper, the ice on the windshields and windows wouldn’t budge. Resisting the urge to simply shatter my own windshield, I started my ’95 green Honda Civic, lovingly dubbed Rhonda, cranked the heat, and sipped my tea waiting for it to defrost. 14 minutes of shivering later, I kid you not, Rhonda and I were finally good to go… If I wasn’t a little nuts about timing and being early, this morning could have ended much more frazzled…

I’m also super excited about my unit plan — myths! (I’ll be taking over all classes for a full two weeks in April and teaching the unit plan I design. Very exciting :))

Day 11: I’ve been going down to the lunch room every day to help *** and *** from Crew sell Valentine’s grams as a fundraiser. Their idea was to order Valentine’s Day cards with lollipops, sell them in advance for $2 and then deliver them all with the person’s message on them on the day during Crew. They’re pretty enthusiastic about it, except for when it comes to actually doing something productive to move themselves closer towards the goal of selling all the cards and raising money… we had a mini-discussion of goal-making for the fundraiser: how many do you want to sell, how much money do we want to make, how many days should we publicize it to reach those goals, what are the best ways to publicize, what else do we need to do to meet those goals, etc… Sometimes it’s hard for me to watch them struggle in the task, as I am sometimes a more “I’ll do it myself” kind of person, but I am constantly reminding myself to back off and not take control, but instead give them the tools to succeed and have them know that I’m there as full support for them… I think that by breaking down the whole fundraising project bit by bit, they realized more concrete steps to take in their plans of action. I hope with my support they can work to move closer to their goals in the next few days… In celebratory news, *** brought his essay completed today!!!!!! My hounding has paid off :) He was super proud to hand it in today and I was so happy.

One challenge that I’ve been facing is figuring out how to split or divide my focus between students needing constant redirection and motivation, and those who are already ready for a focused, flowing discussion… There’s a small handful of students in the section who constantly need redirection to have their books open and to the right page during discussion, never mind participate. Being one (new) person, I’m finding it’s hard to manage when to spend time on those students who it seems like they need to have constant attention and focus on them to keep on task, but also engage and challenge those students who are ready and waiting… I think the “no opt-out” policy… and cold calling that Ms. C models mixed in with taking volunteers definitely help keep most students on their toes though… I’m definitely realizing how many hats all extraordinary teachers wear. From fundraiser and motivator to discussion leader and peace keeper to listener with open ears and speaker of words of wisdom, (etc.), there is really never a dull moment for the teachers who are truly engaged with their students, their lives, and their school. It’s sometimes overwhelming just how much effort it takes, but the rewards always seem greater.
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Day 12: Today felt like a pretty busy day, but everything went well! Ms. C taught the morning classes and I did the afternoon. Slowly but surely building up my teacher’s stamina. At first I thought the full days’ observing was exhausting, then I was tired after teaching 1 class, and then last week nearly died of exhaustion after the full day’s load. Today, the teaching for the afternoon went really smoothly, though I was mentally tired afterwards… Like her, I am not a yeller, and that means that word choice and tone are infinitely more important tools of behavior management. Ms. C has never once raised her voice to a high level in the three weeks that I’ve been there, but she manages her classes through the words she chooses and when along with the tone and attitude in which she speaks. She doesn’t need to yell to get her message across, as her softer volume and no-nonsense tone and words speak that for her. Another phrase we talked about was “spinning words into gold.” It’s genius and is something that can’t necessarily be taught, but definitely stuck with me to focus on my own language and word choice as I’m speaking. Everyday when my students walk in, I have the power to change their mood and possibly their day, and hopefully a positive change. When a student walks in with a disgruntled comment or upset emotions, sometimes just a quick conversation can turn around their mood and behavior drastically. Taking those seconds or minutes is well worth it for their well-being and also their effect and contributions to their learning and the class’s…

I’ve been impressed with my own instincts and the progress with relationships and bonds that have been created in the twelve days that I’ve been at Renaissance! I’m definitely not perfect but I know enough to be proud of all that has happened in the time and effort that I’ve put into my Practicum so far. In the twelve days at Renaissance, I’ve gotten way more attached to the school, Ms. C, and my kids than I thought that I would in the first three weeks. I love it. I don’t always come across as a softy, and I often secretly care more about people and things in general than I let on. This practicum is helping me break out of that secretive caring part of my shell, as students need to be told daily that somebody cares about them. I think this is a great thing for my teaching and even a good thing for my life relationships in general. The people in my life who I appreciate and admire greatly need to know how important they are to me. This has been such a great first few weeks. I could not ask for a better placement, and there’s no question that I’ve learned more and bettered myself in this time. I can’t wait to see what the rest of my time brings :)

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One thought on “Week 3: Teaching Summaries!

  1. AWESOME!! There is no limit on learning – life is a continuous learning journey!

    Always trust your own instincts!!!

    XO Nana

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