A door opens….

Yesterday was Monday, but rather than bemoaning the passage of another weekend, Monday turned out to be both nice and generous.

I arrived at school plenty early and had time to check my Live Text account, eagerly anticipating the score on my second TPA (teaching performance assessment). I saw that the assignment color had been changed to green, I clicked on it, closed my eyes, and waited.

I PASSED!!! After doing a brief little dance in my chair, I thought excitedly “two down, two to go.”

Well into first period, I received an email from the student teaching coordinator at my university; she asked me to call her ASAP. Somewhat nervous, I called her at the next available time.

Lo and behold, a long term substitute teaching position opened at another local high school. After making several background calls, the district wanted to know if I would be willing to take the position.

UHHHH??? If a tree falls in the woods does it make a noise? YES!

I found out the teacher is being hired as the EL coordinator for the district. He has a class of freshmen, sophomore honors English, and an ELD class. Perhaps the most exciting part is if I do well with this subbing gig, there is potential for a temporary contract through the end of the year.

After several other phone calls, I will be meeting with the principal and the department head this coming Thursday.

This is a huge opportunity as it would allow me to fulfill my student teaching while being paid. Not to mention I will be gaining a ton of experience and another “foot in the door.”

On the flip side, it will be incredibly challenging for me as a new teacher. I will have tremendous responsibility for lesson planning, assessing, managing, and grading. Not to mention there could be three different prep periods. I will have to be patient with myself and not afraid to reach out for help from other teachers.

As they say in the education world, there is nothing better than learning by doing. More to come after the Thursday meeting!!

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I’ve gone back to high school

Yesterday was my first day of my second teaching placement at the high school, and man-oh-man is it going to be different.

Here at this site, there are 2,800 students and the campus is one mile long. More than 95% of the population is Hispanic and 90% receive free and reduced lunch. There are students who are homeless, who work two jobs and go to school, or they are young parents (there is a child care center on campus). Needless to say, these students are facing plenty of adversity in their young lives.

The students this year are also on a new schedule- they now have six straight periods instead of a block schedule. Not to mention the district cut funding for agenda books this year, the wisdom of that does not make much sense. But the students are incredibly frazzled and overwhelmed by the new workload.

My master teacher has six periods with a class cap size at 27 students. The energy and maturity level of high school students are visibly different than junior high students. After 11 years of school, they generally know the drill and require less management or a different style of management in the least.

Unlike junior high students who take a while to feel comfortable with you before they open up, high school students are curious and ask you questions immediately. They were very curious about my college experiences as they are making post high school plans at this point, as well as my preference in sports teams.

It was interesting yesterday as I am being thrown into a completely different dynamic and school environment, having to readjust all again to new students that I will eventually have to manage and teach.

I am both excited and nervous for this new experience, and to see whether I could fit in as a high school teacher. Wish me luck!

Saying goodbye

I cannot believe my first student teaching assignment has already come and gone, the two months were an eventful and pleasant blur.

Last Friday, I said good bye to my first class of students…all 105 of them across three class periods.

The send-off I received made me feel very good about what I had accomplished during my student teaching, and that in some way I was able to make a positive impact.

Each class period had worked together to make and sign a hand made card, I received a slew of balloons from my master teacher and students, as well as personal cards and cute posters.

Towards the end of each class period, the teacher invited me up to the front of class where students could give me compliments and wish me good luck in my next adventure. I was told that I made classes fun, they enjoyed my sense of humor, and they were amazed at how I was able to keep them on task and doing their work…one of my students even asked “how do you do it?” I was tempted to respond by whispering “magic.”

Following the compliment session, I was able to take group photos with each of the classes. I did this with the intention of having the photos printed and hanging them in my first classroom one day.

Many of the students could not understand why I had to leave and asked if I could just stay the whole year. I wish I could as I love junior high, but the state of California demands otherwise.

It was an emotional day, full of hugs and requests to teach at this high school or that high school, in the hopes of being their teacher again one day. I came close to tears a couple times, but for the most part I was happy that they would miss me and were not cheering as I walked out the door.

After having a weekend to celebrate the end of my first placement and basking in the love I felt from the students, I am grateful for the chance I had to get to know these kids-such creative hard-workers who had already overcome so much in their young lives.

I will spend the next two days finalizing my second Teaching Performance Assessment before I begin my high school placement on Wednesday.

More details to follow later this week 🙂

The final week begins

Today marks the start of my last week at the junior high school. Oddly enough, I will be subbing for my Master Teacher all day today. This is the first time this has happened since last time we had to deal with a very interesting curriculum substitute.

It will be my first true test in a way and certainly it won’t come without challenges as these students will surely attempt to test boundaries with the teacher out of the room. But I look forward to playing “pretend” teacher!

This last week, the control will be shifting back to the Master Teacher. I will fade in to the background, observing, helping out when needed, and wrapping up my second TPA. This Thursday, I will attend the volleyball games for my students-which are a lot of fun. Last time, I made a sign and the kids got such a kick out of seeing me at the games. I will definitely remember this as a teacher, it’s important to take interest in your students outside of the classroom.

The high school placement is just around the corner, and I am preparing myself for a completely different dynamic. But I look forward to what learning this new adventure will bring, and to finally work with high school students.

Despite all this happy banter though, it is Monday….

One placement nearly down

Yesterday, as I closed out Friday’s lesson, it hit me that one week from yesterday I would be saying good bye to my students.

While I will surely encounter many more wonderful students, these students are more special. They are my first class, first actual students, first real-time learning experience. They have shown me what I still have to learn, and have reaffirmed why I am blazing down this particular career path.

The biggest miracle of this first class of students is that each of their respective periods is very different. They each bear their own dynamic, and I have had to learn what they are and make adjustments in my teaching style to accommodate this. But I enjoy the differences between each class and it certainly keeps you on your toes.

My first period is more quiet, still waking up and preparing for the school day. But there are some jokesters in there, some very clever kids, and the occasional smart a**. Third period is much more rambunctious, a little tougher to manage, but the energy and their comfortability with me makes for exciting class times. Fourth period is just as energetic, but meticulous, creative, and intelligently weird (first and fourth period are GATE English).

But all of them bear certain things in common that I admire: they appreciate teachers that can be “real” with them, that don’t talk down to them, and who can enjoy sense of humor. All of these students face tremendous adversity and challenges in their lives, and I respect them for it. And while this can be a very challenging population to work with, I love it and hope to work with these kinds of students for many years to come.

More to write at the end of my last week. Then it’s off to American Literature and fearsome high schoolers. 🙂

I AM ALIVE

Last night, as I was in my pre-bed time zombie phase, I realized I had not made a blog post in a long while.

Rest assured, the classroom has not swallowed me yet. I have been busy planning and teaching lessons, not to mention taking on after school tutoring and keeping up on grad school classes.

There have been some successes, challenges, and plenty of insight. There have been times I’ve felt myself getting flustered by students, and times I have chastised myself for not handling things correctly. But, I have made improvements and every day I feel more confident as I walk into the classroom.

I officially have one more week (after this one) before I say good bye and move on to my next assignment. Saying good bye may be harder than I think as I have grown attached to the school site and students, perhaps I will be back some day.

I am honestly more nervous about starting my high school placement. I will be at a school with 3,000 students….that is bigger than my college. I have never worked with high school kids and am not familiar with the curriculum so I am sure that will be a tremendous learning experience. But I hear that if I can handle junior high, high school will be fine.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much time to write today as I am preparing to run out the door. The days seem very long now, but do go by pretty quickly. At the end of this week, I will be shifting the control back to the master teacher, and prepare to say good bye to my first class.

Week 6? I must be dreaming….

Someone slow down this freight train! I am already on Week 6 of my student teaching!

Last week, I planned out all the lessons and implemented them. I took the students to the library and even had to guide one period through an actual lock down. Overall, I had a great week and really do enjoy working with the students. I even broke through the barrier of the third period kids and built a rapport with them.

On Friday, we held a sort of mock debate to practice Socratic Seminars for later in the year. The day before, the students had read an article about mean girls in junior high. Then, they read it together again in their groups and had to come up with ten discussion questions to pose to the rest of the class. Once we returned to whole group, a representative from each group asked one of their questions to the class. Each and every period had very enlightening and forthright responses to their class mates discussion questions. Because the article was mildly controversial, it sparked some debate in two of the classes.

Overall, I will say I am a big fan of small and whole group discussions. In both settings, all students have a chance to submit their own comments or inquiry about a class topic. The discussions were enlightening on Friday because even though the article was a tough read, they seemed to grasp enough of what the article was about to add their own input. It would be easy to assume students don’t understand, but just give them a chance to talk and show what they know! Junior high kids do like to argue, so give them a debatable topic and let the words fly!

My main role in all of this was making sure the students responded to each other appropriately, translating questions and responses, and moving the discussion forward. Some of the discussions did go off on tangents, but I was able to bring them back to focus. I still have a lot to learn in terms of facilitating an effective discussion, such as finding ways to involve all of the students.

The beauty of all this to me was that the students did not have to write a summary or answer questions, they were doing something they loved (talking), and had the chance to discuss their opinions and beliefs with the rest of the class. I definitely hope I have the chance to lead more class discussions!

On a quick side note…we had a curriculum sub last week as my Master Teacher had to attend a GATE training. She assumed that since I was the student teacher, I would be doing all the teaching. To which my Master Teacher informed her that since she was being paid, she would be expected to help me teach the lessons that day.

I eventually found out that she has spent a lot of time at the elementary level and the students could tell. Long story short, she did not exactly stick to the focus of the lesson plan (a no-no as a sub) and spun off on these long tangents and speeches (and nothing got done). But, she had a cleared-credential (and I do not) so I let it go and tried to redirect the lesson as much as possible. Needless to say, the students were not too fond of her and each of the classes needed a five-minute debriefing session the next day. It’s funny how possessive kids can be of their teachers, even just the student kind 🙂

The Take Over

Time really does fly when you’re having fun, and I suppose that’s why I am already into Week 5 of my student teaching–three weeks left at this site!

Last week, I had my first official observation with my university supervisor. She came and observed our regular third period English class, after a lunch lock down. But despite this, everything went smoothly and I received a very good observation. Keeping to my humble roots though, I take this glowing review with a grain of salt because I know I still have a lot to learn.

At this point though, I am ready to begin take over the classroom. So this week, my Master Teacher and I laid out the week’s plans and I am responsible for creating and teaching the lessons. Planning daily classroom functions is a whole other ball game compared to actually doing it.

You have to keep in mind trips to the library, updating homework, allowing enough time to explain assignments, keeping on top of students and their work, not to mention the piles of grading.

Yet even though my head is moving in 50 different directions all day, I love it! I like staying busy, finding better ways to organize, planning, and most of all being able to interact with the students more. Student teaching is the golden opportunity for me to try out various management strategies or lesson ideas to see what could be saved or utilized in the future.

And even though the days are long compared to most people’s standards, they fly by for me and I think that is a good thing. I never thought stepping into a classroom would make all my other worries go away. Sure I have three more TPAs and another session of student teaching hanging over my head, but I am definitely making a point of enjoying this present experience.

The planning and managing is no easy feat and I have a lot to learn there too (especially within my first three years of teaching from what I can gather) but I figure it’s best to approach challenges with the mind set of a football player: I am going to tackle the problem and come out on top 🙂

This week marks the steady assimilation of me as head of the classroom, by next week I should be in full control…then the test really begins.

Here we go!

Grand Plans vs. Reality

At times, I feel like I am still trying to decide what the most important parts of teaching are–organization, creativity, adaptability, patience? All of the above?

I think one really important thing that must factor into teaching is planning…plan, plan, plan some more and then come up with a plan B…CHECK.

Being a teacher means planning for the simplest of tasks to planning backwards for an entire school year–I won’t sit here and say it isn’t challenging or potentially maddening.

Now I have always been “a planner,” to the point that it drives my more “fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants” friends crazy. I have always liked having a logical set of steps in place, knowing exactly what I need to do.

But learning to plan like a teacher is not an overnight process, especially with time, student knowledge, and behavior to keep in mind. I learned this today as I reviewed the lesson plan for Thursday’s observation with my Master Teacher. I spent the last day of the weekend making plans, researching, and coming up with viable activities to enforce the content….

Only to realize that I was planning to dump too much sand out of the jar all at once, so to speak. But such is being a student teacher-it means a lot of constructive criticism and having the grace to take it for what it is. I won’t deny that I can feel myself getting overwhelmed as I decide how to present information to students. But my Master Teacher was wise enough to point out that she knows little tricks and has different approaches because she has been doing this a lot longer than me- and that’s OK!

She did get me to think more carefully about breaking down certain concepts for students; never assume they are unintelligent but don’t assume they know everything you are going to teach them because they’re in eighth grade. Somewhat like juggling, students are better starting out with one or two balls and as the teacher feels they are ready, they toss more into the mix.

After much deliberation and conferencing, she helped me come up with a solid lesson plan that clearly conveys the content and allows plenty of time for clarification, review, and independent work.

And to think this was planning on a small scale (for one day of school)…but one step at a time. I can only juggle one to two balls right now-and that’s OK 🙂

Health on top

Perhaps today’s blog topic is not as important as the other things I am learning in student teaching, but I certainly feel like it’s worth sharing.

Simply put, I am tired–and that’s not to be taken as a complaint but rather a plain fact. For the last three weeks, I have been at school every day from 8:07 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. This past week, I have been jumping in more and teaching lessons out of our class anthologies.

A side note on that…I am not sure whether it is a feigned sense of management but things went smoothly with my lessons this week. Judging by their homework and participation, they understood the point of the lesson and there were no major behavior disruptions. So, that is a positive start 🙂

But returning to my main point, I will submit to anyone out there that teaching is one of the more exhausting jobs someone could have. Teachers are constantly on their feet, moving about the classroom to help students, planning, and speaking all day long. Generally, you have 50 different threads to pull each day in addition to managing students. At the end of each day, my brain is ready to log off for the night.

This last week especially has been a small taste of my future and from what I gather from more senior colleagues- I am basically going to be tired for my first three years of teaching.

So with all this in mind, a small yet important lesson of teaching is that health is PARAMOUNT. As a teacher, it would be very easy to be lazy and get run down but that is the last thing you would want to happen. Therefore, making sure you stay healthy–both mentally and physically– is crucial.

For instance, I make a concerted effort to get enough sleep each night, drink 2L of water each day, pack healthy lunches with lots of fruits and vegetables to keep up with essential nutrients, and workout every day. Whether it’s a cardio session at the gym, a trail run, a hike, or a walk, it makes a huge difference in reducing stress and energy levels. Mental health is a factor too and as a beginning/student teacher it’s very easy to become stressed and overwhelmed. To avoid this, I journal, read, or meditate daily–because despite everything else I still have to make time for me.

As I said, this is a small lesson but valuable to understand as I move towards my teaching career.

But in other news, it’s a three day weekend 🙂