ST Blog – SOLO TEACHING – Weeks 10&11

I did it… I made it through my two week solo teaching period!!!!! WOW ūüėÄ

What can I say – solo teaching is hard. I have been exhausted for the last two weeks. When I came home from my last day of the solo, I took a six hour nap… you could say I was tired.

Although I was only required to independently construct one unit, I took on the challenge of doing two, as the seventh and eighth grade curriculum differ.  For the seventh grade, we looked at economics, including economic basics (such as wants, needs, choices, consumers, and barter), economic systems, supply and demand,  entrepreneurship, and trade.  For the eighth grade, we looked at the origins and history of the Industrial Revolution (IR), IR technology, culture of the Gilded Age, and labor unions.

One of my biggest take-aways from my solo was the fact that I made countless changes to both of my units Рultimately I ended on completely different notes than I had originally planned.  This was a great experience, and totally realistic of what a teacher goes through.  It was cool to be able to make adjustments as I saw fit, according to how the students were receiving and reacting to the material.

I think that I was successful in creating engaging learning opportunities for students.  I diversified my instructional and assessment methods in order to attempt to meet the unique needs of individual learners, and of the needs of the different groups as a whole. I believe that I made the expectations clear and made myself and the material accessible for all students.

One area for growth is my classroom management strategies. ¬†My first week, I did not have to use much strict classroom management because the students were still getting used to me being the authority figure. ¬†However, the second week proved a bit more difficult as students grew more comfortable – they were trying to see how far they could push it with me. I admit that there were situations in which I could have been more firm, but often in those moments I found myself trying to concentrate on the rest of the class and not on the individual student causing the problem. ¬†Also, I had never seen my cooperating teacher send students to the office before, so although I knew that was an option I had, I didn’t feel comfortable doing it myself.

Another area for improvement would be my timeliness in giving feedback to students.  I tried to keep up with grading assessments, but I found myself short of time everyday as I planned for the next. Although I reminded students multiple times of their assignments (and also had the responsibilities posted digitally and physically on the board), by the end of my solo there were a handful of students missing a lot of work.  If I had been more proactive after the first week to give that feedback, it likely would have been easier now for students to finish up the remaining work, with a lighter load.

I really enjoyed creating the assignments for students to complete. In almost all of my assignments for both grades, I created original assignments Рonly a couple times did I borrow lesson materials from online sources.  Although it made it a lot more work, it was a great way for me to not only engage in the content material, but also to make the learning personalized to the group of students who would be working on it.

It was an interesting experience to be the authority figure of the classroom.  For the first time, other faculty members had to speak with me, directly, instead of going to my cooperating teacher (who was hanging out in the library most of the time).  This gave me a more authentic glimpse into the field of colleagueship so critical to teaching.  I got to know some of my team teachers more personally, and supporting educators in my classroom (paras) worked with me to figure out what students needed.

A tough lesson that I learned, that I already knew but never had experienced, is that teaching is hard – there is nothing easy about it. ¬†It’s definitely a profession that requires passion, tough skin, flexibility, and the ability to keep your cool in unpredictable situations. ¬†It’s a job that keeps you up at night thinking about how you could improve, or how your student is doing, or what you’re going to plan for the next week. ¬†It’s a job that you need to love – if you don’t, you probably won’t think it’s worth it. But for those of us who do love it, we will treasure the moment when a student has a break through, the time a shy kid speaks up in class, and the moment when you learn from a student when they are “supposed” to be learning from you. ¬†Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher, and not everyone can just naturally be a great teacher – it takes a lot of work to perfect your craft. ¬†Years of experience, lots of self-reflection, collaborating with other educators, attending professional development sessions, and having the mindset that you can always improve – a lot goes into the profession. ¬†I’m thankful to have had this opportunity in the school that I’m at, and I can’t wait to have my own classroom someday.

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ST Blog – SOLO TEACHING – Weeks 10&11

ST Blog – Week 2

Some important resources:

This week I had a three day week. There was a snow day one day (YAY!) and then I had to miss a day for an out-of-state basketball game. ¬†One day I got to teach a lesson on Tinker v. Des Moines. The lesson went pretty well, and it had some great student discussion. ¬†I think it’s really important that students realize what rights they have in school, and how they differ (or don’t differ) from those that they have outside of school. ¬†My cooperating teacher and I used this court case to introduce student rights, and I think this case (one of the most important and memorable in this category) was a great one to start with. It was a situation that students could understand (especially with all of the current protests), and one that really got them thinking about their own lives – what can they wear to school? We also had a great conversation about what teachers could and couldn’t wear, and how our position of power changes our ability to express our opinions.

One day my cooperating teacher was out, so I took the lead on teaching, although I had a substitute teacher with me. ¬†I didn’t plan the day’s lessons myself, but taught what my cooperating teacher had organized. For the seventh grade group, we were continuing what we had been working on during the week, and it went really well. The eighth grade group did well too, aside from some students in one class who were talking over other students in our class discussion. ¬†The eighth graders were doing a lot of independent work, and many of them did a lot of good work.

Some thoughts I had during the week:

  • My cooperating teacher does such a good job of making connections in the moment that he might not have anticipated. ¬†There was a situation where a student asked a question that easily could have spiraled the conversation out of focus – but, my cooperating teacher kept his composure and handled the situation perfectly. I hope to have that “coolness” when I teach.
  • “Framing” – something to keep in mind is how you “frame” what students are about to do. ¬†It’s important to set the stage for the lesson by emphasizing key points of learning, relevance to “real life”, and the purpose of learning the material.
  • The first time you teach a lesson, it likely won’t be the best version – you can make adjustments for the 2nd (or 3rd, or 4th) time!
  • Making connections to the students’ lives is important – my example was showing students their own school’s dress code, and asking them what they think teachers can wear – or can’t wear – to school.
  • When absent, making an “overview video” – when my cooperating teacher was out, he made a short video for both classes where he went over what they would be doing for class. ¬†This was great because it not only let the students know of his expectations, but it gave me (and the sub) a better understanding of what was expected.
  • Inclusion – when I was leading a class discussion, I was able to incorporate a student with a disability (on the autism spectrum) that normally does not get to participate very much in class. The student’s para found an opportunity for her to join in on the discussion, and I was glad that I was able to call on her and have her be part of the class.

Teacher Meme of the Week:

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ST Blog – Week 2

ST Blog – Week 1

This weekly blog is intended for me to reflect on my experiences as I go through my semester of student teaching!

Some important resources I want to remember:

  • Culture Grams
  • Newsela
  • iCivics
  • Safeshare
  • Crisis of Nations
  • Quizlet live
  • Video: “Inside North Korea”¬†

During my first week I got to do some solo teaching, as my cooperating teacher was absent and there was no substitute. ¬†This also happened to fall on Inauguration Day, so I got to do a pretty cool lesson related to this historic event. ¬†The lesson went well, and the students were really excited about being able to watch live coverage of the inauguration. ¬†Although the timing didn’t exactly match up for them to be able to watch the oath of office and the inaugural address, they benefited from being able to see the Capitol building, seeing important figures that attended the inauguration (the Obamas, the Bidens, the Chief Justice, former presidents, the Speaker of the House, Bernie ūüôā ), and seeing what led up to or followed the inauguration – examples include the Trumps going to the White House to meet the Obamas, the motorcade, the prayer service, the choral performance, the luncheon, ¬†Trump signing his official recommendations for department heads, and the Obamas leaving in their helicopter. The only issue I had during this day was that my cooperating teacher left snacks for the students to enjoy during the live coverage, and each class left a huge mess of crumbs all over the room, despite being asked to pick up after themselves. This revealed to me a lack of respect for the classroom space, and it hopefully will be addressed in the beginning of this next week.

Some thoughts I had during this week:

  • Difference between the seventh and eighth graders – the seventh graders are much easier to work with and are more able to get through things on their own. The eighth graders do have some self-motivated high achievers, but a majority of students need to be directed regularly and are distracted by their fellow peers.
  • Staff at the school – super great. Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming and willing to lend a hand. ¬†Our team has some wonderful teachers too, and I have enjoyed getting to know them.
  • “Bringing it in” – I like how my cooperating teacher has students “bring it in” when he wants to talk with them. They bring their chairs to the front of the room and form a little circle. Here, he lets them know what is going to be going on during the class period, and he displays a slideshow on his board that students also have access to on their computers. ¬†He stressed that these little horseshoe discussions should be kept relatively short, so that students don’t lose focus or become bored. It’s also a great way to get them to focus without having their technology in front of them.
  • Politics – during inservice (my first day on the job) the principal made a point to say that if anyone is talking about the inauguration, we need to stay away from the politics (really put in a strong effort to avoid them) and just focus on the day itself. ¬†I agree with that to an extent, but personally this week I have had hard time with this. I know that as a teacher, it is not my job – or even really my right – to impart my political views onto students. ¬†However, with the issues that have been raised in this particular election, I could not help but cringe when I heard some of the things that students were saying (a great majority of the students, surprisingly, are Trump supporters). I kind of wish that I was allowed to have a discussion about the politics – not that the students are necessarily wrong in supporting Trump, but rather talking about the implications and possibilities of¬†his inauguration. ¬†In Singer’s “Social Studies for Secondary Schools”, he talks about how it IS important to get political… yet the principal of my school disagreed. Where is the line drawn, I wonder?


Teacher Meme of the Week:

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ST Blog – Week 1