Thursday, May 17, 2012

Too Much Rope?

                Had and interesting couple of weeks recently. Since the CSTs have been all completed, I have been focusing mostly on project-based activities for my students. One that I recently did, a CD Project that I got from my first CP, seemed like it would be a good fit. I changed things around for the project to fit in with the students, and I felt that things were going great. The final portion of the project was for the students to present what they had researched for the project. When the day came for one of my periods to present, it turns out that nearly half of the class was not prepared to present. I found this out through random assignment, picking the students from the roster at random. After hearing multiple students saying they weren’t ready to present, I asked the class as a whole who had completed their projects. When I saw that only half were fully prepared, I was a little disheartened. I had lectured my class about my expectations and the need to be prepared for the presentations multiple times. I suppose that, with the amount of time that I had given the students, maybe it was just enough rope for several of them to hang themselves with? Thankfully my other class that had done the project was more prepared, and I was spared having to talk to them about getting their acts together, since this project counted for so much.

Got a LOT of Student Excitement!

                 One of the closing plans I did with my world history class was to do a history vs Hollywood project. We picked a time period for the class, in this case WWII, and we learned about a specific event. I Chose the Battle of the Bulge, as it was something different from D-Day, which they had already learned about. We spent a portion of the class going over the historical notes of the battle, and then began watching an episode of Band of Brothers. It was very well received by the class, as they were all engaged by the film. We had a great closing discussion comparing history to Hollywood. Many of the students actually wanted to keep watching the series, and thought that it did an awesome job of presenting different portions of the war. They even wanted to keep doing this style of project, watching further episodes and comparing them to what actually happened in history. Definitely a good feeling that I created a fun lesson for them that they would want to continue to use to learn!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What’s in a Face?

One of the things that I have notice about my school site are the clocks. In the classrooms, there is a clock like in all classrooms. However, the thing that stands out for me is that they are all digital. Not one of them is a standard clock with hands pointing towards the hours and minutes. While this can be a bit of a blessing when checking the time really fast during instruction, I feel that it is also a loss. To me, the clocks being digital shows a loss of the skill of telling time from a normal clock. I know as a child, this was very important for the students to be able to do, and there were many a math lesson that was based around the telling of the time with a normal clock. Now, every student has a cell phone, and I don’t think that I have seen a single one without a digital clock on it. It seems to me that it is not important anymore for students to be able to tell time by actually looking at the hands on the clock or on a watch. I am not exactly sure how to think about this, but it just irks me in some way that I cannot quite explain.

 Working with Unique Personalities

                 To say that each teenager has their own personality would be a massive understatement. However, it is interesting when you have to place those personalities in the context of the classroom. I recently had a student who had shown themselves to be a really quick learner, and is pretty interested in the content material. However, he recently started to not do any work that required him to finish it at home. This had not really been an issue in the past, so I was curious to see what was happening with him. As he explained it, he was tired of being motivated by teachers, and felt that he could do everything at his own pace. He stated that he hated people telling him what to do, and that he understood everything that he was taught. It was an interesting conversation with him, with me feeling reassured that he ‘got’ the info, but also worried about his grade slipping since he wasn’t turning in his work. We were able to come to an interesting deal – I accept late work up to a point, with some of the score being deducted for it being late. I told that student that if he gets in what he is missing, then his overall grade would not suffer so much. The entire encounter was fairly eye-opening in learning to work with different students.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Conditions for Subs?

I know that there have been a lot of discussions going on between districts about what to do with substitute teachers. With the current economic situation, the market has been flooded with former teachers that are looking for sub jobs. Another issue that I have heard about is the level of training that substitutes should have before they can perform in the classroom. Some of the ideas that I have heard is that subs should have their full credentials before they can work in the classroom. Obviously this would work with the entire out of job teachers that are waiting for the opportunities to work in some districts. One of the experiences that I recently had had with a substitute pushed me to lean more towards these ideas. This particular substitute had been in charge of one of my Co-Teacher’s classes during a day where I wouldn’t be in that class till 6th period. My initial introduction to this sub was definitely “what is this person doing in the classroom?” and then immediately followed by “I wonder how the previous classes did with this person in charge?” See, this substitute sure did like to talk, and about anything, and would jump through so many tangents that it was hard to follow what the initial conversation was about.

Thankfully, i was able to busy myself with getting everything set up for the class that was just about to begin, and once the bell rang I put the substitute to the side of my mind while I focused on teaching. Once the class was over however, I got to have some interesting conversations with the substitute as well left the classroom. The next day is when I got to speak with my Co-teacher and learn about the experiences. Lesson plans were not followed, similar crazy discussions were had between the sub and the students, and now my Co-Teacher had to work with several classes that were behind with the ones that I was teaching. It was also interesting to learn that the sub, and older woman, had never actually been a teacher in a regular classroom.  So yes, after these experiences, I think I might be jumping on the bandwagon of having stronger regulation of who can and cannot be a substitute.

Turning a Bust Into a Boom

                Had an interesting experience in my class that did not go as well as I would have liked. I gave an opportunity for my students to earn a little extra credit before the end of the grading period. However, I only really planned on several students wanting to volunteer to present these small posters that the students had as an assignment. As it turned out, many of the students wanted to present, and I was pretty worried about timing for the rest of the class. It took me a moment to figure something out, but I could tell that some damage was already done since I said that not everyone would get a chance to present. Some students said that it wouldn’t be fair if some couldn’t present if they wanted to.  What I came up with was to have some people present their posters at the front of the class, while students could support them by adding details from their own posters.

                Now I know that part of the process of teaching is to figure out what works between classes, especially if what you tried the first time fails. Thankfully I had a full day between that class during one period and then the other class during a different period. I was able to reflect on what did and didn’t work. I saw that it would be better to use random picking, where the students could present, while having their peers support them with extra information. This made things run a lot smoother during the second class, and I am glad that I am developing that set of skills.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Planning with the CSTs
            Interesting situation that I have myself with CPII beginning. I have two Cooperating Teachers, each with their own particular teaching style, as in how they handle instruction, activities, set up, and even room organization. For one teacher, I have one of their sections of World History, and for the other I have two sections of US History. It has been interesting putting together a separate plan between these two individuals, as well as laying out how I will be interacting with the students now that I am there full time. For one Co-Teacher, it seems like it will be a smoother transition, with the two of taking different areas of responsibility and instruction in the class, with a slower take over once the CSTs have  been completed. The other classes, my US ones, I am pretty much diving into right away. The Co-Teacher and I have already developed a plan for at least the next couple of weeks leading up to spring break, and the CSTs soon after.
            I suppose that was one of the things that surprised me the most when I was first planning with my Co-Teachers; that the department primarily tries to complete their normal content instruction leading up to the CSTs. I see the merit in this, with the students being given at least some knowledge on every subject that the testing might cover. After the testing has been completed, the teacher will complete whatever normal instruction needs to be done that was not covered before the CST. After this period, the teacher usually have many project-based learning assignments. In this case, the teacher will give an option for an area of study, whether a previous unit or maybe a focus on a specific continent, and then there will be a unit developed. These units will be very project based, to give the students a chance to relax some and have fun before the year ends.
            However, I can't help but see some of the stress that would come with trying to complete the instruction before the CSTs. It is obvious right now that there are many teachers at different levels of completion, with some further ahead than others and able to complete their units leading up to the standardized tests. Others are not so fortunate, and are trying to cut some of their units short and barely glance over the information, just so that students were able to see it.
            Thankfully, my classes are in a pretty good place, and there is only a little bit of rushing that might need to be done before the students head off to spring break and then to testing a week after they get back. I am still planning for some short units, but I will cover the material as best I can...good thing the school has block periods so I have some extra instructional time to get the info to the kids and assess their comprehension.