Monthly Archives: November 2012

building a classroom

I’m going to skip right to the point, the following is just a (pinterest free) list of ideas/necessities for building a classroom. Comment and add, please!

  • Supplies area
  • Schedule (daily, monthly, yearly, modifiable)
  • Desks (table groups)
  • Subject “wallpaper” as follows:
  1. Math – big ideas, academic language, examples/problems
  2. Literacy – books/authors, genres
  3. Science – experiments, current science topics
  4. Social Studies – artifacts, current events
  • Discipline (how to solve problems, class motto, community, notes)
  • What to do when finished with work (activities either class/teacher generated)
  • Places to sit during silent reading (variable locations temporary)
  • Meeting area (rug?)
  • Attendance/behavior (slots, sticks, techno)
  • Books/library
  • Teacher supplies/desk
  • Technology – computers, laptops, etc.
  • Student work (art/written with clips to change it weekly/monthly)
  • Number line
  • Places for backpacks/instruments/lunch
  • Current objectives
  • Safety kit
  • Water/sink
  • Bathroom pass (rubber chicken??)
  • Multiple work areas (drafting table, low table)
  • Multiple chairs (bouncy, soft, solid, spinning)
  • Super Nintendo (The kids will have been born a decade after it was released…)
  • Music (pandora?)
  • Creative spaces to work

And other things too! It’s been good looking at a variety of classrooms to get some ideas.

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parent teacher student

The students aren’t just students. Though I reflected that education should be thought of as life itself, there’s still life outside of education.

The biggest part of that life outside of education is parents. I finally had a chance to meet with parents for the (somewhat intimidating) parent-teacher conferences. Fortunately, my master (cooperating, etc.) teacher had a great idea to include the students at these meetings. Unfortunately, few students came, but the parents were there with a list of questions.

I have no doubt in my mind that the parents want what’s best for the kids – and they want a great education for them. They also want great grades. And grades are something that needs to be very clear, else it becomes a match of lawyers.

Students, parents, and teachers need to have close communication and constant clear communication for education to go beyond what’s happening in the classroom.

A constant thing I hear from parents is that their children are the exact opposite of how they are in class. I’m not sure why that is, but I have some theories. Maybe if more parents observed or helped in the classroom they can see how their kids and other kids interact. After all, it takes a village to raise a child.

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“I believe that life in school must be thought of as life itself, not simply preparation for later life.” – Ayers, To Teach

 

I keep getting up in all this preparation, the training, the observing, the practicing but I have been forgetting something. There are those eternal questions, the questions that fill those late nights that seem to happen only sporadically.

 

I remember talking until dawn on countless occasions, filling the air with conversations on science and philosophy, existentialism and existence, determinism and free will. Some of the questions might seem pointless as I grow a little older every day, but they aren’t.

 

Those kind of conversations – the conversations that delve into what’s really real, what’s really important, what’s really happening and why – are so vital to the human experience. Education, that word alone carries a weight above the world. What is it? Why do we need it? What is progress? Are we better off than we were before?

 

I remember a story my dad told me when I was younger. I thought it was stupid at the time, but it has really got me thinking recently – A poor fisherman goes out fishing and meets a man who teaches him how he can pack some fish to sell. Later he tells him that with a new net and a new method he can catch even more fish and open up a shop. Eventually he can hire people to fish, pack and ship the fish. He can hire boats and crews to fish. The process is very efficient, the fisherman becomes very rich and operates his business from the city. “Now what?” asks the fisherman. The man tells him that he can retire and find a cottage and go fishing at his leisure.

 

The story didn’t make sense to me when I was young. I thought that being rich – having things was all that mattered. But I grow older everyday. I watch that a year has passed in only a moment. I went from repairing printers to married and on my way to becoming a teacher. When did this happen? How did this happen?

 

Many times I’m in class and wondering what I’m going to do next. Or I’m out of class and planning for the next moment. Everything is always in motion. There are a million things going on at once.

 

 

I look at my students, diverse in ideas, culture, and personality. I don’t want to sell them on a false future. I want them to fall in love with learning – because that’s what life is about. We listen to each other, we learn from each other, we find each other and we find the world we’re living in a new world. A world to go fishing. If you like to fish.

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Only you know what to do

Being a teacher is hard work. You’ll work evenings, nights and weekends. The time with the students is too little, the time is too little, the circumstances are too large and energy is something that mostly the students have (sugar + caffeine is a PED that’s necessity in ed).

 

Which brings me to this, an article from Education Week about staying sane as a teacher. I came up to one of the last lines after reading through the advice — “Only you know what to do.” Advice is tricky as so many people (me included) are set in their ways. There is a difference between teaching and advising (the latter is for the counselors, the former, well…).

 

The advice in the article is grounded in experience. But one person’s experience is different from another – and so it goes. A lot of what I have been learning in my education program  stresses student data and connecting with other teachers, but the other two points are little more salient.

 

I once imagined myself, as the author did, going into a school akin to Beirut in the ’70s or Detroit now and being this amazing teacher and changing the world there. I could do that, or I could just teach whatever students I end up with. It doesn’t matter who they are or where they come from, every student, rich or poor, needs the best chance to succeed. I can still make a difference anywhere I go and hopefully make the world a better place.

 

And on the last point – enjoy being young. I am still young(ish), but I am married now, and within a few years a few kids. I have always found time in the past to enjoy life, even now with school, and school, and school, I still find joy in the little things. I have the energy now to be in an environment that requires that energy (though it will take the aforementioned coffee).

 

Note: This is probably my most disorganized blog post. But this is a blog, so, yeah.

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by the book

I was teaching another math lesson – being a substitute of sorts for the day. Simple enough, just do what’s in the book. It’ll make things easier.

 

Lesson books are dry – even when they have voice (still trying to figure that out, perhaps another topic). Somehow I have to say the words that the book says and the kids will (magically) say what the book says they will respond. There also be several moments to tell them to be quiet, and not very much time for them try and formulate what you’re trying to say. I don’t have a problem with direct instruction – and I’m not more experienced as a teacher than the writers of lesson books or curriculum, but I have instinct, and I have some training.

 

Instinct took over. The lesson seemed to go better. Just start teaching! (I thought) We started exploring several things at once, after all, this was the culminating topic of the unit. And we were on a roll. Then time nearly ran out, and we hit a snag. I wasn’t able to explore the final part – perhaps the most integral part of the topic. Everything else was going smoothly. I had flow and the students were responding. Everyone was talking, thinking, and learning. But I ran out of time.

 

I didn’t follow the sequence. I didn’t do the steps. I didn’t follow the timeline. Response here and response there. But they learned something. But I missed something. I didn’t prepare for this lesson, and thus didn’t see (or didn’t know) what would be the most challenging part – at the end.

 

Is it time to follow the book? Is it time to plan? Stepping in for the moment in someone else’s classroom, there might not be a choice. But there might still be room to make it my own.

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