hard work

It seems that the last few quarters were tough, mentally and physically. There were long hours, long drives, homework, schoolwork, work, work, but that was just the beginning. The work is only going to ramp up.

 

Looking at the base requirements for my teaching certification, I don’t need to do as much as I might have thought. I know the minimum isn’t going to cut it. I need to go above and beyond. It’s time to drink the coffee, espresso, soda, whatever to keep me going.

 

I need to start teaching more and establish myself in the classroom as a teacher, not a student teacher. It’s been a struggle with the inconsistencies of being back, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I need to be proactive and plan more.

 

I want to teach all day consecutively for a week. I haven’t done that since Korea, but the stakes are higher here, as there are more subjects to teach.

 

Since being back, I have done some observing and circulating around, but I need get out of the backseat. It’ll be a long climb up, but I have to do it.

 

Just this last week, I was doing a mini math lesson, and it was too much fun. As much work as it takes to be a teacher (and a new one at that), there is still so much joy. It’s so rare to find a job so creative, fulfilling, difficult, fresh and exciting.

 

It’s time to (insert metaphor here) and become a great teacher!

Tagged ,

a little too inquerious

My main placement teacher had a great idea for a lesson – give some students some primary resources and have the students be historians and do history! Great!

I planned the lesson well enough, spent a few hours looking for good sources over at the library of congress, worked up a lesson plan with multiple forms of assessment, differentiated instruction, and all that jazz. It was only going to be a short lesson, 30 minutes. I’d talk for 5 minutes, and let them go.

Sometimes, reality doesn’t match my imagination. I should have taken a picture of the exit slips (and their work for that matter) I had them do. Several students said it was the “worst lesson ever.”

The lesson started well enough, we did a preassessment of primary sources, what they’re used for, what a historian does, etc. They understood that. But then I told them they would be historians, and they’d need to construct and interpret items to make a visual representation of a historical event while answering the big idea and unanswered questions while looking for multiple perspectives… (OK, that was a run on sentence. The lesson was thirty minutes, with five minutes of talking and a lot of answering questions. The point is, I don’t think some college kids could do the assignment. Either I was too vague, or something else. And here I am, chattering away in these parentheses.)

Part of me thinks the students don’t think of me as the teacher yet. I need to establish that ASAP. It’s hard as a student teacher, because I have to defer so much, but it is possible.

Secondly, I could have planned the lesson better, predicted the questions they’d have. Though I did want the assignment ambiguous. I succeeded at that.

Thirdly, this was a tough lesson. It was just plain tough. A few students said they could have used more time. They needed to know directly what to do. A few students tore up their primary sources. Some hated the lesson. But the worst response I got by far was: “I don’t have an imagination.”

Tagged , , ,

on blogging

Informal blogging (writing), commenting, and connecting with other bloggers (people) has changed dramatically.

 

For those careful readers, it’s no surprise that this blog started for school as a requirement. The purpose of requirements on something like a blog is so that you learn its value. But that sounds like mandatory volunteering. Still, sometimes (definitely not all the time) certain requirements do turn out to become hobbies or a part of function to be human.

 

I like writing – even love it – but blogging was never my forte. Either I’d put too much thought in a post (that maybe 2 people would read) but burn out, or just never put any ideas down because they weren’t good enough. I think I have found a happy medium. I opened up my blog this quarter to the general public (and have got likes!) after I noticed that my posts weren’t just for “school.” My posts had some relevance to the greater community of pedagogical thinking.

 

Keeping my blog focused on education has allowed me to always be thinking about what to write. I take notes when in my placements and in class or simply just talk to other people. It allows me to formulate some ideas before sitting down and blindly typing whatever pops into my mind, like this post. I think my blog posts have been getting better over time, though every once in awhile the ideas just aren’t there. But that’s the great thing about blogging – getting ideas out (though you have to find that happy medium, I think 1 to 2 posts a week is that).

 

Recently, I have been getting a lot of comments. Part of that, is I keep the posts short, but not too short. 250 – 700 words seems good. Any less or more the post might be passed because there isn’t enough thought, or it rambles or turns into an essay. Keeping the topic short, and the idea clear and open seems to also work well. These two posts demonstrate that: A tale of two schools and finding the time.

 

A lot of comments on other blogs have been within the cohort, though I check the blogs on my blogroll periodically (reader) and try to stay informed. There is a lot of information out there. The river analogy is good, you just fill up a little as the river keeps flowing. There are a lot of good ideas, posts and blogs out there. I think starting with a little community already will help my blogging to grow. The responses within the cohort look like they are not only reading my comments, but responding to the comments as well, such as here.

 

I know I’ll keep growing as a blogger as this year pans out. It’s useful just to have a shared space to keep in contact with others going through something similar. It’s also a great way to build up ideas in a non academic setting. PHD’s aren’t the only people doing research. Sometimes research is looking at a new piece of research, and trying it out. Sometimes it’s reaching a challenging student in a new way. Either way, blogging is useful stuff – even when it’s a requirement.

Tagged , ,

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.

Tagged , , ,

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.

Tagged , ,

 

“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.

Tagged , ,

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.

Tagged , ,

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.

Tagged ,

finding the time

Somehow time really flies in schools. I was told “there’s always enough time for what’s important,” but I’m beginning to think there’s “there’s never enough time to scratch the surface.”

 

There’s a debate (somewhere) about whether we want to cover more ground (broad) or less but more solidly (depth). It appears that in schools, it’s often not that much content and not very in depth. There’s about four hours or real learning time in a school day, subtracting for lunch, recess and other specialists (there’s learning there).

 

Sometimes you want to explore a subject more deeply – but then time runs out. Math and reading/writing take an insurmountable amount of time – and they’re required for good reason, but even in those subjects, time is fleeting. With standards and test looming, it’s up to teachers to cover everything the best they can, but that can be to the detriment to real learning. Sometimes there are things that the students are on the cusp of learning, but need some real world hands on experience. Sometimes they get that – but usually at the expense of something else that would be invaluable.

 

So, maybe we can mix every subject at once. Math with social studies, science with art, technology with writing. But’s it’s never enough time. But that’s more down to the fate of being human. I don’t know if I’ll have time to learn five languages, live all over the world, become the world’s greatest teacher, chef, writer, husband – and someday father, and open an awesome sandwich shop. I’ll just have to make time for the important stuff. Sometimes that’s everything.

Tagged ,

evaluating teachers

It seems that there is another swing in education toward teacher evaluation, as I caught up it in the NY Times.

 

One person put it succinctly: “Are they going to be giving us true feedback?” she asked. “Or are they just going to be filling out a form?”

 

I think that really sums up my feelings. When I heard about the TPA (postponed indefinitely), I was worried about the test for many reasons, but a big portion of it is how they’re doing it, and how I can use that information. It’s the same with standardized testing. There could be a lot more use out if it than evaluating teachers/schools. What about a test that we can use to gauge where students are at the start of the year, something valid for teachers and students.

 

It’s the same for teachers. Is it just going to be a checklist? What do all the prompts mean? How can an evaluation be truly objective? I honestly think most teachers want to be better teachers. And evaluations, if done right, could work just for that purpose. But it won’t be an easy or cheap (in time or money) to properly evaluate teachers to make them better, and live up to the professional standard for which we all strive.

Tagged ,