Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Coin Wars, Nothing But Coin Wars, All Of The Time...

Good day to you!

Today was a pretty fair day. We had a squashed schedule because of a speech contest in the afternoon, so I had to adjust a little for that, but it wasn’t too bad.

I got into school early this morning because I volunteered to help with Math Counts. It will be every Tuesday and Thursday morning before school starts. This morning, we only had one student come, but I think that may be from a lack of advertising. And it was ended a little abruptly as the one student who was there was sick and went back home. So it was an interesting start to the day.

Homeroom was annoying because this week we have a Coin War going on. Students bring in change to raise money to bring in new technology into the school. And there’s a whole competition with it. Well, each class gets 3 minutes to get their change and distribute it the way they want to, while music is played over the PA system. That’s what is really annoying because it’s hard to help students that are coming in for help. So homeroom was basically lost to me.

For classes, I gave the students some review notes on the commonly missed topics on the pre-algebra test. When the students were done taking down the notes, I passed them back their tests so they could make corrections for half credit back. But since all the classes were shortened, I will need to find more time for the students to be able to finish making their corrections. Because I don’t have enough things to get done with the students, we’ll just add this to the list.

After lunch we went down to the theater for the speech competition, which was interesting. Students had been working on memorizing and reciting speeches and they had to give them in front of the entire team. Most of them were okay, since most middle school students are too nervous to do a really good job. However, a few really stood out and one nearly made me need to leave the room because I was about to burst out in laughter.

On another note, I’ve found a job opening in a school district that’s about an hour away from where I am now. Asking around, I hear that it can be a fairly nice district. It’s hard to find jobs in the district because the turnover rate is very low. So, I will be putting in an application there! Hopefully all will be well!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and the Unnaturally Long Workday


So, it's been about a month since I've posted last. And that would be because I'm horrible at keeping up with daily things. Maybe not the best thing for a teacher, but I'm getting better. So, this will be a renewed attempt at keeping both this blog and my daily log up to date! And now, on with the show...

Today was such a crazy day! There seemed to be so many different interruptions that I feel like I got very little accomplished.

I got to school at about 7am, which is really early for me. I’m usually not getting in until about 7:30. But can I tell you what I got done in that extra time? No I could not! I have no idea where that extra 30 minutes went. I don’t feel like I got anything different done in that time that what I usually get done when I come in in the morning.
Homeroom seemed crazy because I felt like there were too many people in my space. My co-op was trying to get some things done with her Yearbook helpers and we all seemed to be getting in each other’s way. I got everything I wanted to done, but it seemed much more annoying than it usually is.

During class, I gave the students a work day. I put up a list of everything that the students could work on, which was mostly finishing up some assignments that they weren’t able to finish previously. The only time that I got really agitated with the students was when they decided to not use the format for classwork that has been clearly laid out for them. I had ever put up an example of how I wanted the work to look on the board and they still managed to neglect what I wanted them to do. And then some students just didn’t understand how I wanted them to do the assignment even after seeing the example on the board.

During second period, because the students left for their elective classes, some electrical workers came into the room to run the wires and such through the ceiling so the smart board projector could be mounted. This would have all been fine had they not insisted on starting while I was still teaching. So while I was in the middle of teaching, I had to put up with drilling, hammering, sawing and all manner of interrupting noises. My co-op told me that it was best to let them get the work done while they were actually there because it could be months before they would get back around to us. Now that’s all fine and dandy, but I really would have appreciated some sort of notice that they would be coming in. Maybe if they had called Friday and let us know they were coming. Or even if the office called the room and told us they were here and coming down to the room. But I was completely taken aback by these men just showing up and expecting me to work around them! Needless to say, I was not a happy person.

After school, I had a conference with the parents of a child who has been having a fairly hard time of adjusting to the 7th grade. At first he was just a very slow worker, but he progressed into a very disorganized and disheveled student. There were times where he would just be so unorganized that he would completely miss a topic because he was off in his own world. And his mother is another teacher in the district and expected us to really bend over backwards to make sure her student wasn’t going to get a bad grade. Now, I can understand that thinking, but when she basically (an I am paraphrasing here) told me that I should quiz her son to test his understanding of a subject before I give him a quiz, I almost lost it. Eventually, we got down to what could best be done to help him, and he has been getting better and is a little more well-adjusted.

So when all was said and done, I was in the school from 7am until 5pm. If I didn’t love what I do so much, I’d be furious! That all I'll write for now. Tomorrow I'll let you know a little about a potential job that I've found!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Full Monty!

Greetings and salutations!

This has been a pretty great week! On Monday I picked up my first class and on Wednesday I picked up the rest of them! That's a bit faster than usual, but you'll see what happened.

My co-op and I decided that it would probably be best to start by picking up the last block of the day. In doing this, I would be able to watch my co-op teach the first two blocks and see how to teach that day's subject. So, I made my lesson plan and my co-op decided to go with what I had planned instead of coming up with examples of her own. This worked really well as I was able to see what worked in my lesson and what didn't. Basically, I was able to evaluate the lesson before I even got to teach it.

Needless to say, the lesson went very well when I taught it. If you're curious, the lesson was on creating box and whisker plots. It was also preceded by a mini-lesson on multiplying decimals. The students were really receptive to my teaching and the material and they seemed to understand the material, considering there was a fair amount that we went over.

Tuesday was also a good class, though a bit harder. We were covering stem and leaf plots, which aren't really hard, but the third block was interrupted by the football players being excused to leave for their game and then again by afternoon announcements. So, I had to rearrange my lesson so I could make sure that the football students got the homework that they needed and instructions to call a friend in the class to catch up as best they could.

Also, a student came up to me before lunch time and asked me to sit down and help her with box and whisker plots, which she said she was having a hard time understanding. I was shocked that 1) a middle school student was admitting they needed help, and 2) that she came and asked me and not my co-op, who was still teaching her block at the time. So, I told the student to come see me at lunch, as there really wasn't any other time that I could stay and help her. She never came to find me. I guess she wasn't looking for help that badly.

Tuesday night was our rescheduled co-op dinner/Pinning Ceremony. It was a fairly standard dinner. The food was okay. The pinning ceremony wasn't really formal at all since there were only two of us. After dinner, our supervisor told us that she would probably be coming in the next day (Wednesday) to make a formal observation. I told her that I would be taking on the first block as well as the third block. She has our schedule, so there was no need to clarify times.

For Wednesday, I had a quiz planned, followed by some instruction on bar and line graphs. First block went off fairly well. The only real issue that I encountered was that the graphs that I had made on an overhead for the students to include in their notes was too small to see. So I had to describe the graph to them, which took a little more time than I had planned on. I just adjusted the lesson a little bit according to the time that I had left. Then, during second block, my supervisor showed up as the students were taking their quiz. I was a bit baffled as to why she didn't show up during one of the times that she knew I would be teaching.

So, my co-op and I re-planned a little bit. After the students came back from lunch, I picked up the instruction of the second block so my supervisor would be able to see me teach sooner and not have to wait around very long. I fixed the problem of my graphs being too small during lunch by remaking them on the overhead to be bigger. This lead to me having to just read out the questions to the students in more of a discussion style. Apparently, this worked out to my advantage as my supervisor was able to comment on the fact that I had a very good classroom presence and I had the right volume, wait time, etc.

After she left, my co-op asked me if I wanted to finish the day off like I normally would have. I said yes, figuring that it would be best to keep the students with a consistent teacher. So I finished off the day as my first day of a full load!

Thursday I had planned an activity for the students to do with scatter plots. I started off the class with a discussion on scatter plots and was pleasantly surprised that the students were able to guess what scatter plots were with decent accuracy. Then we began the activity. The first block was unable to finish the whole thing, so I assigned a part of what was left for homework and told the students that we would be able to finish what was left after that in class the next day.

My co-op then asked me if I wanted her to take the second block or if I just wanted to keep on going. I chose to keep teaching. I figured I might as well. The second block was pretty rowdy during the discussion part of the lesson. In response, my co-op told me that I should tell them that if they didn't turn around their behavior, they would be doing some independent work instead of the activity. So before they left for lunch, I fussed at them, to use the Southern phrase. I must have gotten through to them because when they came back, they were perfectly behaved during the activity and weren't even that loud in groups. They must have been a little shocked that they managed to get the student teacher to fuss at them.

The third block was better behaved than the second block had started out. They were probably the group that was able to get the farthest with their activity, so they had the least amount to work on at home. Overall, the day went pretty well.

For Friday, I had come up with another activity for the students to do that would give them a good idea of what sampling is and how well it works. They were to go "fishing" in ponds (paper bags) that were full of tagged fish (pretzel Goldfish) and untagged fish (cheddar Goldfish). They took 10 fish and recorded the number of each type. They did this for 10 trials and then found their experimental percentages. When they were finished, I gave them the actual percentages and they were to write a summary of what they learned about sampling. Overall, the activity went very well.

Over the weekend, I've been planning out the last two topics for this unit. I've also been thinking about how I want to work out the day of review that we will have before the test on Thursday. Friday will be up in the air, as I was supposed to have class with my supervisor but she changed the date. So now we can switch things up a little bit. That's pretty much everything I've got for now!

Sincerely Yours,
The Tenderfoot Teacher

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Following the White Rabbit...?

Good Evening!

Well, things have certainly been interesting lately, I can tell you that!

Friday, my co-op was going away for a wedding, so class was basically left to me to handle. Now, because of college rules, I need a certified teaching in the room with me, so there was a substitute. But my co-op basically told me that what I said went. I wasn't too nervous though.

All we did was go down to the computer lab and we started a benchmark test on the software that the school uses. The catch (because when isn't there a catch?) was getting the students to follow the directions that I gave. Since the test would take two class periods, I instructed the students to click the link at the top that said "Save Test To Continue Later" as opposed to the link that said "Turn In Test." I made sure that all eyes were on me and there was silence as I gave these directions. Upon returning to class on Tuesday, there were at least three or four students in each class that clicked the wrong link.

The test was what we call "calculator inactive," meaning no calculators. The test made this very clear in its directions, and I reiterated this item of information. However, every few minutes, a student would raise their hand to ask if they could get a calculator. Also, I knew that there would be some students in every class that would finish the test early. So I gave explicit directions that if they finished early, they should take out a book and read, which is what we always do in class anyway. Of course, there were some students who still didn't know what to do and sat there with vacant expressions until I finally clued them in.

But all in all, the day went well and everyone walked away whole and intact.

Moving on to Tuesday, we had a co-op dinner/pinning ceremony. Apparently my college decided that student teaching is such a big step that there needs to be a ceremony as a formal beginning to the semester. Well, our was a bit later than usual, due to timing issues for our college supervisor. So, last night, we are all waiting in the room at the restaurant waiting for the supervisor to arrive. Well, we waited for half an hour before we decided she wasn't showing up.

When I got back home, I e-mailed her asking what had happened, hoping that nothing bad had happened. Well, I got a call a little while later from her. She said that there was so much going on that she completely forgot. Now, I'm not the best at remembering things, and I've forgotten about plenty of things, but nothing this big. But I do understand that shit happens and I forgive and move on. But it was another thing for our co-ops. Both left families at home and took time to come out for us, and they felt that it was rather rude.

Today, during my planning period, our supervisor showed up, very apologetic. We're in the process of rescheduling, so we'll see what happens there.

While visiting, we got onto the topic of game duty with my supervisor. She agrees with my co-op and I that I shouldn't be off doing anything by myself. I am supposed to follow my co-op and do what she does. So she decided to talk with the principal about the assistant principal's attitude towards what we were there for. It was decided that I will still do this game duty tomorrow, but I will have a walkie-talkie that I can use to ask questions of the assistant principal should I need anything.

In talking with my roommate's co-op later, the assistant principal had been speaking with him about this afterwards. He was offended that the college would come in and tell him what he can and can't do with the student teachers in the school, claiming that the other college's in the area are fine with student teachers doing game duty. He also expressed the feeling that if that was how the college was going to act, then it might be better if the school didn't take student teachers from my college any more.

Let's talk about over reacting! But I'll just take the punches as they come and do my best to remember that I'm here for the students, not the administration.

Until next time!
The Tenderfoot Teacher

Monday, August 30, 2010

Because Teaching is Never Just Teaching...


School is going wonderfully! The students seem to be settling into their new routines. Now if only the teachers and administration could do the same!

Today's entry has two topics that are closely intertwined. And to begin the story, let us return to the first Friday during workdays.

It was the day of the faculty meeting. Tensions ran high in expectation of doom and gloom. Administrators paced nervously, trying to prepare themselves for teacher reactions. Teachers sat in tight groups, gossiping about their summers and sharing rumors of what they heard about the meeting. This was my first clue to one of today's topics.

Despite the pre-meeting apocalyptic feelings, the meeting was surprisingly pleasant. There was far less doom and gloom than was expected, and teachers' moods were quite high at the end of the day. The only snag in the meeting was when the assistant principal assumed control over the meeting. Suddenly the teachers' guards popped back into place. The change in mood was almost tangible.

In following conversations, I would find that many teachers did not approve of the assistant principal. The rumors I heard would lead one to believe that he was a stereotypical administrator: not recalling his days as a teacher and never considering the point of view of the teachers. Yet, I held my judgement.

Fast forward to this Thursday past, the second day of school. I was going over some warm up questions with the students and my co-op was doing work at her desk. With a brief knock at the door, in comes the assistant principal. He proceeds to discuss something with my co-op, but now my students are distracted by his nearly unannounced arrival. I eventually regain control of my students' attention. The assistant principal leaves and I notice a sour expression on my co-op's face.

During planning, my co-op explains that he wanted to let us know that he wants me to go on both the 7th grade field trip and 8th grade field trip. Now, I had been warned by my co-op on my first day at the school that someone would probably ask me if I would chaperone the 7th grade trip as there is usually a lack of male adults wanting to go. I had told her at the time that I would love to, but I needed to consult with my college supervisor as I did not know if I would be allowed or not. She said that was fine and that was the end of the conversation.

Well, now my co-op and I find that the assistant principal decided to call my supervisor himself and ask. I had not gotten a chance to talk with my supervisor about it, so she didn't have any idea about the field trips at all. Now, my co-op and I both feel that I should probably only go on one of the field trips, because I need to have as much time in the classroom as possible. Also, my co-op felt that the assistant principal was just trying to use me as a free chaperone, as I'm not a teacher. This situation is still working itself out.

Fast forward again to today. The principal decided to have a meeting with all of the 7th graders this morning, so my co-op and myself took our students down to the theater where the meeting would be held. All of the teachers sat in the back, where they could see the students. During the meeting, the assistant principal comes in and asks me to come with him. We walk to the entrance to the of the theater and he asks me if I would be willing to work the concession stand at one of the sports games next week and to work the gate for one of the games next month. Of course, I didn't want to say no to someone who is very much like my boss.

Upon returning to my seat at the meeting, my co-op asks me what that was about. I told her and she was not very happy. Apparently, teachers are only required to work one game per sports season. Again, to her, this was another attempt to use me as free labor. Now, she will be speaking with him about it, with a probable follow up with the principal and my supervisor.

So, I start to form my opinions of some of the administration that I haven't had much interaction with so far. I'm thinking that I don't particularly care for the assistant principal. And those are my own instincts, not the opinions of my co-op. I will try to always give the benefit of the doubt to anyone, especially when other people don't have high opinions of a certain person.

And through this all, I couldn't help but notice how my co-op and the other teachers in the school seemed to take on the characteristics of the students they taught. The teachers seem very prone to gossip. Also, there is a certain tendency towards the dramatic. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is very interesting to me to see how the work environment really manifests itself within the teachers.

Despite all the drama, I continue to keep my overall goal in mind: keeping the students' best interests at heart. Past college experiences have given plenty of experience in dealing with people that I don't necessarily like, or with excessive drama. I'll take things in stride and keep moving forward!

The Tenderfoot Teacher

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The First Day of School!

Hullo there!

Today was the first day of school for the students. And it went fantastically! I had such a great day that I have reaffirmed my desire to be a teacher.

First up, was homeroom. All we really had to do was get the students into alphabetically order so we can start to learn their names. Then we passed out a LOT of paperwork. We went over what homeroom expectations were going to be and soon enough, students were off to their first class.

Just so everyone doesn't get confused, our school is on one of the weirdest schedules I have ever seen. The day is broken down into eight periods (at least I'm pretty sure it's eight). But the major academic classes are in block scheduling. Then the spare periods are left for electives and lunch. It was very confusing to me at first, but it's not too bad.

So, first class. We arranged the students and then had to work our some locker stuff, which are assigned by first class and not homeroom. Then we proceeded to lay out some of the classroom rules and expectations. Next, it was time to get into some math! My co-op placed me in charge of doing warm ups. For our class, our warm ups are all basic skills that the students need to be able to do without a calculator, so they are prepared for their end of grade test. So, I got the students all set up with their warm up calendars that the 7th grade math teachers decided to use. After they finished, we collected them and then went over the problems. It was interesting to see how rusty the students multiplying and dividing skills were after a summer. Following that, we started a diagnostic test (AKA a pre-test). There wasn't enough time to finish, so that will be on tomorrow's agenda.

We covered the same things in the second class, but it was very different for me. The way that the schedule was split up, we have class for a period of time, then they go to their elective classes, while we have our planning period. Then they come back to us for a while, and then break again for lunch. Finally, they come back to us for one last time. It was so convoluted. But we are going to rotate our schedule weekly, so it's not the same group of students that has a broken up class like that all of the time.

During our planning period, the returning 7th grade teachers made the new 7th grade teachers lunch, which was extremely nice of them. We sat down and ate in the workroom and then did some scheduling for the computer lab. For lunch, we go down to the cafeteria with the students and watch them to make sure that they are perfectly well behaved angels.

Finally, the third and final class of the day arrived. We did the same things with them and there were no problems.

What I did find today, is that teachers down South are able to say things that most teachers in the North wouldn't be able to get away with. Some things are just more acceptable to say to students. I guess it's just another culture shock for me. My co-op is very sarcastic when talking with the students, which is interesting because the students are only just starting to learn the subtle nuances of sarcasm. Most of the time, it went completely over their heads. That is going to be fun and interesting this semester!

But at the end of the day, I looked back and realized that there wasn't a point in the day where I was nervous about anything. I take that to be a combination of the experiences that I've already had teaching and that I am naturally made to be a teacher. The classroom seems to be an environment that I can thrive in. Helping people learn something new or reinforcing something old is something that I like to do and find fun.

I hope that the rest of the school year is just as fun and exciting as today was!

The Tenderfoot Teacher

Monday, August 23, 2010

Open House, AKA hours of sitting on your ass!


Well, after a relaxing weekend, I woke up this morning with a feeling of excitement and apprehension. Yes, today was open house, where parents bring their students in to get their schedules and meeting their teachers. If there's one thing that every new teacher is cautioned of, it is the parents.

The morning went smoothly, as open house didn't start until 12:30. I did a little more bulletin board work, put up some posters (that didn't want to stay up), and had a planning meeting with the other 7th grade math teachers to create a pacing guide. Then, lunch was provided for us.

Finally the hour arrived. Parents were beginning to arrive.

Previously, my co-op and I decided that we would introduce me as "another teacher" in the class room, and not as a student teacher. We will be teaching gifted students and my co-op explained to me the mind set of the parents of gifted students. According to them, any problems the child has are because of the teacher, never because of the student. And as far as these parents are concerned, student teachers would just mess everything up further.

Well, needless to say, I thought this might be a bit of an exaggeration. And for a while, it seemed as though I was right. Parents came and went and were more than happy to meet me and my co-op without any questions. Some even surmised that I was a student teacher and wished me luck.

Then, one mother came along. We gave her the usual introduction, and she looked at me and said something to the effect of "Oh, a student teacher??" with somewhat a nasty tone. Not wanting to lie to a parent, I told her yes I was. Her reply: "Oh. Great." She then proceeded to look at me like I was something she found on the bottom of her shoe. So, one parent already hates me, and everything will be my fault.

But the team that I am teaching in all said not to worry about it. Some of them had interactions with this particular parents before and they said she just likes to make waves. Even the principal was supportive and told me to come to her if I was having any issues with this particular parent.

Other than that, open house was much better than I was expecting. Of course, I got a little tired of sitting there for 6 hours without really doing much. But meeting the parents was much better than I figured it would be. Seeing some of the students and parents was definitely a little more eye-opening to the new culture I'm in. I saw a few mullets on some kids... Yikes.

I'm just really glad that I was placed in such a supportive environment. My co-op, the other teachers in our team, and the principal have all made it clear that they are hear to help me have a great student teaching experience.

I really can't wait for Wednesday so I can get into teaching. It should be interesting getting used to this particular block schedule, but more on that later! I'll probably have more to share on Wednesday!

'Til Then!
The Tenderfoot Teacher