Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Day Seven!

Some days are just better than others and my day was one of those others – if you know what I mean. I am sure by now that you all know my schedule, so therefore I plan on spending more time in these posts actually reflecting on what went on in my day and less in the meeting people, doing things, and going places – or at least that will be the hope.

Today was a normal Tuesday with a lot of time that I was not in class, but rather planning with Kristin. I blogged yesterday about our frustrations with Diigo, and we thought we had everything figured out for class today and then when we went to e-mail all the students this afternoon Diigo was “doing some back end maintenance,” and we were not able to get that done. The frustrating part for both Kristin and me is that we spent the time giving the feedback to the students and we just want them to actually receive it before it’s too late. Unfortunately, that time of being too late is drawing nearer by the day. Technology, or rather being at the edge of it, is one of the great things about being at AHS. I just have to keep in perspective how lucky I am to be using and even having issues and frustrations with a program and an opportunity that not a lot of schools and even less student teachers get to have.

On the teaching side, today I taught English 10 for the second day in a row. This class was a little different today for some reason. They warmed up to me or something, because when I started asking for volunteers lots of them raised their hands. Well that was nice to see, but the topic we were studying was a hard one. I’ll admit that even as an English major and a Language Arts teacher I still have trouble with it in my writing. The topic was active and passive voice. I gave them an example that I thought really engaged them, then gave them one example and asked them if they understood the topic. They all nodded their heads at me and so I assumed that they got it – well let’s just say that in the end they didn’t get it. So I went on to this activity where they got to create their own sentences in the passive and active voice and then present them to the class. Well when the first group went up their active tense sentence was correct, it was even funny, but their passive voice sentence was not exactly passive. The students for some reason had got the idea that passive voice only means that the sentence is not in present tense. For example, Nate went to the store would have been a passive sentence in their minds. Rewind, so I corrected the first group, thinking that it might be an anomaly – well I was wrong. The next group did the same exact thing. As I was correcting them Kristin noticed that they were obviously having some issues figuring out what exactly the difference was. So she, just like a mother with her children, took back control of the room and got the train back on track. She provided two more really concrete examples and then the students really got it from there. When she took over class I kind of felt defeated. What did I do wrong? This was such a good lesson? I was disappointed in myself for letting the students down, I was disappointed in myself for having to have Kristin take over the class. It wasn’t that I did not notice the confusion, and I was just about to address it when she took back over the class. I guess I had a little more faith that they would understand the examples and we could correct them and the students would understand what was going on. Kristin just beat me to the punch, literally. She took over the class, gave two great examples and then got the students where they need to be. I guess, looking back on it, that was a failed lesson in my book. It did not work, the students didn’t get it. My fifty-nine minutes was cut short because I did not do a good enough job. So sorry students in third hour, I will work extra hard tonight to make sure that the same thing does not happen tomorrow. In fact, to make sure that the students really understand the concept I will be re-covering part of it tomorrow, only with examples actually from the students’ own writing. I will try to drive down the point of making sure that active is followed rather than passive. After the lesson and period were over I went up to the front to collect my stuff and Kristin was being very supportive of how the lesson went. I was happy with that, but like I wrote before disappointed that I let myself and the students down. On the other hand, it was a learning experience. Always give more examples than the students need. Don’t take a nod from the students, check to see if they really do, but make sure they get another example first. Kristin did a great job taking over the class and really making sure that they understood the topic before the end of the period.

I spent part of the afternoon grading or should I say helping a student assistant grade. They have these really nice students at AHS, which are kind of like TAs in college, that do busy work and simple grading for you. Need something cut? They are there. Need something simple typed out? They’ll get it done in no time flat. It’s really nice that these students exist, otherwise I know that a lot of time would be spent figuring out minor details and not so much time spent on teaching. It’s a unique way for the students to interact with the teachers and for the teachers to actually spend more time on learning and teaching students or planning with student teachers – Anne and Kristin know what I’m talking about here.

I went to sixth period, my freshman, looking forward to a day when they get to learn about researching terms and looking at validating Internet resources. For instance, is a blog like this one a proper source for information? What about a website? What separates a credible website from a non-credible one? Well that’s what Mr. Murphy, the amazing librarian at AHS, came in to share with the ninth graders. He did a great job keeping them engaged, even though he talked for the entire period. The students really received some great ideas and they learned a few tips of the trade – heck I even learned a few new things. For instance, if you search on Google with a ~ and then a subject (Example ~horse) it will come up with synonyms for that subject. Thank you to Mr. Murphy for your sharing time and for inspiring the students to find valid Internet resources.

Finally, I want to reflect upon my thoughts with Anne. We talked after school and she mentioned a few things I should be working on, which were good to hear. What she told me was that if I need anything I just need to ask her. Which, from a student teacher standpoint is good, but at the same time I am a stubborn person and will continue working hard to get it right. It is very hard for me to ask for help, but this situation with my mentor is requiring me to ask for help when I need it. I can and do make suggestions, but it’s nice to know that she will help me out if I need help. Anne is there and so is Kristin to help me along the way. They have both been very supportive and have assisted with lesson planning, grading, and helping me out along the way. They have also given a lot of good positive feedback and now that I feel that I have it going it is nice to start getting some constructive criticism, which actually starts tomorrow when my supervising teacher for Wartburg West comes out to AHS. That should be an interesting experience, as we have a professional learning experience meeting tomorrow morning which throws the entire day off and the kids are apparently really different with two more hours of sleep in them (I just wish I could get that sleep and the students could start without me).

All in all, between the tiredness of student teaching, the long days, the students, the situation with English 10 and having Kristin take over, the long day of sitting and listening (when my passion is to actually be teaching), combined with the feedback from Anne made it overall a tough day to swallow. At times I really considered if teaching is worth all this extra work, which I think lots of teachers and especially student teachers do at some point. But then I remembered the greatest part about my life right now – my fifty-nine minutes that I have with the students tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day, another chance to make a difference, an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of today, correct them, and to move on towards changing the world one class and one student at a time. Bring on tomorrow, I’m ready to change the world again.