30 October 2008

Small Wins

First off, I'm feeling strange about calling my fellow intern "my fellow intern" or by some other ambiguous name. From here on out, I'm going to call her "J." And my mentor teacher, I'll call her Ms. H. It's started to become tedious blogging about them, and having to find some way to not use their names, but still keep my sentences from becoming cumbersome. Wasn't working.

Placement is still chugging right along. J and I are becoming more and more involved in classroom activities as the weeks go by. Our mentor teacher officially designated a class for each of us to take over every once in a while. We've been taking over bits and pieces since the beginning, but not by ourselves. I think she's trying to prompt us to step outside our comfort zones, which is good. J had first hour, I have second hour. Second hour is the more talkative, less mature, predominantly male class. This should be interesting. Wednesday, we each got to prepare the students to start their second round of literature circle discussions, making sure that they had everything out that they needed to and asking them to take a minute to compare their discussion questions to the "Good Discussion Questions" sheet from last week. I got an email from Ms. H today telling me how well I did getting second hour ready to begin their discussions. This was helpful for me, since I still feel a little bit like I'm on stage when I'm at the front of the class by myself. I felt a little more like a teacher yesterday, though. For one thing, after I finished prompting them to analyze their discussion questions for a few minutes, I helped a student who hadn't been there, and didn't know what worksheet I was referring to, or even that she was supposed to have discussion questions prepared. It made it more like what I think my own classroom should feel like. Not me standing at the front of the class waiting for the students to get done with their tasks, but still instructing some while others are already working.

Small win for me. I'm hoping for a series of these in the coming weeks.

I'm learning a lot more about the students. I astounded myself the other day when I realized that I knew all of second hour's names. I'm also learning things about them that give me more insight into why things happen in the classroom the way they do. For instance, there is a student in second hour who is pretty resistant to English and everything that English involves. He's emotionally impaired and usually sits there with a scowl on his face, not participating. It's interesting to see how, when the students do small group work, this demeanor seems to affect those around him. I've noticed that not many of his classmates speak directly to him. On Wednesday, he turned in his assignment without the required rubric stapled to it. I decided to accomodate him a little, even though it had been made pretty explicit that the rubric was to be attached to the assignment. We both went over to the box where extra handouts are kept and searched for a new rubric (he had lost his) and I talked to him about the book he's reading while I was shuffling through papers. I didn't expect him to respond to my questions, but he was actually pretty talkative. This is the same student who, on Monday, turned in a test reflection sheet (a guided tool for reflecting on study skills and test-taking) filled out with a manifesto about the teacher's grading system and how unfair it is instead of what was supposed to be on it. I'm interested to see where he ends up in this class by the end of the school year. I'd like to see him change his attitude, but I'm willing to be that most of the adults in his life think that's unlikely.

On an end note, we had an awesome guest speaker in my methods class yesterday. Our talk was about visual rhetoric. A talk with students about this and also about critical visual analysis would be a great way to get kids thinking critically about texts before you ask them to do it with literature. A mix of visual stimulation and pop culture!

Happy Halloween!
The Almost Teacher

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