Weekly Reflection – 9/23/13-9/27/13
*Please note that in order to protect the privacy of my collaborating teacher (CT) and my students, I will not mention the name of the school, students or the teacher. I will also avoid mentioning the grade level of my classroom. This is done to protect the rights and privacy of everyone that I work with.*
This week, I had a meeting with my Partnership Resource Teacher (PRT) and my collaborating teacher (CT) about making goals for myself for the rest of this semester. Before I talk about this meeting, I would like to clarify what PRT and CT are. As I have mentioned before, my CT is the teacher whose classroom I intern at every single day. My PRT is one of my professors who works with all of the students that are interning at a specific school.
This meeting was about the Florida Educator Accomplished Practices (FEAPs). I had talked with my CT before this meeting about what goals I could set for myself under the FEAPs. We had decided that under the second subheading, “The Learning Environment. To maintain a student-centered learning environment that is safe, organize, equitable, flexible, inclusive, and collaborative,” I would focus on “model[ing] clear, acceptable oral and written communication skills.” In order to complete this goal, I will perform a read aloud as well as modeling a writing assignment for my students. I will also consistently model clear directions that I communicate throughout the day for activities such as lining up, ‘getting ready for the day’ (our classroom term for students getting homework out form last night and copying down the homework for tonight into their agenda), etc. As I do this, I will also “convey high expectations to all students.” I will do this throughout the day with everything that I do in the classroom.
During the meeting with my PRT and my CT, we discussed these FEAPs in greater detail, discussing what I would specifically do to meet my goals, what I would need, and how I will be assessed. We talked about me watching my CT perform a read aloud and then performing one myself. My CT will be reading a Halloween picture book for October and then tie this reading into a writing assignment by having students write a narrative using creepy and gross words and phrases. I will be going to the school library to try to find another good Halloween book. If I find one, then I will do a read aloud with that book; otherwise, I will probably read the second half of the picture book that she already chose.
At that meeting, we also decided that I will be in charge of one of the reading groups in my class. For this reading group, I will focus on historical fiction because many of the students in that group prefer to read fictional book in their spare time with a few nonfiction/informational books. The first book that I will use is Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. In order to make sure that my students will be able to fluently read and comprehend this book, I will perform ‘Running Records’ on my students. I learned about Running Records at a faculty meeting that I attended this week. A Running Record is basically having a student read about 100 words and tracking their fluency through their phrasing, rate, punctuation, and expression. After the student reads the passage, the teacher asks the student a few questions that deal with comprehension. These questions help test whether the student understand the story elements, can organize the events of the story, his or her interpretation of the story and whether or not the student needed prompting to answer the questions. So far, I have performed two Running Records on two students. My teacher performed Running Records for these students as well and we compared our answers and how we would assess each of these students. So far, we have decided that Number the Stars is an appropriate text for these students. I will perform Running Records on the remaining students in my reading group and then we will start reading Number the Stars.
I am not sure what other books I will use with my students later on in the year, but I am extremely excited about working with these students. The Running Records were a bit difficult to assess at first because the students read very quickly; however, the guidance from my CT as well as all of the information I learned during the faculty meeting really prepared me for performing a Running Record. I will also do a Running Record of a student in the class that I am mentoring. (I talked about this student in a previous post, referring to her under the pseudonym, Amanda. (As I mentioned earlier, I will only refer to this student with a pseudonym in order to protect her rights and her privacy.)
Under the fifth heading “Continuous Professional Improvement” my goal is to “use a variety of data, independently, and in collaboration with colleagues, to evaluate learning outcomes, adjust planning and continuously improve the effectiveness of the lesson.” I will do this by attending a PLC meeting next week where the teachers will discuss the FAIR results of their students and plan lessons based on this data. I have already been attending meetings each week where all of the teachers of the same grade* get together and discuss the lessons they have already taught and what worked and what needs more work, where they are in terms of the standards that guide their lessons and how much time they need to complete their lessons, and what methods other teachers can use and what they need to do for the next lessons. I have not yet contributed to these meetings; however, I am learning a lot about how teachers work together constantly to help teach students to the best of their abilities.
One example of teacher to teacher collaboration put into practice dealt with learning multiplication and division. Last week, my CT was having problems teaching my students how to use a number line to perform repeated addition/subtraction, which would help the students figure out a multiplication or division equation for the problem. My CT discussed how her students liked the drawing picture or using manipulatives (little blocks that can be used to represent items in a problem) in order to figure out multiplication and division problems. The other teacher did not have this problem, and so she mentioned how she had modeled using a number line multiple times in order to help her students learn how to use them. My CT listened to this advice and the next day, she modeled how to use manipulatives and then a number line. She used repeated subtraction written in an alternate way in order to explain the problem. I will explain with equations below.
The problem was about taking 12 objects and diving it by 2. Normally repeated subtraction looks like this:
12 – 2 – 2 – 2 – 2 – 2 – 2 = 0
The students would then count how many times 2 was subtracted, and they would get the answer as 6. The students; however, had problems transferring this to a number line, so my teacher modeled repeated subtraction in another format: (All of the italicized numbers were blank areas and my CT filled them in as she explained the problem).
My teacher explained that when you do the subtraction, you take the difference (the result of the subtraction sentence) and then make that the minuend (the starting number) of the next subtraction problem. As my teacher solved the repeated subtraction, she drew out a number line and then subtracted by two each time she subtracted by two above.
As she did this, she had the students copy what she wrote. After this modeling example, she had the students try it for themselves and many students finally grasped the concept of using a number line for multiplication or division.
At this point in time, I am not entirely sure what I will specifically do in the classroom for this FEAP; however, I will be able to talk more about this after I attend the PLC next week.
Another part of FEAPs that we had discussed was subheading 6, “Professional Responsibility and Ethical Conduct. My CT and I discussed always acting professional and ethically, whether one is inside or outside of school. We also discussed the importance of being a role model to students. My PRT told me that I will be taking the Code of Ethics training in the spring. For this semester, my goal is to continuously act in a professional and ethical manner inside and outside of the classroom.
During the past few weeks, I have been reading the book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Enrenreich. This is an interesting novel about a woman who attempted to live off of minimum wage jobs in various areas in the country. Her experiences are interesting and she has many insightful quotes that already reflect my own personal views. For example, she mentions a belief of her that states, “If you’re going to do something, do it well. In fact, “well” isn’t good enough by half. Do it better than anyone has ever done it before” (Erenreich 18). When I was in high school, I remember seeing this poster in one of my math classes that stated: “If you don’t have time to do it right, you must have time to do it over.” (As seen below.)
This phrase stuck with me and has always guided my personal efforts. I always try my hardest in everything that I do. Although this phrase is not worded appropriately for elementary school students in my opinion, I believe the message behind the poster is important. I talked to my CT about what she believes is the most important rule. We agree that “students must put forth their best effort” is the most important rule in the classroom, and it follows along the message of this poster. I really like this guiding rule because it can be applied in all subjects and all areas of the classroom. For example, students should always put forth their best effort in their work, but they should also put forth their best effort in communications with other people by respecting others. Students should also respect the belongings of other people and the school and treat them with care. For me, it is extremely important to mention this to my students.
Another quote from Nickel and Dimed that I really liked was, “If you seek happiness for yourself you will never find it. Only when you seek happiness for others will it come to you” (Ehrenreich 20). I personally believe that all teachers feel this way about working with students because as teachers, we work very hard to help our students succeed. I know that one of my own personal goals is to help as many people as possible. I decided that I wanted to be a teacher because I was always helping my classmates when I was in high school in every subject area. I remember studying with some of my classmates for a Biology exam and being asked to explain the process of glycolysis, one of the steps in breaking down sugars in the body. Glycolysis involves breaking down glucose into pyruvate so that it can be broken down even further in other processes. I remember working with my peers in math class and helping them solve difficult pre-calculus problems. I was always eager to help my peers, enough so that one of my math teachers in high school joked that I was the ‘teacher’ of her class. I continue to work eagerly with everyone that I come in contact with and helping them succeed because it brings me so much joy to watch someone else do well. I also enjoy watching someone learn a new concept and then applying that to something else or helping someone else understand.
I always aim to help my students succeed in every manner possible. This is why I am very in favor of teaching students in a variety of methods that accommodate students with the various learning styles of visual, reading and writing, kinesthetic, and aural. I also want to accommodate my students by providing a variety of assessments in my classroom. I will always remember Albert Einstein’s famous quote: “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid. Not every student is a good test taker, therefore, other assessments such as oral exams, group projects, and individual work must be considered with tests to determine student’s strengths and what is needed to help some of their weaknesses.
I believe that every student has the ability to succeed and as a teacher, I must foster this success. Not only should I help students succeed in their academic subjects but I must practice “gender, socioeconomic, racial and cultural equity” in my classroom because “males and females from minority and majority races and cultures, whether rich or poor, receive equal opportunity to participate, such as being given equally difficult questions to answer during class discussion, along with adequate verbal and nonverbal support” (Diaz 320). Sometimes it is difficult to understand some of the hardships and struggles that students face: “Teachers who were themselves primarily socialized in mainstream American culture may not be aware of the challenges faced by individuals from non-dominant cultures as they strive to succeed in U.S. schools” (Diaz 257).
Although I have faced many struggles throughout my life due a variety of issues, I recognize that it is hard for me to understand the struggles that all of my students may face due to their gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc. Therefore, I strive to learn various methods for helping my students and understanding their situations so I can best meet their needs. Diaz’s book mentions methods for fighting for fairness and equal opportunity: “Teachers should consider that all learners deserve, ethically and legally, equal access to curricular activities (i.e., higher-level mathematics and science subjects) and opportunities to participate in all athletic activities (i.e., rather than assuming all students of one race will play on the basketball team and all students or another race will play on the tennis or golfing teams). […] Teachers who invest time to get to know their students, as individuals as well as cultural beings, address issues of fairness through a personal commitment to equality of treatment and opportunity” (Diaz 258).
I make an effort to say good morning to my students every day and try to learn a little bit about each other them. I try to connect to my students as well as make connections from their experiences to the classroom. I do this because “Curriculum that is organized around themes, that strives for depth of a topic rather than breadth, that is cross-disciplinary, and that has meaning to students and is relevant to their lives provides students with the opportunity to achieve academic success” (Diaz 177). I believe it is important to show that everyone, students, teacher and even parents, are valued in the classroom and that each student has an equal opportunity to learn and grow as an individual. I want to make sure that the environment of my classroom is warm and comforting so that everyone has the ability to openly share without being judged.
In my opinion, it is extremely important to help everyone succeed. If I don’t take the time to do in my classroom, I do not have the time to “do it over” later on. Therefore, I must do my best to continually learn and grow as an individual so that I can do my best to help my students succeed each and every day and “do it right” the first time. I understand that mistakes can be made but I aim to learn and grow from my mistakes in order to become a better individual and teacher.
- Díaz-Rico, Lynne T. The Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development Handbook: A Complete K-12 Reference Guide. N.p.: Pearson Education, 2014. Print.
- Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. New York City: Picador, 2010. Print.