*Please note that in order to protect the privacy of my collaborating teachers (CT) and my students, I will not mention the name of the school, students or the teacher. This is done to protect the rights and privacy of everyone that I work with.*
This semester I transferred into another classroom. I am currently interning in a kindergarten classroom in which two teachers work together to teach almost forty students. This classroom is very different from my previous classroom with older students for a variety of reasons. Lessons involve lots of kinesthetic activities and shift quickly to meet the attention spans of the children. I really enjoy this classroom and my new collaborating teachers.
At first I thought working with so many students would be difficult, and it can be; however, I really enjoy working with all of the students. The students have really warmed up to me but they are still learning to respect me as an authority figure in the classroom. There was another intern in this classroom in the Fall semester but the students really liked her and they continue to say hi to her and give her hugs when they see her in the hallways. This intern believes that I will do well in the new classroom and that the students will start respecting me as a teacher as I spend more time in the classroom.
I have had many interesting experiences in this new classroom but I find that it is difficult to keep track of all of the activities that we do because the classroom is so fast paced in order to keep up with the attention spans of the students. I actually enjoy this format because it keeps me from getting bored and helps me focus on the students. I have noticed a change in my viewpoint while working in this classroom because I am constantly busy, which forces me to abandon my thoughts and worries and simply focus on the students. I have stopped worrying about making mistakes and I simply take charge and work with the students.
Although this was my first week, I began taking over some tasks in the classroom in order to help my collaborating teachers. On my second day in the classroom, I began grading papers and filing them away. Grading papers is an interesting task and it is actually much harder than it seems. I constantly have to keep in mind the ability level of my students. In the past, I expected my students to have neat handwriting, spell their words correctly, and write in full sentences. In kindergarten, students are still learning how to write and read so students focus on trying to sound out words and spell the words based on what they hear. For example, my students are learning about the letter “e” and words that begin with “e.” On a worksheet, students had to write out words that matched the pictures and one word was “eagle.” I kept wondering why I saw “egl” on papers when I realized that when you sound out the word “eagle” you hear the letters “e,” “g,” and “g.” When I grade papers I have to remind myself about what my kindergartners can actually do.
I also filed away all of the papers that I graded which is a surprisingly difficult task when there are 36 students in the classroom, but a benefit of filing paperwork is that I was able to learn the names of students. My collaborating teachers have pictures of the students next to their names in the boxes so I can remind myself who the students are. Working with the students also helped me learn their names. I believe that I know two-thirds of the students’ names so that I do not have to hesitate before referring to them by name. I know other names as well but sometimes it takes me a second before I remember who is who. I am still learning and I do my best to refer to the students by name. As I have mentioned in my reflections before, students pay attention more when they hear or read their names: In Classrooms that Work, the authors note, “As usual, children’s attention is better if you make sentences about them” (Cunningham 41). I have noticed that when I refer to a student by name, he or she is more likely to pay attention to me and listen to what I have to say. I understand that sometimes students may not realize that they are being spoken to and so by saying their name, I let the students know that I am trying to talk to them.
I also try to use names when I talk to a student to let them know I care about them. For example, when I tell a student that he or she is doing a good job, I try to say their names so I directly praise them. I think that by using names, I show the students that I care about them and what they have to say. I believe it is extremely important to care about the students and their interests.
For one of my assignments, I had to give out an interest inventory survey to my students. If I was still in my classroom from last year, I could have handed my students the survey and allowed them to fill it out on their own. Since I am working with younger students, I realized that I had to interview each and every one of my students to ensure that they understood the questions and responded appropriately. I really liked this assignment because it allowed me to work one-on-one with the students and learn about their interests. I learned that all of my students are interested in playing: they want to play on the playground, play video games, or play with friends. I can use this information to inform my future lesson plans. For example, I may want to include activities that involve “playing” so the students will be engaged and interested in the lesson.
Learning about my students also allows me to make connections with them and include their interest in lesson plans. This is important because “curriculum that is […] has meaning to students and is relevant to their lives provides students with the opportunity to achieve academic success” (Diaz 177). I am also able to connect with my students, which shows them that I care about them and what they have to say. I want my students to feel comfortable talking with me and sharing their thoughts because I want my students to be able to participate fully in the classroom.
- Cunningham, Patricia Marr., and Richard L. Allington. Classrooms That Work: They Can All Read and Write. 5th ed. Boston: Pearson Education, 2011. Print.
- Díaz-Rico, Lynne T. The Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development Handbook: A Complete K-12 Reference Guide. N.p.: Pearson Education, 2014. Print.