Monday was the 100th day of school for my students. I was unfortunately unable to participate in this day because of my internship schedule (I do not come into the classroom until the afternoon at dismissal time on Mondays) but I helped prepare for the day in the previous week. I also got to see my collaborating teachers dressed up as if they were 100 years old, which was fun. Some of my students dressed up as well which was really cute. I wish I could have been there to observe the entire day but it seemed like my students had a lot of fun and really enjoyed themselves.
On Tuesday, I observed a guided reading group. Last semester, I was in charge of my own guided reading group but this took the form of a literature circle/book club because I was helping to enrich these students. My collaborating teachers asked me if I would like to take over my own guided reading group and I was a bit hesitant but I agreed. My collaborating teachers gave a brief verbal description of a guided reading group, which was what I observed on Tuesday. I will work with this group in the morning on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, which are all of the days that I am in the classroom in the morning. I will have five students in my group, three of which are English Language Learners (ELLs). I am a bit nervous but I am also excited because this will, technically speaking, be the first time I work with a guided reading group. This is an area of literacy in which I am not very familiar so I am glad to gain this experience.
Next week, my collaborating teacher will not be in school on Tuesday to attend a conference and she will not be in school for the last week of February. I have tried taking over some of the things that she does in the classroom so I can help out when she will be gone. Unfortunately, my first experience taking over morning duties did not go so well. I tried to be a presence in the front of the room alongside my collaborating teacher so the students would get used to seeing me participate in the morning duties. My collaborating teacher was called away for something and then I was the only one in the front of the room. I stayed calm but we do a variety of songs and activities to start the day and I was getting a bit confused so I grabbed my notebook (I had taken notes on what my collaborating teacher does a few days earlier) and tried to based my activities off of that. I missed a step; however, and my collaborating teacher told me what we should be doing. When I did this activity (the song “Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow) and talking about what the day comes next), I accidentally banged into one of the items on the wall and knocked it over. At this point, I was really nervous and my collaborating teacher came over to help me and she took over the rest of morning duties.
As embarrassing as that situation was, I am still proud of myself for getting up there and trying to help out. I know that I still have some issues with getting up in front of a class and speaking. I have always had a minor fear of public speaking. I remember when I was younger and I had to do a book report in 6th grade. I stood up in front of the room with my note cards and I was literally shaking from my nerves. I progressed a lot by working on speaking in front of others. I made an internal goal for myself to participate more in the classroom, which is why I am constantly raising my hand to share my answers. I even took a Public Speaking course at the University of South Florida (USF) to work on my public speaking skills.
In that situation, I felt exactly how my students feel when they get up in front of the classroom. I think it is extremely important to make sure that students feel comfortable getting up and sharing: “A key task for a culturally responsive teacher is building a community so that it is safe for every student to take the risks necessary to learn. Culturally responsive teachers bring themselves into the classroom and enable students to do the same” (McLeskey, J., Rosenberg, M. S., Westling, D. L., 2013, 252). I want to make sure my students are eager to share out their ideas and opinions in my classroom, which is why I think it is so important to praise students for being brave when they share, even if they share out a guess or the wrong answer.
In order to have a classroom environment like this, it is extremely important to build a community in the classroom, which starts on the first day of school. Community building activities that allow students to make connections with one another are important, but teachers also need to make sure that students follow the expectations of the classroom, including being respectful to other students. I really like the expectation “do the right thing,” because it helps guide students in all situations. ““The foundation of any effective classroom is that students know the teacher cares about them. this is the “warm” part of being a warm demander. […] Warm means the teacher believes in students and cares enough about their futures to create a community where it is safe to take risks, where achievement is valued, where support is provided, and where students are never “let off the hook” (McLeskey, J. et al, 2013, 252).
I will continue to observe my collaborating teacher perform morning duties and I will do my best to help her out so I can try to take over when she is gone. I will need some support in the beginning, just as my students would, but I think a scaffolded approach would work best for helping me be successful.
I worked on covering shoe boxes again for my collaborating teachers. This week I finished the rest of the shoe boxes (I accidentally covered an extra one, which my teachers said I could keep for myself) and I cut slits into the boxes so the students could slip valentines in them. I did this on Friday, the teacher work day (I spent this entire day helping my collaborating teachers in the classroom).This was a long process, but I am really excited to see how my students react to them. I think something small like this means a lot to a student because it shows that the teacher cares about them as individuals. I would love to include this in my future classroom; however, I have come to realize that something like this takes up a lot of time and energy so I will have to balance my time between what I want and what I can actually accomplish.
This is a picture of all of the shoe boxes that I made on Friday, the teacher work day. The stack of finished shoe boxes. The finished shoe boxes with the slits that I made.
Another project that I had been working on with my students was making valentines for a friend of mine who was recently diagnosed with cancer. To introduce this activity, my collaborating teachers told the students that anyone who was in the art or writing centers would be working with me on a special project. I explained my friend’s story to the students and they were all very excited to make valentines for her. Please note, I blurred out her name in order to respect her rights and privacy, but below is a picture of all of the valentines my students have made thus far. They ask me about making valentines every day and I try to work with them as much as possible.
- McLeskey, J., Rosenberg, M. S., & Westling, D. L. (2013).Inclusion: Effective practices for all students. (2nd ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.