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Archive for September, 2010

Since I have done my student teaching, I have found my thinking has changed a bit.  I no longer think about things as that student who is just going through the motions for class.  I find myself walking around and looking at things and thinking, “Wow, that would be great for my class!” or “Ooh, I should take a picture of that to use in a presentation.”   Many things are a teachable moment (This is why I love social studies, so broad).  The only problem is….I don’t have a classroom.   I have avoided buying anything unless I need it to spruce up my portfolio (That is another post altogether @_@).

I spent my summer looking at books to try to build a repertoire of lesson ideas and projects.  Great idea, right?  Seems I had my work cut out for me.  First, the problem with not having a position is you can’t really narrow it down to one subject.  I could be teaching American history, which tends to be divided into two courses, or European studies, throw in some geography and civics and the books are endless.  Another issue I came across is age appropriateness.  High schoolers have a higher reading level that the middle school children and yet some material I got was a bit advanced for even the older children.  Not all these books had an age level conveniently listed on the cover and even some of the ones provided by Amazon made me do a double take.  Then when I got these books I was torn between some books that had a great outline of information but had projects in them that were so juvenile and irrelevant it made me wonder.    Yes, a toy drum resembling those used in colonial times is fun to make but…what does that teach the child.   The most annoying problem was I would find these great books online, cheer when I saw them listed in the library catalog, and then go to request them…just to find the library had no copies.  WHY would you list something if you had no copies?!  I would much rather have it not in the catalog at all rather than giving me false hope.  Despite these trials I found a few good ideas that I would like to try out and have added one or two (dozen) books to my wish list.

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Today, I subbed for the band director. This is probably the one subject where I am completely clueless and can’t even wing it.  Surprisingly, these kids had their routine down and basically handled themselves.  The first class was intense because it was the concert choir, big class, lots of noise.  One of the students was a future music major so he was conducting the class.  To my shock he had things running smoothly.  I expected kids to ignore him or goof off but there was very little of this.  While he took charge I walked around the room or stood and listened.  I have little musical skills and am fascinated by how the instruments work.  I remember when I was little I would play with the buttons on my mom’s flute and see where the pieces would move.  One of the horns was particularly fascinating because the valve pieces rotated and seemed like something that would be in a car or other machine.

There was a grad student who was present for field hours and would be student teaching next semester.  It’s always interesting to talk to other trainee teachers to see what paths they have taken.  He was helpful with the jazz lab who needed to work on solos and was really able to critique them.    Being in this post made me really appreciate the work the students do to put on performances and made me wish the arts programs got more attention…and that I had some musical talent.

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While doing my student teaching, I came to realize that there is A LOT of paperwork involved with education.  I’m not just talking about the assignments that I give out and collect to grade.  There are forms about allergies and medical concerns, modifications and educational needs, evaluations, forms, notices, and many other bits of information.  That’s just in the classroom.  Then to be considered for a job you have forms, certificates, applications, letters, sealed this, and notarized that.  Makes your head hurt!  I can only imagine what it’s like to be working in an office that keeps track of all these papers.  Must be even crazier because one such office lost my certificate…which was sent in July…and just notified me.  They have the other paper that was attached to it but the certificate wandered off somewhere.  At least they caught it and were kind enough to notify me before I got my paycheck; it gives me a pay raise.   I’m hand delivering this copy.

Ever have something like this happen to you?

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Parents at School

Today, I had an assignment as the librarian.  Easy peasy for me, well at least I wouldn’t be there wondering what in the world to do.  I spent several years working in my town library in high school and college.  A big bonus was I spent a large amount of that time in the children’s section.   Therefore, the day wasn’t too bad.  I had no classes in the morning so I helped out in a kindergarten class.  It was interesting because the school has parents come in to volunteer.  One parent came into the library to see if any books needed to be put away and there was another parent that spent a few hours making copies and doing errands for the kindergarten teacher.    I have to do more research to see if there is a mandatory requirement or if these people just do it out of the kindness of their heart.   My cousin attends a private school where parents are required to do a certain amount of hours and have a rotating schedule.  I can see how if it were mandatory, how working parents may find it harder to contribute but I am sure there are things that can be worked out and night events they can handle.   Either way, I think it is a great way to get parents more involved in the school.

Have you seen this before?  What do you think?

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Many times when I am in a classroom, kids say something or reference a show and I think, “Well, back when I was young…” I don’t have that many years under my belt but these events occur and I feel old.  Well, today a kind of eerie and moving event occurred.  I was in for a support teacher and one of the student’s mothers came in to read a story: The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein. It tells the story of Philippe Petit, who on August 7, 1974, walked a wire strung between the Twin Towers.    Before she began, the mother discussed the Twin Towers and how most of the children in the class were born the year of 9/11 so they would have no recollection of the towers  ever being up or their fall.  When she got to the end and read, “Now the towers are gone,” I  was a bit moved.

It is always surreal for me to discuss this event with students because I can remember exactly where I was when the planes crashed but these students can’t imagine.  It’s like when people talk about the assassination of JFK or Pearl Harbor.  The thing is these students just keep getting younger and farther from the event.  I know I shouldn’t be surprised because the school I student taught at didn’t even have a moment of silence…and they were in school on the day.  The school I am in now at least had a moment of silence but it’s still so far from them.   I wonder what it will be like to talk about in another twenty years?

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein

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It seems like in school we are always testing our children.  It begins before they  even officially begin school.  Youngsters in our area are given the  Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BSRA) to test their skills in various areas such as colors, letters, numbers/counting, sizes, comparisons, and shapes.  This test is supposed to be administered when the children are being registered and parents are supposed to be present so they can fill out relevant information that we use as test questions later.

My job today was to help administer the test to all the kids who had not taken the test…about a third of the grade -_-;   This wasn’t too bad after I was told what answers counted.  I had no clue whether a squishy oval counted as copying a circle or when you say, “hands above your head,” if it counted if the hands were touching the child’s head.  That wording can be so tricky!  I tried to make it like a game.  I told them we were playing Simon Says when I asked them to perform tasks such as putting their hands in their pockets and showing me their left foot.   I also got to test motor skills such as catching, hopping, skipping, stair climbing, writing, cutting, and copying.  So I had them do the “work” part first which wasn’t too bad because they had been dieing to use the scissors all week.  We then got to run around playing catch, jumping, and skipping.  If only all tests were so easy!

There were a few complications.   First, there were several sections involving the identification of  shapes, colors, and numbers in a book that took a fair amount of time.  I was ready to help by taking students to another section to complete their test but we only had one book.  Guess I couldn’t work on that.  I then decided to work on the section where students told me about themselves.  To do this I needed the child’s full name,  address, birthday, etc to verify they were giving the correct answers.  As I stated, this is usually filled in by the parents who are present when the test is normally administered.  However, when the test is delayed we don’t have the parents around to help and we have to go on a hunt.  If the child brought back his or her emergency information packet we can look on that.  Unfortunately, some students do not and then I have to turn to the office to get the information.  Sadly, I wasn’t able to get it because the secretary in the office looked at me like I was crazy for asking for the information.  Maybe tomorrow will be a better day to try; it still is the first week of school with craziness to be straightened out. Anyway, testing continues tomorrow.

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Each day, the kindergartners get snack time about an hour before lunch.  This is a time to take a break.  The funny thing is, the parents have been  really good about giving their kids lunch with a snack.  However, the kids are not so good at taking their snack out of their lunch.    We quickly realized this when we walked around the first day to check what they were eating and saw them consuming their sandwiches and several of the snacks in their bag.  I had one student whine how he wanted to eat his sandwich now and wouldn’t listen when I tried to explain he wouldn’t have lunch later.   Even after walking around each day, it seems the trend has continued.

Well, what is a “snack”?  How big or small can it be?I have one girl who brings in a sandwich.  The first time I thought she was eating her lunch but it turns out she brings two.  Another student brings in a tiny bag of fruitchews.   Some students ate through half the lunch they brought on the first day before we caught them.  Others, do not eat anything from their lunch but have a drink.

To try to remedy the confusion we have sent a note home to parents asking them to put the item in a separate bag or write “snack” on it.    We’ll see how this works in the coming weeks.

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