Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Video Self Reflection

I have to say that I was completely horrified when I was watching the video of me teaching. For those of you back in Madison and West Bend, I have been student teaching 7th and 8th grade science at Oxford Middle School. As part of our formal evaluation I was to create a video tape of a lesson that I taught. So I taped my lesson on physical and chemical changes about 2 weeks ago, and you wouldn't believe how weird it is watching yourself on tape. We spend our whole lives watching everyone but ourselves, so when we do have the chance to actually watch ourselves it’s very telling.

The following is my self reflection on my teaching from a student's perspective.

Man this guy is boring! He be spending most of the 30 minute lesson pacing back and forth and lecturing to us as if we were college freshman. And who does he think he is coming in here all dressed to the nines thinking he's something special. That preppy little white boy ain't telling me nuthin I don't know already.

Whoa, smokin!! Sandy is looking mighty fine today. Mmm, mmm! I think I'll corner her after school and try to walk that chick home to her mother. Maybe I can get some fresh baked cookies out of the deal. Oh and could I ever use fresh baked cookies. These snacks they keep throwing at us, man, they like cardboard or something. There whak man. This school sucks.

Oh, here comes Mr. Lochen again. Oh no, don't you call on me whitey. I don't know nuthin. What is the definition of matter? Geeze dawg, how am I supposed to know that? I ain't no white preppy boy for Wis-cawn-son. Matter! I'll give you matter. "Um, I don't know." There, that should shut him up. Man, why he still standing there. Naw dawg, move on to someone else. I don't care if light is matter or not. "No, light’s not matter." Dang dude, keep steppin. "Nope, gravity ain’t matter either." "Yes, air’s matter." What's the difference between air and light or air and gravity? This guy's dumb as dirt. "Duh, you can weigh air and you can't weigh light. And air takes up space, light doesn't.” Good answer, yeah that’s right…“Fool." "No, I didn't say nuthin." Mr. Lochen...what a jerk. "Yes I know what matter is, I just told you...matter has weight and takes up space." Hey, I do know what matter is after all. That'll show him. Now I can just snooze and won't have to answer to Mr. Lochen again. "Man, I ain't sleeping. I am paying attention! I can still hear you." Put my head up? Man, what a fool!

Man, I wonder if he's going to blow something up today. That’s what chemistry is. Just blowin things up. I want him to blow something up. "You gonna blow stuff up today Mr. Lochen?" "Aww man, you ain't no fun." "No, I didn't say anything sir." Demonstrations? Later? Hey that's better than sitting here doing nuthin.


If all my students were like this, I'd be happy. Many of my critiques are embedded within this student's mental and verbal conversations. For example, I thought I was quite boring on my video. My set wasn't as interesting as it could have been and I felt like I was too collegiate with my teaching. Furthermore, I paced back and forth when I really should have been standing still or circling the students.

My strengths include addressing almost every person in the class at least once, sometimes more than once. There is no sleeping in my classroom. I expect each student to remain attentive and alert. They don't have to be interested, although it would be nice, but I do expect them to be paying attention. Another strength, one of which I am particularly proud, is my ability to lead students to their own answers. "I don't know." is not an acceptable answer in my classroom. If students don't know, students must guess. If they refuse to guess, I break down my question into smaller and simpler questions that are intended to lead the student to the answer to the original question. I see this as my biggest strength. It forces the student to be engaged in the material and it also lets them know that if they don't pay attention, they will spend more time answering my questions.

All in all, I have a lot to learn and I'm looking forward to improving my skills. However, I think I am well on my way to becoming a successful teacher. I just need to visualize myself succeeding.

Due to my extreme case of procrastination, you can expect 2 more assigned blogs to come in the next day or two. Four blogs in four days. That's my goal. So keep checking in!

God Bless!

Reluctant Disciplinarian

In reading the Reluctant Disciplinarian, I realized that I've gotten myself in a whole heap of trouble. I'm taken back to my work as a Big Brother as part of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. Initially it was total and utter chaos, and throughout the entire year that I visited my "little's" school, those kids were off the wall, just the kind of behavioral issues that are detailed in the Reluctant Disciplinarian. Great.

I wouldn't say that reading the book wasn't beneficial. It gave me a good laugh every now and then, but I don't really see the point. Please call me on this if I'm wrong, but I don't think we can really learn that much from reading a book about what to do and what not to do. In my opinion (which, may I remind you, comes from a teacher who's really never seriously taught anything before) we won't be able to learn much from a book. Honestly, who is going to stop and think, "What would Rubenstein do in this situation?" as a stapler is flying through the air toward your head? Yes, you may be thinking that I'm exaggerating but I recently spoke with a 2nd year teacher who had this very experience. Believe it or not, this stuff happens, albeit rarely, but I can tell you for certain that Mr. Gary Rubenstein is going to be the last thing on my mind as I'm dodging that stapler.

Instead, I think the best tool for me personally will be good ol` fashioned experience. I am willing to bet that I will have to learn from my own mistakes before I begin to feel comfortable with my classroom management plan. And what’s this garbage about not smiling? Is he serious? I mean when did teaching mean giving up all humanity? People smile; it’s natural. Students are going to begin to question my sanity if I never smile. I could never uphold that form of classroom management. I crack up during student teaching all the time! For example, today, one of my students whipped out a full size bottle of Fabreze in the middle of a discussion on longitudinal waves and started spraying it all around his desk. When I approached him and asked him what in the world he was doing, he said, “Man it stank like a mother up in her (yes, that is her, not here.) and I got’s to have it smelling like flowers so that I can learn appropriately.” If that isn’t funny, I don’t know what is. The characters I have in my classroom are hilarious. Does that mean that I haven’t grown passed the maturity of an eighth grader? I mean, who carries a full size bottle of Fabreze to class with them every day? CrAzY!

I did like Rubenstein’s 5 rules though. You all know what they are and because it’s so late, I’ll save you, and myself, the agony of going over them for the umpteenth millionth time. Well, that’s all for now.

Peace out and happy teaching!
God Bless!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Teaching Mr. Lochen

It's finally happened. Teaching is becoming easier and easier. My first teaching experience of my entire life occurred last week. I taught a two day lesson on the anatomy and physiology of the human body. To focus my lesson, I concentrated on the levels of organization and function of an organism and the major organ systems. The lesson went very well. I presented the material in a power point format, which, I must admit, I did have reservations about. Several people have told me that a power point presentation is too formal, almost collegiate. It's not a form of teaching generally used on 7th and 8th grade students. Despite this advice from more experienced teachers, I decided that I was going to go ahead with it anyway. I knew I wanted to show pictures of the organ systems and I wouldn't be able to show detailed images of the body on an overhead. In addition, I had to present a wealth of information, a task not well suited for a dry erase board. In order to keep the kids awake throughout the entire presentation, I created a study guide with which they could follow along. This proved to be a very effective method to keep their attention.

After about an hour and fifteen minutes, I instructed my students to make a poster of a randomly assigned organ system. The posters, in general, turned out quite well. I enjoy this method of teaching because it forces the students to go over their notes or refer to their textbooks to gain insight into each organ system. It also addresses the talents of a few artists in the class, and gave them the opportunity to show off their work. Overall, I think the student's were very proud of their results.

I barely finished the lesson on the second day and for the first time in my teaching career (mind you, I was only 48 hours into my career) I was concerned about the time. I began teaching thinking there was no way I was going to be able to fill the entire two hour period and emerged from the experience fearing that I hadn't taught them enough due to time constraints.

Today was my third teaching experience. I taught the students about the planets, comets, asteroids, meteors and meteorites. It was a great lesson. Do you know the difference between a meteor and a meteorite? I used a power point presentation again which the students appreciated. One of my strengths is my ability to control the classroom. I pride myself upon being able to quiet a roudy class and keep their attention. (More on my classroom management techniques in another blog.) Today, however, a student decided to test me. Before each class, I instruct the students to raise their hands before they speak, and I am very consistent throughout the class. Today, a student tried to question this authority and continued talking despite my stern warnings. Without going into too many details, I separated him from the group and discussed the issue with him after class. I think it was the first time that one of the student teachers showed that we mean business. Now the last thing I want is to be a dictator in the classroom, but I really feel that students learn best with rules and structure. Anyway...

So all in all, teaching is going well. I'm learning a lot of new techniques and gaining confidence. I'm concerned about how different it will be teaching high schoolers but I'm up for the challenge. Even though some students choose not to respect my rules, I love teaching. Though I fret about it before hand, all my worries disolve as I get up in front of the class. I feel comfortable in my role as teacher and facilitator. I would like to try different technique besides powerpoint and on Friday I'll have the chance to do just that as I teach students about the difference between kinetic and potential energy. I'm totally stoked.

God Bless!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

First Impressions

I've never had a blog before. In fact, I didn't even know what a blog was before joining the Mississippi Teacher Corps. You see, I'm one of those technologically late bloomers. I like to think I'm on top of the latest advances but every time I get comfortable, I find out that I'm "not with it" or "behind the times." Case in point; cell phones. I just bought my first one about 2 weeks ago. The thing scares me to death every time it rings. Anyway, let me get to the point.

This blog is actually an assignment for EDSE 500, but I will also use it as a venue for venting my frustrations and sharing my joys. So, without further adieu, let's get started.

I have never been so busy in my entire life! This first week as a MTC member has been thoroughly exhausting. It seems as though every hour of the day from 5:30 in the morning to 11:30 at night is filled with some aspect of the program. Whether it's studying for the Praxis II exam coming up on Saturday, preparing a 2 hour lesson plan for my student teaching position, or frantically trying to keep up with the reading for EDSE 500, it seems as though there is never a spare moment to catch my breath.

At the same time, I'm excited by the prospect of teaching. I already have a list of rules for my future classroom, a list of ideas for activities and labs, several different teaching philosophies (if that's possible) and ideas for different lesson plans. I feel like I've been brainwashed. I eat, sleep and breathe teaching!

The program itself has an interesting set up. I feel like I'm in Mississippi's version of MTV's Real World. In fact, I'd call it the MTC’s Real World. 30 people have been thrown together in claustrophobic dormitories (not quite as posh as MTV's Real World abodes, but it works) and events will be played out on this blog. So stay tuned!

God Bless!