From Student to Teacher

Hi! My name is Brittany May, and I am an Elementary Education major at the College of William and Mary. This blog is all about my journey through education... the questions I have and the answers I find, as well as lessons learned along the way, in this never-ending learning process of being a student and becoming a teacher. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Today I had a rare and delightful experience... being able to kick back and visit with my cooperating teacher while the students were at P.E.! We discussed classroom management issues, talked about lesson plan ideas, and shared cute and funny stories about some of the students. Our conversation took a more serious note with the topic of "uninvolved" parents. She mentioned that one particular student's parents had not been in the classroom or even been in contact with her since the very beginning of the school year. No replies to notes sent home, no parent-teacher conferences, no communication whatsoever. At first, I was annoyed with the thought of how this inconsiderate behavior would make it difficult for the teacher. But my perspective and sympathy shifted from teacher to student when she commented, "Yeah, way to show your child you care about them, huh?"

What message does that send a child, when they draw a picture and leave a note for their parents on Open House day, and then the parents never go and miss that gift? Or when they're in a play at school, or have a special presentation, or a game for a sports team, and no one is there to see them and cheer them on?

I began to understand why this particular child is always seeking attention and seems so sensitive and "needy"... she's insecure. My feelings of frustration and annoyance at the parents turned to pity for the student. Every child needs and seeks encouragement and approval from those they love or look up to. Love is a basic human need. I began to understand how much of a void is left when they don't see it expressed. This really pulled on my heart strings! Knowing where this child is coming from sort of automatically increased my patience for her attention-seeking. More than anything, it reminded me of the critical role and incredible potential a teacher has, and it reinforced my determination to a make a difference in my students' lives. I can't be their parent, but as a teacher, I can show them that I sincerely care about them and their future. This is hope and desire for making a difference is the very core of why I want to teach.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Teaching With Technology, Part 2

After teaching my technology lesson, I had the chance to observe a friend teach hers in a 5th grade classroom that opened my eyes to a deeper perspective of teaching with technology. Her lesson was phenomenal! She had the students using the school laptops to learn longitude and latitude by tracking hurricanes. I was extremely impressed with the entire thing. What I was most impressed with was how she handled everything. She did a wonderful job teaching the lesson. The students obviously had experience with computers, but the novelty of having laptops created a surge of excitement, along with some rather uncooperative and disruptive behavior. What did not help was the fact that her cooperating teacher skipped out on the whole thing, and was not there to help. I marveled at how she remained composed and kept going, despite the students' behavior and even through technological glitches. What I learned is that technology can be a wonderful tool for education, but the students have to be taught how to use it before expecting them to use it to learn any content. I now understand how necessary it is to also have the proper support in the classroom to monitor and facilitate learning with technology. It can be a powerful and effective tool, but only when these things are in place.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Teaching With Technology

Right before the Thanksgiving break, I taught my technology lesson for my Implementation Project. I was really excited about this one because I knew it would be fun! I worked with my classmate, Emily, in developing the lesson, under the guidance of our cooperating teachers. The actual planning of the lesson proved to be somewhat difficult at first. After developing our first lesson, we quickly realized we had grossly overestimated the computer skills of most first-graders. Because I haven't had much experience teaching with technology (and unfortunately don't see it too often in the classrooms), I really didn't know what the students were capable of. Our cooperating teachers, as well as the computer teacher, advised us and really helped us develop a lesson that would both meet objectives of the curriculum and engage the students at an independent level.

We found a book called, "A Plump and Perky Turkey" by Teresa Bateman, and used it for the literature portion of the lesson. Our cooperating teachers had previously taught a unit on the different components of a story (i.e.- characters, setting, etc.), so this served as a review for them. They had not yet learned about the plot, or sequence of important events of a story, so this was the primary focus of our lesson. We developed a Kidspiration activity that would assess the students' comprehension of the material taught and which involved the students classifying the characters, different settings of the story, and the sequence of important events into their respective categories from a picture bank. This matched several first grade Technology and Language Arts standards (according to Virginia's Standards of Learning).

Overall, I think the lesson went very well! The students loved the story (as did their teachers!), and they seemed to grasp the concepts we taught. Some students had difficulty putting the events of the plot in order, but this was their first experience in doing anything like this. Most of them caught on quickly. What made me smile was how excited they were to be going to the computer lab for a language arts lesson!

This experience taught me that technology can be easily incorporated into "regular", conventional subjects. Before having this experience of planning a lesson with technology and actually teaching it, I thought using technology was a wonderful way of making lessons more interesting and I wanted to use it, but I sort of assumed that it would require a tremendous deal of effort and could only be applied to limited topics or subjects that catered to creativity and ingenuity. While some pieces of this may be true to a degree, I now truly see how technology can facilitate the learning of a concept even better than more conventional methods for a subject. Something as "normal" as a story in language arts can use technology and it didn't require a "computer geek" or "Teacher of the Year" to come up with it! I've been encouraged, and eagerly look forward to future opportunities to use technology in the classroom!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Shopping Like A Teacher

I was doing errands this week and decided to pop in and browse through a "Teacher Store" in one of the local shopping centers. I was like a little kid in a toy store at Christmas time! I saw so many wonderful teaching tools, books of all sizes, educational games, posters, cool classroom decorations, and yes, toys- for students and teacher! I went from one display to the next, not able to stop for more than a few seconds because my eyes would spot something even better that I had to go check out! I really wanted to ignore my conscience and dive in and begin the process of accumulating all the fun "teacher stuff" for my future classroom, but then that little voice that always irritates me when I'm shopping kicked in and told me to wait until I actually have a classroom before investing in stuff to fill it with. But I've wondered... where do teachers get all their stuff? And more importantly, how do they afford it? Most of the teachers I've talked to have all said most of it comes out of your own pocket, although some is tax-deductible. I found this somewhat discouraging. It only made that irritating voice in my head warning me not to spend money stronger, so I left the super-cool "Teacher Store" without my "teacher stuff".

I was browsing again this weekend, this time through blogs, and I came across a wonderful "store" that will certainly help when I do have my own classroom. Cynthia Rutledge has compiled a list of resources for free educational materials and shared it in her blog. This list is especially for teachers, and there's some wonderful items that would be an asset to any classroom, especially for subjects like geography and the sciences, with everything from posters to videos and even textbooks! I found myself having the same reaction as I had in the teacher store- eagerly going from one website to the next in the excitement of finding cool "teacher stuff". But what makes this shopping experience even better than the first, is that it's all free! I may not have my classroom yet, but thanks to this list, you can bet that when I do, I'll be able to shop like a pro... like a teacher!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

My Very First Lesson!

This week I taught my first lesson in my practicum classroom. (insert squeal-of-delight here) The lesson was a literature-based lesson that we designed as a group project in our "Teaching Social Studies" class. The process of creating and planning the lesson proved to be hard enough, but I was even more nervous about teaching it. Every teacher I have talked to has said that experience is the best "teacher" when it comes to learning how to teach, and that I'll learn more from experience than from any college class. How true this is!

Overall, the lesson went well. But the biggest lesson I learned in teaching my lesson was not what I expected it to be. Going into this, I was most worried about how I would perform as a teacher. Would I explain things clearly and logically? Would I be able to keep the kids engaged? Would they understand the concepts and "get it"? Surprisingly, this wasn't really an issue. My greatest challenge turned out to be something I hadn't prepared for in my lesson plan... classroom management!

The students in my class are wonderful, and they were well-behaved during my lesson (as they usually are). But I realized that this good behavior is attributed to more than the natural, pleasant dispositions of first graders. Sure, I had observed student's behavior plenty of times, when my cooperating teacher was teaching. I guess I never realized how "high-maintenance" classroom management can be. This showed me what definitive control my teacher has over her class. Her students instantly respond to a hand signal, a whisper, or a look. Sing-songy tunes like "1,2,3, eyes on me", positive reinforcement, praise, and high-fives seem to be much more effective than corrections with negative connotations. She never raises her voice, because she doesn't have to. As a result, the classroom has an aura of happiness about it.

Having the role of "teacher" opened my eyes through experience to all the little things teachers have to pay attention to. Observing in the classroom has taught me a lot, even more than I expected or have learned from class. But stepping into my teacher's shoes and actually teaching clued me in to the power and effect a teacher can have by the way they manage their class. I'm eagerly looking forward to having more of these learning experiences.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Precious Moments

I've recently created another blog, entitled "Precious Moments", that describes all of the experiences I've had this year during my student teaching that are, well, precious. I add them as they happen... Check it out!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Not Just Another Lesson Plan

I've come to realize that lesson-planning is probably what I've struggled with the most in my pre-service teaching experience so far. We just finished a group lesson plan project, and with four of us it took us roughly three hours to plan one lesson! I'm always amazed at the creativity some teachers have for even the most conventional subjects. I recently read through one such incredible lesson plan, and it has really inspired me to think outside the box.

Miguel Guhlin designed a second grade writing lesson plan and posted it in his blog. This is definitely one I can learn from! The way each phase of the lesson builds on the previous one is very well thought out, and I really like how it progresses from modeling, to group collaboration, and finally to individual students attempting it on their own. But what I love most is that the students are learning something without even realizing it. His lesson does a fantastic job of teaching the entire process of developing an idea and writing about it through poetry, but he teaches more than that. He seamlessly incorporates blogging with the content of the lesson, and essentially turns his students into successful bloggers! This is such a cool idea! I think kids would really latch on to this with enthusiasm. It serves as a wonderful tool for effectively teaching the content. I admire how he instructs his students to give positive feedback when they share their poems with the class. But seeing your own work published online and receiving feedback from others through comments would be an even bigger "pat on the back". This lesson plan really opened my eyes to the amazing possibilities lesson plans can create, and I think teachers with ideas as cool as this deserve their own "pat on the back".