There is a huge difference between being a student and a teacher. Yet there are some similarities as well. These past weeks have shown me many aspects of teaching that being a student could not prepare you for. As a student your focus is on learning the subject matter. As a teacher you are focused on ensuring the students learn and classroom management. One of the biggest things I realized during this experience is the importance of balancing. This incorporates getting prep-work finished on time and also how to remain professional. The teach I observed made it clear that they way teachers act outside of school or with each other is not necessarily how one should act around students. Every teacher must strive to find to professional in the school environment and not allow personal issues or feelings to effect how one interacts with the students.
I still feel I am more suited to teach high school than middle school. The students I saw in the high school classes were more mature and focused than the middle school students. The younger students were still trying to find out what cliques they will join and who is more popular. In contrast, most of the high school students were more settled. Even though they all have drama, the older students seemed to handle it better. I also still intend to teach history. I loved seeing the different techniques used to teach various historical time period and event. There were several activities I saw in which the students paying more attention than in others, so I know that the activities I choose will have to be chosen carefully to keep their attention and ensure they actually learn.
There are many things I enjoyed during this observational period and very little I would change. The best part of this experience, aside from the knowledge I gained, was the interaction with the students. On the first day of my middle school observation one of the girls in the class came up to me. She was so excited to have someone new in the classroom. We were able to speak a few more times during the weeks I saw her class. Getting to help a student understand her class work is so rewarding. By far this is the most memorable moment of this experience. In contrast the one thing I would change seems insignificant. I would have preferred to have had more responsibility in the class. I was only asked to assist the teacher n few instances and would have liked to have done a bit more support work such as grading. However, I did get to see how his daily schedule went and valuable advice on how to manage a daily workload without trying to finish everything at the last minute.
There are so many little things I have learned and incorporated into my future teaching plans. I have pages of does and don’t I have written interspersed with little notes on various subjects relating to classroom management. Each of these little bits of knowledge has helped shape and change my perspectives on what I will be like as a teacher. I am so glad I was able to be in a classroom before I got further into my degree. Now I have some practical experience which I can relate the subject I will learn to. I can ‘see’ how specific actions, such as time allotted for an in-class assignment, could realistically affect a class. I am still committed to becoming a teacher, and I can hardly wait to learn more about my chosen field.
Without communication our species could not more forward. We would not have created the wide variety of societies seen across the world and throughout time. This interaction is not limited to strictly verbal communication. After all, even a small child knows that a phrase could have its entire meaning changed by a hand motion or facial expression. So a teacher must not only know his or her subject but also be able to communicate it effectively to the students.
Overall, the teacher I have observed these past few weeks has maintained a steady set of verbal and non-verbal ‘messages’ throughout his classes. For example, there is no apparent difference is how he speaks to each student based on gender, ethnicity, or background. However, it is evident that in one of his classes, which he described as ‘more academic’, he speaks at a higher level. I have noticed he asks more questions require elaboration and connecting of ideas in this ‘academic’ class rather than his mixed level class. Although, at times I have doubted whether the second class mentioned is more academic as both he and I had to prevent ourselves from laughing, although the class made no such attempt, when during a current event presentation meant top connect a modern event to a historic one a student made an interesting comparison. She compared the fame and power or Alexander the Great to Justin Bieber. The sheer fact that, even as the other students laughed, he was able to remain calm and kept the comments he had about her choice of topic to himself until after the class was dismissed is just one example of how he can control his verbal communication with great skill.
The non-verbal messages he send are just as important as the verbal ones. For example, he always appears relaxed in his classes which show how comfortable he is with his topics. In contrast, a nervous teacher sends a message of uncertainty and lack of knowledge. Physically, this teacher presents a sense of professionalism. Every day I have attended his classes he has been dressed in slacks and a sweater or button-up shirt. He also has a short haircut and is clean-shaven. This sends the message that he is educated and takes care in his appearance, thus showing a level of respect toward the school and students.
A daily routine is essential to an orderly classroom and the assessments that accompany that are just as important. Within this structure are several forms of informal assessments. Among them are the do-nows the class completes each day. These are typically a worksheet or set of questions from the text that are gone over as a class after completion. Likewise, the homework comes from the textbook and occasionally a handout. When I questioned the teacher about the importance of homework in the grading school he attempted to deflect the question. I do know that he checks and records who has their homework and how complete it is. From what I can determine, homework forms the smallest portion of their grading scale but is emphasized by the teachers so they can continually check the students’ understanding of the lessons they are learning each day.
I have seen three examples of summative assessments during my observation period. Within classes I saw both quizzes and tests. Each of these were done after a review of the material and the students were given ample time to complete the exam. In the case of a test, the class is given nearly the whole eighty minute block to complete it, including a few bonus questions given verbally at the end. Another day I was with my assigned teach as he proctored a HSPA exam for those with special modifications such as time extensions and use of a computer to complete the exam. Aside from the HSPA exam I saw, there were little other adjustments made to assessments I have seen. However, I was told that the reason for such a long time or each classroom exam was to ensure the students that needed additional time could have it.
In every aspect of our lives, technology is being used more and more often. This is especially evident in the use of this website as a portfolio. Obviously, technology is an inescapable part of human life, especially in America. As technology becomes more cost effective and simpler to use, it is used in increasingly varied ways.
As the school I observe in is rather small, they do not have all the technology the high school I attended did, but they do have more than enough to assist in their classes. The most common form of technology used every day is the projector and teacher’s computer. This may seem basic to most individuals but by using this system to project notes or view related video clips a teacher is able to ensure the entire class has access to the information and that attention remains focused on the lesson. Within the history class, the projector is used for perhaps half an hour on the note taking days. Through discussing with the teacher I learned that he prefers to avoid using the system too often as his lessons could then become too reliant on it which would result in chaos if the projector were to break down. Thus most of the lesson involves discussions of the material rather than straight forward observations. Another readily available technology is in the back of the room. This particular classroom has a small desk with two computers and a printer. I have never seen anyone use these during the classes I have been to most likely because this table is too small for more than a pair of student and in a class of almost twenty it would take too long for an assignment to be completed if only two could work at a time. I find this quit different from my high school where most class rooms had five or six computers for the student’s use and thus many more computer based assignments. I do however find it a good practice that the teacher I observe tries not to rely on technology and is cognoscente of the possibility of technology failure. I have had several teachers from elementary school through current classes that cannot run a lesson without using PowerPoint of similar programs. We have to remember that technology is only a tool, not a requirement in every lesson.
Without some sense of order all actions are blurred between right and wrong. One of a teacher’s duties is to prepare students for their lives after they finish school. Thus knowing that actions have consequences and being about to follow directions are essential skills learned during a person’s schooling.
As I have written of before this teacher I observe has a basic structure he follows in every class regardless of whether it is a note day, exam day, or if he has an activity planned. The repetition of having a do now followed by reviewing the homework keeps the beginning of class calmer and there are very few behaviorally issues to be corrected. The class does become somewhat more chaotic after these activities are finished. For example there is a girl in this class named Irma. She tends to talk in-between direction just as most other students do, however, her voice tends to carry more and her comments are generally a little more off topic than most. During an activity where roles were randomly assigned to model the structure of Feudal Society in Europe she drew a place higher in the Hierarchy. While the students were being moved to their role’s corresponding locations she was not paying attention which resulted in the whole class having to wait. In response the teacher not only took away her role and gave it to another student, but had her sit in the hallway. I have heard him threaten to do this several times but this is the first time I witnessed it. Generally he sticks to verbal warnings and cutting down bonuses like extra credit or he assigns more work. These two methods are by far the most prevalent in his classes and seem to be throughout the school too. Since everyday as students are released for lunch an announcement is made to those that need the go to the office for lunch (for a detention although the announcement does not blatantly say so) I have noticed than even though there are a few hundred students in the school at most half a dozen may have a lunch detention on any given day.
I rather like how this teacher does not lord over his class and act in a totalitarian manner. The easy banter he has makes it easier for the students to relate to him and respect him. I hope to achieve this balance between being friendly toward my students but still having the recognized authority to control the class’s behavior. However, I did find this teacher a bit dismissive of some things and he seemed to focus more on specific students. For instance I do not believe Irma had to be removed from the classroom for her off topic behavior. There have been times while I was observing the class that I was distracted by several boys in the class being off topic yet it seems that this teacher notices Irma’s disruptions much more. But when questioned about her behavior says she does not have behavioral issues or any assistance with her academics. By all accounts she is an average student, so I am left to question how a teacher can notice the ‘flightiness’ (as Irma describes it) of an average student while ignoring the full out conversation held by the male athletes in his class.
No two individuals are completely alike. So even in relatively small groups there can be a wide range of backgrounds and skills. Within a classroom this can present many complications. Since the school I am observing at is quite small, they have a small special needs program. The teachers I have spoken with say that the school tries to keep as many students as possible in the main classrooms. An English teacher, who shares an office with the history teacher I observe, told me his special needs class has only four students: those unable to be in a mainstream class even with an aid. This means many special needs and low achieving students are mixed in with average and above average. This appears to be especially true in this school.
The history class I observe has students of several ability levels. None of them require an aid in class with them, but the teacher does make some adjustments. For example, longer time in tests and quizzes or more flexibility when it comes to thoroughness of homework questions. Another method he uses on exam is bonus questions. Some are simple, random trivia but others are obscure questions from class. This gives a chance for students that study more ineptly and those that do not to gain additional points. The math class I observed is a bit different. While there is also a heterogeneous grouping there, there is also an in-class aid as well. This aid is specifically for one student; however, she also helps any other students that may need assistance. Even with the various ability levels within the classes, all students have the same basic materials and responsibilities. Because of this it is difficult to pick out which students are receiving any special accommodations. I am not sure how I feel about this arrangement. While it may encourage some students to work harder to match the other student’s grades, it could also cause issues. I know several friends that were is both adjusted and mainstream classes during high school and it seems then benefited from having some classes separate from the main student body. That said, each person is different and it is impossible to predict if a different environment may have helped or hindered him or her.
The first step in ensuring a student learns and understands a topic is to have a well thought out lesson. This will ensure the information is presented clearly to the students and in a form they can understand. Without this, the classes would be far less effective. The classes I observed had slightly different methods, but each seems to do their purpose in ensuring the lesson is understood.
The history teacher I observed has a straight forward approach. He begins every lesson with a short do now based on the previous lesson or current section. After this is gone over this review the class goes over the assigned homework. When I asked, he told me this aspect was repeated during each lesson to ensure the students are ready to move on. When starting a new lesson, he does a lot of question and answer exchanges. He moves throughout the room while doing so to keep the students’ attention on him instead of each other. This way the students can get clarification on any topic they need to. Occasionally he would pair students up to work on short work sheets, nut this was limited as since the rooms are rather small the groups could not move away from each other or be larger than two.
The math teacher has a slightly different method. Since her lessons involve learning new algebraic formulas. So she would complete an example or two for the class. Then she would have a student assist in another example. Various students would complete parts of the examples until she felt the class had an adequate grasp of the topic. During the time I observed, she was working on graphing algebraic equations so the examples not only included salving equations but graphing them as well. Thus the only way to gage if the students understand the lesson if they can explain the method of solving the equation aloud. These methods of teaching and review are only small examples of ways to structure lessons, but each fulfills its purpose.
The first thing anyone notices when arriving in a new location is the environment. As humans we instinctually evaluate and respond to our environments. A new school is no exception. For my classroom observation I have been assigned a small school with a very strong sense of community. This cohesiveness was obvious as soon as I entered the building. The office staff was friendly and, once assured I was expected, very helpful in explaining the daily processes I would need to go through. This sense of community was very clear as throughout the short time I waited in the office as each of the staff helped each other and any incoming staff with any issues that popped up such as scheduling or filing forms.
The two classes I observed also had wonderful rapport. Both teachers freely joked and exchanged comments with the students. There was clear respect between the students and the teacher, but this did not stop any gentle teasing. For instance in one class a student had apparently fainted the day before during gym. Upon learning of this the teacher questioned the girl and asked if she was feeling well. After having been assured by the girl that she was fine and reminded that she simply fainted at times and found the comments her classmates made funny, the teacher ceased asking the others to stop teasing. Later in the lesson, after the students including the girl attempted to draw him into conversation, he joined the joking as well. The pleasant exchange and lighthearted air continued throughout the lesson and activities. Considering the heavy content of the lesson, which involved the founding and rise of Christianity, it is remarkable that the class stayed so on topic and seemed to enjoy the class so much. This easy exchange of ideas and comments continued in the math class I observed afterward.
Just as with the first class the math room was rather small and the desks were very close together. This allows for comments to be shared without being shouted across the room. It may also be the reason the students are so comfortable around each other, even to the point that the math students did not get upset if another volunteered to help with a review question that another was already working on aloud. I was fortunate that the second teacher had some free time while her students worked in groups. She was able to explain to me why she so freely traded remarks with her students. Apparently she had several of them in her classes the year before and had thus developed a rapport with them. She made it clear that all teachers must learn how to interact with each student on a one-on-one basis. No matter how close a teacher and class may appear there must still be recognition that the teacher is in charge and has many responsibilities to the students. By creating a strong, comfortable environment the teachers and administrators are able to get to know the students better. This allows the students to work together better and learn together instead of competing. These conclusions are rather large to make based upon one visit to the school, but I am hopeful they will be reinforced and the next few weeks will be enjoyable for both me and the students.