Another poem that was written by a student of my class goes like this:
Ms. B is my class’s student teacher.
She is very nice. I know some day she will make an awesome teacher!
Her smile makes my day,
Her laugh makes me smile,
Her face so bright and cheery!
She is the best student teacher ever!
I wish she could stay forever!
(But what I love most about her, is that she loves our class and me!)
It has been an amazing 4 months working with these 4th grade students and I am sad to have to say goodbye. I have 3 more days to enjoy with them, but I already miss them. It is crazy to think that just 4 months ago I was starting student teaching, and now I am closing this chapter. As I finish out the week I look forward to the new adventures in life (getting a job is hopefully one of them!), but I am also sad to leave these amazing people I have grown attached to. I know I won’t be able to stay away too long. I bet I’ll be back in the classroom next week! It’s been a great ride, and I hope you have enjoyed with me through my posts!
This past week was a short one for me because I was sick. A bug has been going around the past few weeks and hitting the students and teachers pretty hard. It finally made its round to me and I have since been fighting it off. I came to school on Monday feeling a little under the weather but not bad enough to miss. But Tuesday morning did me in; I was forced to take a sick day for the safety and well-being of the rest of my class. I felt so guilty for taking a sick day. I provided my cooperating teacher all the plans I had made and what she could do (although, I felt a bit silly doing so, she is the real teacher and this is her class!) Tuesday’s are our longest day of teaching; in addition to Language Arts and Math (which happen daily), we also had science for the last hour of school. I have two students who do Language Arts and Math with the special education teacher but I have them for Science and Social Studies, so I was especially disappointed I was missing time they would be in the classroom. Another thing to add to my guilt was the fact it was one of my student’s birthday! She had been counting down the days and was so excited and I was sad I couldn’t be there to wish her a happy birthday. 🙁 But! The nice thing about being sick on Tuesday was that on Wednesday when I came back to school the kids were so excited to see me and asked why I wasn’t there the day before and if I was feeling better. It is great to see how much they care about me and want me to be at school with them. It also reminded me of how much fun I have at school with these students each and every day.
During math we have a mix of students from my own class and the class next door. Math is broken down into the “high group,” two “middle groups,” and a “low group.” On Wednesday my class was having a mini “pop quiz” on fractions. We like to keep testing the students on fractions to make sure they really understand the material. However, when the word “quiz” was mentioned, the students went nuts and were nervous and getting upset. We never officially tested the kids on fractions because they weren’t taking it in as well as they needed to in the given amount of time. Instead, we gave mini assessments throughout the unit and finally moved on to decimals and have been incorporating fractions in the first 15 minutes every day. My cooperating teacher and I thought things were improving with fractions based on class work, but the pop quiz somewhat proved us wrong. I think the students were just nervous that it was a “quiz.” Had the students been given the problems to do like every other day I think they would have done well. One of the students stopped trying to follow along and began crying and making a fuss. Another student was grunting and putting his head in his hands and on his head buried in his desk. Another girl had the most distressed look on her face it was sad. So, instead of just letting the students fall apart, my cooperating teacher sent me outside with 3 students to work in a small group and help them one-on-one. The boy who was crying breezed through the problems and said to me, “I do better on my own, I don’t need help.” So that was interesting. It seemed as though he just got really stressed about the idea of a quiz and following along in the allotted time. The girl needed a little help but also seemed like she just needed more time and a less stressful environment. It’s sad and interesting to see how much of a disaster the “quiz” was simply because it was called a quiz.
This week had its ups and downs but the highlight of the week was a also wonderful reading lesson. The students are reading from a “textbook” which has many short stories for each theme. The theme of this unit is problem solving. Although the students do not particularly enjoy these stories, they are generally compliant. This week there was an extension to one particular story we did with an art connecting activity. In this activity the students wrote about what they saw and how it made them feel with three different art pieces. They were to look at the piece as a whole, then look at details closely, then reflect and comment. I had originally planned on the lesson taking about 20 minutes but it went so well and the students were very thorough with their work that it took about an hour and fifteen minutes. We had a great discussion about each piece and they were very observant and thinking critically. It was great to see and I loved that they were able to really delve into the assignment.
Thursday night was Lighted School House where parents and students were welcome to walk around the school and see the student’s classrooms. This was a great experience and was fun to see all the students and parents who came. Earlier in the day teachers were saying how this night is the best of all the nights they have to be here for unlike conferences. I definitely think it is. It was so nice to see the students who are maybe a bit shy or have some learning difficulties be so excited to show their parents what they have been working on in school. My students were able to show their most recent writing on the computers, demonstrate how to use the microscopes and find the single celled organisms, venture to the compost bin, and much more. I truly enjoyed seeing all the students and parents who were able to come. I wish more families would have made it in, but I understand that families are busy. It was nice to see a mix of the “good kids” and the students who have some behavior problems and to see them in a different atmosphere. I’m glad I got to experience a night like this.
On Wednesday at the very end of recess I witnessed a bit of a violent moment by one of the students. It was indoor recess and my co-op was not in the room. The kids were quiet and good the whole time but in the last 30 seconds one boy had a bad moment. I saw him leap from his seat and lunge at another student with a pencil in his hand and grabbed the other boy’s shoulders. I immediately stopped him and told him this was inappropriate behavior and not allowed, and that he owed me time after school. If students are bad during school for whatever reason they can be kept for “respect time” with the teacher. For the next hour the boy was furious with me. Immediately after I told him to stay after school he sat at his desk, cried, then proceeded to get mad at me. He had a individual pack of candy and began wringing it and staring at me, as if he was trying to rip my head off. He growled, grunted, grinded his teeth at me, and mouthed “I hate you” and other phrases I caught here and there. I went back and forth deciding what I should do at that point – look at him and prove to him that what he was doing wasn’t fazing me, or ignore him and not look at him at all. I chose to ignore him. What was done was done and he has had many problems hitting, kicking, shoving this boy that I have stopped before, so it was time he learned his lesson. Meanwhile, as the child was visually distraught, another boy got upset because he didn’t understand why this child was in trouble. That caused a whole other scene. I didn’t have an opportunity to talk to my co-op until the kids went to Spanish, almost 2 hours later. But, when I did, I told her what I saw, and the previous encounters I have witnessed, and that I obviously couldn’t just let this go and potentially have a student hurt. She was very pleased with my actions, which was nice, and said that she would handle the situation after school. Hopefully he gets over it and doesn’t cause further problems because I punished him.
Spring break begins today! It has been a long week leading up to a much needed break. Classes kept getting smaller and smaller as students left early for spring break. Everything is coming together and the work load has increased. I am now teaching science, reading, and helping with math. What is most fun for me is getting to know my students better and building relationships with them. One thing that I have really come to enjoy is connecting with a few students that are somewhat overlooked. One very quiet girl doesn’t really talk to anyone other than her best friend, and doesn’t participate or say much to my cooperating teacher, but I have been able to connect with her and she willingly and eagerly talks to me many times a day. She even participated three times in one of the grammar lessons I led today. It’s nice to see that she can open up and bond with someone when my co-op was unable to make this connection. She does such a good job with the “troubled” students but sometimes it takes away attention for the other students. I hope to continue to build these relationships with my students as the year continues after break!
This week has been pretty low-key because ISAT testing began. 5 of our 17 students have been taken out to work either one on one or in small groups with an adult. We had one student work one on one and the other 4 were in small groups. There was one student I was surprised by because he is in the high math class and middle reading group; however, he has an IEP and major test anxiety so it makes sense in the end. The 4 of the 5 students who were taken out are our lowest academically, so the students who were left with us make up the middle and high reading and math classes. The students who were left in my room breezed through the tests and had so much time left over. Despite this, it was interesting to see how stressed all the students were about testing, which is a shame. I remember these tests and thinking it didn’t much matter as long as I tried. But now, unfortunately, parents and schools put so much pressure on the kids to get good test scores that the students worry. It is truly sad to see. Next week we will be back to normal, I hope testing doesn’t take too much out of them!
The most enjoyable part of this week was when I got to help one of the girls in the math class on something she did not understand. The day of a test she stayed in with me instead of going to gym and we identified the problems she was having and I made a few practice problems for her. I showed her some steps to take with that particular type of problem and showed her a little trick to remember what to do at the end. After about 5 practice problems she seemed to have it down pretty well. After lunch we had math and sure enough, problem #11 was exactly like the problems we had practiced. I didn’t see the test before helping her so it was exciting and nerve wrecking when I saw a similar problem. I watched her work through the problem with such diligence. While giving the test, #11 was a very tricky problem for the class. We had to explain it a few times and let the students give it their best shot. But the girl I worked with didn’t need extra time or explaining. As she was finishing the problem and double-checking her answer I saw her do a little fist pump to herself and say “yesssss!” quietly. It was obvious she had gotten the right answer and she was so happy about it. (This student doesn’t particularly enjoy math and this past week she has been coming to the back table to work with me and get help). This was such an exciting moment to see that she understood the problem, was proud of herself, and to know that what I was teaching her was working and I had gotten through to her when it hadn’t for before.
Parent Teacher Conferences – a teacher’s day never ends. I got to watch about 8 conferences in one night. We had a whole day of school then conferences started at 4 pm until 8 pm. It was so interesting to see and watch how my cooperating teacher goes about the conference. For the most part I thought the conferences went very well and I learned a lot from them. Before each parent came in my co-op would show me her notes on the student and what she was going to discuss with the parents. I think the most important thing I learned from the experience is to stay positive. There are always going to be difficult parents or difficult students that you are dealing with, however, it is both your job and in your best interest to keep positive and try to find the silver lining. My co-op gave me the advice to always start and end with something positive about the child. She likes to call it the “compliment sandwich,” where the point to discuss for improvement is “sandwiched” between two compliments. This is a good way to address the problem but in a positive manner.
I was also lucky to see a mix of parents during conferences. Both moms and dads came, sometimes alone, sometimes together, and there were a range of emotions. I saw one “bad” conference where the parent just didn’t seem happy with any of the things we said about the student. It was just so sad to see my co-op say such great things about this child and the parent didn’t seem to care at all. Other than that, most of the parents went away from conferences happy. I was surprised and happy to see some fathers at the conferences. It is so rare to see this, but in all the cases where the father came they were interested and concerned in what we had to say about their child. It was a long night but one that I learned so much from and will never forget.