Addressing the Needs of All of My Students

This week I am feeling… overwhelmed. Not that that’s a new feeling, but it’s an especially heavy feeling this week. I am currently working on planning a Social Studies unit on the Colonial Period, while also trying to get my EdTPA lessons taught, and worrying about applying to jobs. One thing that I really appreciate about student teaching in Urbana is that teachers have a lot of freedom over what they choose to teach. The literacy curriculum my teacher has designed is incredible and I was able to plan and teach my own science unit on the human body. With that being said, it’s a lot of work to try and plan out how to teach a unit. I enjoy the amount of freedom I get, but can’t help but feel a little lost at the same time. My main issue at the moment is trying to figure out how in the world I am going to teach all of this in the 14 days that I have to do it. My cooperating teacher has gathered many materials over the years and has tubs full of lesson plans, books, and other resources for me to go through and incorporate into my unit. There is so much to tap into that I’m having a hard time deciding what to use and what to cut out. I am also trying to figure out the best way to sequence the lessons in a logical way and incorporate fun activities to engage the students. As daunting as this task is, I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had to plan units from scratch, and I love being in a district that allows me to do this.
We’ve talked a lot about the importance of making the content we teach culturally relevant to our students. I have some students that are of European and Native American descent, who will have no problem identifying with the people and histories they will be learning about. On the other hand, I also have several students who are from China and Israel. I have no idea how to differentiate the content to address their language needs, let alone find ways for them connect to and see the importance in the material they are learning. I often feel like I fail my ELL students. If I only had the time to work one on one with them more often, I’d like to think I’d be able to better address their needs. Their parents have expressed concerns that they aren’t progressing in English as much as they would like them to be, and think that this is because they spend too much time with one another. On the other hand, I can’t force the students to interact with the others outside of their math bodies and integrated groups. They need to receive most of their instruction together because they are at the same level of English proficiency. And quite frankly, I don’t blame them for flocking towards one another. I can’t imagine what a comfort it is for them to have each other as they are forced to spend every day trying to make sense out of the chaos that is navigating school in a language that is still new to them. Every day I try to find new ways to address their needs, but most days I feel like I am just getting them along, and not offering them the best education that I can. I will say that this has been a good way for me to practice differentiating, so I will just accept this for the learning experience that it is and try to do the best that I can.