Saturday, February 25, 2012

CP Reflection Week 4

One of the things that has been really stressed in my teacher education program is the importance of reflection, so in that spirit, here is my reflection on this past week of Clinical Practice (i.e. student teaching).

Monday, 2/20
This was a much needed break. I hadn't been extremely productive on Sat or Sun last weekend, so I spent most of Monday really working hard on upcoming lesson plans. Designing lesson plans is really mentally taxing. How can I best teach this in a way that students will learn? How do I make this interesting? What type of activities will reinforce learning?

Tuesday, 2/21
No school for students. Faculty Workshop. This was largely unhelpful for me. The purpose of the workshop was for teachers to create a Google site for their class. The school is very interactive with Google products. Their email (for faculty and students) is Gmail-based, and now by the fall, each class should have a Google site set-up. Since I am not a faculty member, I didn't have much to do during this portion of the workshop. I played around with Google sites briefly, but mostly worked on lesson plans. After lunch, I attended a seminar on Google apps. Since I've been a fairly avid Google user for years, I didn't learn much from this either. In fact, I was able to assist other teachers who needed help with Google  forms, etc. In some ways, it was a fun refresher for me since many things I hadn't used in quite some time.  After that seminar, we had a department meeting. It was a discussion on curriculum in the middle and high school. After that, we went out for drinks/apps - easily the best part of the day!

Wednesday, 2/22
All the classes were shortened by a few minutes for a special chapel service for Ash Wednesday. Being a product of public school, it is still weird for me to have a weekly chapel service during school.

The only class I taught today was in World History (AP Gov had an essay test; AP Euro was taught by my mentor teacher (MT)). We covered the Mejii Restoration in Japan. I ran them through what some of the changes were and why they wanted to change. My MT took them through some specifics that demonstrated the rapidity of Japanese modernization and how they were able to successfully accomplish such a feat.

Thursday, 2/23
I went in early for a grade level faculty meeting. This week it was for all faculty who taught sophomores. The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss students who were failing and to get advice from other teachers with the same student. Was the student doing poorly in all his/her classes? What could  teachers do to assist and better ensure learning by the student? It was interesting to sit in on the meeting. I knew several of the students that were being discussed. There weren't quite as many suggestions and helpful advice as I would have hoped, though.

In World History, we spent some time discussing Japan and World War II. My MT teacher provided some background on the war, and I introduced nuclear warfare (i.e. the bombing of Hiroshima). We did an ethical exercise (taped several ethical statements around the room, students indicated if they agreed or disagreed or were neutral). I showed the following slideshow (taken largely from this website), and then we began reading excerpts from Hiroshima by John Hersey. The rest was assigned as homework over the weekend.

I think this lesson turned out really well. The students seemed pretty responsive to the war and the devastating effects of the nuclear bomb. On Monday, we will continue our discussion of nuclear warfare.

In AP Euro History, I mostly did all the teaching. My MT opened the class and ran through a bit about the economic situation in Europe after WWI. Throughout Europe during the 1920s, many political experiments took place. Today's lesson was on the experiments going on in Russia. The driving question of the lesson dealt with how to reconcile the conflict between ideology and practicality. The Bolsheviks/Communists wanted to fundamentally change all of society. How could this practically be accomplished? We walked through how you would change society (via legislation, education, arts) and if it was even possible to ever achieve this ideal. My MT and I were working on this lesson plan almost up to the moment class began. It definitely could have been polished a bit more, and I ended up running out of time before getting to the end. I do think it was put together pretty well, and we may not have run out of time if I'd had better control over the flow. There was a bit of group work throughout the lesson that I could have managed better (e.g. clearer instructions, less time in the group, smoother shift back out of the groups) to provide us with more time to get through all of the material. This was my first observed lesson by my MT. He had a lot of good suggestions for me.

Things I need to work on:
  • Questioning technique - planning a series questions to lead students in a logical direction, asking the right questions.
  • Transitions - using motivation language to get students into groups, being clearer about what the groups should be doing and why, pulling students back from the groups and getting them into groups, connecting disparate elements of the lesson
Friday, 2/24
I was not in the classroom; I had a clinical practice seminar. In my post yesterday, I alluded to having one of those days. Let's just say that the seminar was completely frustrating. My fellow teacher candidates are so poorly behaved. They are just plain rude. I'll be honest. I would hate having them for students in my class. One girl in my group was texting on her phone nearly the entire time. Most of them have no qualms about talking when someone is presenting information, and then they have to ask a bunch of unnecessary questions, because they would have been answered had they been paying attention. I had to concentrate extra hard to compensate for all the chatter around me. Ugh! If I were more vindictive, I would actually wish poor student behavior on them, as punishment for being poor students themselves. I could go on and on, but I won't. I know I've already rambled enough.

Overall, not much classroom time this past week. I am pleased with how much I am learning in clinical practice, and I'm fairly confident that it will help me to become a much better teacher some day.

I hope you are enjoying a beautiful Saturday afternoon! I've been quite productive today. How about you? Do you tend to be more productive during the week or on weekends?

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