A Day in the Life of an Aspiring Teacher

I’m going to include my advice to future student teachers:

My advice would be: don’t be afraid to ask questions. In the beginning, my CT had given me a lot of information about the curriculum so when I asked her questions I felt like I was bothering her. Now I wish I would have asked more. I wish I would have known how much my students could handle, how hard I should push them, extra information about them, what I should be covering/ what I needed to get through this semester.

Planning was a very important aspect of being able to stay on top of things. I planned early because I had the whole summer to plan. My CT gave me a copy of the curriculum over the summer and I planned a whole unit plan for one of my preps over the summer. The main thing to remember is to not get worried if things get pushed back or moved around. I ended up cutting a bunch of activities because my unit took almost 2 weeks more than I had anticipated. You never know how things are going to go once you actually start teaching.

Remember that your students are people too. I had a unique experience because all of the class I taught were “co-teach” which at my school means I had all the students with IEPs, students that had failed English before, and “the failure kids”. I had to keep reminding myself that my students were not dumb, they simply had extremely difficult lives. I think sometimes it’s difficult to remember that sometimes students do actually need help and are not simply trying to get out of an assignment. Though it may be more difficult for you, your students will really appreciate it in the end. Some of my students that said they will miss me the most are the students that other teachers deemed “worthless”.

Try to remember how high school students think, read, act, etc. Remember that they will not interpret a text the same way you will. You might have to lead them along a little bit. Don’t be surprised if students open up to you about their private lives.

Make sure you know everything about the assignment you’re teaching in case the students ask questions. Make “cheat sheets” with facts about the topic- just in case. (Especially if it’s Emily Dickinson :) )

Talk to everyone. Go to the lunchroom during lunch (even though they may not talk about everything you want to hear or you may not know what they are talking about). I bonded with a lot of other teachers during our lunch period. Most of the teachers in our “pod” (a group of 8 classrooms) and the teachers I ate lunch with said they would recommend me to the principal for the position that is open next year. It’s great to have contacts with people. I also visited other classrooms to watch teachers teach and learned a lot from each of them. Later, I was able to ask questions of the other teachers as well.

Have fun. Do your best. Ask questions. Enjoy your time- it goes by quickly.

 

 

Today I had a bunch of students ask me not to leave. I also had students ask me why our co-teacher couldn’t leave and I stay. They wanted me to write them letters before I left and they all wrote me messages on a scrapbook page. I miss them already. I never imagined how attached I would become to all of my students, but I really did get attached. Though some of them were extremely frustrating, I really cared for all of them and they really gave me a great semester and a lifetime of memories.

So today was my first day in the classroom not teaching since the beginning of the semester.

It was weird.

They still asked me questions and had things to turn in to me, but it wasn’t the same. During 6th hour, my CT had to leave to take care of something so I taught for her, which wasn’t difficult. As I was introducing the assignment for the day (prompts to fill out while watching Freedom Writers) one of the students complained about reading stupid books. It pisses me off more than anything when students complain about assignments. I work hard to come up with interesting things to do in class and when they say negative things it hurts my feelings.

At least this time I could say it was my CT’s lesson.

One more day until Thanksgiving break. I definitely can’t wait.

My cooperating teacher has been great. She allowed me to take over her classroom completely, meaning she wasn’t even in the classroom most days. The fact that I have a co-teacher helped with her being able to leave the room, but nevertheless, it was very helpful for her to not be in the room. I was forced to make my own decisions and react to student’s comments and frustrations on my own. I, of course, could ask her about situations if needed, but having the students treat me like their actual teacher helped immensely.

I wanted to teach the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson since I wrote a unit plan last fall that included that book and The Absolutely True Diary of a part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Being able to actually teach it this semester was amazing, though my students didn’t react to it in the way I had hoped. A lot of my students had already read the novel so they knew what was going to happen. They also didn’t want to analyze Melinda or what was happening among her friends or the school. They all thought Melinda was dumb for acting the way she did, even after they found out about the rape.

I didn’t exactly choose to teach The Crucible by Arthur Miller, but my CT and Co-teacher decided it was something we should do (mainly because my co-teacher was teaching it in another class). I didn’t really have any say in how we taught it, though I did come up with a couple lessons. Pretty much my students hated it. They liked the movie okay, but hated the play. They especially hated that they had to read aloud. I graded them on their reading but mostly gave them credit for simply participating.

I realize now that I did give my sophomores a lot of assignments to do, though only because they are so apathetic and so many of them have issues keeping track of assignments. I gave them what we call a “roadmap” which is simply a list of questions we answer aloud in class while reading, a vocabulary packet, and journal assignments. We did journal assignments in class AND I gave them class time to work on their vocabulary, yet I barely got any assignments back. After that, they had a test over the book and a portfolio assignment where they got to choose from a bunch of different art assignments and 2 different essay topics.

Juniors had less to do but will be graded on a more difficult level. They also had a portfolio art project and an essay, along with a final Test over the play. They took quizzes for each act and had a roadmap that included vocabulary.

The craziest things happened outside of assignments though. I had a student lose his father at the beginning of the school year. Another student’s father left the family a few weeks ago. Another student lost her mother and father in a murder-suicide. I had a student in Juvenile Detention for 3 weeks, and a student that attended a special program for students that have one more strike before Alternative school. One of my students had a baby, one found out she is pregnant, and one’s girlfriend had her baby a month and a half early. Oh, and one of my students found out he has cystic fibrosis. EDIT: one more thing- I had a student write a personal narrative that elaborately described his girlfriend giving him a blow-job and having sex with him. Very awkward.

So in all that craziness, I was actually able to teach a few of my students a couple of things. I finished teaching on Friday November 19, but I still have 11 days to observe left. It’s definitely going to be bittersweet when I leave. I hope to return next Fall, since they have someone retiring, but I just don’t know if I will get the job. I really want to because I like it here and I know I will miss my students and coworkers. So now I only have my portfolio to finish before I graduate.

Oh, and grading about 270 projects and 150 essays.

So things didn’t go as planned and I didn’t keep up with this blog as much as I would have liked. However, I am going to try to summarize the last 8 weeks in this post.

I ended up teaching Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson to my sophomores and The Crucible by Arthur Miller to my Juniors. Right now we are working on portfolios and essays and right now I feel like it’s all a big mess, though my cooperating teacher keeps telling me everything is going well. My students are frustrated with assignments, though they really should be frustrated with themselves for procrastinating. I’m still trying to learn how their minds work.

It’s late and I’ve put off this post for a few hours. Tomorrow I’ll write about all the craziness. But for now I need sleep because I am meeting Laurie Halse Anderson tomorrow night!!

Seriously. Where HAVE the last five weeks gone?

My student teaching semester has started with a whirlwind of activities. I met my cooperating teacher, my classes, my students, my co-teacher, a bunch of other teachers and administrators who I can not remember the names of, as well as many other things.

I had a little bit of a snafu that threw off my weeks by one. I had a financial aid issue on campus and therefore was not allowed to student teach for a week while it got taken care of. However, that is over and we’re moving on…

For some reason, I always imagined that student teaching would be some glorious thing. I would be handed pre-made lesson plans and stand up in front of the room reciting the lesson exactly as it was given to me. My students would respond with thoughtful answers and they would love me.

Boy was I wrong.

The classroom I’m in is what they call a co-teach room which means that 40-60% of my students have IEPs. This means I am required to have a special education teacher in the room with me at all times. The problem lies in the fact that the school does not have enough money to hire that many special education teachers so instead of someone that knows what they are doing and how to deal with each student with an IEP, I am given an “educational aid” in my classroom. While it’s nice to have another teacher in the room with me at all times, he seems to think his role is to be “friends” with the students and yell at them to be quiet. It’s weird.

The first four (three) weeks of my student teaching were simply observation. I watched my cooperating teacher while she taught. It was interesting to see how she formed her relationship with her students. She earns their trust and doesn’t treat them like they are dumb, while explaining to them that she understands what they are going through. (Most of my students have no desire to go to college– they are mainly working on learning trades)

Last week, I started teaching my 2 classes of sophomores. It was interesting. We were finishing a novel that was chosen by my cooperating teacher (CT), which was interesting because it was not a novel I would have chosen. At the school I am at, we are encouraged to read novels instead of simply using the textbook but the problem is that there are not enough novels to be able to allow the students to take them home. And because I have a lot of special education students, we have to read almost everything aloud in class. This causes time to go slowly and painfully. The students in my classes that do not have IEPs complain about the reading aloud all the time but there is not really anything we can do about it.

So I was teaching the end of the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. They liked the end and most of them enjoyed the novel. On Thursday I had my first observation by my school of education advisor (only 4 days after I started teaching). It went well, though I didn’t get to the activity I wanted to do. My advisor also felt the need to jump in and ask my students questions. (he used to be a high school English teacher as well)

After he left, I cried.

I wasn’t really upset (though I had hoped I could get to the activity) but it was simply that the stress from the past 5 weeks had been building up and I finally needed a release. My CT encouraged me and told me I did a great job but I was still upset.

I’m scared to death of failure.

While I glad to have such freedom for designing my curriculum (within their assigned curriculum) this semester, I wish I had a little more direction from my CT. I have a hard time figuring out how to teach writing. That’s my next task to tackle.

All of my thoughts seem to jumble right now and I am sure there are a million more things to say. However, I am ending this post for the night. My hope is to be able to keep this going almost as a journal, updating daily with information about how things are going.

Until tomorrow…

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