Blog #3: Touched My Heart

I have so much I would like to say in this blog that I genuinely don’t know where to start.  I really want to share some of my experiences within the classroom, but I feel like I have shared everything within small groups.  I really want to talk about my reflections on the classroom environment my teacher has created and critique it to my best ability, but I feel like that would lead to a lot of rash decisions and judgments th

at I am not yet qualified to make.  I would also really like to discuss the various experiences outside of the classroom that have impacted my growth throughout this experience, but I feel as though that might be slightly boring or dragging.  So, while typing all of this and thinking this through, I believe that all of my desires would be sufficiently represented by expressing how much I’ve learned about my self as not only a teacher, but asa person.

I started out this experience being very frightened to be teaching in an urban setting.  However, throughout these past two weeks, I have realized that some of my fears are minute to all the riches that also live within the city of Philadelphia.  I have realized, for many different reasons, that I would definitely be able to teach in this setting.  I am excited to be able to make a big difference in children’s lives that might not be able to get the same opportunity from someone else and I was thrilled to see myself engaging students and forming relationships within just this short amount of time.  Although there were many rough times throughout this experience, I believe they were the most rewarding in my growth and development as both a teacher, and a person.

During the two weeks in the classroom, I’ve had the opportunity to teach very often.  Two lessons I taught were in history and math.  I tend to think of myself to be very good at understanding and teaching math, and for history, I am usually able to find fun and interesting activities or analogies in order to engage the students into wanting to understand.  However, I have only taught first graders before.  I was very confident teaching that age group because if I made a mistake or if they did not understand right away, I always seemed to be able to find new techniques or explanations to explain to them in smaller terms.  They also did not necessarily have the knowledge to tell me I was wrong and catch me off-guard.  With this group of fifth graders though, I was very nervous that the class would not be responsive to me and/or I would not completely be able to control or maintain order while trying to teach.  I was rough to start out, but within a day, the students started to act positively to my teaching and ended up really engaging in every lesson.  I learned that I CAN be a good teacher and I WILL be a good teacher as long as I don’t forget to be confident in myself and my ability to portray lessons to those who are younger than me.

On Wednesday of this week, I finally had the opportunity to teach kindergarten while my fifth graders were testing.  I realized in this short three hour time period that I really do want to teach younger students.  Just looking back at my reaction to my teacher telling me she was sending me down to kindergarten tells me this.  I love being able to say silly words and names and how they react to it in a way of which you become a stand-up comedian for a few short seconds.  I really feel myself light up when I’m around them.  However, I would not change my placement for one second.  I am very glad that I got the opportunity to find out what grade I actually want to teach and why, versus just going with the grade in which I am most comfortable and familiar with.

This experience has really opened my eyes to more of my own strengths along with placing me around people in which I have many similar interests and ideas with.  One of the more rewarding things for me during this seminar was being able to be surrounded by college student who also believe in teaching as much as I do and as just as passionate as I am.  It is really discouraging to continually get the negative response of, “oh” after telling someone my major is elementary education.  I would never had guessed how many people almost frown upon those who choose education as their major.  I feel as though I am almost looked down upon by others who are not in the major.  It was very nice to see not only the rewards in the classroom that keep me going, but also how this experience opened my eyes to the types of conversations I can look forward to with those who share my interest and love of teaching.

I like to describe my teaching style as one from the heart, and the many friends and colleagues I’ve been able to interact and connect with during this experience have definitely touched it to immense depths that I can not even begin to put into words.

Blog #2: Listen, Observe, Wonder

            Its Tuesday night, 1:30 in the morning, and your jolted awake.  You hear a girl shouting at the top of her lungs at a boy about something.  She repeats herself over and over, not allowing the boy to get even one word in.  You know you have no hope of falling back asleep unless you close the window, but you just can’t find it in you to get up out of bed.  Then, all of a sudden, you hear shuffling, and then she’s quiet.  All you hear then is, “Bro! Bro! Stop!”  At this point, you don’t want to hear what happens next, so you get up to close the window, not expecting what comes next.  You see right below your building, two guys holding a man back by the arms, and another one trying to turn over the girl who you assume was the one shouting from laying face first on the pavement.

            I wish this was a hypothetical situation, but this is what I heard and saw the night before we went to our school settings for the first time.  After I closed the window, all I could do is cry.  I was afraid for the girl, I was afraid for the boy, I was afraid for myself, and I was afraid for what was to come the next morning.

I hesitantly get dressed the next morning, with flashbacks from the night before rushing to the front of my mind over and over again.  I finally pull up to the school, step out of the car, take a deep breath, and enter the building.  I was warmly welcomed into the office, told where I needed to go, and headed up the stairs.  I meet the teacher briefly, then she heads down to pick up the students to start the school day.  She asked me to open the windows while she was gone so I walked over to get some air in the room.  As I opened the first window, I heard the children screaming, laughing, and playing.  I watched them for a moment just having fun.  They were running around, just being kids.  I realized at that moment, that is all they are…kids.  In all the hype about the differences of urban schools, I had forgotten about the biggest similarity.  You are here to teach the children.  They are not scary, unknown variables.  They are growing, excited, eager individuals, just wanting to learn.  I finally thought, for the first time since signing up for the program, “I can do this.”

Throughout the school day, I walked around and helped struggling children, got to know everyone’s name and a little about them, and even re-taught a concept for some kids allowing them to see the information in a new light, which helped them understand and grasp the concept perfectly.  Every additional minute I was in the classroom, was a minute that increased my confidence.  Then, at the end of the day, the children had a “writing workshop” where they write about something that occurred in the past few days or something they are looking forward to.  Some of the kids in the class wrote about my presence in the classroom and it made me feel amazing.  It was so interesting to see what they thought of me and read their reaction and thoughts of what they think might happen in the next two weeks with me there.  Every single one only had great things to say.  One child said, “I think having her in the class will be a blast.  She is so nice and comes around to help everyone.”  This only made me feel even better about what I was doing, the career I had chosen, and myself as a possible teacher in an urban setting.

The article by Corbett and Wilson that discussed six different things a teacher needs to do in order to be a great one, made me evaluate myself while in the classroom.  I was so proud to see how I was already trying to achieve all six characteristics without even thinking about it.  I was already making a connection with the kids, helping them throughout the school day, and varying the ways in which I was trying to explain concepts to different kids in order to better their understanding.

Caitlin Campbell – Blog #1: Note to Educators

As a senior in high school, I was given the opportunity to take an internship with my local elementary school in Germantown, Maryland.  In past education internships with this elementary school, the main involvement of the interns with their students was simply doing everything and anything the teacher needed.  This involved making copies, cutting out things for arts and crafts, mixing paints, etc.  However, my idea of an intern was very different.  I wanted my experience with my students to be much like a student teacher.  In order to make this happen, I searched out for a teacher who would be willing to allow me time to actually teach the class.  My teacher allowed to make lesson plans, create new disciplinary techniques for the class, and after the first month, the moment I walked through the door, she would sit down, and I was the teacher from 12:30 till 3:20.  She gave me skills that I could use in the future instead of just helping him or her with smaller tasks that wouldn’t necessarily prepare me or open my eyes to what teaching was all about.

This was particularly important to me because I was very hesitant to go into teaching.  From as early as I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher.  However, as my educative years progressed, I was shown many different career paths that interested me.  I was afraid that choosing to teach would be allowing myself to fall to comfortably instead of reaching for something different or unknown.  For the longest time, I wanted to become a lawyer.  I love politics and the operations of the government as well as learning about the law and how both sides of a case can use the same law to defend them, and opposed the other side.  Having all of this said, I still continually fell back on the idea of being a teacher and how much I would absolutely adore being that role model for future children.  I looked at why I started to enjoy law and politics in the first place and could only point to the very first teacher who exposed me to it.

My tenth grade law teacher is the one who, not only opened my eyes to how exciting and interesting law can be, but she also opened my eyes to how empowering a single person can be as a teacher.  Don’t get me wrong, I had excellent teachers before this time, but this woman started the hardest internal struggle I had ever faced.  Her enthusiasm and just plain interest in both the topic at hand and the task of getting all of the same emotions she felt from knowing about the law to us, as her students, was incredible.  I still remember the very first time I stepped into her classroom, took a seat, and waited for her to start the class.  The bell rang, everyone got seated, and she stood up in the front of the class in silence.  She stared at her watch for what felt like forever.  She then scanned the classroom and said, “this is what people normally think about when they think of the law.  They think of silence, boredom, and utter disinterest.”  She then went on to say that her job here this year was not to get us to pass tests, memorize the amendments, or even make law our favorite subject.  Her goal was to show us that the law is much more interesting than many people think and that it, along with all the other subjects in life, are worth learning.  It seemed as if her main aspiration for the class was not to actually learn anything, but to find the simple desire to learn.

From that point forward, she grasped my attention every single day.  I not only learned about the law, but I learned many different skills I needed to be successful in school like taking notes, using flashcards, applying simple rules to complex ideas, and most importantly, I learned a lot about myself.  One of the most memorable lessons was one very close to the presidential election between Barack Obama and John McCain.  She started the class by asking us what we thought of the candidates.  With no response from a single person in the class, she walked across the room, grabbed the New York Post off her desk, and held it up for the whole class to see.  She then started on a rampage about how horrible it was that our generation doesn’t seen the importance of reading the newspaper.  She went even further to say that it was an experience in and of itself to simply read the paper.  As people, we were missing out on the simple joy of “the smell of the fresh ink rushing to your face as you fold the paper back and the feel of the ink between your fingertips.”  The passion of those moments has never left my mind.  Ever since that day, I have wanted to come across just as passionate in something to my future students as she did that day.

After reading Duncan Andrade’s, “Note to Educators,” I realized that the next two weeks need to be made an amazing experience.  The experience is not going to be amazing unless I put in the effort and interest in really emerging myself in the environment.  I want to be able to tell the difference between the types of hope and see them in action by the end of this all.  I only slightly understand what he means by the consequences of all these different “bad” versus “good” types of hope.  I really don’t have the background yet to fully comprehend what he means and the impact on students of using the wrong thought process.  I hope to learn this and much much more in the next two weeks.

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