Thursday, June 30, 2005

My teachers...

So I have been thinking a lot about my past teachers. The good and the bad. Realizing what hell I put a lot of them through. I would test the shit out of them and now I know why. I really did want to make sure they were "for real." Anyway I wanted to put in some shout-outs and apologies.

Mr. Bitz (10th grade social studies)-- I am sorry for throwing that water balloon at you. Thanks for suspending me, what a great opportunity for you and I. And thanks for playing jeopardy all the god damn time-- and letting us teach ourselves. I thought you were just lazy (and maybe you were a little), but I got some independence.

Mr. Lindaman (7th grade earth science) I am sorry I told you to retire and I realize now that you (only) had horrible classroom management but you truly cared about teaching science. If I was excessively disruptive in class, I never knew you what you wanted us to accomplish and what would happen if I misbehaved. Also, you really needed an alternate teacher persona-- having baby deer and other various odd animals in fermeldahyde and talking about quarter horses sends some mixed messages.

Ms. Wissink (Chemistry and Physics) What can I say? You were classy. Thanks for being the only teacher who wrote the objectives on the board and taught to them. Very Effective! No wonder I managed to get A's in science!

Ms. Halsey (7th grade French and English), Ms. Kempkis (7th gradeMath) I am glad they passed No Child Left Behind (at least for you) and I am glad that you can no longer teach your "respected" subject areas. Also there are several books I would like to recommend for you.

Mr. Hass (American Gov't and Geography)-- thanks for doing Name that Tune every Friday and modeling so much. Although I don't like Ac/Dc as much as you, I know how to take notes because of you.

…more to be added…

Eight 8th Graders

Reflecting on my student teaching experiences brings a little bit of a smile to my face. I really enjoyed the kids in my class and felt I got to know them pretty well in the short three and a half weeks I was there. However, when I think of them in 9th grade, I am truly scared. Teaching is such a huge responsibility (something I know already). Although it was not my classroom, I feel a sincere sense of remorse knowing they could have learned and accomplished more.

First of all, every one of my kids hated English (Something I cannot imagine...). This was challenge number #1-- trying to get them to care about speaking and writing correctly (or to even speak and write), and to truly engage in reading. The lessons I taught that were successful, "tricked" them into learning. Doing activities that eventually led up to understanding (unguided inquiry) and then quickly practicing the skill. The spirit of class can change so quickly. If one day I did something exciting-- they would ask "What are we doing today, Ms. Lee?" This was pretty great. On the same hand, routine is also exciting. They got pretty good at D.O.L's for example, which we did everyday for thirty minutes. Towards the end they would chant at me: “it's= it is and its=its.”

On the same hand, I really wished they had done projects. At the end of summer school, they had a folder of various assignments none of which were "process" orientated assignments. This is sad. I feel like they were not challenged enough and they had nothing to feel "good" about. Granted it is hard to accomplish a lot in three weeks, but I didn't feel any closure about what they had learned and accomplished-- and I don't think the students did either.

My teacher was great, but I think she underestimated what the students really were capable of writing, and thinking. I felt kind of helpless, stuck between learning from my teacher and wanting to push the students to use their brains. I did learn a lot from her and admire that she was always able to connect what we were learning to real life-- which is a talent and a half. But finding a middle ground, between entertaining and attaining is tough—and something I want to work at!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I was pleasantly surprised-- my lesson wasn't nearly as horrible as I thought! Let me rephrase the first half wasn't horrible but the second half was confusing and possibly unproductive. Yikes. First before I launch into my long list of things I wished I would have done-- the things I liked about lesson include-- my voice seemed pretty good and possibly teacher-like (how that happened I don't know) And despite how nervous I was, I didn't appear this way and I sounded enthusiastic. Also I sounded like I knew what I was talking about. I walked around a lot, and kids were paying attention to what I was saying. The students appeared quite engaged. I also made them laugh a few times! I called on students who were not calling out answers. The students also looked really comfortable with me-- asking questions and truly participating. I was worried I would have a lot of um's and like's and you know's (these are, like, serious, um problems in my speech, you know?) but my speech was fine.

I could work on responding to students with more diverse praise-- I seem to heavily rely on "good job." Upon reflection, of course I can think of numerous examples. The first half of my lesson involved the students and they even forgot we were going to analyze a poem for about ten minutes. Then we read the poem (Hughes' A Dream Deferred) and they were lost. My direct instruction didn't cut it! I explained the historical context of the poem (Langston Hughes-- Harlem-- northern migration--etc.). I think perhaps another activity, possibly a movie clip or something else to help them understand the context and theme of the poem would have been much better. Also when I gave them my assignment I should have been more specific and given them a handout. Furthermore, I need to go a little slower when it comes to giving students enough time to think through their responses to the more complicated questions.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


I think the cold calling bit is great! I actually had the student's write their name on a piece of paper to sort of help explain what I was going to be doing. (I wish my teachers had used this in school-- especially as they called on every white, middle class kid in the classroom and neglected the "others.") Using cold calling forced me to call on everybody. In my summer school class, we often took turns and made sure everyone went to the board at least once during most activities. Nonetheless, within class discussion it was often difficult to make sure everyone participated (even in a very small group!).

Once the students understood that, indeed everyone was going to be called on-- it became a game of "Who's next?" or maybe "Who's the next victim?” We had one ELL student in our class, who had just come to the states about two years ago. She always asked to be in my group because the other student teachers and teacher wouldn't really let her read or even stop to explain words and stuff (arg!). She made amazing progress! Since we were often in small groups, I was able to call on her frequently. However, after calling on her several times during class discussion and noting she was extremely uncomfortable with this, I stopped calling on her so much. I should clarify-- by "extremely uncomfortable" I mean that sincerely and to the fullest extent. She would refuse (politely) to answer and become embarrassed. With cold calling, since everyone had to be called on, she seemed to get more into the spirit of things and really participated.

Another interesting aspect to cold calling is asking necessary follow-up questions. Sometimes students just need to prodded a little bit to help them articulate themselves. The same holds for the ELL student I had in my class, helping with words and phrasing can aid in feeling successful with class participation. Furthermore, asking more questions shows that I want to understand what they are saying and validates the importance of their contributions. After all, the whole idea is about sharing ideas, i.e. communicating…

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Less truly is more. Rubinstein's 'The Reluctant Disciplinarian,' occasionally humorous and insightful little book, seems to embrace the "less is more" philosophy: answer questions quickly (three seconds or less) with simple yes or no responses, give the mysterious teacher look, and speak a 100 words or less on the first day look. Boiled down, dehydrated, dirty, and decisive discipline, or the softer phrase-- classroom management is something I thought I had experience with-- working with violent, emotionally disturbed kids. But misbehavin' just cause? Crap. I guess I need a plan.

Rubinstein had a number of good tips and explanations that changed some of the ways I had envisioned my classroom. Before I read the book, I was ready to do group work the first week but I think Rubinstein is right to wait. Discipline comes first and then learning. It still feels a little wrong, but I am slowly coming around. I didn’t realize certain things were considered “soft.” I still want to create a comfortable and tolerant learning environment. However, I guess comfortable includes very little discipline problems and well, safety.

During student teaching, a few times, when the teacher left the room I really felt what Rubinstein was talking about when he was student teaching. Yikes! Luckily having read the book, I reminded them that just because Ms. Holt left the room-- the same rules apply. They laughed and got back to work. I think this may have just been a fluke. BUT I think discipline should be laughed at a little.

On that note, once during summer school, I did test my teacher face and found it was effective. Although when the student (immediately!) stopped talking and got back to work-- I cracked a smile and so did he. It was pretty funny.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Who is Ms. Lee?

My first week...

Every time my students address me as Ms. Lee-- I seriously start looking around-- wondering who they are talking to. I had to stop myself from saying, "No, no my name is really Amy," every time they had a question. This is just one of the many things to try and get comfortable with in the Mississippi Teacher Corps.

OBSERVATION # 1 Student teaching is really wonderful and really strange. I am working with eight 8th graders who enjoy gossiping more than old women. I have only known them a week-- but I love them already. Although they all seem to be the class "hecklers" who got kicked out of English class too many times and are now in summer school.

My "veteran" teacher is a sweetheart, although she is always looking to me to see if she is teaching grammar correctly. She is usually fine, but it is funny how just because I don't have a southern accent it is presumed that I will immediately know if the sentence needs a comma or a semi-colon. She interrupted my lesson on Comparative and Superlative Adjectives and Adverbs to lecture them about speaking correctly and not "southern." She normally teaches 6th grade social studies so I understand her concern sometimes. Speaking of content area's....

OBSERVATION #2 Despite how incredibly under prepared I feel for teaching, once I start thinking or even (hopefully...) teaching English-- I feel real, real, REAL good. On Friday, for example, we finally finished reading Lois Lowry's 'The Giver' and I got to "teach" a lesson on the major themes of the novel. WOW! I was so impressed with the student participation and responses. Here I thought they hadn't been paying attention while we read in class, even though I stop them every paragraph to make sure they are indeed attaining comprehension. One student, after looking around and seeing everyone else close to finishing the chapter said, "Ms. Lee, [huh, who?] can't we wait 'til the end of the chapter and then talk?" I said no and kept asking questions. But on Friday they cut loose and once I "modeled" how to think of examples of the themes in the novel they were off. It was awesome!

OBSERVATION #3 Notice I used the term "modeling." Although this may seem silly-- I feel like the education terminology used in our grad class and by all the other people in the corps actually seems to be taking meaning. Also for the first time in my academic career, some theory seems to be coming into practice. My undergrad college, Antioch (oh how I miss you...) was really big on experiential learning. I feel like I am far closer to that concept than any other job I have had. While reading, I am absolutely thinking in terms of "How can I use that?" Yikes-- "I hope and better fuckin' incorporate that." Anyway that is nice!

OBSERVATION #4 I feel very ambivalent about blogging. I can't help it. I am doing some lessons on writing for next week. Over and over again, I am reading about considering your audience. I am not sure who my audience is within this forum. Therefore, I am going to pretend, that no one else will be reading this-- except me after a couple of years when I can laugh at myself.

Well, I have a lot more to say but I will save some for next time...