Practices in Pedagogy

"To Teach is to Learn Twice Over"

Weekly Reflection 1 (January 9th-13th)

Wow! What a week! Late nights eclipse to early mornings; preparation progresses to improvisation; the lofty castle of expectations I falsely built quickly burns down to a hard reality. The chaotic frenzy of joy, stress, smiles, laughs, tears, and everything in between commences. Simply put: student teaching has begun.

 

What went well this week?  Not much. Although I am slowly become increasingly more proficient at knowing what to expect in the classroom on any given day, I still feel out of place quite often. I started the week with feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and fear. And not surprisingly in the least, I am still anxious, insecure, and afraid as I look back at the week in retrospect. Oh how unprepared I feel! No amount of textbook reading, lesson plan writing, classroom management techniques, or public speaking activities can adequately prepare a person for teaching! And even though this fact continually slaps me across the face throughout the week, I feel strong. Strangely, I am at peace amidst this chaos. This is not to say that I have everything figured out, or that I am remotely close to becoming a successful teacher, but rather to suggest that this week has undoubtedly proved to me that teaching is for me. I have been laughed at. I have seen 2 students break down in front of me. I have even misspelled—publicly—the grand and intricate word of “Suppose.” Yet, even with the laughter, tears, and humiliation, I know that I am where I am supposed to be. My constant shortcomings have endeared me to my students, and I passionately feel our rapport has never been stronger. In taking everything in stride, I have consistently proven to them just how committed I am to their education; therefore, I cannot help but count this week as a bona fide success.

What did not go well? Pretty much everything! Being as this was my first full week in the classroom, I definitely have room to grow.  I took attendance and facilitated small class discussions in all four of my freshman classes—both relatively manageable pursuits. Yet, I struggled even to do those successfully! While taking attendance, I butchered name after name. While facilitating discussions, I lectured more than anything else. It seemed like no matter what I attempted to accomplish, I was met with some form of failure. I’ d like to see myself take on more and more responsibility quickly—thereby making this internship a true example of what I will be doing for the rest of my life—but in order to do so I must improve! Hopefully, I will master taking attendance and facilitating discussions, then I can move on from there.

 

I learned a great deal this week. I learned that writing on an “ELMO” is tough work! An ELMO is a document camera that allows students to see a teacher writing on a piece of paper at the front of the classroom through the use of a projector. Here’s a picture of one: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=elmo+camera&um=1&hl=en&safe=off&client=safari&sa=N&rls=en&biw=982&bih=651&tbm=isch&tbnid=AIsZ9OlqkqZjsM:&imgrefurl=http://salestores.com/elmo1304mode.html&docid=banhl3kerO5YzM&imgurl=http://salestores.com/stores/images/images_747/ELMO1304.JPG&w=500&h=412&ei=zY8lT6CFF4fkiALxzJTTBw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=110&vpy=151&dur=1181&hovh=204&hovw=247&tx=136&ty=160&sig=109300555113718522879&page=1&tbnh=147&tbnw=178&start=0&ndsp=15&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0)

Above all else, I have learned that teaching is intuitive. When a teacher is continuously confronted by new obstacles, distractions, and interruptions—as all teachers are—he/she must learn how improvise. Teaching “on the fly” is an art form and something that must be mastered in order to find success. Even though my mentor teacher and I had planned out every lesson minute-by-minute, the days never seemed to go according to plan. On Monday, one of our students got into a fight during lunch with a student from a different class. On Tuesday, two students from our senior world literature class—who are recently engaged—broke up. Wednesday was relatively uneventful, apart from the fact that roughly 90% of our students did not do their homework in preparation for the lesson. On Thursday, we had planned on hosting group presentations in front of the class, except that only ONE group (out of the 27 groups we have in total throughout our four freshmen classes). Friday was just Friday—students were ready for the weekend and did not want to work. All of these complications ruined our planned lessons; therefore, we had to improvise. Although I have only been in the classroom full-time for a single week, I can expect this will be a common trend in high school classroom. Stephen Hurley, a writer for Cooperative Catalyst, writes,

“The most powerful stories of teaching that I carry with me are stories of improvisation: times when the lesson plans written the night before were put aside in favor of a learning opportunity that presented itself, quite unexpectedly; times when the emotional climate of the classroom called for a response that wasn’t part of any script; times when the urge to go deeper resulted in us tossing aside the schedule placed on the board at the beginning of the morning” (Teaching as Improvisation; May 11, 2011).

Obviously, teachers must ALWAYS prepare to the best of their ability any time they are in front of students. To do otherwise shows a lack of professionalism, enthusiasm, and respect for the art of teaching. However, I can agree with Mr. Hurley in that some of my favorite experiences in the classroom came from organic learning opportunities—times in which the students’ current wants and needs presented a chance for a teacher to step beyond the lesson plan for the day and truly teach from their experiences. So even though we as teachers must constantly plan, prepare, and structure our lessons as intentionally as possible, we must also be prepare for the unexpected. We must always seek to remember that learning is not about standards, test scores, and GPA’s, but about the students themselves. When students are given the space to grow into their own unique, beautiful, freethinking selves—when students discover their own love of learning—our education system has succeeded.

 

To read more from Stephen Hurley, follow this link: http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/teaching-as-improvisation/

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