I’m back! 

It’s been a long two weeks since my last post. Maybe not too long to my handful of followers, but it’s been long for me. 

Since my final quarter of grad school began in early January, I have been not only student teaching, but also working on the edTPA. What is the edTPA, you say? In one word, as my hubby put it, it is stress. It’s this process that consists of planning lessons, teaching and video recording said lessons, and reflecting on these lessons in a paper that’s approximately 25 pages. Sounds simple, right? Well, here’s the thing, there are also a million little rules that, in my humble opinion, have little to do with teaching. Margin size must be one inch or it is automatically rejected. Page length must be exact or it is automatically rejected. Font size must be Arial 11 or…. You guessed it, it is automatically rejected. And while trying to get every single edTPA duck in a row, I have been student teaching. There are just not enough hours in the day. Thankfully, we submitted the edTPA this past Thursday. My confidence level is low that I will pass, mostly because I felt so rushed putting this thing together in less than a month. I’m really hoping all my ducks are marching in a perfect military style row to Pearson for review. But knowing me, one of those ducks will be distracted by a butterfly mid-march and break formation, resulting in my failing score. At any rate, the waiting game begins. Results should be in within a month, so tune in to see if I will actually become a teacher or if I need to select a different career path. Again. Here’s a highlight from my wild and crazy edTPA prep last Saturday night:

In other news, student teaching has been going well. I started my full take over last week, which means I am teaching all subjects now. I was pretty anxious about math, and I’m still fairly nervous, but it has been going ok. All three 4th grade classes are participating in a math challenge to complete and master a variety of 4th grade standards. Two students have completed the challenge and the prize was to play the Pie Face Challenge with the principal. The principal lost both times and the kids went crazy with excitement. This week, the district superintendent challenged all the 4th graders to complete and master the 5th grade standards. He said he will play the Pie Face Challenge with the first student to finish the 5th grade standards and will have lunch with those who finish by April. Needless to say, these kids are beyond excited!

My favorite part of last week was our social studies class. We were learning about the states in the southeast region and touched on segregation in the south and the Civil Rights Movement. They learned about some key events and ultimately the three 4th grade classes participated in a peaceful protest. Groups of 2-3 students worked together to make protest signs for their march. I may be a little biased, but I thought our students had some of the best signs:

This upcoming week is my final complete takeover. After this week I will start to surrender classes back to their teacher. By choice I have opted to keep math and science longer to try to get more exposure to both subjects. I can’t believe I am just about at mid-point in my quarter. I feel that I can focus more on student teaching now that the edTPA has been submitted. I just hope to get the results soon so I know if I can relax and celebrate or begin working on resubmitting any or all of the edTPA. At this point, I’m alright with either alternative, I just want the wait to be short. Fingers crossed for the best! 

Kicking booty and taking names

This week, according to my cooperating teacher, I found my teacher voice. And while it was only because I was at the point of total frustration, it felt great! 

I was teaching the social studies lesson earlier this week and struggling to keep the kids’ attention. They  were not silently listening at the “level zero” as they have been told over and over. They weren’t loud, but they also weren’t silent. I did all the cliché things to get their attention, which worked but never lasted. Then I resorted to one of the biggest mistakes a teacher can make – I started talking over them. And, of course, they just got a little louder. I muddled through the lesson to get to the activity portion in hopes of eventually regaining their attention. Basically the assignment was to write a question, like a news reporter might, and then I was going to redistribute the worksheets so classmates could answer each other’s questions. I explained this, in painful detail, as I was handing out the worksheets and trying to talk over them. Finally, after about the fifth student said I gave back the wrong worksheet, I lost it. I stopped, grabbed their attention for the bazillionth time, and laid down the law. And I had their absolute undivided attention. I repeated the directions. I called on students to repeat the directions back to me. I was stern and harsh and not the passive student teacher they had just been walking all over. They sat silently and somewhat wide eyed as they listened. And that’s when I felt it. A shift in the force. I demanded respect and they gave it. 

I was a little concerned my rise in power would be short lived, but so far it hasn’t been. I do feel they view me differently. Not quite as their teacher, but no longer as the lesser assistant to their regular teacher. I think I solidified my role as disciplinarian a few days later. They left for lunch in a fashion that resembled a small mob and not the orderly straight line they are supposed to use. After lunch, we did a reenactment to enforce the correct way to dismiss for lunch. This reenactment  cut  into their social studies time, which in turn created more homework for them – whoops on their part. Since these this two instances, they have been pretty close to angelic for me. 

In other big news this week, we are working to incorporate Whole Brain Teaching. If you’ve never heard of it, it is cheesy, embarrassing, and awkward. And the kids love it! Basically, as an attention getter, I say a phrase and they say a counter-phrase. One of my favorites is when I say “Hocus Pocus” and they respond “Time to focus!”. Anywho, there’s been a few hiccups in the process, but I absolutely love it! Initially I thought it would not fly with these guys since they are big bad fourth graders, but they are so enthusiastic. And their enthusiasm drives me to do it more often. Depending on the grade level, I absolutely want to use this in my future classroom! Here’s a few examples of what we use in class:

Short Weeks, Long Hours

First, let me say I can NOT believe this week is finally over! We did not have school on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. day, but somehow our four day week felt like it lasted a month…. 

When we came back on Tuesday, I rearranged the seats. My cooperating teacher said I could do whatever I wanted, but I was concerned that no matter what I did there would be problems. At open house this past fall, most of the parents mentioned how this particular group of fourth graders were pretty close. While that has made for a great group of kids, they tend to be a little chatty and occasionally lose focus. My goal was to try to break up some groups but also to try to help struggling learners by placing them with students who tend to be more focused. To accomplish this, I went back to the small groups. They started the school year in small groups, then pairs, then long tables. So far it seems to be working out the way I wanted. Only time will tell. 

In addition to the social studies block, this week I began taking over the morning literacy blocks. For some reason, this part of the day has been most confusing to me. I think it’s mainly because of all the moving parts. Their Daily 5 assignments are posted on the class Schoology page and they utilize a variety of websites that include Scholastic, Night Zookeeper, ReadWorks, and Actively Learn. I’m sure there’s more, but I’m still trying to get the hang of these. Even though I am overwhelmed, I love how much technology they use every day!

That being said, I was observed by my university supervisor this week. It was the first of four observations this quarter. I opted to have her observe the social studies lesson since I feel pretty confident with the content. I have even managed to navigate the technology (finally!), since the lesson is interactive with the iPad. But, of course, we were having connection issues when my supervisor was there. Rather than the audio playing, I had to read aloud to the class, which was fine, just not what I planned. After going through the lesson we had this pretty cool activity planned and the kids were really into it. Things were going really well and I had a pretty good sense of confidence. Until my cooperating teacher said we were about to have a lock down drill and she was leaving to assist the principal. Ironically, my supervisor was here for a fire drill last quarter….

Although the drill went fine, it was kind of eerie. When the announcement came over, the kids all knew exactly what to do. I locked the classroom door and the kids all huddled on the floor behind the teacher’s desk, in a corner where they could not be seen from the classroom door or the exterior windows. I stood in front of them and we waited silently for the all clear. Part of the drill is to make sure the door is locked, so about halfway through the drill someone came by and loudly shook the doorknob to make sure it was locked. And that’s when I felt the sinking feeling in my stomach. I mentally took a step back and assessed the situation. Here I was, all five foot nothing of me, standing between a would be shooter and twenty fourth graders. I smiled down at the kids, who were squished against each other and squirming around impatiently. They wanted to get back to the activity we had been working on just before this. I wondered how many of them, if any, really understood why we were doing this. I quickly shook that thought from my head too. I didn’t want to think about that either.

After the drill, which they completed perfectly, we went back to our social studies activities. The kids were loud and having a little too much fun…. And I let them. After spending just under ten minutes thinking worst case scenario thoughts, I wanted see happy and carefree students. At least until my cooperating teacher returned and I had to assume the tough guy role again, that is.

There’s no crying in 4th grade

This week I took over the social studies block. While I was anxious, I was really looking forward to the activities we planned for the students. This was the second half of a two-week chapter on the U.S. Midwest Region and the kids seemed to be pretty engaged. We had one more quick project before the test and I was looking forward to it. As I began to explain this final project, one student huffed and said “Another project? Ugh! It’s not like I’m ever going to visit the Midwest!”

See, the thing is, we actually live in the Midwest. We are in a suburb of Chicago. Chicago – which had TWO different points of interest in the text – O’Hare International Airport and Wrigley Field. I pointed out the fact we live in the Midwest and this student seemed genuinely surprised by this revelation.
While this may be a humorous, face palm moment, I can’t help but wonder how many of these students are out there. And how do I reach them? Of course my dream is to have a classroom full of students diligently and happily working on my insanely creative projects. Realistically, I know this will not the case on so many levels. But, how do I get things as close to the dream as possible?
On a somewhat brighter note, I finally flexed my teaching muscles. To the extent I made a student cry. While that was not my intention, it appears to have instilled a sense of respect, and maybe a little fear, in the rest of the class. I am student teaching in a district that is fortunate enough to have Chromebooks and iPads available for all students. I love that there is so much technology available for the students. I personally think responsible use of technology is something all students should learn – these are skills they will use throughout their education and into their careers. For the most part, the students are really good with their usage. But, there are times that technology is distracting. After reprimanding a student more than once, I was forced to take away his iPad. He reluctantly handed it over, eyes welling up. As I walked away from him, many students stared wide eyed and the class grew very silent. Hopefully they now know I mean business! We will see how the next week goes.
Speaking of the next week, my cooperating teacher has given me the responsibility of rearranging their seats. She switches things up frequently since this group is especially chatty. I’m excited to have the responsibility of creating their new seating arrangements but I am also nervous I will make the wrong choices. I guess in all honesty, I am just overall nervous every day. I keep wondering if that feeling will go away. Eventually it will…. right??

Lesson Plans and Haz-Mat Suits

I officially completed my first week of student teaching. And I survived. Although, for the record, it was not much different than what I had already been doing with my cooperating teacher – some assisting and some co-teaching.

That’s all about to change. As of this week, I will begin to take over the class, one subject at a time. Tune in later to see if I survive the week!

My takeaways so far are pretty simple:
– Planbook is worth the $12 annual fee
– Flocabulary is one amazing website and I hope my future employer is a subscriber
– Even though I think I’m speaking loudly, my voice is not carrying throughout the class
– I need to toughen up, Buttercup!

Planning is a LOT more involved than I thought. At this point, I’m not sure if it’s the way the teachers at my host school handle their planning or if it truly is a great undertaking. I suppose I will figure that 0ut as I find my way in this career. I would like to think I may be able to find a more efficient way but, if these seasoned teachers are taking a great deal of time planning, I may have to change my mailing address to my future school.

I also need to be more of a disciplinarian. These kids are like wild animals and can smell fresh blood a mile away. I am too nice, too patient, and too kind. Somehow all the traits I saw as strong points are rapidly becoming weaknesses. Why am I giving the students multiple chances when I know they are not listening? Why am I phrasing comments to students as questions? I need to be firm. Tough. Intimidating. All the things that I am absolutely not. That said, I am open to any suggestions how to become the class meanie overnight.

Lastly, I am beginning to fear that our school is being consumed by a plague of biblical proportions. Fifth grade has been hit hard with strep. Second grade is battling the stomach flu. And there’s pink eye in third grade. In the fourth grade, there is an ever fluctuating amount of students absent for a variety of ailments. And I won’t even begin to discuss the projectile vomiting. At this rate, I am not sure I will survive student teaching due to health issues.

I currently have a pineapple scented hand sanitizer attached to me at all times. The other day I used it multiple times in class, after the second student went home for vomiting. One student said to me, “It smells like a tropical island in here.” I hope they enjoy island life because I plan to sanitize like crazy!

New year, new me, new blog

Some of you may remember I had a blog before. I say “some” because, let’s be honest, I am pretty sure it was just my husband and bestie reading my blog. I wrote about fundraising and volunteering and all the other things a do-gooder would do. I considered deleting the old blog, but there were a few posts that held quite a bit of meaning to me. I also considered just moving forward with that blog, but things are quite a bit different now. So, I opted for a new blog with an equally cheesy name. (for those that are bored and looking to read old blog posts, here you go: http://www.daleyperspective.wordpress.com)

While I was looking at the old blog, I noticed that my last post was on March 3, 2015, thanking supporters for a recent fundraiser. Just two weeks later, things turned upside down and I was laid off from my job. After the emotional roller coaster, I decided (with a lot of encouragement from my husband) to go back to school to become a teacher. I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. Then life happened. There were a million things that crossed paths with my dream and, quite frankly, I settled. I opted for comfort and safety. I took the easy route. But now I decided to be brave and have totally vested myself in this new career path.

And I am terrified.

What if I fail? What if I am the worst teacher ever? What if I can’t keep all these little people in some sort of orderly fashion? What if I am overrun by them all?? I often envision myself duct taped to a chair while my students run amok all around me. My very first day as a substitute teacher was a nightmare. The 30+ third graders were doing everything BUT listening to me. I came home exhausted and feeling somewhat defeated. And yet I plugged along. My own classes left little time for subbing, but I did try to sub whenever I could to not only get some experience but also to narrow down what grade levels I preferred.

And here I am, embarking on student teaching in the 4th grade. I have opted to return to blogging at this particular point in my transition because I feel there is so much for me to learn – hence the cheesy blog title!  I wanted to document this, mostly for myself, but also to hopefully prompt feedback from others. I think education is a constantly evolving field and I wanted to create a place where I can learn from my mistakes and remember my accomplishments.