End of a Chapter and Beginning of the Next

Last week was my last week of student teaching in 4th grade. In all honesty, it was all very bittersweet for me. I really liked the school I was at…. I liked all the staff and I adored the kids. They are all such great kids. So, it was hard for me to leave, especially since the school year is not over for them. It’s hard explaining that I am done with school while they are still in school. On my last day, all three 4th grade classrooms went on a field trip to Legoland. Let’s just say, whatever the salary is for the employees at Legoland, it is nowhere near enough. There were kids, toys, and chaos everywhere you look. Sensory overload does not even begin to describe what it’s like there. But, the kids had a blast, so it was all worth it! When we got back, they had a little farewell party for me. The kids made cards and some even brought me gifts. My cooperating teacher and the other 4th grade teachers gave me gifts and everyone wished me the best of luck. It was a wonderful send off that made me feel like I am well on my way to being a pretty good teacher!

While I was sad to leave, this week also marked a lot of extremely happy things for me. I officially passed the edTPA. I earned an A in my final class, solidifying my 4.0 GPA. I will be graduating in June, complete with the honor of Sigma Alpha Pi due to my grades. And I am transitioning to a long term substitute teaching position immediately after student teaching. All in all, it was a pretty good week!

Which brings me to this week. Yesterday was my first day filling in for the Reading Specialist at a new school. It is a middle school and I will be working with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders through the end of their school year. It is considered a pull out program, with the goal of helping students improve their literacy comprehension. Because of this,the class sizes are small. My largest two classes have a total of eight students and the smallest two classes have just four students. The school is also testing a new program called Achieve 3000 which I will be rolling out with these students.

My first day was in a co-teaching setting with another Reading Specialist. But, as of today, I am officially on my own. The environment is completely different than an intermediate school, to say the least. My overall size and stature does not exactly demand authority, so I feel I am entering this experience at a disadvantage. Navigating the halls during transitions is quite similar to a cattle drive. The students seem indifferent, displaying their best “whatever” faces and attitudes throughout the day. After the first day, I felt confident in my skills navigating the classroom and conducting myself as a teacher but was still weary about the students.

This morning I returned for day two. One of my 6th grade students was waiting outside when I got here and mumbled a “G’morning Ms Daley.” Progress. She actually did remember my name, so she must have been somewhat paying attention yesterday. The troublesome boy in 2nd period seemed to be in better spirits today and I chalked that up to another small victory. In homeroom, several of the students referred to me by name and at the end of the period several of them said “Have a good day, Ms Daley”. Another victory. I smiled to myself as I managed to get back to my classroom without getting trampled. And then the four 8th grade boys in my 6th period walked all over me. Figuratively, not literally. Although literally is possible since they are the equivalent of football players. Minimal work was accomplished and I spent most of the time checking in with them repeatedly to see just what the frak they were working on (yes, that is a BSG term for all my fellow sci-fi nerdies). Clearly those boys will be a handful…. little do they know more busy work is in their future. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, aside from the 7th grade boy who insists on speaking in a British accent. It’s actually quite entertaining watching a struggling reader attempt to read aloud in a faux British accent. Might be beneficial to lose the accent in my class, Mate. 

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: