I was so happy that Monday was Martin Luther King’s Birthday, not so much because of all he did, but because it was a holiday and I had gotten very sick over the weekend (I was actually sick on Friday when I subbed for my master teacher.). I needed an extra day to rest. Good thing I got that rest because over the weekend, my master teacher’s daughter also got sick (flu) and as a result, I was a substitute for her class again on Tuesday and Wednesday. My master teacher did send me all that I needed, and it was all powerpoint and notes, which I like very much. I find this an easy way to teach. We were also getting closer to the chapter test on Friday so the students may have been a little more attentive as a result. Also, on the advice of one of my NHU teachers, I wrote “Mr. Knitter is sick, please be kind to him.” That also worked. I only raised my voice above a normal talking level once in two days – not too bad. I really needed to keep my volume low because my throat is infected and sore.
Since I suddenly had five classes to teach on Tuesday, I decided to experiment with a discipline technique called “The Spot” (which Dr. Hess at NHU teaches). I didn’t think it would be all that effective a technique… and I couldn’t have been more wrong! “The Spot” is nothing short of amazing. Even the most disruptive class that I have got immediately quiet whenever I got in my spot and asked for their attention. Wow, a technique that takes two minutes to teach and is effective all year long – I’ll take that every time!
Wednesday was “Career Day” at our school. This is done every other year, and what happens is that 40 professionals from all walks of life descend on the classrooms and talk about what they do. The students get to see three or four people throughout the day, and then end the day with an assembly. I was already scheduled to be the guest speaker in my own class, so I was going to teach all day regardless. It was nice to get paid to do this as well! This is my third time doing Career Day, and apparently, I’m one of the more popular presenters based on student and teacher feedback (I do a presentation on semiconductors, my former occupation, and I bring lots of manipulatives.).
My master teacher came back on Thursday and taught most of the classes (thank goodness!). I taught half of two classes that day while she arranged for (sick) child care in the morning, and then left during lunch to pick up her daughter to bring her to the school by around half way through fifth period.
Friday was a chapter test for all five periods. No teaching occurred, though it was interesting to see how my master teacher runs a test. Since the desks are arranged in quads and everyone can easily see everyone else’s papers, she puts up “desk blinds” so the students can’t see each other. It looked like they were voting. My participation today was in collecting tests and watching for cheats. When I wasn’t doing that, I was creating the curriculum for next week’s instruction. Since it’s another four day week next week (Thursday is an in-service day), I’m teaching three periods next week: 1st, 3rd (ELL) & 4th (GATE).
Monday – Thursday, I observed for maybe 25% of the time and spent the rest of the time sitting with different groups of four, choosing whichever group was the furthest behind at the moment. Wherever I sat, that group caught up, and then I could move on to the next group. By doing this, it left my master teacher free to teach in “whole group” while I concentrated on keeping the class at a constant pace, supplying tutoring where needed. I was also able to learn more names.
On Friday, my master teacher’s daycare provider was sick so she had to stay home with her two small children. I was her substitute for five periods. It was a lot of fun, and I didn’t have any substitute-type issues because: the kids knew me, I knew them (and most importantly, most of their names), I knew where they sat, and I knew the lesson that was to be taught (and the “class history” leading up to it). This was so much better than a normal sub job! The kids stayed on task in excess of 80% of the time (~40 minutes out of a 50 minute period) – they were engaged – and they got a lot of work done as a result. It was a good way to end the week.
On Thursday afternoon (before my master teacher knew her daycare provider was sick), we worked on the plan for next week – the week I will begin to teach on a part-time basis. Next week is sort of an odd week, so not an ideal week to start teaching:
- Monday is a holiday,
- Tuesday is prep for a chapter test (and I’ll be teaching at least one period on Tuesday, but it will mostly be review)
- Wednesday is “career day” where around 40 people from all walks of life will come in and talk to the school about their careers – I’m scheduled to be in my own classroom to talk about my now former career (Engineering) for three periods
- Thursday is a 40 minute chapter test
- Friday, we begin a new unit, and I will teach the first period class at a minimum, if not other classes.
The reason I mention first period specifically is because I have to do certain tasks for the State of California to get a teaching credential. One of the tasks is to identify a class of students to work with, and then two students in particular who will need some form of attention (an English Language Learner being one, and a student with some other need being the other). I am to teach something in this class, but offer specific help/modification to these two students to see if they will benefit from targeted instruction. The term the teachers/schools use for this is “scaffolding.” I anticipate that this extra attention will help the two selected students (if one of them would stop talking and pay attention!). Of all the classes, period one is the most “mixed” or heterogeneous, which made it easier to find two target students. Also, period one is still sort of waking up in the mornings, so they are the most attentive and least disruptive of the five periods of the day.
Monday was used to figure out how the class was arranged, what kind of students my master teacher had, and how she managed her classroom. She takes a middle approach to managing noise and activity – allowing some of each, if kept to a tolerable level. As a result, the classes are at a conversational level of volume during projects, but things never get out of hand. In her five periods of classes, she has three heterogeneous groups, one ELL period, and quite by accident (due to only one class period of Geometry offered at the middle school), one Gate/Gifted period. She has 162 students over five classes, and then 23 “repeats” for homeroom in the morning. Her class is arranged in nine “quad” groups with seven computers on the wall space for students to use when they have computer projects due, or Study Island to make up. Also, I noticed that throughout the week, independent study Geometry students were sent to her classroom to use these computers.
Tuesday through Friday was used to further observe, but mostly to try to get to know some of the students. I played the role of “Aid” for a day, passing out papers and helping with in-class computer work, and then I played the role of tutor/homework helper for struggling groups for the remaining three days. During the three days, I worked with 11 different “quad” groups of students, and learned maybe 50 names over all. At the end of the week, my master teacher gave me homework to look over the online teacher resources of the next thee chapters of the class textbook. In this way, I can begin to organize my thoughts about what I will teach in the coming weeks. In the remaining five weeks, we should get through ~2.5 chapters of work.
As I reflect on the week, the student teaching part was a breeze, largely because of years of volunteer teaching in my wife’s classroom (I taught Art History to her 4th grade students 2-4 times a month, every month for a ten year period), and because of recent substitute teaching experience. Nothing was particularly new, but it was absolutely wonderful to be in the same class setting over a one week period. I do like the consistency, and I look forward to the remaining five weeks (and six more weeks in the next assigned classroom). The difficult part is that I also have three evening classes to attend over this 12 week period and that makes for some long days. I’m really praying for stamina right now! Between student teaching and classes alone, I logged in 65 hours this week, and this does not include any homework time, which should consume every moment of my weekend. I expect this to be the norm for the next 11 weeks.
Well, I can already tell that I don’t have a lot of time, and certainly no time to blog. For the past bunch of years, I’ve written almost every week day and I’ve not written on the weekends. Now it might be the opposite while I’m a student teacher. Saturday and half of Sunday is my only free time. I will be journaling every day as part of my student teaching, but there is no way I’m going to transcribe that and post it. That journal is for the college, and presumably for me so I remember the student teaching experience.
I haven’t typed anything in almost a week! In part, it’s because it’s vacation and not much is going on. Also, my chip finally arrived in force and I’ve been working long hours to complete it quickly. Alas, I don’t have all that I need to complete this chip, so I’ll have to finish it after school has started. This is not ideal.
New Years was fun. We had some friends over and we played games until around 1AM. My wife’s birthday (on New Year’s) was simple and low-key – just the way she likes it.
Tomorrow, I have my Elementary Technology test. Because I’ve been so embroiled in this chip project, I haven’t studied a bit for the test. I’m going to carve out a significant part of today to do that. After tomorrow’s test, I can return to the chip.
Monday starts a big change in my life – student teaching. For the next three months, I will teach/observe five days a week, and then four evenings a week, I’ll attend classes. From when I wake up until I fall asleep, I have maybe three hours of “slack time” to take care of things and to be with my family (7-8AM, 3:30-4:30PM, 10-11PM). It’s not a lot of time and I’m concerned that my family won’t be taken care of in the manner they need. On Friday evenings, I’ll either have band or lifegroup, which then leaves Saturday and half of Sunday to do any homework. I’m going to be one busy person! I hope I have the stamina for all this. Somewhere in all of this, I also have to write-up four major items towards getting my degree (called ‘TPA’s’) and I have to prepare for my taxes, which is a pretty big deal this year because I was involved with a start-up, I had my own business, and now I’m a student/teacher. All have tax items associated with each category. And because I’ve been working on this chip and doing my year-end finances (and in theory, studying), I wasn’t able to put together all the tax stuff. I estimate that it will take three full weekends to complete and another weekend to go over things with my tax person. That works out to a third of my available weekends! I only have eight weekends to do all my homework and four TPAs. Yikes!