Practicum (Fall 2011) – Day 9

Today wasn’t very eventful. The students are taking a test on Friday of this week, a test on literary terms, so the student-teacher helped them study. He had developed a Powerpoint presentation for them that went through literary terms, and I found myself surprised by some terms with which eighth graders are not familiar, such as foreshadowing. I can’t remember when I learned that term, but I’m pretty sure that I knew it by eighth grade. I am very strong in English, so I don’t mean to put people down; I just would have thought that those were basic concepts by eighth grade. If not, then there are some pointers that I need before I start teaching.

The student-teacher then taught the students how to write a book review, which I think is important. They practice writing and hopefully enhance their writing skills while using a form that they are probably not used to handling. I am all done with Practicum now; now, next semester, I start student-teaching, which really makes me nervous. Wish me luck.

Practicum (Fall 2011) – Days 7 and 8

On the seventh day of Practicum, which was November 29th, the student-teacher read a chapter of Call of the Wild to the class. There were two other Practicum students in the class with me, although neither was the one that I had previously met. The student-teacher talked a lot about leadership, encouraging the students to think about what it means to be a leader, which is, of course, important. On the eighth day, the students wrote their “Brain Breakfast” exercise about what they do when they are having trouble reading something. The student-teacher went over “fix-up strategies” with them.

What I found most valuable about this day is that the student-teacher seemed to really encourage interdisciplinarity. He wanted the students to be thinking about ways that what they were learning connected to other subject areas such as science, and I don’t know about all education majors, but I know that from my own experience, that is something that is strongly stressed. I certainly wasn’t bored, because I folded papers for the student-teacher, and I even developed a mini-quiz for the Host Teacher, with which she was really happy. Tomorrow is my last day, so I will be writing again very soon.

Practicum (Fall 2011) – Day 6

The sixth day of my Practicum experience this semester was a half-day for the students because of parent-teacher conferences. In fact, they had had half-days Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday last week due to parent-teacher conferences, but this didn’t affect me because I leave at 10:40, anyway. I am now going on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays because I had to find someone new with whom to carpool, and now, my situation is a bit worse, because now, I am not even the only Practicum student. Now, in the morning, there is the Host Teacher, the student-teacher, a teacher’s aid, and two Practicum students, which is just a little bit ridiculous. The other Practicum student is really nice, but I feel even more insignificant than I already did.

When I walked in, the student-teacher warned me that they weren’t really doing anything because of an assembly, and that was the case. Basically, I went with the students to a Book Fair, and it was refreshing to see a great deal of students really excited about going, especially since a couple of them even bought books. I would have loved to, because they actually had a really great selection of books, but I didn’t have any money on me, which was probably good, because I ended up spending a considerable amount of money on my boyfriend’s birthday this past weekend. Then, we attended the assembly, which entailed honoring students with perfect attendance, Honor Roll, High Honor Roll, etc. by giving away prizes via raffle tickets. The rest of my time was spent trying to pass time, such as hangman with the other Practicum student and the student-teacher. It was a really easy day. I attend Practicum tomorrow, so I’ll be writing again soon.

Practicum (Fall 2011) – Days 3 and 4

So, I have had interesting experiences at my field placement lately. Both last time and this time, I witnessed events that have made me very angry. Last time, the students did an exercise that involved them elaborating on what made them unique, and a female student said that she practices witchcraft and can even astral project; she said that there is nothing like leaving your body at night and seeing it lying in bed. Afterward, a science teacher came into the classroom during my Host Teacher’s planning period and gossiped with my Host Teacher’s aid. The aid told the science teacher about what the female student said, and they both proceeded to agree that the female student is “nuts,” which just enrages me. What sorry excuse of a teacher refers to a student in such a negative way? I don’t even need the two Psychology courses that I’ve taken to know a bit about how children operate; either she really does believe that she has such an ability, in which case a teacher should respect the student’s beliefs, or she has recently witnessed/been victim to something traumatic and is masking it with fantasy, but we are not to refer to our students as “nuts” either way. We are to respect our students as we would expect them to respect us.

Last time, I was there for the whole day, which was not beneficial at all except to get observation hours. I witnessed the same lesson over and over again and felt very bored most of the time, except when the Host Teacher had me grade tests. I feel very silenced, because I don’t feel like I have the right to say something when something happens that I don’t like, such as what the teachers were talking about, and also on that day, I heard a student drop “my f-bomb,” mine because I am not referring to “the f-bomb” that most would automatically consider when they hear that term; I am talking about “the-fomb” that I can’t say let alone write, the one used to refer to gay males. I heard a student use this word, and either no one other than me heard it or someone did and didn’t care to say anything, and it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if it were the latter because the student teacher uses the dreaded “r-word” that he should know better than to use; we were both in a class together last year that stressed the avoidance of that word in any context. “That’s so retarded,” for example, is not acceptable, which is how he used it when I heard him use it. Practicum experiences have definitely taught me that there are a lot of ignorant teachers, and it’s unfortunate because that will reflect from generation to generation; ignorant teachers create ignorant teachers.

Today, something somewhat similar happened, except it was even worse because it was encouraged. I was only there for a half-day, something for which I am grateful because the student teacher adminstered a pre-test to all of the classes, which took most of the period. Being there as long as I was was really boring, so I can’t even imagine sitting through that all day. During third period, which is a study hall, a couple of students were discussing matters with the student teacher, and they brought up a male student that they know that apparently shaves his legs, and one of them said that dudes don’t shave their legs because “shaving your legs is gay,” and the student teacher did not tell him that that was inappropriate; he agreed and then merely carried on the conversation, saying that males should only shave their legs if they are swimmers. This isn’t right, and he’s really lucky that I wasn’t an evalutator observing him while that happened. We cannot tolerate that kind of talk in our classrooms; not only did that statement put that particular student down, it put gay people down, and students need to be taught that that is utterly unacceptable, not encouraged. You hear so many people, especially teachers, say that “children are our future,” but they do little to show that that that is something that they actually believe, which is why I say that ignorant teachers create ignorant teachers, and ignorant people in general, for that matter. Even if we’re not teachers, we affect other people, and if we are narrow-minded and unaccepting of people and their differences, that will “rub off” on others. Well, I suppose I will end my angry rant there; I’ll be writing again soon, I’m sure, since, as far as I know, I will be there again on Wednesday. In case I haven’t said, the Host Teacher would like me back as a student teacher next semester, and I would really like that.

Practicum (Fall 2011) – Week 2

During my second day at Dennis M. Kenney Middle School in Hannibal, the class listened to the rest of “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, which I am assuming they had begun on a day that I wasn’t there, since I only go twice a week. This led to the Host Teacher talking to the students about how a story typically plays out, starting with rising action, the climax, falling action, and finally, the resolution, or the ending, using “The Tell-Tale Heart” to exemplify this model. It was the Friday before Halloween, so needless to say, students were a bit excited, and since the Host Teacher was not going to be working the Monday after the weekend, she celebrated Halloween with them on this day.

The Host Teacher played Halloween music for the students, and she did a Halloween-themed Mad Lib with them. I don’t think that they all understood the idea of a Mad Lib, because they were filling in words that were fitting to the context of the story (which she provided them, even though I think that the exercise would have been more fun and funnier for them had she not, since usually, you don’t). Reasons such as these are why this Host Teacher really makes me feel excited to teach. She, like me, stresses good writing and discourages the use of words such as bad, sad, mad, and so forth, encouraging her students to use more descriptive words. I do, however, firmly believe that I would enjoy my Practicum experience without a student teacher sharing the room with me, but that, perhaps, is a story for another time. I was writing a blog entry for my third week at the school, and my computer decided to sign me out without my consent, and I lost the entire blog, which isn’t saved as a draft for some reason.

Practicum (Fall 2011) – Week 1

Last Monday, I went to my first Practicum experience of the semester at Dennis M. Kenney Middle School in Hannibal. Previously, I hadn’t had much of an idea where Hannibal is located, but it is very close to Oswego; in fact, it’s really only about ten minutes away. Just as you’re leaving Hannibal, in fact, you can see the towers on campus. So far, I am having a great experience. As soon as I entered the building, students were there to greet me, and they were incredibly friendly. They introduced themselves and asked for my name, shook my hand, and then showed me where the main office is. Everyone at the main office was really friendly and helpful, as well, which has not always been the case at every Practicum site that I have ever attended. At most of the schools at which I have done field placements, a lot of students are loud and rude, and people in the main office treat you like an invader, but this is simply not the case at Kenney Middle School.

My Host Teacher’s name is Nicole Arnold, and she is great. She seems to have a very positive relationship with her students. One student, in fact, showed Ms. Arnold a photo of something (if I am not mistaken) when she entered the classroom, and Ms. Arnold greets students as they enter the classroom. She, like I intend to do, focuses a lot on good writing habits and grammar. She, also as I intend to do, gives her students something to write about every day, and I consider this important, because so many students’ abilities to write falter by the time they are students in high school because they are not asked to practice it on a regular basis. While I was there, I corrected a few papers, looking for grammar errors and so forth, and I noticed that Ms. Arnold has a really good-sized library of books by her desk, which I also think is really important. So far, I am very much enjoying my experience, but because I have to leave approximately one hour early, I will sometimes be going twice a week instead of just once. I will be updating with developments as often as I can.

No Practicum Setting This Semester

So, as it turns out, I will not have a Practicum Setting this semester. That is for a couple of reasons, but the primary reason is that it is not ideal for me at this point in time. My concentration is English, and what I would be observing is Special Education in AIS Math and integrated Technology, Social Studies, and Health, no English at all. The main reason that this is not ideal is because I took my Third Block before my Second (which I am taking now), and that means that my next block (which will be Spring 2012) will be Student Teaching, so the thought that the Practicum placement right before my Student Teaching experience does not involve observing English is incredibly scary.

Fortunately, because of the very fact that I am ahead a semester, I can afford not to have a placement this semester and then just fulfill this requirement next semester. I was hoping to not have to do that, but I think that it will ultimately benefit me, especially due to the serious health problems this semester. Later this month, I have to have surgery done, and that is going to result in me being off my feet for a week at the very least, maybe two, since that is what the surgeon told me. I think that this is really going to be beneficial; the only other downside is that it’s looking like I am going to have to take sixteen credits next semester, which means that the Dean’s List likely won’t be happening, nor will very much free time, but I tend to make the best of difficult situations, so I’m not too worried.

First Day of Practicum (Spring ’11)

Today was my first day of my Practicum assignment, and I observe six students with Special Education needs (only three today) and follow them throughout their first four periods. These students have a Special Education teacher as well as a Teacher’s Assistant who also follow them, as the students are often in need of additional help as far as reading and writing and following directions (etc.) is concerned. Five of the six students have Autism (the other has speech problems), so it is very difficult for them to stay at the same pace as the other students, which is why they need that intervention. I observed four classes: Technology, Social Studies, Health, and AIS Math.
Technology, Social Studies and Health are all taught by male teachers, and, for the most part, they are not very interactive with the students; instead, they simply give directions and attempt to manage the classroom by asking students to do what they need to do, such as quiet down, for example. The one exception is the teacher who teaches Social Studies. He is not the “official” teacher of the class (that would be a woman), but he is a Student Teacher who is actually teaching the class currently. He, by integrating the topic, of course, makes conversation with the students.
Many of the students have books that appear to be of choice taken out from the library, and this makes me wonder if their English teachers are asking them to read books as an Outside Reading Book (ORB) assignment, or if the students simply like to read outside of school time. I also noticed that the teaching methods used are not very interdisciplinary, since the teachers really seem to make an effort to keep their content areas compartmentalized. In fact, one student in the Social Studies class tried to connect something to Science, and he/she was told that this was a Social Studies class.
In the Health class, the students read out loud in a method which can best be described as the “popcorn” method, which is when students read a paragraph or two and then call on another student to do the same, and then that keeps repeating. It is a “Round Robin” method of reading, which is probably best for the students with Autism, since most of them seem to have trouble reading to themselves. The teachers are very patient with the students, despite the students’ need for so much additional help, which is really good to see. I also don’t mean to pass judgment as far as there being a lack of interdisciplinarity is concerned, because that works for some and doesn’t for others and is still a debate up in the air. Ultimately, what I saw today is quite different from what I have observed in other schools. In other schools, the students tend not to be as respectful as most of these ones are, and the students are also incredibly animated and mentally energetic, even early in the morning.

An Editorial, If You Will

This is just a quick summary of a few circumstances that I wish were a bit different, and I have been meaning to share for quite some time, actually. What I would first like to cover is the Education program. I am an Education major, and as an Education student, I am required to complete Practicum hours, which means that I observe a classroom each semester, and it really puts me at a severe disadvantage. Despite the hours that I put into that each week, I only get one to two credits (two for Block 3, since that is either a full day or two half-days, unlike Blocks 1 and 2, which are only one half-day), instead of the full three. What that means is that unless I kill myself by taking six courses, I am not getting the full fifteen credits that I should be getting, and I’m sure that I’m not the only Education student who feels this way.

Last semester was okay, because I got two credits for my Practicum, and I got four credits for my ADO 310 class, so it worked out to fifteen, but usually it doesn’t. Considering how many hours are put into completing a Practicum assignment, a full three credits should be given (more for third block). I feel like I’m busier than most students probably are, yet I’m getting less credits. Tell me, how is that fair? It isn’t fair.

Secondly, did anyone else receive an email over the summer telling you that your financial aid package had been slightly decreased due to the need to cut budgets? I did, and I was also reprimanded for having ordered too much last semester via ILLIAD, for the same reason. Allow me to entertain this question for a minute – if all of these budget cuts are necessary, then where is the money coming from to build this new science building? Where did the money come from to build the Village, something that was utterly unnecessary and isn’t even close to anything on campus. If we had that money, why didn’t we use it more productively, like put air-conditioning in the residence halls and the academic building, perhaps? I just feel like I am being affected for reasons that don’t affect me. I am not living in the townhouses, and I most likely won’t be here when the science building is finished (and even if I were, I’m not a science major). Anyway, enough moaning for now, I suppose. I’m sorry about that; I have just been meaning to write this for a while now.

Ninth Day of Practicum, Fall ’10

So, today, I finally taught, and yes, it is odd that I went to Practicum on a Tuesday, but this past Friday, I didn’t go due to the weather. It wasn’t much better today, but I had to go. Not only did I need to teach, but I needed the hours put in. Anyway, teaching went really well. I was really nervous, because this was my very first time teaching ever, but it actually turned out great. The students responded very well to me and seemed to like me.

I thought that my Practicum time was now over, but apparently, it is not. I have been concerned about the time that I have put in. I have missed a couple of days due to my ride not being able to go or because of weather conditions, and so I contacted the Field Placement office out of fear that I would be denied credit. They contacted me back and did not give me a straight answer. They said that if I have not put enough hours in, then I should go at least twice during Finals Week. I’m sorry, but that can’t happen for many reasons. I just find this to be so unfair.

I find it to be very unfair that out of about twelve weeks, I go to ten of them, and my credit still might get denied, even though that is a vast majority. I especially find that to be unfair because I have no other way of getting there. The Field Placement office suggested that I “coerce” a friend to bring me (not possible), take a bus (also not possible, because that will not bring me to the school, only to the Regional Transportation Center), or rent a Zip car (also not possible, because I can’t afford that). My only option, if they tell me that the amount of hours that I have already put in are not enough, is to go again this week. I hope to hear from them soon and really hope that I can resolve this if I need to.