Saturday, April 14, 2012

Playing baseball in class. 3 strikes and you are out!

This is my new classroom management strategy for my geography classes. 3 strikes and you are out the door to  OCR. After a few rough days of trying to compel my two freshmen geography classes to display some level of respect for others when they are talking my C.T and I came up with the baseball game as we call it. I have a seating chart transparency on the overhead and when things become to rowdy, instead of raising my voice I simply turn on the overhead. This is the classes warning that they need to be quite and get back to work or show more respect for whom ever is talking. If they don't, I then start handing out strikes to students that interrupt, say things not related to the topic, or are just simply being rude. As I said earlier, this is a freshman geography class, the sad thing is that the most disruptive students are 10th and 11th graders. My CT has said time and again, this is the most challenging class he can remember; he has been teaching for 30 years so that either says they are really challenging or he has forgotten some that were harder. Either way, these two classes, especially 5th period are really putting me to the test as far as classroom management. For me, I look at as a real opportunity to learn. I had two students on Friday ask me if I really want to be a teacher, and why would I after having to deal with their classmates. I told them that part of my job is not just teaching content material, but also teaching certain students how to be better students and how to learn and that this class was giving me a real opportunity to practice that. They looked at me like I was from Mars and said I should just kick them all out of class because if they are not going to listen to Craven, my CT, they sure are not going to listen to me. In reality only time will tell so I will just keep trying to teach them content and how to be good students.

Lastly, I had a student in 5th period, my toughest class, ask me last week why I always dress like a "closet pimp". My first response was to ask him what that means and he said he thought that I dressed really nice all the time. A few of his classmates chimed in and said I was easily the best dressed teacher on campus. I thanked them and continued to hand out some papers. However, the first student said to me, "You didn't answer me. Why do you dress like that when nobody else does?" So I went "Gooch" on them, although I was very sincere and meant what I said. (Many of you will know what I mean by that, some will be left wondering and I think that is funny.) I told them that teaching is a profession that requires me to interact with important people, them, everyday and that I have been taught that if you are meeting with people of importance you should dress like they are important. I almost got a standing ovation. One girl said something to the effect of that being the coolest thing she has ever heard a teacher say. What will the net effect of this, I don't know. But it certainly cannot hurt for my students to know that I take my job seriously and I take my time with them and their learning just as serious.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

One more week under the belt.

Having completed my first week of CPII was both energizing and exhausting. Between observations, being observed, one day of getting to school at 6:45 in the morning and not leaving until after open house at 7:45, a few late nights of planning along with all of the other incidentals of teaching I am exhausted. On the other hand, having one class of completely compliant and eager learners, another class full of energetic and excitable freshmen and  a 5th period class that my C.T. may be the squirreliest class he has ever had all adds up to three really cool classes.

My first observation was in my U.S. government class. While the lesson was not perfect it went really well all in all. At my old company we had a saying, if you really want to impress a customer, make a mistake and blow their mind with how well you recover. I know it sounds odd but it is true. While I did not make a mistake in my lesson, there was a portion of the lesson that was beyond some of my students. When I realized this, I made a slight change to what they were doing that allowed those students to fully access the material. I did not think much of this adjustment, it just seemed to make sense to me. However, it did not go unnoticed by my U.S. and she thought it was a great adjustment. She also really liked the use of as discussion generator. More importantly than that, the students love it and buy into it. The use of and have both a lot to energize the classes. I really recommend the use of them.

My challenge this week and likely for the rest of the semester will be my 5th period geography class. Oh my! To be fairly blunt, many students in this class have very little sense of what respect is. They have little respect for themselves, no respect for classmates and a few of them have an equally small amount of respect for me or my C.T. Some of these students are so defiant, you can ask them to sit down/ return to their seat and they will look you in the eye, smile and act like you did not say a word. Or tell you that they will sit down in a minute. Needless to say this is not something my C.T. or I will tolerate and we address it outside. Yet it does not change the attitude. I have taken the approach of just trying to lift them up when I have my discussions with them I am also using one of the techniques from the Cooperative Disciple approach outlined by Linda Albert. In particular, the Target-Stop-Do. In this approach, you target the student by name, tell him/her to stop "ABC" and do "XYZ". I have seen some improvement with a few students but I have a long way to go. While, I suppose I could let this particular class get me down; I see it as a great opportunity to learn how to get these students back in the groove. Not to mention, although some of these students are often disrespectful, when you talk to them one on one, you can see that they are for the most part really good kids that just need some help learning boundaries and don't need anymore negative inputs in their lives.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Yeah for the first day!

So today was my second first day student teaching. What a difference eight weeks can make. No nervousness, no sweating palms and pits!! Just me talking to some really great students. It was a great day for an introduction. Short classes today, covered some news paper articles, introduced myself and Socrative. The students loved Socrative! I explained the rationale for using it in the class. I told them it was a tool for me to use to assess the level of comprehension from the days lesson and that I will primarily use it as a formative exit assessment. I also told them it was another tool for me to use in an attempt to hold them accountable for staying engaged in the activities. All in all they really liked the idea of being able to use their phones during class and seemed to appreciate the reasons we were going to use it. I also had them fill out the student questionnaires and received some really good information to use in guiding my instructional strategies.

I also attended the schools open house tonight (long day, got there at 7am left at 7:30 tonight!) It went really well and they had more students than most people expected. I had the opportunity to talk to a number of incoming and current freshman and their families about the geography course I am teaching regarding the course structure and material. It turned out to be a well received event and I am glad I went.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mistakes happen, it is how you respond to them that can make the difference

As you may or may not know, I am a teacher credentialing candidate about to start my last round of student teaching at Cal. State University San Marcos and as part of our program we are required to make weekly observations of other teachers. This week one of the things that caught my attention occurred at the beginning of a class when a student was reporting on a newspaper article that he read. This particular student is a Latino and although I don't know if he is an EL he does have a particularly strong Spanish accent. The article he was reporting on was about the opening of a new bridge allowing easier access to one of the other local high schools. This student used the word bridge a time or two, when he said it his accent made is sound vaguely like he said fridge. The teacher said, "They opened a fridge?" I am not sure if he was being condescending, I don't think so, but I could tell it had an instant affect on the student. His entire demeanor changed. His expression changed, his voice lowered a bit and he looked down for a moment. the teacher seemed a little uneasy as most of the students remarked about whether the student sounded like he said fridge or bridge, Which seemed to make the young man even more uncomfortable. My heart broke for this young man. He was dong his best and made some strong points about the article, and yet they were lost in the shuffle because of the comments about his pronunciation of a word. The thing about it is that I am sure that at some point, in what I hope is a long career in the education world, I will inadvertently  say something that is going to embarrass or otherwise make a student feel uncomfortable. The odds are simply stacked against anyone that works with students for a long period of time that they will either say something to embarrass or upset a student. There a few important things to remember though. The first thing is to apologize for the action, whatever it may have been. Secondly, do not repeat the offense, learn from the mistake and apply what you learn so you don't put another student in the same place.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Methods Class Goodness

Tonight in our methods class we spent a good amount of time watching YouTube. Yeah, I know us social science nerds have it easy! We looked at a number of videos that have been done about world history. The is a group of history teachers that have taken a bunch of popular songs that any, or at least a great deal of our students would recognize, if not know word for word and turned them into songs about historical events or periods. The lyrics are catchy and some of them are really actually content heavy. I think they will be a great tool in the class as a way to get students motivated and show them that history can be fun.

Here is the link to see a list of the videos: