This semester of practicum I feel I have grown a lot as a teacher. My Collaborating Teacher (CT) has given me great support and countless suggestions. Even more, she provided continuous chances to actually teach, plan lessons, and gain exposure to students. I have been given great opportunities to practice my teaching skills and try out ideas and have really begun to step up and take on the challenges of teaching.
I have planned various lessons on all subjects this semester. The practice has allowed me to become more comfortable and fluid in creating a lesson. I now feel more competent to devise activities which practice the skills and content I need. Just as importantly, when stifled, I learned to ask my CT and PLC for suggestions and resources. My CT has taught me well about balancing Florida standards and district requirements with the needs and abilities of my students. Initially, I struggled with assessments, falling back on informal observations of verbal responses during group lessons in early classes. In the last few weeks, I began to use physical assessment activities I could collect for review, and next semester I will continue to incorporate more formative, as well as summative, assessments to track my students’ growth and knowledge gaps.
I think I am stronger as a reading and writing teacher, familiar with the different skills and content. More than once, I jumped right into shared reading, read alouds, and IRA lessons at a moment’s notice. I even led a multiple day close reading and performance task. One of my first responsibilities was pulling small groups for RtI, in order to work on different reading skills. During the last few weeks, I actually took over two guided reading groups; selecting the texts, planning skills, and keeping running records. As a reading teacher, I have come a long way and enjoyed the challenges.
In math, I have grown more competent at asking high order thinking questions, and getting students to explain their answers. However, I still struggle to select activities that keep the students engaged in the math lesson, and need to switch methods more often. I am also working to improve on planning and teaching science lessons; I am unfamiliar with much of the content, and being in practicum only two days a week, I am uncertain what they have and have not learned already.
Unfortunately, this semester I had little experience with technology. For all her wonderful attributes and experience, my CT is not very technologically savvy, and rarely uses any technology. As a result, I had little exposure or encouragement to incorporate technology in my lessons. When I tried to use videos in my science lesson, we were unable to connect the internet and the Smart Board; fortunately, as a contingency plan, we used the CT’s phone with the ELMO. This week I was going to create a Smart Board lesson, but the internet was down at school during my planning period. Since one must have the school license to use the Smart Board program, I could not work on it from home. In the fall, one of my goals is to become more familiar with Smart Board lessons, and find more ways to use technology to engage my students and give them experiences they might not otherwise have.
I believe I have made major strides in classroom management and asserting myself as an authority figure. It took me a couple of weeks to learn my CT’s procedures and expectations, and then take charge in the classroom. I have progressively taken over transitioning students, walking them in line, and even putting students in literacy circles. One week, my CT was unexpectedly called to another classroom, and I was forced to handle the class myself. All went well, and that experience gave me a real confidence boost regarding taking control. I have also learned to be more consistent with my consequences, and more at ease with stopping a lesson to correct behaviors. My CT does not use many attention grabbers, and so I had trouble finding ways to get the students’ attention at first. My time alone teaching I was able to implement my own attention grabber, using “one, two three, eyes on me.” Most of the students were aware of this command from the YMCA and quickly caught on; this made getting my students’ attention and giving directions a whole lot easier. “Well-defined norms for behavior can help to dispel the ‘what-ifs’ and enhance feelings of safety, security, and competence,” therefore helping the students see me as an authority and realize that even with my CT gone, the same rules and consequences apply (Davis & Kriete, 2014, p. 89). After my CT returned, I spent a day planning and teaching a whole day’s lesson. I continued to put into practice what I had learned the previous week, remain in charge even with my CT in the room, and confidently use the attention grabber I had put in place previously.
With that said, I am still struggling with having with-it-ness in full group lessons. I am working to balance teaching lessons while maintaining awareness of what all my students are doing during the lesson. I think part of my students’ behavioral issues stem from their lack of engagement in the lesson. So, I am working to find activities that fit the students’ varied interests, and more importantly the attention spans of six year olds, including many with diagnosed ADHD. Levin and Nolan (2013) suggest seven ways to prevent behavioral issues: be well prepared to teach, provide clear directions and explanations, explain the purpose and relevance of material, clearly explain evaluation criteria, be consistent with expected behavior, be enthusiastic about material, and build positive relationships with students. I plan to better embody these goals in the fall. I also want to create more differentiation during my lessons, and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to feel challenged, without reaching his or her individual frustration level. “Every student needs [to] feel they belong in the class, that they have a place and are valued” (Charles, 2002). My biggest goal for my final internship in the fall is to create more engaging lessons which will help keep small distracting behaviors under control.
This semester has been a great experience! I have learned and grown a lot. That said, there are still areas for improvement. For example, being in practicum only two days a week, it was difficult to coordinate lessons with my CT. This added to the challenge of planning skills and lessons when I was also not able to witness the beginning and end of units, or fully assess my students’ knowledge base and gaps. I also had a challenging time balancing preparation for practicum with the demands of my other classes. In my final internship, I look forward to seeing units all the way through, and being able to plan more lessons in conjunction with my CT. Above all, I am looking forward to focusing all my attention and energy on my internship, and continuing to grow as a teacher.
Charles, C. M. (2002). Linda Albert’s ‘Cooperative Discipline’. Building classroom discipline. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. (Ch. 5. pp. 67-84).
Davis, C. & Kriete, R. (2014). The Morning Meeting Book. Turners Falls, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children.
Levin, J. & Nolan, J. (2013). Principles of classroom management: A professional decision-making model (7th Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearsons.