Observation Day

Last week I experienced a busy return back to normal routines after what seemed like weeks of practice FSA exams falling on the days I spent in the classroom. In a slight role reversal, this week, I would be the student showing herself and teacher(s) what I can do as a teacher.

Let’s backtrack a week and discuss the planning of the guided lesson I would be implementing on Thursday. Without question, more time and attention was going to this lesson as I had to create it myself. Normally, the reading coaches and other third grade ELA teachers gather together to create the LPs. My experiences with and without their step-by-step plans differed greatly. Most of the differences would be from the fact I was being formally observed by my professor and that I had zero confidence in the creation of the actual lesson plan in relation to the unit or even weekly scheduled lesson plans. As far as the implementation portion goes, of course it is easier to watch and takes notes from someone else leading before taking the ropes (model/watch, together, by yourself concept) but the same uncertainties exist for both. I made a list with some positive experiences and areas of where improvement is needed for my pre-,during, and post-observation below:

Positive Features

CT provided resources and suggestions for LP

I was given freedom to choose how to do LP

Led me to question and reflect on my thinking

Made me be more aware that I needed a focal point in the LP — I had to shake the delusion that I could tackle everything all in one twenty minute guided

Had the opportunity to do lesson twice (for practice) before being observed

Made it through without any major management issues — yes, that was a fear of mine!

Needs Improvement

Time management skills — I always knew this would be a struggle for me as a beginning teacher. Some steps I will take to fix this is to plan LP using specific step by step plan with corresponding time referenced and to train myself on becoming more aware of how I distribute my time during the lesson itself.

My confidence — Honestly, its just a matter of time and practice.

Level of conciseness — At times, it is important to be overly repetitive and even elaborate and at other times it is best to provide short and specific direction. I have to make step-by-step, quote-by-quote guidance in my LP to help keep me on track.

__________

It’s a funny thing for me to realize this was my first formal observation but my future holds so many more of them. I hope I will develop into the teacher I envision and when I’m observed I’ll have the confidence I need to make it through!

Until next week,

Erica

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STEM Fair 2015

Last week I was lucky enough to serve as a judge for the county’s STEM fair. This included all grades and forms of science categories. The students present were selected from their respective schools and sent to county with the hopes of making it to the state rounds.

Upon arrival I was assigned to forth grade Physical Science – Matter category. A fairly large category on a comparative level of the others. I was partnered with another intern and a retired science teacher who has been a judge for the past seven years. As a team of three were assigned ten students to review.

The first thing I learned is that we cannot ask for their name or the name of the school they attend to prevent any favoritism that may affect the judging of the projects. The second thing I learned is that students are not aloud to engage in projects/investigations that produce the growing of mold; however, if by default it happens that is acceptable. I was surprised by this rule as it seems to limit students creativity and options to explore science.

As we approached each student their personalities made such a difference in what and how we learned about their investigations. Some seemed like authentic kiddish projects such as which paper makes the best paper footballs or the projects involving candy. Other investigations made me think “I bet this was their parents idea” but maybe I was being overly cynical and even if it was their parents idea if they followed through with it I should not judge them on whether the idea was from them or not.

In the picture above and to the left you will see these snazzy judge name badges we were provided as well as a sample evaluation chart used to guide questioning and scoring. To the right is about a quarter of the projects that were presented onsite. I was impressed with number of participants and the amount of family support that showed up. Events like this are great ways to incorporate family and learning with the student.

All in all this was a great experience for me to partake in! The more I participate in the math and sciences the more I think I could make a good teacher in subjects other than ELA.

Week 2 & 3: FSA Pre-Testing and Parent/Teacher Conference Night

During my experience in the classroom over the past two weeks I was forced to face the undeniable truth that teachers and students often lose valuable learning opportunities because of administrative tasks. During week one I assisted in proctoring the FSA ELA practice test number two and this week parent/teacher conferences were held. In the following I will discuss what I observed and learned in terms of teacher responsibility and administrative requirements.

FSA – Practice Exam #2: The district highly recommends school participate in FSA practice exams and at the school where I am they agree. As do I! What did surprise me was the fact that some schools would object to administering practice exams. I know it takes away from learning time but learning the skills of test taking, especially lengthy high-stakes testing, should be viewed as equally important. The test took a total of seventy minutes to complete. That amount of time requires a lot of stamina and motivation to stay focused and engaged. Prior to the testing our teacher made sure the students were relaxed and even encouraged talking with their classmates to “get it out” of their system. She explicitly told the students that they would be dealing with a challenging task that she knows they can and will succeed at if they use the skills they have been practicing. She then went on to review ways to stay focused and other test-taking strategies before the students begun testing. This emphasized the value of repetition in directions and strategy skills.

During the following week, scores were calculated with the help of our ELA coaches. Our students came up thirty percent below what the district deemed to be the goal score. However, most schools across the board fell short of where the county would like to see scores so that made me feel a little better but still not without concern. With only about a month left before testing we are using the student data to guide our lesson planning. It is very useful being able to identify specific areas of improvement and then work as a team to implement the plans in place.

As I reflect back on the past two weeks in my practicum classroom I realize teachers are held accountable for so much more then educating their students. While I expect behavior management to play a large role in the classroom it was not until after this week that I realized how much “busy” work is also demanded of teachers.

Until next week,

Erica