Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I am a science-Peter.

So, my sister drew me something for my blog, and I really like it. I have a few other sketches people have done, and eventually I want to set up a rotating banner, when I have a bit of free time to scan them and resize everything.

Commission, "Science Peter" by ~TheJung on deviantART

Things have been really busy lately. I am student teaching 3 days this week, which is also finals week. If I am not asleep, I am busy. I have very little time to myself, but hopefully once student teaching starts I will be able to cordon off a little bit more me-time. Student teaching starts next week, although I will miss a day due to a mandatory job fair. The following week, I finally student teach for an entire week, and then I have spring break to recuperate from everything. It will be hard going away from grad school, which has been my life for the past 9 months, my cohort, a small group of 17 that have become like family to me, and a lead professor who has been both a hard taskmaster and an insightful mentor, but student teaching will keep me busy.

I went to a job fair Monday, which was a lot of fun. I went to employers with the very directed question- "Do you have an online academy?" Against my expectations, about 50% of them said yes. I even met the principal of one, and he wrote "ischool" on my academy, and I will be emailing him soon.

Oh, wait, I haven't talked about online academies in depth yet, have I?

So, online academies. For one of my projects, I had to do a wiki article about a subject of my choice. I chose online academies, as having done IT work in the past and being a huge computer nerd, online anything generally equates to better anything in my book. So, in my research, I actually visited an online academy and got to geek out with the staff, who really reminded me of an amalgamation of IT people and teachers. The building itself was half classroom, half server room, and while a lot of things were still in development, I was very impressed with what I saw. I don't believe online learning is for all kids, but I do feel that a lot of kids benefit from that type of learning over general school learning, and that this online academy did a very good job at keeping the kids motivated by requiring usually one day at the bricks and mortar location per week, and using a vast array of software to help meet students learning needs.

So, going there was sort of like going to Disneyland. Then, I hooked up with the information literacy people, and realized that information literacy and online academies could work amazingly together. That grew to be my general spiel for talking with districts that had online academies. Other districts I just learned about, and there were some that were really interesting.

However, just today, I attended a site counsel meeting where they talked about the state budget. Even with my math and science endorsements, I really can't be certain if I'm going to get a job, much less find work at an online academy. I would go into a political rant about how they need to fund schools better, tax the wealthy, and give teachers free awesome cybernetic implants that allow them to see students brainwaves in real time, but that can come later.

In any case, I'll keep on trucking. I know my niche, and if I don't get there immediately, it's something I will continue to aspire towards, keeping up on the latest news and developments with.

In the mean time, I've been taking over more and more classes. Today, I taught 3 periods, and co-taught the final period, which I will be co-teaching for all of my student teaching, due to the heavy machinery in the classroom that I am not certified to oversee the operation of.

Things I've learned recently, negative first:
-Let students figure things out. Inquiry, inquiry, inquiry. Even in math. If it's an important concept, let it take a while longer to sink in. I had planned an inquiry activity to help students understand why you flip the inequality sign when you multiply or divide by a negative, but I ended up just giving them an example and showing exactly why the numbers didn't fit anymore, rather than letting them figure it out. I think I was so worried about time that I just lost out on a really good teaching opportunity.

-Be willing to discipline. If a student is disrupting learning by being a twerp, send him out.

-Learn how to deal with when students come up to do math equations. They might be confident in their work, but when they mess up, it's very embarrassing. A girl did that, so I had her identify what she did wrong, then had another girl come up and try it, but the girl who came up is very sensitive. I talked with her a bit after class, and she seemed fine, but I want to make sure she is still willing to come up in the future.

-Be careful with the caffeine. I've been drinking a LOT of it lately, and it's not doing good things to me. I'll just leave it at that. Part of it is having finals week along with 5am wake ups, but once I start student teaching, I will really have to work on figuring out a sleep schedule that keeps me going without having to drink a 5 hour energy (intense shot), a caffeine drink, a large cup of tea, and a cup of coffee in a day.

-Do not use the word 'lecture' with middle schoolers. I informed them that I would be giving them a quick lecture on something, and they flipped out. I explained that it was just a discussion, and that calmed them, but now I know that using the 'l word' is not okay with that grade.

The good!

-Note student's skills and interests. A few cheerleaders were in the back of class, practicing a cheer. We had just studied blood, so I asked if this was 'the blood dance.' They proceeded to put together a quick 'b-l-o-o-d!' hand motion cheer. When I saw them again in 6th period, I asked them to do more, so I let them get their science notebooks and start using the vocab words to put together a cheer which they will get to perform before the exam. They are not getting any grades for this, but they are so psyched.

-Let kids know that you care about their learning, and that you want them in your class. That means a lot to them.

-Talk about stuff you're passionate about. Today was a more relaxed worksheet day, so a few kids finished early. They wanted to throw a ball around class, and I told them to mention areas of science they were interested in. Minutes later, I was explaining the Large Hadron Collider with them. I later overheard my cooperating teacher saying, "Wow... I could learn stuff from him." The few students I had were completely engaged, and wanted to learn more. I told them to start reading Scientific American online. It was a really great moment, and I want to make more moments like it. With 8th grade, the standards don't cover a lot of really amazing stuff unfortunately, but if you can find time to bring it up, it's totally worth it. In fact, that cool technology-modern applications bit is something I want to incorporate as much as possible, even if it does occasionally require more standing and delivering, which is not in vogue right now.

-Let students into your life a bit. Don't be afraid to tell them little tidbits of your life, so long as they are appropriate. They want to know you, so let them know you, so long as it doesn't interfere with learning.


-Keep student learning as your bottom line. If something is helping learning, great. If not, it has to go.

So, that's where I am. On the horizon, I have lesson planning to learn, classroom management to master, and assessment to acquire. And always, I could be better. That's what's fun about it. I told my cooperating teacher, that is one of the things I like the most about teaching, is that it's challenging. I tend to learn things very quickly, and gain some degree of competency at them with ease. Academic work is rarely challenging, and if I take it at my own pace, it is usually very quickly digested. Teaching is a completely different realm, one that is molding me slowly as I try to master it. I love it.


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