Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Senioritis

I did not get Senioritis when I was a Senior in high school, at least I don't remember moaning and groaning every time a teacher talked, packing up and standing next to the door 6 minutes before the bell rang or just stop showing up to class.  However, in the last month of my teaching credential program and teaching all Seniors, I can see where students are coming from.  Often students come up to me before class and ask, "Are we doing something today?"  I respond with, "As much I'd love for us all to sit and stare at each other until our brains melt, we are at school so we will be productive with our time together."  This always receives a laugh from curious giraffe neck students who are also curious if we are "doing anything" that day.  However, the questioner generally responds with a groan or eye roll and a mumbled, "But there's only 4 weeks left." As they shuffle back to their seat. 

I've been fighting their slacking off, constant talk about Prom and graduation and absurd reasons as to why we shouldn't do anything in class.  After a particular rough day (magnified because I had caught a small case of senioritis myself) I talked to my CT about how much the students were exhausting me.  She told me to stop fighting and make them accountable, so I stopped trying.  I decided to be patient and quiet after I demanded their attention once.  It worked!  After calling the class's attention at the beginning of the period they weren't quieting down so I (uncomfortably and anxiously) waited at the front of the classroom and stared at the chatty students.  It wasn't but a few moments before students started to realize we were waiting on them, or their classmates started to "Shhhh" them.  Magic! 

I started making goals for each class meeting.  I explained to the students that each day we had a set amount of information to get through and if we got through that, the rest of the time was theirs to work quietly on homework and get ahead on assignments.  It worked!  I get through my lecture and notes or discussions and if they are getting off task, I sit back and quietly mention that this is their work time they are wasting and peers get each other in check.  Setting expectations for them and rewarding them if they stayed on task with time to complete assignments has been a technique that I did not want to try (idle minds makes for a chaotic classroom) but with Seniors, I have found it to be rewarding for both myself and the students. 

Turns out the cure for Senioritis is goals/expectations and some patience.  I also made a list of all of the assignments they have due from now until the end of the year to show them what we have to get through.  Every time a due date approaches I erase the assignment off the board so all the classes can see the list get shorter.  They know that if they are not being productive then reading quizzes will be added to the list, but as long as they are positively contributing to class discussion and producing quality work, the list will not grow. 

I knew second semester Seniors would be a challenge, but I have found that working with the class has helped me succeed.  This is something I can take to any classroom of mine in the future.  If they are acting crazy, I need to sit down and talk to them about what is not working so whatever is causing them distress and causing me to lose my mind can be fixed. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reflection Video

video

iPad Reflection

In February I was given the opportunity to visit El Camino high school and observe how teachers and students were using iPads in their math and science classrooms.  Unfortunately, the science classrooms were not available to observe on this particular day but we did get to watch sophomores prep for the CAHSEE test in their math classrooms.  I saw 3 classes work on the test prep and with each class I began to understand more and more how using iPads was beneficial to classroom learning.  It took the whole first class for me to understand what the students were doing and how they were doing it.  I asked a few students to show me how they showed their work and how they submitted their answers.  Essentially, students were using their school Moodle site to get the questions and submit their answers and iPad's picture and edit tool to do the work.  Some students did their work on a separate sheet of paper (which is what I would have needed to do too.) 

One of my first curiosities was what if something were to happen and the work was lost or the iPad freaked out.  Students calmed my anxiety by telling me that their teachers required them to keep track of their answers on a separate sheet of paper.  What a relief, even if technology failed, students would not.  I then wondered how the teacher knew about students' progress.  The teacher showed us the reports he got when students turned in their work, how many they got wrong, which ones they got wrong, which did the most students miss and which ones had been mastered.  Not only was the teacher able to follow student progress, but the program created a report for him to follow and track exactly what he should go over again and what they students had mastered.  WOW!  What a great teaching tool, what other ways are there to get instantaneous feedback and know exactly what students learned?!

The most fascinating thing to me was that students did not venture from their assignment.  I asked a couple of students, "What keeps you from going on the web and looking at pictures?"  Students were taken aback by my question and thought I was trying to trick them.  I told them that every time I  get my hands on an iPad I get excited and start taking funny pictures on photobooth and playing games, what kept them working on math?  The students responded with the facts.  They said, if they don't do their work, then they won't get the points and therefore would not do well in the class.  Well, that makes sense.  Another student told me that the iPad was not as exciting to them because they used it everyday.  I asked the teacher about how well students stay on task and he said that in the beginning of the year they get some time to play and he doesn't worry too much about them being off task because they enjoy using the iPad for math. 

I've been wanting to purchase an iPad and seeing how it is used in the classroom made me realize how beneficial they really are.  I've been searching my mom's iPad for apps to use in the classroom and the possibilities are endless.  On top of that, my CP site right now just got a grant for 10 teachers to receive iPads and get Apple TVs installed in their classrooms.  What was even better is that the principal informed the staff that if they bought their own iPads, then the school would install an Apple TV in their classroom.  I thought that this is a great way for teachers to start using more technology in their classrooms. 

My Favorite Lesson

Thus far in my student teaching, I have used technology to help me grow as a teacher, but I have had a hard time incorporating it into my classroom.  Aside from the research trips to the library, I have not been able to incorporate it into a lesson.  However, one night as I was drifting off to sleep stressing about how I needed to create a lesson about Paulo Coehlo, the author of The Alchemist.  I already knew the students were hating the fact that they were going to be reading a book to finish off their senior year and that was on my mind because I was new to the class and wanted to win them over to make everyone's life easier for the last 6 weeks of school.  So I picked up my phone and started searching "Alchemist" when it hit me, when don't I have my students do this during class?!  YES!  So I wrote a lesson plan using student inquiry and phones to research and learn about Paulo Coehlo. 

The next day in class I asked students to get into groups of 4 to 6 and make sure they had at least 1 smart phone in the group.  When I said that, students started buzzing, asking questions and wanting to know why they needed their phones.  After giving, directions and making it a competition to find the most facts students were immediately engaged.  I gave them 5 minutes to find as many facts as possible, what they didn't know is after the inquiry they were going to read off their facts and have to cross off any repeats.  Then they would earn points by how many facts they had in the end.  The inquiry part went well and almost every group was fully engaged in researching the author and the book, other groups were checking Facebook and Instagram.  I tried to get them back on track a couple of times, but knew that if they weren't focused they wouldn't get points so I didn't stress much about those groups because I gave all students a chance to switch groups halfway through the activity. 

Overall it was a fun and easy way to use technology and successful in getting students to talk with one another and hear the information a few times before moving on.  The reading off of the facts was an added bonus because it kept groups engaged with the material and listening to what other groups had to say because they had to double check if they had the same facts.  I also liked it because in the end, students who worked hard and were fully engaged and focused got full credit and those that slacked off and used their time to update their status did not.  It was a balance between content, technology and student engagement as well as a fair way to grade students on their participation.


End of the year creeping up

With the final meeting of our CSUSM classes meeting tomorrow I am realizing how much I have managed to let University pile up and now come crashing down on me.  I'm too late, but my semester has been one hurdle and surprise after another and I have not managed to catch up and catch a breath.  From changing CT's classrooms to TPA mess ups, the challenges keep on coming.  Every week I think, this is going to be it, I'm going to catch up and be able to breathe this week, and then another hurdle presents itself.  I knew this semester would be hard because on top of school and teaching I'm also coaching and picked up another job, but I thought I could balance it all.  Instead what has happened is my week to week outlook turned into day to day and now I live hour by hour.  I often find myself up at 1 and 2 in the morning trying to get everything done for the next day which is uncharacteristic for me.  I am a planner and I like to have everything done well in advanced and due to the length of my to do lists I have not been able to function in my normal way.  I have been a ball of stress and put me into "survival mode" just to get the necessary and immediate things done. This has caused me to keep pushing university work down and down on my priority list because I do not need that work to be successful that day. 

This is not to say that I have completely ignored what I have learned and have had to be reflective on from my classes, it just means I have not put it in writing.  I often tweet about how in over my head I am to have a presence online.  But I know that this is not a productive way to be using my PLN.  I have often found myself scrolling through Pinterest, Twitter and Diigo to find ideas to use in my classroom when time gets tight.  I have been able to find lessons and resources to help me succeed in my day to day life in the classroom.  I am grateful for this class because it is the reason I have been able to keep up with my teaching.  Even though I have not caught up on my blog reflections and concrete assignments for my classes, I have been using and putting to use the tools we learned about.  Catch up Blog posts to follow. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

And the chaos sets in

Spring semester is always a hectic one for teachers.  Wrapping up the school year, cramming for Star testing, making sure they get through all their lessons etc...  For me, I am just jumping into the semester and I can feel the pressure.  Getting through a chapter of grammar and two novels with freshmen and trying to keep my seniors from being brain dead from now until June is proving to take its toll.  Luckily I have found comfort in reaching out for support on campus as well as online. 

I can relate with my seniors because in June, I'll be graduating too.  It can be hard to be so close to the end and feel like there is still so much to get done.  That is where reaching out to my resources has come in handy.  Why try and come up with a whole new revolutionary twist on Shakespeare when a teacher at your school has rock star quality lessons they are willing to share?  Using my resources is not something that has always been easy for me.  But now with sites like Pinterest and following educational groups on Twitter, a whole world of possibilities is at my fingertips.  Now I have to remember that I can't possibly try everything in one semester.  Good thing I plan on being a teacher for an extremely long time, I will have the chance to try all of these and continue to grow and learn from other teachers. 

My biggest goal for this semester is to use every moment as a learning experience so when I am a fully credentialed (and hopefully employed) teacher, I will be able to be the best teacher I can be.  For now, I have to accept where I am and be realistic about what I can give to these students.  Something to live by while "crash-course" teaching, "Everyday might not be good, but there is something good in everyday."  My goal: To recognize that good and learn from the not-so-good. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Beginning...

Welcome to my teaching blog.  I am currently in my second semester of classes at CSU San Marcos in pursuit of my teaching credential.  We start the semester off with 8 weeks of classes as students and this semester we are learning all about PLNs (personal learning networks).  As someone who uses their computer to write papers, listen to music, keep pictures, check Facebook and more recently Pinterest, this blogging thing is quite difficult.  I have subscribed to a plethora of new websites, my favorite being Live Binders.  Being the organized and paper loving person that I am, Live Binders actually makes me feel like the internet (or world wide web as I love to call it) can be organized; which is a huge step toward a positive relationship with the world wide web.

Whenever I think about doing something online or researching my head immediately feels full and confused.  So far, these classes have helped take away the initial fear by focusing on the purpose of each site and showing how it will help us become better teachers!  I'm all for anything that will make me a better teacher; hence the amount of grammar books I bought last semester to survive teaching grammar.  Teaching in itself is an adventure and now I have the whole internet at my fingertips to make it that much more fun and effective for my students.  I will post on here when I have time between classes, teaching/observing and my other two jobs, coaching gymnastics and Pad Squad with the San Diego Padres. 

My goal with this blog is to share my experiences and brilliant ideas (that are not usually mine) and connect with other educators because we all know the best way to be a teacher is to steal from others and make it work for you.  I won't promise that it is helpful in the beginning, but there are some possibilities of entertainment in my journey as a teacher in training.