30 Day Blog Challenge Day 2

Day 2: What do you believe is your greatest strength as a teacher?

What’s the saying about “man’s best-laid plans?” One of the best lessons I learned in Student Teaching was that a well-thought out lesson plan will sometimes go south. That half of your students will be on a trip. They aren’t picking up something as quickly as you hoped. You weren’t informed about a fire drill. Someone tries to throw a chair.

I think one of my biggest strengths as a teacher is my ability to adapt to unusual circumstances and be flexible in my teaching and planning. As a student teacher I worked with four very different cooperating teachers, and an ever-changing landscape of student interactions. Many days my plans were fine and I think I taught some great lessons during student teaching. But there were certainly times where things did not go according to plan.

It’s easy to get frustrated. To let the students talk until the bell, to play a simple game. Certainly better planning is needed, but in those moments, when my best-laid plans have been laid waste (even by a Kindergartener!), I find that I figure it out. I don’t know if it’s intuition, training, or sheer luck, but the teacher in me comes out. You find ways to make it work and meet the students where they are.

Is it always perfect? Of course not. During one of my supervisor observations I realized I had not properly pre-assessed the knowledge of a group of late elementary students and had to completely revise my plan, but I saw their frustration and didn’t try to charge forward with my plan. It seems like such a small thing, but I recognize now that it was an important moment in my teaching. I messed up, recognized it in the students, and fixed it on the spot.

So my greatest strength as a teacher right now is flexibility (and content knowledge, and pedagogy, and student relationships, and a bunch of other principle friendly lingo). Maybe one day my planning will catch up to my teaching, but until then, I know I can adapt and adjust to any situation those students can throw at me!

30 Day Blog Challenge Day 1

Day 1: How did you decide to become a teacher?

When I started college I was a pre-seminary student pursuing an undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance. During my sophomore year, I decided to drop the seminary certificate and pursue education as a career.

Photograph of The Boxcar Children books on a shelf.

I loved The Boxcar Children books as a kid! Will need to find a set before I have children of my own! Creative Commons License 2011, janielle23, http://www.flickr.com/photos/janellie23/5557021621/

I’ve always loved school. In elementary school I would have my father drive me to school early to get everything ready and make sure I was prepared for the day’s learning. I’ve always loved to read. We joke in my family that my mother once collapsed in the library while pregnant with me, and that I’ve loved to read ever since. I’ve always loved music. I remember standing and singing in my classes at my first elementary school and being told I had one of the best voices in the class.

But I’m not a teacher because I love school, because I love to read, or because I love music. I’m a teacher because I believe education is the place that I can best make a change in this world. Teaching is the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done, and I’ve only been a student teacher! There’s something incredible about making music with students and helping them find their voice and their song.

As a student teacher I worked at two different schools, with four different cooperating teachers, and with close to 700 students from grades K-12. I will never remember all of them. But I will remember that it was there that I discovered my love for teaching. It was not a chore to get up in the morning and drive 30 minutes to school with coffee in hand.

Instead, I greeted my students cheerfully (even at 7am!) and asked how their weekend was, or how the One-Act was coming along. I decided to become a teacher because I think I already was a teacher. When I wanted to be a pastor, I was drawn to the teaching aspects of the office.

Keep Calm and Teach On

Copyright 2012 Ashley Kipp at Simply Designing http://simplydesigning.blogspot.com/

As I wrote in my post, Teacher to Student, I have felt a great loss in my transition back to being a college student. I don’t receive the same fulfillment as I did during student teaching. But a bit of that spark comes back each time I browse the classifieds of districts I’m hoping to apply for, and I look forward to the day when I have students of my own again.

I guess I never did really decide to become a teacher. Instead, I chose a major and teaching found me along the way. I’ll never look back.

 

Student Teaching Weeks 4, 5, and 6: Improvising, Dynamics, and the Joy of Teaching

I’ve tried to write this blog post for the last three weekends, but have failed to complete it each time. With a week and half left in my first student teaching placement, my time at this school is close to expiring. And with that prospect is the anticipation of saying goodbye to my 400+ students, some of whom I’ve built a relationship.

One of my new students friends, is a second grader, J. J is anything but a teacher’s ideal student. Not once, in the 6 weeks I have been there has J participated in music class. Every day he would ask to do something else: play the piano, play the drums, sing a different song, use a microphone. Not a single note sung, not single action, not one note.

Not until Friday.

Whenever J was not participating in music class, it was never because he did not want to make music. He was constantly asking to sing me a song, or play the drums, but we needed him to participate in music class! So, on Tuesday, I asked him to meet with me after class and sat down and made a deal. If he participated in music, he’d get to come in during recess and we’d do whatever music activity he wanted.

Later that day, at recess, he pulled me aside and told me something that I’ll never forget: “Mr. Jensen, I don’t have any friends. No one will play with me.”

I was heartbroken. I said, “I’m your friend, J.” And the smile that filled his face will forever define my best moment in Student Teaching 1.

Friday morning, I reminded him of our agreement, and he smiled and gave me thumbs up. I was prepared to give him the recess if he participated at least a little bit! But he stood in his place, sang every song, and performed every action. After each song he’d turn around to me and say, “How’d I do, Mr. Jensen?” I smiled and said, “You did great, J.”

And at lunch, we played instruments and sang a few songs. (Turns out, he knows quite a bit about music and matches pitch very well!)

In a week and a half, I move on to my next placement, and J will be back in the same music class with the same teacher. I don’t know if he’ll continue to participate in music class or not, but I know that for that half an hour, the music teacher was his friend. And that’s a teaching moment.