Saturday, October 17, 2009

Another GOOD Week

This past week, I taught about 3/4 of the time, teaching the entire day except for the Math lesson in the morning. It was another good week and I have started to really enjoy my experience when I am in the "teaching" position. Dealing with behavior issues and lesson planning has become a thing of the past or really, just something that is coming naturally now. This has left me with the ability to do more exciting things in the classroom and really watch my lessons flow better. All of this has helped build my confidence as a classroom teacher, leader, and collaborator.

Due to this new found confidence, we were able to do some really fun things in the classroom this week and the students were singing my praises for them! I do enjoy their excitement and it is really fun to watch them take a hold of their own learning experiences and run with it.

Incorporating fun things into the classroom allows me to focus on a student-centered learning environment and reward the students for behavior that is acceptable and respectable. This past week, I did a lesson with counting and charting M&Ms, another lesson included making inferences about objects that were hiding in paper bags, another included doing "sink or float?" experiments, we also played with our shadows on the projector screen, and on Friday they completed a "What is your favorite type of apple?" survey. Who knew 1st graders LOVED apples so much!!! :)

Another opportunity I had this week was to work with our Computer Resource Specialist to create a "Smart Board" flip chart and integrate it into my lesson on -et and -en word families. It was awesome to watch the kids interact with the Smart Board (which is like a large digital
notebook). They enjoyed it so much, I am going to try and do something with it again this week!

This coming week, I go back to just observing. My teacher has set up an observation schedule for me, where I will go to 2 classrooms per day for different variations of times. I am hoping this will be a good opportunity for me to see how different teachers teach. On Thursday, my CT will be out for the day, so I will be teaching full-time that day; but then Friday will be a fun day for me to enjoy my 1st graders for one last day and celebrate with a "going-away" party in the afternoon. :) I really am going to miss them; but I am also looking forward to what God has in store for my next placement - Bring on the 4th graders!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mutual Respect

This past week was a better week, probably my best week student teaching so far. I am finally starting to get into a nice groove with teaching full time and the students and I are building a mutual respect for each other. Behavior is still an issue and something I have really been working on. Classroom management is very important and so this week I have tried hard to stay on top of behavior issues, hand out more warnings, send more notes home, and not hesitate to make phone calls home when needed. The students are finally starting to realize just how serious I am. Respect is definitely earned!

Working with two of my 1st graders, doing Math Centers.

This coming week, I go back to sharing duties with my CT, she is teaching Math in the morning and I am teaching the rest of the day; so I will be teaching about 3/4 of the time. I think she is looking forward to it. She has been very bored the past two weeks and has her lesson plans all done through Thanksgiving already!!! :) She spent most of last week out of the classroom and has really been enjoying herself. She was even out on Friday and although I had a substitute, (who I think fell asleep at one point during the day) it was definitely MY classroom all day.

Helping two students who are working with Pattern-Block Templates.

I have been learning a lot about myself and about teaching; this has really been an enjoyable experience. I am sad that I only have two weeks left with these children. Although it was rough on many days, I really have grown to love these kiddos and wish I could stay here for the entire internship. I am anxious about learning all over again the ins and outs of another teacher, another classroom, and another group of children. I pray that my next experience is just as wonderful as this one has been. Thank you for your continued prayers as well!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Rough & Tough

This week was rough; but I am learning to be tough.

This week was my first week of taking over the classroom full-time. To say the least, it was a rough week for me. Monday was good; my University Supervisor came in and observed my teaching for an hour. It was a wonderful chance for me to realize that I can do this and others are seeing my strengths. She gave me wonderful feedback and listed no "weaknesses" or "areas to work on." I laughed at her and told her she should stay longer, indeed I am not perfect and I am sure she could find something! Both her and my CT had gracious words and feedback to give and I am thankful for their positive praises. I pray daily that I am being effective.

Monday turned out to be a good day; Tuesday was rough; Wednesday was okay; Thursday I cried; and Friday was better. To say that I am merely just learning about classroom management and behavioral issues is an understatement. I had a long talk with my CT on Thursday, as I was feeling completely ineffective and many of our lessons were not even attempted because behavior issues were over taking the room. During the last part of the day, rather than doing a fun science lesson I had planned, I fought back tears as I explained to my 6 and 7 years old that I was extremely disappointed and frustrated with them. My heart ached at the lack of respect they were showing me. Therefore, instead of the fun lesson, they all wrote me letters that said, "Dear Mrs Miller, I promise to..."

On Friday I reviewed their letters and clearly stated that I would be holding them to their promises. I intend to do the same thing this week as well. They need to learn that making promises, keeping them, and respecting me and others are all things that are very important. Also on Friday, I decided to send a letter home to all the parents/guardians of my students. My letter briefly reminded them of my duties as a student teacher and my expectations. I asked the parents to please reiterate with their students what my role was and how I was a teacher, an adult, that they also needed to respect. In this type of school, only about 20% of the parents/guardians show interest in their student's learning environment, so I am not sure how effective this will be; but I told the students about the note and hopefully they will start to realize just how serious I can be.

I am really growing to love these students and therefore I am learning to be tough. My CT suggested that I find my "mean" voice; she thinks I have a tendency of being too nice at times, especially when I am telling them that I am disappointed. So on Thursday she suggested that I go home and find my "mean-er" voice; :) This, I have been working on. I want to be stern, but also effective; this is the balance I have been working on.

Don't get me wrong though, learning is taking place and I am thankful for that. My heart smiles every time I see a child make a connection or hear them answer a higher order question. I so much want to be effective and I don't want to walk away from this experience thinking that all I have to take away is classroom management; although, that would not be an entire loss. I knew going into student teaching that discipline was my weakest point and I am thankful for God's placement in this school and the things I have learned because of it. It is possible this is why I am here and maybe my next placement will help me learn how to be more effective with instruction. Only God knows; and I will continue to seek His guidance. Prayer is definitely the number one thing getting me through this, at this point.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Another Week

Last week was so busy and full, I did not get a chance to blog during the week. I was teaching all morning - picking up Language Art Lessons this week, in addition to the Math Lessons I was already doing.

I have to admit, Monday didn't go very well. I was nervous, the kids were horrible, and I couldn't find a balance between instruction and discipline. While the kids were at Art class, during my first break, I spoke with my CT about it. She asked, "So how do you think it went?" I could tell by the sound and tone of her voice that she was probably seeing my emotions loud and clear. We talked and she suggested that I explain my expectations as soon as they get back to the classroom.

As a side note, this school is very tough for me. There are many discipline issues and honestly, I spend about 1/2 to 3/4 of the time working on discipline issues and the other 1/4 to 1/2 of the time teaching. Seriously, I am not sure how teachers work in schools like this one.

The afternoon lessons did go better and the kids were responsive to my expectations. However, as the week went on, they continued to "test" me. On Tuesday, I had a student run from me, throw a fit in the hallway, and our music teacher actually asked me if she needed to call security...FOR A 6 YEAR OLD CHILD!!! It is horribly ridiculous and I was so flustered. I was shaking and sweating. Thankfully though, the Lord was not far from me and I was able to talk him down, grab his hand and practically "drag" him back to the classroom. My CT supported my actions and called his mother and he had to sit in the classroom and miss out on Music class; I was thankful for the support and the fact that this child did not get his way.

It is hard for me to be so tough. I want to be a light in the lives of these children and positively impact them. I am working on finding a balance between it all. Every Friday my CT evaluates me and fills out an evaluation form, which we discuss together. This week my evaluation was not as great as I would hope for. I know I have so many areas that I need to improve in. I am definitely a work in progress. My CT thinks I am doing great and she is very willing to leave the room and never interject in my lessons, which I appreciate immensely. However, I am not feeling up to par completely yet and this week will definitely be telling. I will be the full-time teacher in the classroom this week. I am excited about this and also anxious. I know I will be constantly praying for guidance and wisdom.

My CT has given me several tips to start this week, specifically making sure that I reiterate my expectations of the students prior to the start of each day and the start of each lesson. These children need to respect me, the same way that I respect them; I refuse to give up.

I appreciate many prayers over the next two weeks as I strive to be a full-time leader, teacher, mentor, friend, and bright light in the lives of these children. Children who deserve to learn and be loved.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Math Lessons

This week I started teaching my first lessons. My CT thought it would be best for me to start with Math lessons first, so this is what I have been and will be teaching all week. Our math lessons are in the morning, after the children do their morning work. When the kids first arrive, they choose whether or not they want to go to breakfast and if they do, they go; if they don't, they start their morning work. Generally, by 8:15 all the kids are back from breakfast and have had plenty of time to work on their morning work.

Around 8:20 the kids come to the carpet to do the daily calendar and start the math lesson. This week we are doing things like working with math tools, writing the numbers 1 & 2, and learning "one more and one less" on the number line. My lessons are fun and exciting and I have gotten positive feedback from my teacher so far.

My biggest weakness right now and something I am going to keep working on is balancing my focus during the lessons. I have a tendency to be so focused on my lesson, making sure I do it right and don't stumble, etc. that I sometimes miss discipline issues that are going on in front of me. Thankfully my CT is helping me right now, but I am praying that I can really get a grip on classroom management and effective teaching, combined! It will definitely come in handy in the next few weeks when I take over the classroom full time! Prayers are always welcome! :)

Friday, September 11, 2009


I have come to the end of my first week with the children. I was excited to meet the little first graders that I will be spending the next several weeks with and now that I have spent a few days with them, I am realizing they are not that scary after all. :)

I will be honest and admit that I was nervous. We are certainly outnumbered; 17 of them, and only 2 teachers; but it is turning out to be okay. We definitely have some students that think rules don't apply to them and ones that like to test our patience; but all in all, they are cute and love able.

While I was in the school office this week, one of the administrative assistants asked me what my biggest surprise was now that I was in the classroom with the kids. My response to her was that my biggest surprise was in myself. I was surprised in how well I was holding up when it came to discipline and being "hard." Many of these students need a large amount "tough love" and I was concerned about my own abilities when it came to discipline; however, I have really surprised myself. I have been able to become pretty tough, very quickly.

Each morning as I am driving to school, it is my prayer that I will be able to stand my ground, while also impacting these children. It is important for me to not get a hard heart, especially when it comes to the tougher students. I really do want to make a positive impact and I believe that is definitely an important part of this gift that God has given me. Thankfully I have already received many hugs and that is so worth it to me!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

One Week Down...

...many more to go!!!

Last week was filled with many meetings, seminars, trainings, and time to work in the classroom. Every one I have met seems very nice and I am looking forward to this week when the kids return to the school.

Some highlights -

1. I now know the pros and cons to student teaching in both the spring and the fall. It is definitely different to start in the fall, but I can also see the advantages to starting in the spring. As for now, I am just seeking the Lord and believing that His timing is perfect for me.

2. Setting up your classroom, getting everything straight, attending everything they want you to attend, and getting your lesson plans done for the first week of school can become very
overwhelming. Thankfully my CT and I were able to work together and get things done a lot faster than most teachers who were doing it on their own.

3. Bulletin boards are fun for someone like me who likes to be creative. My CT has admitted
that she isn't very creative or at least doesn't spend a whole lot of time on "creative projects", so I was thankful when she asked me to help come up with some things. For example - here is a
poster I made for outside the classroom door. All the teachers down our hallway are using apples as "welcome signs" for the classroom. Many have made signs that say "Welcome to the bunch!" or "Mrs. _____'s bunch" etc. I wanted to do something different, so I looked on the Internet and this is what I found. We cut all the apples to look like they had a bite out of them and we made a worm and a tree and hung the apples in the tree with the worm. I am so excited how it turned out.

4. This week promises to be VERY busy as we set up classroom procedures, explain classroom rules, enforce them, and build a mutual respect for each other. I am excited to meet and get to know the students and I think with each and every day that goes by, my anxiety level will reduce. As of right now, depending on how this week goes, I will start teaching my first lessons next Monday and math is the first subject that I will take over. The plan is then for me to take over other content areas until I am teaching the class fully on my own.

I am still greatly appreciative of any and all prayers. It was a hard week last week for me, leaving Sierra and getting into a good routine of getting up early and making lunches, etc. Thankfully this week is only a 4 day week and hopefully with the kids being back, it will go by faster. However, my heart still breaks when I have to leave Sierra behind and I am pretty sure that is going to stop at all during the next 15 weeks, so your continued prayers are appreciated.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Same Journey, New Adventure

Higher education has been a long journey for me. Those who are closest to me know that many changes, obstacles, joys, and sorrows have come along the way since I started pursuing my undergraduate degree 11 years ago.

Although the journey has been long, the adventures have been many; and graciously the Lord has used every single one of them to make me stronger, wiser, and well equipped for the gift He has placed in my heart...a gift of teaching.

Next week, another new adventure will begin as I embark on a 16 week long journey that will surely change me forever. My student teaching internship is something that I have long awaited and I am both excited and nervous to start.

I have already received an email from my "Coordinating Teacher", whom you might hear me refer to as my CT over the next several weeks. I was blessed with an invite to come into her classroom last spring and I jumped on the chance. I was able to meet her, see the school, the classroom, and meet her students as they were wrapping up their school year. I am so very excited about working with my CT. She is young, the same age as I am, and she has been teaching for 6 years. We are sure to learn a lot from each other.

She emailed me today with a schedule of events for next week and it certainly looks like a packed schedule, with luncheons, breakfasts, group activities, team building activities, seminars, reading workshops, etc. And when we are not attending a planned event, there is also some time set aside each day to be working in the classroom, setting up and preparing for the new class that will be arriving on Tuesday, September 8th. How exciting!!! As a teacher, setting up a classroom and waiting for new students to arrive, is like a child waiting for Christmas morning! I am so excited!!!

I ask that you all please continue to pray for me. As next week will be my first week EVER in Sierra's life that I will be away from her, and she from me. We count ourselves blessed to have found a dear, sweet friend that loves Sierra so much and is willing to watch her for us; but it is still going to be hard on my heart. Please pray for a smooth transition for all of us as we begin this new adventure!!! Thank you!