Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Student Teaching Reflections

I have two weeks left of student teaching. For my program, I had to be a full-time teacher for a semester, that meant teaching five classes. I had three mentor teachers and two preps (Algebra 1A and Geometry).

Neither my mentor teachers nor I knew how fast I was supposed to transition into teaching all five classes on my own. When we asked my university supervisor, he said as much as possible as soon as possible. So, one week later, on the first day of school, it was all on me. My mentor teachers have been great, which helped, but I was a little out there on my own pretty quickly.

There are so many things I wish I'd done differently, especially in Algebra 1A. Some of those issues will be resolved when I have my own classroom (i.e. seating arrangements). Other issues, I will have to try to see what really works for me.

There are a lot of innovative teaching methods that I like, and yet, I taught in a very traditional, boring, inaccessible style and I know the kids have suffered for it in Algebra 1A. There are too many students that are failing. They do not do the work because they don't understand. They don't ask questions because that makes them feel stupid.

Every time I give a test or quiz, I'm amazed at how many kids start asking questions during the test. We spend up to two weeks covering one concept, over and over, adding a slight amount of complexity as we go.

Waiting until test time to ask questions blows me away. Who does that? But it so common in these classes. It's like the material isn't REAL to them until they are being tested. They don't realize that all the worksheets, notes, warm-ups and other assignments are practice for the test. I've even given study guides before a test that had some of the same, exact problems as I gave on the test. We covered the study guides in class, with me (or other students) working the problems out. And yet, students will tell me on test day that they have never seen a problem like that before.

I did begin to make them take notes and enforce doing the warm-ups, which has helped some of them. Collecting notebooks is something that I will enforce in the future. Anyone who has read here for any length of time knows how committed I am to teaching study skills, and taking notes is the most basic of study skills.

I had a recent discussion with the mentor teacher for the Algebra 1A classes about testing skills. In his more advanced classes, he does "topic quizzes" which are a lot like dy/dan's standards based grading. He has thought about doing it in the lower level classes, but has not implemented it, yet. We agreed that it might be a good way to go with these students.

I'm working on creating a list of skills that are necessary for students to learn for each semester of this course. Students need to be responsible for learning each of these concepts. Students must maintain the record of what skills have been mastered and what skills they are still working on. I want to review the list with my mentor teacher before I'm done student-teaching.

I'm creating reviews and final exams now, which is a frustrating process. In the Algebra 1A classes, I've avoided multiple choice questions on previous assessments, but I've been told that finals need to be multiple choice because there is not enough time to grade all the tests quickly enough without it. That seems like quite a switch to pull on the kids at the last minute.

Maybe I can give the students a list of the skills and have them use that to study from?


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