Monthly Archives: October 2012

Why Student Teaching is Difficult

I did not have a quarter of Practicum, which consists of being in a classroom and helping out all quarter long. This allows for a chance to get to know the structure of school days, how groups work, curriculum types for different subjects, planning, watching a teacher teach, etc.

When I was going into Student Teaching (notice the capitals: I consider it that important), I expected it to be somewhat challenging. I thought it may be somewhat of a juggling act, with planning the lesson, managing the students, and copying papers. Or something to that effect.

Then, I began the Student Teaching experience. Turns out that there is much more that is expected from a teacher. Making copies and creating worksheets (morning work & math packets & back of quizzes) is something that is an in-between filler. Managing kids is much more difficult when there are at least 2 dozen of them. First graders are full of energy all day long, so each lesson must be quick, concise, and interesting. Oh, and they must be learning because the assessments and quizzes will be entered into their records and shared with parents at the conferences. Each student is a different learner. A good portion of kids will grasp material, but the rest will need a different approach. But because there is never enough time, one must plug in those differentiation strategies right into the lesson, or think of it ahead, or remember to use it at some point so all kids will have an equal opportunity to learn the material. Pacing is huge! I could attempt to explain a lesson and would lose them because I ended up talking for too long. Understanding the signals they’re sending me when I’ve lost them is not an easy task. Kids who are misbehaving to get attention need quick reprimands. If I spend an extra few seconds showing them attention, the other kids were waiting without clear instruction and then they get distracted. So then I need to bring everybody back to the topic. Being very strict isn’t super effective either. Kids need smiley people, who care about them and make learning fun. Kids at this age are super sensitive, so there are constant disagreements that must be resolved. Some kids need encouraging words in just the right time, otherwise they will space out throughout the assignment.

I have mastered the art of preparing for lessons. Except that there is so much more than just that. Those factors can be in place, but the 24 factors that could be different every minute of every day is definitely something else. I need to think on my feet constantly: what is the objective of the lesson I’m teaching? There is no point for me to prolong a class discussion if the kids aren’t getting anything out of it. There is a fine line of when I say something, compared to when I want kids to share, compared to when I want them to hear others sharing ideas. My template for lessons has become a detailed breakdown of what I say or do –> what I want kids to say or do, and exactly how will I be assessing whether the objective has been met. Then, a student may say something, and it is such a perfect teaching opportunity that I should jump on it! But oftentimes I am so concerned with following my “script” that I miss those points.

The final challenge that is constantly there is the extra set of eyes. Having a supervisor or principal observe you is intimidating. Having a cooperating teacher who went to Harvard and has “positives/things to work on” list for me daily doesn’t make it easier. It helps me, yes, but it makes me feel a lot more self-conscience than when I have the classroom to myself.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the challenge of student teaching. It’s just not quite what I expected. 🙂

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When I was growing up, my family held very strong opinions about Halloween. It’s an evil holiday, celebrating demons and devil, and we must stay as far away from it as possible. In fact, we didn’t even go to school on that day. On Halloween night we would close all the blinds, turn off the lights, and maybe spend the evening in the kitchen or a room that wasn’t facing the road. Trick-or-treaters wouldn’t see any lights and would skip our house.

Now that I’m older and teaching kids at public school as well as Sunday school, I became more aware of the controversy revolving around this holiday. Public schools embrace this holiday and many assignments and crafts are affected. Lots of Christian families have started to accept the holiday as well, sending their kids off in costumes to trick-or-treat. Other families continue to “hide” and want nothing to do with this holiday. Still others make an attempt to “redeem” the holiday by dressing up as angels and trying to share the gospel. Or they hand out flyers or Bibles with or instead of candy.

The roots of Halloween are pagan: people were dressing up with scary masks to scare off the evil spirits roaming the streets at the end of October. There are numerous stories explaining the exact origin with slightly different twists in various cultures and countries. However, they all have something in common, which is the concept of evil, fear, dead people’s spirits, demons, goblins, witchcraft, etc.

For a Christian person, this is not something to associate with. By the grace of God, we have been given a chance for a new life in Jesus, and we need not fear. We don’t need to “hide” away from the world on Halloween. At the same time, if we try to share the gospel on Halloween ONLY and give out pamphlets or Bibles, we might not be making the difference we hope we are. It may be a bit hypocritical, in fact. A truly Christian person will be a shining light always, no matter what.

My husband helped explain Halloween holiday to the Sunday class we were teaching: Halloween is not our holiday. Same concept as with Rosh Hashanah, or Ramadan; those are not our holidays, so we don’t celebrate them. Now Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and Easter, ARE our holidays, thus we celebrate them. At school I simply state I don’t celebrate this holiday. Since it’s not my classroom, I cannot quite control the activities and crafts that take place, but I can state my position.

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Ah. The word itself could be a challenge to even say.

Several examples in my life have recently reminded the importance of this word. The first Google definition for communication is: share or exchange information, news, or ideas.

People, myself included of course, sometimes think that there is no need to exchange information. New thoughts, or events, or THINGS that happened could be kept to myself, because, of course, if I know it, then you must too. If I experienced some emotion, I don’t need to tell you because you experienced the same emotion as well. If something needs to be done, I can keep it to myself because of course you have the same thought process. Right?

No! No again! You must let the other person know! A concern that arises, an amazing discovery, a problem or a solution: don’t expect anybody else to know this unless you’ve personally shared it. One cannot hope that by the glorious gossip grapevine the correct information will get across to the intended party.

We need to be more simple. Almost child-like. Information at Point A cannot get to Point B unless there is a transport taking place. Pure and simple.

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I am too serious. I try to live life to the fullest, but sometimes I put in so much effort that I stop having fun. Life and every adventure that comes with it is a journey, so one must enjoy it! I’m getting so caught up with trying to do my best in church, school, assignments, that I’m stressing out more as a result. I don’t want to be the stern, serious teacher that kids see. I used to have fun more often and I still do but I forget to…

Need to remember: enjoy the journey! Relax! Take a fizzy bath! Draw! Paint! Run more often to get more perspective! Laugh! Smile! Read comics!

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Being Great

Finished reading an intriguing book: The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle. Some take-away points will be written here, as well as some quoted lines from the book.

The book takes a look at people who are talented, great, world-class champions and how they got there. Most of these people were NOT born with it! It was not something that just clicked one day and they became pro. It’s a matter of how these people were practicing a certain skill, for many, many hours, with a correct technique, and reached the level of being the best soccer player, tennis player, musician, artist, etc. Most of them didn’t have the luxury of having the best things in life; in fact, it was quite the opposite. However, they understood that to get better at something, they needed to practice, practice, and practice some more. They put in tremendous amounts of effort and were able to slowly progress forward. To reach the level of profound expertise, about 10,000 hours were put in to a skill. Wow!

Myelin: A mixture of proteins and phospholipids forming a whitish insulating sheath around many nerve fibers, increasing the speed at which impulses are conducted.

From the book: “Every human skill is created by chains of nerve fibers carrying a tiny electrical impulse. Myelin’s role is to wrap those nerve fibers the same way that rubber insulation wraps a copper wire, making the signal stronger and faster by preventing the electrical impulses from leaking out.” So when we practice a particular skill, myelin wraps insulation around that neural circuit, and with each new layer there more skill and speed occurs; our movements and thoughts become more accelerated and precise.

To get better at something, one needs to STRUGGLE. I need to make mistakes, understand how and why it happened, and slowly learn how to master it. Example: to get better at playing a musical instrument, I would need to practice, find out where I’m making mistakes, and practice that part so many times that my brain has been trained to do it properly. It’s a muscle. The more you train it properly, the stronger it’ll get at a faster rate. “Deep practice requires serious effort and passionate work.”

Trainers or coaches provide specific and targeted instructions so the student or trainee could hone in on that one particular skill or set of skills. Encouragement or praise is provided for effort.

Virtues of master coaches: “Matrix is… the vast grid of task-specific knowledge that distinguishes the best teachers and allows them to creatively and effectively respond to student’s efforts. A great teacher has the capacity to always take it deeper, to see the learning the student is capable of and to go there.” Next virtue is perceptiveness and being able to figure out the student. GPS reflex is a third virtue: shock the students, push them, provide a concise acknowledgement of a success and move on “Good. Now ___.”  The fourth virtue is honesty especially when it comes to pointing out errors, not sugar-coating every statement and making the student feel good about something that wasn’t performed correctly or appropriately.

This book is so helpful in providing tools that can be used to maximize potential in myself and my students.


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Education Reform

New reform movements constantly being updated…

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Body Language

I saw a video on Wimp the other day about the significance of body language.

Take-away point: you fake it until you become it. Practice standing straight, hands on hips, and other types of “powerful” poses and the chemical reactions in the brain that occur as a result of it help to “be(?)” more confident, even if you don’t feel like it. Please check out the link for appropriate terminology and wording and exactly whatever is happening is called.

I’m going to try it out for my teaching 🙂 There are teachers who have taught for over a decade and still speak about not being confident enough to be observed, say something, etc., and although they are great teachers, that statement almost seems to diminish their effectiveness. Hopefully this positive body language concept will be helpful.

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Positive Funnies

Just wanted to write in a few positive things that have been happening in my classroom:

  • The selectively mute girl needed an assessment for math. She mouthed her answers to me!
  • A student brought me a drawing he made. I cannot believe how sweet it is and am astonished at how happy it made me.
  • A student forgot to bring her homework home. She came in the next day with a letter of apology and make-up homework: “I wrote some alfabits for you…” with 2 pages filled of the ABC’s (over 50 times total)!
  • There is an “Eraser Monster” in class. Eraser tips are being broken off and are disappearing!

That’s all I can think of at the moment. I know there’s more. I must be tired.

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Week 3 of School

My voice is getting stronger, my connections are there, and I read stories well. Woohoo! Morning work for students is already made (Literacy and Math) but because the math sheets are somewhat unrelated, teachers create their own math (or science) to be on the back of the Literacy form. I am now being able to create forms, so I will be adding them on to here.

I taught Phonemic Awareness/Phonics yesterday. Overplanned it by a mile. It should be quick, snappy, go-go-go. Students need to be reminded to speak in complete sentences. When they do so, they remember to use the vocabulary word; if not, they explain or share an idea without ever using the vocabulary word.

Partners of 5 & 6 morning work

Students work on addends of 5 (1+4, 2+3, 3+2, 4+1) and write numbers/draw pictures/both in each crate. Students work on addends of 6 on the other side.

Caterpillar pattern

Students choose a pattern and create it using either colors, designs, or both.


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I came home this evening to a pleasant surprise of my husband baking cornbread!


1.5 cups milk

2 eggs

2 Tbs honey

1/3 cup melted butter

pinch of cayenne pepper

about 3 cups cornbread mix

Mix for 30 seconds. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for about 35 minutes to get a nice crunchy edge (just the way I like it).

Excellent with savory foods.

Passed the Nutella compatibility test.

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