Friday, September 25, 2015

Do Not Start Training for a Half Marathon the Week You Record for the edTPA

My advice to all those who are presently going through or will go through, at some point in the future, the long, arduous, and often mysterious edTPA process: do not start training for a half marathon the week you decide to record your classes.

This week, I learned that student
teaching requires a lot of
Now, let me set something straight -- this is not the case for me. I had no intention of beginning to train for something as difficult as a half marathon this week, but I had plans to do things other than obsess over my edTPA.

I had plans to eat dinner somewhere other than in front of my computer screen. I had plans to at least say “Hello” to my friends. I had plans to take a break every night and you know, just breath.

But those plans did not happen.

You see, it’s not that the edTPA is all that difficult. Sure, the process can be confusing and hard at times, but when you break it down and really look at it piece by piece, it’s not a level of difficulty, but a level of clarity that needs to be reached.

The issue I had this week is with the time commitment. This week, when I wasn’t working on my edTPA, and when I wasn’t planning lessons for the other classes I teach, and when I wasn’t grading papers, I was trying to figure out what I still need to do for the edTPA, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was sleeping.

I will not lie. The edTPA is demanding. I’ve already put in hours of time and energy -- and I’ll admit, a puddle of tears as well – but I still have a long way to go before I can turn it in. What makes the process so grueling for me, is that I’m still planning and teaching other classes besides the one I have chosen to use for my edTPA, so I’m finding myself in a position where I’m trying to do all of the items I’m required to for my classroom, as well as everything I’m required to for the edTPA.

It’s time consuming and it’s hard to split time between the two. It’s not easy to find a balance.

For now, I’m just waiting to land on some sense of clarity as I fumble through this process.

Just remember, whether you’re working on your edTPA at this exact moment, or whether you’re completing it in the future, you’re not the only one. Remember to breath and enjoy your time in the classroom. The edTPA is just a small portion of your student teaching experience, and soon enough, it will all be turned in.

Just breath. It will all get done.

And remember, don’t bother training for a half marathon the week you record your lessons. There will be plenty of time for that in the future.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Observation #2

This week, I was observed for the second time by my supervisor. My first observation was only about two weeks ago, when I first started to take over classes, and it went well – not outstanding, but well. My supervisor was pleased with my progress then, so I was interested to receive his feedback this week.

Despite knowing that my first observation went well, I was still nervous.

I was hurrying around during my planning period to make sure that everything was just right.

Was my lesson plan in the right spot in my binder? Yes.

Did I mark my lesson plan with a sticky note? Yes.

Was the rubric that my supervisor requested easily accessible in my binder? Yes.

Were my goals displayed on the board? Yes.

Photo I took of the lesson plan book that my
cooperating teacher and I use. We each have
a copy, and we go through weekly plans
together and have them written down so
we are both on the same page.
The bell rang signaling the end of my Creative Writing class, and my supervisor entered my classroom. The nerves hit me in full force.

I took a deep breath as I showed my supervisor where to find my lesson plans as well as the rubric he requested, and I turned to face my students.

The lesson I taught was on lead writing, and I wanted my students to practice writing three different leads for a piece of writing they’re working on called an indelible moment.

All in all, my lesson was a success.

In the conference I had with my supervisor after I taught, he complimented my improvement over the past two weeks, and told me I’m doing a great job, which he even specified is a compliment coming from him, as he is honest in how he feels his student teachers are doing.

I was really pleased with my observation overall, and while I know that I will still be filled with nerves for the next observation, I at least know that I’m doing something right.

Friday, September 11, 2015

You Can't Write a Poem About...

Windshield wipers. You can’t write a poem about windshield wipers. But I did. Or, at least I tried to. And I encouraged my students to do something similar…

Every day, I start my class in a circle. This circle is part of our community building, and in the circle, I share a poem. Tuesday’s poem was called “Song to Onions” by Roy Blount, Jr. After the poem each day, I ask a question and we pass around a talking piece so everyone can add to the conversation. My question for Tuesday was: “What is something that you can’t imagine a poem being written about?”

My students came up with some pretty interesting answers. I heard everything from brownies to Red Bull to shoes, and everything in between. I used this opportunity to lead into our lesson of the day: looking at a poem through the eyes of a writer.

After our opening, I shared a poem titled “You Can’t Write a Poem About McDonald’s” by Ronald Wallace. Individually and as a class, we examined Wallace’s craft as a writer to see what he does in the piece.

We created a class list of the aspects included, and I encouraged my students to write their own poem titled “You Can’t Write a Poem About…” whatever the item was that they named at the beginning of class, or another item they came up with. I challenged them to fill their poem with personification, as Wallace does in his, just to see how that feels as a writer.

Some of my students opted to work on other assignments during workshop time, but the ones who accepted my challenge to write a poem borrowing Wallace’s style had quite a bit of fun. As I conferenced with my students, I was really impressed with the creative route they took with the assignment.

Some found it challenging, others found it to be silly and enjoyable.

I’m hoping that as the semester progresses, more of my students will feel adventurous enough to try this style, just to see how interesting it can be.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen

Earlier this week, my university supervisor came into my classroom to observe me -- I was terrified.

He came to my first class on Monday morning, and I was so worried that my lesson would flop because most of my students forgot to do their homework that I was fairly scatterbrained when he walked into my room three minutes before the start of class.

But the lesson was great, and despite not having done their homework, my students caught on to the lesson after I provided a short review.

My supervisor was impressed, and in all, I was happy with how it went.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are definitely things I would change now that I’m reflecting on the experience, but for having my first observation only about a week and a half into school, I think it went well.

The lesson I created was about heart maps and hand maps, which are tools that my Creative Writing students can use to help brainstorm topics for their writing.

In essence, a heart map is, so to speak, a map of your heart. You start at the center and work your way out with what means the most to you. However, not everything in the heart has to be a positive experience.

A hand map is a map of anything that you like to do. When I asked my students to make these, I asked them to think about everything they’ve done recently. An example I gave them was putting out fires – which I meant both literally and figuratively.

I gave my students 15-20 minutes to work on both maps, and then I had them stop and collaborate with their tablemates. Not only did they have my maps on the board to reference, but they were also able to listen to what their peers had to say.

This exchange of ideas not only helps build the community in our workshop, but it also helps students recognize different ideas that they could put on their own maps. It all goes hand in hand (pun intended).

Later in the week, I had the chance to do a marathon writing activity with one of my Creative Writing classes. For the activity, I typed a list of firsts, printed it, and then cut out each sentence on a strip of paper. I put the paper strips in a brown paper bag and went around so each student could pick a topic to write about.

Some of the items on the list were “First time getting in trouble with your parents.,” “First time trying coffee.,” “First time driving by yourself.,” and “First paying job.” were among some of the first time experiences.

I had my students pick a new topic three or four times throughout the course of class so they could get more ideas for their first assignment.

Before my students left for the day, I checked in to see how they felt the exercise went, and with the exception of a few students, they all asked me if we could do a similar activity with different prompts later in the semester. I’d say that means the lesson was a success…