Stories of a Future Teacher

My journey from college student to first year teacher.

Florida Teachers!!

I am a senior at Auburn University majoring in Elementary Education, and graduate in May of 2009. My plans are to move to Jacksonville, Florida and work in Duval County. Since I am at school in Alabama, I was required to take the APTTP, as well as the Praxis. I was wondering what the test requirements were in order to be certified in the state of Florida. I am so excited to start my life in Florida, and was really just wondering what I need to do in order to teach in the state of Florida!

How do you plan?

The time I have had to sit and reflect on all of the things I need to worry about for my first year of teaching, the more nervous I get. I am such a planner and a to-do-list maker, and I just feel like I am at a loss for how to plan my entire curriculum. I was told to always follow the district, school, and grade curriculum map in order to map out the main themes for the year. I am one who believes in integrating all of the subjects in order to make a cohesive theme such as "Famous Americans," or the "Solar System." When do you get all of your planning done? I have been told that the first year of teaching is the one where you are always at the school planning, organizing, and gathering materials and information. I have also been told that I need to balance my time and make sure that I go home and relax -- leave work at work. I have also been told to find a mentor who will help me through all of the major steps throughout my first year. Many people tell me to save all materials and lesson plans that I have made throughout college in order to use them again and tweak them to fit my particular classroom. As you can tell, I am filled with thousands of questions on how to plan my first year of teaching while still maintaining a life at home. Do you have any advice or opinions on how it needs to be done?

I made a difference

I had recently blogged about having concerns that the child I am tutoring would not gain much knowledge in the short time we have had together. When giving my student her pre-tests I thought that we had little to cover – she only missed the long /o/ words. As I started making lesson plans and working with her, I noticed that we had more to learn that I thought. She was able to blend phonemes well when I gave her the sounds, however, when it was time to read on her own -- she rushed through it, looking at pictures, and never really looked at each phoneme within a word. I was stuck -- I took running records, I used letterbox lessons, and I tried my best to give her the feedback and practice that she needed, but she kept giving up due to frustration. It was my idea then to start from the very beginning with short /a/, moving through all short vowels and then to the long vowels in order to review each phoneme and catch all of her reading problems. When she looked at the short /a/ book, she almost laughed -- it was too easy for her, but she got it; she knew every word. From then on, I could see her boost of confidence and we moved on fairly quickly in order to really find the problem sounds. Although I could see a change in her reading ability, I was extremely nervous to see the results of her post tests. As it turns out...

 

I made a difference!! She hardly missed more than a handful of answers in the entire post test, and is reading with more fluency than I could have ever imagined. This was such a boost in confidence for her...and for me as well -- I can teach!! I know that she will never remember me 10 years down the road, but i know that I will be remembering this experience for a long time. I was able to look at a situation in which a child was frustrated and assess what needed to happen in order for her to make progress. I am just so excited that she has made leaps and bounds from the first day we met! I can say that I made a difference!

 

private school vs. public school

I was reading a friend's blog today and it just struck me as an interesting topic to discuss. What are the pros and cons of both public school and private schools? Which gives a better experience? Which type of school gives the best education?

 

Growing up, I moved around a lot -- living in 4 states in total. I was in the public school system from Pre-K to 5th grade and in the private school system from 6th grade to senior year of high school. For me, I enjoyed both. I believe I was given a chance to live in the best of both worlds. I believe that both public school and private schools have both good and bad aspects of education.

 

Public School: I believe that a public school gives students many opportunities that private schools do not. My public school friends were always talking about the different choirs, clubs and sports teams they were involved in. The socio-economic backgrounds of public schools are all different -- lower income, higher income, race, ethnicity...overall leaving students a little better rounded then those that attend a private school. The only downfall for me in a public school is not being able to discuss religion -- which was a huge pro for me about private school.

 

Private School: While in a private school, I was given the opportunity to wear uniforms, worship and love the Lord openly, and be taught by some of the most amazing and uplifting teachers I have ever met. I truly think that the uniforms were my favorite part of being in a private high school -- no worrying about who has the latest clothes -- you just go to school and learn!! I believe that private schools whether religious based or not, open many opportunities for students -- whether through high academic programs, religious affiliations and extracurricular activities. Some say that students within a private school are "sheltered," and know little about the "real world." I believe that this can be true in some cases, however, I believe that being involved in other activities outside of a private school help a student become more "worldly." I believe that the teachers that are hired in private schools are held to a particular standard just as in public school. I was just as prepared as my public school friends for the amount of work and study hours needed for college.

 

Both public and private schools have a great amount of pros, and a wonderful educational experience. When looking at any school, it is important to look at the type of students that are enrolled, the activities they are involved in, and the quality of teachers. I believe that putting children in a private or public school is a parent's decision. Either way, students will hopefully get the best quality education and an overall wonderful experience.

 

teacher vs. parent

I have been told that communication between parent and teacher is a crucial element to a successful year of school. I have been doing research for a class that says that parent involvement in any element within their child's school boosts student achievement levels. For me, my mother was always the room mom and the Girl Scout troop cookie mom...I never had to wonder if she would make it to the parent child lunch or the Christmas party. She was always in my classroom helping out and volunteering! This past semester, I was in a second grade classroom in which NO parent volunteered to help -- there was no classroom mom to help with supplies or a party -- this teacher did it all. I think one of my worst fears for my first year of teaching is having the classroom with parents that could care less about volunteering.

 

Another worry of mine is coming across parents that could care less about helping their child succeed in school. My passion is teaching, and it hurts me when I find parents who don't "have the time," or are "too busy" to help their child with homework or encourage them to keep reading even when they struggle. How do I intervene or help this child to make sure that they are getting all of the attention and help at home that they deserve? I know that there is a fine line that I must walk on as a teacher, but don't you wish you could just help every child that goes mornings without breakfast and struggles with getting their homework done? I think this is why I became a teacher -- I wish that I could make a difference in each child's life. I wish that I could be the one that lets them know they can achieve and do anything that they set their mind to. I want to be the teacher that makes them feel comfortable when reaching for goals. This is all a little off track...but I guess my question is -- How do you find the parents that want to help you and your classroom, and how to you encourage the parents that don't want to be of any help?

 

What it takes to be effective

I was in a classroom last semester with almost zero classroom and behavior management skills. Let me set up the situation: I was the teacher's aid for a second grade classroom with little management. On a regular basis, students were complaining that they couldn’t find a pencil, someone was kicking them, or they were out of paper. I felt like I needed to help this teacher out with a little classroom management. I made sure to bring in a basket of paper, a jar of pencils, and made sure to watch children's behavior while my teacher did the teaching. On each pencil I had written the name of a student with a sharpie. I told the students that if they couldn’t find a pencil then they could come to the pencil jar and use the pencil with their name on it -- however, they needed to put the pencil back into the jar at the end of the day so that they could have it the following day. I made sure that the students were sitting by the peers that they worked well with, not the peers that they despised. When students worked in groups, I asked the teacher if I could place them in groups. I did all of the grading, filing and organizing of papers, and also made sure to organize and clean out her entire cabinet area so that she could find the materials she needed.

 

Being within a classroom like this was tiring and frustrating at times, however, I learned so much about myself and who I wanted to be as a teacher...what I did and did not want to implement within my classroom. The teacher did a wonderful job planning and teaching lessons, and the students absolutely adored her, and that is something that I admired about her. I guess the one thing I truly learned through the whole experience was the importance of organization, planning, behavior and classroom management, all while allowing the students to see that I care about them. I do feel like all of these goals are reachable and that a teacher can be all of these things. It just took one bad classroom for me to see it what it takes to be an effective teacher!

 

I hope I made a difference

This summer my pre-teaching friends and I got the chance to tutor pre-k through 1st grade children in reading. This is my passion, so I was pumped! Knowing that I would make a difference in a child's world of reading made me smile from ear to ear!! I was placed with a 6 year old girl who is full of life and eager to learn. When giving her the pre-tests I thought that we had little to cover -- she only missed the long /o/ words. As I started making lesson plans and working with her, I noticed that we had more to learn that I thought. She was able to blend phonemes well when I gave her the sounds, however, when it was time to read on her own -- she rushed through it, looking at pictures, and never really looked at each phoneme within a word. I was stuck -- I took running records, I used letterbox lessons, and I tried my best to give her the feedback and practice that she needed, but she kept giving up due to frustration.

 

It was my idea then to start from the very beginning with short /a/, moving through all short vowels and then to the long vowels in order to review each phoneme and catch all of her reading problems. When she looked at the short /a/ book, she almost laughed -- it was too easy for her, but she got it; she knew every word. From then on, I could see her boost of confidence and we moved on fairly quickly in order to really find the problem sounds. On our fourth week together, i caught the problem -- short /i/, and consonant blending. It was our light bulb moment! I was able to work with her for two weeks on short /i/, and really see a huge difference in the way she read books and blended all sounds within the word. This has been an eye opener for me -- teaching children to read is a huge task, one that takes practice and a ton of knowledge. I give her the post-test on Wednesday of this week and I pray that i have made a difference. I hope that she can go back to school in August and be a little step in front of her peers.

 

Teachers & Technology

I have recently posted about the importance of technology within the classroom and decided it was best to explain how important it is for teachers to stay on top of it as well. I am taking a technology for educators’ course right now and feel that it is extremely helpful. We are learning how to make videos, effective powerpoints, websites, excel budget sheets, and so much more. I believe that each teacher should feel more than comfortable with all of the things listed before. If a teacher is not comfortable with technology, I believe the students will not be either. A list of some of the things I believe every teacher should know how to do:

  • I am a sole believer that each teacher should have a website where both parents and students can come and look at what is going on within the classroom. Each website should include a teacher biography, school calendar and lunch menu, weekly plans, student center with educational games and activities, and a parent-teacher area that informs parents of what is coming up in the month. The website should include an inviting layout, background and images. It is also very important to keep the website updated -- I know that all teachers are busy and have a lot to do during the week, however, I do believe the website should be updated once a week.
  • I know that there are many different sites and school packages that include a gradebook for a classroom; however, I believe that every teacher should know how to use Excel. In my college course, we were taught to make a classroom budget as well as a "gradebook." I truly believe that Excel is a must-know for future or current teachers.
  • If a classroom is blessed with a SmartBoard, I believe that it is the teacher's responsibility to master every element of it. It is a true God-send for the classroom, and it would be a waste if a teacher did not use it within their lessons. Students are able to move objects around, practice writing, answer math problems, and draw pictures -- all part of a hands-on experience within the classroom. SmartBoards, like all technology, updates every couple of weeks -- providing teachers with more and more activities and clip art for them to implement within their lessons -- it is the teacher's responsibility to learn how to use each and every element in order to make their classroom more engaging.

I am so glad that I have been taking a course in technology in order to prepare myself for my future teaching career. I know that it is harder for older generations to catch on to today's technologies; however, I am a true believer that technology helps the classroom grow into an engaging, fun learning environment.

Organize, organize, organize...

I have been told many times that it is essential to always stay organized with my teaching materials. I am an extremely organized person that puts tabs and post-its on everything and have made a conscious effort to keep all important textbooks, handouts and ideas that I thought would be handy in the future. I have made it a point to file them in a way that makes it easy to find all the key things. I feel very comfortable with how I am organizing now for the future; however I am a little unsure about how I should go about organizing lesson plans, materials, and other things that I need for the classroom. I have seen a number of teachers do different things and am still unsure as to which is the best method. Do I make binders for each specific subject, or do I make binders for each month? I have seen teachers make binders for each subject, using their curriculum map as a table of contents. They include lesson plans, notes, handouts, material lists, and even examples of student's work. I feel that this is a great way to map out the whole year, this way you are able to easily navigate through the specific subject binders and through the curriculum map to find the lesson plans that are needed. I have also been told to document each and every conversation with parents, whether through phone, in-person, or email. How do you go about doing that? Do you keep files for each student? What goes in students' files?

I know that I will learn most of this through my internship, I guess I am so eager to learn and get started that I am sort of jumping the gun. Any of your comments on classroom organization would be greatly appreciated!! I love hearing the advice you have!!

Classroom theme?

As I sit and talk to all of my "pre-teaching" friends, I am amazed at how prepared they seem. They all know what they want in their classroom, what their theme will be, including every detail down to the organization of their books. After feeling at a loss during our conversation, I came home and thought about every small detail of my future classroom.

Here are the ideas that I have dreamed about, borrowed and stolen for my future classroom: 

  • I have always wanted a jungle themed or safari themed room -- basically anything with animals.
  • I want each group of desks to be a different animal - the lions, tigers, giraffes, monkeys, etc. This will allow me to call on certain groups of students without confusion.
  • I know that I want a classroom where my students feel comfortable to learn and have fun while doing it. For this reason, I know that I want to include singing in my classroom. I have been in classrooms where teachers sing different songs in each transition of the day -- the students never fooled around, they were always too busy singing and going to the next part of their day.
  • I also know that I want to have a small time each day where my students can spread around the room and read a book (any book of their choice) - this will be the time that I work with small groups or individual children on work they need to focus on.
  • I want students to have time to share small stories with me about what is going on in their lives, so every morning during calendar/circle time, I plan on giving one student the talking stick (not sure if it will be a stick, stuffed animal, etc) and they can share something with the class, they can then pass it to one more person, and so on...allowing 3 students a day to share fun information.
  • I have seen many types of behavior management plans within the elementary primary level. I know that I want to use the "flip a card" system. It seems to be the best I have seen so far, when a teacher uses it properly. I feel that there should always be a positive reinforcement for those students that keep the green card (the best card) all week long. This gives each and every student the incentive to stay on green and be on their best behavior. I will be in a 5th grade classroom this year for internship and am excited to learn behavior management for the older ones!
  • I want my students to constantly be using technology, whether it is using computers during centers, lessons, research - I want my students to learn the most they can about technology.

So far, this is all I can think of when it comes to essential details within my classroom. Feel free to leave comments with your ideas! I am just so excited to get started and am counting the days until I can walk into my own classroom and meet my first set of students!

technology = happiness

Growing up, I never really thought twice about the up and coming technology. There have been some amazing transitions from VHS to DVD, cassette players to ipods, and dry erase boards to SmartBoards. Although these are all essential items within our lives, it wasn't until recently that I realized just how great these new advancements really are for the classroom as well. I have learned that using technology on a daily basis within lessons is so essential for student engagement! It is so easy to see the difference between students' excitement and eagerness to learn when some form of technology is used.

Using technology in the classroom on a regular basis makes many positive changes. First, the teacher's role changes -- they no longer are the center of attention or the dispenser of information, instead, they through the room, looking over shoulders, asking about the reasons for various design choices, and suggesting resources that might be used. This allows students to do the teaching and learning, and teachers to help students move in the right direction.

When students are using technology as a tool or a support for learning, they are actively making choices about how to generate, obtain, manipulate, or display information. Technology use allows many more students to be actively thinking about information, making choices, and executing skills than is typical in teacher-led lessons. I have seen students gain more confidence, motivation, and more patience and collaboration skills with their peers.

Overall, I truly believe that technology is an essential element in the classroom, and it is the teachers duty to know how to implement it within their lessons.

Just a little thank you

  I just want to say thank you to all of those who have commented on my posts! It is so wonderful to hear advice from experienced teachers. I am truly learning from each and every comment and feel a little less stressed! Smile Thank you!

My teaching philosophy

For one of my classes, we were to make a teaching philosophy outlining who we are as a teacher while defining the most important elements of an effective classroom. Here is mine:   

 

   I believe education is the foundation of a student’s life that prepares them with the learning skills they will need outside of the classroom. Teachers are the decisive element for their classroom, as well as the one’s who set the tone for how their students approach learning. By opening doors to hands-on and student-centered learning, teachers will instill all of the best qualities in each individual student. My approach to teaching is derived from Jean Piaget’s learning theory of constructivism.  Constructivism encourages a learning community where students are actively engaged in the lesson as well as with one another.

   Each of my lessons will be standards-based, however, I am always exploring for new ways to teach lessons with a hands-on approach in a way that my students can activate their prior knowledge and begin relating what they are learning to their lives outside of school. When students approach learning in a hands-on fashion, they are not only engaged in the activity, but they are incorporating problem-solving and critical thinking skills. My objective as a teacher is to provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere for my students to learn and grow. I am aware that each student learns differently, and I will make sure that the nature of all learners can thrive in every subject. Therefore, I will be flexible in my curriculum development in order to adhere to the pace at which my students learn.

   Not only is the interaction between the students and the lessons important, but the social interaction among students is also imperative to learning. My classroom will be a learning community, where students ask each other questions, test one another, and feed off of one another. By implementing these strategies, students will learn how to interact with their peers, as well as push one another to go past their normal academic limits. These tasks will not only help students grow within the classroom, but it will help them to learn how to deal with social situations outside of the classroom.

   An important quality in the general classroom is for all core subjects to be integrated. I believe that Reading, Writing, Science, Social Studies, Art, Drama, Music and Math can all be used together to make learning more engaging for students. By implementing an integrated curriculum students will be able to see the connection between many different subject areas. By using technology and art as a supporting or lead role in my classroom, students can discover new ways to store and share knowledge. This will allow students to see that show that the content is useful across the board. By allowing students to sing during math, research on computers in social studies, and make art for science, they will be more engaged to learn the subjects that might not have first interested them.

   Assessment is a very crucial part of an elementary classroom. The assessment strategies I implement will not be traditional and behaviorist, however, they will adhere to the multiple types of intelligence – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Assessments will be for all students who learn by doing, while stimulating their thinking using the multiple intelligences. Instead of using traditional worksheets and timed tests, students will assessed by plays, activities, interviews, artwork, and presentations. This type of assessment allows students to express their individual qualities while demonstrating what they have learned.

   Classroom and behavior management is extremely significant for any working classroom. Without some form of management, a classroom could be unfocused and take away from the students learning. I plan on having students make the classroom rules at the beginning of the school year -- allowing them to take ownership with the rules and making students more willing to follow them. My behavior management plan is to use the “flip a card” system; however, I plan to use positive reinforcement -- by rewarding the good. By giving a positive response after a wanted, or target, behavior, I will be able to maintain a specific classroom environment. Organization is also a key element in the classroom. Having a structured and well thought-out classroom will allow the students to find the books and supplies they need easily, while also teaching them the importance of organization.

   By creating a classroom that is structured, flexible, hands-on and compatible, students will understand what is expected of them and know that they can achieve and be successful. By challenging students with life-long skills, my students will be ready for the world that is around them. I am prepared and ready for the challenges that teachers face today because I know what an impact I can make on the young lives that will shape our future. 

Where do I begin?

Organizers, bins, books, manipulatives...I honestly don't know where to begin when it comes to purchasing materials for my first year of teaching. When you walk through the halls of an elementary school, peeking into each classroom, it is like home-a-rama -- each room is more decorated and organized then the next. In one of my classes, we were to make a budget of all the things we need for our first year of teaching using only $300.00. I had a hard time choosing what was important and what I could get later in my teaching career. This past weekend I made a trip to the local "Teacher Store" just to browse and get myself excited for the years to come. However, I instead left in a panic...there is no way I can buy everything I want for my first year of teaching. I know what I want my classroom to look like, I have visualized it over and over again, and there is NO way I can fill my classroom with all of the best organizers and materials my students need. I have been told to beg, borrow, and steal...to use other teachers' ideas and manipulatives while I slowly build my classroom. I guess I just have the mindset that I want my classroom to be the best my students have ever seen. I know that I need to start planning and purchasing materials and books for my classroom as soon as possible, however, my main concern is which materials are the most important. What are the must haves? I am very aware that it is a slow process to build the perfect classroom with all of the best materials, I just wish i knew where to begin.

Will I be ready?

As an up-and-coming first year teacher, I have always been concerned about how I am going to run my classroom. How am I going to actually be ready to handle at least 15 students? How will I organize my classroom? How can I handle working with parents when I am only 21? How do I stay prepared throughout the entire first year of school? My "pre-teacher" friends and I have been asking these questions ever since we entered the College of Education. It seemed that everyone gave us the same answer..."Don't worry, I promise you will be ready." It wasn't until this summer that a professor actually gave my friends and I hope. (Don't get me wrong, we have taken some courses that have truly helped us become better teachers, we just didn't know how in the world we would be ready in less than a year.) This summer, my fellow pre-teachers and I are taking a course called Classroom Management. We were all hoping that maybe this class would be different; maybe this class would really give us insight for internship, and hopefully for our first-year of teaching...and that is exactly what it has done. We are given directions on how to prepare a solid resume, how to go through a job interview with ease, how to organize our first classroom, and how to handle the first day of school. The best part about this class is our textbook: The First-Year Teacher's Survival Guide, Ready-to-Use Strategies, Tools & Activities for Meeting the Challenges of Each School Day, by Julia G. Thompson. I HIGHLY recommend it. It's one of those textbooks that you actually enjoy reading, knowing that you are learning something that is not only important for your future career, but gives you insight on many issues that first-year teacher's have to learn the hard way. 

The one thing I have learned the most through this textbook is how to prepare for, survive and have a fantastic first day of school. I have always been a planner, making multiple to-do-lists in one day, however, I have always felt a little overwhelmed by how much I would need to prepare for the first day of school. I learned all the aspects of arranging my  classroom floor-plan, organizing books and materials, making a first-day-welcome packet, and so much more. Now that I feel more comfortable with what I will be facing throughout my first year of teaching, I am more excited than ever to begin. I just need to get through internship, find a job, and graduate... Smile

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