NU, Student Teaching, and Me
After years of anticipation and preparation, I finally got to live my dream as a teacher this fall. I have been wanting to write a blog since my first week but have felt the severe lack of time (and the excess stress) that student teaching presents.
There is so much that I want to say about my experiences at both Lewiston-Porter High School and Gaskill Prep. From passing the edTPA, which is the big, bad $300 certification assessment required to become a teacher to entertaining my students and coming up with activities on the fly, the topics are limitless. So to encompass it all, I figured I would provide you with an overview of what a day in the life of a student teachers feels like...
6:20 a.m. Alright, it is time to wake up! The sun isn't out yet and its about 30 degrees but you get to teach today, what could be better? I spend the next 20 minutes hurriedly making and devouring breakfast, packing lunch and trying to wake up.
6:45 a.m. Will it be freezing cold or hot today? Am I teaching a lesson that requires a lot of standing, because then I can't wear half the shoes in my closet? Great, we've decided to wear a long-sleeve dress and flats. I have worn this 15 times already. I guess this is my go-to outfit now. I can't forget my watch. My life revolves around my watch. I will just put my watch on my desk, then I can't possibly forget it.
7:10 a.m. Time to leave! I am so happy that Janet and Nick start their morning banter at 7:15 every morning on KISS 98.5. They always make it easier to drive to school in the dark.
7:20 a.m. There are kids everywhere. This looks like the Walking Dead. How do they cross the road and not even look? Why doesn't this one have a coat on, it’s 10 degrees? Why is *insert name here* always late to Homebase, he is literally on the front steps of the building right now and Homebase doesn't start until 7:45? Where does he go between now and then?
7:25 a.m. Signing in is always entertaining. There is a flurry of activity in the office and the secretaries somehow manage to get every class covered with a lack of subs. It looks like they are trying to crack the Rosetta Stone or find the missing link on the map to Atlantis. Some subs are there for a class period, this teacher will cover for that one, another sub is coming in at 9:30 so we can get that one covered as well, then at 12:45 all of these subs will switch to these rooms because there is a meeting for the English teachers, etc.
7:30 a.m. I’m finally in my classroom...I can relax for a few…
7:31 a.m. *insert name here* WHY ARE YOU YELLING ALL THROUGHOUT THE HALLWAY. IT IS...(wait where is my watch?)…EARLY, PLEASE STOP YELLING!
7:32 a.m. This is where I take some time to write out my learning targets for the day. I carefully analyze the lesson I have crafted for today and try to figure out the best way to write curriculum standards and lesson objectives in more basic language so my students understand what I want from them today.
7:40 a.m. The bell for Homebase went off but there are students literally everywhere. How does it take them 15 minutes to put their backpacks away? "*insert name here*, get to class! You are so, so late."
7:45 a.m. We take on ASP (study hall) classes, where the teacher needs to go to a meeting or a sub is unable to come in early enough. Students use the period to get extra help, make up quizzes/tests, work on any homework, etc. I would try to use this time to get any work done for my seminar class since I don't have much time the rest of the day.
From my student case study and interview portfolio, to writing a detailed learning environment or classroom management report, I am always busy. However, my students always have my first priority. Out of the 50-minute period, I spend about 15 minutes (maximum) working on my own assignments and the rest of that time catching up absent students, helping students figure out how to do something on the school laptops, or working one-on-one with a student struggling in my class. One specific student who is not required to take foreign language comes weekly, just for fun, to learn some Spanish even though he is not my student. My cooperating teacher (CT) and I give him worksheets and resources to learn some vocabulary and try to learn as much as he can.
8:34 a.m. ASP is over, time to monitor the halls during passing time. "*insert 15 names here*, PLEASE STOP RUNNING IN THE HALLWAY. YOU WILL TRIP OR RUN INTO SOMEONE."
8:35 a.m. *insert name here* runs into another student while running down the hallway. At this point, I realize I have forgotten my watch.
8:37 a.m. Second period = planning period. For a solid 50 minutes, I review my lesson for the current day and plan for the rest of the week. Even though I make plans about a week ahead of time, there are usually about 15 changes a day (the computers aren't working, the copier is broken, the website is down, attendance is low because of the weather or a stomach bug, class periods get shortened, there is an assembly, the SMARTboard is down, etc.). I tweak the day's lesson and try to specify plans for the next week as best as I can.
9:10 a.m. During this time, I like to take a walk around my floor in the building to get ready for the day. I usually run into one of the following situations: *insert five names here* are having a bathroom party and avoiding class, *insert name here* is copying another student's homework in the hallway, *insert name here* has been walking up and down the hallway claiming to be coming from the bathroom even though it is on the other side of the building.
9:27 a.m. THEY ARE COMING! Woohoo. I finally get to do my awesome activities.
9:28 a.m. *insert five names here* intentionally leave Spanish work in their lockers and are asked to go get it. *insert name here* claims to have eaten 10 doughnut holes for breakfast. I wish I had my watch.
9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. (three class periods)
A brief sample of the various conversations had throughout the beginning of each class period:
Me: Buenos dias clase! Today we have…
Student 1: Can I have a pencil?
Me: *delivers pencil* Today we have a few things to do. Let's start with some review questions about yesterday. Pull out your vocabulary words.
Students 2-6: Can I have a pencil?
Students 7-9: Can I have another copy?
Students 9-10: Can I have a pencil?
Me: *delivers copies, delivers pencils*
Once the supplies have finally been figured out, we get to the lesson. I always try to have student-led activities where they get to take charge of the lesson. My favorite classroom activities to include in my lessons are cooperative learning groups (I use these for reading comprehension in the target language), Kahoot.it (the most engaging tech tool I have ever found), and having students interpret what I am saying in Spanish through drawings. Every time I have used one of these activities, my lesson always went well. Of course, there can always be tweaking and adjustments, but the foundations have never changed.
12-12:40 p.m. Lunch is really an interesting time for a teacher. My students start packing away their things even though we usually have like 10 minutes left before the bell. I gently remind them that I am the one who dismisses them, and I will do so once we have finished everything up for the day. Sure enough, we finish right on time and I dismiss the class for lunch a minute early because they behaved so well. I take a few minutes to breathe and pick up the 10 broken pens on the floor and place any forgotten textbooks, notebooks, or gym bags in the spot in the classroom deemed a makeshift lost and found. At 12:20 p.m., I realize I should probably eat lunch and run to the bathroom before the post-lunch hallway stampede.
12:40 p.m.-Final Bell (2:30 p.m.) Again, I continue with the same class routines to provide my students some structure. However, this time I make sure to say buenas tardes, although sometimes in a haze I accidentally let out a good morning or good evening in Spanish. Today, we are working on building sentences in Spanish, but I have to adapt my final two lessons for the post-lunch craze. "*insert name here*, Please tell me why you are juggling pens?", "*insert name here*, please stop kicking *insert name here*'s chair", "*insert three names here*, please put away the Doritos, you had 40 minutes to eat them, what were you doing during lunch?" I could really use my watch right about now.
2:25 p.m. Announcements Will we have 10 announcements or two today? Hopefully it is brief because my kids are exhausted and it is snowing and all they want to do is run around outside on their way home. Plus, *insert name here* is literally busting out of his seat and I think for the safety of the desk, we should just dismiss the class.
2:25-2:45 p.m. There is something truly fascinating about watching hundreds of teenagers leave school at the end of the day. *insert name here* has four snowballs ready to launch while *insert name here* is literally rolling around in the mud, backpack and all. This 15 minutes every day should be made into a movie. It would break box office records.
3 p.m.-End I like to clump post-school day all into one giant chunk. Sometimes I stay after school for an hour and a half; for others, I am there only briefly. Today, I am only staying until 3-3:15 p.m. to finish up some grading and run off to tutor at NU. Once I finish tutoring, I am off to my apartment to get ready for the next day.
Some people question what a teacher does outside of school. Here are the answers: Most days I still need to do grading after school hours. Others, I need to plan for the next day since I had to adjust the current day's lesson because of whatever reason. Sometimes, I have to create worksheets, tests, discussion questions, or lecture notes. I also use this time to work on my edTPA certification exam, which is based on your student teaching placements. The whole process to complete it takes weeks, no matter how many hours are spent on it each day. From videotaping lessons, creating extremely detailed plans, analyzing student assessment data, and writing pages upon pages of "defense," this test is a beast. When I finally crash into my bed each night, hopefully around 10 p.m., the relief is much needed...until tomorrow though, when the action starts all over again. Hopefully I won't forget my watch.
Even though it is a long day, there is something special about waking up every morning and teaching the next generation to be their best selves. While I write this in jest, these moments have actually happened to me. However, the following anecdotes are also authentic and they are the main reason I have chosen to teach.
- I once was able to call a struggling student's mother to tell her that her son passed with flying colors for the first time all year. Watching this student take the test with confidence, I was excited to grade his test. With each correct answer, my smile grew wider. When we got a hold of his mother, she was so thrilled – and he gleamed with pride.
- One time a student told me I was her favorite teacher. No further explanation required.
- A student once told me that they liked my lessons because they are fun and they actually have a purpose. I spent 3.5 years of undergrad to learn how to do this, knowing I finally did it validated my college education.
- There comes a moment when your students just click with a really difficult concept, seeing their faces as they realize they understand something they were utterly confused by moments before is the reason I challenge them.
If just one student I work with feels safer, smarter, more important, and/or valued, then I have done my job. I love my content and I love my students regardless of where they come from or how they behave in class.
No student is a "bad student"... some just need more love and patience than others. My goal is to teach the next generation valuable skills through Spanish: analyzing information, vocabulary, manipulating language and writing, understanding different cultures and backgrounds, recognizing the value of effective communication, understanding the power of language and words, and respecting others no matter who they are or where they come from.
The above schedule and stories are taken from both of my student teaching experiences.