/* open id delegation ---------------------------------------------- */

Saturday, December 24, 2005

An Instant Message Conversation with a 5th Grader, and My Reflection/Rambling

The other day I received an instant message from one of my counsin's friends. (I have begun to receive a lot of instant messages from two of my little cousins' friends. They must be handing out my screen name. At least it leads to interesting conversations, such as this one.) My cousin is 11 years old, and in 5th grade. Her friend is too. I had just finished up a lot of work for my education classes and thought it would be interesting to "quiz" a real live elementary school student about her school and classess. I don't think this girl knew that she was talking to someone who is going to be a teacher.

Her: 2day was my last day of skool and now its winter
Her: i luv wen we don't have skool
Her: :-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-) [multiply those smileys by about 20, and you'll get the number she actually made. It would take up too many lines to include them all.]
Me: School's fun, what are you talking about!?
Her: i don't like gym or science or writing
Me: Why not?
Her: because i'm never on my friends teams in gym and in science we don't choose our parters and in writing we just revise and write
Me: It is fun to get to be with your friends. What do you write when you write?
Her: what Mrs. H--- says
Her: shes my writing teacher
Me: What does she tell you to write? Like, a story, or a letter, or something convincing someone about something?
Her: first we interviewed people and now we're writing about outdoor ed
Me: Interviewing people sounds like it would be fun. What did you interview them about?
Her: about them and we didn't choose our partners
Me: Well, if you had interviewed your friends, you would have already known all about them. :) So you wouldn't need to interview them. When you interview other people you don't know, you get to learn about them.
Her: but some people were with their friends
Me: Oh, so it didn't seem fair.
Her: and i knew everything about the person i interviewed
Me: Hmm... that's too bad.
Me: What do you learn about in science. I'm curious.
Her: first we measured different balls like metal and rubber then we did cubes and cylinders then we did volume and mass the matter and now we're doing water and we're gonna do chemistry
Me: Oh, I know you said you wish you got to choose your partners, but that sounds like fun even with somene who's not your friend.
Me: And chemistry is really cool.
Her: but i only like it when we do experiments but a lot we just write in our journals and read in our science books
Me: Is your science book like a textbook?
Me: And, what do you write in your journals?
Her: kinda but its small we write what we get for our experiments and what things like gas solid and liquid and matter are
Me: So you write down definitions of the new words you learn and stuff?
Her: yea
Me: How does your teacher make sure you learned something when you're done with a unit?
Her: we have tests
Me: What kind of tests? What does your teacher (is it a she or a he) ask you on the tests?
Her: he mr. n--- asks about the unit
Me: Does he ask you to give a definition, or does he give a definition and ask you to tell what the word is? Or do you write out something?
Her: all of them
Me: Okay, cool.
Me: Are you in [My cousin]'s class?
Her: yea
Her: [Your cousin]'s lucky shes always with me or 1 of our other best friends j---
Her: and c---
Me: Yeah, it is fun being in class with friends. :)

So, what did I learn from this conversation:

I learned that this student would always prefer to be partnered with one of her friends. This would theoretically be possible for her, because she has friends in all her classes, and friends in general. She seems to be fairly outgoing. The fact that she randomly IMs her friend's older cousin says something about her personality (that she is at least somewhat extroverted and confident in her ability to interact in some way with semi-strangers).

Of course, students can't always, and shouldn't always be partnered with their friends. They have to learn to work with people who they don't already know. And, especially in lower grades, they are still developing friendships and finding their niche in life. They need to be grouped with people who they wouldn't necessarily choose to be with in order to expand their knowledge of different people.

I also learned that she does like the experiment part of science, she just doesn't like the writing part. But the writing part, or at least recording in some way the discoveries/observations made, is just as important as the experiment itself. If the student doesn't somehow record his/her thoughts, they will be forgotten. So, the teacher must convey that importance to the students. The teacher must be explicit in her reasoning. She must make sure the students understand that they aren't just writing down their observations so that the teach has something to grade, but that they are writing down their observation so that they have something they can refer back to later.

(I'm not even going to comment on the internet speak: "i luv wen we don't have skool")

Friday, December 16, 2005

Not so del.icio.us.

Something is wrong with del.icio.us, and my links aren't showing up.  When I query for things containing three tags, (ex: blog AND education AND elementary), nothing shows up.  When I query for only two tags, things show up.  Hopefully del.icio.us gets everything working so that it is del.icio.us again.

I like when my classes can connect with each other.

I am writing a final paper for an American Studies class that I am taking.  Because the instructions for the paper were so open-ended, and it is possible to tie the readings we are supposed to use to education, I am taking this opportunity to rant (in an intelligent and sophisticated manner) about educational inequalities in America.  Welcome back to Intro to Education 101.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Done for the semester.

I have handed in all my assignments/projects for all my education classes this semester.

There was some confusion with one of my assignments being due on Wednesday the 15th.  If you look at a calendar you will find out that date doesn't exist.  But, it was all figured out and handed in.  Everything else was figured out and handed in.  And I will never again have to take three education classes at the same time that all require observation hours. (Excluding the student teaching seminar, I don't even have three education classes left to take!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Seriously trying my tolerance"

As much as I complain about my classes and some of the ridiculousness related to them, when I am doing something that I think is making me become a better future teacher, I really like it.

Right now I am working on a case study about a little boy I worked with in a special education classroom.  I enjoyed this experience so much, and am finding that I actually am having a good time writing the paper.  Unfortunately, I am having such a fun time that I'm over the page length, and am showing no signs of slowing down.  According to the project description, if I go over a certain number of pages, I will be "seriously trying [my professor's] tolerance".  I would like to make the argument that she has been trying my tolerance the whole semester, but I don't think that would turn out real well.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Where is she?

Last week, I was supposed to finish my observations for my Physical Education Methods class, but there was a late start at the school due to snow and I couldn't go in. Ever since then, I have been trying to contact the professor who teaches that class, asking her what I should do, since my observation journal was due at the end of last week. I have sent her three e-mails since the initial one I sent at about 6:45AM that Thursday morning. I have not been able to contact her. I don't expect her to respond to email over the weekend, but she has had nearly three weekdays to respond to one of my emails. I can't figure out how to get a response from her. I know she checks her e-mail on a regular basis, because she has turned to look at her computer when it "beeps" with a new e-mail message during meetings I have had with her. I don't want to get screwed over because I didn't finish observing the last couple hours of PE, but I also don't want to sound like a tattle, going to one of my education professors and mentioning how I can't seem to get in contact with this lady.

Edited 8:57
She emailed me back this afternoon. In the email, she said that she had received my previous emails. I'm not sure why she didn't respond to any of them since a) I was clearly worried, as evidenced by the multiple emails, and b) she did have a something else she wanted me to do to make up for the missed hours.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Clarification in regards to my lesson plan issues.

I don't really hate lesson planning and writing lesson plans.  I hate writing them for my professors to grade.  Because when I write them as an assignment, I am required to mention every little thing that I will say or do.  This makes them seem like an overwhelming task.  I must rationalize every move I make.  I must write down everything I am going to do, no matter how small.  I must write multiple response I could make to students, depending on their answer to the question.  Everything must be perfectly connected to my objectives.

And while it is important to be prepared, like I mentioned earlier it is difficult to be prepared when I don't know what student population I am teaching or what materials I am going to have available to me.

I know that an important part of teaching is flexibility, and I feel that writing lesson plans like this, complete with dialogue, is just not realistic.  Things will not necessarily go according to plan, no matter how many theoretical conversations I create between myself and my students.

The times I have "taught" my lessons to a small group of "students", I think that my professors have been surprised by how well I did and how smoothly the activities went.  I didn't necessarily follow my lessons exactly, but I accomplished my objectives and got my students to the point I wanted them to reach before the next lesson occurred.  Based upon the difficulty I have writing the lesson plans, they were expecting my lessons to go much worse.

So, I guess lesson plans aren't my arch nemesis.  Lesson plans are good and necessary.  My complaints stem from lesson planning to excess.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Education professor quote of the day.

"So, when do you guys start drinking?"  This is in regards to it being almost the end of the semester.  She continues with, "do you drink this weekend, or wait until next weekend?"

The two other college students and myself, who she was talking to, didn't even bat an eye.  This is one of the tamer things she has said to us.

If I had to give this professor a pseudonym, it would be Prof. TMI.  She says things or tells stories, and when she's done, I just sit there and stare, wondering if she actually said what I thought she said.  Despite this, she is probably the professor most universally liked in the department.  She says what's on her mind, and seems to be missing a filter mechanism somewhere.  Perhaps that's why people like her so much.  She treats us as equals, and not as undergrads.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I LOVE the snow!

Today I was supposed to do my last observations for my physical education methods. But, it snowed all night. And the public schools are closed this morning.

I have not been more excited because of a snow day ever. Definitely not when I was actually a student on the receiving end of a snow day. I don't know what my professor is going to say when I tell her I couldn't finish my required observation hours. (I sent her an email a few minutes ago, and got an out-of-office reply. What professor goes out-of-office the week before final exams?! I feel like that's irresponsible on her part.) But right now I don't care. It's a snow day! (Unfortunately, I won't be doing anything relaxing like getting extra sleep. I have a research paper due tomorrow, and I still have to write most of it.)

Snow day! Snow day! Snow day!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I'll pretend to be a teacher...

I just wrote an email to one of my professors.  In it, I wrote:

"I need to have the worksheet photocopied onto a transparency."

For some reason, after writing that I started laughing aloud.  I don't know why.  It just sounds like such a teachery thing to say.  I'm not a teacher!  I'm a student!  But, I am "teaching" one of the lessons I wrote to a few "students" that my professor has somehow collected. I'm not exactly sure how she found a handful of third-grade children to come to the college.  Apparently she has a store of them somewhere.  I get to teach them about, or actually, have them "discover" that cabbage juice is an acid/base indicator.  Fun stuff. (Hopefully.  And hopefully educational, too.)


It's colder than -10F out right now, before your incorporate the windchill into the temperature.  And I have to walk to one of the elementary schools to do an observation.  That's just too cold.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Some days, the only reason I don't drop the education program...

I love love love my education adviser.  For the past few weeks, I have been extremely frustrated because my education classes have just seemed pointless and the professors teaching them have been annoyingly incompetent.  I go through phases of being glad I chose to join the education program and then switch to think maybe I made a bad choice because being a teacher is hard work and sometimes I feel like I can't do it.  I've definitely been in the latter phase for a while now.

Today I had to meet with my education adviser for just a few minutes to have her sign some forms for me.  Meeting with her re-motivated me a little bit.  I'm taking a class with her next semester, and as I was leaving she told me how she was excited for our class next semester, and she meant it.  I told her I was excited as well, and I meant it too.  I doubt she knows how much I meant it.  As I complete the work for my current education classes, sometimes the thing that motivates me is knowing that in a couple months I will be able to take another class with my adviser.

I respect this woman so much.  She's intelligent, she's caring, she actually was a teacher before becoming a professor so she has experience, she taught in the same type of setting I dream of someday teaching in.  She's opinionated and passionate, which some people don't like about her, but makes me appreciate her even more.  And she's just a nice person who makes herself available to her students without allowing them to take advantage of her.  (Unfortunately, and for some reason, she has a low rating on RateMyProfessor.com which upsets me way more than it should.)

I don't know if it's good to remain in the education program at my school just because of one professor, but sometimes I feel like she's the only reason I haven't dropped out of the program.  Regardless of how the program at my school is run, I still find education interesting and want to be involved in it, in some form.  But the the education department at my school is small.  Very small.  I have had more than one education class with no one else in it.  Just the professor and myself.  The first class of this type I had was with my adviser.  And while I was so nervous the first few weeks, I think the professor was too.  (She's a fairly new professor.)  But after a while, it got to the point where I enjoyed it.  I looked forward to every class meeting.  (To the point where I asked her to un-cancel class the one time she canceled it.  Because I'm possibly the strangest college student ever.  Which she basically said to me.)

The absolutely positive experience of that class may be part of what is making everything after it seem pointless and frustrating.  But I was reminded that I have more to look forward to.  My professor and I are in mutual excitement for next semester, (and there's a good chance that I will, again, be the only one in the class).  Now, I just have to get through the last few weeks of this semester, and then I'll be able to take a class that I am looking forward to more than I have looked forward to any other class, ever.  I know I'm holding my professor up to my high expectations, but they are expectations I formed taking another class with her, so I think she'll pass.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Pre-Schoolers are Funny

I was working at pre-school, and a little boy comes over to me and whispers into my ear:

Boy:  I caught a [muffled].
Me (confused):  You caught a cold?
Boy:  No, I caught a toad. 
Me:  Ohh...
Boy (looking thoughtful):  But I caught a cold once, too.

Friday, December 02, 2005

It's the little things...

It worries me that my professor corrected the Case Study I handed into her, by crossing out "Down Syndrome" and writing in "Down's Syndrome".  I know it's not a huge error.  But, she's teaching my one class on how to work with the "excep.tional child".  And she doesn't know how to correctly write the name of the disorder.  And it drives me crazy!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I'm sorry, I couldn't help it...

As a requirement to certify in elementary education at my school, you have to take a Physical Education Methods class. Leading this class is someone from the physical education department, not the education department. To say I'm really bitter about this class is an understatement. (And that's not to say I don't understand why they make us take it. But it doesn't make me any less bitter.) I'll write about the "class" in general later. But right now, I just have to share a snippet of our wonderful discussion today:

PE Lady (talking about a regular class, not a PE class): "Say you have a student in your class who is always reading. They love to read, and they read even when they are supposed to be doing other things. You want the students to all be doing what they are supposed to be doing. So, you tell that student that since they were reading when they weren't supposed to be reading, you are going to take away their free reading time. When everyone else gets to have free reading time, they will have to do, say... math."
Me: "...That's just going to make them hate math..."

Now, that's a pretty basic behavior principle. Punishing someone for reading by making them do math instead certainly isn't going to foster a love for math. But that's not even the main point here.

The main point is that I, for the first time, kind of talked back to a "professor". And it felt good. Really good.

Maybe later I'll type out some of my "notes" from today's "class". They contain gems such as the following example: "Don't belittle students." (Because really, I had been planning on calling all my students names and telling them that they were never going to amount to anything. But now, since my PE Methods teacher told me not to belittle them, I won't.)

My Arch Nemesis - The Lesson Plan

For my educational methods classes I have to write lesson plans.  I would think it would be a good experience, because practice is good.  If I don't learn how to write a lesson plan now, I'll never be able to lead effective lessons later.  The only problem is, I find nothing more painful than writing these lesson plans.  I'm currently in a science methods class, and am writing a unit of lesson plan on the topic of chemistry.  I am finding this to be a nearly impossible task. 

For one thing, my professor teaches me nothing.  Nothing at all.  She sits and talks and talks and has me read things that just don't quite connect in the ways she pretends they do.  And everything she says to me just doesn't quite make sense.  And the last time I've seen an elementary science lesson taught was when I was in elementary school.  For some reason she hasn't had me observe any science classes, so I really don't have a good sense for what K-6 students scientific abilities are.

Another problem is that the area of science I for some reason decided to write my lesson plans about is perhaps the one area I know the least about.  I thought this would be a good idea.  I hoped it would give me more confidence in my ability to teach chemistry concepts.  Instead, it has made me less confident in my ability to teach science overall, since I am having such a hard time coming up with just one unit of lesson plans.

I sit down at my computer, prepared to write some objectives, and get stuck after, "Students will..."  Students will what?  I don't know.  Hopefully learn something. 

I feel like (and hope that) if there are actual students involved, I would have a slightly easier time writing lesson plans.  If I knew what my students were capable of, if I knew what else they were learning in their other subjects, if I knew what their interests were, if I knew what supplies I actually had access to, if I knew all those things, I would have more direction in my lesson plans.  I will be able to make it a little more interdisciplinary and connected.  The way it is now, I have a faceless class of non-existent 4th graders for who I am supposed to write 10 wonderfully exciting chemistry lesson plans.

Instead, I feel like I'm spewing out too many random activities with too little actual learning.  This is partly because I know so little about the subject itself. (I never knew how little I knew about chemistry, even at the 4th grade level.  It's embarrassing, actually.)  I am able to create plenty of fun sciencey activities to do, but I am not able to describe them to my professor's satisfaction on paper.  And then when I get to the part where I have to make sure the students actually learned something, I have to somehow describe, word-for-word, what will go on in this theoretical class discussion of non-existent 4th graders.

So, while I think writing in-depth lesson plans for practice is a good thing, I feel that in order for it to make sense in my mind and in order for me to actually write effective lessons, I need to have an real class to base the lesson plans on.  Also, the professor needs to trust that I'm not an idiot and just because I don't very explicitly write something on the lesson plan (such as, "I will tell the students that the bleach we are testing is dangerous to touch and should definitely not go anywhere near the mouth" or "I will circulate the classroom while the students are completing the activity") doesn't mean that I won't do it when I'm in front of the students.