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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Spring Break

It's my spring break and I'm going to California to do some volunteer/service work.  I'm working with an organization that builds community gardens out of vacant lots.  I'll be sleeping on the floor of a community center, showering at the community pool, and working in rain/sunshine.  I'm really excited.  I will be away from the computer for two weeks.

I can tell I'm way too obsessed with reading all these education blogs because I'm sad that I'm going to get so behind on reading about everyone's classrooms and lives.

Have a good two weeks.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Last semester I had an observation placement in which I completed 25+ hours of observation/one-on-one work with a child in a special education classroom.  At the end of the semester, my professor sent out evaluation forms to the c00perating teachers, asking them to fill out the forms and send them back to the college.  These are really easy forms.  They have to make about 6 check marks, and if they want, add some comments.  It would take no more than five minutes if you wanted to fill it out quickly.  Not only does this evaluation help us see how the teacher perceived our work with the students, but it also is required for our certification portfolios.

Three months and several e-mail to the c00perating teacher later, I still have not received my evaluation.  This is beginning to frustrate me for several reasons:

1) I know what my perceptions were of how I worked with the students and teachers in the class, but I don't know if my perceptions were the same as the teacher's perceptions.  I'm a big fan of feedback, especially in regards to something that is important to me.  I want to know how I did!
2) I recently had a meeting with the educati0n department to talk about how I am doing, to assess if I am completing all the standards required for certification.  I am doing okay.  Except they won't "pass" me in one area until I receive this evaluation.
3) It will take the teacher five minutes!  She was a great teacher to work with and always seemed to be on top of things when I was in her room.  I know she's busy, and as a special education teacher has loads of paperwork to deal with, but why can't she spare the five minutes to fill out of the form?  I spent a semester in there, helping her with a sometimes-difficult student.  When I was there, this student's regular one-on-one aid was able to do other things around the classroom or help other students.  Had I not been there, the aid would have spent that time working one-on-one with "my" student.

(I had to get that complaint out.  I feel better now.)

In other news, my favorite pre-school quote of the day follows:
Teacher: "We don't have wars in outer space.  That would just be dangerous."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Someday I'll get better at lesson planning.

I have reached the portion of the semester where I have to (get to?) write lesson plans again. 

If I don't get better at writing these things, I won't ever make it as a teacher.  I guess that's why we write so many lesson plans before we even get to our student teaching semester.  But I have completed two methods courses, and written unit lesson plans for both of them.  And now in my 3rd methods class, I am not feeling any more confident in my ability to lesson plan.  With a lot of help from my professor, I am able to churn out something I am kind of proud of.  But without her help?  I would be lost.  And in fact, I kind of hated the lesson plans that I wrote for a methods class I took with a different professor - one who I do not find as helpful (probably because I think her teaching style is different from what I want my teaching style to be.  Whereas the more helpful professor has overall teaching objectives that mesh more closely with mine.)

I know it will get easier with time.  Like everything, practice will result in improvement.  But currently, ugh.  I probably just need to get over this mental block and write something.  I actually will get to use these lesson plans, with real live children in a real live classroom.  So at least this will feel more purposeful than in the past when I have written theoretical lesson plans for theoretical students.  Unfortunately, I don't know what grade I am going to be teaching.  And yet I still have to write at least rough drafts of the lessons.

I should stop whining about my inability write lesson plans, and instead just write them.  I think I'll go do that.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The importance of asking questions.

Some of the reading I have been doing for my education class lately has made me think about the great importance of learning how to ask the right questions.  Of all the qualities that a teacher must have, I think that being able to use question asking as a type of scaffolding or participation in students' ZPDs is one of the most difficult to refine, but most important to eventually achieve. 

I don't even know if calling it scaffolding is quite the right way to describe it.  I certainly don't want to control my students' thoughts through the use of question-asking.  I want to guide them so that they can articulate, either in words or in writing, what it is that they are thinking or feeling.

As the author of the book I am reading (the book is called ...And with a Light T0uch ) describes certain things she does in the classroom and conversations she has with her students, I am just kind of flabbergasted.  She seems to make every word she utters important, every question she asks helps her students develop as readers, writers, talkers, and people.   As my professor pointed out, the author of this book has been teaching for 20+ years and has done a lot of personal classroom research, so of course she's going to be good.  But still, reading this book kind of makes me feel jealous of her.  I want to be that good.

Before reading this book, and being asked to think about the things this book has made me think about, I knew question asking was important.  Of course I know that I am supposed to ask open-ended "higher level thinking" questions.  Reading this book and seeing the ways the teacher uses questions makes me put that rote knowledge into a different frame of mind.  The questions she asks aren't created ahead of time to direct the students' learning.  The questions she asks are based off of what the students have chosen to talk about in class.  She creates the questions on the spot in response to what has been going on in the classroom.  The students lead the topic, not the teacher.  The teacher in this case works to make the students think more deeply than they perhaps would have, had they not been asked these other questions.  But she never leads them in a direction.  She never forces them to think about something they don't want to think about.  The questions she asks are not directive, they are exploratory.

I have noticed that one of my professors asks questions like these.  She seems to intuitively know what to ask me to make me articulate whatever idea I have started to develop in my mind.  After I say something she will ask, "What makes you think that?"  She somehow manages to hone in on whatever aspect of the reading I want to talk about, but haven't developed fully enough in my thoughts to feel comfortable sharing with the class.  When that happens, she asks questions that allow my thoughts to become coherent to myself.  She's not directing me toward her thinking; she is guiding me so that I better understand my own thinking.

I think the ability to ask questions like the author of the book and like my professor is a skill that must be developed.  At first, I was going to say that I thought it was a gift, but that's not true.  I don't think it is something you either have or you don't have.  It is a quality that you can possess after time, effort, and experience.  Some people may become better at asking questions after shorter periods of times, while for others it may take longer.  But if you want to be able to ask the right questions, you will be able to.  At least, I want to believe that with enough effort and self-monitoring of the ways I use talk in my classroom, I too will develop into someone who can ask questions that help my students grow into complex thinkers.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Meme 2

I have had a busy week, and I have a couple ides of things I want to post. Hopefully this weekend I will get a chance to write them down.

In the meantime, The Reflective Teacher tagged me...quite a while ago with this meme. I have finally finished it. (Apparently, I have a hard time counting all the way to four.)

4 Jobs I've Had

  • Camp Counselor.
  • One of the leaders for my college's outdoor club.
  • Pre-School College Student Worker.
  • Computer Lab Monitor/Tech Help Person.

4 Movies I can Watch Over and Over (I don't really like movies very much. I don't feel that I can really know the characters well enough in just the 2 hours or so of the film. I like TV shows better.)

  • Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios - Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. (I'm not sure that I would voluntarily watch this many more times, but I did watch it about six times in a row for a Spanish class once.)

4 Places I've Lived (I only have two!)

  • Suburban Big City, Midwest.
  • At my school.

4 TV Shows

  • Scrubs
  • Gilmore Girls (I don't actually like it anymore. But I used to like it. And now I can't stop watching it.)
  • Everwood
  • Good Eats (The funniest cooking show ever.)

4 Places I've Vacationed

  • Tuscon, Arizona (I wasn't really "vacationing," I was doing volunteer/community service work.)
  • Nogales, Mexico (This was part of the same volunteer trip as above. I built houses for Habitat for Humanity in Nogales.)
  • Israel
  • Disney World

4 Places I Plan to Visit

  • San Fransisco, California (I'm going on another volunteer/community service work trip in a few weeks, to San Fransisco. We're taking a cement-covered lot and turning it into a community garden.)
  • Mexico (I am hopefully going to study abroad there next semester.)
  • Other Latin American countries?
  • Spain?

4 Favorite Foods (I think I have a warped sense of food, as a college student surviving off dining hall food.)

  • Cottage Cheese.
  • I went to a Mexican food restaurant once that had the best food I have ever eaten. I don't remember what I ordered, but it was so good.
  • Coffee flavored yogurt.
  • Oatmeal.

4 Blogs I Read Daily (or places I visit online)

4 Places I'd Rather Be Right Now

  • Somewhere warm and sunny.
  • In my bed, asleep.
4 Bloggers Tagged
  • Whoever wants to? Most people have already done this meme, I think. If you haven't and you're reading this, consider yourself tagged.