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

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Initial list of worries for the future.

And by "the future" I mean "next week" when I teach a whole class of real live students five language arts less0ns.

1. I hate being called Miss. GrownUp. I much prefer being called NotQuite. But, when one is teaching in a real school with real children, one has be referred to by the appropriate adult-sounding name. Therefore, I will uncomfortably be Miss. GrownUp.

2. The teacher whose class I am working with teaches very, very differently than the way I hope to/plan on teaching. Her kids are not "trained" (for lack of a better word) to react to a teacher in the way I want the students to react to me. This will make it harder, and it will make it so that some things may not work out quite the way I want.

3. I have absolutely no idea how long anything will take. No sense of time whatsoever.

4. What happens if I loose my voice? I was practicing, talking to myself for 40 minutes, and I definitely felt it starting to go. After a few days of that, what if it's gone?!
(Edit to say: Usually I would think this means I'm talking too much and not listening enough. But in this case, I am reading several different books to the class, so it's not that I'm talking too much, it's that I'm reading aloud.)

5. My pr0fessor is going to be watching and judging and taking notes on every move I make. If that's not a great way to make everything extremely uncomfortable, I don't know what is.

6. What if I trip and fall on my face in front of the whole class?

7. I don't know their names. How can I talk to them if I don't know their names?

8. Every time I think about it, I begin to panic. That's not a good sign. This panic started sometime around Monday. I need to stop worrying about it.

9. I hate my less0n plans. I hate the topic I chose and I think my activities are boring and not creative and don't show off the kind of teacher I want to be. (I'm not sure if this is pessimism or truth.)

10. I worry that I worry so much. This is supposed to be what I want to do! I should be super-excited! Especially since it's just five short lessons, one on each day of the week.

11. Due to the number of students in my class, all the other college students are paired up with a partner. I'm the only one teaching alone (due to choice, so my own fault. But still, I kind of wish I had a partner now).

This is just my preliminary list. I'm sure I'll develop more fears over the weekend. And by the time Monday morning comes along...I don't know...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Micr0-teaching, the kind where the college student teaches a 2nd grade less0n to the rest of his or her educati0n class, is just plain strange.  It's awkward for the "students" and awkward for the "teacher."

Yes, there is definite benefit to seeing how your less0n goes, even if it is in such a fabricated situation.  You get to practice talking and articulating your thoughts to others, you get to see how the timing will theoretically work out, and above all you have the opportunity to rehearse the lesson before you teach it "live" to real children.  You have practiced it, so you aren't both teaching a lesson to unfamiliar students and trying to remember what you wanted to do in the lesson.  You've already practiced ahead of time.

Today some of the other people in my class micr0-taught.  I will have my turn later in the week.  Last time I had to micr0-teach, I wasn't nervous about presenting in front of other people.  I was worried that I would just start laughing in the middle of the lesson, at the ridiculousness of it all.  (I managed to hold back, for the most part.  There was one short-lived incident though.)

That is my fear again.  We'll see how it goes. 

Monday, April 24, 2006

Possibly, a good thing.

I shouldn't post this, because I will probably end up jinxing myself, but, I'm really excited.

I talked to one of my education pr0fessors today and asked her if she would supervise me on an independent pr0ject next year.  She said she would be glad to do that, and asked what it was I wanted to study.  I, unfortunately, didn't really know. 

"I find everything we're talking about in class so interesting.  I just want to keep learning about it!"  I really did say that, and I really am that big of a dork.  (I've come to accept the fact.  When she asked the class if we want to reduce our required readings, I didn't respond until asked.  And then had to truthfully state that, "I'm a dork, but I love it all..." not wanting not actually say that I didn't want the work reduced, but really, really thinking that.) 

As we have been talking about several different things in class, she asked which part specifically I found so interesting, and I confirmed that I loved topicA, topicB, and topicC.  This didn't help the situation any.  This pr0fessor has been working to create a class in topicA, (a much needed class in the US today) and suggested that perhaps I could help her create the curriculum for this class.  Which would be AWESOME.  If that didn't work out, she suggested more specific aspects of topicB and topicC that I would work on.  TopicC is close to her specific area of interest (as is topicA, obviously) so she was excited for me to work on any of those things. 

As this pr0fessor is fairly new, and works in such a small department, I will be the first student to do an independent pr0ject with her.  (That makes me feel a little special, I have to admit.)

I am so so excited about this (and can pretty much tell that she is too.  Though maybe not quite as excited as I am.)  Since I am so excited, and I tend to have bad luck being able to take the classes I want to take, all this excitement will probably end up in a whole lot of disappointment. 

But in case it doesn't, I am really, really excited.

Re: Previous Post

Apparently, we (the whole class) wrote too much in our less0n plans.  And have to change them.  Again.  I'm not bitter.  I am, though, mighty confused.  (And am going to talk to Pr0fessor in just a little while to ask some questions.) 

The problem is, we are up against a deadline.  We are teaching our less0ns to various classes in the upcoming weeks.  And the teachers whose classr0oms we are invading need the lesson plans by... last week.  So that they can look at them and approve them or suggests changes.  (I'm an expert at making changes.)

In more optimistic news, an email sent to me by a pr0fessor contained one little compliment that is strange and strangely reinforcing.  And also kind of makes me feel like I'm five-years-old:

You're a tr0oper!

Complete with exclamation point.  (Seriously, I can't think of any other school where the pr0fessors would know the students well enough to describe them as "tr0opers" or not tr0opers.  So this is one of those I'm-glad-I-go-to-school-here moments.)  So, that's my motivation for the day.  I'm a tr0oper 'cause my pr0fessor says so.

And maybe I am a little bitter, too.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Ready, Set, Less0n Plan!

Coffee - check
Computer - check
Previous drafts of less0n plans (full of Professor's marks) - check
Pile of children's books - check
Floor-mate's leftover Easter Eggs filled with candy? - check
Latin pop music - oh yeah (I, for some reason, plan best when listening to Spanish-language pop music.  Es el mejor!)

I am ready for a full night of less0n planning.  A final draft is due into my professor tomorrow, and I haven't looked at the rough drafts in weeks.  Not great planning on my part, but avoidance is considered a legitimate coping strategy (not a good coping strategy, but it is recognized by the psych0logists as being a way that many people attempt to cope with their problems).

Ready, set, less0n plan!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

0bserving has never made me feel uncomfortable before, but...

Upon leaving a classroom we were 0bserving for my education class, my professor commented, "this classroom is run...very differently than what we have been reading about."  And it certainly was.  It was, in many ways, the polar opposite of what we have been reading about.

But as I was writing up my comments on the 0bservation, I began to think how very easy it is to criticize from my vantage point.  After all, I'm in the class for an hour, watch one lesson, and leave.  While I'm there I sit in the corner with my little notebook, writing down what I see and hear.  I don't have to respond to anything (at this point, at least), I don't have to really think.  I just have to sit there and be.  What right do I really have to criticize the teacher?  She's been teaching for what, 20 years?  I'm still a few years away from the possibility of having my own classroom.  And yet, that is what I have been assigned to do.  Not to criticize exactly, but to sit in the corner and and write down what I see, and then later make judgements on what I think it all means.

In all the 0bserving I have done before, the act of judging the way I am has never felt particularly uncomfortable to me.  But now it does.  Perhaps part of the reason is, in all of the classes I have 0bserved in the past I have found at least some, if not mostly, good things to say.  In this class though I am struggling to find one positive thing to say.  I guess some good things are: the students follow directions, there is not mass chaos, the classroom looks pretty.

I want to find more positive things to say in my notes, so that I don't feel as guilty when I say negative things.  But I can't find other positive things to say about the way the teacher runs the class.  I want to, but I can't. 

I guess I will do the best I can, giving some attention to any positives I come up with, while still pointing out the methods I don't agree with.  And I will try not to feel too guilty for judging in an area I don't really feel justified judging, since it is an assignment and I have to do it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A positive interaction with a professor.

Today I had a very personally satisfying conversation with a professor.

I am in a class (for my unnamed major) that is very small in size (there are fewer than 10 students in the class).  Despite the fact that this is such a small class, there are some aspects of the class causing me considerable difficulty.  I am doing okay in the class overall, but it feels like a struggle the whole way.

I have talked to the professor a few times throughout the semester about my problems with this specific aspect of the course.  He knows I'm having a hard time with it, and has worked to help me understand the topic.  I'm still teetering on the edge of complete cluelessness about one particularly difficult aspect of this topic.

(Oh, I give up on being so cryptic.  I'm having a hard time with statistics.  I'm not a statistics major, but I'm majoring in a discipline that relies very heavily on statistics for analysis of data.  I have taken the required courses on statistics and understand the basics, more than the basics actually.  But this particular course requires a complex understanding of statistics.  More complex than I was expecting.  As my professor once said, "I didn't learn this until grad school.  But since you all are so smart, I'm going to teach it to you now."  I like being challenged in most areas.  Statistics is not one of those areas.)

I was talking to my professor after class today about a question I had not related to my issues with statistics.  But after he answered that question, he asked how I felt I was doing in the course as a whole.  Specifically, how I felt my understanding of the important issues were despite my uncertainty in the realm of statistics.  I told him truthfully that I was still pretty confused, and that despite the fact that I actually did fairly well on the last test, I still was not at all confident in my ability to perform and analyze these statistical procedures.  He reassured me that he was always there to help and/or answer questions and suggested that after each class we have a mini "check-in" to make sure that I am understanding everything. 

He also pointed out that today in class I participated very enthusiastically in the discussion and contributed a lot of outside knowledge.  We were talking about issues in which I was able to display my (relative) "expertise" in educational policy.  I knew things he didn't, and was deemed the "education expert" in the class.  He thanked me for my contributions and clarifications on things he didn't know and emphasized the value of my participation in the class discussion.

He then went on to mention a question I had asked in class the previous week.  He felt that my "question" was really a comment in disguise.  He was using this incident as an example to point out that he believes I know more and understand more than I give myself credit for.  In other words, he thinks that I am smarter than I think.

The sum of this unexpected conversation was an increase in the appreciation I have for my school and the professors who work here.  I go to a small school and receive the benefits (and astronomical tuition) that goes along with that.  My professors are able to pay attention to the classwork and contributions I make.  They are able to know enough about me to understand my strengths and weaknesses, and play those to benefit my educational experience at the college.

And also, in large part, this was a post I can look back at on days when I'm feeling disenfranchised from my school and am frustrated with it's smallness and my courses and my professors.  The professors are not evil and they do want to help.  And it's not just the education professors who want to help.  (I have always had very good relationships with the education professors, despite any frustration I may have about their teaching practices.  They are for the most part always receptive to the individual needs and differences in their students).  As is consistent with my school's goals, the professors are focused on their teaching and their students as much as, or more, than their research.  They are there to help and I should not be intimidated by them or afraid to ask for help.  They want to help because they want us to succeed.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Educators can be witty too.

All of the majors at my school create t-shirts, and if you are in that department, you can buy one of the t-shirts.

Well, the educati0n department wants to be like all the other majors (even though we are not a major) and create a t-shirt too.

The only problem is, no one can think of any ideas for a witty education t-shirt.

Anyone have any suggestions for a humorous education-themed t-shirt?  (Perhaps something involving an educational theorist?  Because we in the education pr0gram are dorky enough to find stuff like that hilarious.)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Marks of love.

Before handing back my lesson plans, my professor reassured me that her copius comments were "marks of love."  They are not meant to be taken as something negative, they are marks (written in purple or green pen, always.  Those are the only colors in which she ever writes) that are there to help me improve and clarify my lessons so that I can better serve my (future and/or theoretical) students.

And so continues my continual self-analysis of my lesson planning issues.  I have come to a new conclusion.  It's not that I'm a horrible lesson planner.  It is that both my professor and I are perfectionists, at least when it comes to lesson planning. 

I am certainly not a perfectionist in all areas.  In my (unnamed) major I get acceptable grades, (I do well enough to keep my small, but appreciated, scholarship) but I don't strive for the solid A's that I want in my education classes.  Part of that is the way the two disciplines grade differently (which is a whole post I began to write once but never finished and never posted - some day I'll get around to posting it).  Part of it is that I know I will be teaching for at least several years after I graduate from college (due to a l0an f0rgivness program at my school wherein, if you're in the education program you can have some of your student l0ans f0rgiven if you teach for a certain number of years within a certain number of years after you graduate.) 

Most of it though is that currently, I just care a lot more about my education classes than I do my other classes.  Irregardless of the fact that I am going to be a teacher, and so I need to know a lot about education for that purpose, I just find education and the way children learn to be fascinating.  That's what made me what to be a teacher in the first place.  Not necessarily the desire to teach children, but a desire to learn about how children learn best.  As a teacher, I hope to be able to experiment with different methods ("classroom acti0n research" I think one of my books called it) of helping student to come to understand different ways of thinking and different ways of absorbing knowledge.  And since I have these goals, I don't just want to become a teacher who can write lesson plans and get the students to know enough to pass onto the next grade level.  I want to constantly learn as I teach. I want to constantly question what I am doing and why I am doing it and how it is affecting the students. 

And that all requires that I be a perfectionist when it comes to lesson plans.  I am always questioning what I have written.  My professor one time asked, "am I marking up your work to much?  If I am pushing you too hard, just tell me to lay off, and I will."  But since I too am an education-assignment perfectionist, I assured her that I love her purple and green "marks of love" and that I highly value each comment she makes.  So perhaps the way these lesson plans make me go somewhat insane is my own fault.  I asked to be pushed and challenged, perhaps beyond what would ideally be good.  Maybe at my current level of development I need to be challenged less and allowed to feel more confident in my abilities.  When handing back my lesson plans, my professor told me that they were really good, that the comments were there to make them even better.  She would not say that if they were horrible lesson plans in the first place.  At least, I hope not.

But, since I am a perfectionist and I like to be challenged, I'm not going to ask her to change anything.  I will eventually develop an understanding of when it is okay to stop revising my lesson plans.  When I am teaching for real, I will not have the opportunity to write-revise-revise-revise-revise like I do now.  I will write, look over, and use.  I will have to live with the imperfections that exist, and learn from the mistakes as I make them.  Lesson plans can never be perfect anyway.  I need to get myself to understand that.  No matter how many times I revise them, there will always be room for revision, and my professor will always be able to make more comments.  Like she said, the comments are "marks of love" and not meant as criticism.  I am trying to internalize that, since I know that it is true, and hopefully that will result in me feeling less pessimistic about my lesson planning abilities.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Harry Potter and research. (The two are not related.)

Is reading Harry Potter a requirement to receiving my elementary educati0n certificati0n?  I have never read it and don't really want to.  But I feel like I'll be an irresponsible educator if I don't.

Completely unrelated, my research finally got approved by the research board.  After several phone calls and emails to the board from my professor, I received a response saying that my email, (because everything is done through email these days) had gotten buried (aka misplaced) in the inbox, and that is why it took over a month to receive a response, when the usual time in about a week.

I printed out, signed, collated, and stapled 50 permission forms for the pre-schoolers' parents and put them in the pre-schoolers' cubbies this morning.  I have already received a few permission forms back.  I am kind of amazed that I'm getting theses forms back.  I was worried that no one would allow their child to participate.  (Not that there is any type of risk or harm at all in the study.  I will basically be interviewing the pre-schoolers, and asking them to "write" a few things for me.)  Unfortunately, because the approval took so long, I will have to be doing this project simultaneously with my elementary sch0ol observations and teaching.  Time-wise, I'm not sure how this all will work out.  But it will work out, because it has to. 

Despite the time issues, I am really excited to finally be able to do this research, which I began planning nearly two months ago.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Favorite Theorist.

We had another education pr0fess0r candidate visit campus today.  And as usual, the student interviewers (myself included) asked the question:

Who is your favorite educational the0rist, and why?

That's the question we always ask candidates. 

Who's your favorite educational the0rist, and why?  I'm always curious.

(Also, is it excessive for a perspective professor to say "um" 56 times during 10 minutes of her presentation?  She was saying "um" so often that I decided to count, and that's what I came up with.)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

I'm back.

I am back from gardening in California.

It rained pretty much the entire two weeks that I was there, but that certainly did not stop my group.  We got wet, muddy and cold.  But we planted more than 100 trees in a city schoolyard and moved hundreds of wheel-barrels full of dirt (well, mud actually, becuase of all the rain) and mulch.

At the end of every couple days, we would get on a bus to ride across the city to a public pool that allowed us to use their showers.

Now the second half of my spring semester begins, and with it more observing, more micr0teaching, and a week of teaching a class of real children.