Category Archives: positive

Student Teaching? Be Prepared

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I would like to reflect back to the first day that I met my fifth grade students, for my student teaching assignment. 
 
The very moment that I walked into the fifth grade classroom to introduce myself, before beginning my assignment, I felt nervous, about the manner in which I would be received by everyone, including the teacher. My stomach was knotting up, and I wanted to run in the opposite direction. Those first moments in the classroom can feel agonizing, but I survived, and so will you.  I remembered what a wise old owl (my mom) once told me, some years before. “Relax, breathe deep, and take ownership of the situation.” Oh yes, and above all “don’t sweat the small stuff, and by the way; it’s all small stuff’ “. 

I scanned the classroom, and then I replaced my anxious, nervous, kind of lost in the wilderness type of facial expression with my kind, comedic empowered expression, and said, “Wow, what a beautiful bunch of children.” They laughed and one of them blurted out, “Wait..until you get to know us a little; you’ll change your mind.”  I then smiled, and glanced back-making eye contact with all of them.  My thought at that moment, that very instant, was to let them know that I acknowledged them, and respectfully identified them as unique individuals.  I wanted them to feel comfortable with me, so I sarcastically joked back.  

I introduced myself and told the kids that I would be hanging around for about nine weeks.  I was due to begin my assignment, in this class, the following week, so I wanted to take the mystery out of what I would be doing in their class.  I explained that a student teacher is just like they are-a student.  I told them, “The difference is that I am learning how to teach”.   They seemed glad to hear that I could relate in some form to them, in being a student.  

I quickly familiarized myself with the energy between the students and the teacher.  Then, I intuitively took a brief moment to understand the teacher’s emotional position.  She seemed exhausted, and had no tolerance for distractiveness, or the sounds that wriggly fifth graders can make.  The students appeared apprehensive about her as their teacher.  I felt concerned about the dynamics of the classroom, but I smiled politely as I contemplated how I would make learning fun for them, and keep them engaged.

It is important to be aware of the dynamics of a classroom, and the personal boundaries of each individual. I took note of some of the diversities of the student population, of the students who had special needs, as well as the students who spoke another language.  I realized that differentiating lessons may play an important role in this classroom experience.  I then communicated my intentions as a guest in their classroom, and briefly let them know that  positive thinking was key to learning about a subject.  

As a student teacher, it is vital to have a grasp on your position as a guest in someone elses classroom.  I kept in mind that I am a visitor, and should never overstep my supervising teacher’s teaching boundaries. Communication is the key, so my teacher and I had a brief chat to familiarize ourselves with one another. We quickly talked about our teaching strategies. Our conversation was short and light.  Through this preliminary meeting we were able to briefly exchange ideas, share methodologies and discuss classroom management in approaching teaching her students.  We even laughed a little, to smooth out any possibilities of rough edges.  From our chat, my supervising teacher gained the understanding that I am very tolerant, and even-keeled.  Together as teachers, I felt that we would create a good balance for teaching her students, but above all I knew that from her vast experience as a teacher, I could gather a lot of information about teaching. 

My introduction proved to be rewarding.  As a result, I changed my anxiety to anticipation for my term with my new students.  On the same note I put my new students, and my supervising teacher at ease, about me.  

My advice to new student teachers is to take the mystery and anxiety out of the student teaching assignment.  Preview the classroom-take a quick glance of how everything is positioned.  Meet the teacher and discuss ideas and expectations that you each have for each other.  Schedule a time to review the textbooks to be used, and lessons to be taught.  Most important, introduce yourself to the students. Communicate your intentions as a teacher, and prepare them for your visit, before you begin your assignment.  Keep in mind that you are a guest, so review your classroom etiquette as a student teacher, with your professors.  Your success as a student teacher begins with your introduction.

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April 19, 2010: Student Teaching – Learning the Ropes

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April 19, 2010: Student Teaching – Learning the Ropes

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Dealing with Dyslexia

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  A good friend of mine called me, from overseas. Desperately weeping, she said, “I don’t know what to do. I feel hopeless!” Her oldest son-of two boys- had given up, and had decided that he no longer wanted to attend school. Though extremely bright, her two sons had been performing proficiently low academically, in school.  Both of them had trouble reading, and if that wasn’t enough, passing an exam was nearly impossible.  They were suffering emotionally, and yet nobody around them could fathom the perplexity of their inability to make sense of what they read.

My good friend, aware of her sons’ academic difficulties, was beside herself. She had tried to find out more information about her children from the teachers.  She reached out to the school administrators for assistance, but received no support from either the teachers or the administrators. Instead, she was patronizingly told that her children had no learning issues, other than the fact that they were lazy troublemakers with behavior problems, and who lacked motivation. With feelings of bewilderment, she felt she had nobody she could console with.  Her boys, at that time were eleven and sixteen, were frustrated.  Their self-confidence was in ill repair, and they thought they were incapable of ever achieving academic success. 

At one point in time she was told about a center that tested children for learning disorders.  Delighted with the news she arranged to have her children tested.  The assessments at the center were costly, but for her it was worth the money, if she could find answers to help her boys.  Both of her children were diagnosed to have extreme dyslexia.

She felt an odd sense of relief and resolve with the outcome of the testing.  Excited, she took the results of tests to the school administrators. They threw them back at her and told her that the assessment results were not worthy of the paper that they had been printed on, and could not be accepted. She was stunned. There would be no accommodations for her boys, and no intervention to help them through their difficulty in learning at school.   

Now, her oldest son falters.  My friend was called to a meeting at his school.  “His teachers told me that he is useless, a failure, and a trouble-maker,” she uttered bitterly. My friend tried to explain to his teachers that her son is a good boy, who has a learning disability, and needs some accommodations in order to learn. Uncaring, his teachers told her that they were not psychologists trained to deal with the psychological learning problems of students, but in fact they said, “We are just teachers. If we were psychologists, then we would get paid more.” Apathetic and undiscerning, they turned their back on her.

Dejected, my friend left her parent/teacher conference with a heavy heart. Confused and anguished, her thoughts were on her child-she felt fearful for her son’s outcome. As she cried I tried to comfort her through her tears. I felt her agony, and maternal pain while she spoke, “My beautiful son.” So deeply worried, she began to blame herself. She told me that her son hates her now. I wanted to take my friend away from her space of consciousness and put my arm around her.  She needed to hear that it would all be okay, and that this would soon pass, but I know that this is just the surface of what may come to be. 

There are many parents around the world that have children who have some type of learning disability, and who may feel as my friend does-hopeless.
I say this: Unless education systems around the world unite, and develop an understanding about learning disabilities, children such as my friend’s son will be lost in the shuffle, left to wonder; and parents such as my friend will have feelings of despair.

School systems need to create positive intervention programs to help children with special needs. Our special needs students need to be brought to an emotional state of understanding that they are worthy, and capable of accomplishing goals and of becoming successful.

Teachers worldwide need to become educated in the areas of special education, in order to understand how to better teach, accommodate, and positively appeal to children with learning disabilities. Alternative approaches in teaching must be developed in order to help students with learning disabilities feel successful in school, as well as for their lives. We must keep in mind that the children of today represent our future on many levels.