This past weekend, I volunteered in the cattery at the Greenhill Humane Society for the first time. I usually walk dogs, but it’s quite cold and rainy during the Winter here; I decided that I should take care of the cats for a few months. It was a very isolating experience, in a good way. There were a few middle-age cats (about 6 and 7 years old) who were sleeping in their own corners for my two hour shift. Some families came in sporadically and pet the cats, but mostly asked questions about why there were so few or where to find the kittens. At first, I was bored and antsy, but then I decided to make it a relaxing experience 🙂 I changed the radio station to one that I liked ha, and started browsing other blogs and Pinterest. I also ended up writing the post about music while on my shift. The cats seemed so peaceful – I would say hello to them every now and then with cuddles or food to make sure they knew someone was there for them.
Posting about this relates to getting through grad school to me because it involves finding your other passions and continuing to have fun with them in the limited amount of free time. On a student panel we had earlier this term, one of the now first-year teachers talked about how she quit musical theater once graduate school started and she was not truly herself without it. I have always loved animals and need them in my life in some way (not as my own pet, just yet!). Volunteering at the shelter lets me fulfill that love for cats and dogs as well as getting out into nature or gaining my own peace of mind. Remember to stick with the extra things you love in life, besides your future career goal!
A few weekends ago, my parents moved into their new house 🙂 I was there over Christmas break and helped them sort boxes into rooms. I also wanted to unpack my room so I could sort through some things and remember what I had there, ha! I re-discovered my book collection and it inspired me to start thinking about which ones I would read to my future students. I am trying to keep a note in my head, so I can grab some every few times I visit and re-read them. In the writing class last term, the teacher also touched on the importance of reading with expression and having different voices for each character. I am pretty good at expressiveness because of drama in high school, but putting on a voice is something I need to work on. I always think about it as I see dialogue coming up – for some reason, my normal voice comes out before I had a chance to alter my tone. I want to read Terry Pratchett’s “Wee Free Men” series to my students because it is so full of imagination and adventure. Also, my dad read these books to me before bed when I was little so they have a place in my heart.
Reading controversial books can be beneficial because it lets children know that the world isn’t full of happiness all the time and more dark genres could interest some of my students. I want to read a book about a dog and his owner, but the dog is part of a Pitbull fighting ring and it is pretty graphic. My instructors have said that if you get it approved by the principal and write a letter home to the parents, it should be okay to read in the classroom. It is a very good book! And has a great message about companionship and how relationships don’t always start easily. The chapters alternate from the person and the dog’s perspective so it would be great to teach children about how differing views affect situations. I’m looking forward to convincing my future principal and parents about this book, as well as re-reading some of my childhood books 🙂
On the first day I came to my winter placement, one boy particularly took a liking to me. He wanted my “help” multiple times during a work period, and came up to talk to me in between transitions. Remembering what my mother used to say about young boys when I was in upper elementary school (“boys show they like you through teasing”), I’m pretty sure he has a crush on me. I’ll let you evaluate as well.
Some of his actions include:
raising his hand then pretending he didn’t want anything when I reach his desk
saying he wants to share his name poem but that I can only know one part (he has multiple middle names) and I’ll have to come back when he thinks I’m ready
complaining that I’m still coming at the beginning of every day
putting up his fist for bumping but moving it around when I go for it so it’s difficult to do
I know it isn’t uncommon for young boys to have crushes on their female teachers, but I am used to the very young who usually have a similar attachment to me as they would for their mom. Fifth grade boys are different because puberty may be starting and they aren’t sure how to handle the feelings. This particular boy appears to be testing his boundaries with me and the idea of flirting. It will be interesting to see how he progresses/digresses as the term goes on and I take over as lead teacher for math and health.
Music is a primary mantra for keeping me sane while doing homework, or putting me in a positive mindset. I see the benefits of relaxing by listening to music and/or having a good sing-along 🙂 My favorite Pandora stations are Today’s Hits and Jack Johnson because the songs constantly perk me up. Many people can’t focus with songs they like on, but it helps me to start off an assignment by singing a good tune. If I have music on in the background, it is usually almost mute on volume (about 6 or 7), so I can hear it when my mind stops to think – but it isn’t the focus. Listening to songs is probably so influential for me because my dad has records or playlists on throughout the day and it subconsciously reminds me of good memories back home with family. Hearing a good beat and lyrics keeps my stress level down by filling my mind with the words and forcing me to hum it throughout my day. I hope music can help calm you down when you need it as well!
I want to be the kind of teacher who plays music in the background while students are writing or reading. It is a very calming experience and can help spark creativity. Since many schools do not have the funding to teach music, it is important for a regular elementary teacher to incorporate songs or instruments somewhere in their day.
I’m curious about what your favorite Pandora stations to listen to are! (Leave a comment below)
Like I have said in an earlier post, my CT uses Lucy Calkin’s writing curriculum and poetry is a huge part of it. Her class uses these books called Bare Books to write their poems in – they have blank covers and pages that can be decorated. So far, they have written about four poems as well as a table of contents, cover, dear reader page, and dedication. I showed a great interest in her poetry unit and she had an extra Bare Book, so she suggested that I do the poems alongside the students to start creating my own book for when I teach! I am very grateful that she did that for me 🙂 She is a wonderful mentor because she always makes sure that I fully understand what she does (like with assessing, grading, or scheduling). She shows me the websites and explains the necessary guidelines. I have written three of the four poems in my book (I think they did the first one during last term) and am proud of their turnout! She encourages the students to color the background after they outline the finished poem in pen, and I was surprised by how nice my drawings are. I don’t usually call myself very artistic, but I am gaining some confidence through this experience.
I am very glad that this winter placement is enriching my knowledge about poetry and how to be an effective teacher overall! Both of my field placement terms so far have been a success with the teacher I observe – they are great teachers who I learn(ed) from every day, and this master’s program is definitely beneficial and a great choice for me.
Yesterday, my teacher ended the class by reading us “The Animal School” and reciting the quote (both pasted below). The basis of the story is that the creatures decide to make a school, which needs a curriculum (running, swimming, climbing, and flying). The animals are judged on their success in all subjects. It describes the situations of the duck, squirrel, bear, and bee who are forced to look down upon themselves because they can’t achieve in all subjects. The bee and bear in particular are judged for their differences and called “not normal” or “lazy.” The Albert Einstein quote is pretty similar to the story because fish are good at swimming and cannot climb trees, but it doesn’t make them failures.
These made me think about how curriculum can force children to dislike learning because they must give up the thing they enjoy in order to work on the subjects in which they do not succeed. Teachers have difficulty in schools today not focusing on getting the grades up and “practice, practice, practice.” However, it is still important to reward children for the things they are good at and what makes them unique 🙂 This story also brought up stereotypes about different people’s cultures, like the bear who hibernates during winter being called lazy, because the principal didn’t understand that it was necessary for the bear to fully be himself. It is important for children to feel comfortable knowing that mistakes are okay and that they all have different talents. I want to tell this story near the beginning of the school year with my students to get them pondering about how special they are and not worry if they can’t be good at everything.
During our cohort meeting on Friday, we met with our supervisors and he started talking about coming to observe us next week – I was shocked that he wanted to see us so soon! We aren’t even part-time teaching until a few weeks after that…? Well, he is required to come see us four times this term, and was thinking about doing every other week (which meant that he would start pretty early). Mine is next Friday during math time. The students are working on fractions at the moment and I spoke to my teacher at the end of today about pulling some kids who are still struggling and working with them on the basics. I found an activity on Teacherspayteachers that involves students having a blank game board with which they color different numbers of squares with each color. They then have to decide what fraction of the 100 squares is red, green, blue, etc. I think it will really help the students understand how to reduce and be able to see the fractions in a more relatable space. Since they colored it themselves, it should click better than just looking at a written-out worksheet.
I can’t believe we are already being observed next week and having to part-time teach soon after that. It is scary because of the amount of work we have to put in on top of classes (lesson plans, assessments, finding fun materials that connect with the curriculum). I think I can handle the workload though. It is all about prioritizing and I am usually good at that, so it should be a bit less stressful. Hopefully, this experience is successful!
Last term, my CT in the second grade class incorporated this project related to the Flat Stanley books. Her highest reading groups created their own Flat Stanley using a body template and gluing a photograph of themselves as the face. The project is worldwide and my teacher had contacted other people who signed up online, so the students could choose out of the countries available and send their Flat Stanley. The people take pictures of themselves with the Flat Person and write letters about what they did/where they went. It seems like a very cool hands-on activity to connect a book they read in class to real-world events and other cultures.When I was searching recommended blogs to follow, I found one that had a “Traveling Teddy” project as its most recent post. It is pretty similar to the Flat Stanley, except with Teddy bears and they solely go to schools. The project is still new, but I really want to sign up when I get a job in the Spring (hopefully). It starts in August 2015, so I will have time to get on their list and tell my future class about it.
These projects are very innovative because they are connecting students to the rest of the world through tangible artifacts, like teddy bears or Flat Stanley people. When I was in Kindergarten, we had a class teddy bear with which students took home for the weekend and they captured the adventures with it (through pictures, a poster, or a story). It was a very fun way to get to know more about fellow classmates and what they like to do outside of school. The Traveling Teddies and Flat Stanley projects do a similar thing, but they are even more effective due to being international. I would love to integrate some of these (or ALL!) into my classroom; they build cultural awareness in a great way 🙂
This past weekend, my roommate and I went on a bit of a spree. Even though I am a poor college student without a job this term, I got some gift cards for Christmas and was determined to find professional clothes. I don’t wear them on a regular basis, so I want to stock up for teaching 🙂 I thought it would be kinda stressful if I didn’t find anything, but actually, it relaxed me! Splurging on yourself a little bit is a very nice way to reward all the hard work you do. There were so many options for blouses and cardigans/sweaters that I ended up with piles of stuff that I had to put back! After Christmas sales were still going on, so almost everything I bought was between $5-15 -> score! I discovered that one of my favorite stores (Rue21) has a wide selection of “teacher” outfits, which was a nice treat. I guess since I was never looking for professional attire, I didn’t realize the wide variety.
I also think it was a good de-stresser trip because I was helping myself get to my career goal as a teacher. Anything that relates to teaching is very thrilling to me now! I’m so glad that I can think of next year and getting a job through interviews (hopefully) in the Spring without having a slight panic attack :p I can imagine myself standing in front of students in the professional clothes I bought, and see the safari materials on walls inspiring the class. A big part of the year before you teach is being able to put yourself in a classroom in your mind to validate that this really is what you dream!
I know I said that this page was for my first year teaching, and I am not teaching yet; however, I thought that this post was very related to my future first year and I wanted to discuss my enjoyment in what had happened 🙂
I have been thinking about classroom supplies and what mine should look like recently – it’s very exciting! I started putting together a list on Amazon for wall decals, desk organizers, etc. There are so many items needed in a classroom that it is difficult to narrow down ideas. I was browsing to make sure I remembered the majority of classroom decorations and supplies that would be needed, and a Buzzfeed DIY (do it yourself) appeared. It was inspiring to see the cheap ways that teachers designed their room! Duct tape and modge-podge can make something dull look so much brighter and more creative 🙂 I bookmarked other pages about classrooms to make sure I can trigger my memory when setting up my own space. I can’t believe I have taken up such an interest in the future! I was very worried in the summer and into fall term, but now I am more giddy than full of nerves.
After talking with friends from the program, I realized that I didn’t have a theme for my classroom. Even though it isn’t necessary, it is still important to be aware of a color scheme or concept to organize the classroom space. I knew that I wanted to have animals involved because I love the beauty of the creatures, but I couldn’t decide on one animal as my favorite. Last night, I stayed up very late searching for animal-related classroom themes and I decided on… SAFARI! I am very thrilled 😀 I spent hours today finding safari-themed classroom supplies, and I can’t wait to have my own classroom to decorate! (The image below is of a wall decor that I found)