Intellectual Expression

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A Slow Down in the Classroom November 12, 2007

Filed under: ED 331 — canknight @ 4:10 am

I can breath a large sigh of relief.  I have completed my “required” teaching for GVSU and am now team teaching, or doing the lessons I find to be very interesting.  I turned in my Unit Plan and thought I was slightly ahead of the game, but this next week is still more packed than ever.

This past week I have taken the time to sit back and watch the class.  We are nearing the end of the trimester and it is interesting to see how the students have grown or stayed static.  I see changes in many and others I wonder how they are going to make it though (in a larger sense than just U.S. History).   I smile at many of the students who are working extra hard because they are getting down to two full weeks left.  I think of myself as a high schooler and often wonder, “Was I like that?”, and obviously my answer is no.  I know I was always on the ball:). 

Lately I have been putting myself back in their shoes and trying to think of what it was like to balance life as a young adult.  I now look at them and try to tell them they have it easy and they do not agree.  I tell them it wasn’t that long ago that I was in their position and they laugh because four (going on five) years is a long time to them.  I am so far removed in many of their minds.  I think it is because I am now on the “other side”.  Anyway, at times I do think we ask a ton out of these kids.  And that is what some of them are.  They are kids.  I find myself thinking about the girls on my basketball team that I have in class.  They are in school from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00.  I ask them to be ready to go for practice and on the court by 3:30.  Practice goes for 3 hours.  They get home by 6:30, eat till 7:00, take a shower, change, and have roughlty and hour of homework (or more for many of these girls).  It’s nine o’clock before they are done and they still have not gotten family or “me” time.  Where is their youth? 

For others not in a sport it may be work that takes up that extra time, and some have such hard family lives.  They spend a large chunk of their time going back and forth between mom and dad.  It is amazing when you think of how many things they are trying to balance as high schoolers.  I think we must all take a step back and take a look at what they are realing balancing in their lives. 

Just a sentimental week I guess. 


A Worthwhile Conference November 10, 2007

Filed under: ED 331 — canknight @ 11:49 pm

On Wednesday I was able to go with my CT to Lansing.  We attended the state History Conference on MSU’s campus.  I have went to conferences before and not really known how much I actually took away, but this was did not disappoint.  I was able to gain some great lessons and knowledge about the high school version of History Alive!, which is just coming out this year.

I did not know this program had not be established at the high school level until recently.  They just created the U.S. History set.  My CT is excited about this because our department is up for new textbooks in two years and she will now be able to get a set of these books to preview.  We talked with one of the distributors and they are setting everything up.  I think this is great because this is a textbook the students can really enjoy.  They need something that gets them to be interactive with their learning and this is just the thing.  I was able to get some pretty good samples from this demonstration.

My CT was not thrilled because all of the session times were messed up due to the opening lasting much longer than it was supposed to.  We did not get there early enough for the opening, so we were already out and in the first session, whose leader did not know there were people stuck in the opening.  Anyway, all of the sessions were then behind and we did not know what schedule to follow.  I thought this was not real convinient.   We did not stay through the last session because I had to get back to the school for practice, but it was a good day away from the classroom and gave a nice break in the middle of the week.


A Shorter Week November 4, 2007

Filed under: ED 331 — canknight @ 9:49 pm

Conferences couldn’t of come at a more perfect time.  I think the short week came at a perfect time.  For the students, they didn’t have to get up and come to school the day after Halloween.  This eliminated students who were overly tired from the night before, or the students who would still be buzzing from all of the sugar they consumed the night before.  For me, this gave a nice break.  There has not been one day off all year.  On Wednesday I will not be in school, my CT and I are going to the conference in East Lansing.  Other than that, there are only three weeks until Thanksgiving and then the end comes is in sight.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the school and what is going on, but I love love love Christmas. 

I thought I would get much more work accomplished on my days off, but obviously this didn’t work out as planned.  At conferences we had many parents (which is great) and I didn’t get the tests from Wednesday corrected.  I had to take these home over the weekend and they have taken a large chunk of my free time.  The students did not score as well as I had hope, and I wonder if it has to do with the fact that neither my CT or I were in the classroom when the test was given.  I would have liked to be there to give the students the time to ask last minute questions, but a sub was in the room.  My CT and I were looking at programs that tracked what students do well on tests and what questions are missed.  The programs were in use at Thorapple Kellogg and Hudsonville.  This was interesting and I am not sure if the school will be purchasing either of the programs.  I do believe they would be beneficial because with the new trimester system all students are supposed to be assessed with the same tests.  I would be nice for each teacher to see what objectives are being hit and where they are lacking.  It also will help show what type of teaching style the particular students are responding to.  I think I would like to know if I needed to lecture on a topic for the students to get the point, or if a hands on activity stressed points more sufficiently.  But, as I said, I am not sure if the school will be purchasing this system. 

Other than that, I am fired up for Monday because it is the first official day of Girls Basketball season!!! I am excited to see the students, well freshman anyway, in another arena besides the classroom.  It will be a learning year, being the first season of girls in the winter.  I think it will be interesting to see the attendance at boys vs. girls games.  My school is in the middle because the girls have always had a good crowd due to more success.  We will have to watch and see!


My First Conferences November 2, 2007

Filed under: ED 331 — canknight @ 4:59 pm

Not quite as much fun as the first day of school or anything, but overall my first conference experience on the other side of the table went well.  I actually thought it would be more difficult than it was, but my CT does a wonderful job with parents and the fact that she offered bonuse points for attending helped get many of the best students out.  Her philosophy is that the student should accompany the parent.  Who better to answer the questions like, “Why is his/her homework grade so low?”, than the student themselves.  As a teacher, you are not sure why and the student is the only one who can answer the question, so why not have them sitting right there.  Many parents seem to like this philosophy.  Why talk about the student, just talk to them.

I found this method of conferences to be very effective.  As I previously stated, my CT offered 20 bonus points to anyone who attended with a parent/guardian.  I wasn’t suprised to see the top students in the class jump at this opportunity.  I did think we would see more of the students who actually needed the easy points, but it was opposite.  We generally send a progress report home every week, so the parents should not be blindsided when they come in.  This progress report is supposed to be signed and returned as a homework grade.   If the parents are not signing them for whatever reason, the parents recieve a phone call after two weeks of not having them returned.  The parents who did know the students were doing well, I am sure it was easy for them to return.  I ones who are not so sure did not show us. 

 I was suprised at some of the responses of the parents.  In one class the best grade is a 95.  There was a student with a 93.9% in the class.  The parent of this student came in and was not happy.  She turned to the student and asked if this was acceptable to her.  The student didn’t know what to say.  The mother then asked, “Well, what can she do to improve this, extra credit or something?”  We had to tell her this was a great grade and we do not offer extra credit regularly.  This confrence would help her.  The mom just turned to the student and told her it was fine if she wanted to settle for this grade.

This was a great experience and I learned a ton about how to talk and communicate with parents.  I wouldn’t call it “telling them what they want to hear” but sometimes as I viewed these conferences I felt that was what was going on.  It was done to appease parents.  I am not questioning the validity of what my CT was saying.  I think she does great job, I just mean that underneath these students do not care about the grade on the paper and part of their problems are based on this.  This is the real struggle with many students and the parents do not always want to equate it to this.  It has to be someone else’s fault.


Choosing What’s Important October 28, 2007

Filed under: ED 331,Uncategorized — canknight @ 4:02 pm

The title of this entry is the main question I struggled with this week when try to put WWI into a week and a half.  This is the first time the time constraints are slightly binding because the test must fall on this coming Wednesday (HALLOWEEN!!!).  After Wednesday our students are recieving  four day weekend, due to parent teacher conferences, and I do not want them to come back and test the following week.  So, everything must be complete by then and there is so much to cover.

My CT is letting me run the show, and with this means I am picking out the main points of the topics and going with what I feel is important.  I like this freedom, but at time I feel inexperienced.  I am not exactly sure what it will take for the students to get the BIG picture.  I am having a difficult time deciding what to leave out.  As we talked about with textbook bias last Monday, our textbook does not cover any battles in WWI besides the ones Americans fought in.  This is upsetting because the war was going on for nearly three years before we joined it.  Obviously the book is not placing an importance on this time period.  So, in order for the students to get it they need to use other resources.  I have to give them these because our library and traveling computers are signed out for the next two months straight (this is anothe source of frustration).  I ended up cutting it down to the two major battles before the U.S. entered, but even now I do not know if that was the right answer.  Also, I am having a tough time fitting the geography into the work.  I tried to cover it with an annotated battle map, thinking I would kill two birds with one stone, but the students did not do well with this.  They were very vague on locations (if that is possible).  The whole geography in general is difficult to fit in, because on our wrap up day we should cover the League of Nations, Reparations, Wilson’s Fourteen Points, Post WWI Maps, Treaty of Versialles, and more.  It is just so much information to fit into a lesson. 

I guess these types of questions are answered with experience and as I continue in these semester and next, hopefully some of the kinks will be worked out.  It is amazing looking at a lesson plan you thought would go so well and take a certain amount (usually I am thinking of what can be done in case the lesson runs short ) of time and then after you are saying….”what the heck happened to the 72 minutes.”  I am working on understanding the motto, “Practice makes Perfect”, or at least semi-perfect.


So Much to Do, So Little Time October 27, 2007

Filed under: ED 331 — canknight @ 4:04 pm

I will use this blog to vent some of the feelings many of us Teacher Assistants are currently having.  I am loving my classroom.  I truly enjoy being at the school and feel like I have settled in well.  I have completed the teaching we are required to do, but am excited to continue.  The students are so much fun and I have developed closer relationships with many of them.  When I was in high school I enjoyed it when I saw my teachers at my extra-curricular events (sports, plays).  My problem with this semester is that the College of Ed. puts us in these schools and ask up to impress and do a good job, yet we have so many things to do that it becomes very difficult to get everything done in a quality manner (without staying up until 3 in the morning after I return from the students Regional Final soccer game). 

I am trying to write papers, complete lesson plans, do observations, get to games, make a classroom management plan, and get enough rest to be on top of my game in the classroom.  I am not even trying to work, which I know some of my fellow students are.  I do not like to fail, or not do the best quaility work possible, so I will get things done and they will be to the best of my ability.  The problem is, it has been at the cost of my health and stress level.  I am not sure that is a great thing to have happen to make a point about how busy we will be as teachers.  We are still college students and have to pay to live.  I don’t even care that I have no social life, but it is everything else.

Don’t get me wrong I feel some of the things we do for College of Ed are very relevant to the Teacher Assisting and our next semester.   I think we can all admit there are things which seem to be rather unnecessary.  I am glad we now have student representative to help with the planning and hopefully improve on what is happening.  I am really enjoying my experience in the classroom, but feel like I am being asked to be half at my placement and half at GVSU, which does not give off a great image at my school.

Besides my frustrations with that issue, the week has progressed well.  The students seem to be ready for a break, but they get a four day weekend next week, starting on Wednesday.  It is parent teacher conference week.  I think I am just as excited as the students.


A Great Debate October 20, 2007

Filed under: ED 331 — canknight @ 8:31 pm

I am lucky enought to say that I had a great ending to my first full week of teaching.  As I stated earlier, my topic for the week is Imperialism.  I have warmed up to the topic, on that I didn’t think would be much fun.  I thought it was one of those units I would want to whip through to get to the WWI.  Suprisingly enought it has went great mostly due to the culmination activity on Friday.  On Thursday we went and researched for a Pro/Anti-Imperialism debate.  I wasn’t sure about using a debate activity because the students in my U.S. History classes are majority sophomores and I didn’t know how well they would be able to stay on task and really create a solid argument. 

 I was pleased to find out I underestimated their ability to get passionate about a topic as bland as Imperialism.  They did a wonderful job with the debate.  I had students getting pretty fired up at each other (that was not the goal, but at least they were getting into the debate).  After a little bit of handholding by me at the beginning the students settled in and started adding detail and examples to their points.  I also made it worth enought points that every student felt as if they had to participate (they had to make a point to get any of their participation points).  I truly enjoyed watching them learn as they were completeing this activity.  I was able to sit on the side and let the students take control of the class and idealy I think this is what should happen (as long as a significant amount of learning is still occuring).  I had all I could do to not chime in and agree with points or sometimes elaborate on them.  I didn’t want to though, I wanted it to be theirs.  Also, there is a response paper they must turn in by Monday, but as I observed I was many students doing an excellent job taking notes.  This was their whole paper was basically wrote for them.  They have all the research they need and only need to fill in the holes.  It should be a great assignment to get some of the students back on track.

Overall, I was very pleased and I wanted to find out if the students felt the same way about the activity.  I allowed some time at the end for me to ask for some feedback.  The student feedback was also overwhelmingly positive.  They really enjoyed the activity no matter which team they were on.  They thought that this made the topic more real to them and they were able to use real life examples with Iraq to describe what they were trying to say (yes there were both positive and negative examples involving Iraq).  I thought the connections they mad took the conversation to a much deeper level and I wasn’t sure they were going to be able to go there with the debate.  The students did ask if they could have more than one day to research and prepare.  Many felt their arguments would have been even stronger had they known what to expect and known more about their topic.  I thought this was a good suggestion and if I use a debate again I will definatly take it into consideration.

I was very impressed with this activity and my students went above and beyond with this lesson.  I thought it was a great ending for them and the paper will really help them pull it all together.  I am looking forward to reading their responses.