Saturday, May 12, 2012

Classroom Management in Times of Senioritis

Can you help me, Mrs. Martin? This wasn't covered in
any of my education courses.

I currently teach two sections of English 4 (12th grade). Although both sections generally do their work, things have shifted since they came back from Spring Break. For the past 3 weeks or so, students have become more and more apathetic. They do not want to do their work and express wishes to simply "get by" with whatever minimum requirements will keep them afloat enough so they pass the class. Along with this Senioritis, classroom management has become more of a challenge. These students have been used to my CT's style of classroom management for the past year and I understand that I cannot come in with sudden, dramatic changes halfway through second semester. I have steered away from changing anything too much. Classroom management does prove difficult then, when students see me taking more of a lead role, trying to assert myself, while they are winding down and feel that they are done with high school. Chit chatting, cell phones, homework completion, even in-class work has all of a sudden become more a challenge.

I am thankful to have a CT who is understanding and is not afraid to admit that we are facing a challenge that is difficult to overcome. We have talked to the students, kept them updated on grades, increased the student's level of accountability; we are trying to help them get back on task but also explaining that their next step in life (college for most of the students there) will not have someone pushing your or helping you at all times. In a way, we want to show them the importance of self-reliance and the consequences of not being responsible but we don't want to allow them to flounder and face grave consequences (like not graduating) if they do not take responsibility.

Classroom management was definitely difficult this week. As I plan for next week, I can only hope to continue trying and working with my classes and CT so that the next few weeks of our students' high school careers are enjoyable but also productive.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My Digital Reflection Project

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I Fear Mediocrity 

-Adjective: Of only moderate quality; not very good

As I was surfing the web, I came across an interesting article titled Confessions of a Mediocre Teacher. It was written in 2009 and published in the community site for educators known as Faculty Shack. The site, although I have not had much time to explore fully, seems to be an area for educators to freely share tips, advice, memories, ideas, etc. through blog posts.

The reason for why the article struck me is because the author admitted to being a mediocre teacher. He went through the reasons for why he felt like a mediocre teacher:

 Ever since I started teaching, I had never had a "good year." You know one of those years that in early April or May, you start feeling good about your students. You covered most of what you set out to teach. Your discipline went well, generally, with only a few detentions, a couple of parent conferences and a few of screams across the room. The kids seemed to cooperate, but most of all, the students learned a few things. Three or four of them, during the spring, tell you of a thing or two they read in the paper, on the Internet or saw on t.v. that reminded them of that story they read in October, or that essay they wrote in November in your class. When students can remember stories they read months ago, essays they wrote in your class and connect them to real world events and want to talk about them with you, then you can bet some good teaching went on in your room.

Well, actually, I wouldn't know all this stuff because I never had one of those years. I don't mean to oversimplify anything, so let me explain a bit.
The author, who posts as Ernest, is very candid and honest in his reflection. He writes about the different kinds of teachers we can find in schools and how he knew that his students we not learning in his class. I admire the honesty in his writing and the thought-provoking questions that he has challenged me with as I read the article. I know that right now, I am looking forward to finding a steady teaching job. I have the drive and determination to try to become a great high school teacher. I want to put in the time necessary to work with my students, to look out for their needs, to be a successful teacher for them. However, there are times when I come home from a day of student teaching and decide to not grade the assignments I brought home, to wait off on planning for the next lesson, to look into finding resources later, etc. I sometimes come home after a difficult day and begin to doubt my career choice. Granted, I am only a student teacher. Everything that I am experiencing right now is a new experience, a new opportunity prepares me for the future. With the new experiences come stress, bad lesson plans, great lesson plans, trouble with students and incredible successes too. Reading Ernest's article reminds me of the need to remain active and engaging. I do not want to feel like a mediocre teacher who does only what she needs to do in order to get by. Instead, I really do want to focus on my students. I want my students to remember previous work, to look back to my class and think of significant assignements and good rewarding memories! So, whenever I feel myself falling into a rut (or contemplating of taking the "easy way out" and not planning for my lessons), I will remind myself of Erenest and his honest commentary on what it feels like to be a mediocre teacher.

Friday, May 4, 2012

My Pinterest Adventures

I signed up for Pinterest at the beginning of the semester. To be honest, I was not very interested in the site and saw it mainly as another task to take care of and occasionally visit. After downloading the "Pin It" button to my browser, however, the convenience of pinning became too hard to resist.  I now use it almost every day to pin sites and pictures or to simply browse what the pinners I follow have updated their boards with.

The Wonderful World of Pinterest
 As it stands right now, my Pinterest is still growing. I have used it mainly for interesting sites, pictures and articles that I come across and think I would like to revisit at some point. My Pinterest board currently has four boards: Urban Legends/Folklore,  Miscellaneous, Books, and Teacher Stuff. I have a mixture of funny pins, serious articles, interesting pictures, etc. all on my profile.

One of the reasons I like the site is that it is simple to link up with my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I can share pins with people on both social networking sites easily and almost instantly. Although I am using Pinterest for my own interests and purposes, I can definitely see myself using it as a kind of bookmarking site for a future classroom. I would like to have boards dedicated to grammar, writing, reading, and perhaps interesting films or video clips. Since using Pinterest, I have seen how many resources are available to pin, how many humorous sites overlap with school topics, etc. Another convenient aspect of the site is that you can follow Pinners or follow a  Pinner's specific board. I currently follow the education boards of pinners who post materials and sites that are relevant to my subject matter. They show up in my feed and are easy to repin and share on other social networking sites. I find this to be an easy to way to expand and network, connecting with other educators through social media.

In fact, check out this infographic: Apparently, Pinterest is rapidly growing!

Reflection on April 30th's Twitter #ELLCHAT

I participated in my first #ELLCHAT on Twitter this week. I initially planned on just watching how people interact, how they comment on certain topics, and how conversation flows. As soon as I started to read, however, I jumped into the conversation. The major part of the chat focused on helping English Learners think critically and achieve Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS, as the Twitter participants called them). 

One of the pros of the #ELLCHAT is that it serves as an opportunity to interact with people I would usually have no contact with. The participants come from all over the United States and teach different areas and grades. They have different points of view and experiences but all come together for an hour or so to discuss certain topics simultaneously. In other words, it really is an opportunity to network and see what other educators are doing!

This chat was easy to keep up with and I took an active role. I asked about strategies to keep English Learners engaged, especially in the higher grades. I currently teach two English courses with Seniors, who are suffering from a severe case of Senioritis. Getting them to work can be difficult at times, and motivating English Learners sometimes takes an extra effort. Although the participants in the EL chat gave some good suggestions, I felt that many of the suggestions were a bit generalized or theoretical. I did like the links to outside sources and materials that they suggested. I also tried to provide links and materials to other participants when they asked questions or asked for suggestions.

As a student teacher, I found it fascinating to interact with experts on the field who have released books are are leads in their particular districts. I look forward to participating in my next chat and seeing who I meet and follow on Twitter. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Quizlet for ELD Vocabulary

Oh, the beauty of flashcards.

I have been an avid flashcard maker and user for years now. I used flashcards to learn my multiplication tables, countless vocabulary words for language classes, review for my high school AP tests, practice for the English CSETS, memorize concepts for difficult math and science classes, the list is endless. 

Throughout the years, however, I found that flashcards are bulky and a hassle to carry around. I made the switch to digital flashcards about 1.5 years ago when I discovered Quizlet. It's amazingly easy to use and adds more bonuses to a study session: spelling activities, mini tests, and games. Although these features have not been fleshed out yet, they are very helpful when studying new concepts or vocabulary. 

I have decided to begin using Quizlet for my ELD 1 & 2 class. Part of the reason for why I decided to go with Quizlet is because the students have computers at home and would much rather prefer doing things electronically (hopefully this will get them to study!). Also, Quizlet has a feature in which you can hear the words and the definitions, which will help my students with pronunciation of the words. I just found out that Quizlet also has an app for smartphones, which means the students can even access it on their phones. I will continue blogging on the progress as my students begin to use it. For now, all I can say is that I look forward to seeing how it works out for them!

Check out Quizlet and some of the features for teachers by visiting:

I Don't Know How to Use Power Point But I'll Figure It Out

I am currently teaching ELD 1 & 2. Since we just finished reading The Skirt by Gary Soto, I asked the students to create a cultural presentation to share. The assignment required the students to create a Power Point presentation using net books that show us their presentations.

 I expected the students to all know how to utilize Power Point, since it is such a common tool to use. I was wrong. I had about one or two students who were not familiar with the technology at all. I prepared myself to teach them the ins and outs of Power Point but found that they weren't interested in my tutorials. They only wanted to know the basic parts and decided to explore it on their own, using their classmates as resources. 

Upon thinking about it, I realized that these students are part of a generation that does not read manuals. They do not sit through tedious lectures and ignore long texts (they are the tl;dr generation). They preferred to simply jump in there and figure out the technology on their own. They are used to seeing their teachers use Power Point, so all they needed to do was explore the tool and figure out how to manipulate the design, add pictures, etc. I was surprised and pleased with the final results. We had presentations on Mother's Day, Independence Day in Eritrea (country in the horn of Africa), Valentine's Day, Quinceaneras, Birthdays, New Years, The Virgin of Guadalupe, etc. They showed me just how much different it is to be a digital resident instead of a digital visitor!