Reflections of a New Teacher

These are my reflections beginning from my first few days as a student teacher and on...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Read Alouds, Math Assessments, and Hypochondriacs

I wish I could breathe out of my nose. That would be nice. Then I wouldn't have to walk around with my mouth hanging open half the time ;o) I'm sure it looks quite sophisticated.

I have been pleased to note that even since the first day of school my read alouds have been very good by my standards. Now, I don't claim to be a great read-aloud artist or even a good one... goodness knows that I've got a lot to refine with my "voices"... but I've improved so much that I'm extremely happy. I used to get really nervous, stutter a bit over my words, and my throat would get very dry. Now... none of that really. None of the adrenaline, no more stuttering, no more dry throat. I guess all of those bedtime stories I read to the kids that I nannied for really helped a lot :o) It may sound silly but read aloud skills are very important.

Much to the dismay of the kids, today marked a transition from much of the beginning of the year, back-to-school "fun" to more serious matters in math... assessment. For the past week the kids have been doing "free exploration" with their "math tools"... basically playing with their math manipulatives like the pattern blocks, buttons, geoboards, etc... which of course the kids love. In theory it gives them a chance to become familiar with them and kind of get their urge to build and play with them out of their systems. Take that from yesterday and fast forward to today... a full blown written math pre-assessment.

My cooperating teacher did a great job preparing the kids by leading a discussion to make it clear that we only wanted to know what they already knew and that even if they ended up leaving the entire thing blank that it would be okay... to think of it as seeing all of the cool things that they were going to be learning and to do their best to try them. Even then... some of the kids were just short of a panic attack. We spent most of the time reading questions to the kids (though we couldn't tell them what the words meant... that was hard) and reassuring them that there was no reason to be upset. My cooperating teacher says that it went better this year, though, since she talked to them first... last year there were tears. Oh, goodness... I'm torn. On one hand preassessments are a great way to see where your kids are, on the other hand they really stress them out. I don't know. I just hate to see kids developing anxiety so early... at all.

Speaking of kids in ill health, just about the entire primary population is "suffering" from every ailment imaginable, of course. Talk about testing boundaries. "My head hurts", "My tummy hurts", "I'm coughing", "My lip stings", "My eye stings", "I bumped my leg on my desk so now I'm going to limp around for an hour"... and the legit one, "I threw up". We had one student sent home yesterday because she threw up, but other than that it's been a constant battle of trying to keep from sending students to the health center over every little bump, scratch and ache. We did send one student who is new to the school this year to the health center today since we don't know much about her yet and she was coughing and crying. However, I'm a little disturbed at the fact that one of the parents of the students that did not complain to us said that someone in the office told her that her daughter had been in the health center a lot today. My cooperating teacher was busy at the time so I couldn't confirm with her to tell the parent, but I told her that I hadn't been aware of it. Well, turns out my cooperating teacher never sent her either... so either she'd been going there when she was supposed to be in the restroom or other playground monitors or paras had sent her when she was not under our supervison. It's something we'll have to address tomorrow. I don't get it.

On another note, I think I've decided that I'm going to do my teacher work sample in Math on Patterns... only bummer is that the unit is supposed to start on September 18th, which will be here very soon. That means that I've got a lot of work to do! The unit on the curriculum after this is too fluid to be a good work sample... each lesson picks up where the last one left off and is entirely based on where the kids are in their learning. This one is much more concrete and will be easier to write lesson plans for. The unit after that, geometry, would be easiest but it comes too late in the semester to be used for my math sample. So, patterns it is!

The only problem is that out of all of the units in the second grade math curriculum, this one has the least clearly-cut literature available... not in investigations or any of the other math books available to me. That's good though, I guess... will give me more experience at gathering resources I suppose. And what could be better than having a cooperating teacher and a doctoral candidate in elementary math to help me? I'm going to use these resources while I've got them ;o)

P.S. Our water pressure has been low all evening, but suddenly there is no water coming out of anything. Nada. Sinks are dry, toilet isn't filling, bath tub and showers are dry... so we're figuring that one out. Looks like another late night... and let's hope I can take a shower in the morning :o(


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