Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Unaccounted for Child

I just got off of work from the after school program which I am a teacher for. I had just finished playing a card game with one of the kids. I was just about to grab my backpack and head home. Right before I reach for my backpack, one of my coworkers stops me. She says that one of the parents couldn't find their son. I wasn't sure where to look to be honest.

The only place that the child could have been in is the lower yard which is where all the lower grade students play. This student is in kindergarten. That is a lower grade. I know that he knows not to go to the upper yard. Yesterday, he asked me if he could play hockey as I was rolling the equipment over to the upper yard. I told him that it was for the kids in the upper yard. Immediately, he looked around for something else to do in the lower yard.

Anyway, 3 or 4 of us did a ten minute search for him to no avail. Finally, the parent finds out where his son is. I assume that he made a phone call. Apparently, he has someone else who is authorized to sign his son out and take him. And, that person that he authorized took him to some off campus after school class. However, for whatever reason, the person that was supposed to sign him out didn't do so. So, everyone was temporarily clueless as to where he was.

Anyway, the moral of this story is dedicated to dedicated some of the rule breakers out there. Some rules have a good reason for their implementation. So, don't be thoughtlessly negligent by ignoring their existence. In this case, the purpose of having a sign out sheet is to make sure that some seemingly random adult doesn't snatch your child.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Informational Interview with Principal Meyer

Since my first term in Fall 2010, Peter, my main supervisor for CalState Teach has been encouraging me to talk to a principal. Essentially, he's been encouraging me to ask a principal what it would take me to get hired. I don't really procrastinate, but that was one of the things which I have been procrastinating on until last week.

I asked the principal at Chabot Elementary, "What qualities do you look for in a teacher that you will hire?" I cannot tell you what he said verbatim since I didn't record the conversation, but I can give you a gist of what he said. He said that he looks for a teacher with "with-it-ness." By the examples that he gave me, when he says "with-it-ness," he means that he prefers a teacher that has his or her class on lockdown as far as behavior management goes and is fast and efficient with respect to instruction.

As far as behavior management goes, he expressed that a teacher has a system in place to get students to behave how the teacher desires that they behave. An example he gave, which one of my former mentors did was to give table points. I'll give you an even more specific example. Let's say that the class is supposed to be silent reading for 30 minutes. Those tables which are silent reading when they are supposed to will receive table points. Once all six tables of four gets 100 points, they would get a pizza party after a few months. Silent reading is one opportunity to receive table points, but there are others as well. 

I recall that with respect to instruction, he expressed that more time than is necessary to give students recognition is not done. Also, when students answer, some of them ramble. So, being able to conclude that quickly so that they don't cause the class to drag behind the scheduled lesson is something he expressed with respect to being fast and efficient in implementing instruction.

That's what I can remember. Hopefully, some of that was of use to someone.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Persuading a Stubborn Student

Couple days back, Ashleigh, my co-worker at Adventure Time, told me to get a particular student from the play structure and back to the portable because he needed to change his clothes. She didn't explain why he needed to change his clothes. I just cooperated with her request, but I was still kind of wondering as I exited the portable. "Did he pee in his pants? Did he simply get them dirty? Why does he need to change his clothes?"

So, I get to the play structure. Both him and his sister are sitting on the bench directly behind the play structure. He is in kindergarten and his sister is in 2nd grade. He was whimpering a bit and his sister was comforting him. I told him that he needed to come inside to change his clothes. He had an aversive response to that request. I asked his sister what happened to his clothes. Apparently, he dropped soup on his pants, so his pants were soaked in it. I'm guessing that him changing his clothes was just a part of company policy, so I tried to abide by it.

At first, I was just asking him to come inside to change his clothes. I asked him a couple times and both times, his response was unwaveringly aversive. He did not want to come inside to change his clothes. So, I stop requesting that he come inside the portable to change his clothes. Instead, I start ordering him to come inside to change his clothes. Still no good. He wouldn't budge. I asked him why he didn't want to change his clothes. He said its because he doesn't want to wear someone else's clothes since that's what we would have had him do.

I asked Krista, another one of my co-workers, for advice. She said that Marcus (again, another co-worker) would just lift students up and take them where he needs to if they would not cooperate. I didn't want to do that because I was hoping that I could get this kindergartner to go to the portable through his own will. I told Ashleigh that he was being stubborn and he wouldn't come inside. She replied, "Well, regardless, he needs to be inside." That gave me an idea.

I went back outside to the kindergartner. This time, I didn't say anything about him changing his clothes. This time, I just told him that I'd like him to come into the portable. He had no problem with that request. As we walked to the portable, he asked, "Am I going to change my clothes?" I replied, "Nope. We'll just be in the portable for a bit." And actually, he ended up not getting his clothes changed. Don't ask me why. They could have forgotten or him simply remaining in the portable while he wore soiled clothes complied with company policy. I don't know.

Anyway, this is the bottom line that I extract from this story. If you cannot get a student to do exactly what it is that you want them to do, then request that they perform that action which is closest to exactly what you want them to do. In my case, I couldn't persuade the kindergartner to come inside to the portable to change his clothes, but I could persuade him to come inside the portable.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Talking to a Student on his Use of Sexual Vocabulary

Ok so, you may have read that there is a (3rd grade) student in my class who has been prematurely exposed to certain shows and videogames. Well, he's showing it off more in his vocabulary and his actions. For example, he use to play "Naruto" with his friends, but they would actually attempt to make contact. In the past, he would pretend to charge at one of his friends and thrust his palm at their stomach. I shut that down. He was pretty obedient in listening to my request to not play fight (which is already pretty close to real fighting).

He's also been escalating his use of sexual vocabulary (e.g. penis, anus, pussy, vagina, boobs, and there's probably more, but I can't remember it all...). That is, he'll make jokes involving sexual vocabulary. I assume that it's because the shows he watches make jokes using sexual vocabulary (i.e. Southpark and Family Guy).

Today, during a read aloud, I tried to catch him off guard. Right in the middle of when he was following along with Mr. Agajan, I whispered to him, "Hey... Can I talk to you for a sec?" I think he really didn't expect me to pull him aside during read aloud. I had to ask him two or three times before he came with me. "Student X... I need to talk with you right now. Come with me." Finally, he follows me outside. Right as soon as we step outside the door, he starts asking questions. "Where are we going? Did I do something wrong?" To that, I replied, "Relax. We're just going around the corner." We each sat in a chair in front of the entrance to the office. There wasn't much foot traffic since our talk was during the middle of everyone else's class time.

This is basically what I said: "So, Student X, you've been using some language which is inappropriate. And, I'm pretty sure that you're getting it from the TV shows that you watch." He smirked a little and nodded. "Well, Student X, I need you to not use that vocabulary at school. I'll tell you why. I know that when you use that vocabulary, you're joking around. Also, I know that your friends usually know that you're joking. But, other people that hear that vocabulary might get offended. And, you don't know who you will bother or offend by using that vocabulary. Whoever hears you use that vocabulary might tell their parents. Then, their parents will want to talk to your parents. And then, you'll get in trouble with your parents. Do you understand?" He looked at me more seriously and nodded. "Ok so, don't use that vocabulary at school anymore, ok?" He says  "Ok." As we're walking back to class, he asks, "Are you gonna tell my parents?" I reply, "If you don't use that vocabulary anymore, then I won't tell your parents." The implication is that if he uses any sexual vocabulary again, then I must tell his parents.

I'm on pretty good terms with this student. He likes me a lot. So, I expect that he will listen to my request. Unfortunately, like many students, in a particular respect, he is kind of like a little scientist. That is, he likes to test limits. I said that I don't want him to use sexual vocabulary anymore. I didn't say anything about not acting out sexual vocabulary. So, during math, he is solving problem with coins. He starts holding a quarter over his shirt with each of his index fingers, one on each his right and left nipples, and starts dancing in front of me. In retrospect, I took that as a direct challenge to me. Immediately, I told him to stop fooling around and get back to the math problems at hand. We'll see how long it takes until I need to talk with him.

By the way, one final note. I wish that when I talked with him, I emphasized that if his friends start copying him and using the same sexual vocabulary at home, their parents might also talk to his parents. Anyway, we'll have to see if any further intervention is required. For some reason, I'm expecting that this isn't over yet. We'll see how much more I need to do, if anything. It all depends on how he will behave in the future with respect to this issue.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Literally, a Picture into a Student's Mind

I care about what my students think about me. I've been made aware that I have a bad habit. My bad habit is that when I'm trying to get students' attention or some students are having their own conversation in the middle of the lesson, I sigh. That is, if distractions and acquiring attention escalates high enough, then I will sigh. I don't really get pissed, but I will admit to sighing. I was neglecting that I sigh as a way of expressing my disapproval and at least one student has been observing it. So, she drew a picture, handed it to me, went back to her seat, stared at me, and giggled. Here's her drawing (you can click on it to enlarge it):

When she was giggling at the picture, it kind of hit me where it hurts. She observed a weakness. For me, that drawing and her laughter just kind of rubbed it in. My first thought was that I was annoyed. I wanted to crumple up her drawing and throw it away. Of course, I didn't do that. While Mr. Agajan had control of the class, I was just thinking to myself for a bit. I wanted to know why she wrote it. Right before it was time to go to recess, I asked her if I could talk to her one on one. At first, she seemed really averse to talking with me. She started pouting right after I asked her if I could talk to her privately about her drawing. I simply asked her, "Can you tell my why you drew this?" At first she was silent and wouldn't tell me anything. So then, I followed up, "I care about how all of you see me. If this is really how I look, then I want to change it." Finally, confirmed my suspicion for the reason behind the drawing. So, I followed up again, "When do you see me sigh?" She replied, "You sigh sometimes when you're teaching your lesson." Finally, I said, "Ok. Well, thanks for telling me. I'm gonna try to change that, ok?"

I thought I was pretty patient, but I think I need to raise the threshold of my patience. At the very least, I need to make it less obvious that my patience is being tested. I need to not sigh. Hmmm.... At the same time, I think I might have developed the misconception that if I show my disapproval, they will care. Whatever. In any case, I have nothing to gain from merely appearing bothered. That's undeniable.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saving Money on Field Trips

On November 17th, prior to the Thanksgiving break and my academic drama, I went with Mr. Agajan and the 3rd graders to the Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS). There were a lot of issues prior to actually going on the trip. All of the issues pertained to getting to the LHS. The reason why there were issues with getting to the LHS is because either not many parents were volunteering or the parents that were volunteering were putting conditions on their offer of transportation.

At first, I think Mr. Agajan had about 3 out of 22 parents that were volunteering transportation. This enabled about half the class to go to the LHS. An additional parent that was offering a ride could take students to the LHS, but she would leave with her child early. I'm can't remember why. In the end, Mr. Agajan was able to get enough parents to volunteer because one of the students' parents was very proactive in sending emails to all of the parents and letting them know about the consequence of not having enough volunteer drivers (i.e. not going to the LHS).

In the middle of these issues, I was wondering why they didn't just call for a school bus. It is either because they did not have the budget for it or they're trying to save money by not calling for the bus. I doubt that it's the former since Chabot Elementary's API was pretty high last year (i.e. somewhere in the 980s I believe. If not, at least in the 900s). I presume that they receive federal education grants for achieving a high API score.

Either way, the school saves money by having the parents volunteer to be drivers. I'm not a school accountant, but I'm guessing that when a school pays for a school bus, they're paying for the gas, mileage, bus driver, the bus itself, and insurance. Whereas, when the parents volunteer to be a driver, they are covering all of those costs. So financially, I can imagine how volunteer drivers would be appealing. But then, the risk that the field trip will be cancelled becomes possible. Whereas, I presume that that possibility is much less likely when a bus and driver is paid for.

Hmmm... is the risk worth it? It's hard for me to say since I have no context such as the school's total budget, all of its allocations, and the cost of a bus and driver.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Academic Drama: CalTPA 2

Ok so, I've been away from my blog for a couple weeks for a couple reasons. #1 I was occupied with enjoying my Thanksgiving break. That's 1 week. #2 I was preoccupied with revising my CalTPA for the 2nd and 3rd time. I just submitted it yesterday.

For those of you who are not familiar, anyone in a credential program in California must complete four CalTPAs. That is, they are state mandated assessments. CalTPA stands for California Teaching Performance Assessment. Each CalTPA has a different focus: #1 "Subject Specific Pedagogy," #2 "Designing Instruction," #3 "Assessing Learning," and #4 "Culminating Teaching Experience." I was working on #2. #1 & #2 consisted of a series of questions which needed to be responded to with justified answers as opposed to multiple choice, fill in the blank, and so on.  
Now, this is why I am referring to the CalTPA 2 as academic drama for me. For the 1st and 2nd CalTPAs, my credential program allows me to resubmit them if they are not satisfactory. I had to resubmit the 1st. I did that in my 2nd semester. I'm in my 3rd semester now. I had to resubmit the 2nd one as well. My credential program does not allow anyone an infinite number of resubmissions. Makes sense. After the 4th total submission, they suspend you from the credential program and you cannot continue with the next term until you complete it successfully. Successful means scoring a 3 or higher. 1, 2, 3, and 4 are the possible scores. On top of that, I wouldn't have been allowed to submit my CalTPA 2 until February. Essentially, I would've been set back a year if I didn't get a satisfactory score on the CalTPA 2. That would've pissed me off. I have goals to pursue!

Anyway, to make a long story short, this last week, I spent most of my available time trying to score a 3 on my 2nd CalTPA. I succeeded. Thank you, thank you, thank you.... because I don't like getting angry.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Utility of a California Standardized Test

In general, I don't like multiple choice tests simply because when an answer is bubbled in, a guess is indistinguishable from what a student actually knows. That's a brief explanation of why I think that there is a sense in which multiple choice tests such as the California Standardized Test (CST) are fundamentally unreliable. HOWEVER, last week, my mentor, Mr. Agajan showed me something that I found helpful with respect to the CSTs.

Mr. Agajan showed me how the students' scores were displayed. In the first column on the left of the sheet, all of the students names were listed. In the same column, immediately to the right of their name in parentheses was the percentage score that each respective student received. Again, immediately to the right of the percentage score was one of four labels: "Approaching," "Below," "Above," or "Benchmark." Each of those labels is relative to scoring at grade level. If a student is "approaching," that student is close to reaching a score that is at grade level. If a student is "below," that student is significantly below scoring at grade level. If a student is labeled "benchmark," that student scored at or a little above grade level. Finally, if student is "above," that student is significantly above a grade level score. Unfortunately, I can't be specific in terms of what % is equivalent to each "approaching," "below," "above," or "benchmarking." I'll ask about that when I see Mr. Agajan tomorrow. Anyway, having those labels are interesting just for the sake of being able to identify whether a student scored at grade level or not. For my case, I would care most about whether a student is labeled as "benchmark" or not.

That wasn't what I thought was the most interesting aspect of how the results were displayed. I believe that after the name column, there were 8 or 9 other columns. I was looking at the results for an English CST. For each column, there was a California standard. Underneath each standard would be the questions from the CST that correspond to that standard. For example, one standard might read as follows: "2.5 Identify the main idea of a paragraph." Underneath that standard, it would simply read something like "21, 22, 23." Then, in the next column, it would read "1.5 Identify the synonyms of a word" and underneath that standard would be the numbers "15, 16, 17." I think you get the idea.

Below each column, it would say how many of the questions each student scored correctly under each standard. I think that's cool because if several students score low in one particular column, then you know pretty quickly what needs to be retaught. And, you can't reteach everything. So, having results displayed in that way saves you time in deciding what to reteach.

Now, if only I could be convinced that multiple choice tests are a reliable mode of assessment.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Intervening in a Student's Use of Home Time

In Mr. Agajan's class, I get along pretty much with all of the students. In this post, I will refer to two particular students that I get along with on a specific level. The reason why I get along with them is because all three of us are gamers :-X. I hardly play much anymore. Perhaps, I play like half an hour to an hour a week. But, I played a lot more when I was there age. Which, to be honest, might have been relevant to why I was kind of violent and got into a lot of fights when I was in elementary school.

Anyway, I disapprove of a couple of both of their hobbies. My disapproval pertains to the kind of videogames that they play and the kind of shows that they're watching. I think I've established a good rapport with them. They both feel pretty free about telling me all of their hobbies. For their videogames, they're playing Mortal Kombat on SNES. If you don't know what it is, it's probably one of the bloodiest games you can play on SNES. I mean like, ripping arms, legs, heads, removing bodily organs bloody. If you have the stomach for it, here's an example:

As for the shows that they're watching, they're watching shows like South Park and Family Guy. Both of those shows are recommended for viewers who are at least the age of 18. These students are each the age of 9. Most likely, they've already had exposure to a lot of sexual humor and gore. Here are a couple examples: Southpark:, Family Guy:

So, why are their hobbies any of my or Mr. Agajan's business? It's our business because they are still impressionable. That is, they are still at the age at which they will copy whatever they see. So, if they see Cartman get kicked in the balls or whatever and they think it's funny, they may assume that kicking someone in the balls at school is funny. If they think that uppercutting someone in the face so that they fly 10 feet high is cool because they saw it in Mortal Kombat, they might assume that it would be cool if they could do that stuff in real life.

That's why I feel a need to get into their business. We haven't acted on it yet, but we will soon. I'm surprised that the parents are allowing them to play these games are watch these shows. For the games part of it, they play these games together. I know from experience that they aren't clever enough as far as being sneaky goes. So, that means that at least one of their parents is knowingly allowing them to play these games. As far as the shows go, at the very least, the shows that they are watching are not being monitored. I'm not sure whether both students watch these shows. But, I know that at least one of them does. 

Anyway, we'll see how our attempt to intervene will play out.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Deciding How to Proceed with the Next Lesson

At 8 am this morning, I took a 5 minute break from my before school job. I used those 5 minutes talking to my mentor, Mr. Agajan. I wanted to figure out what he wanted me to teach to his 3rd graders this coming Wednesday. With respect to Language Arts, they will be learning about words containing 'er' or 'or' sounds. Since it simply contains those sounds, those sounds are not necessarily at the end of each word.

Mr. Agajan attempts to give me some control in deciding how the lesson should proceed. He doesn't try to force a framework on me. Rather, he gives me choices to choose from. In the case of this lesson, the words that the 3rd graders will write down are written in cursive. Reading cursive is difficult for many of them. So, he gives me the option of having them rewrite the words to regular font in class or as homework. I find it interesting that he gives me the option because it makes me wonder whether he is merely testing me. Anyway, it is in this particular regard that I want to address how I will proceed.

I am leaning towards having them rewrite the cursive words to regular font as homework. There are a couple reasons why I am leaning towards that. #1 The time that Agajan's 3rd graders spend on rewriting the words to regular font at home is time that does not need to be spent doing that in class during the lesson. Necessarily, there will be more time available for the lesson. #2 If Agajan's 3rd graders have difficulty in rewriting the words written in cursive to a regular font, essentially, I have a fleet of student aides (i.e. the parents [at least, I hope and assume that that is the case]). If I don't utilize their parents, the worst case scenario is that no student is able to read words that are written in cursive font. That would leave me in a crippled condition. Because I would have to spend more effort and time in correcting the rewriting of the words rather than their understanding of the presence of the er and or sounds in those words that they are trying to convert.

So, in setting up the next lesson, I will have them rewrite the words from cursive to regular font for homework for the reasons just explained. Let's see if it really makes as big a difference as I expect.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gradually Abandoning my Shyness Through Teaching

There is a significant way in which studying to become a teacher is affecting my character. And, I've been trying really hard to let it affect my character in certain ways. Why? Because it is my belief that in every profession, if it is done well, there are characteristics that are good both in and outside of the job. Also, as much as I can manage it, I don't want to be one kind of person on the job and another kind of person off the job. So, I'm trying to take whatever characteristic(s) contribute to the ideal teacher and adapt it(them) more generally.

For example, one characteristic that I think contributes to the ideal teacher is to be assertive. In particular, if a student is behaving inappropriately (e.g. blurting out in class rather than raising their hand and waiting to be called on), then in one way or another, that behavior needs to be neutralized. Otherwise, they may assume that it is acceptable to do so or even worse, someone else will mimic that individual because they also take that behavior to be acceptable. In which case, you will have students trampling on what would have otherwise been an orderly way to organize a classroom discussion.

Now, this is an example of how I have been applying my assertiveness to a degree off the job. I was next in line in a Walgreens. I think I was just buying some bread. This kid was at the front counter. I would guess that he was in 8th grade. Between me and him there was roughly a 1.5 adult person gap. Customers were constantly walking back and forth through this gap. This kid had a skateboard on the floor and it was lying vertically through this gap. That was pissing me off because people were walking through and someone could trip over his board. I think one person almost did. So finally, he reached the limit of my nerves. I spoke loudly and directly at him, "Your board is in the way! Move it!" He slowly cocks his head around to me. He rolls his skateboard back so that the gap is mostly clear. To that I simply reply, "Thanks." With half a frown and somewhat lowered eyebrows, he mutters, "Welcome...."

I was pretty proud of myself for my reaction. I don't like it when anyone is taken advantage of or not considered (with respect to when someone acts in a way that can affect them). So, if I can influence someone's behavior such that they do neither of those things, you can imagine that it makes me feel pretty good about my efficacy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Prepping the Class for the Camera

Wednesday of next week, I need to record a video of myself teaching a lesson to Mr. Agajan's 3rd grade class. I need to record this video because my credential program, CalState Teach is requiring me to do so for my current module. Mr. Agajan gave me a good idea for getting the class ready for it.

Apparently, last year, he had another student teacher who had to do the same thing. The problem that that student teacher had was that the class was too fascinated with the camera. The result of that was that they were not behaving as they would if there were no camera. Mr. Agajan's suggestion was that for a few days prior to the actual video recording, just let the camera run. He said that most likely it will be a distraction for them because they will be curious about it. He's fine with that if it will allow my actual recording to be closer to their natural behavior.

My own guess is that they have some idea of what it's like to be on TV and perhaps they are familiar with the idea that whoever is on TV gets a lot of attention. They are still kids and I assume that they love attention. So, I'm guessing that they will want to get that out of their system by being led to believe that they are in the spotlight for some period of time. However, eventually, that experience will become boring or outlived. Running the camera three days prior to the actual recording might not get all the desire for attention out of their system. But, I presume that it will definitely satisfy some of that desire. In which case, they will have less of a desire to behave unnaturally when it actually comes time to do the real recording.

So, there you go. A helpful tip courtesy of my mentor, Mr. Agajan.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Unavoidability of Celebrating Everyone's Success

On Friday of last week, in the after school program, I led an art project. The art project was to make egg carton spiders. An egg carton spider has the bottom of a single egg compartment and has 4 pipe cleaners that are cut in half to form its 8 legs. They can be glued or taped to cut out egg compartment. This is an example of what it looks like:

I'm trying to recognize interesting ideas that the students come up with. I'm trying to do that so that I can support them. However, in some cases, I am particularly surprised with an idea that a student has. For example, one of the students that I was making the egg carton spider with made a small hole in the base of the egg compartment, lowered a string into the hole, and tied a knot. Also, she made the legs a quarter the size of the pipe cleaners rather than a half. She made her egg carton spider into a hangable ornament rather than just a stationary desk occupant as I originally intended. Honestly, I liked her idea more than what I originally came up with. I liked her idea so much, that I asked her if I could take a pic of it on my phone.

As soon as I did that, a kindergartener sitting next to me said, "Hey, you're supposed to like all of our work!" Immediately after she said that, I was thinking, "Crap.... busted." So immediately, I look at what she is doing with her egg carton spider. She was using a half sized pipe cleaner to poke a hole into the base of the egg carton spider. She bent the bottom of the pipe cleaner to a 90 degree angle so that it was pressed against the roof under the base and curved the top of the pipe cleaner that was above the base. That way, she could carry it around. So, I gave her genuine praise for that.

This experience has brought me on my guard in a new way. Generally, when I give someone praise, I say something vague like "wow... that's cool." However, I tend to compliment with precision if I'm genuinely surprised with an idea that a student implements. I need to start elevating the precision of my praise for all students rather than for just those that surprise me. The level of precision I communicate my praise with must be the same for all students. That's what I need to do if I want to maintain a positive rapport with all of my students rather than just the few that I speak precisely with.

Otherwise, if I praise certain students with precision, but I don't praise other students with that same level of precision, I would guess that would cause some students to become jealous. I think that jealousy can be expressed in various ways, but none of which are positive. I will consider what I think are the worst case scenarios. One way is that one student will fight with a student that he/she is jealous of. Another way is that the student who is jealous of other students will break down emotionally from not getting the same kind of approval from me that I would give to other students. That is my understanding of why unavoidably, I must make the level of precision in my praise equal for all students.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Personal Lesson in Clarity: Short Vowel Sounds

I call this post a lesson in clarity for me rather than my students. Yesterday, I taught a lesson on short vowel sounds. This lesson was a lesson extension. As such, the lesson had more room for creativity. The 3rd grade class is very familiar with all of the short vowel sounds. Recently, they completed an exercise on proofreading. This exercise required that they exchange a short vowel that results in a word being spelled incorrectly and replace it again with a short vowel that results in that word being spelled correctly.

So, the example I provided was "You'll miss the word that is spelled incorrectly if you don't lasten carefully." So, in "lasten," the short vowel /i/ was swapped for a short vowel /a/. That's how "lasten" was spelled incorrectly. I showed them how I picked a word from "The Legend of Damon and Pythias." I made explicit that the short vowel /i/ in listen was removed and I put in a short vowel /a/. Each of them spent about 5 minutes making their own sentence, which contained any word from Damon and Pythias, and they tried to see whether they could stump someone at their table. I was clear in stating that they would spell a word incorrectly by inserting a different short vowel. Because that's all I said, my instructions were unclear. Here are the ways in which clarity was still lacking in my lesson.

I did not explicitly state that they would remove one short vowel and put in another short vowel. I simply showed them how I only removed one short vowel and replaced it with one short vowel. Some students removed and replaced more than one short vowel from a word that they selected. Some students replaced a consonant with a short vowel. I didn't make explicit that they weren't supposed to do that. Some students removed a short vowel, but they didn't put another short vowel in its place. I'm not sure where my instruction of my lesson was lacking for that to occur. Perhaps, I should have said something like "The word that you will remove a short vowel from should have the same number of letters that it had before you removed that vowel. So, make sure that you give that word a different short vowel back after you take one away."

Anyway, there seem to be areas that I could have been clearer in. At the same time, the lesson wasn't a complete failure, but I just wanted to execute it perfectly (an unrealistic expectation). I would guess that about half the students were able to complete the lesson as I expected. Oh well... Moving right along.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reading Through Play Outside of a Play

On Thursday of last week, the 3rd graders read a play called "The Legend of Damon and Pythias." They seemed relatively excited to read it. They were excited to read it because 12 of 22 students took on a role. I'll tell you the roles that I can remember: Damon, Pythias, King, first robber, second robber, mother, announcer, sound effects, etc.. Also, Mr. Agajan gave a role to the remainder of the class. For example, when the play indicated that the entire crowd would say "Set them free! Set them both free," everyone who does not have a particular role would participate by expressing lines that are meant to be expressed collectively and in the background. Further, everyone was encouraged to act out their roles.

To take this a step further, reading through play doesn't need to be limited to if the story explicitly states the various roles/characters in it. The minimum requirement to read a story in a play-like way is for it to have different characters. That's a pretty easy requirement to satisfy. Since the story will not necessarily state the particular roles as explicit as a play would, you must explicitly state what the different roles are to the students. That way, you can tell the students which roles that they can take on. After that, the students will simply need to be ready for when they must act out the lines of their role, which will require them to keep track of where everyone is in the story. Generally, it is less obvious when one character or another is talking in a story than in a play.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Group Project Tip: Selecting Member Order

This idea is the product of two observations that I had. The first observation was of a science teacher. The second observation was of my correction of her mistake in a different lesson altogether. I need to give you a little background on what her group project was.

For their science project, they were given three different small objects, a simple balancing scale, and various weights with their measurements listed in grams on them. There were about 3 to 4 students to a group. Each student was supposed to take turns trying to balance each of the three objects. To be clear, they balanced the objects by putting the small objects to be measured on one side and some number of weights on the other side. Based on how many weights were on one side, they could arrive at a rough estimate of how much each small object weighed in grams.

Did you notice that I said that they were supposed to take turns using the scale? They had some difficulty with that. Several groups had difficulty with taking turns because they were quarreling over who should go first. I would estimate that some groups spent at least 5 minutes complaining and quarreling about who should go first. This problem occurred because the teacher did not give them a way for deciding the order that they should go in.

I observed another group project. Each group consisted of 4 members. Each member had to take turns applying a single rule in order to guess a mystery number and identify it on a 8.5 X 11 hundreds chart. When I walked around to each group, these were the first questions that I asked: "Who's first? Second? Third? Fourth?" Then, after we agreed on the order, they proceeded as such. Unfortunately, "agreed" on an order was really me just telling them the order that they would go in. Ideally, I'd like them to be able to independently decide their order with little or no fuss. Anyway, the bottom line is that they started out a lot smoother than when they were left alone to bicker about the order.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Aftermath of Too Much Personal Attention

I've learned first hand why you shouldn't give any particular student too much personal attention. I need to give you some background. In general, the 3rd graders that I work with are extremely loving. They always tell me how much they appreciate my help. Some of them show their affection in ways beyond just saying "thank you, Mr. Auto" though.

There's this one particular student that frequently gets out of her seat while my mentor teacher is teaching a lesson. She gets out of her seat to walk over to me and ask me a question. I would guess that she does this about 4 times a day. It annoys me. Then, another student walks up to me from their seat to ask me a question. I put the brakes on as soon as that happened. When this additional student walked up to me, I said, "If you stay in your seat, look at me, and raise your hand, then I will come to you." She walked back to her seat and did as I asked. I had to run through this procedure with two additional students beyond the first.

Further, while the teacher is doing a read aloud of their current novel, sometimes she wants to read her book while sitting beside me. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate that she is so comfortable with me. But, her level of comfort has unintended consequences. Afterward, another student walks up to me and asks me if I can sit beside her group's table. Are you seeing the pattern?

If I show one student too much personal attention (such as in the ways just previously mentioned), then other students want that same attention. I think that I understand their perspective and I think it is logical to some extent. If I can show one particular student individual attention in the way that I do, why can't I show that same attention to other students? That is as far as the logic of that perspective goes. Like everyone else, I have my limits. In other words, it would be unmanageable, and thus impossible to show personal attention to everyone. If you provide personal attention to one student, they will expect you to provide them personal attention as well. So, the longer you spend in providing any one student too much personal attention, the greater likelihood there is that other students will desire and seek that same attention. In order to not provide any of your students misguided expectations, that is why you need to make sure that you do not give any one student too much personal attention.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Reply to the Kid That Asked About God

So, on October 5th, one of the students in the class that I'm student teaching in asked me about whether I believe in god. I agreed to give him some sort of answer on October 12th. This is the answer that I gave him: "I went to a mosque when I was little. I don't go to a mosque anymore. That's all I can say." This kid was smart and he didn't make any further assumptions from that. However, other kids were not quite as cautious in making judgments as he was. Another student overheard and said "So, you don't believe in god then." You're putting words in my mouth. I didn't say that. Anyway, their curiosity subsided.

In retrospect, my dad had the right idea. He suggested that I should have been a little more forceful in not giving an answer at all. Instead of saying "I went to a mosque when I was little. I don't go to a mosque anymore.", he thinks that I should have said something more like "That is a topic that I can't talk about and I will say nothing else about it." As far as that being less risky is concerned, I think he's correct in phrasing my answer that way. At the same time though, I assumed that giving that kind of answer would have just made that student even more curious. Why? Because I'm making it seem so secretive, and hence, special. In the end though, he would have had to give up his interest in whether I believe in god. So, perhaps I should have just stayed steadfast in not giving any info with respect to that topic. Oh well... doesn't seem to have caused me any harm.

I think this is all that I have to say on this event.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Homework Incentive: Fruit Roll Up

This incentive is pretty simple. Every morning, Mr. Agajan opens with figuring out who did their homework. He puts one of four symbols immediately to the right of their name. All 22 of their names are listed among two columns on the whiteboard. All of these symbols pertain to whether they completed their homework. These are the symbols: Star sign for completed homework, M for completed and forgotten homework that needs to be brought in next morning for a possible star, A for Absent, or simply a blank circle for incomplete homework. If a student gets five stars for the week, on Friday, they get a fruit roll up. The next week, they start back from no stars and that incentive cycle starts over again.

The 3rd graders actually get pretty excited about that. So far, that excitement has not let down. Actually, they kind of bragged in my face a couple weeks in a row. I remember one day that Mr. Agajan put a star next to my name. Of course, he was kidding. I remember one of the students saying "Mr. Auto.... you can't get a fruit roll up. You only have one star." At the same time though, of course they are probably not doing the homework JUST because of the fruit roll up. I would guess that it definitely serves as a deal sweetener.

I looked up fruit roll ups on Amazon. It seems cost efficient. It's about $33 with free shipping for 140 rolls. That comes out to $6.36 a week that you would spend on giving 22 rolls to your class per week. That's in the best case scenario. That doesn't sound too bad.

Anyway, literally... food for thought.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why the Overhead Projector is Obsolete

I don't think that I made such a controversial claim. Then again, I don't really know how many people still use overhead projectors. In any case, the reason why I say that the overhead projector is obsolete is because there is an alternative that serves its same purpose better in various ways. In particular, I'm referring to what is called a docucam (aka: Document Camera). These are the ways in which the overhead projector is obsolete compared to the docucam.

- I just picked out an overhead projector and docucam that are close to the same price. Here are links from Amazon for each the overhead projector and docucam. Check out the dimensions for the overhead projector and do the same for the docucam. The overhead projector has the following dimensions: 28.2 height x 20.2 depth x 13.2 width in inches. The docucam has the following dimensions: 10.1 height x 8.5 depth x 3.6 width in inches. To top if off, the overhead projector is 17 lbs and the docucam is only 4 ounces!. That's a huge difference in both the space they take up and how much each of them weigh. 

- The docucam is a camera. The overhead projector is just a projector. It only makes images appear smaller or larger. The docucam has color. Also, the docucam does not need to be manually focused as an overhead projector does. Why? Because cameras (including docucams) have auto focus. Further, if need be, docucams also have zoom like a digital camera.  

- My view is that this is the way in which docucams are the most versatile. For overhead projectors, you can only display something if it has been transferred onto a transparency. That is not true for docucams. A docucam can display whatever can be placed under it. You don't need a transparency. From bug to textbook or whatever else it is that you want to display under the docucam. You can display it.

- This is one aspect that I cannot necessarily argue on the side of docucams for. Like an overhead projector, docucams can also make images appear larger. However, an overhead projector already has its own way to project images. A docucam does not. In order for a docucam to present images larger than they appear, you must have a projector for it to be connected to. That is at least another $100 - $200. So, you should expect to pay a little more to fully utilize a docucam. Other than the price, those are all the ways in which the overhead projector is obsolete compared to the docucam.

Finally, below you will find some pics to give you an idea of how a docucam works:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Talking to a Student about Religion

I had an awkward experience in class today. Here's the background. The 3rd graders were working on a poster for Charlotte's Web. All they needed to do was write a quote and accompany it with an illustration. I was just monitoring their tables to make sure that they are staying on task. There seemed to be some minor conflict at one of the tables. So, I hovered on over...

One of the students was complaining, "Mr. Auto. He doesn't believe in god." My reply was "So what? Let him believe what he wants to." The student that was accused asks me, "Mr. Auto...? Do you believe in god?" I was extremely hesitant in answering that question. To be clear, I never gave him an answer. I just told him that I can't answer that question. Unfortunately, that made him even more curious. Now, he was begging me to tell him. "Please, Mr. Auto? Tell me. Why can't you tell me?" In the end, I told him that I would give him an answer about whether I can tell him whether I believe in god. Seriously. He sees that I take notes of my observations in class, so he even insisted several times that I write a personal reminder since the next time that I will see him is on Wednesday. He watched me write it. Here is what it reads: "On Wednesday, Oct. 12 2011, I will tell [undisclosed student name] whether I will answer his question about whether I believe in god." He was giggling after every other word that I wrote. I found that interesting. Oh well... The joke's on him because I'm just going to tell him that I won't give him an answer :-P.

Going back to how I hesitated in answering his question, I wasn't hesitating because I didn't know what my answer was. My position is clear and firm. I classify myself as an apathetic agnostic (i.e. I don't know whether a god exists and I don't care). I hesitated because I have no idea what his parents think. I don't know how they desire to raise him. If I told him that I didn't know whether a god exists and I don't care, the worst case scenario is that out of his admiration for me, he starts copying my lack of religious beliefs. Further, let's say his parents do believe in god. Now, they'll be pissed that I instilled this spirit of godlessness into their child. In the end, I basically hesitated for the sake of practicality. I don't want his parents coming after me in case we are in disagreement.

Also, especially with children, word travels fast. Even if I wouldn't be in disagreement with his parents, he could tell other students who would tell their parents. And, it could so happen that THOSE parents ARE believers in god. So now, they might think I'm putting THEIR children at risk. So yea... while teaching, all in the name of practicality, I keep information pertaining to religion to myself.

I gotta be honest. If I was only visiting this school for one day and he approached me with that question, I would totally tell him what my view was. I would tell him in order to give him a different perspective to consider and because I prefer to be honest, which includes stating what my views actually are.

Anyway, what do you think? Under any circumstances at all, would you express your religious beliefs to a 3rd grade student who asked you whether you believe in god?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Potential Efficacy of a Child's Assistance

On Monday, I made Jack-O-Lantern masks. This project is listed here. Basically, these were the steps of the project:

#1: Draw a circle on the back of a paper plate

#2: Draw the eyes such that they line up with the wearer's eyes and such that the wearer can see through them when the eyes of the mask are cut out.

#3: Draw the nose

#4: Draw the mouth.

#5 Decorate the pumpkin as desired.

#6 Give to Mr. Auto (aka: Yours truly) to hole punch sides that hold string. The string is tied together around the wearer's head in order for the mask to be worn. And, I also cut out the eyes.

This will give you an idea of the end result:

This is the project that I and the interested students worked on in the first hour of the after school program. I wasn't quite sure what to expect in terms of interest in the project. There is one thing that indicated that the project would fill up faster than usual. I put on my mask and I put my glasses over the mask, all of the kids were giggling, and then I had a bunch of kids that came up to me. "Can I do one?" was the constant question that a bunch of them were asking me. I probably elicit responses like those about half the time. So, I was very pleased with that result.

I only expected to do this project with about 9 students. That was my common maximum number of participants until Monday of this week. This week... I broke that record... I rounded up 19 students with this project. That... was... awesome... Unfortunately, I felt swamped. A lot of the students finished one after the other. And, they were waiting on me. I told them to come back after I cut out the eyes and put the string in the side holes. But, as you might be aware, some children don't listen very well. "Are you done yet?" is also a question that many students repeated over and over again. Or, some students play with the materials that I need to use in order to complete the project (e.g. one student was braiding the string I needed to put in the holes of the mask... :-( ). All of that is extremely distracting. I wanted to finish fast so that they could take their masks on that very day. I couldn't keep up with the rate at which they were finishing all of their masks and the rate at which they kept returning to distract me.

Of the 19 students, there were at least two students who seemed particularly intelligent for their age. There was a 5th and a 2nd grader. The 5th grader came into the project kind of late. So, step by step, I clearly explained the project to her. She was basically my proxy at another table. And for that, I was extremely thankful. She saved me the trouble of switching back and forth from one table to another. At the final stage of the project, I punched out holes in the sides of each mask and I poked a hole in the eyes of each mask. Then, I had the 2nd grader cut them all out for me. For that, I was also very thankful because she definitely saved me some time in completing the project. I expressed my gratitude directly to both of them for that. They were very pleased with my gratitude. So, we all came out feeling like winners.

In conclusion, if you ever feel like you have too much work on your shoulders, the children can truly assist you in carrying that load in a significant way (so long as you know specifically what you want them to help you with). But, remember to show them that you value their assistance. That's all some kids seem to want when they help you.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Introducing a New Student

A couple weeks back, a new student joined the 3rd grade class that I'm student teaching in. She's from Chicago. I noticed that my current mentor, Mr. Agajan, gave her a lot of attention. I don't disagree with that. But, it's still insightful to answer the question of why he does so. Before I think about why he gave her so much attention, I should explain how he gave her attention.

Sample of the First Day Introduction

All of this happened on the single day that she arrived. He put an emphasis on writing her name and having her loudly state how to write it. He made an exercise of the entire class pronouncing her name in chorus. He had her talk about the previous city that she lived in and school that she went to. We looked it up on a world map. He asked her to confirm for the class whether some of what Chabot Elementary and Mr. Agajan does are things that she is familiar with (I can't think of specific examples right now). He put a special emphasis over repeating all of the rules for the new student.

Consequences of the Introduction

Ok. That is what I can provide by way of examples in terms of how he focused attention on the new student. So, what exactly does giving all this attention to the new student do? It probably makes her seem pretty special since everything being talked about is her. As such, it definitely makes her feel more welcomed than alienated.

Also, by talking about the city she lived in, the school that she went to, and how Chabot Elementary and the city she lives in now is similar, it makes her transition to a new city and school feel less foreign. That gives her the idea that she knows how to deal with this seemingly foreign city and school.

The reason for repeating the rules is simple. Everyone else already follows them. If she doesn't follow them, her actions will sometimes conflict with the other students. This will not be conducive to a collaborative or welcoming classroom environment.

Justification for the Focused Attention

There is a good reason for why this new student is being given so much attention. It is easier to teach a student who feels welcomed, doesn't feel like they are in a foreign place, and gets along with the other students than a student who is not all of those things. Why? If she feels more welcomed, then she will be more inclined to both help others and receive help from others (whether that means adults or peers). If the place she lives in and the place she goes to school at doesn't seem foreign, then she will definitely not be distracted by worries of such things while she is in class. Lastly, if she gets along with the other students (due to following the established rules), then they will perceive each other to be on equal terms as far as behavioral expectations go. So, one less thing (a pretty ubiquitous thing throughout the day at that) to bicker about.

Anyway, that is a summary of what I think giving this new student so much attention accomplished and ultimately, why it was done. Feel free to let me know whether I'm missing anything.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Insider's Look: Typical CalState Teach Observation

On Wednesday, September 28th, Peter Krasa came to observe me at Chabot Elementary. He's my supervisor for the program. My description of how this all played out will not necessarily tell you how other supervisors in the program set themselves up, but it will definitely show you some common elements with respect to the observation.

Each term is about 4 months long. Peter observes me once per month. Peter always sets himself up in the very back of the classroom. He's on his laptop and recording his notes on a template. After my observation is complete, he busts out this super slim printer. He prints out his notes that he recorded on a template. This is what all two pages of the template look like:

The organization of the template is pretty simple. The substance of this document is in the 'Applicable TPE(s)' section and the 'Comments' section. TPE stands for Teacher Performance Expectation. The only reason why this is important is to know that you satisfy them. However, to be honest, I don't actually think of these when I teach. But, it would have been nice to have each of these backed up with examples as opposed to just having a single 'X' in a box.

In the 'comments' section, Peter states specifically what he saw in the lesson that he found effective. I notice that Peter always gives me positive feedback. I appreciate this because I want to continue the behaviors that are conducive to good teaching. However, I also like to be criticized. I want to know what I'm not doing well.

Although there is not nominally a section to describe what you are not doing well in, I think that it is implied in the 'Questions' and 'Ideas' section to some extent. Also, the 'Questions' and 'Ideas' section gives the supervisor an opportunity to make suggestions to you.

And then, finally, he provides a summary of his assessment of you at the end of the observation template (i.e. “Site Visitation Form”).

After I complete the implementation of my lesson and he finishes typing and printing his notes, he gives me a chance to read them. Then, we go over the observation form. He elaborates to the extent he feels necessary and gives me an opportunity to ask him about or respond to his comments, questions, and ideas. And, that's about it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What is a Lesson Extension?

Alright... So, call me a newb, but I didn't exactly know what this meant. Clarifying the meaning of this term saved my lesson for today. I need to give you a little background on what happened with my lesson today.

So, I agreed with my current mentor, Mr. Agajan, a 3rd grade teacher at Chabot Elementary, that I would do a "lesson extension" for short vowel /i/ words. In the students' "OpenCourt" Vocabulary & Comprehension workbook on pg. 12, the assignment was that for each exercises 1 through 10, they needed to pick and write a word with a short vowel /i/ sound followed by two consonants (e.g. brick). For each exercises 11 through 14, they needed to pick a word with a short vowel /i/ sound followed by one consonant (e.g. grip). They would pick from a list of 15 words contained in their workbook on pg. 12. Originally, I was just going to give them a demonstration on how to complete those exercises... There was just one problem with that... They already completed those exercises... -_-...

Luckily, I cleared this up with Mr. Agajan BEFORE I taught my lesson. Now, this is where I clarify the meaning of a lesson extension (or at least, what I understand its meaning to be). The contents of the lesson that I described before is the learning of new material. Namely, it is the learning of words with the short vowel /i/ sound with different numbers of consonants appearing after it. If the class has learned that material, then they should be ready to apply what they learned. How do they apply what they learned? An example of how they can apply what they learned is to independently think of words with a short vowel /i/ sound that are followed either by a single or two consonants. For brevity, unless it is requested, I will not go into the details of how I delivered this lesson (or at least, not in this entry).

There is one thing that I am a little confused by. For the first lesson that I described in this entry, the students needed to apply their understanding of the short vowel /i/ sound in order to select the words, no? So, when they select words with the short vowel /i/ sound, why isn't that considered a "learning extension?" Or, does a lesson being an extension depend on that sense of independence that was present in that second lesson that I mentioned. If you wish, you are welcome to educate me about what I'm missing here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Restricting Project Chaos

Today, I was facilitating an art project in the after school program that I'm a "teacher" at (I put 'teacher' in quotes because I don't really feel that I am a teacher to the extent that non-supplementary program teachers are, but that's another story). Contrary to last Friday's art project, it went pretty well.

For last Friday's art project, we were trying to make a flower that had hand prints for petals. I'll call it... a hand-flower. I forgot to take it with me... so I can't show you a picture right now. I'll have to upload it later. There were three particular girls in the group that tore my project apart before my very eyes. What I mean by that is that I had placed all the construction paper on the table and as soon as I placed it down, all of them just grabbed at it before I could even open my mouth to give directions. And, when I tried to give them directions, they weren't even paying attention to me. I recall one student saying "Yea yea yea... we know how to do it." For example, I was trying to give them a specific number of hands that they need to trace and how to place their hands on the paper plate, but they wanted to simply place as many hands as they could. That was kind of upsetting since that was the same day that I arrived from the 6th grade onslaught. In other words, I lost most of the control of the project. The remaining five students were listening to my directions. So, I got lucky there.

Today's art project was extremely simple. It's referred to as "string of leaves." Contrary to this project, I did not use construction paper for the leaves. I went outside and picked up a bunch of real leaves. I did that for a few reasons. #1 I thought that the real leaves might be more interesting than the... fake ones that I had. #2 It's cheaper. #3 It doesn't require cutting out pictures of leaves. As the title indicates, this time around, I was able to significantly restrict the level of chaos this time around. This project only required three kinds of materials: 5 pieces of tape per person, 5 leaves per person, and 5 pre-cut pieces of string. I only had three students for this project. I broke the project into segments in terms of how I restricted their access to supplies. Now, they had no choice but to listen to me explain how to do it.

The first segment of the project was that they would attach some tape to the stem of each of their leaves, which I tore off for them. I didn't give them access to string until they attached a piece of tape to each stem. And then, the second segment begins. Once they showed me that their tape was satisfactorily attached, I gave them some string to attach it to. And, that's it.

Wish I had figured this out sooner... The project went a lot smoother. Had I left all the materials out as I did before, I'm pretty confident that chaos would have revisited me. I suspect that that is true since today, I left the tape out for a moment and one of the students was already trying to grab at it before I could say anything. Anyway, here's the end result:

That's mine... Yea... I know it's not that pretty. That's ok. The project as a whole went much better than Friday. :-) That's good enough for me.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Survival of a 6th Grade Onslaught

This is my report of how thoroughly I was destroyed on Friday when I subbed for a 6th grade class.

For the sake of not giving any person or place a bad name, I will not give out the name of the place that I subbed at and the person that I subbed for. Yesterday, I did a substitute teaching job for a charter school in Oakland. I arrived at the secretary's office around 9:25 am, picked up the substitute materials, and headed to my class. Arrived to my classroom about 5 minutes before the 3rd period ended. There was another teacher leading the class in a read aloud. I could hear a few students giggling as I walked over to place down my Xootr and my backpack next to the teacher's desk. One of the students spoke out to ask me whether it was a unicycle. I didn't reply to that since they were supposed to be following along in the read aloud.

After the teacher left, I was just following along with the reading. The bell rang and students immediately swarmed around me to get me to initial a box in a school planner for character traits that they are supposed to demonstrate. My first thought was how I shouldn't be signing things that I know nothing about, but I acted contrary to that thought. At first I assumed that they get these boxes initialed for participating in class. So many of the students kept telling me how they were reading when asked to. I was simply overwhelmed, so I initialed. While I was distracted with initialing some of those planners, about one quarter of the class darted for the teacher's desk. They were raiding a bag of fun size M&Ms. I yelled at them to get back. After the remainder of the class left, I was taken aback by that unified act of savagery.

I was scheduled to sub for 3rd, 6th, 7th, and 8th period. I won't go through each period though. I'll just state the recurring theme that each period exhibited. Each period had a few good students. But then, the remaining students were constantly talking, getting out of their seat, and not working on the assigned worksheets. I felt such a lack of control of the situation. My failure to get the class' attention and concentration was disheartening. I will never be so disheartened as to give up, but I wish I knew how to get their attention and to work on the assigned tasks. One of my wishes as a teacher is to be able to bring organization to a classroom that is in complete chaos. Sounds like a lot to ask for, but if I can do that, then I can teach anyone.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Earning Money While Gaining Teaching Experience

I went through my first year of my credential program, CalState Teach, without earning any cash. I guess that was OK since I had FAFSA. It covered my tuition and living expenses. However, I used mostly subsidized and unsubsidized loans to cover my tuition and living expenses. If I can afford to, I prefer not to use loans. At the end of my program, I'd rather just return all of the loans that I borrowed. But, I'm not in a position to do that right now. You might be in the same position as I am. Here are a few ideas to supplement your income and necessarily, have less of your loan(s) to pay back after you finish your credential program.

1. Substitute Teaching
- Substitute teaching is great both for experience and for the money. For the experience, you will start out by substitute teaching for classrooms whose students are foreign to you. That will give you experience that you may need in instruction and classroom management. If you do well, you will establish an ongoing relationship with the lead teacher, the surrounding teachers, and principal. And, that being the case, they will want to call you back for further substitute teaching assignments. At least in California, substitutes are paid by the day. However, there is some qualification to that statement (see page 8 under "Hours").

- At least in the Oakland Unified School District, to be paid the daily rate, you must work more than 4 hours. If you work less than 4 hours, then you will be paid an hourly rate. I think that several "teachers to-be" are aware that they can substitute teach, but I'm not certain whether they are also aware of some of the nuances in pay. Your daily rate goes up based on how many days of the year you have subbed for. So, for this case, the daily rate could range anywhere from $118 to 152 depending on whether you sub for 1 to 30, 31 to 60, or 61 and more days of the school year. For now, I assume that this same format as just described is similar to those of other school districts. But, I would need your help on confirming that.  

2. Teacher Temp Agencies
- It's possible that you will not get into the substitute teacher pools of which you apply. Why? One simple reason is that perhaps you didn't pass the interview. I am an employee of two teacher temp agencies. Their names are Tempositions and Teachers on Reserve. If you don't have at least a 30 day emergency teaching credential, expect to do mostly after school sub teaching assignments. Take what you can get. Both temp agencies pay by the hour. The wage is decent. For now, I will refrain from talking about the specific hourly rates since I'm not sure that I am allowed to publicize that information.

- My experience so far is that you must have completed at least your bachelor's and your CBEST.

- One more side note... If you live in another state, I suggest that you contact these teacher temp agencies and ask if they are in contact with or know of other teacher temp agencies in your state.

3. After School Teaching
- Currently, I work for Adventure Time as an After School teacher. I'm getting a few opportunities to teach and I'm getting paid. Again, I will refrain from publicizing the hourly rate. Unfortunately, the level of teaching experience is not as frequent as I would've liked. Oh well... I will not assume that the frequency of teaching opportunities I am getting with Adventure Time is the same for all after school programs. There are many other after school programs out there and they are probably run differently to some extent. Those programs might offer you a higher frequency of opportunities to teach while getting paid. You will just need to think of what to look for in each program.

Let me know whether you have any questions regarding these job options for the studying teacher.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Choosing the Best Teacher Credential Program for Yourself

Private or Public?
- I chose a public program called CalState Teach. It's an online program associated with the California State University system. I mainly chose it over private universities like National (NU) or Brandman (BU) because I have nearly an unshakable distrust for businesses in general. I distrust for profit universities because the most reasonable way for them to make as much money as possible is to supply you with the same degree, certification, credential, etc while sustaining the lowest costs. That will definitely degrade the quality of the program.

Longer or Shorter?
- Another reason why I chose CalState Teach is because it was 2 years instead of 1 year like NU and BU were advertising. Sure... There is an appeal to obtaining the same credential faster, but prior to enrolling in my program, I had absolutely no experience in teaching. So, I wanted to take my time to become as prepared as possible. If you know that you are already sufficiently prepared to teach, then perhaps enrolling in a program that concludes faster would be better for you.

Expensive or Inexpensive?
- I chose CalState Teach because over the course of 2 years, I would have to pay roughly $14,000. Unfortunately, BU and NU are not so transparent in representing the costs of their programs as CalState Teach does (which reminds me of why I was so cautious about enrolling in either of their programs in the first place). The following numbers will be my best estimates. For BU, it costs $470 per undergraduate credit. The required units for a multiple subject credential from them, which is treated as an undergraduate program, is between 31 and 34 units. That is a range of about $14,000 to about $16,000. Unfortunately, I cannot find a link stating that the program is completed in 1 year. I recall getting that information from a BU rep. For NU, it costs $350 per quarter unit. Their program includes a Masters of Education. Both BU and NU include student teaching components. The requirement at NU is 72 quarter units. So, that is a minimum of about $25,000. Again, I cannot supply you with a link, but an NU rep told me that the program takes 1 year.

Paid or Unpaid?
- To be honest, if I had done the search for a credential program again, I would've chosen a credential program that offered paid student teaching, offer networking assistance in finding a job, or priority hiring after the program was over. My program, CalState Teach provides none of those. Such programs do exist. I'll just throw you some examples: Teach for America, Oakland Teaching Fellows, Bay Area Teacher Training Institute, and Aspire Public Schools.

Lastly, if some of my examples do not apply to you because you live in some other part of California or even another state, consider that similar types of examples might still be possible for you. You will just need to be determined enough in your research for your location.

Ok. That's all that I have to say for now. Please let me know whether you have any questions or anything to add.