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.