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.