Here are the more reflective parts of a reflection that I did on my teaching experience at Conrad Ball Middle School! I think I really found out a lot about myself when I was writing it (…..boy, do I feel cheesy saying that.)
I never expected for my mindset to be reframed as much as it was this semester as it was. There are so many areas that I feel like my thinking has been reshaped by my experiences both in the classroom, and in lecture. I learned a few things about myself. I learned that I sometimes do not respond to serious situations as much as I’d hope I would. I realized that classroom management can take many different shapes and forms, and just because I’ve continually seen one doesn’t mean it is the most effective one. And I learned that classroom climate and culture is not just a good thing to have in a classroom, but it is something that is necessary to instill within the first weeks of class to establish a culturally responsive foundation for the rest of the year.
I learned that I really value that students have a sense of community and responsibility in the classroom. I learned that there is a way that I can phrase things that places the responsibility on my students to respond in a certain way. I have so many great techniques now that I saw modeled in Ms. Vair’s classroom that I can’t wait to try.
One of my strengths is definitely my humor. I know that students really connect with a teacher that can get on their level with humor; for both of my interviews the students said that a teacher that is funny is the type of teacher they connect with the best. I have a sense of humor that is at once self-deprecating and goofy, and so I don’t mind people laughing at me and so I think students will enjoy some of the jokes that I make. Additionally, I know that students really connect with lessons when it is tied into current popular culture, and so I think my handle on that will be able to come in handy. I had a lot of teachers that infused modern elements into the curriculum, and that really inspired me in the crafting of my lessons for the students. Finally, I think one of my strengths is my highly empathetic nature. I want all kids to understand that I will try my hardest to acknowledge where they are coming from. I think that everyone has a story, a wonderful and unique story, and it is of the necessity for me to honor a child’s story and encourage him or her to discover and use his or her voice. I think that sometimes a teacher may be more of an influence in a student’s life than they realize. That being said, we need to be careful to be a positive role model and a source of consistency for children that might not have that anywhere else. And if children do have a stable home life and many positive role models, then our position in the school is a chance to provide positive framing for education.
I think one of my weaknesses is my hesitation in using my teacher voice in necessary situations. I get nervous in situations where I need to assert my authority. My empathy makes me sometimes better suited to be a friend, than a teacher. I am a passive person who likes to be liked by those around me, and I’m afraid those tendencies will negatively affect me as a teacher.
The reason I think I connected so much with love and logic is a way of bring empathy into the classrooms and then hope that students will get the hint that they are supposed to be empathetic all the time. I think it seems pretty much foolproof; I love the fact that it has a lot of ways that even by changing the way you phrase things, you can dump all the responsibility on a student without them realizing what you’ve done. I am excited to try them because use phrases like “In my classroom, I teach when all eyes are on me. When do I teach, James?” James has no excuse because he literally JUST heard the classroom rule and he’s being singled out in a major way, and if he pretends not to know then he just looks stupid, and it acknowledges his behavior in a way that is much less redundant than teach going “focus class! Class, focus! Focus!” I think enforceable statements are golden in that they, unlike unenforceable statements (quit arguing with me. turn your papers in on time. get to work) they have the instructions and limits in the statement. Genius! You never tell the kid what to do, you tell them what YOU will do or YOU will allow. You are in control. When I used them in my mini lesson, I loved seeing how much more kids responded to them than anything else I had seen modeled before. Another problem I had seen in my class was how much kids liked to make distracting noises; I was never sure how to really deal with that, and so the love and logic method of saying something along the lines of “Tell me why I am looking at you right now.” was something that I was really looking forward to using. I was almost disappointed that no kids tried to make barnyard noises while I was teaching.
I think as far is instruction goes, I wish that I had done some things different with my first lesson I taught. I really overestimated the level that middle schoolers need to be modeled something before they try it themselves. I got so used to college style learning that I didn’t properly set them up for the assignment I created, and so I had to spend a bunch of time rerouting them in hopes of creating the product I had in mind, and in a way lost the whole point of the lesson that I was trying to make in the first place. I tried to correct this with my next lesson by keeping the concept of ‘tell by showing’ in my brain when I designed the lesson. It’s like what we discuss in class; if I don’t clearly outline expectations, I can’t be disappointed when students don’t meet them.
As far as being a culturally responsive teacher, I have few ideas in mind from this class, and from other classes. I might crib what Ms. Vair did in the beginning of the year, where she had students look at the topic of empathy, and how they are part of many different communities, like local and global communities. I think when kids realize that they are part of something that is bigger than just them, and realize how much of a stake they really have in everything, then they are likely to appreciate that they have a purpose in the shaping of their personal culture and interactions. I want to have a classroom where we constantly learn about different perspectives and multicultural aspects of every lesson. When I was in Afghanistan, the school system there was completely different than anything I ever imagined. It was amazing for me to experience something completely out of the norm, and it completely reframed how I viewed the privilege of school. I want students to constantly understand that there are so many different voices and views, and what they see day to day is just a very small piece of the pie.
The areas I want to improve upon are my lesson plans, my use of teacher voice, and my shift of a role as wanting to be like to wanting to be respected. I think this semester, with the viewing of two different teaching styles and classroom management styles, gave me a very clear view of what types of techniques I want to use as a teacher. I feel empowered now that I know about things like enforceable statements and love and logic. I look forward to wherever I go next in my schooling career, and I can’t wait to see what things I learn next; I learned more this semester than I could have ever possibly expected, about myself and about students. I used to be totally opposed to the idea of teaching middle school, but this changed my perspective. I see now that these students are in such an influential and malleable point of life: if my mission as a teacher is to help children discover the power of their personal voice, middle school is a perfect place of influx and change for this to take place. I never would have thought, going into this, that I’d walk out hoping to be a teacher at a middle school like this one. This semester has been a great experience for me, with even the negative moments being a positive learning experience.