A Document Filling Out Day

Today my students had standardized testing, so we did not have class today. I can’t be in my usual classroom due those test, so I spent the whole day in the arts classroom, surrounded by color, paints and crafts:

ArtsClassroom

What did I do during the whole day? First, I completed a lot of pending documents: the teacher student activity report, the teacher student practice hours report and the teacher journal. I did not completed any of those documents yesterday (I must complete them out daily) due the evaluation. This is one of the hardest parts of being teacher for me: keeping all the required documentation organized and updated.

Second, I had a brief meeting with the special education teacher about how to help better a specific student. Today was the perfect day to have that meeting. Having a meeting also means filling another document: the learning community relations document.

Third, my mentor teacher invited another student teacher, another teacher and me to a morning snack. That time counts as “learning community time” in our reports.

Finally, I made Tuesday’s test and also made Monday’s lesson plan. The only thing I still need to complete is the Power Point presentation for Monday’s class.

Said in other words, today was a document filling out day, but still a growing day.

Let’s keep growing!

Grammar Egg Hunt

Today was a very important day to me: today was the day of my first evaluation as student teacher! I was scheduled to be evaluated by my supervisor professor and by my mentor teacher.

I planned everything related with today’s class with extra care. I choose to make an Easter activity related with the grammar topic I had been discussing during these days, comparative adjectives and superlative adjectives. I choose to do a “Grammar Egg Hunt”. Here is today’s lesson plan: Easter Egg Hunt Lesson Plan. Here is the Power Point presentation of today’s class: Grammar Egg Hunt.

During the hour prior the class, the first thing I did was arranging the candy appropriately in order to avoid any possible mess. I needed three kinds of candy, so I chose Easter chocolates, Easter candy eggs and Easter candy bunnies. Each kind of candy had a bucket to be stored. I placed them in a table near the Smart Board.

The next time I did was activating the correct alarms in the iPad. Today the class changed of time (it was at 9:00 am instead of 1:20 pm), so I needed to set new alarms for being aware of when I had 10 minutes of class left and 5 minutes of class left. I left the iPad near the place where the computer would be.

The next thing I did was resolving a technological issue: my supervisor professor would need to have my computer with her, because I have several documents of my professional binder in the computer. So I borrowed a school computer for giving the class and left my MacBook to the supervisor professor. I tested everything in the school computer, including the clicker, and everything worked perfectly.

When the bell rang and I had an empty classroom I began to place an Easter bag in each seat. You can see the Easter bags in this photos:

EasterEggHunt1

EasterEggHunt2

Shortly after my supervisor professor and my students arrived (my mentor teacher was already in the classroom), and the fun began. The kids became very excited when they saw the Easter bags in their seats!

First we did the usual beginning routine. Then I reviewed yesterday’s class material. Then I explained what is an egg hunt. Finally, I explained what we were going to do in our Grammar Egg Hunt: each Easter bag had two plastic Easter eggs, one Easter egg had a paper with a number inside and the other Easter egg had a paper with an inspiring thought inside. The number was the exercise that the student was going to do. If the student answered the exercise correctly, he or she may have Easter chocolate for filling their Easter plastic eggs or their Easter bag. If the student explained correctly why the answer was correct or wrong, he or she may have Easter candy eggs for filling their Easter plastic eggs or their Easter bags. If the student identified correctly if the adjective was comparative or superlative, he or she may have Easter candy bunnies for filling their Easter bag (they were too big to fill the plastic Easter eggs). If the student had everything wrong, he or she may explain the inspiring quote of the other egg in his or her own words, and then he or she may have Easter candy too. This is the list of the inspiring thoughts placed inside the Easter eggs: Egg Hunt Quotes.

The students LOVED the game, and of course, they LOVED the different kinds of Easter candy. I also gave an Easter bag with two eggs to my mentor teacher, so when the number 15 came and no student raised his or her hand, I knew that was the number in his bag. He did the exercise like all the students, and he did it correctly, but most students did not let him to take Easter candy for his Easter bag! The students thought he had enough candy already. We all laughed. Then some students went to my mentor teacher and shared the Easter candy of their own Easter bags with my mentor teacher. That was an excellent empathy lesson!

The first alarm rang when we finished the last exercise, the exercise number 20. After we finished that exercise, I had the time to ask three students what their inspiring thought meant. Then the second alarm rang, so I close the class giving them a handout that they needed to glue in their notebooks: it was the announcement of a test for next Tuesday, including the material that is going to be tested. This is an image of the test announcement (my mentor teacher was kind enough for cutting the paper for me):

Test Announcement.jpg

I made a special “joke” to my supervisor professor and to the students. While they finished to glue the test announcement to their notebooks, I asked them if they knew what the word “complaint” meant. They told me they did not know. So I explained them what that word means, and let them know that if they had any complaint about me they could say it to the professor that was seated in my computer’s place (my supervisor professor). I told them she was my “boss”. The supervisor professor laughed (she is not really my “boss”, and she explained so to the kids) and asked the students if they had any comment about me, anything that they felt she should know about my teaching tasks. Several student raised their hands and I let them tell her whatever they wanted. So, I made the students part of my evaluation!

The kids behave amazingly good during the activity! I needed to catch their attention several times with some pauses for jokes and comments, but that is normal, especially considering their age.

I waited a little bit after the class was over while my supervisor professor and my teacher mentor completed all the evaluations. I was not expecting a good grade because we are told in the pre-practicum that the punctuation of the first evaluation usually is not higher than 50.

When they called me and I was informed of my final punctuation, I became happy and very emotional. There is always room for improvement, but it was a very high punctuation for being the first evaluation of a student teacher. My biggest failure was that in some moments I gave my back to the students while giving the class, and I must care giving the class facing the students at all moments. I also had some pronunciation issues, especially every time I said the word “thought.” I was given the freedom to write my own philosophy of education, despite not being exactly like the philosophy of education that everyone writes, my philosophy of education is like more “original,” although this is not intentional.

We also discussed how I am going to complete my 300 teaching practice hours. I will have 250 regular student practice hours at May 18, the last day of classes, so I need 50 extra hours to complete the required 300 teaching practice hours. I am not authorized to arrive earlier than 7:30 except if I have a school meeting at that hour (I had a school meeting today at 7:00 am to coordinate an extracurricular activity) nor I am authorized to have less than one hour  for lunch break. The first one is not allowed because I come from far away and the second one is not allowed because it is not healthy for student teachers or teachers to cut their break time for completing school work. I need to learn to distribute my teaching time reasonably, and that includes learning to take the appropriate break times. I am authorized to complete the 300 practice hours with extracurricular activities (25 hours maximum) compatible with my other University classes (besides the teaching practice, I am also enrolled in two college classes: Writing About Literature and Ceramics), with research time for the action researches done at home (12.5 hours minimum) and with all the time spent at home writing my philosophy of education (12.5 hours minimum). My supervisor professor thought I should be able to reach 300 hours with those arrangements. I agreed.

We scheduled my next evaluation at May 9. I worked very hard for today’s class, but I also thanks God for making it possible. I expect to improve for the next evaluation.

Let’s keep growing!

A Little Success

Yesterday I couldn’t write a blog post because I forgot to bring the charging cable of my MacBook, so I didn’t have a computer to write the post. Life happens!

Today I came late to school for the first time. I had a very good reason: the train where I was coming to the University ran out of gas, so we needed to wait until being delivered to the nearest train station and then wait for the next train in direction to the University. It was a very funny situation for everyone in the train. I have never imagined a train could run out of gas (I always thought it was an electric train).

Yesterday’s class and today’s class are about superlative adjectives and about being resilient. Here is today’s Power Point presentation: Superlative Adjectives.

Yesterday the students wrote in an index card their biggest struggle in school or at home. I glued those struggles besides the poster I made, inspired in The Butterfly Circus, that says “The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.” I taught them that struggles are important because they helps us learn to be resilient. Here is a picture of our “struggle wall”:

StruggleWall.jpg

Today’s lesson plan is the first lesson plan where I apply integraction, although it is not applied as a method but as a context. Here is today’s lesson plan: Superlative Adjectives.

Besides all the classroom practice, I made a practice handout for today’s homework. Here is the handout:

Comparative:Superlative Handout.jpg

Comparative:Superlative Handout 2.jpg

Today I made calculations and I realized something very important. I was absent the whole first week of my practicum due the reasonable accommodations needed for the PC Mas (the teaching certification test of the Department of Education of Puerto Rico), so I started my practicum on March 12. Besides that, I need to leave early on Fridays (at 12:30 instead of 2:30) and I am going to be absent on April 26 and May 31 due medical check-ups. For compensating those hours, I am doing six hours of teaching practicum daily (except on Fridays, when I do only five), instead of the five hours required per day. The classes at the school end on May 18. If you calculate the total teaching practicum hours, there is no way to complete the 300 required teaching practicum hours in that time. I can only make 253 hours, or a little bit more if I get the permission, which I asked, to take only half an hour of lunch break instead of a whole hour and to begin at 7:00 instead of 7:30. I can make some extra hours with some extracurricular activities too. Even then, there is no way for me to complete 300 hours. I can only complete them if I am allowed to make teaching practicum hours until May 30, that way I would be able to complete exactly 300 hours, but there are not school classes after May 18, so I am not sure if that is possible.

I made a table with all my current teaching practicum hours and the projected hours calculations to my supervisor professor to illustrate visually that it is reasonably impossible for me to complete 300 teaching practicum hours and to see what the Faculty of Education is going to do about that. The only thing I can do to try to complete them is to request the authorization to have less lunch break time and to begin earlier. I have a reasonable accommodation that allows me to be absent of my classes for going to all my medical check-ups, and I would be able to complete the 300 hours if I wouldn’t have so many medical check-ups and reasonable accommodation issues during these weeks, so I may be receive an authorization to make less hours due that. The Department of Education only requires around 200 hours to certificate teachers, so there is no need of completing 300 hours of teaching practicum besides the University’s requirement. I really don’t know what they do in cases like mine, we will see. I did my part and informed this as soon as I noticed it. It is true that in a regular semester I would have been able to complete the required 300 hours even with all the time needed for medical check-ups, that is something that must be taken in count too: the extraordinary circumstances of this semester, that started in March instead of in January.

This is the importance of having reasonable accommodation, among other reasons: if you have any problem related with being absent due medical check-ups, the issue can be handled without being penalized due needing extra time than others for medical issues.

My students learned something very important today: if they play with any toy during class, I consider that the toy is mine and confiscate it. I got a very nice Play Doh piece today! I love Play Doh! Besides that, I had my hdmi adapter in today’s class (the Amazon order was finally delivered yesterday!), so today I used my own computer to give class for the first time. I also had a clicker for the first time, so today I had a lot of fun with my tech toys too, besides having fun with the Play Doh! The hdmi adapter and the clicker made the process of giving class with Power Point a lot easier: today was the first day I ended my class earlier than expected! This was a little success for me.

Let’s keep growing!

Respecting My Student’s Minds

Today I want to talk about a very important theme for me: respecting my student’s minds. My aim is to respect their whole personal formation, but today I am going to talk specifically about respecting my student’s intellectual personal formation.

What “respecting my student’s intellectual personal formation” should mean? It is respecting their process of achieving their own ideas, methods, thoughts and conclusions. I as teacher have a powerful intellectual influence on my students, but that influence is not for making harm but to helping them to grow intellectually? How?

First, I never think for them what they should be able to think by their own. I may help them in the process of thinking, but I never think for them. It is important that they learn to think by their own.

Second, when I explain something, I explain it in a way that it can be understood from different thought methods. For example: now that I am explaining adjectives, I explain them through induction, through deduction and through abduction. That enriches my student’s intellectual skills and helps them to understand better too.

Third, when I explain a point of view, I explain the pros and the cons of that point of view, both, even if I am not agree with some of the propositions, and let the students arrive to their own point of view. For example (this is not an example that I have experienced with my current third graders): if I am going to talk about why someone considers that Puerto Rico is not a nation, I explain both why it may be considered a nation and why it may be not considered a nation, an let each student to build their own point of view about why considering Puerto Rico a nation or not. I personally do not consider Puerto Rico a nation, but I never state, except if explicitly asked, my own point of views. The important thing is to let the students have their own point of view in debatable themes.

Fourth, when I provide information about a concept, I give it providing information from different theories. For example (this example is not an example that I have experienced with my current third graders neither): if I am going to explain the concept “political systems”, I will talk about capitalism, and about socialism too, although I have disagreements with both. I give to the students the information they need for both understanding the concept and understanding the whole scenario of the concept from different perspectives. That way the students can build their knowledge with information of all sides and even they may create a perspective of their own.

Fifth, I avoid by all means intellectual proselytism. What is intellectual proselytism? It is promoting certain ideas only, usually those that you are agree with. There are many ways to commit intellectual proselytism. Books and studying material must be rich in sources, not using sources from one perspective, one kind of persons or one system only. For example: I had a college course once whose bibliography only had references of Marxism and Socialism, but the class was about Latin American philosophy. Another example: I went to a workshop where the theme “kindness” was being discussed, but all the references discussed the ideas of only one author, the founder of the institution where the workshop was being held. Other example of intellectual proselytism is to only promote in the classroom certain opinions, those which agree with certain agenda. That is grossly wrong. For example: I don’t talk to my students about my own theory. That something they don’t need to know for growing intellectually.

Sixth, I give the information to my students according to their developmental age. For example: when I discussed the theme of being open to diversity with my third grade students, I did not discussed it from a sexual identity perspective because that is not an age-appropriate theme for third graders, that is a theme that belong to the parents to discuss. With my third graders I discussed the theme of being open to diversity it from the perspective of being open to people with diverse abilities.

Finally, when a student has an conclusion that is clearly wrong, I confront him with the facts and different point of views, without allowing personalist arguments and without “forcing” a change via intellectual authority. For example: if a student says that being racist is a right or necessary thing, I don’t tell him “you are stupid”: I look for bibliography, references and information that can help him to understand why his premise is wrong.

As teacher, it is very important for me to promote the best intellectual personal formation possible for my students. There are many ways to do this. I hope to discover more than the ones I have mentioned.

Let’s keep growing!