Part of the Process

Thoughts on becoming a teacher.


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Looking Back

One year ago, I spent a week in Yakima observing at the middle school my dad and stepmom teach at, as well as in the elementary school where a close friend teaches at. I’ve been thinking about that week, remembering all the different experiences I had. Reflecting back on that week has really opened my eyes to all the learning that I have done this year. I have so many new ways to view and interpret those experiences. I have many more understandings about why things were done they way they were.

For the past several weeks, I have felt overwhelmed on many occasions. Overwhelmed by my present and overwhelmed by the future. Trying to look forward too far is a daunting task. I’ve found that reflecting back on my week spent observing in Yakima has helped me not only celebrate how far I’ve come, but it also alleviates some of the worry for the future.

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Conversations with Students

My mind keeps going back to a conversation I had with a student this week. I’ve been helping out at Working Lunch at my middle school for the past month. Teachers can send their students to working lunch if they are missing any assignments, this provides an hour of working time with two teachers and two paraprofessionals (as well as my dyad partner and I, twice a week). I’ve noticed several familiar faces during my time there, but a lot of the students are able to get caught up and “graduate” from Working Lunch.

This week, Johnny was there both days. On the first day, I noticed that he had about seven assignments out, and he was struggling to focus. I don’t think he got any real work done that first day. The second day was starting out the same way. I could tell it was going to be tough for him to get started, so I thought I would just talk to him for a few minutes. I asked him how his day was going, it was so-so. I asked him about his favorite classes and he perked up a bit describing his two favorites, which happened to be after Working Lunch. He then told me that he really wanted to be in the STEM course offered at the school, (this particular school has a really neat STEM program, with cutting edge tools and a dynamic instructor) but instead was placed in Learning Support classes. He seemed so disappointed as he told me this. I didn’t know how to respond. Thoughts about how he was getting additional support that he needed or gaining necessary skills for the future crossed my mind. In the end, I said nothing. I just listened. I’ve been thinking about this conversation and what I could have said. I’ve thought about Johnny and wondered if he would have been motivated in those STEM classes or how he would have handled them. What would you say to a student in Johnny’s situation?


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Flipped

My dyad placement is at a Middle School that has folding walls between classrooms. Today, I had the opportunity to see some pros and cons of this design firsthand. Let me start by saying that the wall separating the room I’m in from one of the adjacent rooms is open on occasion to allow for team teaching and large group presentations. The majority of the time the wall is closed, or open during planning periods. One of the major downsides is that the noise from two other classrooms easily carries into ours. This afternoon, right as class was starting, it was discovered that the wall wouldn’t close. It was stuck.door The room was even louder than normal and it was tough for the kids to focus. My Cooperating Teacher tried to make it work, but eventually decided to call in help. The wall did end up getting fixed, but not before a big chunk of class time had gone by.

The very next period, I got to see some of the pros of these moveable walls. I observed a math class where the teachers team teach full-time and the wall is always open. This math class is also Flipped; the students watch instructional videos for homework and do their work in class. The teachers in this class utilized “clickers” (classroom/student response systems) that allowed them to see where students had errors in their work or whether or not they had started. One of the teachers used her ipad so she could monitor student answers as she circulated the room. I know that flipped classes have their pros and cons, but it was exciting to see teachers committed to collaboration and committed to using technology to enhance student learning and assessment.


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Lance Jones

Last night, I interviewed my little brother for a project I’m working on for my Middle School Learners class. The fact that I got a 14 year old boy to happily talk to me about his experiences in middle school is probably a testament to what a great kid he is. I asked him to choose a pseudonym for me to use in my paper, he chose Lance Jones, the names he gave to his tuba and saxophone. I really enjoyed learning more about what those years of his life were like and it made me want to learn more about the experiences of other kids. I went to a tiny private school from 1st-8th grade, so traditional middle school experiences seem a little foreign to me.

There were a few things that stood out to me during the interview. When I asked him about teachers, he told me he knew that teachers cared about him when they took the curriculum further, brought in extra activities and made it fun. I asked him if he felt like any of his teachers didn’t care about him and he told me that he felt like a few teachers were just there for the paycheck (he mentioned these teachers just chatting with each other or showing videos all the time). For the most part he held his teachers in high regard. He told me about a time when he felt like he was being bullied (verbally) and a teacher stepped in and talked to the other child. He said the teacher did the exact right thing for the situation.

One of the things that kept coming up was how he felt frustrated with kids who didn’t care about school and how in every class there were kids who were “goof-offs”. I asked him why he thought these kids didn’t care about school and he thought that maybe they had a bad experience in elementary school that “set them up terrible for their whole education”. He thought a possible solution for those kids would be if a teacher noticed they were struggling and stepped in to try to make school fun for them.

At the end of our conversation, I asked him if he had any general thoughts that had come up. Here is what he said: “Middle School is a time when you decide if you want to stay a seed, or if you want to start to germinate, put roots down and grow.”