Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Final Student Teaching Reflection

It's over. I've now spent five wonderful, relaxing, carefree days with my family and I guess it is time to put down some final thoughts about my experience as a student teacher.

I spent my first half of student teaching in my own classroom and I have to say, that was the easier half of my tour. Everything was in place, I had written all the curriculum already, and it was at the end of the year and my student relationships were in place, so there were few difficult interactions. 

The useful thing was that I had the opportunity to have both the building director at my school (who is a licensed L.Arts teacher) and AK (my student teaching supervisor) in my classroom watching what I do on a regular basis. As I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog, teaching can be such an isolating job. Sometimes the only collaboration or advice we get from others in our building or our profession comes when we share an experience with our colleagues. This is absolutely a good practice, but the problem is that our experience is filtered through our own eyes and as truthful as you try to be, a bit of editing is inevitable.  To have someone right there to observe and advise is a valuable experience, one that should not end as a teacher's career progresses.

At Crosswinds, it was a whole different story.  There was a lot of work, a lot of learning, and lot of correcting papers.  I am a big advocate of web based curriculum.  As much as possible, my classes are posted on Moodle and students log on to complete tasks.  So if I assign a "traditional" assessment like a quiz or a worksheet, students complete it on Moodle and the program corrects it for me!  All I do is look it over to see what it was that a student is having trouble with and to insure that the program did not misinterpret an answer. In a more traditional classroom like Crosswinds, there is just so much paperwork!  I definitely like my way better!

As I also mentioned before, interactions with parents are much different at Crosswinds than in my district.  In my school, it is difficult to get parents to answer phones or return emails, they seldom come for conferences and few have much to do with their children's academics.  Many of the parents in my school district are poor and spend a lot of time working.  Some are single parents, some had their children very young and are barely adults themselves.  For whatever reason, contact is difficult to obtain in a lot of cases.  At Crosswinds, the majority of parents are all over their kids and their kids' teachers.  

But in addition to that, I found an interesting cultural difference between the parents I interacted with at ComArts and Crosswinds.  (Of course are were exceptions in both cases.) The parents who are involved in my district are from the old school.  They listen to what the teachers have to say and take it right to their kids.  They snap at their child if he/she contradicts an adult or shows disrespect to a teachers or administratort.  When I call them to relay an event, they recognize me as the adult and take my word over their child's, recognizing teenagers tendency to "rearrange events."

At Crosswinds, there were many times that I witnessed TL and other teachers in our house defending themselves to parents.  Parents came in or called, insisting that a teacher account for his/her actions, quoting their children, or even their children's friends.  It seems the balance of proof was heavy on the teacher's side in these cases.  I wonder about this difference.  Of course my experiences are merely anecdotal and by no means prove anything about poor verses middle class or suburb vs. inner city, but they are interesting to think about.

I think the most important lesson that I will take away from Crosswinds, aside from the great classroom management techniques I learned from TL, is the importance of relationships. Joining a class at the end of the year and having only seven weeks to interact with them is difficult.  When I compare the interactions that I was able to have with the class with those that TL did, his deep relationships with students were so very apparent.  They are what enabled him to effectively teach, discipline, manage, and interact in an effective and caring manner.  I like to think that I obtain the same in my own classroom and that they prove to be  just as effective. I will continue to concentrate on this aspect of my teaching as I grow in my career.

Since I know that both TL and AK read this blog, I'll add another thank both of youfor my experience at Crosswinds and my student teaching experience as a whole.  It was a long summer, but it was worth it and I'm excited to jump back into my own career, armed with all the additional understanding that I've been granted with your help.

I hope to continue this blog, detailing some of the triumphs and challenges I face in my career at ComArts and beyond, so keep reading and keep in touch. TW