Friday, April 30th, 2004
Today marks the end of my sixth week of observing at Stivers School for the Arts. I missed commenting at the half way point (I have five weeks of observing left), but so it's better late than never.

The most common reaction I get from friends or new acquaintances who are teachers when I tell them I'm studying to become a teacher is something along the lines of "What? You might want to reconsider that." And at school (Wright State, not Stivers) I've heard that a big part of the reason for the Phase I Observations is to let education students know what they're getting themselves into, in case they want to change their minds (a couple of my fellow Integrated Language Arts students have done just that).

There have been times during my observation that I've wondered whether I really do want to be a teacher. Teenagers in the best circumstances can be moody and difficult to deal with; kids who find themselves in bad situations are of course more of a challenge. I've had no real experience managing kids (dealing with programmers bickering over the temperature in an office isn't quite the same thing), and my college classes so far haven't dealt with the subject yet.

I need to learn how to deal with:
  • kids who sleep in class (my cooperating teacher's strategy is to let sleeping dogs lie)
  • kids who want to socialize rather than work (my cooperating teacher has the knack for dealing with this, but even for him it's an ongoing battle)
  • kids who refuse to do as they're told (anything from moving to another chair to working on a quiz)
  • kids who get upset when their teachers (me and my cooperating teacher) won't let them do something (go to their locker, go to the library, go to the bathroom, use the phone [use the phone?! in my day (god, I'm old) classrooms didn't have phones])
  • kids who don't come prepared (my cooperating teacher has lost this battle or rather chooses not to fight it other than through the gradebook; kids come without pencils or their books and more often than not do not do assignments on time)
When I decided to become a teacher, it wasn't because I was attracted to the idea of being a policeman.
This experience hasn't been bad though. Even after just six weeks I feel more comfortable dealing with the kids who don't want to be in school. And working with the kids who do want to be there, or who at least are willing to try, is what teaching's all about (how's that for a cliche, but nevertheless a true one).

I like working with kids one on one or in small groups. We're doing pretty basic stuff (how to use quotation marks has been the main thing this month), but it's fun to think of ways to try to make it interesting. Some kids seem to get a kick out of working with sentence that have their own names in them (and other kids think that's stupid). A lot of kids like to write on the board (they volunteer; the ones you have to ask to write on the board don't want to). One of my professors really advocates incorporating artsy/crafty things to teach kids about literature and grammar; I tried one of her ideas (character popups) with the reading lab kids and they seemed to like it.

Dealing with kids in small groups or individually is revealing. One kid who contributed a lot to my realizing how much I need to learn about behavior management was surprisingly willing to work when he was in a small group. Part of it was that he wanted to compete with two others kids, but part of it was that he was actually starting to get what we were working on. He can still be a challenge in the classroom, but it's good to know that there's another side to him.

Being at Stivers has made me think more about figuring out exactly what and where I want to teach. A good thing about Stivers is that it's walking distance from my house. Another thing is that it's a magnet school, so many of the kids do want to be there, at least for their magnet. Whether a suburban school would have more kids who want to be in school or who are willing to do what they're told, I don't know for sure. Something that has crossed my mind is that kids in a foreign language class might be more motivated than kids in an English grammar class. More on that later.
Monday, March 15th, 2004
Today I started my Phase I Practicum, which is part of the process of becoming a teacher. In Phase I pre-service teachers (the term for students studying to become teachers) observe real classrooms. We're not there to student teach (that happens in Phases II and III), but we interact with students and sometimes, depending on the cooperating teacher (the term for the teacher whose classroom is being observed), even teach a lesson.

Spring quarter at Wright State doesn't start until March 29th, but because spring break in local school districts doesn't coincide with Wright State's, we have to start our observations during our spring break to be sure to get enough hours.

I've been assigned to Stivers School for the Arts, on Fifth Street in Dayton, which is convenient because it's walking distance from where I live in the Oregon District. Stivers is a magnet school, and students must audition to attend. My cooperating teacher is Joe Shindell, and he runs a proficiency intervention lab for 7th-12th graders who have failed sections of the Ohio Proficiency Tests or who have low scores on the Terra Nova achievement tests. The students spend half their time on computers doing drills and practice test in their target subject areas. They spend the rest of their time reading self-selected books and writing about their books.

I was only there for a few hours today getting acquainted. It's definitely going to be a different experience.
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