Here is my powerpoint presentation on learning-to-teach this Fall.
Pretty nasty stuff. Lots of reactions today when we talked about cancer in our 9th grade biology classroom!
I am teaching my “series of three” lessons at a private Christian school in the Rochester area, and so far, it has been a great experience. The students are very receptive and well behaved, so it makes my job a bit easier. The nicest part is feeling comfortable and respected in the classroom. My series of three is about cell growth and cell division. I had the students make models of chromatin, chromosomes, and centrioles with spindle fibers out of yarn, pipe-cleaners, beads, Twizzlers, and metal thread. I think the students enjoyed having a hands-on, minds-on creative activity. They are used to being “receptacles” of knowledge and taking notes. I hope to challenge them more and get them to think creatively and critically while I do my series of three lessons. I learned that having a powerpoint is nice for images and diagrams (rather than having a lot of text). I found that it becomes more interactive. When students have capture sheets and use the knowledge, they move a step beyond receiving information by taking notes. I think it is essential to allow students the space to discover the mysteries of biology. That is what makes learning rewarding and fun. If someone lectures students every day, I feel that sense of wonder may get lost. As a teacher, it is our job to nurture students’ passion for learning and discovery.
My closure for today’s lesson on mitosis was for students to write all the steps it takes for a cell to go from one to two. I am excited to read the student responses tonight–it was a formative assessment–and it will show me if they really understand mitosis.
Tomorrow is my last day in my series of three. We are going to talk about cancer as a disruption of the cell cycle leading to uncontrolled cell growth. It has been a very helpful experience to be teaching this week, and I hope I will get another chance to work with these students and in this school in the future.
Our goal for the day was to analyze the data, fill out sections of our Meta-Map, and to address limitations.
For the Meta-Map activity, we gave our STARS a choice of what sections they wanted to fill out and then walked around while everyone was working to help them. The environment was one of relaxed alertness where everyone contributes to the team effort. We also encouraged them to use their journals or ask a friend if they needed help.
In our data analysis, I put a large piece of paper in the center of a table and had the STARS write their observations, interpretations, and analyses of the data on the paper as they shared out verbally. This space helped each STAR felt valued and important. It gave them a sense of being smart and being good at science. I think they really liked this activity because they were able to contribute and were challenged to think deeply.
A major strength of this lesson was having the “goofy scenarios” on study limitations. These scenarios helped STARS understand limitations in general and then they were able to apply this to our own study. I was impressed by how well they could identify limitations after we did the scenarios. They identified all the major limitations that we had identified as staff. However, a weakness of this lesson was that it was pretty schooley and it could have benefited by having more interactive activities.
I was excited about this “Meta Rap” I found on Youtube-it was funny and talked about the definition of “meta” because it was rapping about a rap. Unfortunately, while the “Meta Rap” was funny, the STARS did not really get it. If I revised this lesson, I would find a way to introduce the Meta-Map that wouldn’t be as abstract or difficult to relate to our study.
Another thing I learned this week was about adapting a lesson when there are factors outside your control. Since we only had 4 STARS, we did not do the carousel (stations) but did the scenarios all together as one group. I wish there would have been another way to get the STARS up and moving rather than sitting at a table the whole time.
Overall, I was impressed with our girls. The girls were interested in the study and wanted to participate at every turn of the lesson. I learned that they are personally invested in STARS — they had a good time analyzing the data and applying what they learned to our study. They like feeling “smart,” and they are smart!
I am excited to see what they come up with next week. We are designing our plan of action and decide on how to use our science for advocacy!
As a pre-service teacher, I learned that I could benefit from organizing my thoughts better. My idea is to go back to scripting things out, writing exactly what I would say at each step. I felt prepared in terms of what to do and why I’m doing it, but when it actually came to the process of leading, I was lacking in the “process” or “execution” skill. I learned that it is better to use simple, concrete language. Things clear to me may not be easily understood by others, and for me, these things need to be explicitly planned out and using a scripting practice.
<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/0V-RiolMRjg” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
Last week’s STARS session was full of interesting content. We got into the “meat” of the background material about bacteria. The students seemed to really enjoy this kind of learning. They wrote facts and ideas in their journals and on the windows in the Commons using window markers. Because we had small groups, each station was focused and the two or three STARS could ask questions and go at their own pace. I thought the stations work was a great idea (props to Z and L). One thing that could be improved was to make the stations a little more interactive. The stations were more focused on information. However, I was glad that the STARS engaged, were excited to write on windows, and had interesting questions about bacteria. It made me very happy. It was one of those situations where you think, “Yes, I am really excited about being a teacher.”
For me, this experience had some implications about my practice. I realized that having a solid content background is awesome, but it is becoming clearer and clearer that many other things go into becoming a good teacher. I see the value of creativity and the willingness to take risks and try new ideas. One can’t be timid, especially if the goal is to become a change agent in a school! I also see the need to roll with the punches and being flexible. A teacher needs to be a thoughtful planner and yet be able to improvise on the spot.
There are also internal factors that are important, such as loving your job and being passionate and dedicated. Being personable and kind to the students and people you work with is important, as well as having skills such as organization, good time management, and good behavioral and classroom management.
There is so much that goes into becoming an effective teacher. It is a journey of growth where one must focus on improving in certain aspects. It is important to target where one is strong and where one needs to grow.
The goal for today was data collection where we would carry out our scientific procedure. We started with an activity where the girls learned how to do swabbing and streaking on agar plates using K.’s hockey equipment. Some of the girls were out of the room for this, but when they came back, the girls who had done the activity taught those who had not done it how to do it properly. It was great to see how they worked together and taught each other. Also, we split up into three groups for data collection and each girl in the group had a role so that each felt important to the investigation. If one of the girls did not feel comfortable swabbing, for example, she would be the documentarian and director on which places to go to swab or she would be in charge of the materials.
A major strength of this lesson was having girls practice swabbing and streaking in the classroom so that we could help them get the proper sampling technique. It was a great APK and helped us frame our instruction on scientific procedure. Another strength was using a Bill Nye video to frame our session at the beginning. Having all the capture sheets in the girls’ notebooks helped increase engagement. One limitation would be that we could have figured out the materials better ahead of time. For example, we needed more cups to hold our distilled water so we wouldn’t have to use the whole jug.
Next time, we will have all the materials for each group in its own pile waiting for the STARS. I thought it was a bit chaotic breaking into three groups and trying to help STARS figure out who was swabbing what and where. We could improve this lesson by factoring these aspects into our planning. We could have had them figure out the swabbing locations when they were sitting down and had their journals in front of them.
I learned that our STARS love hands-on activities. They all had so much fun taking samples from around the school. I also saw that our STARS are fast learners when it comes to doing science. This makes me excited for the coming weeks! Overall we had a good day and it was great to see how invested the STARS were in their investigation and how they might use it to improve their high school.
I realized that I like working in small groups and getting to know the STARS on a one-on-one basis. I also learned that I need to have things figured out (especially materials in this case) or else it makes me nervous. The good thing is that planning can resolve this quite easily.
What intimidates students is when they feel incapable or not up to the task–whatever that task may be. In my experience at my school placement, I want to know how to motivate and empower these students. How do you get a struggling student out of the rut they are languishing within?
There has got to be a solution.
Cycling between despair and lack of motivation, students refuse to do their work and fall deeper into a pit, making it harder and harder to climb out.
I think that helping a student get her work done is the first step. Once the student feels like she is making process and actually is capable, she could have the motivation and the support to move towards success instead of moving towards inevitable withdrawal and failure.
I am thinking that what makes kids feel like dropping out of school is not knowing how or believing they can actually succeed. They might not like school, but I think the deeper issue is that their efforts are not translating into success and that they internalize the idea that they are failures and nothing is going to change that.
In this case, teachers and mentors can help students by showing them that they are worthwhile. Give them something they can do well. A taste for meaningful learning and discovery and self-efficacy could get them interested in putting in the effort to succeed!
“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.”
I am citing Virginia Woolf on this because her sentiment echoes the reasoning for blogging at the Warner School. After we experience teaching, observation, field experience, and planning, we are living the life of a teacher. Every experience of this life, every quality of our mind, is “written” somewhere in our brain. When we blog, we get our consciousness to connect to that vast tangle of our experience, and by writing we make sense of it all.
Blogging can be more than a personal journal that is made public online. We also develop our identities as teachers and writers. It’s good to reflect because reflection and action is “praxis.”
Our GetReal! Science program at Warner strongly emphasizes the identity piece for our students. Students are doing science, thinking like scientists, and most importantly, being scientists. We’re basing this on the idea that you only learn when you participate in an activity and when you increase/change your participation in those groups. If you want to be a writer, or a blogger, jump write in!
There’s nothing better than knowing you’ve made a difference in someone’s life or even just in someone’s day. I had this experience last Thursday at STARS, where one of our students was looking bummed and disengaged when she usually is at the front and one of our lead participants. I casually asked her if anything was wrong or if she was just thinking about something. When she shook her head, I asked if she wanted to join the group, and she also declined. However, about ten minutes into the activity, this student was back engaging with the class and she looked much happier! I was glad to see that she was back to being her normal self. Later she passed me a really nice note and that made my day too.
Even subtle things, even the little things, even the informal things can make all the difference.
It’s funny the things I remember from high school that made my day. For example, my homeroom teacher brought in cookies for every single student’s birthday. That was at least 20 batches of cookies! Not only did she bring cookies, she asked us what our favorite kind of cookie was so she could bring in our favorite.
I also remember my global history teacher was extremely involved with our class. He was a class advisor for the Class of 2005, he advised the Model United Nations group, he coached girls basketball, and he was always at school early so clubs that met in the morning, like Amnesty International, could use his room. Eventually, people liked to hang out there because of this teacher.
I remember my physics teacher stayed after school almost every day without fail to help students with their homework and problem sets one-on-one. He served hot chocolate too, which was always a plus.
So, themes about making a difference: be available, be consistent, be dependable, give of yourself, be considerate and thoughtful, and be present wherever you may be.
What does it take? According to Maya Angelou, courage and compassion.
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”