Field Placement, Day 1!

Well, not exactly Day 1, but it was my first FULL day in the classroom with my cooperating teacher (CT), really getting a feel for her style, the room, the school, other teachers, and the school’s professional community.

Last week I got to sit in on a couple of “Meet and Greets” my CT does with her incoming kindergarteners and their families. It’s an opportunity for her to do a short assessment and get a sense of the child while hearing from her family. It was so cool for me to see an assessment first hand and the interactions of an experienced teacher with a student/student’s family.

Today was mainly about getting the classroom prepped for the first day–I got to staple sheets of paper into journals, set up some supplies, decorate a bulletin board with students’ photos, etc. While doing these tasks I got to converse with my CT about her teaching experience and was fortunate enough to hear her talk about some of her methods and choices for how she sets up the classroom, how she assigns seats, and why she chooses certain kinds of writing utensils. I also sat in a large meeting of all the school’s teachers and staff. It was an interesting and informative experiences, especially because of all the specialized language being used and the conversations about the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) and other school/district changes.

Judging by how I felt when I left at the end of the day, I’m going to enjoy my placement, and my CT is going to be a great mentor!

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Health and Fitness, Day 8–Food Journal Reflection

About a month or two ago, I started running regularly after a hiatus and started keeping a food log on MyFitnessPal (phone app) to keep track of my calorie intake. It wasn’t so much to lose weight (although if it happened I wasn’t going to complain!) but to be mindful of what I was putting in my body and how I was staying active. Being healthy and maintaining my weight has been a struggle for me since early college when my metabolism slowed considerably and I gained the very infamous “Freshman Fifteen.” I learned the hard way that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted with my body and assume it would stay the way I wanted it to. I would need to be active and conscious about it. Keeping a food and exercise log has helped me do this for the past several years. I see maintaining my health as something that can translate into being a better teacher. Since it’s pretty clear that “Exercise boosts brain power” (Rule #1 from Brain Rules: Twelve Principles for Suriviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina), it’s easy enough for me to suggest that exercise (and eating nutritious foods) makes me a better teacher. Teaching and learning rely on cognitive functions and if exercise is a key component of brain power, then I would say it’s imperative for me to be healthy! As far as being a healthy role model to my students, I would want them to see an individual that remains active for more reasons than health and having a “desirable” body. I’d want my students to understand and appreciate body diversity while seeing the not so visible positive effects of a healthy diet and exercise–brain power to teach and learn, stress-relief, fun and engaging way to interact with peers, or a way to challenge yourself both mentally and physically.

After reviewing my food log, I noticed that I tend to eat pre-made, processed foods. I’m a sucker for frozen chicken nuggets and easy to prepare meals from boxes. I made it my goal to cook more often from fresh foods and therefore reduce my intake of these processed foods. This was incredibly difficult for me because of two things: 1. I do not enjoy cooking and 2. I’m not willing to spend a lot of time cooking. So, in order to meet my goal, I would make an abundance of food whenever I cooked so that I would have leftovers for at least a couple of days. This worked out pretty well because I would not have to cook as often. For students trying to reach a goal, I would help them think critically about what might work and what might not work in reaching that goal. I realized, with my own goal, that I needed to find a strategy that would work for my needs and schedule. Meeting any goal requires a strategy and support. Students need access to both.

Other implications this assignment might have on my teaching involve using the log as a way to incorporate health and fitness into a curriculum that otherwise might not allow for them. I think it would be an excellent way to study the human body–students could research what doctors and experts have to say about diet and exercise, then use their journals to see how well they follow this advice. They could do a written or artistic reflection, much like the one I am doing this moment, to consider what health strategies work for them or what they could do better. I think a food log would also provide an excellent opportunity to blend math and science in studying food labels and the numbers and percentages and daily values represented there along with the numerous kinds of nutrients like fat, sugars, and fiber. For some students, it could be age-appropriate for them to keep detailed food logs where they keep track of their intake of certain nutrients and they could come up with goals based on those numbers.

Having students keep a food/activity log would be an engaging way to help students think about how diet and exercise are relevant to their lives. It certainly helps me be more thoughtful and caring about my own physicality.

Health and Fitness, Day 7–TPA

Today ended with some information about our Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA), which will be the deciding factor in whether Washington state certifies us or not. It’s encouraging, at least for me, to know that I’m being asked to meet a high standard and prove I can be a competent and successful teacher.

It also brings up a lot of concerns and questions since I want to get certified! It does worry me that a company known for its standardized tests is going to be judging my portfolio. I wonder if the judges will be capable of accurately analyzing my current abilities and my potential. I just think it would make more sense if actual, practicing Washington state teachers could see our TPAs and they make the final decision. I’m also concerned about the amount of support I will receive from the program in compiling my TPA. But I do have faith that we will be receiving explicit instruction in how to do everything the TPA asks of us and ample amount of practice and feedback opportunities.

As nervous as I am about “passing the test,” I feel really excited to get to work on preparing for it. It is supposed to make me a better, more prepared teacher, right?

Health and Fitness, Day 6–Microteaching

Well, today was the day. Our microteaching day.

It went…fine? I think. There were some parts that didn’t go exactly as planned, but I think we (my group and I) planned and scripted as much as we could but had to know that things weren’t going to go exactly the way we would want. For one thing, the classroom change was definitely a bit disorienting!

There are definitely some things I would change about my part of the project. My personal goal, as being the opener and introducing the lesson was to set the tone, to sort of get people into a mode of thinking about each other kindly and as a part of a team, a community. However, I didn’t think as much about making sure what I said connected to the larger picture of the actual lesson. And not having a visual, something to guide the students through my verbal explanation could also be a hindrance to their understanding. This is probably the main revision I’ll be making to our lesson plan.

On another note, handling the human brain was a totally new experience for me. I tend to be easily grossed out, but I have been making a conscious effort to become more comfortable with getting hands on with things that make me uncomfortable, especially so I can be a role model for my students. I don’t want young students to see my behavior and think it’s the appropriate way to act and let it get in the way of their hands-on learning experiences. The brain and heart were very good practice!

Health and Fitness, Day 5–Integrating Physical Activity

Friday’s class was quite the workout, I’m thinking I may need to incorporate jump roping into my workout routine! Other than learning this, I learned some new ways to integrate physical activity into curricular activities we consider stationary.

With my job at the YMCA, we were motivated to do exactly that because part of mission of the Y is to encourage health and fitness. I had some practice using physical activity in math and science, but it was awesome getting to learn how to do this from two young students and actually participate myself. The noodle tag game would be such a great way to illustrate or reinforce a lesson on the spreading of germs, and writing our own jump roping rhymes was not only fun and engaging, but also quite challenging–this is definitely something I will want to use as a teacher myself.

One of my greatest concerns as a pre-service teacher is how I will be able to enact health equity. Incorporating physical activity into the curriculum would be a fantastic way to get my students moving, even if they might not do a lot of physical activity outside of school. It would be a great way to encourage them to pursue exercise as something fun, especially for the students, who much like me, thought sports and fitness were out of their comfort zone.

Health and Fitness, Day 4–Assessment

There’s no doubt that student assessment is valuable. For politicians, it informs how they’re going to campaign in regards to education. For policy-makers and researchers, it’s data that can provide evidence for new reforms. For teachers, it’s important because we can see the effectiveness of our teaching (what students got out of the curriculum and what we intended for them to learn), it helps us reflect on what aspects of our teaching works and what doesn’t, and it can be a tool in learning about the strengths, struggles, and growth in individual students. But today we were asked (new to me, at least) what can students get out of these same assessments?

When the question was posed to us, there was a deep moment of silence–we’ve been so trained to think of assessments as something useful to adults and a hoop that students are forced to jump through. This probably has a lot to do with our own experiences with being assessed–take a test, get a grade, and a label. So, I was forced to think about what could be inherently good about assessments, for students? How can we frame and implement assessments that are actually indicative of a students’ learning and help them continue to learn? I’m excited to continue talking about assessing students as we get delve deeper into methods and instructional design, but here are some of the thoughts we came up with today on how assessments can benefit students:

  • Students may receive individualized attention.
  • Student voice–student self-evaluates, assesses her own progress, sees her own growth, recognizes areas that she may want to approve upon.
  • If teachers provide an assessment “rubric” before assigning a task/activity, students will understand the expectations and that their teacher is looking at more than the outcome–wants to see what led to that outcome.

Health and Fitness, Day 3–Issues of Abuse and Neglect

As part of my previous job with the YMCA, I took a Child Abuse Prevention class where we covered the same issues we discussed in today’s class session. As a teacher, we will undoubtedly be put into a position of having to report a parent or caregiver for what we perceive as abusive or neglectful behavior. There were a lot of hypothetical situations and discussion points brought up that seemed to generate more questions and conversation that our time allowed for, but I did walk away knowing the following things:

1) My first and foremost responsibility as a teacher is to the student. Building a classroom and school community with families is an imperative part of providing an education to students, and this requires a level of trust and rapport with those families. A good point was brought up in class today that it feels a bit sneaky to go directly to authorities with a suspicion of abuse/neglect rather than engage the family in a conversation. But I’m sure we could all agree we have to do what’s in the best interest of the child, and as long as I can justify my decision to call CPS, then I hope the classroom/school community will understand.

2) Better be safe (report) than sorry (not report). Because we are mandated reporters, if we see evidence that one of our students is being abused/neglected, then we are obligated by law to file a report. Not only under the law, but morally, I would rather err on the side of caution and make my suspicions known to my administrator and/or authorities and know they are investigating further into the family than I would be capable of doing.

3) But before coming to a conclusion, consider the cultural context of the child and her family. We also talked about how different families will have different cultural norms that shape how they treat their children. We were reminded of this through a passage from The Spirit Catches You and we’ll have to use our best judgement and realize that what we may consider inappropriate in our own belief system may be completely appropriate in another family’s.

Although it’s a very complicated issue colored mostly gray, I do think that the best advice I took away from the class was to use my best judgement, use the evidence in front of me, utilize the resources available to support these kinds of issues (administrators, school counselors, etc.), and always do what’s best for the student.