Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Who doesn't love home videos?

Or love classroom videos? Yuck. Yuck. Blah. (We reviewed interjections in class today) My taped grammar lesson actually wasn't as horrible as I had anticipated, but it wasn't inspiring either. For the most part I taught the lesson adequately. My voice was loud and clear, my words enunciated (I am constantly exagerating my own enunciation with the hope that, like southern accents have done to me, my pointed pronunciation will rub off on my students, chronic mumblers). I'd say I looked more or less professional; I was dressed in a black and white skirt and a black sweater. I didn't crouch, bend, or sit in any unbecoming or panty-revealing ways, thank God. There was no butt waggling when I erased the white board, again, thank God. Unfortunately, however, I bored myself. I think this was mostly because I wasn't moving around much, which was the same criticism I received from Dr. Sullivan. The climax of activity in front of class was some seaweed-in-a-gentle-tide-like swaying, shifting weight from one leg to the other. Perhaps this is the result of years of 4-H public presentations in which we were drilled to stand ramrod straight and deliver the speech.

Watching the video is a good exerciese in perspective. It's a very different experience to be the one in front of the classroom than the one in the back row, seated at a desk. When I was up in front of the class, I was aware of people taking notes, filling out the hand outs I had given them, volunteering answers, etc.. From the camera's perspective I could only see backs and the backs of heads, no interaction. None of the sitting students realize their own or others engagement. I found this highly dissengaging and uneventful compared to looking at individual fraces frontally. Also, the teacher towers above all the little people confined to their desks. They are small and immobile; it's no wonder they often appear dissengaged, or easily fall asleep. I've known since the first day of summer school, when I had to sit in Ms. Sneed's class for four hours straight, that sitting too long is a bad thing, and now I am even more convinced of the need for kinesthetic and group interaction when I begin in August.

So, the lesson I have learned from my lesson: the objective for my class will be movement, movement, movement - for teacher and students.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


I'm happy to conclude that I like kids. I also am happy to reaffirm that I like thinking up ways to keep them and myself busy, maybe even while teaching them and myself something in the meantime.

I think the summer school experience has mostly offered me a good environment in which to become more confident and aware of myself as a person not of a class, but leading a class. The realization came as a shock at first, when I discovered that I'm not the student in the same sense, but now the teacher and student of my students and my experience with them. I was also a little surprised to discover my own intollerance for disrespectful behavior, and that it was not my natural inclination, as I had thought it might have been, to be a softy.

I've also observed myself throughout the past month reverting back to habits of organization and regimine that I believed to have left behind in high school. It's amazing to me how various circumstances and tasks bring out different aspects of my personality and behavior. I get up at five each morning - something I definitely never did in college - and take my morning "self" time, before diving into each day's classroom insanity. I am once again a compulsive list maker, note taker, and paper organizer. And I love the fact that I am using parts of my brain, of my intelligence, that I never got to excercise in college. There have been so many nights in this past month alone when I've collapsed, satisfied with exhaustion, into bed. I like that feeling.

I also love the students in my class. Some of them can frustrate the hell out of me, but other are hillarious, and others make my day when they tell me that was the first time they'd learned something like that or in that way, or that what we talked about was something they'd like to know more about.

All that said, I'm ready to be done with summer school. I don't like not having my own class. I don't like that there are days when I do nothing because it is not my turn to teach. Ideally there would be enough summer school classes that each of us could be one on one with an experienced teacher and a class.

In short: the teaching experience has been possitive, and I am completely motivated to keep moving forward.

Cold Call, Not Pull Call

Somehow I came to know the technique of calling on students, in which the teacher randomly draws names from a stack of notecards, as "pull call". Actually, it is not called "pull call." It's called "Cold Call." I realized my mistake, much to my own chagrin, in front of the entire class today. And, while the name of this technique is not nearly as important as the technique itself - it has proven highly effective in Ms. Sneed's summer school class - I feel obliged to clarify out of respect for the pure act of cold calling. Mr. Cole (we teach together in the same summer school class) has made excellent use of the random selection process, and uses not only to choose kids to call on, but also as a means of learning last names. I enjoy his teaching sessions, which include a dallop of added respect and formality throught calling each student Mr. or Ms. plus his or her last name. I think the students also recognize the little bit of extra dignity this grants them. It's also a little like taking on a new, classroom persona or alias; suddenly we're all important people with titles. Cold calling will definitely appear in Ms. DeGraaf's class in August.

back to the blog

I realize I have yet to talk about Gary Rubinstein's "Reluctant Disciplinarian." Truth be told, I like ite. I found it easy to identify with Rubenstein, a self-proclaimed "accidental teacher," and enjoyed the semi-mocking tone he emplyed when discussing the "martyrs" he encountered upon joining Teach For America. At the time when I was reading the book - earlier in June when the nobleness of our mission as teachers seemed constantly reiterated (I don't deal well idealized idealism) - I found Rubinstein's cynicism and sarcasm an enjoyable relief, even though at times his attempts at humor grew tiring. Mostly I appreciated the personal annectdotes that illustrated actual examples of discipline problems, and general issues that Rubinstein and other teachers have faced. I think however, the only piece of advice to be followed is that one shouldn't follow the advice, but consider it and use it, if possible, if it functions beneficially to the individual teacher. I have also come to the conclusion - I'm not sure if was Rubinstein or Angelina Jolie in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" who actually drove the point home - that a new professional wardrobe will be absolutely necessary in August.

Basically, I thought "Reluctant Disciplinarian" was an enjoyable way to reinforce all the info and principals we've been given in Ms. Monroe's class about classroom management.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

pull cards

mr. cole debuted the pull cards yesterday in ms. sneed's class when he instructed clauses. they were successful as far as i could tell. telling was the difficult part however, since that day the combined wrath of unsatisfied student teachers and ms. sneed stormed with fury through the room. assignments were not being handed in. ms. sneed lectured the class, then mr. cole made everyone squirm under a dissaproving eye and reiterated reprimands. i don't think the students would have objected to anything during that lecture. thus the obvious success of the pull cards on wednesday.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

august anxiety

i am ready for the end of summer school. ready for july. ready to start focussing and planning my curriculum for august. ready to stop stumbling over four or five teachers in one classroom. (i love working with all of you, and have benefited greatly from observing, but honestly there are just too many of us for fourteen students. i think we are beginning to overwhelm/confuse, and the experience is not really translatable to what we will find in august in our own classes.) i am ready to establish my own classroom space and routine. ready to begin actualizing what we outline here, daily, in class. i'm ready to confront the situation for which they say we're being prepared, which i have yet to experience. i'm taking rapid fire notes each afternoon, but day after day i begin to suspect the tidbits are slipping away as i have no means of applying them directly.

i'm sure i should just stop worrying, and enjoy this time, the downhill coast. the uphill pedalling will begin soon enough. but i'm the kind of person who would rather be fighting, wiping the shit from the fan, than growing anxious about the unrealized battle ahead. to make it even better, we constantly receive words of wisdom and advice from the experienced among us to help minimize of our immenant danger. (only one second year had a stapler thrown at her last year.)

of course, i don't really worry that much. it's just that long days and obligatory blogging reaffirm neurosis.

Monday, June 13, 2005

from ms. to mrs.

friday: upon receiving a paper left by one of my students for "MRS. de draft" i have realized the downside of titles signifying authority, or in many unfortunate circumstances, age. to clarify, i am not a mrs. and will not be for quite some time. the "mrs." was particularly relevant and frightening this as it came this past weekend as i witnessed the first of my college friends' marriage.

Monday, June 06, 2005

a week in

i was referred to by a student, for the first time today, as "ms. degrat" which is closer than i've ever come to being called my official title, ms. degrAAF, by anyone. honestly, despite the mistaken pronunciation, my heart lept with an inflated sense of newfound respect and the accompanying authority when i heard the student utter that formal title. beyond the initial flattery, i was also reminded that i'm not a student anyone - at least to some, or in the same capacity in which i was just a month ago. sometimes when i sit in ms. sneed's class, observing as she mumbles off the grammar lesson for the day, i feel as much a bored, sleepy, fifteen year old as any student in the class. i swear to myself, when i note my nodding in and out of focused attention, growing distant in my daydreaming, that i will fight with all my ability to save my students in the fall from such needless sufferring. i'm optomistic at this point. it is an optomism that i recognize, smile at, and then curse for its - for my own - naivete each day as we are told of the difficulties to be confronted, of the misery we're going to experience in those first months, in that first year of teaching. how can i feel so at ease knowing i'm walking right into a spear-lined pit with many sharp-toothed carnivorous creatures waiting to macerate my freshly burned flesh - thanks to mississippi sun - if given the chance? i'm going to get a dog. just as soon as i get to jackson. a big black doberman.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

first week

no car, need a new bike.