Vegas 2012

Vegas 2012
Standing in The Paris. My favorite hotel!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Almost December... WHAT?!

            This week was short and sweet. I can’t believe that I only have 3 weeks left, and though they will be a busy 3 weeks, they will be kind of crazy as well. This coming week we have 2 early release days, (Wednesday we get out at 2:05, and Friday we get out at 11:35 – report card day), and a field trip on Thursday. I’m excited, things are going really well, and I FINALLY started my work sample! CRAZY! It doesn’t feel like I have been here for over 3 months, I am sad that things are coming to end, and the closer it gets, the sadder I become.
            My first lesson went really well, Karen did a formal observation on me, and she was really impressed. Made me feel really good! J Turns out that I am teaching my science lessons during writing time, and that I will be missing 7 of my students during that time, as they will be going to get extra help for writing. Should I still include those students in my work sample? They will not be participating in ANY of the activities (which is REALLY lame!) I was able to get my bulletin board done for my work sample, it looks pretty gosh darn awesome! Hiccups for lesson one: Karen and I wanted the students to do a crossword puzzle – we did not look carefully at the crossword before printing and copying it, and it had vocabulary on their that we would not be touching. SO during reading time we had to quickly rewrite a crossword, and then print a new one. Second, I needed to work a little more on drawing out my students in the class who don’t talk as much, and are pretty quiet. Though I was able to get to a few, there were some that I forgot. Other than that, I think that lesson one went really well. Oh! And at first, I had some students that blurted out answers, and talked without raising their hand, I let a few go at first, and then began stamping them out as the lesson went on, but I needed to be a little stricter/firmer about not letting students get away with shouting out answers.
            Question – If I just go through and answer the reflection questions printed on the rubric for my reflection, is that okay? Are there other questions that I should be hitting?
            My second lesson, is my favorite so far (even though I have only taught 2). The students were SO engaged and interested in what was going on with the modern mysteries. It was really awesome to see and experience their excitement. This lesson, I was able to get most of my quiet students to talk/respond. That was really exciting for me, I realize that the more I build relationships with these students, the more I can get from them because the more they trust me etc. I only had a couple of setbacks within this lesson, one was a sentence frame that I gave students was a little confusing, and unhelpful. I was able to fix that, and correct the situation/problem. The last hiccup was a student in general. She is SO smart, but she tends to be VERY needy and literal. Instead of being able to go with the flow, she needs someone to walk her through. This was a little frustrating for me, but I want her to be able to become a little more independent, and so that is my goal for her within my work sample.
            Last, Karen and I are still getting along quite well, she cracks me up, and I am continuously learning new things from her. One thing I have discovered, is that even though she is really smart, and comes from a background of child psychology, and seems to know a lot about her students, she tends to be slightly disconnected from her students. I feel that there are some students within her classroom that I know better than she does, and I know more about what is going on with student-to-students relationships within her classroom than she does. I find this kind of crazy since I have spent less time in the classroom than her, but I feel like this might be a difference in personalities. I think that I want to command my classroom through respect – I want to know my students well enough that I will be able to ask of them a lot, and they will know they can trust me, and I will know that letting me down will be a big disappointment. Karen commands her classroom through this way sort of, I guess I’m not quite sure how else she commands her classroom, and that will be something I will look for this week. It’s not fear…. But it’s close/kind of similar.

Almost Thanksgiving....!!!

This week has been good. I’m so glad that I am moving full time in to the classroom, and that I don’t have classes anymore. (I know that sounds terrible… But I am so burnt, and I am ready for the break!)
            Karen just started a new book that she is reading out loud to the class. I have never read the book myself, but it is apparently one of her favorites. Maybe I am just used to listing to early elementary read alouds, but I am not sure that I would have picked this book to read aloud to a class. The book is based on the true story of Gary Paulsen’s life, and it talks about his alcoholic parents, dirty pictures etc. Kind of a “racy” story (I think) to be reading to 6th graders, but Karen has read the book to her 6th grade class before, and she knows them better than I.
            We have 2 students in our class that have been absent for more than a week. (Not consecutively, I just mean in amount of days.) Karen is really upset that their parents are allowing for them to skip so much school. I wonder why she hasn’t called home to ask if everything is okay, maybe she can’t? I know she has both of their parents phone numbers. Her concern is the amount of education that these 2 students are missing out on, while being at home. I agree, especially when one of the students has missed a total of 11 days so far within the school year, and it’s only November.
            I discovered this week that one of my students is currently living with her aunt and uncle not necessarily by choice. Apparently her mother has a mental disability, and her father gave up custody of her and her brother to his sister. Currently her aunt is trying to adopt her. It really explained a lot to me as to why she is so quiet, talks a lot about missing Hawaii etc. I worry about her, she is such a smart and kind person, and I hope that she will continue to make smart choices. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have parents who are unwilling/unable to take care of you. Karen tells her everyday that she is important, and that if she could clone her and take her home she would.
            This week I ran anther reading group, I think that this time went MUCH better than the first time. I did reading charts again, hopefully spending more time will allow me to get into more of a rhythm with reading charts. Friday, I got to spend in Mr. Bayer’s classroom (another 6th grade teacher) for about 10 minutes while stepped out of the classroom to conference with a student. That was exciting – I felt pretty grown up. Karen and I decided to keep my being there on Monday a secret. I’m excited to surprise the kids.
            I’m really excited to start teaching. My bulletin board/vocab. wall is up and it looks amazing! I hope that these next 10 lessons go well, that I learn and grow a lot, and that I am able to accomplish tons. I still have 2 students that have not yet taken the pre-assessment. I am going to (hopefully if they are there) make sure they get those done Monday morning. I have completed all of my lesson plans, Karen looked over them and is really excited for the next 10 days. She has been, as always, such a great help. I feel that I am truly blessed in 

Week of Crazy! It's November already?! Ugh.

            This week…. All I have to say is thank HEAVEN it is Friday. It feels like it has been stressful, exhausting, and VERY long week.  I was really glad to see the kids. Pretty much the fun and joy they bring in to the classroom continues to make my week better. I’m slightly freaking out at the thought that I only have 2 more weeks until I will be there full time – that means teaching. I was looking at the calendar, and I also can’t believe that in one month, I will no longer see my kiddos L. SO sad!
            I had the opportunity this week to use my teacher voice several times. We got to spend the afternoon at an assembly, (one of the WORST assemblies I have EVER been too… Oiy Vey!) and I got to reprimand, and remind  (several of my students) how to behave in an assembly. Though, I can’t really blame them, it was extremely long, and boring. Haha. (Cool fact?! One of the teachers in our school went to school at McKinney elementary… now she teaches there. Crazy!)
            Karen and I continue to get a long. She wants me to run my first reading group next week, and I am very excited. Reading stations continue to go well for me. I am not as nervous about teaching math, and I appreciate all that Karen has taught me about teaching math.
            I got to have my first confrontation with a student. One of my kids, instead of following the class down the hall to recess, bolted out the side door when I had my back turned. It was a little nerve racking, but Karen wanted me to feel like I had a say, since it was my situation/deal. He now has no afternoon recess for the next week. We had a great talk though, and I think that it was really great for me to go through this experience. Courtney and I were talking, it’s much easier to have teacher voices when our CT’s are not in the classroom. It gets a little intimidating to have teacher voices when they are present. Karen keeps telling me I can do whatever I want, and jump in anytime. I just need to become a little more confident.
            I think things are still going very well. I am making progress on my lesson plans, and Karen is going to help me gather all the vocabulary/pictures for our science vocab. wall. I think that I am going to ask our principal to come and watch me teach a lesson (kind of nerve racking, but our principal seems nice enough, and it will be a good experience for me.)
            I worry about the kiddo in my class who has leukemia, he wasn’t in class on Friday, Karen says he’s been back for some check-up treatments. I worry about him because I know how behind he is, and also how smart and capable he is as well. I just know that next year, he will got lost in the crowds of middle school. Within our class we have 3-4 English language learners that are severely behind. Karen is convinced that a few of them might have LD’s, and I’m not sure that many of them do. I struggle with this, because I know how common it is for students who have a language barrier to get placed into ERC classrooms where they receive academic help outside of the classroom. I just wish that more teachers were trained in teaching ELL students in a mainstream classroom, and that we were better equipped to help these students and their families instead of not. We had a really great speaker come and talk to us within our math class, and her whole ideas and basis for teaching are based in ELL students – even though she doesn’t have her ESOL certificate, and I just thought that was SO cool. I learned a lot, and am hoping to implement some of what I learned into my WS. 

Halloween Weekend!! (LLOONNGG Overdue...)

            This week went really well. I was SO happy to be back in the classroom, and with the students. It felt like I had not seen them in so long, it was crazy!
This week was a lot of learning for me, Karen is still injured and so I did quite a bit of co-teaching (me at the front of the classroom, her from her desk.) It was really great to have you come in and observe me. I thought that it was great for you to be able to see me teach a lesson, where I was co-teaching with not only Karen, but with the students as well. Clearly it had been quite a long time for me since I had taught reading stations. I felt that it went well; the kids had a good time and so did I. They are definitely used to jumping right in to lessons/activities. Hardly ever do I see Karen do an anticipatory set. It’s crazy how self-sustaining they really are, I feel like overall Karen and I hardly do any teaching throughout the day, a math lesson here, and a quick writing/art lesson there… Really though, the kids know what to do and they pretty much do most of their work/learning on their own.
Friday I taught my first real math lesson. I got to learn how to do the math first right alongside the kids on Thursday. Having to get up and teach the concept with confidence was a little nerve racking. Karen provided me with some great feedback however, and I was really grateful for this as I feel she is always telling me how great I am doing etc. Constructive feedback from Karen was: Getting better at scanning the room to see who is paying attention, and who I need to draw back in to the conversation/lesson. I am really great at doing this when I am not teaching, for some reason however, when I get up in front of the classroom I was unable to spot my daydreamers.
One thing Karen and I continue to clash on is how to teach the English language learners within her classroom. I was trying to give one of our students time to figure out a math problem, and Karen was quick to move on. I talked with her about it after the lesson, and she said that one on one is better for struggles this student was having vs. in front of the rest of the class – problem is that it takes away from the other kids, and then they tend to stop paying attention or get antsy. I agree and disagree with her on this, and just wonder if there is a better way to reach our ELL students where they are struggling, whether it is in front of the class or one on one.
I am looking forward to the challenge of creating an environment within my classroom that embraces more diversity. I think that when I teach my 10 lessons I will be sure to use techniques I have been learning about within my ELL class to incorporate those students, as well as find ways to support their diversity and cultural backgrounds. I’m not yet sure how I am going to go about doing this, but I am excited to see what I can come up with.
I’m looking forward to this coming week, as I do every week, plus it means that I am that much closer to being in the classroom again full time, as well as done with my own personal classes. (Well, all accept AR…) Karen is very excited for me to teach, and for her to just sit back and observe. (Though she is such a control freak I know she will never be able to just sit back and observe, which is fine by me cause it’s her class). I decided that this coming week I am going to ask Karen what projects the students are working on and requirements for those projects – I dislike having to tell students to “Ask Karen” whether or not their projects/work meets approval. I feel like in a way, students think that I don’t really know anything about what is going on within the classroom (which isn’t true) and that I’m not that knowledgeable (which is also not true.) Also this upcoming week I am going to run my first reading group, I am pretty excited about that… I love reading, and am interested to see how I do with answering and grading students reading questions. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Overdue Update!

    I thought it would be a good idea to update the world on Daniel and I :) Things in our house have been very busy. In a way its been good for us, I can't believe that we are already at the end of October! On the same token, it has been not so good because I feel like I just can't keep up with time... Just a little stressful.
   Daniel has gotten his first interview for dental school. University of Las Vegas, Nevada contacted Daniel last Monday asking him to come for interviews. It came as a real surprise to D and I. Originally we applied to UNLV because we really wanted to go to Vegas. However, as we applied to more schools and thought about it we decided that staying in Oregon was going to be just fine. Plus, UNLV was the school we thought we would NEVER hear from because it is an extremely competitive and difficult Dental school to get in to. So, we were quite surprised to not only hear from them so soon, but to also find out that they want D for an interview. I had very mixed feelings at first, I cried, I laughed, I was in shock. Haha, I am extremely proud of Daniel. The more I think about it, the more it I think of what an adventure it would be, and it would be kind of fun. My mom was not too happy, but D has invited her and my dad to come and move to Vegas with us. Makes me laugh, but I can't imagine having kids without her around her... I also do not mind living close to my parents. AND, my parents could use an adventure too.
    I informed one of my professors at George Fox about Daniel's interview, the next time I saw her she had a newspaper clipping for me that talks about how the Clark County school district (the 5th largest school district in the nation) is hiring like CRAZY! It's kind of funny, cause the more D and I talk about it, and the more I look at our options, the more Vegas sounds like fun. One of the big drawbacks - UNLV is very expensive. However, Daniel is really liking the idea of specializing (orthodontics) and the Dental school at UNLV is pretty new with a lot of nice equipment etc. and they are great at helping students specialize. At the end of the day, there are several drawbacks and advantages, and I guess we will just have to see what happens.
   We are still waiting to hear from OHSU, we have heard through the grapevine that we should hear from them sometime after Christmas. OH! And Daniel's interview with UNLV is scheduled for January 12th... Woo Hoo!! Weekend in Vegas!
   I got to go and spend some quality time in the urgent care this week. I took some Advil Monday afternoon to help with a toothache, and 20 minutes later I was feeling terrible. Lots of pressure and sharp pains in the top of my stomach, it was difficult to breathe and made my back achey. At times I even felt like I was going to throw up. I drank some water (and yes I did take the Advil with food) went home and took a late nap. I woke up feeling worse then when I went to bed. My mother took me to urgent care where I was informed that I can no longer take Ibuprofen. GREAT! I'm allergic to Acetaminophen and now Ibuprofen as well. The doctor was worried that I had put a hole in my stomach, but it looks like that is not the case. He was also concerned that the pain/aches/nausea might also be connected to my gallbladder, but that also does not look like the problem. Basically I have gastrointestinitis, and the next time I have any pain I have to either tough it out, or take a narcotic. (Sweet!) Currently, I am doing better, I have 3 prescriptions, and still have some pressure and pains, but overall am MUCH better than I was Monday night.
   I think this pretty much sums up the current happenings and activities in the McMaster household.

2 Weeks before Halloween!!

            This week I got to spend time with just Karen, there were no students because it was parent-teacher conferences. It was really great to be able to spend time talking with Karen about my WS, and learning more about students/situations within our classroom.
            The first very important thing that I learned in parent teacher conferences was how to best deal with parents. Karen is very straightforward and to the point. She does not sugar coat situations, but I feel that she did a fantastic job at making sure parents knew how important their student was to her; Karen had nothing but good, kind and wonderful things to say about her students to their parent’s. Something I really liked was that prior to conferences, if a student was missing work in her class, Karen had made sure that she had sat down and talked with that student, this way there was nothing within the conference that would surprise the student/catch the student off guard. It also allowed time for the student to go home and discuss with their parents what they might here in conferences before hand as well, again, no surprises.
            It was really difficult to see how many students come from broken homes. I feel like since I have been in elementary school that number has really climbed. There were also quite a few moms that couldn’t have been very much older than I am now. To be honest, that really freaked me out. I can’t imagine currently having children old enough to be in elementary school. There were also a lot of situations where students come from homes that are unstable, diverse (living with relatives), and even scary. It’s amazing how strong these kids can be, and are.
            I have also decided that I am going to put an emphasis on becoming fluent in Spanish. We had 11 students in our classroom that required a translator for their conferences. There were times when we would have to postpone the conference and wait for a translator to show up, and other times when we wouldn’t have one at all and another family member would have to translate. It was 1. Stressful, 2. Impersonal, and 3. Who knows how much can get lost in translation. I don’t want parents to feel a disconnect with their child’s teacher, and I think that it is SO important for that parent-teacher relationship. It was just so sad to watch, because I felt that it was so impersonal between Karen and some parents, where as with other parent’s she could just have a conversation for minutes on end about anything/everything. I also think that becoming fluent in Spanish would make it so that I was a little more valuable, because as much as some teachers would like to deny it, the amount of non-English speaking parents is rapidly growing.
            The rest of the day went fine, like I said, it was great to hang out with Karen and some of the other teachers. I feel like I am really learning a lot. Karen does such a great job at including me in SO much, and I really feel like I am a vital part of her class and McKinney. 

Week of October 8-15/2011

This week was really short. Only one day with the kiddo’s. I miss them terribly, and every time I get to see them it’s like the best day ever. I was really surprised to see Karen, she hurt her leg about a week and a half ago, and was told by doctors to be at home on bed rest. She came in to class anyways, we had a guest speaker, she spent the whole day at her desk, and I got to teach. It was AWESOME! I got to teach math, re-teach and etc. At first it was a little nerve racking, but I did my best to step in to the role, and to relieve Karen’s stress. I was so mad that she had come to school; she couldn’t even get up without hobbling around looking like an old woman.
I had the most wonderful experience of meeting a holocaust survivor. It was probably one of the most amazing moments in my life. He talked to the class about what it had been like for him, and all that he had learned and has achieved in his life. It was really interesting listening to his point of view about how people who believe the holocaust is false are unbelievable. I had never thought of what it might be like to actually be a holocaust victim and hear those kinds of words. I was also interested to see if students would understand or get what it was that Alter was relaying to them. I wasn’t sure that 6th graders would appreciate his message, but I was surprised. I saw some students cry, and I witnessed student after student thanking Alter after his presentation, telling him that his message had changed their lives. It was really neat for me to witness as a future teacher – to understand what students are capable of appreciating.
I am looking forward to this week. Just one day again, and this time with no children. I have parent teacher conferences all day. This will be my first real interaction and witness of the parent/teacher relationship. I am really hoping to learn a lot, since this is one area that stresses me out the most. I have dealt with parents before, but I am excited to learn and grow and witness new experiences and interactions with parents. 

Update on the Zoo

           This week was great. I was really dreading going in to the classroom this week… I think that part of it was the stress carry-over from the first 3 days of the week. However, once I got in to the classroom. It was like I was meant to be there – and life was like it should be.
            Class went by so quickly this week. One minute it was the beginning of the day, the next it was already lunchtime. It continuously amazes me how little time there is in the day, and how much we have to cram in to the day as teachers. Thursday I was able to run reading stations again. It was really great for me. I realized that part of my problem with stepping up in Karen’s classroom is my struggle to be like her – to teach as she does in her classroom. What I have come to realize is that Karen and I are very similar, and very different at the same time. She is okay with me teaching in my own way within her classroom – she WANTS me to be a teacher, and she wants me to feel comfortable, and she has done such a great job at this, and I just haven’t been able to recognize this. So I ran reading stations my way – the class still got the same information out of the way I taught reading stations, and when I was finished, I heard a group of students talking about how much fun they had just had during my teaching. It made me feel so amazing!
            Thursday afternoon I got to sit in on my first IEP meeting. It was a really great experience for me, especially since the mother of this student is such a powerhouse. She is very concerned about her son’s transfer from 6th grade to middle school, and that was what most of the meeting dealt with. One of her big concerns was that her son was not in Karen’s class for math. Her son Connor has been diagnosed with a form of Autism, and though he is extremely smart, he is not quite ready for Karen’s math class – her math class deals with a lot of abstract thinking, and understanding why we do what we do in math. Mrs. V really wants her son to be prepared for middle school, and she is concerned that if he is not in Karen’s math class that he will not be prepared for middle school math. It was great to listen to Karen talk to Mrs. V about her concerns about Connor in her math class, as well as the reason for placing him in the math class he is currently in. I really learned a lot. IEP meetings are long, and very involved, and as a teacher I need to be prepared, and knowledgeable about my students.
            Friday, the whole school participated in the “fun run”. A fundraiser where our students ran laps around a “track” and collected money for every lap they ran from people wiling to sponsor them. It was really fun, I enjoyed giving my students a hard time, and cheering them on as well. I had a lot of fun with Connor in particular, he would come to me every lap to pick up his popsicle stick, and when he finished his 10 laps (the required amount) he was done. It made me laugh. He was so cute!
            Karen had visitors in her classroom from Pacific University, they are currently in the student teaching program at PU. I DID NOT LIKE HAVING THEM IN MY CLASS. They were only there to work on some reading tests, but it still stressed me out, and it also forced me to step up my game. It made me laugh later however, thinking back on it now, I guess it was a little childish. Karen made me feel better about it that afternoon as well, by telling me that she believes I am going to be a great teacher. I told her it was very kind of her to say such things, she laughed and told me that it was not kind, but that it was just the truth. It made me smile.

This week for Daniel and I... We had to take the Zoo to the Vet. All 3 needed their 6 month check up. Both Choxie and General checked out fine. Sugarplum, she's getting on in years, and so she had to stay over night at the vet. The vet informed D and I that she does not have cancer (which is a huge relief), however we now have to buy her fancy food because she is at the beginning of having problems with her kidneys. Very sad. She has been in my life for so long I can't imagine life without her... But so dar everything is okay, and so we will be monitoring her closely. Other than that, life in the McMaster household is going swell :) 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ta Da! 10/3/11

 This week in class has been very eventful! I feel like I just keep learning and learning, and learning some more. I have really grown to love the kids in my class, and I am starting to already feel heartbreak towards having to leave in the next few months. I wish that we were able to do all of our student teaching in the same class, or at least the same school. I have been talking with Karen, and I think that I am going to try and make it work this spring to be able to attend outdoor school with her class.
            This week is the first time that I actually disagreed with something that Karen has done within her classroom. Friday Karen taught her class how to do a mathematical word problem, and the steps required to do them. She walked her class through a very difficult word problem, step by step, and then proceeded to have her class complete a word problem individually. There were SEVERAL students within her class that were unable to grasp and complete the word problem individually. It was very stressful for many students; there was a fair amount of tears as well. Karen refused to let me give to much aid to students, I wasn’t allowed to help them, just simply point them in the right direction. On top of that, students that had already been talked too, were not allowed to receive any more direction. I did not find this method very fair. Considering that there were so many students within the class that still didn’t understand the concept, I would have stopped the class, and gone over (AGAIN) the mathematical word problem, step by step. Karen just kept going, and whatever they didn’t get done, they had to finish at home. Since there are so many students within her class that are English language learners, I think that going over the process one more time (during re-teach time) would be severely beneficial for her students success.
            I was able to teach a lot this week. Several times I was even in the classroom by myself, as Karen had errands to run around the school (briefly). I taught re-teach math fractions, I got to read aloud to the class, I was able to teach a vocabulary lesson, and run a vocabulary game. I am really enjoying my time in Karen’s class. I am having a hard time stepping up to teach her class, and she likes to give me a hard time about it. I’m not quite sure why this is. I don’t have a problem teaching, and I’m not afraid to do it, I just think she is such a big personality within her classroom, it makes me nervous to take her “place”. Maybe I’m just over thinking things, and I should just jump in with both feet. I sometimes get a little jealous of my peers who have been able to run their classrooms all day. Sixth grade is a big grade to teach, it’s not as simple as first grade; we do SO much within the day.
            I was able to see how Karen implements art within her classroom. I know that there is so much required of teachers to implement within their classroom, and rarely do students at the elementary level get exposure to art and poetry. Karen makes a point to do at least one art project a month, as well as one poetry study a month. I really find this commendable. There are many students within Karen’s class that are very artistically inclined, and I think that it’s great that she works hard at making sure she allows these students to express themselves within her classroom as well. I’m really excited to see how their art projects turn out.
            Lastly, next Thursday, at 2:45 I get to sit in on my first IEP meeting. I’m really excited for this. I feel like I am (and have been) getting a lot of exposure within Karen’s class that many people probably will not, and I feel really honored/blessed. I have no idea what to expect at this meeting, but I am looking forward to it, and to learning a lot. 

Conference weekend, is my most favorite kind of weekend. Daniel and I spent a lot of time in pajamas on the couch, doing NOTHING! It was awesome! Plus, all of the talks were amazing, and I have felt amazingly spiritually fed. (If that even makes any sense.) 
This weekend, was also great because Daniel and I got to spend it painting pottery, and hanging out with family. We went to the Cerami-Cafe. We both painted mugs, and it took forever! Turns out, painting pottery is not as relaxing for Daniel and I as it may be for some. Hopefully our mugs will turn out really awesome, we'll find out on Wednesday. As for spending time with family, I got to go to lunch with my cousin's Jessica ad Sarah, and then hang out with Brian and Jessica last night. I discovered last night that I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my Aunt Sue, she is so amazing, and hilarious, and cute. Daniel and I had a lot of fun playing games and just hanging out. 
This week... Daniel and I have no big plans, we are still waiting to hear from Dental schools, the delay is killing Daniel. He's feeling pretty good about his chances of getting in to OHSU... Hopefully, he's right. I miss my house! Having the Holidays come around makes me sad, I miss being able to decorate and bake. But I'm pretty sure that even if I was in my house, I wouldn't have time to do these things. 
I'm glad that it is that time of year, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas... I LOVE the holidays. Hopefully this year will be great! Also, I can't believe that we're in October... Where has the time gone?!

Monday 9/25/11

          This week was crazy. Thursday was a REALLY long day. We had our back to school night at 6 – so overall it was a 12-hour day. Courtney and I were talking about that new movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It” about the executive business mom, who manages to successfully do it all. The movie should really be about a teacher. Even on regular days teachers have mounds of homework to grade, lessons to plan, meetings to attend, work for a teacher NEVER stops!
            I have been to many back to school nights, but never to one that is so formal. Most of the back to school nights I have been to usually involve a bouncy house, pizza, ice cream, as well as visiting each teacher in their classroom. For McKinney’s back to school night, we had an opening assembly, and then 2 sessions for parents to meet with their student(s) teachers. In each session, the teachers presented a power point presentation to parents informing them about what would be taking place that year in their child’s grade. It was really exciting to be able to see and participate in back to school night. Courtney and I were introduced to the parents in the assembly, as well as introduced to the parents within our classrooms. I was able to meet, and talk with some really interesting parents, and learn more about their students.
            Things that really stood out to me this week: Mrs. Lawson’s honesty. She doesn’t sugar coat things, tell kids what they want to hear, she really talks to them like adults, and gives it to them straight. Example: One little girl Sammi has been very passive-aggressive, and refusing to do her homework. Her teacher, Mr. Cumpston, has had a difficult time getting her to turn her homework in, or to even care about her homework. Both Mr. Cumpston and Mrs. Lawson sat Sammi down and had a discussion with her about her lack of responsibility. Karen informed her that if she did not begin doing her homework, that her grade would drop, she would not be able to participate in fun Friday, and that ultimately she would not be able to go to outdoor school. Karen made it clear that she would not keep Sammi in for recess, or punish her, her only punishment would be that of her own doing. It was really interesting to listen to Mrs. Lawson and Mr. Cumpston talk to Sammi, many tears were shed on her part, but no pity was doled out by either teacher.
            I participated in my first one teach one observe lesson. It was a little nerve racking, it also didn’t help that I was new at working the SMART board, and that one of the kids had to get up and help me. Talk about embarrassing! I was able to go through and help the students correct their math homework, as well as run their vocabulary/hang man game later that afternoon. One thing I’m not 100% sure about is the surround sound system in the classroom…. I don’t think I am a fan of having to hear my own voice, and many of the classrooms that I have volunteered in have not had this speaker component. Other than the speaker, everything went great. Karen was very helpful, and patient.
            I really enjoyed this week; it was really a lot of fun. I was also able to pick up the lesson plans/materials for my WS… I’m pretty excited to be teaching science, and a little nervous at the same time.

Daniel started school again this week. I am really thankful! (I know that sounds silly.) I'm just glad that he will have homework now too,  and that my guilt of "abandoning" him will lessen. Saturday night Daniel got really sick, thankfully it didn't last too long, but it was sad to see him sick, since it happens so little. It's also really funny when he's sick because he's SUCH a BIG baby! I'm excited for next week. Jessica and Brian are coming in to town, and I'm really excited to see them. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sorry it's a couple of days late....

This week was really great! (Other than the fact that I was sick.) It was fun to listen to Karen talk about how the kids missed me, and how much they enjoy having me in their classroom. It makes me feel really good inside.
            I think that the highlight from this week was sitting down with Karen (CT) and Debby (ST). It was awesome being able to finally talk about what it is that I am going to be doing for my work sample… Looks like I’ll be teaching scientific inquiry. Kind of scary, seeing how it is that science is not my first topic of choice, nor my favorite. But Karen made it seem like it was going to be really great for me, and I felt really supported by her and that meant a lot to me. I am looking forward to going over some of her past material and getting an idea of what it is that she has in mind for me. I have felt really included in her classroom, and I am enjoying my time with her. I was a little nervous going back in to the classroom, after having been gone for so long. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be received by the kids, but it was like I had been there all week, nothing had changed.
            Something I really like at McKinney is that the teachers have a 20-minute time slot where they re-teach content. Karen used her re-teach time this week to continue to hammer in fractions. For the re-teach time it is very hands on learning. Student’s use manipulative’s to understand and to grasp the concept of fractions. Karen said that anytime I can make something (a concept) hands on, I should. This allows also for different types of learning styles. Re-teach time also allows Karen to address places where kids are confused, struggling the most, even allow time to get certain projects finished up. It’s just a great use of 20 minutes.
            Another highlight, next Thursday is back to school night. I’m excited and nervous. I have only had to deal with parents in dance class settings, so I’m interested to be able to watch Karen interact with parents. Especially interact with the parents of some of our students, since we are a title 1 school, there is very little parent involvement within our classroom. Last year, there were 6 sets of parents for back to school night. It’s just such a sad and difficult situation to deal with. I think that part of it might have to do with the fact that so many of our students speak English as their second language – this creates a huge barrier between parents and teachers.

As for Daniel and I, we are still anxiously awaiting to here from dental schools. It is such a stressful process, but I know that all in good time, things will happen for us. I continue to enjoy my program at George Fox, especially the people in the program, I am so thankful for my fellow classmates, without them I think my life would be so much more stressful. 
The rest of this week, I have taken in strides. I am looking forward to the week coming to an end. It was really fun to be able to work out my CT, Karen. Who knew we would become such great friends. I have also had many adventures, getting to go to the Air and Space museum with my GFU math class was pretty entertaining. Having dinner with my mom was (and always is) inspiring. I am truly blessed to have such a great mother. 
I'm really looking forward to this weekend, my cousin and her husband are coming in to town from Utah to stay for a quite a bit, and I am very excited to see her. I am also looking forward to possibly going camping Friday night? Who knows. Lastly, tomorrow night is back to school night, and I am really looking forward to that as well. It's going to be a really great experience. Also, hopefully this weekend I will be able to catch up on my fall shows... I am already a week or so behind, and it's a little sad. 
Next week... well who knows. As the weeks continue my social life dwindles and diminishes, which is sad, but I know that in the long run all of this hard work will be a truly rewarding pay off. Now, just to make it through. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday, September 13

I can’t believe that we’re September, it blows my mind how quickly this year has gone by, and how fast the summer went. I was really nervous for the first day of school, and totally unprepared at having to get up so early! I have not yet had the privilege of teaching kids over the age of 9, and so being in sixth grade was quite a shock to my system. So far, I have loved every minute of it. I came home the second day of school and told my mother that I loved sixth grade and that this was the grade I was meant to teach. She just laughed at me; apparently I come home and tell her that about every grade I spend time in. I’m just such a passionate person, and every minute I spend in the classroom is confirmation for me that this is what I am supposed to do with my life, and that I have indeed made the correct career choice.
I made it my personal goal (thanks to Mrs. Sue for the stressed importance of the issue) of knowing every students name by the end of the first day. I succeeded. It is the first time that I have ever had to memorize 31 names and faces. I would be lying if I said it was not a challenge. The first day of school I spent a lot of time observing the way Karen set up and ran her classroom. I spent a lot of time listening to her talk to the kids, as well as watching the kids understand her. Karen has a great sense of humor; she is sarcastic, honest, funny, and very to the point. She talked a lot about how important it is for teacher to set up their classroom on the first day of school with an emphasis on rules and expectations. In her classroom Karen has 3 rules: 1. No talking unless given permission 2. Be safe 3. Be kind – these 3 rules closely align with the school rules (makes it easier for the kids to remember.)         
As a child I remember seeing the staff room as some magical place where only teachers could go and hang out. I finally got to spend time in the exclusive staff room club. This year at McKinney they are doing/trying some new things. It was really great to listen to the teachers talk amongst themselves about what they felt was working, and what they felt was not. It helped stress to me the importance of communication as being so key and important among staff members. This is important among teachers teaching the same grade, teachers teaching different grades, teachers and principals, teachers and office staff etc. For a school to run successfully and smoothly (like a business) there needs to be communication among participants/members.
I got to learn a lot of little things from Karen this week – how she sets up her grade book, her planner for the school year, how to store/keep track of worksheets that they will be using for the week, how to set up a successful desk/work station. Karen is a very organized person and she thrives in organization. I feel that for a teacher to be ready and prepared for anything, they need to be organized and prepared. I really like the way Karen sets up her subs/student teachers for success. She keeps all of the weeks work sheets, games, activities filed in a filing cabinet right next to her desk labeled by the days of the week. All of Wednesday’s activities/worksheets are filed under Wednesday in a blue folder (not only are they separated by the week, they are designated colors for quick location.) At the end of the day Karen looks ahead for next Wednesdays planned activities/worksheets and she files them before leaving. This helps her to stay prepared, to know what’s coming, and to keep organized. It also helps substitutes – they know exactly what Karen wants the kids are working on worksheet and activity wise.
Something I learned about myself – I think that it is very important for me as a teacher to build an importance and desire in going to college. I want my students to enjoy learning as much as I have (and still do) and I want them to believe that they are capable of getting to college. I want them to aspire to higher learning, and to great things in their lives, and as a future teacher when I ask the question, “Who wants to go to college?” I want all of my student’s hands to eagerly go up in the air. I know that all teachers believe in the importance of college, but in my classroom college will be something my student’s can and will get to.
This year the Hillsboro school district has adopted the BRIDGES model for teaching math. It is a completely different way to teach math than I was taught in school. Instead of giving kids the formulas and answers on how to solve a math problem, teachers let their students discover, solve, and learn how to solve math problems on their own. They are taught the why and where math problems come from, the why of why we use math and the are allowed to go on a journey with their teacher in becoming mathematicians. When talking with Karen about this way to teach math I thought that it was a little free spirited. Seeing it in action has totally changed my perspective. I think that if I had been taught to do math this way, I would have learned to love math, and been much more comfortable with the subject than I was as a child. Even now, there are things in math that intimidate me, and I can tell that math intimidates a number of the students in Karen’s classroom, but I am interested to see if this way of teaching changes their way of looking at math. Karen has gone into this math program with optimism, and has expressed that optimism to her students – I’m interested in the end results.
Finally, Karen has gone over her classrooms scores and grades within the core subjects. Currently the class that Karen is teaching is working out of a 4th grade level (this is her class as a whole.) There are some students in Karen’s class that shouldn’t even be in 6th grade, as they are so behind (some reading in a 2-3rd grade level.) I was shocked to see that so many of these students had been passed on to the next grade. I remember growing up that if you didn’t pass a grade, you didn’t get to move ahead. Obviously times have changed. As a teacher, I think that this is really unfair to do to both the child and their teacher, allowing them to continue on to another grade when they are SO unprepared. It breaks my heart to work with some of the students in the classroom who are so behind, who have no idea what is going on, and who just don’t understand what Karen is asking of them. How is this fair to our kids? Doesn’t it just set them up for disaster as they enter more challenging and difficult grades? I just don’t see how we as teachers can allow them to continue, knowing that they won’t be able to have success in the next grade.

As for Daniel and I... this week was kind of a schedule adjustment. Since I now have to get up at the crack of dawn, I am having to go to bed earlier as well. I haven't been to be earlier than 11pm in FOREVER. Daniel has made a commitment to try and put himself on my schedule as well, that way I'm not going to bed or waking up by myself. It really means a lot to me.
We're still waiting to hear from Dental Schools. This has to be one of the most stressful, nerve racking situations I have ever been in. Daniel checks his email at all hours of the day. (It's a little out of control.)
Sunday we got to go to dinner at my Auntie's house. We had WAY to much fun. Her and Gerry are probably some of our new favorite people. It was a really great time to sit, eat and talk for hours. Glorious in fact.
Looking forward to this week. Daniel has the next two weeks off, but it's back to school for me. Kind of sad, but I am ready for the fall, and for holidays, and so very thankful football season has FINALLY started. Also, it was kind of crazy, Daniel and I just celebrated our 4 year anniversary. Who knew we were getting so old. It just doesn't feel (or even seem) like we have been married for 4 years already. Wishing everyone a great week!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday, September 4... First Post!

So here is our new blog, I redid the blog so that I can share school with more than family. I'm pretty excited to keep the masses updated on student teaching, as well as what is going on with Daniel and I :) Here is my first week of student teaching at a glance...

So I started off the week very stressed out, sad, and bitter. I was starting to feel a little un-wanted… I was beginning to feel jealous of my classmates, because they were getting ready to meet with their teachers, participate in setting up classrooms etc. I was mad/worried that I wasn’t going to get the same experience. It probably didn’t help that I was stressed, and working myself into a dither… It got to the point where I was questioning if this was actually what I was supposed to be doing. Because if it was, then the Lord would have made sure that I wasn’t going through all of this added anxiety. False. I just needed to learn some patience, because George Fox was doing everything they could to find the very right placement for me.
            I was blessed with the opportunity of being able to go and spend time with a fourth grade teacher out in the Sherwood school district, Lori Beymer. She is a George Fox graduate, and a really nice person. It was really great to be able to attend district classes. The first class we went to we learned about how to maintain flexibility grouping in math. The idea behind the class was allowing students to choose how they get to their answer in math class by asking open-ended questions. This allows for low students to be able to get the solution an easier way, where as a more advanced student is able to get to the answer through a more complex process. Here is an example – The answer is 42. What is the question?
            The next class we were able to attend had to do with flexibility grouping in every day. We learned that the Sherwood school district had to cut teacher aids, as well as the help they received for their tag students. The teachers are very concerned as to how stretch their tag students within the classroom, they have received so much instruction as to how include their low-end students, but they haven’t had enough instruction as to how to incorporate their tag students. It was really interesting to listen to how teachers make accommodations for their students every day. Things like allowing ADD students to use rocking chairs, exercise balls, and pacing in the back of the classroom to keep them busy, yet still included in the classroom. Teachers talked about how they allow students to have bits of freedom in the class, for example picking out what they want to read, helping make the classroom rules, etc. It was really great listening to teachers talk and share about what they know, and things that they would really like to learn more about.
            The rest of the afternoon I got to spend time helping another teacher Dana in setting up her classroom. Just talking back and forth with Dana I really learned a lot, just simple things really, most of it pertaining to how to set up a classroom. The best place to buy materials (like crates from crate and barrel) the best way to store/wash them (using the school dishwasher.) Dana talked about how to buy quality, why? You want things to last a long time, and you don’t want to have to keep buying new things every year. One thing that struck me in my talk with Dana was about how its okay to number children. I swore that I would never do it as a teacher, I have seen how impersonal it can be, and I felt that it was such a degrading way to treat your students. Dana talked about how she felt the same way as a student teacher, but that she learned/realized how beneficial and helpful it is when teaching – and that there are ways to make it personal.
            Lori and Dana invited Courtney and I to come and spend the day with them on Thursday for their next in-service day. They were so sweet, and they made me feel so welcome and wanted. It was great being able to talk to teachers, because at the end of our orientation day on Friday I was feeling more like I was about to be a burden on a teacher vs. a set of helping hands. I was really worried about getting a placement, I have had my fair share of working with a teacher I don’t mesh with, they were the worst couple of months of my life.
            I was really excited to hear about being placed, and then totally shocked that I had a placement in a sixth grade classroom. WHAT?! I have never worked with sixth graders, and I am not sure what to expect. I was also intrigued to learn that I will be in the Hillsboro school district for both of my placements. My cooperating teacher will be Karen Lawson. She’s AMAZING! She’s a total spit-fire and I love it. I got to help Karen build a bulletin board, pretty exciting! She was just so kind, and full of information. We talked about how important it is to plan and be prepared for class, she stressed the importance of planning more sooner so that you have options to pull from, and material to replace/cut.
            Karen’s first piece of advice to me was helping me understand/cope with teaching sixth grade. She stressed the importance of coming out strong, setting up boundaries and limitations, sticking to my guns and being “hard”. She said that if you start off this way its much easier to back off, vs. starting off soft and trying to be harder later. She talked about how she has had some teachers that try to be so sweet, and they just get eaten alive. I’m excited to show her just how tough I am. Talking to Daniel about this made me laugh, he was like, I don’t think she realizes who she’s talking too.
            I am excited to show Karen what I am capable of, and that I am ready to take on sixth grade and find a love for it just as much as I love the younger grades.
            Questions for the week… When I teach my work sample does it have to be something I come up with? For example a mini curriculum? Or is it possible for me to teach an idea the teacher already has… I don’t really want to teach math or science, but if I am supposed to come up with something that’s all mine then I would have too. If I am allowed to teach an idea the teacher already has, then I can teach something I want to teach… like writing. I’m just wondering what exactly I should be talking to Karen about when it comes to my work sample. 

As for Daniel, he is getting ready to end his summer term at PSU. Very exciting. He just applied to Dental schools in Arizona at the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health, the University of Colorado, Oregon Health and Sciences University, as well as Creighton in Nebraska. He has sent in all of his secondary applications as well, so we are just waiting for to hear about interviews. We should start hearing back about interviews within the next couple of weeks to months. Sitting on pins and needles is stressful, only because it has to do with the rest of our lives! Daniel really wants to go to Arizona, even though logic says getting in to OHSU makes the most sense. I really want to stay here, move back in to our house, but I am willing to go wherever Daniel gets in. Either way, this is going to be a very exciting and eventful year for Daniel and I :)