Student Teaching has Ended
For a number of reasons I have not written about student teaching this fall. A lot of it had to do with time. There was less of it this time around and there were other things to blog about. When they warn you at orientation to kiss you family goodbye, not to take a part-time job if you could avoid it, and so on, they are deadly serious. Somehow, there felt like there was more time at Darien but not so much in Stratford.
I spent 61 class days at Flood Middle School in Stratford, a very different environment than Darien. First of all, middle schoolers are undergoing tremendous changes in their body and their personality. Some could pass for high schoolers; others still look way too young for 8th grade and most vacillate between your best pal and your worst enemy depending upon the day or hour.
In my case, I was assigned to an eighth grade Language Arts class and had four Level 1 classes and one Advanced class. My cooperating teacher was an eighteen year veteran and very welcoming of student teachers. She met with me several times before I began, loading me with materials to read, preparing me for that crucial first day.
Along the way, I got to know some of the administration and the rest of the faculty composing Team Eclipse. We had team meetings three-four times a week so we could share common issues and plan ahead. Our science teacher always integrated our current round of vocabulary words into his own comments, reinforcing our efforts. The others, science and social studies, tried as well.
Over the course of the fall, I either had the kids to myself, taking point in the lessons, or had my teacher model a lesson and then let me try it the rest of the day. Throughout, I was receiving frequent handwritten notes on my performance, both good and bad, so there was a chance to improve. And I think I did, day by day.
Where I still need to improve is classroom management. The district has a program, Make your Day, so there’s a uniformity of how bad behavior is handled. Still, wrangling them proved my largest challenge and one that will require greater effort when I finally get a classroom of my own. Back in October, I think, my teacher said, “Oh, you can teach. It’s the discipline that needs work” which was very encouraging.
I got to plan my required Unit, which was teaching Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” which began a short story unit focusing on horror. That allowed me to introduce it all with a presentation on story structure followed by a piece on the history of the genre. After that, we did “The Monkey’s Paw” and then I took over once more to teach them how to take all the elements studied and write their own horror stories. My teacher was very impressed with how invested they became in the process, allowing us to devote more time to the project.
To prepare them for a trip to Boston, I also got the kids studying “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Longfellow and it was cool as we walked the streets and watching them marvel at being where these historic events occurred. Better, they recalled details and actually asked our guide to take them by the Green Dragon where the Sons of Liberty met in secret. Very cool.
I tried to get along with all the kids and some gravitated to me, and in time grew to trust me, coming to me with their problems or asking for extra help. While I tried not to play favorites, there were certainly some I was keener on working with than others and of course there were some where we just didn’t get along, which is to be expected when you’re teaching 110 or so kids.
Twice a week I stayed after to work with kids on a program called Flash. Tuesdays we worked on creative writing and Thursdays we tried to put together a school newspaper. None were my regular students so it was fun getting to know others and seeing what really interested them. One was a huge Spider-Man fan so we talked comics now and then, which was cool.
And yesterday it all came to an end. I received a passing grade and nice remarks from my advisor so now I can file the paperwork for certification. It is certainly an odd feeling no longer having to get up, put on a (ugh) tie, and go to school. I will miss working with the faculty and certainly miss more than a few of the kids.
What’s next? Once I receive certification I can begin seeking employment. In the meantime, I am hoping to do more subbing in Fairfield beginning after the holiday break. I’ll certainly have enough to do between Christmas and some After Earth work but do hope to get a little rest.