The Student Teacher Chronicles: Week Two.

For a short week, this week had so many things happen. First, I must say that I got sick over the extended weekend (around Sunday) and have been sick since (though it’s really starting to clear up). I’m not sure if it’s because of normal allergies or whatnot or just being around the students so much, but I started taking Vitamin C anyway, and I’ve been all drugged up on other medications trying to fight it out, which I have.

So Tuesday wasn’t much special from what I remember. I started doing the vocabulary warm-up different with the students of the regular English 3 classes. Instead of reading out the word, definition, link word, and example sentence(s) myself, all I did was pronounce the word, and then have one or more of the students do the rest. I found that the class is more opt to get quiet and listen to a fellow classmate over me. But hey, whatever works, right? And it worked very well.

Wednesday, however, I started really taking over the Creative Writing course. And I don’t just mean teaching it how my mentor teacher asked me to. I’ve taken full initiative. I’m writing the lessons and coming up with what to teach them and how to go about doing so. So the first unit of the class is over short stories, which we began on this day. I began by talking about the differences between novels and short stories and how the latter focuses more on character than plot, as opposed to the former. What I did was create a “Character Creation Form.” As a class, after my explanation, I projected the form up and had them create a character using the form. I also told them that I would create a short story of my own using whatever character the class comes up with. They all had a whole lot of fun with this. We ended up with a really interesting character, and now I have to get to work on the story. I’m going to present the story on Monday, and I’m also going to use it to help show them how to use and flesh out a character even more within a short story, and I’m also going to use it to segue into the next topic of discussion (Setting). My supervisor was also here on this day, and she had a lot of great comments for me. In fact, the only negative comment I received was that I typed out “Seattle” in lowercase when I was typing up the response on where the character lived. And then I had another teacher even ask if she could have a copy of my character form to use in her class, so I thought that was great.

Thursday was insanity, and not because of the classes. The school decided to do yearbook pictures on this day for all sophomores and juniors. And every English class was to go to the library every period to have this done… AT THE SAME TIME. So there were constantly 300+ students crammed into the library (or forced to line up outside it) all at once. Students were late to class, and there was no telling who was supposed to be where. And on top of that, the eSembler (the program the teachers use for everything, including attendance, grade book, lesson plans, etc.) wasn’t available because the server was down. And it was down until around 3rd or 4th period, so nobody could even take roll or anything. It was pure chaos, and everything was very poorly planned. My mentor teacher and I alternated after first period in who would take them to the library (for instance, we both went first, then I went second, her third, me fourth, her fifth).

However, while our classes didn’t really meet for 1-5 period, 6th period is Creative Writing, so it got to go on as normal. What I did for Creative Writing was that I started with an anticipatory set where I put up two different pieces of butcher paper with two different questions—“In your opinion, what makes a short story good?” and “In your opinion, what makes a character interesting?”—and I had everyone go around and write their responses in each. I read off some of them to the class afterwards. What I’m going to do with them is take the best/most appropriate ones (because there were some silly or inappropriate ones), which I’ve already listed out, and have them written onto two different posters and tape them to the walls for reference on what they said they liked in characters and short stories. Then I had them read a short story called “The Nose,” which is a highly descriptive Japanese short story that deals with a character with an abnormally huge nose that tries everything to shrink it down to normal. I did this in a fun way that was introduced to me by my mentor teacher called “When the spirit moves you.” It’s not like Round Robin reading, which is ineffective, but does include the whole class. I read the first paragraph and then stopped, and then one of the students would have to pick up and read the next paragraph and so forth. A student could only read one paragraph at a time, even if the paragraph was only a sentence long. Everybody had a lot of fun with this, and it got some students to read that probably normally wouldn’t have even participated. And everybody really comprehended everything, as well, reacting to all the imagery, etc. So after we finished that, I tied it back to the anticipatory set and asked them if the story was good for them (and they all loved it), if it had good imagery (“almost too much!” in a graphic sort of way), if the character was interesting or piqued their interests, etc. Oh, I was also talked into creating my own “I Am” presentation that the students had to create. So on top of my short story I have to write over the weekend, I get to come up with that, too. At least they’ll be entertained next week.

Friday I ended up taking a handful of students in each class to the teacher’s lounge so that they could finish (or start) this unit pre-test while the rest of the class went over it together. I didn’t do much beyond that and the normal vocab stuff during those classes. And the fourth period class got into a lot of trouble with my mentor teacher, though I missed the telling-off portion due to being in the lounge. But it was intense, and the class was dead silent for the times I had to go back in. Oh, and I also had to call this one student’s mother today. Not for anything bad, though. He’s a handicapped student and has been absent for a few days, so I called to see if everything was alright and if there was anything we could do, such as putting together a homework packet. I also assured her we’d be very easy with him when he comes back in helping him catch up. She was so nice and grateful about it all.

Anyway, for Creative Writing, I began by handing out a vocab review for them. But as I’ve stated before, the class can have issues staying on task, so my mentor teacher told me something to do. I gave them the usual 15 minutes to work on it and told them we’d be going over it. But after that 15 minutes was over, I asked them to pass the papers forward. I collected them all for a grade, and then we went over it orally, with me calling choosing different students to fill in the blank of the sentence example I read them with the vocab word. For the most part, they did well on the oral, with a few exceptions (the students who don’t much focus). When I graded the papers later on, only a small handful of them passed, and as that’s the only grade in the class thus far, I’m going to be handing them back to them on Monday with that notion in their head, giving them a wake-up call on needing to stay focused. But after that, I passed out some dry-erase boards and some Expo markers (with some student help), and I had them draw examples from the story the previous day (either just the main character with the large nose, or a specific scene that stood out to them). Then I had them show their pictures off. They all loved this, as well, and had a blast with it. Some of the pictures were hilarious and so good. In the last few minutes, I passed out individual copies of the Character Creation Form to use as a helpful guide to them when beginning their short stories. Oh, and my mentor teacher left me alone for a huge chunk of this class, too (without telling me she was going to leave, even though I saw her walk out). But I did fine, anyway, so I wasn’t bothered.

Overall, even though I was sniffling and a bit sickly, it was a very productive week for me. I feel very comfortable in the classroom, and I’m actually to the point where I’m already feeling sad knowing I won’t be able to stay with them for the full time. I’m really hoping I get hired on mid-year so that I can at least see these people (students and teachers) again, because I already feel a part of their life and don’t want to go away from it. For instance, there’s this one student that impresses both me and my mentor teacher so much. He’s this really tall, intimidating guy who, sadly enough, most teachers would probably stereotype and write off as an immediate lost cause. But if you actually take the time to get to know the guy and be friendly and respectful and fun with him, he opens up and is actually a great guy, just putting up this tough, ‘dumb’ front. And he’s really intelligent, too, which he doesn’t want to admit to either because he really doesn’t believe it or it is part of his front. But he had one of the best attempts on the unit pre-test out of all four regular classes, and he’s shared with me and my mentor teacher what he wants to be in life, which caught us both by surprise, so we helped him out with finding out what he’d need to do in order to get a start in that direction college/class-wise. But anyway, I know I’m probably forgetting something, as it was such a full week (especially for a short week). I’m getting pretty comfortable teaching and being in front of/interacting with the students, even if the teacher is not in the classroom (which has happened on more than the one occasion). I think my lessons are doing very well, and they’ve been greatly complimented by my supervisor, my mentor teacher, and even my students. So I must be doing something right. My mentor teacher is still there, though, helping me through it and giving me advice on how to tweak or improve things that I’m doing or give me ideas on how to approach things. She’s very helpful and supportive. Oh yeah, and I can’t forget the grading and endless amounts of copies I’ve helped to do/make. Seriously, I feel so bad for that poor copy machine.

Anyway, I really do hope to get a job mid-year, because I don’t want to leave this. We’ve been told you know whether or not teaching is for you within the first 3 years. I agree with another teacher at the high school who once told me you’ll know within 3 hours. I don’t know about that quickly, but I do know that even with the inevitable rudeness, randomness, immaturity, or annoyingness of students, or the excessive paperwork or extra behind-the-scenes stuff required of teachers, or even the need to wake up early, stay up late, and work/plan over weekends, I could never imagine being in another profession. Now that the sentimentalism is through, I’ll shut up.

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