Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Final Countdown

Here come exams.

Today was my last day in the classroom (I observed Honors Geometry and Algebra 1 CP). Eh, it was okay. Nothing special at all happened until after school when I was scheduled to tutor a young man named Matthew in geometry.

That was an interesting experience. I've tutored before, but not like this. Usually it's just been a friend or two who I've helped, but never an actual high school student. A little different than just walking around the class and helping them with their homework.

We started off with simple problems about how to solve single-variable equations and then moved on to parallel and perpendicular lines (he was having a lot of trouble with his algebra). I can't really say too much about the experience, to be honest. There were a few times where I really had to break it down for him, and when my knowledge almost got in the way of helping him. I never really struggled in mathematics, and so it was difficult for me to see why he couldn't understand that parallel lines had the same slope. I guess that just comes with the territory. My mentor teacher and I actually discussed that -- we didn't struggle, but the majority of kids you meet will. Not everyone is built to do well in math, and just because you find something incredibly easy doesn't mean one of your students will.

But the session as a whole went well. He seemed pleased about the help, and he definitely showed a lot of progress in the 45 minutes we were together.

Time for Christmas.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I teached'd

That's right, I teached'd, or taught, the eager young minds of Miss O'Shields' Algebra IA classes (Pre-Algebra). The first class took to the lesson VERY well. They got involved, they asked questions, answered questions, volunteered to come up and show work on the board. Overall, they were a great big bunch of participating fools. I loved it.

The second class was awful. They didn't want to talk. They didn't like being asked questions. They REALLY didn't want to come up to the board and show work. Same lesson, same style of teaching, no dice. So, I guess it's true... what Dr. Gillis and Dr. Manizade have been saying... classes really are different. Imagine that.

How did I adapt to the second class's failure to communicate? Simple. I walked around a little more. Does that seem like a big deal? No. But it started to work. For the first class I was relatively stationary. I remained at the front of the room (mainly because I had to record myself). The second class, however, had a terrible tendency of putting their heads down. They're just not used to actually being lectured to I suppose (see Bookwork Mania below). The funny thing is, they were very polite about being rude, and I don't think they even intended to be rude. So as I began walking around, guess what happened? Heads naturally popped up, eyes opened, questions were asked, answers were given (not by me, by other students).

I did a lot of asking "why?" with them. How'd that go? Great. I prefer to ask why. I'm sure the way the lesson was taught, students left thinking, "You know, we basically just taught that class." If so, good! That's how it should be! Learning is an independent act, and if that's how they felt, then that means they did learn. It's easier to own information that you find out for yourself than information that is simply shoveled into your face.

This was shown by the high rate of success on the think-writes I gave out. I wrote a single problem on the board which encompassed everything we had gone over in the class, and asked them to solve it while writing down exactly what they were doing in each step and why. 16 out of 22 either got the right answered or performed the right steps but made an arithmetic error (lost a negative sign, or wrote a different number than given). I think that's pretty good for a class who, from what I noticed when I would walk around and help them with their work, had no idea what was going on most of the time. 16 out of 22. I'll take that.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bookwork Mania

Class: Pre-Algebra, Geometry H, Algebra I CP

So, Miss O'Shields does a lot of bookwork in the class. A whole lot. Granted, in light of recent events at West Oak, I can't blame her. If you hadn't heard, three students lost their lives in a car crash, and the school has been a little shaken ever since. If I were her, I probably wouldn't want to introduce anything strange or foreign to the kids either.

However, bookwork was still being done as late as Friday, and that concerned me a little. Her classes seem to be behind where she wants to be, and so it's like she's always trying to play catch up. Do I think she does a good job of it? Absolutely I do. She's very lenient with the kids when it comes to getting their work done, but it's to the point that the children don't take advantage of the opportunity. They sincerely want to get their work done for her.

I'm not sure how the ties into things we've discussed in class, but I'm sure it does somewhere. There's a certain level of respect that the teacher has for the students and the students have for the teacher. Both are willing to joke and play, but both understand that consequences of falling too far behind or not getting work done. She allows ample opportunities for students to raise their grades and better themselves, and I haven't seen one not put that to use. It's not like she's giving nothing but extra credit and the students are slacking off because they can rely on her to do that. If she sees a need for improvement in a student, she attacks it. She takes hold of it and builds it up. It's very subtle, but it's very cool to watch.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Friday was my first day with Miss O'Shields at West Oak. Due to a Veteran's Day assembly, classes were shortened, so I only stayed until 9:30 (the assembly was at 9:45). In that time, she introduced me to her Algebra IA (Pre-Alg), Geometry H, and Algebra I CP classes. They all seemed polite and gave me a nice wave, and I returned it.

Because classes were shortened, Miss O'Shields was forced to give very, very brief lectures and crunch time down for quizzes. While she was attempting to fit 45 minutes into 30 minutes (and actually only 20 minutes for the last class I was there), I graded papers. I made it clear that anything she felt I could do to help me learn, I wanted to do it, so she started me off slow with just papers. I can tell this is definitely a better place than Palmetto. Despite the presence of a metal detector as you walk through the front doors, I actually feel more comfortable here. There's just a nice vibe about the place... and something about a towering bald man with a sense of humor about my Clemson education who is also the principal of the school is pretty awesome. Miss O'Shields is pretty great as well, and I can tell I'm definitely going to benefit from being in this place.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Been a while

I know it's been a while, but I wanted to keep anyone who reads this up-to-date. I met with Mr. Millar and Dr. Horton this morning to discuss my new placement, and they're looking into Oconee County, specifically West Oak High School. I don't really care anymore; I just want to get back into my internship and student teaching as soon as possible. Strangely enough, I miss it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I said goodbye to Mrs. Wimpey and Mrs. Cortez today. I will be given a new internship placement in the next couple of weeks, and while I'm very excited, it's a little upsetting that all of this came about. I will take responsibility in this matter and say that I am at fault for not setting a standard for myself to abide by, but it's a two-way street and sometimes things just don't go as well as you'd like. Therefore, I'll be getting a fresh start elsewhere.

As a result, the frequency with which I blog in the next couple weeks will probably decrease. No assignments means no ah-ha moments in the classroom which equates to nothing to post. Although, given the way the semester has gone, maybe I'll say something about my classes... the good and the bad. We'll see.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Testing... 1, 2, 3

Class Observed: Honors Pre-Calculus
Teacher: Mrs. Terri Cortez
Time: 8:00 - 9:30

I graded quizzes! That's really about it. Mrs. Cortez gave a lesson on the area of triangles, and she did something clever with her smartboard. She had answers blotted out on the board with gray, and then made the background gray so that it looked like it was just a gray background with some notes on it. Then she'd ask the class guided questions (so they would give the answers in the order that they were blotted out), and when they answered correctly she would use her eraser tool and erase a random area on the smartboard and hey, look, the answer! It was pretty neat, and about the extent of excitement during my morning.

I guess if I'm going to have to get something out of this, it would be that sometimes conventional methods are not the best way of presenting questions and answers to a class.