Friday, January 30, 2009


I am writing this blog from Lux. My diff. students are blogging about their books right now, so I figured that I should get caught up on my blog as well.

This week, I have been totally independent while teaching. Most of the time, my cooperating teacher isn't with me in the room. This is allowing her some time to get some writing curriculum written for the district. The kids are responding very well to me being in charge, and they are absolutely a delight to work with! I'm feeling very comfortable with the routines in the classroom as well as my routines for getting things done at home.

We're working on a theme about ancient cultures right now, so my diff. kids are reading a novel set in 12th century Japan. We have set up literature circles, where each student has two jobs to contribute on discussion days. I am so impressed with the level at which these kids can think! They do amazing research and have very thorough analysis of the texts and very rich discussions. I am spoiled, I think. Also, we're doing research projects. They all got to choose their own topic, and we are working on note-taking right now. It is fun to see the kinds of questions the students are coming up with to investigate! I'm excited to see what the final products will be like.

Last night, I went to a class about Promethean boards and how to use them in the classroom. These boards are incredible teaching tools, and this class was very helpful! I have already signed up for the Intermediate class that will be held next month. That one is supposed to focus on integrating curriculum into the Promethean board. In addition, I signed up for a Classroom Management course that will be held on March 5th and March 12th. It is recommended for substitute teachers and new teachers, as it is full of suggestions on successfully managing a class. I think both classes will be full of very useful information.

Since having my interview with LPSDO, I have been getting many pieces of advice as I gear up to begin interviewing with building principals. These comments have been very helpful and are much appreciated. I am certainly getting attached to my students here at Lux, but I'm also excited as I begin to think about the students that will one day (sooner than later) be my own!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Teacher Work Day

Today, LPS had no school for a teacher in-service. Last Friday ended the semester, and the district gives teachers a work day to get caught up on grading. I thought that today would seem long and boring, but in fact, my day was quite full.

The administrators made breakfast for us first thing in the morning. The pancakes were delicious and were a great way to start the day! At breakfast, I ran into Marti (Christensen) Blecha, a girl I knew from my home town. She is also student teaching at Lux with the Speech-Language pathologist. That run-in was certainly unexpected!

After breakfast, we headed to an ordering meeting. My teacher and I sat down with the other 6th grade Language Arts teachers to order supplies for next year. I like office supplies, and I thought this meeting would be fun, but it was actually kind of stressful! My role was typing in item numbers on the Office Depot website and trying to find the cheapest price for the supplies the teachers needed. I learned a lot about working with limited financial resources from this meeting!

After that meeting, we headed up to the media center to do some planning with the media specialist. For the next eight weeks, my sixth graders will be working on research projects. In addition, they will be learning things like writing thesis statements, writing good paragraphs, using main ideas and supporting details, making citations, and Internet reliability. It was very tricky to make lesson plans for the next eight weeks, but it needed to be done in order to reserve the computer labs for the times we needed! I learned that reserving computers is a scheduling nightmare, and must be done very far in advance. I equate teachers signing up for computers to soccer moms on Black Friday; they elbow and shove until they get what they want, and it is kind of nuts!

After the lunch break, I spent most of my time grading theme tests and entering scores into the computer. I am actually really enjoying grading because it is giving me a better idea of the variety of abilities of my students. Also, I feel like I can kind of get to know them through their writing. The stack of papers to grade easily grows very high! I'm excited for students to come back to school tomorrow, but that stack of papers that is yet to be graded seems daunting! I have a feeling that this weekend might be the first time that I bring work home with me!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On My Own

First thing this morning, I sat in on an administrator meeting. These meetings happen once a week, and it is where an administrator from the building comes to meet with the team. Mainly, we discussed "problem" or "at-risk" students and talked about what needed to be done. Largely, these conversations resulted in making further accommodations in the classroom.

Today was also an exciting day because my cooperating teacher was gone to a conference, leaving me to teach by myself. I spent a lot of time preparing to make sure I knew what I was doing, and to my benefit, everything went very well! I felt like today was crucial for the students to finally see me as a teacher and as an authority figure in the classroom. Throughout the day, I got many questions about myself which presented me the opportunity to ask questions in return to the students. I got to know quite a few things about many of the students, which was good for me.

I was floored by the quality of discussion that I had with my first diff. block. The extent to which they analyze the texts that they read is much deeper than many college students I have had classes with. They have incredible vocabularies, and they are able to raise some very interesting points! I wish I had the opportunity to participate in a class like this when I was a sixth grader.

My second period class didn't have quite the level of discussion as first block, but they did pretty well. I would say that about 1/2 of them were actively participating the whole time. I suspect that the other 1/2 didn't get the story read. I suppose I'd better get used to that happening. Unfortunately, once they leave the classroom, I don't have any control over what they choose to do (or not to do).

All in all, I felt very comfortable being in charge today. I think that today changed the way the students perceive me for the better, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the rest of the week goes!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Day 2

Today was an exciting day for me because I got to teach everything all day. It went really well! I love having plan periods for the first two hours of my day because it allows me to really get my head wrapped around everything. At this point, I'm most hesitant about the extent to which I should discipline my students. Since I have only been in their classroom for two days, I don't want to seem super strict, but my cooperating teacher is encouraging me to get after them more. My morning diff. class is still very good about following the class rules, but my afternoon class today tried testing me a bit! For the most part, I was able to stifle them simply by looking at them, letting them know that I wasn't oblivious to their disruptions! My cooperating teacher has the students very well-trained; for the most part they do exactly as they are supposed to, and there are hardly any side conversations! I'm a bit surprised, because my understanding of middle school students is that they are social beings. My cooperating teacher is showing me that it is possible to keep an orderly classroom, even with sixth graders!

After school, I sat in on my first all-staff meeting, which was a great way to gain an understanding of things that are going on within the building. A teacher on my team, Mrs. Bubb, gave a presentation on how to have effective class meetings that have a purpose. So far, the sixth grade team that I am working with has had very productive meetings that have shown amazing results! At the class meetings, students were able to raise issues or concerns that they were having. Topics have included talking too much in class, bullying, and running in the hallways. Through structured discussions, the students were able to problem solve and come up with solutions. They have really taken ownership over the issues that have been raised!

Next, all of the Professional Learning Community (PLC) groups reported on what their quarterly or yearly goals are and the progress that has been or is being made. I enjoyed hearing all of the different things that different teams and disciplines are focusing on. Some of the statistics were very good and show much improvement! The team that I am working with is focusing on an increase in vocabulary skills, which is also a district goal. It is interesting to see all the ways that teachers in all subject areas are working to improve students' vocabularies. This meeting was a very good experience!

My cooperating teacher will be gone tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the students do without her in the classroom!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The First Day

The alarm went off at 5:53AM this morning, which is the earliest I have woken up in quite a while. Drew Adams is also student teaching at Lux, but his car is being fixed this week, and I volunteered to go pick him up in the mornings and take him back home in the afternoons. Unfortunately, he lives on the opposite end of town (NW 16th and Hwy 77), which makes the morning commute last nearly an hour. I can certainly sympathize with the broken car situation, but I'm definitely looking forward to next week when I can sleep in a few extra minutes.

My day went quite well! My first two periods are plan periods, which allows my cooperating teacher and I to get our ducks in a row. Every Monday, my team meets to discuss any problems they are having in their classrooms and to talk about possible solutions. Today, we discussed a few students who are in the at-level classrooms who they think need to be re-tested to see if they could qualify for placement in the gifted class. Conversely, there are also some students in the diff. classes that they think may need to be bumped back down to the at-level class. This was a very interesting discussion to sit in on! Also during this time, I was trained on the very high-tech copy machine (referred to as the MFD), which I have already become very familiar with!

After the two planning periods, I had the differentiated Language Arts block, which lasts for two hours. They are a great group of kids! My cooperating teacher is able to do some really cool projects with them because we are able to go through the concepts very quickly.

Next, I had the two-hour block of at-level Language Arts, which is broken up by lunch. I ate lunch with the teachers on my team, which was also very fun! One teacher brought us peanut butter cupcakes and another teacher brought us chocolate chip cookies! Both were delicious! This class was somewhat rowdy this afternoon. My hunch is that they were eager to get outside to play in the snow. That was all they seemed to be able to talk about!

After school, I stayed until 4:00 (an extra 45 minutes) to get things ready for tomorrow. I will be teaching everything for the entire day, which makes me feel nervous and excited at the same time! My cooperating teacher said that she had planned to throw me right in, and she certainly wasn't kidding! It will be interesting to see how tomorrow the end of the day, I get to sit in on my first all-staff meeting, which I'm also very excited to see!

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Meetings

Yesterday, I went to Lux to meet with my cooperating teachers. I'll be working with Mrs. Janike's 7th Grade Social Studies class and Mrs. Ringenberg's 6th Grade Language Arts class.

For the first eight weeks, I'll be with Mrs. Ringenberg's class. She told me that she basically plans on throwing me into everything, and I'll be teaching right away. Among the many things she has planned for me, I will be in charge of giving and grading the theme tests. My day is very well-laid out. My first two periods are plan periods. Then, I have a two-hour block with 24 differentiated students. After lunch, I have a two-hour block with 32 at-level students. I think it will be nice to have such a small number of students to get to know. Two classes seems very manageable! One project that I am very excited about is having my students be online pen pals with Rachel Fehring's Japanese students. Mrs. Ringenberg will be setting up a blog for the students to use, and I am excited to see how this goes! Lux has a close relationship with Senshu Matsudo Junior High in Japan, and as eighth graders, students have the opportunity to do a student exchange with them. Having these Japanese pen pals will be a great way to get the students thinking about the exchange program!

For the second eight weeks, I'll be with Mrs. Janike's class. She has a very set routine established in her room, so I will be observing her classroom for the first week or so. Once I begin, though, she said she is leaving everything up to me. Among the things I will be teaching are: Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and Russia. This makes me nervous, because I haven't really studied much about any of those places. I plan to use up much of my weekend time studying up on the history of these places! In her classroom, I will teach five sections, including one differentiated section. From the sounds of it, this differentiated class is structured much like many of my college classes! It will be interesting to see how the students do. As a part of the unit, we will be having Greek Olympics, which also sounds like a lot of fun!

Both classrooms have a SMART board, so I'm excited to have the opportunity to teach using that technology! It is relatively new for me, but hopefully I'll be able to figure out how to work it! Mrs. Ringenberg has developed several lessons on the SMART board, so I'm hoping she'll share some of them with me! Overall, it sounds like student teaching is going to keep me VERY busy, but I'm excited to dive in and get started!