Friday, September 9, 2011

A Lot of Changes

So... this blog has been long neglected, but one of my best friends Eunice recently started a blog about her teaching experiences in New York, and she inspired me to get back into the habit of blogging about teaching! :)

This is a new year, and I am in a new teaching placement! Same school, just a different job. Last year was my first year of teaching, and I was an ESL teacher. This year, I am teaching 1st grade. Man, it is really different! I think the biggest difference is flexibility - as a classroom teacher, the time with your kids is all day (except for specials and lunch) and whatever needs to be done is your responsibility. I felt that as an ESL teacher I had a lot more flexibility and I kind of miss being able to move around from classroom to classroom, but right now, I also enjoy having my own group of kids.

There are exciting days where I see tons of growth and exhausting days where I sometimes wonder why I chose teaching in the first place. But the exciting days far outweigh the exhausting days.

One cool thing that happened today was that I taught my students about 9/11. My students were born after 9/11, so when I posed this question to them, "When you hear 9/11, do you think of anything? What have you heard about 9/11?" I was met with blank stares. My students seriously had no clue why 9/11 was significant. I told them briefly where I was during 9/11 ten years ago, and a few facts about what happened. I chose a book "The Fireboat" to read to them (it's a fabulously written children's book that tells the 9/11 story in an age-appropriate way) and my students had a lot of really good questions. It was a really profound discussion because I think my students have never really thought about the fact that anger and hate can sometimes drive people to hurt others - the book doesn't really go into that but it is something we discussed briefly. One child told me he wanted to cry when he thought about it - the whole thing made him sad. This discussion really reminded me of how significant the whole event was - I got a tiny bit emotional as I was talking about it, and I think my students sensed it too. Our school did a moment of silence over the intercom, and my students did great - they understood what it was for and everyone was respectful.

What a great thing it is to be a teacher, and teach these young kids about all sorts of history and skills that they will take with them for life!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

funny stories

just wanted to jot down some funny stories that happened recently:

me: so what is the title of our poem?
students: old macdonald had a farm.
me: okay, so now let's read the story.
(students read the poem)
student: comma!
me: what's that?
student: comma!
me: (surprised... as my students barely know what a period is) where is the comma?
(he points it out)
me: wow! has your teacher been teaching you punctuation?
student: no... ms. pan, you taught me that last week!
(wow, i didn't even remember...)
then my students proceeded to sing the song saying "comma" every time they saw one. haha!

during word study:
student: ms. pan, is this word "nine"?
me: yes. how can you use it in a sentence?
student: hmm... ms. pan is nine years old. that's a good one!
(that would make me... one year older than the student. haha!)

student: ms. pan... i have a boyfriend.
me: um... you are a little young to have a boyfriend (she's in kindergarten!).
student: my boyfriend is him (points to student across the desk)
other student: what? i'm not your boyfriend!

(while teaching five little monkeys)
me: okay, so why doesn't the doctor want the monkeys to jump on the bed?
student: because you will fall off and bump your head.
other student: yeah, and it's not good to bump your head.
me: why not?
student: because you have a brain and it could hurt it. but i know how to bump my head so it won't hurt my brain.

LOL, these kids keep me laughing each day. i need to write down more stories!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Poetry Unit

I recently started a month-long unit with my second graders on poetry and writing workshop. We are studying poetry together as a class and also working on writing our own poetry. I had each student write me a letter yesterday, telling me how they felt so far about writing and poetry.

This is one student's letter:

Dear Ms. Pan,
I love the poetry unit. I like it so much that I will write a poem.
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
And you are the best teacher too.

It touched me so much. I've had a rough two days in the classroom. I've really been struggling a lot with the management aspect of teaching, and I'm still struggling to find something that works with my students. It's been tough, but there have been moments that just make it all worth it. :) Sometimes, encouragement can come in the simplest forms!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

And This is Why I Love Teaching

I've had a particular student in my class who is struggling. In all aspects - she cannot focus on the tasks at hand, constantly has problems with other children in the classroom, and overall is not doing very well. It's been frustrating for me as well as my CT as we try to help her catch up to her classmates, and it just seems like there's been little progress. She's a bright child, but just unable to focus on what we're doing as a class.

Well, yesterday, I was sitting down for a minute when this student came up to me. She said, "Ms. Pan, I have something I need to tell you."

"Well, tell me then."

"It's a secret."

"Okay..." so I lean in closer and she whispers in my ear:

"When you go back to your desk, there's something really nice on it - I made it for you." She was beaming when I turned to look at her.

"Aww, thank you so much! That's so nice of you!" She was so proud of herself that she had made me something nice, and I couldn't wait to go back and look at what it was.

So I went back to my desk, and this is what was there.

(The front said, "To miss pan"):
It meant so much to me that this letter was coming from this particular student - one that I've struggled to understand, been frustrated with in thinking of how to help her succeed, and one that's constantly on my mind. She gave me a big hug, and I truly felt like I was making a difference.

I wrote this student a note back, thanking her for her wonderful letter - knowing that writing out a few simple lines must've taken a lot of thought and effort on her part. I know she can succeed if she puts her mind to it - I just hope I can continue to help her achieve that goal!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Saving Face

Growing up as an Asian American, I think it's ingrained in us that you need to put your best face forward - only show your best work, and that "practice makes perfect". I know my parents did not drill this into my sister and I, but I picked it up along the way - the tiring act of being "perfect".

As a student teacher, we are supposed to observe and take on small lessons each day. My CT (cooperating teacher), however, gives me a lot more freedom and now I teach about 4 lessons a week (two a day, since I'm only there two days a week). It's been a really good learning experience, but also scary! She has been so supportive, though, and really encouraging as well. She gives me good feedback as well, so I'm really learning a lot as I go.

I realized a shift in my mentality, though, about teaching. Before, it was all about, "How can I present the best lesson to my kids?" I would practice repeatedly and most times, present a very polished lesson. However, were my students learning anything? I realized through my first month of actual student teaching that teaching has to be flexible. Students may not give you the response you want, but that doesn't mean they're not thinking - you often just have to probe a little deeper to see where the connections are coming from. The lesson may not go as you had planned, but sometimes, it's even better that way. I've learned that my students' learning comes first, and even if that means taking the lesson I planned and throwing it out and going with where the discussion is going, that's okay! If real learning is taking place, that comes first. :)

It's not about me presenting the perfect, polished lesson. It's about my students, and how much they get from my instruction. I want them to learn the most that they can. My own "performance" does not matter if no one is learning anything - I gotta learn flexibility and the ability to think on my feet faster.

Lessons learned. I love it!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Vision and the Development of Outstanding Teachers" - Gerald Duffy

I just finished reading this article for one of my classes this fall, a second literacy course. This article was on how, as teachers, we need to have a vision (that's constantly revised) for why we do what we do. Here's some good quotes from it:

"I, too, have marveled at the eclectic characteristics of extraordinary teachers. Their success is not attributable to one method or one theoretical orientation. The best teachers use both trasmission and constructivist models simultaneously, going beyond conventional expectations to orchestrate "fluid transitions between two processes throughout the course of a single lesson." Similarly, the best teachers find multiple ways to integrate content..." (p.332)

"The best teachers are not followers... They adjust, modify, adapt, and invent; they do not emulate." (p.333)

"Passion is not lacking in teacher education. But passion for a particular kind of pedagogy leads teachers to think there is a silver bullet and that they must use it. In contrast, the goal of visioning is independent thinking. The intent is to develop teachers who claim the right to make their own decisions consistent with their personal, moral commitment to students and teaching. A teacher's passion for a personal mission governs decision-making, not a teacher educator's passion for a particular theory, method, or program."

I should start working on my own vision for why I teach....

Thursday, September 3, 2009

First Week

I started my student teaching placement in Detroit. It's been wonderful so far, if not slightly overwhelming -- meeting all the staff and trying to remember everyone's names, learning the system of the school, setting up the classroom... it's a lot but it's a lot of fun and a great experience as well. :) My CT (cooperating teacher) is wonderful, and we've gotten to talk and know each other better these first three days. I'm in a self-contained second grade classroom, and so far we have 31 students... phew!

We did a lot of prep work for the school year this first week, since students don't come back to school until after Labor Day (next Tuesday). There's sooo much that goes into getting the classroom ready! Stuff you wouldn't even think about -- the placement of desks, for example. How can you maximize space, create a welcoming and open sense of community among your students, and also have it so everyone can see you? It takes a lot more thoughtful planning than I envisioned!

Excited to be meeting all the students on Tuesday! :)