I took full advantage of my only full week at my parents house to get in some classroom observations. My mom’s principal got me board approval to come observe in their middle school. I was supposed to go in for a day or two before break, but a massive stomach virus epidemic hit the school (seriously – they had like 100 kids out sick in a pretty tiny district), so I held off on coming in then. I made it to the school Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and observed 7 periods a day. I got a really good mix of grades (5-8) and subjects (math, science, social studies, lit, and language arts). Here are some highlights:
“Real” teachers struggle, too.
I think the highlight of my time there was sitting in the teachers room during lunch with a bunch of teachers, and somehow a conversation started about how they teach writing and reading. They had a great talk about how a lot of them still struggle with teaching lit/LA and they feel that a lot of the time, it’s just a lot of guess and check. It was good to hear that teachers struggle with things that a lot of the teachers on this blog say they struggle with, too.
Kids were always reading more than one book.
Not sure exactly how I feel about this, but the reading system a lot of the teachers used had the kids reading a “class book” where the lessons all came from, but the kids also read a book on their own. It was with this second, individual book that a lot of the assignments came from. So the teachers had taught a lesson with a book all of the students had read, but then did worksheets, assignments, or projects (based on the lesson) using a book they had chosen on their own. The thinking goes that if the kids are reading a book they enjoy and have picked on their own, they’re more likely to actually read it, enjoy reading, improve, etc. Any thoughts on this? Has anyone actually implemented it in their classroom?
A lot of teachers had “Interactive Notebooks”.
Teachers had students keep notebooks where they combined right side and left side thinking. The right side of the notebook was always a concrete lesson – notes, a worksheet, something that had information on it. The left side was always something creative – a diagram or a picture. Apparently it’s supposed to help connect the learning and make better connections for the kids. It seemed pretty cool, and it definitely kept the kids organized.
I’m sure there is much more that I’m forgetting about, but I haven’t had a chance to go over my notes from observing and I’m rushing to finish packing so I can go back to school today.
Next up: Middle school math Praxis on Saturday, January 14th! I feel pretty good about it, but I’ll definitely do another practice test to refresh some more. Good luck to everyone taking their Praxis tests on the 14th! First step on the road to teachiing for all of us 2012 Corps Members!