Monday, January 30, 2012

Student teaching With A Substitute Teacher

Hi everyone! Today was such an odd day!
First of all, you'll be happy to know that Phoebe was back at school today, after missing about two weeks! (If you missed the post and don't want to go read it, Phoebe caught strep throat, which somehow spread to her heart and caused her to go into heart failure last week.) She was nervous about coming back to school. When you're four, two weeks is forever! So her mother dropped off some bags of mini donuts for her to pass out to the class, as a surprise. I was so glad to see Phoebe alive and well... I was really worried! She reported that she had a "rash," (scarlet fever connected to the strep) and was in the hospital, and that although she didn't get to play with any toys, she did get to watch Barbie movies!
Mrs. Wing was out, so we had a sub. I'll just call her Ms. Sub. In one way it was a good day for me because, without Mrs. Wing there, I was able to see how much of the schedule I'd learned and how well I'd gotten to know the kids! I was able to help the sub out a lot, which was kind of a good feeling. And Mrs. Sub was a nice person and everything, so it was all good. Except...
Well, many of my readers (LOL or should I say a fraction of my 8 readers) are teachers. So you have probably had someone fill in for you when you are not at work. But have you ever worked with a sub? When I was an aide in a school I worked with many subs, and I know there are about four different ranks. First of all you should know that being a substitute teacher is a hard job... its like every single day is your first day of work, and everyone expects you to already know everything. So you get the freaked-out subs who are sure they are messing up everything at all times. (I'd probably be that type, if I tried to be a sub!) There are the good subs that are great at following the teacher's sub plan to a T and get everyone through the day in one piece. There are great subs who not only follow the teacher's sub plan, but add some of their own charm (like teaching the kids a new song, or doing an extra art project, or playing games during recess.) And then there are the subs who are like, "I am an awesome teacher, and clearly you are doing everything wrong, and while I'm here I will give this classroom a total makeover!"

Mrs. Sub subs at many different schools in the area, and she actually knows Ani's older brother. Before the kids even got off the bus, when Mrs. Sub noticed that Ani was in our class, she said, "Ani's brother always comes in with a scowl on his face!" I told her that Ani was the same way, and that he also often refuses to talk to anyone or do any work. So Mrs. Sub decided that today she was going to totally fix Ani. She spent the whole day talking to Ani and trying to get him out of his shell. She actually pulled him onto her lap and started tickling him at one point when he wouldn't listen to her about something... Ani looked flaming mad... and when he didn't want to play catch in the gym, she stood behind him and moved his arms so he had to catch and throw the ball. And things like that. For a while I was a little irritable about it, but I figured its just one day and a little extra attention for Ani couldn't hurt. But the thing about it was she was doing it with an attitude like, "I will be the one person to reach this child that everyone else has failed to reach!"
Also, all through the afternoon class she kept translating everything she said into Spanish for this one little kid, Chickadee, who is Hispanic. The thing is, Chickadee is three and has a developmental delay and a speech delay, so he doesn't really speak much of any language. But his mother was raised in the USA and they speak English at home, so Chickadee understands both languages equally. But she just assumed that, because he was Hispanic, he needed to hear everything in Spanish. If anything, he just looked a little confused.
Mrs. Sub was good in many ways, however. She'd make a great preschool teacher if she had her own class!

Another Ani story for you... Did you ever have a little kid who asks you permission for every single motion he makes when he's doing work? This is Ani whenever we work on an art project or do any type of school work. For all the scowling and refusing to participate Ani does the rest of the time, when he's sitting next to you at the work table he's so uncertain! Today, for instance, we were making these paper plate tambourines. You give the kids two paper plates stapled together except for one opening. Then the kids fill the opening with dried macaroni noodles, You staple the opening shut, and then they get to decorate it. Yay, a tambourine! When it was Ani's turn, he would just ask me for every little thing. Like, asking permission to put each individual macaroni noodle into the opening. "Do I put this in?" "Yes!" "This one?" "Sure, put it in." "This one?" "Put as many as you want in!" "This one?" "Yep!" The same went for decorating. He'd ask permission to pick up each individual  marker, and to make each individual mark. Each time, with this nervous look on his face. I tried telling him, "You're the boss of this project, Ani. You can put anything you want on it." Still, he was so nervous about making any moves. I've seen him be like this before when working with Mrs. Wing and with the aide, and today with Mrs. Sub, as well as with me whenever I work with him at anything. Its almost like he's afraid of getting yelled at (or worse) if he makes a wrong move. But on the other hand, this same little dude will refuse to sit with the other kids, refuse to answer a question at circle time, refuse to put away the Legos when he's not done making a fire hose (which he likes to do pretty often for some reason.) One minute he can be so talkative (well, talkative for Ani) telling you all about how he went trick-or-treating on Halloween The next minute he can be scowling and glaring at you because you told him you like the motorcycle picture on his sweatshirt. The next, he can be asking you permission to put a single bead onto a string. And the next, he can be standing with his arms crossed and his head down because he doesn't want to play with a ball in gym class.When he opens up to you, you can tell he's this sweet, sweet little boy who is desperate for approval and acceptance. But then when you ask him to let someone else have a turn with the fire engine, he acts like you just called him a rat bastard! What gives?
This was the first day of my third week, by the way. Third of five. I can't believe it is almost halfway over!

Friday, January 27, 2012

My First "Sick Day"

Hi everyone! Well, I am home sick today, having caught strep throat from my little friends. But I can't complain about my strep throat, because there is a little kid in my class who has it much worse!
Phoebe and Pewee are a brother and sister, ages 4 and 3, in the at-risk class. Phoebe was out sick all last week. Parents have to report cases of strep, and other highly contagious illnesses, to the school. So we found out that Phoebe had strep throat, and a note had to be sent home to all of the children letting them know that someone in their class had strep. 
At the beginning of this week, Pewee cheerfully reported that his sister was in the hospital... but the next day, Phoebe showed up at school! The poor little kid was as white as a ghost, with dark circles around her eyes, and she barely said a word all day. The day after that, Phoebe stayed home from school again. 
So yesterday, the kids' mom called to let Mrs. Wing know that Phoebe was in the hospital again. Apparently the strep throat spread to her heart, and Phoebe went into cardiac failure!!!
How does that happen? I had strep throat all the time when I was a little kid. I probably had it at least once each winter. (I was also plagued with frequent colds and ear infections... I was a very sickly little kid!) But I never went into cardiac failure! I've known many, many children who had strep throat, and nothing like this has ever happened to them. So how does a four-year-old child have a common childhood illness one minute, and be in the cardiac ICU the next? 
I had a mild sore throat, the day we found out Phoebe was in the hospital. I wondered vaguely if I might have strep. I don't have health insurance, being a student, so I wasn't even considering going to the doctor with a sore throat that mild.  But last night I was tossing and turning all night with my sore throat, and at some point in my somewhat delirious state, I decided I was going to stay home and go get a strep test. If it was strep, I didn't want to be the one to pass it on to another child, who might end up in cardiac failure! 
I went to immediate care, and sure enough, I have strep throat. So I guess its a good thing I stayed home... but I won't be able to find out until Monday about what happened with Phoebe! It is sort of driving me crazy. I really only knew Phoebe for four days... because she's only been to school for four of my eight student teaching days... but I keep picturing her pale face and sad eyes on that one day that she came back.

Everyone... if your little kids have sore throats, take them to the doctor right away! Maybe catching it sooner is a way to prevent this from happening to other children! I hope. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Fun Team Building, Brain Bending Game!

Hi bloggy buddies! Last night was my second night of volunteering with the mentoring program. As I mentioned before, I've been matched with an alarmingly hyperactive ten-year-old named Sadie. The whole thing is somewhat awkward because there are only about six children, and six adults, in the program, plus the two leaders. So generally the other five children and their mentors are working quietly and happily on some sort of project or game, while Sadie shrieks at the top of her lungs and zips around the room like a stray bullet! I haven't managed to make much of a connection with her, mostly because it is hard to converse with someone when you are chasing them down a hallway and trying to wrangle a permanent marker out of their hand! LOL!

At any rate, the activity we did last night was a lot of fun, and it even kept Sadie somewhat engaged about seventy-five percent of the time. I thought I'd share it with you, because some of you may be able to use it with your classes or even with your own families! We played with 10 to 13 year olds, but it can probably be played by any kids who can read and spell  somewhat fluently, at least well enough to spell three letter words!

Divide everyone into small groups. We had three in a group but you could make larger groups of four or five if you want! Each group gets a few sheets of  paper, and each group member gets an index card. You'll also need a timer. Plus, if you include the bonus round, you'll need a few extra items. (See Step 5.) Now here's how you play. 

1. Each group member writes on his own card two vowels and eight consonants. Don't show the other members of your group what you're writing, yet!

2. All of the groups now have a specific amount of time (five minutes, ten minutes, whatever...) to make as many words as they can from the letters on each index card. You don't put the index cards together to use all the letters... you just see how many words you can make from one, and then the next, and then the last. For instance if my index card said a, e, g, f, b, t, l , s, my team could write down flag, tag, gas, last, and so on. Write all of the words down on a sheet of paper. It doesn't matter how long or short they are, as long as they are real words. When the timer goes off, pens and pencils go down!

3. The groups have to count how many words they have written down. The teacher or whoever is running the game might want to go around and scan the lists to make sure all of the words are valid and that there are no duplicates! The teacher should write down the number of words each team got. 

4. Now, each group switches index cards with another group! The same process begins again, but this time, each word is worth two points! When the timer goes off, the teacher should write down the total each group has and add it to each group's previous total.

5. Here comes the bonus round! You'll need to have blown up a bunch of balloons... maybe about twenty. Each balloon should have a slip of paper inserted inside it. (Do that part before you blow it up, obviously!) Half of the slips of paper should have two random vowels and eight random consonants on them. The rest of the slips of paper should be blank.

6. The teacher or organizer presents the following information to the teams. They now have a big decision to make. Each group can opt to either take a balloon or not take one. If they choose to take one, and it has a slip of paper with letters on it, they can participate in the bonus round, earning two points for every word they make from those letters. But if the balloon has a blank slip of paper in it, that team loses twenty points. The members of each group will have a minute to discuss this and decide what they want to do. If they choose to take a balloon, they can send one member of the group up to get one.

7. Begin the bonus round for any teams that are going to participate. 

8. After the timer goes off, the teams that participated can add their newest totals to their scores. The teacher or organizer can now declare which team is the winner!

9. You can also have a class discussion afterwards, about how each person feels they contributed, what were the hard and easy parts, how they decided whether to take a balloon for the bonus round, etc. 

Its a fun game, and its a lot more exciting than it may sound! I hope some of you get the chance to try it out!

And now, for a funny story from student teaching. 
Kiwi and Teal, two little girls in the at-risk class, both speak English and Polish fluently. They've become great friends and play together every day. Today, the two little girls were speaking to each other (in English) as they colored. The kids who are English Language Learners are encouraged to practice speaking in both English and their first languages, so the teacher, Mrs. Wing, casually suggested that the girls might like to speak to each other in Polish. Kiwi looked horrified and said,. "Noooo!" 
"Maybe you could teach me some Polish," Mrs. Wing said.
Again, Kiwi said, "Noooo!"
"Why not?" asked Mrs. Wing.
Kiwi retorted, "I'm not your mother!" 

Thats it for today, everyone! Thanks for reading! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

One Of My New Little Friends

One of the first little friends I noticed, when I began student teaching in the at-risk preschool program at Sky Elementary, was Ani. Ani is a little boy who barely talks. When you say hello to him, he stares at the ground. When you ask him how his bus ride was, he stares at the ground. He can talk... at calendar time he will participate if the mood strikes him. Today he talked about the cookies we ate at the grocery store on our field trip last week. He'll make noises when he's playing in the toy area... which usually means he's shoving animals and people figurines down the trap door of the Fisher Price castle. But most of the time he will only nod, shake his head, or ignore you when you talk to him..The longest sentence I ever heard him say was "I don't want to," when I tried to get him to take off his backpack in order to put his seatbelt on on the bus. He usually refuses to do the tasks all the preschoolers do, like painting a polar bear white or sorting buttons by color. But when the teacher gives him an ultimatum... do the work, or no playing... Ani will go in the other direction, concentrating with all his might and refusing to stop when the teacher says its time to be done. "Its his way, or no way," the classroom aide explained. 
When I first started at Sky Elementary, Ani looked like he was glaring at me all the time. But by the end the first week, he'd started getting used to me. One day he came up to me and stomped his feet, to show me that he'd gotten new boots. Another day he showed me a large, silver thumb ring with skulls and crossbones engraved in it. "Mine," he said, before he hid it away in his backpack. 
Today when Ani got off the bus, I asked him to sit down with the rest of the kids, in the hallway where they wait for all of the bussers to arrive. Ani shook his head.
I don't know the kids well enough to be too firm... I'm still a guest in their classroom... so I tried to make him smile. "You won't sit down? What will you do instead?" I asked. "Will you stand on your head? Will you do jumping jacks? Will you swing from the ceiling like a monkey?" Ani almost smiled at that! But then he caught himself and  looked away, rolling his eyes. 
Ani is three. 
"Why is Ani so angry at life?" I asked Mrs. Wing, during a brief moment when the kids were out of earshot. 
"He has a very messed up home life," she replied. She didn't elaborate, and I didn't want to seem nosey by asking more, but I just can't help wondering.
The three year olds I've known throughout the years are emotional rollercoasters. They're laughing and being silly one minute, screaming and throwing a tantrum the next minute, and planting sloppy kisses on your cheek and declaring their undying love for you the next. Even the preschoolers I worked with who were in foster care and had Reactive Attachment Disorder were no exception. If anything, they were just bigger rollercoasters, with more violent lows and more joyous highs. But Ani is just... there. What happens to make a three year old withdraw like that?
A lot of the kids in the class have questionable home lives. The other day I asked you guys if you know what makes a child qualify as being at risk. Today I found the answer in an online manual for the state's at-risk preschool program. Basically, when screened, children are given numbers of points for different factors that put them at risk. For factors that involve their biological and physical needs, such as being on the federal free lunch program, living in subsidized housing, being homeless, having a chronic illness, having been exposed to lead , being malnourished, having a teenaged mother, having low birth weight, having been exposed to drugs or alcohol as a fetus, etc, they would get four points for each, because these factors are considered the most pressing. Safety needs... having parents with poor behavior management skills, an unstable family structure, having been abused or neglected, being in foster care or under DCFS supervision, having an incarcerated parent, etc... would score them three points each. Factors that are considered "belongingness and love needs," such as speech issues (I'm not sure why thats grouped in with belongingness and love, unless they rule out that the child has an actual speech delay and decide that his speech issues have to do with his home life,) lack of self control, lack of self esteem, having been through a trauma or serious loss, etc... score two points each. (Having a non-English primary home language is also listed in this category, inexplicably!) Finally, "esteem needs," such as a short attention span or poor gross motor skills (???!!!) score one point each. So whoever is screening the child eventually adds all of these points up. Then, the children with the most total points get spots in the preschool program. If there was a program with one hundred spaces, the one hundred worst-off children screened would get them. 
So basically, in order for a child to be in the program, a lot has to have gone wrong for them in their short three or four years of life! 
This is another reason why I feel like, if (hopefully when) I am a teacher, I want to make school as safe and happy a place as possible. I don't want to complain about the preschool program I'm at, because Mrs. Wing is great and the school is great and everything... but I just feel like something is missing. The joy is missing. 
I feel like a child like Ani should be able to come to school and have it be a shining spot in his day, a magical place where he feels safe and loved and has chances to try new things, to succeed at things, to be proud of himself. But here it just seems like its all about teaching them what they need to do... teaching them to sit quietly and raise their hands, to walk in a single file line, to clean up the toys and hold their pencils correctly and learn beginning academic skills... and not at all about their emotional needs. 
Its frustrating for me because I'm only there for five weeks, and I cannot make a difference there. I mean, even if I reach out to kids like Ani, in five weeks I'll be gone.
I love student teaching in the preschool! But sometimes it also makes me so sad. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Who Is At Risk?

Hi everyone! I've just survived my fourth day of interning in the special ed and at risk early childhood program at Sky Elementary School.* I have to say, I'm really enjoying it! I love being with the early childhood kids. They are sweet, and fun, and funny! They try so hard at everything, and are so fascinated by things.

I have a question I would love for someone to try to answer for me! , I was meaning to ask my cooperating teacher about this, but it slipped my mind! The particular kids in this class do not have serious diagnosed special needs. Most of them are there because they've been identified as being "at risk." I am not exactly sure how a child gets identified as being "at risk" as opposed to having an actual special need. Its a little confusing to me. The morning class kids are all identified as "at risk," and some of them also have a label of speech delay, autism, developmental delay, etc. These kids get some extra services. For instance, the school has to provide a free snack to them. The afternoon kids have speech delays, autism, or developmental delays, but are not considered to be at risk. I've been trying to Google it, but every website I've found seems to skate around defining what puts a child at risk. One website gave examples that the child may have a teenaged mother, a mother who abuses drugs or alcohol, or a parent with a severe emotional disorder. That could be true. Of the kids I know of who are identified as "at risk," one lives with his parents and three siblings in a motel room because his father lost his job. Another child has to go to the nurse any time he comes to school with a bruise or other injury, no matter how mild, because the family is being investigated for child abuse. Another lives in a kinship foster care placement but does not get much actual care or attention there. But if a child's home situation is what puts him "at risk," how would they get people to sign kids up for the program? Would they say, "You seem to be doing poorly at this parenting business! We have a great free preschool program for your child!" My question to you more knowledgeable teachers is, what is the difference between a preschooler with a speech delay or developmental delay, and an "at-risk" preschooler?

At any rate, it could be that early childhood is the grade level for me. I've worked in a preschool program before, for children in foster care. And I taught a preschool curriculum at home to the children I used to care full time for. Whenever I am at the classroom, my mind is wild with things that I would do if it were my classroom. Not that the teacher doesn't do a great job! Mrs. Wing is awesome! Its just that I can't help envisioning my classroom! I think to myself, "I would do finger plays and rhymes with the children during morning circle! I would have music playing during play time and snack! I would open up a computer center and a science center! I would have specific activities in each center! To get the children to spend some time in  different centers, instead of just living in the block center the way these kids seem to, I would give them a weekly 'passport' and have them collect stickers for trying new things! I would do more open-ended art projects with them! I would do movement games with them in the gym instead of just having them bounce balls every day!" I think the thing I like best about preschool is the teacher's freedom to design her own lessons and activities, instead of sticking to a prescribed curriculum like teachers at some schools have to do. In some schools I've observed at, for instance, a fourth grade teacher cannot do an activity with her students unless she's talked about it at the grade level meeting and all of the fourth grade teachers have agreed to do the same activity, in the same way, on the same day at the same time. In preschool, it seems like the sky is the limit!

We got to go on a field trip yesterday, to the grocery store. The preschoolers got a behind-the-scenes tour. Every department gave them food! Those children ate so much! French fries. Cookies. Cheese. Meat. Oranges. But when we got back to school they still asked, "When is snack?"

Here is a cartoonized picture of my new little friends in the special hats the grocery store manager gave them, so they could pretend like they worked there! All of the hats but one were smashed by the time we got back to school, of course. But it was fun for a while!

On a lighter note, here is a funny moment...  The teacher was teaching the children about the letter C. She was trying to get them to come up with words that begin with C. Mrs. Wing suggested, "What about cup? Do your parents drink coffee in a cup?" Rhea piped up, "No! My Daddy drinks liqour!" In case we didn't hear him right, he repeated it about ten times!

Thanks for reading my post! I'd love to hear what you think, about the at-risk question and about anything else.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Miss Read Raises Her Hand

Hi everyone! I made it through my very first day of student teaching! Well, of interning, anyway! I am tired and happy. The day went great! It also went very quickly. Its a preschool program with a morning class and an afternoon class, each of which is two and a  half hours long. In that two and a half hours, not much happens! 

In the morning the kids start the day off going to the bathroom (always important when you're three or four years old and just took a half hour long bus ride!) Then we take them to the gym, where they basically just run around bouncing balls for half an hour. There isn't really a gym program or organized activity or anything. After that, they come back to the classroom and the teacher reads them a story. Then they have "Choice" time. During this time the teacher and aide pull small groups of children to work on little projects, while the others play freely. Today the teacher was testing kids on their progress, while the aide and I helped kids cut and paste penguins together. Snack comes next, and then it is time for the kids to bundle up and go home! The afternoon class is the same thing but with a much smaller group of kids. 

During lunch hour, there was a staff meeting, which I had to go to as well since I am pretending to be staff! The meeting was about the PBIS program that the school plans to adopt starting next school year. I'm pretty familiar with PBIS, because several of the schools I've observed at use it. So when the principal, who was giving a power point presentation, asked a particular question, I raised my hand. 
Yeah... I raised my hand. When I retold this story later to my mother she said, "Ugh, you raised your hand like you're still in elementary school," but she totally missed the point of the story and found the one negative part. 
I didn't really raise my hand, anyway... just kind of waved slightly since nobody else was saying anything! 
The question was about the part of PBIS involving schoolwide celebrations. The question was whether kids who had been getting multiple "majors" and "minors" should be invited to schoolwide celebrations. Nobody answered. That's when I made the giant mistake of raising my hand, before I could stop myself! Suddenly I felt like running from the room because everyone was looking at me, but I replied to the question, "Yes, because that way the kids are included as part of the school community, and can feel proud of what the entire school is doing, instead of feeling like outcasts." 
The principal responded with, "Yes, that's exactly it, and thank you so much for being brave on your first day here!" He later thanked me again for participating on my first day. 
So, the good news is, I was noticed in a positive way by the principal of the school, I showed him that I knew and understood the PBIS concept already, and I showed him that I was already willing to participate in a staff meeting . I think these are good things, especially since, at the end of the semester, a letter of recommendation from a principal will look great when I'm applying for a job!

But the bad news is, of course, I raised my hand. Ugh!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Fun Lunar New Year Game

Hi everyone! Lunar New Year (aka Chinese New Year, Korean New Year, etc) begins on January 23. Did you know this is the year of the dragon? Its a really exciting year! (Assuming the world doesn't end... although I guess that would make things even more exciting...)
You may remember I wrote before about my little cousins, Birdie and Tiger, who I often spend time with. Last week, since they were on school vacation and I was also on school vacation, I spent the night over at their house. Whenever I see them I try to bring activities for them. They are very active kids who need to be kept busy... but keeping them busy is actually really easy because they love things like crafts, games, coloring pages, word searches, etc. 
Since Lunar New Year is coming up, I made a Yut Nori game for the kids! I made this game before when I was a nanny for a family that was part Korean. Its kind of a simplified version. (The original version is a lot like the Sorry game we all know! If you want to read more about the real Yut Nori and try to make a more authentic version, check here.) I thought I'd share this, in case some of you are doing Lunar New Year lessons or celebrations with your students, or even with your own children at home! It can be played in partners or small groups. It would work great as a Centers activity. If you wanted all of the kids to be playing it at the same time, you'd have to make multiple Yut Nori sets, of course. You might even want to have kids make their own Yut Nori games as part of the process! 
My simplified Yut Nori game can be made using a poster board or a file folder. All you need to do is make colored circles all around the board, in a pattern. Label a "Start" spot and a "Finish" spot. Next, you need four craft sticks. Decorate one side of each craft stick. Finally, you need playing pieces. You can use whatever you have handy for this. Those shiny, colored pebbles from Dollar Tree work great!
Here is what my board and sticks looked like. 

Now, here's how you play. 
The first player picks up the four sticks and tosses them gently into the air. The way they land will determine how many spaces the player can move. If just one lands with the design up, go one space. Two with the design up means two spaces, and so on. But if all four land with the design down, you get to move five spaces!
Each player does this same thing during their turn.
If someone lands on you're spot, while you're on it, you have to go back to the last spot of the same color. So if I were on yellow, and you landed on my spot, I'd have to move six spaces back to the last yellow. 

This game is the most fun when more than two people are playing it, because then landing on someone else's spot becomes more common. When just two people play, you're sort of just moving around the circle. 
I also printed out these Chinese Zodiac coloring books for Birdie and Tiger. If you don't mind using up some ink, you could print these out for your students as well. The cover page lets you figure out which zodiac sign you are, and then each page is an animal to color and a little description of the animal. Birdie and Tiger loved figuring out what they were and what all of their family members were! 
I just thought I'd share this. I am starting student teaching tomorrow, but since its just the internship I have no idea if I'll be allowed to plan any activities... but if I do get the chance, around January 23, I definitely plan to use this! I hope you can get some use out of it too. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bad News

A while back I wrote about finding out that one of my student teaching placements was at my dad's elementary school. I was really excited about it, partly because I am very close to my dad and it was going to be cool to be placed at the school where he was once a student, and also because I read on the school's website about the cooperating teacher and the students and the types of things they did. I was really looking forward to it!
The other day I went to visit the classroom. I never wrote about it, because I've been a little sick lately. In fact, when I went to visit the classroom, I was in the beginnings of a cold, and was kind of hung over from the cold medicine I'd taken the night before in order to stop sneezing be able to breathe comfortably enough to sleep. 
So I went to visit the classroom, feeling a little under the weather. I'm also shy and sort of nervous around new people by nature, and often seem a little awkward because of my Aspergers issues. I had this feeling that the teacher and aides didn't really like me, but I thought I was just being paranoid. I also had a feeling that the meeting didn't go extraordinarily well. The teacher kept asking me to tell her about myself, and I stammered a little as I told her about what I've been studying and about my previous work as an aide at a special education school. I sat in on an SRA Decoding Strategies lesson she did with two students, (I was surprised the kids didn't pass out from boredom! How dull can you get?!?!?!) When that lesson was over, the teacher asked me if I wanted to stay a little longer and observe, or if I felt like I had seen enough. But since I was feeling so run down, I told her I had to go but that I might like to come back again for another visit. As I left, I just didn't have the best feeling about the whole thing. But I shook it off, figuring that by the time I started student teaching there, I would have more confidence because I would have just completed my first five weeks at the other school.
So anyways.
Today I got a call from my supervising professor at my school. She said that the director of special education at my ten-week placement had called her and expressed concern that I didn't have the background necessary to student teach there. My professor claims that the school usually chose to interview possible student teachers before accepting them but that they hadn't interviewed me because it had been sort of a last minute placement, and that they usually chose to work with graduate students instead of undergrads. She said that they thought I didn't have enough experience using the different curriculums and programs used by the school, and that they actually wanted me to take another class somehow before I started student teaching. My professor claimed that it was her choice to withdraw me from that placement, because she felt that the cooperating teachers had a negative attitude about me and were already expecting me to fail, 
As I heard my professor's voice over the phone I nearly burst into tears! First because I had been so excited about student teaching at my dad's old school. But also because it seems like I did fail already! I was kicked out of a student teaching placement, after one meeting. In all of the orientations I attended and handbooks I had to read, I was told how rare it was for a student teaching placement to be withdrawn, and that if it wasn't a dire emergency you just had to deal with whatever you got. So although the professor makes it sound as if she chose to withdraw me from that placement because of the attitudes of the people at the school, I feel like it must have been my fault. I went in there, and I was nervous and uncomfortable and tired, and I stammered and stuttered and didn't sparkle the way they always tell us we need to do if we ever want to get a job in this economy. 
I feel so dejected! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Miss Read Volunteers

Hi everyone! A while ago I mentioned that I was looking for a way to do some volunteer work with kids, in order to get some fresh references (and also because I do like doing community service!) At the time I was having trouble finding a place to volunteer, and many organizations hadn't returned my emails and phone calls. Well, I finally got hooked up with a near by township (not the one I live in, unfortunately) that has a pretty cool mentoring program.
I was always interested in mentoring, and I actually did some mentoring in the past, both as a volunteer through AmeriCorps, and as a paid "therapeutic mentor" for a social service organization. It never went well for me. See, the idea is usually that once a week you are supposed to pick up a child from their house, and do some activities with them. The organizations usually specify that these activities should be free or under $5.00. 
If I am with a child between the ages of about 2 and 8, I can come up with unlimited ideas for free activities! As a nanny I was famous for my daily outings with kids. I'd get on the Internet and research every free story time, kid-friendly concert, or celebration at every library or book store within a ten mile radius. I knew which craft stores and lumber yards hosted free classes for kids, which movie theaters had free $1 Disney movies one morning a week, where kids could bowl for free in the summer, which splash pads were free or under a couple bucks for entrance, which nature centers had kid-friendly exhibits and live animal encounters, which malls had free "kids clubs" with cool performances and snacks, which park districts had  free mini-carnivals and picnics for kids... I could go on and on! When I take care of the under-8 crew, our days are always adventurous!
But when mentoring, I always seem to get matched with kids who are 12 to 17. And at that age, all of the things I just mentioned above are boooooooooriiiiiiiing! They mainly want to go to the mall or someplace with video games, or maybe the movies... which are all places that organizations with mentoring programs don't always like you to take kids. The organizations suggest doing things like hiking, or researching colleges... if you can manage to force the young teen to do these things! 
I once worked as a mentor for a 14-year-old girl who lived in a foster home. When I met her, her foster mother told me the girl loved doing "anything at all," especially going out to eat or going to movies. We ended up going out to eat a lot. It was the perfect activity because we'd find new places to eat, and while we were eating we'd talk. The girl really opened up to me and we talked about everything in the world, which is really one of the biggest parts of mentoring, right? Letting the kids have someone to talk to? Well, the supervisor at the social service agency I was working with called me in one day and lectured me that I needed to stop taking the girl out to eat. Why? Well, because, as a foster child, this girl would probably grow up to have a very limited income, and it wasn't fair to get her used to going out to eat all the time since she would never be able to afford that kind of thing when she grew up. Way to have high expectations for a kid! 
So anyway... this was why I had some reservations about mentoring again. But at this township program, they do things a little differently. Instead of having to take a kid out, a whole group of mentors and kids meets twice a month to do structured activities together for an hour and a half. I think it is perfect, because the activity is already provided for you, and its short and sweet, so you don't have to turn cartwheels trying to keep a kid entertained for five hours! 
Last night was my first time volunteering there. I was matched with a ten-year-old girl named Sadie, who barely stopped running around the room and shouting the whole time! She was very energetic. In a happy way, though! They had to make these posters about themselves, which didn't hold her attention for very long  at all, so we ended up going around the room and taking a survey of everyone's favorite foods and writing them down for a hypothetical fancy dinner Sadie is planning on hosting. In some ways it was difficult because when the people who run the program were trying to give directions for the project, or help other kids, Sadie was running around the room, crawling under tables, and pretending to be a dog! I wasn't sure how to react... I had just met her that day, as opposed to the other adults there who had known Sadie for months, and since nobody else was trying to stop her from bouncing off the walls, I wasn't sure if I should, on the first day. On the other hand, all of the other children were sitting angelically and coloring posters while the one I was in charge of wreaked havoc! I tried to distract her, and reengage her in the poster she was supposed to be making, but I wasn't all that successful. Another thing is, unlike any other organization I've ever worked with, we don't get any background information about the children, such as whether they have certain needs or behaviors. I have no way of knowing if Sadie is zipping back and forth in the room because she has something like ADHD that makes it difficult for her to sit still, or whether she is desperate for attention, or whether she is shy about meeting new people and is trying to overcompensate by being wacky, or what. All I know about her is what she happens to tell me during the moments when I can get her to calm down and take a breath. And so far, that information includes the facts that she loves animals, hates a boy named Anthony in her class who may or may not have said "the b word" to her, has recently learned how to play Chinese jump rope, loves TV and video games, and really enjoys fried chicken. 
I'm looking forward to the next mentoring day, anyway... but its not for another two weeks! I guess I'll have plenty of time to wonder what that day will bring! Any advice, anyone?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Miss Read Visits A Classroom!

Hi everyone! The other day I got to go visit the early childhood classroom that I will be student teaching in for the first five weeks. It didn't start out so well... I was already so nervous about going there, so I got up super early to get ready, found the directions on Google Maps, and left myself plenty of time to get there. Google Maps said it would take me ten minutes, so I left twenty minutes before I needed to be there. And the directions were wrong! They led me to a place that had a similar address, on a street with the same name, in the same town... but on the other side of the town. I had to pull over and try to use the not quite dependable GPS system on my cellphone. So I was twenty minutes late! Not the best way to make a good first impression! At least it didn't happen on the actual first day of student teaching. The teacher, Mrs. Wing, was understanding and barely seemed to notice I was late, so that part was good. 
I spent the time just observing. The kids were so tiny... and that was just the morning class! Mrs. Wing explained to me that the afternoon class children were even younger. The children can start preschool when they are two or three years old, and stay in preschool until they are five or six and are ready for kindergarten. 
When I was in Mrs. Jones's class I felt sure that second grade was going to be my grade... but now I'm already falling in love with early childhood! That's always how its been for me. Whenever I start working with a new age group, I start thinking that age group is awesome. For instance, back in my days as a day care worker, I thought I'd be uncomfortable working with tiny babies, until I got assigned to the baby room and learned that the babies were so adorable and cuddly and fun! 
Ihile I was there the kids had "choice time" where they got to play in whatever areas of the room they felt like. Meanwhile the teacher and aide sat at different tables, and called children over to do little assignments with them. They were doing a snowman theme (although ironically there hasn't been any snow here) so at one table they were making a little snowman counting book with number stamps, and at another table they were pasting sequencing cards about making a snowman. 
One thing I noticed was that Mrs. Wing has a really hurried, brisk way about her. I can tell she definitely loves the children and loves her job. I can tell by the way that she smiles at them, touches their heads, and talks to them. She would say things to me like, "Pewee tries to get away with things because he thinks he's so cute... which he is!" However the way she talks to them is also more hurried than I'm used to. Its hard to explain... just not as gentle and upbeat as I would expect an early childhood teacher to be. Of course this was only in an hour and a half of knowing her, so my impression could be all wrong!
I am interested to see how my five weeks there will be. Interning is different from student teaching. As an intern I will be mostly assisting, and I'll have one major project to do. I kind of hope Mrs. Wing will let me get more involved than just observing and hovering around the room listlessly though... I would love the chance to plan some activities or something! We'll have to see how it goes.
Thats it for now. On Tuesday I have to go meet with the teacher for my ten week student teaching placement, and then next Tuesday I start my internship!