During my time student teaching I had the pleasure of observing many art teachers from the area, successful classroom teachers at my placement, and other specials teachers.
Music and Physical Education
My cooperating teacher and I decided that there could be a real benefit in observing other specials teachers at my placement. Art, music, and physical education teachers all face similar issues like only seeing students 4 minutes every week, large age differences, and students’ differences in interest. The music teacher would get students moving with clapping tapping, and swinging to the beat. This was great for all the wiggly third graders I was observing. She would make certain noises to get students to focus again and pay attention to her- that’s something I could easily apply to my classroom as well. She would also have the students rate themselves on how responsible they were being when activities were almost out of control. This self-reflection she has the students have really cut back on noise and behavior for the rest of the class. The physical education teacher used cold call often in his instruction, which had students paying attention in case they got called on. He would often review what they learned last week so students could see how they were building off of those previously learned skills. I also saw that during an activity he would individually instruct students who were either having a hard time or who were excelling so much they needed another challenge. His lessons involved of stopping, reflecting, and quickly getting back into the activity so students were always paying attention. It was also a treat for me to see some students who didn’t enjoy art very much to really succeed in P.E.
I observed three classroom teachers while at my placement. The first is a kindergarten teacher and currently has the most difficult class in the school. During my observation I often found myself completely engaged in what they were learning because the teacher was such a good actress. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I could see that reflected in the students as well. To help instill classroom expectations she only calls on students following directions and sitting correctly. When another student interrupts or “blurts” she asks them a question to help refocus and reconnect. This technique really requires some patience. The second teacher I observed was a second grade teacher. She was working on “to-do” lists with the class and explained how it’s okay we are not all at the same place. This was a great accommodation for all learners because then students understand there is some urgency but that we all work at our own paces, and that’s okay. She plays music as a reward for heir hard work. I also loved that she gave students a quick stretch break when she could tell they were loosing focus. Lastly, I observed a fifth grade teacher. What stuck with me most from her instruction is that she teaches students the why to their work. This helps students connect information to their everyday or to see a motivation for schoolwork. She had great calls to attention that the students enjoyed because they were so silly. For example;
Person 1: Holy Moly!
Person 2: Guacamole!
Every time she would do that the majority of students would be smiling. She modeled mistakes on the board which helped students avoid it later on and was a great accommodation for visual learners. Routines in the classroom are very strong and students made transition times very quick. She would also give responsibility to all students which was exciting for some students having a hard day.
I observed a large variety of art teachers. Some have been teaching for many teachers, others are just part time, one is in his first year of teaching, and another teaches all types of art (including wood arts!). All of them have individual styles and techniques which make their room special and a safe place to create. Here are some techniques, accommodations, and tips I found most helpful amongst the art educators I observed.
Having an organized art classroom is vital in the success of routines and cleanliness of the room. Going over routines and placement for different materials really pays off. One teacher would put out all the supplies ahead of time and she would run around frantically, while another would have students sitting quietly help them and it not only helped with prep time but also gave responsibility to those students. Having materials ready and available for students was the biggest strength amongst all the teachers. Most had large bins or trays that they would put all prepared materials in for that grade level so set up did not take very long.
Teaching students why its’ important to clean their brush seems obvious to some, but taking the time to teach students how to properly clean colors off and how not to squash the paint brush into the paper really pays off in the life of materials and the production of artwork. Connecting art pieces and projects to artists helps students place it in history and see the variety of art pieces that can be made. I watched a wonderful lesson on Matisse and his paper cut outs. During work time I saw students referencing the book and the different shapes Matisse often made. Giving students a place to start or a way to find inspiration when stuck is vital in creating strong lessons. Being patient with students while learning skills was evident in almost every classroom. Creating an environment of understanding and respect does wonders for a student’s confidence while creating art.
Most classes started with a little instruction or focusing assignment to pick up where students left off the week before. This helps get them in the right mindset or serves as a reminder of what their working on. During work time the teachers would talk with students, reflect on their work, and get materials ready for the following class. What I really liked observing is when a student was stuck and the different ways these teachers would approach it. One would be very excited and talk about problem solving in the art room. Another would reference the instruction materials from before and have them check back for inspiration, one would sit down with them and brainstorm other steps they might take, and another would ask them to talk with their neighbors. There is a large variety of ways to approach situations and each educator definitely showed their strengths here.
Earlier this month I took part of the Damascus Road Antiracism Training offered at Goshen College. A small group of my classmates and I met up with a group of about 30 people from around the area to start breaking down barriers and learn more about white privilege.
The training was led by three adults from around the country that all have very different backgrounds. The people taking the training were primarily white, and most came from a larger institution. We started off the training on the first evening with an activity to get us "warmed up." Larger sheets of paper with big icebergs were hung on the wall with a range of dates starting at 1472- present. As a group we were asked to write on the inside of the icebergs any instances of racism or oppression and in the surrounding water we write examples of groups or people who were fighting that oppression. For me the activity really helped me gain a better understanding of how ingrained racism and white privilege has been in our society and history.
The training ran for the following two days from 8 am to 6 pm and covered a variety of topics and issues that are important to consider while learning about racism and oppression. First we learned about how racism is deeply rooted in our institutions and that it is a larger systematic problem than most people realize. We discussed white power and privilege and then how racism and antiracism helps shape identity. The following day we talked about how we can claim to have an antiracist identity and then how to heal the institutional racism and the next steps to take. During this training we also had caucuses and intensely discussed case studies.
One of the toughest and most rewarding parts of the training was redefining my identity. I'm proud of my heritage, but what comes with that ownership? The traditions my family share run deep for me and I wasn't sure if I was ready to let go of that identity in order to understand racism better. After having a discussion as a group I had a better idea for the issue I was facing. It's not that I had to separate myself from my "white-skinned culture" to declare myself a sister against racism, but I had to accept the privilege in my life and learn more about how discrimination has affected people of color.
During our first meeting at the Damascus Road Antiracism Training, we introduced ourselves and said how we could see this training benefiting us or the institution we represented. I spoke about becoming an antiracist educator and how I will teach the "future generation" the importance of recognizing racism and putting an end to it, just like I was doing by taking part in this training. Even now in placements for my education courses I see how students of color are affected by institutional racism. Students, no matter the age, pick up on differences in one another and find 'negatives' in those qualities. As an educator I plan on teaching my students through my curriculum to respect and celebrate those differences as well as find pride in their own heritage. Now as an art educator, a discipline where being creative can be very vulnerable, I find this self respect and respect of others incredibly important in the classroom. My goal as a teacher is to have a safe and comfortable place for all students, no matter skin color, intelligence, or background. My new understanding of racism, white privilege and how it affects the educational system will help me be not only a better educator but also a better co-worker. No matter where I work I will demonstrate that same respect I plan on teaching my students to my co-workers and friends. We can't choose our co-workers which mean they may be significantly different than us. Because of Damascus Road Antiracism Training I will also be able to work better with those much different than myself, and not just a difference in skin color but a difference in personality, culture, intelligence, financially, sexuality, and many more. I have a new outlook on people's backgrounds and know that we can't make judgments and that all people deserve out respect and time.
This past semester I volunteered through a nearby school district to take part in a Reading Camp for elementary age students. Twice a week for nine weeks I would go to an elementary school and read with a second grade student. Depending on the student's reading level, they were divided into groups, something all of the students were very aware of. As the volunteer we would read a book to them, ask some comprehension questions, and then they would read to us. Afterwards if there was time, we would play a "reading game." The second grader I worked with really had a knack for these games and I would often lose.
It was really amazing that the children involved in the Reading Camp were from all different types of backgrounds, different interests, and a variety of personalities. Every child was there because their teacher felt that they needed more time to work "one on one" with reading. Although I only worked with one child, she was much different that other children I've worked with. She opened up to me by the second week, and shared with me some of her deepest fears and became incredibly vulnerable with me. She made me realize that children are small adults, and they need to be treated that way. Their honesty and courageousness deserve respect from everyone. She also just wanted to sit and talk a couple days, which I found very interesting. She acknowledged that "sometimes you just need to talk and get your thoughts out to someone else." It took me until my teens to figure that one out.. She is a student that learns through experience and notices feelings. After I noticed this, we spent more time on comprehension questions and what the characters in the book might be feeling. Her attention level increased dramatically, especially when she was asked to connect those feelings and experiences to her life.
On the other hand, there were other students in the classroom who learned differently. There were a few boys who always wanted to move around and read together. When their volunteers realized this, they formed a partnership of some kind. The boys were intrapersonal learners so they learned best working together.
It's also important to remember that every student comes from a different family. Some of us have many siblings while others may be an only child. These sorts of things may not seem important, but they really shape how the student learns. The girl I worked with came from a family of many children and admitted to me by the second day that sometimes she just wants attention. By fulfilling this for her and giving her someone to listen to her, she was more comfortable and "ready" to learn.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Reading Camp I took part in. At first I thought it would be a difficulty trying to get to the school twice a week on top of other courses I was taking. But by the second week, I enjoyed visiting that spunky second grade girl and knowing that I was helping her education. This experience has got me even more excited, but realistic, about becoming an educator.
Ever since my oldest sister, Karis, blogged her trip to Ireland to study abroad, I've always wanted to blog. That was a little over five years ago. And last week an opportunity with my Education 201 course, Foundations of Education, I'm finally starting a blog. It's about time.
The other day in class we discussed Grant and Gillette's ten actions "to put yourself on the path to becoming an excellent teacher, one who is an activist and an advocate for students and colleagues now and in the future." One that really caught my attention was number six, "develop a way to 'recharge your battery.'" My parents are both teachers, so I understood at a very young age that teachers work long hours and get stressed out very easily. My mom, an elementary school teacher, ESL teacher, and a special education assistant is the best example of this. After a long week at school she would get lost in our backyard with a shovel and a basket of seeds. She loves her garden and spends endless hours there, relaxing, singing, planning, and enjoying the sunshine. This is, and probably will always be, her way of "recharging her battery." I've found it important in my life too, especially in college. Lucky for me, I had many art projects to get lost in and feel myself again. I can see how important this is to a teacher who spends several hours a day focusing on a classroom full of children, and spends the entire week communicating with others about them. "Recharging your battery" can help a teacher keep their sanity.
Another action that intrigued me was number one, "get experience with all types of learners and their families." I went to an elementary school that was based of the Multiple Intelligences. We had specific days and activities devoted to each intelligence. Also, the classrooms were arranged that it was first and second graders together in a classroom, and then third, forth, and fifth graders were together. Because of Lincoln Elementary School, I was able to experience different learners and different ages all in one classroom. We learned at a young age that everyone had different strengths and that was perfectly okay. It was normal that one of my classmates wasn't as skilled in one area than another student, and we learned that it's just because everyone is different. I find it very important that students understand that everyone is different or else it has a really strong impact on confidence in the classroom. As a teacher I think it's important to have this experience because it offers a certain understanding of students that they learn differently and at different speeds. Also, having experience with families is beneficial because it helps develop respect to family dynamics and issues families may face.
Next week I start observing a teacher at a local elementary school. I'm incredibly excited and blessed with this opportunity. As an Art Education major I'm lucky enough to observe an art classroom. We do this in Foundation of Education to gain experience. While reading through the list there were many actions I've never experienced to help me become a great teacher. One of these actions is, "become aware that you are a role model and act accordingly." In high school I was involved in a program called Link Crew. We helped welcome freshman to high school, met with them weekly, and helped them adjust. I have experience being a role model for others, but I think it's much different than being a role model for children much younger than myself. It was different in Link Crew because the students were close to my age, still in my generation. But as a teacher there is a much larger gap, and I'm excited to gain experience in learning how to act as a role model for them too. This is very important for teachers in today's society because it helps them set positive examples for the students which is comes that many kids lack.
Another action I need experience with is to "study effective teachers." I've never had an opportunity to do so until this class. I can see why this action is so important. I've been able to observe teachers that have taught me and I understand what sort of techniques helped myself and others learn as well as the techniques that didn't help. Knowing these things really helps develop an effective teaching method. In the classroom next week I'll be able to focus my attention on the teacher and the techniques she uses to communicate to her students. I couldn't be more excited and nervous at the same time!