I can’t believe that I am writing my last reflection of this semester already! Where did the time go? 8 weeks ago, I started my pre-internship in a grade 7/8 classroom where I didn’t know the kids, didn’t know the teachers, and didn’t know my way around the school at all. I had no idea what kind of experiences I was going to have, and no idea how much I was going to learn. Now here I am trying to think of a way to sum up my experiences so far, and all I can say is that I have so much left to learn, and I can’t wait to go back in March. I feel like I have only scratched the surface, when I have an entire canyon left to dig. There was a lot of information to take in, in only 8 days, and I feel like I tried to absorb it all, but only got a tiny piece of everything, and nothing in its entirety. I’m excited to see how a classroom flows from week to week through the eyes of a teacher. I have spent a lot of time in classrooms, but being in this one, being the teacher, feels so much different. I still don’t think I’m used to being the one calling the shots, organizing everything, and ultimately being responsible for the learning of almost 30 students… Queue panic attack. Overall, I think it has been a great experience and I have learned a lot about classroom management and creating realistic, functioning lesson plans, but it hasn’t been realistic to only be in the classroom one day a week. It is hard to make a lesson that is meaningful and that I can see through in just an hour. Most lessons take more than one class to complete, and because our goal this semester was to teach as much variety as possible, we didn’t generally teach one class two weeks in a row. I’m nervous, but very excited for what is to come next semester.
For this week, I taught the grade 7/8s about plot in fiction. We started off with a mountain-type diagram with elements of plot, starting with the exposition, identifying the conflict, rising action, picking out the climax, then falling action and resolution. I had definitions for each, and as I read them, I explained each in more detail. Once everyone was done copying the diagram and definitions into their books, we watched two short clips and identified the plot in each one as a group. This activity went fairly well; it was a concept that most were familiar with so this was not completely new to anyone. Next, I handed out a blank copy of the diagram we had drawn earlier, and the short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber. I asked students to read the story twice–the first time identifying reality VS fantasy in the story and key events, and the second, to get a better grasp of the story and what is happening so they could fill out their plot diagram. (For anyone who doesn’t know the story, it flips back and forth between his reality and what he fantasizes about doing, so it can get confusing). This activity was more challenging than what the students were used to from me. Up until this point, I think I was more concerned about everyone in the class understanding what I was teaching so it wouldn’t take longer than the time I was allotted, and less concerned with making the content age-appropriate. The things I was teaching was curriculum-relevant, but didn’t make them think as deep as they should have. This story is challenging with the changing of fantasy to reality, and there are made-up terms in the fantasy portion that the students needed to infer meanings. Most of the students understood the story and were able to start on their plot diagrams, but I had a few students who were struggling with the read. If I had more time, I think it would have been beneficial to read the story as a class and pause after each paragraph and summarize what had happened so everyone could understand the story.
As far as classroom management and time management went, I think I did pretty good this week! My co-op said she was likely going to continue my assignment after I was gone, so I wasn’t worried about the students finishing their plot diagrams, and for the most part, students were on task for the whole class. I had a small class again this week because a third of the class leaves for band on Wednesday afternoons, so it made for a lot less distractions in the room. There were a couple students that were having a hard time all day, and I was able to bring them back temporarily, but they were off task quite often. I tried holding them accountable during class discussions, talking to them discreetly during work time, and my co-op stepped in once very quietly when everyone was working as well. These were two students that were struggling with the reading, but they were also having a hard time focusing during our video clips and class discussions as well, which leads me to believe that it was not solely the difficulty of the task that threw them off. I will need to come up with other strategies, as this is not the first time this has happened with these particular students in this class, to keep them focused. All in all, however, I think all of the students grasped the concept, and most of them were able to apply it to the story they were given. For the ones that didn’t, I spoke with as many individually as I could, and had I more time, I would have gone through everything together so everyone understood. It felt good hearing from my co-op that I had taught the lesson very similar to how she would have taught it and that she planned on continuing with it once I was gone. I have gained a confidence that I did not have in the beginning of the semester, and I can’t wait to go back in March!