Finding Confidence and Realizing There is Never Enough Time

Time

This past week has been a pleasant shift for me. I am feeling more efficient, more organized, and more confident. These feelings mean that, even though I struggle with things and have lessons that don’t go great, I am putting my energy into growing and learning rather than feeling bad about myself. Getting to this point has depended on many things. I am the type of person that needs quite a bit of time to fully warm up to new things; I think I’m finally there. I have a great support team in my cooperating teachers and faculty adviser. They make me feel safe to try things, to make mistakes and learn from them, and to hear the advice they give so that I can improve. Lastly, I think I have gained a better understanding of the whole process of designing a unit, finding ways to help students reach the learning goals, and reflecting on the process.

I still have fears that I’m not moving quick enough or that I will let my students down. At the end of the day, I know I’m giving it my all. I have to believe that that’s coming through. I have to believe that the progress I feel I’m making, is coming through. I hope that this new found peace continues and that I can grow even more quickly in this second half of internship. I believe the stumbling and nervousness that I felt in the first part of internship were necessary to go through.

As I reflect and consider what’s ahead of me, I feel slightly panicked at the thought of all of the content I am running out of time to get through. My first unit went over the original time allotment and I worry that Hamlet will too. I just hope it’s not by too much. My brain is going crazy trying to think about where I will be able to fit in all of the things I need to teach my students. And I think it will be many tries before I am able to get everything done in good time. I think time is a huge lesson. How can I crunch everything together, make it cohesive, make it interesting, and make it beneficial for students to learn? I think this will be the question I ask myself throughout my career.

Two Weeks into Internship

This Friday is the end of my second week of teaching, during my internship. I feel an odd mixture of comfortable and stressed. I have been lucky to find myself interning at a school that I immediately felt comfortable in and with a cooperating teacher that I feel comfortable interning with. I also feel uncertain sometimes and under-prepared to jump into teaching this unit. However, I think that this experience is the best, and possibly the only way, to learn how to create and carry out a solid unit plan.

I have started my internship teaching an ELA B30 class. I have 22 students, the small size is helpful to get my feet wet in a manageable way, and for the most part they are receptive to the work that I have been trying to do with them. I opened up the semester with a writing assignment. I had my students write me a letter inquiring into my class. Reading them was so rewarding and gave me insight into what they want out of their education. I would do this assignment again. I found it more telling than the questionnaire I had them fill out. The other activity I am happy to be working on is using critical lenses to read course texts. Right now my students are reading short stories and poems, but we will also be reading Hamlet through a variety of lenses. I only wish it wasn’t taking me so long. I am constantly finding that I cannot go through material as fast as I originally thought.

As a teacher, I have already learned so much. I have learned that there really is never enough time to cover everything I want to. I have learned to get creative when it comes to creating assignments that fulfill curriculum requirements. When you have texts to get through, as well as 13 different writing forms, you have to figure out efficient ways to get work done. I have learned to be more organized. I have learned and practiced adjusting my instructional strategies. Finally, I have learned that I love group work as a way to get fruitful discussion going.

I am frustrated because I have a lot of theories and ideas that I would love to incorporate into my classroom, but will not be able to. Moreover, there are times I find my planning background to be much weaker than my theory background. I know what I want, but I have less skills to reach my goals. I am working on that everyday, but I wish I could have had more time as a student to work on those skills. I had a good discussion with my cooperating teacher, when she said that it takes time to get a clear sense of your vision and how everything will come together to reach your end goal. I have so many things I want to do, but right now I need to work on organizing what I need from the resources I’m giving my class.

At the end of the day, this internship is definitely quite a challenge. It is a challenge that I am up to and willing to fight for. I only hope that I can pick everything up as fast as I am required to and that I can feel more confident in my abilities as time goes on.

Assessment: Beginning with the End in Mind

“If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.” – Henry Kissinger

Chapter three of Making Classroom Assessment Work shows how this quote, by Henry Kissinger, is true for both teaching and learning. As teachers, we need to plan our lessons with clear intentions of what we want students to learn. Students also need to know what they are trying to accomplish, in order to be their most successful.

When planning lessons, “the first question a teacher needs to answer is: What do I want my students to learn?” (Davies 25). What students need to learn comes from the curriculum outcomes, examples of exemplary student work, and what students current ability levels are (25-26). The curriculum outcomes are the same, but still open for some inquiry and interpretation. Examples of student work may clear up uncertainty about quality, but I think we should keep our minds open to different ways of showing understanding. Student diversity may alter our end goals, but gathering pre-assessments can help differentiate for ¬†students’ needs. All of the different aspects that affect the way we plan must be taken into consideration and properly planned for. If the teacher is unsure of where the students should be going, then the students will struggle to find understanding and have no sure way of knowing if they have gained the understanding that they should have.

Another important part of planning with the end in mind is to include students. Based on research, Davies reports that “when we know what we’re going to be doing, we mentally prepare ourselves and activate more of our brain by doing so” (26). Davies describes the process, of including students in constructing the learning targets, to be “[d]escribing the [l]earning [d]estination” in student friendly terms, sharing such descriptions with the students, and then using those outcomes to guide the learning and assessment process (27-30). Involving students in these ways helps them identify where they need to go and direct their learning in their own terms.

As an educator, it would be very difficult to plan lessons and assess student work if I didn’t know exactly what kind of understanding I wanted them to come to. It would be flimsy and unproductive. That is why we do backwards planning, because the activities and assessment should reflect what the students are meant to learn. Moreover, as a student, not knowing what I am supposed to have learned is incredibly stressful. I don’t like that type of uncertainty in my learning and it makes my job as a student difficult. However, if I know where I am supposed to be going then I am able to work towards a goal and assess myself along the way.

I used to have this notion that the lessons I taught would deliver the students to deep understanding, while all of the theories and learning goals were carefully constructed behind the curtain. I now realize that that is nonsensical and if I want my students to learn and have an active part in their education, as I wish them to, I need to let them in on the learning goals. I need to let them play a significant part in constructing their learning. There needs to be transparency. We all need to know where we are and where we are trying to go.

Davies, Anne. Making Classroom Assessment Work. 3rd ed. Courtenay, B.C.: Connections Pub., 2011. Print.