Posts Tagged 'Teacher'



Sharing the Classroom: Getting Introduced to Co-Teaching

By Nick McDaniels — I learned a few days before school started that I would be co-teaching with a new teacher, a special educator. In the few days we had to plan, we quickly got to know each other, amended my syllabus and other documents to include her information, and began planning our first few lessons. Fortunately for our comfort level, Hurricane Irene gave us a few extra days to plan (in between kayaking sessions in my flooded basement).

In the future, I’m sure I will blog more about my co-teacher, her development as a first year teacher (She is very passionate and talented and doing a great job so far), and my development as the experienced instructor in the classroom, but for now, I am spending a lot of time reflecting simply on the idea of co-teaching, an opportunity I am excited to have so early in my career.

During the first day with students, the transition to a co-teaching model was a noticeable one for me. Certain things that I typically do, routines that I have, ways that I teach certain subjects now have to be shared. Now, some co-teaching models use a general educator to present information and a special educator to assist struggling students. We don’t feel that this is best for our students. Best practice, as always, includes a diversity of presentation, which lead us to adopting an alternating model of co-teaching where we divide the lesson into parts that each of us present as lead. Ideally the students will not be able to tell who is the general educator or special educator or even that there is a lead teacher.

Reflecting on one week of co-teaching, which has been moderately successful, I can already tell you that I am an advocate for the model. I do however still have some reservations as we move forward.

What I love about co-teaching:

  1. The workload of grading, making parent phone calls, and lesson planning is divided in half. This leaves more time for doing what is really important, interacting with students.
  2. Instruction does not have to stop to hand out bus tickets, locker combinations, write bathroom passes, and admit late students.
  3. Two adults in a classroom of 38 do not make the classroom less crowded, but they do make that students more focused and productive.
  4. A second opinion in lesson planning every day helps to get at the heart of what is best for students.
  5. The time-consuming nature of designing in-depth, creative assignments is no longer a deterrent.
  6. Someone is always in your classroom to hold you accountable for the job you are doing for our children.
  7. The task of spending individual time with over 35 different children in each class seems less daunting.
  8. The students are not necessarily stuck with a teacher they do not relate very well to.
  9. The fact that the students will almost never be left with a substitute.
  10. Teacher bathroom breaks can come at almost anytime.

What I am still hesitant about:

  1. Adopting shared ownership of planning, a classroom, and student achievement when our paychecks are going to be very closely tied to our evaluations.
  2. Until a real chemistry is developed between teachers, the ever important transitions in a lesson are no longer crisp, thus creating the potential for chaos and limiting learning.
  3. There is a potential for differences in educational philosophy related to planning, assignments, and content.
  4. It is harder to stick to a routine and find a rhythm in a lesson without spending substantial time planning these aspects.
  5. Assignments and presentation style have to be reconfigured to be deliverable by either teacher.

So far, though we are still adjusting and becoming more comfortable with each other and sharing responsibilities, I am excited to continue this journey. I have a great co-teacher, one that is dedicated to doing what is best for our students. With that energy as our guide, I’m sure we will do a far better job by the students than I could have ever done by myself.

Thank You Mr. Thompson

By Nick McDaniels — For the last 18 years I have spent August to June in a school setting, as a public school student in Carroll County, Maryland, an undergraduate student at Marquette, a public school teacher in Baltimore City, Maryland, and a graduate student. During this time, I have been in contact with hundreds of teachers and professors, many of them outstanding instructors and wonderfully caring people. I have yet to find a more amazing teacher than Mr. Dick Thompson, a recently retired Language Arts teacher.

I was one of thousands of students Mr. Thompson influenced in his nearly four decades long teaching career as a 7th grade teacher at West Middle School in Westminster, MD. No single person outside of my family has changed my life more positively than Mr. Thompson. As a 6th grade student, gifted, but often in disciplinary trouble, at East Middle School in Westminster, MD, I was becoming more and more frustrated with school and getting in more trouble as a result. Because of redistricting, I was able to begin my 7th grade year at West Middle School, where Mr. Thompson immediately took me under his guidance, mentoring me from that moment until now.

It is because of Mr. Thompson that I am a teacher. And it is Mr. Thompson that inspires me to continue teaching to the best of my ability whenever teaching starts getting the better of me.

He consistently supported me when I was a 7th grader instilling in me a love for reading and writing. He supported me as an 8th grader, then through high school, and into college, and now as a young teacher, he gives me advice, offers support, and encouragement, and keeps me focused on the children. Hundreds of students have charted better life courses because Mr. Thompson’s ability to educate the character inspires students to think first about others, creating, as many jesuit-educated would know it, young men and young women for others. And though he explicitly taught character-building lessons over the years, his students gained more, as I did, by simply holding themselves to the same standard he holds himself, to be as selfless as possible.

As a teacher, Mr. Thompson’s ability to move students in many ways made him special in the classroom. For the people out there that feel that test scores are more important than children and are skeptical of a teacher’s positive influence but for statistical support, rest assured, Mr. Thompson has a track record of helping students to excel on standardized tests. But more importantly, Mr. Thompson inspired students to love learning, to love coming to school. He poured himself into lessons, sharing his passion for the stories of Edgar Allan Poe with his students, building units around epic movies, allowing students to create projects to hone their skills in public speaking, and writing, all by ensuring that students are authentically interested in the material they are reading and writing about.

Because of Mr. Thompson, thousands of students are better readers and writers, and more caring people. Because of Mr. Thompson, someday I hope to make thousands more students better readers and writers and more caring people. And though his days at West Middle School are now over, his plans to volunteer regularly at schools, his church, and through mentoring programs, show that his love for bettering people’s lives will not be suppressed by retirement. This is the mark of an amazing teacher. Beyond the classroom, Mr. Thompson refuses to stop teaching, refuses to let a day go by without positively impacting someone.

On behalf of the students who had their lives changed by Mr. Thompson, thank you for your many years of service in the classroom. Thank you for all the work you will continue to do in your community. Thank you for inspiring us to be better people.  Enjoy your retirement, and know that we will do our part to help others in the same way you have helped us.

______________________________________________

Nick McDaniels ’09 graduated from Marquette with majors in English and secondary education and a minor in environmental ethics. He currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife Amie, his daughter Charlotte, Snort the dog and Snuggins the cat. He is pursuing a Masters Degree in Educational Administration and Supervision at Johns Hopkins University.

Lessons From the Whiteboard

By Molly Malone — Woooohooo. Only six weeks left of my first year as a teacher….in a different country. So what are some things I have learned from my journey here?

Well, let me tell you a story to sum it up.

In my first week at school I was giving a lesson and naturally I wrote alllllll over the whiteboard. And when I mean all over, I mean all over.  And when I went to erase the board I came to the realization that I had not used a white board marker.

Nope, I had used a permanent marker.

Horrified, I turned to my class thinking, “Oh my gosh my lesson is going to be stuck on this whiteboard forever, it is ruined, the teacher who has this class is going to be so upset, etc. etc. etc.”

But as soon as I let out an “oh my gosh”, my students sprang into action. My students told me we could just put more marker on top of the permanent marker and it would erase. They even told me that if we put more PERMANENT marker on top of the PERMANENT marker, it too would erase. I was doubtful, but I trusted them and allowed them to put even more permanent marker on the board. The kids scrubbed the board, there was some serious elbow grease thrown into fixing the not so permanent marker situation. After about fifteen minutes my board was ALMOST clean, with only slight remnants of the permanent marker left on the board.

So this is what I have learned: No matter how frightening/scary/unchangeable a situation can look, it really isn’t. And with a little help from others, a little faith and a lot of hard work  anything is possible.

Nice to Meet You, Finally: Getting to Know Your Students

By Molly Malone — When I came to Guatemala, I had one goal: to teach English. And that’s what I did, my classes plowed through grammar and vocabulary. Although they did know English, I realized that I didn’t know my students. Sure, I knew how many brothers and sisters they had, what their favorite food was, and what they did on the weekends. But I didn’t REALLY KNOW them.

I have since taken off my horse blinders and really tried to get to know the girls and boys that I share time with every day.  I have been challenging myself to give my students creative outlets so they can express who they really are.

  • I asked students to write poems to describe a significant part of their lives. They wrote about God, love, sadness, their friends and their family.
  • I encouraged my class to write about what they want to accomplish in the next years.  They want to live abroad, have families, and have professional careers.  
  • I required my students to give speeches as presidential candidates and make promises to the people of Guatemala. They want to stop violence, improve education, and help the poor.

My classes are filled with poets, artists, and social activists; adults who have serious hopes, concerns, and plans for their futures. My students are no longer “the troublemaker” or “the quiet one”, but rather “the future architect” or “the one who puts family first.”

And so the process continues, but it feels refreshing to know a little bit about who my students are. Finally.

Three Years, Three Teaching Assignments

By Nick McDaniels — During my teaching interview two years ago, I remember saying something that might have ultimately sealed my principal’s decision to hire me.

I said, “You know, I’d really love to teach 9th grade.”

I know now, after sitting on some teacher interview panels, that a teacher requesting a 9th grade teaching assignment during an interview is about as likely (and as appreciated) as an interviewee leaving a tip for their interviewers.  The truth is, many teachers do all that they can to avoid teaching 9th grade. It is commonly believed that teaching freshmen should be left for the foolish and wildly energetic. Fortunately for me, if you ask my wife, I am equal parts foolishness and energy. As a result, I have thrived teaching 9th graders for my first two years in the classroom.

In my first year, my teaching assignment consisted of three standard 9th grade English classes, the smallest of which contained 38 students at the beginning of the school year. Many 9th graders are considered undesirable pupils because of their boundless ability to disrupt learning, not follow directions, and unwillingness to complete work. While I found this reputation to be in part true, I very much enjoyed the challenge that 9th graders posed for my budding classroom management strategies and I also thoroughly enjoyed providing the care it takes to help students transition from the small and structured world of middle school, to the large and free world of high school.

Because of restructuring in my school, I spent my first summer vacation preparing for a slightly different teaching assignment. During my second year, I was scheduled to teach two classes of standard 9th grade English and one class of honors 9th grade English. Having a second year of teaching the standard 9th grade class made a world of difference as many of my lessons were already planned and merely needed tweaking and I could spend more of my planning time developing creative assignments and grading papers. The 9th grade honors assignment provided a new challenge that took considerable time in planning and preparation as the curriculum is more accelerated and involved at least six different novels than the standard curriculum. The free time I gained by teaching standard 9th grade English for a second year was immediately reinvested into developing lessons and activities for honors English, thus giving me, in part, that new teacher feeling all over again.

Now beginning my second Summer vacation, I have learned that I will have a new teaching assignment for next year. If nothing changes (and things often change), I will be teaching two classes of standard 10th grade English and one class of honors 10th grade English. For most teachers, this would come as a welcomed reward for paying the dues of teaching 9th graders for a few years. I, however, still like 9th graders and would still teach them if given the opportunity. Fortunately for me, I will get to “loop” with some of my students, having many of them for a second year. These students will already be aware of my expectations and strengths. This, theoretically, will translate into greater student achievement, especially for those that made connections with me as a teacher, and especially on standardized tests.

In Baltimore City, 10th grade English is the tested grade level as all students completing 10th grade English are required to take the Maryland High School Assessment for English. This challenge is exciting and one that will take considerable Summer preparation and will result in increased pressure throughout the year.

In all, I am excited for the different opportunities I have had to grow as a teacher, and I am complimented by the fact that I am trusted to make such changes from year to year. I will miss teaching 9th graders, supporting students that are experiencing so many new things in such a short amount of time, but I will be happy to see students mature in new ways.

I am no longer a first year teacher.

me with my students, Kellen and Serena, on the last day of school

By Anna Luberda — Weird.  When I was in school at Marquette as a freshman, I never imagined I would have spent my first year teaching as a first grade teacher.  I was expecting to be in Milwaukee or Chicago teaching high school history.  Even though I spent my first year teaching as a Jesuit Volunteer in a first grade, I would still consider myself an ex-first year teacher.  It’s a strange feeling.

Like I said, I never pictured myself teaching first grade.  I went in to the College of Education to be a high school history teacher and I was well prepared for that path.  As a senior in college I was really looking for an adventure after graduation.  I wanted to go out and help people before I had to settle down and get a job.

When I joined JVC I was looking to make a difference, change the world.  I ended up being extremely tired, stressed, anxious, and at points feeling like I was in over my head.  Thinking about all the challenging things I have done this year makes me very grateful for the experience.

The students I worked with are some of the poorest, most marginalized people in our country.  The standard of living for rural poor is so far from ideal that it is heartbreaking.  I washed kids’ clothes, brushed their hair, bought them food, and even babysat when I needed to.

students wearing their traditional Crow elktooth dresses

The past year has been the toughest of my life so far but I am grateful for every minute of it.  Not only did I learn how to teach first grade and use several different reading programs and educational models, but I was accepted in to a culture that I had never even known really still existed.  I have gained so much and I feel like I have gained even more by being able to write about it in this blog.  It’s really been a great experience and I think it was made better by the fact that I got to share it with such a wide audience.

I left college looking for an adventure– trying to go forth and set the world on fire.  I achieved that goal as I feel I have made a difference in the lives of the kids I taught.  I’m not a first year teacher anymore but I still have plenty of experiences left to gain.

Now it’s on to my next adventure: finding a teaching job.  Wish me luck!

Things I Learned During Teaching or “Who Thinks of All This?”

By Ashley Fahey — I live in Iowa City,IA —  home of the Iowa Hawkeyes!   I also commute to work everyday with two of my coworkers and friends.

One day, not so long ago, we were attempting to predict the new initiatives that the 2011-2012 school year would bring to our district. While we paused for a moment, my friend in the backseat starts to laugh and says, “If there were any non-teachers in the car, they would have no idea what we were talking about!” I looked at my friend next to me and started to laugh as well. “Hahaha…Teacher Talk!” we exclaimed.

As I thought about it more, there has been a major learning curve during my first year of teaching. I work in a progressive district, so not only was there technology to learn, but I learned about teaching methods that I had never really heard about before.

So, it’s also currently job-hunting season for the new graduates of Marquette University College of Education (Congrats!). If you want a leg-up on the competition, just mention a few of these ideas during your interview and they’ll think you’re a genius: Continue reading ‘Things I Learned During Teaching or “Who Thinks of All This?”’


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