Monday, June 27, 2005

Mr. Thompson, the Reluctant Disciplinarian

Okay, so I admit that my favorite movie of all time is Dead Poets Society. I own the DVD and have probably seen it 50-100 times so far. Reading Reluctant Disciplinarian made me realize that the movie is just that, a movie. I know I won't be the next Mr. Keating, but perhaps there is a middle ground between the film and the realities of the book. I read about developing a teaching persona, and I know that part of that persona must come from who you really are. I like the romanticism that Mr. Keating teaches and his unique approach, but I also want to be a teacher who has great classroom management skills (e.g. Mr. Joe Clark--Lean On Me). I know, I watch too many movies, right?
Anyway, back to the book. I'm still working on mastering the teacher look, because I have a tendency to smile. I know I need the look in order to command respect, which is more important than a friendly classroom. My pitiful teacher look right now isn't stern enough, and is only hindering me, because I keep overhearing conversations about how attractive Mr. Thompson is. I'm trying to establish myself as a professional, and in order to do so, I have to keep the students' focus on what I'm teaching.
Also, I have found myself taking the author's advice about ignoring certain comments. From time to time, I (as well as my fellow teachers) have heard students mutter inappropriate comments under their breath. When I ask, students say "Oh, nothing." However, I have found it more beneficial and less distracting to pretend I didn't hear the comments.
Overall, I enjoyed Reluctant Disciplinarian, because it is a book with which I can relate. I am a young new teacher, and although I haven't yet experienced some of the class management problems Gary Rubinstein discusses, I am actively planning strategies for avoiding them.

Cold Calling

Cold calling is a strategy used to promote student participation. The teacher chooses students randomly to answer questions and interact with the rest of class. When I began to use this method, it reminded me of when I started law school last fall (long story). Anyway, it forces students to focus on the material at hand. Also, I can imagine that in the long run, students would study material at home in order to avoid embarrassment the next day in class.
Instead of using this activity for the whole class, I used it when we broke into smaller groups. Because of the relaxed atmosphere of the smaller groups, I hoped it would keep the students' focus a little better. We were doing an activity of literary analysis, and I let the students write their responses before giving them to the class. When I chose students to respond aloud, the feedback was okay, but not that great. I realized that Cold Calling will only be effective if students understand the material 100 percent. Because they didn't fully understand the idea of literary analysis (and some still don't--even though we've tried various ways of explaining it) ahead of time, some of them sat with blank faces as I called on them.
I do find the idea of Cold Calling beneficial, however, because the students paid attention. I can see that in the long run, it will be effective. I think it is a practice that will have to be established over time in order to reinforce its overall impact. I am somewhat hesitant to use this strategy, because I feel that my job is to teach (and not to embarrass). However, I am hoping that Cold Calling will keep students on their toes and will convey to them the importance of the material.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Students First

So far, everything inside the classroom has been what I expected. I can see where I have been a positive effect in the classroom, but I can see many flaws in my teaching. The other day, one of my fellow student teachers was in charge of the lesson, and she did a great job. She had the passion and effect of a motivational speaker, and I kept thinking that I need to learn a lot from each of my fellow Teacher Corps members. I want to be like a sponge this summer, because I know enough to realize that I don't know everything...
Speaking of knowing everything, there have been several interesting conversations in and around class lately. A lot of people are discussing their views concerning issues such as corporal punishment and sex education. Maybe it's just me, but I really think we need to be focusing on the most immediate issue--becoming effective teachers and role models. People are coming here with these big ideas, (it's good that they are passionate and want to impact Mississippi's educational system in a positive way) but I think we all (myself included) need to exhibit a bit of humility and realize that there is a lot that we don't know. Let's just take some time, get into the schools themselves, and eat the elephant one bite at a time.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

First week of MTC

Well, we're officially one week into the Mississippi Teacher Corps. So far, I've enjoyed the experience, although it's been a very tiring one. Last Thursday was our first day in the classrooms as student teachers. I didn't expect to teach that day, but the classroom teacher let us break into small groups and discuss that day's text. Since then, we have received a lot of experience with the students. In fact, the classroom teacher is new, and we're all (she and the MTC members) tackling the course as a team effort.
In the classroom, there have been a few stubborn students, but as a whole they seem to be well-behaved. I realize this is only a taste of what our experience will be like in the fall, but I am looking forward to the task. In Mrs. Monroe's class we watched a video the other day about two schools, one of which was in the Mississippi Delta. I know the video was probably enlightening to all of my classmates, but it was more than just enlightening to me. Many of my classmates see the problems in some of Mississippi's schools, but for me it's a bit different. Mississippi is home for me, so it hurts to know that parts of my own state are still enduring such inequalities. Watching the video reminded me exactly why I am still here, and why I want to produce change (even if I can only affect one life at a time). After participating in class, student-teaching, and learning more about schools in the Delta, I know I am exactly where God wants me to be at this point. I've been blessed, so now it's time to give back.