Tuesday, July 26, 2005

"That's just the way it is"

Over the past two days, we've had discussions with former Delta/Jackson students and current Delta/Jackson administrators. First, I'm not one of the people who believes I can change everything in a day. I understand that my first priority in MTC is to TEACH, however I am a bit concerned about what I saw as a common belief among some of the administrators and former students--the idea that concerning sex education (and the lack thereof), segregated schools, etc., THAT'S JUST THE WAY IT IS. I'm from Mississippi, and I don't think (especially with regards to administration) that this is acceptable. I know that I'm just a first-year-about-to-be-teacher, but what about the people that have been in the schools/communities/governments for years??? I'll agree not to rock the boat for now, because I have enough to deal with being a new teacher. However, the TJTWII mentality is a major reason why things are the same, and why Mississippi is on the bottom of many lists (especially educational and economic issues). I'm tired of complacency in my home state, and WE (all of us) need to wake up and realize we are making progress, but that in itself should not and will not suffice.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

MTC summer 1 almost over

My first summer in MTC is almost over. I've had the chance to meet a lot of great people and learn a lot of things. This is a summer I will never forget, because it is the summer that I officially became a teacher (assuming I passed all of my classes). Also, I learned to "blog it out" this summer. While I haven't yet blogged about some of the most important stuff (e.g., Reggie Barnes, thoughts on attire, etc.) I plan to blog about all of these important things in the future. It gives me a sort of outlet--kind of like a journal, except the public gets to read it.
Overall, the classes were great. They required a lot of lesson planning (definitely not my favorite part of being a teacher), but I've just about made it through all of the assignments. I didn't like the structure of the first class we took (only one assignment=whole grade for a 3 hr. course), but I've enjoyed the other two. I look forward to finding out what the other classes will be like.
As far as the people I've met, all of them are interesting. Some are passionate and idealistic, others are more focused on the everyday tasks of teaching, and there are a few weird people (Sorry if you're reading this and I'm talking about you). I like everybody and I think I have something to learn from everyone. The next two years will be difficult, but I look forward to being able to discuss all of our ups and downs together. Well, right now I want to read some other blogs, so I'll be blogging again soon.

Sunflower County Freedom Project

Even though I'm just now getting around to posting this blog, I want to discuss one of the biggest events of the summer (it happened last Friday). The Sunflower County Freedom Project came, and the kids gave a performance about the life of Fannie Lou Hamer. While the play was impressive, I was even more impressed by other parts of the evening.
First, we had the opportunity to look at the children's media projects. I was impressed by their ability to use technology so well (much better than me). They showed us their two PSA's and explained their projects on how the media affects young people. Their creativity and promise shined through the projects, and it became clear that they will be the future of Mississippi.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Freedom Project was the discipline of the children. They referred to one another as Mr. and Mrs., and they learned Tae Kwon Do in the program. I was left speechless at one point when a student leader commanded their silence, and they all instantly became quiet, putting up a fist for Black Power. That was definitely unexpected. I'm not sure if everybody else in MTC was around to see this, but I'm curious as to what their reactions would be as white people. (Better yet, how will they react when they actually get to the Delta?) Anyway, just some things to think about. If all students were like the Freedom Project kids, Mississippi would be even closer to its goal of having responsible, disciplined, and educated students.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Video Taped Lesson

Last week, I had one of my Spanish lessons video taped. It was interesting to see myself as a teacher, especially since this was the second time I have been video taped while teaching (the first time was last month).
I feel that I have developed as a teacher, and I was able to see this on the video tape. Although I am teaching a different subject this month (Spanish instead of English), I was able to compare and contrast several aspects of my teaching.
First, I seemed to be more relaxed this time around. As I taught the lesson, I was able to easily involve the students. Because I am teaching a foreign language, I get many opportunities to teach in nontraditional ways (games, physical movement,etc.) In watching the video tape, I could tell that I am a teacher who enjoys what he is teaching.
Meanwhile, there were several aspects that I need to work on. I still haven't yet achieved my goal of being a more aggressive teacher. I want to have the "teacher face", but I always seem to smile at my students. This could be a problem in the fall. I hope to give off more of a "strict teacher" look when I get to Hollandale.
As a whole, I was proud of myself on the video tape. I have learned to be more relaxed in the classroom, and this will help me to focus more on my style and the students' reaction to it. I see several things to work on, but I also understand that as long as I am constantly perfecting myself as a teacher, there will always be imperfections.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Overall Student Teaching Experience

I am finished with one month of student teaching, and I feel like I am a true teacher. Because it was the "veteran's" first time teaching also, we all worked together as a team. The student teachers were just as important as she was, and we earned the respect of our students.
I went into the Mississippi Teacher Corps as Aaron, but now I am Mr. Thompson. Along with the change in name came a change in character. While I am still a shy person, I am starting to become more confident about myself. I have had almost thirty students' lives in my hands for half a day, five days a week, four weeks. The students made me have a deeper respect for the teaching profession, because I realized how impressionable their minds are at that age. I hope to be both effective and a positive influence for students in Hollandale, because in some ways I feel like they might need it just a little more than students at Lafayette High did this summer. With higher poverty and less opportunities, the students in Hollandale will need good teachers and role models to help them push the slightly larger obstacles out of their way.
As a whole, the student teaching experience was one of the most essential elements to becoming a teacher. If there are any programs that simply put new teachers in the classroom in August, I assure you that you will find a lower percentage of effective teachers. Student teaching is important because you become a teacher, but you have a support system to help you. I actually liked this version (with three other student teachers in the classroom) better, because each person had something new to teach the others. While student teaching was difficult, fun, and rewarding, I look forward to being a teacher with my own class. Hollandale, I'll see you soon.

Video Taped Lesson

I watched a video of a lesson I taught, one which happened to be the same day I was formally observed. After watching the video (a somewhat unnatural feeling), I discovered several positive and negative characteristics in my teaching.
When I discussed my formal observation with Dr. Sullivan, I didn't really understand some of the things he was telling me. However, after watching the video, I can see some things to do better in the future. Dr. Sullivan told me I didn't walk around enough in the classroom. While it would have been a distraction to the students (the room was too crowded to really walk around) if I had walked during the question/answer and lecture portions, I can see a period during which I should have walked more. When I had students do work at their desks, I should have walked to make sure they were 1) on task and 2) understanding the assignment. While hindsight is 20-20, I will try to do better in the future.
Also, I noticed a weakness that I already knew about. I was a bit nervous at first (I'm usually nervous in front of crowds--hopefully teaching will help), but I really have no reason to be nervous. This is an issue that only has one answer--more practice. I am confident about the material, it's just that I am one of the most shy (shyest?) people I know. Oh well, I will work to get over it.
I did notice some strengths in my teaching. While I didn't ask for hand raising, I maintained control of the class as students participated (I got counted off for the no hand raising on my observation, but I guess when in Rome you have to do how the Romans want you to). Anyway, I still consider this style a strength because it promotes my being a facilitator instead of a dictator. The students are more comfortable and likely to participate. I understand that if I cannot control the class, hand raising is a class management style that is effective. I just don't think there is only one way of being effective in the classroom. (We discussed hand raising in my Second Language Acquisition class this spring, and the professor felt the way I do). I guess I don't really have a choice--at least right now.
Overall, I saw strengths and areas that need work. I look forward to seeing another video taped lesson later, as I hope to improve significantly.