Friday, February 19, 2010

Confidence is preparation. Everything else is beyond your control.
-Richard Kline
No noble thing can be done without risks.
-Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

snow days... what to do?

Here are some thoughts about snowdays:

Just because we are not in school with students, don't forget to keep your mind fresh! Take this as an opportunity to become well planned, organized, and prepared for the rest of your placement. This will be increasingly important after snowdays for one important reason. Your students are now on different stages of your plans. You have some students whom you have taught your first and second lesson to, while you have others you have yet to see. Get the schedule out, take a look at where you are, make a note as to what has been done each day, what needs to be done, and what could be eliminated in order to get your schedule back to a manageable gameplan.

It is often a very overwhelming thing to take over your general music placement's full schedule. Add to that the scatteredness that snowdays cause, and you may find yourself staring at a class to which you have just realized has "already done that" and you have no game plan.

Also, even though many of your planning sources are at school, there are things you can look at via the internet or past course work to aid in your planning. Dig out your methods notebook. Find plans you enjoyed watching or teaching. Go to the WVDE website or THIS BLOG to see the WVContent Standards and guides to assist you in planning. Search for lesson plan formats that may fit your needs more efficiently. Search for lessons on line (although, often this is hard). Go to various websites for sources and listen to recordings.. IE...New England Dancing Masters has a great website with many of the sources your placement teacher may have. You may get inspired for a lesson after listening to the recordings.

Contrary to public opinion.....most teachers do utilize, at least a portion of their snowdays, preparing, organizing and getting prepared for what lies ahead. You should do the same!

Finally, if you do find a lesson that you want to teach from an alternate source, make sure you cite where it came from. There is nothing more embarrassing for a student teacher than to teach a lesson that has actually come from your placement teacher, via another/former student. Remember, most of us have hosted 382 at one point or another, so if you get a lesson from a friend and turn it in, make sure you know where it comes from. IT'S OK to borrow, group plan, and share lessons with peers!!! Afterall, that is what your placement teachers have done for years... Imitation is one of the stages of learning in this placement. Just make sure to give credit where credit is due. It's a great way to learn! It will also help you in the future if you ever want to present that lesson publically. You must reference the source in order to present/publish any material.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

20 pairs of eyes

Thank you so much to Kevin for sharing his impressions.

I had done my first 7 week placement, like many others, in high school band dealing with the normal high school band world activities like percussion ensemble, marching band, concert band, theory classes, and a general mentality where the world pretty much revolves around band. I have to say, I was so wrapped up in that frame of mind when starting my elementary school placement, It didn't even occur to me what exactly I was going to experience until my first day.

I walked into Mason Dixon Elementary on my first day, signed in, and was shown to the music room where Becky was getting ready for her first class. She wasn't in a rush, but was definitely concentrated on getting things set up in a particular way. To be honest, I don't really remember what we talked about for the next several minutes, but I distinctly remember the kindergarten class coming through the door. They were escorted by their teacher, walking in a straight line, hands to themselves, very quiet, and ridiculously small! They came in and sat on the floor and unlike high school, they simply looked to the teacher for what to do next. Becky softly greeted them and introduced me and explained that I would be with them, helping, teaching, learning, for the next couple months and then quickly got them into a circle to play the name game. I joined in the circle with at least 20 pairs of eyes fixed on my every move. We completed the game and went through everyones name, including mine, with an accompanying movement and by this point I was feeling extremely uncomfortable as I wasn't used to being stared at. We then moved to a movement / interpretation exercise set to music in which we had to act out different sounds and I kept thinking how much I felt like a giant and was afraid of bumping into any of the kids. And of course, they never stopped looking at me! Next, we sat back down in a circle while the next activity was being explained and (while I was being closely watched) a boy sitting right next to me tapped me on the should and asked if I could tie his shoe. I shook my head yes and quickly tied his shoe, not thinking anything of it. As soon as I tied it and look up, without saying a word, another girl on the opposite side of the circle untied her shoe, stood up, walked over to me, and held her shoe out for me to tie too!

Now, I didn't think much of this at first, but actually that one silly, innocent action instantly took away my uneasiness and made me feel more comfortable in elementary school. Unlike high school, where the kids have very active social lives and numerous other influences, these kids, who have only been alive as long as you've been in college, want to hear what you have to say, how you act, how you react, how you sing, and most of all, they want to trust you and look up to you! After that, I wasn't really afraid to sing in my "high voice", or dance, or act, or pretend.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Words from Kathy

Kathy is a former student teacher who now teaches elementary music in Marshall county. Thanks to Kathy for her perspective

Be professional in every way. Arrive on time. Leave when the cooperating teacher leaves. Attend all meetings and duties associated with the position. Use planning periods to plan. (Believe it or not, I have had to explain to a student teacher why it is inappropriate to sleep during planning periods.) Dress professionally. Don’t ask if your attendance/participation is expected. If you are excused, the cooperating teacher will let you know.

Have a plan. Lesson plans are to be completed in advance, so that they can be reviewed and discussed. Please see this as an opportunity. Your cooperating teacher will be pleased that you are prepared and will surely add constructive feedback to aid your success. Please align your plans with the Content Standard Objectives. There is a curriculum, and it must be followed. Make your life easier by setting up the classroom before the kids enter. You can learn a lot by watching your cooperating teacher, but even more by assisting, asking questions, and being a part of the process.

Be positive. We have all heard it before, “There is NO WAY that I would EVER take this job.” Let’s get this straight. We all have our preferred teaching assignments, and those will likely be taken by teachers with seniority. I have heard it from student teachers, and I don’t appreciate it. I just want to say, “It is MY job, and it means something to ME, so while you are HERE, it needs to be important to YOU!” Don’t let your disinterest diminish a meaningful classroom experience for the kids. Smile. If you have to, fake it.

Get a sense of the school environment outside of your assigned classroom. Be familiar with school policies and procedures. Are there policies regarding lesson plans? How do I make a purchase? What is the budget for the music program? Learn how to manage the budget. Ex. Who pays for all of these recorders?

Identify your strengths. Familiarize yourself with classroom resources. Observe the ability levels of the students. Study the CSO’s. NOW, make a plan based on all of that information.
Student teaching is your #1 priority.

Trust that this experience is going to take a lot of effort. You must learn to communicate effectively. You must plan accordingly. You must act professionally. Do not expect to shine because you show up, or because you wrote something down…make it worthwhile. Make it a positive experience for the kids. They need to learn. That’s what it’s all about.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Special Education Students

An email from one of the WVU M382 lab students got me thinking about special ed students, so I'm going to post my reply with the specifics edited out.

Special ed includes: gifted, behavioral disorders, learning disabilites, as well as physical disabilities/handicaps.

Email reply:

How neat that you are able to take a special ed class. I did not have any special ed classes when i went through WVU, so I had to learn by trial and error, ugh.... Like i said, i did not had a special ed class in college, so i feel a little insecure about my special ed knowledge, because i learned it through experience (ie. mistakes!) and by asking our
special ed teachers lots of questions.

I will tell you that I am CPI trained which is Nonviolent Crisis Prevention Intervention. That is an 8 hour course that teaches one how to intervene and prevent a student from going into crisis (an out of control state usually including physical violence), and how to hold/remove a student who is in danger of harming him/herself and/or others. To remain certified, we
have to go to a 4 hour refresher course every two years.

I have all of the special ed students that are enrolled at my school, gifted, BD and LD. as a general rule, they are included in all of the related arts classes even if they are pulled from their general classes to go to special ed.

Without breaking student confidentiality, most of the modifications that apply to music include: preferential seating (either for hearing or vision problems, or for behavior problems), frequent checks for understanding, tests/assignments read aloud, repeat/rephrase directions, subject materials presented in more than one mode (ex. Verbal and visual
prompts), and extra prompts to follow directions before a consequence is given
(usually BD).

There are many more specific modifications that need to be made in a general ed setting where there is more pencil and paper work going on.

I tend to apply my modifications to the whole class, since most of our work is done as an ensemble/group, although there is some individual performance going on (hello song, playing on instruments, etc...). I use a seating chart to make sure i give preferential seating to those who need it. My classes include a lot of social interaction and self control, which can
be very challenging for students with behavior disorders, so I feel proud when
they are able to make their hands be in control, and when they are able to
participate successfully in a group.

I read everyone's files (there are a lot of files, because I see every student in the school) toward the beginning of the year when i have more time available. I do this to make myself familiar with each student's IEP. I am responsible for those modifications. I may keep a copy of the IEP sheet in my room as long as it is locked up. Some of the special ed teachers are good about
providing me with a copy of an IEP, but that does not always happen.

I think the most important thing, for me anyway, is to always keep my cool. So many times, things are not as they appear. A student may not be following directions, not because of refusal, but because they really don't understand what i want them to do. It's not always obvious when a student doesn't understand my words, and it's easy to jump to conclusions and get annoyed. I try to step back, take a deep breath, and reassess what's going on. That's not easy when I'm in a "get it done" mode but necessary if I want to prevent a situation from escalating.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sick Days-Release Time

If you are sick, stay home or go home.

You have to decide if you are sick.

You don't have to be a martyr but you should only go/stay home if you are really sick.

Cooperating teachers are happy to give you release time if it means that you are interviewing for a job or going for some professional development.

We resent it when you ask for release time for things that could or should be done outside the work day. It puts us in an awkward position.