‘Aha’ Moments of Student Teaching

Even though I knew better, I still had this idea in my head that I was going to be able to go home at four o’clock everyday and have the afternoon to myself.  I envisioned being prepared and ready for each days lessons and that I would have it all figured out. I pictured the students responding like perfect students and giving me their full attention during circle time. Today was a crazy day at preschool and I am now back to reality of what this semester is really going to look like. It is going to be a learning process, a time of growth in my knowledge and skills of teaching.

I have a very diverse bunch of students in my classroom and each of them have different needs. They all have very different stories and backgrounds. But they do have one thing in common; they all need to be loved. As a teacher, I want to show my students that they are loved by caring about them and building a relationship with them.  I have learned that many of my students come from a single parent household and all of them are from low-income families.

Here are some of the realizations that I have come to in my teaching experience:

Preschool is not a daycare. Many people may view preschool teachers as babysitters and feel that their job must be easy to watch kids play all day. I now realize all the work that preschool teachers do. We don’t even have students on Fridays, which I thought was going to be a bonus and super easy day. Friday was incredibly busy for us and we still weren’t done with everything by four o’clock. The day was filled with meetings, planning, preparation, and organizing the classroom. A full day of preschoool with the students takes a lot of energy, structure, and routine. Already in preschool, the students are learning math, literacy, art, science, social studies, and language. Preschool is the foundation of the children’s education. Teachers are constantly recording the GOLD assessments, keeping up the students portfolios, and tracking progress.

Preschoolers need routine and structure. Today, the whole school watched “Happy Feet” in the gym. It was supposed to be a special day and I had the expectation that it was going to be easy. Actually, I would be ok if we never had a movie day again. It threw the whole schedule off and the students didn’t react well to the change. They were bouncing off the walls all day and it was just a very ‘off’ day for all of the students. Also, I have noticed that logistics and details are very important in preschool. Such as, what will the students do when they are done with snack? How long is this activity actually going to take?

Plan meaningful activities. When planning activities for preschoolers, you need to ask yourself if they are developmentally appropriate. Also, what will the students be learning? What kinds of support will they need to do the activity? That is one thing that I need to work on; choosing activities that the students can do independently but still be challenged. I don’t want to be stuck doing the whole project or game for them because it is not developmentally appropriate.

 

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Art Teacher With A Heart For Texas

Meet Jackie Ridgway. She is an artist and student teacher in Texas this semester! Visit her website at http://jacklynridgway.weebly.com/ to see some of her awesome artwork. (Pictured above is a silkscreen print by Jackie, titled ‘American Frontier’)

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Hello all, my name is Jackie Ridgway. I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in K-12 Art Education. I started my student teaching journey one week ago in Houston, Texas! I am a small town girl from Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney. UNK sends several student teachers to Houston each semester to teach at Alief ISD, which is a school district that is in such a high need for teachers, that they have been granted permission to pay their student teachers (one of the major reasons I chose Alief!).

I am currently student teaching at Killough Middle School. So far, it has been an incredible experience. All of the staff has been so welcoming and friendly. There are even several teachers from Nebraska that have been very helpful. Coming from a small rural school in Nebraska, I knew that the environment would be very different than what I am used to. All of the student teachers had been told about the diversity that we would see, but it doesn’t really sink in until you are thrown into it. The number of languages I hear students talking in one classroom is fascinating. I haven’t had any trouble communicating with students like I thought I might. Most of the students speak English very well.

Here are a few things I learned during my first week:

It’s not as easy as it looks! I felt very confident about my teaching skills during my field experience in the schools in Nebraska. This is a completely different environment. Most of the Alief schools are very low socioeconomic and a lot of the students don’t have an easy home life. Before winter break, there was a middle school girl that was killed in a drive by shooting, just to give you a little perspective. Some of these students have been through more than I ever have been in my life. I work with some tough kids. I know, though, that when I am finished with my experience teaching here, it will make me a better teacher and I will be prepared for almost anything that will be thrown at me.

Classroom management is key. I already knew this, but implementing it is a whole different story. This is also not as easy as it looks! I have been told that if I can manage my classroom here, then I will be able to handle any classroom environment. I have a group of 8th grade boys that are a real terror. They say, “Yes ma’am” and are not disrespectful toward me or my cooperating teacher, for the most part. They just don’t want to be in art class and refuse to participate. After my first day, I doubted myself. I didn’t know if I would be able to handle what I have gotten into. However, each day has gotten a little better, so I know that there is hope.

I won’t save them all. I have already started to build relationships with some of my students. It has been hard to get all their names down, since I see close to 200 students a day. I give feedback to the students on their artwork, and most of them seem to appreciate it. Some just don’t care. I have received many eye-rolls and even some comments like, “Get away from me,” “Don’t’ talk to me,” and of course, “I hate art.” My dream as an art teacher is to help my students love art like I do. I want to help them develop their creative mind and use it in not only art, but also all of their other classes and in their future endeavors. I have to remember that I won’t accomplish this will all of my students. As long as I can make a difference in at least one student’s life, I will consider myself successful.

Getting involved helps. I went to the boys’ basketball game so that I could watch a few of my students and have a way to connect with them. They noticed. I had a student come to school the next day and said, “I saw you at the basketball game, Miss.” That was all he said, but I could see that he appreciated the support. I want my students to know that I support them in not only art, but also their other classes and extra curricular activities. The teachers also noticed my support. A few came up to me and said they saw me at the game and how glad they were that I came out to support the students. It’s little things like going to a game that will help you in the long run.

Start each day fresh. If you have a student that gave you a hard time in class the day before, greet him or her as if nothing had ever happened. A new day presents different circumstances and new opportunities. Every child deserves to be given a second chance. Always greet them with a smile to let them know that you care and that you are there for them. As teachers, we don’t know what our students are going through outside of school. We can’t take their misbehaviors and outbursts personally, because they really probably don’t mean anything they say. They just need someone to take their frustrations out on, so if that person has to be me, I am perfectly fine with that. I will still love them just the same.

I am so excited to get to know my students this semester and learn from them. They all have a special place in my heart already and I can’t wait to build relationships with them. I know that this semester will be challenging, but I am ready to take on those challenges head on. I know that they will only make me a better teacher and more prepared for my own classroom in the fall.

Jackie Ridgway

Dear Lord, 

I pray Your love will shine through me onto Your children. Help them to know that I care for them and want only the best for them. Please guide me this semester in the relationships I build with the students and teachers, and to be the best that I can be for my students. Amen.

Overview Of My First Week As A Student Teacher

I made it through the first week of preschool! My apartment looks like a tornado went through, I caught a cold from my students, I have a long to-do list, and my energy is zero..but I made it through.  Breathe. 

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“I wiggle my fingers, I wiggle my toes, I wiggle my shoulders, I wiggle my nose. Now no more wiggles are left in me, so I can eat politely.”

I may have learned a thing or two this week at preschool. I started off the week with a teacher inservice on Monday. I got to know some of the teachers, although it’s hard being the newbie and the youngest. I suppose I won’t feel like a real teacher until I get a job.  Many of the teachers presented on various topics. Here are some of my takeaways from that:

Teachers play a critical role in developing language-rich classroom environments. Set the stage by getting down on the child’s level and listen to him/her. It’s important to match the tone of the conversation by looking at the child’s facial expression. And take turns talking.

Engage your students. I learned that engagement in the lesson might look different for each student. I think this is important to remember, especially for young children because children weren’t made to sit still and listen attentively. Preschoolers need developmentally appropriate activities to engage in.

Together everyone achieves more. Collaborative teaming among the staff means that all staff should be engaged at all times. Teachers need to share roles in the classroom and have positive interactions with each other. Adults set the tone in the classroom by their attitude, actions, and words.

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I am in a class with 16 children. I love them all! I hold each and every one of them close to my heart and I can’t stop thinking about them even after I go home for the day. I wonder what they are doing and what home is like for them. I feel like I’ve learned so much about my students in just the three days that I’ve spent with them.

My class is very diverse in their academic skills. It’s almost overwhelming trying to figure out how to teach them the skills they need to learn. At this age, the foundation is being set. Not only academic, but social and emotional concepts as well.

I am learning some about GOLD. Oh my goodness, so much data to record. How does a teacher do it? Along with GOLD, there are portfolios and progress reports the teachers must keep. The first week was a little overwhelming and I get to help out with all of that in the coming week.

Everyday this week, I came home exhausted. Working with preschoolers just wipes the energy right out of you. Plus, my back is tired from all the bending down and playing at their level. Time for some yoga.

Friday is the teachers’ planning day. It was nice to have a day to plan the entire week. SO MANY copies, laminating, and cutting out projects for the children. Preparation is timely. We also attended a meeting for ‘Teachers Learning and Cooperating.’ I’m hoping to learn more about that next month. Friday went entirely too fast but I’m excited for everything that we have planned for next week.

Dear Lord,

Remind me that I need to always put the children’s needs first. They are Your children and they are precious. Give me the patience and guidance I need to teach them. Let us learn, play, laugh, and grow together this semester.   Amen

 

 

Student Teacher Introduction Letter

I am only at the preschool for ten weeks and week one is almost over. I can see that this journey is going to fly by. Tomorrow is the last day of the week with the students. (No school on Fridays) I am excited to send home this letter with all of the students in my class. I am looking forward to getting to know the students and their families. Even though my time will be short, I want to learn as much as possible from them!

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Prayers for Student Teachers

Dear Lord,

Tomorrow is the day. Please be with all of the student teachers tomorrow as they go to meet their class. Give us confidence as we take on responsibilities as a teacher. Give us the courage to make a difference in the short amount of time we are in the classroom. Allow a good relationship between us and our cooperating teacher. Thank you for the education and knowledge that was received and help us to remember all that we learned. Lord, I trust that You will be with all of us tomorrow and this semester. Lead us and work through us to touch children’s lives.

Amen