Previous 20

Dec. 3rd, 2007


leaving my placement

So, my last day in my placement this semester was Friday and I felt slightly awkward leaving for the last time. At that point, I didn't for sure know where my placement for student teaching was so it was kind of like, "Thanks for all your help, maybe I'll see you next semester, maybe not?" It was a wierd feeling to know that these students who I had gotten somewhat connected to, I would probably never see again. It made me feel like some sort of liar in a way that I was just using them for these 5 lessons. This feeling makes me really excited about the kind of influence that I could have when I am actually a "teacher." I still don't feel like I am ready to student teach. I thought by the end of this semester, I would be like, yes, I can do this, but I am still unsure. At the same time, I feel that student teaching will be a challenge that will help me grow. You know the phrase, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I think this is what student teaching will be like for me. I know it will challenge me. I know I will sometimes feel like I can't do it anymore. But, I am at the point where I think I am ready to face the challenge in hopes that my passion for teaching and the students will be enough to help me push through and be good. I think it is good that I know I still have a lot to learn and I think that all that I have left to learn are things that I need to teach myself through experience. I hope that when I leave my student teaching classroom that it will be less awkward than leaving my methods placement classroom because I know I will leave thinking I did the best I could and could follow through on ideas and relationships with the students.



So...priorities. I pride myself in being able to evenly spread my time. I turn in assignments on time. I am prepared for all of my teaching endeavors. I run nearly every day. I call my mom three times a week (sometimes a day depending on my week haha). But...I just keep forgetting about his precious phyrebards. I don't know if it's because I don't write it in my handydandy planner, or if it is not regarded as a "formal assignment" (although I realize that it is). I guess since we find ourselves having such in depth conversations in class, most of my questions get answered there.

Anyway...enough excuses.

I've heard my voice on answering machines, and homevideos...but this video critique was the first time that I had to listen to it for nearly an hour. I'm squeaky, and laugh at not very funny things. Do my students find me as annoying as I find me? God, I hope not. Hopefully it is one of those "you are your worst critic" type things. But at the same time, I seemed so comfortable with the class (even though I glanced at the camera from time to time, making the video hilarious). So watching the video confirmed 2 things for me: 1. my voice is annoying and 2. I love teaching.

Dec. 2nd, 2007


Where has the semester gone?!

I must be honest that I am much more excited and relieved about doing my mounds of homework than I am about preparing for a week of teaching. Last week was stressful. The kids were great though and I think that by the end of the week I found my groove.

Funny story from my teaching:
I was really stressed about what to teach on my last day, Friday, and I came in early to brainstorm some ideas with Mrs. Garrison. Unfortunately, she was little help and too preoccupied with grading the students' research papers. However, with some collaboration we were able to throw something solid together, but I was worried that it would take less time and I would be left with awkward fifteen minutes in the period. After the students had filed in and the bell sounded...A FIRE DRILL...I do not think I have ever been so excited for a fire drill in my entire life. The fire drill definitely helped my cause and Mrs. Garrison and I had a giggle out in the parking lot together about how excited I was. It was neat because I thought that this gave us a couple of steps in our relationship, as cheesy as that sounds.

So in other news, I am getting really pumped about student teaching and I think that Mrs. Garrison and I are going to be a good partnership. Only a little bit longer until we are teaching everyday, not just five :)


Ms. longer reserved for my mother

So I was in the grocery store this afternoon picking up a few items to sustain me through this last week, and I hear "Hi, Ms. Szwedo." Completely taken aback for a moment and realizing someone was talking to me and not my mom, I paused before acknoweldging one of my students. I'm still young, I can't be a ms. already, and how weird is it to see a student outside of the classroom? I felt like a fish out of water. I guess we are really growing up, and it's only going to get worse once we start student teaching and eventually getting a job. A job...that reminds me we're officially moving on to a professional world. As i'm dreading this week because it is crunch time and I have a lot due, I realized that I'm not entirely ready for college to be over. So here's to finals week and still being a kid in college! Good luck this week everyone!

Nov. 27th, 2007


Julie of the Wolves

Julie of the Wolves is a young adult novel about a thirteen year old girl, Julie Edwards Miyax Kapugen. Her Eskimo name is Miyax Kapugen, but her English name is Julie Edwards. She is an Eskimo girl who grows up in a traditional Eskimo village until she is married off to her father’s friend’s son, who is also thirteen. After her husband attacks her, she runs away from her new home and attempts to make her way through the Alaskan wilderness to reach her pen pal in San Francisco. After getting lost and not having the North Star to guide her, Miyax founds a pack of wolves that she attempts to befriend in order to benefit from their hunting abilities. She names each of them based on their characteristics and closely observes their behaviors in order to mimic their signals for different emotions. Using this strategy, she becomes accepted by the wolves and throughout the novel, the pack and Miyax protect and encourage each other. When the Alaskan summer ends and Miyax finds her way to a nearby village, she struggles with whether she should go on and re-enter the world of humans or if she should remain an Eskimo, depending on the land for survival. When she hears word that her long lost father, who taught her almost everything that she used to survive, was in the village, she enters to find herself torn one more between the world of Julie Edwards and that of Miyax Kapugen.
There is ample symbolism within this novel that would not be difficult for students to identify without being so obvious that the symbols lose their value and impact. The line between man and animal is shockingly blurred and the point could easily be made that, in many ways, the animals within this story are more humane and compassionate than many humans.
There are so many themes and issues that need discussing out of this novel. The struggle of man vs. nature and the idea that there should not be a struggle at all is one that resonates very strongly in light of the current environmental crisis that our planet is facing. The ideas of richness, beauty, and friendships are all called into questions and these ideas and themes are redefined many times throughout this book. This is one of those books that needs to be discussed and the elements of human nature that are presented should be analyzed and evaluated. Some of the lessons that the book teaches are difficult lessons to learn and they would be hard for some students to handle, but they are worth exploring in any capacity that is appropriate for the individual classroom. If anyone has not read this book, it is a good one to be familiar with and it is one that definitely lingers after the reading is finished.


The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd Novel Review

Students are required to read and interpret literary texts within the English classroom and the goal of any teacher approaching literature is to appeal to the interest of their students. The modern classroom is a diverse learning environment that is not composed of students that represent only the Euro-American viewpoint; therefore, neither should the literature. The push for English teachers to break through the classical literary cannon is stronger now than ever before because of the wide variety of cultures represented in today’s classroom. Emerging young adult literature that appeals to these diverse audience are every bit as relevant to the development of literary skills as the classical pieces. Not that all of the classical cannon should be avoided, because continuing in higher education means being familiar with these staple English classroom texts, but choosing literature that appeals to students in order to encourage a love of reading should be a major goal of English teachers.

Sue Monk Kidd’s novel The Secret Life of Bees is slowly emerging as one of the forefront modern texts to be incorporated into the high school English classroom. The novel has been a bestseller since its publication in 2002 and has remained a favorite in book clubs across the country. Lily, the protagonist, is a 14 year old white girl whose mother died when she was only four years old in an accident involving a gun. The memory of this tragic event haunts Lily throughout her childhood and creates uncertainty in an already abusive household. Lily’s only real family and friend is Rosaleen, a black housekeeper that her abusive father hired to take care of Lily following her mother’s death. The story is set on an isolated peach farm in South Carolina in 1964 during the heart of the civil rights movement. Lily dreams of escaping the racist town that she hates in search of a better life and in hopes of finding a link to her mother.

Rosaleen is a proud and outspoken black woman and when she is awarded her right to vote, she marches down to the center of town with Lily on her birthday. She is attacked by three racist men on her way to the courthouse and is thrown in jail. Lilly is determined to break her out and after the ladies escape, they go searching for a new beginning in Tiburon, South Carolina. The pair know nothing about the town except that in a box of Lily’s mother’s belongings there is a picture of a black Virgin Marry with the words, “Tiburon, South Carolina” written on the back. After a long and painful journey, Lilly and Rosaleen reach the town and are taken in by three black bee keepers, August, May, and June Boatwright that worship the Black Madonna. While living with these three powerful women, Lilly learns the importance of hard work, friendship, honesty, love, and faith. She learns to trust these women as she uncovers the secrets to her mother’s past and gains closure through the everlasting relationships with the bees and her new ‘mothers.’

The novel is categorized as young adult fiction, but readers of all ages have enjoyed Lilly’s coming of age story in which she finds closure through love and trust. The setting of the novel, during the heart of the civil rights movement, is a time when many older readers can recall the harsh laws and regulations that segregated citizens of the south. Lilly is white teenager that refuses to practice the unjustly regulated path of her community and continues practicing her beliefs despite the criticisms of those surrounding her. Anyone who has ever stood up for what they believe in or felt alone in the only home they have known will be able to relate to the protagonists’ struggle. The novel is quickly gaining popularity within the high school classroom because of its reader level, intense thematic elements, and ability to appeal to readers of different cultures. The historical setting of the novel, during the civil rights movement, is also a great basis for content and theory incorporation into discussion. Students are usually able to connect and relate to the protagonist because she is a high school student facing issues of race, equality, and adolescents.

Success with this novel in the high school classroom is an extremely rewarding experience for both students and teachers. My co-teacher (Ms. Rogers) and I are currently teaching this novel to our ninth grade CP class and the students have instantly connected with the work. This is the first semester that Ms. Rogers has incorporated this novel into her literary choices and the students’ involvement have been more than either of us could have hoped. Most of the students (8 out of 13) are repeaters of English and have likely not read any novels that English teachers have assigned. We read a chapter as a class each day and students cannot wait to get out their books and begin. When it is time to stop and complete review questions, the students beg to keep reading. They are emotionally attached to the book and have great comments and questions about the plot line and characters. Reading Monk’s novel has also sparked an interest in the students concerning the civil rights movement.

Students had to research the historical events and then draw the connections to the effects the movement has on the characters of the novel. The entire unit has been a success thus far and as we move deeper into the heart of the novel, I suspect student interest and involvement will continue to flourish.

Nov. 26th, 2007


It's almost dinner time!

So, as we approach our dinner date, I thought I would stop by the blog and post a bit. I just started my teaching. Today. It went pretty well, but for some reason I was so nervous and I still am nervous. I guess that with the AP seniors, most of them are smart, and they know it, so activities go a lot quicker than you plan and sometimes they take the material a completely different direction.

I am actually doing an entire poetry unit with them which is challenging on numerous levels. Today we talked about how to read poems and what constitutes poetry. I have planned a lot of group work and Mrs. Garrison gave me some AP practice multiple choice to use. So far so good I guess. I opened up my first class today with a get-to-know you activity. I used "Connection" (for anyone that remembers it from your Orientation days, hip hop OLs rock). The students responded really well to it and it gave me a bit of a chance to get more on their level and continue to work on names. Learning names, now that's another post for another time, let me tell you...

As Megan as mentioned, all this work in teaching our five lessons and working on the unit plans is making me antsy for next semester and getting me less and less excited about silly writing studies homework. And to leave you with something Jen Romano said this evening in regards to student teaching: "You have to learn to laugh, if not, you'll cry".


student teaching extras

Some concerns I have at this point at how prepared we are for student teaching are:
1) We don't know where we are placed yet...
2) On top of teaching and getting into the lesson plan groove, we have to take on small tasks which could turn into big tasks. For example, I was talking to one of my friends who is student teaching in an elementary school right now and she was talking about getting materials together for a bulletin board. I know that myself personally, would take forever to do a single bulletin board. I feel like you need some creativity and artistry to do a good job at this, which are definate skills that will need to be developed during student teaching. The somewhat silly jobs that need to be done so that your classroom actually helps your class are so varied and I do not feel like I have even started thinking about I do and do not put up in my classroom. What rules, what student work, do you do a word wall, do you do murals, etc.? So many questions!

And a third thing kind of unrelated, but still an extra issue that teachers need to deal with is when students come to you with personal concerns. Today, in my class, one of the students went up to my teacher and told her that some things that the male teacher on the team had been doing in terms of touching on the back or shoulders, or comments, made some of the students feel uncomfortable. Mrs. Russel was kind of taken aback and did not know what actions to take at this point. She thinks that he does not have the intent to make his students feel that he is being overly friendly but at what point do you disregard students that come up to you with something like this versus when do you actually do something about it? I think my teacher was just going to say something to him to just be aware that the female students were becoming sensitive to actions and comments that he does in and outside the classroom, so to just to watch what he does. But it is something that teachers could easily brush off as well its just a silly 8th grader, misinterpreting. But what if its not, and in too many situations, it is something that happens. So my teacher and I got into a small discussion about how hard it is balance caring for the students and going too far with it. She said that 5 years ago it was something that she had to think more about because she was a young teacher. But that now, she can be the grandmother/mother type figure and make those physical connections without people thinking twice. Therefore, this is something that all of us, as new teachers, need to be aware of as we start teaching. I have noticed that boys are a lot more friendly and open to me than the girls. So this scares me that my talking to the boys could eventually lead into people thinking there was something more there behind the scenes. You want to get to know the students, but how do you do that equally for all students yet still do it on a personal level? I don't know, so many issues for the classroom!

Nov. 19th, 2007


Ms. Osborne

I am right in the middle of teaching with three days under my belt and two to go. I had my teaching split up by Thanksgiving and due to my awesome Science without Borders class, my "consecutive" days of teaching are a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Monday, THANKSGIVING, and then Monday. So convenient! Anyway, despite the awful scheduling, it really could not be going any better.

The days off are not presenting themselves as an issue. We are doing The Secret Life of Bees, but also studying the historical context of the Harlem Renaissance, word skills, and grammar so I'm getting a nice mixture of teaching activities. So, thus far I have administered a word skills test, taught a grammar lesson, introduced new word skills, and read and discussed the novel with the students. The students really seem to like the change of pace with me teaching and its made them a little more lively and interactive. I am not sure if it's because they are curious about me or are really into the work that we are doing, but either way - I'm glad that I've kept their attention and they are actually coming to class.

Ms. Rogers has been great too. We meet a little early before class and go over what they were able to get accomplished the day before (this usually varies from the actual weekly plan!) and the adjustments I might need to make in my lesson. She is so great about handing over the reins to me and really taking a step back while I'm teaching. I feel like she really trusts me because she usually is working on something for another class period, runs a few errands, or sits right with the students while I'm teaching, interjecting only if I ask her a question or clarification (usually on word skills). This has allowed for the students to stay focused with me as the leader of the classroom and when they have questions about an assignment, they raise their hand and call,"Ms. Osborne" rather than their usual teacher. It's a good feeling.

So, teaching is going very well. Being in the classroom now is making me super anxious for this semester to be over so I can start student teaching and experience it every day! Anyone else?

Have a great Thanksgiving Break!

Nov. 18th, 2007


Just Breathe!

So I have finished my teaching and been back to my classroom a few times and it has been a breath of fresh air. I sit in the back of the room and have no responsibility and it feels so great compared to the stress that I felt when I was teaching. The students still get excited though when I walk in and ask me if I am teaching and look depressed when I tell them no. This warms my heart to think that they actually did like my lessons! So now, I am going to get that time in. It is very strange to go from being the focus of the classroom to just observing again. A part of me feels really guilty that I am not helping the teacher more out now that I finished my teaching. But I am still learning about how to be an effective English teacher and it has been interesting to see how Mrs. Russell presents her material versus what I did. She stole the idea that I used when I had the students write on notecards. She really like that as way to trick the students into writing more than they feel like they can when there is a big open sheet of notebook paper.

Nov. 15th, 2007


Free Rice

Ok so I have a new obsession that pretty much confirms the fact that I'm a huge nerd. My little brother sent me a link to a website called It is quite possibly the coolest website I've been to in a long time. Basically the way it works is you match a word with a definition and if you get it correct, the United Nations and a bunch of different organizations donate 10 grains of rice to needy countries. The words vary in level of difficulty and can get pretty hard! It's a fun way to broaden your vocabulary, and to donate food to people who need it. I know it seems kind of sketchy and like it could be a hoax but I checked it out through the United Nations website and they have all kinds of information about how much rice and money has been donated for this cause. Please check it out and support a worthy cause!
In regards to teaching, this week has been pretty good. I would say my biggest challenge is that I have a hard time getting the class back to attention after group work. Part of the problem is that I'm not their regular teacher and they think they can get away with more, and part of it is that I'm not being assertive enough. I should have established a strategy with them the first day I taught and then followed it so I don't have to keep yelling over the noise. I've also learned that a teacher needs to be flexible. A lot of crazy things have happened this week and I feel that I've handled them pretty well. I hope everyone's unit went well and that everyone has a great thanksgiving break!

Nov. 13th, 2007


Whoa Homework

So. I am not sure if I could have anymore homework right now. It's ok, I'll make it. Anyway, to discuss something about education, Mrs. Garrison gave me the heads up last week that I would start to see my students in the real world. She is right. I have officially come to the realization that Ms. Davis is Ms. Davis in and out of the school. I went to Sal's for dinner this weekend with a roommate and a friend and as I was walking in, one of the girls in the class that I observed walked out and we exchanged hellos. Good thing I was not acting up.

I guess it's weird to think that I am going to encounter my students outside of class and I still need to be the Ms. Davis that they see in school. Wow. I am not ready to be a grown up.

Hope you are all doing well and talk to you all soon.

Nov. 10th, 2007


First Lesson Jitters

So, I taught my first lesson yesterday and I found myself unusually nervous. I think it's because I was teaching English which is definitely not my comfort zone yet, and because I was so used to teaching math. It is interesting, however, that I can see my logical side coming out through my planning...I go in steps and progress the lesson in a linear fashion. Anyway, I pulled on my teaching pants and began my lesson and was surprised to find that things were going well. Of course there are things that I would change and I know I left out some important things because of my nervousness but I was happily surprised to have a student tell me that the activity they were doing was "cool" and that I got good responses from my closing quick write. I'm excited for Tuesday, and it is fascinating to see me doing well with English lessons. It also helps that my class is pretty much awesome and very responsive to me as a teacher. Mrs. Cooley is encouraging as well. I'll keep you posted on the rest of the unit. Good luck to everyone else who will be starting their units!

Nov. 8th, 2007


Grade Contracts

On Monday while I was in school we had a speaker come in and interrupt the regular lesson. The assistant principal came in to discussion grade contracts with the students. If a student is in danger of failing the course and has received a failing grade for the first nine weeks, and it would be impossible for them to score high enough the next nine weeks to make a passing grade, he or she can use a grading contract to change the grade and pass the course. The teacher is responsible for drawing up the stipulations to the contract, there is a conference to discuss it, and then it is signed by both the student and teacher. If the student holds up his or her portion of the contract, the grade is changed.

Last year at Cummings all teachers were required to write up and conference for grading contracts for all students that failed the first nine weeks. 250 contracts were written school wide and it took a lot of time planning and meeting with students on the teachers' part. Only 10 grades were actually changed because the students met all of the requirements of the grading contract. 250 is an unusually high number and from my understanding, usually only first year freshman utilize these type of contracts. The system at Cummings failed.

When the assistant principal visited on Monday, she explained that grading contracts will not be dealt with in the same way this year. Students are required to approach the teacher if they would like the opportunity to do a grading contract within 3 weeks after the first nine weeks. Ms. Rogers does not like to drag the process throughout the semester, and she requires it be done within the first three weeks after the first report card.

I will be very interested to see if any of our students in third period choose to do the grading contract and if they will actually stick with it. I know that some are in danger of failing (again!). What do you all think of the grading contract? Is it fair to those students who worked hard the first half of the semester? Is there a better alternative since the system does not seem to be saving students from failing?

Nov. 7th, 2007


So I had an interesting revelation today. I was talking with my cooperating teacher about my lessons and things that I was nervous about, etc. And she asked if my lesson was actually six days (since I'm starting this friday and going until next friday). I reminded her that monday was a teacher workday and there wasn't school and she freaked out, saying she didn't know that, etc. When we checked the schedule, it turns out it was a school holiday. I hadn't even thought that it mattered whether it was a holiday or a workday, ya know? Since all that was important was that there wasn't school... but it DOES matter!! I can't believe we need to start making the distinction! One of them means we come to school (as teachers) and the other means we're off too. I never even thought to consider that there is a distinction! I mean, I obviously knew they were different, but I didn't care since it just meant I miss school. It's so weird to have to start thinking like a teacher! I just haven't wrapped my head all the way around it I guess... It's so funny for me to think about how ready I am to be teaching in my own class one second and then how incredibly un-ready I feel the next!

Nov. 6th, 2007


The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, tells the story of a young Hispanic girl named Esperanza who dreams of someday living in her own house. Her parents have moved their family from apartment to apartment, and still dream of having a permanent home somewhere. But for now, the family is living on Mango Street.

Esperanza deals with racial prejudice, a friend whose father abuses her, the realities of becoming a woman, women in her community being treated as lesser than the men, and trying find someone to trust with her poetry.

The book captures snapshots of Esperanza's interactions with her neighbors and family. Each chapter tells about an aspect of her life on Mango street and previous experiences. Though the book does not follow a strictly chronological pattern, Esperanza's character develops as she realizes that she wants more for herself than what society has planned for and expects of her.


....making our own "recipes" for the classroom

I did enjoy the seminar on recipes for the classroom. I took away several ideas that I think I will be able to modify and use in my classroom. The keyword here is "modify". Isn't that what creating lessons is all about? Even after I am teaching for 20 billion years and design 80 billion lessons, I will have to modify each lesson so that it fits the particular class. We all keep asking Dr. Pyne to give us methods, to give us lesson ideas. I think that the trick is (as it has been beaten into us) to get to know our students. We need to decide how to get whatever content we are teaching across to our students. So...that said, I now understand why Dr. Pyne wants to give us theory over method. The method will come with theory. Method is centered around needs, strengths, and weaknesses of students.


why i need to stop blogging immediately after practicum

I really don't want to subject everyone to this, so let's see if I can work some HTML skills and make my commenters have to work for it!

i still owe you guys two posts )

I will get back to those other two posts--I have one to write from the week of the management seminar and one from Halloween week--but not right now. I'm going to eat some lunch and go BACK to the school. I do have a question for you guys, if you can answer it. I haven't really told Mr. Metz any of the problems I have with him, his teaching, or his treatment of me, because I don't want it to reflect badly on me and affect my evaluation. At this point in the semester I'm not even sure if it's worth it, but is there any way I can approach the subject that won't be offensive? Or should I bother?


Ugh, so I cannot remember to make these posts. No, I remember that I need to make them, I just somehow can't get myself to actually do them. Oops! :) So I've been working on the specifics of my lessons, like the actual powerpoints, the actual handouts, etc. and it is amazing to me how much time everything takes! I get really into this kind of thing and add in all this extra stuff (animation, pictures, etc.) and the next thing I know, it's been 500 million hours and I'm finished with one powerpoint presentation. I tell myself that it's okay to put time into these because they are things that I will be able to use forever, blah blah blah... but sometimes I really just wish that there were more hours in the day. I get really overwhelmed when I think about how huge my topic is (greek mythology) and how much I really want to cover with the students, and it's sad to remind myself that I have five lessons to teach it all. Well, my teacher offered me more days if I wanted them, but lets face it, who has time for that?? Oh well... I also feel a whole lot of pressure with this lesson because Mrs. Nall said that the students are really excited for the unit and that she's really excited to see what I do. That is a whole lot of pressure! What if the students hate it and Mrs. Nall thinks I just wasted five days?!? I hope this won't happen and I keep telling myself that it won't, but it's just a lot of pressure to teach in someone else's class knowing that they are giving up valuable instructional time for this. I just hope it all goes well!

Nov. 5th, 2007


After observing today, I am now officially declaring the act of modeling as my new best friend. My cooperating teacher always assigns short writing assignments that require students to "thoroughly answer a question" regarding the novel they're reading using "examples from the novel or movie to develop/support their answer." This type of assignment/classwork is frequently implemented, but students are equally confused each time - asking questions such as how long it should be and what do you expect? She says about a paragraph long and still receives only three, undeveloped sentences. If my teacher spent twenty minutes one day writing and modeling a quality response to these types of questions, perhaps this would reduce the amount of questions and wasted time the next time this assessment is used and improve the quality of work the students turn in. Also interesting to note is that students panic when they need to write 5 sentences (which the teachers define as a paragraph). I am surprised that seniors in high school still can't or won't write developed paragraphs that fully answer the question. What's the deal, and why so much writing anxiety? I wish the teacher would address this.

Previous 20