I had an amazing experience in this wonderful class of 20 1st grade students. I was reminded every single day how unique the class was, due to the fact that 7 of them had tested GT, and a large chunk of the remaining 13 were prospective GT students. Reading levels varied from our lowest at level "D", to our highest, reading at a high school level "Y". I was challenged every day to scaffold my teaching so as not to leave any child behind. It was a great experience for me to learn how to differentiate my lessons to challenge the minds of my GT kids with higher level thinking, while finding a lower ground to meet those children who needed a basic understanding of the concepts being taught. The classroom had a relaxed atmosphere where children felt comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas, and even at the young age of seven, these children were learning how to be responsible problem solvers who could be independent and take pride in their own ability.
As a student teacher I participated in any duty that was asked of my mentor teacher. From running the car pool line and monitoring play at recess, to loading the buses after school, I saw how routines are an important part of every second of the school day. Having specific guidelines and procedures makes it clear to teachers, students and parents what is expected while on the campus. I learned the importance of teacher interaction, and realized that working as a team is what keeps the system running smoothly. When the whole campus has a clear understanding of what is expected of them, it is easier on the students and parents to abide. Consistency is key and it was clear to me that fulfilling the duty with a positive attitude made all the difference in getting students from "A" to "B" in a safe and systematic way.
I began my student teaching experience with observations of the routines of my mentor teacher. I quickly added on responsibilities in small group and mini lessons, and made my way to teaching the full school day. I was under full responsibility of the class for four weeks during my 12 week student teaching program, and during that full responsibility I was expected to plan and create any and all lessons under the guidelines of the scope and sequence laid out for first grade. In addition, I took on the responsibility of all teacher duties, and parent contact throughout those weeks. I implemented a new behavior management system with the students, and established myself as a leader while building relationships and getting to know the tendencies and diversities of first graders.
I had the opportunity to observe the routines and strategies of various grade level teachers throughout my campus. Procedures, classroom set up and organization, classroom management practices, and technology use in the classroom were the main areas that I focused my attention. I enjoyed seeing the variations throughout the classrooms, and appreciated the alignment that I observed across grade levels. Having an idea of what to expect at each grade level will prepare me greatly. Also, observations made by my student teaching supervisor of my own teaching practices proved to be very positive, and I received great feedback of what to change and implement as I teach. I felt that the situations I personally observed, as well as the evaluations I received of my own teaching, proved to be a valuable learning experience that I will be able to refer back to.
While student teaching I was actively involved in the process of designing and building Pebble Creek Elementary's Learning Garden. Through careful planning, we were able to obtain a grant enabling us to transform a space in front of the school into a place for inquiry and discovery. It took us over 20 hours and close to 30 flexible volunteers to build a safe environment for our students to learn from nature. The most rewarding part was to see all of our hard work pay off, as our first graders were able to begin planting in order to put our ideas in action. Seeing the transformation of the overgrown, wasted, outdoor space into a functional part of our school made all the hard work worth while. The garden will include an outdoor classroom, weather station, discovery lab area, sensory garden, butterfly garden, various vegetable and herb gardens, and even a worm farm! Students' learning will be transformed in this place and I am proud that I was a part of the creation!
Additional Teaching Experience:
- Administered DRA's
- Administered Running Records
- Planned and taught Read-Aloud and Direct Teach lessons to 21 fourth grade students
- Planned and taught mini-lessons according to the needs of selected case study student
-Documented observations through anecdotal records of case study student
- Assisted in a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade class over the course of two years throughout high school
- Taught small group Science and Language Arts lessons
- Supervised Field Trips and Student Holiday Celebrations
- Member of Texas Association of Future Educators
- Attended workshop training in technology use in the classroom, brain breaks and ice breakers, and incorporating the arts into the classroom.