Today allowed me to improve upon my teaching from yesterday.
The day began with 2nd Grade, a class in which I hadn’t actually taught yet. Because I was unfamiliar with the lesson, I asked my teacher to teach the first class yesterday so that I would be better prepared to teach today. The students were painting flower still lives inspired by Vincent Van Gogh. At one point, a student pointed to the picture of Starry Night behind me and exclaimed, “He’s famous for painting that painting, too!”
I’m incredibly embarrassed for responding, “No, that was painted by Vincent Van Gogh. That’s a different artist.”
It wasn’t until the next time that I said Van Gogh’s name that I realized my mistake, corrected myself, and apologized to the student. I don’t know where my mind was at! I need to make sure that I’m on top of my artists for the future. On a side note, I’m completely stunned that a second grader recognized Starry Night and its artist!
During 1st and 3rd Grade was when I was really able to improve my teaching. I focused on what I learned from yesterday and the suggestions made by my university supervisor. During the 1st Grade demonstration of drawing a dinosaur from observation using size, shape, and position to help you, I made sure to demonstrate the planning process with the students. I motioned with my finger before I drew and began by drawing a bad example and asking the students, “Is this what I’m looking for? Is this right, or is it too small?” They were all eager to shout out that I had drawn my dinosaur too small and needed to make it bigger. I also focused on distractions and made sure that they were removed from the students. I had to move my teacher’s wheeled office chair when one student began messing with it and had to inform another student to put away the toy that he was playing with. I also set a daily expectation for my 1st Grade students, telling them that they needed to complete their dinosaur drawings today and if they were able to, they could move on to coloring. The biggest change I made was making sure that I was looking across the entire room constantly, rather than looking from one student’s work to the next. It can be difficult to remember when you’re trying to see where the students are at and if you can help them!
Another big improvement I felt I made was with my 3rd Grade students. They are creating collages inspired by Piet Mondrain’s simplistic primary-colored paintings. I took what I learned from yesterday’s class and used it to help out today’s class. I was able to tell the students to glue their primary colors before gluing their black outlines, rather than gluing the outlines and trying to cut out a shape to fit inside the outlines, like yesterday’s class did. I also challenged the students to create more complicated and intricate designs with smaller shapes and emphasized that Mondrian worked with squares, rectangles, and vertical and horizontal lines. This prevented students from wanting to work with triangles and diagonals like the previous class.
I’m really happy with the improvements I made and I feel that the students’ work benefited from the changes. It seemed much stronger today than it did yesterday.
Today, I was also given the chance to create a teacher-made example of the Kindergarten lesson during my lunch break. My cooperating teacher is reading The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle to the Kindergarten students and having them create a collaged flower using cut-up strips of pre-painted paper. The paper is the leftover paper from the 2nd Grade lesson last week in which they painted pieces of paper in different colors and then cut them up to create collaged insects. My cooperating teacher explained that she will also use the leftovers after this Kindergarten lesson to allow the 1st Grade students to create collaged caterpillars after reading Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I like that she uses leftovers from different lessons to create new lessons from different students.
I was actually surprised because my cooperating teacher commented on my teacher-made example, today, something she’s never done before. “Wow, I really like your flower!” she said, “It turned out really well.” She explained that she liked that I used more pastel-like colors that were more blended together and more transparent than the flat, saturated, tempera colors that the students were actually using. After seeing my example, she said that she was now going to change the lesson to end up more like my artwork, with more transparent, pastel, blended colors. She was happy to have the inspiration.
After school, I attended a staff meeting with my cooperating teacher. I brought food to contribute to the potluck and tried a few odd desserts. The meeting began with the introduction of a short agenda and I immediately noticed that much of the meeting wouldn’t apply to my teacher and myself. The meeting covered testing, holding students back a grade, flagging students that need assistance, and other homeroom teacher duties. Anytime a paper was handed out, the principal told the person handing out the paper, “Only the homeroom teachers need that. The Specials don’t need it.” The only paper we ended up getting was the calendar for the rest of the school year. We did get an Easter egg filled with candy, too, though. I liked that the staff meeting seemed fun, lighthearted, and lively. There was food and decorations and freebies and everyone seemed to like being there. At the same time, the meeting points were serious, though. I was intrigued to hear the school’s process for holding back students and the fact that it was incredibly student-centered. The principal explained that a student will only be held back if it’s in the student’s best interest. If the student’s been held back before, then they won’t do it again because it’s not effective. If the parents veto the proposal, it won’t happen. All cases are looked at on a one-on-one basis. I really enjoyed hearing that they’re really looking out for what’s best for the students. They even mentioned that if a student is too big and would be much bigger and older than the other students, they won’t hold him back. I was also interested in the fact that the principal stated the being held back has been linked with emotional trauma later in life, including divorce. I never knew that!
After the meeting, I mentioned to my cooperating teacher that it didn’t seem like much of the meeting applied to her. She explained that most of them are like that and hardly anything ever applies to her.
At least there’s food!
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle