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Through the Eyes of a Student

From one of my 8th grade art classes with my cooperating teacher at Hays Consolidated Independent School District’s Dahlstrom Middle School, I selected a student to interview in order to witness literacy from a student’s perspective. From this interview, I learned that some students do enjoy reading and realize that it opens new opportunities for learning and exploring. I also found that although personal reading can be enjoyable to some students, academic reading is disdained and thought to be uninteresting. With this knowledge, I was able to take a new look at literacy.

I selected my student, “Lee”, because she seems to be focused and creative. Throughout my entire internship, she has always been drawing personal illustrations or reading a book during class because she has already completed the assignment and her end results are always skillful and expressive. Selecting Lee would not disrupt her classwork and may give me valuable insight from an excelling student.

I began the interview with a general interest survey. Lee seems to embody a typical 8th grade student as she likes to listen to pop music, watch television, and hang out with friends. She also expressed experiencing stress from school. Lee does enjoy reading, writing, and even acting, though, so she may be more artistic or creative than an average middle school student. From the writing and reading surveys, I found that Lee enjoys both reading and writing for personal reasons. She often partakes in these activities when she wants to escape from her world or learn something new and she feels that she has refined literacy skills. I was surprised to find that Lee understands that literacy is key to succeeding in life as she explained to me that one must have literacy skills to achieve in the adult world. “Literacy empowers people by allowing students to do better in all of their classes when they can read and write well,” she expressed. Literacy is an important life skill and some middle school students realize this fact.

After interviewing Lee, I began to explore how I could her with her reading and writing skills. Lee mentioned that she has trouble focusing on academic reading because she finds it uninteresting. She also felt that she had limited time to read and write and that she wishes she had more to devote to it. In order to help her, I devised a reading strategy for her to utilize. I taught Lee a strategy that I use myself when reading academic texts in college, a kind of graphic organizer that could help a creative, artistic, and visual student like herself. When I read uninteresting texts that I have trouble focusing on or texts that I would like to retain or easily study from at a later date, I keep my mind busy with colored pens. I underline connections I make in dark blue, references to outside texts in light blue, facts I find interesting in purple, and wordings I don’t understand in orange. I explained to Lee that this keeps me busy while reading and helps me collect the information, then later, I am easily able to find topics. Lee was excited to use this technique and thought it was a perfect solution to her focusing issues. She agreed to use the technique and report back to me later.

After Lee was given the chance to use my reading technique, she reported positive results. Because she defines herself as a visual learner who requires multitasking in order to learn, she found my color-coding technique to help her immensely. Relating the technique to doodling during a lecture, she explained, “highlighting with different colors works well with me because I like color-coordination and know how to use it well.” She did however mention that because school textbooks are borrowed, she was not able to use the technique with those texts.

From interviewing and tutoring a student from an art class at Hays Consolidated Independent School District’s Dahlstrom Middle School, I was given the opportunity to view literacy within a new perspective. After talking with middle school student, Lee, and teaching her a new technique, I was given the chance to explore her thoughts and discover her insights. From this interview, I was able to witness literacy through the eyes of a student.


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Introspective Internship

Thank You, Mrs. Bandy

Thank You, Mrs. Bandy

For the past seven weeks I have participated within an internship at Hays Consolidated Independent School District’s Dahlstrom Middle School with my mentor teacher, Mrs. Bandy. I have been observing and working with her first and third period 8th grade art classes and her second and fourth period 7th grade classes. I have also taught the occasional fifth period 7th grade class. From this beginning opportunity to teach and work with students first-hand, I have observed my own strengths and weaknesses and can use this fresh knowledge to help become a more successful and effective educator in the future.

While working with the students, I have found that I tend to focus on optimism. When students feel that they can’t accomplish something, I point out something they can accomplish and provide ways that they can integrate their strengths in order to help with their weaknesses. I also used positive Anticipatory Sets when I delivered my lesson plan. I created a lesson plan that would help students work through their problems by illustrating them within an abstract painting. To begin the activity, each student wrote the name of something or someone that supports him with his problem on a gray slip of paper that was cut out to look like a brick. Each student then pasted his “brick” on a poster to create a class “Wall of Support.” On a previous day, I had the students write down their problems and shred them to pieces to symbolically symbolize the removal of that problem from affecting our lives. These activities highlighted the positives within our lives and showed that we can use art to help us work through our problems.

I feel that I am skilled at having students review information that they have previously learned and connect current learning with prior knowledge. I find myself constantly questioning students, even when lecturing, to have them interact with me, stay focused, and make the instruction more like a dialect than a lecture. Whenever students ask me, “Does this look good?” I always ask them what they think. After telling me what they think of it, I then ask questions about if they met the criteria, or how they think they could improve the artwork. I believe that I have a student-centered teaching style, which I think benefits the students and helps them to direct their own learning.

I also believe that I have a creative talent that allows me to create interesting lessons that can retain my students’ focus. When I was preparing for my second period lesson during my first period, my 8th grade students saw the materials for the lesson and began questioning me.

“Ooh, what are those?! Is that what we’re going to be doing next?” one student inquisitively asked.

“No, unfortunately this is for the 7th grade class next period,” I responded.

“What?! I didn’t do that last year!”

“Ah, well this is the lesson that I designed; it’s not one of Mrs. Bandy’s.”

“Aww, I wish you could teach us a lesson…”

Although I was sad that the 8th graders weren’t going to be able to partake in my lesson, it did give me encouragement that I’m able to create interesting and intriguing lessons that students actually want to partake in. I also feel that my creativity allows me to create eye-catching and easy-to-read PowerPoints and fun and energizing Anticipatory Sets that allow the students to interact with each other and move about the classroom. Thinking about the students, I always try to plan something that will allow them to move and speak, since most of their class days are occupied with instruction to sit and be quiet. From this knowledge, I will strive to base the majority of my instruction around student-centered learning and provide many opportunities for students to interact with the lessons.

Because I have a student-centered teaching style, I also try to modify my teaching to fit each student’s needs. I have made the effort to learn each student’s name and to learn about their lives. I know some of my students’ interests and hobbies, the fact that they recently moved to a new house, or even their favorites music or video games. I have also tried to speak with the students between passing periods or wave to them when I pass them in the halls. During instruction, I allow all students to participate and try to call on the ones who are less eager to speak up. If a student seems to be struggling, I will guide him with easier questions. I focus on allowing every student to participate and be involved within my lessons. I believe that recognizing each student as an individual and getting to know him on a personal level is incredibly important in furthering his education and making him feel able and appreciated.

Because I believe that fostering a supportive classroom environment promotes student learning, I strive to include all of my students in an inclusive community. By learning my students’ names and using them as I talk with them or call on them, I demonstrate that I care about getting to know my students and view them as individuals. I also focus on reaching my students as individuals, noting that some students will need to be called on in order to focus during a lecture while others enjoy participating often. As I mentioned earlier, I attempt to ask struggling students guiding questions to help lead them to the correct answers, while also teaching thought-processes so that the students will be better able to self-direct in the future. In a classroom full of a variety of students, it is imperative to reach each of them individually.

Making sure that each person feels valued is another important factor in creating a community. I want all of my students to have the opportunity to speak in class, so I ask that students raise their hands to speak and make sure that the class is quiet and listening when that person speaks. When there is class chatter when a student is speaking, I ask the class to mute their voices and allow the student to repeat what was said. I want my students to realize that each person’s thoughts and ideas are important. I also present this idea within my anticipatory set. After each student wrote the name of someone or something that helps support him through his problems, I instructed them to place their writings on a poster to create a class “wall of support.” I informed students to place their writing on a blank section of the poster and not to cover up the writing of another student because every student is important and has something to contribute. We wouldn’t have a complete class “wall of support” without each student’s contribution and no student’s contribution is any more valuable than another’s.

Finally, I believe that in order to receive respect, one must give respect. I aim to treat all of my students with respect as I act professionally and politely. I try to thank my students for their participation and attention and ask for their focus with an added “please.” During my instruction, I apologized to Ryan when I mistook him for Evan, showing him that I recognized that I made a mistake and that I can make errors when learning names. If students respect the instructor, they will be more inclined to behave, pay attention, accomplish objectives, and ultimately learn. Respect is a key trait within a successful learning environment.

From this experience, I have witnessed ways in which I can improve my instruction to better suit my students and allow them to learn from my lessons.

I believe that there are several ways that I could modify my instruction to benefit my students. Naturally, I speak quickly. This may prove difficult for some students to follow, especially my English Language Learners as they may struggle to keep pace or to interpret words at the rate that I speak them. It may also challenge native English speakers when speaking about foreign or new concepts. With this new realization, I will challenge myself to keep pace of my speech and to speak more slowly. This new speed may also help my grammar and annunciation as there were brief moments when I tripped over my own words or spoke in an incorrect manner using incorrect sentence structure. By slowing down and focusing more on what I am saying, I should be able to simplify my messages and improve my communication.

Time management seems to be a weakness of mine, as well. In one instance, I ended class a few minutes before the bell rang, creating several minutes of wasted time in which students socialized and waited for class to end. Although this time was only three to four minutes long, it could have been better utilized. Other instances, however, I gave students the rest of class to work on an assignment only to have the bell ring shortly afterwards. This did not give the students much time to work and meant that they would need class time from a future class to finish the assignment. This also meant that closure was not given appropriately in some class periods. As the class periods progressed, I found myself better able to manage time, but managing time appropriately is still something that I need to practice.

Lastly, I feel that my classroom management skills could be improved. There were several moments throughout my lessons in which students would talk amongst themselves or even call out inappropriately in an obtrusive manner. By improving my sense of classroom awareness and better utilizing body language and proximity, I should be able to retain my students’ attention more successfully. I need to focus on reaching my less-attentive students and possibly work on my movement about the room during instruction. I found that I tend to stay in the same position when instructing and only tend to circulate the classroom during individual work. By circulating during all forms of instruction, I can better train my students to remain attentive and focused.

This teaching opportunity has given me the chance to learn from experience in preparation of teaching my own classroom of students. I have learned of my strengths and weaknesses, have noticed my attention to fostering a supportive learning environment amongst my students, and have devised ways that I can improve my instruction. I now have newfound knowledge of my own teaching styles and preferences and can now better utilize my talents while focusing on overcoming my challenges. Because of this performance opportunity, I feel better prepared to teach.


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Observing Literacy in the Classroom

Within my internship at Hays Consolidated Independent School Districts’ Dahlstrom Middle School, I have had the opportunity to observe and learn. Throughout this experience I have watched teachers work with their students and have had the chance to notice how literacy is being implemented in today’s classrooms. I have observed a 7th grade art class, 8th grade math class, and 6th grade art class. From these observations, I have witnessed clear examples of utilizing literacy in the classroom and have comprised ways in which literacy can be better utilized.

At Dahlstrom Middle School, students are encouraged to expand upon and use their literacy skills constantly. In art class, they are assigned to draw cursive names, utilizing their cursive English skills and in math class they are required to write about the purpose of proportionality. Students are expected to be able to read and write and to be able to communicate within these means in order to learn and grow. During advisory period every Monday, students must silently read for a set period of time, further encouraging students to keep books on them and to read them during class and within free time. From this activity, I have noticed that many Dahlstrom students have fostered a love of reading and will partake in the act whenever possible. Students are also engaged in class discussions often, allowing them to hear from other students and to share their own thoughts and ideas with their peers. During class discussions, students learn from each other as they practice their talking and listening skills. Communication skills are an important part of the Dahlstrom Middle School curriculum.

Recently, Dahlstrom Middle School has adopted a new set of graphic organizers to help students arrange their thoughts and retain information. Every content area within the school must use a unit organizer that visually shows the purpose of a lesson and how it relates to prior knowledge and key ideas. These unit organizers include graphs and images in which students write information pertaining to the lesson. Paired with the unit organizers are FRAME routines that also arrange information in a graphical way. Similar to the unit organizers, the FRAME routines include blank graphics from which the students must fill in with information in order to create a logical organization of information. Because all of the content areas at Dahlstrom have adopted this form of visual learning, literacy will be enhanced among the students and utilized in the same way amongst all classes.

While Dahlstrom is making an effort to improve literacy amongst its students, I have ideas in mind that may help even further. I have noticed a lack of outside resources used within the classes such as audio and visual sources. Examples or demonstrations from videos, the Internet, or other sources could be utilized within the classrooms to increase interest in the subject and broaden students’ pool of knowledge. I have also noticed a lack of research done within the classes as the library and computer labs remain underutilized. It has been explained that these resources are difficult to utilize during class time because of approval requirements, but if these requirements were made easier to achieve, the students could benefit from conducting their own research and directing their own learning. Even if computers were not easily accessible, students could research from texts within and outside of the classroom. Any chance for students to learn from an outside source will help broaden his views and expand his mind.

Overall, it seems that Dahlstrom Middle School is successfully integrating literacy amongst its curriculum. Students are required to read and write within their classrooms and are given the opportunities to speak and listen to each other’s points of views. Students are engaged in a wide variety of activities and benefit from different teaching styles. Instructional frameworks are used alongside graphic organizers, and vocabulary and comprehension is emphasized. I am thankful to have this opportunity to witness literacy being successfully integrated within a middle school in such a way that benefits students and improves the effectiveness of instruction.


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Stocking my Classroom Management Tool Box

While in my internship, I have been able to observe and practice, learn and grown, and pick up tricks from my mentor teacher and others around me. Throughout this time at Hays Consolidated Independent School District’s Dahlstrom Middle School, I have been able to add tools to my own personal Classroom Behavior Management Tool Box.

I believe the most important tool in my toolbox is that of respect. I have noticed that when your students respect you as the authority figure, classroom management is easier to handle. When students have respect for you, they will try their best to keep you happy and will not purposely try to upset you. Sometimes my mentor teacher will questions her misbehaving students about their level of respect for her, asking, “Why are you acting like this? Don’t you respect me?” When your students understand their relationships with you, it will be more of a partnership making your job easier.

Another option that one has when managing the classroom is arrangement of the classroom. When assigning seats for students, the instructor has control and is better able to manage behavior. My mentor teacher uses this option extensively as she moves students daily. She separates students who are not able to work successfully together and moves students to prevent distractions. She tends to place the students who require more attention near her desk and will place students in solitary areas of the classroom when they socialize extensively. By taking control of the arrangement of the classroom, you will also be able to control the behavior within the classroom.

Proximity, of course, is another important strategy. Students are less likely to misbehave when they are close to the instructor. Similar to placing students near the instructor’s desk, the instructor may move himself closer to the misbehaving student to prevent further misbehavior or to discourage future disruptions. When students see an instructor moving closer, they tend to redirect their attention and focus towards the assigned work and will oftentimes put away any distractions they may have had out. When a teacher circulates the room, he is better able to be aware of the classroom’s behavior and is also better able to address it. Students are less likely to misbehave when the instructor is on patrol.

A successful instructor should have a well-stocked Classroom Behavior Management Tool Box consisting of a wide variety of tips and tricks. Thankfully I am having the opportunity to well-stock my tool box before entering the profession. I am hoping to find great use from my Classroom Behavior Management Tool Box in the future.

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Comfortable Beginnings

Today ended the second day of my internship at Hays Consolidated Independent School District’s Dahlstrom Middle School with my mentor teacher, Ms. Bandy.

So far, I have been thoroughly enjoying my experience and feel that middle school could be the place for me. The students are lively, entertaining, and rambunctious, but can be controlled with proper classroom procedure. They all seem to enjoy my mentor teacher, which gives me enthusiasm as I hope to be a beloved teacher some day.

Everything seems to be just about what I was expecting. Some students remain working the entire period, while some need constant reminders to stay on task. Others will completely refuse to work. The lunch period is short and the teachers are required to eat quickly in order to return to class on time. The school requires that all teachers teach a core subject during second period, so twice now I have seen my mentor teacher struggle to teach math to her art students. There are definitely restrictions and challenges in the schools, but seeing the positive impact that Ms. Bandy is having on her students is inspiring.

One thing I was not expecting is the level of quality coming from Ms. Bandy’s students. From the work I’ve seen in class and hanging in the hallways, her students seem to be surpassing what I thought was typical of a middle school artist. I am pleased by what I have been seeing and know that I can now raise my expectations if I am to teach middle school. Ms. Bandy’s students are also very knowledge about specific art terms such as gradation, value, depth, shade, and tone.

In Ms. Bandy’s classroom, she has posted the rules about noise level. Whenever she is talking, such as during lecture, taking attendance, or giving announcements, students should not be talking at all. When students are working, however, and Ms. Bandy is not talking, students are allowed to talk quietly. Ms. Bandy also has a few “Drive Your Own Device” signs posted. When I asked her about the signs, she explained that students are allowed to use their electronic devices in class, but for educational or music purposes only. They may use them to play music through headphones or to look for reference images and inspiration on line to help them create art.

I have been challenging myself to learn Ms. Bandy’s students’ names and feel that I should know them all soon. I have been paying attention during roll-call and whenever students are called to the front to try and catch their names. I have also been occasionally asking for students’ names or overhearing their friends using their names. I’ve also been trying to find individualities to match the names, such as Griffin is extremely friendly and talkative, Ana is shy and emotional, Emma is stylish and popular, and Shauna is quiet and seems sad all the time.

So far, I am enjoying my experience and look forward to getting to know each of the students. I am excited to watch their progress and to help them along the way. I also feel very comfortable and it seems like I am being well-received by the students. There was a substitute teacher today, so I mainly led the class and students treated me as they would any other teacher. I was even asked how to turn in choir money, to sign hall passes, and when report cards would be coming out. So far, I have felt completely prepared for this experience and believe that I am on the right trail.