A Mistake

Well, I’m going to quote Shakespeare and just say “the course of true love never did run smooth.” In case you haven’t guessed, by “true love” I mean “teaching.”

I was not supposed to start student teaching until February.  My Dean confirmed it.  The only problem?  No one told the Student Teaching office, who entered me into a student teaching contract for November.  It would not have been that big a deal, except that I found out about it the night of October 30, and was supposed to start teaching Monday, November 4.  I had no childcare lined up and had not contacted my new master teacher, among other things. Yikes.  Cue massive panic.

Still, it all shook out in the wash.  I’m counting it as a blessing in disguise that I didn’t know ahead of time about the assignment.  I had no time to fully freak out about it, since I was too busy freaking out about childcare.  I started Monday as planned, by some miracle and a lot of juggling on the part of my husband and my mother.  I love those guys.

The verdict?

This placement is magical, compared to my other one.  My master teacher has been SO supportive of my learning and my time in her class.  On day three, I was already taking some instruction.  I’ve adopted third period and we’re collaborating on lesson planning for The Crucible which they start on Tuesday.  The front office knew I was coming. I attended a school-wide PBIS (that’s Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) training on Thursday where the rest of the department welcomed me with open arms.

The school itself is a little rougher than the school I was at previously.  There’s a lot more violence in the community (though I think the poverty is about the same).   The school is 90% students of color – 75% hispanic, 15% African American. They’ve done away with trying to figure out who qualifies for free lunch and just serve free lunch to everyone.  Still, although the demographics in the community are rougher, the school has more support available, and I think that makes all the difference in the classroom.  Most notable is their Wellness Center that offers everything from group counseling to mindfulness and yoga.  My teacher has all 11th graders – 3 periods of English 11 and two periods of AP Language.  Aside from a rough 5th period, my master teacher’s classes are all sweet and well behaved.  And her 5th period reminds me of all three difficult periods I was dealing with at the other placement, so I still feel like it’s manageable.  They’ll teach me something, I’m sure.  I’ll try to be ready for them.

I have four weeks left in the classroom, and I’m excited about it.  Now the only thing I have to freak out about is learning everyone’s name.  Any tips, teachers?  This is the one thing I’m terrible at, and I know just how important it is.  Send your thoughts along.

New Assignments

Much has happened in the interim between posts.  Upon further reflection, I got to feeling like my existing placement wouldn’t be a good fit any longer.  To be honest, it was not a perfect fit to begin with, although it was definitely not bad.  But throw in a grieving teacher, and I just felt like it would be a disservice to both of us to continue working together.  It would invalidate the enormity of her loss to expect her to put it aside to mentor me, if she was even able to do so.  And in any case, I was unlikely to get the support I needed from the relationship.  I intend to make this my career, and I want to be good at it.  I know from all the classes I’ve taken that proper scaffolding and a low effective filter is necessary for that.

I pushed the University to re-assign me, and eventually they did.  It delayed student teaching, but it doesn’t delay my graduation date.  I’m just working on my Master’s Thesis a little early.  My only regret is that my (wonderful) previous University mentor isn’t in the new district, so I’ll be working with someone new.   Probably they will also be great, (I have never met a University supervisor who wasn’t) but you just never know until you’ve worked together, you know?

I received my new assignment and it’s MUCH closer to home – just west of my current city.  It’s a district that I might even consider working in after I get my degree.  I start in February, and hopefully I’ll have more tales of the classroom to relate then.

Lastly, I got news today that I’ve officially been hired as a substitute teacher at the district just east of my city.  Gotta get that classroom management experience however I can, right?  Anyone who has ever substituted can tell you about the cadre of documentation they need, so I’m still compiling all my transcripts and medical records and things.  But I should be back in the classroom within the month.  Cross your fingers for me.

All together, things are looking good.  We’ve paused, but it’s definitely the calm before the storm.  More later, when I have it.

A Realization


This week I had class at the university again.  A quick last meeting for all of us to regroup and say goodbye, but also for us to do some reflecting on the student teaching experience.

One of the things my favorite professor did was have us reflect like he used to have his new teachers reflect when he was a mentor.  We divided our pieces of yellow paper into four quadrants.  In the first, we wrote moments of victory.  In the second, we wrote about challenges we faced or areas to improve.  In the third, we committed to trying something new, and in the last we reflected on what we needed.

I felt fairly demoralized by the episode.  I KNOW how big a deal keeping a safe classroom environment is, and I relied a little too much on others to achieve that during my one week experience.  But in reflecting on what I need, I realized something.

Procedures and a classroom management plan aren’t really for the students.

I’ll say it again: Procedures and a classroom management plan aren’t really for the students.  They are for ME – so that I know where I am drawing the line with behaviors.  So I don’t have to sit in class and think to myself “is that offense bad enough?  But I haven’t warned them…  Maybe I should just let it go?  Or…?  If it gets worse I’ll definitely address it.  But how much worse…?”   If I have a policy, I don’t have doubts.  Maybe it helps students too, but they are not the primary person in need of the classroom management plan.

In our reflection boxes, I talked about how proud I was of myself for continuing to go into a VERY difficult situation.  I talked about how I was able to lesson plan very well on the fly, to the point where another teacher stopped me in the hall and told me how much she enjoyed watching me teach the previous day.  I committed to fake it ’til I make it with the gravitas I want to exude in front of students.  And I will get myself a concrete set of behaviors and consequences that I can use as my guide as I seek to gain greater control over the management of the classroom, while still taking restorative justice into account.  It’s no small task, but I’m up for it.

The Carrot

I’ve been in MANY classrooms at this point, and I’ve learned so much from each of them.  I’m trying to synthesize what I learned, and figure out what the good classrooms all do that are similar to each other.  I mean, I can download a Wong and Wong book and learn that they all have procedures.  But what kind, and what does that look like?  Are there procedures that everyone good has that aren’t in Wong and Wong?

And the answer, I have found out, is yes.  Every well-run classroom that I’ve seen to date has some sort of perk for the students when they exhibit good behavior.  You might call it the carrot to the discipline’s stick.  And no classroom I’ve been in has the same carrot, so obviously a wide variety of things will work.

Looking for your own carrot?  Here are some of the ones I’ve observed:


Image result for pick a pop

First, you get yourself some poster board, some styrofoam, or some peg board, and make yourself a 10×10 grid.  Then, you get a bag of Dum-Dums and color the bottom of 25 of them one color and 10 of them another color.  That means students have about a 1 in 3 chance of winning a prize.

Students get awarded a pop chance in different ways.  One teacher I observed allowed students to fill in what was essentially a bingo grid with their name whenever they answered a question or did something great.  (there was a lot of up and down from seats in the classroom because of this, though it seemed to work fine in her Mild/Moderate SpEd class of twelve). Once the board was full, she rolled a dice to see what column and row of student got to pick a pop.  She also had automatic pop picks, too, such as an A on a test.

The second teacher I observed handed out tickets whenever kids did something good (behaved well, answered a question, got a good grade, helped a friend), and the kids could redeem five tickets for a pop pick.

Both teachers hosted a giant pop pick on Fridays, when they facilitated either the redeeming of tickets or bingo-ing of names.

The pop picks work like this – the student has the whole board to choose from, and they pick a pop.  If the Dum-Dum has a color on the bottom of it, the student gets to pick a prize from a box.  Minor prizes like fun-sized candy, or whatever else your students will like, are in the box of the color you labeled with 25 dots.  Bigger prizes like earbuds, full-sized candy bars, cup of noodles, etc… are in the box of the color you labeled with 10 dots.  The teacher said she usually goes to Five Below and gets stuff for the big box.  Students who pull a pop with no color get to enjoy their Dum-Dum.   The Dum-Dums aren’t replaced until the whole board has been pulled.

Whole Class Reward:

At the beginning of the school year, one of the teachers I observed had the kids write down some perks they would like to receive for good behavior, keeping in mind that she was a poor teacher and couldn’t go wild.  Donuts, she suggested, or free homework passes, or whatever else they could think of.  Once the suggestions were in, she made a poster with the perks she had chosen covered up, but the amount of points to get to that perk were visible.

This was a Kagan Cooperative Learning classroom, and so the students were in groups.  Instead of pitting the groups against one another, she did tally group points individually, but all points counted to the class total.  When the class hit a milestone, the first perk was uncovered and they got to take advantage of it.  Students were usually eager to see what the next milestone would be, and they also would cheer on groups that didn’t have as many points, since that also benefited them.  She said it created a classroom community where everyone was rooting for everyone else.

The rewards were triggered as the students met them.

Classroom Party: 

This strategy is similar to the above strategy in that the classroom gets points when things are going well.  They also get points taken away, however, when they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to.  When the classroom reaches 25 points, they get to plan a party for themselves.  The only caveat?  The party can cost the teacher no money.  This gets the students thinking creatively about what they want to do, too.  This is also a good strategy for students who aren’t necessarily in groups, as it works for the whole class.

Play To Win: 

This strategy pits the teacher against the students every day.  Students get points for good behavior, and the teacher gets points when the students don’t behave.  If the students are ahead at the end of the class period, the points they’ve earned are subtracted from the points the teacher has earned, and the left over ones are converted to free time minutes.  If the teacher is ahead, those left-over points get converted to seconds that the class has to sit in silence after the bell rings.  If students are not still and silent during this time, the teacher just starts the countdown again.

The teacher hosts free time every other Friday, though the students DO have to have acquired fifteen minutes or more for that to happen.  The students don’t have devices in her class, so she’s brought in a bunch of board games and art supplies for the students to use.  They seem to really love it.

Free Time Fridays:

This is a more dire strategy, I think.  This teacher has a lot of students with behavioral problems, and students who also don’t complete their classwork.  She holds free time Fridays where students who have behaved well through the week and completed their work can have free time.  Students who still have homework to complete have to work on that homework and cannot have free time until it’s done.  Students who have not behaved throughout the week have to copy down a short history of gum and cannot have free time at all.

Those are the strategies I’ve experienced so far.  Is there another you’ve seen that you’d like to add to this list?  My favorite so far is the playing for points.

A Hiatus

Well, it all ended well. I was panicked and overwhelmed, but University of La Verne had my back and my supervisory teacher agreed to the delay. I’ll go into the classroom next semester for fifteen weeks, instead of five weeks this semester and ten next.

It’s all left me with a sense of inadequacy, honestly. I am trying to remind myself, though, that even teachers who intern are not thrown into the deep end like I was during this experience. Block periods and scant lesson plans alone would be enough to sink most people. And in a sink-or-swim trial, I definitely treaded water.

I now have another three weeks of babysitting, though, and nothing to do with that time. I’ve reached out to friends of mine who are in the classroom, both via Facebook and via text message, to see if maybe I can visit their classroom for a day. It’s yielded good results, and I’ll even be seeing how primary does it next week. My dad suggested that I sub for three weeks, but it seems like a lot of rigmarole to go through for not much payoff as it’s the end of the semester and all.

On the list to acquire is gravitas, and classroom management skills. We’ll see how that goes. I feel like I have a jump on the gravitas, since the absolute worst thing that could happen already has and I handled it fine. Not great, but fine. I’ll go into the classroom next semester with more confidence that I’ve got it. I have a classroom management seminar next Tuesday, so I’ll be getting some from ULV and some from friends with experience. I’m bound to pick up something useful, right? We’ll see.

And in the meantime, I’m going to be the best-prepared recruit going into next year, with all the extra observing I’m doing. Just watch.

Into Strangeness

Not sure what to share except that the last few days have been, basically, awful. It turns out that my ST’s son passed away in a freak accident. He was 22.

I have been both glad to be in the classroom and not. I’m glad I have been able to provide some sort of consistency to the students during this time, though they have not been told. I am a guest here and don’t dare give personal information without permission. So when asked I claim not to know anything. And honestly, I don’t know much more than the above.

By some strange miracle, my ST left enough work for us to (barely) make it through the week. With the help of some other site teachers, I’ve been cobbling together curriculum and teaching all 7 periods during block scheduling. Holding control of the classrooms myself would have been impossible, I think, so I’m glad a had a little support, albeit inconsistent.

My placement is also in limbo. My ST says she wants to come back to work, which means I could probably stay if I wanted to. We’ve lost a week, though, and we’ll lose another week at the end of the term to finals. There’s an out, if mutually agreed upon, where I can just postpone the whole thing, take an incomplete in my class, and do fifteen weeks of teaching all at once next semester. Stressful, but probably less stressful than trying to cram 5 weeks of work into 2 1/2. I’m hoping my ST will agree. And maybe even be relieved that she doesn’t have to expend mentorship energy at this time when I’m sure even functioning is hard.

I’ve been trying to figure out what I’ve learned, and I’m not sure I really learned anything valuable that I didn’t already. I’ve been joking around that I’m out of my ZPD (zone of proximinal development – the Goldilocks spot between too easy and too hard where you actually learn stuff. Too much teacher school?). It’s too hard, I’m too far buried in the trenches to make meaning out of anything.

Reinforced, though, was the knowledge that for my style I’ll need more procedures and structures than are currently present in my STs class – I just don’t manage by gravitas as well as she does- and that kids with not enough to do are the kiss of death for order.

Also, everyone at ULV from my professors, to my advisor, to the student teaching office, have had my back in huge ways. I’ve been so supported by them during this whole thing. They even professionally listened to me freak out and then gave me excellent advice on options.

I am supposed to have some kind of news on Sunday as to what is actually happening. I feel a little like a coward for hoping the news is in favor of postponement, but I do hope for that. Any good vibes your could send my way would be helpful.

More news as soon as I have it…

Both better and worse

Today started off like I wished yesterday had. My ST cleared a desk for me, and the office decided that I could have a pass after all. The woman who does the custom passes isn’t here this week, but they gave me the sub pass until then. I can get into all common areas, but not my ST’s room. Can I just say… Yay for peeing!

It ended with my worst nightmare, though. My ST got a call from her crying mother, saying something about her son. Luckily we only had one period left, but she basically rushed out of class without full sub plans… only an activity on Google Classroom for the kids that would take them about 1 hour of the 2 hour block period. The TA and I figured out who to call at the office and request a sub, since I’m not technically credentialed. But I taught the rowdy 9th graders for a block period without a full period’s worth of work for them.

It went surprisingly well, honestly. I’m not sure that the office understood that there was a student teacher in the classroom, because they knew it would be a few minutes after the bell rang until the sub could get there. The Principal popped in to find them all diligently working. I think that might have been a mark in my favor.

They were angelic until about an hour into class when I needed the sub’s help to call them to order again. And then they mostly faffed around in silence until the bell rang.

I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon, because classroom management is – shall we say somewhere I need to grow? I don’t have the gravitas of a long time teacher. But more than that, I realized that I didn’t feel like this was my classroom today, so it didn’t really matter. I was here to babysit, and nothing else. A bad attitude to have, I think, and the source of my problems. Exacerbated by the fact that I knew we didn’t have enough work to cover the entire class period, and so once their work was done I was hoping they would engage quietly in free time.

I realized today, too, that I’m trying to treat the students politely and as I would want to be treated. But that’s a two-way street. If they aren’t being respectful, then they can respectfully have privileges taken away. I need to remind myself that they are not adults. And they can be treated like adults, certainly, but only if they behave like them.

Block scheduling continues tomorrow, and I don’t yet know if my ST and family are okay. I really hope they are, but I also don’t want to text and bug her if it’s a real emergency. Her head should be with her son, I feel.

We’ll see how tomorrow goes. If nothing else, I’m going to learn a lot. Right?

The First Day

Okay, so I’m not really sure what a first day of student teaching is supposed to be like. I want to preface this thing with that note. However, I think I had a weird one…

Maybe it was just the chaotic block scheduling, but I arrived and no one seemed to know I was coming. And they knew I was coming. My University sent me official documentation, I texted with my ST before I came, and my ST forwarded me the official paperwork she received. I had observed for a few hours last semester so I kinda knew the front desk staff.

“I’m starting official student teaching today. Is there a different sign-in process for that than for observing?” I said.

“You’re starting what?”

“Student teaching.”

“And it was approved by the principle and the district and everything?”

(At this moment, I’m thinking frantically of the official paperwork. Was it right? I’m pretty sure it was right. There was no way all the copies of it could be wrong, right?) “Yeah,” I said.

“Well, we’re on block schedule today, so I’m not even sure your ST is here right now.”

She wasn’t. She has first period prep, and arrived about 45 minutes after I did. Sigh.

They sent me in with a paper pass, though everything in the building is opened electronically. Since I’m going to be there for the next five weeks, I was kinda hoping for bathroom access. No luck, it looks like. When I gently inquired, the front desk staff looked panicked and started chattering about administrators and permissions. I don’t want to rock the boat, so I dropped it. After all, rules are rules. I just wonder if all the subs are seeing yellow by the end of the day…? I’m there for longer than most subs and I’m fingerprinted and everything. Oh well. In the scheme of things, it’s not that big a deal.

I think I was just hoping to feel welcome, and maybe like I was at surrogate home. All I really need, though, is to jump through the hoops to credentials, so I will keep that in mind.

The day was good, though. The periods we had were the ELD Classes, whom I connected a little better with last semester. It was nice to see everyone again. And though there were faces missing, it’s because they transitioned out of ELD – hooray!

I’ll hopefully be taking over one period of that class next week. Their book has them writing an essay, and so I think I might try to scaffold it out for them over a few weeks. This is the group that would definitely be categorized as “emerging.” Much help needed. I’ve been reading a lot about culturally responsive teaching, and the essay they’re supposed to do -about a problem they identify in their community- fits the bill.

We see the seniors and the freshmen tomorrow, the ELLs again on Wednesday, the seniors and freshmen on Thursday, and then Friday is a rally day. Ah the trappings of high school. How weird it is to witness them as adults.

I sound really cynical, I realize, but I don’t totally feel that way. My head is swimming with lesson planning ideas, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. That’s not nothing.



I was reading back through this blog and realizing that it’s full of panic about Student Teaching.  I guess that’s fair, but I’m feeling much better about things now that they’re happening Monday.  What happened, you ask?  A prior Monday…

This last week (on Monday – I bet you didn’t guess that), we met for our first “Student Teaching Informational” class at my university.  Before the meeting I honestly thought that I would get maybe three days to figure things out with my Supervisory Teacher (ST) and then I would teach 4 periods immediately, jumping into the deep end without knowing how to swim.  I knew my University Mentor wanted me teaching the 2 periods ELL students, who I feel particularly unequipped to handle.

I found out at the meeting that this isn’t what’s expected, at all.  I won’t teach the first week, just observe.  I’ll take one period in week two and add another period each week until I’m teaching three periods simultaneously.  That’s it.  That’s all I have to do.  Plenty of prep time, plenty of time to ease into the role, and plenty of time to draw on my support sources if I need them.  Sigh.  SO MUCH BETTER than I was picturing.  I’ll still take the ELL classes (2 periods), and probably one of the Senior English classes.  They’re canned – no lesson planning! – and I can teach period 6 after observing my ST do period 5. Amazing.

I reached out to a couple of people before I started.  My favorite professor is sending me ELL resources.  My ST let me know what the kids are up to.  I’m kinda ready. I’m even thinking about lesson plans…

Most of the students are doing a career unit, including the ELLS.  They do this as Freshman, and I think a lot of the students are baffled by it.  I get that.  The things I wanted to do in 9th grade were not the things I wanted to do in 12th, and even the things I wanted to do in 12th were wildly different than what I ended up finishing college for.  I was going to be an actress back then.  But having them do this project early in their High School career can at least give them a path, some nebulous direction.  Can they veer from the path?  Certainly.  But I think that doing some critical thinking with them about why the High School wants them to jump through these hoops (ie, so they can plan for college, join the right clubs etc, picture their lives, but also know how to research careers when they inevitably change their minds), they’ll buy in a little bit.  Maybe.  But doing a “why” exercise with them brings in critical pedagogy, which is important. Fitting in the assignment to the schema they already come with.

Anyway.  I haven’t even been in the classroom yet, so I don’t know if this will actually work with where they are.  But it’s exciting to be excited.  Even if the excitement is probably covering a lesser version of the panic that had been there previously.  I can only do so much.



It is officially T-minus two weeks until I start student teaching. Frankly, I’m dreading it. Everyone I’ve talked to says I’ll have fun and I shouldn’t worry, but freaking out is kinda my MO.

Student teaching seems to be the worst possible thing to expect a person to do. Am I wrong? Here’s why I say that:

  • I am walking into a classroom where I have set nothing up for myself. I’ll be able to establish a FEW rules and procedures (maybe), but I’ll be cobbling together my teaching style with my supervisory teacher’s (ST’s) teaching style. They’re nothing alike, I don’t think. It’s basically going to be pedagogy Frankenstein.
  • I am walking into a difficult situation: 2 periods of ELD where I’ll be expected to teach students who are likely transferring out next year along with kids who need Google Translate just to understand any instructions. 2 periods of Senior English – senioritis anyone? One 7th period of Freshman who are DONE by 2:00 when I get them, and not mature enough to fake it.
  • I have to leave the baby with someone else. It’s going to be our first time apart for more than a day at a time. Cue mom bawling.
  • I am going into a classroom at the end of the year when everyone just wants out of there for the summer, even my ST.

That being said, I did really enjoy the week I taught last semester despite my less than stellar start. I’ll have to tell you about that sometime. There’s something so magical about students diligently working at a task you gave them. Not only that, but listening to how they’re trying to figure out their worlds and being able to offer a perspective is also rewarding. I think once I find my groove I’ll really enjoy the absurd social dynamics of it all. You know, in addition to breaking down stuff I love into parts I can teach to others. Breaking stuff into parts and structures is my favorite.

I listed my worries above because I’m hoping to use that list. Now that I know the difficulties I’m facing, I’m going to work to be as prepared as possible. I know my ST is VERY supportive and will be behind me in whatever lessons I want to present, however I want to present them.

So that leaves me with two things to figure out. How the heck do I teach an ELD class with nothing but the very nebulous state standards to guide me? And what procedures can I reasonably expect a class to pick up in five weeks?

I’ve been reading about ELD students like crazy and I’m emailing a professor I admire so we can have a quick “best practices” throwdown together. That coupled with the guidance of my ST and the literature will be enough to see me through, I think. I plan to filter everything through cultural responsiveness, a la Paulo Freire, as much as possible.

I’m also trying to think about what I would love that ELD classroom to be in a perfect world. Which is a safe space that belongs to the students where I can help them function in their daily classes a little better, but they guide instruction by what they need. I won’t get there, I don’t think. Not in 5 weeks. But I’ll maybe get closer.

I’m still trying to figure out the procedures thing. I plan to assign little to no homework, since the kids don’t do it anyway. Whether this is lack of technology at home, disinterest in the assignments, or just too many after school responsibilities, I will never know. But I’m working with what I have.

I’ll do a call and response thing to get student attention (I’m thinking “Hey class?” “Hey teach!”), and I’m thinking about possibly instituting a free time/ points reward system. I don’t know if I’ll do this for all the classes, but I’m seriously considering it for the freshmen, who seem to need extra structure. And, of course, it will depend on what my ST thinks.

Lastly, I’m going to try and meet with my ST before I have to go in for my first day so I can find out where they are in their units and read any books I need to read.

There’s no real help for the uncertainty I’m feeling, though. I think we should be honest about that. The real strategy I’m employing that I think will see me through the best is what I call “let’s rock and roll.” And that’s where you show up with your game face on and just take whatever comes as best you can. I’ll try and trust my gut, because it’s hardly wrong, and get to know those kids as much as possible in the short time I have them. It’s going to be a mess, but hopefully it will be a glorious one that we can all learn a lot from.

Cross your fingers for me. And if you have any nuggets if wisdom about student teaching to share, please pass them along.