Sunday, February 13, 2011

In which student teaching begins

As those of you on the facebook know, it has been a really good week; I started student teaching, I received passing scores on my Spanish CSETs and I got accepted to the APLE grant, which is a loan assumption program for up to $11,000 if I agree to teach foreign language classes in California for four years.

Student teaching has been good so far. I think I'm really going to enjoy working with my master teacher because we have fairly similar attitudes and approaches to teaching. She's a really awesome teacher and I hope I can learn a lot from her. The classes I'm in are ELD (English Language Development, also known as ESL or English as a Second Language). I probably would have been student teaching for Spanish, but I didn't pass my CSETs early enough, but I did pass the English CSETs in November. It's actually pretty lucky to be teaching in ELD, something I'm actually interested in, rather than in a regular old English class. I'm pretty sure I would hate teaching regular English.

I love working with the kids in the ELD classes, but it is hard. The hardest part right now is figuring out what proportion of foreign language to English to use (legally, 100% English, but whatever). Obviously, I don't speak every language, so this really applies only to our Spanish and Arabic speakers in my case. But considering that the lowest level class is more than half native Spanish speakers, this is coming up a lot for me. It's also difficult because different kids need or want different amounts of Spanish. I had one kid tell me, "I speak English, you know." Kid, I know you speak English, but you need to respond when I speak to you in English. Also, I really like to speak Spanish, so that makes it hard as well.

It's also kind of weird student teaching at the high school that I graduated from because I'm working with a totally different class of kids. When I was in high school, I was in all AP/honors classes and I basically only interacted with the same. The ELD students are basically disenfranchised from most school things. The only AP classes any of them are allowed to take is AP Spanish or AP math classes. Technically, it's illegal to not even let ELD students try the tests, but the unfortunate part is that none of their parents are going to do anything about it since they're immigrants who don't speak much English themselves and they aren't familiar with the system. That's really depressing for me. The other thing I noticed during this week's rally is that the "big" organizations like student government and cheerleading are overwhelmingly blond. There were a couple of students from the ELD classes who performed in the rally; they were in the hip  hop dance club. Again, super depressing to see these kids not being able to/not being welcome to participate in a lot of the other aspects of school life. The good news is that the ELD students really have a tight community. My master teacher leaves her class open at lunch and there are always 30 or more kids in there everyday and they're all really nice to each other.

I'm still not sure if I will want to be an ELD teacher myself. I wouldn't be opposed to it necessarily, but rather I think it is just a huge time and emotional investment and I don't know that I could/would want to do that. Teaching Spanish or something seems a lot easier (not that I've ever taught a Spanish class). But I do think I'm really going to enjoy teaching ELD for student teaching.

The other depressing aspect of ELD teaching is that my master teacher is, in theory supposed to keep to the same scope and sequence schedule as all the regular English classes. That is insane. Luckily, the principal at the school is sympathetic to the cause, since she is familiar with ELD teaching, so we aren't really expected to do it, but the idea is to keep along as much as possible. Essentially, the state expects magic from ELD teachers.

In other things: I rode my bike to school four days this week. It doesn't even take that long: about 10 minutes including traffic lights, etc. It takes about 15 to get home since I have to ride uphill (wah womp). I've been trying to keep up on my Arabic studying (CSETs in May, ugh), but I think it's going to be difficult to maintain it what with circus and lesson planing and what I call my social life. I got a book of Nizar Qabbani poems, which is pretty awesome. They're short poems so it's basically like bite-sized pieces of Arabic that I can look at for a few minutes when I have some downtime. Whereas when I read a book or something, I need to know I have at least an hour or so to do it, otherwise I won't even get started.  Apropos of nothing, my new favorite phrase is "Japanese bondage festive." The combination of the words (and I suppose surrounding context that will remain secret) just makes me chuckle.

I think I'm going to try to blog at least once a week, in part so I can think about/share my thoughts on student teaching and because I don't think I have more time to blog than that.

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