Sunday, March 6, 2011

More on student teaching experiences

I've now done a month of student teaching. I am not sure I have  ever been this exhausted before. Student teaching on its own wouldn't be so bad, but then I have my student teaching seminar once a week, and circus every day. Essentially, I have no down time. I'm looking forward to spring break, even though I'm going to be working during it.

It's interesting working with the lowest level ELD class. In that class, most of them are Spanish speakers, there's one guy who speaks Arabic and one guy who speaks Vietnamese. So I can communicate with everyone, except this Vietnamese kid. I keep saying things like "This weekend I'm going to start learning Vietnamese!" because it's frustrating for me not not be able to speak the other person's language when I'm trying to teach. I guess this is how my master teacher feels pretty much every day; I don't know how she does it. This Vietnamese kid came to class late in the year, so he knows even less English than the other guys in the class. This week, I brought in a really good picture dictionary that has English and Arabic words with each picture. I let him flip through it and point things out to me that he wanted to learn. From this, I learned that he likes chess, motorcross and boxing. The problem came in when he pointed to the Arabic transliteration listed with each picture, asked "what's this?" and then proceeded to try to pronounce the Arabic words of things. Which is dandy, except he barely knows any English, so the last thing he needs right now is Arabic vocabulary. I'm going to be so mad if that kid learns Arabic.

One of my classes is for "long term" ELD students and this particular class is mostly for kids who need accommodations. About one-third of them have IEPs so the class is basically one big accommodation. This is interesting for me to teach, since I am not really familiar with the low end of the academic spectrum. There's one girl, in particular, who I keep noticing. I can tell she's trying, but she just can't quite make it happen. She gets this look on her face that's so sad when she gets things wrong. Normally, if you wanted to be smarter, my advice would be, "read everything all the time," but you can't say that to someone who has a 3rd-grade reading level (well, you can say it, but that would make you the asshole in this case).

We started doing a whole-class SSR for this period. So, either my master teacher or I reads outloud for 10ish minutes, and then we ask the students to draw a picture of what they understood. They're actually pretty interested in the story, which I was surprised about. They all stay quiet. I've only heard one or two people complain that it's "stupid." Traditionally for SSR, students read on their own, but with this class that would be a total disaster. Probably none of them would bring something to read, so we would have to provide it, and then I'm sure they wouldn't get as much out of it as when we read outloud. This is something I want to incorporate into my class, when I start teaching on my own. Even if I'm teaching a first  year language class, I think it would be beneficial. Students would be exposed to more vocabulary than just what they get from their textbook, they would see the language in action, in context sooner, and it would make reading in the target language accessible. My master teacher pointed out that the only problem with that plan is that I'd have to provide all the books myself. I pretty much collect books anyway, so I don't see that as much of a detriment.

In other topics, I am finally going to go to Mexico! Despite spending most of my life in reasonable proximity to Mexico, I have never been there. In fact, I've never been to any Spanish-speaking country, which simply offends my sense of decency. Once student teaching is over, I'm going to Mexico City to sightsee and, as I put it to one friend, "look at museums and buy handicrafts." I'm super excited about it. Both my parents have told me that they will not stop worrying the whole time, since I'm going by myself. I told them too bad, since I'd already booked my tickets. It ends up being like a birthday present to myself and a celebration for being done with my credential, which is nice.

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