Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Practicum Experience ( far)

Dear Internet,

For the past three weeks, I have been student-teaching at a high school as part of my B.Ed. program (and we all know how I'm feeling about THAT so far). It has certainly been an interesting experience (in some good ways and some bad ways). Now, I have taught in a high school classroom before, so this experience didn't completely blindside me. The difference between my previous experience and this experience is that this time I was in an applied-level classroom whereas last time I was in an academic-level classroom. For those of you who are not familiar with this classification of classrooms: applied-level is for students who maybe aren't as motivated or strong with math and can't handle faster-paced classrooms, whereas academic is for higher-achieving students.

I knew going into the classroom that it was going to be a challenge - my only mistake was thinking that I was prepared for it. I had learned all these "classroom management strategies" in my classes and I told myself that I could apply them and get my students to learn and make them love learning and inspire them to do great things in math and become their most favourite teacher of all time (okay, maybe that fantasy spun out a little too far into unrealistic-land). Needless to say, I did not quite achieve this. Three weeks with this class and I feel like a bitter old hag who never wants to deal with another teenager ever again. Don't get me wrong, there are a few students in my class who are great and do their work and answer my questions and are generally good kids. Unfortunately, they are not the majority. For my last day tomorrow, I'm going to play a game with them, so I really hope that they actually get into it and that I get fewer contemptuous stares standing at the front of the class.

I know that learning proper classroom management is a skill learned through LOTS and LOTS of experience. I know that I am an inexperienced 21-year-old who, after only three weeks, could not possibly hope to earn the respect of a class of 25 students who do not want to be there in the first place. But it's still disheartening when I get students who cheat on my quizzes and are outright rude to me and pretend they don't hear me when I talk to them. I do my best, but I'm just way too passive of a person to effectively manage students' behaviour right now.

Whenever I complain about something to you, I like to add in a bit about the good side of things so that I don't seem so whiny, and this time is no different. Here is what I liked about my practicum experience.

First of all, I have a really good idea about my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. The thing about working with higher-level students, as I have in the past, is that they can pick up on concepts easily and quickly and lessons do not need to be particularly differentiated. Really, you don't have to be a particularly good teacher to teach these kids. This is not the case with applied-level. With my class, I have learned how to break up my lessons into smaller chunks and give them a lot more time to work through examples on their own. I think I'm starting to get a bit better with the classroom management thing, too, but that will take a lot more gradual improvement over a long time.

Also, despite my complaints above about rude students, I do have a good number of very nice students. If it weren't for these kids being respectful and doing their work and doing well on my quizzes and actually talking to me, I would have gone mad after day one.

In addition, in no particular order:
  • I have had a lot of practice with making handouts
  • I have organized, planned, and replanned a unit when things did not go as planned
  • I have been able to see some friends and my wonderful brother and hang out with Steven
  • My friends who are housing me during my practicum are super super nice and have a beautiful home (and make awesome food!)
  • I've been sleeping really well (working with these students is EXHAUSTING)
So now I'm torn! I'm definitely ready to take a break from teaching...but I REALLY don't want to return to teacher's college and go back to classes. As frustrating as teaching can be, the classes about teaching are more so. Just a couple more months of teacher's college and I can return to my math.

Anyways, that's all for now!