Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Beginning of Block II

As of Monday I began my Block II classes! 

Nobody told me this prior to the beginning of classes, but apparently this block is the most difficult and demanding... at least that is what all of our professors have been saying for the last two days. Our program coordinator in particular seemed to feel it was important to tell us this so we would be prepared. Honestly though, this semester does not feel as intimidating as Block I did.

Of course, that may not have anything to do with the workload and everything to do with my own confidence level.

This is not to say that this semester will be a cake walk. We have quite a few assignments due each week and some projects that will be time consuming. It will boil down to commitment and passion for teaching just like it did last semester. What helps the situation is the fact that everything we will be doing for class is logically assigned and laid out. We don't seem to be doing anything that isn't directly related to our success in our field placements or a deeper understanding of the concepts in our textbooks. I appreciate that.

Last semester we did some interesting projects and had assignments that I found fun and exciting, but they were not necessarily something I anticipate using in my future classroom. Maybe once I get into the assignments for this semester I will feel differently, but as of right now I can see direct uses and purposes which makes it easy to find motivation and enthusiasm.

Although classes have begun, I still have a full week until my field placement starts. This makes me a bit sad because I have been so anxious to get back in the classroom, but it's just a week. Seven days from now I will finally meet and greet my first graders! I have a really fun getting-to-know-you math activity planned for them and I can not WAIT to see how they like it! Once I try it out with them I'll post more information here on the blog and let you know how it went.

By the way, I think I am going to be adding a countdown to graduation on the left side bar of the blog. If you see a countdown pop up over there, that's what it is for. :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A letter and some new ideas

A few days ago I received an email from my cohort coordinator for this semester. She is the professor for our Classroom Management II course as well as the person keeping up with our practicum experiences. Her letter provided some necessary information about the semester, our field placement schedule, and what to expect this fall. It also included the syllabus for her course.

Now, I know most people would probably not be excited about receiving an email like this. However I was thrilled! Looking through the calendar allows me to get a grasp of how the semester will be paced.... how many holidays we have and how long they will be, spacing of CM2 classes, observations, etc. All of these things help me plan out how I will approach my courses. Obviously I will have a more complete plan once I receive all my course syllabi, but at least now I don't feel so wound up without any type of outlet.

Another reason I was excited to get the syllabus so early is because it also allows me to begin looking around for ideas that fit my assignments.

Within my Classroom Management course we have a few projects for the semester, most of which are lessons we develop and implement within our practicum classrooms. Last spring we did lessons using large, interactive props as well as some transition practice as our semester projects within Classroom Management I. According to the syllabus, we will be focusing on community building and overall classroom management philosophy this semester and doing projects which reflect those ideas.

Obviously I popped right over to pinterest once I read our assignment list. :)

As annoying as that website can be with all the wannabe fashionistas and blinding amounts of chevrons, sometimes there are educational gems to be found. Better yet, there are links to a HUGE amount of education blogs I probably would not have found otherwise. As with everything else, there is no small amount of sorting to be done to find the good stuff, but it is really fun and exciting when you do find something you can use.

For example:
This image grabbed me on pinterest and led me to the blog of a first grade teacher with some excellent room decoration and organization ideas. Just from my experience last semester I can tell that getting organized is a HUGE part of being a good teacher and having a happy, bright, engaging room helps the students feel excited about learning. Ideas like this will help me get there without going broke!

The idea for a classroom QR code to provide essential information to parents on open house night really got my attention. It is very easy to set up and a great way to include technology as well as getting parents included in the classroom. Obviously this would be a better fit for some schools than others, but a great idea either way. Definitely a good inspiration point for other parent-inclusive ideas.

And possibly my favorite community behavior incentive ever:
When the class receives a compliment for good behavior outside the classroom (hallway, bathrooms, lunchroom, etc) they get to add a feature to Mr. Potato Head. Once he is completely assembled, the whole class gets a reward! I have seen compliment jars and several other variations, but this particular version just makes me smile.

These are just a few of the ideas I came across in my searching and sifting over the past few days. If any of you find other community building or general management style ideas, I would love to see them! Although I am working with lower elementary kids this year, who knows where I will end up once the job hunt begins next year. :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

525,600 minutes

In about two weeks the fall semester will start and I'll be back in a classroom on campus with my cohort to begin our second block courses. I'll be less than a year from completing my coursework, less than a year from taking my certification exams, and 18 months from receiving my degree and becoming a fully certified teacher.

These are the things I have been thinking about this summer and I have to admit, I'm completely blown away by how different I felt at this time last year.

Two weeks before school started last August I was freaking out. I was only taking three classes, but all three were mandatory prerequisites for getting into the Early Childhood Education program. I needed to do well in them or risk being turned down when applying to my major.

This time last year I was still struggling with the remnants of the depression I battled in Savannah and still experienced anxiety attacks whenever I was in a large group of people... like, in the grocery store. I was still seeing my therapist regularly just to cope with daily life.

This time last year I still believed that passing my math class was sheer luck and I really didn't think I had the drive, dedication, and talent to make it into the ECE program, much less through it. I still didn't believe in myself or in this insane calling I feel to be a teacher.

This year though? This year my mind and heart are in a completely different place. Not only did I do well in my prerequisite classes, I made a 4.0. Not only was I accepted to my major, but I maintained my status on the President's List throughout the spring semester... easily one of the most mentally challenging semesters of my college career. Not only did I succeed in courses which dealt directly with education, but I made the Dean's List this summer while taking two courses that intimidated me to the point of tears.

Besides all of the educational success and proving to myself that I can mentally handle it, I have found a certain level of emotional peace as well. I haven't had an anxiety attack in over six months. Unless you have had one I don't think you can understand how amazing it feels to be able to walk into a crowded grocery store without being afraid of ending up a sobbing mess in the produce section. I don't doubt myself as much anymore either. When I feel bits of fear and doubt creeping in I remind myself of how far I have come and I think back to the days I spent in Mexico where I first felt the call to teach.

This year I have no doubts that I can handle my courses and work. Even though I am taking 18 hours, more than I have ever taken in one semester, I find myself more excited than intimidated. I get to do science this semester! Anyone who doesn't think science + kids = FUN clearly didn't get messy enough as a child.

With all of the incredible changes that have happened since this time last year I can't help but be grateful and look forward to what this coming year will hold for me.