Taylor used mathematics lab…it wasn’t very effective.

This post is pretty much just a journal entry. Sorry.

Today I was observed for the first time as a student teacher. I have been observed before while teaching during my practicum experience, it felt like it mattered more this time. I am not sure why. I attempted to teach a common math lab lesson: testing the breaking weight of paper bridges with pennies in cups.

It was literally the worst lesson I have ever taught.

For some reason I was flustered that my university supervisor was there. I realized I hadn’t looked through the day’s warm-up for the kids, and had to wing my explanation. Our class discussion about how civil engineers test bridge materials began well, but then I forgot to show my introduction video. Then I totally and completely botched the launch for the lab. Labs are already loosely structured lessons, and to make it worse, the class is 30 8th graders that have never done a lab in this math class before. It was a new procedure for them and I totally dropped the ball on communicating expectations or the goals of the lessons. I realized in the middle of the lesson what I had done, but at that point it was too late to save it. I had students pass out materials before I had fully explained the project. I asked for quiet when they began talking and then tried to talk over them when they didn’t give it to me, which was implicit permission for them to talk in class. Rookie mistake after rookie mistake. I was trapped. At the end I was just ready for the bell to ring. I was so embarrassed.

I spoke with my university supervisor afterwards. He was very encouraging and kind, but I would much rather have impressed him with the first lesson he watched me give. He wouldn’t outright say that the lesson was bad, but when he asked me how I thought it went and I said, “It was a disaster,” he said “Well, it wasn’t the worst lesson ever. It just….wasn’t as effective as you wanted it to be.” (An under-statement.) However he was very kind to me and gave me as much advice as he could think of.

My biggest issue was classroom management. If I had a better handle on that, my botch of the launch wouldn’t have been as big of a deal, but because I couldn’t get the class under control, I couldn’t really get them to where I wanted to be. I need to be more assertive. I am capable of it, but it isn’t my first inclination. It’s an aspect of my teacher persona that needs cultivation. Part of it comes from wanting to be liked. It is definitely something I need to work on.

I finished 2nd bell feeling pretty discouraged, but it was better by the end of the day. I got two more chances to teach the lab during 4th and 7th bell. The strangest part of the day by far was actually how 7th bell went. That particular mix of students can be ridiculously difficult. Even my mentor teacher and all the other 8th grade team teachers at the school have a hard time with them. (They unfortunately travel from class to class together because of scheduling necessities–like a pack of wolves.) After the debacle that was 2nd bell and the so-so lesson 4th bell, I thought 7th bell would eat me alive.

But they didn’t. In fact, we got furthest in 7th bell. It was the strangest thing. Before 5th bell I had spoken to a student from that class, asking him to warn them we were doing a project and that if they wanted to do it then they needed to be prepared to behave well, hoping to give them a little advanced warning, time to mentally prepare and behave a little better. That might have been a small part, but I don’t even know if he spoke to the others like I asked. Another factor was that a particular student that is often an instigator had been removed from regular classes earlier that day and was in In School Detention. Lastly, the parent of another student–who happens to be a Cincinnati policewoman in a tough precinct–visited us for the day.

So it may have just been fear of tasering that made the class go so well.

(She wasn’t in uniform or armed.)

Because I had already taught the lesson twice I had a much better handle on the flow of it, and the students seemed to enjoy it. Just having 7th bell do so well negated all the frustration I had been feeling about 2nd bell. Now if only my university supervisor had been there to see it.

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New name, same great taste!

If you didn’t notice, I changed the title of the blog. I don’t know if its any funnier of a joke than the pun with my name, but maybe more people will get it.

People don’t get my jokes half the time anyways. I’m used to it.

I began my student teaching experience [EDIT: I realized right after I posted it may be best to not post where I am student teaching. Its a small public school in Cincinnati.] three weeks ago. My mentor teacher and I have 3 bells of Foundations and Algebra and Geometry 8–we call it “Connected Math 8” because that’s what the textbooks that we use are called– (Those are all 8th grade classes), 2 bells of Algebra I (One 8th grade section and one 9th grade section), and 1 bell of Algebra III (Seniors).

I meant to be writing already and I’ve thought of a lot of things I wanted to talk about, but I’ve felt so busy and overwhelmed that I haven’t yet, despite the fact that I’ve only taken over one class so far: an 8th grade class during 2nd bell. While I am student teaching I have to take a Secondary Methods: Mathematics course, which meets on Tuesday nights. So because of that, this is my first post. Hopefully I will remember everything I wanted to talk about. I’ll have to be more disciplined about this.

In fact, I signed up for this math teacher blogging feed that like 200 new teacher-bloggers are doing. I figured I might as well since I had already started a blog, but I haven’t done any of them, and now I’m about 3 posts behind. Also for that class I am taking I am supposed to “journal” my experiences in education and my professor (a very cool lady who currently works as a math teacher in CPS) said that a blog was fine. So at least for now I have more than just personal development reasons to write this blog.

——

The thing about writing is that you can’t tell how much time went by each sentence–or each word for that matter– that was written. Sometimes it happens immediately afterwards and is a continuous flow of words. Sometimes it could be a few minutes to a half an hour, depending on if the author doesn’t know where to go next or gets distracted. And other times, other times its a few weeks in between. This final time interval has happened to me a lot with this blog post. I can’t really properly convey the gap that exists between this paragraph and the one that proceeds it. I don’t really know why I wanted to point this out, it just seems weird how there can be a long gap of time between the writing of paragraphs or sentences, but then when you read it everything is available to you at once. Although I suppose it could be that you could get interrupted reading just as I get interrupted writing, but gaps in reading are different from gaps in writing. But anyway, enough tangents about how interruptions can alter the flow or structure of a composition or that written word hides the time between thoughts in a way completely different from spoken words.

ANYWAY.

The reason I got off on that tangent is that I’ve started this post three times and I have yet to post anything teacher-blog related since I started teaching five weeks ago. I think it is because I want to put too many things all in one post. Which is why I’m going to cut this off and put the other stuff I’ve been writing and thinking about in subsequent blog posts.

So yes. Student teaching. 8th graders! Connected Math! Graduate school! New blog names! Unrelated tangents!

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