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Through my experience student teaching there were many different experiences, that affected me in a multitude of ways.  I have reflected on most of them in the previous blog entries.  I feel that the best way I can have my reflection serve the future Student Teachers, is to provide them with tips that I received from teachers at Tyrone, and some I learned all by myself.

Tips first:

“Be organized proof read everything carefully before you give it to students and make sure there is no room for misunderstanding.  Plan each period so that all time, is used efficiently by every student.  Care about Kids.”

  • The first and last part about this one were lessons I learned myself.  The proof reading part especially.  You should proof read stuff for errors, then find someone with no knowledge of the subject, and see if they understand it.  Then and only then is it ready for your students.  I wasted so much time working to clear up my instructions, which I had initially thought flawless.  And when you give instructions make sure you give them verbally, hand them out written, and then write them on the board and give them verbally again.
  • Caring about students is the most important thing. Make sure they know you care about them, and work to help them with other classwork, and anything they need.  This will get you the currency you are going to need with them when they are struggling in your class.

“Forget nothing that they taught you about teaching in college, but challenge everything….  Half of it is nonsense and the other half just sounds good to those who don’t know any better.”

  • This is a lesson I learned far to late in the game. I had a tendency to think of the lessons I learned from our professors as the law.  The truth is the law is different everywhere.  If you go into student teaching, or I imagine a teaching job clinging to hard to the lessons you learned in college you are going to get a lot of kick back.  You need to work hard to understand the environment you are teaching in, so that you can react appropriately to reality, not the ideal situation you were trained for.  The lessons you learned are valuable.  Think of it as a big bag of tools.  You need to be ready to use those tools at a moment’s notice, but don’t be surprised if you have a bunch of plumber’s tools, and you are doing the work of an electrician.

The three-circle model. 

 

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You have been told that the three-circle model is the ideal delivery system for the total ag ed program.  You have been shown all the great and wondrous things it has to offer.  The reality can be quite different.  The first thing you need to do is forget about how you think it should all be implemented.  Then think long and hard about what the outcome of each circle is.  For FFA I learned that the outcome is student recognition, and confidence building through leadership and responsibility.  SAE allows students to connect lessons from class to the real world, but it also teaches valuable lessons about responsibility and independence, and the outcomes for the classroom are laid out in academic standards, and CTE task lists.  Now that you have picture in your mind about the desired outcome its time to get real.  How do you tie it all into the place where you are teaching?  You will find yourself in a place where you cannot dedicate the effort you think is required to one or the other.  That’s ok.  I remember from my summer reading book the author made it clear

“thinking outside the box is great, but in education sometimes we really need to think inside the box.”

I found this to be very true when it came to the total program.  Each place has something different to offer and you need to find out how to use that to deliver the total program.  It doesn’t matter how big your circles are as long as you try your best to live inside the three circles.

Please do not make the same mistake I made and go into your teaching experience with expectations about how the three-circle model is supposed to be implemented. 

Communicating Expectations

There is no denying that me and my cooperating teacher had some issues with clarity in this area.  BEFORE. You get to your cooperating center communicate regularly about what you will be teaching and how it should be taught.  I had to throw out all my lessons going into student teaching because they were not in the style of the normal agriculture classroom.  It made a lot of extra work for me.  Stretch yourself when you are writing the lessons ahead of time to always use a different instructional technique.

Classroom expectations and procedures, that you will put on three posters for your final presentation.  That is not enough.  Make sure your procedures are very clear, and fit each lesson you write to them.  This way you will always have students ready.  They hate surprises.  I started teaching a short course with four weeks left in my internship.  That class I was probably the most prepared to really stick to my procedures.  Within a week they were all coming in and asking for the bell work if I had forgotten to post it.  My food science class which I taught the entire time, and was somewhat laxer about it never asked about it, and I always had to remind them it was there.

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I found that the best way to prepare a lesson is to act it out in your head, or on paper beforehand.  If you do this you are going to see many of the flaws ahead of time.

Be honest, fair, and consistent with the students, they will respect that more than they fear punishment.

Every experience is different, but my students were not at the level I expected going in.  almost all of the lessons I wrote beforehand were way above their heads, and what I thought was a 42-minute lesson was sometimes two or three days.  Make sure you pay attention to this when you observe your cooperating teacher.  You have been told that you should have three objectives for each lesson.  In 42 minutes, you will be lucky if you get them to really know one or two if they are covering the same content in another class by chance.  I taught Punnet squares with genetics.  The 10th graders in my class were learning the exact same thing in biology, and it still took them 42 minutes to solve five problems after we walked through the first.  I’m not saying this to be negative.  I am only trying to make it clear that I struggled getting content to the high school level.

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Questions I was asked by #psuaged18 and didn’t already answer.

What was something you wish you had done before you began fall semester? 

I wish that I had really understood, and laid out the instructional units I was teaching.  I did this in order to meet the class requirement, but because my CT and I were not clear on expectations, once I got to Tyrone there was a lot of changing things around.  The end result is a bit of a mess.  Make sure you know exactly what you are teaching.  Know the units, and the standards/ outcomes you are working towards. It sounds like a lot but here is an example.  Lets say you are teaching animal science.  And livestock is something you are going to teach.  Make sure you are clear about how much time you will spend on livestock, and if that is something your CT even teaches.  I had a nine week class, where each week about is a different unit.  Teaching livestock production to those ninth graders was pointless.

What is some advice you have for the fall and student teaching?

Everything that’s been written here, but another tip.  Look at the spring moodles early on when you are writing your lesson plans.  Many of them require you do something in a lesson.  Demand to have access to them before the spring so you can plan accordingly.

What has been the biggest challenge of student teaching so far, and what are you doing to overcome it?

Teaching 7 preps was extremely challenging.  Don’t be afraid to use projects, and inquiry learning for students to save yourself preparation time.  Having students research and create PowerPoint slides on domesticated animals can take two days of working and a third of presentations.  This kind of lesson helps you save time for the other six classes, and in the end the students get just as much if not more out of it.

What has been the best part of student teaching so far?

Hands down the best part of student teaching has been those rare moments when a student recognizes the effort you are putting in, or really learns something from you.  I had a ninth grader say to his friend while they were building plants with paper and tape “this is the most artistic I have been all year.”  I just overheard it, but with less that 30 days of school left it’s a little sad and at the same time awesome that he is just getting those feelings now.  Granted it was probably a fair bit of drama, and I am sure he had been artistic before, it’s the feelings that count.  In my food science class I had them write lyrics to their favorite songs, but the lyrics had to be about stages of sugar production.  They really got into it, and it came out that I am a big Justin Timberlake fan.  Outside of class, and without prompting they wrote me a sugar cooking song that was to be sung to “I’m Bringing Sexy Back.”  If you don’t believe me a video of me trying to six it is floating on the internet somewhere.  It was amazing to have my students get so into one of my lessons that they worked on it without me needing to tell them to.  That is the greatest thing I think you can have happen. 

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The final lesson I learned from student teaching is the value of the little moments.  I had a student write me a very nice letter at the end of the experience.  She was always one to have lots of feelings.  She cried during a team building game because it got a little stressful.  In the letter, she said that I had a big effect on her life, and that she wanted to work harder and be better, because she knew I believed in her.  Make sure your students know you believe in them, and they will work their butts off, and give you the most rewarding experience an educator can have.

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