Student Teaching Reflection

When I first thought about student teaching, I went through many emotions.  It started with excitement because that meant I was that much closer to graduating.  I had so many questions running through my mind.  What will my teachers be like?  Will the faculty be supportive?  With all these questions, I started to feel intimidated by what was soon to come.  I was worried that my teachers and I would not get along.  I was terrified that my students would not understand me.  What was I going to do if I was not able to be the kind of teacher I had hoped I would be?  When the time came for me to begin my student teaching, all I could do was hope and pray that things went smoothly.  I soon found out that any worries I had were no longer an issue.  I was placed at a school that was filled with caring and supportive people.  If I had a question, they had an answer.  If they did not know, they found someone who did.  Even the teachers that I had no contact with were there to make me feel comfortable and respected.  My cooperating teachers sat down with me and helped me reflect on how I was doing.  I was expecting to get along with my students and my cooperating teachers, but my experience went above and beyond any expectations I had in the beginning.  I learned more than ever imagined I would!  I have come to realize I could not have had a better student teaching experience than the one I had at Farley Elementary School.

            My first placement was in a kindergarten Autism unit.  I had two students who stayed with me all day.  These two were my more severe cases.  The six other students I worked with were in regular education classrooms.  These students were high functioning and came in throughout the day.  We did activities revolving around social skills and communication.  My main objective for these students was to enable them to effectively communicate with others around them.

            This class was unlike any other I had observed.  These students were very intelligent, but lacked social skills that other children their age possess.  One activity I did with my students on a daily basis was circle time.  This circle time was different then what is done in a regular classroom.  In addition to the usual calendar and singing, I would include a social story.  These stories were about daily living skills, such as brushing your teeth and taking a bath.  They also discussed communication skills, such as how close to stand to someone when having a conversation and how to share toys.

            During my first placement, I taught my students a unit on Personal Safety.  For the first activity in this unit, the students worked on learning their personal information, such as their full name, phone number, address, and parents’ names.  Part of this unit required the students to take turns asking each other about their information.  This activity was wonderful!  The students made progress in their conversation skills as the weeks went on.  They learned that when you talk to someone, it is important to look them in the eye.

            My second placement was in a 5th grade regular education classroom.  This was a huge, and difficult, transition from my previous placement!  I was used to the small, loving group of five-year-olds.  Now, I was in a larger class setting with a group of students who liked to be challenged.  I struggled, in the beginning, gaining their respect.  They saw me more as their pal, and certainly did not see me as their teacher.  I had to establish a classroom management plan.  My cooperating teacher was wonderful in

helping me do this!  I created a marble jar for them.  They had a period of twenty school days to earn seventy-five marbles.  If they successfully did this, my cooperating teacher and I would give them a pizza party.  Everyday, I would write “PIZZA” on the board.  When the class was exhibiting inappropriate behaviors, I would erase a letter.  However many letters were left at the end of the day was how many marbles were placed in the jar.  Some examples of these behaviors are being loud in the hallway and showing disrespect for other students or teachers.  We had a class discussion on exactly how to have marbles taken away.  They understood that they were required to follow the school and classroom rules.  The main objective for this plan was for the students to learn to show respect.  Not just respect for me, but respect for the other students.  This plan worked out great!  By the end of the twenty days, which ended up being my last week, the class successfully earned their pizza party.  They also showed tremendous improvement in the respect department.  By the time I completed my placement in this classroom, I had earned the respect of each of my students.  My students saw that respect was a huge part of having a successful classroom.  I led by example.  I showed them respect, and they, in return, showed me respect.

            Even though I succeeded in reaching the high standards I set for myself during my student teaching, there are areas that I need to improve upon.  One of these areas is becoming a stronger pedagogical expert.  I noticed during my student teaching that I have a habit of sticking with the same instructional strategies.  I tend to teach my lessons in the same way, every time.  For example, when I was teaching reading, we always read the story as a class and did some of the pages in the practice book.  I taught reading the same way for every story we read.  In the future, I need to work on teaching with a variety of instructional strategies.  For reading, after we read the story, I could have my students work on a more creative activity, such as creative writing or some form of a small art project.  Knowing that time is limited, I would search for an activity that is not a huge production, but rather one that will require the students to use the creative side of their brain more.

            A second area I need to improve upon goes along with the previous area.  I need to become more of a critical thinker.  There are parts of this area that I am very strong in.  I do a good job of relating what we are learning to the real world and showing them why we need to know what we are learning.  On the other hand, there are some parts that I struggle with.  I really need to work on making some of my lessons more engaging.  I really struggled with this in my math lessons.  Math is an area that a lot of students do not enjoy.  This is why the lessons need to have a wonderful hook!

My class really struggled with fractions.  Finding common denominators was a concept that just did not make sense.  I decided that I needed to plan a creative and fun activity for my class to get them interested in fractions.  I had them make pictures out of pattern block cut-outs.  I gave my students a sheet of black construction paper and the cut-outs and told them to be creative and make a picture, or some sort of design.  After the picture was complete, they counted the number of each of the different shapes they used.  They then added up the total number of pieces.  From this, they created a number sentence out of the fractions of different types of pattern blocks.  They were responsible for reducing the fraction to lowest terms.  We discussed how all those pieces added together equal one.  My students loved this activity and also grasped the concept.  I need to learn to incorporate more of these types of activities in my teaching.

Even though there are areas that I need to improve upon, there are areas that I excelled in during my student teaching.  One of these areas is that I am an effective communicator.  I made it a point to make sure that each of my students understood my directions or the topic we were discussing.  I also kept in touch with the parents in a number of ways.  In my first placement, I sent home several notes to my parents informing them of what had been going on in my classroom.  Since this was a special education setting, the parents were very guarded as to who worked with their children.  I wanted them to know about me and my passion for teaching.  I kept them up to date of the different topics we discussed.  I had communication notebooks for about half of my students that I wrote in and sent home everyday.  For my second placement, I sent home a letter every week that had homework listed and upcoming events they needed to remember.  I also kept in touch with my room-mother concerning field trips and other important information.  I also had a good relationship with the faculty, staff, and principal at Farley.

In addition to being an effective communicator, I feel that I am a wonderful leader and professional.  I always portrayed a positive learning environment for my students.  I was very enthusiastic and wanted my students to feel comfortable in my classroom.  I was also very involved with the faculty and parents.  I attended PTA meetings and faculty meetings.  I participated in the school talent show, along with other members of the faculty.  I attended a workshop at Farley concerning dyslexia and one at Central Office about the changes in the IEP’s.  I sat in on an IEP meeting of one of my students in my

first placement.  Overall, I stayed very involved with my students, their parents, and other members of the faculty.

Throughout my student teaching experience, I learned things about myself that will allow me to be a more successful teacher.  The area in which I saw the greatest gain was self-confidence.  Deep down I knew that I was capable of becoming a wonderful teacher, but part of me was not sure other people would see me in the same light.  Because of the wonderful teachers that worked with me, I now know for a fact I will be a wonderful teacher.

As I stated previously, I had the best student teaching experience imaginable.  I had a wonderful support system of the faculty and principal at Farley, along with superb cooperating teachers and an amazing university supervisor.  I learned how to better run my classroom, and make my students comfortable.  Teaching is unlike any other profession.  Teachers are constantly learning how to improve on their skills.  For every student you encounter, you will learn something from them.  Whether it be a new teaching strategy or a life lesson, you never stop learning.  I am more excited about teaching after my fabulous experience at Farley Elementary.

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