Sunday, November 27, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Picture from www.businessinsider.com
In my class, little D is as sweet as she can be. Unfortunately, little D has taken the concept of learned helplessness and has practically honed it down to a science. Every time I ask her a question, she sits and thinks about it...just long enough to hear someone else's answer and repeat it. If I ask her what 5+3 is, and someone next to her is working on 10+5, she will wait to hear them answer "15" and then immediately repeat, "15". She doesn't realize just how badly she is stunting her own academic growth by doing this, and it's often hard to help children see the error in their parroting ways.
But, gracias a Dios, a perfect moment presented itself today. We were working on extending repeating patterns in math class. To practice, the class had worked with a red-blue-red-blue cube train as a large group while I wrote and drew their answers on the board.. I then gave D a blue-yellow-blue-yellow cube train to work with independently. When I walked over to check her work, I noticed that she'd answered all three of the questions with the word "red", even though there were no red cubes in her train. I glanced up at the example on the screen, and sure enough, all of MY answers were "red" because of the red cubes in our practice train.
I asked D to read me her answers. Then I turned her attention to her train and asked what colors she saw in her train. Though she struggles to name colors at times (yikes...), she did manage to figure out that her train had no red cubes. So I asked her, does what you wrote make sense? She said no. And I told her, "You have a brain in your head, and that brain is very smart. But when you choose not to use it, you end up writing things that make no sense. Use your brain, little D!" So we erased her nonsensical answers and started again, this time thinking about the train she had in her hand. She then correctly answered all of the questions using the colors in her own train. We stopped to check if it made sense, and it did!
Later, I watched her playing a making 10 computer game with M, a friend who processes a little more quickly than she does. I noticed that D had the mouse in her hand, but she was just waiting for M to tell her all of the answers instead of trying to figure them out for herself. I stopped them and took both of her hands in mine, looked her straight in the eye and repeated my previous speech: "You have a brain in your head, and that brain is very smart. Use your brain, D's brain, not M's, and do your own thinking." Then I showed her how to use her fingers to find the missing part of ten. Then I walked away, but I kept one ear open to listen to them work.
And what great work it was: she was independently, and successfully, counting and solving the problems.
Finally, for the first time, I heard little D really try.
It's truly amazing what believing in yourself can do.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
This past week, I started writing my Capstone. It's a little nerve-wracking, because it will be the longest paper I've ever had to write. It's also exciting, though, because it means the end of graduate school is near!
I'm writing my Capstone on conferring with students during writing workshop. I'm really excited about the changes I've already made that have improved my students' writing and my relationships with them, and I wrote about that in the rationale section of my paper. We peer-conferenced yesterday about our first chapters, which was a little nerve-wracking, actually. Chapter one tells your personal and professional journey toward the question you are studying, and it felt strange to hear someone else's voice reading such personal words, my words, back to me.
After he finished reading, my partner commented, "I can tell that you're really passionate about your kids. It really comes through in your paper." As soon as he said that, I started gushing about the wonderful experiences I've had getting to know my students better and how I've seen them grow and learn and smile in the past two weeks, and I was actually moved to tears just talking about it.
I. Love. My. Job.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
My absolute favorite thing about teaching is simple: I love it when my kids learn. I know that sounds cliche, but it's true. When I see a student do something that I know they couldn't do before, and the reason they can do it is because I taught them to, it makes me want to do carthweels and backflips (if I knew how to do backflips, which I don't).
I have a student in my class who is just as sweet as can be. He came to me from an English-only classroom, so making the transition to a bilingual one came with its challenges: for one thing, he knew exactly 0 vowel sounds in Spanish, which quite literally makes reading impossible.
I realized today that last time I did a basic skills test with him (part of our RtI) was a month ago, so I thought I'd re-do it and see how he's progressed since last time. I was quite pleasantly shocked! Since September (first test), he's gone from knowing only 9 syllables in Spanish to knowing 30 (out of 36), and from knowing 2/20 sight words to 14. WOOHOO!! I told him how he'd progressed and he grinned from ear to ear, as did his mother when I shared the good news with her.
This kind of news makes me want to get up and dance around. In fact, excuse me for a moment.
*Gets up and does happy dance*
Okay, I'm back now. I am so proud of him! And I have to say, I am proud of myself, and of my AE, and of his mom for helping him get to where he is now. My kid can read!
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
I deliberately chose a student who I haven't spent a ton of time with yet this year. Sometimes those kids who aren't the squeakiest of wheels tend to fade so easily into the group that we don't realize that we haven't really listened to them until quite some time has passed. I got my kids launched, then I sat on the edge of the counter and just watched him and wrote, watched and wrote.
It is really fascinating to watch a child's writing process. You learn so much about what that child already knows and does by spending time watching and listening instead of talking and modeling. I watched him write, using his finger to leave spaces, then think, then write, then think, then write, then revise, then draw. When I asked him, "Why did you change that part of your sentence?" He said, "Because that's not what I wanted it to say." Then I asked him to read it to me, and he eagerly did so. Then I asked him to read in front of the class, and his sweet little face just lit up. When he was finished reading, his classmates spontaneously applauded him. He just beamed. It was one of the most beautiful moments we've had all year.
It's amazing what we can learn as teachers when we just watch and listen. Wow.