Friday, December 12, 2014

My time at Hathaway Brown School was one that I will truly never forget.  All of the experiences that I was able to take away from each individual class will allow me to better myself in my attempt to become a high school History teacher.  There were certain things I was able to notice that I can take away as positive influences to the classroom as well as a few that I should try to stay away from. Having a program in our education system at John Carroll where I am able to see first hand what a high school classroom is like from the perspective of a teacher only reaffirms my ambitions to become one myself.  There were questions in my mind that I was able to answer base on what I saw on a day to day basis.  My time spent in class as a student was also brought back into the light.  Things that I found to be boring and useless as student were shown to me in  a way that not only made them necessary but also beneficial to the learning of the students.  I would like to thank the HB community for allowing me to sit in on their classes as well as a special thank you to Mr. Hoffman for setting up the times for me to come in, as well as his colleagues for taking the time to make me feel welcome as both a future educator as well as a student of what it means to be an influential teacher in today's education system.
My fourth day at HB was spent with Mrs. Day, a fellow history teacher of MR. Hoffman.  The discussion that took place was on apartheid.  What I found to be interesting was before showing the movie that the class had been preparing for in days prior, she took a short amount of time to made sure that all of her students were on the same page.  I felt it was very important to make sure that the students' minds were active as not to let the content of the movie simply enter through one ear and leave out the other.  The movie itself which was played in both classes I observed was stopped at various points throughout the showing-something I hated as a student, but find to be necessary as a teacher- to make sure that everyone was still focused as well as understanding how the video showed examples of what was relevant to the lesson itself.  This is important because no teacher should be showing a movie for the sake of showing it or filling up a class period so as not to have to stand at the front of the class and teach.  One of the things I found to be most impressive was that when a question by a student was posed, there was no BS answer that would be thrown back at them.  If the information wasn't known Mrs. Day wrote it down on the pad of paper that sat at her desk and she promised to find out the answer, and inform the students the following class.  This proved to be important to me because it showed that she truly cared about the learning of her students.  Liker them, she would be learning as well.  That is the beauty of a classroom, teachers have the ability to learn something new everyday as well.
On my third day of observation I found myself in a whole new environment, a place that contained both unfamiliar faces as well as a new topic.  Although English is also one of my strongpoints with my academic standing, my interest level is not as high as it is in a historical setting.  English class was an experience all the same.  Though the subject was different, the structure of the classroom was the same.  In order for the class to be productive, all students would have to attempt to be engaged.  Whether that be shedding their own light on the book that was being discussed, or asking questions pertaining to the topic.  History itself is more about facts the outcome as a result of passed events.  The english class that I had the pleasure of sitting in on talked more about the structure of the paper that the students were preparing for.  The students were also preparing for midterms the following week, so many questions pertaining to the exam were thrown around over the course of the class.  One thing that I found to be very interesting was that snacks and drinks were allowed as long as they were not distracting to the teacher or other students around.  I myself was never allowed to have food in class.  That sense of freedom and responsibility was honestly refreshing to me.  The students were eventually paired up and went over a review packet for the exam the following week.  The constant struggle with this is whether or not all groups were being productive.  I felt as though the teacher did a good job with circulating and listening in on the different conversations that were being had.  Every so often students would be asked questions almost as a test to see if they were actually on task.  This is a little trick I may have been able to pick up for my classes in the future.The second class that I attended for the day was a community service based class.  Selected students attended the class so there were only 7.  This class was devoted to volunteer work both inside and outside the class that met twice a cycle.  During the class a video was shown on what they class would be doing after christmas break, and all seemed to be enthused on the task at hand.  This teacher, like Mr. Hoffman, shared life experiences that were relatable to what was being talked about in class.  In all it was an enlightening experience to see what it was like outside of a History class setting.
Knowing what to expect made the second go round a lot easier.  My second time at HB was on the fourth of December, and yet again I found myself in in Mr. Hoffman's history class.  As I've stated in my final project as well as numerous times in class, I am a big advocate for technology being used in class.  I feel as thug if it is used correctly than it will be able to enhance discussion in the classroom, and therefore better the learning environment as a whole.  But at times over the course of this history class I felt as though it was more of a distraction than anything else.  Students often typed out the notes that were on the board or things that were being said by classmates.  The only problem with this is that once a question was posed for the class, there was no one to respond because they were all busy attempting to get the information down in their notes.  One of the aspects of the class that I enjoyed and will most definitely take into my own teaching methods is when Mr. Hoffman was able to link a story of his own life into the lesson itself, making it not only more entertaining, but also more relatable.  As a result the students felt more inclined to share their own stories causing for more class discussion and problem solving.  In order for classrooms to be successful it cannot just be the teaching standing at the front of the class attempting to shovel knowledge into the minds of the students.  The learners must be able to conceptualize the material themselves, and I feel Mr. Hoffman does a very good job of facilitating such a task.  I thoroughly enjoy being in Mr. Hoffman's class because along with the stories that he tells that are relatable to the topic at hand, he also has the hands on experience to deal with the awkward silences, and the abrupt halts that are inevitable while teaching a class.  I feel that part of a classroom is my biggest fear.  I must learn to overcome those silences and encourage engagement for the sake of the whole class taking away as much as they can from the lesson plan that I have prepared.

Monday, December 8, 2014

After years of avoiding eye contact, secretly texting, and staring at the clock until it was time to leave, I finally had the opportunity to see a classroom environment from the other side of the glass-what a view!  Not only did it feel awkward to be standing in front of my peers as an authority figure, but it also gave me a sense of pride that the profession I had longed for since I was in third grade was now just peaking over the horizon.  But then the glorious moment ended, and that ray of sunshine over the horizon blinded me with the reality that I now had to teach a lesson, one that these students would actually be able to learn from, there needed to be something that these peers of mine would be able to take away from all of the information I was about to throw their way.  I was the provider of the knowledge, as well as the facilitator of the learning.
Starting off the class with the background knowledge of the information that had been provided through chapter 13 of Educational Foundations was both necessary and informative in my eyes.  But at the same time I couldn't help but feel like I lost some interest right off the bat.  One of the biggest struggles throughout the class was whether or not I was going to be able to be informative while also maintaining a maximum level of interest.  That was where I thought the activity with the song lyrics brought that interest level back.  A song that presumably everyone had heard at one point and was popular relatively recently was now being used as a teaching tool in the classroom.  But despite the excitement that came with the activity, the students didn't really seem to get out of it what I wanted them to.  That was the hardest part for me.  Being able to come up with an activity that would meet the focal point of my topic, while maintaing the illusion that all we were doing was looking at a song and having fun.  It is definitely something I will need to work on-making activities more relatable to the subject at hand.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

On Tuesday December 2nd, I way fortunate enough to sit and observe two of Mr. Carl Hoffman's US History class at Hathaway Brown.  It was certainly a different feeling when I realized I was one of two male's in  room of 20. It also gave me a view of how the other side lived as I myself had attended and all boys high school, and always wondered if our sister schools were run the same way. It was apparently so-with quite a bit of knowledge being thrown at the students they attempted to contribute to the class while maintaining adequate notes on their laptops for next weeks test.  Although the atmosphere was the same as my own experience in high school, I did notice some differences in the way classrooms were structured.  As appose to the "traditional" desks set up in rows, the students, as well as Mr. Hoffman, all sat around a large oval-shaped table.  This to me, was something new, something fresh, a way in which the class is more able to become discussion based, where ideas can be thrown every which way and learning can be exciting and fun.  That being said, from a students' perspective it could also be seen as a burden-there is nowhere for students to hide at an oval-shaped table.

On this particular day the class talked, listened, and learned about the civil war.  Being a history buff, I myself was riveted to relearn about the events leading up to the civil war, the secessions from the Union, and then finally the battle at Fort Sumpter.  But the first class, I cannot say with absolution, felt the same way.  Many of the students appeared disinterested based on their posture, and only contributed after many moments of awkward silence after a question had been posed.  The second class on the other hand was a talkative bunch with much enthusiasm and much to say...just not very much on topic.  The beginning of class, which eventually ended up being about 20 minutes, was spent talking about the Ferguson shooting and riots-which is far from the topic of the civil war.  Nevertheless, some discussion is better than no discussion.  It was interesting to see both sides of the coin.  By that I mean, I was able to see what it is like to be in a classroom with engaged students, and another classroom where the majority would rather sit back and let a handful answer all the questions.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bill Ayers talks a lot about this idea of building bridges in order to achieve greatness in the classroom.  Although these bridges seem to have a positive affect on the classroom, some of those bridges may or may not take place in the classroom itself.  Sure it is safe to say that an educator must form a relationship with his or her students in order to be able to connect with them and know what their strengths and weaknesses are, but there are many other dynamics at hand in order to achieve that success.  A teacher must also build a bridge with those connected to the student when they are not in a classroom environment.  It is essential to maintain a steady relationship with the parents or guardians of students in order to reaffirm the notion that everyone in the students' learning process is on the same page.  Above all else both teachers and students should be looking out for the best interests of a students.  This "bridge" is that link between parents wanting to see their children succeed, and teachers allowing said student to perform in the classroom using the tools and skills they have attained through prior experiences.
One pattern that often sticks out when it comes to the evolution of a child's learning ability is their growth in communication.  Being able to find one's voice is an enormous aspect to finding ones identity both as an individual, as well as a student.  Whether it is asking questions or giving informative answers when it comes to class discussions, a student should be able to become more and more engaged the higher into their education that they get.  Another pattern that can be argued for is the link from grade to grade.  In order for students to obtain knowledge and not simply regurgitate information, they must build off of what they had already previously learned.  This happens from grade to grade regardless of the subject.  For example, statistics builds off of algebra the same way US History ties into the American Revolution.  Each grade is a building block taking a student higher and higher.
In making a lesson plan for a high school history classroom, my topic would be the Battle at Lexington and Concord during the Revolutionary War.  There are a few key points that I would need to make sure that I cover in order to be sure that the students had fully grasped what this particular battle, one of many, was all about.  I would definitely need to cover who it was fighting in this battle, both sides as well as the views in which these two parties were fighting for.  I would also need to touch on the fundamental strategies in which the battle was fought (who was stationed where/tactical successes or errors made by military leaders).  And of course the outcome of the battle and what this meant for the rest of the War.  Of course the Battle of Lexington and Concord was really the first skirmish between the British and the Colonists.