Friday, January 25, 2008

News from 2nd Grade, Week 2. Tales of Art Class and Being Late.

So far, so good. I was ten minutes late once this week and got a strict warning (apparently, being late is a death knell for student teachers) so I'm never ever ever going to be late again (if I can help it). Hitting my snooze button at 6am was a bad choice, but according to the teacher, being even more late because I was picking up a classmate's lessons when she had the flu was also a bad choice. "Look out for yourself first" is the idea, I guess. But my coop doesn't hold grudges and is still working with me to improve things so I'm going to do my very best... and I started by staying up till 2am writing a lesson plan for Monday's science lesson. I have no idea how I ended up with writer's block for a unit plan that is already sketched out for me, but there you have it. My brain works in strange, strange ways.

On Monday I will start teaching my math unit, which means that I'll be writing lesson plans for both math and science for the next two weeks. I'm scared to death that I'll slip up during the lessons, never having taught two in one day before, and I'm not allowed to use the lesson plans to help me get through the lesson, although I can use a post-it to outline the sections if I need to... I'm awful at remembering things I write though, and I've decided that the best plan of action for teaching my lesson plans without re-reading them 8 times a day the day before is to talk myself through them in the car on the way to school. It's about a 40 minute drive, so I can probably get through two lessons every morning, and I talk to myself anyway, so I might as well say something important, right?

I'm going to exercise this weekend, I swear it! I think yoga and tai chi are my best bets right now since it's COLD outside. This morning, I left the house in 8* weather and my body heat caused the inside of the windshield to first fog up, and then freeze. There was still a tiny bit of ice at the top of the windshield when I got to school, even with the heat on full-blast the whole way. For someone who doesn't like the cold, January/February are miserable. I'm staying inside and drinking lots of tea, remembering my vitamin C and Echinacea supplements and trying to keep my hands clean - lots of germs going around now as well as it being too cold out, and in 2nd grade they still need to be reminded to wash their hands when they sneeze on them (the kids, that is). My coop ended up very sick with a long-lasting flu-like bug last weekend and this week, but so far all I've had is a headache.

A little anecdote from the classroom: One of our boys, who is actually moving soon, spent 30 minutes drawing an oval during our art lesson. What a perfectionist! He had to find the perfect animal, find the right size to draw it, find the perfect picture to work from and then draw just the right oval for the animal's body (we were working with using shapes to create an animal's body, as well as giving it texture by adding lines for fur). Nearly everyone else just scribbled away happily, but he was intent on being perfect or not doing it at all. I would have agreed with him wholeheartedly when I was younger, but now I'm playing teacher and had to poke him to keep going and just accept the inevitable imperfect circle. Eventually, he drew something to his satisfaction - on his practice paper. Naturally our art paper was too thick to be traced through, and he had to do it all over again. True to perfectionist style he worked very carefully on the rest of his picture and when he finishes I expect it will be a masterpiece.

The week was shortened due to an in-service day on Monday and a half-day of parent conferences this morning, so next week will likely feel interminable after the glory of only 3 days with students. Not that I don't like the students, but it's very different to be in school without them. I learned a few things during the inservice, too.

Coming next week: the fun of teaching two lessons per day, and "Smile, Your Headache is Showing"!


  1. I find that the best way to remember lesson plans (when I actually have them) is to imagine my way through them while I am making them. By that I mean actually imagine being in front of the class, and how the class reacts (imagine them reacting badly, so you'll know what to do if that happens), and step by step how it will go.

    Of course it almost never actually works the way you imagine it, but at least you remember how it was SUPPOSED to go!

    (But this has also helped me to spot lesson plans that won't work at all. Some ideas are great in theory but just won't work in practice.)

  2. Oh, and regarding the kid who spent so much time drawing a perfect oval: I've had students like that. I learned the hard way that if I give a lesson that includes drawing a picture, I have to include a very strict time limit, otherwise there is no time left to talk about it.

    The first time I ever tried this I did it with a class of architecture students, which was a big mistake. I assumed they would be good at drawing, and I was right. I wasn't prepared for what happened, though. They were all perfectionists, and competitive about it. The 90-minute English language lesson ended up being 80 minutes of finicky drawing and comparing and erasubg abd redrawing, and 10 minutes of talking about the pictures. It was supposed to be the other way around.

  3. You give wonderful advice! I've always tried to get my lessons to work from the "ok, does it look good on paper?" standpoint, probably because I didn't have to teach them during my first 3 years- just write them. I tried your method with a science lesson, and it worked much better!

  4. Happy to help!

    It's one I file under 'things learned the hard way.' Using this visualization technique has enabled me to spot an activity that definitely won't work from a mile off.

    It works best when you know your students, or at least the type of students you are likely to have. But even if you don't, you can still imagine how much teacher activity there is likely to be, and what will be necessary in various cases, and in which cases you might have to abandon/simplify/extend it.