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"!

Friday, January 18, 2008

News from 2nd Grade, Week 1.

Well, it's started! I've been thoroughly welcomed with a solid and sudden (but not entirely unexpected) dunking into the great wide world of second grade. I had the chance to work with second graders before, during my pre-pre-student teaching in my sophomore year, but that experience was one morning a week and nowhere near as challenging. This is a challenge I can rise to meet!

My cooperating teacher is awe-inspiring. She has taught for longer than I've been alive, which means she's great at her job. I'm already learning so much from her that I've had to start taking notes to keep it all straight! She's blunt, but she's honest (something I really respect) and once I got over the initial "cold" feeling I got from her, I realized that not being babied or getting warm fuzzies all day is exactly what I need to really get through the next seven weeks. It's going to be very busy, and she is a very demanding person, but I feel like I will do much better in her classroom because of her expectations, and it's exciting to know that she appreciates me being in the room even when I mess up.

This week has tired me out and I feel like I should be in bed by now - the habit of getting up at 6am has started to settle in so I don't want to mess it up too much by sleeping in till 10 on Saturday... goal #1, "Get up on time" is slowly but surely becoming a reality. I still feel rushed most mornings because I'm groggy for the first half hour and don't move as fast as I should, but between getting up earlier to avoid feeling rushed and actually being a few minutes late on occasion, I'll take being late. I hope that as the semester goes on I'll get faster at writing lessons, so I can go to bed at an earlier time (I haven't hit the pillow before 10pm yet!) but I also know that as my lesson-writing gets better I'll have more lessons to write (we're supposed to be doing 25 per week by the end of the semester, and that means that I have to try to do so by midterms when I change placements (oh, dear!). Still, a whole week of 6am wake-ups is a good start for me - usually I slip up and stay in bed. Not a proud moment when it happens, and this semester is doubly important so I'm going to keep dragging myself out of bed. The coffee maker will be a great help. :D

Exercising is threatened by the sheer amount of work I have to/should/volunteer to take on and so I've been thinking about getting it in on weekend mornings... that will serve two purposes - to get me up at a set time so I can settle into a weekend routine (which will in turn keep me more on-track about getting work done on weekends!) and to make sure I fill that goal of twice-a-week exercise - once on Sunday and once on Saturday! It's not the most practical work-out schedule ever from a health perspective but until I get my actual academic work under control it'll probably be easiest for me, and if I feel that it's workable I can add a third day on Wednesday to balance things out a bit.

Cleaning came to a standstill as of Monday - I need to set aside a day to do major tasks like laundry (probably tomorrow, ugh!) and make time to do minor ones like the litterbox (which usually doesn't get clean unless I do it :/) in the afternoon when I come home. I'm going to make a concerted effort to keep cleaning up the kitchen but I don't want to let cleaning take over the time I need to spend on lesson planning so the house may be messy for a while... we shall see. If this weekend goes well, next should be easier.

And internet usage, my other daily goal, has dropped to almost nothing. Because I spend so much time on lesson planning and other bits and pieces of student life as of Monday morning, I haven't had time to check my e-mail until tonight (Friday night). I guess I should be laughing that it takes a workload so heavy my head's still spinnning with things I've got to work on in order to make me stay away from the computer, but I'm on the computer a lot anyway, writing plans, and I'm technically online - just that I'm spending 90% of that time following links to online teaching resources, or looking up the PA Education standards for the nth time so I can write objectives to match them.

It's been a busy, busy week and I feel like I haven't had time to sit down although I know that last night I spent a few hours doing nothing of consequence, just to celebrate having lived through most of a week in a busy classroom. The class is great and I'm happy to be there even though my management techniques need some work because I'm running myself ragged trying to keep them all in line and focused and on task. I need to start differentiating my instruction (making the lessons easier/harder for some of the kids, for those who don't speak teacher-talk) so that's the goal for the next few lessons I write. My co-op has me reflecting on everything she can, mostly my lessons and improvements I could make for next time but also what she does in the classroom - how she teaches, how she gets the students' attention, various finer points of the curriculum and scheduling, and on occasion the prospects of getting a job, how to deal with gifts or snacks from the kids without offending if we can't have/don't want it (we had cupcakes for someone's birthday today, yum!), and where she keeps papers and more papers and more papers. I'm still getting my sea legs, so to speak, but so far I've handled myself well enough to merit a sigh of relief at not setting myself on fire (inside joke from my supervisor - he's had a student teacher so nervous to be observed that they actually lit themselves up during a science lesson). And speaking of science, I'm in full charge of the science unit we're doing next because it's a new STC kit and she knows I have "experience" (I looked at one, once) with them... plus the whole lesson requirements thing. I have to teach something, it might as well be something I like and know to start out with. XD Mostly I'm just slightly nervous (or maybe it's indigestion? ;p) about getting through the increasingly demanding second and third weeks... if I can live through those, and the weather is nice enough to not force me out of bed early to clean snow off the car, I think my life will be running smoothly. If not? Well, sometimes roller coasters can be fun...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Good news!

While it took an unfortunately very whiny e-mail to my advisor to get things done, I am going to McKeever this semester! Sunship Earth is the program I'll probably be working on there, with 5th and 6th grade students. I'm thrilled by the opportunity and want to hug my advisor for getting me in. This means I'll only spend half my semester in the classroom and the other 8 weeks in a dorm with a roommate, teaching kids stuff about the environment and their place in it. This is such a great opportunity for me to get out and get back to nature myself, as well as a really good excuse not to be locked up inside when spring comes. And even though I'm paying them (about $250, if I remember correctly) instead of them paying me like at girl scout camp, I'd much rather pay to get out of the classroom than not be able to go at all. Plus, I get to come home on weekends (my fiance is grumpy about not seeing me all week - I'll miss him too!), and I won't have to write so many lesson plans! I'm so happy I could dance, but I'll save it for after my college application essays are finished. :D

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Kristen reminded me that I should probably update on my goal progress, just so I remind myself to keep on track. So far I'm absurdly proud of my kitchen-cleaning progress. It's not perfect (I still need to clean the stove before bed, since my can of Chef Boyardee splattered a little) but the sink has stayed cleaner and I swept and scrubbed and vacuumed the floor yesterday. Sunday I even did ALL of the laundry in the hamper and got most of our bedding through the wash - it feels SO good to have clean blankets!

I haven't quite been getting up as early as I could but I'm going to make a real attempt come Friday because Monday is my first day of Student Teaching (and I'm really nervous already). I'm not terribly worried though, because once my body is on schedule it's harder to knock it off, and when I have more to do I'll hopefully be more tired at a decent hour!

Tomorrow is College Application Day. I'm pretty sure that at least one of my schools has a deadline of tomorrow anyway so here's hoping I can get everything postmarked or submitted online for 3 schools! Or at least, most of it submitted and the rest marked on a list for Friday since I'll be on campus (we have a meeting for student teaching) and I might be able to pick up transcripts and the like. I'm an awful procrastinator, I know... and I'm hoping that the habits I'm trying to develop now (like keeping things clean instead of waiting till the last minute to clean them) will help me in that area of my life.

I have to wait until summer to take the MSF so that probably won't be mentioned here again until then... but that goal will get done! :) I did actually exercise last week, too, so I'll be in shape for the course. :D Continuing it this week hasn't gone quite so well, so I'm going to try to get a walk/run in tomorrow or Friday, or maybe do some yoga inside if it's still rainy out. Been spending too much time in front of the computer or with a good book lately (although I -have- made some progress toward monitoring my internet time, I've also simply shuffled that leisure time I made for myself into reading and playing computer games. Oi! That will iron itself out though, once I'm at school 8 hours a day!).

Other things on the list have been pushed aside in favor of getting "ready" (yeah, right, I don't feel prepared at all!) for student teaching, but I'll get to working on them in a few weeks when I've settled in more. I'm not worried about the job fair goal at least - turns out there's a mandatory one at the end of the semester for all of the student teachers, so I'll have no excuse to miss it! I may try to find another one though, just to boost my chances.

On the non-goal side of life, my sister is currently headed for/in Colorado to start a new semester at a new school. I'm worried about her and hope she does ok there, because it's a huge change (and a huge distance!) from where we grew up... but she seems to be the kind of person who needed that kind of challenge so hopefully she will grow and mature a little bit and come back to us over summer break happy. I'll definitely miss her. My little sister is still in high school but only for a little while longer (time goes by so fast!) so soon mom will have an empty nest. I'm sure she will just keep on gardening and growing enough veggies for us all, though. Not much else to say. We get to keep the cat we took in for a friend - he can't take him back, and our landlady's not here enough to complain, so here he stays. We renamed him, though. His former name was Cadence (and the dog the guy owned was Maestro - can you tell he was a music major?) but we're calling him Tyr now, after the Norse God. It goes better with Loki (who is currently watching me type this. Cute kitty!).

Bedtime now, and lots to do in the morning. I never did wash that last blanket...

Friday, January 04, 2008

Especially the Serenity part.

God grant me the courage to change the things I can,
The serenity to accept the things I can not,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I'm sure that's not the "proper" version of the prayer but oddly enough a Google search for the wording turned up a "Yahoo Answers" question with several variants, and not much else useful on the front page. Google, you have let me down and I'm too lazy to search page 2.

Seriously though, I'm upset again over my student teaching placement and I really could use the patience and serenity (or is that senility?) ;) to get through this coming semester. It's a 2nd grade class (never mind that I already had 2nd grade and wanted 3rd or 4th) in a school district that I asked specifically not to be in (the city is a 30 minute drive from us, doesn't take care of any of their roads and it's winter in Western PA - can you guess why I don't want to be there?) and asked in October, no less, for them to change it. There's also the issue of a missing application to a very nice environmental science center which I had hoped to spend the last few weeks of the semester teaching at, instead of doing it in a school the whole time. I wanted the outdoors again. Now I'm stuck in Blahsville for the whole semester because the person who was supposed to handle things like this hasn't even bothered to reply to the lengthy email I sent before Christmas. I'm terribly disappointed in the system yet again and I can't stand relying on these people for another semester in order to get my degree when I feel like I've just been pushed around and stepped on and asked to fill out forms in triplicate for the amusement of some invisible higher-up.

I'm seriously considering throwing in the towel and saying "Screw you, higher education", driving as far as I can get on what's left in my bank account and hitchhiking the rest of the way to Mexico to ask for asylum there. If I could do that, do you think they'd come after me for defaulting on my student loans? I'm so tired of bureaucracy in all its forms, and I feel so helpless. I HATE feeling helpless. I can't stand it. I need to be able to do something for myself even if that something is choosing to stay in bed all day. At least it's my choice... but no, I get no choices when it comes to IUP or any other company I've dealt with (because yes, the university is a company, and it's out to make money just like everyone else. I'm tired of it and I'm frustrated by it and I don't know what else I can do but try to pretend that the world is wonderful because all of my ranting and throwing myself ineffectually against the things I don't like isn't doing anyone any good, and I'm only one tiny (if opinionated) person.