One Month Down

The last couple of weeks have been very busy, but still extremely enjoyable. I am now teaching three classes-one Algebra II class and two Geometry classes, I have been trying to stay ahead in planning – which has proven to be quite a challenge, I am volunteering with one of the athletic teams (Don’t worry College of Education–I’m not doing it full time), I had my first student that completely bombed a test, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes.  With each of these challenges, though, I have learned.  I find it interesting that the College of Education here at UA has made it a point to promote the idea of “Teachers as Lifelong Learners”.

I have found that teaching a second geometry class has benefited me in more ways than one.  Each day that we, as student teachers, get to teach a class is of benefit because we have so little experience.  However, this added course has been a blessing because it falls before the geometry class that I have already been working with-and which has certainly been a challenge in many ways.  The opportunity to hold the same lesson prior to holding it with my other geometry class (which on the whole is usually a little bit slower) helps me with what questions to anticipate, what analogies worked/didn’t work, confidence in presenting the material, and most importantly what I may be able to add or subtract from my lesson that is necessary/unnecessary.  Every minute seems vital during most class sessions, and so this “warm-up” class certainly helps combat the problem of time.

Planning is becoming a bear.  What I would imagine is the case with many student teachers/young teachers,  I am struggling to find the time for it.  Staying ahead of my lessons has been my biggest challenge thus far.  I actually enjoy planning for these lessons, but I feel that I am unable to put as much creativity into the lessons that I would like to because I have to move on to the next plan.  I’m not saying that I don’t have bright spots in my lessons; but surely, once I have taught for a year or two, I will be able to get more creative on a regular basis.

My biggest surprise came after the first geometry test that we gave.  I had some students do very well, others average, and some poorly.  Surely, after teaching a group of students for a while the teacher can tell who the obvious standouts are and who needs a little more help.  However, the situation that I am referring to was dealing with the ever dreaded “student who is very capable, but unwilling.”  After receiving advice from my mentor teacher and then talking with the student, I believe that I am going to be seeing better results from him in my class.  There will be plenty of time for goofiness in my classroom, but not if it keeps that student or other students from fulfilling their responsibility of performing well.  I don’t believe that a teacher should ever try to stifle a student’s personality, but I also don’t believe that a student should ever stifle his/his classmate’s ability to learn.  Something has to be and will be done about that.  Fortunately, my mentor teacher was there to guide me, as I realize that I am not the strongest in the area of student discipline-though I am coming to realize certain things that have to be done by the teacher, and feel that I am improving.

I’ve misspoken plenty of times in class, called students by the wrong name, given the wrong homework (i.e. the odds instead of the evens), etc.  Not making a big deal out of these small issues has worked well for me, as students begin to realize that the teacher is the same as them or any of their peers.  Not making a big deal out of it will also bode well for us as teachers because we already tend to have a lot on our plate-stressing over something as minute as a mistake is not going to benefit us in any way.

I would expect my fellow student teachers to be experiencing the same challenges and excitements as I am here in Germany.  Would I be correct?

Hello World!

My name is Brian Dudek, though most people call me Gus. I am a senior at UA and am finishing up my undergraduate degree in Secondary Math Education. The last semester for any teacher candidate is comprised of their student teaching, typically within a school near the university or their hometown. I was fortunate enough to receive my placement in Ansbach, Germany, on a U.S. Army Base. I am working with two teachers (will be teaching two Geometry classes in the one room and two Algebra II classes in the other) who appear to be devoted to their students and are certainly very well respected amonst their peers. Several staff members on various occasions have told me how fortunate I am to be working with both of these ladies, and how great of a job they do on a yearly basis. Hearing this only excites me more for the jam-packed semester that lies ahead.

Student teaching is an exciting, yet uncertain time for student teachers-or at least it has been for me thus far. With only a week under my belt in my two cooperating teachers’ classrooms, I have had a great time. At the same time, I have already realized how much I will actually have to do this semester. I know that as time goes I will be checking tasks off my list, however, I truly do not know what to expect in my day-to-day activities at the school.

I have had the opportunity to lead a couple of easy lessons/review sessions with some regular size classes, and I have also had the chance to work with a couple small groups of students who take a class called “Lab.” I will begin teaching one Geometry class and one Algebra II class per day this coming week. I am suddenly very aware that I, not only have to prepare lessons for these classes, but I actually have to review the material beforehand because it has been so long since taking these courses. I have been fine with the material that has been covered in the first few days, however I dread the thought of not being able to answer a question that a student asks. I feel that this will play a large role in my preparation.

Last week I got to enjoy setting up a classroom for the first time, discussing the ideal grading scheme, talking about what to expect in the first week/entire semester, and much more. I got to sit in meetings-some of which were boring, but others that were informative and eye opening in the sense that I was seeing the inner workings of the school from a teacher’s perspective, something drastically different from when I was a high school student myself. I attended a fairly large high school (Green High School-approximately 360 students in graduating class) and had not yet been subjected to a smaller setting (Ansbach Middle High School has just over 400 students—grades 7-9!). The fact of the matter is that teachers here seem to face the same challenges as the teachers that I grew up with, but this group of teachers has their own unique set of challenges to face. From staffing to financial support, things are different. I was very impressed to see the apparent closeness of the staff here, and the committment to the TEAM-the students, community, faculty, and staff.

The principal stressed this philosophy, and I have seen up close in just my first week how close the staff is and how that benefits the students. Teachers are lenient, they work together, and they find importance in schoolwork, but almost all of them find value in extracurriculars. Almost all staff members take part, in at least some form, in one or more extracurricular activities for and with the students. This is not to say that academics take a back seat, but it is to say that the community here is different than I have ever experienced (not that I have that much experience!). The mindset is a little different, in that teachers and students go to school on a military post and most people know each other. Many students have parents that have been deported, but share in the excitement that their parents are soon to return back to post. Spouses share in the same excitement. They share excitement, and sometimes heartbreak, together. Students and teachers understand that some people have been here for years, and others are coming for only a couple and then leaving again. Students blend well because they ALL share this one thing in common.

That is something that I surely could not have experienced at a local or private school in the U.S. I’m eager to learn more about the situation that families find themselves in while here on an army post.

More to come from Ansbach, Germany.

Week 2 of Student Teaching

The attraction of being overseas at any time is to explore and see new things.  I got my first taste of traveling within Germany over Labor Day Weekend, as my roommate and i headed to Garmisch, a beautiful area in southern Germany famous for its skiing.  We visited the sight of the 1936 Winter Olympics, as well as the highest point in all of Germany, and the famous Neuschwanstein Castle–all sights were truly spectacular.

With travel comes the fall back to reality–though it did not seem to be a long fall.  School began again on Tuesday, for my second week of student teaching, and I didn’t find myself wishing that I was somewhere else on vacation.  I found myself excited to be in school, working with students.  I think that the opportunity to take short trips is a great way to force one to drop their work, and thus not overwork.  This is not something that I am accustomed to back at home, as I tend to not to want to lose sight of my normal routine.  The fact that I am here in Europe really gives me no other option but to go out and see what I may never have the opportunity to see again.

With that being said, students are no different than the ones that I remember when I was in high school.  Some overachieving, some underachieving.  Some always wanting to participate, others never.  Ideally teachers would have in their classrooms students who are motivated and want to learn and give their best effort, regardless of subject area or current academic level.  Of course we all know that this is not the case.  I have encountered some students who don’t see the importance of math–or, more importantly, the importance of doing your best, no matter the task at hand.  The philosophy that you are going to do your best, even though you may not be THE BEST, is such an asset in life.

If this is the one thing that I am able to convince any students of this semester, I will consider my student teaching a success.  The challenge, which has certainly not been documented, is how to convince them of such.  As I look forward to the coming weeks, the primary goal, aside from my lesson planning and TPA work, will be to get to know as many students as well as possible.  Certainly, the first step in convincing someone of something so important starts with gaining their trust.