None of my teachers really focused on honing my creativity, and it is because of this that I can say I cannot be that way. I cannot accept that the most important thing in the classroom is the core curriculum like my former teachers thought. To the best of my abilities, if I know for a fact that I have a prodigy in my midst, I would go the extra yard even if it tires me to help that child grow, because who knows? I may have the next Leonardo da Vinci or J. R. Tolkien sitting in my room. Or perhaps, that child may be the next Michael Jackson or President of the United States. From me, they would get the extra skills and also that additional care about their personality that differs from the world. “No one is the same.” I tell myself that. A person may look similar outwardly to another person, but at the end of the day, their minds are not one. Each year, I am sure I will encounter many aspiring individuals that I will be responsible for teaching not only the core, but how to succeed in life with natural gifts that I believe everyone possess. However, I can only imagine all of the other children who were like me who gave up and just blended into the average working world instead of branching out, taking the knowledge they’ve learned in the classroom and infusing it with their talent. My goal as the educator is to not let that happen under my watch.
For the eight months that I have the children, I am a ‘part-parent’ to them, and what kind of parent would I be if I simply ignored? I am not totally biased to prodigies. There are other ways that I can show I care for my students. I can admit, coming to the classroom being positive every day is challenging. It is really hard when you have outside things in your life going on. You sometimes are not over it when you get into the room, but my positive attitude and encouragement might just make a world of difference in shaping the minds of the little ones in my class. For example, one of my cooperating teachers during internship that taught fourth grade was distanced from me. She enjoyed having me there to take over eight weeks of her class, but that was all. She did not help me make fun lessons or give me any tips on classroom management. Her only advice was to go by the book. “It is a guide,” she said and she believed that. She followed it herself.
Her lack of creativity was so upsetting to me, because in the back of my mind, I was thinking about my livelihood and the fourth grade class that I may get. Sometimes my disgust for her would linger on my thoughts, but even though she bothered me, I knew that it was not fair to the students to let that anger show, because then their classroom experience would be ruined. I was on my own and I was fully aware of that. I had to compensate for the lack of mentorship and make it work. The children, hesitant in the beginning to give me a chance, began to love me. They liked me so much that it was difficult for the cooperating teacher to merge back in, because the words “I don’t want you to go” was stated more than once. I showed the students that I cared for them above myself, because their futures, to me, were very important. Let us say it is a child’s first day of school. This is a new experience for him and he is unhappy. I think that isolating him from the group or any activity is not the best route. I would welcome him at all times, at the same time, access his behaviors.
My goal would be to make him comfortable. I would not be too insistent for that might make him even more uncomfortable, but if he is not quickly accepting to the environment then I would have to spend time with him. Hands-on may be a good route also. If several days pass and he is still unhappy, I would inform the parents so that they can be aware of the situation and possibly provide a hand of help. Teaching is far harder than it looks and there is no one person on the face of this Earth that knows it all. For surely there are pretenders, but we, as humans, are incapable of being an encyclopedia or computer. Even knowing this, as an educator, I am expected to deliver the material. It is my job to understand and convey the subject matter that the students are to learn for that grade level. To stay on top of my game, I must make sure that I do not slack in my research and planning. Every day, it is my job to know what I am going to talk about, because if I do not, the administrators will know, the students will know, and worse, the parents will know. I, myself, do not know it all, but I have to think about how I am going to get the content across.
One way to do this is to first access my class. It would be nice to have a room full of geniuses, but most likely, that will not be the case. So if I have an average class or ‘motley crew’ as our book Tools for Teaching denotes there are things that I have to do in order to teach the content. Repetition always comes in handy. A child’s mind is like a sponge and what better way to capitalize from this than repeating myself over and over until they have gotten it? Another thing I plan to do is work the crowd. During my internship, my first teacher who taught second grade told me that it is a very bad idea to hold the Teacher’s Manual while teaching. “Be creative,” she said to me often. “Be natural and fun. Do not hold the book. Children will see that you are hesitant an unprepared. And they will also do stuff when your eyes are looking on the page to see what to say next.” She taught me how to work the crowd by walking about with my head high and voice confident to captivate the children while they learned the lesson. Another thing that I could do is of course utilize the technology in my room. It is there for a reason, mostly because this is the technology era.
Children learn in different ways, but I think they would never grow tired of gadgets. The smart board, overhead, computer, IPods, and even the television are a few things that I could incorporate into my lessons. My cooperative teacher did this a lot and the children enjoyed it. She used a website called Peter’s PowerPoint Presentations which had most of the lessons prepared already for any subject. Another one of her favorites was Walkie’s Web which was also geared for early childhood grade levels. Children always want to feel important and they want to impress the teacher, their part-parent. Children also never want to get into trouble, but this is something that may happen every now and then. My attitude towards having an enjoyable year involves socializing and bringing up young children in a safe and encouraging environment. I do not believe in tyranny. I would be the head of the classroom; however, that does not mean I should rule with an iron fist. I should earn the respect of the children and build a positive rapport with them. If I had to discipline a child, it would be through verbal warnings at the minimum.
Children really do not like to be denied of activities or fun things, so threatening to take participation away helps too. Even though I would take something away, I sometimes give the child a chance to earn their privilege back, but that cannot be done always because then they might take advantage of it. Going to the parents would be a last resort, because parents cannot always be relied on and they expect me to be able to perform my duties. I would always choose my own method of discipline based on the circumstance and the child. I cannot handle each situation the same, because they are not always the same incidents. I love positive reinforcers such as parties and games and treats, and I love to reward children for good behavior. As the last resort, I would take privileges away. My goal in anything that I do is to show the child that they should do their best at all times. The last thing I want to do is punish the entire class. If I do that, I would not be liked for very long. Instead, I could reward the class with a group reward when they all did well overall.
When it comes to tests, I would be disappointed in myself if most of my classroom bummed an exam that I clawed tooth and nail to teach during the days or weeks prior. Since I know that I have to give at least four major tests per subject per nine weeks, I would most definitely do what I can to prepare the students for the main day. This would include, but would not be limited to, games, pop-quizzes, teacher-made tests etc. For example, if we were memorizing the nation’s presidents through a song, I would test the students on how well they have remembered that song individually. Whatever I can do, though it will be tiring at times, I would do to make sure they were grasping the material. I would also teach to the middle and mix up strategies especially if I know certain children learn in certain ways. The most important things for me to remember as an educator are versatility and reflection. Every year, my class would change and the personalities that I had in the previous year’s class will not be the same in the next.
For example, let us say that last year I had a group of twenty students who all learned easily. They were elites. This year, nevertheless, I have a class room full of not only average or below average children, but also more discipline problems. Immediately, I would want my old angels back, but they are long gone and I am stuck with the motley group. So to adjust, I automatically know that the easiness of teaching will not work this time. With this group, I will have to sweat. Every day, it is a must that I remain observant and most willing to work on the problems. If I encounter a new problem, for instance, Johnny eats glue during every cut and paste activity, I could ask my pair teachers or veteran teachers around how to deal with that particular issue, because learning from experience is not just from my own. I could learn a lot from others around who have been down that road just like I did from my second grade teacher who has taught for eight years. My father currently teaches as well at one of the most hardcore schools in Montgomery, Capital Heights. He has taught for twenty-four years now and he seems to be handling his job well unlike some.
My grandparents on his side are both retired educators. Each one of them can provide a reference for me. The ultimate goal, I think, is to be prepared for the unexpected, and I must never assume that going into a situation without a plan will work. I was formerly a part of SAEA when I was taking my undergraduate studies, and I was not like most students who just enrolled because it was required. I actually went to the meetings, ran for office, and participated in the fundraising events. Now that I am an alumnus, I have not been so involved in the program, but I believe that all is not lost. When I do finally become a teacher, there are other programs that I can involve myself in within the school that I teach at. My cooperating teacher of the second grade was the leader of PBS which stood for Positive Behavior Support.
She, along with other teachers, were involved in engaging students in positive activities and rewards for their grades and behavior. I was intrigued by this, and if my school does not have such a program, I want to have the gumption to create it for the better good. Also, if I am seeking to become a part of a community that is not within the school to get advice and tips from other professionals, I could join groups online and be a part of the collaboration and discussion boards. It helps sometimes to talk with others not in your circle about problems or other things that may be bothersome. That gives a level of privacy, and in the process I am receiving feedback that could come in handy in the future.