Sunday, March 3, 2013

Things They Don't Teach You in College

You complete four years of higher education to learn all the intricacies of teaching. They cover classroom management techniques, your teaching philosophies, how to be a reflective teacher, teaching using enduring ideas and all those very important topics. But what I have learned in my last four weeks were not taught to me and yet I think they are important to share. Keep in mind I am teaching Kindergarten through fifth grade.

Make sure you have air freshener in your classroom. It is important to know what the children are eating for lunch. Some days no matter where you wander in the classroom you smell the remnants of the children's "toots" from beans at lunch. Also, kindergartners and some first graders may have a tendency to have mini accidents and sometimes have the light odor of the bathroom lingering in their pants. Not to mention that 4th and 5th graders can have strong body odor if they haven't bathed.

And speaking of accidents, find out what the school policy is if a child doesn't get to the bathroom in time. I was alone in  my class one day and heard a child wailing in the bathroom outside my hallway. I went in to locate the source of concern and found a little girl from kindergarten sobbing in a stall because she had an accident. When I got her to open the door, I discovered she had completely wet her dress, her tights and her boots. I didn't think, just went into action mode. Told her to take off her clothes and I went to the classroom to get a smock (an old t-shirt) and told her to put that on for now. I grabbed a bag and rinsed her clothes as best I could and put them in a bag. I then went to the office and asked if we had extra clothes. Long story short, my teacher came back and asked what I was doing and she said..."Friese, you don't do that, you send them to the NURSE!" Sheesh. Live and learn,

Prepare to be sick for your first year at least. I rarely have colds that keep me down and almost never go to the doctor for them. This semester I caught a devil of a bug that has already sent me to Urgent Care and the Student Health Center. Two different antibiotics, cough syrups, and an inhaler later, I am crossing my fingers I might get rid of this bug before the end of the month. And yes, I do know the month only just started.

Stay away from the lost and found. Our school keeps all the hats, mittens and scarves that children have lost in a cabinet outside our classroom. Whenever a child asks me to help them look for their Hello Kitty hat, I've learned to answer, "you need to look harder yourself." Normally I would not have hesitated to help a child in need, but a lice outbreak at our school has made me leery of touching the little darlings head gear. Just saying.

Keep your hands and fingers away from your eyes if at all possible. Pink eye is another fact of life. One day I asked a child why he was rubbing his eye and he responded he had pink eye. My cooperating teacher and I exchanged a look of horror and sent him directly to the school nurse. Quite fortunate my teacher has wipes with bleach in her classroom. Note to self: wipes with bleach a must.

Make sure you know your school's policy on bullying. I am fortunate in that my cooperating teacher runs the program for the school and has put an excellent program in place. It has been my observation that most of the issues have originated with girls, but there are issues with boys as well. I am continually surprised at how manipulative they can be. It tends to be the same students and some of their classmates recognize the wisdom of staying away from those students. One girl looked at me during an incident with two other girls in art club and said quietly to me, "Drama. I stay away from it." Smart girl.

Just so I don't sound completely negative, I would like to add, that at least once a day I am blown away by the level of maturity and insight some of the students display. Some of these kids could school my classmates in college on how to give a presentation, write an insightful reflection, and carry themselves with dignity and respect. One thing they did teach us in college was to have high expectations of students and I can see for myself how valuable that lesson can be.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Student Teaching at Jefferson Lighthouse and Applying for Jobs

It's been about a month into student teaching. I have a great cooperating teacher, Julia Kopp, who also graduated from the UW-Milwaukee program. She is truly amazing and I am learning so much, my head is swimming. It's an International Baccalaureate elementary school Primary Years Program, which is K-5. IB schools offer challenging programs and rigorous assessment that encourages students to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right. About half of the students are gifted and the other half is a wide mix of all different levels. I am truly amazed every day at what these kids can do. It has really opened my eyes to a different way of teaching that is inquiry and reflective based. 

The students make a lot of decisions in this type of teaching and at first it was a bit scary. You have no idea how it will work, if it will work, but because these students have been learning this way for years, it sort of magically happens. It teaches you to trust in the experience and let go of trying to control how the lesson will evolve. 

It has been interesting teaching 2nd graders how to make African animals using clay in only two class periods. Thank goodness Ms. Kopp help me with the demo! The 3rd grade has a unit on energy and we are collecting recycled items and creating four murals for the entrance to the school. 4th grade has a unit on health and we are concentrating on mental health - teaching the students about art journaling. My sister Claudia graciously agreed to come and speak to each class about mental health and the benefits of art journeying. 5th grade just finished a lesson on Art and Advertising and now are starting to learn perspective.

In April I switch to a secondary school and will be learning from Bari Bacun at Hamilton High School. I'm sure it will be as equally rewarding of an experience. One of my cohorts had the same placement and he said she was awesome.

Mostly I have been busy applying for jobs, attending job fairs, and preparing for classes. I miss my studio time but I have been kept so busy I hardly have time to think about it. 

Speaking of job fairs, I attended the Milwaukee Public Schools fair today. They predict they will need to fill 700 jobs at least by next school year. I was glad I got there early, because by the time I left it was a mob scene. Contracts were being offered on the spot for choice areas like Special Ed, Science, Math, etc. I noticed those candidates name tags had color coded dots on them. When I would approach someone who had an opening for an art teacher, I could almost see their eyes glaze over. I still think many people misunderstand the importance of art education. Subject for another post I think. I made some great contacts though and for the most part it was very informative and I think I have a better idea on which schools I am interested in.