Author Archive for Margaret Brill

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Spring Break Fever is in the Air!

0Samantha Hessel, from Maribel WI. She will be licensed Special Education Cross Categorical Middle Childhood through Adolescence with an emphasis in learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate, and a Spanish minor. Her 18-week placement is taking place at Shattuck Middle School.

The kids are ready for a break and so am I! Being a full time teacher is exhausting! There are not enough hours in the day to get all of my materials prepared. Many times I feel two steps behind or I just make my deadline. Not only are there not enough hours in the day to get prepared, but there aren’t enough hours in the school day to teach my kids everything they need to be taught. I often feel like I need to teach 24 hours a day, 365 days a week, which is impossible. This sometimes leaves me feeling like I am failing my kids, but I have to know I am doing the best I can for them. When I look at how long the students are in school and how intense it is, no wonder they are tired!

On a positive note my kids just finished up their short story unit in my co-taught language arts class. At the culmination of this unit they had to compile a portfolio of elements project. There were fifteen possible items they could choose to complete based on the short story unit vocabulary. To accompany this project we read short stories as a class that they could use to complete this project or they could use their choice book. The students really struggled with the idea of this project and how to get started. At the first check point a week after we had assigned the portfolio many of the students were not on track. If they did have some started many times they weren’t right. We thought we were going to have to revamp the project because it was not going well. This caused me a lot of stress. I offered a lot of extra assistance to my students during my reading mediation class. The projects were due last Friday so my co-teacher and I graded them over the last week. I can’t speak for the both of us, but I was pleasantly surprised on how well the students did with the project. Two students that really struggled in the beginning did phenomenal jobs on the project. One of the students even did extra credit! Also at the end of the unit the students had to take a test. I am so proud to say that one of my students aced the test! It is these moments that make all the stressful, pull your hair out, crash in your bed at the end of the day moments worth it! To see them succeed and help them know how smart and successful they are brings so much joy to this job!

An Incredible Journey Comes to an End

jenniferbackesJennifer Backes,  from South Milwaukee, is majoring in Music Education with an emphasis on Instrumental and General Education. Her inspiration to become a teacher comes from long line of educators and a desire to spread her passion of music to others  Her 18-week placement is broken down by the first 9-weeks at Rosenow Elementary in Fond du Lac, and the second at Merrill and Webster-Stanley Middle Schools in Oshkosh.

Wow.  It is hard to believe that I have completed my first placement of student teaching.  It seems like yesterday when I sang my song of introduction to all of my kids back in January!  Has nine weeks really come and gone?  Yes it has.

My third through fifth graders had their Pirate concert and I couldn’t be more proud of them for how well it went!  Every student had some sort of fun pirate outfit/costume on and it was the cutest sight to behold!  My third graders were performing first so we were all on stage when the principal welcomed the audience.  He then introduced me as the “amazing student teacher” and presented me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers!  I was so touched and thankful for such a wonderful sentiment that I couldn’t stop smiling.  And then I really couldn’t stop when I led my kids in their songs and they did an outstanding job!  They remembered everything I had told and taught them and did even better than I could have imagined!  I was so proud of each and every one of them that I couldn’t help but get a bit emotional when they came up to me afterwards to hug and thank me.

The fourth and fifth graders performed their Pirates Musical next and they too did an amazing job!  They all had their lines memorized and I only needed to prompt one student.  There was even a part where a few kids got to run around in the audience which everybody loved!  But all of the songs and speaking parts were so good and many people complimented us on such a fantastic concert!

Words cannot even begin to explain what an incredible journey it has been.  My cooperating teacher was easily the best elementary music teacher I have ever observed!  She was so organized and extremely helpful throughout my whole time of being there.  Definitely an excellent inspiration and someone I will certainly be remaining in touch with.  She and I are practically the same person and we would even joke around and say that we were twins separated from birth.  Everything from our personality, to our organization, and to our styles of teaching were so similar that even the kids would laugh!

Not only will I miss her but I will miss every single one of my kids as well.  We all bonded really well and I was basically a crying mess on my last day as I kept getting tackled by kids hugging me with teary eyes.  I am so thankful for this experience and for being able to not only touch many students’ lives but to have them touch mine as well.  One successful placement is complete and now my nerves are back again as I prepare for my next placement with middle school orchestra!

A Unique Experience

MelissaMelissa Walters, from Milwaukee, is graduating with a dual major in special education and general education for first through eighth grade. She has had a life long dream of becoming a teacher. Her 18-week session is broken into two 9-week programs. Oliver Wendell Holmes Elementary  for the first 9-weeks, and Bethune Academy for the second both in the Milwaukee Public School System.

It is hard to believe that my first student teaching placement is halfway completed. This week I began full-time, lead teaching.  This means that from our entering procedures to assigning homework and signing behavior sheets, I am in charge.  Thanks to the consistent support of my cooperating teacher, it has been a very smooth transition.  My students have also responded very well to the change. Each day is definitely a unique experience, but there has yet to be a day where I don’t find joy in teaching and working with the amazing students at O.W. Holmes. These students have truly become my students and have already affected my life.  Beyond lesson plans and homework, this is what it means to be a teacher.

One very stressful part of being a teacher in the world today is the hunt for a job.  Although it has been mentioned that the Milwaukee Public Schools are looking for 700 to hire for the fall, there is a crowd of much more than that 700 looking for employment.  This reality hit me hard this weekend while attending a job fair in Milwaukee. I spent almost four straight hours meeting teachers and principals from throughout the district hoping that someone would remember my face, my resume or my mint green blazer.  It can be difficult to make sense of everything that needs to happen between now and teaching.  Although finding any job can be difficult, it is a unique experience in the field of education.  In a district such as MPS, there are so many people with so many various experiences, you have to simply hope that someone finds a special trust in you.  In your hands are the minds of any number of students who need you to be at your prime to help them reach their full potential.  Teaching is what I’ve always wanted to do, I just have to find a way to get there.  Fingers crossed.

There have been so many situations throughout my student teaching placement that catch me off guard, teach me something new, and sometimes, take my breath away.  It is in those moments that I realize that I am in the right place.

True Connections

0Samantha Hessel, from Maribel WI. She will be licensed Special Education Cross Categorical Middle Childhood through Adolescence with an emphasis in learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate, and a Spanish minor. Her 18-week placement is taking place at Shattuck Middle School.

To begin with, I always thought I could prepare for the classroom and student teaching through my classes. This last week it truly hit me, NOTHING could truly prepare me for this except actually being in the classroom full time. These kids are my kids and I feel responsible for their education. There are not enough hours in the day to teach them everything I need to, which breaks my heart. But tomorrow I will get up again and try because there are break through moments where you feel you have truly connected with a student. There are other moments you could pull your hair out because they just do not understand what you are teaching them and it is so frustrating to know you haven’t done your job. This is what being a real life teacher is like.

In other words, I absolutely love my placement. The kids are great and I have a great team that I work with because that is what we are, a team. I am co-teaching with another student teacher from UW Oshkosh, along with both of our cooperating teachers. There are two educational aids that work with my kiddos and another specific learning disabilities teacher. We work together to provide the best we can. As I am writing this I am thinking of everything that goes on in the school day and how constant communication is key. My cooperating teacher created a binder for me when I came to the school and in her first paragraph she used the quote “It takes a whole village to raise a child” and she is absolutely right. Thursday one of our educational aids was home sick and it was tough without her because she had knowledge about classroom assignments that we didn’t.

Developing as a co-teacher has started off on a positive note I feel. I am lucky enough to have a co-teacher who wants to share the classroom with me and wants me to be an active part of the class, not just another person in the classroom monitoring behavior or taking on the role as an aid. In the beginning I took on a more of a secondary role, letting him be the leader. He spoke up and gave me the push I needed to become more of an active role in the classroom. We take on the challenges together and brainstorm how we can make things better or what needs changing.

I am teaching two sections of a reading mediation class and three sections of co taught eighth grade language arts. One of the things that drew me to special education was the fact I would be working on real life skills with my kiddos and not just one specific content area because I didn’t have a passion for one. I am drawn to academics and application of real life skills. Since I am teaching kids with learning disabilities I am working more with academics. Today proved I will be forever learning. Since I only teach language arts I do not attend any other classes with my kiddos. Not only do I miss out on that information, but my kiddos have a wide variety of teachers because they are included in the classroom. I had to quickly grasp the material in order to be able to assist my kids with their assignments. That was one of the most frustrating moments in this placement. I cannot be everywhere with my kids and I just have to help them the best that I can.

Benefits of Extra Activities

Suspenders1

 

Paul Franzowiak, Menomonee Falls, Wi., is a Secondary Education Major with an emphasis in Mathematics. After tutoring friends in math, he was inspired to become a teacher. He will have a full 18 week placement at Maplewood Middle School in Menasha.

I’ve been at Maplewood for just over a month now and have started to take on many more roles at the school. I have begun to branch out from being the student teacher and have tried to take on more roles as a professional would in the field. Many of the staff members I teach with have become more than just co-workers, but friends I can turn to. I have gotten to know more and more about people in the building and how much some of us have in common outside of school. I have also taken on the role of the student learning from them. Many of them share words of advice, wisdom, and characteristics in what it means to have such an important role in the development of a student’s life.

Before starting my student teaching, one word of advice that I heard over and over again was to get involved in as many activities possible. When presented with the chance to play a supporting role in a department wide play, I jumped on this opportunity. The play entitled “The Time Machine” is a social studies department activity to present material in differentiated way. I cannot give out many of the details about this play, but am very excited to be part of something outside of my content area. Participating in this will definitely be one of the many the highlights of my student teaching experience.

As much as I am enjoying my placement, there have been a few days that I have struggled to get through and questioned if I am doing the right thing. There have been a few lessons that I have struggled to get through and had a hard time finishing up. However, struggling through these and reflecting upon how I could improve or reword what I was trying to say, has made me become a better teacher. I have learned about my own teaching style. There are many areas of teaching that I thought I was pretty good at, however, as it turns out these areas need a lot of improvements. After seeing these needs to improve this has shown me where I am at this point and how much I have already grown since I began a month ago.

The Hunger Game : Lunch Duty

JeremyJeremy Kautzfrom Menasha, is majoring in Mathematics Education with a minor in Spanish (Non-licensable) He wants to become a teacher so he can have an influence on social progress, justice and the creation of a more just and green world. His 18 week placement is taking place at Webster Stanley Middle School in Oshkosh.

During the first week of my student teaching experience I was forwarded an e-mail. Wanted: Lunch Supervisors. As a student teacher is incredibly important to get involved in the school community because it gives you a chance to connect with the school, other faculty and the students you serve. In my second week at the middle school, I became a deputized lunch supervisor. Lunch duty at the middle school entails three main duties: crowd control, time management and conflict resolution.

A Middle School Lunchroom, is one of the more freely structured environments in the school, aside from hallways during passing time and recess outdoors. In continuing and enforcing the PBIS our school has adopted in the last year to improve student behavior and performance, the duties of a lunch supervisor are very important. One of our main tools are Golden Tickets which can be used to win raffles including privileges, prize packs at the end of the week, or the ability to participate in exciting events at rallies. With the Golden Tickets, used for positive reinforcements either in my pocket or worn as a necklace I am prepared to convert from 5th hour to 7th/8th grade lunch.

Being a new student teacher in the lunchroom the students seemed keen to try and delve past the mysterious barriers I placed around my life outside of school. I can’t count the number of guesses that were taken at my first name, as though I were a Rumplestiltskin, and the name would give them power. Other questions have included snickers of middle schoolers as I have been asked the most peculiar, and possibly incriminating questions. My advice is to answer their questions in a way which leaves no room for misinterpretation, either silence or a calculated response.

Students can also be particularly devious in the pranks they try (and sometimes) get away with. On one french toast (breakfast for lunch) day, a student loosened the cap of the syrup so the next students in line had a flash of sticky sweetened high fructose corn syrup dumped all over their tray. No students stopped and decided it may be a good idea to put the cap on securely, I had to intervene, clean up the spill on the condiment table and the mess on the floor. Similarly students have failed to show responsibility with spills of milk, but a expedient response is always required. I will continue to respond to distressed spilling situations due to my experience working in a cafeteria for 5 years to get through school.

Per my recommendation, student teachers take the opportunity to become an employee of the district as a lunchroom supervisor. It gives them opportunities to connect with their fellow staff members, they get to see students in a less structured environment, and give them the opportunities to become acquainted with the schools disciplinary and reinforcement systems.

Compassion Goes A Long Way

jenniferbackesJennifer Backes,  from South Milwaukee, is majoring in Music Education with an emphasis on Instrumental and General Education. Her inspiration to become a teacher comes from long line of educators and a desire to spread her passion of music to others  Her 18-week placement is broken down by the first 9-weeks at Rosenow Elementary in Fond du Lac, and the second at Merrill and Webster-Stanley Middle Schools in Oshkosh.

I have pretty much been teaching by myself most of the time now.  It has been a really great experience but boy does it sure leave me exhausted at the end of each day!  Since you are constantly busy every second of the day, you don’t have time to think about the fact that you have been standing, talking, and/or singing for sometimes three hours straight. You may not even realize that you hadn’t even gone to the bathroom all day! Your mind becomes focused on what you’re doing and making sure your students are behaving. You are constantly scanning and constantly redirecting since you have around 30 kids in one small classroom. It is a good thing I keep a water bottle on me at all times because there was even a point in which I was losing my voice from singing so much! Now I can understand why my cooperating teacher wears a little microphone so that she doesn’t have to speak louder and wear her voice out.

With Valentine’s Day, conferences, and half-days happening lately the kids have definitely been more worked up than usual.  But I have been handling and redirecting my kids pretty well so it wasn’t too bad.  Plus, I received some cute cards from my kids on Valentine’s Day that made me smile so much I couldn’t be upset with them for very long!  I even got into the Valentine’s Day spirit and wrote a short Valentine’s Day song to teach my kids. They loved it because I included instruments as well. Anytime you can get kids to play instruments, they instantly love anything! Even if it is something as simple as rhythm sticks or shakers, they love it!

Of course it wasn’t all easy. There was a boy with Autism who was having some difficulties this week because his routine was off due to the holiday.  He was more worked up than usual and had a harder time adjusting to all of the new noises of excitement and parties. I felt bad because there was an activity I was doing with his class where I drew names from a bag for students to come up and participate. I drew his name and asked if he would like a turn.  He nodded and quietly came forward. I was using a ribbon tied to a stick in which the students just had to twirl it around to create a pattern for the rest of the class to sing. My boy got a small smile on his face as he twirled it around but then the class laughed – not at him but at the fun design he created. However, he assumed they were laughing at him and so he ran out of the classroom. My cooperating teacher followed him and told me to just continue but I felt so bad. After class I had a short break and instead of planning for my next class that would arrive in a half hour I went to the room where he was calming down and sat next to him. I didn’t say anything but simply picked up the nearest book and began to read to myself.  I wanted him to know, on his own time, that I was there for him and that I appreciated him. We remained in silence like that for probably about 15 minutes but then he finally lifted his hand and patted my arm. He didn’t look at me, and it only lasted for a few seconds, but that gesture alone made me smile and feel so warm. His specialist, who was in the room at her desk, saw this as well and smiled and nodded to me. While it may seem like nothing, that was his way of acknowledging me and knowing that I was there for him, and will always be there for him. Words can’t even describe how moving and powerful it was.

Our presence means the world to our students. To take the time to show them that you care can make such a huge difference. I have an easy time connecting with students who have disabilities due to my job experience with CESA 6 and these students especially need to know that they have people on their side. Many students, and adults for that matter, cast them aside and assume they won’t understand or that they are “beyond hope” but that could not be further from the truth. They are people just like you and me who yearn for love and companionship. They may not be able to vocalize it as clearly as we can but they deserve it as well. They may not be able to express their gratitude as easily as others, but they are thankful. And it may be hard for us to know whether or not what we are teaching reaches their ears, but they do remember. We cannot give up on them just because they have a disability. If we do that then we are simply proving that we are the ones with the disability. Scott Hamilton once said, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” As teachers we have agreed to try to touch and reach out to every single student so please do not leave anybody behind.  They all need us.

Learning From Experience

Paul Franzowiak, Menomonee Falls, Wi., is a Secondary Education Major with an emphasis in Mathematics. After tutoring friends in math, he was inspired to become a teacher. He will have a full 18 week placement at Maplewood Middle School in Menasha.  

I’m about a month into my placement at Maplewood and am starting to get settled in. I’ve taken over three of the five hours that I have for my daily schedule. I’m starting to understand the importance of being prepared and organized everyday that I come to class. There was one day where I began teaching a lesson and didn’t have a good example for the students. It caused some confusion amongst the students and a feeling of embarrassment for me. Luckily, my co-operating teacher was able to help me out and got me through the example. This was definitely not one of the best moments I’ve had thus far and learned from this experience.

I have also found myself bringing work home with me on a nightly basis. Whether it is grading homework, planning a lesson, making a test, or entering grades in to the computer, I always have schoolwork with me.

My co-operating teacher was gone for a couple of days I did have the opportunity to teach full-time for a couple days straight this past week. This was a good learning experience for me. I was able to look back on some of the things that I had planned and how they went. I figured out that there are some things I definitely need to work on. Having my co-operating teacher out of the room actually made things a little easier for me. It gave me a chance to relax since I knew that my “supervisor” wasn’t in the room watching what I was doing. It’s been a great couple of weeks so far and couldn’t be happier where I am right now!

Being a student for the past several years and preparing to teach children is the main focal point of college. We sometimes forget that being in a school also allows us to work with veterans of the teaching profession. Being able to work with the staff at Maplewood has been an awesome experience. All of the staff members have been nothing but outstanding in the support that they have been giving me. There are a few staff members in particular that I have developed a very good relationship with. I often look to them for advice, thoughts/ideas, and taken away different perspectives on things. They have all taught me many things that no classroom experience or class at Oshkosh could ever have taught me. I’ve enjoyed going to a variety of “faculty only” meetings and talking with a variety of people in the school. Make sure that when student teaching that you participate in all “get-togethers” that the faculty has. It’s a good way to get to know people in the building you normally don’t get a chance to see very often.

Good First Impressions

JeremyJeremy Kautz, from Menasha, is majoring in Mathematics Education with a minor in Spanish (Non-licensable) He wants to become a teacher so he can have an influence on social progress, justice and the creation of a more just and green world. His 18 week placement is taking place at Webster Stanley Middle School in Oshkosh.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” ~Harlan Hogan

I was hopeful when I walked into Webster Stanley Middle School for the first time, arriving 15 minutes early for an interview with the Principal and my would-be cooperating teacher.   I decided that if I was going to make myself a member of this educational community it was important to get to know the office staff and make a good first impression. I met the principal for the first time as he greeted me and we went to the conference room where I took my place in the hot seat at the end of the table with my cooperating teacher on my left and the principal on my right prepared to fire away with a wide range of questions to get to know me. In order to be prepared for an interview, a perspective student teacher needs to have critically thought about their philosophy of education, how to manage a classroom (in theory) and identify the talents that you can bring the organization.

My cooperating teacher has said to her students numerous times over my first two weeks how important first impressions are especially when they are being mischievous.  Getting off on the right foot with your cooperating teacher is also incredibly important. In order to put my best foot forward, I prepared for my first day of class by contacting them via e-mail. I also prepared a binder which would be central to my organization for the semester. They mentioned to me in our conversations during the preparation period that they admired my preparedness, organization and also level of engagement. I firmly believe that being engaged with the students and in the classroom as early as possible is important to build a report with both the students, the cooperating teacher, and the school community. I am very excited to be working with my teacher and her students at Webster Stanley Middle School for an entire 18 weeks.

In my first two weeks I have been engaged, helpful, and personable. I have been able to share some technical expertise, assisting with technology and teaching the cooperating teacher how to make use of the Google’s many features. I have also been able to observe many different classroom dynamics, seeing how age, and maturity can affect a classroom is easily noticeable in the 6th 7th and 8th grade classes that I am in. A few of the classes we teach are contained to 10 students at a time, in order to ensure that students whom struggle in math have the opportunity to improve their techniques, study habits and provide additional insight to supplement the lessons of their regular math class. I also am able to observe the effect class size can have on the student’s behavior and learning outcomes.

One of the highlights of my first two weeks was being a chaperone on the last Webster Stanley Ski Club trip to Nordic Mountain. In anticipation for this day, I loaded my skis and (sisters) boots into my car so I would be ready to hit the slopes when we arrived. To my dismay, I do not wear size 10 women’s boots, and my skis would not accommodate them either! While trying to decipher the cause of my discomfort, I nearly did the splits in front of one of my co-worker and many of the student skiers.  But despite the mishap with the boots, I had a great time skiing and getting to know my students outside of the classroom.

My First Week at OW Holmes

MelissaMelissa Walters, from Milwaukee, is graduating with a dual major in special education and general education for first through eighth grade. She has had a life long dream of becoming a teacher. Her 18-week session is broken into two 9-week programs. Oliver Wendell Holmes Elementary  for the first 9-weeks, and Bethune Academy for the second both in the Milwaukee Public School System.

During my first week of my placement, I’ve been given a wide variety of student teaching experiences. In working with the 21 students on our case load in math, writing and language, I get to interact with a variety of students from third through fifth grade.
Each of these experiences provide me with different insights in teaching. Throughout this blog, I’ll share the situations I encounter and how it made me a better learner, teacher and person. Many of the students, not only in my classes but throughout the whole school, struggle with reading. The insight gained from working with some of my students who aren’t able to read words like two, look, where, yellow, or on, is that after around second grade, students are no longer learning to read. They being reading to learn. They have to have the base skills of reading and comprehension to learn anything else in the curriculum. These students struggle so much to sound out the words that they can’t read, comprehend and respond. For students at this ability level, their classwork and assignments need to be modified to have less reading to ensure that for math, you’re testing their ability in math rather than their ability to read.
My second most influential moment from this first week has nothing to do with academics in the classroom. While interacting with students in such a low income area, you heard about hardships that you would have never imagined one young person having to overcome. After everything they have to go through, they have to come to school, clear their minds and learn seemingly pointless information. This led me to the realization that as a teacher, you need to realize when the student is more important than the information. When a student is ready to fight you after every word or hasn’t said a word all morning, it could be more important to be there for the student as a person rather than as a student.

As I reflect on my first week, learning the area, connecting with students and overcoming my fears, I keep words of one of my favorite UW-O teachers in mind…
“As a teacher, you don’t have to like your students but you do have to love them.”

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