I have finally reached my goal of being able to sit in classes of both middle school and lower school. At the moment, it is challenging trying to balance out class time with eighth grade and lower school, but I am managing to find times to get good experience. The remainder of my month will be tough as well because I need to choose whether to focus more on eighth grade, or fifth grade.
I have been sitting in on fifth grade’s writing, spelling and reading class. So far, the students have been working on a multi-piece writing project that includes a poem, personal narrative, persuasive paragraph and a research essay. Since I was not present in their class for first part of the semester, I do not know what they have worked on previously. What I do see, however, is their incredible work ethic. They have approximately four weeks to get these pieces of writing in and they certainly work diligently. It was advised to get the harder assignments done first, so most of the students work on their research essays. I was rather astonished at some of the topics that some of the students chose to write about, one of which was gun control.
I wasn’t quite able to see an actual teaching style, but I am able to see one on one interactions between student and teacher. When a student has a question about their topic or how to form their ideas, I noticed something different in the teacher’s response. As I am coming from observing middle school English, I expected a question to be met with another question. This wasn’t the case. If a student asked the teacher if they should add in a particular piece of information, the teacher would respond as such. “Well, that depends. What sort of reaction are you seeking? If you want to present information to your reader, you have to think like the reader. Has that bit of information already been answered by another statement? Is that information necessary?” This is also usually followed by the typical reaction I expected of “I don’t know, what do you think?” I saw the importance in this. These students most likely know the direction they want to go in while working, but there is a bit self-doubt in their thinking. They need that little bit of confidence boosting to get their ideas rolling.
I can see very well that these students have something to say and want to say it, but they are still somewhat self-conscious about how to present thoughts. This brought me back to my years as a fifth grader, except it wasn’t very helpful since I was homeschooled and I was extremely comfortable with my mother as a teacher. I didn’t get the lower school experience most children get except first and second grade. Maybe that’s what fed into my aspirations to be a middle school teacher. I knew what middle school was like, but I do not know what real lower school is like.
With this said, I might be facing lower school with a new outlook. Fifth grade so far is about how to perfect their writing as much as possible and to explore new concepts of writing. I am interested in seeing the final work in this class and how they have learned to improve their writing along the way. This may be my last blog post here, but it can’t even begin to express the profound knowledge I have learned not only from this semester but from last semester as well.
I have learned the value of patience in the classroom, in that sometimes the class schedule you had doesn’t always go as planned, and you have to be ready for an event like that. Whether technological or peer problems, having plan b’s, c’s and even d’s is crucial to a productive classroom. I have learned what it means to be one of the most influential people in a growing person’s life. Being a teacher isn’t all about grades for students, it’s about preparing them for the real world and how to think critically and ethically. The fundamental role of a teacher I believe is showing students how to think and not what to think. Teaching students the importance of gathering information for themselves and letting them have an unfiltered experience (appropriately for age) is most beneficial for them. A strong bond is key in having students be active in a class. I have seen somewhat lenient teachers to those who are rather strict and I see the benefits of both attitudes. With a more structured class, assignments get done on time. With teachers who are more free-flowing, I see students are able to release their creative side.
As I look to the future with my upcoming semesters in college, I will take what I have learned in my independent seminar and use it in my student teaching in other schools. I feel that because of this project, I am very well prepared for what lies ahead and that the knowledge I have gained will never leave me.