Well, this past week was a very rewarding week. I feel like I’m finally getting into the swing of things. I feel more confident, have more variety of activities, and I feel like I know my students much better. The one thing I still feel like I am missing, however, is time! There is so much to do and so little time. I’m happy that I was so busy at UW-Stevens Point; having three jobs and being co-president of a club on top of classes prepared me well for all I am doing now. The last three weeks have been action packed. I helped my roommate with chaperoning a dance and judging at a competition, had my supervisor from UWSP observe me for the first time, and I’ve been working on assignments for the edTPA. I feel like I am always working on something related to school, but I know that it will get better. I knew I would spend a lot of my time lesson planning, but one thing I didn’t think would be so hard is finding resources. I’m grateful my cooperating teacher gave me resources to pull from, but sometimes it’s hard to manipulate something already created to a different teaching style.
Another “obstacle” I’ve been reflecting on lately is the transition I’ve had to make from college to high school. Having been in the college bubble for four years, it seems automatic to me that students should sit down, take notes, ask questions and do their homework. I’ve been struggling the last few weeks to get out of that mindset. I realized my students weren’t taking notes in class, so we had a mini-lesson on how to take notes and have been practicing note-taking skills in class. I think I’ve slowly been getting better at changing my expectations from college-level to freshman-in-high-school. My expectations aren’t any lower, just at a different level. I know I’m not just teaching my students Spanish, but I also have to teach them life skills and school skills.
I feel like this week things finally clicked. Our focus was on classroom objects, location words and new verbs. We started by describing items in our classroom. We had visuals to learn the new words. We looked at photos in our textbook and described them with partners. Then, my students started a project: to create a floor plan of a classroom. They included 15 classroom objects and then they had to write five questions about where things were in their classroom. The classroom could be our room, another room in the building or an imaginary classroom. Most students created their own classroom. They did a wonderful job with their floor plans and questions! Then on Friday, the students went around to four different floor plans, looked at them, and answered the questions made by their peers.
I was very surprised by how engaged the students were with the activity the whole way through. They buckled down and got to work on creating their floor plans, and they were extremely focused the next day while answering the questions. And when grading the work, many students wrote great sentences, used accurate vocabulary, and conjugated verbs correctly. This was the first week that I felt I had created the best lessons and had the students the most engaged. I hope the trend continues! I’m so proud of my students.
This upcoming week, we are beginning to learn about everybody’s favorite topic: FOOD! I have some great ideas of how I want to break up the material and ways to incorporate cultural elements. I hope for lessons as successful as the classroom object lessons. A few weeks ago, we had a “Taco Thursday” and each student brought in food to have a taco bar while we listened to culture presentations. I’m looking forward to another! I will also be heading back to Stevens Point on Friday for our second seminar. I’m very excited to reconnect with my peers. When we met at an edTPA workshop in February, it was very helpful to talk about how things were going and share ideas with each other. I hope we have more time to collaborate again on Friday. On the flip-side, though, I’m sad that I have to miss a day of teaching.
Even though I sometimes complain about being busy, the students make it all worth it. There really is no greater feeling than when students are engaged in a lesson and you can tell they are really learning from you. I know I’m in the right place when I’m sad about missing a day with my students. Even though it’s a lot of work, it is so much fun. I am very lucky.
Talk to you soon!
Katie Olson is majoring in Spanish and secondary education at UW-Stevens Point. She is also an ESL peer mentor, student ambassador and lead recruitment intern for International Programs at UWSP.