The Final Leg of my Teaching Journey

It’s hard to believe but my last week of student teaching and my undergraduate education at Grand Valley is here. As I look back on the semester I haven’t blogged nearly as much as I did last semester. It is probably because by the time I left school I was so tired I do not think I could have written anything that was coherent. This semester I had the opportunity to student teach at Oakridge High School teaching a wide array of classes. I taught geometry, pre-calculus, calculus, and a personal finance course. Many times I was learning the material the night before I was supposed to teach it, but I learned so much this semester and I am grateful for the opportunity I was given.

Areas of Growth

Using Formative Assessment

Throughout my entire teacher preparation courses it was stressed how important using formative assessment during each and every lesson is. We got strategies on how to do this but I never felt that they would be beneficial for my planning because they would either take time to look through, like exit tickets, or the assessment wasn’t recorded. I looked to find ways that I could use formative assessments that were quick and could be recorded so I could look at the data again later. My first idea was to use Socrative but this led to the issue of if students would have a device everyday and what they would be doing on their phones during instruction. I then came across Plicker Cards on Twitter. With this I was able to quickly scan students answers with one smart phone, mine, and then was able to save the data so I could look at it later. This let me target specific students for more one on one help during the time students were working on homework. I also noticed that when I started using the cards students who said at the end of the day said they didn’t get it yet asked more questions than they would before. I don’t know if in fact the two are correlated but it seemed to be related.

Building a Positive Classroom Culture

The students that I had this semester had a set of expectations of how a math class should run and my expectations were very different. I had to work across weeks to get where I wanted to be. Subtle shifts in the way we did things was very important. I slowly changed the way we did lectures so that students were more involved. They slowly came around and many more students were willing to participate, which changed the way the class felt. Students were on top of each to address any disruptive behaviors before I had to. It was nice to see that my students wanted to learn and did not appreciate the disruptions. I also slowly introduced more group work into class. At the start students were unhappy with this and struggled to work together. The more we did this they saw that the group work wasn’t voluntary and began to work together effectively. In fact one of the last activities I did was a walk around activity where students worked in small groups to do review problems for an upcoming test. During this activity I think I might have answered 5 questions during the time when about 10 groups walked around and worked on 20 problems. They relied on each other to answer a majority of the questions they had! They also worked for at least a solid half an hour. This is a huge step for this group of students and it was amazing to see the growth that occurred. In fact once we got to this positive classroom environment students were understanding the material better than they did before.

Things that Work

Short Lecture Time

One of the teaching methods that my CT shared when I started the semester was that he tries to talk for no more than 20 minutes in any given class period and the time we have left in class is used for working on homework problems. I tried to stick to this during the semester and it seemed to really pay off. Students would generally have about half the class to work on the homework assignment. This allowed students who got the material to get it done and then find something productive to do. It also allowed students who were struggling with the material to get one on one help in class so that they did not have to go home to complete it and then get frustrated, struggle, and fall behind. Once my students finally understood why I was running class that way and started to get everything completed before they left class. This freed up so much time in class because I was not being asked to spend 15 minutes on homework questions at the beginning of class. This definitely helped to change the classroom culture in a positive way.

Student Communication & Collaboration

As I already talked about earlier with building a positive classroom culture student communication and collaboration is something that really seemed to work for my students and I. When students are working together and talking about math they seemed to be much more involved in the learning process. When they started talking with each other their understanding grew and they became much more self directed and seemed to want to do well and understand the math. As their communication skills grew so did their understanding and achievement.

These are just a few of the big ideas I gained from this semester. I learned so much and grew as teacher in the short three months that I had here at Oakridge. I know now that I am ready to handle my own classroom so now I need to working on finding a job!


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