Monday, April 25, 2011

The Champ is Here!!

Day 16 (51) - Monday April 25, 2011

After a nice relaxing week-long spring break, it was back-to-school for the final 18 day stretch of my student teaching experience! It is hard to believe that in less than one month, not only will student teaching have been completed, but I will have graduated from SUNY Cortland with my undergraduate degree in physical education. However, in order to get to that point, I need to continue to shape the children at Ridge Elementary School into physically educated individuals. This week would be an important turning point in my student teaching experience as we would begin to assess the students under the President's Challenge at the end of the week. In order to get the students focused on the impending assessment, I adopted a new phrase for the week; it is time to get serious. I needed to have them all focus on their exercises and practice as if they were being assessed in every practice. At this age, it is not very difficult to motivate children however I felt it necessary to go a little beyond what was necessary in order to get them motivated. With the WWE World Heavyweight Championship around my waist, I told the story of my spring break where I won the title by using the very same exercises in which they were performing. I stressed the fact that while someone may or may not be the strongest person, if they practice regularly and set goals, then they can achieve anything. That is the first step in their path to the President's Challenge. As I continue into my teaching career, motivating students to succeed is one of the most important aspects to focus on. I need to show them that they too can reach their goals if they simply set and work toward them. Anything is possible for those who want it most.

Day 17 (52) - Tuesday April 26, 2011
Every now and then, everyone goes through bumps in the road that can affect their performance in their everyday lives and responsibilities. With many things in my personal life not going too well, it seemed as if my stress and frustration came out a little bit in my teaching. I would begin each class well; however, as they progressed, each lesson seemed to come off a little stale and a little boring. Ms. Hinton wanted me to stick simply to the basics and not add 'filler' to my speaking during the lesson. Between personal issues and a focus on what I had to say, I lost my composure once in a while and therefore the lesson was adversely affected. Again, I was nit-picking behavior and not being overly positive. Ultimately I fell back upon the words of Stephen Yang from my motor development class (the very class where my teaching journey began); "even with all of your problems and personal convictions, you can never let them show through to your students... each day you need to wear your teaching mask." I now understand these words truer than ever before. The educational experience of the children should not be compromised because I am having a bad day. I need to shake off any worries or concerns at the door and let the energy of the lessons and the students guide my actions. One of the most important things I have discovered is that you must live the lesson and not force the lesson to live your life.

Day 18 (53) - Wednesday April 27, 2011
After two days of bumps in the road, I was back on the highway ready to move forward. In order to mentally get to the place I needed to be, I viewed each class I taught today as the best class in the entire school. Through this, I would be able to utilize all of the components of my personality and teaching skills in order present a quality lesson to the students. Today was the first day of assessing the students for the President's Challenge. The test of the day was for curl-ups. In order to ensure that the students were engaged in some sort of activity while we were assessing, we implemented stations into the lesson. The testing station was located in the corner and had a bird's eye view of all students within the gymnasium. After a brief introduction, we were off and running and the students provided the skills. Each student in both classes that were assessed met the criteria for either the National or the Presidential awards. This was very enlightening as it was a sign that all of the practice paid off and the students were able to become physically stronger. As a teacher it is a pleasure to see student improvement because it is a product of both parties' collaborative efforts. The adapted physical education class also proved to be a successful lesson as well. Ms. Hinton and I were very satisfied with my improvements since the last few days and I look forward to a strong finish to this experience. It is now safe to say that the champ... is... here!!

Day 19 (54) - Thursday April 28, 2011
I'm sorry but we will not be having physical education class today in the gymnasium. That was the big news story today. There seemed to have been some issues with the gymnasium which made it unusable for the day. Rather than use the gym, we used the school's all-purpose room located down the hall. Unfortunately, this room was a quarter of the size of the gymnasium but we had to make due. We moved select pieces of equipment into the all-purpose room and continued our station rotation and President's Challenge curl-up test. Even with the limited space, the classes still went well and there were very good results on the curl-up test. Some kindergarten students were able to perform over thirty curl-ups in one minute! This situation demonstrated that a teacher has to be ready with alternative plan in the event that their teaching facilities were unusable. When it was decided that we were not to use the gymnasium today, Ms. Hinton immediately sprung into action and we were set up in the all-purpose room within ten minutes. However, not all things went well today. The stations proved to be a little chaotic and it was difficult, as the teacher, to split time between assessing the students and monitoring behavior. After an evaluation at the end of the day, Ms. Hinton and I determined that it was better to eliminate the stations and develop a new course of action for testing. It is sometimes more important to sacrifice activity time to ensure the student's safety.

Day 20 (55) - Friday April 29, 2011
Lights, cameras, action! Oh wait, the lights just went out. That would be how the day would begin. Just before the first class of the day, the electricity in the school went off. And not but five minutes later, the fire alarm went off. While these may seem like detrimental parts of the day, I did get some valuable experiences out of it. This was my first opportunity to bring students out and monitor them during a fire drill. As it turned out, we were outside for quite a while and the kids were becoming restless. However, I did my best to maintain their focus and entertain them in order to keep them quiet. After the fire drill was all over, we were still unable to use the gymnasium for the first half of the day. We continued our curl-up testing for the President's Challenge in the school's all-purpose room. Unlike the previous few days, we no longer used stations in the gymnasium or all-purpose room. We instead had the students sit and watch their classmates perform their exercises during the test. While it seemed as if this would be a poor judgment, it was a necessary one. Students were in one area where I was able to observe them and know that they were safe. We stretched in-between tests and ran outside so that they were somewhat active. It is a fair trade-off to have a few classes of inactivity rather than a few classes of chaotic mayhem. In my future, I need to ensure that I develop teaching environments conductive to safety and activity.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Before You Leave for Spring Break, Let's Learn Some History!

Day 11 (46) - Monday April 11, 2011

Since we are doing the President's Challenge test preparation, I figured that this could be a good opportunity to teach the students about some of the Presidents of the United States. Unlike the physical education teacher in The Simpsons, I will be much more patient and not penalize incorrect answers! I decided to incorporate the 'President of the Day' into each lesson. I would select a President who had contributed to the field of fitness in some way and also focus on some of the lesser known Presidents in order to expand the students' knowledge. The first candidate was President Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th). What makes President Eisenhower special in the field of fitness is not simple his athletic days at West Point. President Eisenhower was the man who developed the President's Council on Youth Fitness in 1956 (currently known at the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition). Having noticed that European children were healthier and more physically fit than American children, Eisenhower established the council which would eventually create the President's Challenge under Lyndon B. Johnson's Presidency. I feel that it is important for these children to not simply perform the content but also to understand why they are performing it and how the program came to be. Throughout the unit, I will look for more ways to incorporate these teachable moments.

Day 12 (47) - Tuesday April 12, 2011
Nothing says you're struggling as a teacher until a kindergarten student flips you off. Needless to say, I addressed the situation and discovered that she did not know what the gesture meant and was only mimicking what she had seen others do outside of school. Needless to say this was a minor, unimportant issue that I simply laughed off after school. However, there I did not have control of the students in that same class. They were noisy, unruly, and, as Ms. Hinton said to me afterward, they were in control of the class at certain points. This was truly the first time I sat a class down and let them know how upset I was with them and disappointed in their actions. Generally, I tend not to hand out consequences unless students are blatantly not following directions. Due to their overbearing and disrespectful actions, I had to sit them about and talk to them about respect and my role as a teacher. I am there to teach them not to play with them. Due to this we were unable to perform all of the exercises, however, it was the faults of both parties. From this session, I know that I must begin to lay out expectations and potential consequences or rewards immediately at the beginning of class (this is what I want... if you do it we can play this... if you do not then this will happen...). In order to get the respect of the students, I need to be personable, but also authoritative.

Day 13 (48) - Wednesday April 13, 2011
As we had reached the middle of the week, I was met with a surprise when I arrived at school in the morning. Ms. Hinton had an appointment in the middle of the day and would only be in school up until noon. She requested that I not stay with a substitute as she did not want me to interact with the students without her guidance and gave me permission to leave. After consideration, I accepted the offer to leave. After all, I would not receive adequate feedback otherwise and the safety of the children was a priority. I only taught one class today and it proved to be a rather successful one. We were able to run outside and complete all of our exercises. However, the students were a little noisy which caused me to switch unconsciously into authoritative mode in order to regain their attention. After class Ms. Hinton said that I am now focusing too much on the consequences and discipline. She discovered me identifying kids for the smallest errors and waiting for the class to become 'perfect' before continuing. In order to be a successful and effective teacher, I must find an even balance for disciplinary measures and the flow and control of the class. Otherwise, I will lean too far to one side and the students will be negatively impacted.

Day 14 (49) - Thursday April 14, 2011
After a rainy Wednesday, Thursday proved to be the day the school was able to hold their 'unity day'. This outdoor assembly generally ran over the allotted time and one of the classroom teachers asked Ms. Hinton if she could have their physical education class later in the day. Therefore the first class of the day would start a little later. With a ring of the phone, we discover Terry Phelan, my college supervisor, dropped by for an observation. With my assigned classes not starting until later in the day, I taught a different class for my observation. I had not taught this particular class before, however, I had observed them and it was generally a well-behaved and respectful kindergarten class. This would be their first day running outside so I had a little bit to explain in the introduction. They all listened intently and were excited to go back outside. This was the first class of the week to run the correct route outdoors for the quarter-mile! I made sure I gave explicit directions and they seemed to have understood it fully. Overall, I would say this was my best teaching experience at Ridge Elementary. Afterward, Terry said "they all had their eyes glued on you and I think you may have found where you should be." This was an excellent start to the day and carried over into the other classes.

Day 15 (50) - Friday April 15, 2011
Friday. The last day before spring break. The students were excited about getting out of school and going on vacation. However, it was still my job to make them physically fit before they left! One student said it best during an introduction, "we need to listen to the teacher because we are still in school and we need to get strong." This set the tone for many of the classes and had gotten the children excited about the day. It was beautiful out so we were able to go outside and run the quarter-mile during each class. However, that one statement from earlier in the day did not carry over to all classes. Friday is generally full of kindergarten classes and they get easily distracted. Talking in little whispers became a big issue both inside and outside. From my experiences earlier in the week, I knew I had to be firm with them and hand out discipline where appropriate. I had learned that with regularly mentioning the amount of time remaining, and the possibility of losing a paw print or game, it refocuses the students. However, I need to develop a means to never let them lose focus at all. The creative story lessons have been working, but now I think it's time for more props and word selection to full immerse the students. Ms. Hinton said that all student teachers hit a rough stretch of the road but it clears up quickly once you regain control of the wheel.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hey Ridge Kids! I'm Back from California and the President has a Challenge!

Day 6 (41) - Monday April 4, 2011
After a week on the west coast it was back to work on the eastern seaboard. I had only had one week of experience in this school before I had left for California so I needed to get back into the elementary teaching mentality. Perhaps the best part of the day was how excited the students were to see me back in school. I had only met them for one week but they treated me as if I had been their teacher all year. This was a wonderful welcome back to school and I was immediately confident of the next few weeks. Today was the first day of the President's Challenge unit. In this unit, the students would practice their curl-ups, pull-ups, sit-and-reach, quarter-mile run, and shuttle run each class session until the completion of the unit in the beginning of May. Ms. Hinton explained it to me as, "they had fun all year with scooter highway, the obstacle course, parachutes, etc., and now it's time for them to work!" I had selected this unit as the one in which I would perform my student teacher work sample upon. I selected a first grade class and broke the assessment period into two days; curl-ups, pull-ups, and sit-and-reach would be today. While it was a little disorganized and chaotic at times, I was able to gather all of the information I needed for these first three tests. I need to ensure that the pre-assessment remains organized in order to gather what I need.

Day 7 (42) - Tuesday April 5, 2011
The pre-assessment resumed today with the first grade class. During my first week in the elementary school, I observed each class in order to determine which class it would be that I would perform the assessment upon. All of the classes were different based upon skill level. I determined I would assess first grade rather than kindergarten in order to facilitate the process. After careful examination of each first grade class, I selected the one I thought would benefit the most out of the experience. Today we assessed the quarter-mile run and the shuttle run. These were two of the more difficult tests to manage so I put them on the same day were there would be enough time for both. For the quarter-mile run, I needed to explain the rules about running outside as well as the course for the students to follow. With the shuttle run, I needed to describe how the test was performed without giving hints on how to run it. Needless to say, there was confusion in both of the assessments. During the pre-assessment, I am not supposed to tell students how to perform the task but merely demonstrate how to the activity. As we progress into the unit, I need to ensure that I am describing, in detail how to do each exercise in order to be successful.

Day 8 (43) - Wednesday April 6, 2011
Prior to the beginning of the unit, I knew that we would be doing the same activities and exercises each class session. After all, in order to perform well on the President's Challenge one must practice each of the tests in order to improve their skills. For children in kindergarten and first grade (and students of all ages for that matter), lessons can become redundant when you are doing the same things day in and day out. Therefore, I decided that in order to keep the students' attention throughout the entire lesson, I had to alter some of my teaching style. First, I decided to make each lesson a story and enlist the class as the characters (i.e. pirate-in-training, detective school, etc.). Even though we would be performing the same activities, the story was different and they perceive is as an entirely different experience. This will help me maintain their attention great a positive and fun learning environment. Secondly, I need to offer them some kind of incentive for good behavior (i.e. a game at the end of class, a paw print for the class, or individual cub cash). This way, they are working toward a common and individual goal at the end of class. I feel that as a result of these changes, there will be an improvement in behavior as well as physical fitness level.

Day 9 (44) - Thursday April 7, 2011
Toward the end of the day, it was time to teach the adapted physical education class. Throughout the week, they had all been on their very best behavior and I was looking forward to the class. Generally, each class session for this class is the same; exercises and stretching in the beginning and then ten minutes of free activity time. In the target unit, it was simple as they would go to a station and rotate throughout the gymnasium. Now, however, it was up to me to decide which activities would fill in that remainder of time. Today I decided to have each student and their one-on-one take a hula-hoop and a ball. The one-on-one would hold the hoop and the student would throw or roll the ball through. I was paired up with a student who was a little apprehensive at first to play but eventually did so. When it came time to clean up, he did not want to do so. He began crying and would not relinquish the equipment. He would run through the gymnasium yelling and screaming. Eventually, I was able to calm him down and get him to line-up and leave with his class. These classes take a lot of patience combined with assertiveness in order to get the students to listen. While this was undoubtedly one of my more difficult teaching experiences, it nonetheless helped to strengthen my abilities.

Day 10 (45) - Friday April 8, 2011
In the blink of an eye it seemed as if the week had flown by! Friday is generally a day with numerous kindergarten classes so I need to be a little more attentive to their behavior to ensure that they are listening and remained focused. Throughout the day, I noticed that many students would lose focus when I demonstrated all of the exercises (except pull-ups). I eventually formulated a way in which to combat this. During the last class of the day, I would call upon students randomly to come up and demonstrate the activities in front of the class. Generally, I would select students whom I knew could perform the exercises exceptionally well and those students whom I had noticed at the ones to lose focus during introductions. This helped immensely to keep the class attentive and prompted students to want to volunteer. One of the features I focused on was a positive learning environment. After each student would perform the exercise, I would encourage the class to applaud their abilities and 'bravery' to be in front of the class performing. I want all students to feel comfortable in class and have a positive outlook on physical education. I still demonstrated the pull-ups as many students could not perform one (and I liked hearing the oohs and ahhs when I was demonstrating!). Perhaps the best thing I heard today was a student telling me that they want to be as strong as me because I am their hero. This was an excellent note to leave the week upon!