Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Lifetime of Decisions

The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Life is full of choices. We make our decisions based upon what we hear, how we feel, and what we see. This past Saturday, I came to the end of a road that I had chosen four years ago. Looking back, I am beyond satisfied with the decision to take the path I had just completed. One cannot regret the decisions they make otherwise they are doomed to cope with them for eternity. As stated, I may have come to the end of a road but I now come to a crossroads with many different paths available for me to take. It can be intimidating. Each path has its pros and cons. You can gain some and you can lose some. Before rushing into my future, I need to weigh all of the possible outcomes of the various paths laid out before me. I need to make the decision that will most benefit me. And it is never too late to turn back. I have gained such an amazing support system of friends and colleagues and I cannot imagine a future without them. Even though their role in my life may be reduced, their impact is plentiful and long lasting. So as I look out toward the future I know several things; make an impact, become successful, but above all, become happy and live life to it's fullest. After all, we only have but one live.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

To Making it Count...

Make Each Day Count
Well, yes, ma'am, I do... I mean, I got everything I need right here with me. I got air in my lungs, a few blank sheets of paper. I mean, I love waking up in the morning not knowing what's gonna happen or, who I'm gonna meet, where I'm gonna wind up. Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people. I figure life's a gift and I don't intend on wasting it. You don't know what hand you're gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you... to make each day count.
- Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson (Titanic, 1997)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Day 31 (66) - Monday May 16, 2011

This would be the beginning of the final three-day stretch of student teaching. It is simply astonishing how quickly time has gone. In not but five days I will be graduating with my degree in physical education. However, before we can get there, there are three more fun-filled days at Ridge Elementary School teaching kindergarten and first grade. This week, we would begin the testing of the shuttle run for the President's Challenge Physical Fitness test on the second day of class. On the first day, I made sure to explain, thoroughly, once again how to perform the shuttle run and tips for being successful. It is always interesting to note that the children will immediately cheer for the student who is in first but not for the one in second. I made sure to note that students are simply running against the clock and not each other. Therefore, everyone had an equal opportunity to win and be successful. I also stress that cheering people on means to cheer on everyone. This enlightened the students to cheer for all of their classmates leading to improved performance. It is important to note these humanistic behaviors and address them as such. This can help develop and create positive sportsmanship within all children at a very young age for them to carry through the rest of their lives.
Saying goodbye to someone can be a very difficult task. None more difficult than saying it to a group of kindergarten children. For one class, it was my last day as their teacher. I made sure to give them a meaningful and thoughtful closure that they could help bring forth to their parents and families. Strangely, it was their sadness that made me happy. They had become so accustomed to me and welcoming that they were upset to see me go. And I was equally upset to part with them as well.

Day 32 (67) - Tuesday May 17, 2011
After a week and a half of non-stop practice, it was time to begin testing for the shuttle run component of the President's Challenge within some of the classes. The students were understandably nervous because they had not had an extended amount of practice but enough that we the teachers were confident in their abilities to perform the test accurately. In order to model the proper way to run the assessment for the class, Ms. Hinton assessed their abilities on the test while I observed and acted as the field judge for any potential disqualifications. It is interesting to note that even after repeated practice and constant feedback that the children are still making the same repeated errors. They only have two opportunities to perform the test and it is nerve-racking for both them and me to see these errors happen. However, since this is the test, I am confident they will 'wake-up' and fix these errors on their second attempt.
In our adapted physical education class, today's thunder proved to be quite the distraction. Some students became frightened with the noise. As the teacher, along with the one-on-ones, we were able to calm the students down and continue our scooter activities. One may not know what can scare a children so the teacher must be ready to act on their toes.
My goodbyes to the students continued through today and they were not any easier. It is always sad to say goodbye but it makes me feel very good when the students tell me that they are going to miss me. To me, it signifies that I was able to make an impact big enough to affect them. This is truly what teaching is all about.

Day 33 (68) - Wednesday May 18, 2011
It is difficult to say goodbye but no scenario is more difficult than to say goodbye to groups of kindergarten and first grade students after eight weeks of being their teacher. Today was my last day during my student teaching experience at Ridge Elementary School. It is rather sad to go from the school. The students and faculty have all been very welcoming and I could not have asked for a better placement here and in the district in general. As a final closure to each class, I discussed their futures using the book 'Oh the Places You'll Go!' by Dr. Seuss. I described how they can do anything as long as they try and that in 2022 and 2023 respectively, I will know that my Ridge munchkins graduated from Longwood High School and be excited about all the places they will go. As I graduate from SUNY Cortland this Saturday, I look forward to my future as well, and all the places I will go during my journey.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Munchkins are Running! The Munchkins are Running!

Day 26 (61) - Monday May 9, 2011
This would be the final full week at Ridge Elementary School and of my student teaching experience in general. It is almost unbelievable that it went to fast. Nonetheless, it was my time. All of the classes this week were mine to teach. Ms. Hinton put the grade-book and President's Challenge score sheets in my hands and it was all me this week. I was very excited to begin the week. I have been looking forward to the opportunity to display all of the skills I had acquired. I made sure that we caught up on all of the testing that had already been completed before continuing any further. This would be the first day to introduce the shuttle run to many of the classes. Ms. Hinton modeled it for the first class and I went from there. I knew that for all of the students, repetition in both observing and participating would facilitate the knowledge acquisition. Many students had never seen the shuttle run so it was vital to go over everything. When it came time for them to practice, I was surprised at how well each of them was able to complete the task. I made sure to use simple directions so that they would be able to comprehend the material and it seemed to have worked extremely well. Even though the times were a little high, it is still early in the practice stages and the students have six classes of practice before taking the test. I will ensure that each lesson is meaningful and conductive to the improvement of their abilities.

Day 27 (62) - Tuesday May 10, 2011
As I sat there transcribing the times for the quarter-mile run onto the President's Challenge score sheet, Ms. Hinton walked into the office with a familiar face. My student teaching supervisor, Terry Phelan, dropped by for my final observation of my student teaching experience. We did not a class for quite a bit of time so we spent some time having a conversation about various topics. It was nice to have this time to talk as I rarely have the opportunity to sit down and speak with him face-to-face. As we looked at the clock, it was time for class. He would be observing a class with some behavioral concerns but nothing more than any other class. I introduced the shuttle run and allowed the students to practice within the lesson. It went rather well and Terry commended me on a job well done. For the last six weeks, I have been only receiving feedback from Ms. Hinton to improve my teaching skills so it was nice to receive praise from another source indicating my improvements with her. The entire day was not as easy. At the end of the day, the first grade class was acting very silly and not listening to directions. When we came in from outside, we sat in silence after a lecture on listening to directions. It is important to stop a class before things get out of hand. If you give kids an inch they will take a yard. It is very important to identify parameters to facilitate instruction.

Day 28 (63) - Wednesday May 11, 2011
To teach physical education does not simply entail the teaching of physical skills and their application. A physical education teacher has the same responsibility of any other teacher; to teach the students virtues and character. During one of the classes, we went outside to run the quarter-mile as we normally would. One of the alternative learning classes was on the playground at the same time. There was no problem with this as neither class would wind up crossing paths with the other. However, some of the children would laugh and make comments about the students also outside. When we came inside, I sat everyone down on the mat and discussed the situation I observed outdoors. It is important at Ridge Elementary School to combat bullying at all costs. Many students wear shirts indicating their commitment to the pledge. I told them that all children are differently-abled but that they are all the same. It is their differences that make each child special and strong and weak. I made sure to note that each student needs to treat others the way they would like to be treated. After letting this sink in for a few minutes, I continued with class. It is very important to use these teachable moments in class. It is critical for students to understand and comply with this topic to create a safe and healthy learning environment.

Day 29 (64) - Thursday May 12, 2011
The annual Ridge Munchkin Run would finally be held today in the late afternoon! However, before we could get to that, there was lots of practice to be held for the shuttle run in physical education class. In order to allow ample time to set up the Munchkin Run, Ms. Hinton moved two of the afternoon classes into the morning thus creating two back-to-back double classes, both kindergarten. It was my task to manage these classes and to get as many students as possible to practice the shuttle run. We had four stations therefore four children could go at any given time. After a review of the shuttle run procedures, we were ready to begin. I let two children from one class run on one side and two from the other run on the opposite side. I was able to get each student to run at least once. Those who were watching had the ability to note mistakes and were given the opportunity to speak of what they had seen. This was very important for kindergarten students are they need repetition in performing the task and observing the task in order to become successful.
When it came time for the Munchkin Run, the students were more than excited to run. All of the first grade classes, administration, and parents came to watch the race and that made for a very exciting and positive environment. Each student who competed received a medal and a certificate and were applauded by their classmates. Activities like this are very important to hold as a teacher. It brings the school and the community together in a positive setting. I am very happy to have been a part of the Munchkin Run and look to explore similar activities in my future as a teacher!

Day 30 (65) - Friday May 13, 2011
As we came to the end of my last full week at Ridge Elementary School, it proved to be a very light workload. The kindergarten students had a field trip to the Holtsville Ecology Center and therefore three of the seven classes today would not take place. I used this time to finish up transcribing all of the results of the President's Challenge that had been obtained thus far. In honor of my birthday, Ms. Rosenthal and Ms. Hinton took me out to lunch and we had a nice little conversation and bonding experience before returning back to the school. It is very nice to have colleagues who become friends as well as co-workers. It makes the job more fun and enjoyable plus you have a friend in which to confide in. As the day drew to a close, the kindergarten students returned from their trip. The last two classes of the day were filled with kindergarten children exhausted from their trip. Their teacher informed me that they walked over one mile just before they left and their little legs were tired! This was immediately apparent in physical education class; however, I immediately switched to entertainer mode and got them up and moving for the thirty minutes. They did the best they could and certainly earned a paw print for the day. It is very understandable that very young children can easily tire from physical activity. As the teacher, I need to take this into consideration and motivate them to do the best that their little bodies will allow them!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Who Wants to be Strong? Wii Want to be Strong!

Day 21 (56) - Monday May 2, 2011

In 1983, the United States Congress declared the month of May as 'National Physical Education and Sports Month.' As Longwood director of physical education Gina Curiale made note to the district's physical education teachers, the first week in May would be 'National Physical Education and Sport Week'. Together with Ms. Hinton, we developed a simple outline for the week to integrate physical activity into the classroom with the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains. This would be known at the Ridge Primary Center Fitness Week. Through this, we hope to have the classroom teachers and the administrators within the building become advocates for physical education during the month of May and beyond. When I earn my own teaching job, I become the unofficial physical activity director of the school building. I need to explore new means in which to excite students about physical education and make it more inviting for all to participate. Today in class I announced my commitment to the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA). I decided that if they children will be taking the President's Challenge, then I should join them by taking a fitness challenge as well. By sharing this information with them, I hope to inspire them to work for their goals. After all, I need to practice what I preach.
In athletics, the Longwood Lady Lions track and field team defeated the William Floyd Lady Colonials track and field team. This was a extra special meet is it placed myself and my good friend Patrick Wingler against one another as 'coaches'. While it was fun to see Patrick, it was even better to see the Lady Lions improve to 4-0 on the season!

Day 22 (57) - Tuesday May 3, 2011
As we continued our President's Challenge assessment, I was looking for different ways in which to get the students active while I was assessing. Initially, we tried stations but that did not work out too well. There was too much action going on at one time that I was unable to focus on assessing the student and paying attention to the rest of the class. Our next attempt was to have students simply watch their classmates go one at a time. While this was the best way to observe everyone, it tended to be a little boring for some students. Today, I decided it was time to reintroduce a few stations as well as the Wii Fit! Even though these students are in kindergarten and first grade, they are all very familiar with the Wii Fit system and games (even more than I was!) Needless to say, once they saw the television the students became very excited about their being able to play the game. All was going well until some student became upset that they were unable to hold the remote and did not have a chance to play as long as others. At the end of the day I decided to only reintroduce the Wii Fit at random or different times in order to make it more special. Technology is a driving force in today's society and we as educators need to use it to our advantage when teaching. Students of all ages are very familiar with various forms of technology and are always willing to learn more. In order to create a stimulating and entertaining learning environment, the teacher must evolve with technology.

Day 23 (58) - Wednesday May 4, 2011
After six weeks at Ridge Elementary School learning the ropes and practicing my teaching skills in different classes, Ms. Hinton placed me at the helm of the classes being taught today. While it took some mental preparation to teach eight classes (four in a row, lunch, four in a row), I was very excited to have the day in my hands. Today I would have five first grade classes, one kindergarten, and two adapted physical education classes. The day started off on a great note with the first adapted physical education class and helped set the stage for the rest of the day. I remained calm, confident, and excited out the material within each class. We continued our President's Challenge assessment by completed the curl-up test and by beginning, and completing, the sit-and-reach test. I made sure that my rules were concise and yet direct. I always had a full view of the class and consistently reinforced positive behavior. The students were excellent! They performed very well on the assessment and were very well behaved. In order to keep their attention, I would continue to act silly at appropriate times to keep their attention and strengthen skill acquisition. The second adapted physical education class was a little tough but I was able to rebound during it and finished the day on a positive note with the last class. In the high school, I taught each class everyday. However, here at Ridge, it was quite different. There were eight classes instead of five to teach and time management was a huge factor. I felt very confident today and Ms. Hinton was very impressed. She noted, "Last week sucked but this week is awesome!" This got a pretty hearty laugh out of me! I am very happy with today and look forward to the rest of this adventure at Ridge Elementary School!

Day 24 (59) - Thursday May 5, 2011
As the school year begins to approach the end, it is almost time for the school's field days for the kindergarten and first grade students. Ms. Hinton organizes all of the activities for the day and today was the second day of meeting with the teachers to go over the activities. This would be the first year in which the teachers would be in charge of leading their classes through each station and although some where initially unsure they quickly began to become more comfortable and excited with the upcoming festivities which I unfortunately will be unable to attend. Today Ms. Hinton took the morning classes and I had the afternoon. She told me how it can be good and bad to have a student teacher. It is good because she gets to help them grow professionally and it is bad because she has to take a step back and not teach as much. As we continue to reach the end of my experience, I am teaching more often but Ms. Hinton is still getting her fair share of work! When I someday become a cooperating teacher, I will revisit these words from Ms. Hinton and model the student teaching experience in a similar way. Through that I hope to develop strong teachers in the same manner in which my skills were developed. Today was very successful and I look forward to teaching all day once again tomorrow!

Day 25 (60) - Friday May 6, 2011
To close out the week, Ms. Hinton once again had me teach each class of the day. After a successful week, I was very much looking forward to this. It proved to be an incredibly beautiful day out and we were able to finish testing for the running and curl-ups for each class and many were able to finish the sit-and-reach test. All was going well until we hit the end of the day. There is a notable difference between kindergarten and first grade both developmentally and behavioral wise. Ms. Hinton noticed early on that I sometimes let the kids have a little too much fun and that puts the control of the class into their hands. She noted that I need to be a little more stern and decisive while still allowing the students to have fun. During the class, the students were noisy and did not follow directions very well. I mainly did not pay attention to them in order to get through the assessment. At the end, I let them know how I was upset with their behavior and how we may not continue if they do not listen. This harkened back to the high school hockey lesson where I tried to teach to no success due to constant disruptive behavior until I finally called it quits and lectured the class. For students of any age I need to lay down and enforce the rules at all costs, otherwise, they will be meaningless. Even though this was a tough class to end the week on, Ms. Hinton told me not to be discouraged as I had a great week. I now look forward to my final eight days in which each of them will be fully in my hands.