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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Final Reactions

I have officially completed my international practicum and am sad to leave my Anatolia family behind as I spend my last few days in Greece. Towards the end of my student teaching experience I was given multiple opportunities to teach full-class lessons on new vocabulary and engage the students in fun review activities to help prepare them for their final examination. These lessons were very casual, as I did not create detailed lesson plans, as I normally would have for my courses at BC. My classroom supervisors gave me free reign to teach the vocabulary and review material in any way I choose. I found the students really enjoyed when I created interactive PowerPoints to help review vocabulary. I believe this was most likely I was able to include a lot of visuals and they were eager to come up to the Smartboard and engage in different activities. Some of these activities included fill-in-the-blank and matching exercises. I also made the conscious decision to include personal information in my lessons as well. For example, one lesson I taught was all about hobbies. In my PowerPoint I included what my own hobbies were, including pictures of me doing those particular hobbies. I felt the more the students knew about me, the more interested they would be in my lessons, and the more open they were to sharing information with me about themselves.
After the class sessions were over the classroom teachers would give me feedback about my lessons. They often commented that in order to include all students in the lessons, I could call on those who were not raising their hands to answer questions or participate in the activity. I understand it is important for all of the students to be involved, but I did not feel comfortable calling on students who were not willing to engage because I did not want to put them on the spot or make them feel uncomfortable. This pushed me to think of new ways to make sure all of the students were engaged. In my next lessons, I engaged the students in group-activities, where each student was given a particular job within their group. For example, in a group of four, one student was the timekeeper, one student was the scribe, and so on.  This method worked very well when it came to engaging all students and making sure they were all actively learning.

            My experience at Anatolia was very different from my other pre-practicum experiences. Since I was not able to spend an entire day with one specific class, I was not able to experience their daily schedule, observe different subject lessons and activities, or learn new classroom management techniques. However, student teaching in a classroom of a different culture was a very rewarding experience. Some of the major differences that I have recognized during my time here was teacher and student interaction. My classroom teachers were very casual with their students at times. For example, they would tease them in a joking manner or make silly comments to them as well. I believe the relationship between teachers and students in America is much more formal than those I have seen in Greece. In addition, there was not a lot of classroom management techniques incorporated within the classrooms. In American classrooms, teachers usually have multiple methods of classroom management techniques implemented in their classrooms. In Greece, I noticed the students got very out of hand at times since there was no classroom management and the teachers had no way of controlling them besides raising their voice.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Typical & Long-Term Lessons

Both teachers I work with rely heavily on the English textbook, workbook, and grammar books in their daily lessons. They usually begin each class period checking the homework in either the workbook or grammar book that was assigned the previous night. Then, they will focus on a particular page of the textbook to teach that day. The class period ends when the teacher assigns homework exercises for that night. Though the teacher’s focus on the same chapters each week, they do not teach the same pages, or assign the same homework assignments each day. They go about each chapter in a way that fits their teaching style and their students’ learning abilities. One teacher I work with likes to begin each lesson by having a conversation with her students. The conversation will allude to what they will be learning about that day, but she does not come out and tell them this in the conversation. For example, if the grammar lesson that day is about the usage of the words ‘can’ and ‘can’t,’ she would say something like this: “This weekend I was on a boat and went water skiing with my friends. I also tried to wakeboard for the first time, but I fell into the water each time I tried to stand up. I learned I can’t wakeboard, but I can waterski.” She would then ask the students what they can and can’t do, making sure they use each word properly before reviewing the material in the textbook and completing other exercises with the words ‘can’ and ‘can’t.’ The other teacher I work with is very good at providing examples to her students to explain grammar and vocabulary. She is able to relate each vocabulary word to the students’ background knowledge in order to make it more comprehensible. If the word allows, she will either demonstrate it or ask the students to come up with another example to describe the word. Both teachers use different teaching methods that are different, yet very effective. Neither teacher uses Greek to explain or teach English vocabulary or grammar. All of the English classes are taught completely in English and the students are required to use English throughout the class as well.

            In regards to long-term projects, the students have been engaged in a pen pal activity with American students beginning at the start of the year. This project focuses on enhancing the Greek students’ writing skills and creative thinking, as the letters are written in English and each student’s conversation varies from the other. The students love communicating with the American students. They send pictures of themselves to one another and have truly become friends over the course of the year. Not only does this project enhance the students’ English writing abilities, they have also learned more about the American culture. Knowing I am American, the students would often ask me questions about various aspects of the American culture depending on what they have discussed with their pen pal. For instance, one student’s pen pal wrote that they spend their summers in Cape Cod, but did not explain where Cape Cod was or what was special about it. The student asked me where Cape Cod was and I was able to explain to them that it was a town in Massachusetts with wonderful beaches. If it were not for their pen pal project I would have never thought to tell them about Cape Cod and they would never have had any questions regarding it. The students have learned a lot from their pen pals and have been exposed to smaller aspects of the American culture that are not commonly known in foreign countries. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Incorporation of Culture and Current Events

Recently, the students at Anatolia have been practicing for a charity performance to benefit the Syrian refugees that have been arriving in Greece over the past few months. The performance is open to everyone in Anatolia’s surrounding community and has a small admission fee. The performance is a short play that describes the difficult life in Syria. It explores why there are so many people choosing to leave their homes and what they hope to find in Greece and other parts of Europe. The play was written and organized by a group of teachers at Anatolia and it is spoken in both Greek and English.
I was very interested to learn about this performance. At first, I found it surprising that such young students would be speaking about a topic that is not only a difficult subject to begin with, but one that is highly political as well. The teachers I am working with explained to me that most of the students are very well aware of the refugee crisis, as it is constantly in the news and a hot topic among Greek people as well. Instead of keeping the students in the dark, they felt it was important they are well informed about what was going on in their home country, especially because more and more refugee camps are currently opening in Thessaloniki. Since the issue is highly political, they explained the play simply tells a story that describes the current situation, and does not make any political statements regarding whether or not Greece should be letting in so many refugees.
I was very touched the teachers went out of their way to not only educate their students, but to do something that benefited the thousands of refugees that are currently in need. However, I still had a few questions about Greece’s involvement in the refugee crisis considering Greece is in an economical crisis at the moment as well. The teachers explained to me that Greek people have a very strong sense of community and can also relate to the situation of the refugees. They told me it was not that long ago that the Greek were under the reign of the Ottoman Empire and were refugees themselves. Even though the Greek people are struggling at the moment, they are doing as much as they can to help the Syrian refugees.
Unfortunately, I was unable to see the play myself, but I was blown away by the charitable efforts of the students and staff at Anatolia. This particular situation showed me that the teachers at this school are devoted to educating their students in all aspects of life, not just the given school curriculum. Knowledge of current events encourage critical thinking and teaches empathy, two skills that are extremely important not just to have in school, but in life as well.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Order to the Chaos - posted for Emily by Lindsay

This semester is certainly the most different prac experience that I’ve ever had. On top of the fact that I’m teaching in a different country, I am also placed at a pull-out program for “high ability kids”, called the ALM’s program. Although I only have one SP, I technically have two different classes—one with fifth graders, and another with fourth graders (There is also an ALM’s program for the sixth graders, but they do not have ALM’s on my prac days). The ALM’s program focuses more on critical thinking and communication instead of content knowledge, which makes the lessons very interactive and hands-on.

Since the ALM’s program is a pull-out program, the students do not stay with my SP the whole day. Each grade level only has 2 hours of ALM’s every week. However, they still receive homework and assessments for this program (most assessments would be based on projects and reflective worksheets, like the 3-2-1, instead of tests since content knowledge is not the focus of the ALM’s program). Although I only spend 2 hours with each grade, I somehow find myself more overwhelmed at the end of each session that I normally would be after a whole day of prac in the US. Maybe it’s the fact that the past two weeks I have been there there is always something “chaotic” happening, such as making sure all 8 boys in the fourth grade properly and quickly painted their castle walls or making sure all the food for the Medieval feast are warm and neatly placed. My SP also has a very face pace and a scattered mind, adding to the “chaotic” vibe. She has set classroom procedures, such as morning greetings and starting the lesson on the classroom carpet, but she also still struggles to identify each of the students by names (she would openly do so as well, asking the students to remind her of their names).

Even though I have only had two visits, I can already tell that I am going to learn a lot from this experience. My SP is very welcoming, introducing me to the other teachers and sharing with me the school’s history, and is very willing to help me meet the ACTions standards (even though she is legally not supposed to do so). Her not knowing the students that well also does not seem to affect her teaching at all. The students respect and listen to her, and she is able to still keep them at high expectations. Although I do feel like the 4 short hours can be crazy, I am excited to see what other adventures I will have with my SP!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Rule 1: Don't Faint

Today, I taught Biology again and I was given the opportunity of leading a sheep heart dissection. I had never done this when I actually was in biology, so needless to say, everything was new to me. The fact that seeing a heart out of an animals body makes me want to keel over in a pale faced stupor made it additionally difficult to say the least. The majority of the fifteen year old boys did not share my hesitation toward the dissection.

In preparation for the dissection, I was told to go to the butcher and buy 20 sheep hearts, which I had to barter for. I never thought my practicum would consist of bartering for sheep hearts, but yes, that is what it came to. After getting the sheep hearts for 20 Euro, I studied the diagram that I was to explain to the students. I was to explain the major features of the heart like the aorta, ventricles, and vessels.

After explaining all of the saftey instructions and proper ways to dispose of materials, I led the dissection and explained the different parts of the heart. To be honest, I had to look at my paper with a perplexed look for a lot of the teaching. It was a great way to learn. Not just biology, but the practice of teaching. It seems that much of teaching is staying two steps ahead of your students. It is not always how much you know it seems, but more about how you can communicate ideas and essentially seem to be an expert. I will admit that at one point I messed up in naming one of the parts.

Mr. E: And this is the ... Aorta.
Kieran: Sir, isn't that the ventricle?
Mr. E: (Studies sheet) Yes! Excellent job Kieran. I was testing you and you passed!

After a successful dissection, it was time to clean up the dissection boards and scissors. I'm sure that this is the case with other teachers, but I surprised myself with how stern I would get. It is not in my nature out of the classroom, and it made me ask myself at times, "Did that really just come out of my mouth?" Especially with a group of 20 15 year old young men, it is important to be firm and remind them that you are there to teach them, not to be there friend. I would find my voice settling at this low timbre with that classic "I am not kidding" teacher stare that I remember oh so well from my own times in high school. In the end, it may sound cliche, but the students appreciated that I was stern and hard on them to clean up everything correctly and respectfully. The classroom atmosphere and teaching material each go much more smoothly and at ease when it is clear who is respectfully in charge.

Above all, I followed my primary rule going into the experiment: don't faint.