Going into my sixth week of student teaching at Scoil Bhride, I have had plenty of time to observe a variety of lessons taught by my CT. As I have mentioned in my previous post, I am in a 5th grade class. My CT keeps the majority of her class under control at all times. She has a few children that get taken out every day for specific areas because they are such a distraction to the rest of the class that she needs them absent in order to have a meaningful lesson. She remains very calm throughout the day, and her students respond very well to that. They don’t get out of their seat without raising their hands and asking permission. Just like an elementary class, the students do have trouble talking among themselves and knowing when to stop in order for the teacher to teach her lesson.
Each subject begins with homework correction. The homework seems to be done on the honor system. My CT never goes around to check and see if it’s done, but she does expect them to have it completed and be able to answer if she calls on them. If, in some cases, she realizes that the homework is not done, that specific student stays in for recess to finish the homework, even if their parent writes an excuse not, which I think is a valuable lesson for the students to learn. She explains to them that the homework must be done before they come to school, and even though their parent may excuse them with a note, they need to take responsibility for their work and stay in to complete it. I haven’t seen any of the students argue with her, because they understand what is expected of them, and I feel that that is one of the most important aspects of a classroom. All of my CTs have told me the importance of setting expectations and goals for the classroom, and with those, there will never be miscommunications.
With the few students taken out throughout the day, I think the classroom size is very manageable. Because my CT has her class for the entire day, some subjects are longer than others, which does cause for distractions. If my CT has math last longer than an hour, which she has done a few times since I have been there, the students start to get antsy and begin talking to one another. Aside from the two recesses the class gets each day, my teacher rewards them with breaks throughout the day.
One thing I noticed that is very different from any other school I have observed in is that the teachers are free to leave and go to the staff room whenever they want. On multiple occasions, my teacher has left her class for five minutes to grab coffee or make a phone call. The first time she did this, I was worried that class would act out, but they are well disciplined and just sit there and work on the assignments at hand. During each subject, some students are pulled out for reading help, math help, and woodwork. Four boys in my class are pulled out for an hour and a half every Wednesday to go to wood work, where they work with a teacher on building model cars and other fixtures of their choice.
In regard to the lessons I have observed, there is very little hands on activity or use of manipulatives by either the teacher or the students. My CT’s lessons consist of homework check, a short mini lesson in front of the class while the students sit at their desks, and then she assigns them problems in their workbooks. This occurs for math, Irish, and writing. The only hands on learning I have seen is during the reading groups. My CT has the class split into five separate reading groups that she meets with a few times a week. She has invited me to take a more active role in reading groups, so I have been working with students as well. They sit in a circle and read short excerpts from the book, and then do vocabulary work. They have a big wall in the back of the classroom called the “vocabulary wall” where they assigns new words for each week for the class to learn and use in their every day life. It becomes a competition for the students to try and use some of the words when they are talking to each other or answering the teacher. I am interested to see if manipulatives or hands on activities become more incorporated into the lessons in the next few weeks, because I feel that they could be very effective for this class. My teacher has given me permission to work with the class and teach a lesson, so I’m going to try and incorporate an engaging activity for them.