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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"Typical" day of teaching at the International School of Paris

            I could not help but smile as I read this prompt. The prompt asks me to describe a “typical” day at my placement. I think it’s so funny to describe my days in the classroom in Paris as typical because it seemed like each day I went in, I was asked to do different things. Some days I would be teaching math within groups, like I was asked to in the beginning. However, there were days when I would be going around the classroom helping students with their photo gallery and asking questions about the angle in which they placed their cameras to get their picture. I was privileged enough to work in two different classrooms in the same grade. I was able to observe two teachers with very different teaching styles and the various interactions among students.
            I mostly worked with students in the lower level math groups to help them improve their math skills in geometry, subtraction, and addition with 3 digit numbers. Every Wednesday morning I went into Mr. Barker’s class. I worked with 2 groups at a time, running back and forth. This was one of my many challenges. I loved the students and the students seemed to really enjoy the time they spend with me while I was in their classroom. Mr. B, after about 2 weeks, asked if I could work with 2 larger groups so he pay more attention to the remaining groups. There were days when I would be running from one student in one group to another in the second group. The groups worked on the same material but with different levels. For example, one group would work on subtracting 3 digit numbers while the other worked on the same materials but with partitioning. There were times when I would confuse myself with the materials I was teaching because I was running around checking students’ work. Another challenge was the interaction I had with one student. Because I was an “adult”, a “teacher” who came into the classroom once a week, some students regarded me as their friend rather than a teacher in the classroom. Mr. B at the beginning of the semester clearly explained to the students that I was a teacher in the classroom. However, one girl in particular, always seemed to give me an attitude. She was one of the smarter ones in the group so she always wanted to quickly get through the work to show that she was faster than everyone else. Mr. B informed me on this before the semester started. It was difficult to tell the student that she had to take her time to understand the work rather than just the process of finishing her work. I may have experienced a lot of challenges but the greater things that I have gained from this experience overshadow them all.
            Some of the highlights I have experienced were when I worked with this one particular group in October. I had 5 girls in my group and we were reviewing the concept of angles and degrees of angles. When we first started the lesson, three of the girls were lost. I think they were either absent or out of the classroom the day before. Mr. B asked me to help the students use their protractors to draw 45, 90, 135, and 180 degrees in their math notebooks. The more I seemed to use words to describe the concept of degrees and the process of drawing angles, the students seemed lost. That’s when I knew I had to scaffold the activity in order for the students to understand what I was talking about. I stood up and got myself a piece of paper and pencil to model the activity. The moment I placed the protractor on the paper, the students said, “OH!” in synchrony. I held the protractor to explain the increments that were marked on the protractor. After a mini lesson the students were able to go beyond what Mr. B had asked of them. We had about 15 minutes after the lesson and so I decided to give them random degrees to draw into their notebooks. It made me so happy to know that all 5 of them understood the lesson and the materials. Another highlight of my experience was being able to participate in the 5th grade photo gallery. Both classes, Miss A and Mr. B, had a photo gallery the last week I was aboard. I was able to see all the students’ hard work as they used trifold posters to display their works. I was also able to meet the students’ parents and have conversations about their child. I was also able to communicate with one of the Korean students’ mother in Korean about her child. It was also to hear multiple languages being spoken in the classroom. Since every single student was from a different country, I was able to hear languages from all over the world.

            My “typical” day in my placement may have been a little hectic but each day was truly a rewarding one. I did experience some challenges but the number of highlights I could write and talk about, far exceeds the difficulties.

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