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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lesson Reflection 2

My first lesson, in its almost two hours of length, started strong but did, with the introduction of an activity students were not well-enough prepared for, crumbled a bit at its end.  My second lesson, because it was extremely short, did not have the opportunity to get to a stage where it would crumble, but I don't think that it would have had I been given more time.

While the 11th grade is an extremely small and quiet class, with seven students when full and four at the time of my lesson, the 10th grade is slightly larger and a lot chattier.  Having an easily distractible class for 35 minutes is far from ideal.

But, as it turns out, I didn't need to worry.  The students were reading The Kite Runner and my lesson plan involved reading chapter 17 aloud before assigning small, opinion-based paragraphs for students to write in the remaining time.  However, my CT did not cover chapter 16 in the class before, so I ended up editing my lesson plan on the spot (something which, by now, is second nature to me).

I ended up spending most of the class period reading both chapters, not even finishing the second.  Because the lesson involved sitting and reading along with me, I had no problems with maintaining my students' attention.  However, in order to keep some semblance of a lesson that teaches rather than just reading aloud, I stopped with two minutes to spare, asking students to write down the prompt that they would need to finish three more pages of the novel to fully understand.  I told students to finish the prompt for homework, after reading the unfinished three pages, but this caused a bit more confusion because I would not be there to collect the homework and, unknown to me, the 10th grade, unlike the 11th grade, does not usually have homework assignments mid-week.  They also do not usually do their readings at home, though my CT took the opportunity to tell students that this would be changing (though even the 11th grade does not read the books during the school week - they are given the books to read over winter break and are expected to have finished them before returning for a second semester).

I'm trying to find a moral to my first two lessons, and ultimately I think that's its just that I didn't know the students and the classroom life very well before planning lessons.  I don't think that the unforeseen differences between what I've seen before (as a teacher and a student) necessarily is derivative of the cultural differences between countries, especially since this is an international school that uses the IB program.  I think, more than anything, my lack of preparation has to do with the strange schedule I've been meeting with this practicum: I spent a little, concentrated amount of time in the two classrooms and haven't let the students and their classroom habits settle in yet.  I also haven't had all the downtime to talk to my CT that a full school day would allow.

Excuses aside, I have one remaining lesson where I will be teaching a poem to the 10th graders.  While preparing for it, I'll try to gain more information about the class I'm entering before finalizing a lesson plan.

Lesson Reflection 1

While not specifically required of an international practicum, I knew before coming abroad that I would want to try teaching lessons abroad.  Thankfully, my CT this semester has been extremely helpful and accommodating, allowing me to teach two lessons thus far, with a third coming soon.

Both lessons I taught at ISL introduced new challenges for me in my student teaching career, though not necessarily because of the cultural differences of a different country.  Firstly, I only stay at ISL for one grade's English class, as opposed to remaining at the school for the entire day like I did last semester.  Not only do I not see the same lesson taught multiple times like I did last semester, but I also have split my days between two grade levels, meaning that with two days left, I have only seen the 10th graders twice and the second time I met with them, I taught the lesson.  Having to teach to students I barely know seems extremely difficult, but I cannot help but feel that it's like taking the practicum training wheels off, since I will be teaching students I've never met before on every first day of school.

The school itself also supplied me with new challenges.  At ISL, there are 35 minute blocks and the class periods I have shadowed have been one, two, or three blocks long.  My first lesson, to the 11th graders, was three blocks long, lasting a whopping one hour and 45 minutes.  My second lesson, demanding in its own way, was one block long and lasted only 35 minutes.  Considering all my previous lessons were somewhere around 50 minutes to an hour long, dealing with new time constraints while maximizing time and keeping students engaged was a challenge I'm not sure I met.

For my first lesson, the longer one, I was introducing a discussion of the second generation of characters in Wuthering Heights.  I began the lesson asking students to brainstorm characteristics and quotations of both first and second generation characters and then asking them to join a discussion comparing first and second generation characters.  Then, utilizing a previous assignment that my CT had given students, I asked a student who had compiled notes on the second generation's Catherine to share with the class, while others took notes.  Finally, I introduced a writing prompt, asking students to plan a three paragraph essay and then write one of the paragraphs.

For the first lesson, the beginning half went extremely well, as students began to open up with the informal discussion and were given ample time to write down things that they could then suggest in discussion.  However, the students were confused by the writing prompt and definitely would have benefitted from an example.  I did realize their confusion and I both reiterated the instructions to the class as a whole as well as working with almost all students one on one to develop their own ideas.  I had intended for students to grade each others' paragraphs in class, but because time ran over, they ended up taking each others' paragraphs home to grade for homework.  If I were going to teach these students again, I would try to incorporate paragraph writing as well, but with more emphasis on what will be required of them for IB tests and in a more straightforward and example-based manner.

Observation of a Lesson Taught By My CT

Journal #3

            This past Tuesday I was able to go back to Scoil Bride for my 9th time and I observed a phonics lesson taught by my teacher. This was the first time I had witnessed a phonics lesson because I normally go to the school on Wednesdays, which allows me to witness math, reading and Gaelic instruction, which is the Irish language. The phonics lesson started with my teacher going over a familiar sound, “aw”. She first wrote the sound on the board and asked the class to raise their hands if they knew how to say this sound. One student raised their hand and answered her question correctly. My teacher then went on with the lesson by explaining that this one sound could be written in three different ways, “a”, “aw” and “al”. My teacher asked the class to take a minute and think of example words that could be put into these three categories for the sound “aw”. One by one students raised their hands and contributed example words like “hawk”, “all”, “walk” and more. As each student contributed a word, my teacher repeated the word and stated why a word belonged in a certain category. After about 10 minutes of students contributing example words, my teacher thanked all the students for their words and then asked the students to get out their phonics notebooks. This was a common aspect of the lesson, so the students understood that this meant opening their notebooks to the next available page, creating three lined columns and waiting for a new list of words to be written on the board. Once this new list of words was written on the board, the students would then separate the words into the three different sounds, “a”, “aw” and “al”. My teacher wrote 10 words on the board utilizing all three sound types and the students set off to work on categorizing the ten words into the proper column. I was amazed at how fast these students were able to get focused and start working on the task at hand, but this most likely due to the fact that it is the last week in April and they have been doing phonics since the beginning of the year. My teacher and I circulated the classroom looking over the student’s shoulders to make sure students were working on the assignment and that they were not in need of any help. After another 10 minutes, my teacher reminded the students that once they were done with categorizing the words, they were to use 4 of the words in a sentence and while they did so, they should try to incorporate some examples of adjectives. Unsurprisingly, this assignment was easier for some students than others, so after students had finished both the categorization of words and their four sentences, they were then instructed to read a book silently. I am not sure if I have mentioned this in my first post but my class has many learning disabilities, mainly dyslexia, so though I would describe my students as fairly bright for first grade, some assignments can prove to be frustrating and more time consuming for some of the students. My teacher is very good about circulating around the students that might need a little more attention when lessons involve potentially confusing concepts like similar sounds in different words. My teacher has a very strong sense of pacing for her students; in fact I would say one of her strengths is tapping into when students are struggling with concepts or when they are breezing through another concept. I have enjoyed watching her teach lessons because she seems to really understand her students and though learning disabilities can add some road blocks in a lesson, she rolls with the pauses and confusion from her students very gracefully. I hope to emulate that sort of understanding of my student’s needs in my next practicum in the fall. One thing I have struggled with in the past is pacing during a lesson, so I am hoping to work on that next semester!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Reflection on Equity and Social Justice

One main difference I have observed between my school in Ireland and schools I have been placed at in Boston is classroom demographics. There is much greater age diversity within a single classroom at Scoil Mhuire than I have ever encountered in America. The age span within the third-class classroom includes 8, 9 and 10 year olds. Within this school system, children may be enrolled and begin formal schooling any time between their fourth and sixth birthdays. I talked about this wide age gap with one of my Irish roommates at University College Cork and she said oftentimes the younger students tend to take a gap year rather than going straight to university like their older peers so that there isn’t such a wide gap between them and their peers upon entering college. This suggests that the students, particularly the younger students, are aware of the wide age span within a single grade level and feel its affects. The wide age span has led to developmental and maturity level differences between the students in the classroom, both socially and in academics.

The wide age span naturally creates a greater degree of maturity levels within a single classroom. The older students may be developmentally ready for certain academic concepts or social interactions while for the younger students such concepts might not yet be developmentally appropriate. This leads to a greater need for differentiation within lessons and teaching practices in order to meet the needs of all students on differing developmental levels within a single classroom. My CT has discussed with me the challenges she’s faced in having such a wide age range within a single classroom, and how she must keep on top of some students to prevent them from coasting while others require additional supports to keep up (these differences often time corresponding to the age of the students). My experiences within this classroom at Scoil Mhuire have increased my awareness of exactly how wide a range of developmental and maturity levels a teacher may have within one classroom. In order to meet the needs of all one’s students and promote equitable teaching practices, lesson differentiation and recognizing that students come to school with all sorts of particular needs and strengths is necessary.

Through classroom observation, I have witnessed how my CT attempts to promote equity by differentiating her lessons to meet the needs of all her students. She does not expect all of her students to perform on the same level, as that would be impossible, yet she still holds them all to high standards, expects them to be challenged and to work toward improving their personal bests. For example, the youngest student in the class struggles with her academics, particularly in math. My CT allows this student to use resources, such as a times table chart, to help her solve math problems and when orally quizzing the students on their times tables, will write down the problem for this particular student so that the student has a visual and the math becomes more concrete. My CT does not presume that this student cannot complete the work, or give her simpler problems to solve; rather she provides scaffolds and resources to help this student arrive at an answer.

Conversely, the oldest student is the class is incredibly advanced in her English and writing skills. This student is given higher reading level books during independent reading time and while all students are given one or two things to work on in their writing (currently the majority of the students are working on dialogue and creating multiple coherent paragraphs in their writing) my CT coaches this advanced student on more technical aspects of writing because she is developmentally ready for it.

While I have become more aware of developmental diversity in Ireland that affects equity and social justice practices, Ireland’s homogeneous culture has not allowed me to learn much about equitable teaching to a culturally and ethnically diverse classroom. All of the students in my classroom come from very similar Irish catholic families within the same socioeconomic level. Unlike my previous placements in Boston, which were culturally and racially diverse, Irish schools lack ethnic diversity. In Boston, I would often observe how my CTs would incorporate the cultures of their diverse students into lessons through book selections, cultural references, and art projects. The students’ heritages were celebrated and infused into lesson plans. I have observed very little of culturally aware teaching practices in Ireland as all of the pupils are of the dominant culture. A couple of weeks ago, Scoil Mhuire, celebrated “French week” where the students learned about the French culture. French culture was not infused into pre-existing lessons, but was approached as a separate subject all together, and the information presented was all very stereotypical: simple French phrases and feasting on croissants, crepes, and baguettes. It was very stereotypical and provided a surface-level understanding of French culture. I think without having diverse students in ones classroom that forces a teacher to be mindful of how cultural diversity is presented, it can be challenging to present diversity in culturally aware and authentic ways, rather than setting up diversity as a celebrated week of stereotypes. 

Completing an international practicum in Ireland has opened my eyes to the wide range of developmental and maturity levels that may exist in a single classroom and how this affects differentiation and teaching practices. Simultaneously, I have also gained a greater appreciation for the diversity of culture within Boston schools that is missing from the Irish culture, and how such diversity makes culturally aware teaching practices more authentic and easier to avoid a stereotypical and surface level understanding of diversity. 

Implementing a mini-unit on Native Americans at Scoil Mhuire

It has been a while since I last wrote an international practicum blog post. I have been doing some travelling outside of Ireland for the past three weeks and Scoil Mhuire additionally has had their two-week spring holiday, luckily corresponding with my holiday as well. This blog post is reflecting back quite a ways, to the very first week of April, when I last visited the third-class students.

Having had the entire first week of April off from classes, and knowing that I would be outside of Cork for the majority of April and that May would be hectic with finals, I decided the easiest method to fulfill a large portion of the ten required student teaching days would be for me to student teach for an entire week straight.  I am thankful for the flexibility of this program. Having only completed pre-practicums back at Boston College, I have only had the experience of student teaching one day a week. I found it to be a very eye-opening and rewarding experience to be able to attend student teaching for a full workweek; it provided insight into what my full-practicum and future as an elementary teacher will be like.

It was a lot more exhausting than I had anticipated. In addition to observing my CT teach her lessons, monitoring lunch and recess, and tutoring two struggling students in math, I had taken on teaching a three-day Native American mini-unit. When I wasn’t at Scoil Mhuire as a student teacher, I was at home planning lessons for the following morning. It felt as though my life was consumed by student teaching, lesson planning, and preparation. While I thoroughly enjoyed it and feel fortunate to have had this glimpse into my future as a full-practicum student, I had underestimated how exhausting it would be.

My first lesson in the mini-unit was an overview of who the Native Americans were and what the different tribal regions within the USA were (Woodlands, Plains, Southwest, and Coastal Northwest). The students learned about the geography of the United States by coloring a map. My second lesson was about the Plains Indians and the buffalo hunt, where I taught the students all the different things a Native American made with different parts of a buffalo’s body (they labeled a diagram of a buffalo with the different things Native Americans made with each body part). The final lesson was about Coastal Northwest Americans, the totem pole, and storytelling. I explained how totem poles told stories of the tribes history, read them the legend of the Thunderbird, and then implemented an art project where each student designed their own totem pole with a mixture of native American symbols and symbols of things that were personally significant to them (many picked the shamrock).

I thought the week went really well. It felt so different teaching a room of only nine female students (one student was away this week on holiday). The dynamic was so different from the 18 and 23 mixed-gender classrooms that were my previous student teaching placements. Due to the reduction in class size, classroom management wasn’t that big of a factor. Yes, I still had to remind them not to call out of turn, and to raise their hand when they had a question or wanted to answer a question, but for the most part they were very focused, attentive, and respectful.

In observing my CT implement lessons, I already have noticed that the teaching style at my Scoil Mhuire placement is a lot more laidback than other placements I have had in America. In implementing my own mini-unit during the first week of March, I have experienced this different teaching style first hand.  For one thing, although I know there are curriculum standards and objectives, these objectives (expect in the area of mathematics) are not made clear within lesson implementation to me or to the students. Unlike previous placements where the students could articulate what they were learning because the classroom teacher had made her objectives clear to the students  (orally, through writing the objective on the board, and by indicating that there would be an assessment on the topic), the students at Scoil Mhuire are for the most part unable to articulate the purpose of a lesson. There seems to be much less focus on curriculum standards than within the American system, although this could just be the result of my CT not making her lesson plans and objectives clear to me. Nevertheless, when planning my Native American mini-unit, I wasn’t given any instructions, resources, or curriculum guides about what information or skills the students were expected to learn. Rather, my CT said it was “my unit and I could approach it however I wanted to”. The lack of guidance made planning difficult as I was uncertain on which information and skills to focus.

The testing procedures are also very different between this school and American schools. I am accustomed to the American system, riddled with continuous assessments and little quizzes that inform teachers of the effectiveness of their teaching practices and their students comprehension of the lesson. In my lesson, I attempted to include continuous assessment through worksheets and class discussion so the students could demonstrate what they learned. I even made a matching quiz for the next morning to see how much information the students had retained. These were implemented so I could assess how effective my teaching had been and address any misconceptions the students may have. While my CT does incorporate continuous assessment, through worksheets and listening to her students responses during conversations to make certain they are on target, there are not a lot of within unit or end of unit quizzes or tests spread throughout term. Rather, the students have two or three days of exams at the end of term before leaving for their holidays. All of the testing for each subject occurs during this testing period at the end of term. I found this to be very different from the American schools I’ve taught in, where tests were spread out and occurred naturally to assess progress and inform teachers of the effectiveness of their teaching practices, rather than (or in addition to) a finalized assessment of what the student learned.  

Overall, it was an incredibly eye opening experience to attend my placement for an entire week straight and implement a mini-unit during this week of student teaching. It provided insight into my future experiences as a full-practicum student and allowed me to better observe some of the academic differences between Scoil Mhuire and American school in which I have taught.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Classroom Management at Scoil Bride

          At this point in the semester I have been lucky enough to go to Scoil Bride 8 times so far and it has really been eye-opening in terms of the completely different atmosphere the classroom has compared to an American one. My class is only made up of 12 children and more likely than not, at least one is absent every time that I go to the school. This makes the class size significantly smaller than the average American classroom, so it is not often that the children will join together and act out during instruction. However, my teacher does not take interrupting and disrespect lightly, so if one of the students talks out or is somewhat rude, she immediately calls attention to it and lightly scolds the child so that they understand their mistake. These 1st grade students are between the ages of 6 and 7, but they are much better behaved than the 4th grade students that I had this past semester back in Boston. They are nowhere near perfect, but they seem to grasp the concept of being accountable for their actions within the classroom. My 4th grade students back in Boston were constantly on the lookout for someone to take the blame for their actions. The phrase, “It’s not my fault!” was a common exclamation if students forgot their homework or were asked to stop talking in class. Instead of apologizing for disrupting class or not being responsible for their own homework, these children looked for a way out every single time. Here in Ireland, these young children are disciplined in a way that they understand their mistake and understand that they were at fault. The idea of something not being fair is not even in their mindset. It is refreshing to be in a classroom where the students are conscious of their behavior and how they should behave in a classroom. This method of discipline creates a different atmosphere in the classroom and I think it proves to be beneficial for the children as well. It makes me wonder if we should enforce this sort of discipline in American schools to start creating an atmosphere where students are held responsible for their actions in hopes they can learn how to be accountable students. 

I also think it is interesting that these young students are able to be so responsible because a majority of them have disabilities that can sometimes complicate their concentration during the school day. For example, one student in my classroom, who I will call student A, very easily can get off task, though he is very bright. He is aware of this slight difficulty he has so he makes sure that he has his special chair whenever he supposed to be doing work. This chair is shaped in a way that keeps him in a completely upright position instead of allowing him to slouch or sit sideways. This helps him stay focused to the best of his ability and he knows that without this chair, the school day could be much more frustrating for him.  Overall, this is just one area of the classroom that I have found to be surprisingly different from American schools. It would be interesting to take a more serious discipline approach to the children in American schools and see if it could work as well as it does here in Ireland. The students have currently been on a two-week break for both spring and Easter, but fortunately I will be able to get back into the classroom next week! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lesson Observation, Asking for Directions in London

So I realized that I am going to be away on my spring break for the next two weeks so I figured I would post another time in the group. For this reflection I think I will talk about a lesson that I observed last week in my other classroom. I was supposed to have been working in my regular classroom, but there was a class field trip that my teacher forgot to inform me about. This was not a big deal at all, and so I merely just went down a couple of rooms and met my other teacher. I asked him if it was okay for me to sit and observe his classroom that day, considering I walked in very last minute. In this sense, it worked out pretty well for me because it allowed me to absorb what was going on in the classroom and give my full attention to observation rather than trying to multi-task and focus on my own instruction as well.

This classroom has an older age range than my first classroom, the students ranging from about 12-13 years old. Although this is only one or two years older, there is quite a significant difference in the age of maturity (or lack therefore of…) and skill set of the students. This can be quite a difficult age, one of awkwardness and when you feel like you constantly have to prove yourself. I can imagine all three of you cringe at the thought of your 12 or 13 year old self, or perhaps that is just me. In either case, I think it was a good experience for me working with this age group because it presents a different sort of challenge, as I usually either work with high school or elementary aged students. To work with kids in the thick of middle school is very different.

This particular class is pretty rowdy in nature, and feels the need to constantly exert all the energy they have during the lesson. This is an English class as well, and while they are a couple of years older than my other class, many of the students’ English skills I would say are inferior to that of their younger counterparts. The focus of this lesson was concerned with asking for directions, and what one would expect to hear and what one should say in a situation. For this lesson, it comes directly out of their textbook, which is accompanied by Internet activities and videos. What I find interesting is that when the class watches these videos and speaks English, it is all done in relation to British English and not American English. The students are more interested in American culture than British culture, but they are forced to learn phrases and words that are not part of the American lexicon. For example, the students completed an entire exercise using “must” and “mustn’t” as well as reading about a student and her “maths” assignment. Subtle differences, but things I have noticed throughout my time here. 

The video showed a young boy about the same age of the class asking a woman how to get to a bookshop in the heart of London. We watched the video in its entirety at first, which was about 2-3 minutes in length. Then, the video went into a question and answer section where the students were asked questions about the video, such as “Where did Marcus ask the woman where to go?” or “What is the bookshop located opposite from?” To be honest, I was very impressed with the students, because even as a native speaker (and yes, this is a tad embarrassing) I was having trouble following this video. Nevertheless, the students seemed to grasp the majority of the conservation. On a regular basis, my CT will use what the book has for content and build upon that to assess whether the students understand the material. In this case, he asked the students to draw the directions on a sheet of paper, with the traffic lights, landmarks, and roads. This was a good informal assessment because he could simply walk around the class and very clearly see whether or not students had understood the video.

Overall, I would say that this was a pretty successful lesson. Every class my CT goes around to different students and directly assesses their oral and reading skills. He does this on a fairly random basis, and once a student completes the assignment, he takes each student’s small grade book and assigns him or her a grade on a scale of 1-10, 6 being a passing grade. Students carry these small little books with them throughout the school day, and teachers from each classroom each have their own section. For example, he asked students to complete an exercise in the workbook concerning the use of compounds, and when a student correctly answered several questions with decent accuracy, he gave them a grade in their book of an 8. One of these questions was finding the right word for this sentence: “We’re not going anywhere this weekend.” He is a pretty fair grader, and when a student has shown a good amount of effort, despite not a perfect performance, he will give them the benefit and raise the grade by one mark.

I hope all is well with your teaching placements and I’m looking forward to reading more about your experiences!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My First Teaching Blog Post

Hello everyone! Sorry that I’m joining the blog game a little late here, but I’m glad to be starting now. I did not actually start my teaching placement until the second week of March or so, so I have only been at this for a month! I also had some difficulties figuring out how to post to this forum, but alas, here we are and now I am ready to blog!

To give you a little background on who I am, my name is Kevin Holbrook and a Secondary Education and History major in the Lynch School. I am from Medfield, Massachusetts and I have lived there my whole life, graduating from Medfield High School in 2011. Currently, I am studying abroad in Parma, Italy, which has been one of the best experiences of my life! I had not intended originally doing an international practicum, but I still wanted to volunteer in a school setting. Upon learning more about this “blog soup,” I was intrigued to join and to hear all of your thoughts about your experiences abroad. I am looking forward to reading, commenting and having some good conversations.

My placement this semester is at the San Benedetto School, which is an elementary and middle private parochial school located in the heart of Parma’s historical district. I have been placed with two different teachers with students ages 11-12 and ages 12-13. My main goal is to serve as an English teacher and social studies teacher, although both of my teachers have granted me quite a generous amount of autonomy in the classroom.

While my first day was about a month ago, I will try and recount it here for all of you. As I entered the school, I parked my bike alongside a row of teacher’s bike racks. (Parma is one of the top places in the entire world for commuting by bike—go figure). As I entered the school, the school secretary greeted me in a lobby area. I introduced myself and explained my role and he asked me to wait for my CT to come and meet me. This all took place in Italian, and as a beginner (very beginner…) speaker, I was quite pleased with myself that I was able to conquer that first barrier…getting through the door.

As I met my CT, she was incredibly enthusiastic about having an American student working in her classroom. She had once before had a student from England for a semester, but she had never had a student from the States. Very quickly I was impressed with her demeanor, and she reminded me of many of the teachers I had during elementary school. When we entered the class, all of the students immediately stood up and greeted me with a loud and eager “Hello!” This is perhaps the best word they can say, and I am somewhat convinced it is the only word some students now, but nevertheless, I felt welcome as I entered. The standing up was something that reminded me of classrooms I have seen from various Asian countries, where I know teachers are highly respected. While I do not think merely standing up constitutes respect, I think it was a very visible gesture that is something I at least never saw as a student in America.

One of the strongest similarities between the American education and this particular school is the use of technology. I was quite impressed to see SmartBoards in every single classroom in the school. Granted, I do recognize this is just one school (a private one at that) in one city (one of the wealthiest in Italy) and that it cannot be seen as an example for all Italian schools. Nevertheless, I do find it interesting and encouraging that students abroad have access to these sorts of technologies in their schools and are utilizing them on a regular basis. I am a huge proponent of using technology in the classroom, and to be able to use the SmartBoard in my instruction over here is a huge plus.

While I do plan to talk about curriculum more in depth in further posts, I would like to briefly touch upon it in this introductory post. As far as my instruction goes, I have almost complete autonomy as to what I teach. I have taught lessons on my family to introduce vocabulary, the city of Boston, St. Patrick’s Day (which I did come prepared in a full green outfit), as well as popular culture in the United States. Because I have taught in several different classrooms to several different ages, it is amazing to me the difference in response I have received to my lesson.

In one of the classes where I gave a presentation about my family, I showed a map of Massachusetts in relation to the entire United States. The class responded with questions about what the other states were in a respectful and inquisitive nature. In another one of the classes, they screamed and yelled and asked about the Boston Celtics, after learning I am from Boston. And in my third class, they asked me (through my Italian teacher translating some of the advanced English dialogue) whether Massachusetts had the death penalty. What a difference! Considering I had taken a class last year solely about the death penalty and wrote a 35 page paper on it, I obviously had a lot to say on that subject—but only for that class! To me it was amazing how different the conversation ran from class to class. Obviously that is not the goal in my own classroom to have such variety, but I think in these cases of introductions, it was good to have the students engage with me in a manner that made them comfortable.

So, I think that’s enough for one post! If you have any questions, feel free to comment or send me an email—I’d be glad to respond.