On Sunday night I received a call from my SP here in Rome. She had been in a skiing accident over the weekend and asked if I could teach class all day on Monday. I was a little nervous for class to start, especially because I had such little time to prepare and wouldn't have my SP in the room with me in case I ran into any problems. Fortunately, the lesson ended up great and I think the students got a lot out of it. Additionally, since my SP wasn't there it felt like the classroom was really my own!
The students were all very excited to see that I was teaching when they entered the room. I tried to stick with two of their major class routines: twenty minutes of silent reading at the beginning of class and cold calling throughout class. The latter was a little challenging because I didn't know all the student's names before teaching the class. To combat this I had them write down their names on flashcards at the beginning of class and used those. The only problem with this that I encountered was when I would unknowingly call on a student whose English wasn't very good for a question that was pretty challenging. This made me think about the challenges of teaching bilingual students and the ways that teachers can make ESL students feel more comfortable. While it's important to hold these students to high expectations, it's also important to pose questions in ways they would most easily understand. Therefore, identifying the bilingual students early and noting their language proficiency is key to effective teaching.
The biggest struggle I faced during my day of teaching was with students calling out in class. Being in 6th grade, these students have a lot of energy. Their outspoken attitude during discussion certainly contrasts that of students in high school who are typically "too cool for school" and don't want to participate. While my SP has great classroom management skills, I know that these students in other classrooms have difficulty with behavior. A few weeks ago I sat in on a meeting between my SP and the 6th grade science teacher, who was having trouble keeping the class in order. My SP made two major suggestions to her: physical proximity, so standing next to students who are acting out and/or unfocused, and routine, so setting a regular schedule so students know what to expect. This conversation was great for me to hear as someone who is very interested in classroom management techniques.
After talking to another student teacher who is pracing at the AOSR elementary school from The College of New Jersey I have a hypothesis as to where this classroom behavior may be coming from. My fellow student teacher explained to me that in her second grade classroom there is a huge lack of academic instruction. She complained that her students are scheduled every day to have multiple blocks of recess and art and music but very little science, reading, or math. While this may be fun for the students she says it makes it hard for her to get academic teaching time in and makes it difficult to really solidify any of the student's early academic skills. I think that this approach to education has some long term effects on the students in 6th grade that I am working with. They have trouble staying in their seat or going the whole class period without running to their lockers to get something that they forgot. These connections have certainly made me think about the affects of early education on long term routine building and academic standards.
All in all I was very happy to have had the opportunity to teach three hour and a half lessons during my international prac. My SP was very grateful and I hope to be able to teach again soon.