Saturday, January 28, 2012

First class meeting reflection

I've tried a few times to write about the first class meeting I facilitated with the third grade class I'm student teaching with, but I can never finish the thought. I get so frustrated so often during my internship, and perhaps I'm internally not letting myself think everything through properly. Perhaps I'm unconsciously afraid of what I'd find if I did. Consciously, of course, I blame everything on the "public school" scape goat. And, of course, I'll really need to give myself honest reflection time, but perhaps just not during my internship. It feels like that would be unprofessional somehow. In three and a half months time, I'll be back to normal (hopefully).

In the meantime, I'd like to actually finish a thought about my first class meeting. During planning for a day in which my cooperating teacher would be gone, I decided it was time to have a discussion with the students. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to say, however, and wound up improvising most of it while I went along. I knew only that I wanted to touch on respecting each other despite your feelings towards a person, ignoring what others say even when it makes you angry, and disagreeing with others respectfully. At the last minute request of the cooperating teacher in her notes to the sub, I started the dialogue with a story, even though it didn't exactly fit with what I fully wanted to talk about. But, really, without it, I would have hardly known where to begin.

While the third-graders were in P.E., I moved the desks to create a larger space on the floor (because they haven't been taught how to move their own desks quickly like I would have taught them) and taught the substitute how to run my Flip camera so that I could watch the meeting again and reflect. When the students returned, we sat in a circle and I read the short book. They were surprisingly somber during the story.

Afterward, I asked what the story made the students think about. I received answers from the title of the book and a synopsis of what the characters in the illustration did, so I told them that the story reminded me about how the class doesn't always work together as a team. Then we brainstormed problems that students in the class have and solutions to those problems. I wrote on hand-held white boards during the meeting, but transferred the notes to poster-sized paper and hung them in the room afterward. I'll include the ideas below.

When I could see that the ideas had been exhausted and the students were getting anxious, I transitioned to role-playing, hoping to build empathy for the problems we had just discussed. The students were excited for the chance to role-play, perhaps because it meant finally getting up (we had been sitting for around 30 minutes) and perhaps for the near-silly nature of the activity. I had two practice what to do "when someone is bothering you" (here illustrated by one student taping his hands on another and saying, "Bother bother bother..."). The "bothered" student acted out the ideas we had brainstormed, first telling the other to stop, then walking away, and finally coming to tell me. Another set of students acted out what to do when someone near them continued to talk without permission ("Blah, blah, blah..."): tell her politely to be quiet and give her a quiet signal.

Unfortunately that was all we had time for. Now that I know that this group of students responds more positively to role-playing than dialogue (probably because they haven't had the chance to be actively involved in a real discussion), I look forward to future class meetings with just a little less time talking and more time acting out. Hopefully I really can appeal to their empathy this way.

Student-generated brainstormed ideas:
Someone is being mean or trying to get me in trouble
1. Stay in control and be respectful.
2. Say, "Please stop ..."
3. Swallow any mean words
4. Ignore them
5. Use a calming technique
6. Walk away
7. Tell an adult

Someone near me won't stop talking
1. Say respectfully, "Please be quiet, I'm trying to learn."
2. Give them a silent quiet signal.

Calming Techniques
1. Take deep breaths
2. Get a drink of water
3. Go to the restroom to splash your face with cold water
4. Write your feelings
5. Write someone a letter
6. Read a book (with permission)
7. Draw a picture (with permission)