Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wrapping up my first week of student teaching

I did it! And I've lived to tell the tale!

First word in teaching the first week of high school: Flexibility.

Second word in teaching the first week of special education high school? Double-jointed flexibility. Not. Kidding.

But this is exactly why I majored in Special Education. I love the challenge. And it feels good to know that all that work I put into my education was well routed. I hit the correct target. I'm in my element.

Pretty strange words from someone whose friends are all retiring. Here I am starting a new career. But you want to know something? When I'm at the school working with kids? I feel young. I guess I've not felt old yet, anyway. I mean, I have a young outlook on life. But when I'm with the students, I feel as young as a person my age can feel. I'm doing what I was born to do.

Wednesday in Life Skills is Social Skills day. The students wrote in their journals, we reviewed the class rules with a funny PowerPoint of memes I put together (me? use memes to get a point across? seriously?) and I had them answer a very, very simple "yes-no" survey about how they learn best. We also played a game that I called "My Job-Your Job." This was a great activity to do on the smart board because I was able to see right away what their level of functioning was in terms of academics.

I'm happy to report that I had many more plans than we had time for. I had several other things I wanted to do but we'll do them next week. 

Thursday was a short day because we had a three-hour fog delay. This messed me up a lot and is the reason why I still don't understand the schedule. For one thing, the Wednesday schedule is also different because of early teacher collaboration. And then we had that short day on Thursday and I just gave up trying to figure the schedule out and just followed the bells. (I had a written schedule but was I ever near it? NO.)

I was really excited about Friday because I had a couple of fun activities planned. First we checked homework planners and then moved on to our Life Skills activity. I wanted to see how well the students could follow an easy recipe. The activity I chose was perfect for it.

Each student received a "Recipe for Success" card (pictured above). We discussed the different attributes that contribute to success and that "Recipe for Success" was a metaphor for the things that help us succeed in life and in school.

After explaining they needed to match the ingredients with the labels on the bowls, I turned them loose. It was revealing! (And the M & Ms were very popular!)

I love to match a theme to different school days, and I learned it was National Soft Ice Cream day! So we made ice cream in ziploc bags. We even made vegan ice cream for one of my students who can't eat dairy. The students loved it. And it gave me a lot of joy to see a student smile and comment when he hadn't said a word or smiled all week. "This is better than store ice cream." They all ate every drop. I wish I had pictures of it (I completely forgot to take pics) but you can watch the process we used here:  

That afternoon I was called on to tutor students in Algebra! (Yikes!) And I did it! I wasn't sure I'd be any good at that, but I surprised myself. It made me feel so good to help students understand the process because math has always been a challenge for me. I explained to them that I had to have tutors in college for math, and they warmed right up and really listened to me. It's like it boosted their confidence or something. I'm going to ponder on that.

Probably the greatest privilege I had this past week was helping a student who was very depressed and likely suicidal. It was a little disconcerting for me because no staff was close by when he came in that morning falling apart emotionally. Thankfully I was able to draw on my youth pastor/counseling skills for that. There are some advantages to being old enough to be these kids' grandmother. I was able to calm him enough for my supervising teacher to take over when she was available. I was frustrated that I had no authority to assure him that we'd get him every support and help he needed. But I did reassure him that my supervising teacher would be there very soon to talk to him about his need for a change in his schedule, etc.

So there you go! My first week of student teaching. I have so many fun things planned for next week and we start on our academics in Life Skills. I can hardly wait!

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