Saturday, September 17, 2016

Student Teaching Week 5

This week had so many ups and downs. More ups than downs, but what a dramatic week. I'm pretty sure I'm headed for an even more dramatic week next week because of Homecoming. The students will be on the ceiling. <sigh> 

I learned several important things this week. Some had to do with teaching. Others had to do with politics in the school. And some lessons had to do with myself and how I feel about certain things. I recognize a level of frustration that surprises me a little bit. The frustration comes from being "only a student teacher," in which I'm powerless to initiate change in areas that need to be changed.  I'm only a guest. And I must mind my manners. 

Not that I wouldn't mind my manners. I definitely would. I just don't have a voice as a student teacher. And that's as it should be. You can't have student teachers running willy nilly all over the school initiating change. Someday when I'm a "veteran teacher," I'll share my frustrations. But for now, I bite my tongue and carry on in silence.

The greatest success I had this past week was surviving my first evaluation. I was tickled that it went as well as it could. No one's perfect, and nothing is, but I can't think of anything that could have gone smoother. Even a student with autism, who returned to school after a week of being absent and sick, was engaged and cooperative. Whew!

My lesson was "Honey, I Love You." It was about the benefits of, and cooking with, honey. Here's the lesson plan: Honey Lesson Plan.

I got the idea to teach about honey in Special Education Life Skills because it was National Teddy Bear Day on Friday, September 9. I couldn't figure out anything age-appropriate for teddy bears, but I did know bears love honey, so that's how I arrived at the idea. To hook the students, I decorated the room in teddy bears at the different honey-tasting stations. 

Basswood Honey Station

Yellow Sweet Clover Honey Station
Dark Wildflower Honey Station
But, we had a fog delay which canceled our morning Life Skills class on September 9, and I had to move the lesson to Monday, September 12. Boy, was I happy to learn that September is National Honey Month! Whew!

You can find my PowerPoint/Slide Show presentation here: Honey I Love You.

The quiz I created can be found here: Honey Quiz. Passcode: Bright.

We followed up the honey lesson by making teddy bear pancakes and topping them with honey. My students did a great job!

We also made honey lemonade and used honey bear bottles to drink out of. 

The rest of the week went well with my student with autism. He was disrespectful several times. I finally told him that the next time he was disrespectful there would be a consequence. The teacher and I agreed that if it happened again we would call his parents. He really hates how I make him close out of all the Mario Brothers sites on his Chromebook.
It's hard for him. He's used to getting his way. And as a Mom with twins with autism (now grown) I understand his frustration. But, I also know how important it is to teach this student how to interact appropriately with others. The mistake I see too many parents and teachers make is allowing the student with autism to have a tantrum. There's a difference between a tantrum and a melt-down, and I'm fortunate that I can pick up on that fine line. 

Basically, a tantrum is a fit a student has that doesn't harm himself/herself. A meltdown? There's no stopping them from hurting themselves. Tantrums hurt others deliberately, too. Meltdowns don't. There's nothing deliberate about a meltdown.

I had some great breakthroughs with this student. I was able to help him with after school homework without a meltdown. That's super hard for people with autism -- to do something outside the normal routine. I was really proud of him. And I chalked it up to a win for my student teaching experience, too.

I think working with students with a diagnosis of autism is one of the most rewarding parts of my experiences as a student teacher. I also enjoy working with kids who have emotional issues. But with all these kids, it's always two steps forward, three steps back. 

One of my students broke my heart this week. He got in trouble and got an in-school suspension just when we were making some great progress. This student has such a rough time of it. Let's just say that he has virtually no home base. No foundation. No adults in his life to guide him or nurture him. I was just getting him to interact in class and this happens. (He hides his face a lot. Yes, this is a high school student.) Broke my heart. We can help them and help them, but then society's boundaries are just too tight for them, and they are unable to navigate them. The consequences of him being isolated outside our classroom were devastating and will put us back to square one.
And yet, in spite of all the frustrations of this week, I'm still looking forward to the day I have my own classroom. I'm still determined to live the dream of being a certified teacher. I want to be the change that helps students. I don't know if it's possible to help them enough to make a major difference or not. But I still can't help hoping that maybe I can help just one. 


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