Practicum: Week 1

This week I started my practicum at Hampton Elementary School in Rochester Hills, MI, under media specialist Jenny Bachman.  I met with her right before break to discuss my goals for the practicum and what projects she might want me to take on, and just from that first meeting I knew I was going to love working with her.  I was also glad we had the initial meeting because I was able to jump right in when I got here.

Here are some thoughts from my first week…

  • Though I have had volunteered and subbed extensively in a couple different schools/school libraries, this is the first time I will be working in a Title I school, where much of the population is economically-disadvantaged and where a large percentage of students are ELL (in some classes, as much as 50% of the students are ELL).  During my first week, this meant I got to observe a set of behavioral/emotional/learning issues that I hadn’t experienced in previous settings (excluding the CDC classrooms I had worked in).  For example, on my first day, a student fell asleep during the read-aloud, and continued to sleep through the technology portion of the class’ visit to the library.  At my old school, this student would’ve been disciplined for being defiant and off-task.  But here, the child was sent to the office so he could lie down and sleep.  Jenny explained that because she (and the school staff) is aware of this student’s home life and living conditions (no adult supervision or involvement, lack of schedule — leading to the child staying up most weeknights to play video games and falling asleep during school), she feels it is more important that the child gets the much needed sleep (he is only in 3rd grade) rather than force him to stay awake or punish him for something that is outside his control.  The school, she adds, has repeated approached the parents with regards to this situation, but so far it hasn’t brought about any improvement.  I feel like I learned a lot from this incident — that as a teacher we need to be sensitive to the child’s home environment and the context in which he/she might be acting a certain way, and act accordingly.  In this case, I agree with Jenny that it was more important for the child to get the sleep he needed than forcing him to participate in the lesson.  However, the fact that there is no improvement despite frequent communication to the parents is a concern.  Have you guys experienced something similar?  How has your school handled this types of situations?
  • I also enjoyed working with the ELL population, since I used to be an ELL student myself, when we immigrated to Canada back in 1989.  I appreciated that Jenny is sensitive to the students’ langugage needs, and adapted their independent practice requirements accordingly.  She also utilizes Google Translator on her iPad when needed — using a simple tool like that (rather than forcing the child to understand her) decreases stress and frustration for both parties. The child was able to understand what she was supposed to do and was visibly relieved, and she was able to turn out something (albeit not at the same level as her English-speaking classmates) that satisfied a learning goal and one that Jenny can then assess.
  • Like another classmate mentioned — a media specialist attends to MANY tasks.  Jenny has very few volunteers, but I liked that she always appeared calm and cheerful in front of the students, rather than stressed or frazzled.  I believe the students can sense that she is truly enthusiastic about her role and that she truly enjoys seeing them succeed.  They respect and like her, and I think the same is true vice versa.  This is an important lesson for me because as somewhat of a perfectionist, I tend to get frustrated when I don’t have the time to get everything done, and done right, but students can sense what we project outward and be affected negatively.  I will try to maintain a positive attitude and smile on even the craziest days, because ultimately, the students don’t care whether you have a million things to do and no time to do it…they only want to feel that you value their presence, and not see them just another demand on your time.
  • I learned many classroom management strategies during my first week as well.  I will share them in another thread.
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