Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Because interviews are scary, part VI



During your student teaching experience, what did you find most challenging?

Balancing student teaching with the intensive courses of the credential program and being employed all at the same time. Student teaching is like an extended job interview, and often times I felt like I shouldn’t say no to taking on responsibilities or attending a school event even when I was stretched too thin. I’ve learned that when I am exhausted and over extended, then I do not teach as well as I can, and my students should hold priority over extra responsibilities. Sometimes saying no is the best thing to do, for myself and for my students.

Describe a time that you were in a difficult situation and explain how you resolved it.

During my first student teaching experience, my school took an overflow class of first graders for the district’s elementary schools. This created a period of tense staff transitions and changes. My CT, being the only one on the first grade team with a student teacher, was assigned to help the sub with the overflow class. On more than one occasion, my CT had to leave our class abruptly during my teaching, leaving me completely solo for the entire day way before it was required in the program to take a solo lesson. It helped to know that my CT wouldn’t have left if she felt I couldn’t handle it. She also left sufficient instructions so that I could determine how the flow of the day should go. It also helped that the principal took time to drop in once or twice to check on me and that the other first grade teachers were always just next door if I needed them. These sudden solo days were my crash course on how the school runs: the roll must be submitted by a certain time, how to use the school phone system, how to time transitions to minimize lost instructional time but also to get to the cafeteria (we had staggered lunch times for different grade groups) or buses by the appointed time, how to handle visitors and interruptions like assemblies, and other details I had yet had a chance to ask my CT to explain. I had to think on my feet and pulled out nearly every theory I had learned in the program. I started keeping post-it notes and a pen in my pocket as well as jotting down notes on the whiteboard to help me keep track of everything. By the end of the semester, I had accumulated three times as much, if not more, solo teaching time as the program required. Which, I believe, helped me to become a better teacher.

If you were doing something for students that you knew was right and your principal told you to stop, what would you do?

I would first ask the reasons why I should stop. Perhaps there is something the principal knows that I don’t. I would want my principal to disclose necessary information, especially pertaining to instruction. I would also explain the situation of why I want to help my students, because perhaps the principal might not know all the details that I know too.

Tell me a story from your experience that keeps you up at night.

One of my first grade students can sometimes have an attitude, dragging his feet about being on task. One day, he came to school saying he was feeling sick. I told him he may put his head down for a little while and come back to the group when he felt better. During the morning, he would be lethargic on and off again, sometimes participating with enthusiasm (for the fun parts of lessons), and sometimes not (for the more routine parts of lessons). I thought he was just being his usual self, since he tends to lack motivation unless the lesson involves fun and games. My CT was out of the room all morning, but returned after lunch with the students. She spotted that this particular boy was looking lethargic and felt his forehead, then immediately sent him to the office to have his temperature taken. He had a 101 degree fever. I felt so bad that I had pushed him so hard that morning and didn’t realize he was much too ill to be at school. Other teachers have told me that it doesn’t necessarily make me a bad teacher, just possibly a bad parent. Still, from that experience onward, I always keep an open eye out when students say they are not feeling well.

Describe in detail your best and worst days in a classroom.

Best day: I remember to do everything associated with running a classroom. Students are engaged, actively participating, with minimal time spent on management. We are all flexible with changes that occur throughout the day. It is a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

Worst day: I am unprepared and disorganized. I don’t have a firm grasp of the procedures set for the day. There are difficult tensions throughout the room in myself and the students. I can’t seem to refocus students, and some time is taken up just recreating the proper community again.

Describe the best lesson you ever taught and explain why it was great.

The best lesson I ever taught involved a lot of student teamwork. The objective was to write as many words as they can with certain vowel sounds. Since it was a new game, some students had trouble catching on to the objective, but I modeled it several times, reassuring them that CVC words (this was a first grade class) were perfectly fine to use (they wanted to use a lot of longer, complex words they have yet learned to spell). The students helped each other, and everyone contributed even those who are typically below basic level. The friendly competition seemed to be very enjoyable for this class.

Describe a challenge you encountered during student teaching. What did you learn from it?

Even thought the NCLB act mandates that K-3 grades should have a class cap of 20, often that doesn’t happen. I taught a class of 21 first graders until the overflow class was created. Some 2nd and 3rd grade classes still contained an over-the-cap number. I learned that the law and its intentions are usually not aligned with what happens in reality. If teachers do not hold these laws accountable to politicians and the general public, then people outside of working in education might not realize what is happening with our nation’s students.

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