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Phase 4 Integrated Reflection For my final phase and student teaching placement, I was blessed to be placed with some

e wild and hilarious elementary students while cooperating with one of the schools cross categorical special education teachers. I had experiences with scripted curriculum for reading, math and writing which was in place for several of my students with learning disabilities. I also was able to participate in co-teaching (station teaching) for a first grade classroom of students with diverse learning needs and host a daily, sight word small group in the back of another first grade classroom. For one of my kindergartners, I developed activities to help her learn to write her name and build print awareness which we worked on everyday. We also met up later in the afternoon for another half an hour to work on number writing and one-to-one correspondence. I learned to become a teacher of many hats. I taught organizational skills before school started to some 4th graders with and without IEPs, hosting a Clean Desk Competition for a small group of some paper and garbage hoarding students. I then ran off to the back table of a first grade classroom to coerce some behaviorally challenging, non-SPED kiddos into repeatedly spelling and reading pre-primer sight words via a smiley face chart for working hard and being nice, letting them use crayons to fill in worksheets I found online and a sight word UNO game that the heavens blessed me with (and a random Google search brought me to). I then darted across the hall to pick up another first grade friend to do SRA Math (can I get a BORING up in here?), and although she was a sweet thing and carried through tedious the lessons like a trooper; a dollar store coloring book that she could earn a page out of everyday seemed to make her drag her feet a little bit less down the stairs to my classroom. Then it was off to my kindergartner, who equated spelling her name to making the writing utensil skate continuously across a page and offered me about a second to captivate her attention before she went dancing off across the room, losing us several minutes of instructional time. This situation

left me at the mercy of side walk chalk, paint, colorful markers, exciting sticker charts, pom poms for a name cheer and other various things I found on the internet or through my cooperating teacher to hold my little friends attention long enough to teach her to spell and write her first name. Before lunch, I spent the math block with another first grade class doing enrichment for some of the high achieving students in the class and then wrapped up the short afternoon doing math with my kindergarten friend and SRA Reading, Writing and Math (with a chance to earn UNO for the last 3 minutes behavior chart) for a couple of fourth graders before sending the kids off on their buses home. Each day was a challenge; I had a student who was in between homes, another in foster care, another with violent seizures and several students who had extended and unexplained absences or tardiness- resulting in them slipping further behind then they already were. A couple of my kids would one day be all smiles and hugs in the morning and then howling and inconsolably distraught in the afternoon. There was often a question if meds had been received, if the kids had slept enough or made it on time for breakfast. It was a constant battle of determining if a child giving resistance on a particular day was due to work avoidance or a sheer cry to be coddled and loved in their suffering. I grew up in the affluent suburbs of Chicago, where rebellion seemed to appear later in school in the form of petty drugs or piercings, and I entered the semester feeling ill prepared to manage the constant and sometimes violent and cuss ridden rebellion of nuggets barely taller than my waistline. So I did the only thing I really know how. I spoke in a low and gentle voice. I carefully observed and learned what each kid liked, trying to incorporate a personalized interest into every academic thing we did. I maintained a neutral face during tantrums and gushed smiles and stickers when expectations were followed. I gave love freely and in time, I became someone the

children deemed worth trusting. And after months of struggle, my kindergartner learned to write her name, my 4th graders Aimsweb scores made exciting leaps, my morning sight word group became Sight Word UNO experts and my SRA using first grader (who famously is always completely expressionless) cracked up laughing as I fake tantrummed over losing a card game. As happy as those children could make me, I became increasingly infuriated with the society and mentality that awaited them outside school doors. Shame on us as a society for trying to stomp the love out of schools with suffocating standards, underpaid staff and overcrowded classrooms. Shame on us for slapping labels and blatant condemnations onto populations of childrenstripping them of their dignity as human beings because they dont meet the standard or they fall into a high risk category. Shame on us for letting the divides run so deep, the hurt so untouched and the unkindness so unbridled upon people who are different from us. Shame on us for our lack of humanity and worse, for trying to cover it up. As much as I adored the children I worked with this semester, I adored the staff I had the opportunity to work with. What a challenge they and so many working in similar schools face; to defy a shameful societys disregard for the wonderful little people in their care and overcome obnoxious red tape and beady eyes of critics wearing expensive shoes and driving nice cars to do what is right by the needy children blessed to them for a few hours a day. Out of the dozens of giggles, breakthroughs, hugs, tears, tantrums, mad internet searches to get ideas from people more creative then me and hours of collaboration with staff across grade levels and expertise, I learned to simplify the madness; to learn and to be taught, to laugh and to play, to love and be loved. Im sure I could manipulate that to connect to a standard but I wont this time. Im no longer in the business to impress and conform. My work is to care for and speak for those we as

a society have repeatedly neglected to care and speak for. To my gap tooth and UNO champions, thank you for being you, Ill always love and never forget you!