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Kate Gomez

December 2, 2016

Reflection on Student Teaching Experiences

During my student teaching experience, I had three placements. My


first placement was in an Elementary Schools second grade classroom. My
second placement was a High School Special Education classroom. My final
placement was an Elementary School Special Education classroom. As I
worked my way through these placements, I learned a lot about schools and
teaching. Several of my perspectives have changed as I learned my many
lessons throughout my experience.
Before my first placement I felt that my biggest weakness was
classroom management. I made my main goal of my first placement to
improve my classroom management. I went in to work with the teacher in
this classroom a few weeks before school started where I could ask my
cooperating teacher, Mrs. Spielmann, questions about her style of teaching.
When I asked her about her classroom management plan, she told me she
didnt have one until she was with the students. I waited to see how she
would implement classroom management strategies. While I asked her

questions, I helped set up her classroom. This was one of the first lessons I
learned. Before my student teaching experiences, I thought setting up a
classroom would be difficult, leading to a hectic rush to finish setting up the
classroom and preparing for students. However, Mrs. Spielmann showed me
that most it can be done at a more leisurely pace during the summer break.
She could add student names to various objects well before the beginning of
the school year. Mrs. Spielmann also could keep up her classroom
decorations over the summer.
Mrs. Spielmann had several posters on her walls when I came into the
classroom. Several of them were from previous years. She explained that she
adds to them as she finds effective ones. She also showed me her
organization of materials throughout her classroom. There are certain areas
where she keeps her math manipulatives, math games, word work supplies,
etc. around the room. She has a counter where she keeps several binders
including student data and lessons from previous years.
The next unexpected lesson I learned from Mrs. Spielmann was
keeping the classroom and student data organized. One of the projects that I
completed over my time in this placement was organizing student data and
math worksheets in binders to permit easy access to the information. I can
bring this lesson of maintaining a high level of organization within the
classroom and with student data into my future classroom.

Before our first day of class, we had an open house for parents and
students to attend. This gave everyone a chance to meet the teachers and
grow more comfortable in the classroom. Students could find their desk and
put their supplies away to prepare for the first day. This day was more
important that I had previously thought. I knew that building rapport and
gaining a relationship with the parents is a very important aspect however, I
failed to notice the amount that the open house affects the students until
this experience. On the first day, students were more comfortable with
themselves in the classroom because they already had the experience and
knew where they had to go because of the open house. They put their bags
away in their cubbies and sat at their desks awaiting the first lesson as a
second grader.
I began my first days with observing. I noticed how Mrs. Spielmann
interacted with the students and paid close attention to how she managed
the classroom. I now received my one important piece of advice regarding
classroom management. Mrs. Spielmann told me that you cant let them
get away with anything and I came to understand that to maintain order in
the classroom, the teacher must strictly enforce all classroom rules with all
students at all times. I encountered this later on in my experience and this
advice, given to me every time I asked, helped me recognize my mistake and
improved my management immensely.
I began teaching slowly, first with co-teaching various classes. I was
surprised to find how much I enjoyed co-teaching. Before my experience

here, I had perceived co-teaching as inefficient. However, after experiencing


it, I found that it is a great benefit for the students. Mrs. Spielmann and I
could plan together and both put in ideas to improve a lesson. We could build
off of each other while teaching the lesson and it allowed us to help the
students far more. I actually found that I missed it when I began fully taking
over classes.
The first class I took over was math. I began easing my way in with
very little change to the routine. This is where I found myself inconsistent
with my classroom management. I quickly learned the importance of
consistency and practiced the skill immediately. This greatly improved my
classroom management. Once I became more confident in my classroom
management skill, I noticed that the students responded to me even better.
It even followed through to other parts of our day. I began to manage our
computer time and boost up time and the students continued to listen and
follow my directions. This is one of the most important skills I have learned in
my student teaching experiences.
I began working on my teaching work sample in math as soon as I felt
that I could. This turned out to be a great benefit for me. I was surprised at
the amount of work it takes to produce a teaching work sample. This is an
important lesson to me as I know that my teaching work sample is very
similar to the student learning objective teachers need to write every year. I
was previously unware of the work it takes to produce student learning
objectives.

As I was completing my teaching work sample, I picked up phonics as


the next class that I took over. It was while teaching phonics that I
experienced my next major lesson: flexibility. The first time I had to be
flexible in my lesson without any warning was when my lesson time suddenly
changed and shrunk. I had learned the importance of being ready for any
lesson to change and I was impressed with myself for being prepared enough
to fix it on the go but it was still a surprise to me to see how quickly lessons
can change.
The next class I took over was science. I introduced the new science
book written by the second-grade teachers to for the students and began
reading it with them and discussing aspects of the content. I was now very
confident in my classroom management and could keep a the discussions
moving, if a little slowly. My classroom management is ever improving but I
felt competent in my ability to manage the class while in a less structured
lesson.
During my last week in my second-grade placement, I was able to go
into other classrooms and observe lessons. Every time I went into a
classroom, I looked for several features. First of all, I looked around the room
to notice what was displayed, how the room was set up, and how the
students fit into the room and interacted with their surroundings. Next I
watched the interactions between the teacher and the students. I noticed the
teachers tone of voice and vocabulary while speaking with students in a
whole group and individually. I was also able to walk around the rooms to see

how students worked during individual work time. Finally, I tried to uncover
any classroom management techniques and routines they had in place.
My next placement was in a High School Special Education classroom. I
was especially happy with observing for my first week there as I have not
interacted with high school students and wanted to build rapport before
leading them through a lesson. I observed my cooperating teacher, Mrs.
Nygards, interactions and her management strategies before trying them on
my own. I worried about being too elementary for the high school students.
The first thing that surprised me was the block schedule. I was not used to
four 90 minute classes a day and had adjust my planning accordingly. My
biggest concern was the length of classes. When I began teaching my first
class, I chunked the time to make it as engaging as I could and gave a short
break in middle to help the students succeed in the long class.
During the weeks that I was teaching, I had the opportunity to go to a
staff meeting. Another unexpected lesson was offered to me there. I had the
opportunity to see how districts differ from one another. I feel lucky to have
seen the different leadership styles and differing regulations from each
district. One of the most noticeable differences between the two placements
is was that this second placement allowed teachers and teacher assistants to
have their personal phones on at all times. reason for encouraging staff to
carry personal cell phones was an application called Crisis Go. Every teacher
in the building had Crisis Go on a device whether its their phone or
classroom computer. With Crisis Go, the Principal can send out an alarm for

an emergency and teachers can communicate with each other through the
safe channels.
A great experience this placement gave me was working with a
substitute teacher. While I was teaching, my teacher was unable to come in
and I had the opportunity to work with the substitute teacher. I saw exactly
what Mrs. Nygard did to prepare for the substitute to come in by scheduling
and writing out everything for the day. I found it was similar to how she told
me that she started new teaching assistants. A major learning curve for me
was how she organized and scheduled her teaching assistants. When they
began, she wrote out all of her expectations for them just as she did for the
substitute teacher. As the assistants stayed longer, she was able just to tell
them where to go for each block. Mrs. Nygard had teaching assistants go into
the classroom with students on individual educational plans to assist in class
and modify assignments, quizzes, and tests. She was then able to schedule
them by the semester with no setbacks.
I experienced how difficult scheduling can be in my last placement as
well. My last placement was in an Elementary School Special Education
classroom where I was introduced to creating a schedule for several students
every day. My cooperating teachers, Mrs. Sorenson and Mr. Magnuson, had
scheduled students for a full day utilizing every minute possible. I began in
this placement observing the quick paced schedule and how it can easily
change. My first week was a holiday week where students often stayed in
their classes. The Special Education Teachers needed to be flexible during

this type of week because they didnt know if a student was going to come to
the special education room. This leson in flexibility was a great lesson for me
to learn. In this last placement I had the occasion to see how two different
Special Education Teachers work with other teachers to schedule and plan for
their lessons.
In my final placement, I also had the unfortunate experience of how to
work with students who are going through a tragedy. There was a great
tragedy my first day in this placement and I saw how the school reacted and
helped each other through the heartbreak. The school stood together and
decided how to talk to the students as one.
As I worked my way through my three placements, I have learned
several lessons that were unexpected as well as the lesons I hoped to learn
such as classroom management. I have seen different school climates and
experienced the different regulations. I have learned new teaching strategies
and classroom management strategies. My classroom management is ever
improving but, after my three placements, I am confident in my ability to
manage any classroom successfully.