Second Day of Practicum, Fall ’10

Today didn’t turn out quite like last week did, because like Corcoran High, Henninger runs on a block schedule, so the teacher’s schedule was not the same as it was last week. The first class that I observed was taught by a young male teacher who I really liked. My regular Practicum Teacher had to go to a meeting, so she gave me the choice of either going with her or observing his classroom, and I chose to observe his classroom. He seems to have a great relationship with his students, which are Seniors. He jokes with them and respects them, and in that regard, he reminds me of an English teacher that I had in high school named John Smales.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to observe his class today. His class was very well-behaved. He had them get into groups of five and analyze a poem that they had read, and although it took them a minute or two to get on task, once they did, they were really on target. There was a great deal of respect in the classroom. There were opposing viewpoints, both between the students themselves and the students and the teacher, but everyone respected each other’s opinions.

He talked to me about literary classics, since his class will soon be reading 1984, which is one of my favorites. I admitted to him that I unfortunately have a lot of classics with which I need to familiarize myself, and he told me that there are quite a few that he hasn’t read, either, because there are so many that it is nearly impossible to read all of them. However, I haven’t even read To Kill a Mockingbird yet, which I’ve heard is really, really good. I will definitely be getting on my classics in the future!

Something that I learned from him is that each teacher is allowed 1,000 pages of paper per month, and he has six classes of students. This is utterly ridiculous. If I knew exactly how many students that amounted to, I could do the math, but I do know that it is not sufficient, because he struggles. This is so unfortunate, because a steady paper supply is so important to an English teacher. I don’t see how one can teach with such drastic limits.

After his class, I went directly to my regular Practicum Teacher’s class. Last week, she had her students interview each other, and this week, she had them present what they learned about each other. My first impression wasn’t fully accurate. What I witnessed last week wasn’t really her fault. The school has an approximate population of 1,800 students, and the school is not large enough to school that many students. Some students have 30-35 students per class, and it is therefore extremely difficult to get to know your students quickly. That is a big part of the reason why she is doing this “Getting to Know You” exercise.

However, what I witnessed today was an apparent teaching method with which I don’t agree and do not plan to implement myself. As a whole today, her classes, as a whole, this week were not anywhere near as enthusiastic as her classes last week were. Many of the students were not ready to present, and so she lectured them. She said that teachers are commonly criticized for students’ failures when in reality, it is the students’ faults. “Shame on you,” she said. What happened is exactly what one would expect to have happen in a room full of adolescent students. They fought back, defending themselves, making statements such as, “No, it’s the teachers’ fault! Shame on you!” When you speak to your students that way, you have to expect that kind of response.

The day went by really quickly, which was really good (getting up so early when you’re not used to it is not fun). However, something was said during lunch that really angered me, enraged me, even. The teachers are all really angry because of the limited paper supply. This is completely understandable; I would be, too. However, one of the teachers was ranting about the situation, and she referred to her Special Education class as her “stupid kids class.” How, I wonder, could a teacher say such a thing? Even if it was said out of anger about the paper, that is utterly unacceptable. You do not call your students “stupid.” I really wanted to say something, but it wasn’t my place. I would have had I been a teacher, and it’s just as bad that no teacher who heard that (which most of them did) said anything to her.

For my Practicum Teacher’s last class, less than half of the students were there, something that clearly frustrated her, but even though I don’t really know why, the school underwent a Lockdown. A male student arrived to class late, and he explained to the teacher that he got caught up in a storm of people in the hallway due to a major fight, but it would seem to me that it would have to be more serious than that to initiate a Lockdown. Maybe one or more of the students had a weapon of some kind. Anyway, it was definitely an interesting day, and I sincerely hope that no one was hurt.

On a completely unrelated note, are there any other Fringe fans reading this? If so, what did you think of the Season Premiere last night? I really liked it, but there were a couple of points that kind of disappointed me. You can read my blog entry regarding the episode at www.fringematters.com. I’ve been excited about the third season all summer long.

About the Author

Hey, I'm Christopher. I am currently a graduate student in the SUNY Oswego English program, and I am also a Desk Attendant in Sheldon Hall (where I am also living). I graduated with two degrees in May 2012 - English and Adolescence Education with a Concentration in English. I substitute-taught in Rome City School District fall 2012 and then came back to school in January 2013 in order to obtain a masters degree in English, which I plan to obtain in May 2014. I love to read, and I love TV shows, especially science-fiction and fantasy.
Email: ccook@oswego.edu
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