Fifth Day of Practicum

I did not observe an English class today since I did that last week. Shortly after arriving, Ms. Patapow asked me to grade quizzes for her, which I did. I then filed the graded papers for her. At around 1:30, I went to a meeting with her and an English teacher named Cara Greene, if I remember correctly. At the meeting, the two of them were evaluated based on their lesson plans made since the last time that they met. Ms. Patapow said that she and Mrs. Greene do this instead of having an administrator come into the room to evaluate them. It was an interesting experience for me, as it gave me an opportunity to see how I might be evaluated as a teacher.

I made an attempt to visit the library today, since that is something that I’m supposed to do for my EDU 301 class, but the library was not open. I don’t know if or when I’m going to be able to do that. I will have to try to do it the next time that I am there on a day that I only have to observe a Study Hall, as long as it is not closed again. Anyway, it’s difficult to believe, but I only have two more days of Practicum. Next week is Spring Break for Syracuse City Schools (and for most schools, I think), so I have the 28th of April and the 5th of May, and then, I’m done. Granted, I started my Practicum very late, because it took a long time to get placed, but even so, this semester has gone by very quickly.

Fourth Day of Practicum

The school is just about as out of control as usual. When I got there, a class that I am assuming was a Study Hall was lined up at the door ready to leave, and a student asked me, “You a student?” I am used to this. Despite my attempts to dress professionally and behave in a professional manner, there is still the occasional student who feels the need to ask me whether or not I am a student.

For my EDU 301 class, I have to conduct an interview between myself and my Practicum teacher, Ms. Patapow, and I mentioned it to her today, saying that I would need to be conducting it very soon. I figured that it would be most convenient for her if I sent her what I needed to ask her via email, but she insisted that she wanted to get it out of the way today, so that’s what we did. I prepared the questions, and we took care of the interview today. It feels great to have one more part of the Final Project done.

During Study Hall, a man came in and administered surveys. The man, who I’m assuming was a counselor, said that they are meant to help assess what each student might want to do after graduation and said that the surveys are “too damn long.” He, too, assumed that I was a student and asked me if I had already taken the survey. I found it funny that so many people made the assumption today, since last week, a student thought that I was thirty. The Study Hall was surprisingly pretty well-behaved, and some of them who are also in Ms. Patapow’s English class did some required reading of John Steinbeck’s The Pearl.

Also during Study Hall, a student complained that she was having trouble reading The Pearl, and Ms. Patapow read it to her. I thought about how during my first day of Practicum, Ms. Patapow told me about how a lot of her students are reading at a third grade level. It therefore did not really surprise me that this student was having trouble reading The Pearl, a book that I read with ease on my own time during my tenth grade year.

It made no sense to me, but after Study Hall, I observed an English class like I did last week. I brought this up to Mrs. Patapow, but she said that it must have been the week before last. I know that it wasn’t, though. I definitely observed an English class last week and have the journal entry to prove it. I remember the class reading about John Steinbeck.

One student walked in late to English, and when Ms. Patapow told her that they were going to be reading The Pearl, the student bluntly stated, “I don’t read, miss.” Then, when the student was asked a couple of minutes later to remove her earbuds, she said, “I can’t read this. It’s boring.” Some of them are very honest, at least. Some of them certainly don’t even pretend to be interested. Some of them, however, do seem to actually be interested, though, which was obvious when the class read chapter two of The Pearl out loud. The class then concluded with a ten-question quiz. Overall, the class went well.

Third Day of Practicum

Today, I actually observed an English class, finally, instead of just a Study Hall. Ms. Patapow was in a much better mood today than she was last week, but she does seem to yell at her students a lot. I would imagine, though, that with the way that some of the student behave here, you aren’t left with much of a choice, and it has to be really difficult not to yell. She also told me that on the form(s) that she has to fill out, she is asked if she would ever want me as a Student Teacher, and although she did clarify that it was absolutely nothing against me since she does feel that I am doing a great job, she would not want me as a Student Teacher. She said that only once during her teaching career has she ever had a Student Teacher, and it was not a good experience.

The students are incredibly disrespectful. After the first bell rang for Study Hall, less than half of the class was in the room, even after a few minutes. A female student walked in, and for some reason, a reason that I can’t recall, Ms. Patapow needed to know the student’s Global Studies teacher, and the student didn’t know. She said, “I don’t know; I just call her miss.” To me, this is very disrespectful.

During the Study Hall, students were talking about girls who have almost been stabbed, and one girl brought up a girl with whom she is apparently upset, and she said that when she sees her, she’s “gonna do her mad dirty.” What I find sad is that it’s as if these kids have nothing to talk about apart from violence. Additionally, I find something else to be sad. A student asked me if I was a student, and when I explained my position to him, he said, “Well, then, how come you ain’t yellin’?” It’s as if they expect that someone who is not a student would have no reason to be there except to yell at them.

After Study Hall, finally, I observed an English class. The class began with, like Study Hall, Ms. Patapow yelling, but like I said,it must be difficult not to yell; the students simply don’t listen. They talk amongst themselves and continue to do so despite Ms. Patapow repeatedly telling them to stop. They began the class either working on a writing assignment or reading a book of their own choosing, and some of them were listening and trying to work.

When Ms. Patapow’s English class found out that I was observing the class and was therefore not a student, a lot of them looked at me in surprise. “I thought you was a student!” I heard. One of them, however, looked at me and said, “You kidding me? There ain’t no thirty-year old student here!” and I just found it funny, because she was an entire ten years off.

Before beginning work on The Pearl, the short novel by John Steinbeck, Ms. Patapow had the class take out a sheet of paper and write everything that they know about John Steinbeck. A student asked why, which I think is a fair question for a student to ask, and Ms. Patapow said that she was trying to jumpstart them. Then, she wrote on the board, “Tapping into Prior Knowledge/Background Knowledge.” This directly relates to what I have been learning in my Lit 396 class. Ms. Patapow said that one way that we learn is by determining what we already know and then building on it, which is exactly what I have learned in my Literacy class. This is indeed important.

This class, this whole day, really, actually went really well. The students in the English class were actually really cooperative and ultimately read about the life of John Steinbeck and about living conditions during the Great Depression. I had a much better experience this week than I did last week.

Second Day of Practicum

Today did not go as well as last time. My Practicum teacher, Ms. Patapow, just got back today from being out sick for two days, and she was consequently in a bad mood. I therefore did not receive the warm welcoming that I did last time. Additionally, I had an uncomfortable experience in the restroom. I was in a stall when approximately five students entered the restroom, and one of them told me to get out of the stall and show my face before he came in himself. I left the stall not too long after and was insulted before leaving the restroom.

Other than that, though, I would say that the day went moderately well. Ms. Patapow had me file graded papers, and I also even had the opportunity to grade quizzes. As I have said before, I won’t be observing an English class every other week, because Corcoran uses a Block Schedule, so every other week, I will be doing what I did today, which is talking to/helping the teacher and sitting in on a study hall. Next Wednesday will be the first time that I actually observe an English class.

First Day of Practicum

I don’t believe that it is required for the class, but I figured that for my EDU 303 (Field Placement) course, I would keep a journal, and since today was my first day, today, I wrote my first entry, and I figured, what could possibly be better to share on the blog? Surely, everyone wants to know what my very first day in the classroom with a position drastically different from that of a student was like, correct? Anyway, the following is the journal entry that I wrote today. In the future, I will simply post the entry without this introduction, but I wanted to do it this time just so that everyone reading is fully aware of what they’re reading.

I was very nervous before starting my Practicum today. I heard a fair number of people tell me that Corcoran High School is “a rough school,” and when I got to the school, I immediately noticed two police cars outside of the school. Nearly the entire population of the school is African-American, and my Practicum teacher, Barb Patapow, says that she has some students that are reading at no higher than a third grade level. She allowed me the opportunity to read some of her students’ work, and many students complained that The Tragedy of Julius Caesar was “to” difficult for them to read and even admitted that English is difficult for them as it is. What especially felt strange but invigorating about this experience is being in a classroom in which I did have some sense of authority and was not a student.

Every other Wednesday, Ms. Patapow doesn’t have any English classes in the afternoon, because Corcoran uses a Block Scheduling method, and I therefore talked with her for a great deal of time and then observed a study hall. There is little order in the study hall or in the school itself for that matter. There was a total of five students in the classroom. One girl walked past the classroom before Study Hall began, and she headed to the bathroom. She told Ms. Patapow that she was going to have a friend braid her hair. When asked if she’d be returning, the girl answered, “Maybe.” Study Hall consisted primarily of students watching the most recent Romeo + Juliet film just for the sake of it, and surprisingly, this quieted everyone, as they actually did pay attention to it. Obviously, I will have a lot more on which to comment when I actually observe an English class.

Off to a Great Start

So far, this semester couldn’t be any better. As some of you may know due to my entries written during Winter Break and even before, my friend David is here, and that has been a lot of fun. He is just an all-around fun person to be with. In addition, I think that my classes are going pretty well. This semester, I am taking Lit 396, EDU 301, EDU 303, CWR 206 and English 265. It feels so good to finally be taking courses that I actually want to be taking, courses in which I am engaged.

My EDU 301 course is going to involve a lot of work. I have so much reading to do and response papers to write. Plus, I haven’t even been assigned to Practicum yet. When that happens, I am going to have even less time, and at this point, I have no ride, because I have no car. However, my EDU 301 professor says that no one is going to go without a ride, so she will gladly assist in finding transportation for those who need it.

This is the way that I look at it, though. Sure, this semester is not going to be easy; it is, in fact, going to be difficult, but I still think that my grades are going to be halfway decent. This semester will challenge me. In fact, it already is challenging me, but this is the kind of challenge for which I am up. Again, my mind is engaged in what I am reading and what I am doing. I would rather have a difficult semester due to a work overload than have one due to classes with which I am struggling to comprehend, such as math and science.

All I can do is thank heaven that I am not taking any math or science. I am all done with math, but I still need to take a level 300 Science course, which I don’t think that I can do until at least next semester, anyway. I guess that my senior year will be the only year during which I will only be taking courses that I want to be taking. Really, the only thing that I am doing this semester in which my mind isn’t really engaged is a novel that I am reading for English 265 called Moll Flanders, a novel that I believe was first published in 1722. It’s very slow so far and rather event-less, not to mention the fact that the language is very difficult.

Friday, I have my meeting to be signed up for a day and time for my Practicum, and so, I’ll keep everyone updated on how that goes. I think that it’s ridiculous that students are responsible for finding their own transportation. I think that some sort of busing should be available. Not everyone has cars here. In fact, a very small ratio of people that I know here have cars here. Anyway, it is getting late, and I am rather exhausted, so I am on my way to bed. I’ll write again soon.