Posted in professional development

Catching up– Reflecting on my practicum with FLVS

In the Spring of 2011 I was able to participate in a pilot program where I could complete part of my practicum through Florida Virtual School and the other part in the traditional classroom. The reality of education today is that online education is becoming a more and more popular option for students for a variety of reasons. Schools are finding that offering online classes of less popular sections is more cost effective. In addition the online environment is an extremely effective option for students who can succeed in a less traditional environment.

During my time working with a middle school beginning Spanish class, I worked with a student who was taking the class from Italy because their father was there with the military. I met FLVS teachers who had worked with students online to help them achieve their high school diplomas from home while dealing with terminal illnesses. I also found that for some students with social disorders, FLVS was an option that allowed them to be successful as well.

I learned so much from my time with FLVS–and in particular, two incredibly valuable concepts. First, I was able to witness first hand how a system of constant communication between the student, teacher, and the family create success and accountability for all parties involved. FLVS has policies and standards in place that require documented communications between the three parties involved. Unlike in the traditional classroom, almost every communication is personally addressed to the student which helps establish personal rapport and a real relationship. The teacher communicates with each parent regularly, and in fact, if the teacher does not contact the parent after a certain amount of time, the student is prevented from continuing in the course. This system holds students accountable to their parents and their teachers; it holds the parents accountable to the teacher and the student; and it holds the teacher accountable to the parents and the students.

Secondly, I learned how to provide effective, encouraging feedback to students. I cannot emphasize how monumental this learning was for me. College teaches theory, but this experience gave me practice. I learned that students need to know: 1.) What they did well, and 2.) How they can improve. Believe me, sometimes its hard to tell a student who scored a 0/20 what they did well, but it forced me to take a look at the student’s thinking process and realize, “Ok. They are getting the first step of this, but they need to practice of this…”. Feedback is more than a Star or a Stamp or an X.  Feedback should build students up and help them grow–no matter their ability level. Even an A student has room to improve.

I had a wonderful experience with FLVS and it helped me develop a new appreciation for teaching in the online environment. The burning question is: What do I like better: teaching online or teaching in the classroom? Honestly, it is hard to say. In fact, it is impossible to say. I love FLVS for the relationships it helps build and the success it allows non-traditional students to have. Nothing can replace the feeling to helping a student who needs a different type of environment succeed. On the other hand, my greatest joys in my college career and in my internship have been: 1.) developing my own lessons and curriculum (which is something FLVS teachers do not do) and 2.) personally and physically teaching. I love that tired feeling I have at the end of the day from the mental, emotional and physical involvement of teaching. As I have heard it said, “It is the hardest job I have ever wanted to go back to.”

As I said, it is tough to say which I enjoy more. I feel like there is a real place in education for both of these, and there is a place for me in either one of these environments.

Posted in internship

Internship, Week One Down!

This last week has been an exciting one! I began my final internship at Gaither High School. By the end of the semester, I will be teaching 5 Spanish 2 classes. During the my first day, I learned so many things. Firstly, this is the first year that Hillsborough county has had Monday’s as an early release day each week. This made our class periods much shorter than usual, but still plenty long enough to cover a lot of ground in class. This was only the second week of school, so there was still a lot of paperwork to be done and a lot of changes being made.  Each day this week we had students adding and dropping our class. One observation that my CT (Cooperating Teacher) made is that progress is so slow during the first few weeks of class because of all of the interruptions to class progress. This means that as a teacher, one must find ways to keep the entire class on task while catching new students up on classwork and class procedures, etc.

Throughout the week I mostly observed the classes but I learned the procedures for taking attendance, grading participation activities, grading homework, etc. I was able to observe my CT teach lessons in the first part of the day each day, and then talk with her about a part of the lesson I would like to lead in the last half of the day.

Our classes are full of pretty great kids. We also have a few native speakers in each of our classes, which is both a challenge and an amazing resource. I have already been thinking of ways to modify assignments for these students to make our learning more relevant for them and to help them contribute their unique perspective to our classes.

Despite the fact that our kids are great, I have noticed that the shear presence of my CT commands their respect and attention. Developing a presence in the classroom is going to be essential to keeping the classes on task so that we can have a fun and productive time of learning each day in class. While my CT can stand in front of the classroom to give notes and keep the classes attention, I have already discovered that it is important for me to move about the classroom while I teach or lead lessons as I continue to develop my presence. This small adjustment has helped me take a huge step towards strengthening my presence in the classroom.

Also, after the first week of internship, despite lots of fruits, veggies, and vitamins… I already have a cold!  I guess I should have given up the junk food a little sooner… Thank goodness for the three day weekend, it has allowed me to recover quite a bit.

There is so much to observe and comment on, but there aren’t enough hours in the day. Overall, this has been a great experience so far. 🙂

-me

Posted in internship

Final Internship!

Well! This is my final semester at USF , and I am very excited about completing my final internship this semester. This week I stated Part I of the SCATT Senior Seminars, and I must say… I can’t wait for all that this semester has in store! A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet my supervising teacher and I know that I have so much to learn from her and her experiences. On our first day of SCATT seminars, our director, Lori, said, “This will be the last time you will have the chance to truly observe other teachers” –and I know that she is right. I cannot wait to take advantage of the opportunity to observe and learn from the teachers I will get to work with this semester.

As I met and talked with my supervising teacher for the first time, (and in the SCATT seminars over the past few days), I began to realize that all I have learned is about to take a new form: practicality.  It is amazing to think that in just a few weeks I will get to see and participate in the practical application of all of the amazing strategies I have been learning over the past few years.

I have a lot of catching up to do on this blog… so I will be doing that, but I will also be posting regularly about my internship experiences and all that I am learning there.

Hasta Luego,

-me