Friday, April 20, 2012

Kim Klier's Interview with a KindergartenTeacher

Berkeley Elementary is in a poor area in this California coastal town. About 95% of the students that attend the school are on free lunch. The school is comprised of about 98% Hispanics with a little bit of African American, Asian, and White mixed in. Ms. Cal pointed out that the demographics have changed dramatically over the years. The school used to be mostly African American in the 1970s thru the early 1990s, but there was a great mix of races and it was a "pretty cohesive" demographic. However, as years have passed, many African American, Asian, and White military families have retired and moved away and many Hispanics have migrated up from the south to replace them.

Ms. Cal received her education at the University of California, Berkeley where she received her credential in teaching. She first worked at a special education preschool in here. Many of the children at the preschool had severe behavior problems due to chemical dependency when they were born on drugs. After twelve years, she decided that she needed to do something different and was exhausted from working with high-risk students. Therefore, she decided to go into regular education where she has been teaching for thirteen years. She has taught, and is currently teaching, kindergarten for ten years and she taught first grade for two years, and did a first grade/second grade combination class for a year. Therefore, all together she has been teaching for twenty-five years.

When it comes to pedagogy, she believes that it is important to teach "to the whole child." A teacher should not just teach them about English and Math, but they need to learn how to be a "good citizen." In addition, it is crucial to have parental involvement and for parents to be advocates for their children. Most importantly, though she wants her students to become lifelong learners.

Ms. Cal believes that public education is a wonderful institution only when it "runs the way it should be run." She believes that schools need to be viewed as a business; therefore; they should be funded. She feels strongly that teachers should not have to pay for the lack of vision the administration and government have. Ms. Cal thinks that the importance of public education is not common sense for many people and that they need to understand that it is worth funding and supporting. Many people in Monterey Peninsula are retired and they are not going to be running to the polls to vote legislation through, so it is important to gain their support for public education on Monterey Peninsula.

According to the curriculum at Berkeley Elementary, every classroom needs a reading and math area. Therefore, she has a specific reading area, place to put things away, and to work. She loves to have desks in kindergarten, because it teaches them "responsibility." She sets the desks up according to behavior, academic readiness, and socialization skills. She states that one of the children is not behaving very well right now and that she has isolated him. When paring two students together at a table, she has one student that is high academically or socially next to a student that is low academically or socially. In addition, when making the seating chart she tries to form her students into a boy/girl pattern. She puts the desk in groups around the room and she mentioned that she does not usually put the children in groups so early; however, since this year's students are a bit more mature and ready, she was able too. Last year, she said that she had to put the children in stereotypical rows, because grouping them together would have been a nightmare.

Right now, the school is designated as a "School Improvement" school and she thinks what is great about the curriculum now is that the teacher has to engage every student. She also has to set up her schedule according the pacing guide and according to the leadership group at her school.

Since it is such a regimented schedule, she strives to put her own personality into every lesson. Ms. Cal has to create a background where the students feels safe and where they get into a routine where they know what is "going to come up next." She likes to emphasize a schedule and makes sure that students understand why they are learning what they are learning. She finds it difficult to meet the needs of everyone most of the time. Therefore, she makes sure to practice one-on-one learning with struggling students and she talks with parents to let them know what their child is struggling with and what they can practice at home.

The most rewarding aspect of teaching for Ms. Cal is the relationships she has with her students, parents, and the community. From her own experience, she feels that keeping up with the children as they progress through school is important and she has attended many of her past kindergarteners' high school and college graduations. It helps validate the fact that she has helped contribute to them becoming active learners.

In addition, whenever they learn something and they have that "I got it moment" it inspires her and gives her satisfaction. She is enthusiastic about teaching, because she loves what she does, she loves working with children, and she thinks and knows she is good at it.

From doing this interview, I learned that there needs to be a valiant effort to reform schools so that people in the community support them and are really to help fund them. In addition, I learned that the relationships you have with parents, children, and the community are vital in creating a positive learning environment. Most of all, having a pure love of teaching and of working with children is at the core of being a teacher that is unforgettable and remarkable.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kelly Mottershead's Interview with a First Grade Teacher

Mrs. M works at a kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school in this coastal California town. It is her second year teaching at this particular school and she told me she is having a lot of fun so far. Mrs. M started her career as a teacher at an all-boys elementary school in the middle of San Francisco. She had an amazing time at this school teaching for seven years in kindergarten all the way through fifth grade. In 1988, she decided to take three years off after her first son was born. During this time, she and her husband moved. In her new city, she became a long-term substitute for half a year. After that she started working at the school where her two sons were attending elementary school. She taught first grade there for seven years and then taught fifth grade for three years after that. Mrs. M then decided to take another break from teaching and worked as an accountant for a small accounting firm. She said she worked in a cubicle and it was a nine to five job that was not very creative. She worked there for three years and decided she missed teaching so she started working in a second grade classroom at her current school. Mrs. M shared her second grade with another teacher Mrs. H.  Mrs. M would work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday while Mrs. H would work Thursday and Friday. She said this was really fun but she looked forward to this year when she would have her own classroom again. She now has her own first grade classroom and loves it.

The school Mrs. M works at now is an elementary school with mostly Hispanic students who live below the poverty level. Almost all of her students receive free hot lunches at school. She said that trend is similar for the entire school. Most of her students are English language learners as well.

She believes it is very important to have a good rapport with your students and to make them feel safe in their environment. "As a teacher you need to encourage the students and support them and make sure that they know that you care about them as students and as human beings." She also said it is important that they learn new things and have fun too. She went on to say that every child is unique and different and that she always tries to find something in each child that she can highlight. She felt it was very important to let your students know that they are heard and valued, and that they are important and special.

Mrs. M said the purpose of a public education was so that "every child has the opportunity to be educated. It's a right. It's just a given." She thought that unfortunately, every child was not given the same opportunities. "We as a country need to value public schools and educators." Mrs. M started telling me about the school she worked at in the past and how that school made sure that every child had P.E, Spanish class, computer lab time, music, art, and had a librarian who taught the children how to appreciate books. She said the librarian there had her own curriculum that she had to follow in order to teach the children how the books were organized and how to finds the books they wanted. "These children had all these 'extra' classes and they still learned how to read just fine. I just don't understand why public schools can't do this as well."

Mrs. M told me that in her class she has traditional students' desks that face forward towards the front of the room. She mentioned that the desks were too big for her students and that she really wished she had big tables and chairs in her classroom instead. She also has two nice big spaces in her class for letting her students sit and watch the class bunny hop around.

Mrs. M said she likes to split up her instruction into whole group instruction and small groups. She likes to keep her children actively engaged and talking to their neighbors as much as possible. She also has the students respond chorally sometimes and often uses the "I do, you do, we do" model. Mrs. M tries to continually monitor and assess her students and their progress and understanding. She said she tries to find out what they need to learn and then she develops her lesson around this information.

Mrs. M tries to meet the needs of her diverse students by implementing lots of different activities that are infused with art and music. She tries to keep in mind her English language learners when planning her activities as well. She tries to apply many modalities in her lessons: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.  "I am a visual learner so I tend to draw lots of pictures anyway. If the child's language isn't quite there yet, they can always focus on the pictures."

As far as instructional strategies, Mrs. M said most of the time she presents information as a whole and then breaks it down into smaller parts for her students. "You want to take away any anxiety of what's next so the students can feel comfortable, and relax, and focus." At the same though, she explained to me that she will also present her ideas sometimes starting with the parts and work up to the whole because she wants to make sure she accounts for all types of learning styles that some children might be more comfortable with.

Mrs. M stressed to me that teaching is not just about academics. It is important to learn about life. "Children need social modeling. Like how not to interrupt someone in the middle of a sentence, or how to ask questions, or how to respond to questions or to each other." Mrs. M told me about a story when she had her students working in pairs and they had to share something. She told the children, "Remember, you always give your partner the bigger piece." Weeks later, one of the students' parents came into class thanking Mrs. M for teaching her child such nice manners; her child had repeated these words of sharing at home the day before. 

When asked about keeping her enthusiasm of teaching, Mrs. M said she loves teaching because "it is a challenge and there is always something I can do better." She likes the idea that it is different every day. "The kids change every year and every class is different. It just makes my job interesting." She admits of sometimes having bad days, but Mrs. M said that it is during these days that it is great to have camaraderie with the other teachers at the school. She told me that it is very important to have a support group. "It's what keeps you in the profession." Mrs. M also really enjoys her "collaboration time" when she shares what she is doing in her classroom—especially if it works. "Teaching has to be collaborative. Everyone has different experiences with different kids. Everyone needs to work together. This includes parents, teachers, resource teachers, even principals."

"The most rewarding part of teaching is to see kids growing, understanding, and learning." Mrs. M enjoys seeing the sparkle in a child's eye when they say "I can do it!" She loves the whole experience of teaching. "It's important to care about what you do and to value your job."

From interviewing Mrs. M, I have learned that it is crucial to think about all the different children in your classroom and to value each and every one of them as a wonderful, special, little person. I also learned that it is important to be dedicated and to believe in your work. Mrs. M also helped me appreciate the fact that it is all right to step back and take a break too.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jessica Baker's Interview with a Second Grade Teacher

Ms. D is a second grade teacher at an elementary school in this California coastal town. There are approximately 768 students at the school. The ethnic breakdown is 5% Asians, 12% Black, 29% Latino and 46% White. Forty-two percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

This is Ms. D’s 16th year teaching at the school elementary. When she started jobs were hard to find so for two of those years, she was independent study teacher. She has been a second-grade teacher for 14 years and still enjoys it.

Ms. D wants to make a difference in children's lives. She believes you have to approach each child as an individual with their own unique experience and you need to take each child as far as they can go. She believes “all can learn and that learning should be fun and challenging.” She wants every child to be successful. She is proud when she helps a child a make academic or behavioral progress. She believes that the purpose of public education is that each and every child will learn what they need to know as a citizen. She believes in equal access with extra support for children who need it. Children need the best education we can give them. 

She uses teacher directed approach.  Her classroom is very structured. She needs this structure to keep her second-graders focused and on task. She models all activities and behavior. You need a calm classroom in order to teach. She sees her self as a role model for her students. She treats everyone with respect and kindness as an example for the children.

She loves bringing children together and building a sense of community. The children are organized in to learning groups of 4 to 6 students depending on class size. She works on team building with the students. She also seats students with behavior or academic concerns with “mentor buddies.” The mentor buddies model good behavior and assist in academics. For example she told me that she had one student who had trouble behaving in class so he is seated with three mentor buddies who model good behavior. In her classroom, choosing a partner to read with is a privilege that she saves for the second part of the year.

She will meet with parents when she has behavior or academic concerns about a child. She will come up with individual plans and goals for these students to work on. She will tell parents how to support their child and give them exercises to practice at home.

On back to school night, she goes over rules, consequences and rewards. She talks about how she runs her classroom in detail. She hands out an example of her reading log and comprehension questions to ask their children when they are finished with a story. She sends home copies of her philosophy, expectations for her students, rules, expectations and consequences.

She assigns seating on the rug to eliminate pushing and shoving. When there is not assigned seating on the rug there are conflicts and it takes longer for the students to sit down. She also assigns the children spots in line so that there is no pushing shoving or conflicts when they line up.

She assigns the students jobs in the classroom such as supply manager, and lunch bucket carriers. She also displays student work for the same reason. When students are a part of decorating the classroom and making it run it is they take ownership of their classroom.

Ms. D told me that something that really inspires her and makes her feel like she truly make the right choice in choosing to be a teacher is when she receives compliments from parents, students or former students. She is touched when a student says that they had the best day ever. She told me “Children will always remember how you made them feel.” She enjoys being visited by former students. She had a former student who is now in high school visit her and tell her how much he enjoyed their 2nd grade field trip. Last week, a parent wrote a wonderful letter thanking her for being kind to her son. This was the first time that her son had been in public school; before second grade he had been home schooled and the mother was nervous about sending him to school. When Ms. D was telling me about the complements she had received she smiled and almost seemed to have tears of happiness and pride. She said that these compliments reaffirm that “what you are doing and who you are makes a difference.”

I really enjoyed talking to Ms. D. I can tell that she is a great teacher. Hearing her stories was inspiring to me. I was glad to see that even after 16 years of teaching she has maintained her idealism that every student can succeed. She truly cares about every student.  I will remember her inspirational words and tips for good classroom management when I have my own classroom.