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.

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