I’m Thankful for Teachers

I’m Thankful for Teachers

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It is that time of the year when observations can begin to feel a tiny bit tedious. You’ve spent time contacting schools and teachers, checking your calendar for corresponding dates, traveled all over the city (and in some cases, the state) to see teachers in action. You’ve interviewed students and instructors about their methods, taken intense notes, and attempted to later turn them all into several coherent papers. It’s an awesome process, but one that can definitely take it out of you. This semester, however, I have had the pleasure of having every field experience be with some truly exemplary teachers. And in this blog post, I want to take a moment to thank them for all the amazing work they’re doing.

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Most recently was Mr. Clancy at James G. Blaine Elementary School, who I observed teach a very thoughtful lesson on ratios to his 7th grade students. Mr. Clancy made use of guided questioning during his discourse with students to open up their thinking and to challenge them to extend what they already knew into unknown territory. I was so happy to hear Mr. Clancy speak about some of his priorities in the classroom, which are to help students focus less on the “end product” and instead on the journey. He spoke about hoping his students will learn to be problem solvers and that they will feel confident taking on work even if they aren’t sure of what the solution is. Mr. Clancy demonstrated authenticity both in his descriptions of the goals for his classroom and in his every interaction with students. The classroom environment was simultaneously mellow, upbeat, and very rigorous.

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Oddly enough, I have now also observed in Mr. Clancy’s wife’s classroom. Mrs. Clancy was an equally phenomenal math instructor who works with 4th and 5th grade students at Newberry Math and Science Academy. We visited her classroom on Halloween, which is a day that offers many challenges for teachers. Mrs. Clancy was prepared for this with five interactive math centers for the students to rotate through. The students practiced math concepts in pairs, earning points and feeling like they were playing games instead of working. As I walked through the space, I saw learners who were adept at solving problems and eager to do so. Mrs. Clancy stayed stationary at one center that was focused on introducing a new concept to her students. Although she was in one position throughout the class, her management of the room was stellar. She displayed a behavior rubric for each activity and was able to guide the students through almost seamless transitions between each station. She was a powerhouse of a teacher, and I’d be very interested in visiting her again!

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Ms. Borjas is a 5th grade math teacher at Calmeca Academy of Fine Arts and Dual Languages. She very graciously allowed a team of students to complete a teacher work sample in her room. Ms. Borjas planned an entire lesson around a pre-assessment created by our team. When we came in to her class to watch her teach it, we were all rapt with attention. In an hour and a half class she managed to incorporate all modalities while she demonstrated to students how to build a bar graph, convert the data into a side by side graph, and then how to use the same data to create a pie chart. And, she did this with post-it notes and a white board. Students were up and moving through out the room, learning and using math terms, drawing graphs, transferring data, and interpreting data from charts, and all in one day. It was one of the most cohesive and engaging lesson plans I have ever seen. AND, she is a Columbia alum!

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The field experience in Mr. Clancy’s room was the last of the year that isn’t in my student teaching classroom. It was an odd feeling knowing that I had finally completed one of the largest pieces of the grad school puzzle (120 hours of field experience!). I’m really grateful that I got to spend my last observation with such a positive example of what teaching should be. I’m excited to transition into the next big thing: student teaching!