Meeting Standard 1: The student teacher establishes a routine that students understand and respect. Activities reflect careful thought, take into account student developmental levels, learning styles, and diversity, and create situations in which students construct knowledge. The student teacher exhibits respect and consideration toward colleagues, particularly in team situations, supports colleagues’ work and contributes an equal share to team efforts. The student teacher encourages and elicits interaction with parents and community and makes him/herself available to those constituencies when and where appropriate. S/he clearly demonstrates leadership in the classroom, guiding and directing activities and interaction in ways that contribute to a positive and safe learning environment. The student teacher exhibits a clear sensitivity to issues of diversity, particularly regarding race, class, and gender, in his/her interactions with students, colleagues, and community. The standard is met if the student teacher consistently models appropriate decorum and exercises control without intimidation or domination, promoting a genuine democratically-based classroom.
A classroom cannot function if students do not have a clear understanding of the expectations for behavior and academic work. Over the course of my student teaching semester, my relationships with students and ability to convey clear expectations improved dramatically.
During my first week, I focused on getting to know my students and setting clear expectations. On the first day of student teaching, I introduced myself to my students, participated in the lessons my mentor taught, and tried to learn as many names as possible. My actions, I hope, demonstrated to my students that I was interested in getting to know them and becoming part of their community. Also, during the first week, I wrote my students a detailed letter of introduction and required that they write back to me. The letter was a major success not only because my students shared really pertinent, useful information about themselves, but also because I received a letter from all but two students. I used the information in the letters to group students for collaborative activities and to learn about students’ interests and talents.
I decided to set the expectations for behavior rather than incorporating students’ in the process. While this approach worked for my 5th period class, it was not successful in my 4th period class. The latter class’s behavior forced me to take a different approach. During week 2, I allotted 10 minutes of the class period to discuss behavior. I began by naming the inappropriate behavior I witnessed over the course of the week and stressing that it was unacceptable. I then raised the issue of expectations. I first had students generate a list of expectations for me. They came up with play games; “understand that we are teenagers and swears sometimes slip out”; and know that we won’t remember some of the things you teach.” I then listed my expectations for my students: listen to instructions; be mindful of your language; come on time; make an effort; show your classmates and me respect. While I struggled with this class’s behavior throughout the semester, the students’ appreciated the opportunity to discuss expectations openly. Because students and I jointly created and discussed the expectations, I think they were more invested in them.
Because Feinstein is a small school, teachers are very open to collaborating with each other. I interacted with the special education staff on a regular basis, specifically to discuss the progress of students with IEPs. The special education staff gave me many suggestions for how to support students with IEPs: chunking the text; modifying the assignment; breaking assignments into manageable parts; and setting high but reasonable expectations for behavior and academic work. I also had other English teachers participate in one of my lessons. As I prepared students to do a reciprocal teaching session, my mentor teacher, the special education teacher, an English MAT and I modeled a reciprocal teaching session for my students. The students enjoyed watching the teachers “act like students,” and it provided other teachers with the opportunity to see what I do with my students.