Meeting Standard Two: The student teacher demonstrates an awareness of, and concern for, the people in his/her classroom. Focusing on learners as full human beings with a rich history, unique characteristics, substantive achievements, talents, skills, and interests, the student teacher does his/her best to observe, document, and learn about those students. S/he works hard to “understand their understanding.”
I firmly believe that I have to get to know my students as learners and individuals in order to teach them well. I have worked hard to get to know my students through written reflections, observations, and informal conversations.
I used the letter discussed under Standard 1 to get to know my students, but I also used reflections to check in with students about their academic progress in the class. The reflections were a way for me to ascertain how students felt about the material. I used the reflections frequently during the Romeo and Juliet unit because the play was challenging, and I needed to know how students were engaging with text and the lessons. The reflections were very helpful because students shared that Romeo and Juliet was easier to understand (but still difficult) and identified specific aspects of the play they found difficult, which I used to drive my planning.
I make use of the few minutes before and after class to check in with students, especially when I sense that a student might be having a tough day. Students really appreciate when I check-in with them because it shows that I care and that I am attentive. During my check-ins, students have provided information that contextualized their behavior in class. For example, I noticed that one of my students seemed unfocused and unusually quiet and sullen during several classes. During a check-in I learned that she had been taking diet pills that caused her to lose her appetite. She had not eaten for several days and had been to the hospital for fainting and dizzy spells. We then talked about ways for her to take care of herself and how she could make up the assignments.
I learned, rather quickly, that observation is key to learning more about my students. As students work independently, I usually scanned the room, watching and moving from student to student. Through doing so, I am able to see the students who are on task, those who are struggling to get started, and those who may be confused but reluctant to ask questions. Observing my students has also allowed me to identify a few students who rely on other students for help. I now make sure that I check in with them at the beginning of class work to make sure they understand the work and scaffold assignments so that each student has an access point.