Week Five: Mar. 12-19
How are we already into week 5 of student teaching??? I told Lauren today that tomorrow marks the halfway point in our student teaching weeks (since we’re technically teaching for 11 instead of 12 weeks due to the wonderful pesky little spring break in the middle of our time in Athens). Time is really flying, and it’s hard to believe that in 2 weeks we’ll be starting our lead weeks of teaching! Even though we’ve both done this all before when we student taught last semester, so much is different for us this spring and it’s going to be a very interesting experience, to say the least.
Despite the rain, this past weekend was a lot of fun. The aide in my special education classroom is basically my new best friend at ACS and she took Lauren and me out on Friday night! We got a taste of Athens nightlife (or at least Aghia Paraskevi nightlife, since we didn’t go all the way into the center of the city), and it was really nice having a ~local~ take us out on the town. As Lauren mentioned, we checked out The Mall of Athens (I say this in caps because there are some other small malls but apparently this is the mall). The mall was huge, with 3 floors, an arcade, bowling alley, movie theater, and multiple restaurants/cafes besides the food court. It reminded me of the Palisades mall in New York (people from my hometown will know what I’m talking about).
Back to reality, Sunday night I received an email from my teacher that she had to call out sick for Monday, and I suddenly found myself teaching an unexpected full day. Luckily, I still had the support of a substitute and our regular classroom aide Ms. Georgia. The day went fairly smoothly, giving me the impression that the children are starting to come along in terms of respecting me as an equal authority in the classroom, but it certainly wasn’t easy. Any class that notices their teacher is absent and someone else is in charge is going to try their best to take advantage of the situation, but I was able to keep things under control until just before lunchtime when I had to leave. It was time for show and tell, and this is not a group that thrives in a whole-group setting, especially when they are hungry. To make matters worse, the substitute threatened to call the principal so many times it became an empty threat. Nevertheless, we made it through and I left the classroom for the day, heading to my other classroom feeling reasonably exhausted but overall successful.
Looking ahead, there are a lot of exciting things happening in the next few days! Tomorrow is a half day for students, and the second half of the day is a professional development. I’m teaching a full day on Thursday and I’ll also get to go see a lot of my OLP students at the 4th grade South America Exhibition! They’ll be presenting their research projects on their group’s country, and each group will be giving a speech about interesting information about their country. I can’t wait to see this culmination of all their hard work, and I’ll definitely be sharing some pictures! Friday is another full day for me and I have some really exciting (in my opinion) activities planned. Being in a school that celebrates diversity so strongly, it’s important to introduce the children to other cultures that aren’t their own, even though there are at least 6 different nationalities already represented among my students. Friday is St. Patrick’s Day, and even though none of my students are Irish, this is a big cultural holiday for me, so I’m going all out. Almost every JK lesson is going to be St. Patrick’s Day themed, from observing shamrocks in the science center to counting coins in their pots of gold, to reading and writing stories about St. Patrick’s day and leprechauns. I think (and hope) the kids will enjoy all the activities and learning about a new holiday.
And just like that, we are halfway there. It really boggles my mind that we are approaching the end. I catch myself during times in the class that I just try to soak it all in. These weeks are going by fast and I’m just trying to catch up.
Besides the small victory of completing half of my placement, this week has been filled with an increase in work and presence in the classroom. Tuesday, I led half of the day and Thursday was my full day of leading. Surprisingly, Tuesday felt more difficult to teach the students, despite clocking in less hours on Thursday. I believe that the students were hyped up from the weekend (still) and perhaps still trying to get used to me as a lead teacher. By Thursday, we had a great discussion of expectations as a whole group. This conversation definitely set up my day in a positive way. By talking with the students about my concerns and engaging them about what type of behaviors are expected, I think I am getting respected more and more as a teacher.
Another pretty cool event that occurred this week was a discussion on emotions! We have Mr. Chris (a shadow from third grade) come in once a week to talk to the students about feelings and how to understand them. This week, the students were exposed to a way of showing their emotions through pictures. First, my co-teacher drew her emotions on the board, using a red and blue broken heart to convey her sadness. The class then had a discussion to understand what she was feeling. Through their intuition, empathy and kindness, they unpacked and could understand what she was feeling. After a wrap-up, the students insisted on putting their own drawings on it with yellow and pink to help her heal. Since this discussion, I have seen a few students use this strategy to help unpack the mess inside their head. This program is unique and certainly re-framing my thought process on social emotional development with elementary students.
For the rest of the week, the students have pajama day on Friday and St. Patrick’s Day. The school does not really do a whole thing with St. Patrick’s Day. It is really not a thing in Greece to celebrate. I’m sure Fiona talked about it too (being an Irish citizen gives you that power), but we have a few small activities planned, but nothing major. Quite the culture shock from the US! This weekend, we are going to navigate the movie theater! All in the name of seeing Beauty and the Beast (#dieharddisneyfans).