The first week of classes was so busy I didn’t have much time to reflect on everything, or keep up with all of the reading, in order to write a decent post. But I have to post something so that this doesn’t fall into oblivion. Where to start? Well, thinking about my previous post with all of those questions, they are not really the focus at all of this program or particularly relevant. Instead, a new realm of questioning and thinking has been ushered in with a windfall of texts and theories and practical applications and redundancies.
On Mondays and Wednesdays we have a course on literacy in the content areas and a course on middle schools in a diverse society. In the first, we are so far reading about different activities and techniques for leading meaningful reading sessions with students so that they become better readers. A big focus is on how little students are equipped to understand just because of their young age and limited life experiences. So we as teachers have to facilitate the growth to become better readers, instead of just skimmers of text. For the second half of each class we each meet with a group of 3 to 5 students from Kind Middle School and conduct some sort of reading workshop. I think that I will go into greater depth about my experiences in the workshops in a separate post (there is so much to tell you about!), but I will say that it is both exciting and terrifying to have this responsibility twice a week to take charge of a group. I think that at the end of the term this class will have given me the beginnings of hands-on experience in how to come up with and implement activities with students, while successfully engaging, directing, and interacting with them.
The next class is heavy on the reading. For this week we had over 200 pages from various books just for this class. I didn’t finish it all, though I busted my ass trying, but I do know already that I will return to these books and keep them on my shelf. So far they go into great depth about the specialized role of middle schools and how they are structured to address the unique needs of adolescents. I never realized how much thought was put into breaking with the junior high school model (that basically mimics high school for students who are not emotionally or developmentally ready for that structure) and creating an environment that allows this age group to explore all the different factors that create a human being. Students at this age are at the beginnings of autonomy and individuality and so middle schools serve a major function in giving them a safe place to nurture everything that comes with that. As middle school teachers, we have to know what our students are going through in all aspects of their lives and be prepared to cater to their needs instead of expecting them to conform to rigid standards and slave to academics. I will share more about my ideas that I take from this class as they ruminate and develop into coherent philosophies and beliefs.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays we are focused specifically on math. First we have a course that covers the content of middle school mathematics. Certainly, we need to be proficient in the different topics that are covered as part of the curriculum. It is a fun way to start the day because we work as groups to solve math problems. And we usually have to get in front of the class and share something about ourselves, which is great for me because I am still in need of learning how to speak in front of groups, even though just about every single course in my English major involved a presentation. I still get so nervous, even after thinking of all these awesome things I want to say and share with everybody. It’s so frustrating! But I look forward to getting to practice and feel more comfortable and confident in my own skin. Another bonus is the reading is super light and consists so far of reading young adult novels about mathematics. I love having these materials to come back to later and bring into the classroom.
Finally, we have a class on pedagogy—how to teach mathematics. There is one book for the class and I think it was very well chosen because it presents the psychological reasoning behind the methods as well as concrete examples of how to incorporate them into the classroom activities. We initially covered our philosophies of mathematics and why we want to teach math. Maybe I will share that with you once I’ve honed mine toward the end of the semester, but my perspective toward this class is more of a “wait and see.” I know that I will get a lot, but it’s too early to really speculate on where it’s going and what I think. For now, though, I do know that I am completely overwhelmed by the dual demands of this content-saturated semester and my teething toddler, but I am still so excited about teaching middle school. There is so much information being presented that I can’t keep up with all of it, but I still feel hungry for more and look forward to the evenings after Rosalie is in bed when I can sit down with my books and sift through the text. If I didn’t love it at this point, I am certain I wouldn’t love doing it once I actually start teaching. Not since loading up on literature classes with my favorite professors have I felt so inspired by the possibilities of a field of study.