Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Audrey Presser
Major: MCEA
Minor: Special Education

February 9th, 2018
The time has finally come that I have embarked on this adventure I call student teaching. Ever since I set foot into my first education class here at UW- La Crosse I have been patiently, or impatiently maybe, waiting for this time to come. Well four years have gone by, faster than I’d like to believe, and here I am- student teaching in an amazing fourth grade classroom responding to 24 kiddos calling me Ms. Pesser.
Like I mentioned I am placed in a fourth grade classroom at West Salem Elementary School. When the school of education was working on putting placements together they put out the option to stay in one placement for the whole semester. I responded and took advantage of that opportunity. I thought it would be nice to spend a whole semester with the same class. I can already tell that I’ll be glad I made that decision. I love my class and I have been getting along really well with my cooperating teacher. I also have been enjoying getting to know the other fourth grade teachers. The fourth grade team at West Salem is awesome, and it’s great to see a well-organized group of teachers working together creating the best possible lessons for their students.
This past week I completed my 3rd week of student teaching as well as my lead week lessons for edTPA. How has it already been 3 weeks? Time is flying, like it always does, but it also feels like I’ve been teaching in my classroom for much longer. I was welcomed in right away, and I’m happy to say I feel totally comfortable around my students. This helped a great deal when teaching my lessons. For edTPA I have chosen to use the ELA handbook, because I practiced with that one in my last field placement and I also just enjoy teaching language arts. We are just starting our historical fiction unit in language arts where the students will be writing historical fiction narratives as their final project. This is a long unit that will take 2 months about. To start students off with this process on narrative writing I taught them all about leads. How do we hook our reader and want them to keep reading more?
It was a fun three days learning about leads. The students learned how to write snapshot, action, and talking leads and even got to play a fun BINGO game to go along with it. I am currently in the process of looking through the final assessment, but from what I’ve looked at already it seems as if students understood the concept. This is always good to see as a teacher. My cooperating teacher was very helpful in the planning process, and there were many days we stayed late after school to prepare for the lessons. I really appreciate his willingness to help me out. I also appreciate the feedback he gave me each day after I taught. We would sit in the classroom with our lunches, because you’re always multitasking as a teacher, to talk about what went well and what could’ve been different to improve the lesson. I communicated with him early on that I appreciate feedback and will never be offended. I think it’s so important to reflect on both the good and bad of a lesson, because we are constantly learning and adapting our teaching as educators.
So far I love this student teaching experience. I was talking with some ‘teacher friends’ the other day about how my classroom is honestly one of my favorite places to be. I look forward to getting to school each day, and I’m not even mad that I’m there every day before 8 am. When I think about all of my students I can’t help but smile, and think about the great individuals they all are. I’m excited to continue learning and hanging out with my fourth graders and great team of teachers. I will continue to post updates, so stay tuned!  
Until then,
Audrey aka Ms. Presser

Reflection on Field 1

Elizabeth Greene, Junior
Elementary/Middle School Education (MCEA),
TESOL minor

It has been a while since I last posted, so I will start with an update of what I have been doing. I am now in the second semester of my junior year, and still loving the program. Last semester I completed my first field experience. I was in a second-grade classroom at Northside Elementary right here in La Crosse. The experience was incredible, and I learned a great deal not only from my cooperating teacher, but also from the students I worked with. The population of Northside is very diverse, and it was a great learning experience for me to work with students in a setting different than what I had previously been exposed to.

During my first field experience, I was in the classroom three days a week from the start of school until the students went to lunch. I was able to lead morning meetings, help students with their work, lead small reading groups, and work one on one with students. I also led three full lessons during the semester. I taught two literacy lessons based off of a Jan Brett book and one social studies lesson on communities. The lessons were pretty successful and it helped me to learn that things definitely don’t always go as planned. You can plan every detail of a lesson, and even if you have it all planned the students all play a role in how it will be executed. You never know the mood or attitude the students will be in and it is hard to predict how the students will respond or engage. I had to adapt on the move to help to engage and ensure that the students were getting the information intended in the lesson. Students needs are always changing and the smallest things can lead an engaged student to be upset and distracted. Learning to manage these distractors while also still trying to engage all of the other students was probably one of the biggest challenges I faced during my time there, and while I still have not mastered it, I definitely feel as though I learned some tricks to better manage the classroom. I faced my fair share of challenges in this field placement. We had substitute teachers for about three weeks which was a challenge, but it also allowed me to grow a lot early on. I then had the opportunity to step up and be more of a leader in the classroom. It was hard to play that role in my first real experience in the classroom, but it allowed me to learn and grow quickly to help support my students as they dealt with the change too. It was not something that I had expected to deal with, and at the time it was stressful and hard, but because of how I saw myself and the students adapt and grow through the situation I would not change how it happened. I was able to build wonderful relationships with the students and also the teachers at Northside. Last semester challenged me in ways that I hadn’t expected but I absolutely loved it and I am so thankful for the opportunity to have that experience.

            This semester I am not in field experience, and I am taking more classes for my TESOL minor as well as an art education class and a health education class. This semester looks very different from my others in that I’m not in any education classes. It is kind of a nice change, and I am learning a lot about second language acquisition, language learning methods, and language assessments. I am also learning about arts integration, and the importance of health education for students of all ages and grades. I am enjoying the semester so far, and it is nice to have a bit of a change of pace. I will be in my second field placement next semester at a middle school, and I am looking forward to being in the classroom again. This last tear has taught me a lot, and I’m looking forward to continuing my journey through the education program.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Post Written By: Kim Hatch
Year: Senior
Major(s): Early Childhood - Middle Childhood

WOW!  The last few weeks have been crazy!  I am officially in Kindergarten now and it is certainly a far cry from fifth grade!  Instead of teaching about Order of Operations and dividing fractions I am teaching about partners of ten, teen numbers, and adding within twenty.  Kindergarten is a very different world than fifth grade, but I am getting used to it and enjoying it.  There is something about the little minds of five-year-olds that is so precious and wonderful every day.  

We packed so much fun into a short week last week.  We had a three day week with a half-day on Wednesday.  We did an experiment with Peeps where we made predictions about what would happen if we put them in water, soda, and vinegar.  Then we put a Peep in each liquid and left it for two days.  On Wednesday, we took the Peeps out of the liquid compared their look and feel to their original state.  Surprisingly, they don't really break down at all, they just get puffy and then flatten a bit.  It was such a cool experiment for the kids to see how the scientific process works (in shortened form) and how we can use predictions to learn about science.  The kids got a kick out of seeing the Peeps transform.

Spring has officially sprung in La Crosse and I couldn't be more excited!  We are teaching the kids about how "April showers bring May flowers" and they have decided to measure how much rain we have in April.  Their system for measuring isn't really a measurement, but really just how many days of rain we get.  Each morning they look out the window to see if it is raining and make a tally mark on the board if it is.  I am pretty impressed that they are using what they have learned about making charts to track the rain.  The tally marks accidentally got erased one day and the kids all worked together to figure out how to redo it.  My cooperating teacher and I sat back and let them figure it out instead of intervening.  Sometimes I think we don't give kids enough credit, but this showed us that not only are they understanding what they are learning, but they are finding ways to apply it.  It's really neat to see it all in action.  

Funny story from today....  At the end of the day a student gave me a hug and told me I looked like a ham sandwich.  I have absolutely no idea what he meant or what he was talking about.  I asked him what he meant and he said "I like ham".  I guess I'll take it as a compliment.  I'm not sure how else to take it.  I don't really like ham; perhaps I can convince him to let me be turkey instead, or maybe a nice pb&j?  Kindergarten is certainly never boring!  =)

I can't believe how quickly the time is flying by.  It seems like the week just started and it's almost over already.  The days are definitely starting to run together and I don't know where the time goes.  I feel like I am in this strangely exciting season of life where I am so looking forward to graduation in a few weeks, completing student teaching, and applying for jobs all while coming to terms with the idea that I have worked so hard for this and now it's almost here.  As strange as it sounds, what they say is right, "The days are long, but the years are short".  It's weird to think about how it was four years ago that I realized I wasn't happy in my major a semester before graduating, decided to transfer schools and change my major to education.  It's been quite a journey with lots of ups and downs, but at the end of the day, I absolutely love teaching and I can't imagine doing anything else.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

When We Know Better, We Do Better: Multiculturalism in the Classroom

Upon some reflection this semester, I realized how common the theme of cultural awareness has been in my education classes. If instruction on multicultural education was not the whole purpose of the class, it was spoken of a great deal, even having learning objectives or entire projects centered around it. To clarify, multicultural education is a dynamic reform movement for equal educational opportunity for all students, regardless of their social background. This is not an entirely surprising topic to run into in EDS 203, School and Society, and especially not (at least I would hope, anyway) in EDS 206, Multicultural Education. However, it was extremely prominent even in EDS 308, Foundations of Literacy; now having been through the course, it makes a lot more sense to me as to why.
I certainly had my eyes opened to many issues and their significance in the classroom in 203 and 206. Education is for the purpose of providing students with knowledge on subject content, exercising certain skills, and preparing them for the real world. A world which has different cultures and beliefs that they will inevitably encounter throughout and beyond their education. These efforts can include using texts and materials that include perspectives and references from multiple cultures, educating students and teachers on the backgrounds of others in the school, and encouraging students to discuss their personal cultural experiences. This is not to say students should be forced into ideologies for or against those of certain socioeconomic statuses, races, religions, etc. Rather, the importance of practicing moral, social, and academic values such as being kind, understanding, aware, and inclusive should be instilled upon them by way of learning through, about, or with such groups and their members. Through active integration of multicultural education into content, school culture, and social structure, we enrich the minds and open the hearts of our youth by broadening their worlds to different perspectives, arts, stories, issues, and values, thus reducing prejudice and assuring students of minority groups of their significance in the process.
Being a teacher to twenty-six or so students includes meeting a certain baseline of knowledge and courtesies due to each student. This, for instance, would be ensuring each student can understand your written and verbal directions, and communicate to you and their peers. It can be difficult for students to learn when all they can focus on is their difficulty connecting with others and feeling as though they do not belong. It is important to modify the classroom and instruction to be welcoming to students who might be of different backgrounds than myself or the student majority. This (Foundations of Literacy taught me,) can include understanding that the meanings of words and gestures are different among cultures, and even speakers of the same language can communicate their ideas differently. We see this in the existence of different social and economic languages such as African American Vernacular English. Another example of this is in the difference of meaning in various hand gestures across the globe. Where one gesture may mean “good job,” it could be quite offensive somewhere else. Incorporating multicultural literature in instruction is a helpful way to build awareness in the classroom, strengthen the pride of minority students, and better suit students’ educational rights such as providing access to a variety of knowledge, as well as a sense of belonging.
In my studies of multicultural education, I have found one of the most important things to focus on is respect. This can refer to both accuracy and consideration of the studied group’s feelings regarding specific aspects of their history and culture. This is an obstacle I encountered in a group assignment in EDS 308 last semester. We were to go to North Woods International Elementary School and teach a literacy lesson using a book which represented a minority group. My group used the book Grandmother’s Dreamcatcher, by Becky Ray McCain, about a little girl who spends the
weekend with her Chippewa grandmother and learns about dreamcatchers -- what they do/represent and how to make them. My task was to explain to our group of second graders who the Native Americans are. I wanted to do so in a way that would make sense to them, so, looking back on my education, I knew who Christopher Columbus was as a second grader and decided to use his story to aid my explanation. After more thought, though, I realized I did not find it right to introduce the concept of the Native Americans and their beautiful traditions by using Colombus to define them. I have learned, over time, of the horrors Columbus inflicted on the Native Americans, but it was not until well into high school that my sister informed me of this truth; Columbus is not someone the Native Americans revere. My lesson was then modified to exclude Colombus from what I was determined to be a respectful and beneficial educational experience.

Multicultural education is not solely about ensuring minority students understand what is going on in class, it is not about eliciting some massive epiphany in students or becoming a savior, expert, or official spokesperson; it is about spreading awareness, appreciating other cultures, and building pride in our own. Multicultural education is about equality and accuracy, and I will not be a teacher who shelters or lies to her students. Instead will work to do each student justice in their education by teaching them their lessons in a way that includes all angles.
As I sit here, typing away, though, I cannot pretend to be an expert on multicultural education (and, if we are getting into shortcomings, with not even two full years of study under my belt, I really cannot pretend to be an expert on general education either!). I am a white Catholic woman from an upper-middle class family who grew up in one of the wealthiest, whitest, most conservative counties of Wisconsin. Not to say this is bad, necessarily, but it isn’t an area which has been able to provide me with a lot of diversity from which to build a knowledge base on this topic -- I only have so much of a leg to stand on. While I have had a lot of eye opening experiences here at UWL, a great deal due to my very informative classes, I have a long way to go. Even after the many years to come, I do not think I will ever truly get there. However, while an active and constant approach of multicultural education is an expectation, perfection is not. When you know better, you do better. Just to put in genuine effort, be always working to meet proper multicultural ed criteria -- that is what makes the difference in our practice and students’ learning.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Post Written By: Kim Hatch
Year: Senior
Major(s): Early Childhood - Middle Childhood

My adventures in student teaching have begun and I'm so exited to share them with you!  During third quarter I'm in a fifth grade classroom. I thought this semester would never get here, but it finally has and I am loving it!

Week One:
WOW, it has been quite a first week in student teaching!  There was no school on Monday, but even for a short week, it was challenging.  My cooperating teacher was out sick for two days so I got the chance to lead the class on my first day!  My cooperating teacher emailed me her sub plans and told to me to go for it, if I was comfortable.  I had the same cooperating teacher in Fall 2015 for Field 1 so I felt pretty comfortable with her routines.  I woke up pretty nervous that morning knowing it was my first day with the students and that my cooperating teacher wouldn't be there.  Being my first day I wasn't sure if I wanted to lead the class or observe the sub, but I  decided to just go for it; sink or swim, right?!  The substitute was very kind and let me lead and was there for support.  It was a stressful couple of days, but quite a learning experience. I definitely learned a lot about myself as a teacher in those two days that she was gone.

We also got a hydroponic tower garden in our classroom on Tuesday.  I had never seen one before and it was very interesting to learn about.  It was made possible through a grant and the students are responsible for planting and harvesting the vegetables.  The students helped assemble the garden and made room for it by the windows.  We decided to wait to plan the seeds until the cooperating teacher returned; the students felt bad that she would miss it.  How sweet that they thought of her!

Week Two:
Now that we are into our second week, I am really starting to get my footing in my classroom and build relationships with my students.  I am discovering that fifth grade math is a lot harder than I remember.  It's been a long time since I've had to do long division by hand and I'm realizing that we are very spoiled with calculators.  I have had to relearn how to do math.   I am taking the math book home with me over the weekends to try to refresh my memory and learn the upcoming lessons.  I definitely have a new appreciation for calculators!  Growing up, math never came easy to me and I find myself having a soft spot for the students who find themselves in the same boat.  One student said to me, "Ms. Hatch, numbers are hard."  I certainly feel his pain.  This is where I love the relationships we build with students.  We sat down together to figure out where he was making a left turn in his calculations.  I really believe that it's the relationships we build with students that make teaching so special.  Numbers might always be hard, but with a little encouragement, he will get through with perseverance, and motivation.

I had the opportunity to do Literacy Assessments with my cooperating teacher.  I remember discussing the Fountas and Pinnell Assessments in Lit class a few semesters ago, but have never actually given one of these assessments.  The learning experience was wonderful and very useful.  My cooperating teacher and I each did an assessment on a student and we would compare our results.  I appreciated her teaching me the ropes and giving me the opportunity to do a few of them.  I will probably be using them in the future and it was nice to be able to experience it.  We have been researching United States National Parks as each student is writing a report on their chosen park.  I have never been to any of the national parks, but now I have a few that I would love to visit.  The students are so excited about what they are learning and they are even getting a little competitive about whose park is cooler.

I am absolutely in love with fifth grade.  The students are ten and eleven years old.  They're at this tender age where they are on the edge of middle school and want to be independent, but they still need you a little bit.  They know enough about the world to have a conversation about it, but not so much to be jaded.  It's this really cool age where they are learning about the world and asking questions and deciding what they believe (which I'm sure will change several times before they really figure it out).  I've had several experiences in different grade levels, but so far, fifth grade is my favorite.  I'm sure my tune will change when I get to Kindergarten in fourth quarter and see the wonders of six year olds.  One thing I know for sure is that teaching is definitely where I belong.  It's beyond rewarding and I'm so happy I get to do it.

Friday, November 18, 2016

I Got into the School of Ed and It's Super Exciting!

I was recently accepted to the Early Childhood - Middle Childhood Program in The University of Wisconsin - La Crosse’s Department of Educational Studies. In order to apply, I needed to have a minimum of 24 credits, have completed and passed EDS 203 (School and Society), have at least a 2.85 GPA, and have had received passing scores on the basic skills test. The most common test is the Praxis Core, which is kind of like another ACT, but only for aspiring teachers. It consists of math, reading, and writing subtests. The good news is, though, if you get a certain score on your ACT or SAT, it is enough to fulfill that requirement (so I didn’t have to take it - holla!) If you’d like more information about these requirements, here are some handy links:
The application required that I provide my name, phone number, home address, and a statement on what I hope to accomplish as a teacher. This is something that is very important to think about and will be asked often, including in applications to jobs or schools of ed (wink). In fact, it’s once of the twelve WECAN questions (WECAN is like the common app for teaching jobs in Wisconsin). I always find myself considering what I hope to accomplish as a teacher. With every new education class, classroom experience, attended workshop/presentation/conference, or reflection on my own education, it becomes more refined. So, of course, it is only appropriate that I share with you what I expressed to be my own goals as a teacher.

I could have discussed an overwhelming desire as an educator to meet all of the common core standards for my students' grade level, accomplish each class objective for the year, have my students’ test scores reach exceptional levels, and develop deep personal relationships with each of them - all of which are true! However, my first priority and ultimate goal is to educate young minds and enrich them as individuals during their time in my class. Every child that walks into my classroom has a different mind, is of a different background, and has a different future, and I must adapt to that. I want to do right by my students and leave them a little more prepared, a little better off in life, and filled with a little more knowledge than they were when they first came to me, whether I make it through the entire syllabus or not. I do not want to waste my students’ time, but instead I want them to feel valued and capable. I want them to exemplify competence in and out of the classroom. When my students move on from my classroom feeling more satisfied, confident, and successful compared to when they came to me, then I will have accomplished my responsibilities and hopes as their teacher.

I’m not going into education to be twenty-six eight-year-olds’ bff (though I would be pumped if that was the case). I’m doing it because I value education, the purpose of school, and what can be gained from it, provided students receive a proper experience. When I’m in a classroom I’m there to teach, to be a medium for learning, whether or not the students like it or me; I want to make a difference, even if it’s just a wrinkle of one. I will not be someone who pours knowledge into children’s heads, but I will draw understanding out of my students. School is a place that nourishes cognitive development. At school we gain knowledge, wisdom, social skills, and life experience; we progressively come to understand ourselves - who we are, what we like and believe, and how we can contribute to society. I have every intention of making those purposes of school and branches of knowledge just as much of a priority as knowing how to spell “pedagogy” (not that it will be an expectation that all of my eight-year-olds learn to spell pedagogy, but, you get me).

There is a lot more to be done before I actually get to turn my bark into bite, but this acceptance is one step closer to being able to do so. I am now eligible to enroll in more courses, join more student organizations for future educators, and begin working toward more teacher candidate exams, field experiences, student teaching, and even becoming licensed. As I progress through my program, my goals will inevitably adjust, and my philosophy will be tweaked, and I’m so excited to see how my ideals develop because of this amazing open door!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Some Background on Me

Post Written By: Elyse Bley
Year: Sophomore
Major(s): Early Childhood - Middle Childhood
Minor(s): Spanish

My name is Elyse Bley, and I am a sophomore here at UWL. I grew up in Delafield, Wisconsin, which is about twenty minutes from Waukesha. This is my first ever post for UWL’s School of Education, so, without getting too corny, here’s a little bit about myself: tacos are my favorite food, I’m pretty sure I have a caffeine addiction, dolls freak me out, I worked as a Teacher’s Assistant to K-3 students this summer, and have been a receptionist at a hair salon since I was sixteen. Most importantly, I’m majoring in Early Childhood - Middle Childhood Education with a Spanish minor.

Teaching is the only realistically attainable profession I have ever considered. Before I realized my true calling, I dreamed of being a princess or a superstar, though both would have been ideal. It wasn’t until I was ten-years-old that I really knew what I was meant to do. I went into fifth grade wondering how anyone could possibly choose to go to school for the rest of their life, and left planning which of my teacher’s methods I would carry into my future classroom. So, what changed? I guess I just had a really rocking time in fifth grade! I got straight A’s for the first time in my life, I had some really great friends, and a teacher I revered. Soon, I realized it wasn’t just fifth grade that was wonderful, it was my entire educational career up until that point. One night, in an attempt to spread my appreciation for learning, I sat on my kitchen floor forcing reading lessons upon my younger neighbor. My mom, who had been watching me as she made dinner, later came up to me and suggested the idea of becoming a reading specialist. While I didn’t find that specific path too exciting, it was at that moment that it occurred to me that just like school, teaching wasn't so lame either. Passing years only solidified my future in education. Regular babysitting and working in both a second and fifth grade classroom were not enough to scare me away, but instead fueled the fire.

When the time came to begin applying to universities, I was absolutely terrified of adulthood and responsibilities, and I had no idea what I was doing. I waited until the very last minute before I began blindly applying to schools. I still don’t know what drove me to include UW - La Crosse in my list, but it ended up as one of my top two choices due to its great reputation in the UW System, its location, and impressive education program. After visiting La Crosse, I knew it was the right fit; everyone is so friendly and active, the scenery is breathtaking, and there is no shortage of fun things to do. Between the small class sizes, easy communication with faculty, textbook rental, and so many other resources, it’s clear the school puts a lot into student care. The group of instructors in the School of Education are quick to communicate with one another and their students. I am not a number; my education is individualized, and my career is important.

I am really thankful for all of the opportunities and experiences that have been presented to me in my short time here. Since starting college in the fall of 2015 I have learned a lot about myself and my place in the world. I’ve done loads of volunteering, made some really great friends, and tutored and taught sixth graders after school. I am so proud to be an Eagle (I promise I’m not being forced to say this, I just really love it here) and while I have a long way to go and a lot more to accomplish, I’m so excited to continue studying education and to continue my journey with you all!