Tuesday, August 11, 2015

EdTPA

Post written by: Erin O'Connor
Year: Senior
Major(s): English
Minor(s): STEP

The EdTPA has been this huge looming force hanging over my head throughout the semester. I guess that’s because there were so many unknown factors. I basically heard we had to do this huge assignment pertaining to analyzing my teaching and how it aligned with modern research through video clips of me in front of the classroom. The very idea of watching myself teach and then picking apart what was successful and not successful was stressful in itself. On top of that, the thought of finding research that backed up why I did the things I did sounded very intimidating as well.

However, once I actually started diving into the process, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Once I figured out the right balance between being detailed enough but also general enough, the writing started to come easily. Finding research was also fairly easy because at this point in my education career, I have read so many articles and books on teaching strategies. Once I picked out a strategy that I saw myself using, I could easily think of an article that I have read in the past and stick a little citation in.


Because I am in Field II, I am only composing a “mini” EdTPA (meaning that I am only working with about half of the material I will be working with in the full EdTPA that I will complete when I am student teaching next semester). However, completing this “mini” EdTPA has reduced my anxiety about completing the full EdTPA by about a million times. I feel like the point of this assessment is just to see that you are composing detailed lesson plans that are based in modern research; to see that you know why it is that you are doing the things you are doing; and to see that you are a reflective practitioner. These are all things that the education program here at UWL instills in your brain throughout your college experience. So, if you are like one-month-ago-Erin and the word “EdTPA” brings a clenching to your jaw and a cold sweat to your forehead, RELAX!! Its really not that bad.

Random Thoughts

Post written by: Erin O'Connor
Year: Senior
Major(s): English
Minor(s): STEP

Its amazing how becoming an education major can change you so much. I have always been a compassionate person who cares about the well being of others… but once I started taking education classes it was like that trait almost took over most of my consciousness. One of the main things that I have learned from education classes is that as a future educator, I have to hold a mirror up to myself and look really deeply into it; I have to know myself inside and out. This is because as a teacher it is vital that I become aware of any biases I may have and work to rid myself of them. Future students will look to me as the holder of knowledge, the expert, the professional. My beliefs will have a rippling effect on all of my future students because they will take my beliefs as truth.

For example, let’s just say, maybe you hold a bias against women, maybe even subconsciously… well that bias will come out in your teaching and the young women in your classroom are going to pick up on it. They may feel like they don’t have as much of a “place” in the classroom due to the difference in the way you treat men vs women. They may start participating less. They may start believing in themselves less. They may start buying into gender roles.


Its crazy how much impact a teacher can have on a student and it is my job to make sure that that impact is a positive one and NOT a detrimental one. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” As a teacher, it is vital to examine your own thoughts because you will become your thoughts. Your students will be impacted by your thoughts.




Getting Into The Groove of Things

Student Name: Erin O'Connor
Year: Senior
Major: English
Minor: STEP

Every day I go into my classroom about 20 minutes before the school day starts and my mentor teacher and I chat about what she’s teaching that day and how I can get involved. We are reading a novel called A Separate Peace by John Knowles and she has been letting me introduce and guide different discussions about the novel. I’m so excited to be gaining experience with the students, but I’m finding that guiding a discussion is more difficult than it seems because the students are not really comfortable with me yet… so getting them to participate in a discussion is bit like trying to explain gravity to a two year old. There are a lot of blank faces and uninterested stares looking back at me. There are a few token students who will raise their hands willingly, but usually I have to force discussion and call on people. I have noticed a major difference in participation when I lead a discussion versus when my mentor teacher leads a discussion.


This is a little disheartening, but I think participation will improve once students start to trust me more. I guess its all part of the learning process. That’s something I have to get better at: accepting that I am still learning. I keep expecting to get in front of the class and have everything just work out, but that’s not how it usually pans out. Teaching is hard work. Its unpredictable. You have to get used to the fact that sometimes you are going to lead a lesson and its going to completely flop… But you also have to realize that that’s okay as long as you reflect and improve. Some people say live and learn; I say student teach and learn!




My New Bumper Sticker!



Post written by: Erin O'Connor
Year: Senior
Major(s): English
Minor(s): STEP



Friday, August 7, 2015

To Infinity and Beyond

Post Written By: Abi Nixon
Year: Senior
Major(s): Middle Childhood-Early Adolescent Education
Minor(s): General Science


"Breakthrough is a memory that I will always have in my life. It has shown me that there is a group of scholars who mean business when it comes to education. That there is a group of future teachers who will be amazing teachers one day, that show that they care about who you are as a individual and want you to succeed in live. Who never gives up on you. That's why I love Breakthrough." -Germain

"Breakthrough is a memory that I will always have in my life. It has shown me that there is a group of scholars who mean business when it comes to education. That there is a group of future teachers who will be amazing teachers one day, that show that they care about who you are as a individual and want you to succeed in live. Who never gives up on you. That's why I love Breakthrough." -Germain



Wow! So much has happened in the last two weeks!  From a college visit to St. John's and St. Ben's to getting pie thrown into my face, my time at Breakthrough has been flying by too fast!  On Saturday, my summer of teaching these amazing Breakthrough students will be over, and all I can say is that there will be tears.  This summer I have met amazing students and have discovered a lot about myself.  In this blog,  I just want to share some pictures that represent the last two weeks because I really sometimes think that the only way to describe what is happening in my life at Breakthrough is by showing pictures.


This picture is of my college (Brown College) playing Predator Prey.  At Breakthrough, on Friday afternoon, we do Friday activities instead of classes.  This model helps students end their week on a high note and want to come back to Breakthrough on Monday refreshed and ready to learn!  Predator Prey is basically a strategic game of tag.  Brown College played Predator Prey very well and ended up never getting tagged by any predators!


Students get to go to Yo-Time everyday to relax and participate in an activity of their choosing.  One of our most popular Yo-Times is hair braiding.  I learned a whole bunch of new ways to braid my hair this summer.  I also got henna and my nails done during Yo-Time too!  Another popular Yo-Time is dodgeball!

One really neat experience my students had this summer was going on a college visit to St. John's and St. Ben's.  For many students, this was their first experience seeing a college.  Breakthrough does a great job of taking students to many diverse colleges throughout their six year Breakthrough experience.  The picture on the right is the speaker from St. Ben's telling the students six things that all students need to experience during their college career to have a successful life after college.  During my time at UW-L, I have experienced all six things that make up a great college experience!



Spirit Day!! One of the best days of Breakthrough!  During Spirit Week, Breakthrough students and staff wore PJ's, dressed crazy (like the picture to the left), and dressed in their favorite sports wear!  It was a blast.  It was obvious during this week, that Breakthrough spirit is alive and well in all the students and staff of Breakthrough Twin Cities!



On the last day of Spirit Week, the 9th graders planned our Friday event.  We did an obstacle course, played Jeopardy!, and acted out charades. The picture to the right depicts one of the scariest games I have every played.  During this game, students worked in their colleges to carry a teammate on a mat to the other side of the gym.  Trust me, this game took tons of teamwork.



Last but not least, at the end of Spirit Week, the college with the most spirit points and all of the 9th graders got to throw pie at the teacher of their choice!  My name got called out by a student, and he nailed me in the face with pie!  Getting pie thrown at your face is actually a pretty great experience! Plus, it shows that the students care about you.

This Saturday, all of my students' hard work this summer will come to fruition in the form of Celebration!  Celebration is a time for students to show to their family members and other people all the hard work that they have done this summer.  Many Breakthrough classes created some sort of act for the students to perform on stage at Celebration!  My science students will be singing "Love is a Solution" (a parody of Frozen's "Love is an Open Door").  Also, my American Sign Language Class will be preforming an ASL ABC poem that they wrote!  It is going to be a great way to end the summer!

Thanks to all who read my blog and allowed me to share these amazing memories!