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.