As I wrap up my last couple of weeks at Cache La Poudre Middle School, I am noticing the vast difference in my teaching from January to now, the end of April. I have made exceptional growth and am recognizing it myself.
So far, my classroom management has been the biggest priority. The students are different, at a different developmental level, and choose to be sneaky. This has been a challenge I didn’t have to deal with in Elementary. I have been focusing on standing firm, remaining consistent in what I expect and how I react to behavior. The students are quick to hold you accountable so this remains my priority. This tricky management is during studio time. I have to have eyes in the back of my head to make sure everyone is on task, not on phones, or playing games on their computer. Usually, it is easy to catch the student that is off task so you can sit down next to them and make a goal to finish by the end of class. The other component of management is during the instruction/discussion part of class at the beginning. I struggle establishing my teacher voice so I have found simple ways to help. For example, I have used my strategy that has worked the best for me that is new to the students. When students are off task, I say, “I will wait.” Students respond and engage quickly. Another fun way to grab attention is my sixth grade call. If you have seen Finding Nemo, there is a chant that says “Shark Bait, OOO HA HA.” During the first class, I showed a video clip of the movie to share the connection and then addressed what needs to happen when I say Shark Bait. Personally, I have had a hard time establishing myself as an authoritative figure because of my size and age. This has been a journey of growth, problem solving, and baby steps. I am learning who I am in a group of people bigger than me, what I have to say, and remaining firm in my thoughts and ideas.
I have been teaching the new class of sixth grade for the last quarter. It has been super fun to get a class to myself with no preexisting experience with Middle School. I get to understand and listen to their previous Elementary Art Class experiences and build responsibility and ownership into the future. They just finished their first project that helped exercise simple techniques and materials like ideation, planning, drawing, and painting. I designed this lesson to address some foundations of 2-Dimensional art making, then we will move into the 3-Dimensional unit working with the concept of building, sculpting, and understanding the properties and process of Pottery. In this class, I have been able to build the strongest student/teacher relationships because I have had time to check in with every student and make them feel comfortable and safe to explore. This class is engaged and has put the artistic process into action. I am very excited to showcase their hard work. For the next project, I plan on incorporating more art history and cultural responsiveness into pottery because the first project was focused on getting the students comfortable, I didn't add multiple components. I plan to build in more artist inspiration and background history. As a teacher who is choosing to listen to students' needs, I felt like I had to wait to introduce the multiple parts that go into interpreting and making art. Personally, this has helped me remain organized in my own instruction and the students have been visibly following as well.
Last week, we had our first positive case in the school so about 40 students had to do online school again. With that being said, we switched back to a hybrid format which exercised our flexibility once again. I started to get used to full in person learning and had to refresh myself on what instruction and artmaking has to look like for at home students. As a student teacher who is fully vaccinated, it has made me recognize the efforts Poudre School District has made to get students back in school. Although teachers are vaccinated, being fully in person has forced students to reel back on social distancing. Naturally, middle school students will not choose to be six feet away from their best friends. It is a constant battle to remind students to be aware while they actively choose to rebel.
During all of this chaos, I have also been applying to Art Teaching positions all across northern Colorado spanning from Weld County Districts, Poudre, Thompson Valley, to St. Vrain Valley. I have been able to build my interviewing skills and push myself to communicate my teaching philosophy. The multitasking of student teaching has again reached a high level as I wrap up my last couple of weeks.