I am at the last part of my Elementary Level Student Teaching Phase and to say that I have learned a lot is an understatement. My mentor teacher and I have developed a rhythm of co-teaching which has allowed me to take on almost all day in some cases. This past week was the last week to finish up every grade’s first in person project. Because half of the school switches off, it has taken a long time to finish up all projects because lessons have so many parts. In kindergarten, we have done shorter projects so I have seen how transitions are when it comes to preparation, quick turnarounds, and reflection. So far, first has finished their tissue paper pulp paper, second has finished their egg carton animals, third has almost finished their clay fishes (I have learned how slow firing can be), fourth has finished their Circuit Pyramids, and fifth has finished their Sweet Dessert sculptures.
Designing, preparing, and practicing new projects for each grade has been a little daunting and helps me understand the weight of “trying the project beforehand” because many things can no go as planned. My first experience was my new project for first grade. I am teaching them about Adinkra Cloths from Ghana. We read “The Talking Cloth” and talked about how we can visually talk through symbols, colors, and patterns. My intention was to focus on the book, discussion, and understanding of symbols on the first day. We created our own little Adinkra Symbol Book, which was a couple pieces of paper folded together. Students then got to draw their own symbols and what they wanted to communicate in their Adinkra Cloths. I quickly observed that it was above their head and I taught it while assuming they understood the idea of “values” and “positive messages”. After the first day, I felt frustrated and a little discouraged as my mentor and I worked through the challenges and came up with solutions. The next day, I added more of an emphasis on the art making process of Adinkra Cloths. I asked them, “how was this cloth made? How did they get these symbols on here?” This allowed me to talk about the process of stamping and the composition of Adinkra Cloths. I gave them a long sheet of paper, stamp markers, stamp dots, and markers. They gave the paper a composition of lines, then stamped. I went around the class asking what each stamp meant and each had different answers. They were finally getting it. Working on paper transitioned well into the final step, working, and stamping on real cloth.
Going through this learning process was tough but allowed me to sit in the struggle and ask the tough questions to myself. Where did I go wrong? What did I assume? What can be broken down? This was the biggest moment of my student teaching experience so far because it was the not-so-pretty side of teaching. My mentor teacher went on to share stories of moments like these in her past 30 years. She was helpful when it came to asking the right questions. I am working on my willingness to sit in my faults as a teacher but put in the effort to grow. At first, I wanted to quit the lesson because it wasn’t working and it was too difficult to understand. Then, after some time, I watched the project become very fun for the students.
This will affect my future teaching because of the flexibility and persistence I gained from this experience. Although I am passionate about teaching growth mindset, sometimes, I do not practice what I preach. This allowed me to stretch myself, challenge my fix mindset, and grow closer to becoming a successful teacher.
In the past two weeks, I have been focusing on mindfulness beyond the classroom. On my own time, I have been drawing from observation exactly where I am sitting. This has helped me to slow down when I do have the opportunity to rest.