Monthly Archives: September 2012

First Grade!!

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*The names of the students and the teacher used in this blog post are code names, used to protect the privacy of the students I will be working with this semester.  I am very excited to share about my practicum experience, but must be careful about using real names.

This semester, my practicum placement is at an elementary school in Grottoes, VA. I am in Mrs. Q’s first grade classroom! For anyone who has never been to Grottoes, there isn’t much there. It is about a 30 minute drive for me from JMU and on the way to school on my first day, I drove past lots of farms, cows, horses, and there were even a couple of geese on the side of the road. I was so excited for my first day in first grade! When arrived to the school, there were only two cars in the parking lot; I was really early (surprise, surprise)! The school was not unlocked yet, so I anxiously waited in my Jeep for nearly half an hour.

When I entered the classroom, Mrs. Q was just arriving. I had introduced myself through e-mail, but I was really excited to meet her in person and get to know each other. Mrs. Q has two little daughters, of whom she had adorable pictures hanging in the classroom. My first thought- maybe I will get to babysit for her one day once she gets to know me J Anyhow, a little while later, the students began to arrive! I was so excited to meet them all. I cannot even write about all of the introductions I received and stories I heard upon the entrance of all of these cute little first graders! One girl, greeted me with, “Who are you?” Another screamed, “HI!! My me-maw got me these shoes last week!” One little girl attempted to read my name tag, and was followed by a little boy who just held his head low to the ground; it did not seem like he was ready to be out of bed yet. They were all so full of energy and  I was so excited to hang out with them all day and learn more about what types of learners they were. The last student to enter the classroom was a blonde-haired littler girl who was extremely hyper, and I could tell she was going to be a handful. She cheerfully greeted me and asked, “Do you like my butterfly dress? I chose to wear these tennis shoes, even though my momma told me I should wear the glitter shoes. You see my dress has butterflies and glitter on it. My momma got it for me and she wanted me to wear the glitter shoes. But I like to catch bugs at recess so we can feed them to our spider, and we have to walk through the grass, so I wanted to wear these tennis shoes. Do you think these tennis shoes look okay with my butterfly dress?” I responded, “I love your dress and you look beautiful!”. She continued, “Will you be here all day? Are you the substitute? Look the boy who sits beside me, his name is Jimmy (code name) and his last name is Rice that’s a kind of food. My last name is Scott. It sounds like something in your body, but it’s not snot, it’s Scott. Do you want to know what I have to do if I want to get an ice cream cup from Food Lion? All I have to do is listen to my momma.” She went on, and on, and on, and on. I forgot to add that almost every child in my class has a heavy southern accent, so that makes these stories even cuter!!

Mrs. Q was doing some literacy testing, so she was out in the hallway for much of the morning. There was a substitute for a couple of hours. One of the reading specialists and a special education teacher were also in and out of the room from time to time. My class had been studying spiders at science time, so I pulled students one at a time to do a super cute spider web art project that Mrs. Q found on the internet. It involved paint and yarn, so of course the kids were really exited! This was also a great way for me to introduce myself to and spend a couple of minutes chatting with each student.

Mrs. Q allowed me to come out into the hall so I could witness the test she was administered. This test quizzes the children on reading and spelling skills and is given at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year. She showed me the testing for a lower reader, a higher reader, and an average first grade reader. I am very grateful that Mrs. Q let me see the process of the testing, as well as the kinds of questions and tasks the students are asked to perform.

We went on with the day: reading, seatwork, math, recess, lunch, guidance, science, P.E., reading, centers……that may be a little out of order, but you get the idea. I really enjoyed helping in the classroom throughout the day. While the kids were at P.E., I spend a little bit of time in the workroom making copies, stapling, sorting, etc.  We were going to end the day with a second recess, but it was beginning to storm and Mrs. Q didn’t want to take any chances, so she decided to stay inside and do centers again. I sat on a beanbag in the reading center and read two books aloud to a soft-spoken little girl and I really enjoyed reading to her and hearing all of her predictions about what would happen in the books.

I absolutely love my first grade class and I am so excited to spend every Wednesday of the semester with them! I can’t wait until I start presenting my lesson plans and interacting even more with them! I feel extremely blessed to be enrolled in the education program at JMU and to have the opportunity to be exposed to such a variety of classrooms and schools! And just one more closing statement, Mrs. Q is awesome!! She is easy-going, extremely nice, and she lets me help with everything, which is so cool!! I think my biggest fear was getting placed with a teacher who didn’t want to let me help, and my practicum just turned into one big observation. I know that with Mrs. Q, this won’t be the case and I am really, really excited for first grade!!

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First blog post… Education Appreciation!

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Here is my first blog post! I was so excited after running into my former student in the library today that I went to post a Facebook status about it. That is when I realized I wanted to say so much more than one paragraph of a status and I decided to create this blog so that I can share so many more of my ideas. I hope you enjoy it J

Last semester, I had a practicum experience leading a conversation table every Friday to help adult English Language Learners practice English. One of my students came into the ETMC (Educational Technology and Media Center a.k.a best job in the world) this morning while I was working and I was so happy to see her. She and her husband both attended my conversation table last year. She told me that her husband started college courses this semester in order to get a better job and make a better life for their family. The amount of effort this couple puts into their education is amazing and I know that their future and that of their children will be so bright because of all of the hard work they put in!

She asked me if I would be teaching them again this year and I told her I wasn’t sure because this year’s classes will have to lead the tables as their practicum. She told me repeatedly how much they benefited from working with me and how much they want me to teach them again. She asked me to please come back and teach them English. She said that she and her husband were talking about me this summer and her husband said, “Deserae talks so fast, but I can understand her, but for some reason I cannot understand my professors…I wish Deserae could teach all of my classes”. It is moments like these that make volunteering with these students all worth it. The appreciation that they show and just the simple fact that they still remember me after an entire summer break makes me feel great. Just knowing that the time I spent helping them practice English helped them so much is amazing.

So many times we take education for granted. Not that we do it on purpose, but we just don’t think about how blessed we are to receive the education that we do. These adults immigrated to the United States to make better lives for their families; leaving behind careers they worked so hard to practice and family members, only to come to America and have to start from square one due to a lack of language skills. I had students in my class who were doctors, lawyers, teachers, and engineers in their native countries, but were working as retail merchandisers and fast food employees here because of their incompetency in English. These students that I worked with are working so hard to acquire English and all of the skills necessary to resume their careers or even venture into a new job.

The gratitude these students express for something as simple as practicing English with them is extremely humbling. I love children so much and had never seriously considered teaching adults prior to last semester. After working with these adult English Language Learners, I definitely want to work with adult non-native English speakers at some point in my career. The students I worked with are dedicated, determined, and extremely hard-working. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to work with them and I am especially thrilled that I still get to see some of them around campus!