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Hera's teaching portfolio 2005

Five Objectives
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*At the beginning of my practicum at Amherst Regional High School, my cooperating teacher, Adriana, asked me to think of five objectives or goals I wanted to achieve by the end of the semester. One could be personal and the rest had to do with different aspects of the class. My five objectives are listed below. Although I didn’t view them everyday, I feel they stayed in my subconscious and helped structure and form a very important part of my experience and development as an educator.


Five Objectives (plus one for good luck) :

1. Keep a personal balance between work and leisure.  I lost this at times :) but it was all part of the experience. There were moments where I became so involved in planning my lessons and activities, I felt it was my leisure time. When it became too much, I took breaks. We had two vacations, which seemed to come at just the right time! Yet I feel the time and effort I put into gathering, creating and preparing were well worth it.

2. Have my students constantly using the language for whatever their needs should be. Have an interactive class, involving grammar, vocabulary, writing, speaking, and reading. I feel like I pulled this off rather well with my Intermediate One class. They were "producing" on a daily basis, writing about their lives and things that interested them all the time. To hear them progress with their speaking skills was one of the most rewarding things I experienced during the semester. The Advanced Honors classes I taught were just amazing in themselves. These students could speak about anything under the sun, which made class an absolute pleasure. You could lead them in any direction and they would run with it. Everything we did, from watching movies, creating our own proverbs, or writing letters to Nobel Prize winners, was reinforcing their skills in Spanish. I am a firm believer in allowing them to be exposed to a broad variety of this language, which is constantly changing. The more culture and language they are exposed to, the better idea they will have of how to express themselves and how to use Spanish.

3. Don’t be too strict with them. Keep in mind who they are, and the important things to them. Respect. Be fair, allow discussion and negotiation, bend, but not too far ;). I chose to make this an objective because I don’t want to forget who my students are. I don’t want to become that jaded teacher who has forgotten that their students are unique individuals. I don’t want to become a bitter teacher who has ‘learned her lesson’ from last year. With each new student, you have to learn who they are in order to know how to teach them. Modifying your rules, adapting and learning are all part of this profession. Yet, having assumptions, being biased, too strict, or too harsh won’t get anyone anywhere. Each year new students will walk into my class. They can not be treated the same as others who have passed through my door. Each student is a unique individual with a voice that needs to be encouraged to be heard. They are each individuals that I have to learn from. I don’t want to ever forget that. Since I have started teaching in 2003, I have always had students thank me for being interested in them, being able to relate to their stresses and issues, using humor and just making life a little bit easier (the humor part helps a lot). Children need that. That is one way they will succeed; when they know they have a say and are being heard, when they are respected and given a chance to change something. That is how I will continue to teach.

4. Cultural Topics: Collect materials to bring in. My magazines, recipes, art, movies, and books. Let my experiences and belongings, help to show them real culture, not just out of the text book. Build on portfolio/activities. Share with other teachers. This one was what I spent most of my time on: gathering materials, building on my activities lessons and ideas. From conferences, workshops, my cooperating teacher, the other teachers and student teachers, I gathered an obscene amount of materials (I can’t pick a better word for it other than obscene). I figured if I had activities for every grammar point or cultural topic known to man kind, no matter what school I ended up teaching in, or which book my school would be using, I would already have a good base of materials for my students. Whatever I didn’t have would soon be developed or created, and as cultural topics surge, they will be investigated. I have day dreams sometimes about my classes researching topics that I don’t know about, and then teaching the material to me! I will be learning for the rest of my life, I’ll be a walking encyclopedia! I already have so many artifacts from when I was living in Spain, and so many things from vacations to Spanish-speaking countries. I figured my experiences, real experiences, which are the most interesting to me, would be interesting to them also. They get to see things from other cultures, and relate it to what they are learning. They hear my stories and adventures and you can see the little lights in their eyes twinkling. So I feel like I did extremely well, with presenting and finding cultural information to them.

5. Have a structure and sequence for class. Keep activities meaningful and connected, so they see it’s usefulness. This was an objective I originally developed for me, so I wouldn't forget to check homework, or forget to cover something on a given day. I figured the sequence would involve myself getting into a routine in class. Getting adjusted to the daily activities of being a teacher. Little did I know, my students needed a routine, a predictable pattern they can follow and depend on. They needed something to say "here we are in Spanish class now, let's get ready to learn". I found that if I strayed from the routine, they would get a bit confused, perhaps complain a bit, lose motivation. I also learned how important it is for the students to see the 'point' of the activities we do. So my motto became "I promise you this is for a reason". Little by little they saw how my activities connected. Why we did a certain activity, and what it was preparing them for. They soon began to trust in my choices, and their questions and confusions slowly diminished. So the sequencing I thought I needed to develop for myself, also served my students in their transitions from class to class, and in their education.

*6. A special event for the whole school?

*Although I was unable to plan an event for the whole school, I did get to see some amazing events and showcases of talent which inspired my own ideas for the future. The students at Amherst Regional High School are very fortunate to have a wide range of support, resources, activities, organizations, and events available to them. Events that help foster open minds, awareness of others and that help make a difference on this planet. The students are Amherst are genuinely involved in their community, but it doesn't stop there. They travel to other countries, to research first hand the problems other people face, and come back to tell their community about it and help out. They run clothes and food drives, hold assemblies throughout the year for students to gain awareness on other cultures, and work with some of the greatest hip hop artists in New York City, inspiring them to keep inspiring us through showcases of art, music, dance, and poetry. Just being able to witness so many students, working so hard to make a difference, is inspiring in itself. Even though I didn't complete this sixth goal of putting on an event for the school, it was enough to have it in my mind, and know that when I do become a teacher, I want to be a part of that amazing process. People want to participate, share, communicate, and build community. They want to have a purpose, and I want to help them get there.