We have a new music teacher in our building. She and I have done some collaborating on classroom management strategies and using boosters to keep my class on track with following expectations. Through a series of semi-coincidences, it turns out that her husband and I are both playing trumpet in a holiday orchestra this year. So when she invited him to come to her music classes today to share the trumpet with the students, she invited me to visit during my students’ scheduled time.
I started playing the trumpet when I was 10 years old, way back in the fifth grade. I started playing for two reasons:
- Two of my oldest brothers had played the trumpet and so my family had ready access to one. (Two other brothers were percussionists and my other older brother played the saxophone.)
- My best friend was going to play trumpet, too, because his grandfather was a trumpet player.
And those are really the only reasons why I started playing. Of my five older brothers, only the oldest, who played trumpet, and the younger of the percussionists kept playing through high school. As far as I know, though, none of my brothers continued with their instruments beyond that, unlike me. I started in fifth grade and continued all the way through my junior year of college. I had to stop then because my class schedule and student teaching prevented me from playing in university concert bands. Then I was invited to join a community wind ensemble at Parkland College by two good buddies of mine. I performed with the Parkland Wind Ensemble for several years but had to quit after getting hired at Wiley and simply not being able to devote the time needed to rehearsals. However, I was able to join a summer community band through the St. Joseph (Illinois) Community Arts Resources program. So I have found a way to continue playing the trumpet.
It was fun sharing some of my skills with the students in my class. While the guest performer is a far better trumpet player than me (he is studying trumpet performance at the university), I consider myself to be a competent ensemble performer. I was able to demonstrate for the class the effect different mutes have on the sound of a trumpet and the difference in sound between a traditional Bb trumpet and an orchestral C trumpet. The music teacher’s husband also brought in his piccolo trumpet, which he calls the baby of the trumpet family. He talked to the students about valves, mouthpieces, timbre, and embouchure (although I don’t think he actually used that last term).
Thanks to our music teacher for inviting me to be a part of her class today! It was a nice way to wrap up our short two-day week. I hope all of my fellow American readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!
I was gone last Friday attending a conference in Chicago. When I got back this morning, I read through the notes my substitute teacher left for me and saw that the students had played a game in P.E. called Wear Out. She made an observation that the students loved the game. I had actually never heard of it before and so my interest was quite piqued!
I asked my class to tell me about the game so that we could play this morning. It involves the students dividing into two teams on opposite ends of the gym. On the signal, one student from each team races around the gym. As soon as they make it to their base, the next student in line races. The goal is for everyone on your team to make it around first. It is a simple game and the name says exactly what the purpose is: wear out the students as they run, run, and run some more!
The students wanted to compete boys against girls, which they did twice. Then I had them select their own teams of half boys and half girls. They competed two more times. Then I recombined the mixed teams and allowed them to race two more times. After six races, they were quite thoroughly exhausted!
I’m always in favour of learning about new games and activities to use for P.E. We have a lot of resources available in our school and our district, but I am grateful to the retired teachers who share their expertise with me and my students, too!
I love hosting student teachers in my classroom. They challenge me to continually think deeply about what I am doing, how I am doing it, and why I am making the choices I make. They also bring fresh ideas to the classroom that I love trying out. I also really enjoy being able to serve as a mentor as they are preparing to do full-time student teaching. Some of my student teachers pass through and then I don’t hear from them again. Others keep in touch. (My student teacher from last fall, Ms. Shapiro, got hired over the summer and is teaching fourth grade in Schaumburg!)
My student teacher this semester, Ms. Schultz, has been with us every Tuesday and Wednesday. She has taken on many responsibilities over the past several weeks, including some of the more mundane teacher tasks such as attendance and lunch cart to some of the very important instructional responsibilities of guided reading, math instruction, and our daily read aloud.
This week, however, was her trial by fire! Every student teacher in the fall is expected to take over all of the teaching responsibilities for two days. We decided to have her do her full take-over this week so that she wouldn’t have to do it after our extended Thanksgiving holiday break.
Even though she was doing all of the teaching, I was still in the classroom for the vast majority of the time. It was hard for me to sit back and not intervene when I noticed students off-task, but I soon realised that she totally had things under control. She was quick to redirect students and get them back on task and they were, for the most part, quick to respond. Many of the students were definitely challenging her authority yesterday but today they were much, much more responsive as they accepted that I was deferring responsibility to her. Any time someone came to me with a question, I directed their inquiries to Ms. Schultz first.
We still have several weeks left of the semester, and so Ms. Schultz will continue to be with our class each Tuesday and Wednesday. As we move toward the end, there will be less modeling and less just turning things over and much more co-teaching and co-planning. And that’s the other thing I love about having student teachers: serving as a mentor and helping them go from being observers who are usually trepidatious about being in a formal teaching assignment for the first time to being an active, eager part of a teaching team!
Sorry for the lateness of this post. Monday evenings continue to be a challenge for me to get a blog post written because we have staff meetings after school lets out and then I have a short period of time to get ready for my graduate course in the evening.
As I’ve been continuing to explore ways to utilise the Chromebooks in my classroom, I’ve discovered a lot of incredibly useful websites that facilitate meaningful independent practice for students while I am working with small groups or conferencing one-on-one with students. I’ve written about several of these tools and resources in the past few months. I’ve discovered a couple of new tools, but I’m not ready to review any of them quite yet.
One side benefit of these tools I’ve recently discovered is the ability to more efficiently track my students’ on-task behaviour. In the past, I have had to leave a small group or plan for breaks between conferences to monitor students. Now, however, I can keep an eye on what they are doing simply by checking the websites they are working on. Although we have many different tools to use in my room, I tend to assign students to work on specific sites at specific times. Then I can go onto my teacher dashboard and see what they have been doing. Being able to monitor students’ behaviour is not just something that lets me know if they are on-task or not, though; it also lets me see what they are working on so I can provide more meaningful interventions, either for reteaching or for enrichment.
There is software that exists that will let me monitor students’ online activity in real time, but since it costs several hundred dollars and I am teacher with a very limited budget, I’ll have to rely on the monitoring tools I have at my disposal. And, of course, I still get up and walk around the room to see what students are up to. And if I notice that someone is doing something they aren’t supposed to be doing, I can pull it up on their history and take a screen capture for future reference or for further instruction on the proper use of our technology tools.
(On a completely unrelated note, this was my 800th post!)