In her first interview, we learned how teacher resident Ciana Calhoun’s fourth grade social studies teacher made a lasting impact on her life. Now only a few months later, we see that Ciana herself is challenging, supporting and impacting students’ lives at her school Knowledge Academies.
In her interview, she talks student teaching preparation, successes and challenges of becoming more independent in the classroom, and holding high expectations for all students.
Since we last spoke, in what area do you think that you have made the biggest gains?
At the beginning of this year, I felt like I was all over the place. I have always been a very ambitious person with a lot of ideas and dreams, which can pull me in many different directions. In the last few months, I have narrowed down and focused in on some key goals. This structure and organization have helped me personally and professionally.
Do you have any breakthrough stories with a student that you would like to share?
Despite being passed from one grade to the next, one of my English Language Learners was really struggling with his work. His tests were read out loud to him, and he didn’t do a lot of independent work. When given an assignment, he would immediately ask for help without reviewing it first.
One day, I pulled up a science website for him to work on a lesson. He immediately asked me for help. I asked him to take a few minutes to try to do the assignment, and that when I saw true effort, I would help him. My “rule” with the website was that to pass and go to the next assignment he had to at least get a 4 out of 7 questions correct. When he got 4 questions correct, I congratulated him and encouraged him to move on. He told me no that he wanted to get 7 out of 7 questions correct. He worked on the assignment until he got all 7 questions correct. At the end of class, he asked me if I could write a note to his dad to tell him he got 100 percent on the assignment and that he did it in English, and so I did.
A few days later, the student returned with a note written in Arabic. I went to school translator to see what the note said. To sum it up, his father wrote that he had noticed that his son had been working hard and that he had mentioned me at home.
By setting and holding him to high expectations, I have seen this student continue to progress and learn.
You recently completed your first week of solo student teaching! How did you prepare for your first week of student teaching?
In preparation for my first week of student teaching, I first mentally envisioned it. I asked myself “What am I going to do Monday?” What am I going to do Tuesday?” I thought about the week’s goals. I read the articles and essays, and worked through them myself to see what I wanted my students to learn and to know the ends of outs of my lesson. I looked at the words in the articles and thought about the questions my students might have. Then after writing my lesson plans, I practiced. I practiced in front of and with other teachers at my school. I practiced at home by myself. I put in a lot of time preparing for the week because I wanted to make sure that I was setting up my students for a successful week.
What were you nervous about?
Since I was introducing a new learning concept, I was worried that my students would not understand. I was afraid that at the end of a lesson, I would hear crickets when I asked “Ok, everyone what does blank mean?”
The good news? I didn’t hear crickets! All of the preparation paid off, and my students understood the concept and they retained the information learned. Later in the week, they were able to tell me what they learned on Monday and how the concept they learned helped them in that day’s lesson.
What lessons have you learned and/or will do differently in your upcoming weeks of student teaching?
When I make a lesson plan, I write down how long each task will take and when I should move on from one part of the lesson to the next. During my first week of student teaching, I found myself taking more time to do one part of the lesson and then having to hurry and explain the next part. Also, sometimes students would take longer to write a paragraph then I thought or other factors like changing classes or calling roll took longer than I anticipated. During the next week of student teaching, I will build in more time in some areas and then try to stick to my lesson times and maximize the time in parts of the lessons that students might need more practice.