April 2014 Archives

5 Tips from a Novice Student Teacher: Amy Nelson

By Gabrielle Cordero on April 15, 2014 1:22 PM

a picture of Amy Nelson Student Teacher

By Guest Author: Amy Nelson

5 Tips from a Novice Student Teacher

Accept the Awkward

There are going to be MANY uncomfortable and awkward moments during your student teaching year. Embrace them, laugh about them, and learn from them. Nothing can really prepare you for the moment when you are staring at a room full of 35 seventh graders, and somebody tells you that you have spilt coffee down your white shirt and didn't even notice. You will have moments when you simply don't know what to say or can't recall the brilliant point you'd planned on making. Student teaching is a time when you can make mistakes, you won't be perfect. In fact, I've learned the most from the lessons I created that didn't work out whatsoever. So when you're "onstage" and the lesson doesn't turn out like a clip from Freedom Writers... just roll it.

Work with Your Mentor

One of the first things my mentor told me was that picking a student teacher is like picking a roommate or a spouse. Having a good relationship with your mentor truly makes a huge difference in your experience. Your mentor is there to coach and guide you: ask them questions, admit defeat and confusion, talk to them about what you're doing well and what you need to work on. Don't be offended when they offer you constructive criticism about your instructional approaches. RELY on your mentor, for they are there to support you in every situation, a.k.a. when the class has gotten out of control and you have absolutely no idea how to quiet them down before the principal walks in.

Get to Know Your Students

This seems obvious, but as a novice teacher it is easy to get caught up in the chaos of prepping for your next class, remembering how to work the copy machine at break, trying to find the assignments for a student who hasn't been to class in two weeks, etc. Make it a goal to just talk to your students when time permits--ask them about their lives and what is going on in their world. Just the other day I noticed while putting in grades that Lilly, a quiet student who doesn't "hide" from me nor shout out and demand my attention, has been performing exceptionally well during my "Outsiders" unit. Sometimes I get so caught up with interacting with the students who require so much attention, that I don't get to check in with the students who don't beg to be noticed. I made sure to approach Lilly at her desk the next day and tell her that I have seen how well she has been doing, and that I was really proud of her. The smile that stretched across her face sent chills down my arms--she beamed with pride and it surprised me how just that one comment meant so much to her. You are the teacher, but you will learn so much from your students... so talk to them.

a picture of Amy Nelson Student Teacher

Make a Name for Yourself

Student teaching isn't a time to be shy. Talk to the other teachers and administrators at your school, there is no better time to observe the teaching styles and techniques of others. Ask educators why they got into the profession. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and be the student teacher who is always shaking people's hands and roaming around campus.

Remember Why You Want to Teach

During your student teaching you will be completely stressed out, overwhelmed, and unsure of yourself--it's okay. You will have one million things to do: papers to write, projects to make, and essays to grade, but be sure to take time for yourself. Take a deep breath and remind yourself why you want to be a teacher. There have been many days where I've felt like I'm doing a horrible job and question whether or not I have what it takes to be an English teacher. Days like that happen, but then, a student tells me that I'm their favorite teacher -or--someone spells the correct form of "your" and "you're" on their essay and I know that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. It is easy to get caught up in the stress of it all, but remember that the kids are what make it all worth it in the end... teaching is truly a joy.

Activist Dolores Huerta rouses crowd at SSU during social justice lecture

By Lina Raffaelli on April 10, 2014 1:12 PM

There are not many women in their eighties who have the gusto and vivaciousness to rouse a crowd of a thousand faces, not only inspiring their audience but eliciting a mixture of laughter and serious reflection; Dolores Huerta is a rare exception.

On March 27 Huerta, activist and co-founder of the United Farmworkers Union, spoke at Sonoma State as part of the H. Andréa Neves and Barton Evans Social Justice Lecture Series.

The evening kicked off in The HUB, SSU's multicultural center, where Huerta spoke directly with students in an intimate and open discussion about her life and work as an organizer. Students asked thought provoking questions and sought advice for young people who desire to organize and work towards social justice in their own communities.

She later spoke in the Student Center ballroom, an event that sold-out at just over 1,000 tickets, distributed to high school and college students, community members, and faculty. Huerta covered a variety of topics, such as women rights, workers right, and marriage equality. She emphasized the importance of organizing and empowering people to make a change. "Poor people don't often think they have any power." She explained how, alongside Cesar Chavez, she helped spread a grassroots movement towards workers rights by visiting the homes of farmworkers and speaking to them face to face. 

She also strongly encouraged the audience to go see "Cesar Chavez," the feature film directed by Diego Luna, which was set to hit theaters the following day. "If enough people go and see the film, maybe we can show Hollywood that these kinds of films are important, and maybe we will see more like them in the future," said Huerta, who is portrayed in the film by Rosario Dawson.

By the end of the evening Huerta had 1,000 attendees on their feet chanting "SÍ, se puede!" a phrase that she famously coined during the farmworkers movement. She arroused and inspired the crowd, chanting "who has the power?" with a sea of booming voices shouting in response: "WE have the power!"

Student Angelica Shubbie said she loved how engaging Huerta was during her lecture. "She showed her passion, wisdom, and hope, which was inspiring to witness in person." said Shubbie. "Although her main focus is on Farm Labor Unions, it's amazing to see her work towards human rights for everyone!"

Join the conversation on Facebook

Slideshow by Gabrielle Cordero

Survival Tips from a Student Teacher by Single Subject Candidate Travis Pappa

By Gabrielle Cordero on April 8, 2014 1:27 PM

a picture of Travis Pappa Student Teacher

By Guest Author: Travis Pappa

5 Ways to Make your Student Teaching Effective, Enjoyable and Fulfilling

Form a Positive Relationship with Your Mentor Teacher

This may come very naturally or it may take some intentional effort on your part. Chances are, you probably won't agree with everything your mentor teacher says or does, nevertheless, do your best to understand their point of view and the experiences they have had (namely, their teaching experience that caused them to adapt the procedures or habits they have). While you may find yourself eager for the freedom of your first year of teaching solo, take advantage of the ideas, constructive critique (as humbling as it may be, it will be worth it!), perspective, advice and anecdotes that years of experience have yielded your mentor teacher. Developing a sense of teamwork and camaraderie with your mentor teacher can be of great value to both you and your students.

Read Articles and Books Related to Education that Interest You

Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov has been one of my favorite reads during my time as a student teacher because of the practical and easily implemented teaching techniques it describes. Ask your mentor teacher for reading recommendations since it is likely they have established a personal library of education-related readings. Books and articles provide a great point of conversation between educated individuals (such as you and your mentor teacher) and are certainly a catalyst for creativity during your lesson planning.

a picture of Travis Pappa Student Teacher

Greet the Students Who May Feel Overlooked or Unnoticed in Class

While student teaching, I was surprised to find that I had at least two students each period who would try to be as unnoticeable (by teachers and/or students) as possible. I challenged myself to greet each of these students personally and consistently at the beginning of each class period - even if it was a simple: "Good morning, Irvin, I'm glad you're here today." Although one of my students wanted to keep their interactions with me limited to this, over the following three weeks, most of these quiet students began to change their classroom behavior. Most of these students who were once shy and quiet began to be more alert and active in class. These students also began to hold conversations with me (during and after class!) and even began smiling more frequently during the period. It was an enjoyable lesson in how intentionality and consistency go a long way for the students who are accustomed to being overlooked.

Listen More, Talk Less

The more I teach, the more I am reminded that I become a better teacher by listening: talking with other educators in my content area, formal student feedback, informal student feedback and reading works by published educators. Ironically, the best teachers seem do a great deal of listening. High school students have an average "lecture attention span" of 14-18 minutes, which means that a teacher should spend most of a class period not addressing the entire class. There are a plethora of ways students can learn content aside from lecture (and a substantial amount of research-based methods and materials to do so). Save your voice for when it's needed and spend time circulating your classroom, talking with students and conducting thoughtful formative assessments on how your students are understanding the material. Often, the less I talk, the more meaningful my words are to my students.

Remind Yourself of the Reasons You Want to be a Teacher

No matter how good of an imagination you have, teaching looks, feels and is much different than you ever imagined. Inevitably, there will be days when you will feel you don't have what it takes to be a teacher. After some pizza, chocolate, or a power nap, take some time to remind yourself of why you want to be a teacher. There were likely multiple things that inspired you to pursue this profession and it is important to remind yourself of such inspiration on the days that discourage you. After that, create opportunities that allow you to enjoy your favorite parts of teaching.

The Accelerating Academic Achievement for English Learners (AAAEL) Project is a five-year, teacher-centered professional development project funded by the U.S. Department of Education that is focused on improving English Learner (EL) student achievement in mathematics, science and English language arts.

SSU discussion commemorates upcoming Brown v. Board of Education 60th anniversary

By Gabrielle Cordero on April 2, 2014 3:25 PM

May 17, 2014 will mark the 60th anniversary of the historical Brown v. the Board of Education decision. The upcoming anniversary presents the educational community with a moment to re-evaluate race relations today. It is a time to analyze how much education and race in America have transformed since the U.S Supreme Court's decision, as the SSU community joined to discuss on February 19th.


(From left to right: Professors Erma-Jean Sims, Steve Estes & Kim Hester-Williams

As an institution that recognizes the importance of diversity and education, Sonoma State engaged a panel discussion organized by SSU librarian Karen Brodsky. Speakers included History professor Steve Estes, English and American Multicultural Studies (AMCS) professor Kim Hester-Williams and Erma Jean Sims, professor of Education. Each professor offered insights on the subject through the lens of their professional expertise.

For those who need an update, Brown vs. Board was an important landmark case by the Supreme Court that discontinued the legality of racial segregation in U.S. public schools.

Erma Jean Sims focused on the development and causes of resegregation, explaining how racial issues persist in American society. Along with resegregation, there are economic issues some have to endure, "Resegregation by race usually leads to further segregation by income, which has far-reaching effects on the quality of housing, and quality of education," said Sims, "Racially segregated schools are almost always schools with high concentrations of poverty."

Kim Hester-Williams examined black rights today by prefacing with an excerpt from Toni Morrison's The Dancing Mind, and followed with the powerful painting of Ruby Bridges by Norman Rockwell. Williams added that the incident of Ruby Bridges, entering her first day of first grade, came a mere six years after the Brown v. Board decision.

ruby bridges

Norman Rockwell's "Ruby Bridges" painting

The painting served as an example of how racism prevails in American society. Although America has taken legal matters to protect the rights and education of minorities in America, it seems that diverging interests undermine Brown decisions, as Hester-Williams explained. She pulled into question the extent of progressivism for black rights today and how far American society still has to go.

Steve Estes concluded with his historical knowledge on the matter, detailing how Brown vs. Board inspired movements such as the Grassroots Movement. The audience was given an overview from Plessy to Brown to the 2000's, to help examine issues such as gentrification today. With higher income families migrating back to the cities, audience members learned that segregation is being created within schools. Thus creating an insufficient and inferior education for the Black and Latino youth.

As a conclusion to the discussion, the panel opened to a group discussion. Eager participants from the audience questioned how they could help make changes in the community. From remarks and inputs, the professors and members of the audience offered more active recruitment from the campus.

The group brought attention to the University and ways the SSU community can be an active part resolving racial issues in education. Fellow participants offered that University, itself, could begin recruiting a more diverse faculty and becoming more involved. The discussion served as a first step to realizing the needs in education in terms of race.

Maker Day in Marin Showcases How Teachers and Students Integrate Creativity and Science

By Pamela Van Halsema on April 2, 2014 9:11 AM

The MAKER Movement has taken hold in many schools around Northern California. Over the last several years interest in the grass roots MAKER Movement has grown. MAKER Fairs around the world have attracted hundreds of thousands of people. Now MAKER is beginning to spill into schools and be used by innovative teachers seeking to provide engaging, hands-on, authentic learning experiences in Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics.  

You can find out what MAKER is all about the 1st annual MAKER Day on April 12 at the Marin County Office of Education.See how the future is being imagined,invented, designed, programmed, and manufactured by Marin County students.Meet the MAKERS and have fun with the hands-on exhibits. Everyone is welcome--teachers, kids, families and more-- and it's free! HERE to register.

GO Green and ride your bike to MAKER Day on April 12. Valet bike parking courtesy of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition!

The Marin County Office of Education and partners Autodesk, Microsoft, Edutopia, Intel Clubhouse, Marin County Bicycle Coalition, Lego Play-Well, Buck Institute for Education, and Bay Area Science Festival are hosting MAKER Day on April 12, from 10:00-4:00 at the Marin County Office of Education, 1111 Las Gallinas Avenue, San Rafael. Experience the excitement, creativity, genius and the "do it yourself" ingenuity of our students. More info at http://make.marinschools.org.

The School of Education encourages both pre-service and in-service teachers to take advantage of this opportunity to see how schools are incorporating the MAKER mindset in their classrooms.