Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Fond Farewell Reflection on a Successful and Engaging Semester

It truly is saddening to know that this is my final blog post for the semester, and for this class. I have certainly enjoyed reflecting on my readings and class assignments and activities throughout the  semester. In fact, I think reflecting has become one of my new favorite hobbies! Reflecting on concepts and experiences seems to help me understand more. Also, reflecting on a nature observation each week was very enlightening, as it provided me with an opportunity to take a break from studying and de-stress and relax for a moment or two. I will continue to observe nature, as this helped me "breathe" during times of difficulty or immense stress. 

When I first began blogging, I admit, I was slightly nervous and skeptical. However, now I see the freedom and great tools blogging can offer to an individual. Blogging has become a very natural process for me, as I enjoy finding articles or interesting videos to share with others who may stop and read my blog, and it is fun and relaxing to write freely about my thoughts and opinions on topics or ideas. Blogging is also a great way to communicate with others via the Internet, and share or express various opinions and ideas with one another. 

What I enjoyed most during this class, were the collaborative and engaging science activities and projects. I am extremely grateful and appreciative that I was able to experience such a creative teacher, such as Dr. Smirnova, this semester. Dr. Smirnova provided us with activities to accomplish that we could someday utilize in our own classrooms. I believe having us get involved and actually doing the projects and activities, such as the science circus, allowed us to see the benefits of implementing theses teaching methods and interactive activities in our own classroom in the future. Although we had read about the process of inquiry learning and investigation, constructing a science circus in the classroom, and the benefits of a jigsaw activity, I believe our eyes were opened so much more to the true power and ideas behind these activities while actually designing and doing them ourselves. For example, simply using inquiry to investigate the popping of a balloon with a pin, or predicting and testing which object (the wood, the metal ) would float or sink, collecting the data, compiling it into a data chart, and then concluding and analyzing our findings made me realize how important inquiry is to science learning in the classroom. Using inquiry in these investigations allowed our group to investigate science concepts in an orderly and constructive manner that led us to carry out a successful investigation and experiment. The science circus activity helped us see the benefits the students would be provided with as they could travel from station to station, again using inquiry to explore more than one science concept. Through the science circus, students can be introduced to many science concepts during one set period of time, and they also can learn wonderful organization skills. Finally, the jigsaw activity provided me with the realization that the highest level of learning is teaching, and that there simply does not have to be just one teacher in the classroom, but many. Each student became an expert on his or her Kingdom to both discuss and collaborate with the other experts who had the same assigned Kingdom to share any additional ideas or facts found, and then returned to their home group to teach the other students what he or she learned and discovered about that particular kingdom. By doing this activity, I feel as though I truly did learn a lot about each of the five kingdoms, and that peers often learn the best from each other. This method of peer teaching helps keeps students more motivated and interested in the topic or task, and students often feel a great sense of responsibility and excitement to teach the other students both accurate and well-presented information about their topic.  
I will certainly utilize all of the various collaborative strategies discussed in my classroom in the future. Collaboration is a key skill that students need to develop over time in order to be successful overall in the future, and collaboration and a team effort can help students achieve a goal with great success. 

Until I actually sat down and reflected about what I had observed, done, and accomplished during my time at Bishop Dunn Memorial School, I was unaware of how much both myself and my fifth grade student learned during our time together. I can imagine that many of the fifth grade students may have been nervous or apprehensive about working with older, college-age students. However, they certainly appeared to open up immediately.
Perhaps, my favorite aspect about this fieldwork experience was that we were given the opportunity to teach and implement a lesson to the entire 5th grade class. Usually, we are allowed to work in small groups with students (about 3 or 4) and teach lessons and modified lessons within these small, intimate groups; however, I feel that only teaching small groups of students will not successfully prepare future teachers for teaching large groups of students. Therefore, I am extremely glad and grateful that I was provided with the opportunity to have the opportunity to teach an entire class of fifth grade students by implementing an inquiry-based science activity. I now feel more prepared to teach science in the future to students, as I now know the importance of incorporating hands-on, active learning experiences in which the student needs to solve or investigate a problem using the steps of inquiry.

In addition, reflecting on my experience and teaching abilities has provided me with my own constructive feedback to improve my skills and strategies during my next teaching and fieldwork experience. For example, I feel as though I need to shorten my anticipatory set time, and more clearly define the roles of each student during the investigation to help it move along more quickly. Also, I should rely on an attention-grabbing technique, such as clapping my hands or asking for all eyes on me, in order to refocus students when necessary and support more order and structure in the classroom. 

The E-Folio project was very different from what I am accustomed to, however, I was very pleased with its outcome. The e-folio included creativity, design, and freedom, and enabled me to present my assignments and accomplishments from throughout the semester in a very organized and professional manner. Instead of simply examining one aspect of what I have learned throughout the semester (such as what a test does), the e-folio takes into account all I have accomplished and demonstrates how far I have progressed on my journey. For example, while presenting our e-folios to the class, I immediately noticed how very different our e-folios are, but they were all still so excellent. Therefore, this is a perfect example of how important creation is to assessment. In particular, I truly enjoyed both Amy's and Nicole's e-folios. It is evident that they put a great deal of time and dedication into their organization and creation of their e-folios.I hope to be able to show future potential employees my e-folio, and hopefully they too will appreciate all of my hard work and effort. 

This course, overall, has allowed me to develop, most importantly, my own science teaching philosophy, and an idea of how I want to teach and what I will do when I am a teacher. Before taking this course, I unfortunately never gave much thought to inquiry; however, now I see it as an essential component to all classrooms. Science should not even be learned without inquiry and engaging experiences! Therefore, as a teacher, I hope to be engaging, caring, persevering, dedicated, understanding, engaging, actively involving students, challenging students, providing authentic and active experiences that involve inquiry in my classroom, and I will differentiate instruction. Knowing what kind of teacher I wish to become like in the future will help me stay on task and reach my goals. 

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