My sole intention was to earn extra money by occasional substitute teaching. I was encouraged by a friend to apply at a school district in Sacaton, Arizona; which is the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC). In August of 2014, I stopped by the middle school to introduce myself. I had just left the district office where I completed the necessary paperwork to substitute teach at the elementary or the middle school.
Today, I am teaching 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts in the same classroom I served as a long-term substitute for about 4 months. I knew I wanted to stay there on my first day. The teacher that started the year with this class had been there for a few years. A couple weeks after school began, she accepted an opportunity to teach at the community college level.
By December 10, 2014, I was provisionally certified to teach secondary English Language Arts. Although I had earned both a Bachelor of Science and Master’s Degree in Business Management, to become fully certified, I would be required to complete the Teaching Internship program. With the help of the Instruction Coach, I was gently eased into my responsibilities. I had a tremendous amount of support and each day I improved my teaching skills and became more passionate about the students I am teaching.
The students I encountered needed so much from me. My lack of formal training was apparent when it came to preparing lesson plans, a strategy for instruction, and managing the behaviors in the classroom. The one area I felt fairly confident in was developing and maintaining rapport with the individual students. This would benefit me in the long-run and buy me the time I needed to improve in the three areas noted.
I advise teachers who are entering a secondary English classroom setting to be prepared to really get to know the students. They are facing such a critical time period in their lives. They are no longer little ones and yet they aren’t quite adults. They are facing seemingly insurmountable circumstances at times that they aren’t able to audibly explain. Their emotions are driven by relationships and family systems that aren’t always positive.
Beginning teachers must be able to plan and provide a set of learning opportunities that offer access to crucial concepts and skills for all students. The first thing a teacher must do to design an effective classroom is to create a conducive learning environment that supports students’ engaged learning and meaningful instruction (Choy, Wong, Lim, & Chong, 2013). Accessing the students background knowledge, planning a lesson that reaches those students and assessing their progress along the way is critical in helping those students to grow in the skill sets needed to be successful in the future as an adult (Whitsett & Hubbard, Summer, 2009).
In the latter decades of the 20th Century, as US populations became more racially, ethnically and economically diverse, researchers also recognized that diversity encompassed factors such as learning styles (Angus & DeOliveira, 2012). When lesson planning for a diverse population this must be considered.
Beginning teachers must understand what the expected curriculum goals and outcomes are for students and what resources are needed in order to accomplish the goals. They need to understand how the curriculum they teach fits into the larger department or school curriculum and ultimately the national standards (Choy, Wong, Lim, & Chong, 2013). While meeting expectations are critical, learning to differentiate based upon the students specific background, cultural values, and learning style (Whitsett & Hubbard, Summer, 2009). Your English Language Learning (ELL) students require this for certain.
I quickly learned to rely on creative measures to provide the necessary background knowledge my students needed to comprehend what the textbook lessons meant. My students are all Native Americans. There is no racial diversity in my classroom unless I am counted. Although my classroom is not diverse, the world around my students is much more diverse.
I use multiliteracies, which recognizes both the increasing cultural and linguistic diversity in the new globalized society and the new variety of text forms from multiple communicative technologies. There is also the need for new skills to operate successfully in the changing literate and increasingly diversified social environment (Boche, 2014). I suggest new teacher’s research all the various teaching strategies and design activities that optimize equitable learning (Whitsett & Hubbard, Summer, 2009).
Classroom Management (concern with keeping students engaged)
Beginning teachers must possess the skill of organizing a classroom which provides an orderly environment that increases academic engaged time and decreases distractions (Choy, Wong, Lim, & Chong, 2013). Who knew that your organization (structure and procedures) would be the secret to your success in maintaining discipline? I struggled the most in this area because I wanted the students to just “do as I say, when I say it” and all would be in order. It certainly does not work that way! This age group must be entertained/engaged at all times.
Engaging students with symbol systems, including images, sound and music, as a means of self-expression and communication, as they are now an integral part of contemporary life (Shoffner, De Oliveira, & Angus, 2010) is critical. Once I understood and put this into practice, my classroom became much more managed. Other teachers were amazed at how quickly the students bonded with me and behaved in my classroom.
Beginning teachers who seek to be effective in the classroom are able to demand and care, support as they challenge, and provide for collaborative and individual learning experiences (Heckendorn, Summer 2006). Across the nation, educators continue to face challenges as they work to individualize instruction to meet the specific needs of their students (Vaughn & Faircloth, N.D.) My initial success in the classroom was founded upon a gut instinct to build relationships with individual students and creatively meet their educational needs while keeping with the textbook curriculum. Any educator who has a vision to see students succeed, plans and prepares accordingly will also succeed in the end.
Angus, R., & DeOliveira, L. C. (2012). Diversity in secondary English classrooms: Conceptions and enactments. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 7-18.
Boche, B. (2014). Multiliteracies in the classroom: Emerging conceptions of first-year teachers. Journal of Language an Literacy Education [Online], 114-135. Retrieved from http://jolle.coe.uga.edu
Choy, D., Wong, A. F., Lim, K. M., & Chong, S. (2013). Beginning Teachers’ Perceptions of their Pedagogical Knowledge and Skills in Teaching: A Three Year Study. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 68-79.
Heckendorn, R. (Summer 2006). Building on the Three Rs of Professionalism. Kappa Delta Pi Record, pp. 152-153.
Shoffner, M., De Oliveira, L. C., & Angus, R. (2010, December). Multiliteracies in the secondary English classroom; Becoming literate in the 21st century. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, pp. 75-89.
Vaughn, M., & Faircloth, B. (n.d.). Teaching With a Purpose in Mind: Cultivating a Vision.
Whitsett, G., & Hubbard, J. (Summer, 2009). Supporting English Language Learners n the Elementary and Secondary Classrooms: How to Get Started. SRATE Journal, 41-47