Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rachel K. Art Class

The art classes at BFD Elementary School are taught by its "resident artist," Julie Clownfish (the name has been changed to protect the banality of her actual surname). She dresses in cute, fun-pattern skirts, clompy platform sandals, and large hipster glasses. She plays Lady Gaga or Journey on her iPhone while the students utilize their creativity. Ms. Clownfish (this surname seems more befitting now that I think about it) gets the attention of her class by singing, "A-B-C," to which the children chime in, "1-2-3!" For the older classes, she reaches back into one of my favorite rap songs, saying, "Can I get a woop woop?" and the children raise the roof as they reply, "woop woop!" Amazing.

After spending a couple of weeks observing Ms. Clownfish's different classes, I finally got a chance to speak with her one-on-one. She, like me, hails from the East Coast (West Virginia, to be precise). She wanted to live in a more progressive area and Seattle won her over in the end. She told me that she used to teach other subjects besides art. She's taught just about everything, from 5th grade classroom teaching to 8th grade social studies. She told me that after doing middle school for awhile, she had to take a year off just to recuperate. Yipes.

Her advice to me, when it comes to getting certified in either elementary or secondary education, is generally the same as the advice I've gotten from my friend, Natanya, who is also going into the educator certification business. They both have said that it's easier to get a general, elementary school certification for teaching all subjects. After that, it's easier to, "find a niche" and collect endorsements for specific criteria that I'd be interested in teaching: Japanese, ELL, etc.

So, while I'm not interested in teaching elementary school art classes, I'm glad I've gotten a chance to see how they are run: and to meet Ms. Clownfish.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rachel K. Philanthropy

I've been volunteering at BFD Elementary school for a week now! I've been wanting to blog about the experience there as a volunteer, but I have to be discreet when it comes to using names and stuff. So, BFD Elementary it is!

I got connected with the volunteer coordinator through a website of public schools in King County, which was sent to me by one of the people who organizes the masters in teaching program through the University of Washington. It was a really awesome resource -- I hadn't known that volunteering at an elementary, middle or high school was so easy. Plus, the school that I'm volunteering at was really eager to put me to work! So, I've started a schedule of three hours every day helping two students individually (one with math, one with English) and I shadow and observe two different 5th grade classes after the individual lessons. It has been an invaluable experience to see how public schools in the area function.

I can tell volunteers are paltry at this school. On my first day, they sat me down with a girl from Thailand (let's call her Sue) who speaks almost no English and can barely read or write. Me? Seriously? Sure I've taught English, but I taught it in Japan with an over-structured curriculum and seasoned teachers who could explain all the pains of English away in their own language! I am not qualified nor confident enough in ELL (English language learning) to teach this girl. Sike, j/k -- I'm teaching her anyway. PUBLIC SCHOOL, MOTHERTRUCKERS! So, now Sue's English capabilities have fallen to me, which is ridiculous. On the bright side, she's cheerful and seems to like me enough that she tries to focus on the boring stories in the English learners' booklets. Did you know you can buy pets at a pet store? Life lessons learned. Anyway, I'm bamboozled beyond belief that I have been given so much responsibility for this 5th grader's language abilities, but I've been told that, "if not for you, she'd be getting no attention." Eep.

More befitting of my level of pedagogy, I am helping a ridiculous 4th grade boy (who I shall call Shawn) with his math. Is he bad at math? NOPE -- he's a whiz. He just happens to be a whiz with attention deficit hyperactive disorder, or as its known to its fans, ADHD! I like to imagine that ADHD is like having a carnival in your brain all day. Sure, you could do the math on the page, but THEY'RE PASSING OUT COTTON CANDY BY THE HAUNTED HOUSE! What? I'm supposed to write a definition of a convex polygon? Sure, let me see -- OH BUT WAIT! THEY'RE STARTING UP THE FERRIS WHEEL! Yep.  So, after a week of working with Shawn, I've finally discovered a way to keep him on track (by which I mean keep him from drawing stick figures being blown up, hanged, boiled in acid, decapitated, defenestrated, or mangled by bears in the margins of his workbook). STOP WATCHES. Behold the power of the stopwatch! Every page is a race! A race against TIME! Sure you want to draw stick figures getting their heads bitten off by vampire bats, but THERE'S NO TIME! QUICK! NAME THE POLYGON! FIND THE QUOTIENT! Seriously -- stop watches and candy seem to equate to success: and you won't find that in your math book.

Aside from my two individual human case studies, I get to shadow the rest of the fifth graders in their art classes. Self portraits! It's such a fun class, but I think I'll talk more about it later on. For now, it's date night and I have to straighten the mass of curls that my  hair has morphed into. I blame the rain.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rachel K. Goal-setting

To make this entry less ridiculous, I've decided to paste an e-mail I wrote to my family about the progress I've been making in the past few weeks with regards to teaching and whatnot.

Herro family,

SO there have been some developments in the misadventures of your daughter/granddaughter/niece/nephew/surrogate/shoe elf.

Firstly, I have been trying to get my grad school/life plan/job applications all organized and together. Right now they exist in a huge time line on the dining room wall. I think it compliments the room, personally.

So here are the goals... this is easier to send in an email than to explain anyway.

Jobs etc:
I have a phone interview with UCDS on April 28th. It's a private elementary school that Mo used to attend and they hire resident teachers, who are basically assistant teachers, every year. I hope to be one of them! The job would offer me about $30k as a salary with some compensation for health benefits. It would start right after summer camp and go up until next summer, so it would be the full on elementary classroom experience. I hope they hire me because I would like to have a full time job again someday.

 Volunteer Work:
As of tomorrow, I am starting at BFD Elementary School as a volunteer for two fifth grade classrooms helping out with math work. I'll be there from 9am until 12:30pm every week day from now until the end of school in early June. They seem really great there and I know I will learn a lot about how to become a teacher if I get to work with REAL ones and with other volunteers and student teachers. It's a public school, so it's good to see the differences between those and the private school that I applied to work for next year. I love the diversity at this school so far -- it's 60% minority, making it 160% less Japanese than my last school (or some non-apocryphal %). I'll let you know how that goes when I start tomorrow!

Grad School:
So far I haven't really applied to any graduate schools. Although, I did go to a q&a a session about the masters in teaching program that they have at UW. The program is two years long: the first year is courses and classroom experience and the second year is student teaching with minimal campus time to check in with mentors and supervisors. I would come out of this program with a residency certification (allowing me to teach in WA state) and I would attain my masters after the second year of student teaching. So, that would be ideal.
The only challenge to that program (the MIT) is that I need the following to be eligible:
  • 60 hours or more of classroom observation time (which is why I am doing the volunteer work). 
  • 6 prerequisite courses (which I would have to complete as a non-matriculated student, online or at night at community colleges before August 2011) 
  • The regular letters of recommendation, goal statement, resume, etc. for the application itself. They're allowing me to transfer my application from this year to next year for no extra cost (Huzzah!) 
  • taking and passing two state certification exams; the West-E and the West-B, which are for elementary school certification.
  • No GRE. God is laughing at me.
So the challenges for this program are mostly going to come down to me figuring out how to complete that many prerequisite courses within the next year! It sounds expensive and if I get the UCDS job, I'm not sure I would be up to the challenge since I would already have a full time job teaching. Though, it's something to think about and although the application for this job is due Sept 17, 2010, they allow you the rest of the year to find out if you got into the MIT program and to complete your prereq. studies between then and 2011, which is somewhat helpful.

As for other grad schools, I have a few in mind that I am going to apply for during the summertime. They have some teacher certification courses (no masters) and masters programs as well. If don't get the job with UCDS, I will look into ways to get some kind of certification while taking courses for the MIT program at UW. The downside is that I would likely have to get a part time job somewhere else to keep up with rent and study costs and food... things like that.
The Rest
Aside from all this craziness, I am trying to study for the GRE, which I will have on May 26th -- ready or not. I don't feel overly confident, but I also just want to get it over with so I can study for other things. I also need to eventually study for the WEST-E and WEST-B exams, although those will be a lot easier and less ridiculous.

Kevin and I have decided to visit Laura and Tristyn in LA at the end of the month to quasi celebrate our half-anniversary. Also, it's a good excuse to get out of Seattle for a while! Then I'll be traveling to San Francisco at the very beginning of June to visit Natanya and Amy, who live there, and to go to my iD Tech camp training seminar at UC Berkeley. I'm looking forward to that since I've never really gotten to explore San Francisco! And let us not forget, I will be spending a brief few days in Boston for Laura's graduation from Emerson. Bring on the Dunkin' Donuts and the funny accents!

I have a lot of work to do when it comes to the camp this summer. I haven't even opened my handbook, and I know I have a lot to read as far as being the asst. director goes. It's hard to make that a priority when there is so much else going on, but it's always in the back of my mind. That and refreshing myself on all the programs I might have to teach if the camp doesn't always have 60+ kids and I have to relegate myself to being an actual instructor again (oh no!) Oh well, the thought of a decent salary and free breakfast, lunch and dinner compensate my worries for now.

Kumon tutoring continues and remains totally awesome.
This completes my life outline to date.

Questions or comments are welcomed and can be directed to to our Life Coordinator, Rachel Sreebny.

Best Wishes,

Rachel's Brain & Friends