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Final Reflection

After volunteering at Sunny Crest, I have learned a lot about the school, the students, the teachers and most importantly myself. It was a great experience being a part of a big family, where I felt like teachers and staff cared about their students. I’ve never seen so many people just volunteering for a very long time (not students from Highline College). Some people have volunteered there for ten years. I was very surprised how dedicated and caring those people are. They were sacrificing their time and energy with no reward.

I was happy to be part of Sunny Crest and learn a lot for myself. There were challenging and joyful moments during my experience. Some areas for improvement for me would be practicing on my voice projection. I have this fear inside of me that I have to leave behind when going forward towards my goal of becoming a teacher. I am working on my voice projection already. In addition, I need to practice and learn more about English language. I say that because I want to become an ELL teacher. I feel like I can be more fruitful in this area even though I still need to learn a lot. However, my experience moving from one country to another can support me in this area of teaching. Another way that I can improve is finding better ways of managing classroom and my students’ behavior. I want to make my classroom fun and full of learning experience for my students, so at the end of the day they can remember something bright and memorable.

There are lots of areas for improvement for me, however some strengths that I had on the way was making those close relationships with students. I have noticed that if I just played with them when they asked or read a book with them, they feel like I am not far away even though I am an adult. They fell like they can trust me and become friends with me. As my lead teacher always calls her students “my friends”. I felt comfort and welcomed by the classroom and it didn’t feel so stressful even the first day.

I am also thankful for the students and teacher I had. I have never thought that I would experience a great classroom that we had learned before in real and practical way. The students were very open to me and liked to learn every day. At the end of this quarter I can say that I have made some close relationships with many of my students. Not only students were open and caring, but my lead teacher was very helpful all the time. I liked that she was open and we had times to chat and talk about my assignments and I could ask her questions about her experience being a teacher. It is her only third year being a teacher at this school but I really see that it is her passion and talent – working with kids, especially kids with needs.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone who had been with me on this journey. I had great experience with all students in practicum class. I hope you guys had a great experience during this quarter and will continue working towards this career! thankyou

What makes Finland special?

For this blog, I chose to research more about why Finland schools are so successful? What makes them so special? I read a blog from an American math teacher who went to Finland for a research assignment. She pointed out many things that make Finland schools so successful. One of the big reasons is that in Finland education less equals more, meaning that having less topics yet adding more depth to each topic. Here in United States it is a different mentality, having more assignments, more homework, more testing and more topics will benefit our students. When on the other side, Finland believes that having less testing and topics, but having in depth learning will benefit students more. Finland schools are number one schools in the world because of this reason. Their culture is built on having less things but high quality things. They try to teach students less but they do it in depth and with high quality. Same with students, when doing small amount of assignment they have more time and quality put in to their work.

Not only do Finnish schools have less assignments and homework, they also have less testing. There is less pressure for teachers to go through the whole curriculum in fast pace, hoping that students have learned everything and are ready for big state’s tests. There is another huge problem with high stake tests, there too much of them in a year and teachers don’t have time to really teacher their students with real life lessons. Not only that, these tests create competition between students. In addition, these tests are not suitable for every student. There are immigrant students that have little or no knowledge of English and they still have to take the test anyway. Some students are not used to take stakes tests in such long and individual way.

Again, this idea “less=more” is visible in the amount of classes and breaks Finnish schools have. Finnish students have only three to four classes a day and in between those classes they have breaks and snack time, about 15-20 minutes for the students to break and digest the material learned during the lesson. Children need be physically active in order to make the blood flow to the brains and give time for the mind to rest. I have noticed that the higher you go up education and enter high school, there is less time for break. The longest break is during lunch and it is 30 minutes. However, there are six classes that each student takes and they are six hours in school. They have some time to refresh their brains, yet 3-5 minutes between classes is not enough.

I had good time researching and reading the blog of a math teacher and her experience being in Finland. Yet, there is a problem still left in our country, the school system needs to be change and hopefully we can get there because I want a bright future for all the students in this country.

https://fillingmymap.com/2015/04/15/11-ways-finlands-education-system-shows-us-that-less-is-more/

Common Core Standards or Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines

We have been talking with my lead teacher about common core materials and how they are put together. We came to conclusion that there are pros and cons to common core standards.

Here are her common core for kindergarten grade on math, writing, reading and science.

Math

  • Common Core Mathematics Number Pairs, Addition and Subtraction to 10 by Eureka Math a Story of Units, publisher – Jossey Bass A Wiley Brand

Writing

  • Persuasive Writing of All Kinds by Lucy Calkins and Elizabeth Dunford, publisher – Heinemann

Reading

  • Becoming Avid Readers by Lucy Calkins, Marjorie Martinelli and Christine Holley, publisher – Heinemann
  • IRLA: Independent Reading Level Assessment by American Reading Company 2015

Science

  • Ecosystems: Rainforests Standards – Based Integrated Unit with Science and ELA (including GLAD) by Federal Way Public Schools and Next Generation Science Standards

These curriculums are used by my lead teacher. She really likes the math, reading and writing curriculum but the science seemed really challenging to her. In addition, there will be added one more unit to science curriculum and kindergarteners will have three units of science in a year.

Common core standards provide clear goals for all students around United States and they are the same no matter where you live in the country. The common core provide collaboration within states. The Washington State Early Learning Plan was created in 2010 and was made for the residents who need help make sure all children in our state have what they need to succeed in school and life.

For the last part I watched a video called “The debate over Common Core” by CBS News. Some pros for the common core is that it is organized and it sets goals for all students. In addition, common core is all around United States which means students can live anywhere and still get the education that other students in other states get. However, some cons are that common core standards are too high and unrealistic. What students learn in classrooms (common core) is not the same thing as state’s tests. Students are not prepared and the standards are too high for everyone. This is a problem because common core standards try to fit and line up every student by these standards and not every student can fit in these high standards.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-debate-over-common-core/

Read Aloud

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I had a great chance to experience a read aloud in my lead teacher’s class. The book that I chose to read was “Pop-Up Sea Creatures Squirmy, Scary, Prickly Creatures from the Deep” by Sally Hewitt and Chris Gilvan-Cartwright (illustrator). I chose this book because me and the teacher wanted for the book to connect “All About” books students are writing right now. The book gave more insight into what type of creature there might be out there. In addition, I liked the illustration and pop-ups in the book, they attracted students’ attention and made it much easier for me to make them interested in this book.

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To prepare for my read aloud I practiced reading the book couple of times before that day. I looked up any unfamiliar words to be sure I know a lot about this book. I also practiced my intonation and pronunciation so kids are engaged and could understand me well.  When the time came for me to read the book during centers, I first waited for the group of students to sit on the carpet and make sure that they are looking at me. I introduced the cover of the book and then questioned the students on what does word “deep” mean in the title? Many students shared and I tried to sum up everyone’s answers into one definition. Then I opened the book, I gave time for students to spill out their “wow!” and “ah!” and then I began reading the words on the page. I tried to not look at the words too often so I could have an eye contact with students and express my feelings while reading. That is why knowing what you read ahead helps a lot, an eye contact with students makes them engaged and gives them a cue that you are watching them. After finishing one page I would ask couple questions about the creature and they would share. Sometimes students would interrupt me because they would get distracted by other centers in the class and I would show them that I am waiting for them with my book and mouth closed. This strategy really helped me and gave the students a reminder that I am not going to read a book over their talk.

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I learned that knowing the text before reading it helps 100% because I can focus on my expressions and look at the students and even use some gestures like I did in some parts. However, I would practice more on managing behavior during reading time because the behavior part might ruin the whole fun of the book. Yet, I had great time reading a book to those sweet kids and I would want to experience this again!

Guiding Behavior – Classroom Management

  1. Classroom management strategies:
  • The teacher turns on the song that helps students to clean up their toys after play time. The song is made specifically for that purpose for kids to clean up and quickly go to their seat to follow further directions. The teacher told me that students wouldn’t clean up after themselves before she found this song so she would restrict them from playing with toys. She liked the effect of this song on students’ participation in cleaning so she uses this song all the time. Here is the link for it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4uMyH0KsMkrobot song
  • The teacher also uses piggy bank where students as a classroom can earn dollars get an extra recess.

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  • My lead teacher and other kindergarten teachers made this thing where each classroom for their good behavior and productivity in class can add on a strip of paper to a chain that all kindergarten classes are doing. When they have at least 10 strips of paper on their paper chain they get otter pops.

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  • In my lead teacher’s classroom, we have a rug that is divided up in squares and each square is different color with an alphabet letter both in English and Spanish. The teacher uses this rug during lessons, every student has to sit crisscross on a single square. This way making a fun but an organized sitting chart.

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  1. Management of students’ behavior:
  • I often of times see how the teacher would positively reinforce good students’ behavior by pointing out particular parts of good behavior in students. Once, she was teaching a lesson and lots of students were not paying attention. However, there was one student who didn’t get distracted by other students talking around her. The teacher pointed out how she is appreciating her engagement in the lesson and she likes how her body is forward and eyes looking at her. For good behavior and productivity students individually might get a feather award where students get a prise.

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  • Additionally, the teacher might point out bad behavior of a student(s) in front of class giving couple of warnings before sending the student to his/her desk. She told me that students don’t like to be isolated from the whole group and this technique works on them.
  • I also see lots of teachers having this poster in their classrooms. IMG_8019

This poster guides students on their voice volume. I noticed my lead teacher use this pretty often especially when her students were introduced to silent reading. They never had done it before. She said that there should be 0 voice level during silent reading. Students did great during their first time of silent reading.

  1. Undesirable behavior incidents:
  • I remember last week there was a time for me to work with a little group on writing. One boy was distracting other students who were finishing up their writing. I gave him couple warnings and then I couldn’t give him any other warnings because other students were asking me for help. So, I went and told the lead teacher to take that student in her group to work because I couldn’t focus on helping other students. She took him in the group but restricted him from play time in the neighboring kindergarten classroom. The boy started crying and whining and he didn’t finish his writing. When students went on playing I sat with him and helped him finish his work, he was happy that I helped him and told him that he is doing good job.

School/Classroom Environment

Relationships

For this blog, I chose to explore more about relationships and rigor in my classroom.

Students grow in that classroom because of close relationships between them and the teacher. This class contains students that are behind kindergarten curriculum and this might be because they lack knowledge of English (ELL), disability or parents did not showed love towards learning and exploring. However, when I was counting numbers with students who struggle and can’t count to 100, I see huge progress in many of those students. I have been counting with them only 5-7 min twice a week. I see how students grow and I am a part of their growth. I would say that they wouldn’t have shown so much growth if there were no relationships between me and them. Many students got used to me and comfortable, this was a green light for me and I knew that they are ready to learn and do their best.

If students or their parents need any help, there are times for students to meet with their teachers and administrators. Students and parents can meet during parent conferences or student can ask any questions on their own. The teacher is very flexible, she is always ready to help me and talk to me when I ask her. Students in this classroom are welcomed to make learning material choices during lessons. Students are not forced to learn by the teacher, yet the teacher tries to make the environment fun for them to explore. This way students are not forced to sit and write notes and listen to lectures all the time but they have play time and hands on activities that are fun and full of learning experiences.

In addition, these kindergartners are happy to have all toys that their teacher provides them with and other learning materials. Students are respectful to what materials they have and there wasn’t any case of braking toys or other materials when I volunteered there. Not only do students have enough of materials for learning they also have enough seats for everybody. Each student has their own seat to sit on even though this class got overloaded in the middle of the year (new students came). We have 28 kindergartners now and everyone has a seat. Besides that, observers and staff members have enough seats to choose from. There are 4 adults including me and the teacher in the class.

The relationship between students and teachers are very close; students have time to talk and discuss any topics with each other or an adult. The teacher provides partner discussions and group discussions. Students are welcomed to talk to each other or to the teacher during appropriate times. In addition to that teachers are open to students and parents, I see variety of material presented in class that addresses each student. The teacher changes given material if it doesn’t suites students’ needs. The teacher is very accepting of her students and ready to change her lesson plan as long as students learn. Moreover, the materials that the teacher presents are respectful of others. The books that she reads does not suppress students. What I would recommend the teacher is to have more books about different ethnicities and cultures, books about different life problems so students can see variety of materials presented to them that support their lives. Plus, the materials that are presented by students or educators are learning oriented. Even toys that my classroom has to play during given time is promoting learning environment. Little kids learn through play, and taking away this time and materials at such an early age is taking away big part of their learning. Through play students engage with each other and socialize which is very important life skill.

Not only material support students’ learning in my classroom but parents that are around students. I see at least one parent involved in the child’s learning and this parent is always there every day, helping out all students. She doesn’t know a lot of English but she has done a lot for these kindergartners. However, not all parents care about their child’s success, there are those parents who don’t care if their child prepared their homework for the next day or if the child even came with backpack to school. It is hard to see careless parents who have kids that are in need of support and love. Parents are always welcomed to help out and be part of school and their kids’ success and bright future. I am happy to see lots of parents helping out their kids in classrooms and in cafeterias. Not only parents play big part of those kindergarteners’ lives but staff and office members too. They are really welcoming and work hard to find accommodations if necessary. When I first time came to Sunny Crest I was welcomed and they helped me find Jacqueline Guzman. She was there to help me with all I was struggling when applying for their school to volunteer. The staff members are very nice and sweet, always welcoming.

Rigor

The second topic that I was interested in looking deeper at was how rigorous the classroom/ material is. I noticed that the materials that are displayed in the classroom are thought provoking. For instance, one of my volunteering days I was leading a center where students had to write down their observations on a given sheet of paper. They were looking at a poster with pictures of nature from the same category. Some posters not only showed snakes and trees, but machines that cut down trees. I then asked many students, what do you see in that picture, they replied to me saying the machine cuts down trees. Next, I asked them, is that good for the snake or bad? They answered it is bad because snakes live on the trees. These were simple questions because they are kindergartens but this made their brains get going on thinking about that we humans are the number one predators for any animal. This was a thought provoking activity for many students that I worked with.

Students also communicate with one another, they have time and space to talk with each other. During lesson time, a teacher would ask a question and then asks students to talk about it with a partner. I like that my lead teacher helps students learn to communicate from early school years because this will help them transition better into 1st grade. They will be more ready to the challenges that are waiting for them. As students learn how to communicate the teacher presents material that is age/grade/level appropriate, engaging and reflects students’ learning. Right now, we are learning about kingdoms of life and students are asked to take a deeper look at tropical rain-forest and organisms that are living there. The teacher uses many visuals and hands on activities to make it more fun and engaging. Even during snack time, students use their snack mats with picture of rain-forest to point with their snacks at different groups of kingdom life. Over all, it is very interesting to be part of those students’ lives. So much progress I see in many students. I am really happy for them and hope they can get better at what they are struggling with and have fun doing what they really love to do.

Cultural Competence Funds of Knowledge

Hispanic/ Latino Races

I know that in Sunny Crest Elementary School there are almost 44.7% of Latino/Hispanic students. This means that it is very important to integrate their culture into the classroom. What I have seen Sunny Crest doing to incorporate this culture is having bilingual classes, where the classroom is conducted by two languages – English and Spanish. I know that when majority of your students are Latino/Hispanic or other culture, you need to learn more about that culture. We have to find more efficient ways to teach our Latino/Hispanic students the material that they can connect to their own life. Learning occurs best when a student can connect new knowledge to past experience. That is how our brains work, we put new ideas to already preexisting ideas. I still need to work on exploring Latino/Hispanic culture to be able to help the students in more efficient ways.

Asian

There are 7.1% of Asian students in Sunny Crest, even though that is not a big percentage, I still feel like I don’t have enough knowledge about their culture. I had only one friend who was born and raised in Chinese culture. She told me many interesting facts about their culture and holidays they celebrate, what food they eat, but most importantly what principles they have in life. It was very useful to know but it is not enough of knowledge because I had only one Asian-American friend, I need more information from different perspectives. This is where I can explore more and research.

Special Needs (Ability/ Disability)

There are 6.7% of students who are in need of special help. This number is also small, but I personally don’t have enough of knowledge about most frequent disabilities in schools. I think knowing what disability a child has will greatly help a teacher build a better environment for that student. There are not many of disabled students but we still have to include them all and meet all of their needs. I am working with a disabled kindergarten right now, who is a bit lower academically than the school’s curriculum standards. Sometimes I heard him saying “I can’t do this. I can’t do anything” and the teacher told him that his is not the attitude we should have towards learning. She said that all can learn and we should not give up. I saw that attitude and learned to help encourage him when he says that he can’t do this. I saw that he is eager to learn and wants to be with the rest of his peers. I was grateful to help that child and cheer him up to work hard no matter how challenging it is.

So far, volunteering at Sunny Crest is full of great experiences and challenges for me. I have never worked with kindergartens for long period of time and this is one of the challenges to keep students focused and not showing that you are tired. I also having hard time making some students get to work because they sit with their best friends, but their teacher is going to separate them to make it a better learning opportunity for both students. One of my highlight of this week is that I know almost all of my kindergartens’ names. They are surprised that I know their names and there are less behavioral issues when I call students by their names. Now I see how knowing students’ names is a great tool to connect with students and have relationships with them.