For my interview I chose to interview Maria, a very close friend of mine. She is a sixth-grade teacher at Sacred Heart, a Catholic school in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has been my mentor and is a big reason I want to become a teacher. She is a great inspiration and motivator, and is excellent at what she does. She was very excited about doing the interview with me and we had a great time doing it. First I am just going to give you the questions I asked and her answers. Then we will go into greater detail discussing them.
Question 1: What are some examples of typical, quick decisions teachers make on a daily basis?
Answer: I may adapt a lesson I am teaching depending on students changes in needs. I am always evaluating how well my students are grasping the concept I am teaching. I ask them questions, watch how they work together in small groups, or observe their body language.
Question 2: What were the five most difficult school-related decisions you made this week? What made them difficult?
Answer: I had to decide whether to give a student a conduct point this week. I had to decide which way to present a lesson plan to my students…small group instruction, whole group, have them work independently. I had to decide how best to deal with a parent who questioned the way an assignment was graded. I had to decide to cancel a meeting with co-workers and postpone it for another time because of a very full schedule last week. I decided to take my class to gym late because they wasted time in class from socializing too much. They were difficult because there are always consequences (good or bad) to decisions we make. Choices have to be made on a daily basis and I’m not sure these were difficult with the right positive outlook and expectation.
Question 3: What was the effect of those decisions on the classroom environment? Were the decisions effective?
Answer: The conduct point allowed students to understand misbehavior on the playground will not be tolerated and they can feel safe in this school. Misbehaviors will be dealt with. The students involved seemed generally sorry for their actions that earned them the conduct point. The decision of which type of instruction to use is an ongoing decision which works sometimes and other times does not. The student whose parent I spoke with about the project learned that it is his responsibility for his learning…taking ownership. All colleagues felt relieved when I canceled the meeting (rough week for us all). The last instance I am still waiting to see the effects. I have a chatty class this year and hope to discover better ways to work together and maintain the attention required in my classroom. I respond to difficult situations with a positive outlook and try to work together with colleagues, students, and parents to come up with what works best for everyone. I believe the effect of my decisions this week was helpful and effective.
Question 4: If you could change one thing about your school day, what would it be?
Answer: More planning time and/or time to meet and discuss curriculum with colleagues, especially my teaching partner.
Question 5: How much feedback do you receive from others teachers and parents about how you teach? Is this feedback helpful?
Answer: Not really that much. I will receive positive comments about field trips, units of study, and subject areas occasionally by parents. Any negative feedback from parents usually deals with homework load. Any feedback is helpful. This is how we learn. I am very open to others feedback and welcome it.
There are five major characteristics of classrooms. They are, multidimensional, simultaneous, immediate, unpredictable, and public (Kauchak & Eggen, 2005 p. 54). Let’s look at Maria’s five most difficult decisions and see where they fit. In the decision of whether to give a student a conduct point, I believe this is simultaneous. There are many things going on at one time. She said that this incident happened on the playground. She was responsible for watching many children and had to make this decision quickly.
In the decision of which way to present a lesson plan, either small groups, whole group, or independently, I believe this is multidimensional. You have to understand the most effective way of teaching your students. When you conduct learning activities, some students will be attentive and involved, others will tend to drift off, and disruptions may occur (Kauchak & Eggen, 2005 p. 54). You have to do what id best for the group while also trying to keep the students that are lagging behind involved.
Dealing with parents can sometimes be harder than dealing with students. Having to decide how best to deal with a parent who questioned the way an assignment was graded would be public. Everyone is watching what you do as a teacher. Parents will sometimes question how or what you teach to their children. It is our job to talk to parents and help them to understand why we do the things we do. The more parents and teachers communicate, the more the parents can understand a teachers reasoning.
Sometimes a school day can go very smoothly with no interruptions or problems. Other times, one small disruption can make you fall behind for the rest of the day. Having to decide to cancel a meeting falls under the category of unpredictable, you do not realize until it is almost time for the meeting that you need to cancel it. Things have happened in your day that you did not expect and you have fallen behind.
Finally the decision to take the class to gym late because they wasted time in class was immediate. You as a teacher know what time the students need to leave for other activities and classes. Deciding to keep them later is a decision that is made right at that time. Whether you are not finished teaching, or they are causing disruptions, you make that decision quickly right at that moment.
The complexities that Maria faced in making her decisions were that she has to balance so many things. She needs to have enough time to manage and teach her class, talk to parents and other teachers, discipline students when needed, and make time for developing lesson plans and grading papers. She has to think forward and understand how her decisions will affect other teachers and her students.
I completely agree with the decisions Maria made this week. I think her decisions helped her day stay on track and helped her run her classroom as efficiently as possible. If I were in her shoes I would hope that I would be able to make the same decisions she did. Especially the split-second decisions she had to make. I hope that I have other teachers that I can rely on as well to help me make decisions I am not sure of.
I often hear teachers say they wish they had more time to teach. Managing your time and running an efficient classroom is crucial to making sure you have time to teach material. There are also things that will happen that are out of your control so you need to make the most of the time you have.
Getting feedback is also an important part of teaching. I was surprised when Maria said she does not receive that much. Feedback is how we know if we are doing well, and if we are going in the right direction. I believe teachers should give positive feedback to other teachers whenever they can. Knowing you are doing a good job will improve morale and make you want to keep getting better.