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PRP #5

Jeffrey Hayward
ED 651

This has been an eye-opening semester in my practicum. I have been teaching at the middle school at
which I attended as a student. I have to say that I was more than a little apprehensive about middle
school and middle schoolers in general, mostly because I remember what I was like in middle school. I
was a little jerk in middle school, who did not want to do homework and was defiant to just about any
authority figure in my life. Much to my pleasant surprise, I have had a really great semester in the
middle school and have a much more positive view of middle schoolers. I think I have been particularly
lucky to have been placed with a stellar teacher, Mr. Waz, and to have overwhelmingly really good
students. Because Mr. Waz has a specific style to which the students respond well, the most important
lessons I have learned this semester are actually lessons we have discussed last semester, last summer
and in Methods but have had a chance to see in real life and to put into practice in the classroom. Those
lessons are twofold but related: 1. the importance of including all four steps in the gradual release of
responsibility model and 2. Make sure that your students are doing more work than you are. In Mr.
Wazs classroom, he presents every lesson by explaining it and modelling the activity for the class. The
students really respond to Mr. Wazs modelling of the assignment and subsequently work quickly and
efficiently following his model. He has also created a classroom seating formation that is extremely
conducive to group work and virtually every lesson has a group work component. The students are
grouped into mixed-ability groups so that higher ability students aide those of a lower level. All of the
students benefit from this collaboration. Finally, the gradual release model means that the students are
not just passive learners but active participants in their learning. The majority of class time is spent
working together to complete a learning task so that they have the benefit of bouncing ideas off of their
classmates and their teachers.
Conversely, my greatest frustration has been in practicum as well. In the classes in which I teach, there
are multiple students who are significantly behind in reading ability and comprehension. Often, these
students are left to fend on their own if a special education teacher is not available to assist them. I wish
I have more strategies to keep them engaged or at the very least, occupied in meaningful work.
Furthermore, I would like to have a better understanding of how to teach close reading of texts as I
think that is one of the primary goals of a social studies teacher.
If my philosophy of teaching social studies has changed over the last semester, it would be perhaps
more of a changing in my philosophy of teaching in general. I think that I realize that a teacher needs to
break information down into smaller pieces than I previously thought. Once those pieces are secure
then one can bring them back together to form the overall lesson. I realize that that sounds abstract but
it does seem to be the basis of scaffolding. Additionally, I do not think that I previously realized to what
extent a teacher needs to teach procedure and skills in a social studies class. Indeed, that is what the
modelling step is all about in gradual release. I am now more dedicated to providing reading and writing
support for students of all ability levels, regardless of the grade level.
Ultimately, I think I have acquired some really important practical knowledge this semester. The
theories and methods that we learned in Methods class and prior were evident in Mr. Wazs classroom. I
have learned that things that I may take for granted are not necessarily obvious to my students and
great care must be taken to account for that. Furthermore, I still need to acquire new skills to
adequately teach all of my students but that that feeling of frustration will lead me to seek out the
training I may need.