My projects at HVA continue to revolve around standard intern responsibilities, such as making coffee, setting up room layouts last minute, making copies, distributing supplies, putting together binders, and the like, but it’s definitely started to fall into a more concrete rhythm. I’m more confident in my responsibilities and I have a better idea of how to take initiative of certain projects that keep me busy throughout the day. Additionally, the other interns and I have become fairly close, so our efficiency when completing tasks as a team has drastically increased.
The past two weeks have definitely been more STEM focused than my first two. With the actual start of Institute, I had to assemble cameras and set up the recording for all of the professional development sessions. A lot of maintenance work was needed to help fix or connect SmartBoard speakers, projector, ELMO document cameras, and the copy machine, but I would usually shadow the person in charge of the building’s tech and once they show me how to fix the problem, I’m able to do it on my own whenever there’s a tech complaint.
The highlight of this internship so far came during the middle of my fourth week here, when I finished all of my tasks for the day. Since none of my supervisors nor the teachers participating in Institute needed anything and I had extra down time, one of my supervisors recommended I sit in on a professional development session regarding 3rd grade math curriculum synthesis/review. The experience was an engaging and interesting one to say the least. The curriculum HVA uses has everything planned down to the lesson every single day. Their lesson plans include not only a lesson template including an interactive PowerPoint that takes advantage of the SmartBoard’s features, but also a page with teacher notes. The teacher notes include potential misconceptions, where the lesson fits into the school year as well as the unit timeline, a description of all the slides – including what the coach’s vision and intention was for the lesson – and space to edit and add on to the lesson notes for other teachers to utilize when they teach the lesson.
The session began with the teachers collectively viewing the curriculum and just talking about it generally. They discussed the timeline and what units would be taught when and for how long (fractions are a huge 3rd grade unit and would have several weeks dedicated to it). Since the timeline was broken down based on need, teachers could propose ideas for bigger projects and how they’d fit into the timeline. At one point, a teacher asked about what they should do on test days/if those days would be devoted to fun, recreational activities. The facilitator then responded that while the students should definitely not be expected to complete mentally strenuous, challenging tasks, teachers should refrain from just giving them free fun time so as not to have students rushing through their tests to get to the fun activities. Instead it should be something calmer and mentally relaxing, like independent reading, essentially an educational brain break (academic free time). This is something I never really thought about as a soon-to-be teacher, so I think implementing elements of this would be a good idea for my future classroom.
The session then started to take more focus on multiplication, division, and area. The teachers and myself were given an assessment and were told to take it through a child’s lens. While taking the assessment, we were asked to mark or take notes of any confusing questions and unclear wording. Once those 15 minutes were up, the facilitator asked how we felt about the assessment. It received generally positive feedback, but then the facilitator mentioned that the assessment we’d just taken had actually received a lot of push back from teachers for being too difficult. As we went over it question by question, complaints and questions about it started to arise. The very first question was a multi step multiplication problem that required close reading, and a lot of teachers actually messed up on it and had to go back. It seemed like the overarching theme of the entire session was that the teachers need to teach the content with meaning. Each number in an equation should have purpose in the sense that students should understand what each number represents in a word problem. The focus shouldn’t be on “is my answer right” but rather “what is the question asking and what does it mean?” The students understanding the deeper meaning of what they’re doing is necessary for them to closely read and correctly answer questions, and more importantly have comprehension of what they are learning.
I was given another opportunity to sit in on professional development when we discovered an issue with the cameras that were recording the sessions – they would only record the first 12 minutes, and after that the videos would cut off. Since the cameras had enough memory and they were fully charged, we assumed it had to be an issue with the cameras going on powersave mode. We decided to man the cameras to ensure they were recording the full 3-hour sessions, so I was able to sit in on an extra professional development session this past week, and will be able to sit in on a lot more in the coming weeks.
The second professional development session I sat in on focused on routine and beginning of the year procedures. It seems like such a minor concept, but the month of September really sets the precedent for the remainder of the school year. The facilitator of the session really grounded in the importance of modeling and mapping out your beginning of the year routines, from how students walk in to what their initial responsibilities will be and how they will conduct them upon walking in to students understanding why these routines are so important. It was interesting to see the way the professional development sessions are run because the leader of the session usually uses modeling as a subtle but huge way to drive home the content they are trying to get across. The facilitator will use things like start signals, having teachers reflect before receiving feedback, Turn and Talks, creating charts together, and using language the teachers should use to address their students in these sessions. Even the Institute itself provides snack breaks and materials necessary to have the best possible sessions they can, which is partially while the role of the intern team is so vital.
I would like to try and sit in on more curriculum developing sessions because it was extremely fascinating to watch current teachers analyze an assessment that seemed perfectly fine and point out what needs to be improved on both the teachers sides as well as with the actual assessment itself. I would also like to participate a bit more because I was much more timid throughout my first two professional development sit ins. I also know there are a few lab sites approaching in the coming weeks, so I would like the chance to observe how the teachers actually interact with the children they’ve been hypothetically referring to for the past couple of weeks.