Finally, My First Post

by memmers1

This post is most definitely long overdue.  I have so many things I would love to post about, but I think it would first be best to explain what I’ve been doing for the past three months.  Everything that has happened has been completely unexpected but unexpectedly perfect actually. 

First off, I should say that I spent the entirety of my junior year observing at the school I’m currently working at.  I volunteered at the same school in the fall of my senior year, and did a research project there for my Literacies Honors seminar in the spring.  While there I developed great relationships with the principal and many of the teachers.  I completely fell in love with the school, and helped out with some volunteer projects in the community.  I spent a lot of my senior spring and the summer hoping that a position would open up at the school, but I didn’t hear anything.  So in August, I made plans to be at Swarthmore at the start of September.  I still had (and have) plenty of work to finish over at Swarthmore/plenty of work to start so I decided that I would continue working there while job searching.  One week before the first day of school for the Norristown schools I received word that a position had opened up, so I applied and got the job.  I started five days later.

I got hired as a paraprofessional and for the first two months or so I was a Kindergarten paraprofessional.  For the first week or so I did a lot of observing in a classroom with an awesome teacher.  In that time I learned a crazy amount about classroom management.  It was really great to see it all happen from the very beginning.  I was familiar with the system they used since I had observed at the school in the past but it was a completely different experience seeing it in action everyday.  I spent the first couple of weeks adjusting.  It was much harder than I thought it would be.  I came in familiar with the school, the school’s values, the students, the teachers, the principal, etc. and it was definitely helpful but I soon realized that there were still so many things I didn’t know.  Things as simple as whether or not kids need to have a buddy when going to the bathroom during lunch.  Or what to do if a kid is doing something they aren’t supposed to be doing.  Or how to express that they need to stop what they are doing.  All schools are different and have different systems in place.  A school truly is a community and it is so important that everyone be on the same page.

I worked with a couple of really interesting students while in Kindergarten.  Though I only worked with these students for a short amount of time, I learned a great deal.  They challenged me and forced me to think about my ways of communicating and handling behaviors.  I sorted, stapled, graded, laminated, cut, opened milk – I did anything that needed to be done.

My experiences in Kindergarten were really great, but I was one of three paraprofessionals and 2nd grade was in need of a paraprofessional so about three weeks ago I got moved to 2nd grade.  Many of the 2nd graders are in need of reading support, so I was told I would be pulling out groups of 6 or 7 kids at a time in the afternoon and would help out in the classroom for the rest of the time.  I was given two above-level reading groups, one below-level reading group, and one ELL reading group.  We use the Storytown curriculum, so for my below level and ELL group the curriculum is pretty set.  I have more flexibility with my above-level groups.  I wish the curriculum were more flexible for all three levels, though.  I want to push them.  I know they can be pushed.  I pretty much jumped right into doing groups so I am only just now feeling like I am getting the hang of it.  I also finally have a set space but spaces bring different sorts of challenges.  I originally took my groups into the hallway, but teachers, students, and classes were constantly walking by which caused a huge distraction.  I also had a pretty limited amount of space in the hallway.  I then moved to the stairwell for a day which would have been much quieter but was also limited in space considering I was taking out groups of 6 or 7 kids.  Soon after, I was moved to a small room in the library.  While this space is great for many practical reasons, it is still challenging.  My students were accustomed to being brought out into the hallway (and if they hadn’t been pulled out of their classroom in the past, they realized that the hallway was a space for those pulled out), so taking my students to a room that doesn’t resemble a classroom or a hallway learning space proved difficult.  They are aware of classroom rules and expectations within the context of their own classroom, but they treated this new context differently.  And, on top of that, I see my groups every other day (two groups one afternoon, the other two the next, etc.).  Needless to say, it has taken time for my students to get used to our group time but I am finally feeling good about it.  It also makes me so happy everyday when my students come up to me asking if I am taking them for groups in the afternoon.

My newest task as the 2nd grade paraprofessional came last Monday.  I was asked to take out six additional students per day and work one-on-one with them on reading.  I have been busy figuring out exactly how to go about working with each student.  I have the opportunity to spend 20 minutes per day with each student, so I want to shape what I’m doing around each individual’s learning style as much as possible.

Anyway, the sum of all of this is that I have been gaining a lot of really great experience.  It is perfect that I was first able to see a lot of classroom management.  It is perfect that I got to work with some challenging students who helped me to think critically about my own ways of communicating and handling behaviors.  It is perfect that I get to teach small-medium sized groups of students.  And it is perfect that I also get to do a lot of one-on-one work and think hard about how I can effectively work with each individual student.  And, of course, the school I am in is the perfect school for me.

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2 Comments to “Finally, My First Post”

  1. Melissa, really great to hear what you’ve been up to. Your in-depth discussion of different behavioral norms in different spaces was really interesting. It made me think of the reading we did on 3rd space in Diane’s seminar. It seems like your being in the school full time as an employee is helping you understand deeply what’s going on in the school. As, in my own research, I try to understand how practices from other classes (such as interaction patterns between students and teachers and among students) do or do not translate to the new computer tutoring class that I am studying, I envy your opportunities for observing and understanding! I would love to hear more in depth about many of the things you mention here, such as your difficult students and the kindergartners’ aculturation.

  2. Hey Melissa – This sounds like a wonderful way to begin working in a school. I hope you are finding some ways to support yourself – you are being asked to do a lot as a “paraprofessional” – i.e., basically to be a reading teacher. Just watching my own kids learn in such different ways and working as a volunteer in their elementary classrooms led me to wish I had had more training in teaching reading! Lisa

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