Monday, January 12, 2009

Fifty-Nine Minutes: A Student Teacher Blog

I blogged previously about Randon Ruggles, a student teacher that’s working with Anne Smith and Kristin Leclaire this semester. Well, Randon has started a blog, Fifty-Nine Minutes (great name, btw) to document his experiences as a student teacher. As he told me, “I thought that it would be a great way to reflect on my student teaching. Besides, if I’m asking the students to do it, why shouldn’t I?”

Here are a few excerpts of what he’s written so far. From his first post, back in early December:
Wow, let's just say that after meeting with my teachers I know that this will be a great experience, but on the same side of the coin I am a little nervous. This is an awesome school and yes, I do have some experience, but I am still just that - a student teacher. Nothing else, and nothing more. I have written lesson plans, taught before, and I love interacting with students. This is going to be amazing, but at the same time I don't know what I am going to do.

Each day I will see my students in fifty-nine minute blocks. I will be teaching four periods and be seeing probably around 120 students I am responsible for daily (the real number is still TBD). I can't wait, this is going to be amazing. I actually get to plan, teach, and lead the class.

When I look at it though, it comes down to is this:

I have fifty-nine minutes teach. connect with my students. engage my students. make a difference.

Fifty-nine minutes starting January 5th, 2009.

No more, no less...fifty-nine minutes.
While I would quibble with the statement that he only has fifty-nine minutes with them (we aren’t restrained as much these days by the bell ringing, learning can continue after the bell, plus of course how much interaction he can have with them outside of class), I think it’s a timely (pun intended) reminder for all of us that we need to make those minutes count for our students.

From First Day at AHS!:
All in all though, the highlight of my day (besides the principal coming and talking to me at the end of the first day) was when Anne told me that a student sitting next to her commented to her during the lesson - "Where did you get this guy, I like him." That just about did it for me, I'm hooked, sign me up to a life of teaching.
It will get harder, Randon, but keep that enthusiasm, our students deserve it.

From Day Two:
The whole point for these students, and really any students that we teach at AHS, is for them to go change the world. Yes, at first it sounds a little cheesy, your 9th graders are going to go change the world, but no they really are going to. That is the challenge ever 59 minutes that I am in that period, in that classroom, I want to change them, challenge them, and encourage them to go out and change the world into a better place. So today we did this activity from The Last Lecture called "The Crayon Activity." I had each of the students take a crayon and then put their heads down and contemplate life as a child, when it was simpler, and when they had childish dreams. I encouraged them that even now, they are 9th graders, that they can still accomplish those dreams. Don't let anyone stop you and continue to push forward. Anne, my cooperating teacher was pretty impressed I guess. I think I even inspired her. The highlight was when she told me one of the lines I told the students - "When we stop dreaming, we stop changing the world." It was another good day of teaching 9th graders. Tomorrow I get to challenge them to actually put their words where their mouths are and really start to change the world with their position paper.
Nothing wrong with cheesy. I think sometimes as educators we shy away from things because others might judge them “cheesy” or “touchy-feely.” Students are people. Teachers are people. And school should have a purpose beyond simply scoring well on the CSAPs. (Of course, I might be a tad bit biased here.)

From Day Three!:
How Anne teaches this class makes me want to return to high school and take my senior level English class again. I can't wait to take over this class in a few weeks. They will probably push me the hardest to be the teacher that I always hope that I can be. The 9th graders can and do push me, but I feel some sort of pressure from these seniors. A good pressure to perform, to teach them, to challenge them, and to not let them down their last semester of their senior year. It will be a challenge that I can't wait to reach head on.
Last semester seniors can be a challenge, and I think senior year is one that many schools – including mine – need to rethink a little. (Randon does have the advantage that I believe he only student teaches for twelve weeks, so he won’t have seniors those last few weeks after spring break/prom.) But I'd like to see my school look at what other schools have done to make senior year more meaningful and relevant for students, there are a lot of good ideas out there.

From Day Four!:
There was one point today where I did not give clear directions on how to break up into groups. The students thought it was a little silly, but in the end I apologized and took the fall for it. It's always a learning experience, right?
For good teachers, I think every day is a learning experience. It never stops as long as you keep teaching (or at least it shouldn’t).

From Day Five!:
After class I really considered my fifty-nine minutes with them. Was it effective? Did they really learn the material? Are they actually prepared to start this essay? I honestly did not think so, and I voiced this concern with Anne . . . Tomorrow I will evaluate and look at how can I break down the steps and really get these students from their really large topics down to something small that they can actually research and write about. I need to take them from a topic the size of the world and bring it down to something the size of Denver - hey, that's a great analogy, I just might use that on Monday! Then from there I need to model, model, and model some more. They need to see what a true example looks like. I need to stop talking through examples and start physically writing them down for the students. Randon, don't be afraid of the blackboard - just because it's not a whiteboard or electronic doesn't mean that it will hurt you!
Think. Plan. Teach. Reflect. Learn. Adjust. Improve. Repeat.

Considering heading on over to Fifty-Nine Minutes and leaving some comments for Randon. Based on his early work, I think this might be a blog you should subscribe to. Of course, Randon, that means you’ll need to continue blogging after you finish your student teaching . . .


  1. Love this new blog--AND the title! Such smart thinking. Definitely a blog to follow! Thanks for the link.

  2. I wrote this on Randon's blog as well, but I have to say that I truly admire his honesty and his willingness to put his success and failures as a student teacher out there for everyone to read. Even a teacher with 25 years of experience can learn and grow from reading his reflections.

    Randon just took over my class on Moday, and it was fascinating to read about my classes through his eyes. For the first time in three years, I feel as though I am growing significantly as a teacher because working with him places me a constant state of collaboration and reflection--two actions that are easy to neglect when you're a busy teacher.

    Also, I liked it when Randon referred to me as "inspiring" and a "master teacher." I'm not sure why Karl edited this out on the Fischbowl.