Life As a Peer Mentor

This has been a weird semester because I am sadly not taking any Ed Studies courses. However, this semester I have had the amazing opportunity to be a peer mentor for one of the Core 101 classes here at St. Mary’s, which has provided a new perspective in classroom leadership. Every first-year student at St. Mary’s College of Maryland takes a first year seminar, known as Core 101. The Core classes meet four criteria in their curriculum: Written Expression, Oral Expressions, Information Literacy, and Critical Thinking. When I was a first year, my class was based on Misconceptions of the Human Mind, and the class I am a peer mentor for is called “Food for Thought” where we discuss (and MAKE/EAT!) food in literature, art, and film. Core classes are fun, and they are based on interesting topics.. Every first-year seminar class has a peer mentor, an advance undergraduate student that provides advice to students on items outside the classroom, as well as inside the classroom.

 

I would suggest to any student thinking about becoming a secondary (especially high school) teacher to become a peer mentor. This position has great responsibility in assisting first year students with the transition to college life. The mentor leads discussions, leads extra-curricular activities, and provides advice to all of their mentees. It is similar to having a placement—having the supervision of a faculty member—but with peers (thus, working with older students).

 

Luckily, I have a pretty amazing Professor I work with: Jessica Lustig of the Theater, Film, and Media Studies Department. Professor Lustig allows me to lead discussions and lectures, while providing feedback on certain lessons. She also allows me to sit in while planning her lessons, involving the learning goals for each assignment or discussion. Further, she provides me the opportunity to review drafts of students work—if they so choose to have it reviewed. As a future English teacher, it is fascinating to see the immense amount of growth between the brainstorming of ideas to the final perfected copy. Even if I am answering emails and texts at one in the morning, I want to be a teacher that is available. It’s always worth staying up late to help someone!

I also have to admit, my mentees are pretty amazing, and their growth from first-semester students has become very rewarding. Life lessons may also be incorporated from the course, like taking a field trip to Washington, DC, and learning how to travel on a budget as a college student. These rewards easily make it worth the time spent on reading and planning for the course, and I cannot wait to have these rewards as a future teacher. I’m very excited to see what the rest of this semester holds for this unique opportunity.

If you are interested in this program, check out this link: http://www.smcm.edu/corecurriculum/FYS/PeerMentor.html

 

Peer Mentor

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Me and some of my wonderful Mentees

Meet Robin! Social Media/Recruitment Assistant

Hi, I’m Robin, one of the new Social Media/Recruitment Assistants for the Ed Studies Department!

I’m a Psychology major, Ed Studies minor embarking on my third year here at SMCM.

When I first visited St. Mary’s during my junior year of high school, I immediately fell in love with the gorgeous campus, welcoming atmosphere, and the incredible opportunity of the M.A.T. program.

The idea of becoming a teacher has always interested me, as I’ve enjoyed working with children as a babysitter, childcare aide, and gymnastics coach. After meeting with the friendly, knowledgeable Ed Studies staff during my freshman year, I decided to enroll in my first Ed Studies course.

The accompanying field placement was my first glimpse into the world of public education from an educator’s perspective, and it was an incredibly formative experience for me. I loved working in the elementary school setting, and found my niche working with the younger children. I then officially chose to move beyond my Ed Studies minor and onto the M.A.T. prerequisite courses track. By doing this, I know that I am taking the first steps towards a rewarding career in early childhood education.

I believe that the sense of community that comes from the working relationship between SMCM and SMCPS will be extremely beneficial to me as a future educator, regardless of where I am teaching. The experience I have gained in both settings has translated into an understanding of the inner-workings of the education field that I can confidently say will allow me to build stronger connections with my future students.

Overall, I am inspired by the warm, nurturing environment created by the Ed Studies department, and it is my hope that someday I can provide my own set of students with a similarly supportive environment! I definitely recommend that anyone even slightly interested in the field of education take an Ed Studies course. You will leave with amazing, hands-on experience as well as an enhanced perspective on education—including your own!

Meet Austin! Social Media/Recruitment Assistant

Hello! Well, this is my first blog entry for the Ed Studies department, so I guess I should start by saying who I am. Hello, my name is Austin Gore, and I am a Theater/English major, with minors in Ed Studies and Film/Media Studies. I hope to do the 3+1 program, which means I would finish my undergraduate studies in three years and enter the MAT program the following year. I LOVE Theater, and I also love watching baseball(Go Orioles!) and football on T.V. (whenever I have time!).

 

Why did I choose St. Mary’s? Well, it’s not that grand of a story, but the reason I stayed is the true St. Mary’s way. I came to St. Mary’s because I wanted a small school that was close to home and affordable, but I received so much more by choosing St. Mary’s. Why do I stay at St. Mary’s? There’s an amazing community of diverse students and faculty that work together to achieve our dreams. Sure, it sounds like an admissions pitch, but it’s really true. Professors help us achieve our dream of education, and we help them continue to be lifelong learners. Where else are you going to have a professor email you at three in the morning to help with a paper? Where a professor will call you worried if you miss a class? Or where your professor will take you to their house for a tea party? It’s truly a place where the professors care for students and students care for students. I found a new home.

 

Specifically, the Educational Studies Department is VERY unique. Dr. Johnson brings coffee to class for students, Dr. Koch will have you make a brain and Snapchat pictures for homework, Dr. Morris will show you a crazy powerpoint and Dr. Arnett will email you from Toronto. There are also interesting field placements from your first class, which really gives you an impression and understanding of the real world. St. Mary’s College has made me understand that I truly want to be a teacher. Some students decide against teaching, but way more decide that education is the way to go!

 

To any student thinking of St. Mary’s for the Education Department, I would email one of the faculty members or students, but I guarantee you that you will have a unique experience that you will fall in love with. Come visit campus (I’m a tour guide too!), enjoy the water and the people. Talk to ya soon! Feel free to email me at rgore@smcm.edu

 

Austin LR-4

 

Tory Davis: English Abroad

Teaching English in Slovenia is different. I went in not knowing what to expect and I left on the first day not knowing what I had just seen. Below is a list of my schedule and roughly the topics they covered during my first week there:

1st years: Oral Speeches and Verbal Feedback

2nd years: Film Review Vocabulary and Terminology

3rd years: Bullying Vocabulary

4th years: Review for Matura (like SAT) and completing Transformations (morphing sentences)

I was perplexed as to what I was supposed to be teaching when it was my turn to teach. I was so used to teaching literature, short stories, creative writing, etc. Now these children were just learning (what I presumed to be) basic vocabulary

Tory Davis: Ne Razumem

I have taken language classes since I was five: Sign Language, Spanish, French, German, and Latin, but none of these languages have really stuck. There has never been  a real need for me to practice and learn another language. While in Slovenia, almost everyone spoke English, but it was frustrating when they spoke in Slovene, and I could not understand. I wanted to blend in and be a part of the culture.

I was fortunate enough at Gimnazija Bezigrad to have a class offered to me in beginning Slovene. It was helpful, but I could not always attend the class, so I took matters into my own hands. My friend Chelsea had purchased a Slovene Language book, and it soon became my best friend. I copied down the phrases into a spiral notebook and made myself a flipbook to quiz myself on commonly used Slovene phrases. One example of these effective phrases is:  “Rachun, prosim” which means “Bill, please.”

I had down about 15-20 phrases and words that I used, but the coolest part of learning these phrases was the appreciation by the Slovenian people. I would go into the bakery shop for my morning strudel and say a simple: “Dober Dan!” (formal hello) to the shop worker and she would immediately light up and be much more willing to help me and speak to me in English and my limited Slovene. My mentor-teacher was always so delighted to have me practice the language with her. My students appreciated my language gestures and were excited to teach me new words while I taught them new vocabulary.

Towards the end of my journey teaching in Slovenia, I was the most proud when I stopped saying “Ne razumem” (I don’t understand) and could instead say “Ja razumem” (I understand).

Blog Post 10: Final Reflection on Teaching Experience in Slovenia

Over the course of the last six weeks, I have been exposed to a greater number of unfamiliar environments than at any time in my entire life. I visited four different countries, and spent time in some pretty incredible places. I learned much about history that will help me a great deal when I teach social studies next year. Although the culture of the U.S. isn’t so different from that of Europe, I was in an environment that was far from home. In the classroom, I succeeded with flying colors (my mentor even wrote me a recommendation without me asking) and learned how to meet my students’ needs in a foreign environment. I also gained a greater ability to develop collaborative-cooperative lessons for my future students, as collaborative cooperative lessons are the most emphasized pedagogical technique in Slovenia.

In terms of language learning, I learned about the difficulties of navigating a place where one’s language is different from that of the majority. I had to communicate with people in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy, and Slovenia. It was far from easy; I often had to use gestures or speak the few words I knew to try to get by. Luckily, English is generally the language of international communication. Therefore, it was not nearly as difficult as it could have been. I can only imagine that for ELL students, the process of coming to America and learning English must be very difficult. I did meet several students who did not speak the English language proficiently. It was difficult to communicate assignments to them at times and I had to learned how to appropriately modify assignments to fit their needs.

I often used my students’ talents to try to convey explain content in class. One of my new Russian students produced his notes in the form of sketches. By the end of my time at the school, it was clear to me that he had made significant progress in comprehending what his table members were discussing as they completed activities together.

One realization I had on immediately entering the classroom was how much I had learned teaching at Spring Ridge. Being placed at Spring Ridge Middle School was truly a blessing. The students at Spring Ridge prepared me to engage my students and effectively deal with any possible classroom management problem that could arise. Unlike in the beginning of the year, I am fully confident in my ability to come into any classroom, establish my norms and expectations, and guide my students to academic success.

Last, I think this placement really helped me gain a greater appreciation for Dewey’s educational philosophy. This has influenced my own philosophy for teaching. Throughout my time here, I have learned so much through my experiences. As a result of learning through experience, I have made the realization that learning through experience is extremely valuable to all learners. When I teach next year, I will encourage students to gain knowledge through their experiences, as such a principle is extremely conducive to lifelong learning. Education through experience is critical in not only developing interest, but in acquiring skills to help one make a better future for themselves.

Such has been the outcome of my trip to Slovenia. I believe that over the course of this trip, I have gained experiences (academic and non-academic) that have made me much more equipped to teach students, regardless of their background. I am confident that I will take the skills that I acquired from this experience, and successfully amalgamate them with my previously existing knowledge on education. Combining the experience of teaching abroad with my educational experiences over the past 23 years of my life will make me a better teacher, and will allow me to help guide students on their own individual path to development, so they can choose to have experiences as beneficial to them as travelling abroad was for me.

 

Final Reflection

I have this theory that teaching techniques required by IEPs, 504’s, or suggested for language learners are in fact just good teaching that is beneficial for all students. My teaching experience in Slovenia supports my theory. For English language learners, I realized I needed to speak a little slower, describe concepts and new vocabulary in different ways with different tier words, and use aids (visual, auditory, or even kinesthetic). It also really enforced the idea, “expect the unexpected.” I was reading The Blanket by Floyd Dell with my students when we came across the word “involuntarily.” The boy reading the passage struggled to pronounce the word, so we spent some time sounding out the word and pronouncing it correctly. I then asked the students what the word meant. Two of the most interesting responses were: “something to do with a violin” and “a good feeling.” I truly did not expect either answer. I decided that it was worth it to take some time to go over the definition and let them come up with examples. I was even able to use a hunger games reference (Katniss, “I volunteer as tribute,” volunteer = choose, involuntarily = just happens, no choice, her sister’s name being called). From this language teaching experience, I realized the worth of taking some unscheduled time to discuss new words and relate them to the student.

There are also some practices I learned here that I want to incorporate in my own classroom. The first is quarterly reflection. Every quarter the students and teachers write a report about their attitude and work habits in class. The teacher and the student do not always agree, which is why I believe this should be a face-to-face discussion. It forces students to think about themselves as students and for teachers to hear the viewpoint of their students. In my opinion, it can help foster motivation in students to work harder. Another practice I want to implement is the 4-part assessment: A. Knowledge, B. Investigation, C. Thinking Critically, and D. Communication. I believe in transparency in teaching, therefore using these as the very overt overarching themes seems just brilliant to me!

I have had so many rewarding and amazing experiences while teaching and living in Slovenia. I do not want to leave but I am eager to have my own classroom where I can use all that I have learned from my teaching experiences. After my time here, I am even considering applying to IB schools!

Sparks Fly (posted on behalf of Shea Rust)

Formation of friendships in Slovenia have actually come from a corner that I really wasn’t expecting: Minnesota and food. At Danila Kumar there were undergrads from the University of Minnesota: Duluth who were finishing up their education major at Danila Kumar. They were there for 8 weeks and we were there for 6 weeks. When we got there they’d been there for a while and had kind of gotten into the groove of things so they were really helpful our first couple of days there. We would eat snack with them, we all were staying in Dijaski Dom Vic, and the first weekend there we all went out together which was fun. They’re all great girls and I had an awesome time getting to know them/hanging out with them. There was even a girl there who meowed a lot like me. Instant best friends. They went to Split, Croatia over our May holidays and they kind of got us interested in there so we ended up going there too. We didn’t really get to meet up too much there but it was fun on the way there on the train with them! I’ll definitely keep in contact with these girls in the future. I wasn’t expecting to make such good friends so I was excited about that surprise!

Also, we tend to go to one certain restaurant a lot: Hombre. Mexican in Slovenia, what could be better?! Chelsea and I also like to frequent Cacao, a lovely chocolatey place in the City Centre. Since we’re at these places so often we actually recognize the waiters and they recognize us! It’s a different type of relationship than I’ve formed back in the states but it’s a comfortable one. Today a waiter at Cacao talked about how one of his friends actually goes to school in DC and he’s trying to find time to visit which is cool. Another waiter at Cacao is in love with Chelsea, ask her about it when we get back ;)

Long Live (posted on behalf of Shea Rust)

Ah, Ljubljana. I always say that I’m sure that something will be an amazing opportunity for me but, I’ll be honest, sometimes I just am saying that to fill up space. I realize that sounds pretty bratty but it’s true. I feel like I’m lying when I say that and I don’t completely mean it. HOWEVER I can say with absolute certainty and truth that coming to Slovenia to teach at Danila Kumar was an amazing opportunity for me! I am so glad that I decided to teach abroad and I feel like it really helped to shape me as a future educator.

Each day I was in a classroom with 18 students from countries around the world. Serbia, France, Macedonia, Slovakia, Turkey, Greece, Russia, and even one student who came during my time there whose family had just gotten out of Kiev, Ukraine. These students all spoke very different languages, some with different characters even. However, in school they always spoke in English, most of them pretty well too. However, as my teacher reminded me several times, English was not their native language. I learned a lot about communicating effectively with English language learners during my time at Danila Kumar. I learned about speaking much more slowly, giving concrete demonstrations/examples for my students, and checking often for comprehension. I also learned about not believing students when they said “I understand” and that they had “no questions.” ELs need a lot of attention and differentiation and I know that being in a classroom with 18 ELs has really opened my eyes and helped to prepare me for having my own classroom. Also, being in a foreign country, and surrounded by a culture that’s not your own, where you can’t understand the language helps you to really appreciate those who are patient enough to deal with you, so I also learned that patience is the biggest key when teaching ELs.

Finally, this experience also helped with my self-confidence, though not in a way that I was expecting. Studying abroad in Oxford my junior year really made me comfortable with traveling around to new places and really helped me grow in independence. I wasn’t sure if Ljubljana would add to that self-confidence; or maybe deplete it since I didn’t understand the language here. It turns out, it helped my self-confidence in a way that I wasn’t expecting at all! It made me really grow in self-confidence as a teacher. I felt that my classroom management actually helped to create a less crazy class over the 6 weeks that I was at Danila Kumar (I love my students but they were wild!). Using Whole Brain Teaching I started several routines that my teacher said that she would continue using once I was gone. I also think that I was able to create meaningful relationships with my students which was great. In the short amount of time that we had there I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do this but my teacher told me that my rapport with the students was really strong and that she believed that they respected me greatly which definitely made me feel really great about being there!

I am so glad that I had this time in Ljubljana and I hope to be able to come back soon! It has made me grow so much as an educator and really has solidified my teaching philosophy; I almost feel ready to graduate!

A Place in this World (posted on behalf of Shea Rust)

Since Danila Kumar is an International Baccalaureate school it actually is somewhat similar to the schools in the U.S. Apparently Slovene national schools are pretty different, but I didn’t really get to see classes like that since I was in the international program. However, I feel like classroom management was a little different. We’ve been told that in Slovenia even in the international schools all classroom teachers must be Slovenian because it’s the law that Slovenes teach the students. I think that the Slovene teachers, at least mine, definitely have a different method of classroom management than I’m used to.

My teacher used a lot of voice raising and public calling out which was not what I was used to, though it did seem to keep the students on their toes! At Danila Kumar they’re really into inquiry-based learning which is what my placements in the states were really focusing on with the new Common Core Standards as well so I think it was pretty easy for me to transition in that sense. The Slovenian teachers were very surprised we knew what inquiry-based learning was and that we were used to implementing it in our own classrooms. They seemed to think that in America teaching was more of the “drill and kill” type so I was glad we could kind of dispel those beliefs. Thanks St. Mary’s! It was definitely interesting to see the teaching styles over there and I think that it also helped me to understand who I want to be as a teacher a little better too so that was great for me. All in all, at the international school, I think I ended up being more surprised at the similarities between our systems than the differences!