Andrew Decastro

Andrew DeCastro

Embarking on the path of a teacher is a difficult one. It is difficult because unforeseen problems are waiting in the unknown to test the teacher. A great teacher will be able grapple with and tackle these problems effectively and efficiently in order to achieve their desired solution.

This being said, the graduate school program at Fairfield University with the various classes that it offers, effectively prepares each candidate to be best prepared in problematic situations.  I’m happy to say that belonging to the Fairfield University program as graduate student; we’re all well-equipped to efficiently and effectively respond to situations.

For my student teaching experience which took place at Fairfield Ludlowe High School, I was very fortunate to work with two cooperating teachers, where I observed and received a tremendous amount of constructive criticism. From observing their teaching styles, it is safe to assume that they are masters of their craft, where their advice after observing me every day in the classroom setting allowed me to grow as a new professional teacher. Throughout the student teaching experience, I was able to effectively implement various amounts of teaching styles and methods of approaching content that greatly enhanced student engagement and student comprehension of the content.

Successful activities should be used in every classroom setting to help students foster their collaborative skills with engagement of their peers. One activity that I executed in the class that I learned from last semester and this semester is the “stations activity”.  In student teaching, I executed this activity in a Modern Global Studies honors level course.

This class included the 10th graders who were grouped together to collaborate and answer associated guided reading questions. Outlined in the lesson plan “Cold War Strategies in Action”, students were evaluating and identifying the  six strategies that the Cold War used inside of various third world countries and inside of the bipolar World itself which include: multinational alliances, surrogate Wars, brinkmanship, propaganda, espionage, and foreign aid. From the formative assessment associated with this lesson, which is located inside of the Formative Assessment: Cold War Strategies in Action, students were able to evaluate the strategies and support their rationale.

In areas of growth, inside of the student teaching practicum, i have grown in the utilization of Understanding by Design. Using these practices allows for more focused compelling questions, optimizing the necessary standards needed in the lessons, while allowing for the students and myself to view the ways in which lessons progress.

As far as my growth as a new up and coming teacher, my cooperating teachers can attest that I have responded well to their constructive criticism. One aspect of my teaching that grew tremendously over the semester is my confidence in front of the students. At first, I was very nervous presenting content and materials to the students. I would fumble my words from nervousness and would speak too quickly. At the end of the experience, I am now more comfortable in front of the students where I have improved not only in my articulation of directions, but the “to the point” responses to questions generated from students. One way that i was able to become more comfortable, was implementing strategies found in Best Practices for the Inclusive Classroom such as proximity control when dealing with classroom management. By using strategies found in the book, I have grown to have more control in the direction of the lessons while deterring off task behavior.

A weakness at first, successfully implementing formative assessments, now has grown into a strength. Formative assessments used to be difficult for implementing as the depth of my questions were lacking, but now after using different methods such as Google Forms and piece of paper exit slips, I can genuinely read their comment and responses while being able to know what needs to be reviewed and what concepts are mastered.

Another weakness turned strength is the creation of summative assessments. UBD has helped me tremendously in creating effective summative assessments that steer clear from traditional multiple choice and short answer responses. Both summative assessments that I used inside of the student teaching experience allowed for students to use their creativity in their work, which is shown in the Summative Assessment dropdown windows. It was an enlightening experience to see the tremendous effort the students made in order to produce these products.

Lastly, the student teaching experience has allowed me to adhere to exceptional learners inside of the classroom that require differentiated instruction. I have the extreme luck of having a cooperating teacher that was previously a special education teacher. The cooperating teacher outlined specific methods of practice and assisted me in outlining various modified notes and assessments. One of these can be viewed in the Summative Assessment: Piktochart section of the website. That was an extremely humbling opportunity and I will use the strategies and tips for my future students who may be exceptional learners!

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