Monday, August 27, 2012

Cooperating Teacher Interview

In two days I will begin my journey as a co-teacher at La Costa Canyon High School (LCC) in a suburb of Encinitas, California. The co-teacher I will be working with is Yvonne Del Valle, she teaches first and second year Spanish classes on campus. She is so wonderful and I cannot be more excited to be working in her classroom as a unit. I took the time to ask her some questions about her as a teacher, as well as some of the ideals at LCC.

1. How many times per week with you meet for planning? When, where and for how long will we meet?

We will meet for 5th period which will be anywhere from 2 to 3 times per week. During this time, we will create lesson plans, grade papers, and discuss any other issues in the classroom. The prep period is two hours long, every other day.

2.  What are your requirements for written lesson plans?

Lesson plans will revolve around the text book which is meant to pace the class according to content standards. The design will be the box formation and will respond to the needs of the CSUSM model

3. What are your most important goals for this semester? What role can I play in helping you to
achieve these goals?

Yvonne's most important goal is to get through the first day and the first week successfully and smoothly by setting classroom rules. In this week she wants to establish a routine with the students, tell them her expectations and inform the students of how they can be successful in her class. She also shows them where and how to get the resources they will need to succeed. My role in the classroom is to collaborate and co-teach with Yvonne. Assist with one on one time, and give small group support.

4. What grading procedures do you use?

Yvonne sets up sheets according the seating chart. Then, she can easily mark the students who did or did not complete their homework to her satisfaction. Also, by making a sheet according to the seating chart, she does not have to look up their name on a spreadsheet, or worry in the first few weeks if she does not know their names. She grades them on their daily classroom work, homework, oral evaluations, quizzes and tests.

5. Do you group students during any assignments? How? According to their ability level? Learning Profiles? Interests? Other criteria?

Yes, she usually try to mix it up according to ability as much as she can during the semester. Yvonne tries to make them work with different people throughout the semester, unless they really do not like each other. Even if they have a small problem with each other, she tells them they have to work together to teach them that sometimes they will have to work with people they do not like. She also tries to pair a native with a non-native student. The non-native student usually can help the native student with spelling and grammar. The native student can help the non-native student with pronunciation and proper sentence structure.  

6. Are there any English Learners in the classes? Where can a get information about each of them? Are there any students who have special needs I should be aware of? Where can I get students’ IEP’s or 504’s to read?

There are some students who were raised in a home where Spanish was spoken, but most of them are proficient in English. There is not much of a variety in demographic in this particular area. 504 Plans and IEP's are delivered electronically once there is a final roster for the class. Yvonne files them electronically in a folder and they are extremely and completely confidential.

7. Will you please explain your philosophy concerning classroom discipline? What behaviors do you discourage and encourage?

Her motto is "From bell to bell, no cell". Yvonne says that the most important rule to establish now, is a zero tolerance policy with cell phones. She says that her students cannot even look at their phones to check the time or it will be taken away until the end of the school day. At first, I did not understand the reason for such harsh rules. My professors in college did not really mind that we had our devices on our desks, there were a few who were very bothered and distracted if a student was texting or on their handheld. But then, I asked her reasoning for the strict cell phone rules and she said that it is because she is worried about students taking pictures of the exams or quizzes. Also, her biggest pet peeve is when someone in the class is talking while she is talking. Even if the students are on task, or talking about the assignment she does not want them talking while she is giving instruction. ever.

8.   What kinds of bulletin boards or other displays do you prefer to have in your classroom? Which ones would you like me to plan for while I’m doing my clinical practice?

Mrs. Del Valle says that the most important things she has on her walls are the classroom rules and discipline if they disobey these rules. In addition, she has two whiteboards with the daily agenda and the homework hung in the back of the classroom. Other than that, she will ask that I hang up student work that shows examples of hard working students.

9.   How did you arrive at this particular room arrangement? May I rearrange for special activities?

She arrived at this room arrangement because it seems like the most accessible way to be able to see and help all students. She says that she has tried many different classroom assignments and likes this one the best (pictured right)

10. What is your field trip policy? Would you like me to plan a field trip for this semester?

Unfortunately, the way the schedule is set up it is very difficult to have students partake in field trips. If Yvonne wanted to take her kids on a field trip, it would mean that she is taking her students away from their other classes. She also stated that at first and second year language proficiency levels, it doesn't really make sense to take them on cultural outing, because they do not yet have the skills to participate in Spanish communication.

11. How do you maintain active communications with parents?

Yvonnes uses email frequently. Apparently, in this day and age, teachers must email parents when their student is "IDoF" or In Danger of Failing. LCC uses an operating system call Aries. On Aries, they are able to email parents, send out grades, assign homework, etc. She says that if she sends an email to a parent, and they do not respond, she calls their home.
12. What techniques do you use to motivate students?

Yvonne says that at this age, it is important to give students structure. She motivates students by reminding them of their college future and that their work is furthering their professional development.

13. What are the special challenges of teaching this subject or grade level?

Mrs. Del Valle admitted that her freshmen students are often very immature. The are squirmy and off task, and will do anything to get up out of their seats. She says that if one student possesses these behaviors, it is easy for the whole class to spiral out of control. She also states that sometimes she has to move kids to other areas of the classroom where they will be most successful.

14. How would you describe your school’s community relations?

Yvonne says that within the school, the faculty and administration are the best. She says everyone is really nice and hardworking. In addition, the community relations within the county is great. The parents are extremely supportive of the parents, and they receive numerous donations to help the school. New teachers are given teachers back to school bags, filled with sanitizer, tissues, pencils, pens, zeros paper, etc. The school also hosts a Farmers Market every Saturday.
15. How important are standardized test scores to your school?

Fortunately for Spanish teachers, STAR testing does not exist for our subject. Therefore, the curriculum is based around the standards, and what the teacher wants to accomplish without the pressures of standardized tests. I did take the time to talk to an English teacher at LCC who told me that the STAR testing is taking over the school. Every meeting, email, and conversation is flooded with pressure and information about STAR testing. 

16. How do you feel about parent participation in this day and age?

At LCC parent participation is overwhelming. LCC is the top high school in California for sports, and ranked in the top 500 schools in the world. Because of this, parents are very involved because they want their children to get into a good college. One teacher that lived a block away, sold her home in 5 days because the parents were so desperate to have their kids attend LCC.

17. Do you use textbooks? Are you forced to use them?

Mrs. Del Valle told me that when she began teaching, it was at a Charter school where they did not use textbooks. Because of this, she had to develop a curriculum based around the state standards for world languages. She also had to consult other Spanish teachers to aid with pacing. She says that the text books they use at LCC are pretty good, and they have been using them for a few years now. She admits that using text books is a great guide and efficient way to pace the classroom.

18. How do you feel about the rise of technology in the classroom?

Yvonne has very little knowledge of technology. She says in her classroom, she uses low tech devices such as overhead projectors. When I asked her why she doesn't use more technology, she said its because technology seems to never work when she needs it the most. LCC cut their employee that took care of the technology needs on campus. Basically, they are on their own.

19. Do you have a routine each day when the students come into class?

Yes, usually Yvonne takes attendance (the school requires an electronic submission of attendance within the first 30 minutes of class). After that, they go over the homework, and she checks off the students who did or did not complete their homework. Next, they begin their lesson plan of the day with classroom activities. If there is extra time (2 hour class sessions), the students can work on their homework.

20. How do you feel about athletics and extra curricular activities within LCC? Do you think they are a distraction?

Honestly, sports interfere with school a lot of times. Many athletes are excused from their fifth and sixth period classes to attend sporting activities. Yvonne does not appreciate that as a teacher. The students should be forced to keep up with the work, instead they have to allow it as excused, and give them extra time to turn in their work. She does not understand why the students have to miss out on their last periods of the day to attend sports activities. She do not appreciate that the admin allows sports to interrupt the curriculum.

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