The Last Few Weeks…

By Haley Radcliffe, Secondary English Education Major / Brentwood Middle School Intern

            Since my last blog post, the accelerated course my host teacher and I proposed has been approved and the first segment of content for it to cover has been selected. As explained in my previous blog post, after some trial and error in choosing which ELA-related content to work with in the accelerated course, I selected Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130: My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” because of its potential to address several of the challenging concepts the group of high-achieving students was ready to learn (as evidenced by their September Reading MAP® assessment data) while remaining at an appropriate instructional level for them. Having made this content selection, the final weeks of my internship have been spent designing and delivering two lessons and one assessment focused on Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130.” The first lesson I designed and delivered covered background information on Shakespeare and the history and structure of the sonnet with the objective of students being able to identify where the conventions of the sonnet form appear in “Sonnet 130.” The second lesson I designed and delivered involved a close reading of “Sonnet 130” with the objective of students being able to evaluate 1) the speaker of the poem’s attitude towards their subject, and 2), whether this attitude is surprising given the traditional conventions of the sonnet. After delivering these two lessons, I designed and administered a traditional, paper-pencil assessment that measured student understanding of the background information on Shakespeare and the history and structure of the sonnet, student ability to identify conventions of the sonnet form in “Sonnet 130,” and student understanding of the speaker’s changing attitude in “Sonnet 130.” Because I was completely responsible for the design and delivery of this three-day learning segment from start to finish, I felt that this capstone experience of my internship was the closest one I have had so far in my college career to that of a real secondary English teacher’s experience—I was the one selecting the content and setting the objectives based on student assessment data, I was the one creating the lesson plans, the assessment, and each of their associated materials, and I was the one actually teaching the lessons and administering the assessment to a real group of students. While this does not seem like anything out of the ordinary for a School of Education student, it was the first time that I was wholly responsible for the learning of a real group of students. At first, this was an overwhelming experience. What if my objectives were not meaningful or developmentally appropriate? What if my lesson plans and materials were not well-crafted enough to help the students meet my objectives? What if my assessment was too easy or too difficult? While these have always been questions running in the back of my mind when designing unit plans and learning segments for college courses, knowing that their answers would, in this scenario, impact real students certainly made them more pressing. When I delivered the two lessons and the assessment to the students, however, my worries were largely alleviated: the students seemed to be able to understand and apply the information I was presented during the first lesson, they impressed me with their understanding of the poem’s speaker’s shifting attitude during the second lesson, and they scored well on the assessment I administered during our final class together. Overall, an initially nerve-wracking experience ended up becoming a really fulfilling one, and one that further cemented my conviction that teaching is the career for me. Though my time as an intern at Brentwood this semester has now come to a close, I continue to be extremely grateful for all the individuals who helped me make the most of this opportunity, especially our internship coordinator here at Duquesne, Dr. Wright, my worksite supervisor/host teacher at Brentwood Middle School, Dr. Hite, and most of all, the group of eighth-grade students I got to work with themselves. All of the above-mentioned people have made this experience a really educational and enjoyable one that has helped prepare me for my future career, and I hope future secondary English education students can partake in similar opportunities during their time at Duquesne!

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