It's never too late
By Nancy Gutierrez
It's has been a little over a month since school started and for first-year teacher Kathleen Condi the time has helped her to see where changes are needed in her teaching strategies.
"I changed when we turn in homework," Condi said. "Now we turn it all in in the morning so I can check and see who did it or who didn't."
Those who didn't do their homework must stay in during recess to finish it. Because math is covered after recess and lunch, she was unable to keep students who didn't do their homework, until the next day.
"Students would stay in during the next recess, but that didn't have the same effect," Condi said. "When I first started out I'd find that things didn't work out or found something that worked better. I always reflect and analyze whether something is set-up in an efficient way."
Though Condi said she still makes changes to class procedures, she has her classroom routine down.
Each morning students turn in their homework, finish any preliminary morning business then read silently until 8:45 a.m., a solid routine that took about a week for all of the students to learn completely.
"Some of the things they learned are strategies to help them learn when to put away their books," she said. "Because it is something novel, they catch on quick."
Some of those novel exercises include a rainstick that Condi uses to get the children to clean-up their desks, musical phrases that she begins and the students end, that help the children to get focused and quiet down, and a water bottle incentive.
"On the first day of school everyone got a card and if they earned 20 stickers on the card they got a water bottle," Condi said.
Students could earn stickers for doing well in their school work. Condi purchased the green bottles from Starbucks for a reduced price. She said her husband came up with the idea after she told him that she was looking for something that students could work toward.
"Studies show that water is necessary to help with learning," Condi said. "Also it is so hot here and when they come in from recess the students have something to drink from other than the fountain."
There were bright green water bottles on nearly half of the desks in class.
As a first year teacher Condi is doing well. Some may attribute her successful classroom dynamics to proper teacher training, Condi attributes it to the 15 years she worked as a teacher's aide and to the desire she's had to teach since she was very young.
"I'm an older new teacher," she said. "I was married at a young age. I made it a priority to be there for my daughters when hey started school so I became a teachers aide.When my youngest graduated from high school I went back to school. I did it backwards."
But it was the experience in the classroom those 15 years that prepared her for her first day as the teacher. She kept a mental list of what strategies worked and did not work in classes and applied them to her new classroom in Lindsay. Even as a student at Fresno Pacific University she realized that she was still as passionate about teaching as she was before she married.
"I waited so long, my dream became more important," she said. "I learned all that I could."
But when she was offered her first permanent position and the first day of school approached, Condi said she couldn't help but feel a little nervous.
"I was surprised. The whole time I was an aide I thought I could ease right into teaching," she said. "But no matter how much you prepare their are apprehensions. Its not too wise if you come in feeling like you have it all together. This month-and-a-half I've learned more than I have ever learned."
The Gazette will continue to follow Condi through her first year as a teacher at Washington Elementary School.