Reflection #7 – March 25, 2013

Well, my journey with the Grade 4/5 class of Dr. George Ferguson School has come to an end. I don’t think I could have asked for a better group of kids or a more helpful co-op to be working with! As you have a read through my earlier posts I am sure you have noticed there have been many learning experiences for me, successful moments and some headache-causing moments as well; isn’t that what teaching is all about though? However, I am very grateful for every situation I was thrown into these past seven weeks as I can already tell how much I have grown, learned and improved towards being the teacher I want to be. In this week’s reflection I want to focus more on my experience as a whole and highlight how I have improved as a future educator and what I feel my strengths are: my three C’s.

Communication. If you talk to my friends or family I am sure you would be told how much I love to talk and how approachable I am by anyone. I don’t always notice this day by day, but realizing how relaxed I always felt in front of the students or talking with the staff really made me thankful for this quality. This probably goes for most people, but isn’t it so much easier to meet a person, have the ability to joke around in a safe environment and be able to confront them without difficulty? I know that is exactly how I feel anyways, so I ensured I brought that presence into my classroom towards my students. I briefly touched base with this in an earlier post, but I love humor, I love joking around with people (in a harm-free manner) and I find laughter is the most common spoken ‘language’ among everyone. I had been involved in an extremely multicultural classroom setting during this experience and there was no way I would be able to learn each of their languages; but I knew for sure I could connect with them personally through laughter and smiling.

Creativity. Speaking from experience, nobody enjoys learning from a teacher who clearly does not want to be there and just stands at the front of the room, dictates and hands out “Numbers 1-20. Go.”. In my Elementary and High School years I had a handful of those which made me dread attending those classes in general. During my field experience I had the opportunity to teach Mathematics, Physical Education, English Language Arts, Social Studies and Health. I remember as soon as my co-op asked me if I would be willing to try Social Studies a big red flag went off in my mind; I hate Social Studies. I have now realized it was because I never had one creative, interesting teacher throughout learning History or Social Studies so it was never an enjoyable subject. This epiphany allowed me to accept this challenge and to force myself not to be like my previous Social Studies teachers. I would have to say that ended up being my favorite lesson I taught and the kids loved it! I taught about the explorer John Cabot and had them connect his ships to spell out his name, each containing different facts about his voyage. My co-op wrote on my sheet that day, “LOVED the activity – what a way to bring to life some otherwise boring info. They remembered facts really well through this!”. That was such a successful feeling because I knew I needed to put that extra effort into the lesson for these students that I was rarely offered learning this subject growing up.

Classroom Management. Now, walking into my Grade 4/5 classroom on February 4 I had no idea how I was going to keep my class under control or how I would handle a loud, off task student. I can happily say now I feel much more comfortable standing in front of my class and taking control and responsibility of them for the entire time I am up there. “Give me five” was the easiest way of management for me to get their attention, and throughout my lessons just encouraging them to raise their hands and avoid blurting kept the noise levels under control. I am still new at all of this so I am not as strict as some teachers who yell at the kids to be quiet, but another comment my co-op wrote about my classroom management was “Classroom Management is developing nicely – calm but firm”, which is reassuring! As a student and now as a future teacher I have never felt that yelling helps any situation, yes it might scare your students to not talk, but is scaring them really how you want to handle the situation? The tone of voice needs to be stern sometimes but causing a scene in front of an entire class and freaking on a few students isn’t the most successful approach.

All in all, I absolutely loved this entire field experience and I know I learned so much that will continue to go with me in my teaching years. At the beginning of this semester I had no idea how to make a lesson plan, how to manage my classroom, how to understand and find outcomes and indicators in the curriculum, etc. I can now proudly say I have learned a lot through this class and experience on all the dirty (challenging) work required to be a successful teacher and am confident enough in myself to say some of these characteristics are now my strengths and that I am continuing to grow!

                             ~rebecca

Reflection #6 – March 18, 2013

Self-Image; the way you see yourself is a result of what you believe about your appearance, abilities and character. This week brought me the opportunity to talk to my Grade 4/5’s about self-image and personal identity. Within this section of the curriculum it is encouraged to discuss the topics of stereotype, prejudice and discrimination as well. Here is where I ended up running into some difficulties with who my learners were. I chose to have them identify situations as either stereotypes, prejudice or discrimination scenarios by handing out prompts. Students read out each slip and either they could make the identification on their own or the class could help them out. One paper had a statement to represent discrimination and said “A First Nations man, as intelligent as anyone else, walked out of a job interview after being denied because they “generally hire white people and few minorities”. This struck a bit of a dispute with a student who is partly First Nations and he argued “I don’t see why they wouldn’t hire him, I mean we gave you guys our land”.  This was coming from a ten year old; I definitely overlooked these issues creating the situations. However, I did have a difficult time coming up with what race to ‘discriminate’, not actually tearing them down but to have the students understand what discriminating really is. Since I am in such a multicultural classroom, I have learners from Nepal, Middle East, Asia, Philippines, South Africa, Nigeria, Turkey and Indonesia. So many different races, cultures etc. thus discussing discrimination would have hit home to at least one student which was impossible to avoid. I made sure to clarify that that was a form of discrimination, proving that it is an insulting act and is not always true. The student was not actually mad, it ended up forming a great discussion of discrimination (but I still felt guilty).

On the other hand, the final activity I had the students do was draw themselves in a mirror to show me how they view themselves then to write five things they like and one thing they dislike about themselves. Walking around to see how the students were doing allowed me to read some of their attributes or characteristics they appreciated. What really stood out  to me was while I read some of the students’ that were of a minority culture, a good handful had “I like that I am Muslim” or “I like that I am Chinese”, which I thought was really cool! I hate to think that as they grow up and go through high school, the stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination’s will become difficult for those specific cultures and dread that they will no longer be proud of their unique characteristics. It is great that they are so comfortable with being unique and offering their culture to the rest of us who haven’t experienced their world views before. I just know what high school can be like, and judging, stereotyping and discrimination is definitely present, more than it should be.

Unfortunately there were also a few students who sulked and felt that they did not have anything good about themselves that they liked. Anonymously, I used this time to explain to the students how easy it is for us to tear ourselves down, to reject compliments and to build our peers up instead. I can’t even act like I don’t still do that, I do that to this day. If someone walks up to me and compliments me on my outfit, I’ll shrug it off and think “oh that was nice of them” and continue on with my day. But like most people, more so women, we can stand in front of the mirror and rip apart our appearance; hence the importance of my self-image/body-image lesson. This provided an opportunity for the class to shout out positive attributes of their classmates without pinpointing the individuals who were truly feeling like they had none.

Overall my lesson went well; I achieved what I wanted but did need to face difficulties along the way which is usually unavoidable. In the end I was happy for all of the hiccups that arose to expand and show my multicultural class how common stereotyping occurs, how discriminating any culture is never right and how these situations can affect the way students, or individuals in general, view themselves.

I think an important message to remind our students of is that having a colorful classroom is unique and beautiful. Acknowledging each other’s different colors is not judging or discriminating, we each have our own skin colors, but to take any comments further than that to hurt someone is what becomes the problem. So continuing to educate our students on prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination will hopefully be able to make amends between our cultures and avoid future issues.

Reflection #5 – March 11, 2013

This week I was challenged to teach Social Studies, focusing on the European explorer John Cabot. At first I was unsure about taking on this subject as it was one of my least favorites growing up; I retained very little knowledge about this topic to even feel confident with it. That being said, I spent a lot of time planning my lesson because I was always bored in that class so I wanted to make sure that wasn’t the case for my students while I was their teacher.

I ended up planning a fun lesson of reading a few notes to learn about Cabot’s journey then having questions on ships for the students to fill out. Each ship contained a letter of his name, a few students were given maps of England and Newfoundland then we strung them together at the end to piece together his exploration. They loved it! So for me, the feeling of succeeding the ‘non-boring’ Social Studies was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, but there always seems to be an area of improvement tagged on the side too; back to classroom management.

I held the students’ attention all throughout my explanation and reading of the explorer, but as soon as I tried to incorporate cooperative learning and allowing group work, the room was very busy and I wasn’t at ease anymore. They weren’t misbehaving, most groups were actually doing their work, but it was hard for me to think clearly, speak to students who had asked for help and to keep track of how everyone was doing. On a lighter note, they do show respect for me a lot more than they had when I first started. They listen when I ask them to give me five, I guess I just haven’t realized the difference between ‘noise’ and ‘sound’ when it comes to students working in groups. It’s an obvious expectation that group work will rarely be silent, but since I’m still new at this I feel obligated to have them quiet down all the time for the fear of me losing control of my own classroom.

The next period after my lesson, my partner and I went into the Art History class with our Grade 4/5’s while our co-op was on her prep. Their Art teacher was sick so a substitute teacher was in for them, whom they’ve never seen before. This was very comparable to a zoo. Now the tables had turned for me, they didn’t show any respect for the substitute, but if I raised my voice for them to settle down they would because they knew me. However, being last period their attention spans were limited and it was a challenge for all three of us adults to keep 28 students under control. I am just finding this whole concept troubling still – managing my classroom. I do not feel hopeless and incompetent to maintain it, but I find it’s so “wishy washy” if you would, to know when or how the students will behave. Any suggestions?

I want to be able to have the mutual relationship with my students where if I show them respect I would expect them to show me it back. There will always be those students who misbehave and cause trouble, but I want them to want to listen to me and not fight back my rules. Should I be more strict to get their attention or more lenient about so much noise so they won’t act out to anger me. I’m just having a few puzzling/frustrating moments with knowing how to properly deal with such behaviors. I guess practice and experience will help me out in this area as well, but suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

Reflection #4 – March 4, 2013

Today I had the chance to teach English to my Grade 4/5 class focusing on comprehension. I read them the story “The Three Questions”, based on characteristics of a good person and identifying questions that arise when being encountered with a situation to help someone. To begin my lesson I asked the students who found themselves to be a good person right now or who would like to become a good person as they grow up. Many hand shot in the air, so I asked them individually what supposedly made them a good person or what you could do to make yourself be a good person. Positive words such as kindness, generous, caring, helpful were being suggested, so then I asked what questions we might face while trying to be a kind person. “Should I help them? Who should I help? When should I help someone?” were the most common responses. I then read the story to them as the main character asks three questions that are very similar to the few shouted out by my students.

For their assignment I had asked each of them to complete a worksheet to practice comprehension and inference, five questions only. I knew in the back of my head prior to the assignment that there were a handful of kids who would rarely participate in discussion so I assumed little feedback on their sheets. To my surprise, the three boys who are constantly misbehaving were some of the best behaved kids I worked with today. Reading their answers to how they feel when they help someone and what makes you a good person in their eyes were outstanding. They perform like the class clown all throughout the day; some kids are semi bullied by them as they get rude, loud and rowdy quite often. Because of my label of ‘class clown’ that I have already stuck on them, I expected rude responses or jokes. Another two students I have are very quiet and always say “I don’t know” if they’re asked a question. Again, I assumed little feedback from them as well. To my absolute shocking surprise, those five wrote the best answers when inferring the lesson I had taught them. We discussed who the most important person would be, when the most important time was to help someone and what the most important thing to do was. When asked to reflect on a time in their lives that they helped someone and to state who, when and what for that situation, one boy actually wrote “Today when Ms. Stein was reading to us, she was the most important person, the most important thing for me to do was to listen to her and give her my attention and the most important time was right now”.

Knowing who my learners actually are and what they are capable of really opened my eyes. I am kicking myself in the butt for assuming their achievement levels based on their attitudes and behaviors, because I was definitely proved wrong today. One of the quietest students who never speaks a word when asked a question easily wrote the most for each of his responses. I actually like to think I have built a relationship with these students in our own ways, aside from how they are treated by their permanent teacher Ms. Whaley. Yes, I use classroom management, but I do not yell at them. I sternly ask them to return to their seats or to please be quiet, and as soon as they do behave well I encourage it and make sure to say thank you. I was worried for working with the ones who constantly were misbehaving, but I’m starting to notice the more respect and patience I give them, the more I am gaining in return. There was hardly a peep between any of them when I asked them to complete the assignment, which was so shocking to me (but made me feel successful at the same time).

I’m continuing to learn who MY learners are, obviously still growing as a teacher, but definitely learning some great lessons and strategies on my own. Just like the golden rule we were taught growing up “treat others the way you want to be treated”; definitely still applies when you’re a teacher working with students.

 

                                    ~rebecca

Reflection #3 – February 25, 2013

This week’s reflection is based on challenges; beginning with teaching Grade 4/5 Phys. Ed. Initially being assigned this task excited me, I thought implementing exercise through circuits and games would be a blast for my students. Looking back at how the period went, they did have a blast, was it an easy task for me though? Not so much. I went into the class feeling well prepared, had my equipment ready, used a whistle to maintain classroom management, but setting 28 nine and ten year olds loose in a gymnasium was not nearly as simple as I had imagined. It was extremely stressful for me to keep kids on task at their own stations during the circuit and not running around bothering their buddy, there were times when I would have to stand there for minutes with my hand in the air waiting for everyone to settle down and regain their attention again. Did I expect these students to be very attentive and lazy in the gym? Of course not, but at the same time reality did hit me harder than what I was ready for.

Another challenge and teaching insight I learned this week was through observing how students react to the way you talk to them and treat them one on one. My initial co-op in my Grade 4/5 classroom had a prep period for an hour so she asked permission for my partner and I to help in a Grade 8 classroom. Right off the bat the teenage girls seemed pretty snarly toward their teacher, lots of attitude and back talking. There was a group of boys off to the far corner who were fooling around and they were all supposed to be doing an independent research project. I realized they had never seen me before so they probably weren’t going to take me seriously or do what I told them. Since I have only been out of high school for two years now, it is easy for me to remember how I felt with interns and how I would appreciate teachers treating me. So instead of being rude to them right away and being strict, I approached them like a friend and acted interested in their research, asked a few questions about their topics and would joke with them to lighten the air. Not only was it uncomfortable that a random intern was constantly walking around their classroom, but it was nerve racking for me as well to step into a class without knowing any of the students for the next hour.

Inside and outside of school I have always had a natural tendency to communicate well with others and most often through humor. I realize that in the classroom we must be aware offer a safe, sarcasm free environment where everyone is welcome and will not be afraid of being judged. But to me, appropriate humor is a common language spoken by everyone. Building relationships with students is a priority, especially with teenagers I find. Being able to be trusted, respected and appreciated by our teen students (any age technically) is a huge boost towards a less stressful environment all year round. Relating to students yet being a professional about it may not always be easy either, but if one can master this task I believe it will be a strong aid to being a high school teacher for sure.

Neither of the situations discussed above were easy for me, but I’m grateful for both experiences. I strongly feel that I now have a better realization of how classroom management will vary from venue to venue in the school. There is a great difference in how students will behave seated in rows in a math class versus a wide open playground at recess, or in the library reading books versus a large gymnasium in the afternoon. Using common sense I could have figured that out on my own, but dealing with it in reality is a lot more complex! I was also very confident in how I dealt with the Grade 8 students, noticing I was a new to them and they were new to me. By the end of the period there were students working better than they were before because I didn’t reprimand them for their behaviors, I approached them in friendly manner, made a few harmless comments about them being the ‘chatter boxes’ of the room, they giggled, and carried on with their work. As I am still a teenager, just out of high school, I still remember how much more willing we are to complete a task when we’re not constantly reminded or yelled at to do so. If we are asked politely or a task is suggested to be accomplished, there is a better chance of us choosing to do it, and well, opposed to being forced and rebelling. I’m not sure if anyone will truly understand the teenage mind, but it definitely has to be taken into consideration while dealing with 25+ of them on a daily basis.

Like we always share when people ask “why did you want to be a teacher?”, nine times out of ten it was due to a great inspirational teacher we once had. In this particular instance, my high school math teacher was unbelievably well with connecting with his teenage students, taking about topics he knew would interest, playing trivia games every once in a while that had nothing to do with math, but instead actors/actresses that we enjoy watching in movies. He knew what would grab our attention and then since we respected him being so “cool” it made it that much easier to show respect and listen throughout his math lessons. If you are going to go into a classroom and be strict, down to business 24/7 without any humor to lighten the mood or provide enjoyment for your students who come there every day, chances are you will be shown little respect and few will be willing to come back each morning. I have learned and now experienced that we must know our students, learn about each individual fairly, and show them as much respect as we would like back while maintaining our professional role as their educator.

~rebecca

Reflection #2 – February 11, 2013

Well I’m back, successfully completed my second field experience! This week I was able to actually get my hands in there and teach the students a math lesson; it went well! I was asked to plan for a multiplication and division lesson and I chose to focus my target on set and closure (how I gain my students’ interest and attention).

To start my lesson off we played a round of “Around the World” where they compete against each other by who can yell out a multiplication or division fact first. The students were ecstatic playing this, they absolutely loved it and Ms. Whaley was really happy with how it turned out as well. Now, once the actually teaching began things started getting challenging and I was able to notice things I needed to work on in the future. For instance, maintain classroom management, so I think that will be my professional target for next week! The kids weren’t misbehaving but the transitions between playing the game and remaining seated during my lesson was a bit interesting. My CO-OP suggested I try the “give me 5” method, where I do not being to talk until all eyes are on me.

So for this reflection I am going to focus on what I thought my strengths were and what some areas of improvement would be. Beginning with strengths, I found working with the students to be a breeze and I was able to communicate well with them and be engaged in the activities alongside with them. Interacting with the students and having them volunteer and participate in my lesson worked out great too. It is such a huge encouragement to continue when you can tell by the look on your students’ face that they enjoy being there!

One struggle I had during my lesson was being able to re-explain and re-evaluate what I was writing on the board so that it was clear to each student. There were also students who have hardly learned their numbers to 10 yet, and a few students who are able to do Grade 6 math. I went into the lesson unaware of these multiple abilities and assumed each student was at the same place and able to complete one level of math; I was very wrong. I guess I learned my lesson at that point though too which is helpful.

Another skill I need to improve on is being able to KEEP my students’ attention. A few times throughout my lesson I noticed students playing with objects in their desk, distracting themselves and neighbors and one student was doodling. I want to be able to keep my lessons interesting from beginning to end to keep my students intrigued. Another suggestion Ms. Whaley made for me to try during my lessons is not to continue calling on the students who repeatedly raise their hand but to try calling on students who rarely speak up.

I know I mentioned more areas of improvement than strengths that I already have, but that doesn’t discourage me as this was my first time attempting to teach a lesson in a classroom! I was very happy with how I did and my CO-OP said she thought things went great but just wanted to provide me with a few suggestions that I could take or leave. I really appreciate feedback and help from my CO-OP so that I am not going into this experience alone or helpless! Next week I get to try teaching Phys. Ed, so I am going to be challenged with classroom (gymnasium) management and hopefully things continue to improve!

 

~rebecca

Reflection #1 – February 4, 2013

This semester I have been placed in a split Grade 4/5 classroom at Dr. George Ferguson School in Regina. My initial reaction to entering the classroom is more nervous than anything, but having the opportunity in ECS 100 it was easier to adjust to the whole situation. Meeting my CO-OP, Ms. Lisa Whaley, was so exciting, she is an outstanding teacher and works so well with her students! She is very nonchalant and understanding that this is my first time teaching and actually completely lesson plans, which takes such a weight off my shoulders opposed to having  an uptight CO-OP with unreal expectations the first few weeks.

That being said, Ms. Whaley allowed my ECS partner and I to team-teach our activity this week so we planned a few Ice Breakers for the kids. I started off with an activity to learn their names, “My name is?” where they are to add an adjective to the beginning of their name that starts with the same letter as their name as well (Radian Rebecca, etc.). Here is where my main struggle came into play, not only remembering their names, but understanding them. Being completely open and non-racist, the majority of my class is East Indian and Asian, so a lot of the time I could only understand the adjectives they were saying and not their names. I grew up in a small town community where there was about one family that was of a different culture, so being around such diversity and names in general is a huge change for me. Having students of a variety of cultures and races in my class is not the problem at all, I’m just not used to the names and they are hard to understand AND pronounce.

Next I led them in an activity where they were handed a number, and whichever number they had corresponded to a question on my sheet, to get to know them more as well. Some examples were “If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?” and so on. Another challenge arose when I asked a student “If you could talk to anyone in the world right now, who would it be?” and his response was strictly “No one, nobody likes me or would want to talk to me anyways”. Another question was asked “If you could wish for one thing to come true this year, what would it be?” the student replied “for a nuclear bomb to explode so everyone would die”. Knowing how to properly respond to these situations was so difficult to me that I often avoided the situation and continued on to the next question. For student #1, they are obviously being bullied or have little bonding with parental figures or siblings that they truly would wish to talk to no one. And for student #2 to wish for a bomb to kill everyone means there are troublesome situations going on in their life as well. I will definitely need to learn and work on my skills for dealing with such scenarios in the future, because I realized that could easily be their way of reaching out for help, or they could be major attention grabbers who just want that feedback.

On a much lighter, happier note, my first field experience reassured me of my career choice to become a teacher. Attending our first lab for ECS 300 introduced all of the expectations and requirements for lesson planning; if that wasn’t overwhelming, I don’t know what is. Being handed stacks of paper and information that I need to understand and to complete for every lesson I plan was intimidating to say the least. I completely realized ahead of time that teaching does require hours of work such a lesson planning, but once it is all brought into reality and right in front of me, it worried me. However, the minute I stepped into my Grade 4/5 classroom the next Monday I was thrilled, I knew exactly where I was supposed to be. Having the kids so excited to meet me, were very well behaved and willing to participate made it so much easier to work with them for the rest of the afternoon. Having that moment of realization made me even more excited to slowly working my way into the classrooms permanently!

~rebecca