Pre-Internship Week 2

Pre-internship continues to be very nerve-wracking at times. Meeting expectations of teachers can be difficult, and there is no way to explain what went wrong as it ends up sounding like an excuse. I think this experience can bring out the worst aspects of teaching… mainly the stress of planning and conferencing and attempting to meet the needs of many students in one short class. My teaching yesterday ended up rather rough. It is difficult to team teach when both myself and my partner were under pressure, and it is also difficult to switch up teaching plans on the spot when a lesson seems to be unhelpful to students. I think my main issue is stress. When I’m feeling bad, it is noticeable, and I am certain the students I taught also likely noticed. That made them less willing to answer in group discussions and confused by my explanations. The stress can also affect my tone and make me sound negative when in actuality I care about the students and how they are doing. It is very important that I get over my stress so I can teach effectively.

The beginning of the week’s teaching went well, though. I am doing well with teaching drama, and finished my unit in a way that was engaging and fun while also helping students learn from the rest of the unit. I can facilitate discussion well there, and I do have the pieces necessary to teach them properly. I think it may also be a matter of transferring my skills with teaching drama into English classes, after I find a way to deal with stress.

I think I wish to work on putting everything together. I know I have the ability to do this, I just need to trust myself and keep myself organized and prepared for all of my lessons with engaging activities and ways of managing the classroom and logistics. I think I need to trust students to teach themselves partly, and allow them to learn through activities without lecturing at them. I think most importantly, I need to relax. I am getting too caught up in negativity. It seems that some of the people in this profession are very prone to criticism. That is not a bad thing. I just need to be able to take the notes of feedback and separate them from harsh attitudes or words in order to try my best and maintain hope that I am doing the right thing.

Going through this experience, I have learned that teaching can sometimes be very intimidating. Your students and their parents may not think you are doing the right thing. Your co-workers may not think you are doing the right thing. Some days, you may even wonder if you are doing the right thing, but a teacher needs to push through this fear. A teacher needs to look at failures as learning experiences, and find ways to fix things without being preoccupied with the mistakes. If I can teach myself this, I believe that eventually, I will be able to teach students the same thing.

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Pre-Internship Week 1

This week has been the source of many a struggle. Getting used to the time schedule change put strain on my body, to the point where I caught a nasty cold and flu combo where the flu lasted until Wednesday and the cold is still currently holding on. I also have to get used to a new standard for dress, a new timetable of classes where I am teaching instead of learning, a new location, and many other things. With all of that, lesson plans were probably seeming to go a lot worse than they actually were, just because of the stress of a new situation. That said, there are many things I have slowly been working on over the internship. The most important issue is being explicit in what I have to teach. Being told that I wasn’t teaching the students anything was a little traumatizing until I realized what that meant. I had clear outcomes in my lessons. I knew hypothetically what would show that the students were learning. It was simply a matter of explicitly stating why we were doing the activities we did in class so students weren’t just blindly doing work. I needed to connect activities to the topic at hand; for example, I needed to connect my activities about improvisation to the concepts of contrast and tension I was trying to explain. I also needed to facilitate discussion more, and ask questions that would guide students to the conclusion of the lessons that I have. All of the pieces are there, it’s just a matter of putting them together in order to teach effectively.

Not everything was difficult, however. I taught a small unit on improvisation this week, and I’m finding that the one thing I don’t have trouble with is keeping students engaged. A lot of the students seem to have fun with the activities I lead them through, and they’re willing to act strange and try new things in the pursuit of developing improvisation skills. I seem to connect with the students well. Though I am a little nervous around them, I have had some good conversations with them, and I feel comfortable enough to joke around with them while still maintaining control over the class. My time management has also gone over well. Most of my lessons are the right amount of time, and don’t cut off too short. I seem to be good at judging how long it will take students to do activities. I think I’ve been doing well at helping out around the other classes as well. I’m struggling with names, but students are still happy to show me their work and take feedback from me.

Looking back at the lessons I have taught, I think each of them should have had some jot notes about what questions to ask and what to state in order to connect activities to the main learning goal. I have been trying to explicitly state what we’re learning, but it’s a little difficult to check my papers when I’m in the middle of a drama class. I think finding a good way to space out my notes would help me realize where we are and what I need to say before moving on. I would also adjust them so they included more time for feedback. Some of the activities involved students acting out scenes, and I should have been giving them feedback so they knew a bit more about what works in improvisation and what doesn’t work. I think my plans are getting much better than how they used to be, however, even in one short week.

This week, I think the one thing I learned about teaching is that teaching styles are very, very varied. Every teacher I’ve talked to seems to have a different idea of how to run their class, and what is important. My teaching style varies from my co-op’s style, and from my partner’s style. I think pre-internship can be a struggle because adapting to another style is very difficult. I am starting to realize, based on talking to other teachers, what is really important to me in teaching, and I’m hoping that knowing those things will help me become a good teacher. I wonder if any other teachers are finding their own teaching styles are starting to develop as they go through pre-internship.

Goals For Pre-Internship

I have just gotten back from my first orientation day of pre-internship, and it’s easy to see just from interacting with the students what my three goals for this experience are. I came up with them during our co-op’s prep time, and I’m hoping that I will be able to accomplish them by the time we are to return back to university.

First, I wish to create a more professional atmosphere around me. I know I am fairly young looking, and that I probably won’t look much like a teacher no matter how much fancier I dress compared to the school’s casual dress code, but I believe I should be able to at least create a rapport with students that shows me as a friend to them, but more of a teacher as well. I am trying to speak in a more professional manner, and I may need to find the courage to tell students to do something instead of shrugging and moving on. I am afraid to annoy them, but as a teacher instead of a friend, I should be able to see that this is what they should do to learn, and convince them to do that.  I will try to get my pre-internship partner to watch if I say ‘um’ often or use language that is too casual, and will take care to correct my speaking. I will also force myself to be ‘mean’ sometimes and get students to do things instead of giving them an option to do something I really need them to do.

Second, I am hoping that I can provide more substance in my lesson plans. So often in my prior teaching, I’ve felt like my lesson plans weren’t teaching enough, and that they were made up of filler and busy work. That may have been a consequence of teaching only once a week, but I believe that now, I should try to make sure I have a plan that seems substantial and that holds learning that can be carried throughout the year. My co-op has already asked me to begin planning a drama unit on improvisation, and I am hoping that I can use that opportunity to carry learning from one lesson to the next and provide something both fun and worthwhile for students.

The final goal I’ve set for myself while I am in pre-internship is a simple but very broad one: I wish to get myself out of my comfort zone. I am a very naturally shy person, and being in a school where I have to interact with students and teachers is already far beyond what I would normally do. I am sure with time I will get more comfortable with students, at which point I will start to speak more with the teachers. Hopefully I can even push myself to be involved in extracurricular events and be more present. This pushing myself to get out more will continue into my internship, but I’d like to start getting used to being more open and outgoing now. I will understand my limits and not go too far, but with time, I hope what is too far will become more absurd and I will be able to do all the things that a teacher in a normal high school would do.

Treaty Education

Treaty education is something I’m largely still figuring out, and I am still unsure as to how well I am figuring it out, as I had to go to a meeting and missed the part of class that likely would have provided some guidance through feedback and through other people’s lessons. As such, I only have my own lesson with Lacy to go off of, but this is what I can gather from creating that lesson.

Treaty education is complicated. It is something that is more than just being considerate of First Nations content in school, and more than just inserting a short story or two into a unit plan. It involves an entire curriculum with outcomes and indicators that should teach about the treaties and the injustices First Nations people suffered. It’s very extensive and detailed… and it makes me wonder why I have had virtually no experience with treaty education up until high school. I can’t remember learning anything about First Nations people besides when I was in history, and I felt like many injustices were overlooked. The settlers’ arrival was mentioned, but the taking of the land was basically glossed over. I can remember one short film about an Indigenous woman and her daughter being shown in a Christian Ethics class, but all that I learned from that was that my classmates were quite content to ignore films and speak in racist accents for the rest of the day.

I think that is what most concerns me about treaty education. I have ideas with how to incorporate it, and though it’s complicated, I’m willing to try it. I want students to understand the history of Indigenous people because I went so long without understanding it, and I felt like I was cheated. I want to open students’ eyes… but I’m afraid of coming across students who were like my old classmates. I don’t know how to manage a student who, because of the way they were brought up, makes racist comments. I don’t know how to feel about the possibility that my lesson may become the punchline of a joke. Perhaps that is why I was not taught more treaty education before. That is also why my lessons tend to focus on the aspect of identity, and connecting our own selves with those of the First Nations people to show we are not so different, and that Aboriginal culture can teach us much about who we really are, if only we let the teachings get past our judgements.

Teaching Empathy: Turning a Lesson Plan into a Life Skill

In this post by Joe Hirsh, an argument is made for the use of cooperative learning in classroom management. This method is preferred because it brings students together to think, plan, and work, instead of being stuck in lonesome togetherness, where they’re surrounded by peers but feel completely isolated. Hirsh also recommends jigsaw classrooms, where students work in groups on one chunk of the lesson and then after mastering it, bring all their pieces together to teach the full lesson. He believes using these methods will allow students to feel empathetic towards their peers, teach them to listen to what their classmates have to say, and will encourage teamwork so each student can help and get help from other students.

I really enjoy these ideas for classroom management. Considering my own school experience, it was clear that empathy wasn’t being taught in every class. I was too afraid to ask others for help since I was the ‘smart kid’, and I never seemed to get along with the girls my age. Any secrets I admitted to were immediately gossiped about with everyone else, and it was actually a really harsh experience. I wasn’t really seen as a person, just someone to compete against mark-wise and use as entertainment otherwise. I didn’t really get to show my own personality, and part of that was my own fault because I was so shy. I think classroom techniques such as these could cause students to actually get to know the people around them, and know them as more than just basic stereotypes. It could allow students to also feel better about themselves, knowing that they have the knowledge to help their peers out.

I do have some concerns with the technique, because it might not be a good idea to force students who are shy into this kind of environment. I think the techniques should be done only once or twice a week at first, and then gradually build to become more prominent, so students can adapt to the situation and be more comfortable working with groups. It’s also important not to force anyone to speak up in these situations, since they can contribute through the smaller discussions instead of the larger ones, and through one-on-one help if small groups are still too much of them. I do believe, though, that these methods should help with shyness, and allow students to feel more confident in their ability to socialize with other students. I’m looking forward to trying this technique during internship to see how it works.

Assessment: Authentic Reflections of Important Learnings

Reflect on your understanding of assessment.  Why is it necessary? How can we ensure that assessment benefits students rather than penalizing them?

Assessment has been the source of stress for me for most of my schooling. When I entered school, assessment seemed to prove that I was intelligent, as if the 9 and 0 side by side on the top of my test actually meant something. When people saw this, it was expected that the 9 and 0 would pop up on every one of my assignments. Surely I would never get an 8, or god forbid, a 7 next to that 0. My parents insisted that they did not have high expectations for me, but when I received a 79 on a science test, I was told to review the entire unit, even though I was not going to be tested on it again (which of course, was another issue entirely, since I didn’t care about learning something if I wasn’t about to be marked on it). Even now, my parents worry more about my grades than the strategies I am actually learning in order to teach.

It is certainly necessary though. It shows students, teachers, and parents what a child has accomplished, and what they need to work on. If done right, like in the example where the teacher marks the incomplete assignments and shows students what they might have gotten if they handed the assignment in on time, it shows the student exactly how to improve and encourages them to work hard. I think in order to help students through assessment rather than hinder them, assessment needs to put a different kind of pressure on students. It can’t be pressure from the expectations of parents, and shouldn’t be pressure due to competing with other students and comparing test grades with those of the ‘smart kids’. It should instead be pressure students get internally. They see what they are doing, and can see that if they worked harder, they could do even better. Assessment should be used as a way to show students how to reach a learning goal, and to get students excited to actually accomplish things. If we don’t use assessment to compare a student to everyone else, but rather to guide a student to reach goals and accomplish more, it will give students more pride when they reach a goal instead of just reaching the high expectations of others, and will allow a student to actually think about how to fix a poor mark instead of feeling hopeless and giving up.

Creating a Climate for Learning

Chapter 2 of Differentiated Instructional Strategies has to do with what a teacher should do, say, and provide for her students in order to make the classroom climate comfortable and livable. How a student feels in an environment is an important factor in how well he learns, and success is rarely achievable in an oppressive classroom climate. The classroom has a list of needs that need to be met, similar to the pyramid of needs for existence. Along with those needs, there is a list of rules that should be followed to avoid an oppressive environment, as well as tips for managing emotions, promoting self-motivation, and providing a comfortable physical and emotional atmosphere. I especially liked the suggestion of using thematic music in the classroom, as music has always worked to calm me down and help me channel my emotions productively. My parents started to be able to know me so well that when I was upset, they’d know which track of which CD would work to relax me, and I think a teacher should be able to figure out what tracks work to help students learn.

The one thing I was a little unsure of was the list of chants to say when a student succeeds. Most of them seemed silly, and a few of them seemed too complicated for young students, which is who I assume the list was made for. You could never use those chants in a high school class, and to be honest, from my own personal experience, using them even in a class older than Grade 1 is pushing it. These chants don’t help a student succeed, in my opinion, but just make them feel embarrassed or cause them to lose respect for the teacher by making the chant the butt of a joke. The rest of the chapter, however, was an excellent resource, and one I will keep in mind in future classrooms.