Oh Math…

Math and I have an interesting relationship. It’s more of a love-hate relationship most days. It started out when I was a kid. As a young elementary school student I was good at following the rules, repeating the actions, and practicing the questions that were given to me. I didn’t really enjoy it, but I could do it. I just saw math as a kind of necessary evil. Math and I were just acquaintances.

As I went through high school math and I became better friends. I enjoyed solving more “real world” problems, and seeing math come along with me to physics and chemistry classes. We weren’t besties or anything, but I generally was good friends with math…except for those times when I wanted to throw my math text across the room with those dang imaginary numbers and complex probability problems. At those times I hated math and we didn’t speak for days.

Photo Credit: matttrent via Compfight cc

In university I was lucky enough to have a phenomenal instructor who really helped me secure my relationship with math. It really made me see how interesting math can be and how many cool relationships there are within numbers and formulas, circles triangles, patterns and sequences. I was able to see why math and I had such a rough time in elementary school, and how I could now make things so much better for the students I would work with. I was actually really excited to be able to teach math to middle years students and show them how cool it was!

Well….so far math and I have not been getting along in my pre-internship lessons. My first go with math a few weeks ago was not too bad, but yesterday’s lesson….uh…not so much. I had really high hopes for the lesson and, I think that the actual lesson plan itself was fine, and actually really fun! It even included a story book and an art project! (You can check it out here.) But, there were a few problems in executing it…

  1. The students had not seemed to have done anything related to my topic since Mr. C taught it last week (oh, ya this was to be a review of what he taught). I’m not sure what they’ve been working on, but it felt like I was starting at square one again with them.
  2. As a result of having to spend so much time on actually reviewing the concept behind circles, circumference (which I’m not sure they actually know about) and area, there was no time left to do the actual “fun” part of the lesson.
  3. Students do not know how to use a compass to draw a circle. I guess I just assumed by grade 8 they would. Whoops.
  4. As the students worked through their problems I could see that they really didn’t get the concepts…which had now been taught to them twice….oy. After half an hour of working on something I thought would have taken 10-15 minutes only 1 student had finished….double oy. I realized that I probably should have stopped and perhaps done another example with them, but by that point I didn’t even know if it would be worth it.

By the end I just felt sort of defeated. I think that if it were a class that I worked with on a more regular basis, it would have been easy enough to just pick up the next day, or next period, but in my case, this was the last time I’ll see these students for months, so I have no time to correct what happened. While my co-op said that it was fine and that the overall lesson was great, I certainly doubted my teaching strategies. I just didn’t know what to do to make it better.

I think that if I were teaching this lesson in my class I would perhaps add in several other lessons. I would start with the story of Sir Cumference, and have students understand the pi ratio by exploring circles and cylinder shapes like Radius did in the story. From this we could easily discuss how to calculate the circumference and diameter of the circle, two crucial parts of the circle. Then we could go into radius and calculations for the area of the circle. After a day or two on this we could then look at doing the neat art project I had wanted to do with the students. Similarly with the grade 8s, they could have done with a review of parts of a circle before going to the surface area of a cylinder. They all could have done the same portions, and then as the grade sevens were working on some more practice with circles, the grade 8s could have gone the step further, now feeling confident with area of circles and circumference, the two crucial parts of the surface area calculations.

I’m happy that I was able to make these realizations after the lesson. While it is frustrating that I won’t be able to pick up this lesson again with the students, I’m grateful for the learning that I got from it.

Last day until the spring now! …although the weather outside might suggest that winter’s not even going to come!

Backwards is the only way Forward

I love Backwards by Design planning! It makes so much sense! While I have almost always figured out what it was that I wanted to teach before making a lesson, I had often not thought out how I would find out if the students had learned what the lesson was about. By doing the BbyD way, and figuring that out right from the start, it makes it very easy to plan a lesson! It makes total sense, you need to know where you’re going before you figure out how you’re going to get there!

The task of re-designing a not-so-great lesson into a great one was a fun challenge. While at first, the lesson seemed ok, as we got to reading it some more we realized that it didn’t really meet the intended outcome/indicator objectives. By tackling it from a backwards approach we decided what we wanted the students to learn and a way they were going to present that learning, and then could easily create the rest of the lesson. We knew what the final product was going to be, and therefore we could figure out what time and resources the students would need. By working in a group, we could gather a lot of ideas about how to approach the lesson, and create a good list of questions to ask, things to include in the project and ways to approach it.

I have often liked working alone on projects, but have found recently that I like working with others to create a lesson plan, or at least the overall format/idea of the lesson. I find that when I work alone I get too caught up in finding something really innovative, when often my initial ideas are often quite inventive to most people. Working in this group was a fun, and I think we created a great lesson!

The Great Escape

I can recall as an elementary school student the excitement that arose when our teacher would announce that we were going on some type of field trip. YES! We get to leave the school! We get to do something fun! We get to see something awesome! I loved field trips! Some were to the art gallery or perhaps a community event, but my favourite were our outdoor expeditions. I loved being outside and exploring somewhere and learning new things. But, now as I reflect back on all of those great experiences, what was the connection back to our classroom? What did we really learn other than that the one-off experience of the day was fun, or perhaps some interesting facts about where we had visited?

Field trips are a tricky thing. There is great potential for them to be an avenue to take the learning from the classroom, build upon it, generate even more excitement about it, and carry that excitement through to more classroom projects or learning, but I think that this is seldom done, despite the tools being there for teachers. I know that many field trips and special experiences offer direct connections to the Saskatchewan Curriculum, but I wonder how often that is actually done. Regina Public Schools Outdoor Education offers amazing trips, and they have direct curriculum links listed! My mom worked with this department as a consultant for as long as I can remember, so I had the tremendous opportunity to learn from her throughout my childhood, and get the connections at home that perhaps my teachers weren’t making. Now, as a pre-service teacher, she is also there to remind me of how great these trips are…as long as you make the connections in your classroom both in preparing the students for the field trip, and in following up afterwards with it.

While I think that outdoor field trips are inherently fun and exciting, a lot of learning can also happen at museums and art galleries. The problem can come again if there is no pre or post discussion, and/or if students are given counter-productive activities to do during the visit. In our trip to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum yesterday, we had the opportunity to examine the worksheet for grade 4-8 students and give it a thorough critique. Quite honestly, I would not give my students such a worksheet for a museum or gallery visit for a few reasons. First of all, the visit became more of a scavenger hunt to find all the answers and little regard was given for simply becoming immersed in the gallery itself. While I think that some type of task or goal is needed for students to gain something tangible from the visit, it needs to be in a constructive way. Secondly, the sheet we were using for the First Nations gallery resulted in quite a one-sided and very past-tense view of First Nations people. While that could even be said of the entire gallery itself, I think that a better version of a student worksheet would give students the opportunity to build on previous knowledge discussed in class and to generate questions. As our class discussed, there are so many ways that you can then take this visit back to your classroom and have students actively critiquing what they experienced, what they would change, and the thoughts and feelings that they had during their visit. This certainly would take some work both pre- and post-visit.

Photo Credit: Barrett.Discovery via Compfight cc

This article outlines some of these concepts about utilizing field trips better and ensuring that students are prepared. She suggests turning a field trip into a research expedition, where students have done some pre-planning and are visiting the exhibit to conduct research for a project. I think that this is a great way to make the field trip an extension of the classroom…which is what I think a field trip should be! While doing a project like this would require a lot of preparation on the part of the teacher to know the museum or gallery and its current exhibits very well in order to guide students’ topics, it would also allow the teacher to directly find links to the curriculum and the class topics and content. The trip then becomes not only a fun day for students, but one where they can show their independence and really dig into the exhibits presented. When they have spent the allotted time on their own topic area, students could also be encouraged to find other areas of interest and generate questions, perhaps that could be used to question their classmates who may have chosen that area for their project. I think that with great lead-up and follow through of the projects that this method could be a really great way to utilize any type of field trip.

Another article, from Edutopia (one of my favourite educational blog sites), gives “8 Ways to Lien Up The Museum Field Trip”. Similar to what I have been discussing, it gives ideas of ways to more actively engage students in a trip by having them do tasks that are of interest to them and will enable to them to interact with the place they are visiting. Ideas 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 I think are the most valuable for students, as they have them bringing in their own thoughts, opinions, and perspectives on what they are encountering. These ideas suggest having students connect to art pieces and write poems or narratives, documenting their experience through photos (perhaps doing some photo journalism type work?), identifying and exploring what is represented (or not represented) in the gallery, and exploring the meaning behind the pieces. I think that all of these can give students the opportunity to continue to develop their critical thinking skills and personal opinions. Number 5 goes back to the scavenger hunt, which I think is problematic as students will just look for the clues or answers than truly experiencing the gallery. Number 7 I think may work well for younger students, and number 8 is really more of a tip rather than a way to make the visit more engaging.

While Regina may not have the most amazing galleries to take students to (after seeing so many amazing galleries in London this summer I know this is true!), there are still opportunities to help students learn something from them, even if they have been there before. Student engagement I think is the key to the whole concept of education, so it certainly needs to apply to field trips too. They cannot (or at least should not) be just a “fun day” with no connection to what is going on in the classroom. The connections are out there, it is just up to the teacher to find them and help the students see them too.

Eureka!

Today was a fabulous day of pre-interning!  We got to hear their really fun songs they wrote for the upcoming Christmas concert, taught some lessons, and watched a teacher-student volleyball tournament. The kids were great, my lesson went great, and I had a lot of fun!

I taught science today, my favourite, which I hadn’t taught before. While I’ve certainly had a lot of experience working with kids and science while working at EYES camp, teaching it is very different and has a different purpose. I chose to teach about buoyancy, a pretty difficult concept for even me to understand, let alone teach to students! Luckily we’d had a bit of exposure to this topic in one of our ESCI 317 classes, so I adapted some of things, added a few more experiment stations, and turned it into a really great lesson plan! As I found out that the students didn’t have a lot of experience with exploratory type science we reviewed how to generate questions, made a KWL chart, discussed how to predict, observe and make attempts to explain the experiments we were doing. It went really well (though a little longer than I had anticipated), and we were good to go!

The students had a great time doing all of the stations, and worked really hard at doing their predictions, observations, and explanations. Mr. C helped me circulate the classroom and ensure that students were understanding how to perform the experiment and ask lots of questions to help them reach an explanation. It was so cool to be able to ask students questions, and help them to figure out the solution! It really made me feel confident in both my knowledge of the experiments and subject matter, and also in my questioning abilities!.

Photo Credit: somma1977 via Compfight cc

We wrapped up with some group discussion about what we learned, and were even able to answer some of the questions we wondered about in the KWL charts we made at the start of the lesson, like how a boat can float! Other than being a bit rushed for time in completing the group discussion and exit slip I thought the whole lesson went great, and there really isn’t much that I would change. The class only has 1 hour for science class, and I think that in my classroom I would try to plan it in a space that would have a bit more time to accommodate the need for time to both conduct and explain experiments.

One more week to go! I’ve been tasked with reviewing area of a circle and surface area of a cylinder (which Mr. C taught today), but I want to make it more than just a boring math review. Any ideas on how I can turn this into something awesome?

The Split

During my pre-internship experience this week I took my first stab at teaching mathematics, and what the adventure it was! I had been looking forward to the challenges of both teaching math, and teaching a split lesson format, but the reality of it all was not as successful as I had hoped.

My co-op had given me some guidance as to the topic to teach on, and it was quite a lot! The grade 8s were to learn about the surface area of a rectangular prism (a box) and the 7s were to review area of a rectangle and move on to area of a triangle and various quadrilaterals. So, while I started with a group activity, the grades eventually split up and the 8s worked on an activity while I did some instruction with the 7s.

It started off pretty good…I think. I had the students do a fun bell work activity before announcements and O’Canada, but I don’t think that they are used to doing something like that, so were quite confused as to the purpose of it, and many were uninterested in participating. I had thought that by giving them a fun thing to think about, and also a list of materials that they would need for the lesson on the board that they would get to doing the tasks. Well, I was wrong. It took quite a bit of prompting for the majority of students to get the hint that they should be doing something other than sitting in their desks and doing nothing. I think that this type of routine could be learned more easily if I were there more often.

My Lesson, That’s a Wrap, started by introducing a wrapped box and asking the students how they would go about figuring out how much wrapping paper I used without unwrapping the box. The students seemed quite intrigued by the box, but were very confused as to how to come up with a solution to the problem. I tried to give them some prompts, but struggled a little as they did not do what I had anticipated. I thought that they would be able to figure out that they had to measure the box and then use those measurements to calculate the surface area of the box, and that perhaps some students would see that they would have to then figure out how big the paper was based on the size of the net of the box (they had been learning about nets). This was not the case though, as students either said they had no idea and just gave up, or the only thing they could come up with was to measure the box. I tried a think-pair-share set up, which sort of worked as it did help them to talk to a partner, but when we got to the sharing part I could tell that no one had really gotten the concept the way that I had anticipated them to. So, I had to diverge a bit from my lesson plan and as a class we worked out the steps we would take, and I had some students come up to the front of the class to demonstrate each of the steps.

In the end I do think that most of the students understood what we were doing, and the process that we had gone through, as I reviewed the steps many times and checked for understanding by getting the kids to give me thumbs up, down or sideways.  I didn’t move on until most of them were up and only a few left sideways. Following the group gift wrap problem I had the students work in partners to find surface area of many other boxes. For this part I think that I should have maybe given them partners as some of the pairs were not a very good fit for the students, and most pairs either didn’t know what to do or were super disruptive. There were some who worked well together though. It was due to these poor partnerships though that I think the noise level in the classroom was quite loud for the remainder of the class and I had to continually ask the grade 8s to settle down. Thankfully I had my partner, Mr. C, who was able to circulate the class to help any of the groups with questions and to help them stay on task.

I taught the grade 7s about area using geoboards, and I think they really enjoyed the hands on visuals! As I had created and taught a similar lesson to my peers in my EMATH class last year, I was able to really anticipate what students would do while learning the concepts of areas of triangles and quadrilaterals. I think that it could have been even better if I had grouped the students a little closer together so that there was less distraction from the grade 8s. I felt quite frustrated that the grade 8s were so noisy, and felt had to continually ask them to bring the noise level down.

In the end I think that both grades did get the overall concept I was teaching, as students were able to explain things to me. I think that in the future I need to work on collecting more evidence from students.  I would also want to find ways to separate the grades better, or to do the same thing with both grades, just having the grade 8s elaborate a bit more on a concept.

Sleuthing Success

Day four of pre-internship, and I’ve just come to accept that the world of education and teaching can present the most chaotic and unpredictable situations that you just have to roll with! Each week though, I’m coming better prepared for those unprepared situations and am really getting into the swing of it. Today was a great day and totally flew by!

Photo Credit: Old Shoe Woman via Compfight cc

Mr. C and I started out our morning over in the grade 6/7 class, and woah, what a difference in classroom management! Now, to be fair, I’ve never been in our 7/8 classroom at the beginning of the day as we’ve had phys ed in the gym, so meet the students in there, but these 6/7s sure have a routine down! They efficiently came in, hung up coats and backpacks, and got right to reading a novel until the announcements came on. It was a really peaceful way to start the morning, and might be something that I work with students on doing in my own classroom one day.  I loved seeing how into their books some of the kids got in just a few minutes…which made them not want to put them down for “O Canada” and announcements! It warmed my heart to see such a great class routine in such a kind and welcoming classroom.

The morning was a whirlwind of activity: a guest assembly with some of the Regina Pats, a social studies lesson with Ms. D where students wrote to pen pals in other countries, and Mr C’s math lesson on prisms and nets! The kids were great through all of it, and it seems like they are really connecting more with Mr. C and I, which is really cool. I love that I can joke with them and give them tips and suggestions.

After lunch was an ELA lesson by yours truly! I was really nervous and excited for this one, as I spent a LOT of time creating it. My co-op had suggested trying to teach a reading strategy about how to solve unknown words, so I took it to the next level by adding a few “PIRATE” tactics like a board message, and immersing students in the learning more to create an experience with the content, and it was a great success! We started with more of a direct instruction approach explaining some strategies, but having the students actually do the solving of the unknown words. This worked well, but another time I might add in a few more examples for some practice. After the instruction we broke into groups and I gave each group a clue. They had to “de-code” the clue by solving the unknown word, and solving the riddle to find out where the next clue was…somewhere around the school! The kids loved that they got to go around the school looking for clues (don’t worry, we went over respectful behaviour and I pre-warned all the teachers in the school)! On each clue sheet there was also an additional sentence problem to solve. An adjustment that I would make another time is to set up the clue sheets and the student work sheets differently as the students were a bit confused on which part was the clue and which part wasn’t. It was also difficult to make sure that all students were working well as they were all around the school at the same time! I did circulate as best I could and helped those that needed some assistance in solving clues. They did a great job though!

Photo Credit: theloushe via Compfight cc

The lesson did take longer than I’d anticipated (about 10-15 min extra), but it was really difficult to try and figure out how long the scavenger hunt would take. Another time I think I  would either put it in a place where there was more time, or make the clues a little simpler, or change the additional sentences to work in a different format. I think this lesson would also work well if done outside, but the weather wasn’t really so great for planning that today. The main idea of the lesson went really great though, and the kids enjoyed it while still learning something new, so that was the whole point! My co-op and Mr C thought it went really well, and I’ll take it as a sign of a good lesson that my co-op teacher wants to use this lesson in the future himself!

The more I teach, the more I love it. The more I teach, the more comfortable I feel doing it. The more I teach, the more relaxed the students feel with me. The more I teach, the more I want to teach.

What a difference a day can make!

My last two weeks at my pre-internship were a little rough. I felt discouraged, disappointed, and really quite depressed about my experiences. I broke down in tears, and even contemplated why I was even considering becoming a teacher. I felt unmotivated and unsupported, and just didn’t know where to go.

Well, today was a brand new day. I went back in with my head held high, a great lesson plan in hand, and I was going to give it another go. I had my reservations, as I was teaching a Phys Ed lesson about Inuit games, which could totally  have ended in disaster, but it didn’t! While I was a little rushed for time in setting up (staff meeting that I didn’t know about until I got there!), and had forgotten the book to go along with one of my stations at home, my co-op and my partner helped me out and I was good to go when the students arrived.

Mr. C and I started out by practicing a call and response for our students to use in the gym, and they loved it! It worked well for the grade 7/8 class throughout the lesson, and they were great listeners! What a change! While it didn’t work so well for the 6/7 class that I taught too, they weren’t as loud, so were easier to get attention from.

The independent warm up that I had the students do went over really well. I think that in the future I might add in some adaptations for those who want more of a challenge too. It certainly got them all warmed up though, and they all participated, which was good.

I had the lesson set up in 5 stations. I numbered the students off, but when they actually went to their stations the division seemed unbalanced. Mostly it was because students decided they wanted to go with friends regardless of their number. Another time I might send them to their designated area right away, instead of waiting until I was finished numbering. Or, in an established class we could use the same groups for a set amount of time. That would also help in a situation where I wanted to do some assessment notes during the activity.

Overall the stations worked quite well. Some stations had just words and pictures, and others had videos to accompany them. While most students could easily follow the directions and/or video and be able to perform the skill/game, there were some who were quite disengaged. I think that I could have given the stations more adaptations so that lesser or higher skilled students could work at their own level. For one boy, who is usually really engaged in PE, I think he had a bad experience with the first station, as it was a very challenging skill, and from then on he wasn’t really interested in participating. I hadn’t anticipated this psychological complication from the activities. I think that a variety of skill levels for each skill may have prevented this.

I had a lot of fun teaching this lesson today, and I’m really happy with how it went! My co-op also thought it was great, and provided me with great constructive feedback on it. The rest of my day was also really good. I was able to help kids in math, have some great conversations with some of the students, and even attended a magic show by a great French-speaking magician! I’m looking forward to next week after a great day today!

How was your day? If you  need a little pep talk, check out this video. I just love this kid!

Up next week, an English Language Arts lesson about finding out who you are, living your truth, and sharing it with the world. Really, finding out what makes you awesome, and sharing that awesome. Now I’ve just got to find a way to get some “real” teaching in there! Any suggestions?

 

Always be prepared…for anything!

Day two of my pre-internship experience was once again an interesting one! I’m beginning to realize that teachers just have to be prepared for absolutely anything. You’ve got to have a plethora of things to use as back-up plans in case your lesson just isn’t working out, or for those times when something else comes up and you’ve got space to fill, or you have to fill in last-minute for a colleague who hasn’t left you anything for the students to do. Let me give you a hint, one of these things happened today!

I spent my morning observing my colleague, Mr. C, teach two phys ed lessons to our grade 7/8s and then the 6/7s. This was really a little challenging for me, as I was not really sure what to do. Do I just stand by the sidelines and truly observe, even though I could easily  just jump in and do a little something or say something to one or two of the kids that would help them, or do I step in say/do something? Well, I did a little of both, and also gave my partner a few suggestions as to where he might be able to do better based on some of the things I observed that he may not have seen. While there may have been some tactical lesson opportunities missed, all of the students really enjoyed the game. Though not the approach I would perhaps have taken, it has me questioning how I will set up my phys ed lesson for next week, considering how I have witnessed two classes where the students are quite eager to play games for a continuous amount of time.

After recess I enjoyed being able to see my co-op teacher lead his class through a lesson. I appreciated that he asked a lot of questions about the students’ reasoning behind answering the questions he put on the board, and I really liked that he had the grade 7s try to solve the problem and then have the grade 8s decide if they liked what the grade 7s had done. By doing this not only was he able to check that the grade 7s had retained what they had learned from the day before, but he could check that the grade 8s also remembered it from last year. To the students though, it gave them power over their learning.

In assisting students with their math assignment it showed me just how diverse a class can be. One grade 7 student had the assignment done in minutes, whereas a few of the grade 8s were struggling. I also noticed how reliant many students were on their calculators, even to calculate 5×2. I found this quite alarming, as although I don’t have a problem with students using calculators for problems, I would think that simple problems, including single digit multiplication tables and factors should be able to be done without one at a grade 8 level. It was mainly due to this lack of basic math that many students were struggling on their fraction problems, because without that knowledge it’s very difficult to find common factors, which are needed in fraction problems!

My lesson was up right after lunch. I was feeling confident. I had a solid lesson plan, a supporting power point, a clear target sheet, and I knew what I wanted to accomplish. Over lunch though I did end up creating my own slide show, similar to pechaflickr, so that I could have total control over the images the students would see. I was feeling a little hesitant to use the actual website for fear that a questionable photo just might appear in our game! I was all set to go, when 5 minutes before I was to start teaching, my co-op informed me that he had to leave unexpectedly! So this now meant that we were scrambling to find a teacher to come and be in our classroom as the bell was ringing, the laptop I was going to be using was now going with my co-op, the students were coming into the room, and I was not ready to roll! Eeek! Thankfully, the grade 6/7 teacher, along with her two pre-interns, were able to join our class, help me get a computer set up, and keep on going ahead.

I felt that my lesson went quite well, despite the students being quite unruly! I did try a few call and response strategies to get their attention, in addition to asking for their attention several times. I was not, however, super successful every time in getting them to actually all be quiet so that I could explain something, ask a question, or hear the responses. In speaking to the other teacher afterward she said I did a good job in managing the class though, as they were certainly being unusually rowdy.  I knew that the target of class management would be difficult on just the second week since I had not witnessed many class management strategies to play off of in the week before, and then to add to it that their teacher wasn’t there made it even more difficult. Next time I think I may try practicing a call and response  type of strategy at the start of the lesson to see if that will help. I may also have to outline several different types of instruction, like the “do now,” as it seemed that students had not experienced something like that. Again, it’s difficult to establish routine with a group you only see and teach once a week.

Overall though, I think the students enjoyed the lesson. They had fun playing the story game, and enjoyed making a whole lot of 6-word stories. They were hesitant at first, but once they got the hang of it could keep creating them! I felt slightly panicked for time during the lesson, and as it seemed that I didn’t plan enough! In the end though, the lesson took almost exactly the time I had planned, and by that time students had had enough of what we were working on. I think that if I were to have added any extra extensions to the lessons I would also have had to plan a brain break or something after the 60 minute mark or so. I could probably have even put a short break in the middle of what I had done as I noticed that a few students were getting a bit restless in their seats. Thankfully, when I was finished my lesson the other teacher was able to get them up and playing a really fun interactive math game, as our teacher was not able to leave us a lesson plan for the next subject slot. That game will definitely be added to my list of activities to have on hand when there’s extra time!

Having my first lesson finished though feels quite good. I am definitely more confident that I can actually teach what I plan to a group of students, as opposed to just a group of my peers. I do need to work on my class management, but I think that this will come with time. As I get more comfortable teaching, and as the students get more accustomed to me I think that it will be easier to work with them.

Next week…phys ed! Wish me luck! Time to break out some skillful movement games!

Any tips for me on managing the class in the gymnasium?

Be Great. Be Awesome.

Going into my pre-internship experience I hoped to learn lots of things from my co-op teacher, make some connections with students, try out teaching some of my lessons,  and fall in love with teaching even more than I already do!  I really wanted this pre-internship experience to be great, and I’m going to work at making that happen throughout my time.

My day was a little chaotic, but it gave me many opportunities to see the world of a “real” teacher. In our university classes, we often think of the “ideal” scenario, but in reality, there are a lot of factors that can change how something actually works out, and I definitely saw some of those scenarios happen today. I also tend to focus my work in university towards the ideal reaction from students, or at least what I think would be ideal. Today I got a bit of a reality check as I worked with a group of students that was not really what I had in my mind as the “ideal,” but actually found them really fun to work with!

IMG_2300In the physical education classes I took part in this morning we played volleyball. While I was never personally a fan of participating in phys ed classes focused on a specific sport as I never felt good enough to play, these students all seemed to really be having a good time, which told me that they all really just liked being active and participating. Although the class was set up around volleyball specific skills, all of the students were active 100% of the time, no one was left out, and the students were all very supportive of each other, even if their serves didn’t make it over the net. I also really enjoyed being able to walk around the court as they were practicing drills and ask them questions to help them improve their technique. They all knew the answers, but just needed a little nudge to get there! I love that about teaching; tapping into students’ knowledge and letting them show you that they know how to do something! I loved seeing students succeed after they solved their own problems.

Just before lunch, after students finished their math test, my partner and I got the chance to teach our introductory lesson, and it was a huge success! It was great to be able to do it a little later in the morning after we had gotten to observe the class for a bit, as we had a better idea how to engage with them. We played a modified version of 2 Truths and a Lie, and had the students try to guess who the card belonged to before trying to figure out the lie, and it worked out perfectly. The students loved trying to figure out whose card it was, and showed such care and connection to their class mates! We were able to keep all of the students engaged for the whole activity, learned their names, and got them really excited to work with us, which was our goal. I felt nervous at first, but after seeing how much fun the kids were having it got a lot easier. I just hope I’ll be able to continue this flow into my lesson next week!

This is as close to canoeing as we got.

This is as close to canoeing as we got.

Before arriving today, we found out that we would get to go canoeing with the grade 7 students, which was really exciting! The students were really excited that we were going with them, and we were geared up for a great afternoon. However, when we arrived at the lake, we found out it was too windy to go out, and had to go back to the school. This set up one of those “ideal situations failed” scenarios. We now had an extra 30 minutes of time to fill with something! We ended up taking the students outside to play a game of football, and it gave us a great chance to just chat with our co-operating teacher. This experience gave me the thought though, to perhaps start a collection of short lessons or activities that could be used to fill such times as this. Maybe along the same lines of the “date jar” I made for my sister and her husband, I could create a “learning jar” that could have fun ideas to get the students thinking, and having fun.

At the close of the day I was able to help out several students in their French class. Like in the volleyball lessons, I loved being able to guide students to figuring out the answer themselves, and it was rewarding to see them smile when they made the right connections. It also showed me how in a class of 20-some students, some will find one task very simple and be finished it in less than half the time of another student. It made me realize that differentiating the work that students do in the class will be very important to make sure that they are not only all successful in understanding the concepts being taught, but also that they are challenged.

My first day was certainly eye-opening to the realities of the classroom, and gave me things to consider when planning lessons for this class. There are some students that are really outgoing, and others who aren’t as much. Some students seem to be the “cool kids,” and others really want to be part of the gang. Some students are really smart, and others are challenged by most everything in school. There are so many things to consider when teaching, not only this grade level, but this class. I think that this experience will help me consider different modifications for lessons, a variety of options for performing tasks, and strategies for assessment. I’m really looking forward to many more weeks with this group, and with my co-operative teacher, who seems like he will really be helpful to guide me in the right direction, and give great tips as new teachers. Next week I’ll be teaching my first lesson on my own in ELA, somehow incorporating reading and writing strategies with adventuring! Wish me luck!

I look forward to continuing on my journey to become a great teacher, just like these folks:

What goals do you have to become a better teacher?
If you’re a new or pre-service teacher like me, what are you scared about or how are you going to tackle these new challenges?
If you’ve got some experience in the classroom, what advice would you give new and pre-service teachers?

Treaty People Everywhere!

I spent the last two days participating in a Treaty Education workshop at the University of Regina. The workshop was put on by the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, and was led by some great facilitators and elders from across our province.

I had high expectations going into this workshop that I would leave inspired, excited, and even more passionate about Treaty Education. I have found a great interest in learning more about First Nations culture, treaties, history, and how to teach them since I first came to the University of Regina two years ago. I had a fantastic experience in my Indigenous Studies 100 and ECS 110 classes my first semester, which completely opened my eyes to the hurt that exists around First Nations history. In my elementary and high school education I never learned about First Nations peoples, so was shocked to find out what I didn’t know. Since then I have only wanted to learn more so that I could feel more comfortable with First Nations topics and be able to teach my students to enjoy learning about First Nations too. I looked at this workshop as a two day intensive experience where I could fill my mind with even more new ideas of how to approach Treaty and First Nations Education.

The first day started out with some trivia, which was a lot of fun, but that’s where it stopped. From there, my engagement level only declined throughout the day. While I continued to try and find pieces to spark my interest or make me question, I felt very disengaged, and continually disappointed. I was trying to learn more, but was only met with repetitive information.

The gates are all that is left standing of Lebret Residential School

The gates are all that is left standing of the Residential School at Lebret

I did, however, appreciate the stories that our guest elder shared with us, and found his messages about forgiveness and courage to be quite inspirational. He shared with us some of his experiences about his time spent at the Lebret Residential School, where he experienced abuse, much like is depicted in the movie, “We Were Children.” He also talked about how it has taken over 30 years for him to come to grips with what happened and be able to find the strength to move forward. His experiences at Residential School affected his entire life, and the lives of his children, but he told us about the courage he has found to move on from those experiences, to ask for forgiveness from his children, and to even take educators who are dedicated to teaching about residential schools back to the very site of his dark experiences.  The courage that he demonstrated to us gave me more strength to know that if he could work through his struggles, so could I, as they are much more trivial.

While I left feeling a little let down after the first day, I returned for the second with a positive attitude, hoping we would learn about how to integrate Treaty Education into the classroom, and also to learn about the components ofTreaty Education. I found the second day far more engaging, as we had many opportunities to express ideas with classmates, work through creating an integrated lesson plan, and look at some great resources. This was definitely more along the lines of what I was anticipating from this workshop.

View of Mission Lake and the Qu'Appelle Valley from the site of the Residential School at Lebret.

View of Mission Lake and the Qu’Appelle Valley from the site of the Residential School at Lebret.

On the second day, in addition to enjoying the collaborative atmosphere I really enjoyed hearing from our guest knowledge keeper/old person. She too attended the Lebret Residential School, out of punishment for misbehaviour on her reserve, but had a very different experience than the horrific stories that are often told. She shared with us that she did not experience any abuse, nor did she witness or hear of anything like is often told. It was uplifting to hear that not all residential school experiences were bad, and that people like her have gone on to great things. I was inspired by her message about looking at the world as a greater circle, where you always need to come back home to be able to see where your true path lies. I feel that as a future educator, this is very important, as we have to look at the big picture, yet still be able to find a path from our own heart to teach; especially to teach more sensitive subjects like Residential Schools and Treaties.

Photo Credit: mattcatpurple via Compfight cc

Though my experience at this workshop was not what I expected, I have come away still feeling excited about incorporating Treaty Education into my future classroom. There are so many resources out there (here’s one I found from the Treaty 4 Education Alliance) and people to connect with that the sky is the limit in what you can do with Treaty Education. I do not feel intimidated by the information, and hope that over my next two years in the Faculty of Education I will continue to build upon and grow my knowledge and interest in the area of First Nations cultural information and Treaties. We are on a path to reconciliation. On the OTC website, they have a great message about this:

Reconciliation is about…
exploring the past
and choosing to build a better future.

It’s understanding each other
and building trust.

It’s recognizing that
We Are All Treaty People.

The video on their home page speaks to this so well also. Where will I start? I am working towards embracing the concept that we are all Treaty People, and I think that this is such a great message to share with students. We are all part of our history, and will all contribute to a better tomorrow.

I’ll leave you with a few great videos that some Saskatchewan schools have done about this message. I think it would be a great project to do with a class!