Making Connections and Building Rapport

As I will soon be entering into my internship, I’ve been considering rapport and classroom management. I’ve been thinking about the human connection and interaction part of education that can get lost in some discussions about educational theories and teaching methods. I find myself getting caught up in overthinking unit and lesson planning, but lately I’ve been thinking about those first moments. I’ve been thinking about how to make meaningful connections and build the kind of classroom rapport that will help with classroom management and build the learning environment I desire.

To do so, I believe I will need to take some risks. I can be a shy and introverted person, but I can also be an emotional and passionate person. I hope to find a balance that allows my students to see and trust me as their teacher. I wrote a blog post, “Considering Privilege as an Educator,” in which I put myself ‘out there’ more than I had been previously comfortable doing. It was the most rewarding post I’ve written, because I was being honest and I was making connections as an individual. When I allowed myself to be completely honest, I was able to make the connections between theory and my personal experiences.

As a high school student, I lived with some degree of anxiety almost constantly. In my last two years, I was often sick to my stomach before I left for school and there were days I stayed home because the anxiety was too much. Despite being overwhelmed, I was able to be very successful as a student. Despite being frequently consumed by worry, I was able to smile and hide this fact from my teachers and peers. I didn’t talk about my feelings and I never publicly let on that I was struggling. When I did voice my concern over grades or my fear of failure, others laughed it off, because it seemed an impossibility to them. This made talking about my anxiety difficult. Not only was I embarrassed that I was struggling this way, I felt ashamed. Worst of all, I felt as though I was alone in feeling that way. I have since opened up more, I have come to terms with myself, and I have found some ways to manage my anxiety. However, it has not completely left me either. I do view it as a part of my identity and I know that it informs aspects of my teacher identity as well.

I’m not quite sure what I want to do or say, but I want to be honest with my students. I want them to, as Chris Friend shared with me, in his comment on the aforementioned post, “think of me as a person who is sharing experience/insight with them, rather than a dictator sharing a curriculum with them.” I believe this connection will be important, as I know that I am not the only person who lives with anxiety. Chris Friend also reminded me to “think how vulnerable your students are when they submit their essays for grading” and how “they’ll appreciate a bit of equity” if I allow myself to be vulnerable.

In one of my (pre) pre-internship experiences, I had one of my grade eight student break down crying during what was supposed to be a fun and silly writing activity. I had asked the students to write any introductory sentence down, fold their paper and hand it to the next person who would write the second sentence down without knowing the first sentence. We were nearly done one round, when he raised his hand and I saw him in tears. He hadn’t written his introductory sentence down, because he didn’t know what he should write. It broke my heart and I knew exactly how he felt. I gave encouragement, the option to complete the activity, and helped him to do so when he told me he wanted to. I did my best then to comfort him, but I know now that what I really want is to be able to create openness in my classroom before something like this happens. I believe that if I can share my experiences as a person, my students will be able to connect with me and have trust in me.

My plan is to share my voice. I have the opportunity to make a difference and I will do everything I can to do so. The connections we make are incredibly important and will certainly set the tone of the learning environment. I will end with a question, because we can always learn from each other. How have you gone about building rapport with your students? How do you set up these conversations early in the year?

 

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Bullying: Issues and Prevention

Issues with bullying and cyber bullying within my school appear to be minimal. Of course, it seems so anyways, within any extended group of people there are cases of bullying. However, it seems to be in check at the school I do my field experience. In regards to acts of bullying, there have been instances that I have noticed. In the younger grades I have observed some students need to “tattle” on other students. While tattling isn’t really bullying, the manner in which the children behaved before bringing in their teacher felt a bit like bullying to me. For even simple events it appeared as if some students look for others doing something incorrectly so that they could verbally attack them for it. To me this can be an issue, because it is unnecessary, but this kind of behaviour can lead to social ostracism. In my own grade 8 classroom, I have noticed some students get momentarily frustrated with each other, but overall the classroom environment works more as a cohesive unit. Cyber bullying is more difficult for me to see, since I have never worked or observed students using computers during class or bring up issues of cyber bullying. That is not to say that there is more than what I have seen going on. I’m sure bullying still exists even if I am not aware of it. I think the most common type of bullying has a high social aspect to it.

Prevention of bullying within my school is noticeable. The walls contain images and saying that reflect a community that expects everyone be given respect. I think the setting of this kind of tone enacts bully prevention. Additionally, there is a document on the wall that asks students to prevent bullying and all of the students have signed their names on it. It is displayed in one of the hallways. To me this shows that the school as a whole is teaching students to not only stop participating in bullying, but to allies for their peers. In my classroom the teacher has a policy of leaving drama at the door. She sets up a classroom community that demonstrates prevention against bullying and supporting of peers. I cannot speak to the prevention of cyber bullying, because I have not noticed anything outlining the issue or prevention of it in my class.

How will I deal with and prevent bullying in my own classroom? I think it is important to establish a safe and respectful classroom community from day one. I will model this behaviour by respecting all of my students, but also by being an ally against bullying of any kind. This will also be reflected in the way that I teach and the materials present in my classroom. I think that by only valuing certain ways of knowing and certain perspectives we present a belief that some ways and some perspectives are lesser. Creating imbalance and a lack of respect for diversity goes hand in hand with bullying. I will set guidelines and expectations that will directly make note that I will not tolerate bullying of any kind. I will follow through, by acknowledging acts of bullying. Moreover, I will ask my students to be a part of the process of building a respectful classroom community. I feel it is my job to create a safe environment for everyone of my students.

 

Reflecting on ECS 300 Field Experience

I began my experience with a list of goals.

They were: Make and teach engaging and motivating sets; respond and react appropriately to behavioural problems; appear and be confident while teaching my lessons; and ask questions that prompt discussion. The full post on my goals can be found here.

I used specific steps as guidelines, which I felt helped me visualize not only what I wanted to achieve, but ways I could achieve my goals. If something didn’t go as planned I could consult these steps and question if I needed to add something or work something in to achieve what I hoped to.

Overall, I believe that I have made great improvement and for the most part have met my goals (I believe there is always more to learn and always room for growth and improvement). I think that I appear confident in the classroom. After my first lesson I fully realized and completely felt that I have it in me to be a great educator. I felt confident in what I was doing and I think that my confidence grows each time I teach and each time I experience something new and challenging. I feel that what I was teaching was interesting. Several lessons I could see the students enjoying the lesson. I was able to make lessons that could have easily been dry, into an interesting learning experience for the students. Some examples are a math lesson with linking cubes, an ELA lesson on citing sources, and an ELA lesson on writing flashbacks. There were few occasions that required me to step in and either remind students to be on task or to sort out difficulties/misbehaviour that arose. I think a classroom with more difficult classroom management issues would have me further exercise this aspect of my goals. I did get some opportunities to have discussion in my lessons. I believe that I was able to ask open ended questions or question that required more than a yes or no answer. To help with this I brainstormed and included questions that I could use to prompt discussion right in my lesson plans. If I needed to they were on paper to give me ideas of boosting conversation.

I think I will continue to get ideas on classroom management. The class I had already had a strong system. I think that I have learned a lot in the subject of classroom management and I have gained confidence in my ability to manage the classroom. I would love to get more knowledge with interdisciplinary lesson planning as well as Treaty Education. I think by practicing and getting input from other educators I can improve in these ways. Moreover, I want to be able to write and feel confident about writing cohesive unit plans, since I was only able to write singular lessons.

Specifically, about my students, I learned that they really enjoyed collaborative learning. In my own education, I’m not sure if I was less into this kind of process because it was only allowed in few group projects of which I was not often given say as to who I would work with and often felt that I had to carry the burden of doing the whole assignment on my own, but I think that a certain expectation for the classroom as a community of learners I taught in was set and so the students participated more equally. I also learned that some of my students will interpret somethings I’m teaching differently than I imagined in my head, but also that these interpretations are not necessarily incorrect and that it is actually quite refreshing to allow and hear different perspectives. I much enjoy the idea of a democratic classroom and I think my students appreciate having a voice and having me recognize that. Overall, I think that my students helped me sort out my beliefs about teaching by allowing me to experience the reception different things had and figuring out what went well, what didn’t, and why.

I really did have a great experience. I learned so much that can’t be taught in a class. I have gained confidence as a teacher and in my lesson making skills. I look for new and interesting ideas for lessons and I can consider how they might play out and what I can do to make them more effective. Having a target every week also played a large part in my consideration of what I can improve on and how I’m doing in certain areas. Knowing that my cooperating teacher was giving me feedback and discussing my lesson with me helped me in my growth. Having discussions in class with my peers had me consider different ideas, see different ways of doing things and opened me up to interesting activities for a variety of subject areas.

I look forward to continuing to grow as an educator and as a learner. I think one of the most important things for me and my learning is to be opened up to a variety of experiences. This experience has allowed me to take a big step forward. I feel more capable and I am continuing to search for ways of improving. I can’t wait to start my next experience and grow even more.

Field Experience Week 8: The Final Lesson

This week, the final week, I got to end my experience teaching English Language Arts. I was super excited to get to finish off teaching my favourite subject. I was also excited to try out an idea I had worked on since my teaching my first ELA lesson. I taught my class how to write flashbacks. I went over why we use flashbacks in our writing, the techniques used to make flashbacks clear and effective, and I had the class do a fun activity to put the new skills into use in a creative and entertaining activity. I had the students do a “circle writing” activity. I had done this in my lab and it went well. The students really seemed to enjoy the activity and had a good time sharing the wacky stories they had come up with. Each sentence was part of writing a flashback and was to use the techniques taught in class. I think the lesson went well, because I was able to end off the experience with both an educational, but interesting lesson. I think the students gained a good sense of the material and will be able to use it in other stories (ones that are actually coherent).

Something that didn’t go as expected was the difficulty in controlling the activity. I wouldn’t say it got out of hand, it just didn’t go the way I had planned. I wrote the activity structure on the board and I told the rules and expectations of the assignment while I was handing the activity sheet out and I think that this resulted in some students beginning before I instructed them to and some students went through the activity without my guided instruction to do so. It didn’t detract from the completion of the activity. It did mean that some students finished before others and there wasn’t time to do a larger class sharing of the assignments.

If I were to teach the lesson again, I would makes sure I handed out the activity sheet after I went through the expectations and rules of the activity. I would also use a shorter example in the beginning of the lesson in order to leave more room for the activity and for sharing afterward. I might also highlight the tone of the activity. Go through the idea of just writing the first thing that comes to mind and not worrying about being perfect. It can be easy to get hung up on typical classroom ideals. This activity was supposed to be somewhat liberating and make creative writing more free.

This week I learned that it can be easy to get wrapped up in the energy of the classroom. I want students to enjoy my lessons and I feel that I generate an environment that is safe and conducive to learning. I think that it is also important that I check in with students and make sure my expectations are always clear. I know what its like to over think and worry, so I feel it is part of my job to make sure my students never feel that they have to be unsure or worry. I will always be around to help and answer questions.

Field Experience Week 7: First Math Lesson

This week I taught grade 8 math, specifically it was a lesson on isometric drawings. It was the first chapter of the topic and some of the students were excited as soon as they seen the linking cubes they would be using to help them in the lesson. I first explained what the lesson would be on, used terms and guidelines that they would have to use to draw the nets of 3D images. I used the overhead projector to go through examples that paralleled the practice assignment they had. I let a few students use the projection to try out what we were learning. There was only one student that need clarifying at the end of the lesson, so I think that it went well. I had the students get their own linking cubes to assist them with their assignment. Something that went particularly well was how engaged they were with the lesson as a result of their excitement to use the linking blocks. Some students expressed how ‘fun’ they found the work and so I would like to see ways that other math topics could be made more interesting/engaging with other materials to bring the ideas to life. Math can be fun!

As I said earlier, there was one boy that needed further clarification, which I did by handing him a block of the image and as a class tried to go over the turning of the object to see the different view points and mark down their lengths and dimensions. Additionally, I think I could have had a way for students to participate during the lesson by using the white board, maybe that would have helped with students who need to learn through their own experiences.

As my coop teacher suggested after, I think it would be better to have students that got the lesson and are ready to work on the assignment to get to work while I went over clarifying the material with a smaller group of students that needed extra help. I think he got what I said and everyone seemed to be on the right track as I walked around. I think letting students get to work as soon as they’re ready would help keep the excitement up and motivate them to get the assignment done.

Something I learned about myself is that I can be somewhat innovative (or maybe it’s something I’ve learned through my experience) and have been able to think on my feet to bring the message home for the students. I think I’m gaining a sense of when thoughts are dropping off and so I was able to change my plan from going over the practice questions myself for the class to watch, I was able to ask students to come up and give it a try. I don’t think there was anything wrong with handing the reigns over since I had already covered a bunch of different types of lessons and I think it was helpful. Perhaps I could build these innovations into my lesson.

 

Revising Lesson Plan #1

I have chosen to revise my first lesson to incorporate what we have learned in class and improve the lesson. You can check out my initial plan, target, reflection, as well as the progress I have made in using that information to improve and revise my lesson and my teaching by clicking the links provided.

Here is a link to the first lesson plan (without revisions): ELA 8: Descriptive Writing

Here is a link to the target (with observer comments) that accompanied it: Target 1

Here is a link to my reflection about how the lesson went: Week 2 Blog reflection

Here is a link to the revised lesson plan: ELA 8: Descriptive Writing (Revised)

For further information on my PDP, here is a link to the target for the following week: Target 2

Reflecting on the Revising Process

I chose to revise my first lesson because I felt that the lessons and experience I have learned from, since teaching the English Language Arts lesson in my first week of teaching, would allow me to improve the lesson to be more effective than it had been. Part of what could have gone better was my teaching techniques which I have since worked to improve and such progress can be noted in comments made in my second target (link above). However, improvements to the lesson plan would also increase the effectiveness to the lesson. I added more adaptive dimension, considered differentiate more deeply, and incorporated Treaty Education. I felt that the lesson reached high levels in Blooms Taxonomy in that they were able to use what I had taught them to create sentences and stories that were descriptive and used different sensory language to create vividness and imagery. The lesson asked students to not just memorize, but create something new from what they had learned in the lesson.

Additionally, while I did provided an adaptive dimension and differentiation I felt that I could do even more. In addition to listing prerequisite knowledge I considered what I might do for students that don’t have that level of knowledge. I decided that the information could be given directly so that students could work on writing first. I stated that because the focus of the lesson was not on spelling or grammar, but using sensory words to create vividness in a story that’s what I would be evaluating on. Students would not be meeting the outcome by using descriptive words. Moreover, I added other ways for students to provide me with material to evaluate whether or not they met the outcome. Students will be allowed to orally and pictorially provide the needed information. I added these to reflect the ideas we have worked on in class, such as working with diverse students and student needs/abilities. Since not all students begin with the same level of knowledge or show their learning in the same way I wanted to provide extra ways through the lesson plan for students to be successful.

I also added treaty education, which I had previously overlooked. The class was working on historical fiction stories and adding descriptive language to their stories, so the treaty education outcome I included fit the lesson well. It allowed treaty education to seamlessly fit into the lesson. In addition to showcasing descriptive words students could relate it to their own assignment and also to a bigger idea of the history of First Nations people in Canada. I think it is important to provide examples from often othered voices and stories and I know it is part of my job to include treaty education in my lessons. While it wasn’t a stretch to include a First Nations narrative at the beginning of the lesson and therefore provide an aspect of treaty education, I think it is deeply rewarding to do so.

My hope for the revisions I have made to the lesson plan is to be able to teach the lesson again, but see how it is more effective with the changes. The feedback provided by my cooperating teacher and others has helped me find ways to add adaptive dimension and treaty education to the lesson. My own experience has given me a better idea of what might make the information reach the students better and how I can provide an education that can work for all students. I think that actively editing my lesson and considering how changes might make the lesson work better has helped me consider how I might do this somewhat pre-emptively with other lesson I am planning. I look forward to making similar revisions to other lesson I have taught, so that I can build up a portfolio that not only reflects me as an educator, but also provides ideas for future use.

Field Experience Week 6: Teaching Grade 3/4

This week my partner and I team taught once again, but this time we were in a different classroom. We had observed the grade 3/4 class the week before and this week we taught a bell work lesson. It was a thirty minute lesson that acted as part of a morning routine to get some lesson time in for reading, writing, and editing as well as get the students to prepare for the rest of their day. We wrote a small paragraph on the board with a bunch of mistakes that the students were to write down in their booklet and correct. Our target was classroom management since we were in a new class and they just got a new teacher at the start of the week so it would give us a chance to actively work on classroom management. The lesson actually went very well and specifically the target was successful. The students were well behaved, they did their work and continued to work on something else quietly while they waited for others to finish. I got to step in a couple times to exercise classroom management, but the students received my instructions well and altered their behaviour to be on task again.

Something that didn’t go as planned was how quickly the students were able to identify the mistakes, which we corrected as a class. The students completed the lesson early and asked why we didn’t have more. I thought we had put enough mistakes that ranged in difficulty. However, since the students found the lesson not quite challenging enough I think if I were to teach it again I would increase the length of the assignment and adjust the difficulty of errors to be more challenging for the students.

Something I learned about myself as a teacher happened when we observed and helped out in the grade one classroom during their math lesson. The classroom was different than others I’ve observed. Such that it had a garden and had many areas and tools in the classroom that would help with differentiation. I particularly enjoyed the energy level of the students. Teaching and observing younger grades has helped me realize that I would also really like to have the opportunity to teach in younger years education in addition to secondary education. Has anyone else experienced these realizations in terms of ideal grades they’d like to teach?