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?

 

Lifelong Learning and Procrastination

ProcrastinationI haven’t written a blog post since the winter school term ended. I have done little networking on twitter (I always vow to participate in #saskedchat, but next thing I know it’s already Friday). I have read less resources on education than I would like to. I signed up for “Education on Air” and ended up not participating (thankfully, I believe I will be able to watch the recording of the lessons. These are all things I am interested in carrying out, but haven’t (yet!). I just started reading The Hobbit. I began writing a short story. I see myself as a lifelong learner. Despite not doing these exact things, I have been learning.

I learned a lot about interviewing processes and I’m getting more comfortable with them. I learned a lot about finding work and how important networking is for that matter. I’m learning more about the internship process that I will be experiencing come fall. I am doing some networking with other educators, which makes me happy. In my personal life, I have been working on my physical fitness. As always, I have a million ideas, goals, and projects on my mind. And I am also learning how to be okay with not getting them accomplished as soon as I conceive of them or becoming so fixated on the future and the road that leads to them that I miss the moments along the way. I enjoyed taking a small rest and I am enjoying being with my family again. It’s all about balance.

That being said, I am once again gearing up to strive to be a great learner, so that I can too be a great teacher. I will be finding myself on twitter for professional networking once again. I will be digging into the many education books I have accrued over three years and the Saskatchewan curriculum for that matter. I will be reading and writing to improve my own practice. I’m looking into other networking sites that will help me set small goals with my creative writing. Finally, I will be trying to blog more often (starting with this post) and improve my e-portfolio too!

I am a lifelong learner. I am dedicated to education, but sometimes I find myself needing to turn everything off for a while. That’s the balance though. I look forward to expanding my horizons and pushing myself farther this summer. I look forward to preparing myself for all that the next school year has to offer and all I have to offer it. Here I go.

Inquiry: Summary of Learning

I began my inquiry asking the question: “how can I support student-centered learning in my classroom?” I have researched and discussed with other teachers to learn about student-centered learning and begin to answer my question.  I got a lot of support and enjoyed hearing what others had to say and what others were doing to support student-centered learning.

I have put together a google doc that highlights what I learned and is cram packed full of resources that might be helpful for others trying to answer the same question I started with. Please check it out and leave comments as to further resources and ideas that relate to my inquiry project. I would also be very happy to discuss ideas around student-centered learning. I am no expert, but I am a very engaged life-long learner.

This inquiry project has helped my begin to put my philosophies and theories into practical teaching strategies and learning activities. While I have been struggling to structure my ideas, this has been an exercise in doing just that. Moreover, it has been another activity that pushed me to collaborate and reach out to communities of teachers, which I have yet again found so supportive and helpful.

As a last word, I am going to leave you with a video that I found and included in my document twice. I want to share this video, because if you only have time to check out one resource in regard to student-centered learning, I think this is a good choice. This video was a helpful resource for me as it given strategies, but also shows them in action. I can see myself using them now. If the video peaks your interest, check out my summary of learning package.

What do you think? Is student-centered learning something you would like to do? Please feel free to share and discuss.

Reflecting on a Bad Day

I’m sure there are times in every teacher’s career that they have a bad day, and I had one.

I attempted to let students read a short story and discuss and answer related questions in groups. I gave them a guiding time frame, because this was only one of the activities I wanted to cover in the class. The short story was not a difficult read, I asked them to fill out an anticipation guide before and during reading to help them, and I allowed students to work in groups of up to three. I thought groups would be a nice break from the individual work from the day before. Additionally, some students answered the exit slip question, “what should I know about you as a learner?” by telling me they enjoyed group work. I personally, enjoy discussing what I read with others and find it helpful in identifying different potential meanings of a story. However, it became a social opportunity and I could see that many students had completed very little of their anticipation guide. I realized that my class was going to need the entire class to finish what I hoped they would, so I let the rest go until I could cover it the following day.

This behaviour came from two general things. Firstly, in my haste to cover everything, I made the mistake of not clearly connecting the previous day’s work to that day’s. Secondly, after starting out assertive and audible, I reverted to my timid and quiet voice. Maybe I was tired out or nervous, but the students noticed.

FailureI was upset at first. I knew the mistakes I had made immediately. I felt like a failure. After calming down, I made myself acknowledge that I would not learn from beating myself up over it, that I had to dust myself off and take the experience for what it was — a learning experience. The next lesson, I focused on my presence and my voice. I also dedicated the period to connecting everything together and establishing the importance of the learning activities and the routines. The lessons that I have taught since, have went according to my plans and I am looking forward to improving more and more. In the end, things have gone well and I was able to learn from my “bad day.”

In addition, to overcoming fears and learning from mistakes, I really felt the support of my teaching communities. My partner and my cooperating teacher gave helpful feedback, support, advice, and specific things I should do next class to be more successful. This helped me emotionally prepare myself and it helped me make the most out of the lesson I learned.

The Beginning of Pre-Internship

TeacherCartoon (Owls)

I began my pre-internship on Thursday, March 12. I was nervous, as I’m sure most pre-interns are. However, I have been very warmly welcomed and I am feeling more comfortable in the school already. I have been able to observe four classes, be present for a PLC day, and get so many resources from the English teachers at the school.

There are times that I still doubt my abilities, but I have to remind myself that I have three years of education to look to. I also know that this is the real life learning experience I need. As intimidating as it is, I know I will learn so much that will help me to become a teacher.

I am looking forward to getting to know my students, get classroom experience, and for a first, put sequential lessons into action. I want to learn more about meeting students needs. I am also interested in observing more classes and seeing some of my cooperating teacher’s classes in action. I would like to learn about the student resource/help systems of the school.

My first venture into teaching a unit, is the English B10 “World Around and Within Us” unit. I am still putting it together and finding it most difficult to remember what mind space and knowledge set grade ten students are working from. I don’t want to do things that go beyond their reach, but I also don’t want to underestimate their abilities. I know that I am up for the challenges of pre-internship. I would still love to hear suggestions that any pre-interns, interns, or practicing teachers may have. Every bit of knowledge and advice will help me on my journey and I am thankful for all that I get.

Considering Privilege as an Educator

I’ve been thinking about privilege a lot lately. I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts, but there is so much I want to say. It is my goal to be an anti-oppressive educator, so I’ve been considering some bigger questions about power, privilege, and my personal capabilities. What do I do with my unearned privilege? As an educator, what can I do about power and privilege? How can I overcome my own fears around showing my own vulnerabilities?

To begin, I am aware of my privilege as a white, middle-class, straight woman. I was also the traditional “good” student. I had societal support and the kind of personality that allowed me to succeed in the education system. Now that I am aware of systemic inequality and my own privilege, I know that I have to use my voice to make the school system equitable for all.

What can I do about my unearned privilege? I can use my voice to be an ally in changing systemic inequity. That means that I will give up my privilege. It means that I will stand up against injustice; because as an educator, I want to know that the system I am part of does not disadvantage some and privilege others.

As an educator, what can I do about power and privilege in the school system? I can be culturally responsive. I can include many different perspectives, not just those that our history has privileged. As an English educator, I can teach my students to read texts and the world through different lenses to see varied perspectives, privilege, injustice, and unfair common sense ideas. I can question my biases. I can question the way systems work. I can question common sense. I can ask others, and I do, is there something I’m missing? In what other ways can I be a part of changing issues of power and privilege in my classroom and in student’s education? I want to hear more thoughts on this.

How can I overcome my fears around showing my own vulnerabilities?

A huge part of my teaching philosophy stems from my own challenges, which led me to see the way the system did not work for all. As a teacher, I want to give my students a safe environment. I want them to know that I am working to support their learning and their needs, not to satisfy my ego. I have always wanted to be an ally for my students, and for them to know that I will stand with them in that capacity.

However, I am now questioning my ability to use my voice. I am afraid to be vulnerable. I am afraid, sometimes, to use my voice. I am afraid to open up about issues that hit closer to home, about issues that have hurt me personally, about the overwhelming anxiety that I struggled with in high school and continue to struggle with now. It’s too real. I would look weak. Or I would just be making something out of nothing. I don’t want to be looked at differently. Do I have a choice? Do others who feel this way have a choice?

So the next question is, how can I be a model and an ally for my students if I am silent? How can I be an anti-oppressive educator, when I am so afraid to give up the privilege I have from being silent about my personal challenges? How can I expect others to do the same? How can I overcome this and do what I set out to?

 

Assessment: Late Work

In my final assessment class, I watched a video by Rick Wormeli that built off of the ideas I considered in the article,“The Problem with Penalties,” by Myron Dueck. After considering Wormeli’s video on late work and Dueck’s problem with penalties, has got me insisting that we teach constructively and not punitively. This is obvious though. I’ve learned to teach through constructivism. I want my students to construct their own knowledge. I also want my students to be inwardly motivated when it comes to completing assignments that demonstrate what they learned. It has to be a constructive process. Punishment shuts students out and does not teach or motivate them to do their work on time.

Wormeli gives a number of reasons why late marks and zeros (punishment) for late work doesn’t help improve students accountability or success. He asks, would I hold someone who is just coming to learn, and may still be struggling, to the same accountability as someone who is proficient at the work? No.

How could we? A really important part of my teaching philosophy is based on creating a positive and open learning environment. My students have to know it’s okay to fail at something. My students need to know that they don’t have to make them self sick with worry that they aren’t ready to hand their work in or write a test. There does need to be deadlines, but I need to be flexible, understanding, and forgiving. My students’ learning matters first.

Additionally, Wormeli says, most students from kindergarten to grade ten (and sometimes older) have little choice over their daily schedule. Practices, class times, assignment dates, at-home responsibilities are all dictated to them. He describes school scheduling as a factory type model. He then says, adult deadlines require adult capabilities and time management skills. To force such deadlines when they students can’t act on it, is an abusive method according to Wormeli.

I think there needs to be open space to ask students if deadlines are reasonable, if they are being drowned under other tests and assignments, and room for negotiation as issues arise. Students should be able to come to me and know that if they need more time that’s okay.

Moreover, Wormeli claims that the traditional school system conspires against students that don’t get things right away. And, in trying to get through the curriculum, we tell students ‘too bad you didn’t get it the first time it was taught, we’re moving on’. He says, it’s “no way to teach humans.” Again, their learning matters more. If it takes differentiation, and it will, we must commit to providing students with opportunities to learn. In this way, he says that summative assessment is not necessary in good pedagogy. We can always do better as we learn, a factory model doesn’t allow that.

Lastly, he argues that giving zeros doesn’t teach students. He says, getting students to complete the work does. Students needs to become responsible for their learning, and recover from not making the deadline. We can’t assign a zero and expect them to learn to do their work. Late marks and zero’s also do not prepare people for the larger world, he claims. As the real world, allows us to be late more often than not. It is not the end for us, we are allowed to make mistakes, and recover and complete our duties. Adult level maturity comes from making mistakes and learning from them not from feeling the sting of a zero grade.

I know that late marks and zero grades are fiercely debated, but I think we have to be more understanding. Things can quickly become about punishing others for not reaching expectations, but is that the best policy? What do we really want? Do we want our students to learn or be left behind? The purpose of education, in my eyes, is not to punish students when they don’t do as we command. Education should be a constructive process. I want every aspect of my teaching policies to support that.

Dueck, Myron. “The Problem with Penalties.” Educational Leadership March 2014: 44-49. Print.

“Rick Wormeli: On Late Work.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Nov. 2010. Web. 06 Mar. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHeij2Zfil4&gt;.