Finding Confidence and Realizing There is Never Enough Time

Time

This past week has been a pleasant shift for me. I am feeling more efficient, more organized, and more confident. These feelings mean that, even though I struggle with things and have lessons that don’t go great, I am putting my energy into growing and learning rather than feeling bad about myself. Getting to this point has depended on many things. I am the type of person that needs quite a bit of time to fully warm up to new things; I think I’m finally there. I have a great support team in my cooperating teachers and faculty adviser. They make me feel safe to try things, to make mistakes and learn from them, and to hear the advice they give so that I can improve. Lastly, I think I have gained a better understanding of the whole process of designing a unit, finding ways to help students reach the learning goals, and reflecting on the process.

I still have fears that I’m not moving quick enough or that I will let my students down. At the end of the day, I know I’m giving it my all. I have to believe that that’s coming through. I have to believe that the progress I feel I’m making, is coming through. I hope that this new found peace continues and that I can grow even more quickly in this second half of internship. I believe the stumbling and nervousness that I felt in the first part of internship were necessary to go through.

As I reflect and consider what’s ahead of me, I feel slightly panicked at the thought of all of the content I am running out of time to get through. My first unit went over the original time allotment and I worry that Hamlet will too. I just hope it’s not by too much. My brain is going crazy trying to think about where I will be able to fit in all of the things I need to teach my students. And I think it will be many tries before I am able to get everything done in good time. I think time is a huge lesson. How can I crunch everything together, make it cohesive, make it interesting, and make it beneficial for students to learn? I think this will be the question I ask myself throughout my career.

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Taking Care of Myself During Internship

the screamI am one month into my internship. I am being challenged and rewarded in so many ways everyday. I have worked out my first evaluation with my coop and it has given me specific areas to work at, which I am thankful to have. My targets are better for it and I think my growth will be greater as well. I am also coming to the end of my first unit. I have been reflective throughout and will write blog posts on specific reflections, but for this blog post I wanted to be reflective on my feelings and overall health. Everything is so fast paced that it can be difficult to think everything through and prepare myself the way I wish I could.

First of all, people aren’t kidding when they say schools are full of germs and thus people who work in them often get sick. I have been fighting a flu of some sort since the beginning of the school year. It sucks the energy out of me and makes the dreaded energy drinks necessary when I need to plan, but feel the need to nap. Fortunately, I have been healthy enough not to have to miss any school. I really do not enjoy making sub plans or coming back to class and not knowing where my students are at. Hopefully, I am able to stay strong enough to keep this up.

There is another illness I have been facing and working to remain healthy against. And the liminal space I currently occupy as an intern has made this a challenge for me as well. My anxiety continues to be a daily struggle, but one I have been able to stay strong against. However, there are days when my thoughts get the better of me and I have to work to remind myself that being overly critical of myself is not helpful. I work hard to think constructively, because that is all I can do with my “failures” or “weaknesses.”

Overall, I am thankful that I have a strong support system and many ways to find help when I need advice on ways to improve my teaching. While, learning and teaching are the main focus of internship. Taking care of myself is also necessary if I want to be able to be successful. I can do little with a tired mind, so I am doing what I can when I can to be proactive in staying healthy.

Student-Centered Learning in my Pre-Internship

Before and during my pre-internship, I was inquiring into student-centered learning. My inquiry gave me many ideas and was reflected in my teaching philosophy. I would say that I made small steps toward my end goal. There were many things I was trying to consider as I prepared and taught during my internship.

I wasn’t sure how far I could go and to be honest I felt like I still needed to control the direction of the class quite a bit. I wasn’t sure what I should expect. I wasn’t sure how much control I had over the direction of the class and my teaching. In part, I didn’t want to teach in a way that would be disapproved by others or would be too different. I hate having these kinds of thoughts. I know people say that there is no one correct way to teach, but sometimes I feel like as a young teacher some of the things I want to try might be chalked up to inexperience. I also worry that because some of my ideas go against super traditional ways of teaching, they will not be well received by teachers who prefer traditional teaching methods. I tried to give students a voice and incorporate student-centered teaching/learning methods when I could. This is still something that is really important to me, so I will continue to take bigger and bigger steps toward reaching my goals.

For my first lesson, I asked my students to fill out an exit slip in response to three questions:

  1. What is something I should know about you as a learner?
  2. What is something you find interesting about or would like to learn more about the subject? (The World Around and Within Us – Environmentalism)
  3. What is a question you still have?

I was really happy with the responses I got. It was especially refreshing to read those for question number one. Here are a few examples of what my students told me:

“Making connections to similar concepts when teaching something new aids in my comprehension,” “I am the type of learner that has a little trouble understanding things the first few times…,” “I rather be learning in groups and moving than sitting by myself doing something,” “I learn better if you provide an image for me or let me use hands on,” and “I like when people talk and have a discussion.”

My students were able to clearly explain ways that they learn best. This reiterated that students know what works for them and we need to listen more often. My education has given me many tools, but with the diversity of learners that exists, I need to pay attention to them to know what they need.

I didn’t carry out an inquiry project, although I would have liked to. As I reflected, I saw that I could have gotten students to inquire into an environmental issue. If I had more time and felt more comfortable getting technology access for my students, that is something I would like to do. I did, however, have my students write journal responses to prompts related to what we were learning. I told them that they would choose one in the end to revise and make a good copy of. I tried to make this project into a process portfolio of sorts. The assessment for the “journal project” included: drafts completed, revisions, conventions, and content & understanding. I made it clear that the goal was for them to make personal and topical connections and provide support for them. In this way, I was respecting their perspective, giving them a voice, and getting them to build off of what they knew.

The poster project I had them do was similar. I went through an article that showed ads against food waste and then gave them complete freedom to advocate for something regarding an environmental issue. During class discussions and journal prompts, I asked students about the issues that bothered them.

I tried to incorporate the things that they had told me about themselves into their learning. I used group work as a few students mentioned that as being beneficial for them. I also recognize the power of collaboration. I prepared a jigsaw activity to encourage students to take responsibility of material. Although, some students had some issues with the concept of teaching their peers. I still believe it was a good way to introduce ideas.

In the end, I believe some of my ideas came out and I was able to do some student-centered work. I also believe I could have done more and would have liked to do more. As I said earlier, I was still a bit uncertain as to what my role could be and how many different methods I could try to use. Time was another factor, I would like to give students time to explore and I would feel more prepared if I had time to set up the class for a more inquiry and student-directed learning environment.

On Completing My Pre-Internship

I am relieved to have completed my pre-internship, but I also don’t feel ready to wait months to be teaching again. It was both a challenging and rewarding experience. Most of all, I enjoyed interacting with my students. After a few weeks, I’ve gotten used to hearing their voices in class discussion and while reading their journals. I think having them write in journals was one of the best parts. I think it gave them a chance to say something and for me to hear them one-on-one.

I’m really looking forward to building a strong classroom community in my internship and I’m looking forward to being my students’ teacher from day one. I’m excited to add classroom routines of my own and bring even more of my personality and philosophy into the classroom.

My pre-internship was really a learning experience and I will continue to look at every moment in my future career as part of my life long learning. However, my aim in my internship will be to bring even more of my knowledge and ideas to the table. I feel like the past three weeks, for me, were about me getting my footing. Now that I have this experience, I want to push myself to the next step. Additionally, I am hoping that I will have more time and opportunities to prepare and plan for my internship. I know that we have to work with short deadlines sometimes, but time to think and plan is only a positive.

Despite all of the worrying, I had some really great moments. Moreover, when I got the paper that said I passed, I was able to take a breath and really enjoy my final days of pre-internship. I am going to try to do more of this in my internship. Although I’m sure I will be caught up in stress some days, I won’t let it rule my experience. In the end, I am happy.

Why Multiple Intelligences are Important

Why do I believe multiple intelligences are important?

I believe they’re important because they represent another facet of student diversity. I appreciate that as learners we are all different. We have different ways of learning and demonstrating our learning. We are good at different skills to varying capacities, and one skill is not inherently better than another. I believe it is important to see the many ways learner diversity exists. I believe that it should be reflected in the classroom.

Classrooms, that don’t take these kind of diversities into consideration (and celebrate them), run the risk of pushing students toward conformity. Moreover, if we assume that there is only one way to be a good student or one way to learn, than we marginalize students. Additionally, if we do not encourage and celebrate the many ways people learn and use knowledge, we place certain ways of knowing above others. We can begin to place certain skills and intelligences above others. This kind of privileging tells people that there is only one way to be intelligent.

Sir Ken Robinson says that we know that intelligence is diverse, dynamic, and distinct. If we don’t support these notions then some students will begin to believe that they aren’t intelligent, just because they don’t fit into the valued intelligences. Sir Ken Robinson describes schools as progressively focusing on the upper body, then the head, and then just the right half of the brain. That is to say, that we hold the thinking of the right side of the brain over everything else. That is to say that we favor maths and sciences above the arts and humanities.

Schooling that only delivers instruction and assesses understanding from one form of intelligence is marginalizing all of the learners that don’t think that way. This kind of school says some people are smart and some aren’t. Some things are worthwhile and some aren’t. It can become too standardized and too lopsided. That is why I believe multiple intelligences are important. We need diversity and we need to value all different types of learners, because the best education is one that reflects all people and gives everyone a chance to learn and share their learning in their own way.

 

Week One – Field Experience: Ice Breaker

The first week of my field experience was about getting to know the students. The “lesson” me and my partner and I worked on together was an ice breaker activity. We used a beach ball with four colours and questions assigned to each colour to get the students engaged and to get to know the students a little better. I think the lesson went well in that we used our time well and the students actively participated and seemed to be engaged in the activity.

The only thing that didn’t go quite as well as it could have were issues with students remembering which question corresponded with which colour. The problem was resolved right away by writing the question/colour combinations on the board.

I think the activity could be changed by writing the questions and matching colour on the board to avoid confusion and streamline the activity. I think the lesson would also have to be altered, time considerations, if the group of students were bigger and other issues with physical ability that might prevent all students from being able to participate if there were students that couldn’t catch the ball or if a student was hearing impaired we could account for them in modifications to the lesson. In our classroom there was nobody that couldn’t participate, but in other classrooms it may have to be a consideration.

I learned that I find it difficult to tell students that something that they’ve done in their work is wrong, especially when it would mean that the student has to start over. I understand that it will be in the student’s own benefit to have the issue pointed out and resolved with my help rather than letting them continue from an improper starting point. I will have to work beyond my fear of hurting someone’s feelings, but make sure that when I do I am not belittling or making the student feel like they can’t do something.

I think that when I am teaching a lesson plan of my own, on my own, I will find out more about who I am as a teacher. While in the process of working on my lesson plan I have realized that because I am used to university classes I am finding it difficult to get past the idea of lecture based teaching. I find this interesting because I do not even think that straight lecture teaching is particularly good. Is anyone else finding this?