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?



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.

How my Inquiry and my Philosophy are Intertwined

Inquiry PhilosophyI have inquired into student-centered learning, because the fundamentals of the concept are an important part of my teaching philosophy. I do believe that students, people, have a natural curiosity for life. What individuals are curious about or interested in will be diverse, but that is an important thing to remember too.

I believe that student-centered learning has to be supported by a consistent learning environment that is shaped by every learner. I don’t believe one project is enough, because I think that a strong education is one that is reflective of the learner. I’m not sure that school is the best environment for all learners, but I think it should strive to be.

I believe that whether we like it or not, our philosophy comes out in how we teach. The way I understand learners to be, paints the way I perceive them and approach them as a teacher. That being said, I have to learn specific skills to be able to teach any certain way. I also have to find resources that support me in reaching my goals as a teacher. So, I wanted to inquire into student-centered learning, because I wanted to learn ways I could implement it in my classrooms.

Before I had really taught for an extended period of time, my philosophy was shaped from a student perspective and observations as a student-teacher. Now that I have had the opportunity to teach for three consecutive weeks, I have a clearer idea of my philosophy from a teacher perspective. After my experience, I still believe that the best education I can give is one that is centered around my students and the diversity of learners that exist.

In fact, my experience has given me realistic ideas as to how I can use the skills I have learned to align my philosophy to my practice. Before teaching, I struggled to organize all of the ideas in my head, but now I have a reference point. I think the more I try and the more I learn, the closer I will get to teaching in an appropriately student-centered way.

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.

Getting in the Zone

My first week went well for the most part. I had one “bad day,” but in the end it wasn’t that bad and I learned a lot from it. After the first week, I started to get in the zone. I started talking more about environmentalism with my B10 students. It seemed like my students were really getting it and contributing to whole class discussions. They were also more easily able to make connections between their existing knowledge and what we were learning.

School ZoneAfter my seventh lesson, my cooperating teacher and my partner both ecstatically pointed out how well the lesson went. While my other lessons had been going well, this lesson saw me shine. I enjoyed my time and really felt the room become a collaborative environment. I had warmed up, learned much along the way, and got students to see their connection to the material. It was such a great feeling. I think this didn’t happen in the first week as much, because I take time to warm up to people in general. I can be quiet and reserved, but I strive for meaningful interpersonal connections. Although, it does take time.

In future classrooms, I would like to establish a caring environment from the beginning. I really like the idea of starting every week off with a talking circle. I want my students to know that what is happening in their lives and how they are feeling is considered in the classroom. I also want to get to know my students as individuals and for them to get to know me as a person who is helping them learn and learning with them.

Additionally, as I said earlier, I have been learning. I think being a quick learner is one of my major strengths. My goal in learning is never to be better than someone else, but to be better than what I was in the past. As a teacher this means, I learn something from every moment and I use it to make myself a stronger teacher. In the end, this lesson was really important in that it told me that all of my work was helping. This lesson told me that I could accomplish my goals. I can’t settle for being a sub-par teacher. I want to be a dedicated teacher that helps students construct their knowledge. I know that I can do that and if I was feeling down, it was because being that kind of teacher means everything to me. Now I know that as long as I keep pushing myself I can be the teacher I aim to be.

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?