Learning How to be Okay with not being Okay

…But I’m learning a lot.

I am. But I’m also bombarded with uncertainty, insecurity, and nervousness throughout my learning journey. There is a lot of work that goes into everyday. I’m adjusting and preparing resources for daily lessons and trying to figure out Hamlet at the same time. The best part of this journey is that I’m willing to fight for it, because it’s all I’ve ever wanted out of a career. The people make me happy to be where I am. However, I still wake up every morning afraid I’m not good enough.

This week, the most important target I’ve been working on is being dynamic and giving energy in the classroom to help build engagement. My confidence and energy waned as I was allowing myself to be consumed by negative thoughts. The first class that I actively tried to be positive and bring energy, was an amazing experience and made me feel better in just 55 minutes.

In addition to my classroom experience, the communications outside of the classroom have made a huge difference for me as well. The google community for English majors has been the greatest support system I could have asked for. The best thing for people going through difficult time, is to know that you’re not alone. The google community does that, but is also a space to gather ideas to help with my learning. That is also, why I wanted to include my mental state and emotional experience in this blog reflection. I want other interns to know that I will not be silent, so that they know that if they’re getting down on themselves they’re not alone.

Finally, I have taken this quote (shared by a fellow intern) to heart. I am only in the first month of a lifelong journey. There will be many failures and successes to come. As I learn, I will make my teaching better. Right now, I can only be my best self. This hit home after reading one of my students journal responses. The prompt asked them to consider how they’re reading of a story changed from when they read it with the reader response lens and then when they read it with multiple lenses (gender, social class, and postcolonial). The student said that he had reflected more on his thinking than the ideas in the stories. He said that he was questioning his judgement and, more or less, becoming more critical of common sense ideas. Lastly, he said that because of this, he was enjoying English class for the first time. How could I be so negative, when this was happening for some of my students? I might not be a master teacher, but I care and I can be there and do my best. From this moment it will be deep breaths in and out, long nights planning, but satisfaction knowing that learning is going on (on both sides).

… We’re learning a lot. AND we’re afraid sometimes. That’s life. That’s okay.

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Internship – Coming Back to Class After Being Away

This past week of internship was greatly influenced by the three school days I was away for the internship seminar. By Monday it had been five days since I had seen my students. I wasn’t sure what the substitute had been able to get through and I wasn’t sure how my class received the work I assigned over the period of time I was away. This resulted in me feeling a discomforting sense of uncertainty throughout the week.

On Monday, I felt the least prepared I have felt so far. My anxiety had spiked and my confidence was shaky. I began the lesson asking my students what they had done and what they were uncertain of. I went over the two readings they had done and gave them class time to work on the assignments after going over them as well.

In the following days, I introduced our final literary lens – the postcolonial lens. I gave students notes and had them read the poem “Sure You Can Ask Me A Personal Question” by Diane Burns. This process went alright, but I still wanted to introduce Treaty Education and I felt as if my class still wasn’t fully getting colonialism and the importance of postcolonialism/decolonization in our society. I had my students watch part of “We Were Children” to foster a human understanding of what colonialism meant to real people and feel the injustice in it, so that they could see how it shapes our current society. I was starting to feel better after these lessons, as I had gotten my students to make deep connections.

By the end of the week, I was in great need of a break. All of my uneasiness set of by the usual worries, but also the uncertainty of having been out of the classroom for three classes had worn me out. The weekend has been a necessary break to recuperate and time to plan (an activity that never ends). In the next week, I hope to feel more secure in my plans. As I wind my first unit down, I look forward to the opportunity to try to work in some of my reflections on what worked and what didn’t in my next unit.

Two Weeks into Internship

This Friday is the end of my second week of teaching, during my internship. I feel an odd mixture of comfortable and stressed. I have been lucky to find myself interning at a school that I immediately felt comfortable in and with a cooperating teacher that I feel comfortable interning with. I also feel uncertain sometimes and under-prepared to jump into teaching this unit. However, I think that this experience is the best, and possibly the only way, to learn how to create and carry out a solid unit plan.

I have started my internship teaching an ELA B30 class. I have 22 students, the small size is helpful to get my feet wet in a manageable way, and for the most part they are receptive to the work that I have been trying to do with them. I opened up the semester with a writing assignment. I had my students write me a letter inquiring into my class. Reading them was so rewarding and gave me insight into what they want out of their education. I would do this assignment again. I found it more telling than the questionnaire I had them fill out. The other activity I am happy to be working on is using critical lenses to read course texts. Right now my students are reading short stories and poems, but we will also be reading Hamlet through a variety of lenses. I only wish it wasn’t taking me so long. I am constantly finding that I cannot go through material as fast as I originally thought.

As a teacher, I have already learned so much. I have learned that there really is never enough time to cover everything I want to. I have learned to get creative when it comes to creating assignments that fulfill curriculum requirements. When you have texts to get through, as well as 13 different writing forms, you have to figure out efficient ways to get work done. I have learned to be more organized. I have learned and practiced adjusting my instructional strategies. Finally, I have learned that I love group work as a way to get fruitful discussion going.

I am frustrated because I have a lot of theories and ideas that I would love to incorporate into my classroom, but will not be able to. Moreover, there are times I find my planning background to be much weaker than my theory background. I know what I want, but I have less skills to reach my goals. I am working on that everyday, but I wish I could have had more time as a student to work on those skills. I had a good discussion with my cooperating teacher, when she said that it takes time to get a clear sense of your vision and how everything will come together to reach your end goal. I have so many things I want to do, but right now I need to work on organizing what I need from the resources I’m giving my class.

At the end of the day, this internship is definitely quite a challenge. It is a challenge that I am up to and willing to fight for. I only hope that I can pick everything up as fast as I am required to and that I can feel more confident in my abilities as time goes on.

Lesson and Unit Planning as a Preservice Teacher

As a preservice teacher, one of the things I want feel more proficient at is lesson and unit planning. I can find my way around the Saskatchewan curriculum quite well. I have many activity ideas, especially when it comes to English Language Arts. However, I don’t yet have experience carrying out the unit plans I have constructed. I am not sure I have succeeded at creating the kind of continuity in concurrent lesson plans that I hope to. Likely, the only way to really know and learn how to improve is through doing. Luckily, I will have the opportunity to do so in my pre-internship and internship. In the meantime, I wish to learn as much theory and practice putting my ideas together.

In the blog post “Planning the Best Curriculum Unit Ever,” Todd Finley blogs about eight planning steps. In this order, he describes the steps as:

  1. Describe your vision, focus, objectives, and student needs.
  2. Identify resources.
  3. Develop experiences that meet your objectives.
  4. Collect and devise materials.
  5. Lock down the specifics of your task.
  6. Develop plans, methods, and processes.
  7. Create your students’ experience.
  8. Go!

He also notes that every lesson and unit has to be uniquely crafted to support the diversity of your students. Differentiation is important and it is important to make sure your lessons aren’t cookie cutter and adapted to suit student needs.

Ideas for unit planning and backwards design is well explained on Dr. Bilash’s website. Here there are different types of units described: “Theme based unit, Literature basedGames basedContent basedField trip basedWriting based, [and] Project based“.

Bilash also provides videos of the process of backward planning from the perspective of a preservice teacher:

Finally, “Strategies for Effective Lesson Planning” can be found on the website for Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. The site gives six steps for lesson planning: “Outline learning objectives,” “Develop the introduction,” “Plan the specific learning activities,” “Plan to check for understanding,” “Develop a conclusion and a preview,” and “Create a realistic timeline”. Breaking the planning process into clear sections can make the task manageable. Planning becomes really fun when all of your ideas can be put into a cohesive learning plan.

While these ideas are helpful, practice and classroom experience is the greatest opportunity for learning what is going well and what needs improvement. I am excited to be able to put all of my ideas together and teach a full unit of study. My goal until then is to consider the process of planning and work my ideas into clear plans.

I would like to receive any additional advice that can help me in my own learning process. What tips do you have? What resources helped you? What else can I do to be prepared to teach?