Overall, I have had a wonderful experience. At the start of the placement, it was very overwhelming. I realized how much I overlooked the day-to-day tasks that a teacher must perform. However, after three days I was starting to feel more comfortable. This is greatly due to the relationships I formed with my co-operating teacher and with the students I taught. I did not hide from the challenges of teaching. I took up a book that I had never read and volunteered to teach the class with behavioral issues. Furthermore, I immersed myself in other classrooms. I benefited greatly from observing a modified social 10 class, a modified ELA class, and a modified math class. I learned about the importance of relationship building with students and maintaining a positive teacher-teacher’s aide working relationship. I also observed an EAL 10 English class and it was interesting to see how Shakespeare could be adapted and made into an interactive study. I even got to talk to an EAL consultant about how to foster success in an EAL classroom. These experiences and various examples of teaching not only provided me with the knowledge needed to be a successful teacher, but they also immersed me into the day-to-day tasks of teaching. What started as an overwhelming endeavor became a daily routine that I am quite happy and confident about.
During this placement, I excelled in a few areas. I am most proud of my ability to make relationships with students. I took time to get to know who my students were beyond the four walls of the classroom. I accomplished this through exit slip questionnaires, talking circles, and one-on-one conversations. I was able to laugh with my students. By day three, I knew all their names and a bit about them. This allowed attendance and class discussion to go smoothly. Not only did I find out information about my students, but I shared my own personal stories, such as my work with disadvantaged populations at Camp Easter Seal. I had students come to the classroom after school to complete assignments, even at times when their absence was permitted and the assignment could have simply been omitted.
I was also well-prepared each day. My lessons were consecutive and built off one another in a logical order. I tried many different teaching strategies: jigsaws, think-pair-share, class discussions, group work, individual work, carousel activities, talking circles, Venn diagrams, short story charts, worksheets, cold call, student choice, daily schedules, weekly schedules, jeopardy review and games, etc. Many of these strategies were found in the “Guidelines for Integrating First Nations, Inuit & Metis Content and Perspectives,” which is a Saskatchewan government resource for teachers. I also utilized technology and pulled from various mediums that were relatable for students: BuzzFeed, TedTalks, YouTube, and popular music. I used both diagnostic and summative assessment that allowed students to work on various curricular outcomes: today’s meet, exit slips, thumbs up, bell work, island art, presentations, worksheets, paragraphs, inquiry letters, vocabulary worksheets, etc. All language strands were utilized in my lesson plans.
Although I excelled in some areas, I have many things to work on throughout my career. I often say “umm” when I am thinking and this can distract students. I believe this is something I can work on and improve upon with more experience. Another area that I struggled with was efficient grading. For the three week block I was able to “chase” students down to hand-in their assignments. I was also able to mark smaller pieces of work. However, as a full time teacher this will not be the case. I need to find a way to make students accountable to complete their work, whether or not a mark will be attached. This includes getting students to realize that taking notes is a requirement and not an option. Cell phone misuse is a major issue that I know I did not always notice. As I got more confident with the routines and names of my students, this was easier to monitor but still a challenge. In the future I will need to find a happy medium between patrolling for cellphone misuse and keeping students on task. This balance will help me keep students on track for the entirety of the period. The biggest lesson I learned and something that I need to keep in mind for the future is to break down parts of an assignment into their smallest parts. This allows students to complete the same amount of work without panicking. I think students would be less confused and more likely to hand-in their assignments if they are broken down.
Throughout this experience, I have grown. For instance, during my first group activity I allowed students to pick their own groups. I found out the hard way that mixed-ability and behavioral groupings work much better and planned for this during the lessons that followed. In the first week of teaching, I often said “guys.” This phrase is not inclusive and I worked hard to change my vocabulary and state “Grade Twelves” instead. I was able to learn from what I had observed my cooperating teacher do in her own lessons. This included getting students to write on the board during a discussion so the teacher can still monitor and maintain conversation. She also taught me to get students back into rows after group work so that class discussion could be successful and focused. Sonya Phillips is also very proactive, as she discusses potential issues before they arise. I grew to incorporate this into my own lessons. For instance, we watched a TedTalk to discuss a successful presentation before they presented. These observations and the realization that teaching is a skill that I must work on everyday will allow me to continue to grow in the future.
Not only was I able to learn from others, but I used the professional development feedback to improve each lesson. For instance, during my discussion about “The Painted Door” I did not ask enough questions. Therefore, I needed to check for understanding more effectively. The next day, during my lesson on the “Painted Door” we went through a very structured review. I also started breaking down questions into even smaller questions for my “Lord of the Flies” novel study. The added wait time and discussion questions improved my lessons and set my students up for success. After an earlier lesson where it was very apparent that students had not read the assigned reading, I adapted my next lessons and allowed for more in-class reading time. I also extended the due date for the book. Since my reviews of the chapters became more in-depth, students were held accountable to read even though they received extensions. My strongest example, that highlights my growth over the last few weeks, is my ability to think on my feet. During a class discussion, I had broken down a question but students still looked at me with blank stares. Earlier in the first week I would not have known what to do and I might have just provided the answer. However, I ignored my lesson plan and got students to think-pair-share. This quick-thinking and ability to go beyond my “script” represents my growth and overall confidence with teaching that has developed over the last three weeks. I am truly thankful for my experience at Miller Comprehensive High School, as I believe I know have the skills needed to grow and become a successful educator.