Sunday, 27 November 2011

How fast two weeks flies by ....

I cannot believe that I am officially done half of my placement and only have two weeks left with my grade 5’s.  I have learned so much in the past two weeks and have found out so much about myself as a teacher and have grown as a teacher because of this experience.  I know now, more than ever how passionate I am about teaching and how wonderful it will be to one day have my very own classroom.

My first day had a lot of eye opening experiences that really introduced me to what teaching is all about and how personalities in the classroom can turn a great day to a more challenging day.  I also learned that I knew my lesson plan a lot better than I thought, barely glancing at it during my lessons.  As my placement has progressed, I have found growing confidence in my teaching voice and my “disciplinary” voice.  Surprisingly, it was a lot easier to develop this “disciplinary” voice than I thought.  Classroom management also came a lot easier to me than I thought it would and I feel a lot more confident waiting for students to be ready to listen before I continue speaking.  Since I did not have my assessment and evaluation course before this placement, I was worried about implementing assessment in the grade 5 class, however, my associate teacher has been an excellent resource and has given me confidence in creating rubrics and shown me ways to implement a checklist and anecdotal notes in such a large class.  I cannot believe that two weeks have gone by and I only have two more left with my class, I have learned so much and implemented so many things that I learned in my first two months at Brock.  Unfortunately there is no SMART board in my classroom yet, but I have been able to implement 21st century teaching in so many other ways.  The students are now in groups and collaborate in math, science and physical education.  They are also learning how to reflect on their own learning and self-assess their learning.  But I am still hoping that the SMART board will arrive within the next two weeks so I can help my associate learn how to use it! 

 I know that December 9th is going to be a tough day for me because I already feel that I have become a part of the grade 5 classroom and cannot imagine leaving the fabulous school, community of teachers, associate teacher and all of the wonderful grade 5 students behind.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Engaging Young People in the Vote

In my grade 5 class, the students are learning about Canadian government and citizenship in their Social Studies unit. When I think back to my junior years in elementary school, I do not remember learning about our government, how it plays a role in society or about the responsibilities of citizenship, let alone what it is. I was fascinated when I learned about what the grade 5 students were going to be participating in last Thursday ...

When I first entered the classroom, I noticed a bulletin board, filled with information about the upcoming provincial election; there were newspaper articles, campaign posters, party paraphernalia and information on voting and aspects of the political election. There was also a poster from Student Vote, which I am embarrassed to say I have never heard of before. Just to explain what it is, quoting from their website (in case there are others out there like me), it is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works with teachers to deliver learning opportunities to help young Canadians understand and practice the responsibilities of their citizenship. Basically, over the course of the election campaign, students participate in activities and projects in the classroom to learn about the election and electoral process, democracy and government which leads to a sense and understanding of civic duty and the responsibilities of our citizenship in Canada. It was amazing to see how passionate and involved the students in the class were whether it was bringing in materials to add to the bulletin board, discussing the different platforms of the various candidates and engaging in projects that furthered their understanding of the candidates and what their platforms were. I especially enjoyed discussing with each student who they were campaigning for (through the creation of their own political posters for the candidate of their choice) and why because a lot of them had a vast understanding of the party representatives and their goals and taught me some things I was unaware of.

I was extremely disappointed that I was not there to see Student Vote Day take place last Wednesday, but from speaking with my associate teacher, the students truly enjoyed being able to take part in the voting process. The teacher had a list with all of the students’ names, had the students line up outside of the classroom and come in one at a time, identify themselves and then proceed to the ballot box where they cast their vote … just like any voting age adult would do when they cast their vote. Afterwards, the ballots were counted and a winner was elected, the NDP party for the Hamilton Mountain riding. I could not wait to see if their votes would match their voting age counterparts and that night I found out that eerily enough, the vote was the same and the NDP candidate was elected. Crazy how that works. I think this is an extremely useful tool for the classroom, especially because there has been such a decrease in voting turnout. Getting students involved and aware beginning at a young age will encourage them to stay involved, aware and accountable.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

My First Day

Today was my first day of observation at Queensdale Elementary, and what an information packed day it was!  I went from observing my grade 5 class, to an IEP session with my associate teacher and the resource teacher and back to observing … and now sitting here, I am even more excited about everything to come and overcome with joy at the possibilities in the teaching profession.  It was amazing finally being in a classroom with students and seeing the various teaching strategies and classroom management techniques in practice that I have been learning about over the past few weeks.  It was also interesting to be involved in the IEP sessions, especially being able to see how an IEP is specifically created for each identified student.  The process that goes into creating these for each student is definitely a lengthy process, but it was fascinating to observe how the accommodations and modifications are made, as well as the teaching strategies to be used to help these students succeed in the classroom.  I found this extremely beneficial because I will need to be aware of these things when I am facilitating a lesson to make sure that each student in the classroom can learn and succeed. 

When I first entered the classroom I was taken aback since there was no technology at use.  However, I found out that the classroom I am in is awaiting its technology which means ... (drum roll please) … I WILL BE HAVING A SMART BOARD IN MY CLASSROOM!! I cannot wait to make full use of this resource when I am teaching the grade 5’s, as well as helping my associate teacher learn how to integrate it into her classroom and lessons.  Although I have previously worked in a classroom with a SMART board, knowing I had 2 days last week to really learn how to use the software involved makes me feel a lot more comfortable knowing I will be helping integrate this amazing tool and resource into the grade 5 classroom =)  I cannot wait to go back tomorrow and learn even more about the students and the classroom.  I have always been sure of my decision to be a teacher, but just being in the grade 5 classroom makes me feel at home and makes me so much more aware of my passion to teach.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

My Teaching Mentor

Throughout my educational career I have come across many different teachers, and yes I have had some GREAT teachers and many more not so great ones, but none have ever inspired me as much as my university professor, Dr. Smith.  I was first introduced to him in a required third year Geography course at the University of Western Ontario and was immediately engaged by his teaching style and just his general persona.  He emanates a passion for not only subject matter, but teaching as well and a genuine care for his students and their thoughts.  In my opinion, it was instantly obvious that he far surpassed what a teacher should be, in my eyes, and in doing so it was clear to me that he has positively affected numerous students’ lives, including my own.  He creates a classroom without bias and judgement, a safe environment for students to share their thoughts, ideas and opinions without fear of being told they are wrong.  This allows students to feel comfortable and free, which in my experience is rare in the classroom.  Although teachers encourage creative thought, critical thinking, open mindedness and free thought in the classroom, it is was always rare for me to be able to do this because students would be reprimanded for deviating from the facts and teachers point of view.  Dr. Smith always encouraged this.  He wanted to hear our ideas, our feelings and our thoughts; even if he himself did not agree with us, he was always willing to listen and ask us why.  By doing this, Dr. Smith allows students to think for themselves and form their own opinions (critically thinking anyone?) which I believe give me, and other students, the confidence in my thoughts and opinions and allowed me to actually think, learn, grow and foster my own intelligence … what I believe education should be all about!  This model of teaching moves away from the regurgitation students are used to in the classroom which foster memorization skills and really does not encourage true learning and understanding, particularly for students, like me, who are not particularly keen on memorization.  The learning that was encouraged in all of Dr. Smith’s classes was lifelong learning that will develop critical thinking skills, free thought and formalizing opinions which will only further develop student literacy outside of his classroom.  He allowed us to question what we were learning which should be an integral part of the classroom; if students are too fearful to ask questions, how will they ever truly understand?  This was a big part of the classroom, because Dr. Smith has some very controversial views in relation to the other Geography professors at Western; however he never imposed these views on me or any of the other students.  This allowed me to open up my mind even more since he proposed an entire different view point I was previously unaware of in my Geography classes.  Dr. Smith is also active in the integration of technology into the classroom (you will not find an overhead in his classroom!).  He is constantly finding new programs to integrate into his courses and allow students to use in their presentations, if it wasn’t for him I would have had no idea what a Prezi was (check out his Prezi on Teaching Geography for an insight into his philosophy).  He also actively maintains social media as well, including a blog, a Facebook page and Twitter so he can connect with students because he is aware of how they communicate. 

 Dr. Smith’s inspiration and motivation also moved outside of the classroom because he was willing to meet with myself and other students on numerous occasions to discuss not only class material but general conversation as well.  Even just going up and talking to students when he sees them instead of ignoring their existence outside of the classroom.  I had never realized how isolated some teachers make themselves to students and how disconnected they can be until I met Dr. Smith.  Now I see how necessary it is for a teacher to be able to relate to their students, because if they don’t they will not be able to engage them and the students will not feel comfortable sharing what they think or how they feel about something due to fear.  In fact, if I had not felt comfortable enough to talk to Dr. Smith, I probably would not be here at Brock University in the Faculty of Education today.  Although I have always known I wanted to be a teacher, I had previously been adamant on attending another institution, however, once I told Dr. Smith about the opportunities at Brock and the Technology Leadership program he encouraged me to try something new and leave my comfort zone.  It is because of Dr. Smith that I took the leap and moved away from home to attend the forward thinking, current institution of Brock.  Dr. Smith is one of the most passionate teachers I have been lucky enough to meet and he is an inspiration for what I one day hope to be when I enter the teaching profession.  Although Dr. Smith teaches in a university setting, I believe the skill set, passion and inspiration I have gained from him will be even more beneficial when I have the chance to introduce them to elementary age students and allow them to develop these skills from an even earlier age.  Dr. Smith goes above and beyond the call of a teacher and if it was not for him I would not be the person I am today or have the passion, dedication and inspiration to be the teacher I want to be; he is my teaching mentor.