Pre-internship! The ups, the downs, and the inbetweens

Photo credit: WebGadder- http://webgadder.com/see-what-you-miss-when-you-say-no-time/

To start off with, I will say one of the most obvious things I’ve learned from pre-internship is that time changes and the hours in a day turn into merely minutes. I was so focused on pre-internship that I forgot to post to my blog- so, instead I am going to give a summary of the things I learned and experienced in my 3 weeks of pre-internship.

1. The comic I started with… that’s literally how I felt. I was either at school learning and planning, or somewhere else and thinking about learning and planning. This is a very scary thought because I only taught 2 class –> how will I do it when I have 4-5 classes to teach?! I look forward to internship when I get to find out.

2. Teachers really are underpaid. I learned this from simply being in the Cooperative Room with all the science teachers. I cannot tell you there was a solid 5 minutes of silence. There was always students coming to the door needing help or trying to catch up on missed work, etc. The roles teachers have to take on to meet the needs of students is unthinkable: from nurse, to parent, librarian, accountant, cook, leader, team member, and so on. I constantly witnessed teachers stepping out from their role as an educator to whatever they needed to be to meet the needs of students.

3.  I also learned I need to buy a foot-massager and a pair of good shoes. Not only do teachers spend an awful amount of time on their feet, they also have to think on their feet! There was two times in the three weeks I was there that an assembly or other unexpected event took place that ruined the lesson I had set up. I had to think on my feet quickly to make it work. This is something I’ve come to realize can’t be taught, but rather learned through experience.

4. Relationships are crucial. At the start of my three weeks, my students were very shy and unresponsive to questions I asked. After about the first week I noticed the comfort level of both me and my students to increase drastically. I truly believe that the moments I had to simply talk with my students and build a relationship with them was the only reason some of them listened to my lessons and did what I had asked of them. This is an area I hope to grow more in until I can have great relationships with every one of my students.

5. Patience truly is a virtue. I would classify myself as a fairly patient person; however, there was one situation I was surprised how annoyed I became. I was doing a demonstration in a Superlab (a huge lab that allows multiple classes to use at the same time) to my class of 38 (yes 38… that’s not a typo unfortunately) when another class came in and started doing their experiments. The one other time I had my class do an experiment in the Superlab I had no problems with other classes using the space as well; however, because I was doing a demonstration I was also having a conversation with my students about the concepts for the day. They could not all hear or see me and were completely distracted to what the other class was doing. To be fair, they were doing something which involved fire and colour change which is wayyyyy more interesting that seeing how fast we could dissolve an alka seltzer tablet in water, but they needed to know this for their assignments and test! I finished my demonstrations and we went back to the classroom, but I was very surprised when reflecting at how my patience completely left me in that situation.

6. Concepts you think are easy… may not be so easy. My pre-internship partner had taught balancing chemical reactions in one day. I thought this was really reasonable and so when it came time for me to teach it to my class expected about twice as long, but 3 days max. Yeah… this simple lesson turned into a week and a half. Classroom diversity is completely in control of how fast or slow students pick up on certain concepts. I feel like we had taught it with a similar approach; but, her approach met the needs of her students where my approach left a lot of them more confused than ever. I felt like I had failed my students because of this, but came to realize it just meant I had to alter my teaching methods to ensure all students had the opportunity to learn it.

7. Learning can’t always be fun. Before this experience, I was delusional at how easy it was to make every lesson and concept fun. I still believe students learn better when the lesson is fun, but there are those concepts for which that just can’t happen. I had brainstormed for multiple hours on ways of teaching types of reactions in a way other than direct instruction. Although they could do an experiment with it, that still did not ensure they were learning the concepts that were being experimented on. In the end, I had to give students a brief, and boring, slideshow on the information present. Not everyone likes taking notes, but not everyone likes being in the lab either. From this, I’ve learned that the best way to go about it is to just provide multiple methods of instruction. While some of these may be boring to some students, other students need it to understand and move on.

I absolutely loved my time pre-interning and can say this experience has allowed me to grow in my teaching career. I am feeling more prepared for internship, but also more reflective on areas I know I plan to improve. My Coop, students, and the school itself has been detrimental to my professional development and for that I am very thankful. I will end off with another important lesson I learned during my three weeks summed up by John Dewey:

“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”

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Relationships in Action

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After being in pre-internship for one and a half weeks, I have a little more experience in my inquiry topic. I have only started to develop relationships this week as I’ve noticed it takes a while for the students to trust you and understand who you are. However, my coop teacher is someone whose philosophy incorporates relationships into the success of learning. So while I work on the basics of forming those relationships, I am able to see their impact as they’re developed.Many students who are often labelled as “troubled” students perform a lot better when they are connected to the material and instructor. A problem I have came across is maintaining that relationship when there’s a need for disciplinary actions. For example, one of my students benefits from having that relationship with the teacher to learn better; however, he is also a student breaking my cell-phone policy quite often. I am finding it hard to maintain that positive relationship when I need to continually give warnings and take his phone away. I predict that as the relationship gets further developed he’ll want to listen to my instructions and expectations because I have seen him act differently with my coop teacher. I have already found relationship to be crucial to classroom atmosphere and overall learning.I look forward to having more time during internship to really dive into this topic.

Technology is not just a trend

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Technology is getting to be not only beneficial, but required, for learning to flourish. With today’s apps and resources, research suggests students’ learning has increased as well as productivity. It’s getting to be essential for teacher’s to have knowledge about technology and its use in the classroom. There is multiple professional development opportunities available for educators so long as the motivation and interest is there. It’s important educators stay ahead of their students with the up and coming trends of technology so they can prepare and teach netiquette that’s included. The education system has had to shift tremendously with the “trend” of technology and so will the teachers.

With all the benefits of of technology in the classroom, there is also the struggles. For one, not all students have access to technology, which places them in an awkward situation. Another struggle teachers will have to be prepared to deal with is the distraction technology can bring. One of the ways teachers can combat this is by educating their students about the proper uses of technology and setting up regulations for using it in the classroom. One other struggle that may occur is a more difficult situation to handle- this would be the data amount allotted to each school. A lot of times, schools get new tablets or computers and aren’t able to use them properly because of poor wifi. The only way technology can benefit the education system, is if it has adequate wifi to run off of. Technology is essential to learning…because of this, teachers need to be aware of the things that work against it.

Is Wikipedia lying to you?

Encyclopedia
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With over 3 million English entries, Wikipedia is a popular source for gaining information. Often we are reminded to think about the internets reliability. An example I’ll use is with twerking/fire fail. I had first watched this when it first came out and completely believed it was true without even second guessing. I guess I believed there are always people who want to try the “trend of the week” and not everyone can do it (an obvious example of this, is the cinnamon challenge). However, after I had watched the true version of the video and realized it was a prank and was shocked. The video had gotten 15 million views… This is the perfect example of how, not just in the technology world, but all the time one needs to question the validity of what they’re reading or watching.

After this thought had crossed my mind I had instantly started questioning where I usually get my information from. Although many teachers instruct you not to… I often find myself using Wikipedia because of the simple and easy way they display the information. I had heard both sides about the accuracy of Wikipedia and just decided I’d believe Wikipedia had to be mostly true. However, after this lesson today my curiosity was pushed further. I had googled quite a few articles about Wikipedia and it’s validity. The funny part was, the first website to popup was of course Wikipedia with an article about Reliability of Wikipedia. There was one site that actually talked about a study done specifically on this subject. The study had stated that with a comparison between Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica, both had contained 4 serious errors when 47 articles were reviewed. I thought this was pretty eye opening due to the fact that both have very different understandings of creditability.

After this research, the majority of articles I had read all pointed to a similar approach: always read more than one resource on the subject so you are able to cross-reference and find differences. No matter if you’re even using Encyclopaedia Britannica over Wikipedia it is always suggested you cross-references another source.

My final thought about this subject would be that I do now feel confident using Wikipedia as I usually always have more than one reference anyways. Information is always a good thing to have, but no matter where it comes from, you should always spend time questioning its validity.

The importance of the first day

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I know from previous experiences that the first day in a classroom is one of the most important. Because of this, I looked into some good icebreakers that I could use in pre-internship, internship, and when I have my own classroom. These icebreakers will be the start to the student-teacher relationships that promote learning. The activities listed will help the teacher know the students better as well as help get rid of any awkwardness within the students that is present on the first day.

1. M&Ms– have students pull out a M&M and, depending on the color, answer a questions (red- something about yesterday; orange- something you do well; yellow- something about your childhood; blue- something you learned last week; brown- something you can’t live without; green- something you watch/listen to)

2. Sticky help– Give students one sticky note, have them write down what they need to learn best, then post these on a large piece of paper for later reference.

3. Balloon Pop (requries a SMARTboard)-  This is a game where students through a soft bean bag at the SMARTboard. Wherever it hits, it will open a question about themselves.

4. Two Truths, One Lie- students write out two true statements about themselves and one that is a lie. They tell them to the class and when one person guesses which is a lie, it becomes their turn.

5. List Matcher– The teacher provides a category (such as breakfast cereals) and small groups of students true to list 10 items they believe are on the teacher’s list.

6. Blackout Bingo– Provide each student a handout that contains a table with various statements (such as: I like to shop; I have a pet cat; I have traveled outside the country). Students go around, asking these questions and filling in the names of fellow students

7. Two Extremes– The teacher provides a list of extreme opposites and students find the two people who fit the description (ex. likes chocolate/likes vanilla, likes rap/likes country)

What makes a good teacher?

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With pre-intership coming up I’ve been doing more and more research as to what will make me a good teacher. In my school years I’ve seen good teachers and I’ve seen bad teachers. It was sometimes obvious why some teachers were more preferred than others but sometimes it was more complicated. So, based on my research and previous experience I decided to make a short list of things to bring into the classroom as a reminder of how I should approach teaching:

1. Be yourself. Not all of the good teachers were the same and it was their unique characteristics that made them all great in their own way. Students can spot a fake. In order to gain students’ trust and respect, you have to be comfortable with yourself and establish your own teachings style.

2. Be Flexible. The classroom is never a constant. The announcements go off; the band kids have to leave; there’s an assembly taking place. As a teacher, you have to be flexible and accepting of the side-tracks your class may take. A good teacher is able to roll with the punches and adjust his/her schedule to work.

3. Have humour. A teacher who is able to laugh and have fun is much more approachable and relate-able for students. Although this can’t be taken to the extreme where it takes away from the learning of the students; however, it should be taught that learning is fun and interesting.

4. Be a role model. In some circumstances, students are with teachers more than they are with their own parents. Teachers are with youth at a very crucial age where students are figuring themselves out. As an educator, it is my job to be the best role model for my students as possible so that they always have at least one good example to learn from.

5. Be forgiving. Every day is a new day. As a teacher it is my job to allow for equal opportunity for my students. To do this I must take away biases and forgive any pass discrepancies. Everyone has bad day, don’t bring them forward.

A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.
– Brad Henry

Why are relationships important?

This week I had watched the documentary Bully:

After seeing this I was feeling even more motivated for pursuing my inquiry question about building student relationships. This is because it my understanding of student relationships broadened and I was able to see one of the consequences of not having an inclusive, welcoming classroom. Many of the students in this documentary were bullied and felt they weren’t listened to about their problem. Not only did this result in physical abuse, but also mental abuse that went to far as to drive kids to suicide. Bullying is a hugely emerging problem in today’s schools- especially because of the increase in diversity. I have come to understand, if I work in a big school with big class sizes, I won’t be able to form relationships with each and everyone of my students. My job, as a teacher, is to determine which of my students require such relationships and would benefit the most. The students in the documentary were those students that needed a teacher-student relationships. Although not everything happens in school, that’s generally where it starts. One of the things that upset me in this documentary is that a few of the kids stated they tried to tell their administration and teachers and felt they weren’t really heard. It is just horrifying for me to think of that a lot of those kids who committed suicide as a result of bullying which could have prevented if something would have been done in that school.

How this impacts my inquiry project:
– relationships with students are important!
– a real inclusive classroom shapes the minds of students to think inclusively outside the classroom
– creating a “family”” environment allows students to stick up for each other and allow everyone a sense of belonging (part of the Circle of Courage)
– Care and Compassion (one of Saskatchewan’s educational goals) should be done with relationships and should decrease bullying

Is Minecraft more than a silly game? (a great teaching tool?)

Minecraft
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Wow. So I never would have guessed I would be writing about this topic since I initially hated Minecraft and had never understood why my brother enjoyed playing such a pixelated game; however, my thoughts are changing. I had initially googled Youtube as a great teaching resource but was surprised when an article about “Minecraft being the ultimate teaching tool”  came up. After reading the article and watching the video I got to thinking that maybe my opinion about the game had been wrong this whole time.

To explain, Minecraft is like a huge online lego game. You have your character who can build, harvest, dig, swim, and many other things. There isn’t a particular object to the game besides stay alive and have fun. There are certain challenges you can take on (like defeating a dragon), but really the game centralizes around your own imagination. I had asked my brother once why he liked it so much and he had simply replied he enjoyed building whatever he wanted and playing with his friends to do so. I was amazed to see some of the houses, castles, and mines he created and how much time that went in to those.

Here’s a video I found on Youtube that helps show the game experience a little more and also show how creative the players can be. It’s a parody of the song “Wake me Up” done with Minecraft game play:

I was amazed with how much work and time that must have went in to this video. The combination of the lyrics, and videos, and putting it all together would be timely; however, the product is just so cool! Referring back to the article I had read, it had stated a few specific examples of how Minecraft is actually being used in the classroom by 20 000 students today:

1. Probability- build a random animal dropper

2. Physics- measure the time it takes a block to fall and then talk about gravity

3. You can build almost any historical architecture or build sets for Shakespearean plays

4. Use the block to talk about area and volume

5. Create art and put it in a gallery

6. Teach a different language with in-game signs (boards you post notes on)

One of the huge benefits to Minecraft is the flexibility is encompasses. It can literally be altered to fit so many different subjects and objectives while keeping students engaged and excited about learning. One of the main points the article had stated was the importance and benefits of the students being in charge of their own learning. Reaching out to students’ interests and teaching within those domains is always a positive teaching method and one I aspire to use.

While there are many regulations and lessons that need to come before the lessons with Minecraft can take place, there seems to be many benefits to using it in class. While it does not work for every subject, it is definitely interesting to think about how it could apply to my teaching. While I don’t find myself drawn to this video game to play in my spare time, I can now understand why so many kids enjoy it- the freedom to build and play however you imagine. This to me is a very interesting thought and possible teaching tool.

Is differentiation just a pipe dream?

A hot topic for debate in education revolves around differentiation. As a pre-service teacher nothing sounds more scary and time-consuming than designing my lessons to fit a vast number of needs. However; having a minor in inclusive ed, it’s a task I fully believe in. In today’s classrooms, students’ needs are more diverse and demanding than ever. With inclusion being more and more enforced, teachers often have a large variety of students in their rooms. For example, it wouldn’t be uncommon to have a student with a behavioural disorder, a student with cerebral palsy, 3 English as a Second Language students, and one with ADHD. These are the realities teachers face today… and also why differentiation seems so intimidating.

So what is differentiation?

Differentiation is accommodating your classroom and teaching to fit the needs of every student the best way possible. For example, if a student is blind, a teacher would differentiate by including either braille or auditory text. However, differentiation doesn’t simply happen with the way material is presented (process). Differentiation can take place in the content (material being taught), products (way students show knowledge), and learning environment (type of chairs, posters, etc.). There are those, who argue this amount of change is way too much to expect. As an educator, I am taught to put all of my effort into meeting the needs of students. So this is only true if its easy enough to do? Is wearing a microphone to accommodate a partially deaf student? Would it be too much work to allow a student who has anxiety about tests a few extra minutes to write their exam? I think the problem is people are overwhelmed trying to think of ways to accommodate every problem or necessity a student may need instead of worrying about the needs required in their classroom. Of course it would be stressful to plan a lesson thinking of ways it would for every need possible! That’s because it is impossible… And that’s not what’s expected. What is expected is that teachers differentiate their classroom and lessons to fit the needs of their students.

“Trying is always enough. ” ― Patricia Briggs, Dragon Bones

Building Student Relationships

Last week, I had talked about the importance of meeting the needs of students in order to create a good student-teacher relationship. In the article “10 Tips To Build Student Rapport”, Bevin Reinin opens with a quote oh so fitting:

“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship…” ~Dr. James Comer

Looking back to when I was in high school, this quote rings that much more true. When teachers didn’t try to have a good relationship with me it was difficult to give them respect and listen to them. Often, those were the classes where time was spent talking with friends instead of learning the material. Having known this, it is that much more important now that I’m on the other side of the fence. As a future educator I am aware that in order for my students to want to listen and learn, I need to make them feel respected and valued. After reading Bevin Reinin’s blog, I am left with tips to help establish good student rapport that enables learning to take place. I am going to list the tips she provides, as well as, my own opinion about how this might go over.

TIPS TO BUILD STUDENT RAPPORT
1. Positive Discipline
I feel like this sounds much easier than it would be. As a pre-service teacher, one of the areas I plan to learn from the most is classroom management. No one wants to be the teacher who yells; however, if rules are too loosely held, the class turns into a circus. Going into my pre-internship, I am very interested to watch other teachers’ discipline methods and analyze how well it would work for me. I know this is very important in building relationships which is why I plan to do further research on this concept.

2. Share your life
I was told from one of the interns who just finished her placement that “students will eat you alive if you try to be anyone but yourself”. Umm…. yikes! When I heard that I was that much more nervous for my pre-internship coming up; but, the more time I thought about it, the more it made sense. No one trusts a phony. So to develop trust, and relationships, I need to be confident in my self and do my own thing. For students to know that even teachers have lives outside of school, I should bring my own interests and understandings into the classroom (of course, never crossing the line of professionalism).

3. Embed their interests
This one seems like common sense, but because of this can be easily dismissed. In order to build relationships with your students, they need to feel cared for. Likewise, if you are aware of their interests, and incorporate them in lessons, this feelings will come through. If someone took the time to plan something I was interested in, more chances then not, I will have a opinion of them.

4. Morning Meetings/Greetings
Simply put, saying “hello”. By greeting students at the door, you are establishing a positive environment right off the bat. I often remember in high school I had felt invisible. I think by talking and greeting my students, they will not feel the same way I did. When calling on students, and using their names, you are giving them an identity… I would say this is pretty important to building relationships.

5. Book Talks
This one is somewhat similar to #3. Engaging in conversations where both you and your students have an interest will make it easy and natural to build student rapport.

6. Mailbox Messages
This was more designed for elementary school by having a mailbox on the student desk where students could leave notes or pictures. However, I feel the concept transfers easily to high school. By creating a place for discussion to take place, students will be more encouraged to address any concerns or comments they may have regarding their learning. This may be just providing your email address that allows students to get a hold of you at any time, or progression interviews which would bring students in for a one-on-one discussion about what’s going on.

7. Attend Extracurricular Activities
With the busy schedule most teachers have, this one can easily be forgotten. However, if you truly want to build relationships with students, you would attend or watch activities your students are a part of- it often means its one of their interests.

8. Classroom pride
Inclusive classrooms bring a large variety of students to the classroom- this can sometimes cause conflict. But, with proper management, a welcoming space can be created that allows all students to actively participate without worrying about being judged. Students will often be a lot more open to student-teacher relationships if they feel valued and accepted within their classroom.

9. Invite families
More times then not, the people closest to your students are their families. By having conferences or meetings with the student and his/her families you have the opportunity to see your students in a new light. Families may have some valuable information about who your students are that will help build those relationships influencing learning.