Thursday, March 3, 2016

Crossing the Bridge from Grade one to Grade Six

So yesterday was my first day in grade six! It was just an observation day and due to the mass amounts of snow that had fallen overnight I didn't get a chance to meet very many of my future students. However, it was a great day to get to know my amazing new associate teacher and the school atmosphere.

My new placement school is grades 6, 7 and 8... very different from the K-5 school I was at before and to be completely honest the jump from grade one to grade six is incredibly intimidating for me. I absolutely loved grade one and much of the work and volunteering I have done outside of school has been with younger children. So jumping all the way to grade six is definitely pushing my comfort zone, but I am extremely excited for the learning that will come along with this jump.

I know I will have to work hard to re-teach myself parts of the curriculum, but my initial concerns are beyond content knowledge. I'm starting to worry about classroom management as well. As I observed the class yesterday I could tell the students had a great deal of respect for their teacher and this is what made them listen. How am I going to get them to respect me in the same way?

In the primary grades students really want to please their teacher. Mine even did homework for fun just to come in and show it off! But from what I understand, this is not usually the case in middle school. I'm not going to be able to compliment a student on how they are sitting and as a result the whole class will follow their lead... and the "I'm waiting" trick might not work quite as well. I have begun my research on effective classroom management for junior/intermediate students and hope to learn more with a full class of students on my final observation day next week. I'll definitely report back my findings for those who are curious.

As I began looking for teacher support on transitioning from one grade to another, I stumbled upon The Cornerstone where one reader wrote in very similar concerns to my own. I'm glad that I'm not the only one panicking about a jump in grade! The Cornerstone's article titled Advice for Teachers Who Are Changing Grade Levels had some really great thoughts, and calmed my nerves about this grade level jump. "Good teaching is good teaching" is a quote that really stuck with me. I know that if I put the time and effort into this teaching block I will be a great teacher, no matter what grade.

After spending the day observing I am incredibly excited to be back in the classroom. This block I will be teaching Language, Math, Science, Physical Education, Health and Dance. I will also be helping teach and choreograph the competitive dance team. I'm already knee-deep in resources to get my ideas flowing. I can't wait to share my experiences with you (I'll try to be better about blogging this block, but you can always check out my twitter feed @Miss_Hatfield to see what I'm up to!) Despite my initial concerns I think that having taught both grade one and grade six by the time I graduate will only make me a stronger teacher in the long run. I will embrace my commitment to lifelong learning and educate myself on the transition from primary to junior grades. I look forward to  continuing to grow and learn as a future educator.

If you have any advice to share, please do! I'm looking to learn and prepare as much as I can before beginning in the classroom full time.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Valuing our Differences & Embracing Diversity

Growing up in a very culturally diverse area of Ontario I had always thought about diversity as multiculturalism. I thought about people from different cultures coming together in our schools and communities to share their stories and learn from one another about these cultural differences. This can be a very rich aspect of diversity, however, in more recent years I have learned that diversity is so much more than that.

In my post secondary studies I learned about the many diverse backgrounds children experience - not just their culture but the type of family they may come from, their individual skills, abilities or exceptionalities, their socio-economic status, gender identity and more. Before attending University I had no idea diversity encompassed anything but culture and race.

Webster's dictionary definition of diversity is "the quality or state of having many different forms, types etc." - so where did I get the idea that diversity encompassed only culture and race? Was it simply because this is all that was discussed in my schooling?

As I reflected on my own schooling experiences I began to recall where I heard the word diversity used. The first image that popped into my mind was a culture fair - a variety of booths set out around the classroom, bristol boards with the flags of many countries, trays of different foods from around the world. My teachers would talk about our class as being diverse and so everyone would share a dish and some basic facts about a country where they or their families came from. Though culture fairs can be used in very beneficial ways, in my experiences we were only skimming the surface of what cultural diversity meant while neglecting to note that culture could extend anything beyond our countries of origin.

As I participated in volunteer teaching trips overseas the diversity that can occur beyond culture became even more apparent. Now I’m not undermining the importance of cultural diversity, as I am extremely passionate about learning about different cultures and the way in which they are different but also similar to my own. I just believe that as teachers we need to learn to recognize diversity as more than culture and use diversity as a term to include all aspects of a child’s history and background.

When I taught in countries where cultural diversity wasn't nearly as prevalent as it is in Canada, I learned to value all of our differences - culturally and beyond. I taught in the small town of Katatura, Namibia where all of my students came from the same cultural background. Nevertheless, they were such a diverse group with so many interesting stories. Their family structures varied immensely as did their socio-economic statuses and their beliefs about education. When I taught in Lima, Peru I found the same thing - it wasn’t uncommon for all children to be from the same cultural background, but this did not mean they were not a diverse group of students. All of my previous experiences had been in Canada, where we often refer to our society as a “melting pot”. A country where we are so fortunate to be able to have individuals of a variety of cultures among us everyday. Teaching in an area where students all came from the same or similar cultural backgrounds really allowed me to appreciate diversity beyond culture.

Grade Two Math Class, Namibia

Grade One English Class, Peru
I recently engaged in a professional dialogue with one of my fellow teacher candidates and in our talk about diversity we found ourselves sharing travel experiences and the feelings of being a minority. It's certainly a challenge not knowing the language and the customs of where you are. But when people are eager to help you and learn about your culture, it is easy to feel more welcome. This is an idea I will certainly embody in my own classroom. It's important to recognize that students come from a variety of backgrounds, cultural and otherwise, and this can present a number of challenges. It is critical that as educators we take all necessary steps to make all of our students feel welcome and included as a part of the class and school community. 

As teachers we must be aware of the whole student and the unique and diverse qualities that come along with that. We need to be sensitive to our students' differences and not put them in uncomfortable situations - providing subsidy for school trips when needed, providing dual language posters and books, making students feel comfortable to ask questions about mental health and gender identity. No student should ever feel unwelcome or uncomfortable when a teacher embraces diversity and acknowledges the whole student. 

Furthermore, by embracing these diversities in the classroom students can learn to think critically about each and others' uniqueness and in turn learn from one another. It's important that when addressing cultural or any other type of diversity we are not just skimming the surface and providing the students with basic facts. We must challenge our students to think deeply and critically about the world around them, ask questions and engage in rich discussion for them to really gain an understanding of what diversity really means. 

Embracing Diversity in the Classroom 

"In diversity there is beauty and there is strength"
- Maya Angelou 

In my recent studies of the Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum I became interested in the grade three topic of embracing visible and invisible differences. As a part of a recent assignment a few colleagues and I designed an introductory or hook lesson to discuss various visible and invisible differences in the world around us. We used the book called "The Cutest Face" written by Rebecca Zak. This book is near and dear to my heart for a few reasons. It's written by a former teacher and mentor of mine, someone who I have looked up to since the age of 13. It is also short in text with rich pictures that can be used in a number of ways to explore students' uniqueness. 

Click here to learn more about "The Cutest Face" and see the Free Teacher Guide
A great way to introduce students to visible differences is to go through the text and discuss ways in which our appearances differ. I would then have students look at an outline of a body and record the visible differences they may see around the outside of that body. Afterwards I would engage my students in a rich discussion about ways in which we are different that we cannot see and have them record those inside the outline of the body. This a great "minds on" activity to get students thinking about how each of us is unique and can be furthered as the unit progresses into valuing, respecting and learning from those differences. 

There are so many ways to value your students' many unique features and backgrounds. I would love to hear more about the ways in which you embrace diversity in your own classroom! 

Let's get our students critically thinking about what diversity means to them and how we can value diversity at both a local and global level

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ten Teacher Tips: Engaging English Language Learners

In any classroom one of the most important things a teacher can do is get to know their students. It is critical teachers not only know their students' strengths, weaknesses, learning styles and needs, but also their likes, dislikes and "emotional backpack" they carry with them to school. This is a term that I learned in one of my undergraduate courses that has really stuck with me. Children come to school with their backpack full of homework and school supplies but they also come to school with an invisible or emotional backpack that holds their background, life events and feelings they may have that will affect them at school. Teachers must get the time to get to know their students and these backpacks in order to cater to their needs and ensure meaningful learning is going on in their classroom.

Before I started my teaching block I had several days of observation which were incredibly helpful. I was able to sit back and watch my associate teacher teach, while helping with small assessment tasks on the side; this played a huge part in getting to know my learners before I even taught them.

After the first day of observation it became apparent to me that very few of my students spoke English at home. Even for the children who spoke English fairly well, it was not their first language. I soon found out that within this class only two of my students did not qualify for ESL (English as a Second Language) help - however, only 4 students were actually able to receive this extra help because of staffing. It got me thinking, how am I going to keep these students engaged when they may not even understand what I am saying?

I began to think about when my sister talks to me about her University program. My sister is studying math and she will ramble on and on about formulas and equations; I find that eventually I stop listening because I just cannot seem to understand what she is talking about. Well this is what I feared for my students. I did not want them to become bored and disengaged when I taught them. I wanted them to gain meaningful learning experiences where they were not bored, confused and therefore acting out. Rather, I wanted them to understand what I was saying, be engaged in what I was saying and therefore be able to add what I was teaching to their existing body of knowledge. That is when I decided to focus some attention on researching this topic.

Keeping all of my students engaged was a top priority for me. I knew my students would not be learning what I wanted them to without getting and keeping their attention. So during my observation days I began to take thorough notes about instructional strategies my associate teacher was using to engage the students regardless of their level of English. I didn't want to stop here, so I started to do some research on engaging ELLs (English Language Learners). I looked at many teacher blogs to see what other teachers had tried. I also found many of the Ministry of Education's resources to be extremely helpful.

Now as you know, I am just a teacher candidate. I have only finished one teaching block and by no means am I an expert.. but I would love to share the findings of this research project in hopes that you can use some of these strategies in your own classroom. Rather than write you a lengthy report detailing my observations, online and print sources, I decided to summarize my findings in the form of some teacher tips.

From my observations, research and addressing my own challenges, I have come up with ten tips for engaging English language learners in the 21st century classroom that really helped me - I hope you find them helpful as well!

1. Know Your Students
Like I mentioned, it is essential that teachers are taking the time to get to know each and every one of their students on both an academic and personal level. When teaching ELLs it is important a teacher gets to know each students proficiency in English; this will make designing lessons and differentiating instruction easier to do prior to the lesson.

It is also important that you do not limit these students based on their English proficiency, you should be setting high but attainable expectations for them similar to the rest of the students; just because they may not be able to communicate in English, does not mean they do not understand the content.

2. Create a Welcoming Environment
It's important that all students feel welcome in any classroom; this can be a challenge when students don't speak the language of their peers. You may fill your classroom with motivational posters - but what do these do for children who can't read and understand them?

Try and create print-rich environments where students can relate to the visuals posted around the room. This may include putting labels on everyday classroom furniture and items (i.e. desk, door, etc.) This will help your students as they begin to read English. Including clear and coherent schedules for student reference is also a great way to engage ELLs - it is not uncommon for ELLs to have come to Canada from a different country. Using visual schedules will help them to develop routine and learn what to expect each day at school.

Pronounce your students' names correctly! I know for me, nothing makes me feel more unwelcome than someone not knowing my name. This may seem straight forward, but it is critical in developing a positive rapport. Take the time to understand how to pronounce your students' names, you may even want to write your own pronunciation beside their names on your own notes at the beginning of the year, this will make the student feel welcome and a part of the class.

3. Watch Your Language
It's easy for those of us who are fluent in English to ramble on using complex words. It's always important we're using appropriate language, tone and speed when talking to our students but we must be increasingly aware when we have students in our classes that are learning English. It is important that we slow down our speech, simplify our vocabulary and frequently check in with students to ensure comprehension.

It's important that we give clear instructions and always model the correct pronunciation of words. In addition, we must watch our use of common expressions - this was a challenge for me! For example, if you tell a child who is just learning English that their nose is running, they will likely be confused as their nose is still on their face and doesn't have the legs to go anywhere!

4. Use Collaborative Learning
Working in small groups or in pairs may be intimidating for children who don't speak English, however, it can also be a fantastic socialization experience. From my own experience in my teaching block, I found that students often learned English best when engaging with their peers in lunch time or recess discussions. Having students collaborate in the classroom allows this dialogue to take place.

There may also be times when you may have bilingual students in your class. If your ELLs speak this language, your bilingual students can be a great tool to ensure your ELLs feel welcome and understand all of the work they are doing in your class. I was fortunate enough to be able to use this strategy during my own teaching block and it is definitely one that works very well.

5. Be Organized!
It's important for all teachers to be organized, but when addressing the needs of ELLs it's critical you stay on top of your classroom work and routines. As I have mentioned, keeping routine in the classroom can contribute to making learners feel welcome. It will help students to feel comfortable as they learn to anticipate what is coming in a day without surprising them or taking them off guard. Keeping effective and meaningful routines comes from the organization of the teacher.

It's also important you are staying on top of assessment, taking anecdotal notes and always being aware of your students' progress. We cannot place a label on ELLs and continue to teach them in the same way - always being aware of how they are progressing will allow you to cater your instruction to their individual needs. Being organized will allow you to prepare for this prior to your lessons, rather than having to make last minute changes.

6. Find the Right Resources
In the technological era we live in, we can simply conduct a Google search where hundreds of thousands of resources are at our finger tips...however this can become overwhelming. There are so many resources out there to help us engage ELLs that we have to look carefully to find the right ones for our students.

Bilingual dictionaries and books can work to help students better understand a book the class may be studying. There are many apps, computer programs and websites that can also be of assistance to helping your ELLs learn English: Starfall, Reading A-Z, Everything ESL...just to name a few.

It goes with being organized, we must seek out these resources and use them meaningfully in order to really benefit our students. A great place to start is with the Ministry of Education's resource: Supporting English Language Learners: A Practical Guide for Ontario Educators. This is where I initially started doing my research during my practicum block and it was extremely helpful! Ontario's Ministry of Education has quite a few resources to help teachers with my very research topic, I definitely recommend checking them out.

7. Use a Variety of Mediums in Each Lesson
It's important that you're not delivering instructions or lessons in a single manner when trying to engage ELLs. If you are simply speaking or writing in English, they will likely become disengaged as they will not comprehend what is going on. Use a variety of mediums in every lesson so that they gain an understanding of course content or task instructions. What really worked for me was always using pictures and visual representations. Though I'm not much of an artist, when writing words on the board I would draw a picture beside them. Regardless if the child could read or understand the word I was talking about, they could always recognize the picture.

I would also model tasks as I would explain them, this way students could make a connection between my actions and words. Another great strategy I found was not only using pictures and actions, but real life objects. When I taught the grade one unit on materials, objects and structures, I brought in a box full of items made out of different materials like wood, rubber, plastic, glass, etc. As a class we sorted them to identify the materials; my students who barely spoke a word of English still learned to identify the materials correctly.

Finally, another medium that I found really worked was the use of musical chants. Singing content matter is a way to engage ELLs because it can be easier to pick up on in comparison to lengthy explanations. I taught my grade one students a short chant to the tune of Three Blind Mice so that they could remember the primary colours. When I conducted an oral assessment of which students could identify these colours, I found it was mostly the ELLs who would reference the song when I asked them - it was a great learning tool.

8. Differentiate, Differentiate, Differentiate!
Along with using a variety of mediums it is ESSENTIAL we are differentiating our instruction. There are endless accommodations we can use to ensure our ELLs are being taught and assessed fairly. It's important we allow students to demonstrate their understanding of a concept in alternative ways, this may be through drawing a picture or attempting to provide an oral explanation rather than a written report. I found in my own experiences, my grade one ELLs excelled with a combination of drawing and explaining their picture to me. The dialogue and discussion we would have about their picture was sometimes difficult for me to understand but it was a great learning experience for us both, I would help them find the right English words and they would help me to learn effective strategies to communicate with them.

Another strategy I have also read about to differentiate for older students is allowing students to research a topic in their first language, and then summarizing it for the teacher in a few English sentences. You can even check your students' research by simply putting it into an online translator to make sure they are on the right track (note: the accuracy of these translators tends to be literal and varies in accuracy).

9. Incorporate Multicultural Education
It's always important for your students to be able to relate to the content being taught in the classroom. When you have students from a variety of backgrounds, regardless if they speak English, you should always incorporate multicultural education.

I found a great way to engage my ELLs in my practice teaching was to use pictures and words to find things they could recognize and relate to. For example, when teaching healthy eating, we did not focus on the foods in Canada's food guide, but we used the portion and food groups and looked up pictures online of the foods they more commonly ate - this made the curriculum relatable and relevant for everyone!

10. Encourage the Use of Their First Language 
This was certainly a misconception for myself and I'm sure many other teachers and teacher candidates when finding out they would be teaching ELLs. I thought that there was such a focus on learning English in schools that the home was the place for the focus of the first language... however this is absolutely NOT the case. According to the Ontario Ministry of Education, there are countless positive outcomes for the student by promoting the use of the child's first language in addition to English including building confident learners, developing mental flexibility, experiencing a sense of cultural stability, developing awareness of global issues and more.

I found it wasn't uncommon for students in my placement class to be asked to speak English to each other rather than their first language by school personnel. However, in my research I learned that it's incredibly important we promote the use of both languages in a child's life. It is important that students learn English but being bilingual is a highly beneficial skill that will also keep them connected to their family and culture. One strategy I read about but did not have the opportunity to try myself was to assign certain tasks in English and others for the child to do in their first language; this may be tasks like research, journal writing or even reading books if you can get a hold of them in the child's first language.

A year ago I had the opportunity to teach English in Lima, Peru where children spoke only Spanish. This was an amazing learning experience and ignited my passion for teaching ELLs. A quote I always like to remember is "fairness is not sameness". Students don't always have to do their work or be assessed in the same manner for it to be fair. This belief of mine was only reaffirmed through my experiences with ELLs.

I hope that some of these tips and tricks will help you in your own practice. But please check out some of the great resources I found to help me in my own teaching, I hope you will find them as helpful as I did.

Ontario Ministry of Education Documents:
Supporting English Language Learners: A practical guide for Ontario Educators

English Language Learners ESL and ELD Programs and Services

Supporting English Language Learners with Limited Prior Schooling

Steps to English Proficiency 

Other Teacher Resources:
4 Strategies to Help ELLs in the Mainstream Classroom 

Engaging English Language Learners in Your Classroom 

Everything ESL

Student Resources:

Reading A-Z

Storyline Online

Monday, November 30, 2015

Teach, Lesson Plan, Sleep, Repeat.

It's absolutely CRAZY to me that today started the third week of my teaching block. I can't believe time has gone by so quickly and I have yet to blog about it! I'm finally getting the hang of finding time to complete my extensive lesson plans, gathering exciting and innovative resources for my lessons as well as finding time to eat and sleep. And today has finally given me a few minutes to share my thoughts and update you on how these first two weeks have gone.

So far teaching grade one has been INCREDIBLE. I am so thankful to have been placed in a class of wonderful students that teach me something new every single lesson of every single day. They keep me on my toes and always make me feel great about myself and the effort I put into my work.

The class I am working with is a very excitable bunch. Every time I bring out a new material or lesson idea they become so eager to learn. I love this intrinsic motivation that these young children have to learn; they are always telling me "I wish school was longer" or "I wish we had school everyday" before we break for the weekend. This excitement to learn reaffirms my decision to become a teacher everyday, it motivates me to be the best teacher I can be and find new ways to excite my students everyday (it has also allowed me to practice my classroom management techniques... sometimes they get a little TOO excited!)

So far I have had the opportunity to teach visual arts (primary and secondary colours), math (3D shapes and we have just begun graphing) as well as science (materials, objects and structures). I have so many things to share with you after having taught these subjects, but for now I will focus on the first subject I taught...visual art.

Visual art was an amazing subject to start with, the students don't have art as often in their timetable so they got very excited when they found out they would be having it everyday. They became even more excited when I framed my unit using a story. Initially I made up this little story and thought it may be silly or too young for the grade one students. Nevertheless, I decided to take a risk and see how it went over and I am SO HAPPY I did. My students came to school everyday eager to find out what was going to happen in art class.

On Monday I explained to the students how much I love to colour. I showed them a colouring page where I had made very poor colour choices... my apples were coloured blue, my tree was purple, etc. I asked the students what was wrong with my colouring page and they were very quick to tell me. I then showed them a letter written in chart paper by "my crayons". They had run away because I wasn't using them correctly and claimed they wouldn't return until I had learned more about them with the help of the class.

The students were so excited to get these crayons back, they couldn't wait to begin the first lesson. The first lesson was about the primary colours. I taught them a little song I found on Ms. Brown's blog to help them remember and they were singing it all week long. I then designed a worksheet where they coloured different pictures using their primary colours and sorted them accordingly. I was so pleased at the end of the week when I did my final assessment and every student knew their primary colours! 

The next day students came rushing into the school, before taking off all their winter gear they ran up to me asking if any crayons came back. When I replied they had to wait until art class they were so disappointed and were snooping around the classroom all morning. I didn't want to distract from my associate teacher's lessons so the crayons also worked as an incentive as well. 

When I revealed that the red, blue and yellow crayons had returned. After some screams and shrills of excitement, this was a great review of what we had learned the previous day as we discussed what it meant to be a primary colour. 

I won't take you through all of the lessons I did, but myself and my students were very excited by Tuesday's lesson as well, so I would love to share it with you. I introduced the lesson with another colouring page, this time I had only used my primary colours to colour it and so it didn't make sense... the grass was blue, a bunny was holding a red carrot... so the students and I discussed the missing colours. 

We then read the book Mouse Paint, an amazing resource for teaching how the colours mix! As we read the book we did a live demonstration of mixing the paint. Rather than using a paint brush, I put two primary colours in a ziplock bag and  used a stuffed white mouse to stomp all over the bag so that the colours began to mix... the students LOVED this. I had students come up to the front and use the mouse to mix the colours and they were both excited and well behaved to get a turn. I then had a simple worksheet of colour equations where students put their knowledge into action by colouring the different mice in the book. For anyone interested in the worksheet or any other resources I used please let me know and I am happy to send them your way. 

The next day the students came running into school again desperate to know what crayons had returned. I kept up the crayon box all week, the secondary colours returned and black and white returned after talking about making colours lighter and darker. I taught this mini-unit in my first week of placement and the students are STILL talking about the crayons. 

As I mentioned, I now teach more than art with a focus on math and science for the time being. I could go on all night about all of the new things I have been trying out in my placement, but I may be here forever. I promise not to wait so long for the next post and keep you in the loop about what's going on with our grade one graphing and structures units. 

I would love to hear any thoughts and suggestions about these few art lessons if you have any feedback. 

Until next time, happy lesson planning! Thank you for continuing to learn and grow with me. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Mirror, mirror on the wall... Becoming a Reflective Practitioner

Developing your presence as a classroom teacher can be difficult as a student teacher.  Most of my past work with children has been in camp or recreational environments; these are less structured and I find it is more acceptable for me to be viewed as a friend rather than in a position of authority. As a teacher, it is critical you have a balance between having fun but also maintaining classroom management and professional boundaries. My first (and very intimidating) assignment was micro-teaching. As a teacher candidate I was expected to plan a short lesson and then teach that lesson to the grade 1 class I have been observing weekly. But that's not the intimidating part... during this lesson I would be watched by three of my fellow teacher candidates, my faculty advisor, my 21 students, associate teacher as well as being video-taped. Don't get me wrong, I love coming up with new and innovative lessons and was excited to show off what I could do, but the audience and the camera did intimidate me.

I am very fortunate to have an incredible associate teacher who has provided me with opportunities to teach brief lessons in shared reading and phonics. This allowed me to start to get comfortable in front of the class before I had to do this micro-teaching assignment. I cannot thank her enough because it actually went really well - there was no reason to be intimidated at all! She provided me with an incredible body of resources which allowed me to put my ideas into action.

My lesson was about seasonal change and the students couldn't have been more engaged! I read them Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London. The book tells the story of Froggy getting dressed for winter, having to take on and off his many clothing items as he forgets many of them before playing in the snow. As a class we discussed why Froggy had to dress the way he did and what would happen if he wore all of the clothes in the summer. The students picked up on the content really fast. I then got them up and moving by having students one by one dress four cut-out children for the four different seasons. Each and every student was eagerly waving their hand high in the air waiting for their turn.

I am happy to share a more in-depth description of this lesson for those who are interested, however, the most important aspect I got out of this experience was the importance of becoming a reflective practitioner. 

Watching myself teach on video was a strange experience. I don't enjoy looking in a mirror, so I was dreading having to watch and listen to myself teach - but it taught me more about myself as an educator than I have ever known. There were things I saw in myself that I was very pleased about, and others that I really want to work on. I watched the video numerous times, making a list of strengths I'd like to sustain and even strengthen over the next five weeks as well as a list of weaknesses I would like to improve. I have placed these in my daybook to encourage daily reflection.

My micro-teaching lesson was actually over a week ago... you'll have to forgive me for posting so late, I've been busy planning a visual arts mini-unit that I can't wait to share with you! But even though this learning experience took place a week and a half ago, I can't help but continue to reflect upon it and look for new ways to grow and learn as a teacher.

I am officially done my first semester of classes in Teacher's College and am off to begin my first official teaching block on Monday Though I will not be video-taped everyday, I am going to make it a point to sit down and reflect on my lessons everyday. I have always been told it's important to reflect, but now have been able to experience that significance for myself. I am going to take the time to "look in the mirror" to critically reflect upon what I need to do better to meet the needs of ALL of my learners each and every day. 

I would strongly recommend any teacher seeking to improve upon their practice to try out video taping themselves, even for just a short lesson. It provides a brand new perspective that will challenge you to think and teach in new and more effective ways. In addition to reflecting to myself, I also plan on keeping this blog as well as professional journal throughout my block. I know there is always room for improvement and growth, but I'm hoping that this will allow me to get the best out of my teaching block and provide me with a solid foundation for the day I have my own classroom.

I am so excited to start my block this upcoming Monday. I can't wait to share all that I am doing with my grade ones with you. Let's learn and grow together. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Confession #1: Yes, I am a rookie...

Last year, in the final year of my undergraduate degree, was the first time I had really been exposed to the idea of blogging. As a part of a class assignment I began to follow other teacher bloggers. I was also expected to compose a few of my very own blog posts. Though I enjoyed reading the blogs of others, I was very intimidated by the idea of publishing my thoughts for the world to read. In fact, in my first blog post I even wrote about my apprehensiveness:

As I sat down to create this (first ever) blog, I have to admit I was intimidated. I was apprehensive to share my thoughts online. Would others actually read what I had to say? Would they like what I had to say?

Though I was hesitant to initially voice my ideas, I did end up enjoying the process. I found blogging to be a great way to benefit my learning as I wrote about lecture content relevant to my future profession. It helped me consolidate my learning so I would write my papers or exams with ease. But this blog ended up being only three posts - three posts that spoke about what I was learning about in class - three posts that didn't really voice an opinion or take risks - three posts that were written for my professor, not for myself. Thus, I did not get the real blogging experience.

In turn, I would definitely consider myself a rookie to the blogging world.

So why have I started this blog you ask? I have only recently begun to appreciate the power of words and writing. About a month and half ago I lost my grandmother, or Nana as I called her. I am very fortunate to have spent many years with all of my grandparents, but this was the first grandparent I had ever lost, so it hit me pretty hard. I didn't eat or sleep for several days. I tossed and turned in my bed feeling very uneasy night after night until I decided to write a eulogy. I have never been much of a writer but writing a eulogy for my dear Nana's funeral brought me a great amount of comfort. Though I did and still do miss her with each day, there was a sense of ease I had after writing and delivering my short speech. 

The comfort I felt after having put my thoughts on to paper was also felt in others around me which I did not expect. People who never knew my Nana told me they understood her grandmotherly nature and those who knew her well, felt as if they knew her in a different way. I learned that my words not only did something positive for myself, but also for others - and that is why I have begun to blog. Though the thought of others reading and disliking what I have to say does still slightly intimidate me, there are great benefits to putting this fear behind me and stepping outside of my comfort zone. Putting your thoughts into words can challenge both yourself and others to think in new ways. Though not everyone may like what I have to say, with every post will be a learning experience. 

As I have read many other teacher blogs I have learned so much - blogs are truly a great resource for any educator. Though I may not be a teacher, I hope that sharing my experiences as a teacher candidate will help other aspiring teachers, teacher candidates, and members of the educational community in some way. I would love to hear your thoughts on my posts (whatever they may consist of) so we can help each other learn and grow. 

As an aspiring teacher in the 21st century it is essential I am reflecting on my practice. This is the only way I will better my teaching as well as better the learning for my students. Though I find I am constantly mentally reflecting on my actions in and out of the classroom, I find I am able to reflect on a deeper level by putting those thoughts into words. So what better way to reflect than through blogging? And what better time to start than as a teacher candidate?

Though a part of the concurrent education program, this final year is the first time I will consistently be lesson planning, teaching and truly learning about myself as an educator each and every day. Though my countless assignments, lesson plans, unit outlines and tests in Teacher's College seem overwhelming at times, I would not consider any other profession. I am eager to start my first placement this November and begin this journey. Though I may be a rookie in both the teaching and the blogging worlds, this is a great place to start documenting and learning from my successes and failures. I hope you will join me so we can learn and grow together as I embark on this educational expedition.