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. 

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