Learning to Relate

During our eight-week pre-internship experience, we were partnered with a classmate from ECS 311. I’m so grateful that we were provided with the luxury of having a partner. We often leaned on each other and supported each other when it came to planning our lessons for the following week. Doing this often provided each of us with ideas, thoughts and perspectives we likely would not have thought about otherwise. I found this was really helpful and will improved the ways in which I’ll professionally communicate with my colleagues.

Professional communication is crucial as it gives an impression of whom you are as a person. In regards to professional communication with a cooperating teacher, I’m grateful that pre-internship thus far has allowed me to build a relationship that allowed me to feel comfortable enough to ask questions and have conversations. I often has to contact my cooperating teacher in regards to my lesson plans as I commonly had questions about adaptations, appropriateness, instructional strategies, etc. Pre-conferencing and post-conferencing about my lesson plans and my delivery of them, allowed me to focus more only myself as a future teacher and gave me time to think about things that worked well, things I did well and perhaps things that I could work to change in the future.

Coming to class after pre-internship, I realized how important we valued the feedback of our peers. I always appreciated any feedback that was provided to me by anyone within the class and it often helped me expand my thoughts, even though sometimes it was challenging. These conversations has allowed us to confront ideas in a respectful and comfortable environment, where we were being constructive for the benefit of others.

 I also believe that having a good communication system with classmates, peers, colleagues and cooperating teachers is extremely important in building relationships. Being able to communicate properly leads to clear and concise conversations which allows less confusions, mistakes, and mishaps. Gaining professional communication skills is beneficial to me as it allows me to present myself in a respectful manner.

However, while communication with peers and colleagues is important, communication with our students is just as, if not more, important. Being able to discuss, converse, and communicate with your students is essential as it is a stepping stone to building true relationships. Relationships lead to having a mutual respect for each other which we need in the school setting as we are spending most of our days with these students who, to me, should become a family in a way. One way to further this relationship between educators and students is to integrate the adaptive dimension into the classroom. Applying varying strategies allows for all students to have to ability and chances to engage in learning experiences in which they will gain valuable knowledge. Before doing the Student Learning Profile assignment, I only observed experiences of my cooperating teacher interacting with students. I did not truly step back and focus on students and their ways of thinking and knowing. The student Learning Profile assignment offered me a way of thinking deeper and more consciously on one of my pre-internship students. In doing this assignment I took the time to understand this student and it has actually given me the chance to work better with this student. In saying this I believe as an educator it is important to make time to do this with every student within your classroom.  

Learning to Reflect, Review & Evaluate

I started off my pre-internship experience with several professional development goals. These goals were development areas in which I wanted to further my understanding as an educator. Throughout my pre-internship placement I have been given the opportunity to explore these goals which have allowed me to grow as an educator. The feedback that I have been receiving from my cooperating teacher has provided me with many opportunities to reflect and expand my ideas. The feedback that I have been receiving from my PDP’s thus far has been given in a positive way, with lots of constructive criticism. I am grateful for the feedback that I have been receiving as I do feel as though it has truly guided me on my path to reaching my goals.

I did receive feedback that went along with my PDPs overall. However, I also got feedback on the lesson as a whole. The general feedback I received included how the lesson went through her eyes, what she may have tried differently, ways to integrate smoother transitions and ways to include different adaptations and differentiations, etc. This has impacted my teaching practice as I am able to take in these suggestions along with my professional development goals and work towards creating well-rounded, inclusive, appropriate, meaningful lessons. In creating these lessons, it will better my ability to teach in a way that is valuable and allows for growth mindsets.

Ending off my eight-week pre-internship placement and moving into my three-week block placement, I still carry these goals with me, along with the helpful criticism, as I believe as an educator there is never a point in which we reach complete perfection. This is because our society is ever-changing and as an educator I believe it is crucial that our practices and philosophies are ever-changing to fit the needs of our students. I will continue to work on previously set goals along with new goals that come my way as I am becoming more involved within the classroom. I need to be constantly creating and setting professional development goals for myself, long after my pre-internship as it challenges me in positive ways. These goals challenge me to be the best version of myself, and I believe that I deserve that along with my students.

Learning to Teach

During pre-internship I learned things about planning that I hadn’t thought much about prior to the experience. I truly did not realize how many different instructional strategies and approaches that are available for educators to use. This may be largely due to the fact that I only thought about the instructional strategies that my teachers used when I was in grade school. In regards to my experience, there was a large focus on brainstorming, discussions, group work and direct instruction. Although I do believe these strategies are important to implement and use within the classroom, we have to consider that not all of our students will learn from or understand these strategies. There is a time and a place to use certain approaches, but I don’t believe it is fair to stick to the same few. Doing so would be a disfavour to our students as they won’t all learn in the same ways, so it would be unfair to teach them all in the same way.

As I have learned about instructional strategies and the benefits that incorporating differentiated strategies portrays, I still believe that they are only one of the many ways to contribute to social and ecological justice in the educational system. This is because an environment where all student are supported, safe, and included creates a welcoming atmosphere where essential learning can take place. Supporting all four quadrants of individuals holistic well-being (social, emotional, mental, and spiritual) is important as it fosters the wellbeing of the whole child, not just one aspect. It is my responsibility as a teacher to get to know my students as individuals in order to ensure I am supporting them as a whole.

Although I wasn’t provided with an opportunity like this, I realized how important it is to take an unintentional teaching moment and make it meaningful. For example, a student within the school passed away in an accident during the time of my eight week pre-internship experience. It clearly wasn’t a planned conversation to have, but my cooperating teacher took the opportunity to talk to the students about empathy, supporting each other in times as such, and how we may not always be aware of or understand what others are going through, so we should always be respectful and kind.

In general, learning to teach essentially means continuing to grow. As educators, we are constantly growing and expanding. We do this not because we aren’t good enough, but because we can always be better. We want to be the best version of ourselves for our students and we can’t do that without continuing our own learning journey.

Some take-aways that I’ve learned from pre-internship are:

  • Always plan more than you think you will get through
  • Be okay with having to review and go over things multiple times
  • Go with the flow and follow in the direction of the students
  • Sometimes things don’t go as planned and that’s okay
  • You have to teach to the students you have now, not the students they were or students you used to have. They are constantly growing and changing, so us and our teaching strategies should too
  • We learn just as much from our students and they learn from us

Learning to Plan

Before discussing the Student Learning Profile in class and conversing about Adapted Dimensions, I previously believed that the majority of adaptations were made for students who were struggling. Because of my pre-internship experience and the knowledge I have gained throughout the semester thus far, I know understand that adaptations are to be applied to every student in the classroom. Within my adaptations in the lesson plans I have created throughout pre-internship, I have made adaptations that benefit students who are struggling with expectations and those who are exceeding expectations. It is crucial to take every student into consideration when planning lessons so that learning activities can be adapted to meet the needs of all the students, not just a select few.

The Saskatchewan Curriculum is a resource used by teachers to complete necessary outcomes the students need to learn in a school year. Saskatchewan Curriculum is presented by grade level and subject area. There are further resources associated in each subject/grade level to support aligned outcomes. Having a proper understanding of the Saskatchewan Curriculum and how to use it is important. This is because when an educator is able to understand the curriculum, they are better equipped to use it in a way that benefits and supports students past the walls of the classroom.

In creating lessons over the course of pre-internship I have been able to deeper my understanding of the curriculum and the ways in which it flows and integrates throughout itself. I have begun to make deeper cross curricular connections throughout lessons as I have a better understanding of how to relate and integrate multiple outcomes into a lesson plan. In doing this it has allowed me to enrich lessons to meet differing outcomes.

Assessment Practices

During my pre-internship experience, assessment was not a huge focus for me. My cooperating teacher and I discussed in advance how she wasn’t wanting me to focus too much on assessment, but rather the development and delivery of the lesson. I appreciated this as I have not yet taken an assessment class and didn’t feel overly comfortable assigning students with a mark since it didn’t seem fair. It didn’t seem fair as I often taught an introductory lesson, or I jumped in and continued teaching a lesson regarding what they were already focusing on. I was not provided with an opportunity to continue to expand on a lesson I myself taught the week previously as too much time had passed between my visits.

With saying this, I did incorporate formative assessment where I saw fit:

  • Observations – I was able to help fill the gaps and determine their understanding.
  • Questioning – Asking questions individually, as a class and within groups helped me gain an understanding of students’ knowledge of a particular topic.
  • Conversations – Conversations seem to go hand in hand with questioning. Having one on one conversations allowed me to be able to see where each student was sitting at during the lesson. Having conversations with students gave me a better understanding of where they were at, but also allowed the students to share ideas with their classmates.

Professional Development Plans

Professional development goals that I have been focusing on during my eight-week pre-internship experience are:

Communication Skills

My goal for the week was to focus on communication skills and specifically look at enunciation, language usage and mannerisms.

Feedback I was given included:

  • Spoke slowly and clearly
  • Volume was good
  • Successful use of anchor chart
  • Students were engaged throughout the entire delivery of lesson
  • Clapping pattern gained students attention
  • Great job on encouraging students, giving guidance and commenting on progress
  • Continue to think about language (ex: “you guys” and “Me and Ms. H.)

Communication Skills Cont.

My goal for the week was to develop strong verbal and nonverbal communication skills.

Feedback I was given included:

  • Volume was good
  • Raised voice to an appropriate level when needed attention of students
  • Speech was clear and well enunciated and pronounced
  • Job well done at introducing vocabulary
  • A lot of on task discussion
  • Students were engaged in activity
  • Waited until all were quiet and paying attention before moving on
  • Used individual names to refocus attention
  • There was a long list of directions – first, next, then. How could you break it down next time? What could you do to make things more clear and go over more smoothly?
  • Group members were predetermined and written on board
  • Used voice/clap to gain attention
  • Students were engaged when working in small groups, but struggled to focus as a class

Awareness & Responsiveness

My goal for the week was to develop classroom management strategies by being more aware of students actions and refocusing students whom are off task.

Feedback I was given included:

  • Asked successful and meaningful questions that deepened understanding and prompted conversations
  • Be sure that enough time is given to students to think about answers to questions that are being asked
  • Make sure all students are meeting expectations before deepening and expanding conversations
  • Successful use of body language
  • Remember to ensure students are following directions before continuing

Giving Directions

My goal for the week was to give clear instructions so that all students understand what the tasks are and what is expected of them.

Feedback I was given included:

  • Very flexible – dealt with a class still occupying the gymnasium well (You quickly thought on your feet and had students head back to the classroom and extended the lesson into the classroom while waiting for the gym.)
  • Quiet/calm voice
  • Repeated instructions for clarity
  • Explained instructions with slightly different wording each time
  • Successful use of proximity
  • Used specific names to redirect, in a calm, but “no non-sense” voice

Overall, I chose to focus a lot on communication to begin with, but by the third week I was more interested in classroom management and my awareness and responsiveness. I believe classroom management to be some of the most important strategies to develop as a future educator, as everything else will follow with time. When classroom management strategies are firm and developed well to begin with, everything else will follow a lot more smoothly.