Greetings everyone and welcome to issue # 9. As most of you know, this past week has been a wonderful Newfoundland example of “global warming” – may it continue! In some respects we’re probably getting a false sense of an early spring – I hope I’m wrong! Enjoy the issue.
Feedback From This Year’s Interns
Miss, you’ve got to stop believing in me
As a future teacher, I do not think we should ever forget the effect of a personal connection with a student. One day, this student was not doing his work in my Grade 12 English class. He is a very deep, dark person with a lot of issues at home. He has all of the material items a child could ask for, but his dad was charged with assault against his mother, and his dad eventually left him and his mother for his “new family.” This has had a huge effect on this particular student. He struggles with mental illness and has had self-harm issues in the past. He was a very hateful person, but this year he has made some progress.
Anyways, this day he wasn’t doing his work. I said to him, “Come on, you can do it! I know that you know all of the answers, you just need to write it down.” He said “Miss, you’ve got to stop believing in me.” I replied, “I wouldn’t be a very good teacher if I didn’t believe in you now would I?”
His response was heartbreaking: “No, you would just be like all the rest.” It hit me. Maybe this child is so hateful because he has no one to believe in him. You, as a teacher, may be the only form of caring or compassion that a child even has in his or her life. I think that compassion is often lacking in the teaching profession. After many years of teaching and dealing with a multitude of issues, teachers may sometimes get “disillusioned” about their job. I do not want any of my students to ever think that I don’t believe in them or care about them. I vow to always care about my students, no matter how many years I teach. (Secondary Intern)
There are indeed some rough spots but there is so much good there too
I can’t believe that the 7th week of our internship is now complete. We’re halfway there! I am so busy that time just seems to be flying by and I am loving every minute of it. I must confess, my first week was a bit rough as there was a bit of a situation with getting me set up with my co-operating teacher(s) but once that was quickly sorted out, everything started to fall into place.
This past week my co-operating teacher has been out unexpectedly and so I was asked to continue on with teaching all of the classes for the week. Talk about exhausting! But I feel this week has been a really good experience for me to see what I can do more or less on my own (there is of course a substitute teacher in) and to see how I can manage the classroom, as if it were my own.
I also had my MUN observation day this week and so without my co-operating teacher there I was a bit worried about how that would go but my students were all great and everything went well! I have 6 different classes of students that I am teaching (Grades 7 – 9) and each class is so different from the next in regards to the personalities of each student which makes my days extremely interesting.
Once the internship ends I will definitely be sad to not hear the ” Hi Miss” or ” Bye Miss” or ” Thanks Miss” every day from my students. I know people say that the junior high years are “the worst years” and yes there are indeed some rough spots, but there is so much good there too!
It took her approximately half a second before she realized she said this to a teacher
I can honestly say I am loving the internship. I am teaching Phys Ed mostly with some Tech, Religion and Health. I also took it upon myself to coach the Grade 7 Boys Volleyball team which has been an amazing experience.
This submission, however, pertains to the lovely little girl who has earned the title of, “My First F**K You Student”. We were in the gymnasium and this little girl was lifting a 45 lb plate over her head in the equipment room which I quickly told her to put on the floor before she dropped it on her head or toes and hurt herself.
She is a witty little girl who quickly responded that she goes to the gym EVERY day and is strong. I just made a chuckle (probably what triggered the reply) and replied, “Well where is your muscles?”. This resulted in a whip action of the head where her hair snapped like a whip, a stern face with a middle finger up into my face followed by a loud F*** Y**!
Well, it took approximately half a second before she realized she said this to a teacher and quickly apologized. I however was so caught off guard that I kind of froze and almost chuckled myself, pretty sure my jaw flopped open. I knew I couldn’t let this go so I called her into my office and decided to deal with this on my own. I gave her a speech of how disrespectful that was and how I was disappointed in her action. I gave her the choice of calling home and going to the office or she could do a detention at the gym and write me a full page explaining why she said what she did and why it is wrong to say that to anyone. I figured giving her the power to decide her fate would work better and I didn’t want to send a student to the office for something I considered under the circumstances to be of such minor magnitude. Since then I have received my page reply from the girl and have had no issues with her at all in or outside the gymnasium/classroom.
But other than the above one situation, I have had nothing but great experiences and connections with my students and even the parents. Being the coach for the volleyball team is a huge honor. I have gotten to know my students on a personal level and have become more of a friend and “someone to talk to” than a teacher. I hear about their other tournaments and weekends and the parents I’ve met are providing me with positive feedback which motivates me to continue putting 100% into my team.
My way of teaching is under a “mutual respect terms”. They participate and be respectful and engaging and I allow flexibility in some classes with regards to activities or recess/lunch open gym during my lunch breaks. I have had 2 pizza parties for my team for displaying great effort and sportsmanship and I can tell how much they appreciate it. I currently teach 100% of Phys Ed classes and majority of the Health classes which are quite interesting since it’s on sexual education. The kid’s have great discussions though and even educate me with some of the new generation information. I have recently attended a PD day for google classroom which I found was very cool and potentially, very useful. What was most funny was trying to teach my co-operating teacher how to use a computer. But overall, I am really enjoying this opportunity and this experience. It has certainly clarified for me that I love this career choice and I cannot wait to continue to learn, meet and be a mentor for kids in my future classes. (Intermediate Intern)
Lockdowns in the mind of a 6 year old are to ensure any wild animals that are prowling around the school cannot get into the classroom to eat the play-doh
We are called interns, teachers in training, and student teachers. I find this last term a bit funny because I feel that, as much as my students learn from me, I learn from them. So I have compiled a list of 10 things I have learned specifically from my Grade One students thus far on my internship.
- Sitting still is hard work. REALLY hard work.
- Some children have excellent poker faces.
- Others do not, and these are the children it is most difficult to be upset with.
- Peeling an orange can be done in 5 seconds.
- The word “appropriate” means just as much to 6 year olds as “supercalafradulisticexpealadocious”.
- Getting ice from the office is a miracle cure for pretty much everything. Once the malady is remedied, the ice can also double as fun toy.
- The classroom will never be tidier than after playing Clean Up Robot.
- Pencils are like socks in the dryer, about half can be found by the end of the day.
- Lockdowns, in the mind of a 6 year old, are to ensure any wild animals that are prowling the school cannot get into the classroom to eat the play-doh.
- There is no better feeling then coming back from a morning in-service to a swarm of children very concerned about your whereabouts before lunch.
I’ve learned so much more, but I thought I would share these 10 and hope other interns and teachers of Grade One can relate to them.
How to build a rapport and relationship with the students
Throughout the internship, I have learned so many new things including how to build a rapport and relationship with the students.
My biggest concern going into the internship was classroom management and the student-teacher dynamic. There are many different elements to this including my relationship with my associate teacher as well as with my students. Mainly, the biggest challenge for me was how to transition and model myself as a teacher. Carrying myself as a teacher but also being a student at the same time was definitely something that was an area that needed improvement.
I have a fantastic relationship with my associate teacher but to see myself as her colleague not her student, was the real challenge. It took me a few weeks of practice and perseverance or as what my teacher always advised me: ‘fake it till you make it’. Exuding confidence within yourself when in reality you are not feeling it is difficult but definitely a learning experience for me. I realized however that with constant practice and constructive criticism from my teacher, I was able to fake it until I started believing it.
And that in turn really affected my relationship with my students where they see me as their primary teacher. It really helped create a positive dynamic within the classroom where the students and I are now able to share a few laughs as well as maintaining the pace of the learning experience. Overall, I learned that to understand and create a relationship with the students, you have to learn to believe and see yourself as the teacher you are!
I felt a huge sense of responsibility
This past week, I had my first experience with what it’s like to call in sick as a teacher. I woke up Wednesday morning and figured out quickly that there was no way I was going to be able to make it through a day of school, let alone teach the four classes that were on my schedule. Luckily, my co-operating teacher and I had discussed what I was planning on Tuesday afternoon, anticipating that my voice might give out partway through Wednesday, and I had lessons and activities ready for the day.
Even so, I spent over an hour on email Wednesday morning sending everything he might need for the day: notes, handouts, a quiz for a student who had a scheduled rewrite, and assorted useful information that you take for granted when teaching from your own plan.
Even though I was leaving these classes with their “regular” teacher, who knows each group inside and out and has taught these courses many times, I felt a huge sense of responsibility to both the students and the teacher. I can only imagine that this feeling is magnified when leaving students with a real substitute for a day. (Secondary Intern)
It is hard to keep students focused and engaged in their classes
I can’t believe there are only four short weeks left. Only another 20 teaching days left to go – I will be sad to see them go by. I will certainly miss my students – all of whom I have gotten to know much better since the start of the internship. In the past weeks, I see the success of positive reinforcement in students. Letting students know that they are working hard and doing a good job is so important in today’s schools. For some students, this might even be the reason they look forward to coming to school every day.
Motivation in students is a topic that is discussed by all teachers, substitutes and interns. It is hard to keep students focused and engaged in their learning; being able to give students kind words of encouragement is a small step on the road to motivation among other strategies. It is the true test and challenge in teaching – knowing that you are not alone in the struggle and that we are all striving towards a common goal brings comfort during those rough days. Nevertheless, teaching is an enjoyable career in which the positives outweigh the challenges.
Byes shut up, sir is trying to talk
It’s been two months already! I can’t believe this internship is already on its way out. I came in with little expectation in the way of impacting student and changing their lives. While I still don’t think I have done any of that, I do have to say that they changed mine!
Over these two months I’ve met a bunch of kids from different backgrounds and with different skills and personalities. Some of these kids come from well-off families and for some school is better than home.
There are two short stories I’d like to share because during this semester they confirmed my career choice that I want to be there to help and teach these kids. The first one happened about two weeks back. It was a Friday last period with a fairly basic class and a substitute in. Already it’s a recipe for a rough class and I spent a lot of it trying just to retain some semblance of order.
About halfway though I was starting to get exasperated when one of the hardest cases in the school pipes up “byes shut up! Sir is trying to talk!”. Now there was a bit of profanity there but I was just so surprised and touched by this student sticking up for me all I could do was thank her and gently mention her language.
A staff member had earlier mentioned to me that if you get them on your side, they’ll never let you down and he was right.
The second incident was less dramatic but a student had fallen asleep in my class and he being a normally attentive student, I let it slide. After class without prompt he came up to my desk and apologized to me and explained his personal situation and we had a nice chat about it. I know it may seem small but just that he felt comfortable enough to come up and apologize and tell me the situation, well, for me that meant the world. I truly felt that I indeed had made a connection and that maybe I could do this teaching thing! I hope everyone has had a moment like that because this more than any grade has confirmed for me that I want to be an educator. (Secondary Intern)
So far I am enjoying this unique experience
As I spend more time with students, the more interaction I receive from my students. And, instead of only sharing jokes and PowerPoint slides, I have also shared with my students my unique education experience. I have also talked to them about my expectations for them and the various standards I have for them. As a result, most students comment that “He is my favorite intern, but I will like him more if he grades my assignments more generously!” .
On the other hand, in order to express my preferences about classroom management, I have printed out a series of posters related to class management purposes (such as “stop” and “copy the notes”). Since those signs are bilingual (other than French), my students love those signs and are more willing to co-operate when those signs are up.
So far I am enjoying this unique experience very much. I’m sure that I can still make further improvements on my day to day performance in the classroom. (Intermediate Intern)
All I wanted to do was to give her a hug and try to console her
The other day I had my first experience with a student coming to talk to me about one of her grades and breaking down right in front of me. She was upset over the grade and thought that this one mark might lower her final mark and affect her dreams of studying medicine in Europe.
In that moment, all I wanted to do was to give her a hug and try to console her.
It was very emotional for me as well but I restrained from breaking down. I talked with her, letting her know it was okay and if the mark is an aberration, it will be removed. She continued to tell me it was a difficult and stressful week for her.
In that moment, I was not just her teacher, but another human being she could confide in. The experience truly made me look at my role in these students’ lives and realize that there will be times when I will have to be a babysitter, mentor, counsellor, and support system.
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 1)
“To get to the cafeteria, go down the hall
and take a right at the fork.”
Recommended Book Resource for Primary & Elementary Interns
Abe’s Honest Words
Doreen Rappaport (2008)
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
The end pages open the book with a quote from Abe Lincoln, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not think so, and feel so.” The final words before one closes the book again quote Abe Lincoln, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free.” In Doreen Rappaport’s signature style, she has intertwined narrative writing with quotations from the historical figure she is portraying for young readers. The front cover is compelling, with Kadir Nelson’s colorful portrait of Abraham Lincoln and no words, while the title of the book is on the back cover. The cover alone is an invitation to enter the life of this historical figure who is revered for bringing an end to slavery and freedom to millions of lives.
The tale begins with Abe Lincoln at 9 years old when his mama died, and a quote from his youth that shows the humor for which he was famous, “Abraham Lincoln is my name, and with my pen I write the same. I wrote in both haste and speed and left it here for fools to read”. He was born in Kentucky, and moved to Indiana with his family after his mother died. He had almost no formal schooling as a child, but loved words like his father, who was a master storyteller. He carried a book wherever he went, and read in between chores. A quote from Abe for lovers of reading is “The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll git me a book I ain’t read”.
Abe eventually moved to Illinois, ferrying people along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, where he came to New Orleans and encountered slaves for the first time. Abe Lincoln worked at numerous jobs, but always carried a book. He wrote, “Upon the subject of education I view it as the most important subject which we as people can be engaged in”. He spoke out to people wherever he went and ran in his first election, which he lost. He kept running in elections and won, and then became a lawyer. This was how he became known as Honest Abe, the lawyer who never lied. He ran for senator and spoke against slavery. He lost the election, but many people listened to his words. Tension began growing between the South and North, and Lincoln ran for president. He led the North through the Civil war, and fought hard with the lawmakers in the North that it was not enough that slaves be freed only in certain states. Finally he convinced them that “slavery must die that the nation might live.”
By the time the South surrendered, Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated, but his words lived on, “It is for the living, rather that we here highly resolve that those dead shall have not died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
For those interested in history, or for introducing others to history, this book and Doreen Rappaport’s many others offer readers a wonderful way to learn about the past and why the past is so important to today’s world. Throughout this tale, Kadir Nelson’s vivid illustrations complement the tale and the many quotations to make us want to learn more about this important person.
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 2)
Education Law Corner
Last week we discussed the principle of due process. Although due process is commonly cited in the law in general, it is a concept that we as educators should keep in mind when we are dealing with disciplinary situations involving students.
Very often classroom teachers make “rapid-fire” decisions, ones that upon further scrutiny, can be brought into question. The “context” those decisions are made in certainly does not allow for reasoned thought; by that I mean that teachers are in the classroom with 20-25-30 students and when disciplinary situations arise, the classroom “environment” is not conducive to facilitating the concept of due process! Ideally, the teacher should be able to sit down with the student in question and have a reasonable discussion re the infraction, what motivated the student to behave in the manner s/he did and so on. This is extremely difficult to do, given that teachers have few breaks in the school day to do this. However, a suggestion might be to schedule some time in the day, not always practical for either the student nor the teacher, where that conversation or discussion can take place.
Due process simply means that in the school context we as educators take the time and afford the student the time and respect that s/he deserves so that the matter at hand can be dealt with as expeditiously and as fairly as possible. This does not mean that students avoid necessary sanctions re their aberrant behavior; rather they are given the opportunity to provide “their side of the story”. Being treated fairly is what due process is all about and that’s what students truly deserve from the professionals that we teachers strive to be every day.
The author is continuing his study titled “Educators’ Perceptions of the Characteristics of Effective Principals”. If you are currently a teacher in the Newfoundland and Labrador school system (private or public) and are interested in participating, please go to the following website:
The survey should take approximately 20 minutes to complete. This study is also open to all retired teachers in this province.
If you participate and would like to be entered into a draw for an Apple iPad Mini 2 WiFi 32GB (valued at $359.00), please follow the instructions in that section of the website.
International Teaching Positions
Maple Leaf Educational Systems, a Canadian company, operates a number of schools in China. If you are interested in the possibility of teaching in China, please go to their website:
Further information can be obtained by contacting Mr. Archie MacEachern (Teacher Recruitment Representative for Atlantic Canada)
Another company, Randstad Education, is currently recruiting teachers for jobs in the United Kingdom. For further information, please contact Ms. Emily Brady (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As mentioned a few weeks ago, interns, if you have emailed in a submission for the eMEMO and it has not yet been published in one of our issues, please email the author and advise him of same. This is an oversight as all submissions are published; the only editing that is done is the occasional spelling or grammatical error.
For example, the submission on page 1 of this issue titled “There are indeed some rough spots. . .” is one that was missed by the author. Thank you to this intern for bringing that to our attention – very much appreciated.
The Importance of Making Connections
This topic has been commented on in this issue as well as earlier issues.
A few days ago we received a short commentary from Mike Francis who graduated from the B. Ed. (I/S) program here 4 years ago. He reinforces what some of you have already said and his very successful extracurricular involvement these past 4 years certainly lends much credibility to what he is saying. Thanks, Mike, for this sage advice.
I graduated from MUN’s B. Ed program in 2011. Since that time, I have moved home to NS and have been teaching in a rural middle school (Grades 6-9) of about 350 students. In my 4 years at my current school, we have had a small handful of teaching interns come through our building. I think part of the trouble for interns is trying to make connections. It can be a difficult thing to do in a short amount of time, but one that is a big factor in teaching.
Many of the young teachers who enter schools as interns don’t seem to get involved as much as they could. I coach many sports including volleyball, hockey, badminton and softball. The time that I spend with students in these programs is great. Getting involved with students is very rewarding, although I’m sure you have been told that already. Although it may be difficult to do, as you learn to develop lesson plans and manage a room full of personalities, but finding the time to stick around after 3pm can help both the teacher and the student. Not everyone needs to coach a sport, but finding something to get involved in with a student body is worth every minute. I have been told, and I believe this to be true, that every minute you spend with a student outside of class is worth 10 inside!
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 3)
“He doesn’t say much, but he always has good pointers!”
Concluding Comment From The Editor
That’s it for issue # 9. Again our thanks to those several interns who sent in submissions for this issue – much appreciated.
Further to Mike Francis and his commentary re making connections, Mike was in my Education 4005 (Effective Teaching) class a few years back. Apart from being a Philadelphia Flyers’ fan, he’s a delightful young fellow with a rather dry sense of humor! He’s always been an avid reader and supporter of the eMEMO and along with the commentary, he also offered the following insight re the author’s scoring prowess (!!!!) as of late at St. Bon’s Forum:
It appears as though you have found a new craftsman to sharpen your skates, and tape the stick, as you seem to be scoring at will on your Friday night hockey at St. Bon’s.
Mike played with us on a regular basis at St. Bon’s and was quite skilled in his offensive capabilities! Apart from his being a tad facetious re this comment, maybe there is some truth to this insightfulness!
Oh, I can’t omit the fact that I got another goal Friday night past! Again, it wasn’t pretty but I kept banging away at a rebound till it went in!!!!!
And lastly, I can’t resist the opportunity to “crow” about les Habs “shellacking” the Leafs last night by a score of 4-1!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The sister-in-law in Stephenville was not impressed with my telephone call just as the buzzer sounded to end the game! Take ‘em when you can get ‘em!!!!!!
Best wishes – “see” you next week – Jerome