Good day to everyone. Issue # 5 of the eMEMO awaits your reading pleasure! Another most interesting “batch” of submissions again this week. And, a very interesting “Readers Respond” submission from one of last year’s B. Ed. graduates. Hope you enjoy the “read”.
Feedback From This Year’s Interns
Been given praise and constructive criticism
The teachers at my school and my co-operating teacher in particular have been welcoming and incredibly helpful in what could be an incredibly stressful time period.
They treat me as if I am already a certified teacher and have not been shy with giving me the responsibility of conducting classes on their behalf.
I have been given praise and constructive criticism after each lesson and have been making great progress in terms of managing the classroom and creating engaging lessons for the students. This has been an excellent experience so far and I am looking forward to the upcoming weeks! (Secondary Intern)
Learning as much from them as they are from me
I cannot believe almost a month has gone by since I began my internship – crazy how time flies when you’re doing something you love!
From day one I felt at home in my school. The staff members there are amazing, welcoming people and instantly made me feel a part of their school community.
I am happy to say that I am having a fantastic experience so far and learning so many new things about both the academic and personal side of teaching that I know will benefit/improve my career as a teacher.
My students are wonderful children who love being in the classroom, have a passion for learning, and each of them brings unique experiences to the classroom, which has completely solidified for me why I wanted to enter this profession. I am learning as much from them as they are from me!
Things are getting much busier now as I am taking on more responsibilities and I welcome the challenge. I look forward to the remainder of my internship and hope that all other interns are having a great experience as well! (Primary Intern)
A whirlwind so far
My internship so far has been a whirlwind! I took over the morning routine during the first week and haven’t looked back. I’m now teaching science, art and most of math, and I’ll soon be taking on even more.
The kids are sweet but they certainly keep you on your toes! There’s so much variety in a classroom that you never realize until you’re really in there — learning styles, abilities, talents, interests.
With a unit on spies in full swing and our class leading the assembly next month, there’s more than enough to keep everyone busy. I can’t believe the first month is over already and I can’t wait to see what the next two months have in store. (Primary Intern)
Much credit to my co-operating teacher
I’m one month into my internship and I feel like I’ve been teaching for years. I’m interning at my old high school and working with many of my old teachers.
Also, I’ve coached soccer to many of my students when they were younger. While I realize that I have a lot to learn, at the moment everything is going incredibly smooth.
Teaching is really more fun than I thought it would be. My students are excellent and discipline issues are very minimal.
I give much credit to my co-operating teacher. She is unbelievably organized, always looking to help and dedicated to her students. I’m doing my best to mirror those qualities and soak up as much information as possible from her 29 years of experience. I can already think of many things that I could contribute to this school to make it a better place.
Being in front of a class is exhilarating
The internship experience has been amazing this past month. It is difficult to believe that already four weeks have passed by.
Exam time was a little hectic with marking and supervising students but now that we are in the full swing of term two, the time is just flying by. Being up in front of a class is exhilarating and reminds me daily why I first decided to become a teacher – my love of teaching.
I am looking forward to seeing the progress over the next 8 weeks not only as a teacher but also in the students as well. (Secondary Intern)
Loving every minute of it
So far, I have enjoyed my internship experience. It has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to both build positive relationships with administration, staff and students and to develop my own teaching style. For the first two weeks, I spent most of my time doing prep work, helping out around the school by assisting teachers and getting involved wherever I could.
Following those first two weeks I spent time helping out with constructing mid-term exams and I’ve experienced supervising in an exam room.
As soon as exams finished, I jumped into teaching head first. I’m currently teaching 6 periods out of a 7 period cycle (4 courses) and loving every minute of the teaching. I’ve enjoyed making connections with students and I’ve already experienced the satisfaction of watching students catch on to the concepts I’ve been teaching in no time. Sometimes it can be stressful with so much planning and now I completely understand why teachers all say that their first years are the most difficult, but so far my planning has been rewarded with successful lessons.
Furthermore, I’m involved with coaching the boys’ hockey team and I’m looking forward to coaching in the Confederation cup during next week. Hopefully, we’ll have a good tournament and maybe win a medal! I hope all my fellow classmates are also enjoying their internships and good luck over the next few months. (Secondary Intern)
Engaging and full of activity
My first four weeks of interning have been every engaging and full of activity. I have been extremely lucky to have been placed with a co-operating teacher that has a great deal of teaching experience in a wide variety of environments and schools across Canada.
I am enjoying my grade level immensely, Grade 5, and it is amazing to see how excited the students can get about learning. Their enthusiasm is contagious and really makes me want to work harder for them.
I am very fortunate to have a student with exceptionalities in the classroom as well. The student has autism and an IRT is assigned to be in the class with him. It is really interesting to see all the students interact with each other and it is certainly a great thing for me to experience so I can work on my differentiated planning at this early stage in my career.
It really brings home that no matter how much I have learned, there will always be more to learn. I am looking forward to using my time as an intern to continue developing and improving myself as an educator. (Elementary Intern)
I had to wing it
I consider myself lucky and couldn’t have asked for a better situation to be placed in for my internship. The administration, staff, fellow interns and the students have all been great and my experience has been first rate thus far and I have no reason to believe that anything will change throughout the entirety of this experience.
I have been placed with a Social Studies department head who has over twenty years’ experience at various levels in the education system and who is currently teaching the new pilot World History course. I had the opportunity to help develop a number of questions for their mid-term exam as well as grading half of their long-answer questions. I consider that opportunity and experience invaluable as I gained significant insight into the manner in which questions should be asked as well as what to look for while grading them. I also had to explain to the students where they went wrong on certain questions and met with a number of students one on one who were looking for pointers and how to improve in the future.
Most importantly; my co-operating teacher called in sick at the last minute this past week and I was forced to prep a lesson at the last second. When I arrived at school and found that the computer was not co-operating and therefore wouldn’t allow me to access my notes or visuals, I had to wing it. Being thrown face first into the fire and adapting to a less than desirable situation on the fly has left me much more confident and eager to start my first “well prepared” set of lessons this coming week. This experience has served to reinforce my desire to become a teacher and I hope that it has been as enjoyable and enlightening for everyone else as well. (Secondary Intern)
First four-week report complete and only eight weeks to go! Things are going fantastically well in my old high school as I have completely taken over six classes, and can honestly say I know the names of about 150/180 students and that knowing their names helps A LOT with classroom management!
I am very much enjoying getting to know my students in and outside the classroom during extra-curricular and even just in the hallways.
I have been planning for weeks now and my introductory classes to these new units were very successful.
I received a “Miss, I really like what you’re doing here” while another student is crossing his fingers, toes, arms and legs that I can take over in September when their permanent teacher retires!” (Secondary Intern)
Would not have it any other way
My internship has provided me with a wide variety of experiences during the first month of my placement. I have had the opportunity to witness snow days, review classes, exam week (which included exam supervision) and I have begun teaching and organizing lessons and classroom activities on a daily basis.
One of the challenges that I have witnessed so far is teaching a class with a range of instructional needs. In one class that I am teaching, I have students that need support services and honors’ students in the same room. This becomes challenging as I have to try to provide lessons that do not overwhelm the students needing extra help and that do not move too slowly to disengage the honors’ students.
I have come to see that organization is key for any successful teacher as disorganization wastes instructional time as well as the student’s time on task.
I am beginning to form a certain rapport with the students as they often speak to me in the hallways and some are even remembering my name! I am also becoming involved with the concert band at my school, and participating in their upcoming fundraiser.
My co-operating teachers have been very kind and patient with me and have given me a number of responsibilities such as correcting papers and coming up with new class assignments. I have even gotten permission to do a dissection in one of the Science classes that I am teaching. My internship is definitely keeping me busy but I wouldn’t have it any other way. (Secondary Intern)
Been full of decisions
Well now, how to describe the first few weeks of being an intern. Decisions, decisions. . . .
Well, actually, that’s a good word for my first few weeks. It’s been full of decisions! What to print off, how to condense detailed information, how to draw a diagram, how to deal with attitude issues, how to entertain while informing, etc., etc.
These are just some of the decisions I’ve been having to make over my first few weeks. While it’s very nice to be getting the teaching experience, I have to say it’s a bit of a learning curve. Actually, when of the teachers put it very well and said,
“It’s not so much a learning curve, rather than a workload curve.”
I agree with this statement. The creation of lesson plans (decent ones anyhow) on top of correcting and other duties is quite a jump. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, I’m probably not even at 50% of the comings and goings of a seasoned teacher and yet I already feel the pressure.
Still, the curve has been presented and I have decided to rise with it.
Onwards and upwards, my fellow interns!
A tale of two detentions
Last week on Wednesday, I dished out two heaping orders of steaming detention. My internship at the small yet somewhat elite-ish school of quasi-religious bearing (though it wasn’t always that quasi way – but that is another story) has been consistently smooth and enjoyable. In fact, even the behavioral management issues that led to the iron-fisted detentions have been enjoyable; the greatest difficulty has been stifling my own smiles!
The teacher who has been saddled with my apprenticeship teaches Social Studies and History to grades 7 through 12. The small size of the school prevents any of that overlap which allows teachers of larger schools a dramatic reduction in lesson planning. The ship must be tight – especially with the hormone-driven creative genius of grade 7s and 8s who can divine a penis joke from even the perils of Beaumont Hamel.
An English major by trade, I have had to do a lot of reading-up to raise myself to an appropriate level of my Education 4005 instructor’s required “knowledgability”. Knowledgeable? Check. All systems go? Check. . . Alert! Alert! Penis joke in row three! Snot bubble in aisle 5! My co-operating teacher has praised my efforts, lesson plans and classroom persona. But he has pointed out that my classroom management needs immediate attention. The 2 younger classes have been quickly degenerating with reduced attention, increased talking out of turn and near constant interruptions. Proximity interference is not going to work – unless I create about 6 android copies of myself and place them strategically around the room.
To combat the joyful yet disruptive behavior, the cooperating teacher and I have dusted off and re-worked his original discipline plan. An earlier incarnation of this plan, enforced in September and part of October, created a classroom harmony that lasted until, well, until I arrived!
The system is nothing revolutionary: 3 strikes and you get a 30 minute detention the following day. Strikes do not carry over to following classes but detentions do. A second detention earns a call to the parents – something the majority of these students, unlike many in other schools, actually fear. The rules are based on the basic principle of respect: respect for the teacher, each other and the material being studied. Strikes result from, among other things, speaking out, interrupting, failing to complete homework, or coming to class without the necessary materials such as pencil and paper.
On the first class of the new regime the students were somewhat well-behaved but pushing all the boundaries. They can’t help it. Testing boundaries is hardwired into teens’ brains (and I wouldn’t have it any other way). I knew I needed a scapegoat or two in the next class to set the hook. It wasn’t hard. The two detentions were delivered to me on a silken pillow within 10 minutes. The hard part, and I can’t underscore this enough, was not appearing happy about it, not saying or doing anything that led the new jailbirds to any other sensation than that of profound regret seasoned with just a dash of fear.
Detention was fun but the detainees will not wish to repeat the experience. They humped chairs and props for the drama club I am co-running with another teacher and (this was the cherry on the top of it all) they read highly emotive lines as stand-ins with older members of the opposite sex.
I wish this system were not necessary but it is. The kids are happy; they are laughing, learning, contributing, imagining and thinking critically and creatively. If I can avoid 15 minutes of interruptions and repeat instruction, all of those will continue at higher proportion.
For every setback there is also a breakthrough
Entering into a school known for difficulties stemming from low socio-economic status, I really had managed my expectations. There’s a reality that sets in when you find yourself in an actual classroom filled with real grade eight and nine students that challenges you in ways no education could remotely prepare you for, especially when the principal pulls you aside and says “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”. Facing numerous “red zone” students who are on reduced schedules because of behavioral issues, there’s really no option other than to throw idealism out the window. Flaws in the system become brutally apparent. The downside of inclusion policies mean resources have to be spread thin. Time and effort that could be used to help struggling students that are willing to learn is instead used to manage students who are deemed “not ready for school” and show almost no willingness to participate in any meaningful way.
And all the patience in the world can’t make your heart stop from sinking when you ask a child one-on-one in Math class what half of two is and he earnestly says he doesn’t know.
But for every setback, there is also a breakthrough. I’ve experienced an affection and an acceptance from most all students that I’ve done nothing to earn other than bringing my own personality into the role of a teacher. There’s never been a class that has gone perfectly, never been a situation that I thought I couldn’t have handled better given a second chance and never been a day that I didn’t think that in some way I made a positive difference. Every moment of your life is a chance to get it right. (Intermediate Intern)
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 1)
Recommended Book Resource for Primary and Elementary Interns
Written and illustrated by: Patricia Polacco
New York: G. P. Putnam, 2012
Patricia Polacco has written another thought provoking story, this time about the effects of bullying. Lyla and her younger brother, Jack, moved to a new school. Lyla makes friends with another grade 6 student, Jamie, who carries extra weight. They quickly become best friends, and when Lyla gets a cell phone and laptop, Jamie introduces her to social media.
In the new school there are many different types of groups, the sports-minded students, the arts kids, the academics, and so forth. And, there is the “celebrity” group of three girls who get the highest marks, win awards, and ignore other students. Lyla, like many other students, is fascinated by them. Soon after Lyla’s arrival, she starts to be noticed—she gets the highest mark on a test, she makes the cheerleading team, and she wins an award. The “celebrity” group take notice and invite Lyla to join their lunch table. They give her a makeover and don’t want her to hang out with Jamie anymore, so she keeps her friendship with Jamie a secret. And, as her life is taken over by her new friends, she gradually starts to see Jamie less.
Then one night, her new friends start putting mean messages on other students’ Facebook pages, including Jamie’s. Lyla knew she was letting Jamie down. And, her younger brother was getting daily messages that were mean. Facing the anger of her new friends, Lyla starts to spend less time with them and openly begins seeing Jamie again.
Then it was time for the state tests. Lyla got the highest mark, and got accused of cheating as word got out that someone had taken one of the tests from the storage room before the day of the test. None of the students’ marks were considered trustworthy and Lyla started getting hundreds of mean messages from angry students. No one believed her, and Jamie was away at a family funeral. Lyla was convinced one of her former best friends was behind it but had no proof.
Even though Lyla’s name was eventually cleared, school was not the same. And even though Lyla’s dad tries to make her feel better when he says, “in order for people like Gage’s candle to glow brighter, she has to blow out yours”, Lyla and Jamie think about going to a new school. The readers are left with the decision not made and a question for them, as readers, to think about: “What would you do?”
This story has the power to impact students from elementary to high school. Patricia Polacco’s signature illustrations portray all the emotions of the characters, and it is a story with which many students will have some familiarity.
Quote of the Week
“I have discovered regarding working with young children that there is an increased likelihood of coming into contact with a lot of interesting flu bugs and various other contagions. I may buy stock in a tissue company if the opportunity arises!”
(Anonymous Elementary Teacher Intern)
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 2)
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 3)
I’m currently in the south of England, Dorset, teaching in an “outstanding” secondary school, catering to ages 13-18 (GCSE and A level students – while this is all jibberish to us Canadian folk, I have it sorted now!).
The national curriculum is very different here in England; inclusion is near non-existent! I teach 3 top sets, 3 bottom sets, and one group of 16+ who are considered a middle set! However, all the classes are rigorous and I know that they are pushing me just as much as they are pushing my students.
I am having a great time in and outside the classroom; in fact, I’m swinging up to London this weekend to catch Twelfth Night in the West End; great use of extra-curricular time!
There is a very different standard of practice held here in England, and I think it is lining me up to be the best I can be in the profession. A lot of our Effective Teaching instructor’s tactics have proven extremely useful – having classroom management and encouraging pace in the classroom is a monumental aspect of succeeding in your first year – as well as being organized, get that down early!
My advice: Listen up while in university, and hit the group running when you start your first placement – it’s extremely easy to believe “this is nothing sure!”, and then all of a sudden you realize you haven’t done any marking or feedback. . . . .eep!
Enjoy your time at MUN and in your internships! Cheerio!
(Ayla is from Botwood and graduated in October, 2012 with her Bachelor of Education degree. In 2009 she received a Bachelor of Arts in English from MUN.)
Concluding Comment From the Editor
That’s it for issue # 5. Our thanks again to those interns who sent in submissions for this issue. The time and effort you expended in writing these submissions is most appreciated.
Earlier today I took in the MUN Ladies Basketball second weekend game against the St. Francis Xavier women’s team over at Field House. The MUN team was losing all the way through except in the last few minutes when they tied up the game and went ahead to win by a score of 68-64! They won their first game against St FX last evening.
I don’t know much about basketball but it was a most exciting game to watch and very entertaining. My Education 4005 student, Kim Devison (from Waterloo, Ontario) is on the MUN team and our congratulations to her and the team for a great and victorious weekend of basketball against St. FX.
My personal thanks to Kim’s dad, Dwayne and her mom, Judy for their explaining to me (during the game) the various intricacies of basketball!!!!! I’m learning! They’re regular visitors to St. John’s and other Atlantic provinces’ venues to see Kim play. I joked with them that they must have shares in Air Canada and WestJet!!!!!!!!!
And now a few words about, yes, hockey! Delighted with les Habs’ win against the Buffalo Sabres yesterday. And, believe it or not, I actually cheered for the Leafs last night against those big bad dirty Boston Bruins!!!!!! Although they lost by a score of 1-0, I have to say the Leafs played a good game and put up quite a challenge for the Bruins. I don’t believe I’m saying (ah, writing) this – maybe all that snow is affecting my brain!!!!!!!!
“See” you in issue # 6. Have a great week.