Welcome to Issue # 8. This week’s issue has 15 submissions, all of which are most interesting. A couple of these speak to some of the negativity fairly prevalent in the teaching profession. Granted, most of the submissions you have been reading this semester have been overwhelmingly positive; however, that has been the “tone” of those submissions and there are times when you might think that these are perhaps too positive. This editor does not “doctor” (no pun intended here!) any of the submissions received; the only changes ever made are those of a grammatical or spelling nature. With almost 300 students out on their internships, there are bound to be interns who are having anything but a positive experience in the classroom. Those interns are encouraged to send in their submissions because it is imperative that we hear about those realistic challenges that are very much a part of being a teacher. Enjoy!
Feedback From This Year’s Interns
Welcomed as an equal
My internship thus far has been amazing. From the day I started here I was welcomed as an equal, as if I have been there for years. Ultimately, I am there for the students but when there is an amazing staff who works together as a whole, it makes it that much more enjoyable.
I am teaching grade three but also teaching grade four French. This is a good experience since it is in the middle of the grades; I am seeing mostly primary as well as a little bit of elementary. I would not trade this experience for anywhere else; I am learning so much every day and looking forward to the rest of my days there.
Helping me develop an overall view
I am now teaching about 70 percent of the classes and getting to know all of the students and staff, which makes it a much easier environment to begin my teaching career.
So far, I have taken part in many different school events, such as professional development days, the exam period, school spirit week, and I am going on a ski trip with the school this Thursday.
All of these experiences are helping me develop an overall view of what teaching as a career will be like and I am hoping the last five weeks of my internship will farther my interest in becoming a teacher.
Becoming increasingly more confident
So far my internship has been an excellent learning experience. I am with two co-operating teachers so I get to see two different teaching styles. I have seen some things I like about both teachers, and other things that I would do differently in my own classroom.
I have really been enjoying teaching in front of the class and interacting with the kids. I have learned to manage the classroom much better now than when the internship first started in January. I was extremely nervous when I started this journey.
I wasn’t afraid of getting up in front of the kids, but more so of another adult critiquing what I do. I have learned that the co-operating teachers are going to critique what you do but you have to grow from this and take their advice in order to better your instruction. I am finding myself becoming increasingly more confident in my ability as a teacher and I am looking forward to hopefully having my own classroom in September. (Intermediate/Secondary Intern)
I have never felt so challenged
What a wonderful seven weeks it has been! While my internship has been a very rewarding, enjoyable experience, I have never felt so challenged. This is not in any way a negative reflection, yet it simply proves how much we really learn from this practical experience in the classroom.
My co-operating teacher is constantly giving me tips on how to improve all aspects of my teaching and while sometimes it can get frustrating when I don’t achieve what I want right away, I remind myself that I’m still learning.
Something that I struggle with seeing sometimes is the denial parents are in when it comes to children with exceptionalities. It is evident that there are students in this situation in my class and the resistance of parents is making it very difficult to give these students the opportunities they need. It’s a part of teaching that I hadn’t really considered, but I’ve come to realize that it is quite difficult to sit down with a parent who thinks that you are just not doing a good enough job teaching their child and that’s the only reason why their child is struggling. This is obviously something that comes along with being an educator.
Thus far, my internship has been a fantastic experience. I will certainly be sad to leave my tiny class of eight in April. (Elementary Intern)
On my last day I’m likely to cry
Where has the time gone? I find it hard to believe that March is just around the corner and the idea of nearly being finished my internship saddens me. I was placed at a junior high (my top choice) in St. John’s and have never once regretted requesting the school.
The overall culture has been amazing, the staff has been very welcoming and the students are fantastic as well. I find myself looking forward to going to school each and every day and now that I feel more confident in my abilities, I can envision myself enjoying a long career in this profession.
Aside from some more classroom management strategies, the most important thing I have learned during this placement has been to trust in my own instincts. I have learned that I am not my co-operating teacher, the teacher next door or even the teacher three doors down. . . I have my own style and I can use that to my advantage. At first I felt like I had to follow the lesson plan right down to the finest point but as I adjusted, I realized I could deviate without penalty. No teaching police came to take me away, the school didn’t fall into anarchy. . . Trusting my own instincts helps me determine how to handle my children on my own terms instead of applying the same labels other teachers have for them. For example: one of my boys in Grade 7 has a reputation for being disruptive and spends a lot of time out in the hall or in the office. Rather than just accepting this standard label, I decided to try my own approach with him. I didn’t allow myself to get frazzled before he even entered the room and soon discovered he simply wanted a bit of respect. We chatted a bit, joked around and lo-and-behold, I have not had any discipline issues with him and he routinely contributes to class discussions in English. Success!
As we wind down to the end of the internship I feel like I’ve really grown as a person and as a teacher. I know that on my last day I’m likely to cry but I am happy to say it has been a wonderful, positive experience. (Intermediate Intern)
So glad that I spoke up
I have read a lot about positive experiences in the memos but not much about the negative, so I would like to take the opportunity to let anyone else who is struggling know that they are not alone.
My internship started out okay, as I was mostly observing and simply interjecting at times. The main problem for me is that I did not have a great deal of content knowledge about the courses I was meant to teach. This was terrifying to me. I love an audience and I love to talk, but only when I feel confident that I know what I’m talking about. This, of course, has improved as I have had more time to become familiar with the content.
About a week into my internship I was assigned a secondary co-operating teacher for my minor teachable. My primary co-operating teacher is great. He is very helpful and caring and always checks in with me to see if I have anything I need help with. He helps me plan and provides me with resources. My secondary co-operating teacher, on the other hand, simply told me to take over and provided me with no resources, no guidance and not even a curriculum guide, until I went to the VP to tell him I needed one, as it wasn’t online.
I had never actually had the opportunity to see my secondary co-operating teacher actually teach a class before he told me to take over, and he was never present to watch me teach.
Finally, when he did sit in to watch me teach, it was clear that someone had informed him that he needed to do so. He was resentful about it and the limited communication between us basically stopped. He would watch me teach with a perplexed look and at the end of the class, without actually speaking to me or even making eye contact, he would hand me an 11×14 sheet of paper with a list of criticisms on both sides. Needless to say, I was stressed out. I finally decided I couldn’t take it and I emailed him to ask for help. He was defensive and told me I seemed bored when I was teaching. But at least he agreed to take over a class so I could see how it could be done better.
I also talked to my primary co-operating teacher and he set up a meeting with all three of us to discuss the matter. It was difficult but I’m so glad that I spoke up and asked for help. Otherwise, I’m certain I would not have made it through the internship.
Now, if I can just figure out how to engage a couple of extremely disruptive and disrespectful students, things will greatly improve again!
I’ve been working on my acting skills
I have to say that so far my internship is going great. I’m at the same school as I was in my introductory internship and after the first day it was as though I never left. The staff is so welcoming and the students all remembered me!
I’ve completely taken over teaching grade 8 Science, and it’s going well. The worst problem I’ve had with students is chattiness and I’m working on perfecting the silent treatment (i.e., not teaching until everyone is quiet). It works most of the time but sometimes I have to give a few warnings. It usually helps to say a few names of those particularly chatty students and I know the names of all 150 students (including two grade nine classes).
One challenge I have found with teaching only one course is trying to stay enthusiastic into the last class of the day. There are days when I’m teaching the same thing three times, and while that helps cut back on planning, it can get monotonous (for me), and I also end up with a lot of correcting! But I’ve been working on my acting skills and so far so good. (Intermediate Intern)
Each student has his own unique personality
It’s hard to believe that we are already more than halfway through our internship already. Since we started in January I can surely say that this has been one of the best experiences of my life to date. I have learned so much in the past seven weeks from both the teachers and students I have interacted with.
My co-operating teacher has taught me so much, one of the most important things being to not take life too seriously. He loves to joke around with students and thus lightens the mood in class. However while doing this, he also ensures they learn everything he has set out for them for that particular lesson. By being able to joke around with students it helps him form a connection with them and they are then more open to listening and being engaged in the lesson.
As for the students they have also taught me some valuable life lessons, one of the most important ones being that everyone is not the same and each student has his own unique personality and their own background, whether it be good or bad. By being aware of this and seeing it for myself, I believe it will make me better prepared for my future teaching career. I will be sad to leave my school but I will never forget the valuable lessons I have learned from all of the staff and students.
Solidified my decision to become a teacher
I cannot believe that my internship is over halfway complete already! I feel as though I am now fully comfortable in my role as a teacher and I am not looking forward to giving that up in just a few short weeks.
My internship had been such a great learning experience so far and it has really solidified my decision to become a teacher. The children in my class are a joy to be around and the school I am placed in has been more than welcoming to me; there is a real family atmosphere in my school which I love.
Fridays are great because I am always looking forward to a break. However, come Sunday night I find myself excited to start a new week, to begin new projects, and to see my students again.
While I am not looking forward to the end of my internship, I am thrilled to know that having my very own classroom could be just around the corner. (Primary Intern)
I know I can make it through tomorrow
They told us “you’ll be a terrible teacher for the first ten years, at least.”
I didn’t believe them.
Nope, I thought I had it all figured out – I was experienced. I already knew how to teach.
I was an idiot.
For the past few weeks, things have been like this:
Sunday, I was ready to go;
Monday, class morale was low;
Tuesday, I cried and cried;
Wednesday, gosh, I thought I would die;
Thursday, I helped someone today;
Friday, I thought I’d found my way ;
Next week, oh, I’ll get a fresh start.
But I don’t know if teaching’s in my heart.
This past Tuesday, I’d convinced myself that I had to quit, that I’d never survive in my own classroom. By Thursday, I was over the moon with excitement again.
I don’t know if I’ll make it through thirty years of teaching. Hell, I don’t know if I could make it through one year. But I know I can make it through tomorrow. And for me, that’s enough right now. (Intermediate/Secondary Intern)
Learned a lot more about Honey Boo Boo and Pretty Little Liars
At this point of my internship, I am teaching five classes of grade nines, and my co-operating teacher is working with another two classes. That makes for days filled with a lot of students who are at a pivotal and “precious” stage of their development.
I’ve learned a lot more about Honey Boo Boo and Pretty Little Liars than I had realized was possible to learn and I’ve heard a lot more about PCs and Linux differences and weaponry in video games that I’ve been able to keep up with.
The students are lovely, if not tricky. They push their limits, because generating laughter is so important to them and their social success. At least part of their goal seems to be making me laugh too and they often succeed. I do enjoy their company.
I’m finding it interesting to experiment with teaching approaches and lesson plans, with my co-operating teacher’s authority and experience as a nice comfort blanket behind me. It’s fascinating to try to find the balance between my ideal teaching style and what will engage students and keep them on task.
One last thought – I have been paying attention to the differences between my current school and the school at which I taught in the early internship back in the fall. In particular, the leadership styles are very different and I believe that this is having a significant effect on the staff of the two schools. Has anyone else noticed a big difference in the general environment of the schools, and thought perhaps that this could come from the administration’s influence? (Intermediate Intern)
Learned a lot about differentiated instruction
We are now over half way through our internships and mine has been a great experience. I am currently completing my internship in my hometown. I find it very rewarding to interact with teachers that I had when I was in the k-6 setting. My class is extremely diverse and makes for an interesting experience for sure!
My co-operating teacher has been great. She is awesome with the children and is experienced. Her classroom management skills are amazing, always finding a new way to keep the children quiet and attentive.
I’m so happy to be placed with my co-operating teacher. I feel like I have learned so much from her already and I cannot wait for more learning to occur. Throughout my internship I’ve learned a lot about differentiated instruction and how important it can be for some children to succeed in a school environment. I greatly enjoy taking part in planning and teaching lessons. Interacting with the students in my school has made me finalize my decision to go back to school and complete my Special Education degree. I cannot wait for the future and to have students of my own. (Primary Intern)
I make sure to treat all students with respect
One of the biggest things I’ve learned so far is that when you find yourself becoming frustrated, chances are your students are too. There is definitely a parallel between losing the management of your classroom, and your students becoming uninterested in the repetitive classroom activities. When managing the classroom seems to become increasingly more difficult throughout the week, I like to reflect on my lessons, activities and how I have interacted with my students. I know, we are all tired of hearing the word “reflection” but sometimes it’s the best thing!
I often put myself in their shoes and think of the things that did and did not work for me as a student. I have found making changes to the classroom environment as well as my lessons can help keep students engaged and from becoming bored. I often experiment with lessons by turning them into “fun” activities, whether it involves competitions, relays, iPads, interactive (smart board) lessons, and ANYTHING that involves the use of smart phones. At the end of the day, it feels great when you can say that both you and (most if not all) of your students had fun!
One of the things I value the most in my internship is the support group I have built. I have become close to many of the interns, staff and administrators at the school through various extra-curricular activities. I know they are there to listen and share, whether the subject is positive or negative. I would definitely say that I have a great rapport with most if not all of my students.
Unfortunately, there will always be those few that you just cannot connect with, but it is not something I will ever take personally. I make sure to treat ALL students with respect and ask that they do the same in return. (Intermediate/Secondary Intern)
Time is flying
I am really enjoying my internship thus far. Time is flying and I can hardly believe we have seven weeks under our belts with only five weeks to go.
The students here are wonderful with very little behaviour troubles (so I may be spoiled). I am now teaching most of my classes both in the gym and the classroom; getting lots of experience making up lesson plans and covering all of the objectives in the curriculum.
I am also realizing how important time management is when teaching full time, lesson planning, and doing many extra-curricular activities in and outside of school.
My co-operating teacher is excellent, sending me home with resources all the time and showing me the ropes of teaching. If my internship is an indication of how the next thirty years will be, then I can’t wait!
I am feeling more comfortable
I find that as I progress in my internship I am feeling more comfortable with the school and the students I am dealing with. I am finding that the students are getting to know me better which helps with control issues and them respecting me.
I am starting to realize that you are always going to have a student in your class that enjoys attention and will behave in a bad manner to receive any attention they can. I am happy to have students like this because it gives me some exposure as to how to be dealing with these situations.
Overall I am enjoying the internship and really feel that I am in a profession that I would like to do for the rest of my life. I am trying to get involved in coaching and doing a little extra work outside of school to understand the whole picture of what it is like to be a teacher. I look forward to my last month of my placement, Hope everyone is having the same positive experience. (Secondary Intern)
Recommended Book Resource for Primary and Elementary Interns
That Book Woman
Written by: Heather Henson
Illustrated by: David Small
New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008
The water color and pastel ink illustrations set the tone for this touching tale of a young boy who cannot read but does the work of a man, high up in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1930s. It honors the lives of the Pack Horse Librarians, mostly women, who rode their horses to deliver books to the families who did not leave these Kentucky mountains, at a time when it was thought that women should be in the kitchen.
Cal introduces himself and his sister, “My name is Cal, and I am not the first one nor the least one neither. But I am the oldest boy, and I can help Pap with the plowing . . . and then his sister Lark who “would keep her nose a-twixt the pages of a book daybreak to dusky dark” and who was the “readenest child you ever did see”.
Then, one day the Book Woman rides up and says she will return every two weeks with books to exchange, “right through the rain and fog and cold”. And, when the long cold winter sets in, she still comes with books. Cal, who has stared at his sister with the sternest of looks all through the pages so far, begins to wonder, “I yearn to know what makes that Book Woman risk catching cold, or worse” to keep coming up the mountain. He holds out a book to Lark and says, “teach me what it says”, and the magic begins. Instead of seeing Cal with his grim looks on every page, we now see him immersed in a book.
When the Book Woman stops for a visit in the spring, Cal peeks at his mom giving the Book Woman a recipe and saying, “Not much, I know, for all your trouble…and for making two readers outta one”. The story closes with a picture of Cal and Lark reading on the verandah and the Book Woman making her way down the mountainside.
This moving story of historical fiction will capture the interests and hearts of those who cannot imagine what it is like to not be able to read, and may give hope to those who struggle to read or have people in their lives who are not fortunate enough to have learned this skill.
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 1)
Teaching Tip: Pick Your Praise Platform
Blanket, generic praise is rarely helpful and can manipulate or mislead. When given, performance praise needs to be specific and name the performance’s admirable attributes. It also needs to be delivered in a manner that is appreciated by students.
Students’ reactions to teacher praise can vary from highly negative to highly positive. Ask students to record on a card or survey how they like to receive their praise: privately or publicly. Keep those preferences at hand as you comment on student performance.
Reference: Guillaume, A. M. (2012). K-12 classroom teaching: A primer for new professionals. Boston: Pearson.
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 2)
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 3)
Concluding Comment From the Editor
That concludes issue # 8. Thank you to those interns who sent in submissions for this issue.
In the world of hockey: Last night was the perfect Saturday night! Les Habs defeated the Rangers 3-0 and the Leafs lost to the Senators by a score of 3-2 in the last 24 seconds of the game!!!!!!!! Ah, it doesn’t get any better than that!
On the St. Bon’s hockey front: Scored a lovely goal last week – left winger Art Templeman and I had a breakaway. He had the puck and passed it over to me and I aimed it at the lower left corner of the net, shot and to my surprise, it went in!!!!!
This Friday night, left winger Nathan Layte and I had a breakaway – I had the puck and passed it over to Nathan and he scored! A thing of beauty!!!!!
Off to Toronto this Wednesday for an Education Law Conference on Thursday and Friday sponsored by York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and guess what – will be at the Air Canada Center Wednesday night to see the Habs v. Leafs game! All the details in next week’s issue # 9.
And lastly, congratulations to the MUN women’s basketball team and specifically B. Ed. (Intermediate/Secondary) student, Kim Devison on their advancing to the Atlantic Universities’ playoffs in Fredericton March 8-10 by defeating the U of PEI team Friday night at Field House. We wish the Lady Hawks all the best in that competition.
Have a great week everyone.