Greetings to all our readers and welcome to issue # 3 of the eMEMO. Response to our request for submissions from the interns has been excellent and we hope you’re enjoying them. Also, our column “Former Students’ Update” is being well received and this week we highlight Andrea Powell who is now into her 2nd year of teaching in England. Enjoy and as always, feedback is encouraged and welcomed.
Feedback From This Year’s Interns (2013-2014)
Learning names has been a work in progress
As most interns know, the winter semester was slow to begin. In the words of the media, “Blackout Blizzard 2014” was certainly one for the history books. Finally after several anxious days, I was fortunate enough to begin my internship. Since then I have had the pleasure of meeting upwards to 160 high school students. Needless to say, learning names has been a work in progress.
Thankfully, I am teaching six completely different courses in three unique academic areas. Although this has led to a substantial amount of preparation time, I believe the experience is especially valuable. In fact, I have been lucky to teach several students in the classroom, gymnasium, and workshop. It is very interesting to observe engagement and effort in these different environments.
One thing that has certainly been an eye-opening experience for me has been the current culture within high schools. It appears as though schools have become very inclusionary towards students with exceptionalities. Through my observation, I have noticed that students and staff at the school are always welcoming, supportive and engaging in activity with students with exceptionalities. Without a doubt, this is heart-warming to see.
I am extremely excited to continue learning throughout this internship experience. I hope to become involved in as many curricular and extra-curricular activities as possible. Although this may be slightly outside my comfort zone, I cannot wait to work hard and make the most of this valuable experience. (Secondary Intern)
An issue this term will be time management
My internship so far has been fantastic! I returned to the same school at which I completed my introductory internship, which also happens to be my former junior high school! I’ve successfully adjusted to being allowed into the staff room, but still haven’t gotten used to seeing my former teachers around or to referring to them by their first names.
I started teaching this past Monday, and have taught five lessons/periods this week. I am currently teaching Social Studies and Français to grade seven French Immersion students, but the plan is to eventually add in grade nine Social Studies, and grade seven Health, Religion, and Science as well, all for French Immersion students. I’m quite pleased to have been paired with two great teachers and to be doing all of my teaching in French.
I am looking forward to the coming months of teaching and volunteering with extra-curricular programs at the school. I have volunteered with the school’s choir program since graduating, and will be returning to help out there. I will also be tutoring French after school. One of the teachers at the school is a yoga instructor and offers a class after school on Wednesdays for teachers, so I’ll be taking that in as well! It seems like a great way to relax and socialize with other teachers. I can already see that an issue this term will be time management, as there is so much to do and so much going on. Hoping I can fit it all in. (Intermediate Intern)
Been made to feel welcome by the entire school
I am completing my internship at a K-12 school about an hour outside of St. John’s in a grade 2 classroom. My first few weeks have been an amazing experience! I have been made to feel welcome by the entire school, and am really looking forward to the next few months. My co-operating teacher has been wonderful at including me in all her classroom activities, and the students have really warmed up to me. I have already begun teaching some lessons in Art and Science, and next week will begin with Math.
My teacher has kindly shared all of her resources with me, and I have begun to bring in my own lesson plans for Art. There are only 10 students in our class – 8 boys and 2 girls. It is an interesting dynamic, with 2 of them having been diagnosed with exceptionalities. I am glad that I will gain some experience in how to handle different behaviors in the classroom. My focus area is Physical Education, so the PE teacher has suggested that I teach some of those classes as well, and my class is combined with the grade 3 and 4 students for PE. This will allow me to gain some experience with not just one, but three grade levels, which I am very excited about.
These first weeks have already confirmed for me that I have made the right career choice. I absolutely love being in the classroom, and cannot wait to graduate in August and begin my career as a Primary/Elementary teacher. My goal is to get a job in the school where I am completing my placement, as it is an amazing and supportive environment that I would be lucky to work in. I hope everyone else is enjoying their first few weeks as much as I have. Good luck to you all! (Primary Intern)
Going into the staffroom is still a little awkward
The first couple of weeks of my internship have been full of excitement and learning. I am at my old high school which is a bit different. Going into the staff room is still a little awkward and having the students (some of which I have babysat) call me “Miss” is really weird but I am starting to get used to it.
I am lucky enough to have multiple co-operating teachers and I get to teach classes from both my teachable areas in all different grades. During the last couple of weeks I have taught a few classes and held some review classes. At this time of year it is hard to be really planning and teaching new topics with mid-term exams next week but my co-operating teachers are really accommodating and letting me get involved wherever possible.
All of the teachers here are so welcoming and are involving me in everything. I have been to a staff meeting, a PD session and I have started up the old school newspaper again. One exciting thing that has happened was a culture day. At our school we have three Brazilian exchange students who are going home to Brazil at the end of the month so yesterday we had a culture exchange day where they taught the school about Brazil – their language, their soccer team, traditional food and even some Samba dance moves! Then the rest of the school taught them different aspects of Newfoundland culture. They were “screeched in” (using purity syrup of course!), taught traditional Newfoundland dance, fed fish and brewis, experienced a “boil up” and even practiced some hunting with some targets. It was great fun and I think all of the students enjoyed it.
It is great to see how spirited the students and staff are and I think it was a wonderful send off for the exchange students. Overall I am excited to see what the next few months have in store for me and I am ready to start planning and teaching. I’m really enjoying all aspects of my internship and it is confirming that I have chosen the correct career path. (Intermediate-Secondary Intern)
You’re doing a great job Miss
After being delayed a few days by rolling power outages, I was eager to start my internship. On my first day, I got to meet all the wonderful staff at the school who were very welcoming, and friendly. I had many teachers ask how my day was going, and if I was enjoying it. With such a comfortable setting I felt like I had been teaching at the school for a while.
My internship placement in grade two is nothing less than perfect. It is in a small, rural community with only thirteen students in my class. I spent the first two days, and the following week observing my teacher, and getting to know the students. At the end of “week two”, I had the privilege of doing guided reading with a group of students. During this past week, I have been teaching mathematics. I must admit that I was a little nervous to start teaching alone, but once I started, it felt fantastic! Although I have only been in the school for a few weeks, I already see the rewards that come with teaching. I have seen students use the strategies I have taught them, I have had hugs from students, and I even had one little boy say “you’re doing a great job, Miss! You’re a good teacher”.
I love how each new day brings something new and exciting when teaching children. The past few weeks have really ignited my passion for my chosen career path. (Primary Intern)
Perhaps you just need to find a different way to approach them
I have to admit that when I started this internship I was filled with so much hope and promise. As I began helping teach the class and dealing with students, it only takes three weeks for your frustration to set in as you realize that there is nothing you can do to help a student who does not want your help. Nor can you help a student who throws a tantrum in the middle of class because you asked her to turn off Twitter when she should be working with a group on their assignment due the next day. Frustration! It takes over and you feel as if perhaps you may not be cut out for teaching because students refuse to listen to you no matter what method of intervention you try. But, why feel frustrated? Why not learn from what these students are teaching you. Perhaps, you just need to find a different way to approach them. Perhaps you will find that a student who does nothing in class, works on his first assignment of the semester because it is put in a way he can joke about (but he is LEARNING!). Hope! It cannot be dashed by simple frustration. It lives in everything we do. It shapes us as teachers. It enables us to make decisions and to recognize that perhaps a different decision would have been better. After all, they are teaching us as much as we are teaching them.
Good luck to everyone on their internships and I look forward to hearing about your experiences in the upcoming eMemos. (Secondary Intern)
Definitely apprehensive about this internship
I was definitely apprehensive about this internship at the beginning but it has been a very positive experience so far. I feel like I lucked out. I enjoy the subjects I’m teaching, my co-operating teachers are supportive and encouraging, and the students have been a pleasure to work with.
I really couldn’t ask for a better environment to learn how to teach. Hopefully my fellow interns are all having positive experiences as well. Good luck everybody! (Secondary Intern)
Special Reminder To All Interns
All interns are asked to check the MUN email accounts on a regular basis for special announcements etc. from the Faculty of Education – daily is highly recommended.
A Letter Worth Reading
Had a wonderful email from a former undergraduate and graduate student of mine shortly after last week’s issue came out referring me to a link which highlighted a letter titled: “What Students Remember Most About Teachers”. The letter, written by teacher blogger, Lori Gard, is “spot on” and is quite congruent with some of my own research on the characteristics of effective teachers. And, a number of the comments following the letter are rather poignant as well. Here’s the link:
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 1)
“I prefer to think of it as being held over due to
popular demand instead of staying after school!”
Recommended Book Resource for Primary and Elementary Interns
The Invisible Boy
Written by: Trudy Ludwig
Illustrated by: Patrice Barton
New York: Alfred A. Knoff (2013)
Brian, the invisible boy, is drawn in faint black and white amidst the colors of the other children and the school setting. The children who are disruptive capture the attention of the teacher, while Brian takes up little space in the classroom. He does not get picked for schoolyard teams, he doesn’t get invited to birthday parties, and he is ignored in the lunchroom. But Brian has a talent, he loves to draw.
Then Justin, a new student, is made fun of when he brings a Korean sandwich for his lunch. So Brian draws a picture and writes a complimentary note to Justin. And, when Justin thanks Brian, we see for the first time a little bit of color in the illustration of Brian. Justin makes friends with the other children and invites Brian to work with him and Emilio on a science project. Brian draws the pictures for the project and we see even more color in Brian’s image. The rest of the students love the project and Brian becomes full color. When Brian gets invited to sit with Justin and Emilio in the lunchroom, we see that “Maybe, just maybe, Brian’s not so invisible after all”.
This story of Brian will ring familiar to many students, those who have been invisible and those who have helped remove the cloak of invisibility. Instead of focusing on bullying, this heartwarming story shows how the kindness and actions of one child can make a difference to those who need to know they matter. One act of caring can spread, as we see in this gentle rendition of how Brian is invited to find a place where he is accepted.
The emerging colors of Brian in the illustrations provide a complement to the words and enhance this uplifting story that will be enjoyed by all.
Quote of the Week
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 2)
“My generation will be running the world soon. If we
Say 4 + 4 = 9, then that’s the way it’s going to be!”
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 3)
“Yes, Billy, to be blunt, I am underpaid!”
Former Students’ Update
Andrea Powell (B. Ed., 2012)
I have been teaching at a secondary school in a large town about an hour north of London, in the UK for the past 18 months. Moving to the UK and teaching in a foreign school system was perhaps a bit more difficult than planned, although I think your first year of teaching anywhere provides lots of situations you aren’t always expecting. I think one of the hardest things I have encountered is outright defiance to your authority as a teacher.
The particular school I teach at has a catchment area in which students come from a significant amount of deprivation and are often in care homes or are second or third generation on benefits. This means that their culture often does not value education, and homes often do not provide structure or discipline. On a daily occurrence I experience students who mock me to my face, swear at me, or outright refuse to do what I ask. This makes it very difficult to educate these students in academic subjects, and certainly tests my patience.
It is hard to remain calm and have patience with students who refuse to do any classwork, and refuse to stop behaving in a manner that distracts everyone else from learning and then who swear at you when all you want to do is help them improve on their reading and writing skills. It is paramount that as a teacher we are able to see the big picture. You must remember that what this individual student thinks of you really does not matter, and you can’t take it personally. You must also remember where your students come from, and for so many of my students they come from homes where this inappropriate behavior is modeled and encouraged. So in the heat of the moment I have to remember to take a few extra seconds, take a deep breath, remain calm and demonstrate the respect I want from this student by not yelling and by not using spiteful language.
It is very important to teach students the appropriate way of dealing with other people regardless of how we feel about a situation. It is also key, however, to then take time shortly after the incident to go to a friend or colleague you trust and vent your frustration. Teachers need to have trusted friends to whom they can vent their frustration. You cannot go it alone, and cannot expect that just forgetting about the situation will actually help you. Be careful, however, that you do not just openly and publically vent this frustration, as there is no need for you to propagate a negative reputation for this student. Even though they may have been vile to you just moments or hours before, does not give you the right to tarnish their name in front of your colleagues. You should take the professional stance that each student has a right to a clean slate with each new teacher.
You must also know that this student might very well repeat this behavior and you must be well prepared to then deal with it over and over again in a professional manner. After venting any frustrations to a well-trusted friend or colleague, take the time to make a plan for success for that student that will help to prevent that behavior from recurring. This may be having a restorative conversation with the pupil, changing your teaching style, rearranging a seating plan or taking the extra time to provide extra materials to aid the student in their learning process. More than learning the timetables by heart, being able to order food in two or more languages, analyzing a poetic metaphor or dissecting a worm, students must first learn how to be the best people they can be. As a teacher you must place life lessons above all else if you truly want to be effective with your most difficult students.
It will be stressful, it will never be easy, it may cause early wrinkles or acid reflux, but at the end of the day you will have a much deeper sense of fulfillment and satisfaction knowing that you were able to help students reach their full potential as human beings.
My advice to teachers new and old: be prepared for defiance; be prepared to respond in a professional manner; be a model of respect and build yourself a structure of supportive friends who will listen and offer sound advice. Teaching is a lifestyle not a job.
Andrea Powell received a B.A. in English from MUN in 2011 and graduated with a Bachelor of Education (Intermediate/Secondary) in 2012. Her teachable areas are English and Social Studies. Andrea is from St. John, New Brunswick.
Concluding Comment From the Editor
That concludes issue # 3. Thank you to those teacher interns for their submissions this week and a special thank you to Andrea Powell “from across the pond” for her sage advice when dealing with disruptive students.
As we all know, this was a very interesting week in the” blood sport” called politics in Newfoundland and Labrador. Sometimes I wonder if politics is not a more brutal sport than any of the traditional sports! But then life goes on, regardless of who sits in those chairs of power up on Confederation Hill or in Ottawa.
Hockey-wise, had a great scrimmage game at St. Bon’s on Friday night. Had as they say on TSN, a multi-point night – 1 goal and 1 assist! I was quite pleased! Fellow team player, Mike Ricketts, one of our teacher interns, continues to “light ‘er up” – Mike is quite the player and I’m delighted to have him on my team! Can’t keep track of how many goals he scores each night but suffice it to say, “well ahead of moi’!
In the NHL, les Habs are obviously experiencing “down time” to put it mildly and with last night’s “debacle” at the Bell Center, the Leafs have edged ahead of the Canadians in the standings, even if it’s only by 1 point. Ce n’est pas bon!!!!!!!!
Have a great week everyone. For follow-up, please contact: