Welcome to issue # 9. After this issue, only 3 issues of the eMEMO remaining for this year. I continue to be most impressed with the submissions from the interns and also from our former students. This week, “Former Students’ Update” profiles Scott Walsh who is currently teaching at the Qatar campus of the College of the North Atlantic. A very interesting “read”. Enjoy!
Feedback From This Year’s Interns (2013-2014)
The best experience that I have ever had
Ever since I was in kindergarten, when someone would ask me what I wanted to be when I get older, I always said that I wanted to be a teacher. I love children and I love being around them.
I am enjoying every minute of my internship. I am working with a wonderful group of 10 little grade 1 students and they are absolutely precious. They are so sweet and so bright and they make every day worth getting up so early for. When I walk into the classroom they always have a bunch of stories for me and I love to hear them all. When I teach them something and they understand it and I see the look on their faces, it makes my day.
I could not have asked to be placed in a better classroom, school, or with a better co-operating teacher. Everyone makes me feel welcomed and keeps reminding me that I am doing a wonderful job. I do not want my internship to end. This has been the best experience that I have ever had and I cannot wait to have my own classroom, hopefully in the near future. (Primary Intern)
I’m learning a lot
Overall, I feel that my internship is going great. I feel like I’m learning a lot and I am getting a good handle on what happens day to day in high school. The students seem pretty cool too and I guess it took a bit of time to get used to me, but now they are.
I’m hanging out in the staff room when I have some time to kill. It tends to be a fairly amusing place; you can also learn some things there! I remember one thing that was mentioned in our Effective Teaching class and that was about how most kids aren’t being disruptive for any malicious reason, it’s mostly just because they’re teenagers who don’t realize that they are being disruptive. I see that all the time.
I was taking part in the knitting club at one point, but I had to give that up when I realized knitting is simply not a fun thing to do. We had a field trip last week to an oil and gas presentation at the Johnson Geo Center and it amazed me how difficult it was to convince students to go on it. I thought that a free field trip for a couple hours across town would seem really appealing to students. Apparently not! I corrected a fair number of exams during the mid-terms and I also scribed several exams for students, in addition to normal exam supervision.
We had parent-teacher interviews last Thursday and it was nice to see all the parents were sensible and showed genuine concern about their kids. Finally, it sure is really important/helpful to get to know student’s names! (Secondary Intern)
Overwhelmed with the experience
It is hard to believe that there are only 4 weeks left to my internship. I have to say over the past two months I have been overwhelmed with the experience I have been given at my school.
There were many reasons why I chose to do my internship over here on the west coast, but the one that stands out the most is the fact that they have such a great outdoor activity program. So far during my internship I have been able to teach cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter survival, Arctic games, sliding, as well as curling.
I think that outdoor education, as well as alternative activities gives students a taste of life long activities that they can do as they complete
high school, move on to postsecondary education and eventually start a family. Not only are they learning these lifelong activities but they are participating in social activities that they can get great enjoyment from. I am really looking forward to implementing these kinds of activities into my physical education program. (Secondary Intern)
A wide range of challenges and experiences
Having been in my intern placement for about two months I have learned quite a bit. Being an intermediate/secondary teacher placed in a K-9 school has been an interesting and enjoyable experience. Having taught students from each of these grades has provided me with a wide range of challenges and positive experiences.
One of the most commonly asked questions is what class I enjoy teaching the most, and to be honest I don’t know. Each class has its own unique set of characteristics. I enjoy the fun-loving attitude and enthusiasm of the kindergarten students, but the questions asked by the junior high students provide interesting class discussions and bring out their inquisitive nature.
Humor can be used more effectively in higher grade levels, but some of the things the younger students say leave me smiling days later.
I’m not sure if I’ll figure it out before my internship has ended for not, but for the time being I’m glad that I can find things that I enjoy about each class. In a way, I’m not sure if I ever want to find out for sure.
Going very well thus far
The internship is going very well thus far. I have been lucky enough
to be placed in a wonderful school. It is fairly small considering its
location, and the staff are very warm and inviting.
I am teaching a number of History courses, which is my area of “expertise” (that term being debatable of course!) and I love every minute of it. For the most part, the students are a welcoming, friendly bunch, always eager to help. While I have had a few tear-your-hair-out moments, in general I can’t help but be excited when I think about planning a fun activity or having a chance to interact with the students.
I will be very sad to leave. Hopefully my experience will continue to be positive and full of opportunities to learn. (Secondary Intern)
Finally getting the hang of all things related to being a teacher
I am extremely happy with my internship to date. I am working with an excellent co-operating teacher and staff, and am very comfortable here. I am finally getting the hang of all things related to being a teacher, including classroom management and how to prep for a lesson.
I am lucky enough to be teaching three different grade levels, 7-9. These grades have all presented me with a little challenge of their own. My grade 7 class is my co-operating teacher’s homeroom. I have been teaching them the longest and it definitely shows. They are really receptive to me, and I have a very positive rapport with them. They do not disrupt the class when I am teaching, and are all really bright students.
My grade 8 students seem to want to think of me as a friend rather than a
teacher. I try my best to get my students to like me, but perhaps I have been a little too friendly and passive with them. They’ve given me a good opportunity to learn how to balance having a friendly demeanour and being an authority figure.
The grade 9s are the students I’ve taught the least amount of time. They are a quiet bunch, so I’ve struggled with determining whether or not they accept me as their teacher. This past Thursday was the first day I’ve really felt like we were comfortable with each other, so I am looking forward to building this teacher relationship with them for the rest of the internship. (Intermediate Teacher)
I hated school growing up
So far so good; my internship has been a fantastic journey. However, it was a bumpy ride.
I hated school growing up. No joke. It was not the school work that bothered me or getting up in the morning, nor was it the 40 minute bus ride; it was the students that made me afraid to come to school. I cannot remember a single day in school where I was not a victim of bullying in some way. I never knew why I was targeted. Whether it was because I had glasses, thick hair, or just an easy target I had no clue. All I knew was that there was no good reason for verbally or physically abusing their peers (especially when one time resulted in getting kicked by eight individuals into the corner of the lockers).
The sad part was, despite how many times it was reported, the principal never so much as acknowledged it occurred. Sometimes that happens when you attend school in a small town; all the students know each other and when one is having problems at a school, one cannot transfer to another like they can in St. John’s. The principal was one of those people who liked to believe that nothing went wrong in his perfect little school. I was not the only student in this type of situation growing up. Attending school was hardly a pleasure.
Because I had such a hard time at school growing up, I often receive shocked expressions when people find out I am learning to become an educator. “Why on earth would you want to go back?” A question asked of me often.
Here is the thing: I absolutely love what I am doing. I have never felt so accomplished, and I was not going to let what happened to me, stop me from doing what I wanted to do.
Each day I witness teachers playing the roles of educator, referee, and protector. I have watched teachers console crying students, make students laugh, and perform first aid. I love the feeling when a kid thanks you for your help or is excited to see you when you come into class.
At this school, I have witnessed nothing less than dedication towards students. The teachers here are amazing at what they do and they truly make a difference. I love being a part of their team, even if it is only for a little while, and I look forward to having a class of my own someday.
Knowing the names of my students is truly important
I’m terrible with names. It’s something I’ve come to accept over the years, but as an interning teacher, knowing the names of my students is truly important. I’ve been interning at a large high school where I see over 100 faces in my classroom in the run of a day, and getting all the names straight was a struggle at first. I had to try and find a way around my problem.
I started using the first five minutes at the beginning of the lesson to talk with students. Not about homework or upcoming assignments, but about their interests. Some conversations were easier to spark than others, but attaching a personal tidbit of information to a name makes it stick.
I’ve noticed a big difference in my students as the internship goes on. Getting to know them personally is an ongoing process, but the mutual respect that it creates is easily worth five minutes. (Secondary Intern)
Recommended Book Resource For Primary-Elementary Interns
Beautiful Warrior: The Legend of the Nun’s Kung Fu
Written and illustrated by: Emily Arnold mcCully
New York: Arthur A. Levine Books (1998)
The literal meaning of kung fu is human effort. It is a means to physical and mental health. In this historical tale of seventeenth century China, Mingyi learns the art of kung fu to avoid marrying the bandit Soong Ling.
The story begins with Jingyong, whose name means Quiet Courage. Jingyong was not raised in the traditional way of bound feet and ladies at court; instead, she was tutored like a boy, and she excelled at martial arts. She learned that with her qi (vital energy), “softness could prevail over hardness”, and she began to defeat boys much bigger than herself. When her parents were killed, she went to live in the mountains with Buddhist monks to continue her studies and improve her kung fu. She learned to defeat the monks and was given a new name, Wu Mei, which means Beautiful Warrior. She shaved her head and became a Buddhist nun, becoming known for her skills and calm concentration.
One day, Mingyi, who lived in the village below, was attacked by bandits, when the little nun saved her. When, sometime later, Mingyi’s father told her that she had to marry the bandit Soong Ling because her father was being threatened, Mingyi turned to Wu Mei for help. Wu Mei would not fight Soong Li but she offered to teach Mingyi kung fu so that she could fight Soong Li herself. She told the frightened Mingyi that, “it is not force that prevails, but inner strength”. Soong Li agreed to wait one year, and if Mingyi could beat him at kung fu then she would not have to marry him.
Mingyi practised with Wu Mei and learned to keep her mind perfectly calm, and to balance like the stately crane. Months later, when Wu Mei asked her what she had learned, Mingyi replied, “To make my feet like roots and my body like a vine! Find the course of least resistance! Soft overcomes hard!” Now Mingyi had to learn to become perfectly calm. She had to sit still, regardless of what happened, and to concentrate on nothing.
One day, Soong Li peeked over the fence to spy on Mingyi’s training, saw her sitting perfectly still, and left laughing to himself at how foolish her training was. When the year was over, Wu Mei offered this advice, “You need not overpower him, only show that he has no power over you”. And, when the match began, Mingyi was ready; she anticipated Soong Li’s every move until she exhausted him. Soong Yi decided to find himself another wife, and Mingyi decided never to marry and to devote her life to kung fu.
Wu Mei smiled as she replied to Mingyi, “Kung fu is the work of mastering the self and finding harmony with the universe. It is the effort of a lifetime”. Girls and boys alike will enjoy this tale of determination and courage, as well as the true meaning of kung fu. The story is one of calmness and excitement, and the pastels and watercolor drawings denote both.
Bachelor of Education Registration For Spring Semester Courses
A reminder to all B. Ed. students that registration for the spring semester begins on Monday, March 24.
Excellent Article on Teachers’ Use of Social Media
The February 2014 issue of the Virginia Journal of Education has an excellent article titled “Don’t Get Trapped By Social Media”. It’s available on line at:
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 1)
“Dad said ‘Ask your mother’ and Mom said
‘Ask your father’. So I had to ask Google!”
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 2)
“Just because you’ve eaten a lot of homework doesn’t
mean you have a book in you!”
Former Students’ Update
Scott Walsh (B. Ed., 2006)
It is indeed a rather surreal feeling that I write to this eMemo readership about my stories and lessons from a place far different than anywhere I ever imagined possible in my teaching vocation. I’ve looked out through many classroom windows in my time, wondering about the life stories of my students “out there”, about my own path and purpose in these places, as I attempt to make a difference, for my students and myself. Today, I look out onto palm trees and sand dunes, of local folk hurrying along in their traditional white thobes and black abayas. I look out onto a political, linguistic, and cultural landscape that equates to a far different teaching and learning experience than what I was initially accustomed to encountering in my beloved Newfoundland. And it is there, on my island home, that my story as a teacher begins.
I applied for every teaching position from Ferryland to Flower’s Cove that spring of 2006 when I returned to MUN after coming off the plutonic highs and sobering realities of very rewarding but challenging internships at Mobile Central High and Burgeo Academy. Left with that itch to do more, give more, and experience more of what this new identity as a teacher entailed, I garnered an appetite to set out and find a place that welcomed my energetic talents and novel skills. While the prospects of finding that coveted full-time position do initially appear disappointing, it is not impossible if you are willing to go to the work, rather than waiting for it to come to you. Seizing an opportunity to teach in a community distinct from the comforts and familiarities of university life and even childhood is perhaps one of the most rewarding first gifts you could give yourself. Such a reward awaited me at Jane Collins Academy (JCA), a grade 9-12 school in the town of Hare Bay. Grow where you are planted, I thought, and off I went, thankful for the chance.
I arrived at JCA about a week early in order to get a “lay of the land” – acquaint myself with the curriculum, create course outlines, and let the realities of my new position soak in. Principals are usually back a week early before school officially starts and I knew it would be a good idea to meet her in person (we talked during the interview and communicated via email over the summer) before things became too busy. I still laugh with the expression on her face when she realized I was the Math teacher she hired (ok, perhaps a very young looking Math teacher – looking not a day over 16), and not an expected student coming to register. I think the lingering blonde highlights in my hair may have had something to do with her bewildered look of confusion. I insisted I’m the same man she spoke with a week earlier. I returned the same look of confusion when she told me there was a change in my teaching assignment and that Home Economics and World Religion were added to my duties!
Take these surprises as a gift, a challenge, and in instances when you’re teaching subjects you’re not “trained” in, find ways to learn to love it, embrace it. If not, students will immediately perceive that you’re not engaged in the course, and their interest will plummet. Little did I realize that unit on Islam would serve me well. To ready myself for those first days I took the time to review the cumulative files of the grade nine students in my class. It’s a chronological portfolio of a student’s academic history, diagnosed learning challenges or exceptionalities, and often written reports about their successes and challenges from teachers, counselors, and specialists. I didn’t use this as a case of pre-labeling my students, but rather to inform myself about the students I’d be spending the year teaching. Often, it may be months into a school year before parent-teacher-support specialists may be able to meet concerning a student, so it’s best to learn as much background information as you can, as early as you can.
My two years of teaching at JCA still remain the most fulfilling, rewarding, and intrinsically motivating moments of my teaching career. As Aaron Power mentioned in a previous submission, volunteer for school programs – student leadership, school councils, community outreach – the list is endless. Engaging with students outside the classroom in these different roles makes a remarkable difference in their reception to and respect for you inside the classroom. Remember, you may be the only person in the run of a day that gives some of these children a smile, a vote of confidence, any measure of attention. It’s always good to have them with you, not against you! Call, not only the parents/guardians of children who misbehave or underperform, but those too that are a pleasure to have in your class. I was thanked endlessly by parents of both circumstances for communicating with them, particularly the later, because they were never used to a teacher taking time to relay good news stories about their child. Again, like students, it’ always better to have parents with you, not against you! And let’s not forget your colleagues. They have a wealth of knowledge that you can tap into and use to your advantage to get settled in your new role. Spend time in the staffroom – you need and deserve the lunch break – but more so use that time to build positive relationships with the other teachers, seek advice, and stay informed. Don’t be intimidated from asking questions. Try not to get involved in the staff politics and negative banter about students and administration issues that can sometimes overwhelm the morale of a staffroom.
It’s never easy to give up a good thing, a great thing. I was in my element and fulfilled by my devotion to the school, blessed with the respect of students, and hopeful I was making a difference for the better. A teacher can receive no greater honor than being recognized by his students through testimonials about the impact you made on their life – an interminable “thank you” to remember your legacy. Yet, the world was calling me, and after a period of long, often painful discernment, I decided to turn down an offer of a permanent position with the school district (even after a plea from the Assistant Director of HR) and leave everything and everyone I loved behind to experience life as an international teacher. An adventure was out there waiting for me and I knew the time was right to find it.
And find it I did! Coming for one, but now six years later I am still living and working here in the Middle East, seconded to the College of the North Atlantic – Qatar. It’s quite peculiar where life may lead you. It is here in this tiny desert sheikdom that I have come to value my own worth as a Canadian teacher. Our education system and teacher resources are revered and in such high demand by foreign lands who are trying to educate their young people and develop a knowledge-based economy. We are known as a people that not only tolerates but celebrates diversity, with an ethic of care, justice, and mutuality. My Arabic students love to hear stories about life in Canada, especially when parallels are drawn to their own culture and similarities identified. Such experiences help me to understand that the nature of a student, regardless of language, religion, place, identity, or circumstance are one in the same: they desire a friendly, attentive, prepared teacher who cares about their success, is genuine in their empathy, and makes learning a fulfilling experience.
All of these experiences would not be possible without a Bachelor of Education – the power of this one year degree cannot be underestimated or undervalued in its potential to unlocking your human potential as a teacher, a leader. Be proud of it! It has made all the difference in my life, and hopefully that of a few students along the way.
Scott is from Calvert on the southern shore, approximately 1 hour’s drive south of St. John’s. He graduated from MUN with a B. Sc. in Applied Math and French in 2005. Scott convocated in 2006 with a B.Ed. (Intermediate/Secondary) and completed an M. Ed. in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning also from MUN in 2011. Scott’s currently working on a Ph.D. (online) in Social Justice and Education from Lancaster University in the U.K. He’s been teaching at the College of the North Atlantic in Qatar since 2008.
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On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 3)
“An encyclopedia? I don’t know. Let’s look it up in Wikipedia!”
Concluding Comment From The Editor
That concludes issue # 9. Our thanks again to those interns who sent in submissions this week – your contributions to this eMEMO are most appreciated. And, a special thank you to Scott Walsh for his most interesting “Update”.
Scott, we’re mired in mega amounts of snow and obviously quite envious of those very warm temperatures you experience every day.
But then again, I’m reminded that we don’t live in Newfoundland for the weather!!!!!
Last night I was at Mile One – great game between the IceCaps and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The IceCaps won their 8th straight game by a score of 3-2; it took a goal in the last 30 seconds of OT to do it but a win is a win! Very impressive showing by the IceCaps. I won’t comment on les Habs except to say a disappointing defeat at the hands of the San Jose Sharks: 4-0! Ce n’est pas bon! And to make matters worse, the Leafs won last night!!!!!!! Ce n’est pas bon!!!!!!
Had an interesting experience driving in to MUN this morning. I was listening to an interview on K Rock’s “Home Brew” radio show this morning featuring retired MUN History professor, Dr. Shannon Ryan speak about his latest book, The Ice Hunters, a history of the seal fishery in Newfoundland.
After the interview, the show host invited listeners to call in to receive a free copy of the book. I decided to call in – the first time the K Rock line was busy – the 2nd time I got through and won a free copy – I was delighted! I mentioned that Shannon had taught me in Grade 9 (a very long time ago at St. Francis High School in Hr. Grace).
Funny how things go – years later I taught his younger brother Bill in Grade 7 at St. Francis and many years later again, I taught Bill’s son, Dan in the B. Ed. program here in 2011-2012! Only in Newfoundland!
I’m looking forward to reading The Ice Hunters.
Have a great week everyone.