Greetings everyone – a new month upon us already. Welcome to issue # 5 – delighted with the submissions being sent in from you interns. Interns, as one of my good friends always said when we were doing our PhDs at the University of Alberta many years ago, “soldier on” and enjoy the journey with all that it entails – the overwhelming amount of work, the positives, the negatives and the everything in between! Enjoy the issue.
Feedback From This Year’s Interns
Fifteen days ago I met twenty two young children and an amazing teacher
Fifteen days ago I met twenty two young children and an amazing teacher! Since then I have learned so much more than I had ever imagined.
The ability to have the privilege to immerse myself into the world of a classroom brings with it a wealth of knowledge, impossible to draw from any textbook. From witnessing the joy in a child who has finally accomplished a hard worked on task, to another, who I recognize will require much more guidance and patience to reach the same goal. Both of which, brings to the forefront, the realization of responsibility, we as teachers play in the development of a child.
I have been so fortunate, as well, to observe and learn from one of the kindest, most endearing teachers I have ever met. This, my first experience in a classroom, actually teaching, will remain forever in my memory as a treasured and immensely valued four month period in my future career as a primary teacher. (Primary Intern)
When I see a student’s face beam with pride and excitement
The first month of the internship is officially over and I can’t believe we’re already heading into February! I’m completing my internship in Grade 2 with a wonderful group of 24 boys and girls in a small town in Alberta.
Each and every day is different and brings new and exciting challenges. When I see a student’s face beam with pride and excitement, when they grasp a new concept, it reaffirms that I have chosen the right career. I smile back at them and get just as excited as them as they show me what they’ve learned.
The most valuable lessons I’ve learned are ones for classroom management. You really need to get to know each and every one of your students. Forming that relationship and building a strong foundation is key when it comes to having control over a classroom of 24 excited students. Every student is different and every student responds differently.
I have made great strides with the help and support of my co-operating teacher and am so thankful to have her by my side. I’ve learned so much in four short weeks, and am looking forward to what the next ten have in store for me. (Primary Intern)
It has been an intense four weeks
Well it has only been about four weeks but it has been an intense four weeks. The first week was by far a roller coaster with three major discipline incidences in the first week, but what has been eye-opening thus far was when we lost a member of the staff last week. Not only was this individual a fellow staff member but he was also my homeroom teacher during my time in high school. It was hard to witness teachers break down right in front of your eyes, especially teachers that you looked up to for their strength and positivity. However, when you lose a friend, co-worker or family member, it is hard to keep up your teacher appearance. I applaud the teachers who were strong enough to go back to their classrooms after hearing the news at lunch to inform their students what had happened to one of the most favorite teachers in the whole school.
Thankfully, my co-op teacher took the position of informing my class of what had occurred. It was a very hard week seeing not only the teachers struggling with grief but also many students.
On the upside it was also nice to see the students take quick action to remember their teacher. In a matter of days there was a memorial wall put up where students could place pictures, as well as a rugby ball going around to be signed by all the teams at the school. I hope no one experiences this in their career but what I have learned is that every teacher in the school is a support system for one another. Hope everyone is enjoying their internship. (Secondary Intern)
What it means to treat others kindly and with respect
One of the things that has really stood out to me since starting the internship is how well the teachers communicate with one another and talk to each other. They are constantly following up on where they are going with curriculum, individual student needs, assessment, and school life in general.
As well, they have developed and maintain strong personal connections that come out even during the most informal of conversations and reflections. Clearly, they model positive relationships and value collegiality. I aim to contribute to this type of modeling, and rely on my peers for help and guidance, as well as to foster authentic and meaningful bonds. I think these relationships help to show students what it means to treat others kindly and with respect, and honors the collaborative model so ensconced in our learning framework. (Secondary Intern)
Wow, were they bad
The day I started my internship was the first day of hockey practice for the boy’s team. I had already been asked to help out prior to my internship, so I had my gear in the car and drills running through my head. I had a few break out drills, ideas for the power play and penalty kill – some good quality stuff.
It all went out the window when they stepped on the ice. Wow, were they bad. Physically and mentally weak at the sport. Back to basics was the new motto for the team. However, as I talked to them, I learned their unique personalities and back stories. This was an interesting dynamic of young men, who needed guidance in their lives rather than just on the ice. As the trust formed, they would open up and share things. They would look for advice and opinions on issues they were facing at school and outside of it. It is a tough thing for 14-18 year old boys to do.
I realized that there was more to be taught here than just the sport. These secondary students are at a vulnerable point in their lives as they try to find themselves. I have learned through my experience that as an educator and coach, sometimes it is more important to listen and talk about things unrelated to content or skill. I have also learned that once students trust you, they want to work for you and impress you. Use that to your advantage, but don’t take advantage of it! (Secondary Intern)
He murmured a very rude comment directed toward me
During my first Grade 7 Physical Education lesson I had a child decide to test the waters with this new guy! A little into the lesson I gave him some individual direction with regards to the lesson concepts. It was clear that he wasn’t interested in the day’s activities but usually kids will just go with the flow. After I had spoken to him directly, as I turned to continue with the lesson, he murmured a very rude comment directed toward me. I immediately addressed him on it, told him what the consequences would be if it were to happen again and moved on. Later in the lesson I noticed that the co-operating teacher was having a word with him regarding what had happened. He informed the student that assessment in Physical Education (PE) class was based on three areas:
application, content, and co-operation. He informed the student that he clearly was missing the mark in the co-operation area. The student’s bad behavior continued into other Physical Education classes and in some of the classroom courses as well.
Prior to the next PE class I approached the student to encourage him to enjoy the lesson or at least smile and look like he’s enjoying it. His response was “The smile is not part of the mark”, a comment that clearly holds true to his and his family’s expectations.
I know the student’s parents personally outside the school and I know that the student has a highly regimented schedule outside of school for sports. So much so that the student has his own personal trainer. Needless to say the student and the family has high expectation levels for achievement in both sports and school.
After some time to think about how to deal with the student and through conversations with some of the student’s other teachers I had to decide on an action plan. Do I engage in conversation with the student? Do I come down hard on the student? Do I let it slide and let the co-operating teacher deal with it? Or do I plan a sit down session with the student and the parents?
My teaching philosophy is that every student can be successful, each student comes with their discourse, and I feel that I can connect and relate with each student to point them in the right direction to get the most from each lesson.
At the start of the second week I made it a point to connect with the student outside of the classroom. The conversations were very short and one-sided for the most part. I could tell in the student’s demeanor that he wasn’t too interested in talking to me. Regardless, I persevered. Now at the end of the second week I have managed to get a smile out of him and the conversation is now being reciprocated. I’m not saying that I have changed this child for the rest of his life but what I can say is that I have influenced our relationship for the better. Whether or not that’s going to lead to trouble-free lessons from here on, we’ll have to wait and see; however, I will continue to work on it.
My point in writing on this ongoing situation is that I’m sure that I’m not the only intern dealing with this type of child. The challenge arises in deciding our approach to these students. We all know that we will have to deal with issues in our classes. The message that I’m trying to send is that we as teachers are only a small part of students’ daily lives but I think that we can have a lasting influence in both their school lives and their home lives. Good luck and be patient!
Swamped at my internship
I am swamped at my internship. I am back in the LEARN classroom (at the junior high where I did the 2 week internship in the fall) which is as rewarding as tiring. They keep us on our toes. To be honest, I am not sure how my co-operating teacher works when I am not present. She has many split classrooms.
We are getting 8 more students in another week. What we have to do is make our students “teacher helpers” – one student will be in charge of teaching Math in Arabic, another the ABC’s and so on!
The amount of school spirit the staff and students have
As the fourth week ends, I look forward to the next 8 weeks. An aspect of my placement that I am particularly enjoying is the amount of school spirit the staff and students have. The school has several recesses, lunch and after school activities that are available to the students. These things include intramurals, connect four tournaments at recess and extracurricular teams.
The students all participate in theme days such as backwards day, recycling day, jersey day, etc. It’s very rewarding to see the excitement the students have as well as the staff. I’ve become as involved as I can with all of these activities and more and have felt that it has given me more opportunities to get to know each and every student in the school. As a Physical Education intern, I have the pleasure of teaching every student in the school and therefore having the opportunity to get to know them better.
Along with this I also am able to see what goes on behind the scenes in order to make these activities happen for the students and as a former student of the school I have a new appreciation for the job. What a difference school spirit makes to the atmosphere of the school!
Sometimes one can hardly notice the volcanoes on the horizon
I started my internship a couple weeks later than most (January 18) at a private school in Guatemala which uses a blend of American and Guatemalan curriculums. This school has one grade of each level from Nursery, Pre-k, Kindergarten to Grade 12 (a couple of the grades are split into two classes) and have from about 15-25 students per class. I would compare it loosely to St.Bon’s (St. Bonaventure College in St John’s, NL the private Catholic school) although this one is secular. It’s a tight community, most of the students started here young, have siblings in other grades, and many of the teachers have had them for several years in a row.
The structure is largely split administratively into primary (up to Grade 5), middle school (6-8) and high school (9-12). Classes are taught in English and Spanish. For example, the Sciences, which I am teaching: for Grades 5, 6, 7, and 8 are taught in English. However high school Science classes are taught in Spanish as there’s only one teacher who teaches them all (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) and although her English is improving, it is not yet fluid enough to teach a class. By the time the students are in grade 12 though, they have pretty good English. . . at least from what I can tell so far and of course, some are better than others. In the younger years, like Grades 5 and 6, they’re often searching for more exact and descriptive words, but they can usually manage to get their ideas across.
What I’ve noticed is that classroom management is a big issue here (as it seems to be everywhere). It often crosses my mind – how to effectively motivate the students to stay on task and feel that their work is worthwhile. How to have them not get distracted by the tablets and laptops (that they’re required to have and use for certain tasks when instructed). How to effectively and efficiently quiet the classroom. It seems also that there is a lot of ambient noise here as the classrooms are partially open air, the upper parts of the walls being only screens. There are birds and other animals outside, as well as carryover noise from other classrooms, and fans going inside, on top of the chatter of students. I find that makes it difficult for even me to focus well on the voice that is speaking.
On other notes, people are friendly and kind. I feel welcomed and well-supported in the school. The days are hot, humid and sunny every day, so it feels a little bit timeless. The air can be heavy with smoke and ash from burning sugar cane fields (something they do between crops). Sometimes one can hardly notice the volcanoes on the horizon because the air is muggy/smoggy/thick. But I am definitely not complaining about not having to shovel my van out every time it snows! Instead I could complain about the smell of trash, smoky air, dusty pot-holey roads, how our water turns off from 10pm to 6 am, ash getting everything dirty, but I would rather appreciate having fresh fruit at our doorstep – banana, papaya, and coconut trees on our property, warm weather, and kind supportive people.
Some of the teachers live in a guarded, gated property that used to house factory worker families, but I think the factory has reduced operations now and the school has taken over 3 houses for their teachers. It’s nice to live with other professionals, some of whom have a Master’s degree in Education and are working on curriculum development/director, project based learning. One of them is a new primary school principal this year, and has strengths in subjects that I am less familiar with like Social Studies and English. It’s wonderful to have them as both a local-knowledge and professional resource. There’s a school teacher’s volleyball team which I’ve joined, and occasional activities for teacher after school like a dance lesson (salsa, marimba, and something-something) this past Friday, though it seems that I won’t have the opportunity to continue BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) training here, and I’m not in the right part of the country for rock climbing (mostly flat agricultural sugar cane fields). (Intermediate-Secondary Intern)
So far the internship has gone well
Time flies, the first month of the practicum is gone, and so far the internship has gone well. Having taught a few classes already, I’m now planning different activities for Grades 7-9 Social Studies and Religious Studies. I took responsibility for the Buddhism section of Grade 8 Religion. While I personally do not have any Religious Studies background, it went better than what I expected.
However, on the other hand, my experience with the Grade 7’s statistic assignment helped me to realize some of the challenges I’ll confront in my future teaching career.
I’ve been experimenting with various strategies to deal with typical classroom management issues in junior high; students appear to be receptive to my management style.
I am looking forward to teaching more classes in the rest of this practicum, and hopefully I will become more comfortable in the classroom environment. (Intermediate Intern)
Thank You To My Intern
The following letter to the Dean of Education was cc’d to me by a former student of mine, Mr. Brad Jones; I taught Brad in the B. Ed. (I/S) program as well as the M. Ed. (Educational Leadership Studies) program. Somewhat ironically, Brad is now teaching at St. Michael’s High School, Bell Island where I was principal from 1997-2004!
At first I was a tad reluctant to publish this letter as it contains the name of the intern, but since it is all highly positive, I thought, “why not!” and as my mother used to say, “Give praise where praise is due!”. Brad obviously gave me permission to publish this letter.
I write you this evening with a compliment and a smile.
I am a teacher at St Michael’s on Bell Island. Last week, due to mechanical issues, we were without ferry transportation for 3 days and therefore unable to get to work until Friday when the helicopters began running. I live on the St. John’s side and have to get the boat to work daily.
I am quite privileged this year to have a student intern, Ms. Tasha Brazil. In my absence from work last week, through no fault of my own, Ms. Brazil not only kept my classes on task, but kept going with reviews so that my students were prepared for their exams this week. I was in constant contact with her via text message but the fact that she, for lack of a better term, “took the bull by the horns” and did what needed to be done was completely over and above the role of an intern.
I was a little stressed because I was worried that my students wouldn’t be prepared for their exams, but thankfully my intern made sure that there were no gaps in their learning and she offered extra help to ensure all was as normal as possible.
This to me exemplifies what it is to be a teacher in this province. Being able to get the job done, no matter what, is truly a skill that not everyone is able to accomplish with so little “real world” experience.
Just wanted to let you know how proud of her I am and that she represents the university and her faculty in such a positive way.
Brad Jones B.Sc, B.Ed, M.Ed
Senior High Sciences|
St Michael’s Regional High School
Bell Island, NL
tel. (709) 488.2828 / 2829
My Website: www.mrbradjones.weebly.com
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On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 1)
“And no, I didn’t get my degree at Sing-Sing!”
Recommended Book Resource for Primary & Elementary Interns
The Stranded Whale, 2015
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Melanie Cataldo
It was September, 1971 in Maine, USA, and Sally and her two brothers were walking home from school along the beach, when Sally spotted what looked like a large gray boulder. However, it was not a rock, it was a beached whale, lying on its side, with the outgoing tide too far away for the whale to get to the water on its own. Immediately, Sally ran to the water, soaked her sweater in the ocean, and then wrung out her sweater on the whale’s side. The boys followed suit, but it wasn’t enough. “The whale’s eye, the size of a bicycle tire, turned towards us. It looked like it was weeping”.
Josh ran to a payphone about half a mile away to call the Coast Guard for help. Nine men and a woman responded, rocking the whale back and forth, trying to get it to the ocean. But, the people grew tired, the whale was tired, and the whale did not move. Everyone kept filling buckets with water to pour on the whale, but it was not enough.
People were crying, but Sally was too “mad” to cry. She was “mad at the unforgiving ocean, rushing away from the shore. Mad at our short arms and the whale’s long body. Mad that we didn’t have a boat, a winch, long ropes to pull it out to sea. Mad at everything”. And, just as the sun was setting, “the whale shut its great eye. It gave out a huge sigh like wind off the ocean. And then it was gone, just like that”.
When the children got home, the Coast Guard came by to give each of them a medal. For Sally, that did not matter. She was still mad and put the medal in her drawer, never to take it out again. “I’d give that medal back for good if I could see [the whale] one time heading out to deep water, lifting its tail, and diving deep and free”.
This tale does not have a happy ending, but it is a real ending, and these events have happened in Newfoundland and Labrador many times. Whale beachings have been recorded for a very long time, and about 2000 whales are found on beaches each year throughout the world. Whale beaching are always sad, but they do not affect the whale population as a whole. Most whales die in the water, sinking to the bottom of the ocean to become part of the ecosystem. This is called “whale fall”. Beachings happen for many reasons, the whale is already dead, or sick or old, even seaquakes and collisions with ships, among other reasons. With modern technologies such as cell phones and Coast Guard techniques, more whales are saved than in the past, but it is one of the ways whales die. For children, this tale gives them an opportunity to explore how we feel when nature seems cold and hard, and how we can help each other, and play important roles in the u
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 2)
“I know it’s an open-book test, but can we use smart phones?”
Education Law Corner
Last week the discussion in this column centered on the misuse of
cellphones in the classroom. This discussion came about as a result of one intern’s submission re the problem of students’ primarily at the high school level using cellphones in the classroom when they should be focused on the instruction being delivered by teachers.
In discussions in both my undergraduate and graduate classes these past few years, students tell me that in some schools there is a clear-cut policy on the use of cellphones and those policies are strictly enforced by teachers and the school’s administration.
Students also tell me there are other schools where no one seems to be aware of any such policies with the obvious result that there is blatant misuse of cellphones to the detriment of classroom teaching and learning. In these latter schools teachers perceive that the administration is very reluctant to deal with the cellphone challenge because dealing with this problem may lead to confrontation and conflict with students, parents and perhaps the school board. In these schools teachers feel powerless and helpless to try and correct a malaise in many classrooms in this province and elsewhere.
So what should be done? I’m suggesting that school administrations work with their teachers to develop a practical, workable policy on the appropriate use of cellphones in the classroom; in developing such policies I would also suggest student and parent involvement. I do think the onus is on the school administration to get this ball rolling and it is further incumbent on the school administration to ensure there are consequences for instances which contravene the policy. Two points need to be emphasized here: 1) yes there will be some negative fallout from students and parents when sanctions are taken against students for contraventions; that’s the reality of life in schools and is the context school administrations operate in everyday; and 2) all teachers need to be on board and consistent with enforcing the cellphone policy.
Failure on the part of teachers to do this will result in an overall failure of the policy!
Hello From The U.K.
The following is an email I recently received from Mike Dooling currently teaching in the U.K. Mike was a student in the B. Ed. (I/S) program in 2013-2014; he also has a Bachelor of Physical Education and his 2nd teachable is Social Studies. Any intern interested in teaching in England should correspond with Mike. Thank you for this Mike.
How are things in MUN Education these days? I just received the new newsletter for this week and I thought I would write and ask how things are going. I am still currently in the UK teaching for a second year. It’s been an amazing experience and I thought that if you have any current students looking into moving over after they graduate I could answer some questions if needed. I hope all is well and it sounds like you’re becoming more of a goal scorer these days!!!! Hahahah!
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 3)
Concluding Comment From The Editor
That concludes issue # 5. Thank you to those interns who sent in submissions – they continue to be most insightful and highly informative.
Have a wonderful week, everyone – Jerome