Vol. 11, Number 8

Hello everyone and welcome to issue # 8.  Another week or so and February will be done.  Interns, you are over half-ways through your internship.   One constant aspect of teaching is that it’s always at “warp speed” and time, or a lack thereof,  is always a challenge.   Best wishes to all of you on the “second  half”.  Enjoy this issue.

Feedback From This Year’s Interns

I don’t love being an intern but I love being a teacher
I have always wanted to be a teacher, I am one of the few who have never changed their mind about their career choice. I remember being in Grade 5 and asking for a whiteboard for Christmas so I could play school- and now, here I am! Almost a teacher.

After a busy fall semester, I was more than excited for my internship. However, I have not enjoyed it as much as I hoped that I would. I love teaching, don’t get me wrong. I love making lesson plans, correcting, and getting to know the students. I don’t love having someone watch me teach. I feel like I cannot fully be myself having a seasoned teacher listen and watch every lesson that I teach. It makes me feel very nervous. I know that this is all a part of the process, but I am longing for the day that I have my own classroom, my own desk, and no one supervising me! (Secondary Intern)

I do not think there are many professions out there that are as good for the soul as teaching is
I have heard it said that parenting can be described as dealing with all the struggles (which may be plentiful), but that it is all worth it when you have those moments you hold dear; these are the moments that take you by surprise, and force you to take a deep breath and realize how truly blessed you are.

I feel this sentiment is so true to teaching! I have had moments in the classroom throughout this internship that make me feel as if I will never be able to be fully in control of the entire classroom, or that I do not have the words (or sense) to explain a concept properly; however, none of those scenarios really matter in the grand scheme. My students I have gotten to work with over the last 6 weeks have become my bright spot among any of the struggles, even if they are the ones causing the struggles! There have been mornings that I have woken up, not 100% committed to going in, but once I walk down the halls and get a simple good morning from a student my entire mindset changes.

I do not think there are many professions out there that are as good for the soul as teaching is. (Secondary Intern)

Those feelings of nervousness and stress dissipated
Preceding my return to begin my internship, I sustained a leg injury that delayed my arrival to teaching by one week. This week was agonizing, as I dealt with both the physical pain of healing, and seemingly more great, the nervousness and intimidation of standing at the front of highly populated classrooms of noisy teenagers. I am not an unconfident person, but it takes a certain type of individual to stand in that position. Was I that person?

After only a few days of assuming my role as an intern, those feelings of nervousness and stress dissipated, and what remained was a feeling of ‘home’. The joy of knowing I have chosen an occupation that makes me feel this way is nothing short of spectacular. Sure, I have my struggles, and challenges, and shortcomings to improve, but what I first viewed as a team of judgmental youngsters ready to tear me apart was instead a group of children, looking for direction, guidance, education, and often just a friend. (Secondary Intern)

I was very nervous and unsure as to what to expect (especially in a different country)
Hello everyone! I am completing my internship in Harlow, England with a beautiful grade one class of thirty! First when I began my internship, I was very nervous and unsure as to what to expect (especially in a different country). The staff and children were all so welcoming that it only took approximately a week or two to become immersed in their school community. One concern I had was adhering to the different abilities within the classroom. The classroom was arranged in groups of four/five (based on ability in both Math and English) and each lesson was differentiated based on each group. It has since become easier to differentiate lessons, especially once I started to get to know the students and what may work best for them.

However, there is also another concern that I had when first arriving. Both Math and English are the two most emphasized subjects here. The children have these subjects every day and there has to be some evidence of their work, pasted or included in their work books in some way. Through my understanding, these books are often looked at and are used as evidence for when inspectors (governed by Her Majesty) come to the school to ensure the school is meeting certain guidelines and doing what is expected, and of course, adhering to the children’s needs. Personally, I am not a fan of worksheets for every Math and English lesson. However, I understand that things are different here and it is what needs to be done. All other subjects have a little more flexibility though! In saying how different this is, it now allows me to try and be more creative than ever, so I can still engage the children in these subject areas, which is something that I have been working on throughout my internship.

Lastly, I wanted to mention how incredible this school is in terms of meeting the needs of every child and offering them the assistance they may need. This school has after school clubs every day during the week and every day there are two-three options as to what club the children may want to attend. Even on some Saturdays, teachers go into the school and do activities with the children to teach them life skills that they may not otherwise learn in their home environments. I had the pleasure of baking with some students on a Saturday and getting them involved in measuring and preparing a treat! I will be truly sad to leave the children in April. One student recently said ‘Miss, I wish you didn’t have to leave us at Easter.’ It’s moments like that, that reinforce just how right I think this profession is for me.  (Primary Intern)

Teaching Core French has proven to be a challenge
I am currently interning at a junior high school in the St. John’s area. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was six years old, and I’m happy to follow through with a lifelong dream.

Junior high is a lot more difficult than I ever thought it could be. I mostly have good days, but they’re not all perfect. I’m teaching Social Studies, Religion, Health and two Core French classes. I absolutely love my Social Studies, Religion and Health classes, and find them super enjoyable. These classes make me feel confident in my choice to pursue a focus area in Social Studies.

On the other hand, teaching Core French has proven to be a challenge. I’ve found that my students have no interest in learning the language, and it is very hard to motivate them to learn. On top of that, having a VERY small classroom doesn’t help with classroom management. I’ve observed one of my French classes in another classroom, and the classroom dynamic was totally different than it is in our French class. Core French is a constant challenge for me, and I’m still learning how to approach teaching the language in a way that will motivate them to learn. Hopefully by the time I’m finished my internship, I’ll feel successful with my Core French classes, and feel that I’ve finally made learning French interesting and worthwhile to them. (Intermediate Intern)

These supports have been invaluable to me
I feel very lucky with the course load I’ve been given during my internship here. By chance, as I’ve been placed with several different co-operating teachers, in each of the four classes that I am placed in, there is some additional support. These supports have been invaluable to me as I go forward.

In the two grade ten Math classes I am teaching, there are student mentors (higher grade students who assist students and answer questions during class work time). With larger class sizes, having one additional person in the room who can answer student questions is an incredible benefit.

In both of my Technology courses, there is a highly skilled IRT. I have been warned that this is not the case most of the time, especially in the workshop. He is extremely knowledgeable about how things work in the shop, and works extremely well with all of the students in the class. He and I and my co-operating teachers are always busy assisting students in these classes. Even with three teachers in the workshop, many more students have questions.

When I started teaching during my internship, I was very anxious about getting started. Thanks to these supports, it’s been much easier to get used to the ropes of being a teacher. I am getting more and more comfortable in my new role as a teacher. My co-operating teachers have all encouraged me to consider how I would approach certain situations without the supports in place that I have in those classes. This has certainly been an excellent point for personal reflection. I’m glad the training wheels are on for now, but I’m also reflecting on how to modify what I’m doing and looking forward to my future in this career. (Secondary Intern)

Classroom management has proven to be the biggest challenge
This internship has been the ultimate learning experience. While I am having a great time doing something I totally love, there have been challenges as well. Classroom management has proven to be the biggest challenge for me personally on this internship. Overall, my students are generally well behaved and they’re a really great group of people, but one class in particularly can be VERY disruptive and off-task. First when I began teaching, I found myself becoming increasingly discouraged by the constant disruptions, as it felt that very little teaching and learning was occurring. I would plan all kinds of different activities and it seemed that everything would fall flat because so much time was being spent on repeating instructions and trying to talk over students. I realized that I wasn’t having fun and neither were the students.

After talking to some other teachers who were teaching this same group of students I found that they were having the same sorts of issues. A couple of these teachers mentioned how the pattern of disruptive behavior had gotten to the point where they found themselves “losing it” with the students, and two of the teachers had even called the vice principal in to have a chat with the group. It was obvious though, that reprimanding the students had not changed much for these teachers, nor did the stern talks from the principal. In fact, all this seemed to do was frustrate and discourage the students and they began talking about how “All the teachers hate us, Miss”. I knew I needed to find a way to address the behavior, but I also knew that I absolutely did not want my students to feel like I hated them or I was out to get them.

After much reflection, I decided that instead of punishing or reprimanding the students for their off-task/disruptive behaviors I would begin a system whereby they would be rewarded for on-task behaviors, thus encouraging them instead of discouraging them. While they still need some reminding from time to time, the classroom dynamic has changed significantly since I implemented this system and it seems to be working well thus far. The students are motivated to do things to help themselves and their classmates earn rewards, and it makes them feel better about themselves and their abilities when I focus on what they’re doing right instead of what they’re doing that’s disruptive or off-task. This has further strengthened my relationship with these students and contributed to an overall more positive classroom environment – both on their part and mine. So, my advice to any other interns struggling with the same sorts of issues: try to focus on (and reinforce) the positive, instead of the negative. (Intermediate Intern)

Recommended Book Resource for Primary and Elementary Interns

The Giving Tree (1964)
Author: Shel Silverstein

A powerful book about giving from the prolific Shel Silverstein, known for his humorous poetry adored by so many and known for the songs he wrote for Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. This poignant tale is one of love and tenderness. Parents and teachers will recognize themselves in this book. Students may not get the same perceptions from the story, but each student will emerge with his/her own feelings.

The story begins, “Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy”. The illustrations are pencil drawings on a stark white background, no more is needed to convey the story. Every day the little boy played with the tree. He gathered leaves to make a crown to wear, climbed the trunk to swing from its branches, and ate the apples from the tree. He played hide and seek and slept in the shade of the branches. “The boy loved the tree… And the tree was happy”.

But as the boy grew older, his interests changed. He did not come to the tree as often and the tree was lonely. One day when the boy was a teenager he came to the tree looking for money. The tree told him to pick his apples and sell them for money. “and so the boy climbed up the tree and gathered her apples. And the tree was happy”.

The boy stayed away a long time and when he came back he was a man. He wanted a house. The tree offered up her branches, and after the man cut the branches to use for his house, “the tree was happy.” The man eventually cut down the trunk to build a boat, leaving a stump. “And the tree was happy…but not really.”

The next time the tree saw him, the boy was an old man. The tree said, “I am sorry, but I have nothing left to give you.” The old man did not need much anymore, “just a quiet place to sit” as he was tired. The tree said, “Sit down and rest”. And the boy did. “And the tree was happy.”

Meant for young and old, this story will leave readers and listeners with lots to think about or maybe to remember.

Article on the Reality of Teaching

For this excellent article titled “Quality or Quantity – Finding a Balance” written by Alexander Lambrecht of the Northwest Territories (NWT) Federation of Labor, go to:  https://www.ntfl.ca/labour-views-february-15-2017-quality-or-quantity-finding-a-balance/

On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 1)

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“I got an F in Art class for my effigy of the principal!”

 Quote of the Week

It’s all good! –  Pete the Cat
(Go to:  http://www.harpercollins.ca/childrens/feature/petethecat
and click on “I Love My White Shoes” Song.

 On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 2)

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“I got all Zs because I fell to sleep in class!”

Education Law Corner 

An important concept in Law is that of due process and of course it is equally important in Education/School Law.  A very “legalesed” definition from the Canadian Law Dictionary defines this concept as:
. . . [giving] persons specifically affected by the decision a reasonable opportunity of presenting their case, [being listened] to fairly and {having a decision reached] untainted by bias.

I realize that schools and classrooms are not courtrooms so how is such a concept operationalized or “practiced” in our classrooms?  Basically, I think it means that we as teachers are expected to treat our students fairly and with respect in incidents of a disciplinary nature.  Some might say this is rather subjective and perhaps they are right in saying that.  However, fairness and respect implies that we give the student(s) in question the opportunity to explain their “side of the story” and that we are polite and respectful in our interactions with the student(s) involved.  In years gone by, it was not uncommon for school administrators to denigrate students when they were being disciplined in the office.  By denigration I mean shouting at students, using very derogatory comments towards those students – overall being very “snarky” with those students.  This kind of behavior towards students is anything but professional and I would hope that this kind of behavior is non-existent today (Sidebar:  This may be a tad naïve of me!!!!).  As educators we should be role models for all of our students and negative treatment of students does nothing to encourage students to do better.

In disciplinary matters, the “bias issue” is a challenging one, more so for the teacher of the student involved in the particular incident and less so for the school administrator if s/he is asked by the teacher to be involved in the disciplinary issue. The teacher is on the front line when dealing with discipline issues in the classroom whereas the administrator is at some distance from that front line.  I’m not suggesting here that discipline issues not be taken seriously and that they be treated in a frivolous manner.  Rather, my point is that when disciplinary sanctions such as detentions, suspensions, and parent meetings are invoked, the manner in which they are invoked and handled should be respectful and with fairness in mind.

On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 3) 

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“Kiss me before the Biology teacher finds me!”

Concluding Comments From The Editor

That concludes issue # 8.

Our usual thanks to the interns who sent in submissions this week.     

St. Bon’s hockey-wise, overall, we had another great game on Friday night – 16 players and the usual 2 goalies. We thank Daniel Penney, a Level 2 student at Holy Heart High School, who filled in for us as our spare goalie.  Oh, yours truly did get 1goal Friday night – I was in front of the net, shot the puck at Rocky and to both his surprise and mine, it went through the “5 hole”.  Now, it was no Shea Weber-like shot but at a decent velocity, even if I have to say so myself!  I was so proud!!!!!!!

NHL-wise, I was delighted to see a coaching change with les Habitants this past week.  I was hoping that assistant coach Kirk Muller would get the nod; however, it was not to be.  But I’m ok with Claude Julien.  Having said that, his debut Saturday afternoon against the Winnipeg Jets was an unsuccessful one but then maybe, a little time is needed for him to develop some “chemistry” with the team.  However, time is of the essence as the Habs have several teams closing in on their first place standing in the Atlantic Division. We Habs fans live in hope!  And my sympathies, albeit somewhat facetious, to the Leafs on their 6-3 loss to the Senators Saturday night!

As usual, feedback is always welcomed from the current interns and from the general readership.  My email address is jdelaney@mun.ca

Have a great week everyone, with no snow, hopefully  –  Jerome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About themondayememo

Jerome G. Delaney, Editor Associate Professor – Educational Administration Faculty of Education Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John’s, NL Canada A1B 3X8 Telephone: 709-864-2071 Facsimile: 709-864-2345 Email: jdelaney@mun.ca
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