A “Full Circle” Walk Down Memory Lane
Once upon a time, many years ago, a young boy in Junior Kindergarten sat down at a table with his Kindergarten teacher. Together, they were filling out an introductory profile all about the student: everything from favourite colour, best friend, and names of family members. The final question the teacher asked the student was, “What would you like to be when you grow up?” Without missing a beat, the young boy said, “Teacher!” From then on, the boy stayed true to these words, doing everything needed throughout his life to make his statement a reality.
That young boy was me.
During the last three weeks, my life has come full circle. I walked back into the elementary school where I first said that I was going to become a teacher, but this time I was a student teacher. I was fulfilling my career choice that I said 20 years ago in this same building. With many of my past teachers cheering me on and welcoming me back into their community with open arms, I felt confident as I walked back into the same classroom that I was once a student.
I was fortunate enough to student teach in a Grade 7 classroom with a very energetic and innovative Associate Teacher. When I first walked into the classroom, the first thing I noticed was all of the great tools used by this active group of students. There were exercise bikes for the students to use, yoga balls that replaced the chairs, and even a plinko board!
Together, we co-taught some innovative activities that I hadn’t seen implemented in the classroom before. With both Grade 7 classes, the students were organized into small groups for an I3 project. I3 stands for Investigate, Invent, Innovate, and is essentially group-oriented Genius Hour. Students identify a problem or opportunity in their daily lives and then invent a product or processes to solve the problems, based on concepts they learn in class. The project has students integrate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills and 21st Century competencies such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication in an effort to create an innovative product. These skills help students develop the abilities needed to succeed in a globally competitive workplace.
The students had some really great ideas! One group created a “Beard Bib”, which is essentially a disposable shelf that men can wear when shaving their beard so that the whiskers don’t fall all over the place. Another group created a felt bookmark that has a sliding arrow so that you can easily locate the page and the line that you left off at. Two students were working to create an electronic tape measure that records previous calculations so that you don’t have to remeasure or write your calculations down. These are just a few of the great ideas that the students were working on. This program will definitely help to spark the idea that will create the next generation’s Steve Jobs.
In Math, we explored fractions using a number of different approaches. We looked at lowest common multiples, greatest common factors, equivalent fractions, converting fractions into decimals and percentages, ordering fractions from least to greatest, and adding and subtracting fractions. The students have been working through an online learning program called Khan Academy which the students seem to really enjoy! Students work through various modules and complete challenges to gain points and, ultimately, learn.
Another digital tool that we used to teach fractions was Quizizz. This program is very much like Kahoot, but students work through the quiz independently, at their own pace, and the order of the questions get randomized so students don’t shout out all of the answers. It still ranks the students based on the number of answers correct and generates reports for the teacher to review. Quizizz is a great tool!
One of the highlights of my three-week placement was when we facilitated a classroom “breakout”, courtesy of BreakoutEDU. We printed off different clues relating to an alien invasion, used some invisible ink, posted some QR codes, and had maps scattered around the classroom. Using the various tools and clues, students had to discover the combinations to 4 different locks that were preventing the students from entering the box at the front of the room. We gave the students 45 minutes, played some “invasion” music, and watched the students problem solve and collaborate to find solutions to the riddles. We may have given the students a few extra minutes, but once they broke into the box, they were elated to find the candy that awaited them inside!
— Spencer Burton (@spencerburtonca) April 14, 2017
It is a weird feeling to walk through the halls of the school that you essentially spent 10 years of your life growing up in. You reminisce about your own educational experience as a student, the great teachers that you had, the fun activities that made you fall in love with learning, the sports that brought life to your school days, and the friendships that forever shaped you into the person you are today. School is way more than a building… more than an institution that we must attend. School is an opportunity for us to grow into the best possible version of ourself. I am so thankful that my vocation in life is to guide students on their personal journey of becoming the best version of themselves.