May 17

“Get Through The Week” Advice

Work can be a stressful place sometimes. Due dates, timelines, tasks… Things are constantly running through our mind, forcing us to over-think everything, making us feel that the things we are working on are way bigger than they actually are. But work isn’t the only place this happens.

Often as adults, we overlook the stressful lives that children in this day and age are living. The strange part is, many of the stressors that adults experience are the same as students in the classroom are experiencing. Students have deadlines. Students have work. Students have social pressures. And yet, we as teachers do not always do an adequate job of preparing students for these stressors that they will most likely experience for the rest of their lives.

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There is a movement in the world of education to break down the stigma of mental health by explaining exactly what it is to be depressed or anxious. We also explain to them the importance of seeking help and we provide them with different resources they can contact. On a day-to-day basis, students experience a number of different stressors, but does this make them depressed? In the short-term, no. So, shouldn’t we also prepare them for the daily stress they’ll inevitably encounter?

This video from Dr. Mike Evans explains (using an awesome visual aid) the various ways that you can get through a “crap” day or week. Here is a brief summary of his “get through the week” advice:

  • Stick to the basics:
    • Sleep
    • Activity
    • Get perspective
    • Eat
    • Go on a date
    • Clean up your space

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In its very essence, his advice explains the basics of self-care. This is something that is of great importance to all people, students included. Each of these little topics can be used to start a class discussion about mental health, self-care, and realistic and achievable methods of dealing with stress. Even a 20-minute discussion once a week could provide students with an understanding of their own stress and how to cope with it, so that they can continue to reach their highest potential.

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For your viewing pleasure, here is Dr. Mike Evans’s video:

May 6

“Light Bulb” Moments

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Throughout our lives, we experience these “light bulb” moments that enlighten us in ways that we could never purposefully encounter. These moments can stem from a conversation, an interaction, or simply out of thin air. They can teach us something about others, open our eyes to new possibilities, and allow us to see beyond what simply meets the eye. The sheer number of “light bulb” moments that I have experienced while working with Extend-A-Family is a testament to the amount of possible learning, and potentially life changing, moments available through our work.

A specific “light bulb” moment that I’ve retold countless times occurred last summer during a swimming trip with Summer Program. A non-verbal individual who was typically the first to jump into the pool was very hesitant for reasons not yet known. Through continued conversations with the participant, I could see that he really wanted to swim and he continued to make it way to the side of the pool, yet something was hold him back from taking the plunge. After a few minutes of exhausting all possible reasons for the hesitations, I was beginning to feel defeated; I knew that there was something wrong, but I was unable to figure it out.

In that moment of deflation, the participant lightly pushed his head against mine and stared me in the eyes. VOILA! The participant showed me through his actions the reason for his hesitation. He had forgotten to put on his headband that protects his ears from the water, something that he wears every time we go swimming. It wasn’t until he placed his head against mine that the “light bulb” flicked on.

To this day, I still get chills thinking about how this individual was able to communicate to me his needs to me in his own unique way. This moment taught me that there is a solution to every problem just waiting to be revealed. Working with the Summer Program also opened my eyes to the sheer amount of different ability levels that everyone has, including both participants and our staff. Summer Program has truly opened my eyes to the fact that we are all able in our own special way.

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May 2

Year 1 = Complete!

And just like that, my first year of my Bachelor of Education is complete! I learned so much this year about teaching, learning, and the education system, but most importantly about myself. I am so glad that I chose this program and the University of Ottawa to study for two years.

Recently, I was contacted by the Faculty of Education’s communication and marketing team to share my experiences in the program. These responses may be used in promotional material as a student testimonial! I have posted the questions and my responses here for you all to read.

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  1. What led you to pursue a career in teaching?

Teaching has been my vocation throughout my entire life. I can remember the moment when my kindergarten teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and my response was “teacher”. I’ve never wavered from this choice. It is my belief that a good education is the most important thing that we can provide the younger generation. It is a very rewarding experience empowering children to grasp the foundational knowledge and skills that they will use for the rest of their lives. This is why I’ve dedicated my life to teaching.

  1. Why did you choose uOttawa?

As one of the largest Bachelor of Education programs in Ontario, I felt as though uOttawa would be able to provide me with the education, support and resources required to be an innovative and adequate teacher. Additionally, the large number of students in the program forms the basis of my personal learning network in the field of education, which has great merit in itself. Ottawa as a city features a diverse demographic of students, therefore providing myself as a teacher candidate with a holistic experience of what it means to be a teacher.

  1. What was your favorite moment at the Faculty of Education this year?

My favourite moments at the Faculty of Education this year were the various professional development opportunities provided. Aboriginal Education blanket exercises, LGBTQ+ Allyship training, Math Camp, and Let’s Talk Science workshops are among many learning opportunities that the Faculty of Education provides to their teacher candidates. These professional development workshops allowed me to take what I had been learning in my courses and practicum placement and supplement it with specific tools taught by experts in their field.

  1. What did your experience in practicum added to your studies?

The practicum experience adds the practical learning opportunity that cannot otherwise be achieved in a university classroom. For weeks at a time, you get to fully experience what it is like to be a teacher by being in a classroom, working with students, and co-teaching with an Associate Teacher. The amount of learning that occurs during practicum is invaluable. Despite how much you think your students are learning from your teaching, you will be learning so much more from them.

  1. What advice would you give to a prospective student?

In the world of education, there are a number of different philosophies and styles, many of which will be taught to you throughout the program. It is important to not get overwhelmed by your learning and practicum. Remember why you decided to become a teacher and have that be the driving force behind everything that you do. To your students, you are more than just a classroom teacher; you are someone that is able to have a positive impact on their journey through life.

  1. If you could describe your experience at uOttawa in 3 words, what would they be?

Comprehensive, holistic, innovative.

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I experienced a lot of learning and growth in my first year of the Bachelor of Education program and I look forward to continuing this growth in my second year!

April 8

Practicum Reflection: Week 8

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8 weeks ago, I walked into Pinecrest Public School to begin my first student teaching placement. Pinecrest is talked about as one of the “roughest” schools in all of Ottawa, with many of its students living in shelters or subsidized housing projects. Everyday brought a new challenge, whether it was related to academics, bullying, mental health, nutrition, or another area of concern. However, after 8 weeks of teaching fulltime, I truly came to know and understand each of my grade 7 students and their situations. Their life stories made me want to try harder and be better for them.

What does it mean to be a good student? Does it mean to have good marks? Does it mean being polite and kind to other students and teachers? Does it mean to be involved in extracurricular activities?

There are many times in the teaching profession when teachers fall into a trend of praising the small successes of the students who are struggling, while failing to praise the great successes of their “top” students. My goal for this week, especially as it was my last week of practicum, was to celebrate the success of all of my students, including those who I expect nothing less from.

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I was definitely more attentive throughout the week to my students’ academic successes, giving more vocal and written praise. I believe that this truly had an impact on my students’ effort and work ethic, since it allowed them to realize that someone else recognized their achievements. Also, for the last day of my placement, I wrote each student a personalized card thanking them for welcoming me into their classroom and for all of their effort over the past 8 weeks.

Speaking of my last day of practicum…

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Today was my last day with my class, and one that I will never forget. When I walked into my classroom, the students had drawn a chalk mural on the floor recounting all of the lessons and topics that I taught them. This blew me away; maybe they had learned something after all! Afterwards, they sang me a song they wrote, gave me a few cards they made, and presented me with an incredible cake, none of which was expected! Lastly, my associate teacher gave me a framed poster that was absolutely hilarious.

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I am truly going to miss 7A and I’m thankful to have been their teacher. In reality, they taught me way more than I could have ever taught them. Until next time, 7A!

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March 25

Practicum Reflection: Week #6

March Break 2016
Who knew teachers got just as excited about March Break as the students? More than anything, the week-long break was a time to unwind, regroup, and re-evaluate everything teaching and education related. I’ve noticed so much growth in myself personally and professionally since the beginning of practicum, but without taking a moment to sit back and reflect, it is difficult to fully appreciate the experience and everything that it is teaching me.

Student Engagement
Over the last few weeks, I have noticed that the same group of students raise their hands to answer every question. In any classroom, there is always that one group of students that consistently raise their hand and compete with the others to get called on. Not only do these students have the magic ability to literally hold their hand up for hours, but if we could let them talk all day, they would. My goal for the week was to promote every student’s engagement within the classroom. I chose this to be my goal for this week specifically to reorient students’ motivation for learning following March Break.

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Students learn when they are engaged within the classroom, but what is engagement? In my opinion, students are engaged when they are actively thinking about the topic. For some students, it takes a little longer to think about the topic. For this reason, I now wait between 8-10 seconds after posing a question to the class before calling on a student. When I notice that students are disengaged with the lesson, I start to count the number of hands I see; this seems to encourage students to engage with the lesson and encourage their peers to do the same.

March Break wasn’t just a time to reflect as a teacher, but students reflected over the break as well. One of my more difficult students seemed to have a revelation during some reflection that led to him writing myself and two other teachers a letter. Here is a photo of the letter I received:

Student Letter
After he gave the letter to me on Monday, he has been a pleasure to teach ever since. I am not exactly sure what caused this change of attitude, but I can only hope that I helped to play a small part. Moments like these are why I hope to teach the middle school grades; teenagers are in such a critical period of their lives and as a teacher, you never know what role you might play in their life story.

March 12

Practicum Reflection: Week #5

After last week’s successful use of technology for the geography natural resource projects, I made it my goal to continue the use of computers and technology to elevate student learning. This week, I took it upon myself to implement more visuals for my students in the form of Google Slides, video clips, and photos and maps from the internet, among other images. My students are very receptive of technology, no matter what form it comes in, and my visual were no different; they proved to capture the attention of even my most distracted students.

Technology in the Classroom

In addition to technology, I used more artifacts than normal. For our life-sized ecosystem board game project, I created my own board game piece to show my students exactly what was expected of them. This was very effective and many of my students produced great work that mirrored the effort that I demonstrated for them. Additionally, for a geography lesson about water as a natural resource, I used beakers and water to show the various quantities that water exists in our world (97% ocean, 2% frozen, >1% underground, ~0.007% fresh). This visual was effective in putting into perspective how valuable our fresh water is and how important it is to keep it clean and unpolluted.

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Going back to the life-sized ecosystem board game project that I mentioned earlier… IT WAS AWESOME! I gave each student a blank “board game piece” and on it, they were to draw a visual representation of their assigned ecosystem and write a multiple choice question that correlated with that ecosystem. On the back of the square, they wrote the answer to their question and wrote a paragraph providing more information about their question. Once everyone had completed their square, I laminated them, laid them out on the floor of our classroom, and we played the life-sized board game! It was received very well by the students, and was educational to boot. The life-sized board game is definitely a culminating task idea that would work well with any grade level, and one that I will do again in the future.

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February 27

Practicum Reflection: Week #3

This week was officially my first full week of teaching. There was a PD day during Week 1 and a holiday and some snow days during Week 2. This week was five straight days of teaching, and I LOVED it! I really feel like I am getting into the groove of teaching, especially at the intermediate division.

The goal I outlined for myself this week was to gain a better since of my students through analyzing the social aspect of my classroom culture. At the very essence, my classroom is loud, but I have come to realize that a loud classroom does not necessarily mean unproductive. My students are very close with one another and show love and support for each other as friends. This definitely plays a role in the learning taking place within the classroom walls.

Implementing group work was something that I was hesitant with at first because my students were always so loud and sometimes distracted by their peers. However, after thinking about it critically from a teacher’s standpoint, I realized that the students would benefit from group work in many ways. Firstly, collaborative learning would greatly benefit the students that require differentiation or are learning at a lower grade level. Additionally, I could provide my students with more content-heavy assessments since they had more hands and minds to work on it. Lastly, my students would have more fun working with their peers, which at the end of the day is what gave me the confidence to implement group work.

There was an assignment due this week in Language that required group work. For this assessment, I allowed students to choose their own groups with the hopes of students feeling more comfortable to collaborate with each other. Here are some examples of the final products:

Utopia Brochure (3)Utopia Brochure (2) Utopia Brochure (1)

While most groups excelled at the task and demonstrated the necessary skills to accomplish group work, there were some that were not so successful. It was apparent that some groups were too distracted by their peers to complete the work in time and to the best of their ability. This is something that I will keep in mind as I continue to use group work in my classroom, reminding me that some students require knowledge and experience for how to properly and effectively collaborate with their peers.

This week, I also really wanted to get my students more active during their learning. To start with, I took my class on a little field trip… AKA a trip to the field. They got to discover the schoolyard ecosystem and list the various biotic and abiotic features that are right in our own backyard.

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IMG_6732Later in the week, I was trying to come up with a fun and engaging way for my students to practice their mean, median, and mode skills. Little did I know, the cards I was playing with at the time would soon become my next engaging math lesson! Realistically, I should have known… There are 101 ways that you can incorporate a deck of cards into a math lesson. I create 7 stations, each equipped with a random selection of playing cards, and they had to record the mean, median, and mode for each. The students seemed to get really into it, and they loved the fact that they were able to get up out of their seats and walk to each station posted in the hallway. Definitely a successful lesson that I will do again with my future classes! IMG_6756 IMG_6757 IMG_6758

Towards the end of the week, we unfortunately had to lose our our gym time to another event happening in the school. However, this did not mean that we would lose our Physical Education lesson! Luckily, I had a Daily Physical Activity (DPA) stored in my back pocket from the PD day that I attended two weeks prior. We used recycled paper to go “ice skating” around our classroom. Each student had two pieces, one for each foot, and had a blast skating forward, backward, and in circles. What would a winter-based activity be without a snowball fight to cap it off?! Yes, that’s right… We had an indoor snowball fight by crumpling up the paper, dividing the class into two teams, and trying to have the least amount of “snowballs” on their side at the end of a minute. The students had an absolute blast! Just don’t tell the principal…

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Looking forward to another full week coming up next week!