February 20

Practicum Reflection: Week #2

Monday: Family Day Holiday
Tuesday: Snow Day
Wednesday: Snow Day

Snow Day
This week was a short week, but a good week! My goal going into the second week of practicum was to truly understand each of my students and where they were at academically. Working at Pinecrest Public School has really opened my eyes to the necessity that is differentiation, since one individual classroom could have as many as 7 or 8 students working below grade level, with the other students’ learning being affected because of that. The importance of getting to know my students’ level of learning was so that I could allow each student to experience success, whatever that is for them academically.

The first thing I did was reviewed my students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). In my classroom alone, I have 8 IEPs, 3 of which are modified. Reading through the IEPs allowed me to review what had been documented in the past, such as psychological evaluations, ways in which students’ learning is to be accommodated or modified, and what specific goals each student has outlined for the current term. With this knowledge, I was able to gain a better sense of how student learning could be differentiated in order to be successful.

During this week, I was able to implement various differentiation techniques, such as read-alouds, collaborative learning (pairs or small groups), graphic organizers, visuals (artifacts, PowerPoint presentations, videos), and devices such as chrome books. With this differentiated teaching, I was able to see a shift in the classroom culture, in both the students’ performance and efficiency, since I started my practicum.

This week, we started our novel study of The Giver. Before I started my practicum, my students had done two novel studies, during which the students read independently, answered reflection questions, and submitted them for evaluation. With this novel study, I wanted to change up the process, having it be more like a book club. As a class, we read aloud a chapter, discuss key points, and collectively and orally respond to some reflection questions. Following this process, I write a topic up on the board that relates to the chapters read during that class and each student individually writes a half-page “quickwrite”. I have found that this process allows for each student to gain a deeper understanding of the novel themes, provides an opportunity to reflect on and debate viewpoints presented in the novel and presented by students, while also placing every student on an even playing field, despite their reading ability.

One of the highlight moments for me this week was when I had my students construct the map of Canada using 36 tiles (courtesy of Canadian Geographic). This got the students moving, using manipulatives, and working together as a class. Oh yeah, I guess it helped them with their Geography lesson too…

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After they finished constructing the map, we learned about the natural resources that Canada produces and discovered where each resource is abundant.

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Following the success of this Geography lesson, I’m really looking forward to trying new ways to get the students moving around during their learning!

February 18

Bill 13: The Accepting Schools Act

Impressions of Bill 13

As teachers, we enter into the profession to change lives; we want to have a positive impact on every student we interact with, encouraging them to be the best possible version of themself. We do this in more ways than teaching students through a mandated curriculum; we promote and exemplify what it means to be a positive, contributing member of society. This is further promoted through creating an accepting and inclusive school environment.

In the past, the topic of bullying was approached with a reactive approach, tackling the situations as they arise. This approach is not enough; the principal office would regularly have students who were bullying or had been bullied by someone if the school only chose to react to situations. What I like the most about Bill 13 is its proactive approach, implementing mandatory preventative strategies and requirements. In a perfect world, if bullying can be prevented at the source, there will be no need to react to the situation because it would never get that far.

Equity and Inclusive Education

Creating an inclusive classroom is essential to the academic success of all students. It is one thing for a student to feel understood, but it’s another to feel accepted for who they are. In order to create a realistic sense of equity and inclusion within the classroom, I would strive to provide a culturally and ethnically diverse curriculum for my students. This could include reviewing educational material and selecting lessons that the diverse students in my classroom could relate to, as well as promoting and encouraging group learning experiences in the classroom which will foster a sense of cooperation among members of a diverse society.

Through implementing an equity and inclusive education policy, we can create an accepting school through mutual respect. By creating an environment of respect, I as a teacher can ensure that all students feel appreciated and valued in the classroom, thus leading to more confidence in their academic abilities. I could also show respect for students of different cultures by learning a few words in the student’s first language or demonstrating some knowledge of their culture’s traditions and beliefs. Ultimately, the key to respect for all cultures is understanding.

Professional Development Programs, Bullying and School Climate

Bill 13 outlines a number of different policies and procedures that teachers are expected to follow in order to ensure that the school is deemed safe and accepting. However, this can be a daunting task if not provided with the appropriate resources. Professional development workshops are an effective way of presenting, creating, and implementing bullying prevention strategies within the school. As educated professionals, staff collaboration is a great way to provide a support system while also making the task of creating an accepting school more achievable.

One hesitation I have about this section of the bill is that the professional development programs are only required to be provided on an annual basis. While I understand that teachers and administrations will be implementing and adhering to all of the other requirements of this bill to create an accepting school, I feel as though collaboration among school staff is essential. Bullying is a daily problem in schools, yet annual professional development opportunities seem too sporadic to effectively achieve the goal at hand.

Programs, Interventions and other Supports, Bullying

By having programs to support the bullied, the bully, and everyone else affected, Bill 13 assumes a very holistic approach to the topic of bullying. As a teacher, this will prove to be very beneficial. We may have a class of 30 students, and while only 2 of them are immediately involved in a bullying situation (the bullied and the bully), there are many other students that are either friends with the students involved or witnesses of the act. Thus, the issue becomes larger than what one teacher may have the resources to address. These programs can take many different approaches, while also recognizing that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution; the program for the bully can look very different than that of the bystander.

As teachers, we seek to create the best possible learning environment for our students. Through the help of social workers and psychologists, we can work collaboratively to find a solution to any problem that may affect the learning environment. Although I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology, I by no means have the training and resources that a psychologist would have. Therefore, by including professionals outside of our immediate profession of teaching, students will be given the support and behavioural management required to foster an accepting and inclusive classroom environment.

Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week

I have constructed three ideas that can be used in conjunction with one another during Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week. Firstly, I would have my class collectively construct an Anti-Bullying Mosaic. This will be completed by having students decorate a 12×12 medium (paper, fabric, wood), expressing what a “safe space” means to them. The final product can be posted in the front entrance of the school to promote the school as a safe environment.

Secondly, I would administer a Random Acts of Kindness Passport to my students, which would contain a list of multiple random acts that students can do. Throughout the week, the students would complete various acts and have someone sign as a witness. At the end of the week, the student with the most acts completed would win a prize. This would take a proactive approach to bullying, teaching students to be kind to one another and positive members of the community.

The last event would be an Eat Your Words Bake Sale, where students and staff bring in baked goods, pay $1 for an item, and write in icing a word that they have used to bully someone. They would then “eat their words”, expressing to themself and others that they will no longer utilize that word or any other negative words to harm someone else. All proceeds of the event would go towards supporting an anti-bullying campaign or future anti-bullying programs in the school.

February 13

Practicum Reflection: Week #1

Here we go… My first week of practicum has arrived!

While getting prepared for this week, I was super nervous. More than anything, I was hoping and praying that after 18 years of telling myself I wanted to be a teacher, that teaching was in fact for me. Luckily, I chose myself the correct career!

My main goal going into my first week of practicum was to establish myself as the classroom teacher, both in a professional and approachable way. The students have seen glimpses of me throughout the community service learning portion of the placement, but once I started full-time teaching, it was going to be an adjustment for the students.

One of the ways that I established myself as the classroom teacher was by including the students in the formation of classroom rules. I handed out sticky notes to each student and asked them to write something that occurs on the classroom that distracts them from learning. The students were very candid and truthful, writing things such as student wandering around the classroom and talking over the teacher or other students. Next, I had the students write an appropriate consequence for that action. With this information, it allowed me to create a poster that was reflective of the students’ expectations for their classroom as it pertains to their ability to learn.

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Since my students have known me since September, there was a base-level of rapport that I had established. They knew that I am approachable and fun, yet I have high expectations. By building on this foundation, I was able to incorporate high-energy activities and lessons into the classroom without running the risk of the students’ being unaware of my expectations of them.

One of the many lessons from this week involved creating a puzzle piece representing what “community” means to each student. Next week, we will be beginning our novel study of “The Giver”, which is based around the good and bad aspects of a community. With the completed puzzle pieces, I created the following bulletin board for everyone in the school to view:

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IMG_6763On Friday, I had the opportunity to go to my first ever Professional Development (PD) day! And what a PD day to have as my first experience… All 3000 educators from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board were in attendance! The highlight of the day for me was listening to Michael Landsberg (TSN’s Off The Record) give his keynote address. Lansberg spoke publicly about his personal battle with depression in an attempt to help reduce the stigma of mental illness. I’ve always seen him as the Bell Let’s Talk ambassador, but listening to him in person was incredible.

This week was definitely a transition for me and my students, but I can only expect next week to be even better!

February 9

The 13-Point Bullying Prevention Plan

The 13-Point Bullying Prevention Plan suggests a comprehensive program that can be implemented at a low cost into any school system. This plan targets every aspect of the issue of bullying, including the school environment, the staff, students, parents, and the administrative components that are involved. The 13-Point Plan is as follows:

  1. Involve the entire school community
  2. Establish a bullying prevention committee
  3. Create a caring school climate
  4. Implement a school climate survey
  5. Identify school “hot spots”
  6. Ensure teachers know how to deal with bullying
  7. Teach students bullying prevention strategies
  8. Establish clear, consistent consequences for bullying behaviour
  9. Don’t turn a blind eye to cyberbullying
  10. Establish a school bullying tracking system
  11. Establish a confidential reporting system
  12. School staff must provide support for victims of bullying
  13. Bring new staff members into the program

Despite years of implementing various bullying prevention programs and strategies into the school system, bullying remains prevalent in our school and society as a whole. The image below provides us with information regarding the types and prevalence of bullying. Simply put, the numbers are astounding. Looking at the chart, one would immediately picture the school ground as a battlefield! Children are being tormented at an alarming rate, and yet the majority of bullying goes unnoticed by the teachers, parents, and other adults in the child’s life. Why is this? I believe it’s because children are starting to accept that bullying is part of “growing up”; it’s something that everyone goes through. Due to this mindset, kids are starting to blur the lines between “friend” and “bully”, accepting them both into their friend groups.

Types of Bullying2
In my opinion, the 13-Point Bullying Prevention Plan provides a holistic approach to a complex problem that exists in every school. It is not realistic to place pressure on the teaching staff to address bullying and teach students not to engage in that behaviour. Rather, the principal, administrative staff, teachers, parents, and students must all be involved in the implementation process. Everyone must have the tools to address bullying and work in a consistent and uniform fashion.

February 2

Adult Education: More than a Second Chance

Adult Education2 More than a Second Chance introduces the concept of mature student programs. These programs are provided to individuals who are over the age of 18 that wish to obtain their high school diploma, increase a mark in a specific subject area, or upgrade their overall skills. Often, these programs get referred to as a “second chance,” making the assumption that the adults enrolled in the program are there simply because they dropped out of high school. This is not always the case, and with the continual immigration of individuals into our country, Canada faces additional challenges with determining the level of education that these individuals must achieve to have their previous education equated to that of Canada’s.

In my teaching experiences, I have worked with diverse populations in various settings. At Essential Skills Upgrading in Kitchener, I worked with adults with a number of cultural, language, racial, and socio-economic differences. Essential Skills Upgrading is an adult learning centre, with many of the individuals using the centre to work towards entering into college or writing their GED. At ESU, the students learn in a classroom setting with other adult learners. However, since each student attends the program to achieve a different goal, they tend to work on their own lessons at their own pace.

Adult Education3During my orientation, the teachers at the program explained to me that these individuals typically have a lower self-esteem, especially because they are adults who did not do well in school in the past or they have recently been laid off. Therefore, the teachers make the conscious effort to call these individuals “learners” rather than “students”. It was explained that many of the learners are currently using the centre because they did not have positive experiences with the education system in the pass, thus leading them to do poorly in school, be truant, or drop out. Therefore, the use of the word “learner” is to remove that negative mindset, boost their morale and self-esteem, and ultimately allow them to do better in school.

While working with one of the learners at Essential Skills Upgrading, she opened up to me about her life and the struggles that she has gone through. She explained to me that her and her family lived in Palestine for a number of years before coming to Canada. She was a teacher in Palestine, teaching the Arabic language to young elementary school students. The learner told me that her life turned around when the war in Iraq began. She was afraid to put her three children in school in fear that they would be unsafe. Finally, in 2008, she immigrated her family to Canada to start a new life. Since her education was not recognized at an equal level in Canada, she must attend the program to upgrade her education.

This just goes to show that we cannot buy into the specific viewpoints that surrounds the adult education sector. Everyone has a story and each person is working towards their own end goal. We must be supportive in every venture that a student takes.

Adult Education

January 31

When Students Drive Improvement

Student Voice5
Eric Hardie, author of When Students Drive Improvement, details the most useful wealth of knowledge when it comes to changes that should be implemented in the school: the students themselves. Hardie suggests that teachers can only assume what issues students are facing and what feelings they have about school. Therefore, when teachers and administrators attempt to implement programs that rectify these issues, they may not be fully effect or at all relevant to the feelings the students actually have.

By truly listening to students and creating opportunities for the students to take control of their own school, the information provided and implemented within the school is invaluable. One school created a student council consisting of students from a wide variety of areas within the school (academics, athletics, arts, etc.), which created a system to solve the problem of individuals feeling bullied and as thought they don’t belong. Additionally, the students sought to solve other problems within the school by acknowledging the problem, brainstorming ways to solve it, and putting a plan into action, all of which was student-driven.

Student Voice4

I feel very strongly about the viewed expressed in Hardie’s article. It is one thing for students to learn a standardized curriculum, but if students are simply meant to absorb information and go on with their life, then there is a problem with the system. Students of all ages have very real opinions, especially when it comes to issues regarding their time at school, as do they have very real solutions that could be implemented. By putting the problem and the solution into the hands of the students, they are provided with an opportunity to learn social justice, equality and equity, empathy, time management, and initiative, among other skills that are not explicitly taught in the curriculum.

At my elementary school, St. Matthew in Waterloo, we had a “house” system in place. Our mascot was the wildcat, so we had four “cat team” which every student in the school was sorted under. Throughout the year, students would be able to earn points for their teams by being recognized by teachers for being good students, winning intramural sports, submitting great assignments, etc. This created a sense of belonging, team unity, and a desire to do well, not only for one’s self, but for the entirety of the team.

January 15

Poetry: An Insight Into A Student’s Soul

There’s a big push in our society to “talk to someone” to solve every difficult situation that you are experiencing. While this has great merit and has produced so much positivity, there’s something to say about a child’s ability to portray themselves in ways we don’t expect at their age. Even at such a young age, students have experienced situations that we as adults may have never encountered.

I am currently student teaching at an urban school in Ottawa, Ontario. The students come from all different backgrounds and experiences, which makes for a dynamic learning environment. At the conclusion of our poetry unit, students were instructed to write a poem demonstrating their best literary ability. Students had the freedom to choose the topic and structure of their poems, allowing their full creativity to flow! The only restriction was that their poetry must be respectful to everyone.

There were a few pieces of student work that I just had to share.

Poem1 Poem2 Poem3 Poem5Poem4

True works of art. Was all the spelling correct? No. Did the students use proper punctuation? Not always. Did the students demonstrate an ability to portray a feeling in a descriptive way? Absolutely. While I used to think of poetry as boring and redundant, I now view poetry as an insight into a student’s soul.

January 13

Graphic Organizers

These things are KEY…

Often, students get into a rut of receiving the same grade over and over again. They are quick to see a trend in what they are accomplishing and end up settling for that mark as their goal. But how can students excel past their normal quality of work without receiving a little guidance from the teacher? How can a teacher help a student go from a level 3 to a level 4 while also offering differentiation to students who are not even reaching a level 3?

Graphic organizers help students classify ideas and communicate more effectively, which help students achieve that next-level quality of work. The many uses of graphic organizers include structure writing projects, help in problem solving, decision making, studying, planning research and brainstorming. These organizers provide students with the opportunity to transfer ideas from their minds down to paper while also writing them in structured, yet creative, ways. Most importantly, they’re FUN!

Here is an example of a graphic organizer that I created with some fellow teacher candidates in our Social Studies course:

Graphic Organizer

In Math class today, I had my students a chart-based graphic organizer about various types of angles:

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Graphic organizers can be used in every subject and are a great learning activity for students. Try them; they might just become your favourite thing!