Final Evaluation

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Well, the time has come and I have officially received my final evaluation for the internship placement.  This evaluation really provides that opportunity for meaningful reflection.

I continue to think things such as:

  • What have I learned here?
  • What are my obvious strengths?
  • What have been my challenges and where can I improve?
  • How do I want my own classroom to look someday?
  •  How can I take everything I’ve learned into other teaching experiences (likely substitute teaching at some point)?
  • Etc…

I will say this:  I am pleased with my final evaluation and hoped that my strengths would be recognized through my teaching.  I have had days where I have thought, “What am I thinking, middle years teaching can be so frustrating!” and days where I have thought, “Wow, these kids continue to surprise me – they are so awesome!”  I have been challenged in regards to how I manage whole class, small group, and individual teaching.  I have been challenged in regards to behaviour management.  I have been challenged by students who refuse to do any school work, are late to every single class, and are overall disrespectful.

On the other hand, I have learned from so many of the students in ways that I didn’t even expect.  Many of them are already critical thinkers – questioning things such as political issues and social norms, they are intelligent, they have huge hearts, and they want to make you have a good day.  Teaching is nothing without the relationships.  Students will respect you if you build that relationship with them.  This is something I have noticed even with the most challenging students in my class.  Take the time to say “Good Morning” or “What do you want to learn today?”  I have realized that if the students know you care and that you actually genuinely enjoy being around them, they are more likely to reciprocate that.

Internship – Almost Done!

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These past few months have flown by.  I am finding myself avoiding the fact that I am going to have to leave this school in less than two weeks.  I have grown to love it here – the students, the teachers, the staff, the experience – all amazing.  I am truly lucky to have been placed in such a diverse and accepting school.  If I were to picture the perfect job – this is it.  I’d like to do some reflecting in multiple areas in order to summarize my internship journey.

  • Students

I cannot believe I won’t be spending the majority of my time with these students come January.  I have built connections with each student in my class and students throughout the school.  In conversation with the grade 1/2 intern, we discussed our feelings regarding the end of internship.  We feel like we work here – hired in August, only to be leaving a short 4 months later.  We have built routines into our daily lives that will end all too soon as we head back to University classes.  The relationships I have built with these students will not come to an abrupt stop though.  Although I will be busy in the New Year, I plan to come back for visits, volunteer for field trips, and make the effort to continue those connections.

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Overall, I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve had while interning at GMS.  I have had incredible days and I have had challenging days, but I know that each day offers new opportunities to learn and grow.  I think every beginning teacher struggles with understanding their own pedagogy, the best way they feel they can teach a class including things like behaviour management, providing an inclusive environment, and always working for the betterment of students. I have had to plan differentiated, inclusive-based lessons to provide students equal opportunity to learn, learned from the students themselves, and have been amazed by the diversity in student backgrounds and thinking.  Many of the students at Gladys McDonald are not originally from Canada – there are many different languages, histories, and families within the school, making for a wide variety of knowledges and worldviews.  I am truly going to miss spending so much time in this school!

  • School Community and Collaboration

Gladys McDonald has shown me the true value in school collaboration and developing a deep sense of community that transfers year to year as students get older.  Things such as Daily 5 integrated into EVERY classroom, the opportunity to rely on the school Math Specialist, and making time for a Common Collaboration meeting each week with teachers at both the primary level and middle years level.  This school is small but booming.  I cannot say more good things about what the teachers are doing here.  Building relationships is key, not only with students but with the school staff as well.  The EA support in the school is unlike anything I’ve seen – they work hard day in and day out to help the students succeed.  The administration is supportive and always willing to help.  The school secretary is one of the hardest workers I have seen and the facilities operator continues to find ways to keep the school in the best shape possible (with minimal budget).  Everyone is willing to help when you need it.  The teacher librarian works with all students to ensure they are progressing towards their literacy goals, the learning resource teacher offers suggestions and assistance when dealing with varying student needs, and our EAL support teacher helps the students feel more comfortable and welcomed by providing one-on-one support.

  • Opportunity to Learn and Grow as a Professional

I am so fortunate to have been placed in such a welcoming school with a supportive and understanding cooperating teacher.  I have had nothing but opportunity day in and day out to develop my own teaching pedagogy, experiment with different instructional strategies, utilize different forms of technology, build upon my existing educational philosophy, improve my classroom and behaviour management strategies, and more.  I have felt comfortable the entire time I have been at GMS, something that doesn’t always happen when interns are placed in schools!  I cannot state enough how positive this internship experience has been for me.  I have been developing into the educator that I have always wanted to be.

Professional Goals – Interim Evaluation

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Overall, internship has been an absolute amazing experience.  I am so lucky to have landed in a school such as Gladys McDonald School.  The students continue to surprise me, day in and day out.  I am surrounded by teachers and staff who care about the students, who want to see achievement and success, and who genuinely enjoy coming to work every day.  A positive environment can make or break whether someone enjoys their job.  I have been waking up every morning excited for what the day will bring.  Every teacher will tell you:  expect the unexpected and no day is ever the same as the next.

Aside from actually just genuinely enjoying internship, I realize this is one of the most important times for pre-service teachers.  The internship experience helps you develop your pedagogy, live out your educational philosophy, and recognize strengths and challenges.  Each day ends with a reflection process – How did the day go?  What did I do right?  What did I do wrong?  How can I improve?  I don’t think this reflection period should end once you pass internship and move on.  Teachers are never done growing, improving, and finding new ways to better the education of all students.

A few of the goals I have made for myself as I have journeyed through the discovery of my strengths and my struggles:

  • Assessment and Evaluation
    • This is still something I have continuously been challenged by.  According to my own educational philosophy, assessment should be authentic and unbiased.  I am constantly looking for ways to best assess the students’ knowledge and understanding in a way that is reflective of their learning style and the way in which they are best able to express themselves.  I have begun to truly understand the value of involving learners in their own assessment process.  However, this continues to be a professional goal of mine moving forward and I’m sure will continue throughout my future years as a teacher.
  • Using Multiple Perspectives, Including Indigenous Ways of Knowing
    • As someone who is passionate about social justice issues, I know the significance and importance of integrating different knowledge bases from around the world rather than focusing solely on Western ways of knowing.  Within this, it is essential to integrate worldviews and perspectives of people who agreed to share this land with the European settler generations.  First Nations, Métis, and Inuit integration into education is crucial to a genuine path towards Truth and Reconciliation.  There is absolute value in recognizing, understanding, and honouring the history and culture of all types of people.  However, integration of FNMI worldviews and ways of knowing is not the same at providing Treaty Education.  It is important to know the significance of Treaty Education outcomes of the curriculum in comparison to integrated knowledge within other subject areas of the curriculum.  Although I still find myself slightly uneasy and anxious regarding teaching these areas due to a history of ignorance, I fully recognize the significance as we move back towards the original spirit and intent of treaties – living alongside one another in peace.  I have less reservations when it comes to teaching Treaty Education outcomes, but when it comes to authentic and genuine integration of FNMI ways of knowing, I need to continue to find effective resources and continue my growth in this area.
  • Consultation and Referral with Other Professionals
    • Teaching is sharing!  I will continue to learn from other professionals and network with others.  It is important to feel comfortable asking for help when you need it.  I think one of the biggest mistakes a teacher can make is assuming you know it all.  The teaching profession is one in which you should never stop learning (a value we try to instil in our students) and understand the significance of learning from others.

PDP Goals – My strengths

Coming into my final year as an Education student and into the internship experience, I knew I had to begin to think about my strengths, weaknesses, and and areas of progress that I left off with in pre-internship.  One thing I have always known:  I have no problems with organization.  I actually ENJOY organizing – perhaps the reason it is one of my strengths.  I do not struggle to organize content or materials for teaching and I seem to be very well prepared at the beginning of each day.

A great tool is Planboard – I actually can’t believe I hadn’t been shown this prior to internship!  Whenever I recommend this scheduling and planning tool, I mention the obvious all-important organization method of COLOUR-CODING :).  If anyone is like me, they will understand the significance of this.  Planboard really makes planning seem way less stressful and tedious.  For internship, we are supposed to have at least one formal lesson plan written for each day.  I have been doing this for my first unit (that I began teaching at the start of the school year) and have been planning the rest of my lessons through Planboard.  Here is a snapshot of a month in grade 6/7 at GMS:

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In addition, I have been entering everything that my cooperating teacher has been teaching during her lessons.  I think this will be a great reference in the future, especially as a first year teacher scrambling to plan the year.

During pre-internship, we were supposed to have a PDP target sheet ready for each lesson taught in order to receive feedback from our observing co-ops and our teaching partners.  These handy target sheets are great because they can allow you to really focus on one goal at a time.  A few examples of targets for me have been interaction/presentation skills, creating positive classroom environment, and classroom management.  What I have noticed is that rather than just choosing targets randomly, I have really started to choose logically.  If I don’t seem to need improvement in an area, why should I continue making these targets?

Some of my strengths as a pre-service teacher:

  • Organization – refer to my rant about the importance of colour-coding above 🙂
  • Interaction with students – I am often told that I have a calm yet confident demeanor in the classroom.  I notice that students feel comfortable around me, find me approachable, and I can connect with many students on different levels.
  • Lesson Planning – I have not yet experienced any major problems with planning.  If anything, I sometimes seem to be a bit too ambitious with ideas.  In my opinion, there is nothing worse than the feeling of being unprepared.  On the other hand…
  • Improvise! – In the beginning, I was nervous about what I would do if a lesson ended 15 minutes early and I didn’t have anything planned to fill the time.  Now, I am noticing that I can actually quite easily do this.  To me, the key is knowing your students and building those positive relationships.  Example – If you have 15 minutes to spare, why not have a informal conversation about something you saw in the news?