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.

Week Five – Reflection

Sept. 28 – Oct. 2

This week for Health/Career Ed., we started using the tech tool called Nearpod.  This tool allows teachers to create interactive presentations for lessons that can incorporate assessment and new information.  The students seemed to enjoy the usage of technology as they were able to follow along using their own devices.  Nearpod allows you to ask students open-ended questions, multiple choice, or even allow them to draw as a response.  This is great from the teacher’s side because it provides immediate assessment information for each student and eliminates tedious marking.  However, the tool doesn’t take into account the different levels of each student.  For example, some students would finish early and be waiting for others to finish.  This inevitably allows for management and behavioural issues.  On the other hand, some students find it difficult to keep up with others and their responses may be rushed and not as carefully thought through.  In addition, we used the tool Poll Everywhere as a diagnostic assessment tool.  However, the students (unaware of how it works and never have used it before) displayed some immaturity and it did not work as well as it should have.

On Sept. 30, we were to wear orange for Orange Shirt Day – a day commemorating the history and survivors of residential schools.  With our grade 3 buddies, we created our own orange shirts:

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In addition, we created shirts that focused on the residential school history:

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We also did a school-walk for Terry Fox remembrance.

On the Friday, we took our school field trip for Outdoor Ed to Crooked Valley.  This field trip was “Finding Your Way” in which students learn how to use a compass and find their way through the valley using their compasses as guidance.

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Week Four – Reflection

Sept. 21 – 25

This week, I continued teaching the unit on Healthy Relationships and helping students understand the importance of building relationships now and in the future.  When discussing whether students think the world would be different (better or worse) if everyone in the world were the exact same, many responded with “it would be boring.”  Students are imaginative when it comes to things such as this.  We were able to recognize that issues such as racism and discrimination would not exist, but if everyone were the same, we would be missing the unique and positive qualities that diverse groups of people offer.

This week, we began implementing guided math groups.  Usually, the daily lesson will include math drills (writing out multiplication tables or mad minutes), a mini-lesson based on that topic, and then two rounds.  Students are grouped based on personality traits, rather than intellectual levels or random choice.  It is important to know your students and make decisions most appropriate for their learning.  In this case, students are grouped with other students who will allow them to work most effectively.  Guided math rounds are Math with Teacher, Math on my Own or with Partner (MOMOP), Math Sense (Interactive Math Games), Math Tech (online math lessons such as Khan Academy), and Math Art.

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On Friday, we took a field trip to the University of Regina with several of the classrooms from our school.  The day included watching the Glen Anaquod Tipi-Raising Memorial Competition and taking a tour of the university campus.  Students learned prior about Glen Anaquod’s life and why the competition is in memory of him.  I am very impressed with the students at GMS as they are very knowledgeable regarding Canadian indigenous histories, residential schools, and the significance of truth and reconciliation.

Week Three – Reflection

Sept. 14-18

This week, students began participating in band.  I have come to realize that there are plenty of distractions in a day – not just for the teacher, but for the students.  Students in band end up missing important lessons (especially in Math) where it is difficult for them to catch up later.  Not only does this add to teacher duties (preparing mini lessons to catch up students) but also for students because they come in confused or lost.  I am not saying that band is a negative thing – I think it is absolutely great for the students and helps build skills that are lacking in other areas of a typical school day.  

We had a guest speaker from Regina Public Outdoor Ed. come to discuss the upcoming field trip called “Finding Your Way” at Crooked Valley.  The students had a lesson on how to use a compass and why it is important to know for the field trip.  Outdoor Education can be such a positive experience for students – some may not have that opportunity in their lives to visit places and explore land in Saskatchewan.  Students who struggle in a traditional classroom may find the experience for conducive to their style of learning.  It also helps build classroom relationships between students and teachers.  

For my lessons this week, I focused on Health and Career Ed. and Phys. Ed.  After continuing with defining specific terminology for the Health/Career unit, we discussed a recent current event regarding a Muslim student in Texas, USA.  Ahmed Mohamed was arrested (14 years old) for creating a homemade clock that some teachers assumed could be a bomb.  We discussed prejudice, bias, stereotypes, and discrimination based on factors such as skin colour or religion.  The students were very much involved in the class conversation.  There are many EAL and Muslim students at Gladys McDonald so the discussion was rich and insightful.  Again, a reason why I do enjoy teaching students at this grade level; you can really have intellectual conversations with these students and begin that critical thinking skill that will help them succeed in the future.

Week Two – Reflection

The second week is when I officially picked up the subject areas of Health and Career Education.  The first few lessons were quite simple and mostly to get my feet wet as well as ease the students into the unit.  The lesson based on defining terms that will be used in our unit did not go over so well – the students could not find the best definitions in dictionaries and I decided I would need to replan for the next lesson period.  This was a good early experience as I was immediately able to see what the students are capable of, what their prior knowledge is, and make basic anecdotal diagnostic assessment for the classroom as a whole.  

This week I learned more about how the upper elementary students can still effectively use Daily 5 in literacy.  The students are building their stamina (how long they can maintain their round without becoming distracted by other happenings in the classroom).  This is important because once the teacher becomes more involved with small groups, the other students need to be independent enough to stick to their other rounds (Read to Self, Writing, Read to Someone, etc.).  I am so intrigued by how well Daily 5 works in this school and amazed by how all teachers integrate this in their classrooms to keep that consistency throughout the students’ years at the school.  

On September 11, we discussed the events of 9/11 with the class – none of the students were alive during the actual event and some did not have much background knowledge.  I am continually amazed by how many of these students are interested in current events, social justice, and political issues.  I do not remember much of this from my own experience in elementary school (I don’t think I even knew how government worked) but some of these students even know the platforms of political candidates for the upcoming election.  This is part of the reason I was so intrigued by teaching middle years students – you can really set up the foundation for lifelong learning and curiosity.  These years are really all about identity, figuring out who you are, and a time when you can be easily influenced by others.  They can be negatively influenced or positively influenced – as teachers, we can act as guidance counsellors in regards to the negative influences in their lives as well as introduce positive influence.

Week One – Reflection

This was the first week back to school for students.  Teachers had a few PD days prior to the first day for students, which allowed myself (as an intern) to get more acquainted with the school, staff, and classroom.  Ms. Kramer and I set up the classroom table arrangement, discussed classroom procedures and rules, and went over what it expected of me in terms of picking up subject areas and other duties around the school / with the students.  It is important the students recognize that, even as an intern, I am to be treated the same way that other teachers in the school are treated.  I am expected to follow through with classroom procedures and expectations as a teacher and supervisor.  We discussed that I will primarily be doing attendance in the morning and afternoons for students, as well as beginning with both Health and Career Ed. for my main subject areas throughout internship.  Overall, the PD days were beneficial for me as I become more familiar with what day-to-day life at Gladys McDonald is like.

The first week with students was exciting and somewhat overwhelming.  This week was a time for me to get to know the students, build some connections, and determine what the classroom environment will resemble for the next four months.  Getting to know the students is essential – I do not believe you can be a successful or effective teacher if you do not know how to connect with your students. After all, this is where students come day in and day out.  They deserve to be experiencing an environment in which they feel respected, accepted, and their needs are being met.  I think school should be an enjoyable and engaging experience for students while also helping to develop important life skills and responsibilities.