Tuesday, November 25, 2014

a quote: tag along by Tom Ryan

The thing I've never understood about dancing till now is that it only looks stupid when you're on the outside, watching other people do it.  When you're part of the crowd, moving along with everyone else, I can't imagine anything else being quite as much fun.
My Thoughts:  It's better to be in the thick of things and having fun than to be on the outside thinking that everyone else looks stupid.  At the end of the day, I think it's more about what we're willing to do than about what we're willing to look like.  Worrying about how we look like in life prevents us from actually living and enjoying life.  I'd rather dance, personally.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lessons from Prac: The Last Day

Yesterday was my last day with my students during this first block of practicum.  Tomorrow is a P.D. day and I will not get another chance to see them until next semester.  

It's hard to believe that six weeks have already come and gone by.  It doesn't feel like I've been with them and teaching for six weeks, but it's true.  And what a crazy six weeks it has been.  I feel like I've been constantly on the go, trying to keep up in a race from one lesson to the next.  Coming into this career path, I don't think I fully understood the type of difficulties and challenges I would face.  I knew that teaching would not be easy--I mean, I was the type of student who sometimes needed a concept explained multiple times and in multiple different ways, forcing my teachers to re-explain things that they probably thought were clear.  I recognized that I would have to teach lessons, make assignments, give tests and then mark( and for the most part I dreaded the marking).  I also understood that in a classroom full of teens, there are bound to be other problems that arise with the students, whether individual or group problems, and that as a teacher I might need to handle difficult situations.  

But what I underestimated was the time and the challenges that some of these different aspects would present.  Namely, I did not anticipate how long it would take to plan and prepare a lesson.  It's one thing to have taught a course for years and have oodles of materials available in the wings just needing to be printed and photocopied and another thing entirely to be creating worksheets and hunting down resources.  Thus was my battle.  The Ontario government recently changed for the grade 10 history curriculum and there is now a lot more emphasis on understanding the "big six historical thinking concepts" (click for an overview).  One of which is the evidence or the primary documents.  

I spent hours on Saturdays or weekday evenings hunting down different documents, reading and assessing whether they meet my needs, and then organizing them into different lessons.  My biggest problem: I was teaching an Immersion History class.  If you don't know what that means, I'll break it down: the class is in French. This means that the primary documents need to be in French.  My task just got 100x more difficult.

At the start of my placement, I thought I'd have more time at home to work on my classroom assignments from my professors.  Nope.  I have not touched a single thing; I haven't had the time.  Don't get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed placement and I really loved my students and what I was teaching (I honestly wish I could be teaching about the Second World War next week with my 10s!).  But although I enjoyed it, it was hard and time consuming.  I did not have much down time for myself.  Now, I can say that I have a whole new perspective of this profession and a whole new respect for the teachers already working.  

This job may be difficult, but it sure is rewarding.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Unavoidable Seating Plan

If you've gone through any sort of government run school system, you've most likely been the victim of a seating plan.  Those teachers, they come into the classroom and move students around like shuffling a deck of cards.  They take us from our friends put us beside people we may not know very well (or even like) and stick us up at the front, or in back corners when those may be the opposite of what we want or are comfortable with.

Seating plans whomp.

Image of a classroom with rows of empty desks and chairsAnd yet, now in the Teacher-role, I become the perpetrator.  I see that in some cases (and classes) seating plans are unavoidable.  Left to their own choices, certain students will group together and chat the period away.  What choice does a teacher then have?

This is one of my current challenges.  And I mean challenge.

I am learning that there can never be a perfect seating plan--at least, not while my classroom is at capacity.  Every way I turn, there are obstacles.  First and foremost, the chatters.  A and B cannot sit together because they do not pay attention.  G, L and N are not overly chatty, but they should still be separated as well.  Students S through Z need to be moved to the center of the classroom and if possible the front because they are zoning out in the wings.   Ah! But don't forget that students F and H have vision problems and need to be closer to the front.  And then, if you're moving the more inattentive students to the center, where do you put the students who are really trying?  Will they think you are punishing them if you put them in the wings?

It may seem silly to worry how 15-year-olds will react to a seating arrangement.  I am, after all, the teacher and I will have the last word in this scenario: the end.  But... I honestly wish that I could make a seating plan that they could both accept and and understand.  A seating plan, in my view, is not supposed to be a punishment of any sort.  It is meant to help foster learning by creating a better environment in the classroom and ideally putting students in a position to build their own knowledge. 


Ideally, seating plans would not be needed and students would be find no matter where they sat.  But, this is the real world and seating plans, in many cases, are unavoidable.

Things I've learned about France (or at least Normandy)

Well there we go, my second European country. In some ways, very similar to England (a lot of meat and potatoes, fancy churches, pay toilets...