A Semester in Review: ECS 300 Final Reflection

Before beginning my second-year practicum, I established three major goals that I wanted to work on while in the field. These goals were to: (1) practice time-management while facilitating lesson plans; (2) work on my confidence while facilitating lesson plans, and (3) build strong, positive relationships with my students. Overall, I think I achieved my goals; however, I still have room to improve.

I set “working on my confidence” as a goal going into my practicum because I was nervous about teaching and facilitating lesson plans for the first time. As it turns out, my level of confidence in the classroom was never really an issue. Although I got nervous before I taught each week, when I was in front of the class, teaching came naturally to me. As a result of my confidence-level in the classroom, I was open to trying new things, such as different teaching strategies, classroom management techniques, etc. I also became more flexible and adaptable in my teaching––that is, I didn’t worry if things did not go according to my plan. Overall, I learned that confidence is not something that I struggle with as a teacher.

In terms of building relationships with my students, I think that I achieved this goal as best as I could in the eight short weeks that I had in the classroom. I believe that it is crucial for teachers to build positive, genuine relationships with their students, because it is through these relationships that we identify each child’s uniqueness in terms of personalities, strengths, social environments, developmental stages, abilities, cultural backgrounds, interests, and learning needs. My very first lesson plan was created with the intention of getting to know my students and building a foundation for positive relationships. From then on, my teacher-student relationships only continued to grow. I have learned that I have good relationship-building skills, but what I need is more time with students in order to establish solid relationships. Fortunately, I will be afforded more time in future practicums, as they continue to increase in lengths, and also as I move into the classroom as an actual teacher. I look forward to this very much.

I learned a lot about time-management during my practicum, and it is a goal that I need to continue to work on in future internships. I struggled with time-management this semester because I didn’t have the experience to know how much content could fit into a 45-minute period, especially if the content was to be meaningful, which is something that I strived for. What I learned this semester, which is backed-up by my co-operating teacher’s feedback, is that my lesson planning skills are strong, and my teaching abilities are strong, but I need to allow more time in the classroom to complete my lessons. For example, during my last three weeks in the classroom, I facilitated a science unit on the solar system, and I had the students create an inquiry project on one of the major components of the solar system. Although the students surpassed my expectations with only three weeks to work on their projects, I realize now that the project could have easily extended over another week or two.

One of the most valuable things I learned during my practicum was different classroom management techniques.  Since this was my first experience teaching, I had no sense of classroom management when I first began my practicum, so I followed my co-operating teacher’s classroom management strategies. My co-operating teacher usually raised her voice to get the students’ attention; however, when I replicated this strategy, I recognized that the students did not respond to this sort of discipline. As a result, I experimented with positive reinforcement as a classroom management technique in my own teaching, and it worked amazingly––the students were much more responsive to compliments than scolding. I also learned to be flexible in my classroom management.  I recognized that it was not beneficial to stop all chatting and that allowing chatting, within limits, was actually productive, such that it fostered learning and the sharing of ideas between students.

Another valuable learning from my practicum was in the area of differentiation. I used to think that differentiation required big, drastic changes to a lesson plan in order to be inclusive of all learners. However, I realize now that differentiation can be even the simplest of adaptations that work to meet the needs of every learner in the classroom. In my practicum, I focused on differentiating my teaching and assessment strategies by presenting lesson material in different ways and allowing for assessment in many different forms to ensure that they were inclusive of the multiple intelligences in the class. In addition, I had the opportunity to work with a student who is deaf, so I had to ensure that my teaching was inclusive to her and her learning needs as well.

Overall, my practicum this semester did not change my beliefs about education, teachers, or students, but it did reinforce my beliefs.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to practice my teaching this semester and to have done so under an experienced teacher. Most importantly, my practicum experience has reinforced in my mind that teaching is my calling––it is what I am meant to do. After my practicum experience, I am excited to continue my journey to becoming a teacher, and to continue growing both personally and professionally.

 

 

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Solar System Inquiry Projects

For the past few weeks, my grade 6 students have been working on their solar system inquiry projects––their final assessment for the science unit that I have been teaching. Since I am only in the classroom once a week, I have not been able to see the students’ progress on their projects, so this week, I did not prepare a lesson to teach––instead, my co-operating teacher and I agreed that it would be beneficial to provide the students with a full work period to work on their projects while I was in the classroom. That way, I would be there to help students with their projects and to answer any questions, as the due-date for the project is quickly approaching.

This week, I was particularly worried about classroom management. While I am teaching, there are specific classroom management strategies that I use to re-focus the class during a lesson; however, this week I wasn’t teaching a lesson, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle classroom management while the students were working on their projects. I didn’t know what to expect.

As the students were working on their inquiry projects, the room was noisy, but I would say that it was a good kind of noisy. The majority of the students are doing their projects in pairs, so there was a lot of talking going on between partners. Some teachers might have been strict about the noise level, but I believe that a lot of learning can happen through dialogue, which is especially important in group situations like this. In fact, as I wandered the room, I heard a lot of great conversations about the students’ learning. I wanted to foster these conversations instead of impede them. That being said, there were a few students that I had to deal with who were off-task and/or being disruptive to the rest of the class. Instead of interrupting the entire class for classroom management, I chose to deal with these student individually––I reminded them that their inquiry projects were due the following week and that if they chose to waste the class time I was giving them, they would have more work to do on the weekend. I used this strategy because, rather than giving a punishment, it puts responsibility on the student for their own actions. After my conversations with these students, I noticed that they quickly got back to work.

Although the students are excited to see me when I enter the class every week, it is obvious that I come second to their actual classroom teacher, which is understandable. However, to make the students feel more comfortable approaching me with their questions or comments, I circled the room while they were working and made an effort to talk to each group individually, asking how their research was going and how they were planning on presenting their projects. I think these one-on-one conversations helped the students to feel more comfortable around me, and by the end of the class period, many students were coming up to me, excited to show off their projects, and more students were coming to me with their questions instead of going to the classroom teacher.

It’s hard to believe that next week is my last week with my students. Over the past seven weeks I have worked on building strong relationships with these students––it is going to be hard to say goodbye.

Taking A Step Back: Revising a Lesson Plan

For this assignment, I chose to revise the second lesson that I taught this semester, and my first ever Phys.Ed lesson––Factors that Influence the Popularity of Sports. While re-writing this lesson plan, I chose to focus on three particular elements: 1. Differentiation, 2. Adaptive dimensions, and 3. Treaty Education.

My Phys.Ed lesson plan, pre-revision, included only two adaptive dimensions: one suggestion for extending the lesson for higher-level students, and one suggestion for modifying the lesson for students who struggled with the lesson content. Differentiation was also meagre in my original lesson plan, as I only differentiated my teaching process. Before I did this assignment, I used to think that differentiation and adaptive dimensions were grand gestures––ways of completely changing my lesson in order to meet the learning needs of all my students. Maybe this is why, until now, I have shied away from differentiation and adaptive dimensions. However, what I have learned in my field experience this semester is that differentiation and adaptive dimensions are just tweaks to a lesson––however big or small––regarding lesson content, lesson presentation, assessment, in-class activities, multiple intelligences, etc., that help with the inclusion of all students. With this in mind, I revised my lesson plan to include differentiation strategies and adaptive dimensions all throughout my lesson. For instance, in my revised lesson plan, I included strategies to differentiate content, process, and assessment. To differentiate the content of my lesson, I included different learning activities for students who are at different learning-levels. To differentiate the teaching process of my lesson, I included different teaching strategies that would be inclusive of multiple intelligences, such as a lecture/group discussion for auditory learners, visual aids for visual learners, and physical activities for kinetic learners. Lastly, to differentiate the assessment of my lesson, I created an option that allows students to complete their exit slip verbally to a teacher, or with the help of a scribe.

Overall, my teaching of the original lesson plan went smoothly; however, after making changes to include more differentiation and adaptive dimensions, I believe that my revised lesson plan is more inclusive––it does a much better job of meeting the different learning needs of all of my students. However, this was quite a challenge––it took a lot of researching and re-writing in order to expand my lesson plan. But, I have to remember that I am only beginning my teaching journey. As I continue on throughout my education and my career, I will continue to add to my repertoire of strategies, and soon adaptive dimensions will become less foreign and more natural.

I also wanted to focus on including Treaty Education into my revised lesson plan. This also proved to be a challenge––I wasn’t able to link any of the Treaty Education outcomes to the topic of my lesson. However, I still saw an opportunity to incorporate Aboriginal content into my lesson, so I did some research and I found a traditional hunting game of the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia. I included this game (it’s called Taktyerrain) in my revised lesson plan. Originally, the game was created to prepare children for adult life, as it simulates a combat or a hunting situation, which, prior to colonization, was a means of survival for many Aboriginal tribes. Although I adapted the game to be played with dodgeballs, the game is often played with sticks to simulate spear throwing. In addition to this game, I also wanted to have a conversation with my students about the impacts of colonization on Aboriginal ways of life, such as their recreations. However, while I was re-writing my lesson, I felt that it was important to make realistic revisions––that is, revisions that would still allow me to complete the lesson in a 45-minute period (the amount of time that I had when I taught this lesson). That being said, I knew that it would not realistic to have a meaningful conversation about colonization in such a short amount of time, and I do not believe that such conversations should be brief in risk of them being tokenistic. If I had more time in my field experience, I could have extended this lesson over a period of several days where I would have discussed the impacts of colonization on Aboriginal Peoples, making interdisciplinary connections to Treaty Education and Social Studies outcomes.

Although my revised lesson plan does not link to any specific Treaty Education outcomes, I still thought that it was important to include knowledge of our Aboriginal neighbours to increase students’ cultural awareness. In my opinion, if teachers openly educate students about different worldviews, students are likely to become more understanding and accepting of others who are different than them.

Overall, I found this assignment challenging––it’s difficult to critique your own work. However, I enjoyed taking a step back to revise one of my old lesson plans using the tools that I have learned over the semester. This assignment demonstrated to me how much I have grown both personally and professional in a matter of a few weeks. I can’t wait to see how much I continue to grow over the next few years of my teaching journey.

And Then There Were Eight…

The word “perfect” is rarely used by teachers to describe their days in the classroom because the classroom is so unpredictable––nothing ever goes completely according to plan. However, dare I say, I think that my teaching experience this week went perfectly.

Last week I started a unit on the solar system with my students. The unit is inquiry-based––for the next three weeks, the students will be researching a particular planet, and from their research, they will put together a project (a poster, a PowerPoint, a video, a diorama, or something else of their choosing) that demonstrates what they have learned. To help students with the research component of their projects, this week’s lesson was on jot-notes and graphic organizers. I found an article on the International Space Station awhile back and had the students through the article, pick out the most important information, and organize the information into a graphic organizer using jot-note form. When I was originally planning this lesson, I planned it for a class of 30 kids––I had specific teaching strategies and classroom management techniques in mind. However, a few days prior to my lesson, my co-operating teacher e-mailed me saying that there was a band concert that day, which most of the students would be absent for. As it turns out, out of a class of 30, 22 kids are involved in band, which left me with a class of only eight students…

Teaching to such a small class was awkward at first. Over the past six weeks, I have gotten used to teaching to a large class, and I have adapted my teaching style, the activities that I plan, my classroom management techniques, etc. accordingly. However, it actually ended up being a great experience for both me and the students, and I discovered many benefits of teaching in a smaller classroom setting. First, the classroom atmosphere, which is usually quite loud and disruptive, was relaxed and quiet. The students were all attentive, and they all participated in the lesson, which allowed us to have some really good discussions about what they had learned.

Second, teaching in a smaller classroom setting made it much easier to gauge student learning because I didn’t have to dedicate as much time to classroom management. As a result, I was able to spend one-on-one time with students, which doesn’t happen often in a larger classroom setting. During my one-on-one time with students, I was able to assess their learning, and if they didn’t understand a certain concept, I was able to differentiate my teaching and explain the concept in an alternate way. I think this one-on-one time with students made a huge difference in student learning, as by the end of my lesson, I was confident that every student had mastered the lesson material.

Third, I noticed that students were more relaxed and outgoing in the smaller classroom setting. A few students made comments that they liked how quiet it was in the classroom because they could actually concentrate. In addition, a couple of the quieter students started to open up and become more talkative throughout the lesson. The smaller classroom setting also influenced my teaching and I became more relaxed, too. For instance, I adapted my lesson and allowed the students to work on their assignment with a partner, instead of individually. Normally, I try to avoid group work for classroom management purposes; however, I think that working in pairs and being able to discuss with a friend helped reinforce student learning.

Teaching in a smaller classroom setting this week was a great experience for both me and the students. The classroom atmosphere wasn’t so strict, so I was able to spend less time on classroom management and more one-on-one time with the students––reinforcing learning and building student-teacher relationships. Overall, I think my lesson went perfectly. However, my experience this week made me realize how much stress and anxiety a large, disruptive classroom setting puts on students and teachers alike. I believe that overpopulated classrooms are a problem within the education system, and unfortunately, it is a problem that teachers have little control over. So how do I work within a large classroom setting to create a positive learning atmosphere for myself and my students?

Breaking Out of My Classroom-Management Shell

This week, I finally started teaching my unit on the solar system. For the last couple weeks, I have been very busy preparing the unit and have put in a lot of time and effort. I’m hoping my hard work and planning will result in a smooth experience for both me and my students!

The lesson I taught this week was my best, by far! I am only at my school teaching for one afternoon a week, so I dedicated this week’s lesson to outlining and discussing the solar system research project that my students will be doing as part of the unit. I wanted to make sure that the students knew exactly what the project entailed, I wanted to set out my expectations, and I wanted to address any questions about the project at the outset so the kids could get a head start on their research over the next week (my co-operating teacher has been nice enough to allot all of the science periods over the next few weeks to the students’ projects). During the lesson, we went through project duo-tangs that I made for the students, which included the project outline sheet, marking rubrics that outlined how the students will be assessed, as well as a project tracking sheet. The purpose of the project tracking sheet is to hold students accountable to their work while I am not at the school. It is also a way for me to gauge where students are at in their projects so I can adjust my future lessons accordingly. I included my marking rubrics in the students’ duo-tangs because I believe that it is important for students to understand how they will be assessed and what they will be assessed on so they can plan their learning accordingly. Also, I think it is important that students are part of the assessment process, so after we read through the marking rubrics, I discussed with the class whether they thought my expectations were fair and something that they could achieve. I wanted the students to feel like they have a say in their projects, so I thought that this was something important for me to do with them.

My teaching target for this week was to practice using positive reinforcement in the classroom. I chose this as my target because I think that it is really important to practice different classroom management techniques so I can build my repertoire. I want to have an array of techniques to use at my disposal during pre-internship, internship, and even in my future classroom. In addition, and so far during my pre-service placement, I have noticed that my co-operating teacher often raises her voice to get the class’ attention. In my opinion, yelling only works on students for so long before it no longer phases them, so I wanted to try a new strategy. Now, some people don’t believe that positive reinforcement works, but let me tell you, it does! I nailed my target this week! The students weren’t out-of-hand by any means (in my opinion, they were actually quite calm throughout the lesson), but when they did get to be a little too chatty, I complimented a student who I thought was setting a positive example by sitting quietly and listening, and within a few seconds the rest of the class gave me their attention again and we were able to continue on with our lesson. In addition to how well my classroom management strategy worked, I think it positively impacted the students––rather than being punished for misbehaving, the students beamed when I complimented them. My co-operating teacher even commented on this in our post-conference: she said that she thought that my positive reinforcement worked really well to get the students’ attention, and she wants to try using more positive reinforcement herself now in the classroom because of my success!

This week my placement partner and I learned about the harsh reality of classroom dynamics: classroom dynamics can make or break a lesson. Right now, my partner is doing a unit on Treaty Education, and this week she played a Treaty simulation game with the students. The game went very well––the students clearly recognized the unfairness of the Treaties, and they were very upset by it. However, no matter how many classroom management strategies my partner tried during her lesson, the class just couldn’t be controlled. Maybe it was that the students had just come back from recess? Maybe it was that we played the game in the gym? I’m not sure, but this situation made me realize that as a teacher, you can create the perfect lesson plan, you can be totally organized, but if the dynamics of the classroom are off, it can really affect your lesson. Something else that I picked out is how quickly the classroom dynamics can change! My partner taught her lesson before mine, so I was expecting the kids to be just as rowdy for my lesson; however, as I mentioned earlier, the students were actually quite calm. Maybe it was because the students were excited to start their projects? Again, I’m not sure, but it was definitely a learning experience for both me and my partner.

Reunited

After being away from my students for two weeks, I was FINALLY back with my grade 6s today. I missed them, to say the least. When I got to the classroom, I was greeted by the students with excitement–I guess they missed me too! Last week my students were on a class ski trip, so I spent the day helping out in another classroom at my placement school. While I enjoyed my experience in the new classroom, I was bummed because I was missing out on teaching opportunities, and also opportunities to continue building relationships with my students. This week, I was determined to make up for my lost time!

I kicked off the afternoon with my Phys Ed lesson on physical disabilities in athletics. To begin, we generated ideas about what the terms “disability” and “handicap” mean. In an activity like this, I would normally make a mind-web on the board that included student answers; however, I believe that there are a lot of misconceptions about the terms “disability” and “handicap”, so I provided the students with the true definitions instead. Right away, students seemed to be invested in my lesson. I think this was because they could relate to it, as there is a student who is deaf in the classroom. Because deafness is something that the students are familiar with, we discussed deafness as an example, and we talked about certain adaptations that are made for people who are deaf (i.e. sign language, interpreters, hearing implants). From there, I was able to move the discussion to adaptations to sports and games for people with physical disabilities. This initial class discussion went great! The students were eager to respond, and they had a lot of good answers that I was able to build off of. However, I think the video that I showed (look at me using technology in the classroom!) really reinforced the focus of my lesson. I showed the students a clip of the sport that we would be trying, the Paralympic sport sitting volleyball. During the video, I heard a student say, “Wow! Those players are so good, and some of them don’t even have legs!”

The students loved played sitting volleyball! At first, some were frustrated because they felt like they had to be technical and do the proper volleyball serves, sets, and bumps, and this was difficult for them to do while sitting. But I simply reminded the students that this was only a chance for us to practice, and I encouraged them to have fun and not concentrate on the technicalities. During the game, there were also some challenges that I had to deal with: The students had trouble rallying because they had such a large space to protect and they couldn’t move very quickly, and some students had trouble serving the ball over the net. I had to think on my feet and make some quick adaptations, but once I did, the game really got going!

Afterwards, we went back to the classroom for a wind-up discussion. The students agreed on two things during our discussion: sitting volleyball is a lot of fun, and sitting volleyball is really challenging! I asked the students why they thought it was challenging, and one responded, “because we are so used to playing volleyball with our legs, we never thought about how difficult it would be without our legs”. The students’ comments reassured me that they got the lesson, and I was proud of myself. This meant that I taught my lesson well! However, my lesson was not without its downfalls. I had an informal exit slip assessment planned for the end of my lesson, but I was really running out of time. As a result, my explanation of the assessment wasn’t great, and I had a lot of students re-ask me what they were supposed to do. In addition, in preparation for my next week’s lesson, I asked the students to pick their partner ahead of time and write their partner’s name on the bottom of their exit slip. This was not a smart idea on my part, as many of the students were distracted trying to find a partner and didn’t focus on their assessment.

For my teaching target this week, I chose to focus on addressing students by their names during my lesson. Since I was away from my class last week, and the week before that due to reading week, I’m still a little fuzzy with the students’ names, so I wanted to practice. I think that I successfully met my target! Every time I called on a student to answer a question, I made sure to use their name instead of simply pointing at them. And even during my one-on-one dialogues with students, such as when they were handing in their exit slip, I made sure to say, “Thank you ________”. I think that addressing students by their names is an important step in building strong teacher-student relationships because it shows the students that you care enough to remember who they are. To help build on my target, I made a seating chart during my placement partner’s lesson, which I plan to bring with me to use in future weeks.

Next week I will start my big solar system unit which I will be teaching for the next four weeks. The students are going to be doing a research project, and I’ve been busy planning the unit and organizing all of my materials. Hopefully all of my hard work and preparation will pay off!

Expectations vs. Reality: The Ultimate Teacher Struggle

This was the third week of my ECS 300 field experience! Unfortunately, my grade 6s were away on a field trip. I missed seeing my students, and I missed out on an opportunity to teach another lesson plan; however, I was fortunate to spend the afternoon observing and helping out in a different grade 5 classroom. I was a little nervous to be in a new classroom, as I’ve just started to feel comfortable in my regular classroom where I am familiar with the teacher and students and am accustom to the class rules and procedures. That said, the grade 5 teacher, Mrs. Kerr, was very welcoming, and she had the whole afternoon planned for me.

Right away I took notice to Mrs. Kerr’s classroom management technique. After lunch and after recess, she had her students line up outside the classroom door, and she said to them, “When you’re ready to be quiet, to be focused, and ready to learn, you may come into the classroom. If you’re not ready yet, take some time in the hallway until you are”. I had not experienced this classroom management strategy before, but I thought it was a positive and student-focused technique. Instead of reprimanding those students who were still excited and full of energy after recess, she gave all students a choice making each of them accountable for their own behaviour.

First, the students had math. Although I am interested in math, I have never had the opportunity to teach it, so I was excited to take part in the lesson. The students were working on the multiplication and division technique, halving and doubling. Mrs. Kerr instructed me to circulate the room and help students if they had questions, but I ended up working one-on-one with a student for the entire math period. It was apparent that this student was having a lot of trouble––when I went over to help him, he was staring blankly at his worksheet, and as we worked together, he would get into his own head, struggling to comprehend what each question was asking. Even when I asked him, for instance, what 3 multiplied by 4 was, the terminology confused him. In addition, this student lacked basic math skills––even simple two-digit addition proved to be a challenge. I learned a lot from my interaction with his young student. Since he struggled working with numbers, and since he didn’t understand some of the mathematical terminology, I had to re-evaluate my teaching strategy and take a whole new approach. Instead, I had the student draw circles to represent numbers. This visual approach seemed to work better for him as he was able to see his final answer as he counted it. In this sense, I was differentiating instruction on the fly.

During recess, Mrs. Kerr informed me that the boy that I had been working with during math had autism and that she was extremely grateful for my help. In addition to this young boy, there are two hard-of-hearing children in the class as well. While the class has a full-time interpreter to assist with the hearing-disabled students, Mrs. Kerr said that she very rarely has help for the autistic student. In fact, there is only one educational assistant for the entire school. I was discouraged by this. As I continue toward my degree and gain more in-class experience, it is apparent that there is a conflict between what teachers are expected to do, and what they really can do. In every one of my ECS classes thus far, it has been stressed how crucial it is to differentiate and adapt instruction, assessment, teaching materials, the physical classroom environment, etc. to meet the needs of every single learner in the class. However, it was obvious from my experience this week that educators, and their students in turn, are not always provided with the resources they need to be successful. So, while I am committed to my students’ learning whole-heartedly, this expectation puts a lot of pressure on teachers. How can I possibly meet every student’s learning needs without adequate resources?  This seems to be a major systemic conflict in our education system today.

All in all, although I missed my students, I was glad to have the opportunity to make new connections in the school and to experience a different classroom environment. Next week, I will be back with my grade 6s and tackling another Phys. Ed lesson.

Stay tuned!

Dialogue-ing Your Way To Better Classroom Management

For my latest blog entry, I decided to explore different blog posts that discussed classroom management. Now, classroom management is a very broad topic, so it took some time to sift through the hundreds of posts until I found one that resonated with me: a blog by Dr. Lori Desautels on Edutopia entitled “Whatever! You Think I Care?” The blog focuses on classroom management strategies to use when students use harsh language, or display angry or aggressive emotions, when confronted by a teacher. According to Desautels, such angry student reactions have nothing to do with the teacher, rather they come from underlying, unresolved personal issues that result in a “self-protective and self-destructive cycle”. To address these behaviours, Desautels believes that teacher-student dialogue is crucial because conversations create much needed neutrality in heated situations. Desautels’ post resonated with me because I agree with her in many ways, but also because she challenged me to reconsider many established norms in classroom management that are used in schools today.

I believe that Desautels’ blog post reinforces the importance of building strong, genuine relationships with the students in our classes. I have always believed that one of the most fundamental responsibilities of teachers is to build positive relationships with students such that they can tailor their teaching appropriately and meet the learning needs of all students; however, after reading this post, I now see how crucial positive teacher-student relationships are to classroom management as well. In her post, Desautels asks, “If we could decode and understand what is possibly being stated beneath a lexicon that feels inappropriate, disrespectful and hurtful, would we choose different responses and communication strategies?” The answer is yes! This is why getting to know our students is crucial. If we have strong, positive relationships with our students, we will be aware of the barriers that our students face at school, at home, in their personal lives, etc., and any angry or aggressive behaviour can act as a clue––warning us that something is bothering the student, and from there, we can begin to interpret the underlying causes of such behaviour. By understanding who our students are, we will also be able to identify if such behaviour is out of character for the student, which could imply that they student is struggling with some personal issue. However, if educators do not have genuine relationships with their students, angry behaviour could be brushed off as the student simply acting out, which could lead to the student being unfairly punished.

In her post, Desautels also stresses the importance of teacher-student dialogue for classroom management in moments of tension. When a student begins to fling harsh, inappropriate language at the teacher, the educator often feels as though they have to immediately dish out a consequence, not only to punish the behaviour, but also to reinforce their position of power and to maintain control of the classroom. However, enforcing a quick consequence often only fuels the argument more, and pushes the teacher-student relationship further apart. Instead, following a negative student reaction, a period of dialogue can be beneficial by bringing some much needed neutrality to the situation. The dialogue should remain focused on the outbreak of behaviour, and should be meaningful. In her post, Desautels lists examples of conversation starters to use with an angry student; it can be as simple as asking the student if he or she would like to talk privately with the teacher, a guidance counsellor, or another student, or even offering the student another means of expressing themselves, such as through art, music, journaling, etc. Now, I am not saying that this kind of aggressive behaviour should go unpunished––I believe in maintaining a safe and respectful classroom for students and teachers alike. However, I believe that this type of teacher-student dialogue is beneficial in several ways. First, it changes the direction of the conversation. In the middle of a heated situation, by initiating dialogue with the angry student, the conversation is shifted away from the argument, and instead provides an opportunity for the student to reflect on his/her own behaviours and feelings. Second, dialogue changes the tone of the conversation by allowing the student time to calm down. Ultimately, this type of teacher-student dialogue can help to diffuse a tense situation by bringing some much needed neutrality to the situation. Once there is more neutrality between the teacher and the student, a follow-up conversation with the student can be held, discussing the outbreak and any appropriate consequences. However, in my opinion, the most important reason to use dialogue in a tense situation would be to help preserve the teacher-student relationship. By remaining calm and engaging in a dialogue with the upset student, you are showing the student that you care about them and that you want to help, but you are also taking control of the situation.

Reading Desautels’ blog post made me think about established norms in classroom management and caused me to reconsider them.  Yelling and giving consequences are two common classroom management strategies that are often used in schools today; however, as I mentioned earlier in my post, handing out a quick punishment in a heated situation often drives the teacher-student relationship apart. In addition, I believe that yelling at students who exhibit negative behaviours is an oppressive tactic, as there is often some sort of underlying issue behind the behaviour that teachers can’t see. In this sense, I like Desautels’ dialogue strategy because it is anti-oppressive––it forces teachers to discover the root cause of the angry or aggressive behaviour and to work with the student towards managing the behaviour. In her post, Desautels briefly mentions functional behavioural assessments, which is a tool used to research how underlying personal issues are linked to student behaviour. I would like to do more research on functional behavioural assessments, as it is something that I would consider using in my future classroom.

“Miss. Martin, I have a serious question for you: Do you like waffles?”

Considering that this week was my first time ever teaching an actual lesson plan, I surprisingly think that things went smoothly! This week, my teaching partner and I team-taught a Phys Ed lesson on factors that influence popular sports/games around the world. I found that planning the lesson was challenging, and I think that my partner would agree. Neither of us has any experience teaching Phys Ed––we both study English, and it was difficult to create a lesson that was meaningful in content while at the same time incorporating some sort of physical activity. These were the two factors that we considered most while planning our lesson. From my experiences in school, Phys Ed is often the “forgot about class”––where students usually spend the year playing dodge ball or capture the flag. My teaching partner and I wanted the students to play a game (after all, this is their period for physical activity), but we also wanted the students to get something out of the lesson.

My teaching partner and I agreed that our target for this week would be classroom management. Classroom management is something that we both find intimidating, but we figured that being in a big gym with 29 grade 6 students was the perfect place to practice! Overall, I think that our lesson went really well! The students quickly grasped the concept of the lesson and took part in several strong class discussions. The game we planned, “Chase the Dragon’s Tail”, also went over really well. Everyone participated, everyone was cooperative, and the kids all had fun playing! To help with our classroom management, we had several strategies in place throughout the lesson: First, we thought that being in the gym for the entire lesson might be distracting for the students, so we started and ended the lesson in the classroom––having our initial class discussion in the classroom before going down to the gym, and the coming back to the classroom to debrief after we played the game. While we were in the gym, another classroom management strategy that we used was blowing a whistle to get the students’ attention. Both of these simple strategies seemed to work well, and we were pretty much able to keep the kids focused throughout the entire lesson. On the odd occasion that the students did not respond to the whistle, we were able to focus the group by asking, “Are we listening?” I found this strategy useful as well because it made the students accountable for their own behaviours, and they were quick to change them if they were not meeting our expectations. After how well this lesson went, I am a little less intimidated by classroom management. In the weeks to come, I will be teaching another Phys Ed lesson, so I am relieved to have found a few strategies that I know work with this particular group of students. I am also excited that I am beginning to build a repertoire of classroom management strategies that I can use in the future.

As well as the lesson went, there are definitely areas where I could improve. This week, team-teaching was an issue for me. Looking back on the lesson, I felt as though I took control a lot of the time. This is not out of habit for me––I have a Type-A personality––but it did get in the way of our team lesson, as I often jumped in while my teaching partner was instructing. Immediately following the lesson, I apologized to my teaching partner, as I did not want her to think that I thought badly of her teaching in any way. In addition, I discussed my concerns with my co-operating teacher. She said that team-teaching can be difficult for even the most expert teachers and that it takes practice. Team-teaching is definitely something that I want, and need, to work on for the future as I think that team-teaching can be valuable in the classroom.

One of the hardest parts about entering a new classroom is not knowing who my students are, so it always a goal of mine to build strong, genuine relationships with the students. In 8 weeks, that can be challenging, but this week I started to build individual relationships with some of the students, and I am so excited! One student in particular, Evan, came up to me at the beginning of class and said, “Miss. Martin, I have a serious question for you: Do you like waffles?” I proceeded to tell Evan that I prefer pancakes over waffles, and he shook his head in disappointment. This became a running joke between Evan and I for the remainder of the day. It’s funny how Evan and I were able to bond over such a silly thing, but I think that this interaction shows that Evan felt comfortable enough to approach me and to be silly with me. This week we also went on a skating field trip with the kids. During the trip I helped some of the student tie their skates or clasp on their helmets, and on the way home I sat next to a student, Hannah, on the bus. Even though these interactions were small, they are the building blocks for relationships.

Culturally Responsive Classroom Management: Broadening My Views of Inclusive Pedagogy

I read the title of this week’s ECS 300 reading, “Culturally Responsive Classroom Management” by Carol Weinstein, and immediately said to myself, “That’s a thing?” This article was insightful–I never realized the ways in which classroom management strategies could be marginalizing or discriminatory. I have done a lot of research on my own time, and I am a firm believer in inclusive pedagogy, so I enjoyed this article because it made me broaden my beliefs about inclusive pedagogy to include classroom management strategies.

I would like to praise Weinstein for addressing the issue of “colour-blindness” in the classroom. Too often I hear from fellow pre-service teachers, “I don’t see colour”. As a teacher, referring to yourself as “colour-blind” means that you are failing to recognize and acknowledge the uniqueness in every one of your students. Before I continue, I would like to state that when I say “uniqueness”, I am not solely referring to ethnicity or cultural background. I believe that a student’s uniqueness encompasses their personality, strengths, social environment, developmental stages, abilities, interests, socioeconomic status, learning styles, etc. Personally, I believe that is it crucial for teachers to identify the uniqueness in their students, for once you know who your students are, you can supply them with the resources that they individually need in order to be successful learners. In this sense, I believe in equity, not equality. sdfasd

I also believe that one of the best ways to get to know our students is through their families. As Weinstein states, “communicating and collaborating with families is an integral…component of effective classroom management” (2003). Teachers can communicate with families through ‘meet the teacher’ nights, monthly classroom newsletters, weekly emails, etc. I believe it is important to welcome families to be a part of the classroom environment because it creates a mode of communication. This is important, especially in culturally diverse classrooms in which you might not be familiar with every culture, so that you can ask parents for feedback on your teaching, allow parents to address their concerns, etc.

One of the main ideas that resonated with me from the reading was organizing the classroom in a culturally responsive way. It is difficult to grasp at first, the idea that the physical classroom environment could be marginalizing, but it is true–similar to the idea of hidden curriculum, the way a classroom is organized and decorated says a lot about a teacher’s own personal beliefs, without being openly communicated. I liked Weinstein’s suggestion of including students’ individual photographs in the classroom. In her classroom, my co-op teacher has a bulletin board with pictures of herself, her friends, and her family as a way for her students to get to know her. I think this idea could be adapted to create a ‘get to know you’ bulletin board for students that includes pictures, artwork, and other items that describes who your students are and what is important to them. I also think that the organization of desks is important in a classroom. While I recognize that it can be convenient for classroom management to have students sit in rows because it tempers chatting, I believe that it is beneficial for students to sit in small groups because it promotes communication and collaboration, and it is through communication that people become less judgemental and more accepting, empathetic, and understanding of others and their differences.

Ultimately, I believe that teachers are role models, and in order to create a culturally respectful classroom, teachers need to model respect for diversity, rather than claiming to see past it, and therefore teach past it. One aspect of the reading that I did not like was that the article only addressed diversity in terms of ethnicity or cultural background. I view teachers as student advocates, and I believe that they should advocate for student diversity whether it be ethnic diversity, gender diversity, diversity in sexual orientation, etc. That being said, the claim that it is solely the responsibility of teachers to create an inclusive classroom is very daunting. I believe that it is the responsibility of the education system as a whole to be inclusive through the curriculum that is implemented, the teacher hiring process and the demand for culturally diverse teachers, professional development practices, etc.