Halfway There

imagesI officially reached the halfway point in internship!  There are about 38 teaching days left, give or take. Yes, I am very relieved that I am halfway through and still sane and relatively stress-free. On the other hand, this is scary because I am most definitely NOT halfway through my material for my classes. I have already cut out at least 3 assignments and so many m
ore activities that I had planned which is disappointing, but I simply don’t have time to get this stuff done. For my grade 10 class I have spent about double the amount of time I had originally planned for a novel study. I am not entirely sure how the days seemed to slip away, but with PD days, ass
mbly’s,holidays, and interruptions, the last two months have went by incredibly fast.

Something that I am learning very quickly is that it is really hard to let go of material and condense units. During the summer when I was trying to plan my units for this fall, I was worried that I would run out of things to do and there would be extra time left in the semester. I’m sure experienced teachers would laugh about this fear because I am running out of time, fast. As hard as it is for me to get rid of certain assignments and activities, I am coming to find that it is absolutely necessary because some of my grades 10s are desperately getting tired of this novel.

I am so unbelievably lucky to have been placed at an incredibly good school with even more incredible students. Not to mention being placed with an experienced teacher who has provided me with nothing but support and encouragement, while still ensuring I am learning as much as I possibly can to become a competent teacher.

With that being said, the students are starting to get really comfortable with me and this past week I have to admit that I have been feeling quite discouraged with how they have been acting. The past two days, different students have been battling almost everything in my lessons. “Why are we doing this, we talked about this yesterday, I don’t think we need to talk about it again today. I think we all get the point.” “I don’t want to watch this because we already learned about this while reading the book. I think this is stupid so I am going to play on my phone instead.” “Is that really the best way to say that sentence, shouldn’t you change the verb.” I think the sudden rebelling has to do with the fact that we have analyzed our novel to the bare bones, and want to move on. Which is fair, I get it. It’s just such a great book with so many amazing themes and connections to our lives! After spending a lot of time on this unit and realizing it didn’t go over as I planned, I am sad to see it go.

UnknownMarking. As much as I love literature and wouldn’t want to teach any other subject, I am already overwhelmed with the thought of the immense amount of marking in an English classroom. The amount of time spent on marking papers is amazing. My coop has spent at LEAST 8 hours every Saturday for the past few weeks marking papers. Not to mention the fact that it not only is time consuming, but it is extremely meticulous. There are no right or wrong answers (for the most part). Marking my first few papers was very overwhelming. The ones that I would consider to be garbage (sorry kids!), my coop would go over it with me explaining why they could get a 10/10 in regard to their content, but a 0/10 on their mechanics or something along those lines. You really have to dig deep and look around for what is in there, and analyze their work comparing it to the rubric in order to come up with a grade.

Continuing my marking rant, so you have the majority of the class marked but wait, you can’t hand them back because there are still 6 papers missing. The struggle is so real to get things in on time and that is what I have found to be the most frustrating. You can’t completely finish something until ALL students have their assignments in. I can’t simply give them a zero, and as much as we like to scare these elementary aged children into thinking high school teachers don’t chase you around looking for missed assignments, that is absolutely false. We still do, because we are expected to.

Something else I have been struggling with is the fact that my ideals and teaching philosophies are not completely coming through even though I am in a classroom teaching everyday. I struggle with the fact that sometimes it is a contest between philosophy vs. reality. Is it in my philosophy that I should rely on direct instruction? No. Do my students complete tasks and behave when we do student led learning? No. It baffles me that I have tried to include so many interactive and differentiated learning tasks in my lessons, and more times than not, they completely flop. As soon as I get up in front of the class and direct instruct them, they completely switch and are the best students ever.

Despite my struggles, I have to remind myself that this amazing teacher that I have created in my head, will not always be able to transfer into the real classroom. If this is what works for this particular group of kids, then I will do whatever they need to succeed. They seem to respond really well to structure and direct instruction. Obviously at the end of this internship, I will  be re-evaluating my philosophy and perhaps it should read something more along the lines as, adjusting to the needs of students to ensure their success in the classroom, regardless of what I have pictured in my head or what I think works best.

Something else included in my teaching philosophy is ensuring that I have alternative forms of assessment. I have found this really challenging to implement in the classroom because there is the restriction of the curriculum. Would I like to have the students be writing three or four essays in a semester? No, of course not. That sounds awful. Yet the ELA 20 curriculum has at least three different types of essays expected, not to mention other types of writing and oral outcomes. I have been able to utilize alternative forms of formative assessment because there is more leeway, but I will admit I am not doing this as much as I would like to.

I am finding it really hard to completely come out of my shell because I am in someone else’s classroom. I won’t be there at the end of the semester when they are preparing for their finals, so collaborating with my coop to ensure that I will have hit everything needed is crucial. At the end of the day, my coop teacher’s name is the one beside each student’s grade therefore I have to teach in a way that pleases my coop. I have been fortunate that my coop has basically left me with free reign for preparing and teaching the class I have been carrying throughout, however she still needs to know what I am doing and where I am going with things. As strange as this sounds, I feel more confident in front of my kids without my coop there, because then I act instinctively on what I need to do in regards to classroom management or anything that arises. Whereas when she is there I always second guess myself, thinking, “Is this what she would do? How would she handle it?” It’s really tough being watched and judged everyday.

Overall, I am really proud of myself for making it this far. I have managed to find a resemblance of balance in my life. I try to utilize my time well, so that when I go home for the day I can go home and do other things besides school. So that basically means going to bed at 8:30, but I definitely need my sleep. I really enjoy my time in the classroom with the students, and I love being in the high school environment. I know that I chose the right age group, because I find it so enjoyable to be around people this age. I will be honest – I am really looking forward to next semester (my last semester!) back at the university with the roles reversed one last time where I can be the student again for a few months.

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Ontario’s Updated Health & Physical Education Curriculum – Is it too explicit?

o-SEX-ED-FRONT-570Ontario just released their improved and updated Health and Physical Education Curriculum as discussed in this CBC article for the first time since 1998. The biggest reason that this new updated curriculum needs to be implemented all over Canada is because of the increase of technology not only in schools, but within the teenage and youth in Canada. The truth of the matter is that with the increase of technology and children having access to technology at younger and younger ages, the harsh reality is that they do need to know about sex at a younger age.

There are students who have had cellphones for the majority of their lives, therefore have immediate access to the Internet. I guarantee that all teenagers have experienced some kind of cyber bullying in their lives. They also have access to cameras and apps such as “Snapchat” which was created so that people could send risqué photos to others and have it immediately deleted after a set number of seconds. Children need to know the dangers of technology and how to use it properly and appropriately.

Sexual health is more complex than its ever been. The article states: “Issues like gender identity, like lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans sexualities, sexual activity amongst young people — these are all hard conversations for all teachers to have”. There are hard conversations you need to have with your students in order to create an inclusive environment for all students. There are sexual relationships between different genders and not only that; there are a lot more birth control methods that have been created since 1998.

Something that I wonder about reading this article is the reaction of parents. Regardless of whether or not parents are pleased with their children learning about sexual related issues, are schools still allowed to go forward with it? If they were backed up with a new curriculum that is put together by the government, then I would argue that regardless of parent reactions, those teachers are still expected to teach it. A quote I really agree with from the CBC article sums the issue up very well, “I have this absolute conviction that the vast majority, if not all, parents would like their children to grow up to be sexually healthy adults”. We aren’t teaching these things to students to promote sex, we are teaching these things to ensure that every student has the knowledge of how to be safe and healthy when it does come to sexual relationships. The Huffington Post published a really informational article that breaks down and summarized exactly what each grade will learn in regards to the new curriculum. It is very helpful to understand exactly what will be taught and when.

From my own experience in high school, I had maybe two lessons learning about sex and sexual health. One was in grade 6, when a nurse came into our class and separated the boys from the girls and we each had a talk about puberty. A few years later, maybe in grade 9 or 10, we had one health class devoted to sex-ed, which consisted of our teacher putting a video on. I don’t even remember what the video was about, and we had no further discussion. However, I do remember that some students were excused from the class because our teachers sent home a letter to our parents explaining what we would be learning about and required a guardian’s signature in order to participate in the class. I would be curious to know whether or not that is still a practice in regards to the new curriculum.

Another question I wondered while reading this was how this curriculum would fit into the Catholic schools that teach the idea of saving sexual relationships until marriage. The CBC article says the following about that topic: “With the Institute of Catholic Education, which works on behalf of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, on board with the curriculum, and Education Minister Liz Sandals standing firm, the new program is here to stay — even in the face of rallies hosted by distressed parents and ardent opponents”.

These students are apart of the “iGeneration” that have constant access to the internet and technology therefore our schools and curriculum must ensure that we are equipping students with the appropriate knowledge instead of brushing the awkward topics under the rug.