Internship – Final Reflections

The end is near. The end is literally tomorrow. WE DID IT. Reflecting IMG_1469back to the start of September, I had no idea what I was in for. I think one of the reasons why internship is so hard to explain to other people or to other pre-service teachers about the expe
rience is because every teacher is so incredibly different and every internship experience is unique. There are about 17-20 other interns at my school and I guarantee we have all had extremely different experiences.

I survived my three-week block, which is where I was teaching four classes a day. Teaching full time is exhausting. People really don’t understand the extent of work each teacher does every single day and night; the work definitely doesn’t stop at 3:30. There hasn’t been a time in the last month that I have been able to leave school and have a night completely to myself. There is always something that needs to be marked, a worksheet to be planned, or some type of prep to do. Although to be fair, I am a very inexperienced teacher who needs a lot of extra time planning, but I don’t know a teacher who doesn’t work hard inside and outside of their job.

I have taught English in grades 10, 11 and 12. I love it – except for the marking aspect. I am really enjoying my grade 11 and 12s; the students are so fun.  A lot of people a
ssume that the senior grades would be tougher, but I like it a lot more than I thought I would. It is solely because of the students, I was so fortunate to have been paired with the students I have been with the past few months.  The grade 12 students were so excited for me to start teaching their class which was a nice feeling. I think one of the reasons I enjoy teaching them the most is because they are (usually) more mature. They enjoy having in-depth conversations about current events, controversies, and politics and then relating all of those things to the stories or themes we were studying. The grade 11s were the grade I was most nervous to teach because there are so many of them (31) but surprisingly, they were one of my favorite classes, although it was a period one class and a lot of them are still a bit sleepy-eyed that early in the morning.
My grade 10 students were great too, but a lot tougher than I had originally expected. It is a really tough age to connect with. I have had them for the entire year, and we currently just wrapped up our study of Macbeth. I have found teaching Shakespeare to be very challenging. Some of my students were very resistant to it simply because it is Shakespeare. They told me from the beginning that they think it is stupid to learn because they won’t even need it in “real life” and so they totally tuned out. I felt very defeated at times because I was trying to the best of my abilities to get them engaged with Shakespeare. We go through it as a class and then review each scene, usually a brief summary unless a further analysis is needed. We aren’t reading through the entire play, picking and choosing an important aspect that contributes to their comprehension. I am trying to let them know that it is not the language that they need to learn how to read, it is the decoding and analyzing new things. It is the higher level of thinking that I want them to get out of it, not just what the plot is. Reflecting on it now, I don’t think I would necessarily study Shakespeare that in depth through only reading. Shakespearean plays are to be acted out and viewed, so reading each scene in depth wasn’t as useful as I had hoped it would be. Although I have been extremely frustrated with them at times, I will definitely miss all of their lively personalities and I am thankful they allowed me into their classroom so easily.

I have found the hardest part of teaching is the marking, not only the copious amounts but also the deciding factor of grading student work. I have found it very challenging to decide what grade they should get and justifying it. In the study of English especially, a lot of the work is subjective so having a clear idea of what YOU as the teacher want is very important, while maintaining the expectations of the curriculum. I felt a lot of pressure with marking in the higher levels, because this has a direct effect on that student’s future. While marking some of the grade twelve works, I felt a lot of pressure to give fair marks that clearly reflect the standard of work they have submitted and I took marking very seriously. This is another part of internship that is very challenging because I am trying to mark my judgment and marking to another teacher whom has different standards so I am always second guessing myself.

One thing I have noticed that I need to work on is my confrontational skills. I am not a huge fan of confrontation but as I have said before, my students were all so great that I didn’t get a lot of experience with discipline, which is something I regret. However, throughout internship I do realize how important classroom expectations and outlining behavior and routines at the beginning of the year, and this is a practice I strongly agree with and will continue to follow.
I have been teaching in the FIAP room as well, and I have been enjoying it a lot. The atmosphere is completely different than a senior English class, and it is honestly just a lot fun. It is very challenging work in different ways from a mainstream classroom because each student has such diverse needs and is at completely different stages so it is really hard to plan for. Being as organized and structured as I am, it threw me for a loop at first because it is very “go with the flow” type of thing, where whatever happens, happens. The period that I have been teaching is called “Personal Management” where they are learning life skills that they will (hopefully) utilize to become independent. It is a senior FIAP class so we have ages 18-22 and it is really awesome to see what a great group of students they are. One strategy my coop uses is to assign roles for students who are finished their task to help others who need it; it works out really well because each student is at such different stages that it combats the issue of planning for each different ability l
evel.  I have learned so much being in the classroom with them and I really enjoy it. Even though inclusive education in my minor and have taken tons of classes relating to it in university, I have never once been told or shown how to actually TEACH a class so observing and being able to teach a class was an amazing learning experience.

Tomorrow is my last day, and it is a very bittersweet feeling. I am so incredibly excited to be done and be able to relax for a few weeks, but I am going to miss the students so much. As much as I get frustrated with them, you get so attached to them. Students are starting to ask when I will be back to visit, another student said yesterday, “You were the best intern ever Ms. T. Usually interns are always really bad but you were the best one ever.” Of course he was probably just saying that because his group hadn’t presented their final project yet, but it is still nice to hear, regardless!

Teaching is one of the most challenging and utterly exhausting jobs I have ever done. I highly respect all teachers; the reason why they do this demanding job for such little recognition is definitely because of the students. Being able to work with young people everyday is exhausting, but also an incredible feeling. I haven’t worked
with a teacher who isn’t enormously caring, and isn’t willing to go above and beyond for each student. As challenging as these past few months have been, it has been able to show me a clear picture of what a teacher career entails. Many people are asking what my plans now. First, I am going to sleep, and then sleep some more, and then I guess I will finish my degree, as I am technically not a teacher yet. Right now I am so looking forward to spending the next few weeks relaxing and spending the holidays with family and friends, without marking any more essays.

To my fellow interns, congratulations! We survived and I appreciate all of
the enormous support I received from you.  I wouldn’t have been able to get through without all of you wonderful people sharing your own experiences and resources. I am looking forward to seeing you all in January!

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.

Internship: Weeks 2 – 4, Flushed Classroom Keys and Sleepless Nights

Most people hate MonIMG_1301days, right? Last week I took my Monday morning to a new level, as I watched my classroom keys get flushed down the AUTOMATIC flush toilets. I just stood there for a few moments, not really sure what the next step would be. After the initial shock of seeing my precious keys flushed down the toilet wore off, I realized I had to gather up the courage to tell my coop teacher this embarrassing story. Fortunately for me, she was able to find the humor in this, and I was able to get a new set. If this was setting the tone for my week, then it was going to be a long one.

There was a partial lockdown issued in all of the schools in the city this past week, and although it was somewhat nerve-racking and of course put a damper on the afternoon, we continued with classes as normal. Despite the annoyance, it was definitely reassuring to see how well the schools are able to adapt to circumstances to ensure the safety of all students and teachers throughout the city, because regardless of the situation, students’ safety is always the number one priority.

This past week was my first full week of teaching, and it was exhausting. I have come to find it to be really frustrating to teach something that your students do not understand because you have tried your best to explain it in various different ways, and still they are not understanding. I remember in high school getting so frustrated with my math and science teachers because I felt as if they weren’t explaining things enough and I wasn’t getting it at all. Now the tables have turned, and I feel like I am the one who isn’t explaining these concepts to students enough. This is one of the reasons that I think formative assessments are so important because when I look out at my students, so often I am thinking they have no idea what I am trying to explain. I wonder if they are simply bored to death, do they have no clue what I am talking about, or is there something on my face?

I’ve been told that some people believe that we teachers all get a “book” that we read, and it just tells us what to teach. I think the “book” they are referring to is the curriculum, which of course all teachers (are supposed to) follow, however what most people don’t realize is that the curriculum explains what outcomes we as teachers need to ensure our students are meeting, but the curriculum doesn’t explain how to get those students there. How do teachers hit these outcomes for students who need extreme help along the way? How do teachers go above and beyond these outcomes for students who need more enrichment and are already way past these outcomes? People really underestimate how hard teachers have to work every day. Teaching something that some student’s get immediately,  and some have no idea what you are talking about, where is the balance? Teachers need to figure out how to get that deeper explanation to the students who need it, and then need to also decide how to get the students who have already mastered this to the next level, all while doing this in an hour with all students working on task on something  meaningful to their educational and meaningful to their future. This something that will hopefully come with experience, as I have no idea how to do any of that yet.

I am slowly settling into the teaching routine. The drastic change is now becoming what I am used to. What I am not used to is thinking about school and lessons 24/7. It is not only mentally exhausting, but also physically and emotionally exhausting to be thinking about school every hour of the day. This has been a struggle because I haven’t been sleeping well most nights because I am constantly thinking about my lesson my next day. I try not to stay at school too late most nights, as I usually arrive pretty early. However, when I am leaving school and arrive home, I feel as if I should be doing something. Surely, I can’t take the night off and spend my time doing non-school related things.

For the first few weeks of school, I was in this routine where I would literally take home six or seven books thinking I would maybe need them or work on something in each book. I decided last week I needed to stop doing that, because seeing these books and binders piled up on my table only added to the feelings of anxiety. I don’t need to take my entire desk home with me every night; it is unrealistic to think I am going to do hours and hours of planning once I get home, after planning for over five hours during school time. Even when I am not spending my evenings and weekends planning, I still cannot get planning out of my head while I am sleeping. I am thinking maybe I should try going to the gym before I go to bed, or maybe practicing some kind of yoga or meditation.

Something I have realized over the past few weeks is that I need to work on is turning school off for the day when I leave. Any of my teacher friends have suggestions to this issue? Or is this what it will be like for the next 3 months??