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.

Pre-Internship – Reflection of First Week

I have been in my classroom for a couple days, and so far I am loving being in a high school environment. I was nervous about entering my first high school teaching experience because it seems as if not long ago, I was still a student at a high school! I am mostly involved with grade 9 students. My partner and I are teaching the same grade 9 class, in different periods. We haven’t gotten a chance to teach yet, however I am learning a lot from observing which is awesome.

My partner and I have the opportunity to observe a different teacher’s supported grade 9 class. Right away we could see noticeable differences between the classes. For example, this supported english has a lot of EAL learners, therefore the dynamic of the classroom is quite different than our first periods. I noticed a lot more need for classroom management in this room, and the lessons and content also move at a much slower pace. I am very excited to be involved with this classroom because I know that there is an increasing number of diversity in schools, specifically an increase of EAL learners so it is a fantastic learning experience.

I am very happy with what classes I am observing because it seems as if everyone talks about how awful grade 9s are, however I am quite enjoying them! I also appreciate that my partner and I have a bit of observation time before jumping in because it gives us a chance to get to know the students better and an opportunity to get familiar with the school.However, I am excited to start teaching!

Communication and Evaluating Learning

Chapters 9 & 10 in Making Classroom Assessment Work

Davies starts chapter 9 of Making Classroom Assessment Work out by discussing the importance of having an open communication system not only with your students but also with your student’s parents. She highlights the fact that many parents want to know what is happening with their children and their education, however many teachers struggle to find a successful means of communicating with so many parents with such different and complex schedules.

One suggestion she makes on page 86 is to involve students with the communication. I struggle with this solution because I personally see many challenges that may arise. The first being, what if the student doesn’t want to tell their parents about school? There are many children who leave school at school and don’t want to think about it again. There is also the issue of if there is a newsletter or questions that need to be discussed, there are some very disorganized children who will not have that paper in their hand for more than five minutes before it goes missing. There also is the issue of actually involving the parents. Unfortunately, there is always going to be parents who do not wish to be involved, or don’t have time to be involved. Even if the parents are willing to be involved with their child’s education, there is also the issue of time. What if their dad works out of town and doesn’t have time to talk about that specific topic, or what if the child has hockey right after school until late at night and they don’t get a chance to discuss the topics. Something I wonder about is whether implementing this communication strategy would still work if there were students who will not have any information or discussions at home involving their parents.

Going off of that point, incorporating technology would be a great idea in ensuring parents are involved as much as possible or as little as possible. Having a school website where information is posted, such as upcoming activities and due dates would be a great way of ensuring the parents that want to be kept up to date, can be. Also giving parents your personal email would be a good way of communicating because you can reply whenever you have a chance and vise versa. However, I have heard horror stories about teachers giving out email addresses to parents, so I guess I would need to get to know my students and parents before I went that far.

Davies then moves on to student-parent conferences, which is the best time for parents to see what their child has been doing. I think it is important to prepare for these with your students because it take some pressure off of you as the teacher, and it also gives students some initiative to take their learning into their own hands. During the conference, the parent will give feedback to their child and their child will hopefully feel very proud of accomplished. If needed, perhaps the parents could also set goals with their child involving the teacher to ensure future success as well.

Chapter 10 discusses in depth about evaluating and reporting of the evidence of the learning. On page 95, Davies says: “Evaluation is a process of looking at all the evidence, comparing it to the description and samples of quality and asking: Did this student learn what was to be learned? How well?” and then “To evaluate well, we should look at all the evidence – observations, products, and conversations.” This reiterates the point that you must collect numerous amounts of evidence over the process of learning, not just one because students learn in so many different ways and can accomplish success in more than one just way.

Not only is it so important to involve parents as much as possible, but as discussed previously in the book, it is also crucial to involve the students as well. If we involve students then their learning becomes so much more valuable because they get to learn about things that are important and interesting to them. This also will help in their understanding if they involved in the learning from the very beginning. If students learn how to successfully self-monitor, then they are well on their way of becoming life long learners.

In conclusion, I believe that the more parent involvement you can get in your classroom, the better. It will positively affect your student’s learning if they have a parent actively invested in their education, and it can also give parents a peace of mine because their voice will be heard about what they want their children to be learning.

Creating Student Goals and Describing Success

“Making Classroom Assessment Work”, Chapters 3 & 4

What do I want my students to learn? This is a question that Davies poses as she starts chapter 3 titled “Beginning with the End in Mind”. In Saskatchewan, we have it outlined in the curriculum specifically what our students should be learning. “Standards and learning outcomes provide both opportunity as well as a challenge.” (Davies, 25) With that being said, this chapter outlines the complications that arise when students don’t fit that model or on the same learning levels as their peers.

The first thing that came to mind when Davies discussed the different ranges of expertise each student would have when they enter your classroom was an EAL student. These students are absolutely going to be in your classroom at some point in your career. I would argue that it is even inevitable because of the increasing rate of immigrants to our melting pot of a country in all areas – the cities, rural schools, different provinces, etc. As a pre-service teacher without a lot of experience teaching EAL students, I wonder as I read this chapter if it is only my job as the teacher to implement routines and differentiate for these students, or are there teams of people to support me as a teacher and the students as learners? I worry about this in an English classroom because I would find it very difficult to teach English literature to someone who doesn’t actually speak the language.

Davies then goes into discuss the importance of syllabus’s, which I absolutely agree. I did not have a lot of syllabus’s in my classrooms as a high school student, but I very vividly remember in grade 12 when I took a creative writing class, my teacher wrote out a complete syllabus with the assignment descriptions, as well as the weekly plans (didn’t always go as planned, but had an idea of what each week would aim to look like) and I absolutely loved it. Obviously being a university student, I get tons of syllabus’s each semester, but I really appreciate the good ones and I will take bits and pieces from each one from what I found helpful. “[W]hen we know what we’re going to be doing, we mentally prepare ourselves and activate more of our brain by doing do. Once students know what they are supposed to be learning, they can self-monitor, make adjustments, and learn more.” (Davies, 26)

I found an interesting idea on page 29 when there is an example of where a teacher decided to design his syllabuses around each unit, so breaking it up so that it wasn’t so overwhelming. I can see how it can be valuable for your students. It breaks things up for them, so they aren’t seeing everything at once. Personally, I will write things in my agenda and will stress about them and try to get them done early on and will be anxious about it until I am done, but getting things done that in advance and worrying about them may not be a good thing. If the students can only see what needs to be worried about for that specific unit then it can make it less overwhelming for students as well as easier fro you as a teacher (especially as a new teacher) to create.

Leading into the next part of this chapter, Davies discusses not only having a detailed outline, but also lots of examples. I definitely agree because I love examples. I am such a visual learner and have a really hard time reading a description about something and then trying to do it without a visual. “If students don’t know what they are to learn and what it can look like, they are handicapped and their success is at risk.” (Davis 28) I still struggle with this issue, and recently have had some presentations and assignments where I had no visual and would have loved to actually see other people do it first so I had more of an idea of what is expected. Showing your students how you are planning on evaluating their work will also help the students understand what they did do and didn’t accomplish, and what they need to work on for next time. This will also back you up as a teacher by making it easier for you to grade your students because you can specifically point out what they didn’t accomplish if they ask you or if their parents want to know.

So with the last chapter being about how important describing assessment is, chapter 4 goes into detail about what success actually looks like. To me, this is a very complex notion as creating these assessment guidelines basically tells your students what they need to do and what a “good” assignment will look like. If we allow too much room for ambiguity, then we risk setting our students up for failure by not giving them enough guidance and going completely off path. Davies mentions that obviously excellence can be achieved in a variety of ways, but how will we as teacher create a description of what needs to be learned if every student will be learning different things at different levels? It seems very complex with no right answer.

Something that really caught my eye in this chapter was when evidence of learning was brought up. This is something that I really believe in as a teacher. If students can get grades in math for showing their work and completing the necessary steps to solving the equation, without coming up with the correct answer, then I believe as an English teacher my students should be allowed to show their process of work and also receive grades for it. I would try to implement this in my classroom by some practices I am actually doing myself this semester – building a portfolio which include drafts, writing prompts, and samples of class participation. It also helps break up a looming final exam or project because throughout the year they have collected samples of their work that shows their growth as a student.

Davies emphasizes the importance of collecting “good” samples throughout the years to show your students, however I feel as though this is somewhat problematic. What is considered a “good” sample? If you are able to have a wide range of different types of samples then maybe that would give the students a better idea of where they could go with the assignment. However if students are only shown a couple of past student samples and told that those are “good” samples, it could potentially hinder their creativity because they could assume that it the only way to complete the assignment. As a student who needed to see examples in order to get a vision of what I needed to do to complete the assignment, I agree that having examples for students to look at is so important, but I also think there needs to be careful consideration about what samples are chosen.

The notion of having the entire staff participate in finding samples of assignments from past students is interesting, however I don’t know how realistic that is. Would an entire staff get together to create a binder of samples that parent and students are free to look through that Davies mentions on page 42? I also find this to be somewhat problematic as what if you decide to change your assignments and outlines from year to year, which is most likely to happen. I think this is a great idea to explore; however I don’t know how successful it would be.

On page 39, Davies mentions the age-old debate very common and very touchy in education world. Should students be allowed to submit and resubmit assignment late, even up until a few days before final grades are determined? This issue is very overwhelming to me and I understand the debate from both sides, however I have never had my own classroom before therefore I am not completely sure how I will deal with that issue as a teacher. I think that if I give the option to ALL students to resubmit an assignment, then I would be okay with receiving the assignments late because I have given them that option, and if the students want to improve their grade then they have the option. I must have been unclear or failed as a teacher at some stage if many of my students were struggling with the specific assignment and would most likely feel as if it is necessary to their learning. I believe this is fair because all of the students are allowed to re-do it if they wish, and if they don’t feel the need to re-do it then that is their personal choice.

However, in regards to students handing assignments in late, I will have a penalty for each day it is late in my classroom. I understand that things come up in life and will hopefully be a very understanding teacher if something happens that means the assignment will not be completed on time, but I believe that time management is a very important life skill to have, and if I let my students have things in whenever they please I think that will hinder them greatly in life. For example, late assignments in university are absolutely not tolerated, and they don’t care if you still got it done or not – if its not in by the due date, most professors will not tolerate it. If you come to your job late or sometimes don’t show up when you are supposed to – that will not be tolerated, and will eventually result in losing your job. Time management and due dates is such a crucial skill in life that I think needs to be taught at a young age.

It is also not fair for students who hand their assignment in a week and a half late to get the same mark as a student who completed the same assignment but on the actual due date. I would never refuse to accept an assignment from my students, but I would want them to know that handing it in late will not get the same mark as if they handed it in early. As I said, this topic is very delicate in the education world, especially in the cases where school divisions have no zero policies set in place. I would be interested in hearing my fellow educators opinions on this topic!