Category Archives: Field Experience

Back from the Grave… I mean Internship!

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted on this site. I’ve always been told that if you share your page it needs to be up to date. Well I say to those people “you’ve never been in an education internship have you?”. Internship was the hardest, yet most rewarding experience I’ve ever had. It was the greatest accomplishment in my storied career, or should I say careers, and I am so proud of making it to the finish line.

Why didn’t I just post reflections on my blog you ask? Instead of blog posting I turned to sticky notes to get my thoughts on paper as quick as I could as internship moves fast and furious. However, I’m a tech guy, so I turned to Twitter in order to capture as many internship moments as I could. Instead of a long winded post where I ramble on, and on, and on, about my experience I want to leave it here and point you towards my Internship highlights page.

But I am back. Look forward to seeing reflections from my final semester at the U of R. Braiinnnnnnssssss….

ECS 301 – Day 8 in the Field: Finding Peace

My last pre-internship day of 2014 came to a close.  I sit here looking back on the tumultuous journey of my first 8 sessions as a teacher.  It has been an interesting start to what I hope to be a life long adventure, but an amazing experience that will never be forgotten.

My journey started out a little rocky, for the most part, but part way through I found myself and yesterday everything culminated in a grand crescendo of education.  It is a little bittersweet leaving the students after such a great time, but I feel rejuvenated in my decision to become a teacher and look forward to our time in March.

So what made yesterday so amazing?  Yesterday was the day where I truly found peace with my teacher self.  I had made a very confident deal with my cooperating teacher that I wanted to get a taste of what an entire day of teaching felt like.  To sum it up in one word: exhausting.  Teachers pour so much of themselves into their days that it is extremely tiring, but in the end it is worth every second. Yesterday I was able to see how much these students cared for me as a growing educator and how much they want to see me succeed.  I saw that my teaching style and strategies can exist in today’s classroom, albeit somewhat modified.  It was a final moment of self discovery and in it I’ve found peace.

To start the day I decided that I needed to create a game-based scenario for one last shot at seeing if I could pull off being a game and project based educator.  I took the students into the gym and we proceeded to create ecosystems out of gym mats, nets, whatever was in the gym supply room.  How did it go you ask?  AMAZING! It was hands-down the best lesson I’ve ever been a part of.  The students were so engaged and so full of wonder and creativity it was a sight to behold.  As part of the lesson I made an impromptu attempt at pulling in some Treaty Education.  Once again I was shocked at not only the student response, but my own response as well.  I’ve been very hesitant to bring up Treaty Education, I didn’t think I knew how. Apparently I do know how and we came up with one word that the students will hopefully always carry with them: Harmony.  We talked about the tough issues surrounding race and sex and we all reached the conclusion that collaboration and working in harmony with one another is the greatest step we can take to finding peace.  My soul was lifted and I could see every student in the room deep in thought about what harmony meant to them and how they could incorporate harmony in their lives.

The rest of the day was not as great, but as I’ve found out it is in those moments we learn the most.  My cooperating teacher and I found that when I’m put on the spot, we had extra visitors during Math that completely changed the lesson, I default to direct instruction.  Oh, direct instruction, my arch-nemesis.  But because of that lesson, which to be honest was fun and not terrible at all, I have found out how to adjust on the fly and not lean towards lecturing.  In ELA we played Mad Libs and the students loved it! It was something different.  Not every student had enjoyed a Mad Lib so it was hilarious to see what they had come up with.  These lessons weren’t mind blowing, but they were OK and I’m so happy that at this time I’ve grown so much that OK is just fine by me.  OK lessons mean I still have things to learn, but I ask myself “Did the students learn? Did I learn? How can I make adjustments to make this better?”  If there are answers to those questions then I mark it down in the “Win” column now instead of the “Loss” column.

For the grande finale to an amazing day I was able to enjoy a Grade 1/2 classroom.  I worked with a small group of amazingly bright and adorable youngsters.  It was such a treat to work with them and see how amazing students are even at such a young age.  I never thought I could teach to people that young, but I can say, with a huge smile on my face, that I loved it!  And the coup de grace to this finale was a massive group hug from students I had only spent a total of an hour and half with.  I will say this, if you ever need to smile or feel loved just go to a grade 1/2 class.  After the chaos settles you will never find a more genuine feeling of being loved and appreciated.

I find it very interesting that I’ve answered just about every single question I’ve posed to myself and my potential readers.  Can I go UP? Should we Wreck-It? How do we find our Groove? All of them, every question I’ve found solace in.  I cannot wait to see what questions I have in store for my three week experience in March.

I can honestly say I’ve found peace in the fact that I love to teach.  I have had many different jobs before pursuing teaching and after yesterday I was both tired and energized.  I’ve never felt so alive when reflecting upon the great day I had in the classroom.   Thank you to everyone that has been a part of this journey so far.  My professors, my cooperating teacher, my classmates, but most importantly my students.  Thank you! I would not be the teacher I am today and the teacher I want to be tomorrow without all of you.  I hope we can all find peace, not only in ourselves, but everywhere.  Peace is generated from within.  If we take the time over the holiday season to look within I know we can find peace.

Thank you so much once again to Dreamatico for the image.  Your pictures are so inspiring and hopefully I’ve helped others find your site: http://dreamatico.com/magic/7/

ECS 301 – Day 7 in the Field: The Price of Progress

This journey began with many bumps and bruises.  More so, just on my on my ego, not physical bruises… ok maybe a few. But, as rocky as the journey has been it is starting to culminate in tackling new challenges. Even on the downward slope there are still bumps and bruises, but they are different.  The difference is that we are now having to make more difficult decisions and work on more sensitive issues because we are no longer fresh and green pre-service teachers. We are now an integral part of the classroom communities we are involved in. The students see us in a much different light then they did in the beginning.

Looking back at day seven in my pre-internship teaching experience I see the growth I have experienced over the past 3 months.  I received one of the greatest compliments from one of my students.  He approached me and said “I’ve been talking about you with my older brother, who’s big into gaming, and I said I had this sub that loves gaming too and makes games…” Wait, what… a sub???  Yes, I was seen by this student as full fledged teacher.  His view of me was equal to that of any other teacher in the school.  Day one I was the “Intern”, day seven I’m now the “Sub”.  I honestly couldn’t believe it.  Have I grown that much? But I still have so much more to learn how can I be an actual teacher?  I can be, because I am.  Even as a pre-intern I am a teacher. Also even as a full-time teacher I will still have a lot to learn.  I will still be going into a classroom every day with my thinking cap on, prepared to soak up whatever the students throw at me.

Students will throw a lot of things at me, but the greatest tool I have discovered, thanks to my cooperating teacher,  that I can use to help in catching things is to build strong relationships with the students. However, on this particular day I found out that in strong relationships come very difficult decisions.

The scenario was fairly typical in most classrooms.  A student was repeatedly being disruptive to other classmates.  Pretty straightforward to manage you would think. I pulled the student aside to talk about what I was seeing and that a change in behaviour was necessary.  I thought I handled it quite well.  Except this student’s response to me was “I find this so funny” whilst shaking his head.  The rest of the conversation was just a back and forth of perceived work from both of us, but ended with the same line “I find this so funny”.  I held my head and kept my cool, but I couldn’t shake that line. I thought I had a good relationship with this student. He had always worked hard for me in past lessons. What was the issue now? Why was it funny?

Here I discovered the price of my progress.  I did have a strong relationship with this student.  But, because I had a strong relationship with him, this student did not expect me to react to his behaviour in the manner I did.  In fact, I figured out that what he meant was “you’re just like every other teacher I’ve had…”.  This student has had behaviour issues in the past.  I’ve seen them and I’ve seen them dealt with by my cooperating teacher.  In an instant I saw our relationship change to one that was less “Intern” and more teacher.  And it’s hard. It’s hard knowing that I lost respect of a student I believe I share a common bond with.  But, I also learned that as teachers we have to make these difficult decisions.  Do we break down bonds now, in order to build them back up stronger later? In this instance I made that decision, unknowingly at the time, to do so.  I made the choice that I want that student to be stronger in the long run.  I want that student to understand respect for his colleagues and a sustained work ethic.  I would rather he gain those skills and hate me, then love me and learn nothing.  That is the very harsh reality of teaching.  We have to make sacrifices and hard decisions each day, but all in the name of learning.  Is the price of progress worth it? These moments are some of the hardest that we will deal with. I have gone through these moments personally as a youth.  My answer because of this: Yes, you bet it is worth it.  I am a better person as a whole because of the sacrifices my teachers made.  It took me a long time to realize what they had done for me. But in the end I figured it out and so shall this student. In the end it’s about him and the rest of his classmates.  It is about every student that enters our classroom door.  And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Thank you once again to Dreamatico for the headline image: http://dreamatico.com/magic/2/.  This image is subject to Copyright and is used for educational purposes only.

ECS 301: Day 6 in the Field, When Magic Happens…

If you’ve been following my story you know that trying to find yourself as a pre-service teacher is no easy task.  So far it’s been a lot of hard work with heart breaks along the way.  Each lesson taught has been filled with challenges.  And then it happened… Magic!

With a wave of my magic spoon I enchanted students with a simple science activity.  As the fizz of the bubbles died I could see inquisitive faces seeking answers, instead of the glazed over looks of a boring, broken lesson.  Finally I had my moment that I had been looking for.  That teacher moment when you know you’ve actually tapped into the potential of young people and watched it flourish.

OK. Maybe it wasn’t that amazing, but I finally found one piece of my teacher self in that moment.  I discovered that hands-on learning is what I am striving for.   Giving students a chance to discover a concept rather than pushing it at them with lectures or sugar-coating it with games, I found solace in letting the students come to their own conclusions.  In a world where there is no wrong answer, young people seem to dig right in and keep asking question after question.

How did I finally make the magic happen? Well I followed my own advice. I was myself.  I dressed like how I felt I should dress, I acted as I want to act in my classroom, I taught how I want to teach.  I was me.  And you know what I finally felt like me.  The classroom felt like my classroom.  I completely got lost in the moment.  In that moment I had two massive epiphanies.

1) Mistakes are treated as the worst possible thing outside of education.   In education they are the best possible thing.

I’ve been fighting so hard to not mistakes.  I set the bar so high that when I wasn’t meeting my own expectations I felt like I was letting people down.  Thankfully reflection has helped reframe and I finally get it.  I finally see that I need to crawl before I walk.

2) Part of my issue with prior lessons was that I did not build in proper transitions.

For 5 weeks I kept going “what’s wrong, what’s wrong, what’s wrong”.  NOTHING! I was just missing a piece of a lesson that helps it flow, helps it feel natural.  In the lesson presented yesterday, my transitions were better but I still need a lot of work on this.

Finally a solid lesson, one to remember… and I forgot to take pictures. Was it perfect? Perfect lessons do not exist.  Did I make mistakes?  Absolutely.  But I have already learned from them.  I need to watch my timing.  I need to have transitions.   But in the end if I go 5 minutes over is that a problem? Not really.  If I forget to talk about something is that a big deal? Not at all, however I should remember to circle it on my lesson or write it down. I’ve learned that it’s how we deal with mistakes and learn from them is what makes a good teacher.

I am not an expert teacher (does that even exist? ), but I am learning.  Learning is the foundation of everything in education.

So can we go UP? Yes! Do we have to adapt? Yes! Can I teach how I want to teach? Yes! Do I truly love to teach? YES!

Thank you to: http://dreamatico.com/magic/6/ for the headline image!  This image may be subject to copyright and is used in this article for educational purposes only.

 

ECS 301: Day 5 in the Field, Finding your Groove

“You threw off my Groove!” I stated to a student as they flicked the lights back on after flashing them like a dance party.  The students loved it and then proceeded home for the day.

Finding  your groove is probably one the hardest things to do in this pre-internship experience.  As I reflect upon my fifth day in the field I find myself looking back to see how far I’ve come.  However, I also see how far I have to go.  I’ve been personally struggling to find myself as a teacher in the classroom since day three in the field.  Game based learning and gamification were the cornerstone of my teaching philosophy, and they still are, but how do you use such great methods in a class that is not geared towards or ready for such a learning style?

I tried to go into a comfort zone of teachers and work with direct instruction for the lessons I presented.  Let me tell you, lecturing to a class of grade seven and eight students is difficult at the best of times, let alone after a four day weekend.  This lesson went sideways within the first five minutes.  So I dug in and learned from my lesson last week, I adapted.  I started moving a bit faster, trying to get the students involved in discussion, cracking jokes, it seemed to be working… until another five minutes went by and they were gone again.

When it came time for them to work on their assignment the students took off with a flash.  I was blown away.  In reality a four day weekend meant very little sleep, video game hours nearing triple digits, and zero homework.  How could a direct instruction lesson even stand a chance?  It didn’t… What the students needed was a hands-on exercise.  They needed to move, to socialize, to get the creative learning juices flowing before a direct instruction lesson could even be thought of.  Not only do teachers need to find their groove, they also need to find the groove of their students in order to find success in a lesson.

That brings me to my biggest take away from yesterday.  I am not a direct instruction style teacher.  This class does not function well in a direct instruction environment.  Therefore logic would dictate that direct instruction is probably the LAST thing that I should be utilizing as a teaching strategy.  It has its place, but what I found was that I need to break it up for these students.  Thats their groove.  They need things presented in chunks and pieces.  They also need that hands-on experience provided with drawing, creating, doing.

Now how do you find your groove?  More so, how do I take my passion which is gamification and apply it with this group of students?  I am finding that one day a week really constricts me as a pre-intern teacher.  I feel forced into a box of teaching strategies and classroom management strategies.  Since this is not my classroom what am I supposed to do?  How do I handle certain situations in the classroom when these are not my students? It is simple really.  Be yourself.

It really is that easy.  I greatly appreciate my university classes, but honestly when I’m in the field I focus so hard on the theory and too little on the practical.  I focus on tools and techniques that are not me.  At this point it’s time to break things down and build them back up.  It’s a moment of self-discovery.  What does actually work for me?  How does David Brown want to deliver a lesson?  How will the students react to the lesson I’ve designed? What tools do I want to use?

Fun fact: I haven’t used a computer for a lesson once. That is the only thing I have ever wanted to use in a classroom!  I have focused too hard on trying to be my cooperating teacher, my professors, my former teachers, that I’ve forgotten that I’m the one in the front of the classroom.  It’s my time to shine.  It’s my time to be me and to use the gifts I have to WOW the students.

I have found over the past five field experiences that I absolutely love teaching. It fuels my soul.  I am drained at the end of the day because I throw my entire being into these students. I am so crushed when lessons do not go well that I question my ability and passion to teach. So it’s time I started teaching my way instead of trying to fill the shoes of my cooperating teacher, professors, and former teachers.  It’s time I found my groove instead.

Image provided by: http://kaitandkaboodle.blogspot.ca/2010/08/spy-moves-humble-abode-dads-birthday.html – This image my be subject to Copyright and is used only for educational purposes.

ECS 301 – I’m gonna Wreck-It! …ok not really : Day 4 in the Field

Another day in the classroom, another movie inspired reflection.  After what seemed like a dismal performance last week I was determined to “right the wrongs” I thought I had done.  After reflecting on my reflection I realized things weren’t so bad after all.

This particular pre-intern day started off on an interesting note.  We were treated to a presentation by Robb Nash @robbnash on Anti-Bullying, Anti-Suicide, general teen issues.  I must say it was outstanding.  His show, because really that’s what it is, was very inspiring.  I greatly appreciated his question to us all.  Why do you do what you do?  Most know what they do, but rarely do people know why they do it.  I am very fortunate to know why I do what I do.  Passion for learning and helping youth grow are two key pieces to why I do what I do.  And so fuelled by this performance I was ready to jump back into Math 7 and Percents.

This time I was even more prepared.  Armed with a more structured lesson, a cool and fun activity sheet, I was going in guns a blazin’!

And that’s when I hit the wall again…  sigh… the students were frustrated, they were pouty, they were… challenged and HATED it.  I immediately went to the same place last week.  Asking myself “Man can I really do this?”, “I was so prepared, it must be me that is the problem”.  However, this week I pushed the pause button.

No, it was not me.  Was my lesson great?  Not really.  Was it bad? Not even close.  So why is there this seemingly massive disconnect between my math lessons and my students?  Working closely with my cooperating teacher we had a very good reflective session on what may have gone off the tracks.

For starters today was the day I had a very structured lesson and then decided I was going to go off on a couple of tangents.  It happens, especially to passionate teachers. They were math related tangents, that’s a plus, but they distracted the students from the focus of the lesson.  Learning point #1 – Lessons need focus, and you should try your best to stay on that focus.

Teachers teach differently, just as students learn differently. For two math lessons in a row I’ve approached Math in a way that this group of students is just not comfortable with.  They haven’t realized that being challenged and uncomfortable is ok.  Learning point #2 – ADAPT! Be prepared to go all Wreck-It Ralph on your lesson and rip it up.  Go to where your students need to go.  Let your students guide your lesson.  If they can stay on the tracks, keep going, but if they seem to be de-railing go with them.  This is also NOT a bad thing.  We teach so students can learn.  If they’re not learning are we really teaching?

Lastly let’s talk about what my lesson in Math was all about.  Learning Point #3 – Simplify! I spent 45 minutes preaching about how to make Math easier by simplifying the elements of any equation to the point where you, as a student, are most comfortable.  Why didn’t I heed my own advice?  Throwing too much at students in such a short period of time can easily overwhelm them.  It also can easily overwhelm you, as the teacher!  Structure is great, but as I came up with yesterday.  If you are expecting an unstructured lesson where the students are expected to have the A-HA! moment on their own, why would you then impose so much structure on yourself? How can you expect unstructured learning, when you build a fortress of structure around yourself?  Unstructured learning requires flexibility and adaptation.

So to answer my question from last week: Can you go UP from here? The answer is a resounding YES! There is no such thing as a perfect lesson.  But what makes a great teacher, great is the fact that you learn from everything that gets tossed your way.  It is ok to be uncomfortable.  It is in discomfort that we learn.  No matter what you do, just remember: You are a Hero to your students, even if the lesson is completely wrecked.

The image used may be subject to Copyright and is used for educational purposes only.  Thank you!

ECS 301 – How do we go UP? Day 3 Field Experience

As I started my lesson on Day 3 of my field experience one of the students says “You look like the Grandpa from UP”… sigh… I’m not that old.  It was one of those humorous moments to start a lesson that gives you a vote of confidence as a beginning teacher that the students are warming up to you and look forward to seeing you work.  I wish I could say that the lesson was received with the same warmth and went in the direction of Grandpa’s house in UP.  However, the lesson went in a direction I never really anticipated, sideways.  Today’s lesson was Math and I wanted to put a fun twist on what is usually perceived as a boring subject.  I also wanted to test drive what forms the base of my teaching philosophy, game based learning and gamification.

To start I presented a new topic, percents, to the Grade 7 Math class.  The direct instruction portion went over as any typical math lesson I feel goes.  Some get it, some don’t, but I had faith that the game I had planned would help pull the rest of the class over the finish line.  To put it bluntly, it didn’t.  So here I sit trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of a broken lesson.  It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t good either and I feel and think as if I let the students down.  We have been told numerous times that lessons will go bad, it happens they say, I understand that, I’ve seen it happen.  However, as it seems with lots of things these days, no one has discussed the “How”.  We’ve learned, “What” and “Why” but never “How”. So how do we pick ourselves up and say “I am not a bad teacher” after a lesson doesn’t work out the way we envision it?  The first thing that comes to mind is practice.  We need to remind ourselves that this time is our opportunity to practice the craft we are pursuing.  We will stumble more than we may be comfortable with but it is in this discomfort that we need to find out how this gig really works and how it works for us.

So what happens when your entire teaching philosophy has been taken out back, punched in the stomach, and kicked a few times when it’s down?  Now I shouldn’t paint this gruesome picture of a game that was well received, was fun, engaging, and took math to a different place that the students had not really explored before.  But, the reality is that because it was so different students did not really pick up the math in the game.  They’ve been instructed in such a specific way for so long that something different did not really work.  So here I am, teaching philosophy a little broken and bruised.  How do you incorporate game-based learning into classrooms where games are considered a privilege? How do you work games into a world where direct instruction dominates?  Well thanks to my cooperating teacher part of the answer is… drum roll please… time.  My biggest take-away from my experience yesterday was that in the world of education everything takes time.  More time than what most realize.

In the aftermath there were still some great take-aways that I have from my experience yesterday.

  1. Board organization goes a long way in helping students look back at a newly presented concept.
  2. Time, time, and more time.  Take your time with new concepts, but have things prepared for the students that catch on quickly.

So where do I go from here?  Well I’m not sure to be honest.  Do I continue to try fit games into a world where structure dominates? Will the system accept the type of teacher I want to be? Can I go UP from here?

ECS 301 – Day 2 in the Field – The Fellowship Forms…

It was a bright sunny day… actually it was rainy and cold, but it was still day two of my education field experience.  After a whirlwind adventure on my first day in the classroom I was extremely excited, and a little bit nervous, to dive deeper into the pool and teach a full lesson.

The quest on this day was going to be Physical Education (PE), which unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, was the last period of the day.  For me it seemed to be doomed to be an unfortunate event as the students were extremely active today.  With nightmares of control issues dancing in my head I proceeded to do what I could to mitigate the upcoming disaster.  The only way I thought I would survive was to form a tighter fellowship with my cooperating teacher and the students.  I circulated more than I did on the first day and had longer, deeper conversations with my cooperating teacher.  In this I discovered that my confidence was growing, I was relaxing and starting to mould into the class dynamic.

Last period of the day finally arrived and I noticed something.  The butterflies were gone, I had a huge smile on my face, and I strode into the gym for P.E. like I was on a shining steed, armor gleaming in the sun, sword out ready to slay the dragon that awaited inside.   I jumped into the fray right away providing clear and confident directions, taking charge of the army of students I was provided… OK it wasn’t that grandiose, but I did capture their attention with my Set and everyone was busy dancing to the music I provided and moving around in the warm up.  From that moment on PE seemed to just fly by! Students were active and participating, for the most part listening, having fun!  I attribute the success of my first lesson to the first thing my cooperating teacher taught us on the first day: building the fellowship. (PHOTOS INCOMING!)

I can see now why my cooperating teacher focuses so much on relationships.  In building relationships with the class it gave me the confidence required to hit the ground running in PE.  It gave the students confidence to participate in the lesson because they understood me not only as a teacher but as a person.  It was genuinely fun even though it felt a little chaotic at times.  In that I had some great take-aways from my lesson and some things I would like to do differently.

1) Write down EVERYTHING.  In the gym it’s a little more difficult, but I would like to have more than just my warmup outlined on a board so the students have a clear reference for instructions provided.

2) Spend more time on demonstration.  Some students were a little confused as the games progressed so a demonstration of what was asked of them would have went a long way.

3) Ensure I have the proper amount of resources.  Unfortunately I ran out of poly-dots and I did not have tape to create lines for the students.  The students did very well without, but it would have been easier and more engaging for all students if I had all the materials I needed.

I learned more than I could have ever imagined on my second day in the field. Two of the most important things I took away was planning is invaluable and relationships go a long way in a successful lesson. Just like the fellowship in Lord of the Rings they had a plan and solid relationships to help push forward on their journey.  However, just as in that story, there will be rocky times and many unknowns, but continuing to form a fellowship with my cooperating teacher and students will help lead me to my ultimate goal: throwing the ring… I mean becoming a teacher.