My first field experience had everything you could possibly expect in an adventure. It had action, puzzling questions, life changing experiences, and most importantly a happy ending. I learned an incredible amount over the past 8 weeks. Not only did I learn about educating youth, I learned numerous things about myself as a professional and a person.
One of the first big take aways from this experience was learning from your students. Why should teachers take the time to learn from their students? For starters without them there would be no need for teachers. But I discovered during my field experience that students have so much to offer. They offer a uniquely genuine perspective that I would have never thought of from the front of the class. More than once I heard the dreaded “This is boring, I want to do something fun!”. Is that a bad thing? Yes and no. Yes, because your students do want to be engaged and we should be striving to incorporate them in the journey of learning. No, because as teachers that is something we can learn from. Why are they saying that? How can I make adjustments in order to fix the obvious problem? Because students are sometimes, to a fault even, brutally honest we can take something away from those moments. One strategy I picked up from my cooperating teacher to assist in handling those moments where students seem to be slipping through your fingers is to build relationships with them.
Interacting with students was the one thing that my cooperating teacher reinforced every day that I was out at my field placement. I completely agree with him. Student relationships can make or break a classroom. If you show students you care and can relate to them, students will show you how much they truly care about you and education. If you have strong relationships with students their engagement level goes up and classroom management issues go down. I’ve seen this in action. In my wonderful inquiry lesson, where I had students building things out of gym equipment, I saw a level of engagement that I had never seen before. I also was able to rein things in almost instantly if things started going off task. It was because I had spent 8 weeks learning their names and their passions that I was able to have such success. If you care, they care was a motto I took away from this experience.
Now onto the practical art, or is it science, of teaching. Showing students you care is not only done through your interaction with them, but through careful and diligent planning. I can recall a conversation in class where I stated that “planning wasn’t really all that important, I knew it was a good thing to do, but I didn’t think it was really that helpful, it’s more about how you teach it and what you’re teaching that create engagement”. I was partially correct, but as I discovered planning is essential to achieving success. As the field experience progressed I leaned more and more on good planning and organization to create success in my lessons. I saw dramatic growth in my ability to plan when I discovered the backwards by design lesson plan. This structure allowed me to tap into my creative abilities first by creating fun assessments and also gain a much better understanding of the outcomes and indicators before diving into the traditional pieces of a lesson. Some examples of working with the BBD planning structure can be found in lesson 6, lesson 7, and lesson 8.
Throughout the field experience I consistently checked in with my goals for the placement. My progress, to be honest, has been incredible. I have been able to keep my passions in check and keep a focus on the learning objectives of a lesson. The comments on my target sheets at the start for lesson 2 as compared to the comments noted on lesson 8 demonstrate my growth in accepting criticisms and collaborating on solutions rather than becoming defensive. I went from being defensive of critique to collaborating like a colleague. I think that the biggest factor in the growth of this goal was the reflecting we had to do throughout the experience. In the reflections we had to be critical of ourselves and because of that I was able to understand the feedback presented by my professors and cooperating teacher. The final goal of keeping it simple was probably the hardest to achieve. However, because of my unique experience of being able to teach more than one subject in a single day I discovered that to maintain quality in planning and in the lessons I had to make things less elaborate and I had to keep things focused. I am very proud of my success in achieving the goals I had set for this experience. For next semester, when we spend 3 weeks at our placement, I want to continue to work on these goals, but I think three more goals I would like to work on are as follows:
- Assessment – I want to explore assessment strategies and see what I can achieve without having to create exams.
- Planning – I need to continue to work on my lesson plans, especially as I dive into bigger projects and more complex games.
- Default Teaching Strategy – I need to break the habit of going to Direct Instruction when I am forced to teach “off the cuff”. I need to expand my “tickle truck”.
Overall, my field experience has reinforced my passion and desire to teach. I cannot see myself doing anything else at this point. I’ve done many different things and this experience has shown me that education is my calling. Even though I had some challenges during my experience I have found peace in my decision to work with tomorrow’s leaders. There will be hard times, but there will also be fun times. Each day will be a new adventure waiting to be had.
I have grown so much over this entire experience of returning to university that it is almost overwhelming to think about. As much as learned about education, I also learned about myself. I learned more about my ADHD and was so humbled when asked to contribute to blog post that was receiving national attention in Ireland. I would never have had that experience if I had not followed my professors advice to get more involved in Twitter, but also social justice issues. I find excitement in discomfort now, because I know those moments are the greatest learning opportunities we can have. I have learned how to be a responsible digital citizen and to use my digital talents to encourage and educate. Most importantly, however, is the fact that I am truly happy. It has been a long time since I’ve felt true happiness. But, because of my classmates, professors, and this field experience I once again have found that soul filling happiness I had when I left high school. I am truly a better person because of this experience and I cannot wait to see what next semester has in store.
Thank you so much Katia. You have been a major catalyst in my growth. I am proud to have been your pupil. You have provided me with hope that I can be the person and teacher I want to be in the future. I promise to continue working hard to promote social justice and to promote alternative teaching methods. This is the only gift I can give, but I know that as a teacher, a promise from a student can be one of the greatest gifts, especially once carried out.