I started my pre-internship on October 15th at a community school in the north end of Regina. My partner and I are placed in a 3/4 split class and have been enjoying every minute! We go to the school every Wednesday to observe, help out, teach, and learn. We taught our first two lessons together and our next two lessons solo, observing one another and giving constructive criticism and suggestions.
Although I reflect on the specifics of my lessons each week, I want to reflect on my experience in general thus far (one month in!) and summarize some of the challenges I have faced and feelings I have had throughout the four weeks.
The first lesson I taught on my own was social, a discussion based lesson looking at how culture is reflected in our family communities. The second lesson I taught was ELA, in which we read and deconstructed a mystery narrative, pulling out elements such as detective, suspect, clues, evidence, etc. Overall, I was happy with how both lessons went but there were definitely challenges in each lesson.
In the social lesson, the students were to move around the classroom to music and do a turn-and-talk about a specific question with a different partner each time the music stopped. The first few rounds of this went well, but after that some of the students started to talk in groups or always go with the same partner. Some students also started to misbehave in certain ways, like jumping over desks. Later in the lesson, we formed a talking circle to share our partner discussions. This also started out well and then became challenging, as the students really struggled to stay focused and listen to each other during the talking circle. In the ELA lesson, the students were really engaged during the story reading, but I started to lose some of them toward the end of the lesson when filling out the story map together as a class.
Transitions were challenging in both lessons, from moving all the desks to make space for a circle talk and getting students to form a circle in the social lesson to having to switch from the projector to the overhead in the middle of the ELA lesson. I also found it difficult to scan the room and identify which students were off-task or not following directions because I was so focused on trying to get my lesson across.
This past week, I used classroom management strategies as my professional development goal and got feedback from my teaching partner and my co-op teacher. My goals were to wait for complete silence before starting to talk, to call on students who were off-task to answer questions, and to move toward students who were off-task. These strategies helped and I’m improving my classroom management skills, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit discouraged at how the students were responding to my lessons. I have all these idealized notions of what teaching is and how teaching should look, and I felt like my lessons weren’t measuring up. I found comfort in a blog post from my classmate, Kara (follow her blog!). Part of her post read:
This was an important learning moment for me, because, of course, all teachers will become frustrated with their students at some point, yet I always have this idea that teaching is magical and will go perfectly. Letting go of some of these idealized notions has been a big part of my pre-internship experience. Having students test your patience does not mean you are a failure, it means you are human and so are they. It isn’t whether you are frustrated or not, but how you handle the frustration.
I was really encouraged that Kara was also experiencing these feelings and I realized that most of my classmates probably are. Also, I thought about why I faced those challenges and came up with a few reasons. One, my learners aren’t used to doing activity-based learning; they are used to worksheets. Two, they had only done a circle talk once before. Three, I should have planned better for transitions and given clearer directions in some instances. Four, the students love to tell stories but struggle to listen to one another for long periods of time. These are all things that can be worked on and improved with practice!
Based on that, I think some of my idealized notions of teaching can still be goals to work towards. I just need to realize and accept that I’m not going to be perfect and neither are my students, and it’s not fair to expect that of myself or of them. So rather than becoming disheartened about the practical aspects of teaching, I’m becoming excited about the opportunity to learn alongside my students in all our imperfections.