Stories from the Field Blog

Week One: Students & Learning Environment Core Questions: Who are our learners? What does the learning environment look like? Spend some time talking with students to get to know who they are. If possible, join students on the playground at recess or break times and have informal conversations (and let them get ato know a bit about you too as they’re always curious as to who the new ‘teacher’ is). Take a photo of the classroom (empty) or draw a sketch of what the classroom looks like. Does this remind you of your own schooling or is it very different? How does this space make you feel?

The school that I was placed at is Spruce Ridge in Estevan in the grade 5B class. It is the newest school to Estevan and the largest with over 400 students. It was built within the last 15 years. It is a unique building in that it has an open concept library. The hallways make up the library. They have a theater style space where teachers can take their students to read stories and it is somewhat enclosed. They have an open computer area that is available for all the students to use and for teachers to book for classroom use. Spruce is the largest school in Estevan and each grade is split into two different classes A and B. The classes are together in pod like formats for grades 1-5 with a tutorial room separating the classrooms. Grade 6-8 is treated like a junior high with the students rotating classrooms for each different class.

I attended a variety of schools in my time as a student, and this is the only school I’ve ever seen that is like this. I really liked the environment and found that it was incredibly well set up and encourages learning. I loved the open concept library and the tutorials that separate the classes. This is definitely a school I would love to teach at.

There are a variety of students and needs within the classroom. My cooperating teacher is a firm believer in integration and we have one student in the class who is special needs. They participate in the classroom for most subjects, but have an EA with them at all times to take them to do other things and to help support them.  Because routine is so important to all students, but especially those with special needs, the routine is always the same. ELA and French (every second day) and MATH in the mornings. Then after lunch they alternate the rest of their classes between days 1-6. The students all learn in different ways and I saw a small glimpse of this. I think everyone is a learner at some point. Today I learnt that as teachers sometimes we have to work on the fly. We may have the day planned out, but that we need to be flexible and learn to adapt.

Week Two: School and Community: You will become familiar with the school environment; the students, teachers, administrators and other staff members as well as the community. Core Questions: Who are the people in your school? How would you describe the school and surrounding community? What and who do you see as creating the links between school and community? Have someone take a photo of you standing in front of your school – great keepsake to add to your Professional ePortfolio. Inquire as to if your school has a school website – spend some time becoming familiar with your school community.

Week two at Spruce Ridge was a lot of fun! There are lot of people in my school. It is the biggest elementary school in our community  and the newest. There are a lot of students that live on farms or rural communities, as this is the school they are all bussed to. Students who live in this particular school district also attend the school. The school is kindergarten to grade 8 and each grade has 2 separate classes. The school itself is a beautiful building, with lots of classroom space, tutorial rooms and other open areas that teachers and students are free to use. The library is an open concept library so the hallways are basically just shelves lined with books, which I think it really cool.

There are a lot of people who create the links between school and community, but I think that parents and teachers and administration staff are primarily responsible. There are also a lot of other people who build the relationships between school and community, such as volunteers, coaches, and other schools.

Week Three: Teachers & Knowledge: Core Questions: How do you see teachers honouring different ways of knowing? How do you see teachers promoting knowledge in the classroom? What are the key supports that teachers rely on? How do teachers continue to build their own professional knowledge?

I wound up being sick for my scheduled week 3 placement, however, I was able to make up the time later on in the week. This week in English class we worked on a few different things. The first was spelling words. The students did a self- assessment. Mrs. Risdale read the words, the students had to write them down then they were given their worksheets for the week and had to write the words correctly. They then had to come and have their words corrected by either myself of Mrs. R. If they got the word wrong they needed to write in on the back of the page 2 times. I really liked that instead of just having the kids copy their spelling words from the board she got them to first see if they knew how to spell the word correctly or not. It was a great way to challenge the students while still promoting a healthy learning environment. We then corrected our grammar fun Friday pages. Finally to finish up English the students worked on their postcards. Then it was snack and recess.

Mrs. R. and I were on supervision. It was neat to see how the students interact when they are not in class and the activities that they are drawn to. As we were walking around I got to see how Mrs. R interacts with not only her students but the rest of the students in the school as well, and they all really seem to adore her and have a relationship with her. She knows them all by name. Throughout recess and early morning supervision, I got to know a little bit more about the different students in our class as well as the school. As we passed students Mrs. R. would often share a little tid bit about that specific student.

After recess, we continued with Math. As a class, we corrected our previous work. Mrs. R. has all the students names on popsicle sticks that she pulls from a jar and when she calls your name you give the answer. If a student doesn’t have the correct answer, she will say to the class “ok who wants to help our friend (insert name) and then chose from someone with their hand up. I really like that she uses the popsicle sticks, it allowed for correcting to go by quickly and each student felt like they had a chance to be heard and give the right answer.  We then moved on to the Math lesson for that day which was converting fractions to mixed fractions and then again to decimals. I had the opportunity to sit with one of our students who forgot his glasses at home and couldn’t see anything. I wrote his answers for him and was able to work with him one on one. Had I not have been in the classroom that day, this student would have missed out being able to do his work and would have fallen behind for the day, as teachers don’t always have the time to sit with students one on one.

For me, math is my weakest subject and before whenever students would ask for my help in math I was always hesitant because I was so unsure of myself. I still don’t feel very comfortable in the subject, but after spending some time listening to Mrs. R. teach and working so closely with the students I can confidently say I understand fractions! As a teacher, we are constantly building on our professional knowledge. We do this through taking classes, teaching classes, observing and self-assessing.

 

Week Four: Inclusive Education-Diversity & Difference: Core Questions: What are the different forms of diversity you observe within the classroom and school? What may be some forms of diversity that are not visible? In what ways do you observe the school, classrooms and teachers honouring inclusive practices?

                 Week 4 at Spruce Ridge was another great day!  Being that the students always have English and Math in the mornings I arranged with my co-operating teacher to go in for the afternoon so that I could observe some different subjects.  We started with science where we got to do a fun experiment about simple machines. Next the students went to music class, this is a prep period for Mrs. R., and I went with the students. In music they are learning to play recorder using recorder Karate (something I also learned about in my EDMus class). I enjoyed listening to the students play and observing how the music teacher taught. Once the students returned from Music they had Health. In health class, Mrs. R. is reading them WONDER by R.J. Palacio the story is about a boy named Auggie Pullman who was born with severe facial deformities who was homeschooled his whole life until his parents enrolled him in fifth grade. He has the love and support of adults, but one bully temporarily turns the class against him, with the good winning out in the end. “It’s a rare story with the power to open eyes and hearts to what it’s like to be singled out for a difference you can’t control, when all you want is to be just another face in the crowd.” While Mrs. R is reading aloud to them they are encouraged to work on their art work projects. Periodically Mrs. R. will stop reading to debrief/ ask questions. The students love when they get to listen to Mrs. R. read wonder. They are fully engaged and it really seems to resonate with them. If you get a chance to read the story I highly recommend it.

As I mentioned in week 1 my co-operating teacher is a firm believer in inclusivity and integration and we have a student with special needs in our class. As for diversity within the classroom and school I didn’t observe many students who were of visible minority, however there is still diversity. Some students live out of town others in town. Some students come from 2 parent homes, others from 1 parent homes and others from 4 parent homes. Some students are visual learners, while others are kinesthetic, and others are auditory learners.  With there being 2 classes in each grade, you can also see the diversity amongst the grade 5 students as a whole. Just as there is diversity amongst students, there is also diversity amongst staff members. Some are young and recent graduates, while some are older and have more experience teaching. Some of the staff members are full time while others are part time or support staff, or filling in a leave of absence. One thing I did notice however, is that there is not a lot of diversity when it comes to gender amongst the staff. It appeared that the majority of staff members were females.

 

Week Five: Inclusive Education-Diversity & Difference: You will continue to focus on diversity, difference & inclusiveness in the school and classrooms. Core Questions: How is your school community honouring diversity, equity, and human rights for all? students (including sexual and gender diversity) within their schools and communities?

Week 5 at Spruce was another great week! Again, I had the opportunity to observe afternoon classes as opposed to the mornings. Again we did Science, however this time we had the opportunity to teach the grade 5 A class. Mrs. R. teaches science to both classes and Mr. _ teaches Phys. Ed. It was neat as last week when we did the science experiment I didn’t get a chance to see the results and today I did, but this time with a different set of kids.  After Science the students had social studies then recess. After recess we had Art. The students were able to continue working on their art projects while Mrs. R. read to them. This time Mrs. R. was reading Auggie and me, a sequel to WONDER.

The Administration at my school is fairly open to minded and easily approachable when it comes to diversity topics, however, they tend to tread on the conservative side when it comes to having a presentation or even a discussion. This is fairly common in this area, as South East Saskatchewan is a very Conservative area.  I was encouraged to hear that they had Camp Fyrefly present at their youth conference last year, however it was met with some opposition. Spruce Ridge does have a gender neutral bathroom, and at the moment there are no self identifying students. Mrs. R. is the safe space at the school for gender and sexual diversity. She addresses diversity within classroom discussions, especially in social studies and health. Mrs. R. is the safe space at the school for gender and sexual diversity. She addresses diversity within classroom discussions, especially in social studies and health. Mrs. R. is also currently working towards her Masters and the topic she has chosen is gender and sexual diversity, because the South East is so conservative and the reality is gender diversity is alive and well.

 

Week Six: Curriculum & Instruction: You will focus directly on curriculum & instruction as it is lived by the teachers and students. Core Questions: What is being taught? How are students learning? Do students see the meaning and relevance in what they are learning? What are the stories of curriculum? What are the stories of learning?

                The school runs on a six day rotation and the students have some classes every day and others on a specific days. Classes that students have every morning are English and Math. In English they work on grammar, spelling and they work with textbooks that contain stories and then they do an activity that goes with it. For instance, they read a series of anecdotes and had to create a postcard that represented that.  The students really enjoy their funky grammar Fridays and have gotten better on their spelling assessments. In math class, the grade 5’s are in a new pilot program called JUMP math. When I asked Mrs. R. about it she said that there are some things she likes and other things that she feels need to be improved upon, but such is the case with any math program.  On my first day of Observations, the students gave a feedback report on what they feel is going well and what they want to see improve. They really like that their textbooks and workbooks are all the same and they don’t have to carry around a big heavy textbook. In the afternoons the students rotate between a variety of different classes like science, social studies and health, physical education, art, music. For the two sciences classes I was able to observe, the students learnt about simple machines, in social studies they were learning about of government. I did not get a chance to observe a Physical Education class. In art they worked on a couple different projects one of them was the 3D hand art and another was a geometrical dot art. During art Mrs. R. also reads to the students. During music class the students are learning how to play the recorder. They are doing a program called Recorder Karate where they earn different colored belts for different song difficulty levels. At the start of the class they all work through each level together (if a student can’t play the higher levels that is alright, but it gives students who can play it a chance to play together). Once they are done working through the songs as a group, they get individual time to practise their songs and if they feel they are ready, they can play for the teacher to get their belt color. I thought this was a really neat way to get students to practice, as it puts the learning in their hands.

I was able to observe the ways in which students learn best. It was obvious that some worked better in groups, whereas others worked better alone. Some learned better by simply listening, while others needed the physical experience of actually doing the activity.  Some students needed more one on one help. As a teacher, I think it’s difficult to meet every students needs at all times and it was a good eye opener to me to see how to do some classroom management to be the best teacher that I can and help to meet my students needs.

Week Seven: The Role of Technology: Core Questions: How is technology used in your classroom? Take note of the technologies you see in the classroom and school. Visit the school library…what technology is available for student/teacher use? How are students engaging with technology (in school and outside the school)? Have an informal conversation with 2 or 3 students to see how they use technology, how they think technology helps them in their learning & ways they would like to use the technology. Have a discussion with your cooperating teacher to see how he/she uses technology in their instruction, assessment & professional knowledge.

Week 7 as Spruce threw me for a bit of a curveball as we had a substitute teacher today. It was however a new experience that I was happy I got to observe. It’s true that students act much differently around a substitute teacher then they do their regular one. They tested the limits a little more than they would have if Mrs. R. had been there. Mrs. R. left a subplan for the teacher and it was slightly different than how she would’ve normally taught the day, but that was ok! Teachers learn to flexible and substitutes really know how to do that.

Coming into the classroom 10+ years after I graduated high school it is a culture shock to me to see the amount of technology that is being used within the classroom. I remember back to when I was in elementary school and computers were just being introduced and we spent time using Mavis Beacon Typing.. now it seems like the kids are far more technologically advanced than I am! Most classrooms are now equipped with a smart board. Even though I have kids in school and they have them in their classroom, they are not something I have ever seen in use or had the opportunity to use. I think they are a great addition to the classroom!

There are also a variety of other ways that technology is integrated into the classroom. For instance there are Ipads that can be signed out of the library for students to use in the classroom, teachers can book the computers for their students to use. During my observation periods the students have used the computers to research images for their postcards, play games related to simple machines and to fill out questionnaire about their JUMP Math programs.

I had some time to talk to students about ways that they use technology outside of the classroom and most of them had the same answers. They use ipads or laptops  to play games, watch youtube videos, help them with their homework (ie research or math websites). Some of their favorite things to do on the ipad are to play games such as Minecraft or Pokemon Go, watch youtube videos (usually about Minecraft or funny videos). One student talked about how they use the ipad to read stories on an app called EPIC, another students said they used the ipad for a timer to brush their teeth and another student said they like website like IXL or Mathletics that help them in a fun way with their math. When talking with the students there was a general consensus that they would like more time on the computers/ ipads at school but nor for educational purposes.

Week Eight: Overall Reflection: Looking at the Big Picture: Interconnectedness of Knowledge, Schooling & Society Immediately following your final day of field experience, take time to look back at the experience as a whole, look at the ‘big’ picture and write one final posting on your blog and respond to your peer blogs one last time. Be sure to include this as a part of your Professional ePortfolio. Reminder: Blog exchanges will disappear at the end of the course so save now. You may want to copy/paste some quotes from your weekly field reflections. Core Questions: As you observed and interacted in your field experiences, how did the focus questions connect with one another? What connections did you make personally and/or professionally to the ‘interconnectedness’ of our weekly topics, field experiences and assignments? How does this experience affect your journey to become a teacher? What do you need to learn more about? What questions do you now have? What are 3 professional goals that you are setting for yourself for your next leg of your journey?

 

My last day at Spruce Ridge was a bittersweet. I know that my time there had to come to an end so that I can continue on my studies, but I really enjoyed the grade 5 class. Before being assigned my Observation I had wanted to be placed in a junior high setting or early elementary, so I was a little bummed when I found out I was being placed in grade 5, but I was surprised at how much I LOVED gr. 5 They were a great group of students and I was very fortunate to get to spend the time with them that I did. Mrs. R. was an amazing co-operating teacher and I learnt so much from her. As a thank you to my co-operating class, I brought doughnuts for the students as a

Being a full time student, wife and mother has been challenging, but being able to spend the last 8 weeks in the classroom with some hands on experience has made me confident in my professional choice and while I have doubts some days, I know that teaching is what I am supposed to be doing and that one day, I am going to be a great teacher because of the challenges I have faced to get here.

There are lot of things that I need to learn more about and I know it will happen over time. One thing I need to learn more about is curriculum lesson and unit planning. I feel pretty confident in my ability to plan a single lesson, but I need to learn more about where to find resources for specific units and what is standard for being taught. Something else I need to learn more about is math. It was difficult to help the students with their math as I didn’t always know what they were doing in class. While I caught on fairly quickly in class to what we were working, I still feel that I would benefit from taking a math class or two.

My 3 Professional Goals:

  • Take a math class or two, so that if I ever have to teach a math class (whether it be as a substitute teacher or a common core teacher, that I will have an understanding of what I teaching, rather than just reading off a page.
  • Find a way to get involved in one of the schools in my community (aside from my sons school) to volunteer my time or spend some time coaching. I want to be able to start building relationships now and learning from other teachers and students
  • Find a mentor, someone who has been teaching awhile and ask them if they will be my mentor and help to guide me as I continue to work towards my degree and then eventually become a teacher. I want to have someone to bounce ideas off and go to for guidance when I need it.
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