Be Great In Your Classroom

My three week block is just around the corner and as I sit here trying to figure out what I want to share with you, the only obvious thing that seems to be popping up are the 3 simple ” life lessons” that I’ve learned.

When I say “Life Lessons”, I don’t mean things like being an organized teacher, being flexible, ect., ect. What I’m referring to are the little things I can do in my life when I am in the classroom – the little things that I want to do every day to make my day and my students day that much better. I don’t think these things would have clicked to me if I wasn’t made aware of them by Cooperating Teacher in my previous pre-internship. I didn’t know that I was unconsciously already doing these 3 things, but once I was made aware of it, I decided that I would forever do these 3 priorities. I’m happy that I am able to put these elements into practice so early on in my career and I wish to share them with you as well.

My Cooperating Teacher made an interesting comment to me and it has stuck with me ever since. He said, ” you will have students who will be great in your classroom, only if you will be great in your classroom as well.” What does that mean to you?

Here are the three elements in my classroom that I wish to share with you:

1) Laugh!

Laugh at your mistakes! You are human for goodness sakes and so are your students. Invite your students to laugh at their mistakes and to learn from them and move on. They say laughter is the best medicine for anything. I believe it. What teachers do you remember from your schooling days? I’m sure we all can remember that one grouchy teacher who just made our lives miserable all the time. I think my favorite teachers though were the warm, caring teachers – the teachers who loved life, loved teaching, knew how and when to have fun and were just overall pleasant to be around.

When I see catch myself doing this, I automatically think back to my grade seven teacher, Mr. Pittman who literally would turn red in the face from laughing so hard at himself or at a situations. I can’t always remember why he would be dying of laugher, but I know his love for life was so infectious and contagious to use normally cynical, hormonal seventh grade students. I know that he wasn’t laughing at the expense of other students in our class. He laughed with us.

2) Learn. Learn. Learn.

Although your students are here to learn, you are the BIGGEST learner in your class – you are the one learning ever day. There is nothing wrong with allowing your students to witness you learning. There is no harm in saying “Good question! I don’t know the answer to that”, or “Let’s find out together!”, and even “I want to share something I learned today with you”. Say it often, because although you are masters of your trade, you will NEVER know everything there is to know. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that everything you collect in your first 5 years to teaching is all that you will learn and then use that for the rest of your career. I strongly believe that you are doing a service to your students and your profession when you become a lifelong learner who is always trying to better themselves and to build an understanding of the world with their students. Isn’t that one of the reasons you joined the club to start with; because you love to learn and are never satisfied with what outdated information?

3) Nourish your genius

Your biggest job is to seek out and help nourish each student’s “genius”. I know we hear this day in and day out, but why do we think that some students are gifted and others aren’t? I don’t think that’s at all true. All your students are loveable, capable, creative, amazing, talented, gifted geniuses. Each and every single one of them are. They are geniuses, right now(even if you can’t see it on the surface).

I know you won’t be able to “touch” every student. I’m fully aware of that, but it is your responsibility to try to reach every student. You need to get to know what makes each of the students in your classroom tick, what floats their boat, trips their triggers, tickles their fancy, flies their kite, lights their candle, tosses their salad…and so on…and so on…

Often times we have those students in our class who acts as if they don’t like learning or that they don’t want to learn. The truth of the matter is that everyone loves to learn something, you as the teacher must invite your students to learn things they are passionate about as often as possible.

I came about this tweet a while back. Why would you want to capsize a students’ potential when they are in your class to become great people. Ten of the Best Ted Talks on Improving Education.

I know these are things that I have promised myself to do daily for the rest of my career as a teacher. These are just values that are important to me and everyone might have different opinions on these. Wherever you stand on the spectrum, I think every teacher has their own interests that they wish to focus on. I don’t think every teacher needs to have the same goals as long as an active effort is made to improve themselves and their students. Education is the one profession where both partners are trying to work towards a common goal together.

Both New to Each Other..

We are lucky enough to live in a country that allows other’s to intermingle into the cultural make-up of Canada. Within our classroom, we see a multitude of different faiths, ethnicities, cultures, traditions and often even languages. Although English is an International Language, many of our newly arrived Refugees and Immigrants have a hard time reading and writing English. Unfortunately, while as a teacher we try to do the best that we can for them, sometimes it’s harder when we have a language barer. We have support teachers who try to ease students into a new language and often times it works wonders, but there are times when it take longer than usual.

We will all be faced with a situation to this degree at some point, especially with Canada opening their doors to so many new people. As I’ve been thinking about how I wish to tackle this situation in the future, I think I’ve made a list of things I wish to try. I think its these little things that we can do in our classroom to incorporate and welcome ESL students. Just imagine how these children feel regardless of age, about coming to new a country with customs so different from the ones you have grown up with. These newly arrived children are just as much a part of our classroom are other students and we want them to contribute to society just as much as we wish other students to participate.

Here is what I think we as teachers should do to try to help our new learners:

Culturally Conscious: I think that it is important to be aware of all the cultural differences that you have in your class. If you aren’t too sure about the cultures in your classroom, that’s okay. Take time to learn about the different customs and traditions that populate your room. For me personally, it is important to celebrate these differences with my students and have them share their culture with their peers. This makes also provides a comfort zone for the new students and it allows other students to share their identity. With this, you might be able to find someone in your classroom who shares similar traditions as your newcomer. This will help you assign a buddy to help the new student with the know-how of the school and the daily schedule. This will assist the new student in finding their way around the school and classes. Check in the student from time to time to make sure they are okay as the day goes on. It might even be nice for you as a teacher to learn some common phrases and words from their native language to help communicate. Google Translate is a great way to learn these and even to use as a medium of communication with the student back and forth.

Let Them Speak Their Native Language: I’ve seen this happen a lot when I was in Grade School. I’m sure my teachers had good intentions for not allowing ESL to speak some of their native language but I found that it was often frustrating for that student. I’ve often heard people say that students who have a stronger foundation of their native language will have a shorter route to acquire English. I think that if you block students from expressing themselves in whatever language – let alone whatever way. Discouraging them their language might actually result in negative feelings about their culture and might discourage them from acquiring English all together. When the time is right, they’ll expose themselves in small bursts.

Be Hands On and Use Manipulative: According to William Glaser, we learn 80% of what we experience, and 95% of what we teach others. No matter how shy them seem to be, give them the opportunity to be involved in projects that will get them in talking as much as they can to their peers. Start simple and work your up to bigger projects. Some ideas might be things like Art like drawing, painting and sculpture, and acting such as charades. These can be fun activities to lighten the atmosphere and get them participating. You can also have pictures symbols placed around the classroom so that the ESL student can point to objects when they need have a laps of communication. Have a picture of a desk, or a pencil, and other objects to make communication easier for the both of you. This constant repetition will also introduce them to new words and will widen their vocabulary.

Be Connected With All Their Teachers: Whether you teach them every subject or they transfer from teacher to teacher, make sure that all the teachers are on the same page and are working together to make sure these students are being helped as much as possible. Try to work with your teaching team to provide some sort of consistency in the students routine and the way you approach the language barrier. If your school is fortunate enough to have an ESL Teacher, keep up with that them as much as possible so that you have a good idea as to where they are making progress. I would also have the students parents come in to meet all the teachers in their child’s schooling. Have a translator available to help make communication accurate and successful. I personally feel when the parents are in on what their child is accomplishing at home, things will flow smoothly in the students life.

These are just some of the aspects that I want to cover in my classroom when I have students who are ESL. We will always have new faces and new voices in our country and our schools. This can be a learning experience for you, your students, and the ESL student and their family.

 

I Don’t See F-U-N in the Word M-A-T-H

Math. I hate it. I’ve never liked it and quite frankly, I don’t think I’ll ever like it. Why you ask? Well, I don’t know, I guess I’ve never really been good at it. Unfortunately for me, as a Middle Years teachers I have no choice but to teach everything and anything. Especially in my upcoming three-week block. URGH!

Well I guess instead of drowning myself in pity I could be a grown up about it and figure why I’m not exactly thrilled about teaching math(other than the very obvious point that I don’t actually enjoy it). As I sit here and think about it, I think the biggest fear that I seem to be having is over the fact that I’ll never be able to make Math fun and engaging for students. I can only imagine that if Math was never intriguing for me, there must be so many other students who think and feel the same way that I do.

I think this must explain the reason why I decided to take on the topic of Math for my Inquiry project for my ECS class. Before I start my three week block I hope to become some sort of wizard who can just zap her students to like, understand and even want to do math. Is it possible to do these things? I guess when I think about it, math is so heavily dependent on using a textbook, but is it possible to rely less on textbook activities? Another struggle I’m likely to face is tackling students who learn in different ways. Some students learn from pictures, other words, and some numbers; can you take a concept that is so heavily based on one of those and change it into something everyone can understand. I remember asking myself why in the world I had to learn math as I was doing it in Elementary – was there any relevance into my real world? I think that’s an important concept to bring into your classroom when it comes to math; how can students apply this into the “real world”.

Currently, I am in the process of trying to find different resources to support my theories and the approaches that I plan to use in my class. I am trying to find fun math games on Pinterest, videos on YouTube and even different Math Apps that students can use on their devices.

If you happen to know anything that is helpful in getting Middle Years students engaged in Math please comment down below! That would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers!

 

Curb your Curiosity

How do we cap our own curiosity? Usually, we search it, find and answer and boom! Case closed. We’ve grown up in a society where we crave new information and try to be as knowledgeable as we can. But, have you ever stopped to think about what it might be like to implement something similar into our classrooms? There might be some teachers who aren’t particularly keen on the idea because of the fact that it calls out on the importance on the role of our institution. I personally think that kids of this generation are lucky to have access to information from sources other than school – as long as this information is passed through a teacher for clarification and explanation. We need to let students have their own agency over the information they want to learn and comprehend.

Inquiry Based Learning is a new way to get students thinking for themselves. It starts naturally by the teacher and sometimes even the students asking a simple question, problem, or an instance. This is different than the typical way that a teacher simply gives out facts or spoon-feeds knowledge. The great factor about Inquiry-based learning is that it encompasses problem-based learning. Many teachers prefer to have teacher-based Inquiry Learning where the students would check in often with their teacher about the progression they’ve made, as well as have the teacher introduce and show different ways of finding the information that they are looking for. Inquiry Based Learning is moving ahead so quickly, that there are now teachers who conduct their own Inquiry Based Learning of topics and subjects that they want to explore before bringing it into the classroom.

For me personally, the most beneficial component of Inquiry Based Learning is that it combines the curiosity of students but also incorporates an approach to critical thinking. Critical thinking is a life skill that we already try to engrave in our students so why don’t we continue to remind them to keep questioning and ask them to seek answers? Inquiry based learning acts as another avenue to successfully gather more skills and knowledge. It gives students and even teachers a chance to better understand the world that we work, live, learn and function in.

So how can you go about adding Inquiry Based Learning in your classroom? It’s simple! There are so many ways to do it, some are nice and short, and others require a little more work (all of which will pay off in the end for yourself and your students). Here is how I would use IBD in my classroom:

1) Be Flexible:

Let students explore in a way that is comfortable for them and let them present that information to you in whatever way they choose. When you give a specific way to look for information and ask them to present it in a particular way, you might be cutting off students who aren’t skilled at that option. While you want to build that skill for the student, you also want to gives them different options so that they are more inclined to seek new skills.

2) Flip the Classroom:

At the end of the day, post a video or tell the students the content that you will be discussing in the classroom. Have students read and gather their own information so that you can spend the following class sharing information and having hands on discoveries and activities.

3) Don’t Spoon-Feed, show them how to Feed themselves:

Our job is to educate and that includes giving students answers but try not to give them the answers to quickly. I know that there are times when I just give them the fish, instead of teaching them HOW to fish for themselves. We don’t want robots in our society, we want individuals who understand and demonstrate a process. As teachers, we need to be prepared for the different directions a simple conversation can go.

These are just some way in which you can use Inquiry Based Learning in your classroom. Initially, it might take some times getting use to implementing something like this, and there will times when your students don’t understand information from what they learn. As you get familiar with the process, you’ll be able to help your students with their learning as well.

The best thing about Inquiry Based Learning is that both teacher and students are learning together.