Well, last Monday was it. It was my very last field experience for ECS 300. Wow. It’s been a crazy ride, but lots of learning and lots of fun along the way. It is sort of funny how you can finally get to know the students, and you can finally notice their individual learning styles and what it the most effective way to teach them, and then you are done teaching them. I guess that is just part of being a teacher; investing lots of time in your students to find the most effective way to teach them only to lose them at the end of the year. I will miss them though, their lots of fun to both talk to and to teach. And when it was not so much fun I definitely learned a lot.
The day itself was good. I created a lesson plan mostly focused around students doing a worksheet from information they found on a website about bison and the Plains First Nations. We were a bit rushed for time, but otherwise the students were vary focused on their assignment, though I realized now that it was that way because they were afraid that they would have to do it for homework if they did not get it done in class. I then intended for the class to discuss the effects of the disappearance of the bison, and how that affected the First Nations whom relied upon it for their survival. We did not have a lot of time for discussion, and the students were still trying to finish their worksheets when I hurriedly tried to get them to talk, and so overall I think that it was a flop. Even so, I think that it was a good lesson and with a few tweaks it could be great.
I think that I have definitely gotten better at teaching. I am more comfortable in front of the classroom when I know the students that I am talking to, and when I know the content I am teaching. I recognize that I have can have a dominating presence, but that I relate to students more through joking with them and working with them, which can be much more effective. I mean, I have only taught six times to two different classes, which will not give me a lot of information, but I know exponentially more about my teaching styles, habits, and strengths than I knew before. As for Lesson Planning, I have definitely grown. Going through the guidance of our lecture and seminar teachers, as well as the hands on experience of making our own lessons to actually teach, I know now to focus first on the objective (what am I hoping to teach) and the indicators (how will I tell that what I am teaching is getting through to the students), and then work from there. I still feel like I have some struggles with lesson planning, but those are mostly focus related, I think.
In terms of professional development, I really like what my coop teacher said to my partner and I: As a teacher, you should always keep learning. Even when you complete a lesson plan ‘perfectly’ look for the areas of improvement. The day you think that you have reached the highest peak is the day that your teaching becomes much less effective which leads to irrelevancy because you have stopped learning. I do not think that is exactly what he said, but the sentiment is there. Always learn. As a teacher you should be the first to learn in your classroom, your job is to share what you have learned and are learning to your students. Never stop learning; it is that simple and that vital.
Some more tangible examples would be to look back on the goals for my placement and see how I did:
Communicate better with students while teaching. I definitely learned how to communicate better. I can, on occasion, use words that a little more advanced than the vocabulary of the ordinary individual, especially being in a grade 7/8 classroom, but I think I learned a few key things when communicating with students. Firstly, be consistent when referring to something. Something that I noticed as a teacher is that I would use three different terms for the same thing, so I had to go back and make sure the students knew that I was referring to the same thing each time I talked about it. Secondly, do not be afraid to define terms students find tricky. One can usually tell when students are lost in translation so its okay to stop, find the tricky term and define it using more common language. If after that, students are still confused, its sometimes better to use the simpler term (unless that is what you are teaching), as being consistent in something confusing can only create more confusion for students. There are lots of other, little things, but those are more classroom and students dependent.
Engage students better. Being a fairly attention-challenged/kinetic learner, I always want to be engaging to all the students, and having students do something as simple as fill out guided notes to keep students involved or an activity to help get students acting upon the teaching. What I have found is that students are a whole lot more engaged when they are involved in the lesson, as I found when teaching my creative writing lesson last week. I had the students write stories and then afterwards I read a few of them in front of the class, and you could have heard a pin drop they were so focused. Use student ideas, or have some appointed as monitors to manage themselves, but it works to get the students involved. It works, at least from what I have seen.
Incorporate ‘teachable moments’ when possible. This objective a little bit more difficult to pinpoint, but I want to say that I have succeeded when the opportunities arose. Learning about effective questioning techniques has definitely helped me to encourage students to think for themselves, and so when ‘teachable moments’ occur I feel better prepared to direct questions in such a way that students learn as much from their own research as from me.
This whole teaching thing is a pretty hefty task that none should take lightly, and those that do definitely should get some sort of medal for at least attempting to tackle such a daunting task. Seeing other teachers in action has been so cool, and teaching individual lessons myself has been so enlightening as well. It is hard to imagine what teaching is like when being taught about it in a university class, but being in the classroom is where everything becomes so clear, and the reality of the teacher so evident. I have learned so much already and am excited to keep learning. It will not be easy, but that makes the end reward so much sweeter.
My name is James Lamb, and I am a teacher.