Friday, 21 February 2014

Teaching Learning

I really, really wanted to write a blog entry once a week. Really. Well, unfortunately, that did not happen, which is funny in a way. Anytime I ever begin a new adventure, I always make a list of things that I want to make sure that I include along the way. Whether it be renovating my home, preparing for a trip, or even something like grocery shopping, I always have a list of wants and needs, which once reality sets in, typically gets trimmed down a few wants to mostly needs. Sorry.

One thing that I always make sure I do, every day, especially in the classroom with my students, is to reflect (aloud), and share my feelings about my own decisions, planning, and practices for the day. I like to let my students to know that I am constantly looking at what I am doing, with a personally critical eye, to try and find ways to improve what I am doing and who I am as a professional.

I think it's important for students to see that the people planning and facilitating their learning in the classroom aren't perfect, but are always trying to get better. From my perspective it's important to model for learners, as it's one of the things we'd like them to do in almost all learning areas. In writing, we'd always like them to reflect while revising. In reading, we'd like them to reflect while attempting to empathize with characters in their stories. In Math, we'd like them to reflect on the processes in their solutions. In Science, we'd like them to reflect on their investigations. In Social Studies, we'd like them to reflect on histories. Having students learn to reflect as often as possible on whatever they are learning, will do nothing but improve them as learners today, but also encourage them to continue as life long learners.

The openness and honesty of reflecting with my students about my practices and about what I thought would work during my lessons, and how at times it doesn't work, used to feel like a really big gamble. Now, I'm not afraid to. If I want my students to actively look back at themselves and their learning, and hunt for ways to get better, then I better show them how to do it. How else will they learn?  

Friday, 10 January 2014

Week One: Genuine Relationships Chase Butterflies

So, my first week on the job in my new teaching assignment has come and gone. I am tired, but I'm also quite raring and ready to return. Having survived numerous Mondays and enjoyed the relief of many Fridays, it's rare for me to feel ready to get back to it at 5:30 on a Friday evening. But I do.

This was a week of firsts for me. First time teaching in French Immersion, first time teaching a split level class, first time covering a leave, first time teaching in an Elementary setting. As an experienced teacher diving into something brand new, and for that matter unknown, I had a few butterflies at the beginning of the week. Having never taught in an elementary setting, I had nerves over not bidding adieu to the kids after 50 minutes, to welcome the next group. What if they didn't like me? What if they drove me CRAZY? What if I drove them CRAZY? They had to stay, they were my class, and it was up to me to make sure they were learning. Woah...

It didn't take too long for those butterflies to move on though. What I discovered this week, in this environment, is that the time you're forced to spend together for the better part of the day, is what forces you to play your best and most honest cards with each other. The song and dance of "I'm going to try my best to impress you and make you like me," only last for a few hours, if only minutes. In an Elementary setting, both the students and teacher are put in a position where they must be themselves pretty quickly, and show their honest selves to each other, pretty quickly, and begin interacting pretty genuinely, pretty quickly.

What I quickly discovered is that first impressions aren't necessarily what matter most. At first, we all want to be buddies, friends, and looked upon as favourably as possible. We'd never dream of making a mistake and having to react or own up to it. Really though, having made many mistakes in the past, how I've adjusted and grown from those happenings is what makes me the person I am today. The first week in an Elementary school setting gives you the same experience interacting with students that it may take a month to get in a Middle School or High School.

Students test, push boundaries, and really help you establish the routines you'd thought you had planned out well before they arrived. They jump over the line, acknowledge they've passed it, promise they won't do it again, and then maybe just tip toe around it for a little while, until they find where they're comfortable in relation to the line. It's relatively easy to see now, after five days work, which students like to live where, in relation to the line of appropriate and acceptable in-school behaviour and relationships. If they're comfortable, then I'm comfortable... and I think after four days of students (one "Wind Chill," Day this week, for good measure), from my seat, we've found the line and decided how close or far we're going to stay from it.

One of the tasks that I put upon the students this week was to create readers theatre scripts to the theme of: "How to Survive at Our School." Some of them have been there for years. They've got knowledge and experience on their side. Their advice to me this afternoon was priceless and will dictate how we move forward this year, and will also assist me in planning for their learning. Their skits included messages on the following:

Lots of Projects
Be Polite
Be Nice
Encourage Students to Use Their French
Encourage Students to Raise Their Hands
Offer Lots of Help
Be Respectful

Use your cell phone
Be too tired
Sit on the tables
Be unreasonable
Have favourites
Glue students to the board.

While they're not necessarily all things I'd be too worried about thinking about (Gluing students, answering my cell phone)... I do take to heart they're genuinely addressing things they want and don't want in a teacher. They had thoughts like:

Sitting on Tables: They have their own personal space, and they'd like their work spaces respected. That's fair.
Be too tired: They'd like a teacher that's prepared to bring an energy level they can appreciate and work with. Also fair.
Be polite, kind, and respectful: Absolutely, they'd like to be respected.
Lots of projects: they know what they like to do. I can plan for that.

So... I'm ready to go back. A weekend full of planning a head of me, I feel like I know my students pretty well, for four days. I feel like when Monday rolls around, I'll be more ready than I was last week. I'll be more ready because I've met my students, gained an understanding about what they bring to class, and maybe most importantly what they'd like to see brought to class for them. I feel like we've taken some pretty great steps forward, and chased any butterflies away that may have been intruding. I am excited for Monday morning.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Welcome Back!

Welcome back to School, and Happy New Year everyone!

This is the classroom blog that we will do our best to keep up to date on a weekly basis (or maybe more!!!) in order to help keep you into the loop with all of the exciting happenings in the Grade 5 / 6 French Immersion Class at Ecole St. Adolphe School in St. Adolphe, Manitoba.

Thanks for stopping by, and we'll do our best to keep you as up to date as possible.

Have a great day!

- M. Reimer