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Top 5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Teacher

Top 5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Teacher

Teaching is a career derived from passion, creativity and empathy. However, it is probably THE most misunderstood career as well! Here is a list I’ve compiled of the top 5 things you should never say to a teacher. Ever.

  1. “Tests are a good way to see if the teacher is doing their job right”.

No no and no. Tests are the necessary evil we must face every year. Not only do they not measure a teacher’s ability to teach, but it doesn’t always measure a student’s level of understanding. One bad day = one not so good test. That test doesn’t equate to the countless raised hands and answered questions during any other day or lesson. For this reason, many teachers don’t place all of the importance on tests; what students produce elsewhere is just as important.

  1. “Maybe you should try doing more fun activities in your classroom”.

Yes- activities are a great way to learn, however not everything we do can be turned into an activity. Sometimes independent work is needed, or a writing assignment in a journal. That doesn’t mean that we don’t try to make it fun!

  1. “It’s great that you finish your day early”.

May I introduce you to lesson plans? How about correcting exams and homework? We definitely don’t wake up in the morning and randomly decide what we’re going to teach that day. We spend nights, days and weeks planning just exactly what we’re going to teach. Most of the time, it doesn’t go as planned, which means we need to re-plan and regroup. Not once have I went home after practicum and a day of teaching and said “wow, I have nothing to do today”.

  1. “I could so be a kindergarten teacher. It’s like babysitting”.

Far from it. A lot of teaching goes on in a kindergarten class. This is where we get students ready for school; we set the tone, give them a good base to start from and teach them the basics that they will need to use from here on out. Kindergarten teaching is not easy, and it is absolutely not babysitting. I have infinite respect for kindergarten teachers- especially when in a class of 30 students!

  1. The famous, “Teaching is so easy. You get summers off!”

Apart from the fact that some of summer is usually spent planning for next year, teaching is not easy. Yes, it is rewarding and yes, we don’t only have 2 weeks vacation, but we are in charge of something very important. Someone important in my life  pointed out that I are going to mold young minds, and he’s right. We mold young minds. We teach them things they will remember for the rest of their lives. We spend 7 hours a day with children to teach them about so many different subjects. Not only that, but we teach them life lessons as well. We are in charge of their learning, and that isn’t easy. Knowing that you need to help them learn and succeed is gratifying, but can be stressful as well.

Cheers to current teachers, past teachers and future teachers. May we continue to persevere, inspire and succeed in shaping the education of today and tomorrow; and cheers to our well deserved summer vacation.

Diary of a Student Teacher

Diary of a Student Teacher

Most of my blogs are informative and educational, however I decided to write something a little more personal this time.

I’m from Montreal, and I’ve officially decided to make Ottawa my forever home. The main reason for doing this was because I believe the education system here is organized, prepares young students well for future educational experiences, and schools here truly care about the well-being of students. I want to be part of a system that puts education as a priority on its list.

This past summer, I had time to reflect on my teacher candidate experiences from last year, and think about how I want to change for the better; how I can be helpful in this great system. Here is a list of my unanswered questions:

  1. How can I be even more organized than I already am? (And I really am at about 150% on the organization scale)
  2. How can I be better at classroom management? What are the skills I need to use here, and why has no one told me what they are yet?
  3. How can I find my place in the teaching world; how can I be seen as a teacher, and not just as a student teacher?
  4. Where will I get a job afterwards? How can I stand out from the crowd to get that job afterwards?
  5. Why do I keep buying school supplies I don’t need?

I spent most of my time worrying about the things I could have done as a teacher candidate; the things I should have done differently, or the things I didn’t do, but should have. After each day at my placement school, I would question myself: “Should I have said this instead?” “Was I prepared enough?” I was also spending my time worrying about the upcoming practicum placement, worried about things that hadn’t even happened yet.

“Will the students like me?”

“Will they take me seriously?”

Will I be a good teacher?”

The truth is, nobody will ever be the perfect teacher. There will always be good days, and bad days. On the bad days, you may even question if you made the right career choice. On the bad days, your schedule may not go as planned. On the bad days, you forgot to use the strategies you learned about last week. On the bad days, you get home and think about all the “should have’s”.

   However, for every bad day, there will be a good day. On the good day, your schedule will go as planned. On the good day, you will remember to use that classroom management strategy you read about yesterday. On the good day, you remember why you became a teacher. Even on those bad days, you should never forget why you became a teacher.

   I challenge myself, and others who face similar anxieties about the upcoming practicum, to remember why you are here. We are here because we chose to be part of a system that will help shape the lives of students. We are here because we chose to be part of that students’ life. We are here because we chose to educate those students, and prepare them for challenges they may face. As a teacher candidate, a supply teacher, or a full time teacher, we are never done learning. We are continuously acquiring new knowledge; we are learning new methods, new techniques, new everything.

      So maybe I should try answering my own questions now:

  1. I cannot possibly be more organized. I need to believe that I can do it, because I can.
  2. Ask teachers, educators, even Google; the more I connect with others and ask for their help and opinions, the more strategies I will learn about. I need to be courageous in the classroom, and use those techniques. It’s only the beginning.
  3. I already am part of the teaching world. As far as being seen as a teacher, and not a student teacher- guess what? I am a student teacher. There’s nothing wrong with that. Take this time to learn, and figure out what kind of teacher I am.
  4. I’m already doing so many great things for my future. I will stand out because I put effort into my future.
  5. Because I just love new pencils, okay?

 

I encourage us to make connections, friendships, and partnerships. Learn from others, teach others, and educate the world.

That’s Child’s Play

That’s Child’s Play

On a normal school day, a child will learn math, language arts, social studies, French, arts, religion, or music, among other subjects. However, amongst all the educational learning, we must not forget the other way that will allow a child’s brain to grow: imaginative, free play.

Many studies have shown that giving children the time for imaginative play has actually led to better educational success. Recess is important, after all. Scientifically, how does imaginative play lead to a better education? According to NPR.org, when a child engages in free play, there are changes that occur in connections in the neurons at the front end of the brain. These changes in the prefrontal cortex are critical because “during childhood [it will] help wire up the brain’s executive control center, which has a critical role in regulating emotions, making plans and solving problems, [and it] is what prepares a young brain for life, love and even schoolwork.” (NPR.org) According to studies, the only way a child can build up these connections is through free-play. Students are creating their own games, and their own rules among social interactions with their peers. This can be done with a simple half-hour of free play. Many results have been concluded that free-play leads to better academic success, as well as social skills. Skills that have been developed at Grade 3 are said to continue to last throughout their school years for the most part.

One thing to remember is that physical education is not a substitute for free-play. Phys Ed has rules and structure, whereas free-play only has the rules that the students come up with themselves. Phys Ed is great to release energy and get active, however it does not have the same effects as free-play does on the brain. When students engage in play, they are deciding what they want to do and how they want to do it; it is all a negotiation made by the students’ themselves- no rules are imposed by a teacher or educator.

Breaks during a tutoring session can also lead to better success. Giving 5-10 minute breaks over an hour, or hour and a half lesson will allow for the student to relax and wander off into their own imagination. When they must come back to work, those few minutes can feel refreshing, and they will feel more motivated to get back into the lesson.

As a teacher/educator, allowing free-play has many benefits. Keeping a student in from recess for whatever reason can sometimes seem like a fitting reaction, however, we should not forget that at a young age, letting the child play may have more benefits than keeping them inside. Some alternative ways to keeping a student in for recess are helping to tidy up the classroom, losing access to an equipment outside such as a soccer ball (although still allowing them to be outside), or losing computer time rather than recess time. There could even be “break spaces” created outdoors that students may need to spend some time in if they need to cool down. Again, most of this is either done before/after recess, or during. We should also allow the students to work towards earning goals; perhaps for every helpful or positive thing they do in the classroom, all of these stars or points could lead to extra recess time. We could also allow students to create games to be played with the whole class during that extra time outdoors.

            Let’s remember that young students are just that- young, and free-play is very important for them.

The More You Know

The More You Know

The first blog I wrote as part of this segment was all about Down Syndrome on my personal website, www.mskaraline.weebly.com I also wrote a piece called “Teacher Guide to Terminology Etiquette” that is related to these blog posts, here on VoicEd. I will now be focusing on Autism. The word autism raises many different ideas and assumptions, however autism spectrum disorder is very broad. As a teacher, you will probably have students in your classroom with ASD, and it is important to know how we can integrate their learning styles, and needs. ‘The More You Know’ posts are dedicated to debunking myths and assumptions.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

According to autismspeaks.org, “Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many  types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.” Most of the time, when people think of ASD, certain images or preconceived notions come to mind. However, we need to be aware that the spectrum is vast, and we cannot allocate a certain idea of what we think autism is to everyone.

Are children with ASD in a specialized classroom? No, not always. I have personally had students with ASD in an integrated classroom. The important thing to remember here is differentiation; and students with ASD do not solely benefit from this. All students need differentiation. Everyone learns a different way- with or without ASD. We all have needs. We can do this by getting to know our students, and learning about the different ways in which they learn best, and ways in which they don’t. Something I have done in the past is creating different worksheets, all on the same subject. For example, if we were learning about different cultural groups, and I created a worksheet to answer a few questions, I would have different worksheets designed to meet the needs of all my students, however, they are all still learning the same thing. Perhaps the questions are worded differently, or there are more images on some worksheets than others. This does take up a lot of time, but I guarantee you it’s worth it!

Are children with ASD unable to form social relationships? They are absolutely able to form social relationships. It is true that many individuals with ASD have difficulty with social interaction, however they are fully capable to form meaningful relationships. I have worked witha variety of students with different levels of ASD, and I personally was able to form a bond with them, as they were able to form relationships with others as well.

 

 

Can Autism be cured? No, because Autism is not an illness. We all need to simultaneously stop using the words cure and autism in the same sentence. There is a wide range of therapy available (read my ABA therapy blog post from earlier) for different needs and reasons, however there is no cure for autism as it is not a disease or a sickness.

 

Is ASD genetic? According to autism-society, “In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities, further supporting the theory that the disorder has a genetic basis. While no one gene has been identified as causing autism, researchers are searching for irregular segments of genetic code that children with autism may have inherited” The idea of ASD being genetic is still ambiguous, but researchers are continuously trying to find new information. According to the Genetic Literacy Project, “In fact, the researchers found that 56 percent95 percent of the effect is estimated to be genetic, according to a study of 258 twins suggests. (Genetic influences on autism are estimated to be between 74-98 percent according to research by the Medical Research Council in the UK.)”

 

If you’d like to read up some more information, check out these great websites below:

Autism Speaks: https://www.autismspeaks.org

Autism Ontario: http://www.autismontario.com

Autism Montreal: http://autisme-montreal.com/en/

Autism UK: http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is.aspx

Let’s end the stigma about autism. How can we do this? By being aware about the facts and truth behind ASD, and continuing to share this information with others.

 

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I Don’t Learn That Way

I Don’t Learn That Way

We are currently in the age of hands on learning, and students everywhere are rejoicing. Long gone are the days when young students sit at a desk, take notes from the board and call it a day. I believe this was one of the main reasons kids would resent school. Hands-on learning allows students to engage in kinesthetic learning; they learn by doing, not by simply reading a textbook. By being involved in the learning and activities, it not only provides a more fun way to learn, but allows for differentiation in the classroom. Everyone learns in a different way, and as a teacher, you want to incorporate multiple styles into your teachings. Hands on learning, especially with young students, will keep them captivated and engrossed in the lesson.

Tips for Teaching Hands-On Learning

Integrate movement into your classroom. Having stations set up involves a lot of classroom management. However, it is a great way to bring about movement and learning in your classroom. Set up small groups of desks around the classroom, each group having a different activity. Students are encouraged to work in a group while maintaining that learning. Not only are they rotating to different stations, but the activities themselves can also involve small movements.

Take a break! Breaks let the brain relax and allow for students to be even more productive. Throughout the day, take five-minute breaks as a class. Older students may need to just walk around and stretch, while younger students may love to take a dance break to a GoNoodle video! Who doesn’t love a good dance break!? For more relaxing breaks, there is Cosmic Kids Yoga.

 

Anchor charts, diagrams and more. Use multiple methods to teach the same lesson. If you are having a discussion, try and integrate a short YouTube video that relates to your discussion. Pause in-between to continue discussion about what you are watching. Having a PowerPoint with pictures is a great visual tool. What’s even better than both of these things? Having your students create their own videos, and their own Power Points. Having a big group discussion with the integration of videos and pictures is a good way for the initial learning. It also gives students a chance to be in cooperative learning groups. A history lesson can involve the students’ video taping a reenactment of a historical event. An English lesson on Othello can involve students creating an alternate ending, and acting it out. Anchor charts are not only useful for visual students, but kinaesthetic learners can find use it in as well. There is a small movement in walking around the classroom to read the anchor charts, and may be the bit of movement that students needed.

The fresh outdoors. Anytime you can find a way to bring your lessons outdoors, you should absolutely do it. A change from the typical classroom setting can be beneficial for all learning styles, and kinesthetic learners will be able to move around more freely. Even taking those breaks outdoors could be really advantageous.

 

Create Creative Minds. Encourage creativity in your classroom. Encourage st
udents to think outside the box when creating a project, or solving a problem. Encourage them to become active learners. When students feel as though they are taking their learning into their own hands, there is not only a sense of independence, but motivation and accomplishment.