Saturday, December 15, 2012

Holiday Break and Innocence

August seems like a decade ago, it feels like I have known my peers for much longer. However, I am officially on winter break which means three glorious weeks of sleeping in without an alarm to wake me up, or as I like to call it, paradise!

With one of the busiest weeks so far behind me, I can finally breathe! My plan book from my initial placement has been marked and I did phenomenal! My science/social studies resource (a story book on Ancient Greece, illustrated and written by yours truly) has been submitted, and my theory to practice paper has also been handed in.

I have one day left of my Tutoring Placement (I missed a day for being sick) and then I can organize my tutoring binder which is due after the break. I also have to begin my art assignment which I will be scrapbooking my nephew, very difficult work ahead of me.

What I have enjoyed most about the last few weeks is seeing and hearing the ideas that my peers have come up with. For the science/social studies resource, a friend of mine wrote and recorded a song about Pluto being classified as a dwarf planet, another classmate of mine wrote and illustrated the cutest story ever about a bear and caterpillar throughout the seasons! Seeing the creativity that my classmates have just shows me how passionate we all are about teaching.

The events that occurred in Newtown Connecticut tugged at my heartstrings. As teachers, we don't go into our jobs with the idea that people want to harm our students, we go into it with the idea that children are the most innocent beings on Earth and they deserve the best. I cannot imagine what the teachers in Newtown went through yesterday but I can honestly say that they are some of the bravest teachers. The whole community will never be the same and it breaks my heart. I read a story about Victoria Soto, a Grade 1 teacher who hid her students in the closet and protected them while taking the bullets from the gunman. As a teacher, I hope to care about my students with as much passion and bravery as Victoria Soto did.

It still terrifies me, the pictures of those students walking out of the school with their eyes closed. The pure terror on their faces. No child should ever be faced with such tragedy.

This holiday will be less about presents for me and will be more about spending time with those who I love. My little nephew who is only two years-old will be getting plenty of hugs (like he doesn't already) from me this holiday.

P. S.
Kindergarten for the first half of my 10 week placement! Excited for a new adventure in February!!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012


One of the most easy and yet annoying things one will find in teachers college is the amount of reflecting they have to do. As a teacher candidate, you are asked to reflect upon your teaching, lesson planning, and on your own personal experiences. Reflecting can be a big pain because a lot of the times you are just scrambling for what to say.

Reflecting can also open up a huge awakening in one's teaching career. The more creative the reflecting prompt, the more interesting things can be. For instance, in my sociocultural perspectives class, we had to write about our relationship with the environment as if they were our lover. I found this activity to be extremely engaging and eye opening. I learned a lot about myself and enjoyed sharing my writing with the class.

Also, in my socioculutral perspectives class we have an assignment were we have to reflect on a time in our education that was difficult and how we can use that time to help us become better educators. We have been given the creative option of portraying this reflection in a paper, video, slideshow, poem etc... I am looking forward to this because my experiences are something that I have pushed to the back of my mind. I don't talk about being bullied, I don't think about how I was bullied, and I even go as far as to deny that I ever was bullied. My experiences are buried deep in a treasure chest that I hope to never have opened. Whenever I come into contact with someone I went to elementary school with I am constantly worried about them sharing my secrets with my friends, revealing stuff I have kept hidden. I feel that this assignment will help to uncover those times that I have buried deep within me and reflect on how those times pushed me to apply to the Faculty of Education. I didn't include these secrets in my application nor do I talk about them with my colleagues.

Sure, reflecting can be monotonous and boring (especially in one's plan book from my initial placement) but I feel that it is still a good practice to get in the habit of doing. One day, when I am teaching my own class, I want to be able to have my past experiences influencing my teaching.

Don't forget to be awesome,

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Initial 3 Week Placement

I will spare you the "I am sorry for not posting, life get's in the way etc..." paragraph and just get on with it.

My first placement was in a grade 2 and 3 combined class. I really enjoyed the experience. I taught a unit on math (Data Management specifically). for this unit I planned along side another teacher candidate who was in a grade 3 class. What I found important for my grade 3's was making sure they would know the expectations for the grade 3 testing at the end of the year. For the grade 2's, a lot of the concepts were new and it was making sure they could identify the parts of the graph.

I absolutely enjoyed working with the students. Seeing students struggle at the beginning and having that light bulb moment is so amazing. All of my students passed their quizzes and did well on almost all of the assignments I gave them.

Assignment wise, I only used the grade 3 textbook once and a few of the grade 2 handouts. I made the rest of the handouts and lesson plans myself. There are lot's of really good ideas on the internet that helped me as well and my teaching associate told me "Use the internet, that is why it is there!"

On top of teaching math, I taught a social studies lesson to the grade 2's on maps and a writing lesson on brainstorming the beginning, middle, and end of a story.

I read a novel aloud to the students and ran the Literacy cafe (where the students would rotate between reading by themselves, reading with others, work on writing, word work, and computers).

It was really hard to say goodbye to the students. One student said, "I really liked Miss Upshall because when we had questions she took her time to answer them and didn't just tell us to figure it out."

At the end, I wrote the class a book mentioning each of them individually. They all loved seeing themselves in the book and hearing what I wrote about them. It amazes me the intense excitement over such little things that students enjoy.

There were many great things about going on placement. There were some good lessons and some not so good lessons but everything is about learning. I found that as much as I taught the students, they taught me so much more.

The students taught me to be more assertive, to go over my lesson plans more than once, and to listen more effectively. My teaching associate taught me to question more effectively, to not put commands as a question, and to use a vast array of resources.

I will never forget the first class I ever taught and I am going to miss being with them everyday.

Now it is back to school for me. 8 weeks left of classes (not including Christmas holidays) before my 10 week placement.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lesson Planning

I have been creating my first few lesson plans over the past two weeks and I'm excited to present them to my class.

  •  The first lesson plan I created (the tutoring plans are not being counted here) was for my Positive Learning Environment class. We had to create a lesson for the beginning of the school year that would help teach the students what is expected of them. Since we are based in the KPR school board, us TC's have learned that the KPR board has a character development program that all schools are implementing. I chose to use the characters to help students explain what is expected of them. For example, Respect: "I should respect my peers because I want to be respected myself." Anyways, the goal was to teach students about the characters they are to develop and explain what is expect of them at the same time. At the end of the lesson the class would put up a statement for one of the 10 characteristics on a Bristol board representing the Canadian flag. I just got my mark back (18/20!!!!). I was pretty impressed because it was the first time I made a rubric as well.
  • The second lesson plan that I am creating is with a partner for Language Arts. We are supposed to do a 10 minute presentation on a 45 minute lesson plan. I had just read about getting students to think of alternatives to the word "said" and so I suggested to Dan that we go off of that. My idea was to do exclusion brainstorming but after discussing it, we chose The Cloze Procedure. The Cloze Procedure is basically a passage of writing with words deleted and blanks put in their place. The goal is to get students to think critically about what words should go there. We have decided to read a story that repeats the word "said" a lot and really emphasize the repetition. Then we are going to get the students to break off into groups (we will be doing this as a whole group because we only have 10 minutes) and then have the students come up with alternatives to the word said. Then we are going to create a graveyard with tombstones on the whiteboard with the title "Said is Dead" and have a new word for 'said" on each of the tombstones.Finally, we will give the Cloze Procedure to the students and have them fill in the blanks and we will take it up.
  • The next lesson is extremely nerve-racking to me. It is for Phys. Ed. but luckily I am in a group with a great bunch of people. We are doing Zumba in accordance with the grade 6 curriculum. We are supposed to create a 3 day lesson plan and present a part of the lesson to the class. I am still practicing my moves. Anyways, I volunteered myself to do the evaluation part of the assignment. I created a system where you divide your class into three groups (over three days) and evaluate one group a day. Have a clipboard with sticky notes with the names of each student and the categories you will be evaluating (Knowledge and understanding, thinking, application, and communication) and you will make note of each student. Then give them a mark at the end of the day. 
  • My final lesson plan is just in the beginning stages. I am working with a partner for math to do Ratios. We are trying to find a manipulative that would be new and interesting (cubes are fun but they have already been used twice in our class). I think we might do smarties (peanut free, of course).
Anyways, that is what I have been busy doing lately. A lot of lesson planning and not knowing what to expect marks-wise. Also, I have to do Phys. Ed. journals for each class and they have to be a page long, single spaced. I am wracking my brains on what to write and I am only on the second class! 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Half Done First Semester

4 weeks in and I am exhausted! Between classes, assignments, readings, workshops (which can occur on weekends), and placement...I am almost always tired. The dark circles under my eyes that would only appear during exam season have now become permanent fixtures on my face. No amount of make-up can fix these circles.
Besides that, I am having a lot of fun. I mean, as much fun as one can. I love carpooling with the ladies that I carpool with. I am doing a group project for my physical education class on ZUMBA! I made friends with someone I normally wouldn't say two words to for fear of sounding like an idiot. I am going to say the semester is going well.
I am getting ready to hand in my first two real assignments and I'm feeling good about them. Neither were done hastily the night before or the morning of. I love planning for tutoring twice a week, the books and activities I get to make get me really excited.
In tutoring I am focusing on sight words. I made sight word dictionaries and created a game of tic-tac-toe where I put sight words in each of the boxes and as I read a story, the student has to cross off each sight word that I read. The students get really into it.
I hate that these blog posts are always rushed and unedited but I have assignments that need to be edited, Phys. Ed. journals that needs to be started, and sleep that needs to occur tonight.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask! DFTBA, Tara

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tutoring Placement

Welcome to the beginning of Week just 5 short days I will be halfway done my first semester. I am hoping it goes by really quick because I want to teach.

As part of the program, our first placement is actually a tutoring placement for students who are at a lower level of reading (usually a level 2). I have two students who are both boys in grade 2.

The first week was just a get to know you week. I made up mad-libs which look like:

Both boys filled them out and then we went on to drawing maps of things they like. After that we read The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. The first boy didn't want to make a paper bag prince as he didn't think his father would want him to bring it home but the second boy was really into it. He made a paper bag puppet of himself and we talked about how it shouldn't matter what someone wears, it is whether they are doing good things that matters.

The second day was again, a get to know you day in which we read Where the Wild Things Are and discussed how the pictures on the pages go from a small picture to covering both pages and then back to a small illustration on the page. We also did a reading survey in which I brought stickers, hoping they would answer with putting stickers down on the "yes" or "no" blocks. The stickers were of Toy Story but both the boys didn't like Toy Story. I just let them pick out the colour of markers they wanted to use.

I am hoping next week to engage them more. They like comics and so I brought Chick-a-Dee magazine which has comics for them to read. We are also going to start a sight word dictionary as well.
Don't Forget to be Awesome!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Group Projects

With the second week of class behind me, I have come to the conclusion that group projects are a pain. I understand that teaching is a collaborative effort and that group projects are necessary to give everyone a fair chance at lesson planning etc... but I still don't have to like doing them.

First of all, some group projects can work perfectly because some people you are with for most of your classes but other group projects can be a total disaster. Take my Phys Ed project: I was randomly asked to be in a group with some students who I didn't know and hadn't seen in any of my classes. We did not have the assignment (and technically still don't) but I guess they were keen to get started. I received an e-mail a few days ago about a meeting that I could not make because of the times they has given me (I was in class). So they met and e-mailed me with what they had planned along with another meeting which I could not make because I was in class again. At the end of the e-mail the girl basically told me that if I could not make the second meeting, I might want to think about getting a new group. So now I am back at the beginning to find myself a new group because my schedule wasn't being accommodated.

The Phys Ed. example is an exact reason why I dislike group projects. Everyone has different schedules and not everyone is nice and accommodating. Despite the fact that assigned groups can be frustrating, I think I would rather the professor just assign groups and you have to deal with who is in your group. It eliminates a fair bit of conflict that prevents students from feeling left out. I think as a teacher, I will assign at least half the group projects that I give out and the other half the students can choose. I feel like that is a fair compromise.

Anyways, I have some reading to finish and some preparation for next week to do. Let me know your thoughts on group projects in the comments. I love to hear from you. Also, I start my literacy tutoring on Wednesday! I will blog about that (while staying tactfully confidential) next week.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Teacher's College: The First Week

Well that went by quick! It seems like just yesterday I was worried out of my mind but alas, it has been a whole five days!

The first week of teacher's college is a busy one. First, I had to wake up early (5:00am to be exact) to arrive at my friend's house at 6:30 am. Right away I knew it was going to be a good set up carpooling with these girls. They are so funny and I really look forward to commuting (good friends makes all of the difference).
Upon arrival at the school it was really good to have a friend who was used to that campus to show us the ropes. I got to my first class where I sat with a lady I knew from Trent in Oshawa. I really enjoyed my law & ethics class. I then had physical education which was a bummer but I will get it done first semester (which is only 8 weeks in Teacher's college).

I got to eat lunch with my carpooling friends (who are all in Intermediate/Senior and I am in Primary/Junior). Probably the worst thing about that day was having to wait for the mandatory lecture at 7pm which made our day extra long.
On the Tuesday my friends and I had a three-four hour gap where we went to the free zoo just beside our school where we ate our lunch by the river. I kept thing, "If I had gotten into the school I originally wanted, I would not be able to spend my lunches like this."

The rest of the week went by pretty much in the same fashion. I did find it difficult to make friends in my classes which was somewhat new to me. At times I felt left out and uncertain but for the most part I really enjoyed myself. On my last two days (Thursday was my last day and then Friday we had to attend a mandatory workshop) I met two ladies who seemed nice and were in some of my classes.

I'm hoping I will get to know more people as time goes on. I'm really nervous about all of the group projects we have.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Starting Teacher's College

I start teacher’s college tomorrow (Monday August 27, 2012). This is the day I have been waiting for since beginning university and yet, something is holding me back. The excitement I want to feel is there but it is clouded by uncertainty.

I didn’t feel this nervous and uncertain when beginning university which seems strange because university seems like a much bigger step than teacher’s college. After all, I had never stepped foot in a lecture before starting university and yet teacher’s college is the same as university and I have four years of experience now under my belt.

Unfortunately, teacher’s college is different. I have four placements (3 + one on one tutoring) and I will be commuting to a campus everyday for class. I feel like I was very spoiled at Trent in Oshawa where it was a 7 minute drive to the UOIT campus and a 5 minute drive to the new campus. Now it is over an hour’s drive and much earlier start times. I only one 8:30 am class in my entire four years of my undergraduate degree and I barely made it to that class. I now have 2 8 am classes and the day’s that I don’t, I still have to be up early to catch the bus.

I will also be relying other people. Commuting and carpooling along with more group work than I have ever had to do is a lot to adjust to.

There is also the uncertainty of a job afterwards. During my placements will my teacher’s like me, will the students like me, will I be a good teacher? All of these things I have never had to worry about until now. Do I have it in me to be the best teacher I can be? I hope so because I really love kids and learning and literacy.