Thursday, April 20, 2006

yet another goodbye...

Tomorrow is my last day of school. Again. I can't believe that 8 months has passed by - the busiest time of my life for sure, but also the most rewarding. I thought it might be fun to put up the reflection that I included in my professional portfolio about the year and what I have learned. I've dropped out a few of the more dry parts - involving lesson plan writing and other administrative teacher stuff - so i don't bore those of you reading this.

At the beginning of this year, I felt sure of one thing: I wanted to be a teacher. I was raised by a mother who taught in the Sudbury Catholic elementary system for 35 years, retiring last June. I grew up around teachers, listening to stories about students and the politics that affect the education system. I taught piano to young children during high school, and tutored some children during university, and had even supply taught for a school in the Sudbury area. I also spent two years in the training department at my last job, teaching adults various technical training programs and eventually becoming a curriculum developer for the company. With all of these things behind me, I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit to a bit of overconfidence when I started the year.

My first three practice teaching placements were in the primary grades; grade 3, a grade 1 / 2 split, and a Junior Kindergarten placement. Each class was most well-behaved and easy to work with, causing few problems, and allowing me to achieve many great teachable moments, and develop excellent rapports with teachers and students alike. Hours were spent taking observation notes, writing lesson plans and rubrics, unit plans, and brainstorming for ideas to make my students’ learning experience as enjoyable and interesting as possible. There were many positive experiences during this year: lessons going really well, making bulletin boards, notes sent home, extracurricular events, new gym activities, new songs, storytelling, and the list goes on.

My last group of students (30 in all) appeared at first to be a normal, spirited group of children. Quickly, this impression changed as background stories began to emerge: a mother that ran off, leaving a boy with his father and 4 brothers, a mother that passed away, a close family friend who passed away, students in foster care, and the list went on. Some of the backgrounds these students came from were so difficult and clearly had an impact on their performance at school.

Suddenly, my visions of working with 30 students and having fun with all sorts of great activities planned were replaced with the knowledge that most of my time was going to be spent just trying to manage the few in the class who couldn’t – or wouldn’t – get their work done. Staying in at recess, missing gym, having extra homework, lectures on responsibility – these became the reality of each day. At first, I felt regretful, and even guilty about having to be hard on these students – who are still children after all – but have now realized that they need the structure and discipline too. Surprisingly, the class quickly treated me with just as much respect as they treated my associate teacher. They realized that I was a tough but fair teacher who genuinely cared about their learning, and most of them worked hard to do what was expected of them.

Looking back on the school year, I feel like I have come a very long way. My lesson plans used to take hours to write, and now they take less than a half hour. I now have experienced consistently successful classroom management, and feel confident that I would be able to handle a class of students on my own. In addition, I would be able to develop effective long range plans (more than just units), but still be able to be flexible in my teaching. I learned that teachers often have to teach themselves before being able to teach their students, and that a back up plan is a must for any lesson.

Just like many other people who enter teacher’s college, I started the year with great expectations and looked forward to building relationships with students, having fun, and teaching them interesting things. I still look forward to all of these things, but finally understand that life often interferes with them. As a teacher, it is my responsibility to always be aware of where my students are coming from, and accommodate their individual needs as much as possible while still expecting the same effort and behavior from each member of the class. The profession I have chosen is not an easy one. There will be days when I don’t like my students and feel completely frustrated with a day not going anywhere near as planned. Sometimes there will be trouble with families, or something tragic will happen, or maybe I will be just having a bad day. In spite of all of these things – and maybe sometimes because of them – I choose to be a teacher. I accept the good things and the bad things because I have been privileged to experience some of each, and have tried my best to learn from everything that has happened so far. I believe more strongly than ever that a life dedicated to learning is one well spent.


  • At 11:13 PM, Blogger Beechball * said…

    Congrats to you on being finished! Being a teacher is no easy feat, and I respect the job 110%! Good for you! I wish you the best of luck in the future, although I doubt you'll need any of that ;)

  • At 10:07 PM, Blogger ledawit said…

    wow .. all i have to say to what you have written is wow ... you are a very acticulate and passionate person no matter what you are doing and i think that you have for sure chosen the right path for yourself and i am proud of you ... you will do a great jod as a teacher and everyone knows that and i hope you are not worrying about job hunting and focusing on what you can do to make sure you get a job in ontario will find a great job no matter where it takes you !! :)


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