student passion = teacher passion

It is already dangerously near my weeknight bedtime (which I have been trying to faithfully follow this year with much success so far!), so I am going to try and make this one quick, but still jam-packed with the good stuff. 🙂

  1. I’ve been known to beat myself up over not posting more often on my blog. I’ve also been known to state outright (on this very blog) that I would like to post more regularly and often. One day a few weeks ago, when I was feeling guilty over not posting, I realized that this bad habit needs to stop. And by “bad habit,” I mean feeling guilty, not neglecting to post on a regular timeline. I love my blog because it is a place to share my passions, and if that means only posting when the mood strikes and I have something important or interesting to share, that’s great! There is no point churning out irrelevant posts on a set schedule. So, my promise is no longer to post once every two weeks, or once a month, or once every (insert measure of time here), but rather to post once I get an idea that I am excited to share with all of you. 🙂
  2. Upon returning to my blog after a summer of hiatus (I’m trying not to feel guilty.. haha), I realized that my last post in June perfectly connects to my main topic tonight. In summary, I talked about trying to bring passion into my prep subjects I teach in the afternoon by building relationships with students and taking time to get to know them amidst the somewhat controlled chaos that is “teaching out of a cart” (although the cart, in my case, is merely metaphorical, and not literal).
  3. And now on to my main topic (thanks for sticking with me through the preamble)… It must be the gloomy, rainy weather (heads up, I’m going to be honest and vulnerable here), because I came home tonight feeling deflated. After an amazing ECE conference this summer, I am feeling more passionate and willing to try new things in the Pre-K half of my job than ever! However, my prep subjects were getting me down. I became a teacher because it is my passion, my vocation, my calling and I couldn’t shake the feeling that teaching prep subjects, jumping from classroom to classroom, and  attempting to build meaningful relationships (and expectations) with 100+ kids was an overwhelmingly insurmountable task that did not bring me that passion. I couldn’t help jump on the pity train and count off the reasons why my prep subjects were the source of all my problems. After some wallowing, though, I started to ask myself what I could do to help bring my passion into these subjects… and I came up with a plan.
  4. I love Pre-K so much because it is the optimal learning environment: each student is consumed in learning that is MEANINGFUL and FUN for them. There is no teacher at the front of the room, droning on, telling students what to learn or how they will learn it. Students are co-creating knowledge and determining the direction that the learning will take. Now, if only I could bring that kind of learning environment into my upper elementary classes… Oh wait, I can! (and wouldn’t you know it, by some stroke of fate, “developing more student-driven teaching practices” is my Professional Development Goal this year).
  5. So, I think, starting next week, I will be scrapping MY plans and have a serious discussion with students about them taking charge of learning that they are interested in. Think Genius Hour meets emergent curriculum meets inquiry project? Gulp. If it sounds scary to you, it’s even more scary (albeit exciting!) to me – as a meticulous planner and ‘thrives off of organization’ type. But, if it gets the students excited about learning, then it gets me excited about teaching them helping them discover curriculum for themselves.
  6. In closing, I want to acknowledge that my younger sister is currently going into her pre-internship year the U of R (my alma mater <3). Seeing how excited she is, and thinking back to when I was just a pre-intern, is what pushes me to continue growing and finding passion in my practice. I would hate to disappoint pre-intern Kara by griping about my job (which, really does rock).

 

What brings you passion in your teaching?

How do you make learning meaningful for students?

Have you done inquiry/emergent curriculum/Genius Hour with your students? Tell me about it!

 

Well, my teaching tribe, wish me luck!

-KKF

 

 

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goal setting and forward thinking

One thing I have found surprising in this, my first year of teaching, is how early teachers start thinking about the next school year. Once January rolled around, staff at the school were asking me if I planned to stay at HBCS another year. By the time April hit, schedules and time tables were being created — heck, I even heard talk of a teacher photocopying and prepping handouts for the fall!

Now that I think about it more, however, it doesn’t seem as surprising for a couple of reasons:

  1. Teachers are very organized. It really shouldn’t be a surprise that they are looking ahead and planning in advance. We do it all the time; it’s a force of habit.
  2. Doing some planning ahead before the school year is over means less planning to do over summer – and more hours to spend soaking up the sun.
  3. [Without getting too terribly psychobabbly here…] Perhaps this is also the beginning of teachers starting to mentally and emotionally let go of the students that they currently have. After spending an entire year with the same faces, you get attached! To make this bittersweet ‘end of an era’ easier, maybe thinking ahead to the new students you’ll have next year helps to ease the change?

I also think that this concept of ‘forward-thinking’ seems so strange to me is because I am still a first year teacher taking things, in most cases, day-by-day. I am so focused on slogging through each day and caught up in planning what I am doing next week (or, let’s be honest, tomorrow) that my forward gaze cannot possibly be too occupied with something FOUR MONTHS from now! My guess is that after a few years of teaching under my belt, I, too, will become caught up in this phenomenon.

One thing that I have been accumulating for next year is goals! One of the most exciting parts of being a teacher is the opportunity for constant re-invention and self-improvement. While I am certainly proud of what I have accomplished (and survived – haha!) in my first year of teaching, I certainly don’t expect to have this mind-bogglingly complex vocation down to a science yet (although I do have to remind myself of this once in a while!). Heck, I hope that I still feel that this way 30 years in! If I ever have feelings of comfortability and mastery, I think it’s time to switch some things up and try some new strategies.

innovation

So, yes, I already have a list of things that I would like to change/tweak/scrap/try next year!

Last week, the students had a day off of school, but the staff was busy at work during our SIP (School Improvement Planning) Day. I always find these days a confusing mix of frustration over battling seemingly insurmountable obstacles and indescribable inspiration to improve my practice. Luckily, being an optimist, I always try to latch on to the latter feelings. I felt especially inspired after our last SIP Day, where I presented a technology tool to the entire staff that they may be interested in using in their classroom (if you’re interested, it’s called Plickers – click to check it out!). I was flattered when I heard from several teachers in the following days, thanking me for introducing them to the website/app and sharing that they were going to try it with their own classes! As a new teacher, it is easy to feel like you are always the one asking for help and soaking up others’ expertise. It was comforting to know that I have a lot to share with my colleagues, even as a ‘green’ member to the staff.

I left school that day energized and forward-thinking. As a student in elementary, high, and post-secondary school, I always strived for excellence and, due to the way our education system is currently run, it was easy to determine if I had, indeed, achieved said “excellence.”  However, becoming a teacher (while I am still very much a learner and a student of this career and its intricacies) begs the question: “How do I know if I am achieving excellence?” 

Obviously, I don’t receive letter grades, percentages, or marks for my work (and from an assessment-minded perspective, one doesn’t require these trivial things to understand if they are doing well or not, anyways). So I made some goals that I want to achieve in order to attain my personal standard of excellence:

  1. I want to continue to evolve and strengthen my teaching practice (This one is fairly generic and simple, but my recent involvement in #saskedchat has gotten me thinking a lot about parts of my practice that I would like to focus on in the future)
  2. I want to receive an award for being an excellent teacher at some point in my career (This is certainly a much bigger goal, but even if I never actually achieve it, simply working towards it will make me a better teacher, which I am definitely content with as an alternative. But, hey, a girl can dream, right?)
  3. I want to obtain my Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education (This one shocked me, too! Going through university, I always said “I don’t want to go back to school. I want to be a classroom teacher; all I need for that is a Bachelor’s Degree, so once I have that, I am done.” However, getting my position in Pre-K has sparked a new sub-passion that I truly want to explore and extend. In true Kara fashion, I have already extensively looked into this, and my current plan is to start taking an online Master’s of Education in Early Childhood Education through UBC in the fall of 2018 – if all goes according to plan! Yes, folks, you heard it here first! I am truly a student at heart; I am already thrilled at the prospect of returning to the university atmosphere and mindset of learning voraciously, pursuing avenues of passion, and sharing these passions with likeminded people.)

No matter what the future of my career holds, I know that it is going to be an exciting ride! And I hope you look forward to me continuing to share my journey of “Learning to Teach” here, in my little corner of the internet. I truly appreciate anyone and everyone who has ever given this little blog a slice of their time and attention. After all, what good is going on a journey if you don’t have people to share the story with?

journey

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations and thank you! I realize that I was particularly wordy and “fluffy” today – sorry about that [more “sorry, not sorry” actually; this is my only outlet for writing nowadays – gotta flex those vocabulary muscles somewhere!]

Until next time,

-KKF

medicine wheel patterns = huge hit

Updates: I just finished my 8th week with the students. I currently teach from the beginning of the morning until recess (9-10:20), put out invitations for centre time (11:10-11:40), cover Book Look/Word of the Day and Math (12:45-1:45 ish) and do end of the day/library routines (2:45-3:30). Next week, I pick up Phys Ed (1:45-2:30) and the week after, I start my 3 week block of full time teaching.

Here are some of the highlights from my week:

Treaty Ed = loving it!

My Treaty Ed infused lessons have been my absolute favourite so far in my internship (which makes me even more excited to attend the Treaty Ed Camp in Regina on November 7th – check out the event and register here). Both of my lessons (on Promises and the Medicine Wheel) turned out to be not only my best lessons content-wise but the students also loved them! This week, we learned about the Medicine Wheel and its four quadrants. We then placed the four elements, four seasons, and four stages of life into the correct quadrant. Then we made a Medicine Wheel with our bodies (and some coloured sweaters) and stood up/sat down as our quadrant’s season, colour, stage of life, or element was said. This lesson was so cool and the students were so engaged and into it – they really soaked up the Medicine Wheel quadrants and teachings!

We learned that the four quadrants can stand for the four seasons, the four elements, and the four stages of life (among other things!).

We learned that the four quadrants can stand for the four seasons, the four elements, and the four stages of life (among other things!).

We made a Medicine Wheel with our classmates! When I called one quadrant's colour, season, element, or stage of life, they stood up! This made a pattern.

We made a Medicine Wheel with our classmates! When I called one quadrant’s colour, season, element, or stage of life, they stood up! This made a pattern.

Phys Ed = such a struggle for me

Next week, I pick up Phys Ed full time and, if I am being completely honest, this is definitely a worry for me. I find Phys Ed to be the hardest subject area to manage (and unlike the older grades, we have it slotted in every single day – which is great for this age group but difficult for me). I know lots of teachers just see Phys Ed as ‘filler’ time and they don’t really look at the curriculum, but this is a goal of mine. I will be doing the manipulative skills unit on sending and receiving, and am excited, but nervous. I think this will definitely be a growth area for my 3 week block and I hope to have my cooperating teacher in during this time to observe me and offer tips for success. The redeeming thing about Phys Ed, however, is that the kids love this time of the day no matter what we do, so at least they will be excited and engaged (sometimes they are just a little bit TOO excited).

EYE testing = time off of teaching

I have finished up the daunting task of EYE tests this week – hooray! The scores are ready to input. Doing this testing gave me some time off of teaching the whole class and to spend one-on-one time with students. However, I found that it definitely made my day feel longer. I really do love being in the classroom with the whole group dynamic of a classroom. I understand that one-on-one testing is part of a teacher’s job description, but I wouldn’t say that it is my favourite. It seems so much more drawn out and stilted than the fast pace of classroom goings-on.

Disruptive students = I want to help, but don’t know what to do

Last week, I was feeling strong and on top of the world, teaching wise. This week felt like much more of a struggle. I think it is partially because I am picking up classes and noticing how much harder it is to handle the students for an entire day, rather than one hour. Also, I hope that this is because my pedagogy has improved and I am, thus, harder on myself and more critical/expect more.

I am feeling especially frustrated at the end of the day with one group of students, as one in particular ends up sitting apart from the class during some portions of the day since he cannot participate in group instruction at the Story Corner without disrupting the learning of others. I discussed this with my coop teacher, and she reassured me that this is an acceptable action for this student (she does this herself), as he is not learning when he is disruptive, and neither are his classmates around him, so it is just better to remove him from the group. However, this really goes against my teaching philosophy and I feel that I should be doing more to help this student be successful during group instructional time. I am additionally frustrated for my students who are doing what is asked and are wanting and ready to learn but can’t because I have to spend so much energy disciplining and attempting to manage this little learner. To attempt to aid this problem, I have brainstormed a list of possible solutions and strategies to help this student be more successful in the coming weeks – fingers crossed!

Outdoor Explorations = chaotic, but meaningful, learning

Also this week, I did another Treaty Ed/Math lesson where students went outside to gather natural materials to make patterns with. I was so nervous to take my students outside (as we had a sub that day, and she encouraged me to take the students out on my own); at first, I did head counts about every 30 seconds to make sure no one would wander off. I was thoroughly impressed by my students, though. It turns out I had nothing to worry about. They were excited and eager to gather materials. We ended up collecting rocks, sticks, leaves, pinecones, and a few too many ladybugs got into the mix as well. Here are some pictures of my little nature explorers:

Rocks were a popular (and heavy) natural item.

Rocks were a popular (and heavy) natural item.

Picking some grass and green plants growing near the fence.

Picking some grass and green plants growing near the fence.

Getting dressed and undressed to go outside didn't take nearly as long as I originally thought!

Getting dressed and undressed to go outside didn’t take nearly as long as I originally thought!

Making patterns

Making patterns

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Some students liked their nature patterns so much, they asked to take them home in their Ziploc bags. I was thrilled. We also briefly touched on the HCK outcome in Treaty Ed by talking about how we use natural items to suit our needs and how First Nations people thank nature whenever they take something (ex. by leaving tobacco, a special plant, behind). I asked the class how we could possibly say “Thank You” to nature for letting us take some of its items for our use, and one student suggested we leave behind something of ours that is very special to us – how sweet! We ended up just whispering “Thank You” as we picked something up that we liked. I definitely could have gone deeper into this part of the lesson, but students were already afternoon-antsy and wanting to get outside, so we skimmed over this portion of the lesson more than I would have liked. Hopefully we can touch on this again in the future.

Faculty Advisor visits = participation rather than observation

My faculty advisor came for her second visit this week, which went well I am happy to say! I was especially tickled when she asked to participate in my lesson rather than sitting at the back of the room, disengaged and taking notes. I think that this is such a benefit for her, as so much of the learning in Kindergarten is happening through playing and exploring, not just lecture and teacher instruction. It makes me feel like I am doing a good job of making an engaging classroom when she wants to participate in the lesson alongside the students – which is what Kindergarten is really all about!

Week 8, I am both relieved and saddened that you are over. Here’s to an even better Week #9!

-KKF

Oh, P.S., we also painted lady bug rocks this week (which was a fun, yet super hectic experience for me to manage!). They turned out very cute and were part of an emergent curriculum/inquiry project we did after students found lady bugs outside and were fascinated. Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 7.31.37 PM

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so much to do, so little time

To start this post off… a few recent KinderQuotes!

One of our students (we will call her Gracie) was at home sick.

Student: “Where is Gracie?”

Me: “Gracie is not feeling well, so she didn’t come to school today.”

Student: “What, is she sea sick or something?”


Student (holding up her middle finger to show me): “Miss. Fidelack, this finger REALLY hurts!”

I have to say, I didn’t expect to get flipped the bird in Kindergarten. :p I couldn’t help but giggle at this occurrence.


We are doing patterns in math, and during a hands-on activity with manipulatives, this conversation happened…

Student: “When do we get to do math?”

Me: “This IS math!”

Student: “But, like, real math. Because I already know what 2+2 is!”


My co-op teacher quietly called me “Kara.” A student working nearby overheard this and piped up, “Ms. Haas, why did you call Miss Fidelack “Kara”? That’s not her name!” I got a kick out of this. I feel like I have a secret identity! haha


One student often comes up to me and exclaims, “Free hug!”


A student taps me on the shoulder and reminds me, “We forgot to do milk today!” I love how good these kids are at remembering things and keeping me on track. 🙂


Today, I accidentally got called “Grandma” and “Mom.” This cracked me up to no end. Happy that I am comparable to the wonderful grandmas and moms out there!


Some cool things I’ve done lately…

Introduced hand signals that correspond to a student body action. I use these as integrated brain breaks, during Calendar/Leader time especially (when students are expected to sit and focus for an extended period of time). These are great when there is a small lull, as it breaks up student sitting and also motivates students to keep their eyes on me because they never know when I am going to do a hand signal! Here are a few pictures of the class learning them:

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This hand signal. a closed fist, is “Turtle.” The students curl their bodies up like a turtle in its shell.

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This one (flat hand, palm out, thumb up) is “Shark.” The students make a fin above their heads and circle their table one time.

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This (five fingers splayed) is “Starfish.” Students stand up and spread their arms and legs to make a star.

The kids love these and even requested additional signals. I have since introduced “Jellyfish” (thumb tucked in, four fingers pointing downward and wiggling), where students stand up and wiggle all of their arms and legs.

I also did an impromptu talking circle and hope to incorporate these more often, as students are never quieter and more attentive than when their classmates have the special ‘talking stick.’ This is also culturally responsive and integrates Indigenous ways of knowing.

I have been noticing a lot of students raising their hands to tell stories during morning routines. I wanted to think of a way to get them to hold their comments until a more appropriate time, but still be able to give them each a chance to share. Thus, Story Snack Time was born! I made a deal with students that if they can hold their stories until snack time (when we don’t “have a job to do”), I will circulate all of their tables and listen to a story from each of them. This has been amazing so far! Fewer interruptions and strengthened relationships all in one! I love being able to get to know these students’ personal experience and have one-on-one time with all of them each day. I think they are enjoying this opportunity to ‘be heard’ as well.

Finally, I did a math lesson yesterday that was one of my best lessons yet. It was set up similar to our morning “Centre Time,” when students can freely choose what they would like to do. I was focusing on the skill of extending a pattern, and students had three different centres to pick from that all worked on this concept.

At this centre, students could create a pattern with the manipulatives and have their peers extend it.

At this centre, students could create a pattern with the manipulatives and have their peers extend it.

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Another centre had several different versions of these worksheets I created. I love putting these in page protectors so students can draw on them with dry erase markers and erase them later. Paper saver tip!

The third choice was a pattern book full of worksheets that my cooperating teacher usually does during this unit. I was surprised at how many pages of the books some students were able to finish! Another example of me underestimating my little geniuses.

This lesson was a hit with students! They couldn’t believe that they actually got to choose where they wanted to go. Some students jumped around a lot, and others stayed at one centre almost the entire time. I loved that students with different interests and strengths were all able to find a centre they liked. Some students are truly ready for the book work and pre-reading/writing skills, so they LOVED the workbook centre. Others are very kinaesthetic learners, so ate up the hands-on manipulatives centre. I loved this lesson because I got to interact with almost all of my students in a different, yet meaningful, way. I learned so much about what they can do and what they like to do in a small amount of time. This is why I love centres and play-based learning – if offers a world of possibilities. I am going to try and do more student-centred lessons like this in the future. Oh, and another bonus: Almost ZERO teacher talk and whole class instruction time for students to sit through! Yes!

Here are the 3 worksheets that I had in the page protectors:

Extend pattern 1

extend pattern 2

extend pattern 3

Welcome to my brain…

Here are a few random thought blurbs I have had over the past week or two.

When I was home over the Thanksgiving weekend, I was somewhat irked to hear that there was a Boil Water Advisory for the tap water, as the town is working on putting in an RO system. Later, I felt guilty for feeling so inconvenienced, as I realized that we take access to clean, safe water for granted. Not only do we get water at the flick of a tap, it is usually ready for our consumption, whereas others in the world walk significant distances to get water, or have to risk drinking unsanitary water every day. That was definitely an eye-opening moment for me.

Since being placed in Kindergarten for my internship, I have been reflecting back to my days in K. I was pretty shocked at some of the things that were required when I was in Kindergarten, specifically:

  • counting to 100 every day (students have to know numbers 0-10 in today’s curriculum)
  • tying our shoes independently (which I still remember struggling with and being very frustrated over)

I just thought it was interesting to see how much things had changed since I was in my early childhood years. I think that today’s focus on play-based learning and exploration are so much more fitting for students’ developmental needs at this wonderful age.

I finished my midterm assessment with my cooperating teacher today – what a strange feeling! I can’t believe that I am approaching 50% completion of my internship! I am happy to say that I have already grown so much since we did my pre-assessment at the Internship Seminar in September. I also targeted a few goals that I will be working on as I continue my journey! Stay tuned!

-KKF

starting patterns and centres so far

Last week, I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in Regina for a 3 day Internship Seminar for interns and cooperating teachers. That meant only 2 days in the classroom with the students. I ended up seeing some of my students on Friday evening at the school football game and got a chorus of “I misted you!”‘s. While I enjoyed the Internship Seminar and learned a lot (as well as enjoyed time with like-minded adult company), three days without seeing my students was hard! What is especially hard (I found out this week) is coming back to your students after they have had a teacher and a change of pace in the classroom. I have definitely felt extra tired after the past two days – you have to refocus your students and reacquaint them with your routines and expectations.

Today was my first, truly formal lesson and the first in my planned Math unit on Patterns. I introduced the concept of patterns to the students and did a few examples (both by wearing a striped shirt and talking about how the colours of the stripes repeated over and over again, and by pointing to items in patterns I had drawn on chart paper). Then I had the students create patterns with themselves. We made three patterns – dark hair/light hair, hands up/hands down by sides, and boy/girl. The students really enjoyed this kinaesthetic activity! They were also eager to point out patterns on their clothing and in the classroom – I was impressed with how quickly they picked up the concept! I think this will be a very fun unit and am excited for all of the hands-on work I have planned.

My PDP target today was to quickly and effectively manage disruptive and/or off-task students. I started out by teaching the students the Quiet Coyote hand signal (see below – your hand makes a face that looks like a Coyote). This caught on very well! Some of my blurting repeat offenders responded especially well to this strategy – bonus!

Quiet Coyote has his mouth closed and his ears open. I show this to interruptive students.

Quiet Coyote has his mouth closed and his ears open. I show this to interruptive students.

For a busy class, I was very pleased with how well I kept them under control and calm. The lesson, as a whole, was a success and I thought my management was, for the most part, quick and effective. Next time, I am going to work on strategic seating of particular students who may cause disruptions. I also need to tighten up on my management of blurting when students have something relevant to add to the conversation. I have such a hard time telling students to stop when they are adding useful comments to the lesson. This means that I have to remind blurters that, in order to contribute to the discussion, they must do it the right way (by raising their hand and waiting to be called on). I am doing the same lesson and PDP target tomorrow with the other group of students, so I am interested to see how my management will differ between the two groups.

Finally, I just wanted to post a few pictures of the invitations I have done so far:

A full view of my Garden centre. I hid bugs in the soil for students to find, name, sort, count, etc.

A full view of my Garden centre. I hid bugs in the soil for students to find, name, sort, count, etc.

Garden 2 Garden 1

I made a Still Life invitation for Arts Ed. We discussed that Still Lifes are drawings of things that don't move (like flowers, fruit, bowls, etc.).

I made a Still Life invitation for Arts Ed. We discussed that Still Lifes are drawings of things that don’t move (like flowers, fruit, bowls, etc.).

Still Life 2

I included some pictures of famous Still Lifes, like Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.”

This invitation was a set of Sensory Bins focusing on the 4 seasons.

This invitation was a set of Sensory Bins focusing on the 4 seasons.

I thought this one turned out really well - I love the colours in fall!

I thought this one turned out really well – I love the colours in fall!

Students seemed to really enjoy this centre - they did a great job of sorting the items in the bin.

Students seemed to really enjoy this centre – they did a great job of sorting the items in the bin.

You can't really tell, but I put fake grass on the bottom of this bin and also added in a few bugs.

You can’t really tell, but I put fake grass on the bottom of this bin and also added in a few bugs.

This centre was great because it had natural and real sand. But it was also the messiest!

This centre was great because it the natural material of real sand from the playground. But it was also the messiest!

I also did a centre all about Self Portraits. Each of my students drew their self portrait - they ended up adorable!

I also did a centre all about Self Portraits. Each of my students drew their self portrait – they ended up adorable!

When I first found out I was placed in Kindergarten, I was a bit worried that I would miss out on planning typical lessons in all of the subject areas, as a majority of the subjects in Kindergarten is covered through invitations rather than whole class lessons. However, my faculty advisor really helped to turn my outlook around – she said that K is one of the few grades that has a more holistic and integrated approach to the curriculum. Invitations are all hands-on and experiential – which is an excellent way for students, especially young ones, to learn! I am really enjoying the invitations part of planning; I never know exactly what students will bring to the table in regards to previous knowledge and I am always surprised at the things students do with the materials that I would not have thought of. The open-ended nature of invitations offers constant surprise!

I cannot believe that I already have FOUR weeks of internship under my belt. After teaching a few times, attending my internship seminar, and getting to know my co-op/students better, I am getting very excited to take on more parts of the day as I gear up towards my three week block of full time teaching. I also know that the rest of internship will continue to fly by in the same fashion, so I am doing my best to remember to soak up all of the little moments. Luckily, Kindergarten offers lots of hugs, laughs, and smiles. I cannot help but feel so lucky to be a part of my lovely students’ lives for four months.

Until next time,

-KKF

ESL/EAL/ELL hmmmm moment

Does the ‘S’ in ESL stand for Second or Subsequent?

Does the ‘A’ in EAL stand for Additional or Acquired?

Which term is politically correct? Do they all mean the same thing? Which one should I use? And for goodness’ sake, why do they keep changing the abbreviation?!

EAl lang tree

These are some of the questions that I have asked myself many times since becoming a student in the Faculty of Education. In the past few years, all things ESL/EAL/ELL have become much-discussed topics. As future teachers, we hear “Your classrooms will include high percentages of immigrant students for whom English is not their first language” so often, it is no wonder that this is on our minds! The shifting focus of ‘person-first’ language in regards to students with special needs has made me think about the language we use to define these students who have a language other than English as their first.

Here was the thought that popped into my head last night:

ELL = English Language Learner. But some students who are labelled ‘ELL’ have a proficient command of the English language. Comparatively, many people who are raised with English as their first language do not use it properly. So it seems rather unfair to call students who have a differing mother tongue ‘learners’ of the English language when, really, we are ALL English language learners. 

As a self-proclaimed “Grammar Policewoman” and English enthusiast, I am often drawn to online quizzes with titles such as: “These are 100 vocabulary words that high school graduates of today should know. Do you know them all?” and “Can you recognize these common grammatical/spelling errors?” Admittedly, even I (as someone who prides herself in being knowledgeable about English language in general) learn new vocabulary words and obscure grammatical rules. A native English speaker with university education, even I continue to be an English language learner (and I will never cease to be).

So, my question is: Is “English Language Learner” truly the best phrase to define our students who speak other languages before English? I truly believe that all of my students, and all members of society, are English Language Learners. Labelling only immigrant families as ELLs supports a power imbalance, placing native English speakers, “those who have already learned all there is to learn about English,” above those still learning it.

EAL hello

So… Which term do I prefer?

I can understand why we have stepped away from the term ESL, as it was most often taken to mean “English as a Second Language,” which was an unfair representation of students for whom English was the third, fourth, fifth, or higher language in their repertoire. If we change the ‘S’ to instead stand for Subsequent, however, this abbreviation becomes more open-ended.

I would argue that EAL meaning “English as an Acquired Language” would apply to every English speaker out there, as we all had to acquire English at some point (whether at age 1 or 15).

Personally, I believe that “EAL” (English as an Additional Language) is the most fitting way to describe these students. It places both English and the preceding language(s) in a positive light. The word “Additional” carries the connotation that it was another language added into the student’s repertoire: a plus, a bonus. It does not undermine the primary language; English is not the language of utmost importance, but another addition into an already rich background. It does not state whether English is the second, third, fourth, fifth language the student learned, but merely that it was not the first. It is for these reasons that I will use EAL as my abbreviation of choice when referring to my students who have added English to theDVDir list of spoken languages.

Put into metaphorical terms, EAL refers to a student’s known languages much like a DVD, with English being the Additional or Bonus Features on the disc. You don’t originally buy the DVD for the Bonus Features, you buy it for the movie (the primary or first known language)! But the Bonus Features are there as a surprise, a little extra treat. Similarly, we have to value students’ mother tongues first and foremost, as they are the Main Feature in the child’s linguistic package.

What are your thoughts on the ESL/EAL/ELL debate? Please leave me a comment to let me know!

Until next time,

-KKF

i am a question mark

Today, my classmates and I went on a tour through the Mackenzie Art Gallery’s newest exhibition, Moving Forward Never Forgetting (which was phenomenal and I highly recommend everyone go check out). During some hands-on experience of making art, we were each asked to “draw a symbol that represents you in this moment.” Instantly, I decided upon a question mark, and it seemed very fitting.

photo

This year (and semester) has been a time of great learning and growing for me. But it seems the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. When I was in high school, a teacher whose classroom I volunteered in told me, “You could walk into a classroom tomorrow and be a teacher.” And I thought, “Yeah, I could!” Now that I am three years into my degree, I think, “No! I am not ready! I could go to school for three more years and not be ready!” It just goes to show you how complex a job teaching truly is, and that having your B.Ed. only begins to prepare you for being an educator; you do so much more learning when you actually ARE a teacher.

So while I may still have so many questions and things I want to learn (especially with my three week block coming up – countdown is at 11 days!), I am in one of the best professions to continue to be a lifelong learner alongside my students.

Until next time,

-KKF