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

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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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Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 7.16.12 PM

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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word of the day

It’s truly amazing the times of day I get the urge to write a blog post. The idea that sparked this post came to me while I was washing my face (I always get my most brilliant ideas when doing the most mundane of tasks – showering, brushing my teeth, washing my face, laying in bed at night, etc…). In one of my previous blogs, I made a goal to expand my vocabulary and realized that I was failing miserably at carrying this goal out. So I have decided to do a test run for Word of the Day during the month of August! I will (hopefully!) be tweeting out my new finds every day, so please check it out on Twitter @kfidelack! I am a big believer in goal setting leading to goal achieving, so fingers crossed that I will follow through!

Maybe I’m crazy in saying this, but I actually feel that I am MORE busy this summer than I was during the school year. Or maybe I just forget what it felt like to be IN school, because it’s been a LONG time! It will be weird to get back in the swing of things. And I don’t think this school year is going to slow down by any means. I have signed up to be an In-School Mentor once a week through Big Brothers of Regina AND have a job as an RA (Residence Assistant) on top of being a full-time student, so I will definitely be busy! Good thing I pride myself in being an expert on time management. I can sleep when I’m dead, right? Never have I found the wish for ‘more hours in day’ as true as in my life after high school – and I was plenty busy then, too! Thankfully, I seem to thrive on keeping occupied so I think the bustling environment of an Elementary School classroom is the perfect niche for me! 🙂

Just a super quick update on tutoring:

It’s going really well – at our last session, my student absolutely nailed his Silent E words, which I have been drilling into him for a few sessions now! He is a very hard worker and I am really starting to see him warming up to me – I think it helps that I can be such a goof to ease his nerves. When we learned how ‘R’ affects vowels, I made up actions to go with them and I think he giggled at my seal noises and clapping for ‘or’!

And to finish, I thought I’d share with you the new word that I learned today: Pareidolia. It’s the ability to see faces where there isn’t one. For example, this sink:

I learned this from a YouTube video on the channel Vsauce. Go check it out! His videos are all very informational and interesting – and his enunciation is superb! (Note: it really is amazing all the educational resources you can find on YouTube – I have used a couple of videos in my tutoring already!)

Until next time, I challenge you to go out and learn something new! It’s truly a gift of life that there is so much for us to learn about this amazing world we live in!

final ecs 110 class

I just got back from my final ECS 110 class, and, I have to say, I am really sad! That class has taught me SO SO SO much! Part of the reason I found this class such a surprise was that everyone I had ever talked to said that ECS 110 was very dry and boring compared to the fun field experience aspect of ECS 100. However, my professor was such an amazingly inspiring lady that I feel like I learned 3 times as much in her class – not that I didn’t enjoy ECS 100, I just feel like this class was the first time that I really stepped back and looked at myself as a future teacher in a critical way. 

There are now only 3 more classes between me and… final writing. But after that, I am home free for the summer and have to say that, while I absolutely loved my first year of university, I am really excited to head out of the big city and back into my small town with no stop lights (which my roommate found shocking – haha). 

I am thiiiiiiis close to being 1/4 done my degree (CRAZY!) and while I feel like I have learned and grown a huge amount, I also feel like I have a long way to go (I used to think that 4 more years of school seemed like a long time, but now I am amazed that they can squeeze the basics of being a teacher into only 4 years!) I am already so excited to see what comes next! 🙂

give me 5’s

It’s amazing how many little activity ideas I come up with when I’m in the shower. Is this anyone else’s place for thinking? Anyways, this is what my shampoo rinse routine gave me today:

Learning to count to 100 by 1’s, 2’s, 5’s and 10’s is an important math skill that is worked on early in elementary school. I thought up a fun way to help kids learn their ‘counting by 5’s’ and it is called Give Me 5’s!

The common expression “give me 5” refers to a high five, and I thought this would be a fun activity to incorporate into a math lesson on counting.

I picture this activity with a big hundreds chart at the front of the room and maybe even some smaller ones for the students. Basically, the gist of it is giving a high five every time you say a multiple of five. It would go like this:

5 *high five* 10 *high five* 15 *high five* 20 *high five* and so on and so forth.

You could mix this up in a lot of ways. After you have explained the activity to the students, you could practice with them sitting in their desks facing you. They will all count out loud with you and give an air high five to you as you say the multiples. After they get the hang of it, you can get them to go into partners or small groups and do different combinations. For example:

1. Count to ___ using your right hand/left hand only.

2. Count to ___ using both hands.

3. Count to ___ using alternating hands.

4. Count to ___ using your feet!

5. Make up your own body part to count with.

6. Clap your own hands once and then your partner’s for each alternating multiple of 5.

7. Stamp your feet, jump, spin, etc, for each multiple!

(There are so many variations you could use with this activity. It’s always nice when you can get kids moving during math!)

You could also mix it up by having slips of paper they could draw that had differing values they had to count to (15, 40, 75, etc.) so they weren’t counting all way to 100 every time. This also helps them find different multiples.

Another more advanced idea (that is a bit of a bridge into multiplication) is having one partner count up by fives and the other count how many high fives it took to get to a certain multiple. For 20, one partner would could 5, 10, 15, 20 and the other would count 1, 2, 3, 4 high fives to get to 20! You could get them to draw different numbers and record how many high fives it took them to get to that number each time.

Have fun and high five for having fun in math class! 🙂