the first cut is not the deepest

i love the holiday season and all that it brings. It is a wonderful reminder of all the blessings in our lives, a time to enjoy the company of our family and friends, and an opportunity to look back over the year and make wishes for the future. As this time of year is so full of generous and thoughtful gift giving, however, it can also bring up the difficult and complex issue of socioeconomic status and its vast disparities.

Teachers get to witness and take part in so many wonderful moments in children’s lives, but our job also has its fair share of saddening experiences. Seeing a student wear the same outfit to school all week tugs at teacher heart strings because we care so deeply. This year, I had my first experience of wanting to hug a student extra tight or take them home with me. You find yourself thinking about that student throughout your day, prime evidence of how teachers take their work home with them each night.

At first, I caught myself thinking, “it’s just hard this time because it is my first personal experience with this,” but then I realized that I will always feel the same way about future students. In this case, the first cut is not the deepest; every single cut is equally deep and affective. I also wondered why I only noticed this in a classroom setting this year. Maybe no one I went to elementary or high school with had these struggles? That, unfortunately, seems a little idealistic. I think the more likely answer is that I was oblivious before; I had no knowledge or need to notice these differences and how they affected students. It is amazing how much stepping into a teacher role can change your view and open your eyes.

On a brighter note, I believe that the teaching profession allows all students the opportunity to succeed and feel proud of their strengths and accomplishments. Teachers can make school a wonderful experience for their students. Perhaps our education system is not quite there yet, but I think that school should be a place of equity and fairness when the world is not.

I think it is also important to note that there is a misconception linking low socioeconomic status to unhappiness. Kids don’t need brand name clothes or an iPad to be happy. This is also a wonderful notion to share with students: some things in life are worth a lot more than what money can buy us and we don’t need material things to make our lives better.

In closing, I have included a few little gems I shared on Facebook in the past few weeks that I thought connected well to this topic. They are both definitely worth a few minutes of your time to take a look at. Warning: they both tug at the heart strings.

Why I Hate Going to My Students’ Games by Love, Teach

A wonderful blog post by a teacher about how socioeconomic status can affect school sports teams.

Kid Receives Cutting Board as a Gift video

This is such a sweet little video. The little boy is from a family that struggles with money and he receives a cutting board for his birthday. He graciously thanks his parents for the gift. Little does he know that his mother has saved up enough money to get him a tablet. His reaction warmed my heart and truly made me realize how much we take things for granted these days.

Thanks for reading and have a fabulous holiday season! Don’t forget to take a moment to realize all that you have to be thankful for which cannot be found underneath the Christmas tree.

-KKF

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blind obstacle courses and paperclip shuffleboard

Hi everyone! It has been a long time since my last post – I’m glad to be back. 🙂

First things first, I have started my In-School Mentoring through Big Brothers of Regina and I am absolutely loving it! My match is an enthusiastic and talkative Grade 5 student named James (I have changed his name for privacy purposes). The mentor training prepares you for a mentee that may be shy and closed off for the first few sessions, but James is very outgoing and 10 seconds after he met me, he decided “Okay, you’re my new mentor, so I am going to tell you everything I can about me in our 60 minutes together!” He completely charmed me with his willingness to share his life, and we had a lot of fun getting to know each other the first meeting. We played a game where one of us came up with a question (ex. What is your favourite season?) and then wrote our answer in our own colour (mine was blue) and also tried to guess the other person’s in their colour (James’ was black). We were both excited when we guessed each other’s favourite animals correctly (see below).

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During our second meeting, we played a few games, and the biggest hit was ‘paperclip shuffleboard’ (an idea I found on this site – check it out!) James was especially excited when he came back from behind and beat me in the last round. In fact, he enjoyed this game so much that he asked if we could play it at our next meeting! Here is a picture of the setup I used (it’s super easy, a ton of fun, and can be played with a variety of materials and on many different surfaces):

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Finally, at our third meeting, we played homemade Battleship and, again, I got whooped! We finished our session with a blind obstacle course, which I was delighted that James ALSO loved and requested that we play next week. This is a great game to build trust in the person directing you, and it also lets the speaker practice giving clear instructions.

Me, blindfolded and ready to be led around the obstacle course James set up!

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Secondly, I have had two practicum sessions for my KIN 120 class (Rec and Persons with Disabilities). My partner, who is also in Elementary Education, and I were ecstatic to find out that we were paired with an awesome little six-year-old boy. He definitely keeps us busy, but we are both loving it! Our first session was in the gym, and we played about 25 different games in 50 minutes – haha. Our second session was in the pool at the university and was also a blast. It is a lot easier to make sure that your student doesn’t outrun you when they are in water :p My partner and I have planned a lesson for our session in the gym tomorrow – if you’d like to check out the rough draft of our activity plan, here is the link.

Thirdly, I have been learning A LOT in my ELNG 200 class. The biggest realization that I have had as a result of this class is that I am very envious of anyone who is bi/tri/multilingual! After I am finished my degree and have settled in to teaching, I would love to work on learning another language! I will put that on my bucket list. I am now also very interested in DLBs (dual language books) and if you want to see one that I have found that can be read in Hindi, Telegu OR English, you can click right here!

Lastly, I have always been fascinated with how much children in school are expected to (and do) know these days. When I was volunteering in elementary classrooms in high school, I realized that students were learning geometry in Grade 1 and 2, whereas I am pretty sure these concepts were not introduced to me until Grade 4! My grandparents have also told me that the math I did in Grade 11 and 12 is equivalent to what was taught in university in their generation. Clearly, the education system is expecting a lot more out of students these days; or are students simply coming to school with more home-based knowledge nowadays? I just find it interesting to think that someday I will be teaching Grade 1 students to multiply – haha. What do you think? Are kids these days at a more academically advanced level than when you were the same age?

That’s all for now! Until next time, go forth and learn something new! 🙂

-KKF

third semester eye openers

I can’t think of a better reason to stay up than to do a blog post! Here are some of the interesting tidbits that have happened in the past few weeks…

1. My Field Experiences/Practicums This Semester

I have had two sessions at Balfour Collegiate working with ESL students and have really enjoyed it! One big realization I had was a result of talking with the cooperating teacher (that is so graciously letting 30 pre-service teachers into his classroom this semester), who was in the Elementary program, like me, when he was in university. He told my two other classmates and I that you can end up getting offered a Grade 11 Chemistry job right out of university, and you take it! I always find it interesting when teachers end up in different grades and subject areas than they were trained for. While I think it is beneficial in some situations to have the flexibility of a BEd. giving you the certification to teach any grade, I also feel that I would feel uncomfortable, unconfident, and totally out of my element in a high school. I suppose sometimes that is the best way to get your foot in the door and try something new and challenging, though!

However, volunteering in a mixed Grade 9-12 ESL class has really opened my mind to the possibility of ending up working with high school students at some point in my career. I feel that if I did, by some chance, end up in a high school, I would like to teach ESL students because, like Elementary, the teacher for the tutorial sessions works with all subjects, not one specialized area.

Another thing that I’ve been pondering lately… Why are there so many different acronyms for students who speak English as an additional language? ESL, EAL, ELL, oh my! Can’t they just pick one to use? haha

2. I am part of the Ambassador program at the U of R and I just got an e-mail from the head of the Ambassador program yesterday asking if I wanted to have a Campus For All Ambassador buddy. I was so excited and honoured to be given this opportunity! As an Education student, we are always ecstatic to get the chance to work with others and add these wonderful experiences to our resume. We keep hearing that all resumes and portfolios look the same, so it is really the additional experiences you have that will make you stand out and get you a job. There are hundreds of Ambassadors at the U of R, so I was tickled pink that the coordinator thought of me as a candidate! I’m sure I will have more to tell you about this once I get to meet my buddy and do some events with him!

If you want to learn more about the Campus For All program at the U of R, check their page out here!

3. I never posted some pictures of activities I did during my final tutoring session, so here you go:

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This is a reading board game I whipped up! It turned out really well and I’d love to use it again someday (sorry the image is so small. The spaces read: “Pick up a new word,” “Use your word in a sentence,” “Move ahead 3 spaces,” “Say a word that rhymes with yours,” “Read 2 new words,” “Spell your word,” “Move back 2 spaces,” “Act out your word,” “Make a new word using letters from yours,” “How many syllables in your word?,” and “How many vowels in your word?”). The only thing I would change is maybe making corresponding piles of word cards to pick from for certain spaces, because not all of the word cards I made could be easily used for all of the space tasks. For example, some of the words were very short, so you couldn’t arrange their letters to make other words; or some of the words were abstract terms that couldn’t be acted out.

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This is a fun little drawing activity that I linked to the online resource Bembo’s Zoo (check it out – I LOVE it!). It is a fun way to incorporate language into art.

4. Today in my ECE (Early Childhood Education) class, the instructor was teaching us the Waldorf ECE approach by actually treating the students like we were Kindergarteners, and I absolutely LOVED it! Some students were hesitant and embarrassed to sing the songs and perform the actions, but I thought it was a nice change of pace from the normal university class. This just affirmed for me how overjoyed I am to be heading towards a career that will let me sing songs and dance and fingerpaint and tell stories every single day! I truly am blessed! My work with the ESL students has opened up my eyes to the possibility of working with teenage students, and now my ECE class has me considering all the awesome aspects of working with Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students as well. Don’t get me wrong, Grade 1 will probably always have my heart, but I am finding, more and more every day, that it isn’t about the age of the students to me, it is simply the act of teaching and fostering a love of learning that draws me to this field. It’s a nice epiphany to have and it makes it easy for me to say that I can enjoy any Grade that I may teach in the future.

This semester is shaping up to be a very busy (but wonderful!) one, so I am sure I will have more things to share soon! I hope whoever and wherever you are, you have a splendid day!

back to school busy-ness

Hi everyone! I am officially back to school, and I have to say, though it took a while to sink in, I am very excited to see what my second year has in store!

Back to School

It looks like my prediction about being less busy may have been a bit of a flop… Aside from my 5 classes and being an RA (Resident Assistant) AND (possibly! – I haven’t heard back from the office in a while…) an In-School Mentor for Big Brothers of Regina, I also have three classes with integrated “practicums” or field experience:

ELNG 200 (Linguistic Diversity and Teaching English Language Arts): I will be going into an elementary or high school for an hour/week for 8 weeks and working with an ESL/EAL/ELL (there are SO many abbreviations for the same thing! haha) student.

ECE 200 (Teaching and Learning in Pre-K to 5): I will be observing a 3+ year old child for one hour per week, for 8 weeks. This experience will help to develop my knowledge about ECE students’ behaviour, learning and growth.

KIN 120 (Rec-Persons with Disabilities): I will have 6 one hour sessions to do physical activity and games with a Regina elementary/high school student who has a disability.

So, as you can see, I am going to be a very busy girl! And while this may be a lot to juggle, I am always up for the challenge! I am going to learn SO much this semester and I say, bring it on! 🙂

-KKF

in-school mentoring

A few weeks ago, the university hosted an Education Career Fair, with presenters from school divisions and other organizations that can help future teachers gain resources and volunteer experience. Because I am only a first year, lots of people just gave me a smile and waved me on to the next station, as their information was mostly for third and fourth year students who will soon be applying for jobs in the field. However, I still found the experience very exciting and useful. It got me thinking about where I would like to intern and eventually work (and I got to talk to the reps from my old school division where I graduated from!). And some of the booths that were geared towards volunteers of any year in the program were of extra interest to me.

One of the first booths I stopped at was Big Brothers of Regina, and the friendly lady there told me about a program they have that Education students are usually interested in: In-School Mentoring. Volunteers 18 and over are matched up with a child between the grades of 1 and 8 and get to go to their school for one hour, once a week to spend time with the child and develop a relationship. You can play with them in the gym, do crafts or assist them with their homework. I was instantly interested in joining this program and within a week, got an application sent in as a possible candidate.

I have now been in contact with the coordinator and we have an interview booked this Friday! I am so excited to get a chance to be back in a school and spend one-on-one time with a child who may need a little extra help or has trouble making social connections with their peers.

If I am accepted into the program as a volunteer, I won’t be starting until September, but I am already very excited about the possibility (especially because there is no guaranteed work in a school or with children in the ECS 200 and 210 courses in the program)! Wish me luck and I will keep you posted on what happens!

stereotype or not?

I took Indigenous Studies 100 in my first semester and it has really opened my eyes in regards to how the average Canadian views Aboriginal people. As budding teachers, we are told that a large percentage of the classes we teach will be made up of students of First Nation descent, so it is important for us to understand how a typically Westernized curriculum and school environment affects children who aren’t in the “normal,” White middle-class category.

I have found though, that I have more questions than answers after taking the course. Because I now view things so differently, I find myself questioning if certain images and depictions are stereotypical and racist, or historically accurate. And even if they ARE historically accurate, is it wrong to depict things this way because it paints Aboriginal people as incapable of evolving, when really, they dress and look like us on an average day?

For example, in my field experience as part of ECS 100, the teacher had a station that included a doll house with furniture and various dolls to choose from. There were 3 dolls (pictured below) that were clearly meant to be an Aboriginal family, consisting of a father with long hair in traditional dress, a mother with similar animal-skin-looking attire, and a baby, swaddled in the same type of material.

I loved the fact that the teacher had incorporated the Indigenous dolls but then found myself asking if this was giving the children the wrong impression about Indigenous people, who, to my knowledge, don’t generally walk around in animal-skin clothing on a regular day. So even though the attire may have been historically accurate, would these toys be considered as playing into a stereotype?

The reason I ask is because, in our INDG class, our professor brought up an issue about a child’s Halloween costume named “Sassy Squaw,” which of course, automatically sets off an alarm bell in my head because of the derogatory term it incorporates. On top of the name, the costume was rather revealing and short, especially for a child. This blatant depiction of Indigenous females as sexual objects is obviously racist.

But what about other girls who dress up in Indigenous costumes for Halloween (I knew a girl in high school who sported a Pocahontas costume one year, although that costume was also rather risqué)? If they wear traditional attire, is it still a violation of the race’s culture? Or is it just white people who can’t dress up in those costumes because it is something they’re not and would be considered to have a mocking undertone? Or should all costumes of this nature not be allowed because they carry so many misguided ideas thanks to television and films?

This is an issue I really struggle with because I am afraid that if I incorporate images or some other use of Indigenous culture or people in my classroom, that it will be misinterpreted as racist. I hope that in my continuing studies, I will find the answer to these queries.

family support

One thing I learned about Pre-K in my ECS 100 Field Experience is that ‘Family Days’ are a planned piece of the curriculum. Parents or guardians accompany their child to school on these days and do activities and art work together. The classroom teacher commented that even though the Family Days are supposed to be mandatory, it is usually the students who can benefit from the program the most that don’t have an adult join them.

This really makes me step back and think about my family’s involvement in my education. Throughout my Elementary and Secondary career, my parents never missed a single Parent Teacher Interview. My mom, who was a good student in school, always encouraged me to do my best (although I am not one who needs prompting to study) and praised me when I excelled. Ironically enough, my dad (who dropped out of school in Grade 10 and later got his GED on his own) expects the most out of me. I know that it makes him extremely proud that both my sister and myself are high achievers academically. Both of my parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc…) praised me when I did a good job and were always there when I needed to be quizzed on topics for an upcoming test. It is their continual support in my schooling that allows me to be a confident and capable learner.
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So what happens when a child has minimal support in their home life? I think it is our job as teachers to not only assist these children in the classroom, but also to try and foster good relationships at home. Teachers should try and involve parents as much as possible, so they are always aware of classroom happenings and updated with new things their children are learning (this is one objective in my Professional Teaching Goals included in my portfolio). Involved parents are especially beneficial in the primary grades when students are learning to read. Encouraging reading at home and helping their child practice sight words can make a world of difference!

If students aren’t getting the help they need at home, or lack a positive older role model, a teacher could consider having “Reading Buddies,” where students from older grades meet with the younger students and take turns reading. If a child isn’t getting help with their sight or spelling words, teachers could record themselves saying or spelling the words and send these recordings home on a tape, CD or USB stick (provided the child can use these technologies by themselves). Another option would be posting the recordings (or videos!) on a blog or other website (again, provided the child can access these tools independently at home).

I think the phrase, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” comes into play in this situation. It is our jobs as teachers to foster positive learning experiences and to help our students in any way we can (even when this requires additional work that we may not have to do under normal circumstances). In the long run, though, an hour spent making a recording or providing extra help is well worth it when the student becomes a capable reader or has mastered a skill they were previously struggling with. It is in the job description, after all.