Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Photo by cyber_seb on Flickr
My first two weeks of practicum have flown by and so far I am loving it! It is already a ton of work and I know this is just the beginning, but I am really looking forward to the challenges I will face over the next few weeks. I have already learned how right Robbie Burns was when he spoke of “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men” going awry. There are some things you just cannot plan for in advance. My first few lessons were a bit all over the map as my SA still had some work he needed to finish up with the students, so half of the class time was spent on quizzes or assignments for him and then the second half I was able to start my lessons. There is also course planning for my Grade 10’s, so I will lose two classes total with each group for that. Another issue is the fact that I teach my classes on different days. Some classes I may only see once a week if there are holidays or long weekends, and others twice or even thrice. Nothing ever seems to line up perfectly. The major lesson I have learned from all of this is to have a plan, but not be too attached to it. I need to be flexible and ready to adapt to any situation.
This is not an earth-shattering discovery; I knew it would be the reality I had to face. What I have really learned from this goes back to the bit of Alice in Wonderland I included at the top of this post. I need to have a plan of what I am teaching and how I am teaching the material, but knowing that life doesn’t always go as I plan how can I be best prepared for any obstacles that may come in my path? The answer lies within the very question I just asked. It is not about what I am teaching or how I am teaching, but what the students are learning and how they will learn it! The single most important thing I have discovered (which I already knew, but being in the classroom has made just that much more clear) is that I need to have a solid idea of where I am trying to guide the students to in their learning. What is it that I want them to get out of each particular activity, the lesson as a whole, and the entire unit? In the end it is not about covering specific material, but knowing what the benefit of teaching that material is to the students. Thinking of the purpose of each activity and how it relates to my objectives for the lesson has really helped me to make everything the students do in the class that much more meaningful. I am really trying to focus on having a specific objective for everything we are doing in the classroom and sharing this information with the students. When students know you have a reason for getting them to do a particular activity or assignment they seem to be much more willing to play an active role in their learning.
Planning effective lessons/activities has been the biggest challenge for me so far. It is not easy to know how students will respond to a particular activity or how long it will take them until you are actually in the classroom with them. That being said, I absolutely love being in the classroom with my students and talking with them about big ideas or concepts. I love the types of comments they make and how much background knowledge each of them brings to the classroom. I love how they are not afraid to share their ideas and question why things happen the way they do. My students have been very receptive to having me teach them, and while it isn’t always perfect I am really optimistic about the progress we are going to make together over the next couple of months. Next week I get to start teaching a new group of students in Grade 11. I am really excited to discover the challenges these new students bring to me! They are a transitional group of ESL/EAL students, so that will bring additional elements for me to consider when planning my activities/lessons/units. Challenges provide new opportunities for learning and that is one of the amazing aspects of this profession. Week 3 here I come!