A. Grace Martin

Author, Student Teacher, Optimist and Promoter of Self-Empowerment

Blog

My Paper on Anti-bullying and Self-Worth

Posted by agracemartin on January 7, 2015 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (0)

A PERSONAL REFLECTION OF TEACHING ANTI-BULLYING AND SELF-WORTH

By: A. Grace Martin

Course: Education 2500 

Date: April 2014


The late Nelson Mandela said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

As a student of personal development, I believe that every person has an astounding capability to recognize and fulfil his or her potential. I wish to share this idea of self-empowerment, so I have learned to employ the strategies of positive self-talk and goal-setting in order to become a good role model for others. Since I feel confident in myself, I know that I can teach others how to attain this feeling as well, which is important in schools because the relationship between confidence and learning cannot be undervalued (Piek et al., 2005). With the increase in college and university graduates in today’s society, my colleagues and I have become the most educated age group of our time. Now imagine if we and all of our children confidently aspire to achieving higher and higher goals. I believe that educating people to realize their worth and potential will be the next great catalyst for change in our world.


I think that my success as a teacher will come from my experiences, research, hard work, professional development, and inherent talents. My time in the Education 2500 course: Orientation to Teaching, has been useful in confirming that I am an excellent candidate teacher and would enjoy teaching as a career. My strengths of confidence, dedication, organization, adaptability, creativity, and leadership will serve me well as a teacher with good classroom management and communication skills. Unfortunately, I am weak in the area of previous experience working with children, save babysitting and tutoring. I acknowledge that I will have to volunteer and take summer jobs that will pertain to instructing children if I wish to acquire this practical experience outside of the education program.


I am a dynamic person with many fields of interest and expertise. I feel that I will be an interesting teacher because of my wide array of personal interests, which include: a published fantasy novel (Spirit Rider and others yet to come), creative hobbies (painting, writing, and music), physical health (proper nutrition and exercise), and mental health (stress management and emotional wellness). Already, the grade fives in my practicum have found me to be interesting, friendly, and knowledgeable, which are all attributes that I wish to develop even further as I progress through my career.


As a tutor I have engaged with junior high and high school students to find that explaining concepts comes easily to me. I have had research experience in the sciences—mainly biophysics—which has given me a deeper understanding of the scientific method and allows me to use interesting examples while teaching science. My academic background in biology and physics qualifies me to instruct secondary math, biology, chemistry, and physics classes. Tutoring these subjects has been especially rewarding to me. The best educational context for my knowledge-set would be a high school physics classroom. However, my talents and dispositions as a teacher make me flexible and I would be comfortable teaching all elementary and junior high school subjects.


I did not seriously consider teaching youth until just this past year. I originally pursued university with the intention of getting a Ph.D. so that I could teach as well as do academic research. At this time I cannot pursue the biophysics graduate studies of complementary health that I desired. Instead, I made a decision to teach at a high school level. I have now realized that I could easily continue to an Education Master’s degree if I wished to pursue school further. My thesis could focus on complementary health education as a means of developing positive self-image. I can integrate my passion of scientific research and health and wellness into teaching. In the future, I can see myself as an empowerment leader. I believe that an individual can excel at many things when they unlock their potential, and that I could be a successful teacher, author, and motivational speaker.


Through this course I have developed several beliefs on learning and teaching. Every individual has a need to feel loved and accepted, therefore learners respond well to a caring, trustworthy, and respectful attitude. Students need specific, clear, and repeated instructions to follow and learn by making personal connections to the material. I believe that teachers need to adapt and be flexible for each situation that they find themselves in. A great teacher goes beyond the curriculum to inspire, motivate, and facilitate a student’s personal and career goals. Teachers help students to realize their own potential through encouragement and challenging activities. Finally, teachers should dwell in the learner’s place with them by remembering what it was like to be in their shoes. These beliefs are the foundation for my nascent style as a teacher.


The reality of teachers’ work lives seems to have both benefits and drawbacks. Teachers work many extra hours every week to complete planning and marking. I like that I would be working the same business hours as my husband, and that I could take my work home with me every night so that I could be with him. Of course the drawback to this is being distracted by my work or distracted by my family and perhaps not giving optimal attention to either in the evenings. I feel that I could work around this obstacle by arriving to work earlier in the morning. I also know that two months off during the summer essentially balances out to the same total vacation hours per year when you consider the extra daily hours worked. I like the versatility of my specialization as a female in physics because I am more likely to get a good job, however my first job may require me to travel a certain distance outside of Lethbridge, which again contributes to long working hours. If I feel burnt out by teaching, my writing and marketing of my published fantasy novels could be hindered. On the other hand, being in a classroom may stimulate my creativity and motivate me to write more. I feel that compromise is unavoidable and that we must do our best to balance every aspect of our lives to feel fulfilled.


One of the most pressing issues for me to address as a teacher happens to be what I am most passionate about: teaching self-worth. I know that we can combat bullying by promoting its opposite. My interest in this topic comes from my childhood experiences with bullying. You would think that anyone who has felt the pain of being bullied would feel empathetic towards others in the same situation, but I beg to differ. In my understanding, bullies only lash out because there is an inexplicable hurt or anger within them that is difficult to face. I was bullied in the fifth grade, yet somehow in the seventh grade I became the bully. As an adult I feel immense guilt and remorse for my teenage bullying and wish to prevent others from making the same mistakes that I did. I think that every person experiences a feeling that they are not good enough in some way (such as athletics, academics, social skills, or physical appearance). I would like to teach individuals to see themselves in a more positive light, so that they can become the best that they can be. Feeling worthless will get you nowhere; feeling empowered will motivate you to pursue your deepest dreams.


Research studies have been done to evaluate the effects of anti-bulling education in classrooms (Andreou et al., 2008). Since bullies enjoy attention, other children may unintentionally reinforce aggression by becoming silent bystanders, thereby making the situation a school-wide problem that should be addressed by entire classrooms (Andreou et al., 2008). It is interesting that short-term programs have been successful in changing students’ attitudes towards bullies, victims, and intervention, but unfortunately these outcomes are not sustained in the long term (Andreou et al., 2008).


The Andreou et al. (2008) study outlined three distinct topics to be addressed over three hours of instruction time each: awareness raising, self-reflection, and a commitment to new behaviours. Raising awareness and describing the different types of victimization may be beneficial for young students who do not identify certain situations as bullying. Self-reflection in the Andreou et al. (2008) study focuses on participant roles adopted by the children, and causes, benefits, feelings and consequences involved with bullying. This is where I think that the emotion of empathy must be instilled through intensive role-playing activities, such as watching vivid film clips or being read an emotionally stirring book. For teaching empathy to be effective the children must identify with the content being presented and feel for the victim. Finally, a commitment to new behaviours could involve presentations of peer conflict situations, ways of solving them, and a formulation of new class rules (Andreou et al., 2008). I believe that these rules should focus on a establishing a sense of community, a desire to protect one another, and a feeling of pride in providing an inclusive and safe environment for all students.


Although most students express anti-bullying attitudes, surprisingly few will intervene when witnessing a classmate being victimized, as their thoughts on what should be done conflict, causing their by-standing behaviour to show inconsistency (Andreou et al., 2008). Anti-bullying programs targeted to altering peer attitudes seem successful, but there are confounding variables within the programs such as age, maturity, attention span, and age-related social skills (Andreou et al., 2008). Personally, I believe that long-term classroom programs that focus positively upon the intervention of bullying by peers is a huge step in the right direction, but that these programs must have a heavy focus on self-esteem.


The past research into bullying has clearly shown a negative correlation between bullying and self-image (Piek et al., 2005). However, the correlation may be deeper than this. Children from disparate backgrounds, upbringings, age groups, and genders may be affected differently by bullying. For example, children with motor coordination disabilities were studied to understand the association between instances of bullying and the child’s sense of self-worth (Piek et al., 2005). Piek et al. (2005) reported that students with motor problems experienced the same amount of victimization, yet they had different responses to these experiences. Girls with coordination disabilities were most affected by bullying, as their self-worth significantly showed a negative impact after bullying events (Piek et al., 2005). Therefore, it is not so much the amount or frequency of bullying that matters most, but the extent to which the victim perceives the bullying that must be given attention.


Taken together, the studies of Piek et al. (2005) and Andreou et al. (2008) show the importance of proper focus when teaching an anti-bullying program. It is one goal to stop bullying from getting any worse in a school, but quite another to reverse its lasting negative effects on students’ sense of confidence. This is a difficult issue to solve, because every individual sees themselves differently, and will respond to lessons in self-worth in varying ways. It is further difficult to make generalizations on programs that should be implemented at different schools, because certain schoolchildren come from varying backgrounds and because age groups can vastly change in maturity and attitudes even between successive grade levels.


I believe that one of the best approaches to anti-bullying is teaching positive self-image and encouraging supportive peer behaviour. This should be done over long-term school-wide programs as a part of the Health class curriculum. Cultivating a sense pride in a safe school community gives students something to “hang their hats on,” which signifies an important benchmark to them that they continually strive for. I hope to be a teacher on the leading edge of this movement for healthy self-esteem, as I encourage students of all ages and backgrounds that they can become more than they are in every way.


References:

Andreou, E., Didaskalou, E., & Vlachou, A. (2008). Outcomes of a curriculum‐based anti‐bullying intervention program on students' attitudes and behavior. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 13(4), 235-248.

Piek, J. P., Barrett, N. C., Allen, L. S. R., Jones, A., & Louise, M. (2005). The relationship between bullying and self‐worth in children with movement coordination problems. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 75(3), 453-463.

Ed 2500 April 9, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on October 24, 2014 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Today I had a great experience with a substitute teacher with a math background. The previous day he had done extra probability work with the kids and taught them the gambler’s fallacy, which tied in to the experimental math lesson that I taught today. My lesson went well but would have been better if I had given each student their own bag full of tiles to draw from, so that every student could do the experiment on their own. Next time I would need better organization and preparation to arrive with ziplock baggies and coloured or numbered pieces of paper as extra tiles. This would make the activity more personal and engaging. I could also get into the habit of watching the clock while I teach. I still find it difficult to judge how long a lesson will take when I look over my lesson plan sheet. I hope that this will become easier with practice.


However, I know that every group of students is different, and each classroom will respond differently to each lesson. Sometimes it depends on the day and the kids’ mood whether they are rambunctious or calm, and interested in the subject or not. Sometimes the kids will want to discuss something or share their own stories on the topic. Other times they will take longer than anticipated completing an activity or an assignment. When this happens a teacher must be flexible and adapt to the changing environment. Teachers must be ready to trim down their lesson if time is running low, and must have additional materials prepared if some students finish early.


As I write this final journal entry, I have realized that my thinking process has changed. I feel that I understand how to become a better teacher and how to deal with challenges. Through Ed 2500 I have become familiar with the obstacles that all teachers face on a daily basis. Time management, classroom management, and other skills will continue to improve through practice and experience. I know that I will never be perfect. No one is perfect, though everyone is perfect just the way that he or she is if they continue striving for growth. As a teacher, I am not a nurse or a doctor who can diagnose and assess an injury on the playground, nor am I a counsellor or a psychologist who can identify and treat a behavioural disorder. I will have to continue communicating with other professionals and would do well from bouncing ideas off of other teachers. I look forward to continuing this journey and furthering my professional development as a teacher.

Ed 2500 April 7, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on October 24, 2014 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Today I taught my Health lesson, which went very well. I was able to keep the students’ attention the entire time and gave them clear instructions. I modified the first activity so that less writing was required. It was difficult for some students to come up with things that they do not like about themselves. I think that could be a good sign because it means that those students already have a positive self-image and must come from strong families or caring home lives. However, it may also be a lack of awareness and that those kids do not recognize when they are being put down. In either case, I think that it was a good idea to combine my “What’s wrong with you” with the “What could you improve/what do you want to change” category. I was thankful when my TA offered another explanation for this with a simple example of “I wish my hair were straighter.” I need to remind myself that younger people need smaller concepts.

In this lesson I incorporated a written self-reflection activity, a video clip, talking about famous failures and inspirational people, then an activity to share positive things with their classmates. I am looking forward to giving back the filled-in lists of great traits that each student has. I hope that my lesson reminded the kids to believe in themselves and never give up on their dreams (even if bullies or other people put them down).


What pleasantly surprised me about the final writing activity was that several students also added the names of my Teacher Associate and myself. I appreciate that the students are so thoughtful and inclusive. One comment in particular made me smile. It read, “Mrs. Martin: she helps solve questions.” I find it endearing to be described so simply, because I understand that message to be a grade five student’s way of saying thank you for your help.

I was proud of these students for their descriptions of their classmates, too, because they did not write just one thing for each person, but multiple. Reading through the lists made me feel satisfied that the students had understood my positive self-image lesson. 

April 2, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on October 24, 2014 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Who do I want to be as a teacher? I feel that I have the inherent talent to instruct youth, but what can I do or learn that would better help student learning?

I think that well-planned hands-on activities are very valuable. To introduce probability and statistics, my TA got the students to play a game of chance called “SKUNK” that gave points based upon a rolled dice, with a role of “one” resulting in a take away of all points given. Games in math, or blocks, or other materials, can facilitate learning. I want to create a supportive environment that allows for self-exploration.

However, I am not yet sure how I would do this in a high school physics classroom. Demonstrations can be useful, such as spinning in an office chair to show centripetal acceleration. Visuals such as posters showing examples of different energy types (a roller coaster showing potential and kinetic energy) can be hung around the classroom to set an inquisitive environment. Many of the concepts in physics are difficult to model, such as gravitational attraction between two objects of similar mass, but can be related to a similar, more familiar physical law such as gravity on Earth. Videos from YouTube could be helpful and would incorporate technology into the classroom, better engaging the students. I think that establishing a routine could be just as useful for high school students as it is for the grade fives. Structure and clear expectations create a safe learning environment for students of any age.

Today I asked to read aloud to the grade fives. It was good for me because I noticed that after a while my voice felt dry and started cracking. I realized that I have not read a long passage aloud for many years, and that I am out of practice. I think that with more practice and experience I will become a good teacher. I know that I will always need to learn more and refine my skills, but I am up for that challenge.

Part of being a good teacher is making material interesting to the students. To do this, I must remember to dwell in the learners’ place with them and not judge them.

March 31, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on October 24, 2014 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Today I gave a presentation to the grade fives on wolves. A lot of it went well. The kids were very interested in our food web activity, because every student had a representative animal and got to participate. I know that there were things that I forgot to share, but because we talked about so many things, the kids were probably swamped with information. I noticed that at the end of my presentation did the kids with the topic of wolves and ready to move on. They stopped putting up their hands and only one student answered when I wanted to review, asking what they had learned during the lesson. My TA explained that kids aged 10 can only sit and listen for approximately ten minutes, and after that they need something to keep them engaged.

I think that my wolf lesson was a success because I incorporated different elements and activities. If I were to teach this lesson again, I would give a fun activity sheet like a word search with science-related terms like ecosystem, predator, food web, food chain, carnivore, etc. The kids were excited during the food chain activity, and there was some quiet chatter, but I think that I kept their attention well by simply asking, “Is everyone listening?” I also had enough time to let the kids ask questions and share any stories that they had. One thing that I could work on in calling on students to answer questions more fairly. The same several students put up their hands immediately and very high, which catches my eye so I called upon the same kids frequently.

Today I was reminded of the importance of maintaining non-judgemental relationships. I’ve noticed that I am quicker to call out boys who are misbehaving than the girls who are usually quiet. Today a great student had not finished an assignment. My bias that this student was always the quickest to finish was not correct. I need to remember that part of being a fair teacher includes never assuming anything. I will not judge if one student is “better” than another, because they are all equal, just different.

I was pleasantly surprised when I found a picture on my desk today that was from one of the most well behaved students. I seldom talk to this individual, mostly because she never needs extra help. I was very touched because this A+ student has previously seemed indifferent toward me. She would only ask questions of my TA, even if she was busy and I was available. What I have learned from this experience is that consistency and friendliness are invaluable to developing relationships. Some students will take longer to warm up to you, even if they already respect you and are willing to take direction from you.

Ed 2500 March 26, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on October 24, 2014 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Today I am thinking about student-teacher relationships and respect. Coming into Ed 2500 I thought to myself that I would have one rule in my high school class: “BE RESPECTFUL.” On the first day of school, I would tell my physics class that they are responsible young adults and that I expect them to act like it. I think that I could tell my class that if they choose to act like small children, then I will treat them like kids. I will always respect them and never demean them, but if they are immature, any privileges will be revoked.

I think that teenagers want to be acknowledged as young adults because they hate being treated like little kids. If I tell them that they have and opportunity to act like a mature adult, I think that most will respond well to this.


I do not think that you can only have one rule for lower grades. I think that all of the rules can be stated under the theme of respect, but that rules must be clearly outlined for younger students. For example, “respect others by not running in the hallways to avoid injuries and disrupting other classes with excess noise.” I think that it is a little more difficult to teach young children how to be respectful and mature role models for their school because they have more energy and shorter attention spans. However, I think that good behaviour is more difficult to ENFORCE for teenagers because of their apathetic attitudes. I hope to overcome this by establishing good relationships with all of my students.

Today in math class I ran a math review session for a small group of students who felt that they needed help with division. I found it difficult to work with all three because they all wrote at different paces. When I am in charge of an entire class, I would hope that those students who work faster would work ahead in the textbook. I believe that it is best to teach slowly and go through problems step-by-step both verbally and in writing on the board. It is best for the above average students to work ahead than for the below average students to be left behind. The key is giving extra work or an activity that quicker students can complete so that they will not be bored.

Today was also Speaker’s Club. I was impressed by some students and disappointed by the presentations of others. The students have an entire month to prepare their speeches and clearly know the expectations. Others are exceptional and are not only great speakers but also are well-prepared hard-workers. I think that it is a great idea to get grade fives to practice speaking in front of a crowd on a monthly basis. Public speaking takes kids out of their comfort zone but it is a valuable life skill.

Ed 2500 March 24, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on October 24, 2014 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

I learned something interesting about bullying today. My Teacher Associate said that every year two police officers come into the school to talk about bullying. Oddly, on that particular day, bullying at the school is far more common than it usually is. I wonder if it is because an anti-bullying talk draws more attention to it, or if maybe the reverse psychological reaction of kids makes them want to act out whenever they are told not to.

How do you think students in your school would react to a resource officer telling students not to bully? Would your answer change if the resource officer were a regular presence in the school?


This makes me wonder how to teach an anti-bullying Health class lesson that is effective for kids. Today the school counsellor gave a lesson that touched on stress, and how the body reacts to different stressors (such as bullying confrontation or playing a sport) in the same way. I do not think that the kids understood the connection between chronic bad stress and their health, because it was not clearly stated. However, the lesson on everyday heroes, which included writing down how an adult role model in your life helps you, seemed far more personal and touching. Effective role-play that actually evokes and emotional response is very powerful. I would like to make lessons that play on this emotional response to teach self-worth. I need to remember what it is like to be a student in grade 5 if I wish to make my teaching strike a chord with the class.

Ed 2500 March 19, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on October 24, 2014 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Today I was so proud of a student who is usually talkative, but asked others to be quiet during the assembly. I said after the assembly to that student that I was very proud of him and that he was showing how to become a leader. The student smiled and responded well to this positive reinforcement.

Computers class was the most successful that I have ever seen. We told the kids that they were not allowed to get up, that they could use headphones, and that they could either work on typing or an educational powerful bones games. I was so imporessed that they were quiet and focussed. I think that using technology to teach is a great idea with this tech-savy generation of kids. Video games can be educational and are extremely fun and engaging for today’s youth. To dwell in the learner’s place with them, teachers should engage kids with what they find interesting. I think that the computers class also went well because the students were competing for a high score on their game. Friendly competition can be a good motivator for a lot of students.

In the next class I worked well with some students who were behind on their novel study, and then in math class I circulated and helped individuals with their long division. One student in particular was having a difficult time, so I took her to the back table and asked what she was having difficulties with. She was almost in tears. Slowly, step by step, we went through multiplication and division opposites, such as 7x5=35, 35/5=7, and 35/7=5. Then we went into long division at the fifth grade level. Patience was key for working with this student, and I think that this step-by-step process is a good tutoring strategy for most kids if the teacher has time to spend with them.

Ed 2500 March 17, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on October 10, 2014 at 6:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I forgot to wear green for St. Patrick’s day today. I realized that in recent years I have largely forgotten about the events that are so important to children. A teacher needs to be aware of PJ day, pink shirt day, and current events such as the gold medal count during the Olympics. I generally do not watch the news because I do not care for the biased focuses of media and list of one calamity after the next. Since my husband tells me about all of the important headlines, I have removed myself from the news. However, as a teacher I need to be more aware of situations than my students so that I can answer their questions. This is especially true if I teach a Social Studies class.

Through my Ed 2500 practicum, I am becoming more aware of the many factors that influence individual students, and time management in the classroom.

I want to develop the shrewd observation to validly assess a student’s understanding. Do children act out so that the other kids won’t discover that they don’t understand the schoolwork? Are they not getting enough attention at home? Are they having social problems with friends or bullies? All of these are important questions to keep in mind when observing a child’s behaviour.

Today I worked one-on-one with a student to help her catch up. She said that school is not going well but she cannot tell her parents or else they will take cheerleading away from her. As we worked, I told her that there were things that she could do to understand better. I pointed out that she was playing with her hair, not following along in the book, not paying attention, and not thinking about what was going on in the book. I told her that I knew she could read well, and she looked surprised. It was almost a look of guilt mixed with surprise, as if I had called her out on a lie and she could no longer pretend that she was hopeless (to ask for pity). So I tried to empower her and mentioned that there are steps that each of us can take to try harder in school. She could focus on the book, and use her finger to follow along if it felt difficult for her to pay attention. She could take charge and be aware of what homework she has done and what she still has left to do.

I asked my Teacher Associate what else I could do. She said that positive reinforcement and “chunking” could be beneficial strategies. I learned that chunking involves talking about only one task at a time. When working with this student I could read and discuss one page at a time, then focus on writing 2-3 sentences, then come up with “word wall” vocabulary words. This is a good strategy for me to remember for younger students and for stressed-out students.

Knowing how to react and treat individual learning needs is something that comes from consistent observation and also from experience. I want to help, but not overwhelm students. I want to give effective help, but in order to do that, I first need to develop relationships, get to know the needs of each student, think about why they act like they do, and then try as many different approaches as possible.


Ed 2500 March 12, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on September 24, 2014 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Today I put together a bulletin board display that took a ridiculously long time. First I selected one piece of art from each student. Then I had to arrange them so that all of the artwork would fit. I messed up by including Christmas art that parents had already seen, so I had to re-select pieces. The task was so simple and yet so annoyingly time-consuming that next time I would do well to listen to an audiobook while working. Teachers need to do a lot of fiddly and time-consuming jobs, so it is important to be organized, work efficiently, and manage your schedule well. I also thought today that in the summer, preparing a classroom for the coming year must be a lot of work and involve a lot of planning. Something a simple as buying and labelling bins for duo-tangs could take time and organizational skills. On top of that, the first month of school must require a lot of patience as the teacher outlines and begins to reinforce the classroom rules. I think that practice and consistency are extremely important during this process. I feel that I am beginning to really grasp the realities of a teacher’s working life, but I do not feel intimidated by it. I am looking forward to the fact that teachers are always learners too. Fulfilling my professional development will be very enjoyable. I am always open to learning new things and expanding my horizons, because I believe that people have potential in many fields.


I think that I will only volunteer for committees that I am interested in and enjoy, or else extra work will become tedious. I will have to be careful not to agree to too many additional responsibilities, because I need to avoid burnout. Since I already volunteer to judge science fairs, I could see being on a fair committee for my school, or even at the regional level. An anti-bullying committee would also interest me, or an after school exercise or leadership club.

Ed 2500 March 10, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on September 24, 2014 at 11:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I am not in practicum today because I am home sick. After calling the school, I went back to bed. But I realize that as a full-time teacher, I would not be able to do that. If I know that I won’t be able to come into work, I cannot just call in sick and fall back asleep. I would need to type up a full lesson plan for the day, find a substitute (unless the secretary can), and maybe even go into the school to set up materials. My Teacher Associate told me that often teachers go to work sick because it is less work than getting a substitute. My T.A. said that once when she knew that she would have to stay home with her sick child, she came into the school in the middle of the night to prepare for a substitute to come in. I realize and accept that these are the facts with being a teacher. It is not just a job; teaching is a lifestyle choice. But for today, I am going to get better without the added responsibility of finding a substitute to replace my Ed 2500 role.

Image from: http://img.thesun.co.uk/aidemitlum/archive/01110/SNA2317GX10-682_1110989a.jpg

Ed 2500 March 5, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on September 24, 2014 at 11:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Today there was a substitute teacher in class. Since I am familiar with the usual routine, I settled the class down, took attendance, and checked agendas. I realized while checking agendas that I should have been multi-tasking by asking the grade fives to line up at the door for assembly as soon as I had given them an agenda sticker. The substitute thankfully had experience in time management and helped me out.


At the assembly, two boys were wrestling and punching each other’s arms, so I moved one to the end of the line. I heard another of the boys tell the one that I had moved to get away. I said “I moved [the boy] here so I think you can sit quietly next to each other unless you want to be moved away from your friends too.” After the assembly I had a short talk with the entire grade five class about being polite and not bullying. It was a short reminder of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” The students responded well by sitting quietly, and a few looked guilty. I asked the substitute how she thought I had handled the situation. She said that I spoke very well and was right to mention something. Sometimes kids just need a simple reminder that rude comments can be considered bullying.


I asked the substitute teacher how she generally manages a classroom when she doesn’t know the kids. She said that it can be a challenge because every classroom has different rules. She said that the most effective tool is simply calling out the name(s) of the misbehaver(s). As a substitute, if she is unfamiliar with names, she tries to use her physical presence. I noticed that she did this at the morning assembly by standing next to a group of chatty girls during “Oh Canada.”


The rest of the day went smoothly. I caught up students who were behind on their novel studies and digital books. I read them more of my novel, “Spirit Rider,” and we discussed setting and character traits. Later we had a math test and played math games. It was difficult for me to not give more hints and extra help to those students who struggled with the exam. I had to remind myself that this is an evaluation of what they know, and that the teacher and parents need to see an accurate assessment of their understanding.


I asked the substitute how she thought I did that day and she said extremely well. A student injured himself at recess and the sub was very thankful that I took the class to the computer lab so that she could help the student. The sub gave me constructive feedback to wait a little more time after I ask the class a question. I’ll keep that in mind next time I ask if the students know something.

Ed 2500 Monday March 3, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on September 21, 2014 at 11:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Today I observed the Language Arts novel study for “Underground to Canada.” First the teacher read a chapter, then the students did worksheets including a journal entry, word wall, and comprehension questions. I like the journal entry because it allows students a chance to role play and give personal reflection about what happened in the book. 


I had a great opportunity to do my own mini novel study by sharing the fantasy novel that I wrote, “Spirit Rider.” It was a good exercise in time management because I only had ten minutes. I did well but there were several things that I could work on for next time. I could have explained the setting better instead of just focussing on an older time frame. I wanted to avoid giggles at the old-fashioned terminology but I need not have worried. When I referred to the male rooster as a cock, I think I drew too much attention to it. Some of the students did not seem to notice that it is also used inappropriately as a bad word. Next time I would only explain that word if I saw kids giggling at it. I also lacked a moment of confidence and second-guessed myself. I feared that I was boring the students and spent too much time flipping pages to another section. I also should have stood up from the front stool because I could not hear one student from where I was sitting. After class, some students wanted to sit and listen to me read more. I was tempted because I am attached to my personal work. It was flattering to have kids show interest. However, I cannot let my desires (or ego) interfere with my consistent fairness. Other students had already gone outside for recess, so I made the decision that we should all go out too. In the spirit of being fair, I went out into the cold with them, too.

 

In math class today, my Teacher Associate introduced division with blocks. She asked students to divide their 48 blocks into equal groups. This hands-on self-exploratory activity helped students to understand grouping as a method to solve division problems. Explaining that 5÷0 is impossible was a difficult concept to teach, but my T.A. did a good job of it by repeating the same thing in different words. She said 0×0 does not equal five, you cannot make zero groups of five, and then she showed them that you get an error message in your calculator when you try 5÷0. Several approaches to this concept really helped the kids to understand it. I think that when explaining a difficult concept to students that you need to approach it from multiple angles or perspectives. This individualizes learning for students because not every person will understand just one thought pattern.


Finally, today I found out a great way to get kids engaged in health. The special agent for healthy bones might have seemed too little-kiddish for grade fives but I saw a lot of excitement at the prospect of being a secret agent. I should not underestimate the role-play strategy of learning as a fun, engaging, and effective activity for younger students, or even older ones.

Ed 2500 Feb 26, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on September 19, 2014 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Today my Ed 2500 class visited a high school Social Studies 10-1 class. I noticed that the teacher varied activities and maintained very good transitions between those activities. Quiet reading, paired discussion, class discussion, writing activities and a video clip were all used in the span of an hour.


To review the previous lesson of historical globalization, the class made a graffiti board—what I would call a mind map or concept web. The teacher directed this activity very well, showing her great classroom and time management skill. First the students were given 30 seconds for quiet, individual thought on the topic. This gave individuals an opportunity to reflect upon what they had learned and remembered. Next, groups of 2 to 4 had two minutes to write down all of the points that they remembered. Group discussion and cooperative learning in pairs is an effective way to collaborate. Finally, the class had four minutes to write their ideas on the whiteboard. To avoid chaos, one person from each group stood up at a time. every group was held accountable for their contribution with a differently coloured felt pen. The teacher encouraged students to build off of concepts already written down (eg. Capitalism -> Adam Smith -> Wealth of Nations). I thought that the graffiti board was a great learning strategy to review the material, demonstrate overall understanding, and synthesize and make connections between ideas. This interactive activity got the students engaged and in the right mindset to start the next lesson in historical globalization.


The social teacher then introduced the next subtopic of slavery with a graphic video from “Amistad.” The clip of slave ship transportation was intended to shock students and instil a sense of empathy through a role-play/demonstration learning strategy. This intense video drove home the message that the treatment of slaves was atrocious—much more so than any textbook could have described. The teacher prepared the students for the video by warning them that its content was disturbing. The teacher then told them to purpose of why the were watching it: to ask how such atrocities could happen and how anyone could be involved with that kinds of treatment of other people.


I was glad to hear the teacher tie in pink shirt day to the lesson. She made the lesson personal by asking “would you stand up to a bully today? How about then? Could you have been a William Wilberforce and would you have led the movement to abolish slavery?” It is interesting that the teacher followed this discussion with a “ranking” activity. Students were asked to rank animals in order of importance according to their beliefs. When the teacher pulled up a list of Asians, Africans, Europeans, and South Americans, none of the students wrote anything down, but glad at the teacher. This was the exact response that the teacher was looking for, to solidify the lesson that racism is unacceptable in any form.


Ed 2500 Feb 24, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on September 19, 2014 at 9:25 PM Comments comments (0)

I was impressed that some of the students knew what pink shirt day was about. Since I am a strong supporter of the anti-bullying movement, I’m upset that I will be unable to attend the kids’ class on Wednesday (Ed 2500 field trip to high school). The teacher is reading a book to the class called “Wonder.” It is about a boy with facial deformities and his struggle to make friends. The kids really enjoy this story. It may be due to the high number of special needs students in this school. I get the impression that known disabilities are easily accepted at this elementary. What about the students with poor social skills that are not as easily understood? How do you get other people to stop picking on them?


I wonder what is the best way to teach anti-bullying. In my experience in grade five, my school tried to teach empathy, but somehow it made me see victims as more pathetic. When I was ten I remember seeing a boy who was pushed at school. He said, “Please don’t push me.” As a child I had to stifle a laugh. I remember that I knew what I had seen was wrong, yet I could not see the boy as anything but a victim. How can I teach the grade fives to do what I could not when I was their age? How can I teach them to never look the other way if they see bullying? What is the best way to cultivate respect and compassion? I like pink shirt day because it asks students to actively participate in a symbol of anti-bullying. However, I know from experience that bullies are already hurting inside, and we don’t want to make them feel worse; we want them to change. I think that teaching self-worth is the solution. Teach the victim that they do not deserve mistreatment, teach the onlooker that they are strong enough to interfere, and teach the bully that they don’t need to take their anger out on others. This idea seems like a good start to me, though I’m not entirely sure out I would implement it.


I also noticed today in between sessions of Daily 5 that the teacher took a moment to review a CAFÉ strategy (comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and expanding vocabulary). The teacher asked about the different sounds that “c’s” and “g’s” make, as a technique for sounding out the word. I had a moment in which I realized that I would not know how to explain that concept myself. To teach reading a teacher reviews the basics and takes him or herself down to a simpler level. This reminds me of what my seminar professor said: “the teacher must dwell in the learner’s place with them.” To explain basic principles, a teacher must remember what it was like to be a learner at that stage.


I used to wonder why teachers needed “prep” periods or stayed late after school. I used to think that if you understood a topic well enough, you should not have a need for preparation. I now realize how important lesson-planning is. Teachers need to meet curriculum requirements, make lessons interesting for kids, and be clear and well-understood. Being a teacher is more work than I had initially thought, but I like that because I am a student of personal development. I think that it is important to find a profession that challenges you (as well as motivates you and gives you a sense of meaning).


I think that I have an answer for my earlier question “how does a teacher make learning individualized when they have an entire class in front of them?” In math class, my T.A. showed many different strategies, then allowed the students to pick their favourite. Not every child will learn how to multiply numbers the same way. If you teach several routes to get to the same answer, then it does not matter which path they take. All strategies lead to the correct answer and hopefully to understanding. I that that understanding is the key word here. In the traditional system, students are required to memorize facts and regurgitate them on tests. In my experience with tutoring high school math, many teachers require their students to set up a problem in a specific way, or else they get marks docked. This is frustrating for me as a tutor because students come to me when they do not understand their teacher’s methods. If we find a way for students to understand the problem by approaching it differently, then I do not believe that they should be punished for using a different method. Memorizing a math problem approach does not prove understanding. Why not let individuals find out what works best for them and let their independent learning guide them?

Ed 2500 Feb 14, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on September 19, 2014 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

I came in for Valentine’s Day morning and acted as substitute teacher (under supervision) for the first hour. I settled down the class by giving check marks to well-behaved students. To save time, I checked journals during announcement and their morning exercise routine. I told the class that we would be going to the computer lab to work on one of three projects. To ensure that my instructions were clear, I had a student repeat them back to me. I learned in seminar that a useful think to keep in mind is to avoid assuming that you are being understood. I felt that my instructions were successful because the grade fives were well-behaved and followed them. The reward incentive of free time motivated a lot of the students to stay on task and complete their projects. One student in particular would not stay on task. This gave me an opportunity to tread the line between friendly teacher and authority figure. I encouraged the student to keep working and appealed to his self-responsibility. I said, “Come on [name], help me out here. I really want to give you free time, but I can’t until you finish up.”

The morning went very well. I feel that I managed the classroom well because I was consistent and fair. I think that I have successfully established relationships with the students. They know that I am a teacher, but that I am still friendly and approachable. This feeling was solidified when several of the students gave me Valentines cards. A few students also gave me hugs. 

Ed 2500 Feb 12, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on September 19, 2014 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

The students are learning about slavery for Black History Month. How do you teach such a complex and disturbing subject to kids in grade five? You do not want to scare them, but still have them grasp its importance. My Teacher Associate showed a video and read from a textbook to teach the basic facts and conditions on plantations for slaves.


The class was taught an old slave song, and I wondered why? What does a slave song teach kids? Well, it has simple language and gives the students an example that they can grasp. It shows that escaping to freedom was so dangerous that slaves needed to communicate in code. It also gives them an example of following simple directions (the drinking gourd being the big dipper that points to the north star). This song provides a great teachable moment of integrated learning that involves slavery, geography (lower states to Canada), language (code), and astronomy (using a constellation that the students can find themselves).


Then my T.A. asked the student to journal either about what they had learned or write as if they were slaves. This role exchange made the lesson personal, allowed for creativity, forced the kids to think about what they had learned, and gave them an opportunity to practice writing. I was impressed by the page-long stories written in only ten minutes. My T.A. said that the Daily 5 practice had really improved their focus, stamina, and writing skills. Practice, practice, practice, leads to improvement.

Ed 2500 Feb 10, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on September 18, 2014 at 11:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Today I am thinking about what teaching techniques work and why. For example, my Teacher Associate said that she used to give weekly spelling tests, but found that students forgot how to spell the words after the exam. This is a very traditional strategy of memorization that has been employed for most of my personal experience as a student. I agree that students are often motivated by good grades, and cram for tests, but only retain that information for as long as it is required. I believe that regurgitating material does not necessarily correlate with conceptual understanding. My Teacher Associate has resolved this problem with regards to spelling by abolishing the tests. Instead, a weekly spelling assignment is given with interactive exercises, such as using the list word in a complete sentence or creating a word search. This concept reminds me of the old saying, “use it or lose it,” and promotes more interaction with the list words that a spelling test would. I think that the common practice of “read the textbook and do a worksheet” is becoming outdated. I think that a movement towards more understanding is very important. I have noticed that my T.A. encourages this independent thinking in math by giving points for any work and explanation that the student does. I identify with this philosophy because I would rather teach kids how to think than what to think. If kids are bored senseless by traditional methods, then why not make their education more interactive and engaging? I want to cater to their needs if it will help them.

 

Recently, I have been wanting to take on more responsibility and duties in the classroom. I was glad to hear my T.A. say that she would have me help to photocopy—not a particularly exciting job, but a necessary one. I also asked if I could read to the class. During health, I read a story about planning aheadin which one character spent all of his money on candy and cheap toys, and the other made a list and stuck to it. I think that the class discussion that followed went fairly well, especially considering that it was my first time in front of a class and giving instruction. What worked was when I asked the students about what had happened in the story. What did not work was when I asked “what would you do with $50?” because instant chatter broke out. Thankfully, my T.A. rescued me and said, “hands grade five.” I did not realize that it would be that easy to motivate passion, and to rein it in by taking charge with a simple statement.

I remembered that kids really like having personalized examples to help them learn. Making a concept personal gives it a relatable context to facilitate understanding. Also, asking questions keeps the students engaged by making the lesson interactive. I learned that standing up in front of a class is easy as long as you have prepared material to go off of (the story had “discussion questions” that I followed). I also learned to specify the discussion rules of listening to who is talking, and raise your hand. I think that I will get better at this classroom management skill with more experience.

Ed 2500 Feb 5, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on September 18, 2014 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Today before the assembly a student who was upset approached me. She said that her parents had gotten her a tutor and that she felt stupid. I told her that she is not stupid at all, that I am a tutor and some of my students are extremely smart. I explained to her that every person learns at a different pace and in a different way. We get assigned homework because we need to practice what we learn in school. A tutor is just your personal one-on-one teacher who helps you to practice. I told the student to think of a tutor as a good thing. I tried to use a positive reinforcement strategy and showed the student that I cared by asking her how she felt. I think that I handled the situation well with the knowledge and skills that I currently have.


I asked my Teacher Associate what she thought of the situation and at first was surprised when she replied, “That’s not what [the student] really needs; it’s an attention problem.” It makes a lot of sense to me that an experienced teacher would recognize a band-aid solution and want to get to the real root of the problem. Extra help and practice is always welcome, but for that help to be truly effective, it must be personalized for the individual.


This brings me back to my question of how children best learn as individuals and as part of a group? It seems to me that teachers have to find a difficult balance that satisfies the learning needs of the majority of their class. Unfortunately a teacher cannot give individualized attention and instruction to everyone, but what does he/she do with those students who are marginalized? I know that I will do what I can for every student who needs my help, using multiple different approaches, but after a certain point I think that any teacher needs to rely on parents and the community for support.

Ed 2500 Feb 3, 2014

Posted by agracemartin on September 18, 2014 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Today is the second day of practicum and the students received a new seating plan. Thankfully I have memorized all of their names. I think that this is extremely important because it is the first step to establishing a relationship with another person. I want the students to recognize that I respect and value them. I think that the easiest way to gain respect is by giving it.


I have noticed that the teacher always asks two students to either hand out or pick up folders, notebooks, or textbooks. I think this is because it would take too much time for only one person to circulate the classroom, and the teacher wants to transition between subjects efficiently. I think that this also gives the student a sense of responsibility and even a small sense of pride that they are “good enough” to help their teacher out and pick up folders.

I observed a lot of order and good classroom behaviour during Language Arts Daily 5 reading. I noticed that several students got mats to sit on and that they dispersed throughout the room quietly. I think that this privilege of sitting wherever a student chooses makes the activity more fun, and again ties back to recognition, responsibility, and respect. The teacher recognizes that the students are capable of good behaviour and rewards them with privileges that makes learning more fun (provided that they are responsible and stay on task). This shows that the teacher respects the students and wants them to enjoy the activity. Also, the students show respect for the teacher by behaving well.


In Ed 2500 seminar class today, we discussed an interesting concept. It made me realize that I had observed it in practicum without noticing. My seminar professor said that we can maximize a student’s passion of learning through good teacher organization and through pulling on the student’s personal motivation. The idea of making educational lessons personal seems like a no-brainer, but its practice can be subtle.


In the grade five health class the teacher was talking about the movie that they had previously watched. “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron,” was discussed in terms that the kids could understand. The teacher used the example of Spirit’s mood and narration to teach the concept of self-talk. Then she asked a student who plays hockey, “when you are short-handed and the other team has a power-play, do you think to yourself that it is pointless to try, or do you work hard and focus and tell yourself to keep going?” Not only did the health teacher use a children’s movie that was easily relatable, she made the concept clear with a personal example. I believe that teachers need to relate concepts to their students using symbols and examples that they know. If an example is personal, then individuals are more likely to achieve that “Aha!” moment.