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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Education
September 2, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

A Year in the Life: TEC Blog

October 2009: Practicum = Awesome!

First Practicum: Two weeks in your placement school where your aim is to teach up to 25% of the time. You are not evaluated, formally, during this time.

I had tried teaching a couple of lessons prior to the practicum, and one of them was terrible, so I was mildly terrified for my practicum to begin. Fortunately for me, my associate teacher was very reasonable, so my first lesson, on the first day was a 30 minute gym class (well, I had to teach it twice to two different grade 7 classes). Since I love phys-ed, I thought, no problem. No problem? Not quite.

Surprisingly, this was harder than I anticipated. We were in the middle of a grade 7 football unit, which is only about 5 lessons long, and I had to find a game that built on what they already knew (not much), and introduce the next skill. After hours of searching the internet I found a modified flag football game to teach. The trick, however, was to explain what it was that they were learning and how it applied to a real football game. At the end of the day, I would say that the lesson was a B-. I needed to improve the instruction and rules a little, but got great feedback on the skill progression.

     Through the course of the two weeks I taught about two or three 30-minute lessons a day. While my lesson plans still are taking a long time, I have to say that this week really solidified my decision to become a teacher. I loved this experience. I enjoyed seeing those kids every day. I had an amazing topic to teach Ė a Language Arts unit on "Stepping Up".

     The one part I found the most difficult was figuring out HOW to teach. I think we spent maybe, maybe 30 minutes talking about classroom teaching strategies in the first five weeks of class. And talking about strategies is a little different than picking one and actually using it! Until my faculty advisor came to evaluate me, I didnít realize that I was only doing one kind of teaching Ė talking to the students and then having them work on an assignment. I didnít use graphic organizers or placemats, and since those were the only two strategies I actually remembered, my lessons were pretty similar. This is something I am definitely going to have to work on and do some serious research!

I feel like Iíve really bonded with the students and they were sad to learn that I wouldnít be in their classroom again until my third practicum, which was nice. These two weeks totally refueled and re-motivated me. By the second week I could not ignore the long list of assignments due after practicum, but part of me just wanted to enjoy the experience, so I will be very busy this weekend!

I also got to witness volleyball tryouts. It was very useful to see the drills my associate teacher, the volleyball coach, used to pick the team. I cannot wait to coach one day; it was one of the driving forces to become a teacher. I just think it will be so rewarding.

Well, I am sad to see the first practicum come to an end, but am encouraged to know I will be back in just over a month, and then itís Christmas! For the first time in years I will actually have two weeks off over the holidays. Hooray!

September 2009: The student-teacher continuum

Every Tuesday and Wednesday we are in a "placement school" where we get to observe a real teacher in practice! This time is nice because I get to develop a great rapport with the students and my associate before I began my first practicum. I'm at my school from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 pm on Tuesdays, and then 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Wednesdays.

I get to my school at 8:00 a.m., which is actually the time I used to start work at. My principal strikes me as the kind of person who would really try to help me out after graduation, and my associate teacher is exemplary! Heís a great mentor, organized, helpful and nice.

EU 404, our professional learning seminar, takes place on Tuesdays from 2:00 Ė 4:00 p.m., with each class being hosted in a different school. We spend this time talking about practical issues we are facing in our schools. One issue you may experience, like me, is that there is simply not enough time in the day...if only there were 30 hours in a day instead of 24! Youíll quickly learn that each day is filled with lesson plans. I have had trouble finding a break in the lessons to work on-on-one with students who require extra help, but I am learning each day how to balance my time.

In between lessons, the day is broken up by two 40-minute nutrition breaks and one or two 30-minute "planning times". I had originally planned to do yard duty and intramurals during this time, but some things just need to get done, like reading chapters and writing journal entriesÖ

Moral of the story: Time is of the essence Ė never waste a second.

August 2009: camp: Welcome to your new home!

Camp was a lot like, well, camp! We got to meet the faculty and fellow students Ė all 140 of them Ė and played some typical "get to know you" games. Like any big change, it was a little stressful. The first thing I did was look for someone I knew. To my delight, I found someone and sat beside her; a fellow mature student whom I knew from high school. Nice start - a buddy to sit beside in class and eat my lunch with. Itís a little like speed dating. You meet all sorts of new people, and you try to decide in the first 30 seconds if you could see yourself being "friends" with them.

We were introduced to the technology, got our laptops, and were put into our sections: A & B (primary/junior) and C & D (junior/intermediate). So my new friend was in P/J and I was in J/I so I had to start branching out.

It was kinda funny how there was a lot of chatter about whom had kids, some in their 20s, some their 30s and even some in their 40s! There is definitely an instant bond when you meet someone in a similar situation. Going to school with kids at home was not going to be easy, we all agreed. My daughter is only 16 months old, but I met more than one mom who was still breastfeeding! Talk about a challenge.

While it is extremely difficult to balance the demanding life of being a mom with homework, it is also motivating. Every time I send my daughter to a sitter so I can get some work done, I think, "Iím doing this for you honey!" I am leaving the corporate world, where my days were long, travel was mandatory, and my holidays were still just three weeks a year. In this world, Christmas Eve is not a holiday and I plugged in my laptop every night and every weekend. I loved what I did, but I just couldnít see myself doing it for another 20-30 years. Plus, at the end of the day my main concern was making the company money, or saving the company money. As an altruistic person by nature (I grew up in a socially active family), I had to focus on the intrinsic satisfaction of knowing I was doing a good job to get myself through the days. I wanted more out of my life than that, to know I had made a difference in someoneís life, not just some dollar signs attached to my name. And so, here I am, looking to start over as a teacher.

I thought for sure I would be the epitome of efficiency, dedication and passion. I pictured myself handing in assignments early and begging for more. Well, at least my intentions were good. Unfortunately it didnít work out that way. During camp, before actual classes began I downloaded everything I could find on WebCT, the web-based document/assignment management tool that the school uses. I apparently missed finding the syllabus for each course, which isnít under "course content". So as a result, I showed up to my first class and realized that I was already behind on my readings *Sigh*

The reality is that this course work is heavy. We have 20 hours of classes a week, and we spend 14 hours in our placement school a week, which equals 34 hours, not including lunches or dinners while weíre at Laurier. So, I spend every night with my laptop, my text books and the background noise of the television working on course work and lesson plans. *Sigh*

I spent a lot of time thinking about becoming a teacher, so by the time I actually got here I thought it would fit like a glove. I thought I would sit down at the desk and think, "This is it! This is what I was meant to do!" I was expecting "teaching 101," which would include easy-to-use techniques, coupled with inspiring stories about how we can make a difference in student lives. Not quite the way it turned out. I think I found it difficult because there are seven different courses that we take right off the bat so it takes a little while for all of the pieces to come together.

Iíll admit, during the first two weeks of school I didnít think I could do it. After two weeks I was exhausted. As I contemplated quitting each and every night, I told myself, "This is what I was born to do and I will!"

August 2009: Typical student concerns

I wanted to start this by addressing some typical student concerns:

Where are the best places to eat? Iím a starving student and I pack a lunch every day. For a special treat, I went to McDonalds for snack wraps once, but the biggest problem is finding parking over the lunch hour. Leave yourself 10-15 minutes to find a new spot.

Is there a microwave? Yes, in the student lounge, just down the hall from your classes. This has been a savior for me, even if itís just heating up my extra large double-double during break.

Closest Tim Hortonís? In the building next door. Thatís right, no horseshoes required to do a Timís run in the winter. Itís a 2 minute walk away. Hallelujah!

Best things about the program? Every class is in the same building and on the same floor. Each section is only about 35 students so I learned everyoneís name after about 4 weeks (I sit at the front, so it took a while to learn the names of those who sat at the back or didnít put their hand up all the time).

Biggest adjustment? Time! The reality is that the workload is heavy. We have 20 hours of classes a week, and we spend 14 hours in our placement school a week, which equals 34 hours, not including lunches or dinners (before night class) or commuting time. To start, factor in a reading a chapter per class per week (7 classes x1h) and about three assignments a week (3 assignments x 2 hours). Averaged out, I think I spend 2-3 hours a day doing homework.

**Warning

The next few blogs may be difficult to read. This program will not be easy. However, I am writing this warning after my first practicum, and if you can make it that far, you will not regret it!

August 2009: The first week of classes

The first day:

It was Tech TEC day on campus (a day for volunteer technology ambassadors) and I was excited to get started Ė so excited, in fact, that I got my first ever speeding ticket on the way in, making me five minutes late to class. Not a great omen, if youíre into those types of things.

On the other hand, as I stepped through the door to gaze at my peers for the first time I was "psyched" to see that everyone in the room appeared to be a mature student. My recently-ex colleagues joked that I would be called "Grandma Gaudun" due to my mature status. Actually, I think I was one of the younger ones there. Hallelujah.

The day provided us with early access to our laptops, which again, to my delight, were totally "suped up" with software, including Microsoft Office and Photoshop Elements. The ever-handy Matthew Little gave us the scoop on student software pricing Ė music to a software-junkyís ears.

Overall, the first day of school was "aiight".

The first week:

Itís been a few years since I was a full time student. Coming from the corporate world, here are a few of the major adjustments youíll find the first week.

Adjustment 1: Eating, or lack thereof. My nickname at one company was "Snacker" because I was always, well, snacking. Since Iíve been bad at packing lunches, Iím practically starving right now. Itís largely my own fault. Iím trying to save money so Iím not buying anything other than one extra large Tim Hortonís per day. The upside, I discovered a microwave, which means I can mix up the sandwich diet with my beloved TV dinners.

Adjustment 2: New technology - While I'm a self-proclaimed techie, at least in the world of marketing and communications, all of the software we are using is new to me. Even the email system is something that only vaguely resembles Outlook.

Adjustment 3 - School hours Ė While the days are technically shorter than a typical work day, donít expect to end on time: lots of discussion the first week.

Adjustment 4 - New friends. Iíve naturally gravitated to the mature students, especially the ones with kids, so we all can complain together about how hard it is to do both. But in general, most people are out of their element and very friendly and welcoming. Iím practicing using first names as much as possible so I can stop starting conversations with, "Iím sorry, Iíve forgot your name already". And, unlike Tech TEC day, there is a much higher percentage of new grads. I tried to slip "thatís sick" and "totally bucc" into a couple of conversations just to fit it. Weíll see how that pans out for me.

   

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