The last week of pre-internship was more difficult than anticipated on both the students and myself. Unfortunately, I finally felt confident teaching my math unit- with a measly four days left. I also finally had the respect from the visiting grade 7 students I had. Just in time for me to walk out the door.
The final projects were incredible in math. The final Zombie creations were phenomenal. My final assessment pieces were both successful. However-the most important assessment was given by the students.
I definitely beamed with pride as I read and watched the boxes get checked for internship, but, the most important evaluations had to come from the students. As I told them, “your voices mean the most because you are why I am here.”
I was blown away at the relationships I built in a measly few weeks. The honest, insightful and caring words students used when evaluating my teaching techniques made me cry. Not a huge surprise! The consistent request of weekly visits to teach or watch their badminton games made me feel incredible. It is not an easy feat to get into the hearts of 12 and 13 year olds, but somehow I managed to do it!
I remember my fear of grade 7/8 and my lack of interest teaching this grade. I suppose the feeling was similar to my feeling about teaching mathematics to any grade. As I sit and reflect on the experiences and growth over the year with these students and my cooperating teacher, I can proudly say I bloomed where I was planted this year. I only hope for the same caliber of growth, relationships, and success in my internship!
We have learned so little while expected to assess so much. As a student who strives for perfection, I was quick to realize I was placing the same ridiculously high expectations on my class. As I created rubrics and gave assignments, I focused on organization and expectations for the assessment leaving no room for observations.
Daily, I was formatively assessing students and myself. I was able to reflect on the spot about what I was doing wrong and where the students were missing the lesson. This was beneficial. Unfortunately, when I brought the daily assignments home to mark, I lost the mark on formative (observant) assessment and I focused on the lack of format and follow through on what I requested in class. Albeit I asked fifteen times, I could not dwell and not mark because my expectations were not being met or exceeded.
“Base it on observation, not on expectation.”
Again, this meant letting go of the awful standards of perfection I set for myself. Assessing students means assessing myself. I cannot effectively assess if I am constantly expecting perfection from myself. Automatically, that expectation pours onto my students and it leaves a terrible taste in everyone’s mouth.
Observation is a vital piece of teaching; it became more beneficial than any expectation written under the 4 column of the rubric. I was able to find success in every student when I focused on observation. Finally, observation of application provided a fundamental summative project that increased and motivated students who were disengaged the first week and a half of the lesson.
As I began to focus on observation over my expectation, I grew as a teacher. More importantly, my students became more comfortable within my classroom.
My three week block blessed me with the opportunity to get my feet wet teaching my most feared subject: math. Thanks to great professors, I was beginning to look forward to teaching mathematics to middle years students. I praised the readings and the great insight about teaching math differently from how I was taught. The ideas flowed well in all the readings, and it looked great on paper. I can do this; I can change math mindsets.
Within two days, I realized, as an inexperienced educator, promoting a growth mindset to a group of 32 students (15 of which I did not know) was not as easy as it read in a textbook. Endless hours of creating and thinking and overdoing the planning was met with an important question: “do you always have to reinvent the wheel?”
I planned my unit refusing to use a textbook and focusing on inquiry to find probabilities and central tendencies. Three days of chaos made it clear I cannot come and undo six years of traditional math teaching in a three week pre-internship block. What I can do is blend the two together. I do not need to reinvent the wheel; I just need to shine it up a bit.
This is a lesson applicable to the entire classroom. I can be a great teacher without reinventing the wheel every lesson, every subject, every day. It is okay to blend. It is okay to use the textbook. It is okay to apply a seating plan. While I have spent three years striving and expecting perfection, in the classroom, there is no place for perfection.
With this acknowledgement, I was able to see an immediate change in my teaching and my students’ understanding.
For two years, I have immersed myself in the truth- the truth about our colonial history, our relationships with Indigenous peoples, the truth about our systemic racism, the truth about my own racism. This isn’t a single read, or a half day PD event, or one good chat with an Elder in residence. This is a daily choice- a lifestyle.
My journey began during ECS 110. It was boosted in ECS 210. It was ignited in EPSY 217. The opportunity to finally learn about this content-the truth, from Indigenous peoples provided a unique opportunity to finally understand the importance of being on this journey to effectively teach treaty education and work with our Indigenous peoples. But, still, with all these experiences I have had- now what? As a preservice teacher, now what do I do?
I place heavy emphasis on humility. To teach treaty education, to teach the truth, to take steps towards “reconciliation” I need humility. It’s the ability to identify my white privilege, identify my barriers, identify my lasting, always present opportunities. I can share my stories to connect with my trauma ridden students but I also need to acknowledge that despite the equality of our traumatic experiences they are not equitable. My experiences with abuse as a child and an adult do not reduce my employment opportunities, educational opportunities, or relationship opportunities as they do for others. So is there a point yet in sharing? Perhaps I am still dealing with the guilt of having success out of trauma where others will never get to. Just because of their race.
Because of this guilt I hold, I can never stop. This work continuously introduces me to new personal conflicts and new relationships. As it should. We should be constantly reevaluating and identifying because we should be constantly learning and expanding. If I expect to continue to grow as an educator, this work can never be done. This journey does not have an end. There is always more to truth to be explored, more learning to experience. After every article, opportunity, classroom, and relationship with respect to treaty education and Indigenous peoples, I ask myself “so, now what?” And I always need to create my response.
Mandated Treaty Education outcomes are a central focus of our learning in the Education program. It is vital all our students learn Canada’s colonial history- the exact history I did not learn when I was in their desk. As a white female educator- how and what does this look like?
We have all had the racist talk and some of us have been able to identify with the systemic racism we are automatically a member of. The systemic racism that creates a roadblock for me depending on the classroom I have. A white girl speaking to a 98% First Nations class about the “colonial history” that is not history at all does not sound appealing. A white girl speaking to a 98% white class about the “colonial history” is not history at all does not sound appealing. Both different reasons. So how do I effectively approach the content no matter who is in my classroom?
Relationships. As Mike emphasizes through his own personal approach in our class, “teaching is deeply relational.” If I want to make a difference, if I want to effectively teach the content, I need to have the relationships built. I will build relationships through honesty and transparency with my students. My students need to realize I am human- I am human with a story. Story telling is an excellent oral tradition that builds relationships safe environments. Through my personal stories, my students’ stories, and the historical stories, I will find a comfortable place in teaching the FNMI and Treaty Education outcomes we are given.
Currently, my confidence in my own stories is lacking. I doubt the appropriateness of sharing my story as a white person. I fear it comes off as a superficial way to connect. I fear it comes off as a way to receive empathy. Through experience, I know I will find the right opportunities and approach to using my personal stories of trauma and abuse to connect and create the safe environment.
Thinking beyond my personal goal of relationships, it is important to acknowledge the lack of outcomes and indicators that open classrooms to these difficult conversations. I worry teachers view Treaty Education as the four outcome checklist because of the discomfort the conversations may cause. As a young educator comfortable with the uncomfortable, I need to consider the force I bring the conversation into the classroom and staffroom. This is where I spend a majority of my concern-how will I react when my colleagues do not agree or support me? To say nothing is a political act, to say too much could tarnish my relationships- but is there a balance? Is there an answer?
I reflect back to the day I chose to apply to the education program when I have these internal debates. My husband’s favourite quote after a day I had been pushed to my edge: “I am applying because I need to change some things. We are going to change some things. I am going to make schools a better place to be in and work at.” At the time, I did not know exactly what to change, why to change, or where to change. As I reflect on the three year discussion about FNMI content and treaty education, perhaps this is the change naive Jasmine was anticipating making.
We spent two classes planning a lesson together for a provided outcome from the grade 5 curriculum. We’ve planned several lessons independently through the semester so I expected the process to be a breeze. It was not.
I found it difficult pulling four minds together to agree to every piece of a lesson plan. Thankfully, our group worked together effectively, but I can imagine the difficulties if a group was not cohesive.
A positive to the experience was learning exactly what a modified indicator was. I never fully understood what was expected in the space nor did I understand it was a necessity. I also appreciated the opportunity of co-planning because there is a good chance I will end work in a shared classroom environment. If I had one critique of the assignment it would be the timing; I wish we had spent the time on this earlier in the semester, rather than the end, to help with the lesson planning for the weekly placement.