My first observation
My short practicum observation took place on Thursday morning during a lesson I’d been planning for almost a month. There’d been quite a few hiccups in the planning of that lesson, the first of which was feedback from my SA saying she didn’t quite think the focus of the lesson—symbolism as literary device—hit the mark.
After reworking the lesson objective and changing almost everything about the lesson except the content, a TIME Magazine article about Greta Thunberg being chosen as person of the year, I had something my SA thought might work.
Last minute hiccups
My SA recommended that I grease the wheels by introducing the topic of my lesson the day before my observation. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on my perspective, when I did that, it became clear that the students were not up for the task. I had overshot the mark by quite a bit.
My plan had been for them to create a timeline of something significant they’d done in their lives, but ninety percent of them couldn’t think up an idea to write on and the class descended into chaos.
Luckily, I had my pre-conference with Dave that night, during which he helped me figure out how to simplify the lesson.
Nerves of steel
The next day I was, needless to say, quite nervous. Dave arrived and the students were quiet for a change, which was helpful. This might have been due to the fact they’d all agreed beforehand they were going to “behave” in order to secure my position in their class. Haha….
The lesson went surprisingly well except for the very beginning, when students were shy to answer questions. After about 15 minutes though, they were warmed up, especially after I’d shown them an engaging video about Greta Thunberg on the Ellen Show.
There were times during the lesson where I went a little off-topic, but I have to honestly say that it went a lot better than I’d hoped, considering the changes I’d made at the last minute.
Here is a copy of my English Language Arts lesson plan about Greta Thunberg, focusing on how to write an event story with a timeline:
After the lesson, Dave and I had our debrief, and that was actually a much more pleasant experience than I thought it might be. What stood out to me during the observation/debrief cycle was that most of what Dave said to me were things I intuitively felt inside, but didn’t have words for.
Stay on topic
For example, I knew I’d kind of wavered off topic at some moments, but Dave put it very eloquently when he said that everything in the lesson should serve the lesson objective.
The lesson was about how to write an event story, but there were off-topic elements of the lesson that unnecessarily required the limited attention span of the students, and that meant the lesson went on for longer than it should have.
What I took from that is a clear direction for future lesson planning: ask myself, does this activity serve the lesson focus? It might be cool, it might be engaging, but does it serve the lesson objective? For example, I had the students read the TIME Magazine article out loud, which was quite distracting as many of the students didn’t want to do this. It ended up being it’s own mini-lesson on finding confidence to read out loud.
The good: my presence
However, it wasn’t all bad. Dave had a lot of positive feedback for me, most of which related to my presence in the classroom and the warm and respectful way I engaged the students. He observed how students clearly felt comfortable with me, and noted that I kept their attention for a large part with a very engaging lesson, despite the fact it went on longer than it probably should have.
Using my strengths
Well, I have to admit that I’m pretty chuffed to have those strengths. They’ll make it easier to grow in my teaching practice because I believe that a supportive classroom community is fundamental to all learning. It’s the most important aspect of not only what’s required to be effective learners, but to feel satisfied as a student and a teacher. We all have to spend eight hours a day with each other, five days a week. At the very least, we need to feel welcomed, cared for and respected.
I believe it’s this foundation of connection that will enable me to motivate reluctant and quiet students, which is one of my biggest goals for the long practicum. I want to learn how to engage these students. I also think that being respected and respectful will hopefully help me manage those disruptive students by creating trust. Furthermore, by having an engaging presence and developing engaging lessons, hopefully I’ll be able to build a buffer for my somewhat lackluster lesson flow as I learn.
Goals for the future
For the next 18 Thursday school visits and my 10-week long practicum, I want to find out as much as I can about:
- I hope to learn more about lesson flow and how to create lessons that stay on task.
- I would like to learn more about teaching science and French. I didn’t touch those subjects in this practicum.
- I think it’s important to learn more about classroom management as there are a few very disruptive and sometimes aggressive students in the class.
- I really want to find ways to encourage quiet students to participate more in the classroom.
- I want to find ways to engage and encourage students who have in some ways given up on their studies (there are two such students in the class).
I’m so grateful for this opportunity to grow as a professional teacher under the guidance of my SA and my FA. I’ve already learned so much and it’s only the beginning!