Practicum Reflection #2
During my weekly visits from January to March, I have continued to develop my skills in lesson planning and managing classroom behaviour, which are both intricately linked with engagement. I’ve also been able to implement some of the strategies I’ve developed in my own inquiry into my teaching practice for EDUC 451, which is on collaborative inclusion.
Namely, when I come prepared with a strong lesson and I have all of the elements worked out, the students sit up and pay attention. They can see the effort I’ve put into the lesson and they respond with their own effort. Conversely, when I come in and ‘wing’ a lesson, the students notice, and that’s when classroom management issues can pop up.
I’ve learned that engagement is key to classroom management. When the students are engaged in their work, the room is so silent you can hear a pin drop. When students do not want to do the work, for whatever reason, then the classroom can erupt in chaos. Roping them is like herding cats—impossible!
Although ensuring all students are engaged is a very difficult task, at least I know what I need to do. Engaging students is not easy, but it’s simple. It’s a skill I can learn. Here are some of my learnings:
- Students are engaged when you insert their own life experience into the lesson, which I do with my pre-learning assessments/reflections
- Students are engaged when you let them choose what to do, which I do by offering inquiry projects (see below).
- Students are engaged when they work collaboratively in pairs or groups. There is safety in numbers.
- Students are engaged when what they do becomes public, rather than just between student and teacher. When there is an authentic audience, students put in extra effort, even if that audience is only their peers.
Inquiry into Collaborative Inclusion
Another big area that I’ve managed to explore during this practicum is my inquiry into collaborative inclusion. I was able to work with the students to co-create criteria for teamwork. We created a padlet with our teamwork criteria and students were very engaged in this project. We haven’t had time to finalize this criteria, but I plan to do that in the first week of my practicum.
I’ve also had the students start to work collaboratively, which was something I was very nervous about because my SA doesn’t do collaborative work unless it’s project-based inquiry. I really didn’t know how well it would go, but in the end it has worked out quite well. In fact, I’ve found that collaborative work is one of the best ways to engage the students in classwork during a lesson.
This is good news because one of the biggest projects I’m planning for the long practicum is a whole-class collaborative inquiry into mental health and friendship, which will result with a website. This project will require great teamwork, so I’m glad I’ve been able to prepare for this during my weekly visits.
Challenges during this practicum
Something that was challenging for me was when the students seemed to lose interest in the unit I was teaching. I had put a lot of effort into that unit and it was difficult to receive direct, negative feedback from one particular high-achieving student, which I wrote about in another post.
However, I overcame that difficulty by pivoting my unit plan. I had to reach out to people I could trust, and who had experience in this type of thing—Dave, my FA, and my friend Annalucinda, who is a long-time teacher. With their help, I was able to turn this situation into a positive. I realized that I was lucky to find out that the students weren’t engaged. It allowed me to adapt my lessons to make them more engaging. I did that by turning the Friendship & Mental Health Unit into an inquiry project.
Where I need more support
An area that I hope to have more support and/or instruction about is how to engage diverse students. I find many of my lessons hit the middle range of learners, but high-achieving students and students with learning challenges often slip through the cracks. It’s nearly an impossible task. When I scaffold to scoop up all of the students, the high-achieving students literally roll their eyes and put their heads down on their desk. I truly don’t know what to do to reach these students when I’m doing whole-class instruction.
All in all, these weekly visits have been very helpful in making stronger connections with students, and learning about their interests so that I can plan targeted lessons for long practicum. I’m very excited for this next phase of the practicum. Only a few more weeks and I will be in the class full-time!