This semester has been an extreme learning curve! I had very little experience teaching before coming to Kitchener Community School. I had never seen a community school before and I honestly did not even know what the difference was until this year. This school has alternative times so they start the school day later and they do not have recess. They also have meal plans where students get breakfast in the morning, lunch options and snacks throughout the day. Our first day at Kitchener school, we had no idea what we were about to experience. We were in a grade 5/6 split class and so we planned our introduction activity based on grade 5/6 level students. Needless to say, our activity was a failure! We realized extremely quickly that our class was far more diverse than we expected. I honestly did not even think about what students levels would be at. I assumed they would be able to read and write no problem. We were shocked to find out that a lot of students were way below grade level and there were even some students who had trouble writing. Very quickly we had to think of how to adjust our lesson and of course future lessons. I learned so much about how to prepare lessons for a class with diverse needs and how to manage that. I started the year moving through introductions far too quickly and giving minimal expectations or instruction. I learned quickly that you have to move through things calmly, clearly, and slowly making sure that all students are following. I generally talk quickly and get excited easily so it was challenging to tame that down, but the students feed off of your energy and I saw that in my first few lessons. Not only this, but we realized how these kids lives follow them everywhere they go. I was naive before coming to this school and honestly got spoiled with other placements. I never really had issues with behavior. But at Kitchener, these students are coming from not the best backgrounds and some of them are coming to school with a lot going on. One of the girls was related to a victim of homicide in the city which was related to a gang... this is something that happens far too often and it affects the lives of all the students. They are going through really difficult things in their lives even at the young age of 9 or 10. It can be troubling to think of but we as teachers just need to be empathetic rather than sympathetic and do what we can. Overall, I was pushed to learn how to manage a challenging group of students and learn how to adapt a lesson to the needs of so many. This has been the most beneficial experience I have had thus far. I noticed a lot of growth with my teaching. I learned how to slow down, reach and engage more students, and how to adapt things to help the students who are not at grade level.
Going into next semester and our three week block, I really want to work on my assessment, instructional strategies and adaptations for the classroom. I think it will be important for me to practice trying even more things during my lessons and doing smaller group work when possible in order to assess more accurately and spend more one on one time with students. This is a very diverse and challenging group so building those relationships and getting to know how each student learns will be beneficial.
Improve classroom management – Even the most experienced teachers have to rethink their classroom management techniques and methods in order to have the most effective and orderly classroom. This class can be a challenge and I want to try new techniques in the three week block.
Maximize student engagement – Children today have shorter attention spans due to distractions with technology. For that reason, teachers have to constantly create lessons that are engaging in order to keep students interested and focused on the content. I want to create lessons that are more interactive and engaging rather than me giving a lecture and then handing out and activity or worksheet.
Manage time better – Being organized is a key characteristic that teachers need to develop. There is a lot of paperwork to keep up with, as well time requirements for teaching a certain number of minutes per subject. In addition, teachers have to reserve time to grade papers, conference and provide feedback to students. I found that I was over or under estimating my time during lessons and I want to get better at managing my time in the classroom. I started using a timer towards the end of the semester and this seemed to help.