Relevance and Big Picture
Sadly, I have come to the last day of my official field placement. I am so grateful for this opportunity to experience what a classroom is really like and to be able to spend time with the teacher, staff, and young learners that I was placed with. I had such an amazing time and I learned so much about the classroom environment and the teaching side of things, as well as small tips and tricks that my teacher enlightened me with. I loved getting to meet all of the students and I looked forward to seeing them every week; the minute my placement was over I would want to be back the next day! Although it was quite a sad day for me I was still able to enjoy all the beautifully creative cards that the students made for myself and my placement partner. Knowing that I had made their day a little bit better when I was there is truly a blessing and I hope that they all enjoy the rest of the year and grow into amazing people.
Even though this was supposed to be my last day in the classroom I will be able to go back closer to the end of April and paint with them! We sculpted butterflies out of clay a couple of weeks ago and now that they have been fired in the kin they will be ready to be painted soon! I think that going back and spending some time with the kids will be the greatest end to my first year in education and a nice stress reliever after exams.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure if education was really my dream at the beginning of the year. I had contemplated switching many times and I was not all that excited to be going into the classroom. I am so happy that I decided to stick with it for the rest of the year and I found that I really do love being around all those little learners. I have realized that I will have days that are going to be really hard on me but I have also realized that no matter how bad of a day I have I still want to go back the next week. I am happy knowing that I won’t be questioning my career path anymore and extremely excited to be continuing on my educational journey!
Curriculum & Instruction
During the afternoons that I was in the class, we mostly did math, physical education, and arts education. Through those seven weeks the students went through several different lessons in math including measurement and counting patterns and in arts education, there was a large focus on Indigenous traditions including cultural art, regalia, and dancing. I did notice a difference in the way the physical education teacher was conducting his classes. He did not follow the movement education and skill developing teachings from the class I took on children’s physical education. This is understandable as these concepts may not be taught to all teachers but I did see it as something I would not do in my future classes. The purpose of physical education is not just to have the students run around in the gym to get physical activity but rather to encourage physical literacy and help ensure that they are lifelong movers. I could already see some of the students becoming bored with the games they were playing (in the very short amount of time they had) and instead of participating they were more likely to stand off to the side. This generally does not encourage the students who are less physically adept at doing things like running to enjoy physical education and want to participate.
Although the students are quite young I do see my teacher encouraging them to try to learn a little more independently for some subjects and lessons. They usually sit together to receive a bit of a lesson and then the two grades switch and while the other groups receive their instructions/lesson the first group is working on the lesson or assignment. As far as students understanding the meaning of what they are learning it is subjective. Some of the students are getting it most of the time and other students seem to be consistently missing the main objective. I think that it is due to a number of reasons such as how well they are paying attention during the lesson and how closely they review what they are supposed to be doing but it also matters where the students are developmentally and what previous knowledge they have.
Inclusive Education-Diversity & Difference
Within our classroom and school, in general, there are quite a few examples of diversity in the student body. There are many students of different nationalities, races, ethnicities, etc. and there are also students with visible exceptionalities that set them apart from the other students at times such as those that are hard of hearing or deaf. In our classroom specifically, there are students who do not all look the same and have different abilities. I assume that the rest of the classrooms in the school have similar patterns of diversity.
In our classroom, there are actually many different forms of invisible disabilities that I have noticed or heard of the kids experiencing. Many of these types of invisible disabilities are noticed by the teachers and those who work closely with the students but are not visible to other students mostly because they do not have the experience and knowledge about what makes them different from others at such a young age. Some of the students have different family situations, poverty issues, medications, and learning disabilities. There is also something interesting that the co-op teacher made us aware of within her own classroom and also as something she has seen in other schools as well. She told me about how disabilities and trauma often present themselves in similar fashions. For example, a student who may seem as if they have ADHD might actually just be presenting these types of behaviours as a way for their young minds to cope with trauma. She said that it is so important to move past a diagnosis and actually be looking deeply into the students home life and background to make sure that they are not just expressing some kind of trauma. If you look more deeply into their home lives and backgrounds you may be able to better help them move past these traumas instead of relying solely on a diagnosis and medicating a disorder that does not actually exist.
Within the classroom, there is evidence that teachers and other staff members try their best to include all students in the academic and social aspects of the classroom. In my classroom specifically, there is little to no “pull-outs” and students are encouraged to socialize with their peers. As well my teacher specifically does not send students out of the classroom for disruptive behaviour however, the students who do cause disruptions in the class have other staff members who work closely with them. This means that the teacher herself is not interacting with these students and it would be impractical for her too as there are too many other children in the class.
Inclusive Education-Diversity & Difference (Part 2)
Within my school, I can see attempts to create a very open and safe space for all students and staff. They have a huge mural covering one wall with a globe in the middle and several saying/phrases along the lines of “don’t be racist” and “fight racism”. There are also several posters through the school that advertise safe spaces and the schools GSA. However, inside of our actual classroom, there isn’t a whole lot to honour sexual and gender diversity but there are other ways of honouring diversity especially towards the indigenous community.
Teachers & Knowledge
Within the classroom, I can see my teacher exposing the children to different ways of knowing through the books that she reads to them daily and through resources around the room as well. The books often have underlying themes that will go along with what she is trying to teach the kids at that time. As well around the room she has various educational pieces posted, most notably are the sign language guides and the Indigenous Ways of Knowing posters that describe some of their traditions and some of the ways they viewed the world around them. When I asked her how she thought she honoured these different ways of knowing she told me that she just likes to call it what it is and take every experience to educated the kids on each student’s different ways of life as well. She takes the lives of each other students and uses them as an educational moment. For example, one of her students was not going to be accepting Valentines Day cards because of her religion. She used this moment to explain that not all of them live in the same way.
The key supports that I see her relying on are the books that she reads to the kids, the kids experiences themselves, and also through the University as well. She teaches a class here at the University and I can imagine that she gains knowledge from her experiences here and therefore can bring those into the classroom. She continually builds her knowledge just simply through educating herself about the changing profession of teaching.
School & Community
I haven’t met much of the other staff members in my school yet, just the ones that work in my classroom or with the students in my class. There is a teacher that run s a classroom specifically for students in the school that are part of the Deaf or Hard of Hearing program. We also go to arts education with our students in the afternoon and spend some time with their art teacher as well. We also have a full-time interpreter in our classroom that signs for some of the students as well as an educational assistant that helps out with a couple of students.
The community surrounding our school doesn’t seem out of the ordinary, fairly typical in my mind. I can assume that most families are working class based on the houses in the neighbourhoods and also by the Before and After school program they have in the school. There are a number of kids that stay at the school because they have parents or a parent that works longer than the school day. The main person I see as creating a link between the school and the community is the teacher. She interacts with the students on matters that don’t pertain solely to the classroom and school work. She is knowledgeable about their home lives and the life all of her students have. She is also a big part of why I think the students are so open to the world around them and seeing differences in their classroom in a respectful way. She makes sure to keep the kids informed on the different student’s lives and why they dress or practice the things they do. One student in particular who is a Jehovah Witness was not going to be accepting Valentines Day cards this week. She made sure to explain it to the kids in a way they understood.
This is me standing outside of the school’s gymnasium (the only place where the school name was).
Students & Learning Environment
The learners in my classroom are 1st and 2nd-grade kids (approx. 6-7 years old). They are all so unique and their responses to the differences surrounding each of their day to day lives is amazing. There are two students that are a part of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program and we have a sign interpreter in our class full time. There is also another student who displays some difficulties in regards to behavioural and social aspects of the classroom. However, I have not heard or seen any of the students pointing out these differences as anything but completely normal in their classroom. They are able to almost perfectly understand that each of them needs different things from the classroom environment and they allow for those differences exceptionally well.
The learning environment itself looks like that of a typical elementary classroom. There are posters and pictures on the walls that are filled with information. There are the numbers across the top of the room that you always see in younger classrooms. Unique to this classroom though, there are informational cards on one wall in cree that show the levels of life and other important aspects of their culture and the alphabet across two of the walls that show how to sign each letter. Although the classroom is nice I can’t help but feel that it is cluttered. There are not many options for effectively storing and organizing everything needed in the classroom and with the abundance of toys and educational materials it looks and feels claustrophobic. This is just how I feel though, the kids still seem to thrive in the classroom environment. They do not appear to be distracted by everything around them and they always find what they need.
You can’t really see it but in these two photos, there are the cree notecards and sign language guides that I mentioned.
This classroom doesn’t really remind me of my own elementary school experience. I can remember having educational posters covering the walls in my classrooms but I don’t remember all the stuff, which could very well be because it did not bother me as a child. The school that I completed middle and high school in did have elementary classrooms that are very reminiscent of this. The grade two classroom that I worked in was very similar, and the classrooms that my brother is in are also similar to this. While the space does make me feel slightly claustrophobic it still gives me a sense of joy. The kids are happy in that room and their energy makes the room feel better to me. I know that when they walk into the room that they are happy (usually) and that makes the clutter seem a little less daunting.