Friday Two Cents: Oh The Places I’ve Seen


In Canada it is the final week of classes in the elementary school system.  This month also marks the 2nd anniversary that I started as an occasional teacher in a school board.  Yes I have been working with students for several years but those years were when I was an early childhood educator (ECE).  I have worked in many different classrooms as an ECE and I learned a great deal.  Yet nothing has been a greater learning experience than working as a certified teacher in these classrooms.  

Since the beginning I have kept track of how many different schools and classrooms I have been in.  Partly because it helps me with Additional Qualification course requirements, but also when someone asked me how many different classrooms I have been in I had to stop and think because I was not sure.  Amazingly, in the two years I have been in 80 different classrooms.  

I started in 2017 and since then, I have been at about 25 different schools and 80 different classes.  Over this time I have been in some classes that had the same teacher, but from year to year they had different students.  The students’ personality differences change the dynamics in a classroom wherever I have worked in with a similar teacher; therefore I see the class as a different classroom.  In some cases I have been in 14 – 18 different classrooms at the same school. I even have been in several French immersion classes during this time period. 

Yet reflecting back on the past two years, I can say with one thing for certain.  Kids are kids no matter where you go.  They are all very curious; they love to ask questions on topics of their interest and personal questions about your life. They all enjoyed my drawings and creative work with them and of course they loved George and my other puppets. Whenever I go back to a school or a classroom they always ask about George.  

However even though I have been in all these different classrooms it sometimes feel like a hollow victory.  I look at this number and all the experience I have accumulated and yet I am still looking for a permanent position, even an LTO (long term occasional) as a teacher of my own classroom. On top of it all there are times I feel that there are sometimes-unrealistic expectations on me from everyone around me.  Students, parents, teachers and others all want you to be Superman to fix everything and be whatever they want me to be instead of being myself.  

In the last two months I have worked in 20 different classrooms in 30 days.  Mind you I am grateful for the opportunity and I do enjoy being with the students but it does take a toll on you.   There are days when I feel like I am making progress and advancing in my career.  Then there are days when the harsh reality of my situation sets in and you are only as good as your last job.  The saying … “It’s not what you have done for me that counts but what you have done for me lately”, comes to mind.  On several occasions I have felt that no matter how good I do my job, I feel unappreciated.  That for all my helping and hard work, to make a class and a school that much more enjoyable for the students, it falls to the side like leaves falling in the autumn breeze.  I feel like no one notices … no one cares. 

However those feelings pass as I try to be positive and think of the most important aspect of my journey into the different classrooms.  My observation and learning from the different teachers and their teaching styles.  I have observed and conducted many lesson plans they have left me to do and what is great is that I have been asked to conduct my own lessons in these classrooms. Lesson plans for math; language, art, technology and science just to name a few.  I even helped out a school with their science project on the life cycle of the butterfly.  I don’t have my own classroom but it feels good to do some lesson plans to keep my teaching juices flowing.  

Below I have created a logo of a blue silhouette male teacher holding the hands of two students.  Each of these silhouettes’ represents a different classroom I have worked in.  On the top left side I placed the grade or subject I was teaching and on the right side the year I worked in that classroom. The font is unique to the school year; Helvetica was used for 2018-19.  The classes that I worked in French immersion are represented with a white fleur-de-li because the majority of the classes I work in are English.  Directly beneath the logo you can see a tally chart of all the classes I have been in.  The 25th is shaded in silver and the 50th is in gold.  

Saying I have been in 80 different classrooms is pretty impressive.  However, I have to remember to think of the positive side of my journey and remember those famous words written by Dr. Seuss. 

“Oh, the places you’ll go!
There is fun to be done!

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
 
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
 
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So … get on your way!”  
Dr. Seuss

I’ve already moved a few mountains, what’s a few more.   

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Friday Two Cents: The Measure Of A Person


Upon returning from the spring break I had the opportunity to work in a few kindergarten classrooms where I know the early childhood educator (ECE).  I started my journey in the education field as an ECE and working with some whom I have known for some years is quite rewarding. Yet something this week came to mind as I was working with an exceptional ECE.  

You see, I have the unique perspective of working as an ECE and as a teacher in a kindergarten class.  I have worked both sides and I have seen the good, bad and ugly of both professions. In many kindergarten rooms there are two adults educating the students, a teacher and an ECE.  I can best describe this partnership in this way.  A teacher is like the officer or captain of the unit/classroom they oversee the planning in room and do a lot of the paperwork involved with the job.  They now the rules and regulations and curriculum involved in making the ship run smoothly.  The ECE’s are the NCO’s (non-commissioned officers/sergeants), they oversee the smaller everyday running of things.  They also are the backbone of the unit making sure that the unit runs smoothly according to the captain’s (teacher’s) plan.  Yet they also have a level of experience/knowledge that makes them invaluable to the officers and unit.  They are almost like the glue that keeps things together. 

As in any unit, when both the officers and sergeants are working together, the unit functions like a well-oiled machine.  The same can be said in a kindergarten classroom with the teacher and ECE.  I had the opportunity to work with an ECE who shows her passion for teaching.  Yet in many circles she is looked down upon because she is an ECE.  She is not a teacher with all the degrees and additional qualifications.  Many teachers would only see a support person not an equal. But she works and programs in the classroom as well or better than some teachers I have worked with.  Why is it that we cannot see the wonderful educator she is simply because she does not have the qualifications.  Is it truly a matter of position, of rank or privilege that holds people back in recognizing her contributions? 

I know that there are some ECEs that are not as passionate as the ECE that I worked with, as I would imagine in any profession, but I think that they are in the minority. I think and was told that I preformed as well as this ECE.  I took my experience as an ECE and brought it forward into my teaching career.  There are many ECEs working that would exemplify their teaching skills in their work with the students and they are not teachers.  So why we cannot acknowledge them as being great educators in the system as well as teachers?  

I have felt the sting of discrimination of being an ECE and a teacher. When I worked as an ECE in a classroom I was treated as a support staff and told to do whatever the teacher told me to do. Yet once I received my teaching licence and I was still working as an ECE, until I got onto the supply-teaching list, teachers would treat me different than before.  I was seen as a second teacher in the room, asked for observation notes; or to plan lessons.  Even though the education policy says that the teacher and ECE are seen as equals, many do not put this into practice.   

Perhaps it has to do with human nature and how we measure people.  Do we measure them by their actions or by they status in a society?  All too often I have seen people measure others because they see them as inferior to themselves and they devalue them.  Perhaps we as a society need to treat others, as we would like to be treated. J.K. Rowling once said …

‘If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.’ J. K. Rowling

For if a person can treat someone as an equal, even when society sees them as inferior; then maybe we can finally see no difference when it comes to valuing people for whom they truly are. 

Friday Two Cents: Oh The Places I’ve Been


twoCentsOldNew

 

This past week I reached a milestone that I though I never would reach. I worked in my 50th classroom as a supply early childhood educator (ECE) at the school board. I started in 2013 and since then, I have been in about 22 different schools and 50 different kindergarten classes. Over this time I have been in some classes that had the same teacher, but from year to year they had different students. The student’s personality differences change the dynamics in a classroom wherever I have worked with a similar teacher, therefore I see the class as a different classroom. In some cases I have been in 5 different kindergarten classrooms at the same school. I even have been in several French immersion classes during this time period.

I have been keeping a count of the number of classrooms I have been in since someone asked me how many different classrooms I have been in, back in February. One surprising thing is that this past school year I have been in 25 different classrooms alone. Amazing, the first two years I was in 25 different classrooms but in this past one year I have equalled it. Mind you I did go to teacher’s college one of those years so that would make a difference in the number of classrooms I would be in.
Yet reflecting back on the past year and the 25 classrooms, I can say with one thing for certain. Kids are kids no matter where you go. They are all very curious; they love to ask questions on topics of their interest and personal questions on your life. They all enjoyed my drawings and creative work with them and of course they loved George and my other puppets. Whenever I go back to a school or a classroom they always ask about George.
But even though I have been in all these different classrooms it sometimes feel like a hollow victory. I look at this number and all the experience I have accumulated; yet I still am looking for a permanent position as a teacher of my own classroom. There are days when I feel like I am making progress and advancing in my career. Then there are days when the harsh reality of my situation sets in and you are only as good as your last job. The saying “It’s not what you have done for me that counts but what you have done for me lately”, comes to mind. On several occasions I have felt that no matter how good I do my job, I feel unappreciated. That for all my helping and hard work, to make a class and school that much more enjoyable for the students, it falls to the side like leaves falling in the autumn breeze. It feels like no one notices, no one cares.
However those feelings pass as I try to be positive and think of the most important aspect of my journey into the different classrooms. My observation and learning from the different teachers and their teaching styles. I have observed many lesson plans and what is great is that I have been asked to conduct my own lessons in these classrooms. Lesson plans for math, language, art, technology and science to name a few. I even helped out a school with their science project on the life cycle of the butterfly. I don’t have my own classroom but it feels good to do some lesson plans to keep my teaching juices flowing.
Below I have created a logo of a blue silhouette male teacher holding the hands of two students. Each of these silhouettes’ represents a different kindergarten class I worked in. I placed a number on the top right side that represents the year I was in that classroom. The classes that were French immersion are represented with a white fleur-de-li because the majority of the classes are English. Directly beneath the logo you can see a tally chart of all the classes I have been in. The 25th is shaded in silver and the 50th is in gold.

ECE_Supply_legend

Saying I have been in 50 different classrooms is pretty impressive. I have to remember to think of the positive side of my journey and remember those famous words written by Dr. Seuss.

“Oh, the places you’ll go!

There is fun to be done!

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will, indeed!

 

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

 

You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So…get on your way!” Dr. Seuss

 

I’ve already moved a few mountains, what’s few a more.

ECE_class_count04

Friday Two Cents: 43 Classes And Counting


 

twoCentsOldNew

This past week has been filled with many eye-opening experiences. It started like any other with me going into another new kindergarten class as a supply early childhood educator (ECE). It was a great experience as I was able to observe another teacher’s teaching style and class routine. I do this in every class I go in as a supply, a student in teacher’s college and in other classes I have been in since I decided to put all my energy into becoming a teacher. Suffocate to say I have observed many classes and I have learned a lot over the years.

But then this week I was given the opportunity to supply in a kindergarten class in the very school I went to as a child. As a mater of fact I worked in the very kindergarten class I was in when I started as a child. It was obviously different then when I was in the class as a student but many things were familiar. The chairs, tables and I remember playing with the blocks in the block centre. Yet the first thing that came to mind when I entered the class was that everything seemed smaller. Even the cubby area where the students place their jackets was the same as I remember it but it seemed smaller. I guess it makes sense since I haven’t been in that class since I was 4 or 5 years old.
Being at that school also helped me with a couple of other things. My time in that school was very difficult because I was bullied from an early age and not until I fought back and stood up to the bullies did anything ever happen. I left and had a much better time in my new school yet I always had bad memories about that school. My stint as a supply in that class, allowed me to exorcise old demons from my past and allow me to move on with happier memories.
The other issue arose when someone asked about how many classes I have been in as a supply ECE. I thought about it and thought it was at least 2-dozen classes but I was not sure. I then made it a point to find out exactly how many different kindergarten classes I have supplied in. When I did the numbers the results shocked me.
I started in 2013 and since then, I have been in 21 different schools and 43 different kindergarten classes. Some of the classes had the same teacher but from year to year they had different students. The student’s personality differences changed the dynamics of those classrooms where I have worked in with that teacher, therefore I see them as different classrooms. In some schools I have been in up to 4 different kindergarten classes in that school. I even have been in several French immersion classes during this time period.
To say that I was surprised at the sheer amount of classes would be putting it mildly. I decided to document this achievement with a tally chart. Below I have created a logo of a blue silhouette male teacher holding the hands of two students. Each of these silhouettes’ represents a different kindergarten class I worked in. I placed a number on the top right side that represents the year I was in that classroom. The classes that were French immersion are represented with a white fleur-de-li because the majority of the classes are English. Directly beneath this post you can see a tally chart of all the classes I have been in.   Saying 43 is pretty substantial but seeing it visually is another.
ECE_Supply_legend
For me this is a testament to my learning and hopes of one day putting all this knowledge I have gathered to good use as a teacher. I do not know what the future will bring but I will be posting this tally chart as a permanent fixture on my blog as a reminder. I will be updating it if I go into new classrooms. But this chart is not meant to show the number of classes I was in, but as a reminder of the difficult road to one day reaching my goal of becoming a permanent teacher. Hopefully I will not have to add more to see that goal fulfilled.    

 

ECE_class_count

Friday Two Cents: Building A Community In The First Week Of Kindergarten


twoCentsOldNew

  This week I had the pleasure to work in a kindergarten program from the first day of school. This is not the first time I was in a classroom on the first day of school but it is the first time as a certified teacher. The only catch is that I am the supply Early Childhood Educator (ECE) in the class. Don’t get me wrong I am very grateful for working in a class with a great bunch of students and a great teacher, it’s just I would love to be the permanent teacher of my own class. But I’m not here to whine about that.

The reality of this week is that I am within a kindergarten class that has 32 students ranging from 3 to 4 years of age. Many of the little ones have never been in a school or an organized setting like a daycare or class before. To say that it was difficult would be understating the facts. Yet I will be the first person to say that I enjoyed this week very much. Yes there were a few rough patches trying to get to know the students and helping them to get to know the routines and rules of the classroom, but it was a good week.

Having fun in Kindergarten

I know this because on Friday something happened in the class with the students that just made the teacher and I just smile. The students are so young many parents were hoping to have a nap or rest time during the day because the students were going home very tired. Therefore we decided to have a rest period where the students just laid down on the carpet listening to some music. They did a great job lying down without any silliness or hurting one another. I told them all this and because they did a great job I would play a song they all probably knew. It was the song ‘Let it Go’ from the Disney movie Frozen.

Exactly when they heard the song, smiles and their eyes lite up. Then they all started singing the song and some did some of the hand gestures that the character from the movie did. It was a marvel to witness. The teacher and I both just smiled. That afternoon the students were great with everyone engaged in their learning centres. Even on a personal note, a few students came up to me and said, “I like you Mr. Paul.”

The mood in the class was changing. They appeared to be getting closer, becoming a community. Amazing how a song can help bring people together, even students as young as 3 years old.

Building community in Kindergarten

Friday Two Cents: Are You A Pessimist Or An Optimist


twoCentsOldNew

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill

 

To say that this week was eventful would be understating the truth.

It began with me going with the students of my practicum to the Science Centre in Toronto. There we explored and learned about different structures and how they are constructed. Yet the day after that trip, we at the university received news that specific people, TAs and contract professors are on strike. We all wondered what would happen. Would we be able to go to practicum because we are not at the university but in schools. It turned out that the teacher federation would be supporting the strike and instructed the teachers in the schools not to mentor us teacher candidates (TC). Therefore practicum was canceled until further notice. Additionally so were all our classes.

We were in the lurch and we could not even go to the school and say goodbye to the students. Yet the bigger problems are how would this effect our graduation, assignments for our classes and after our looking for a job? We all have roughly the required number of days to be able to graduate as teachers, it is all about the courses but who knows what is happening. Also, what are we to do in the mean time?

Well many of my fellow TCs and I just began working on the assignments to get them ready for when the strike would be over. But what else can I do? Well I took a dark cloud and used it as an opportunity. I am a supply Early Childhood Educator (ECE) for the school board so I started taking jobs so I can work with students again. I went to two different kindergarten classrooms and I can say that I miss kindergarten. I really enjoy teaching these little people. Yes I do not know them very well but both class where so open and inviting. I was there in one class for only 3 hours and the students gave me a hug before they left with their parents for the day. I had forgotten and missed how warm-hearted kindergarten children can be.

Sunset in space

Then I also got the opportunity to go into another class as a specialist.  A teacher had invited me to come into her kindergarten class as an expert on “Space“.  The students had been exploring the subject and had questions on it.  Some where, “Is there a planet inside the sun?” Others where very thought out like, “How does the sun work?” or “Why does the sun get colder in the winter?”  Well I answered their questions with the use of and App I have on my iPad which had great graphics and 3D models of the planets and the solar system.  I was also invited to return to the class the following week to demonstrate how far the planets are from the sun (another question).  There questions where so amazing and they were very attentive.  Many said thank you and hugged me before I left.  

Winston Churchill

Amazing that I had these great opportunities as a result of the university strike.  Well I guess the quote form Winston Churchill was right; “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Which one are you?

 

Friday Two Cents: This Above All: To Thine Own Self Be True


twoCentsOldNew 

This week started off pretty bleak. Not just from the weather, though I think that it may have been a contributing factor, but I was beginning to not enjoy my practicum placement. It had nothing to do with my students, mentor teacher (MT) or the school, it everything to do with myself.

I felt that I was not succeeding in my practicum because I had a couple of not so successful lesson plans. I followed the curriculum and the students understood the lesson but I thought that they were bored or uninterested in what I had to say. Yet when I reflected on my performance I looked inside myself and said, “That was not you. You were not acting like yourself, or being yourself.” It was true on soo many levels.

You see I made a conscious effort not to bring my Early Childhood Education (ECE) background or baggage with me into practicum. I wanted to take a fresh approach to teaching and learning, to not come into the classroom thinking I know everything there is to teaching, because in truth I do not. Yet after reflecting on what had happened I said, “This is it. I have to be myself. If I am going to be condemned than let them see the real me.”

Therefore I began with my attire. The school has a dress code that male teachers wear collared shirts. I do that but I was wearing dress pants each day and did not like it. It wasn’t me, so I started wearing my dressier looking designer jeans and right away I felt better. Next I consciously reminded myself to have a positive attitude, so I began smiling. It is a small thing but if you do it, others will follow you and soon everyone is smiling. Lastly and the most significant was reminding myself that I am an ECE and that has value.   I should not dismiss this part of me so easily. Therefore I began looking at the lesson plans as an ECE and the ideas of how to implement them became easier.

Play is so Important in a child’s learning development

My ECE philosophy is that children learn through play and self-exploration. So in my math lesson I brought in manipulatives and turned the lesson into a game. I did something similar in a kindergarten program but I made it more advanced for the older grade 6s. I even brought in an activity for the special needs child based on a kindergarten activity too.   Right away the students got right into it and it was fun to teach them. It was a tremendously positive experience.

I expanded that positive lesson into my Art lesson with them in the afternoon. They had not had art this year and this was to be their first lesson. I started with lines, shapes, 3 dimensional shapes, shading and light. They all know how talented and how much I love art that they were eager to have art with me.   I did the lesson and they were so enthusiastic, especially when I turned the 3D shapes into real world objects. I told them that to get to draw 3D objects and images they need to know this first and they loved it. They were expressing themselves through their art and I loved it. Now I am doing the art lesson for a while and I am very excited.

No matter what the age, kids need play.

In the end I learned two extremely important lessons about teaching and more importantly, myself. Teaching is engaging the students through none traditional means. If you can play a game with blocks while they learn about expressions and equations then do it. Children are children, whether they are kindergarten or grade 6, they are all kids at heart. The second is to be yourself. I am an ECE teacher, that will never change. I just have to remember this and use the tools and skills I developed becoming an ECE. For in the end I have to remember that famous quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true.

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