I arrived to a community school, in a smaller city in Saskatchewan. I walked in the grade four classroom and had no idea where to begin. The previous teacher was on sick leave and there was no chance for me to talk with her. I found her lesson day book, but it was hard to decipher what she had taught the students so far. I spent the first day with the kids, learning about them and what they had done. I tried to stick with routines and programs the teacher had in place since she was supposed to be coming back in 2.5 weeks… but as I soon discovered, those few weeks turned into 10 weeks, math testing, reading testing and year end report cards.
I needed to move away from her spelling lessons and start my own ela unit, and thus units for social, science, art, health, religion, and math. I needed to put my own classroom procedures in place and form positive teacher-student relationships with everyone in my classroom. I implemented different programs with my EA’s, to better suit the student that needed their support and I saw great growth in his learning and understanding. Ultimately, the students were learning, we moved through many lessons, and units in various subjects and the students saw their growth and achievement. I celebrated the little things with the students because they were not little, they were big accomplishments.
I worked with a lot of different people in our school. The vice-principal and principal, the school counsellor, the school support teacher, 2 educational assistant, substitute educational assistants, the school community liaison and the other staff members and support staff. Each person played a role in my classroom, as they did in other classrooms at this school. I cannot say that I always agreed with them or their decisions 100 percent of the time, but we made things work.
Classroom management was an area that had its ups and downs and varied based on the students and what kind of day they were having. For the most part it worked out well. We are all part of the classroom and sometimes, we all had to miss a few minutes of recess or not earn a reward for that week or day. It is imperative that you have clear expectations and that you hold true to them with every student. Sometimes I felt my self changing things or letting certain students get away with something, but that did not help them, me or the class. I took advice from different teachers and administrators to help me, but in the end, I still struggled with this. The kids needed to want to be respectful to one another and some days this just didn’t happen.
In this classroom, the area the students struggled with the most was respect for others, for themselves and for their teachers. Each and every day I battled with this. Some students were fine, some students were respectful most of the time, some students had major problems in this area and others had their good moments and bad moments. This school placed a big emphasis on being a buddy to one another and not a bully. Before I came, I discovered that this class had learnt a lot about bullying and how to deal with it, yet I was constantly seeing problems. Our ELA unit was focused on getting along, working together and solving problems. There were certain days when I felt the things we talked about simply went in one ear and out the other. We would solve the recess problems together but they would frequently reappear a day or two later. Apologies were often made because I asked the student to do so, not because they meant it or felt that they should do so. I had a hard time improving on this area with the students..
All in all, those 10 weeks flew by! While it was a lot of prep work, the days worked out and in the end, I saw the students grow. Most lessons turned out well and I discovered that with this group of students, my ELA lessons needed to be even more engaging. The students in my class loved to read and this was awesome to see. I learned the importance of connecting with students and things they are interested in, saying good morning, and acknowledging that my students are at school each day. There were ups and downs, highs and lows, but we got through it.
We ended on a good note and I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to be at this school, to gain some experience as a teacher (which is different from being a substitute teacher) and to see where this will lead me next.