Below are my reflections from each of my placements at W.S. Hawrylak School as a part of my ECS 100 field placement. These will be updated weekly until I am done my seven placements.
Placement #1 Introduction
This was the first placement we have had. I am in the school W.S. Hawrylak. It is a half English and half French school. My placement partner is Sydney McGraith and our teachers are Ms Perkins and Ms Holmes. They are in two separate classrooms but work together very closely. Ms Holmes has 24 Grade 1 students, and Ms Perkins has a grade 1 and 2 split with 24 students. The students go back and forth between the classrooms and teachers quite often and they seem to have a really smooth system going. They have had indoor recess since coming back from break, so the kids are a little more “rowdy” than usual. I tried to talk to a few students, but mostly today was an observing day. I tried to learn as many names as possible, but I am definitely going to need more practice. The classrooms are pretty basic, they each have a reading corner and desks. Although they do not have individual desks they are in groupings of about 3 or 4. This is unfamiliar to me since in elementary we had separate desks, but I actually preferred the groupings that they had. Today definitely made me feel nostalgic. I noticed that I kept comparing things to my old classrooms and teachers and couldn’t help but miss my days at Vanguard Community School. As soon as the day was over, and I got into my car I suddenly realized that I was exhausted. I had enjoyed myself so much that I did not even realize how tired I had been all day. I am extremely excited about going back next week. I really want to focus on getting to learn each child’s name and their personalities more. I want to try and build a relationship with every single one of them.
Placement #2 Community
Today I asked a few more questions about the children and where they were from. Our teachers told us that the area we are in is more middle to upper-class families. Ms Holmes said that the parents are all very involved with their children’s lives and they rarely have any problems from home they have to deal with. I noticed that the French and English kids are separated but only during classes, they try to get the students to come together as much as possible during recess and extra-curricular activities. Something they have which I thought was really cool is “B and A” and it is a before and after school program where parents who have to go to work can drop off their kids before school and they will stay after school until they can be picked up after their parents are done work. The school does have a website that has answers to any questions that anyone might have. It is very easy to navigate, and it is quite helpful. I actually looked it up as soon as I found out what school I was going to. Here is the link: https://ecolewshawrylak.rbe.sk.ca/ . I learned a few more names today and saw new faces as some were missing the week before.
Placement #3 Support
This week we stayed mostly with Ms Holmes and her grade 1 class. It was actually a perfect week for these questions because we accompanied her kids to gym class. Immediately Sydney and I noticed her astounding classroom management. She never has to raise her voice or yell, the students and she have a mutual understanding and respect that I really have never seen with children that young. One of her tactics is “hips and lips” and it is used for when the students have to go anywhere outside the classroom. She gets them to line up single file and she tells them “okay guys I want to see hips and lips all the way to our destination” and so they put one finger over their lips and the other free hand on their hips. This reminds them to be quiet and to keep their hands to themselves as they go places, so they do not disturb other people. Another tactic she uses is what she calls “turtle mode”. Basically, before they are allowed to anything she turns around and counts backwards from then and they have that long to put their head in their arms on their desk and they have to be completely silent. This is done mostly when they come in from recess and need a moment to collect themselves and calm down. It is incredibly effective. The supports that these two teachers have is each other. They work as a team because they have chemistry. Ms Perkins class is very mature for their age and Ms Holmes younger grade ones pick up on those students and start to model their behaviour. They and their classes work really well together. They both also have multiple learning strategies in place to help them learn, like brain breaks, tactile, visual, and auditory lessons.
Placement #4 Diversity
Within the school, there is an incredible amount of diversity. To begin with, it is a half French, half English so there are already two different cultures within the school. Also, there is a number of students who are part of different cultures and ethnicities. There are a number of students who are learning English as a second language (ESL). The diversity that may not be visible would be things like mental illness or issues at home that we cannot see. There also are a few students with learning disabilities or behavioural issues. The teachers respect diversity in a few different ways. One being in both of the classrooms they have reminders that we are all treaty people and that we are on Treaty 4 land. There are posters around the classroom that have several Cree words that they have to learn. Another way is that even the English students have to take some French class. The best thing I have seen in terms of including all types of diverse students in their systems for students with behavioural issues. One of the students has trouble paying attention a lot of the time so instead of kicking him out in the hallway like I have seen a lot of teachers do, they have modified his environment to keep him busy. His chair is a rocking chair so he can move how he needs to and he has several fidget toys that he plays with that help him stay focused. Overall, I would say they do a very good job including every child, they all are cared for and have a personal relationship with the teachers.
Placement #5 Diversity
The school honours diversity, equity, and human rights for all students by providing each and every one of them with the same opportunity. There is no favouritism and every student is treated fairly. I have not seen any issues regarding human rights, equality or diversity. Every student and teacher seem to care for each other and about the overall community. This week so far has been my favourite. The students were doing their science project and I told them about a pet reptile I have, and we bonded over that. They were in awe and asked so many questions. I felt like I got to know them significantly better. This time Sydney and I got to do an activity with them as well. We took them outside of the classroom one by one and went over their vocab words with them. This time we really got to put names to faces and it was also a great activity for finding out what level each student is at. You could really tell when the parents had worked with their children on their vocabulary words and when they didn’t. It made a huge difference in the child’s overall comprehension. Next week Sydney and I get to propose an activity that we get to teach. We have not decided what to propose yet. We are still looking for ideas.
Placement #6 (Curriculum and Instruction)
Today we had our second last placement in school. I just want to start this reflection on how the day went. Sydney and I spent most of the day practising some reading with the students one on one. It was really interesting to see the different levels that each child was at despite being the same age. Some grade ones were reading novels with ease and some were struggling with the most basic of words. Overall, the students are progressing as expected. After that, Sydney and I moved to do some reading with Ms Holmes’ grade one class. They did not have the best day. A student who has been gone for 3 months (yes three), came back from vacation today and that seemed to throw them all off their game. He was disruptive and seemed to completely forget classroom etiquette, this clearly rubbed off on the other students as they started to mimic his behaviour. I was shocked when one of the quietest students proceeded to follow this student in sprinting out of the library down the hall, which was very out of character for him. By the end of the day, a fight had broken out between two of the boys over a St Patricks Day clover necklace. Ms Holmes as usual settled all the behavioural issues in a very calm professional manner and luckily it was the end of the day when the fight broke out so once they apologized they were able to go home.
This week I am supposed to give a quick rundown of what the students are learning. I will start with the grade ones in Ms Holmes’ class.
Art: The students do visual arts on alternating Mondays. We were only able to observe once but the students were working on identifying the different parts of the song (chorus, verse, and bridge) by listening. They do this by listening to music on the smart board with lyrics on screen to help.
Math: Math for the grade ones is quite different than the grade twos. At the moment, the grade ones are still in the process of becoming more confident in their adding. They are working on the differences between odds and evens and are just starting to learn subtraction. Subtraction is still a new concept for them but it is coming along. This is taught by a quick lesson, some class work on the board and individual work on worksheets.
Science: This is the subject we have observed the most. At the moment the grade ones are completing a research project on snakes. They have to collect their library resources and internet sources and put the information into a booklet that Ms Holmes has created for them. The layout she has created in the booklet guides them in researching the proper questions.
English: English for the grade ones consists of figuring out how to make words and what sounds certain letters makes together. They are also working on their printing on paper sheets.
Ms Perkins grade ones and twos:
Art: the grade ones and twos are learning essentially the same visual arts as the other grade ones. The different parts of the song plus learning how to match the tone of their voice to the keys of the song.
Math: The grade ones and twos in this class are becoming more confident in adding, subtracting and knowing their odds and their evens. This class knows odds and evens automatically, and are working on different methods of subtraction like on a timeline or counting dots. This class learns mostly from a quick lesson from Ms Perkins and then they work on math sheets on their own. They also have a selection of math games that help with mental math.
Science: The grade ones and twos in this class are doing the same science project as the grade ones in Ms Holmes’ class except they are learning about Wolves. They are using the same method as Ms Holmes’ class except their study is more independent.
English: The ones and twos in this class are learning the same thing as the grade ones just to more extent. They are forming full sentences and perfecting their printing. They are also reading independently on their own at different levels. Some students are reading almost full children’s novels.
Placement #7 Final Placement: Relevance and Big Picture
Today was our last field placement at the school. Our supervising teachers gave us the opportunity to plan an activity for their classes as a part of our last lesson. Since Easter is next week Sydney and I decided to do an Easter themed activity to get the students excited for the break. We decided to make stations of activities that covered every subject: English, math, science, art and physical education. Each station had a different activity. English was an Easter Bunny assistant application. The students had to fill out a job application to be the Easter Bunny’s assistant. This was my favourite. The math station was an egg matching game. The eggs had numbers and corresponding dots or equations that they had to piece together. Science was a bunny anatomy paper where they had to label the different parts of the bunny. Art was a colour by code paper which the students enjoyed. Finally, we had an egg race to finish off with some activity. The students had to separate into teams and put an egg on the spoon and race to the wall and back without dropping the egg. The first team to get through all their players won. The kids really loved this. At the end of the day, Sydney and I handed out candy bags for the kids that we had made in advance. It was a very bittersweet day for us, it was such a good experience but now it is over and we may never see those kids again. I am thankful I got the chance to visit this school even if it was only for a short seven weeks.
One important thing I learned from being in these classrooms is that every child truly is unique. They have their own needs, they respond to things in a different way, and they all think so differently. As a teacher, you truly need to develop a personal relationship with each student in order to figure out what you as a teacher need to get them to succeed. The students learn in many different ways, sometimes as a class, sometimes individually, sometimes in groups and sometimes one on one with the teacher. They are all learning the basics of each subject but mostly just how to act in a school setting. A lot of grade one and two is managing behaviours. At this age children have not been away from their parents that much and they need to learn how to act around other people. I think that these particular students see the meaning and relevance of what they are learning because their teachers tell them why they have to do everything. Even though the children are quite young their teachers tell them everything because they deserve to know it. I also noticed that their teachers do not “baby” them. The kids are supposed to be responsible for themselves and accountable for their actions. This was incredibly important to see because often I feel like parents tend to “baby” their children and school is the place where they learn to be accountable. As a future teacher, it is important to see how to start giving the children enough responsibility for them to handle.
I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to observe a classroom in my first year of university. I learned what I liked and what I did not like, what I will use in my classroom and what I will not early on in my education. I am looking forward to my next placement as well. It could not come soon enough.