First Year Teaching Survival

June… it is now June… how did this happen?

So here I sit… one day of regular classes left, 2 days away from the beginning of finals, 9 days away from from the grade 12 grad, my to-do list is quite lengthy, my marking is piling in, June 28th is my official last day of my first year of teaching, and now, after reading Kailee Brennan’s blog, it is time to reflect on this whirlwind of a year.

It all started with a phone call, an interview, and a job offer right around this time last year. I was ecstatic to be offered my first teaching job – a full time replacement contract teaching majority in my subject area, at the school I had just completed my internship at. I spent nearly two weeks in my classroom before classes began… cleaning, organizing, re-organizing, putting up posters, re-organizing, and trying to create the most welcoming, knowledge-rich environment I could.

The first semester was almost a blur, spending late nights and most weekends at the school planning, marking, and coaching soccer. I was relieved when the second semester began and I was teaching 2 classes I had taught in the first semester, I knew exactly what I wanted to keep the same and what needed to change. The second semester was also my opportunity to spread my wings and teach outside of my subject area, such as my rotation teaching Commercial Cooking 20, Psychology 20, English 9, and cooking and sewing to grade 9s. I was also a full-fledged head coach of the senior girls basketball team.

As with any teaching job, my first year had it’s ups and downs, the good days and the bad, the aha moments and the “why did I willingly choose this career?” moments… but as the year comes to an end and I look back, I truly enjoyed my first year of my teaching career. As Kailee said in her post, the first few months of teaching were all-consuming but it got easier. Eventually I didn’t have to go in on weekends or stay late into the evening, though I ended up spending most evenings and weekends coaching anyway, it helped that I didn’t have to do a ton of planing and marking on top of it.

I knew that it was only a one year deal when I signed my contract, but I must admit that I will be quite sad to leave this place. This building has been my second home for the past year… I even keep a stash of snacks and an extra coffee cup in my desk drawer.

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Some of the highlights of my first year of teaching:
-assistant coaching a wonderful soccer team
-attending the STF New Teacher Conference, Project CRISS, SBTA Conference, and TEDxRegina
-History Jeopardy review games
-using Monopoly to help teach Accounting
-the Accounting Debit Credit rap
-having my desk covered in tin foil as a Christmas prank
-entering my first team in the SBTA Business Case Competition (one team finished 4th)
-Entrepreneurship class venture donating over $400 to charity
-head coaching my first senior girls basketball team, a heart-stopping overtime victory in conferences, and advancing to regionals
-working with a phenomenal staff and teaching some unbelievable students

 

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I became a teacher because I wanted to inspire. I don’t know that I inspired anyone this year… I was merely happy to just survive but I know that this year will help me to inspire in the future.

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Reflections of a First Year Teacher

Well it is safe to say that I have neglected this blog for far too long.

In April 2012 I finished my final semester of university and in June 2012 officially convocated with my Bachelor of Education degree with a major in Business Education and a minor in Social Studies. I also received my Administration Certificates Level I & II. Shortly after convocating I was fortunate to receive two wonderful job offers and accepted a temporary contract teaching at the school I completed my internship at.

I have now spent the past six months working as a full time Business Education, History, and prep coverage teacher. The first semester consisted of teaching two Accounting 10/20 split classes, History 10, and History 20, as well as assistant coaching the girls soccer team. We are now two week in to the second semester and so far it is consisting of: History 10, Entrepreneurship 30, History 20, and two period of prep coverage where I will be teaching History 10, Psychology 20, Commercial Cooking 20, Practical and Applied Arts 9, and English 9. Prep coverage consists of teaching another class for 30 instructional hours to provide the regular teacher with the appropriate prep time as allocated in our local agreement.

Over the past six months I feel like I have learned a tremendous amount about teaching, learning, and education in general. I’ve spent countless hours at the school planning lessons, marking assignments, decorating my classroom, and coaching. There have been times of feeling extremely overwhelmed, and times of great satisfaction. I truly believe that a teacher must be a lifelong learner – I love learning new things to teach my students and learning new things that my students have taught me.

I can’t wait to see what the rest of the school year, and my future as an educator, has in store.

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Educators and Social Media; The Results

Problem: Educators and Social Media. Can an educator maintain a personal digital identity through the use of personal social media accounts or should most/all digital use from an educator be professional? Should students be able to contact teachers through social media or vice-versa? Should coaches be able to communicate with student-athletes through social media?

Social media has become a part of everyday life for both students and teachers, which brings about the moral question of whether or not student-teacher communication through social media should be allowed?

Examples: Throughout my internship I used Edmodo with my Information Processing class to post assignments. Students were able to upload their assignments to the site, review their grades, receive reminders about outstanding assignments, as well and send/receive comments to/from me, the teacher. Other teachers allowed students to communicate with them through Twitter to arrange homework help or ask questions about assignments outside of class time. Some teachers used Twitter, Wikis, blogs, or other internet platforms to post classroom information or interesting/relevant links. I also know of some teachers who coach athletics through their school and use social media as a way to communicate with players such as setting up a Facebook group to inform student-athletes of game/practice time changes or other important updates.

Research: My first action was to create a survey which I sent out using my own social media accounts such as including the link in a blog post, allowing friends to include the link in their blog posts, “tweeting” the link to my followers through my Twitter account and other Twitter users “retweeted” it to their followers. I also emailed the link to the survey to numerous classmates, teachers, and parents that I know. In the end a total of 51 people participated in the survey, and these were their responses:

Question #1: Your Occupation (participants could check more than one box)

*Other responses included: University Instructional Technologist, Assistant, Psychologist, and Career Counsellor

Question #2: Do you use any social media platforms? (check all that apply)

Question #3: Can an educator maintain a personal digital identity through the use of social media accounts or should most/all digital use from an educator be professional?

Some explanations included: Yes, teachers can have a personal identity but must be aware that they are never really out of the spotlight and must conduct themselves in a respectful manor. Nothing online is really private. Educators are mentors, leaders, and role models and should use caution and tact when using social media. An educator is well capable of having a personal and professional life, their life outside of school is up to them to have. Educators are held to a higher expectation because they have students in their care and are constantly setting the example. You are never completely removed from public scrutiny, one has to be careful to conduct themselves accordingly. Educators have rights to a personal life, however, an educator must always be fully aware and understand that personal actions can and will be judged by society and decisions they make in their personal lives may have an effect on their job/career. We are teachers 24/7, there is no break from that – what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay there anymore because of technology.

Question #4: Should students be able to contact teachers through social media?

Some explanations included: If allowed by the teacher, then it shouldn’t be a problem. No, too many ‘issues’/legalities. No, it creates a false relationship that students mistake/confuse for in-school relationship. It is fine as long as the content is appropriate and maintains the student-teacher relationship but sometimes such communication can become too casual and informal. Only once the student has graduated, to stay in touch. It is a world of technology, why not connect them? It crosses the professional line and the integrity of the teacher is decreased. Why not is the question, if used appropriately then it is a good use of technology. Social media is becoming a part of life, students and teachers should be able to communicate through its use but in a professional manner. It is all recorded and if the reason for contact is innocent, wanting helping with homework, the teacher becomes a more stable support. Yes, however students should also learn social media etiquette. Different social media should be used for different things, for example: Twitter should be open and used to communicate with students and network whereas Facebook should be used for personal use and locked. Teachers should set up specific social media that cater to education such as Edmodo or blogs. So many valuable educational applications!

Question #5: Should coaches be able to contact student-athletes through social media?

Some explanations included: If a page was established specifically for the team, then that would be acceptable. It would be better if it was a family or parent account. There are other ways of getting hold of athletes besides using social media. It’s difficult to get commitment from students and communication can be a challenge, sometimes texting and Facebook groups can be used very effectively to help with this. Different relationship, coaches can have less professional relationships with players. It is much easier to connect to a team of people rather than one individual through Facebook or text. Coaches need to communicate quickly with parents and players and most of them are on social media, so why not? Only with the full consent of parents. Many of the answers from Question #4 carry over in to this question.

Question #6: What are some of the positives for student-teacher social media interactions? (47 responses)
Some responses included: Open communication, ease/speed of communication. Keeping information current. Better communication, more personal, possibly more engaged students. Students can see teachers in a more human role from their posting. Convenience, students are in tune with social media. Instant communication that people actually use; students engage better in learning when they are interested and involved in the activity and social media is interesting right now and should be used in the classroom and for communication. Developing healthy relationships with students is a very important part of learning and social media interactions can facilitate that. None,students and teachers should not communicate through social media. Students are able to get help when they need it. Social media is the way students / business functions, education needs to be a part of this. Relationship = engagement, engagement is the holy grail of education and if you are able to engage them better then you will be able to educate them easier.

Questions #7: What are some of the negatives of student-teacher social media interactions? (46 responses)
Some responses included: Confusion of roles/relationships. Opens up inappropriate situations – doesn’t teach youth good social skills – allows youth to send comments based on emotion and without thinking first – possibility of allowing youth to see teachers being inappropriate. Could lead to issues related to exploitation of minors by some teachers, easy to keep from parents. Shows too much of the personal life, decreases professional integrity. Anything can be misperceived and by associating with students through social media one opens themselves up to big risks. Potential for information to be distributed unintentionally. May cause problems in the classroom. Too many networks and not everyone uses the same network consistently, not everyone has immediate access and may not get the message at the same time. There should be a distinct line between personal life and professional life. Boundaries need a lot of reflection, potential mistakes can be problematic. Students need to learn appropriate models of professional communication. Students can leave messages that teachers are held liable for yet they may not know until it is too late (ie suicidal). Students who do not use social media are left out. Takes time to teach students that teachers are not their equals and online conversations must reflect that. Inappropriate expectations in response time. Students over sharing/complaining while knowing that an educator can see what they are saying (educate students on digital footprints and that everyone can view what they post).

Question #8: Other comments (23 responses)
Some responses included: Social media is a very intriguing medium, there is a lot of potential benefit but risks must be weighed and evaluated. Social media should not be used with students until they graduate from high school or legally become an adult. There needs to b a “code of conduct” and appropriate guidelines of usage developed. We need to be open minded that this is a more familiar mode of communication present day for young people. Has some merit but also a lot of downfall educationally. As long as all parties are professional and dignified and follow the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it should all be good. It is extremely important for teachers to utilize the available opportunities to connect and engage students. Students need to be educated on social media, such as who they think can see what on their social media accounts and then talk about how to control your privacy online. There is a very fine line between appropriate and inappropriate, social media outside of school hours should be approved of and monitored by the parent and even then it is questionable. A good case can be made for needing adult role models on social media, teachers can help. Educators should not be afraid of new technologies and in fact it is imperative to embrace them for the sake of student learning. Social media is a huge part of life right now, it can not be ignored so why not use it to our advantage? You have to value the media students value to establish pedagogical relationships; but, you don’t need to be 120 students’ personal sounding board or tutor.

As a result of the survey, I have concluded that generally educators using social media as a professional to connect with students and other educators is okay as long as it remains professional. It has also been suggested that perhaps public communication through social media sites is better than through private email communication since then there is public documentation of the communication exchange. Edmodo and Twitter tend to be the most desired forms of student-teacher social media interactions whereas most individuals suggest that Facebook should be used for private lives and not to connect with students.

As I continued my research I found a number of useful or interesting websites on the topic:
Websites:
EDUCHATTER’S BLOG: A blog post discussing Facebook in Schools, mentions a teacher’s successful campaign to bring Facebook into Catholic public schools in Regina, Saskatchewan and discusses the stance on social media from various school boards across Canada.
Facebook for Educators Facebook Educator’s Guide. A website designed to help educators develop school policy, understand Facebook’s guidelines, safety & privacy, digital citizenship, pages & groups, 21st century students, professional development, and more.
Mashable Social Media: 3 Tips for Teachers Using Social Media in the Classroom (survey your students about social media, utilize groups and communities, and establish clearly communicated boundaries)
Reuters: Missouri judge blocks teacher-student social media law – an article explaining why a Missouri judge blocked a pending state law that would prevent teachers and students from communicating privately over the internet on social media sites.
Edudemic: Why students like social media but schools don’t – includes an infographic of students use of social media and why schools are cautious
Education.US News: Student-Teacher Social Media Restrictions Get Mixed Reactions – explores various reactions to student-teacher social media restrictions, includes a student, psychiatrist, family-counseling provider, and a principal perspective.
New York Times: Rules to Stop Pupil and Teacher From Getting Too Social Online – an article that takes an in-depth look into some of the issues surrounding student-teacher social media interactions.
The Blue Skunk Blog: Networking Guidelines – provides guidelines for the use of social networking sites, educational networking sites, and all networking sites by professional staff.
Social Media Today: Bridging the Gap: Students, Teachers, and Social Media – a blog post describing the importance of teachers using social media to communicate with both students and parents.
Social Media Guidelines: a collaborative wiki project to generate Social Media Guidelines for school districts
Social Media Governance: A listing of social media policies from various brands and agencies

Canadian Resources:
The Ontario College of Teachers has its own Professional Advisory; Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media document which would act as a good rule for educators outside of Ontario as well. The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario also has an Electronic Communication and Social Media Advice to Members PDF.Although I could not find any links to social media policies for school boards in Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation does offer CyberTips for Teachers on their website which provides some helpful tips for teachers to consider when using social media.

Conclusion: As with any moral issue, there is no clear-cut answer as to whether or not educators or coaches should be communicating with students or student-athletes through social media. There are numerous positives and negatives to such use of social media but does one really understand the moral issues involved? Based on the researched I have conducted it appears that more individuals think that social media is where our students are now and teachers should be accessing these platforms as a way to engage and support these students. In contrast, school boards often seem to have an opposite opinion of educators and social media and recommend limited or no student-teacher communication through social media.
Personally I battled with the moral issues of using social media to communicate with students but at the end of the day I do think that it is very important for us to communicate with our students in a way that is easy, readily-available, and second nature for them. I found through my internship that using Edmodo was a great educational way to communicate with students while both myself and my students could keep our personal lives out of the mix. Through the use of Edmodo students were able to privately communicate their concerns about the class to me and stay updated with class assignments when they were away from school. Although I strive to always conduct myself professionally online, I also understand the great push-back for educators using social media and the great risks involved.
At the end of the day, is it morally okay for students and teachers to communicate through social media?

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Educators and Social Media

Educators and Social Media has been a hot topic throughout my undergraduate Education degree. I am currently in my final semester of my Bachelor of Education and for my Educational Foundations 303 (Moral Education) I have been asked to complete a critical project – to pick a subject and critically look at it and research it. For my project I chose to critically look at Educators and their use of Social Media.

Is it possible for an educator to have a professional online identity as well as a personal one? Should teachers and students be able to communicate through social media during school hours? Or after school hours for homework help? Should educators be able to contact the student-athletes that they coach through social media outside of school hours to inform them of updates? 

Social media has quickly become a part of daily life and often the lines between personal and professional can become blurred when it comes to social media conduct. Due to these blurring of work and home life many businesses have employees sign a social media policy Should schools have staff and students sign social media contracts? Should it be up to the discretion of the staff and students themselves? Do schools or boards have such policies already in place?

These are some of the questions that I hope to receive feedback on, find answers to, and take a critical look at.

Please take a few minutes to help me in my research by completing a short survey about Educators and Social Media at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NH63TLT

If your school has a social media policy please tell me about it, or what you would like to see in a social media contract if your school were to create one.

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5 Lessons from Internship

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Internship was the greatest learning experience I have gone through in my life so far. It began with an email informing me of my placement, followed by a visit to the school, discussion of which classes I will teach, and an internship seminar to “prepare me” for my experience I was about to have.

Here is a list of the Top 5 Lessons I Learned during my Internship.

#1 -Teach As Yourself
As a teacher, you need to have your own teaching style and be yourself while you are teaching. You can’t pretend to be someone else, or teach the way another teacher does, that is just uncomfortable for everyone. You need to be yourself when you are teaching so that you are comfortable and your students know that you aren’t trying to act in front of them. Once your students understand that you are a real person it is easier for them to relate to and understand you. If you have a good sense of humor, if you are neat and organized, if you have great life experience, have interests or hobbies, bring it in to the classroom and let it show in your teaching.

#2 – Build Relationships
Building relationships is a vital part of education. You need to build positive relationships with your coop, other teachers, administrators, admin staff, caretakers, and the students. Positive relationships with students can do wonders for classroom management and helps make the classroom a safe and enjoyable place to be. It is also important to have good relationships with the other individuals who work in the building – you never know when you’ll need help from another teacher when planning, a crisis of malfunctioning technology, or an impressive reference letter.

#3 – Get Involved
Internship does not last long… four months will fly by before you know it (see my last post). Getting involved in the school and the community is a great way to build relationships with staff, students, and parents. Extra-curricular activities such as athletics or aesthetics are perfect ways to spend time doing something you enjoy outside of school while also building relationships (which, as we learned in point #2 is very valuable). I chose to coach soccer and basketball which provided me the opportunity to build relationships with students who I did not teach in my classrooms – this involvement also landed me a spot as a co-host for the fall pep-rally.

#4 – Share Resources
I found that during my internship teachers are more than willing to help you in your journey to become a teacher, they will provide you with advice and their opinions on various situations, and sometimes even share resources with you. As the intern you have just spent the past few years of your life as a student in a classroom learning various strategies, techniques, and tools to use when you are set free in to the real world of teaching… you can share some current resources that you use (such as wikis, edmodo, prezi, etc) with other teachers. Also, if the opportunity presents itself COLLABORATE with other teachers. I had the chance to collaborate and create a unit project for my History 10 class with another teacher who was also teaching History 10. We came to the school one Sunday and were able to bounce ideas off of each other and come up with a project that all of the students loved.

#5 – Sometimes You Will Fail Before You Will Succeed
Teaching involves being a learner yourself, it is a job for life-long learners and learning doesn’t always come without failure. You will sometimes teach a bad lesson, something that you thought would be great might not turn out so well, you may plan something to take an hour that the students get through in 20 minutes. It is important to experience these “failures” (or “learning experiences” as I like to call them) in order to become a better teacher. You will learn from the “bad” lessons and will teach it differently next time, or try something new. You can’t predict everything that will happen in your classroom, you need to be flexible and able to adapt quickly. It is through these failures that we learn how to succeed and to become better teachers.

Internship was an experience that I will never forget. I am grateful for this amazing opportunity I was given in my journey to become an educator and look forward to what awaits me in the future.

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Intern 2011

“Internship will go by in a flash; the next thing you know, it will be over before you even realize it”

My second home during internship

That is a quote that I heard numerous times going in to and even during my internship. During the first month, I thought those people were just trying to be nice to the intern… internship was all consuming and there was no way that four months of my life would just “fly by”. But sure enough, they were right!

I began my internship with teaching an Information Processing 10 class and helping as an assistant coach for the Girls’ Soccer team. I had a “business fact of the day” every day and was using tech tools such as wikispaces and edmodo to assist my daily teaching, The first month was a new and exciting experience for me… I was in the school full-time, teaching a class from day one and structuring it how I wanted, planning, marking, building relationships with students, participating in school life, coaching, attending staff meetings, and everything else included in the daily life of a school that you really don’t experience as student or a student-teacher up until this point.

As the semester progressed, I began teaching more classes and enjoying more new and challenging experiences. By November I was teaching my Information Processing 10 class as well as Communication Media 20, History 10, and Native Studies 30. Not only was I teaching a variety of classes, but I experienced teaching in numerous rooms since each class was taught by a different cooperating teacher in a different classroom. Also around this time of the semester soccer had ended and I began helping as an assistant coach to the Jr. Girls’ Basketball team. Needless to say, life was hectic.

By the beginning of December I began to slowly work my way back down to teaching one class a day and spending my mornings in the ILP room helping with a variety of different activities. During the second last week of internship, the Business Ed interns also took field trips to each others’ schools to observe each other teaching and to get a small preview of what subjects/content each of us had spent the last few months teaching, the students we spend each day teaching, the physical space of our schools, and to gain different perspectives of each of our own experiences.

As hectic as those four months were, everyone was absolutely right when they said “it will fly by”; the next thing I knew, it was the end of December and the end of my internship.

Internship was by far the most demanding, intense, challenging, busy, and rewarding four months of my life. I was taken out of my comfort zone, taught subjects that I had no previous experience or knowledge in, tried new things, experienced challenges, failures, and successes, grew as both a teacher and a person, and there is no question that I am in love with teaching! I can not wait for the opportunity to have my own classroom and to teach my own classes. I will forever be grateful for the absolutely amazing staff who were always willing to help and welcomed me in to their classrooms at any time, the fantastic students, and an invaluable experience that I will always treasure.

I have now returned to the University for my final semester and am eagerly awaiting what the future holds!

What do you remember the most about your internship experience? How did your internship help to prepare you for your future teaching career?

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The Half-Way Point

Internship 2011 is officially half-way done. I have completed 8 weeks of internship and have 8 weeks to go. I have grown as an educator, a learner, and a person. I have learned so much more about the teaching profession than I ever thought I would. Within the first few weeks I found myself taking apart computers to teach my IP students about the different parts of a computer such as the motherboard and power supply. I have learned new programs such as GarageBand and Photoshop and even a few new skills in Microsoft Word (I thought I was already an expert, but I guess not!).

I am currently teaching 3 classes daily and will be picking up my 4th class for my three-week-block on November 7th. This experience has taught me the importance of planning, how time consuming marking can be, and how important time management really is. And how amazing the teaching profession is… from interacting with the students, planning amazing lessons, experiencing the ups and downs, and the best staff you could ever ask for.

As I am about to embark on the home stretch of my Internship adventure, I am truly thankful for all of the staff at my school who have been tremendous supports, I am fostering relationships with students, trying new things, stepping outside of my comfort zone, and learning more than I ever thought I could. Every day I learn something new; a new teaching style, classroom management technique, a new program, new shortcuts and tools of programs I already know, new hobbies and interests of my students, or new fun facts that I provide to my info pro students.

There have been ups and downs, stresses and successes, but overall this has been the greatest experience of my educational adventure and I can’t wait to see what awaits me in the 8 weeks ahead.

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