I chose three relevant questions from the choice of 5 that I could most connect with from the study guide.
- “How can you tell when teachers have meaningful relationships with their students?”
The teachers that put the time and effort into creating authentic lesson plans and experiences, which are based on getting to know their student’s backgrounds and interests and incorporating these experiences in with their planning. On my Practicum last year, I noticed what impacts good relationships with students have, including the most important great classroom management, which allows the teacher to focus more on teaching, less on the behavior. Combining the two is just important, it really is all about the relationships you foster with your students that make all the difference.
The students were also happy to be coming to school each day because of the relationships that had been built, and the learning experiences that would take place each day. They seemed to enjoy the classroom interactions, and this was reflected in the work that was being produced.
- “What are your favorite ways to connect with students that don’t cost anything but time and effort?”
I decided on how I would I approach this on my first practicum last year. I decided to ensure I greeted every student at the door as the entered the classroom, I used high fives, asked how their morning was or discussed their weekends to find any common ground. This also helped me learn the names of the students. Prior to starting the day, I also noticed the mentor teacher would dedicate 2 mins in having a chat about the day ahead, raise and discuss any classroom concerns or issues, or even just discuss how everyone is feeling.
The end of the day would usually close with an activity, such as silent ball or even an outdoor game of dodgeball which allowed students to de-brief and discuss their day. The use of exit tickets I found a positive strategy to use as well, finding out, for example, one thing they learned today, or in one instance “How did my teaching go today.” High fiving them on the way out also was a good end of day activity!
- “We like to look like we have it together, so many of us do our best to hide our imperfections. Admitting our failures feels risky and vulnerable. Share a failure you had & what you’ve learned from it?”
I learned very quickly in one of my lessons on how things can go wrong so quickly. I can remember teaching a math lesson on measurement, I think it was to convert Kilometres to meters. I mistakenly made assumptions about what they should already know based on previous lessons on conversion. Well, needless to say, the whole thing went pear-shaped starting at the direct instruction, with so many confused students! I was so focused on the lesson plan, that I really didn’t take notice of the disengagement that was occurring throughout the classroom, I did notice the chatter and behavior of some change, which I dealt with but just carried on.
To make matters worse, one of the students who is known for being a perfectionist and great at maths started to cry as they were struggling in the understanding of the concept. It wasn’t until they began to work independently that I become aware of this as the Education Assistant bought it to my attention. At the end of the lesson, they were dismissed for recess, I debriefed with the mentor teacher and reflected on the lesson, what I thought had gone so horribly wrong, I didn’t get any argument from my mentor teacher apart from a well prepared engaging lesson plan and that’s all it had going for it!
The students came back from recess, once they were all settled I made the decision I needed to restore the confidence. Prior to the next lesson I took the floor and said “I am so sorry about the lesson on measurement I taught this morning went so wrong, and that making assumptions on what you all knew was a bad call, I promise the lesson will be re-taught the next day.
I thought some feedback might be good here, so I opened the discussion for 2 minutes on how I could improve my teaching. It worked! The most powerful, impactful feedback I got was “Why don’t you ask us what we want to learn and need to know, and just be yourself, not trying to be Mr. X.” A year 6 student with this wisdom! Amazed me. This changed my approach for the rest of my practicum, I would always then start the lessons with “What do you know about, what would you like to know about?”
On another note, the student who cried, I took him aside and had a private chat outside, I apologised to him personally, we had a great chat and the relationship and trust were restored!
RELATIONSHIPS! RELATIONSHIPS! RELATIONSHIPS!