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Building Partnerships

Here it is part 2 of my reflections on the ministry document “Better Beginnings, Better Futures”.  

A big part of this document discusses the importance of being willing to work with partners to ensure the success of the students in your preKindergarten program.  Some of the many partners suggested are parents,wider family members, support staff, district staff, community groups, and community support agencies.  It really does take a village to raise a child and to provide a quality preKindergarten program.  

Many  times teachers tend to operate in isolation and this is due in part to the nature of the job.  However, it’s important to never think of ourselves as alone in the work we do.  We need to invite families into our classrooms, and provide them with resources to support learning in their homes.  Our students need us to be the bridge between their school and home lives.  This is a powerful connection that we can make that will greatly benefit our students and their achievement.  Parents and family supports can also be amazing way to lower student/adult ratios to provide more small group learning experiences.  A few parent volunteers can be worth their weight in gold and should be treated well.  I noticed in my internship that many families want to be involved and are just wanting to know how.  Clear communication can greatly enhance your relationship with parents and can be as simple as greeting them when they bring their children to school or as formal as newsletters.  I plan on using some of both in my classroom because I want parents to feel like they are an important part of the classroom.  

Another important partnership we can make is to be willing to make use of our support staff and professionals that operate within our school and school division.  During my internship we had students who had needs that went far beyond what I or my co-op felt able to confidently meet.  The student support teams were invaluable to helping us to devise plans and ideas to meet these students needs.  Without these supports we truly would have been alone and there is only so much a teacher can do on their own.  

The wider community supports is an area that I think a lot of teachers forget about, however, there are many professionals and organizations that will partner with teachers.  In some cases these partnerships can be just a simple visit to the classroom such as inviting the health nurse in to share about germ prevention or an elder to share traditional teachings.  In some cases you might need help to provide nutritional food for snacks so your local grocer or other businesses can help fund or supply food.  

There are many partners in our classrooms and the main thing we need to remember as teachers is to keep inviting and searching out partners so we can better meet our students needs.  

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Great Beginnings!

I will write a few posts about my internship experience a little later but first I have some reflections to write for my Early Childhood Education class.  We are examining the PreKindergarten standards book “Better Beginnings, Better Futures” by the Ministry of Education.  It’s hard to write a meaningful reflection when you agree so wholeheartedly with a document.  We were only supposed to read half of it for this first reflection but I’ll admit I read the whole thing just because it was an easy and engaging read. Many of the ideas put forth in this publication are not groundbreaking or difficult to implement.  They are however well grounded in solid pedagogical research and written up in an accessible way.  It is very insightful of the ministry to provide teachers with such a useful and forward thinking guide book to planning a prekindergarten program.  

I have a particular interest in preKindergarten and part of the reason I am at the University of Regina is because they offer an Early Childhood Education degree option.  Knowing that I may not be working in a setting where a formal preKindergarten program exists or where their may not be clear guidelines makes this document invaluable to me.  It gives me something I can put in my professional toolbox that can guide me in establishing a preKindergarten program even if I am in a context without outside supports.  

I also appreciated that there was such a complete bibliography which will help me further my research and professional development.  Having a reading list to keep developing my pedagogy will be important once I am out in the field and away from the academic setting of the university.  I know from my internship that time is at a premium while teaching it is still important to keep up with some professional reading and development.  Part of being a good teacher is being a reflective teacher that can read new ideas and look for ways to improve my practice.  Also knowing where to go for deeper understandings of the reasons behind proven pedagogical practices and to help me refine and perfect those practices.  

Summer fun

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So I’ve been enjoying a couple of weeks off since the end of the spring session courses I took. I’ve now met with my cooperating teacher for my internship twice and I’m excited to begin planning. I’m spending time this month in Edmonton visiting friends and family while house sitting for my
parents. So I’ve packed a box with my planing resources and will get started on some unit plans. I’m glad to have some units to plan because it helps my feel more prepared for the fall and gives me an outlet for my excitement and nerves. I’m lucky in that my mom is also a teacher although she specializes in jr/sr high. She actually now has her masters and works as a vice principal of a junior high. She is an excellent person for me to bounce my ideas off of and has great advice for me. She is also working hard on her timetable for her school. Time tabling is a major job I’ve learned and something most teachers don’t have to deal with but I’ve appreciated the glimpse into how schools are organized. Well back to the novel I’m enjoying as I relax for another couple of days, I figure I worked hard all semester so a little down time is deserved.

Social Inclusion is Just as Important

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Discuss the strategies teachers are likely to use to help exceptional students be part of the social and academic life of the classroom? 

 

This chapter really spoke to me because I think it got to the heart of inclusion.  It isn’t enough to just have exceptional students in the classroom, we have to include them in the social network of the classroom.  I think this is an area teachers have held themselves back in because they don’t want to interfere with children’s friendships.  I think it is generally felt that adults can’t and shouldn’t dictate to children who they are friends with.  However, in an age of anti-bullying education and inclusive education it is time to re-evaluate these opinions.  Chapter 9 does a really good job of explaining how a teacher and school community can help exceptional students form friendships.  

 

The first strategy the chapter demonstrates is probably the simplest strategy but can go along way.  It is the description of the teacher addressing the class and explaining the exceptionality to the class and then stating the student would be a full member of the class.  Right from the start this teacher is establishing an open relationship where it is okay to discuss the exceptionality in a respectful way and an expectation that the student would be included.  I think children are often more accepting than adults because our social fears limit us.  This example resonated so strongly for me because it related to some of the experiences I’ve had with my father.  My dad is a paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair.  My little cousins weren’t born before his accident so they are growing up knowing him in a wheelchair.  They are much less awkward than many adults are with my dad.  When small they would push him around thinking he was the best adult and they loved taking a ride with Uncle Neil.  Where most adults are scared to ask questions and worry about offending these children are open and accepting of my dad. They ask him questions and if he doesn’t want to answer or it may be awkward he addresses this.  I think that the teacher in the text example set a good example for her students by allowing them to address the exceptionality and natural curiosity that happens when someone is different from ourselves.  It’s not rude to ask questions if it allows you to build a relationship.  By having the teacher there to aid the student in this initial encounter they can help address questions that may be too personal. 

 

I think that the next step that needs to happen after this first encounter is to help students to find activities that they can share and participate in.  The example with the blind girl is a case where this step wasn’t applied.  The more chances you can give the students to have meaningful exchanges the more likely they are to build a relationship.  This is true of all people that friendship grows out of shared common experience.  As a teacher I was glad to see that the IIP has a space for friendship goals and also areas for outside activities and organizations.  I was glad because I think that for a friendship to grow there needs to be contact between the students outside of school.  The more involvement the student has with peers and activities the more shared common ground will be created. 

 

I also liked that cooperation was stressed over competition.  In traditional schooling competition is an important element.  However as an educator I have tried to stress cooperation because I have found that it has created healthier relationships between my students.  Even with my efforts there are elements of competition I can’t completely erase such as ranked grading.  However, by stressing that by working together we all achieve better results we can make it more of a team effort.  I think especially for exceptional students competition can be difficult because rarely is the playing field even for them.  My dad would play basketball with my sisters and I but rarely did he win when playing one on one because the net was that much higher for him and he didn’t have much of a jump shot.  However, when he worked on a team with one of us he was amazing at defense and his teammate could take the shot.  Together his team often won our matches.  Putting students with exceptionalities on our classroom team means we all can succeed in ways we might not have even imagined.  

 

I think the last part of mediating social relationships is helping students learn how to handle difficulties.  I think teachers are getting better at this skill because of the rise in anti-bullying education but there is always room to grow.  Giving students chances to practice social skills in structured settings is an important part of this education especially for students who might not have had much interaction with peers in the past.  Through social stories and role plays examine student responses both positive and negative to situations.  Developing empathy for each other is important to so give students a chance to see what it is like in another students shoes through these type of activities.  

 

As apart of the wider school community I look for ways I can build anti-bullying programs into the school culture.  I’ve seen several examples of this but the most common one I’ve seen here in Regina is the Circle of Courage that a lot of public schools are using.  Sometimes teachers can have a lot of say in the school culture just by their behaviour in the staff rooms and staff meetings.  I have found that it is most important for me to be an advocate for my students in these spaces especially students that are perceived as challenging.  Often teachers can become negative in these spaces and it can undermine the efforts of the school to be a welcoming space.  That’s one of the biggest traps I’ve noticed teachers falling into and that negativity has trickled into their classroom and interactions with students.  This can undermine all the best efforts they’ve put in.  Negativity can be even more contagious than chicken pox I’ve noticed in my work history.  So I want to be a positive role model for my students and bring that positive energy into the staff areas to help create a healthy staff climate that hopefully ensures that positive results for students.  

Tech Task 5b part 1

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This is a visual assignment called Draw It from Mission: DS106 website.  The task was to take a photo and convert it to a sketch.  I used a free website called tjshome.com to do this with and it was easy peasy.  The handsome model is my nephew.  

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A Little Rainy Day Interlude

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I didn’t make this a man called John D. Boswell did but I wanted to share it because it made my day. It also includes a lot of thoughts I have about why I want to work with young children and what I want them to learn.

Survey Results

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Well it is much harder to display the results of my survey than it is to create and embed the survey itself.  This is a big disappointment for me because usually things are pretty simple when using google products.  The survey summary with all the little graphs and charts is amazing and looks great, the survey worked really well but I can’t get the cool summary to display here.  The best I seem able to do is create a link to the results I’m going to keep searching because there should be a solution to this.  I suspect it’s going to involve me learning html editing so it may not happen quickly.  If you have any suggestions please share them 🙂