Updated: Dec 18, 2018
It’s our first week back at OISE since starting practicum at the end of October... Congratulate yourself! You completed a practicum placement! Whether it’s your first or third practicum, it’s always bittersweet to finish a placement and return to OISE: on one hand, many teacher candidates start to feel tired towards the end of practicum, where your weeks are filled with lesson planning, marking, developing relationships, and assisting in extracurricular activities. On the other hand, teacher candidates really start getting in the swing of things by the last two weeks of practicum, and dread the last day of placement where they have to go back to the university and complete final assignments! Overall, my practicum was very intense, but it was also filled with highlights!
As a second year teacher candidate, I was expected to teach 1 class per day from the very beginning of the first week, so I took on a Grade 9 Gifted Science (SNC1DG) class. I was both excited and nervous to have full responsibility of this class as I had never experienced a class full of gifted students, and wasn’t sure exactly what the difference was between a gifted and academic class. Overall, I learned to enrich the course with more real-life applications and went deeper into some aspects of the curriculum than would be expected with an academic class. What I found most interesting was the types of questions that my gifted students would ask; sometimes, I’d expect the questions, and they’d lead me straight through my lesson. Other times, I’d need to take a few seconds to think quickly on my feet because I had never anticipated that they’d ask what they did! My favourite thing I did this week was create a Chemistry Molecular Model activity for the students where they got to build their own molecular models to develop a further understanding of chemical bonding.
From my second week on, I took full control of both the Grade 9 Gifted Science class as well as a Grade 11 University Chemistry (SCH3U) class. My second week was a bit more stressful as I’d never taught two completely different courses during a practicum placement - I always had two sections of the same course up until this point! I really enjoyed introducing my Grade 9 class to their new unit: Electricity. I had a variety of stations for the students to explore charging by friction and charging by contact with balloons, Ebonite rods and fur, paper hole punch circles, pop cans, and water! Although it was a juggling act to balance both classes, I was excited to utilize my Chemistry background while teaching the grade 11s.
This week was also filled with a field trip to the Ontario Science Centre, as well as the STAO Conference, where I connected with a myriad of teaching professionals and learned about jaw-dropping demos to use in the classroom! Due to my attendance at the STAO Conference on the Friday of this week, I had to prepare lesson plans for a supply teacher for both of my classes. I was very grateful for my teachable class as we were taught exactly how we should lay everything out in a full-form lesson plan so that anyone could pick up the lesson and materials and understand what to do!
After filling most of my lunches with supervision and extra help, I was happy to attend a few Eco Club meetings during my third and fourth weeks of practicum. I’m very passionate about the environment and sustainability, so it was quite refreshing to see so many young students exuding the same enthusiasm during their Eco Club meetings. What affected me most this week was during a quiz for my grade 11 class. I had a student in this class who never participated, never took notes, and never completed any written portions of quizzes or tests. During this particular quiz, however, the student approached me and asked me to borrow a periodic table and calculator so he could complete the quiz. I was so shocked and appreciative that he actually completed an assessment for me! This made me realize what an impact we have on students, even 'just' as teacher candidates.
I also decided to print out some sheets to have an informal 'check in' with my students. I had a scale (using emojis, of course!) where they could fill in how they were feeling that day and how they were feeling about the unit. I also included an area for questions about the content, as well as a space for the students to inform me of anything I could do to help them. My students were very appreciative that a teacher took the time to check in and see how they were doing. After the responses I got from the check in, I decided to make this activity priority for my next practicum, as well as once I become a fully certified teacher.
My fourth week was most fulfilling as I was able to fully execute a unit from start to finish for both my Grade 9 Gifted Science class (Physics: Electricity) and my Grade 11 University Chemistry class (Solutions & Solubility). It was quite rewarding to create and evaluate my very own tests for the first time! Most of the week was filled with marking as both classes had quizzes, assignments, and tests, but I learned to be efficient with my marking. I also got to participate in a dirt lab with the outdoor education course which was very fun!
During this practicum, I was exposed to numerous “behind-the-scenes” aspects of teaching that I had never experienced before. While I love being in the classroom, I was very happy to see my cohort and share stories about our practicum placements. Only one more week of classes and a few more final assignments before winter break begins!