*This post was written by Susan He, a Master of Teaching student in the Intermediate/Senior stream.
The first week of practicum was meant to be to low pressure. As a teacher candidate on my first practicum the week 1 was mostly observation and adjusting to the classroom and the school. This is also the time for me to get to know my associate teacher (AT), note her routines and start thinking about the lessons I will be teaching.
My AT is super on top of her lesson planning and I work well with her because I am a bit of a compulsive organizer. So rather than sitting and observing all through week 1 of my practicum, I was able to jump into several group activities the students were working on. They were finishing the biology unit with a heart and frog dissection – my favorite part about biology- and I got to help students with hands-on teaching and learning.
Although this block of practicum is 20 days, the school is non-semestered. By the time I begin teaching in week 2, I have 7 lessons and in that time, I will need to give 1 to 2 quizzes, maybe a lab, and a half chapter/unit test. So half way through the week, I gave my students a diagnostic checklist in preparation for the chemistry unit which I will be teaching solo, to give me an idea of how to structure the first review lesson and the pace I should be going at with my class. At the end of week 1, the students finished their biology unit with a test and I got to run the bell ringer portion of the test using frogs dissected and labelled by yours truly.
Honestly, after the first week, I couldn’t wait to begin teaching solo because the comfort level was there.
I started the week off by having my lessons prepared and photocopying done. The exhilaration from the week before carried over to week 2. I looked forward to starting a new unit with my grade 10s and I was doing it solo. I had discussed with my AT that I was comfortable teaching an entire 75 minute lesson by myself from the get-go because of my previous experience as a teaching assistant while in university. Now teacher candidates have the option to slowly work towards teaching a full 75 minute class by starting out with co-teaching, co-planning lessons and slowly inserting themselves into the classroom so they would be comfortable leading the class.
One thing I learned after delivering my first lesson was how much longer the lesson turned out to be than I had anticipated. In my mind, I was going to introduce myself and hand out photocopies in the first 10 minutes, give a 20 minute PowerPoint review, followed by a 20 minute activity and a 20 minute lesson on the chalkboard with time left over to assign homework and prep for a quiz the next class, but I had about 10 more minutes of chalkboard notes to go when the bell rang. That meant I had to move the quiz to two classes and save the homework for the next class.
I taught the same lesson with my afternoon grade 10s and realized I got through the same amount as my morning class. This was a relief because it wasn’t due to the students slowing the class down or my delivery but the number of things I had jammed into one class. Going forward I have a much better sense of the amount of material and activities to put into one class. This will be put to the test soon enough because every week my practicum has a late start day and classes will be cut shorter than normal.
Stay tuned for my next post on lesson planning!