Reflections on my first year at CSE

As I write this blog post, I am coming out from last class of the semester, and I have only four more days of practicum (as well as a few cumulative assignments) before I can officially close the chapter on my first year of Childhood Study and Education (CSE). This is also not counting the mandatory summer courses that I have to take in May and June, but you get the point.


My classmates and I have been chatting, and we are all in consensus that this year has flown by. First year orientation back in September feels just like yesterday, and it's crazy to look back on all that we have experienced and learned throughout these months. When I first started these blogs in September, I mentioned how I was looking forward to see how OISE and the CSE was going to change me as a person. Though I am only halfway through the program, I can honestly say that I am already very different than the person that I was just 7 months ago.

So let's take a walk down memory lane, as I reflect on everything that has happened. I will be looking at:


1. Changes/adjustments in my life since starting this program

2. Some key takeaways from my classes/ practicum

-how to think critically ; learning never stops (for the sake of the kids); it's not how to fulfill curriculum expectations but about how to teach for the students

-push the students deeper and farther, they might surprise you


1.Changes/adjustments in my life since starting this program


-USING A MORE DETAILED PLANNER-

I used to get by with a monthly planner in which I simply scribbled my work shifts or my cumulative assignments. However, the deadlines and assignments never stop in CSE, and I quickly realized that if I continued to rely on my old habit of sticking 'post-it notes on my laptop', my brain would be way overloaded.


-A DAILY 'SHUT OFF' TIME-

Call me an old soul, but starting this year, I set for myself a clear time in the evening to just 'shut off'. Rather than powering through and trying to churn out assignments or continue to plan lessons, I have set 9:45PM as my end time for the evening. I know, I know, that's ridiculous. While I don't sleep until 11PM every night, I find that I need to have that time to slowly wind down for the night, and to tie up any loose ends.This routine actually came from a classmate, who shared her schedule with my cohort, and I have since picked it up. As pre-service teachers, we have a tendency to keep working and to continually powering through different activities, without a sense of our own limits. Though this has been hard to keep up, I noticed that I have become better at compartmentalizing the 'teaching' and 'school' portions of my life. While school and this program are both important, it is not all-consuming. I still have a personal life and my own priorities outside of school or teaching, and this is what I discovered to help me balance it all.


-BECOMING MORE INTENTIONAL WITH MY RELATIONSHIPS-

This program is very exhausting and it demands a lot of your time. I quickly realized that I am not able to message my friends as frequently as I used to. Because I am giving a lot of myself to my students as well as my classes, socializing genuinely feels like a chore on my to-do list rather than a means of relaxing for the day. As a result, I have learned how to become more intentional. I now treasure the times I do get to spend with my friends. Rather than trying to keep in touch with friends or family via phone calls or texts, I now schedule meet-ups. Sure, they may occur only 1-2 a week, but these times have now become more precious.

So even if it means going out after a long day, tired and makeup-less, then so be it. Because these relationships matter.

2. Some key takeaways from my classes and practicum

Throughout this year, I learned a lot of content, a lot of teaching practices, a lot about my students, and a lot on how to be a teacher. While all those things are important, I'm left with two main thoughts:


-HOW TO THINK CRITICALLY-

You'd think that coming from a liberal arts undergrad, I would have already mastered this skill. However, this is far from the truth. Though this skill is not new and I am simply applying the skills of critical thinking into educational pedagogy rather than the liberal arts, I've now realized that I can let this mindset permeate into all the other areas of my life. CSE truly advocates for deep thinking and reflection in our classes, in our practice, and in our teaching philosophy.

Throughout this year, I have taken this need to think critically, and applied it to my personal life as well. Yeah... imagine a huge shift in perspective in just about every area of my life, because that's what happened. As teachers, we constantly challenge our students to think about the world in critical ways. But I've also learned to look inward as well. What impact do I have on those around me? Where am I going? What am I looking for? Rather than trying to answer all of these BIG questions, I have been letting them sit, and letting myself rest in that discomfort.


-PUSH THE STUDENTS DEEPER, AND FARTHER-

Don't underestimate your students. Go and tackle the issues or the problems that you don't expect them to understand. Teach the higher level content, and don't restrict yourself to the curriculum expectations of a specific grade. Because believe it or not, your students can absolutely blow you away. I will be expanding on this in my blog posts to follow, but essentially, if we are to teach our next generation, don't teach them the requirements to simply help them move on. Instead, push them so that they can excel and be empowered.


GENERAL CONCLUSIONS

Now that my first year is basically over, I am slightly hesitant to even go back and look at my initial posts on this blog. In a way, I have been documenting my journey, but also documenting my growth. At the end of this year, I have become more introspective, spent more time thinking deeply, and also begun to curate a clearer picture of my teaching vision. Some people may chalk it up to the act of growing up, or adulting, but I also know that the CSE and OISE have both played a major role in my shift in thinking.