Category Archives: Teaching

Accounts of my experiences as an English teacher and developing ideas about this interesting and forever growing field.

A Letter to my First-Year Students

I’ve found myself reflecting a lot about my first year of teaching, my students who I got to know over the year, and the careful alterations in approach and in material that I made each quadmester.  I learned more about myself as a teacher and the needs of the people sitting inside my classroom.  This letter is to you, the 200-ish students I was privileged to meet and work with last year. 

To my Students in my First Year of “Official” teaching,

I call last year my first “official” year of teaching because everyone that you talk to about teaching overseas or in private schools never seems to calculate that experience as “real” teaching.  I have no idea why, as most of the people who say things ask, “when are you going to become a real teacher?” have usually never stepped foot in a classroom or worked in a position of responsibility with “learners.”

Anyway, before the new year unfolds, I just wanted to say thank you for all that you did for me last year.  I was lucky enough to hear a lot of “Thank yous” from many of you at the end of our classes together and I appreciated every one of them. At the same time, I owe you thanks as well.  You made me want to walk in to my classroom each day pushing to be the best teacher I could be.  You pushed me to look carefully at the best strategies that would benefit each of your learning needs.  You required me to reflect on my lessons at the end of each day to discover what I could change for future students to make my approach more effective and engaging.  I am so grateful for that.

You also taught me so much about being on a team.  In our classes, we were on a team together.  Sometimes I stood at the front of the class; sometimes you did.  Sometimes I sat shoulder to shoulder with you as I watched you interact in group discussions; sometimes you sat back and listened to your peers, taking in their perspectives and preparing your own responses.  I truly wanted to make sure everyone on our team was where they wanted to be, and you were truly missed if you were absent.  The team wasn’t complete without each of you.  I will never forget that.

Even more, you opened my eyes up to so many different cultures and life experiences.  I greeted each class with excitement to introduce my lesson and have you take it to your own level and see it through your perspective.  You respectfully shared personal stories and beliefs (and sometimes food!) from amazing places around the globe and you welcomed me to be a part of your life.  Coming back to school as an adult can be daunting, but you took the challenge and made studying part of your already busy life.   I have incredible admiration for that.

For some of you, I got to work with you in more than one term. We got to grow together, both of us learning new things as we went.  You took on the challenges I brought to you, and I accepted the ones that you brought into class with you.  Together, we created a system that worked.  From part-time jobs to family commitments, from health issues to stressful schedules, you did your best.   I respect that.

So, thank you for being my student: thank you for not giving up; thank you for taking risks; and thank you for opening your minds.

Thank you for being MY teacher:  thank you for teaching me not to give up; thank you for teaching me to take risks; and thank you for opening my mind.

I can’t wait to see what this year has in store.

Sincerely,

Your Teacher

 

Student to Teacher Part 2: Entering OISE

With only two weeks left of my program, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the different aspects of my year in Teacher’s College – a program that people gaze upon with MANY different viewpoints.

Remembering back to September, it sometimes feels like a lifetime ago and other times like yesterday.  My cohort, my wonderful SP6 family as it came to be, entered our classes with a sense of curiosity and openness.  I enjoyed the format of the program, where we had a “homeroom” group that shared eight hours a week together with a mix of different subject expertise and life experience.  I found that this brought a surprising amount of richness to our program.  On a weekly basis, we met together in our “Teacher Education Seminar” and in “School & Society.”

In addition to the readings and the discussions, these classes opened my mind with a new way to teaching.  The behind-the-scenes policies and the current and relevant “pedagogy” and “discourse” (words I’ve never heard so much in my life as I did this year) lured me in to the academic side of a world I thought I was familiar with.  Even so, as we laughed through the requests for personal “reflections,” all the work we did was quite relevant to making me a better teacher.  Every class introduced something I hadn’t quite thought about before.  As I studied more closely with my colleagues, I got to know them through the perspective of their experiences and I got to learn a little about my own developing teaching philosophy.

My Curriculum and Instruction classes for English and Drama were also fantastic!  I had incredibly passionate instructors, and their energy was infectious.  I had a good balance between policy, lesson structure, curriculum guidance and practical suggestions for the classroom.  Strategies were often modelled for us so we could truly see what students feel when they are in our classrooms.  Before my first practicum, I often referred back to my teaching experience abroad and in Toronto in discussion about the concepts we were covering.  It made me wonder a few things:

How can someone complete a Bachelor of Education coming straight from their undergraduate degree?  I met some amazing people who were doing just that!  But I wondered what the general assumption was.  Were they too young to be stepping into a teaching setting- often with students only five years younger than them?  Should it be mandatory that you need some real world experience between an undergrad and a B. Ed simply in order to gain new perspectives and consolidate your desire to be a teacher?

The Studious One

Too often I have heard the phrase, ” I didn’t know what to do, so I went to Teacher’s College.”  That phrase makes me cringe.  There are so many fields out there. So many tiny niches of interesting work that perhaps would be better suited for some.  But no, they decided to be teachers because that don’t know or have the courage to explore or that they have been surrounded by teachers for so long that they see it as a good profession.  On the other hand, there are people out there that have known they wanted to be in a classroom from their very first day of school.  Like me, who “played” school with teddy bears and unwilling siblings, perhaps some people jumped into the program straight from undergrad because they had a passion to be a teacher and couldn’t wait to get started.

I still don’t know where I stand on this issue.  My bias is evident, as I was one of those people who jumped on an airplane after my four years of study to go and explore.  I am forever grateful for that experience, and I know I walked into OISE at the beginning of the year with those adventures plastered all over me.  I was happy to share them and basked in the stories of colleagues who had had similar experiences.  We quickly bonded as a cohort and supported each other.  It was a great community to build new relationships with a shared bond in a love for education.  Still, I wondered, how scared were those who had never stepped foot in a classroom before as an instructor?  I still        wonder.  Is there a right and wrong answer?  Probably not.

Finally, after two months of trying to cram in as much as our instructors could to prepare us, we were released for our first Practicum.  Mine, with an ESL department in a downtown Toronto high school.  I couldn’t wait!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Szoki Adams

Student to Teacher Part 1: Packing up my Desk

the hell?
This blog post is getting started much later than I had anticipated. I suppose that’s a direct comment on my life as a returning student – it’s a busy time!  But I did think it was important to think back to the beginning of this adventure so as to connect all the pieces up to now and to be able to have a better insight on what the future may hold.

Thinking back to the end of summer, I remember my final days at English School of Canada.  I walked through the halls, speaking to students and colleagues, and honestly knowing that I was going to truly miss my time there. I had built relationships with so many people, so many students from all over the world had walked through my doors over my eighteen months there.  I learned so much from them- about new cultures, about student motivation for learning, and about my own ability as a teacher.  I am forever grateful for each one of my students who contributed -mostly unknowingly- to confirming that my place is in the classroom.

The good-byes were mixed with sadness, anxiety, and excitement.  I’m a self-proclaimed perfectionist, so I would be the first one to admit that the unknown scares me.  That might sound strange coming from a person who has backpacked through almost ten countries dealing with the unknown every day.  However, I believe that professionally I have a fear of not being good enough, second guessing my decisions, but needing to put on a front that I know exactly what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

On the other hand, of course there was also excitement has September crept closer.  I was excited to be a student again.  I am a geek who loves learning, loves buying new notebooks and pens (even though most people just live off of their tablets and laptops these days).  I love working with experienced instructors and having meaningful discussions about different topics that I feel passionately.

Therefore, leaving a great job was scary because there was the possibility that I wouldn’t like being on the other side of the classroom.  Nonetheless, I had to take the risk.  Something big was calling me and I had to answer it.

Part 2: Entering OISE – Coming soon.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Chris Blakeley

Category Archives: Teaching

Accounts of my experiences as an English teacher and developing ideas about this interesting and forever growing field.

A Letter to my First-Year Students

I’ve found myself reflecting a lot about my first year of teaching, my students who I got to know over the year, and the careful alterations in approach and in material that I made each quadmester.  I learned more about myself as a teacher and the needs of the people sitting inside my classroom.  This letter is to you, the 200-ish students I was privileged to meet and work with last year. 

To my Students in my First Year of “Official” teaching,

I call last year my first “official” year of teaching because everyone that you talk to about teaching overseas or in private schools never seems to calculate that experience as “real” teaching.  I have no idea why, as most of the people who say things ask, “when are you going to become a real teacher?” have usually never stepped foot in a classroom or worked in a position of responsibility with “learners.”

Anyway, before the new year unfolds, I just wanted to say thank you for all that you did for me last year.  I was lucky enough to hear a lot of “Thank yous” from many of you at the end of our classes together and I appreciated every one of them. At the same time, I owe you thanks as well.  You made me want to walk in to my classroom each day pushing to be the best teacher I could be.  You pushed me to look carefully at the best strategies that would benefit each of your learning needs.  You required me to reflect on my lessons at the end of each day to discover what I could change for future students to make my approach more effective and engaging.  I am so grateful for that.

You also taught me so much about being on a team.  In our classes, we were on a team together.  Sometimes I stood at the front of the class; sometimes you did.  Sometimes I sat shoulder to shoulder with you as I watched you interact in group discussions; sometimes you sat back and listened to your peers, taking in their perspectives and preparing your own responses.  I truly wanted to make sure everyone on our team was where they wanted to be, and you were truly missed if you were absent.  The team wasn’t complete without each of you.  I will never forget that.

Even more, you opened my eyes up to so many different cultures and life experiences.  I greeted each class with excitement to introduce my lesson and have you take it to your own level and see it through your perspective.  You respectfully shared personal stories and beliefs (and sometimes food!) from amazing places around the globe and you welcomed me to be a part of your life.  Coming back to school as an adult can be daunting, but you took the challenge and made studying part of your already busy life.   I have incredible admiration for that.

For some of you, I got to work with you in more than one term. We got to grow together, both of us learning new things as we went.  You took on the challenges I brought to you, and I accepted the ones that you brought into class with you.  Together, we created a system that worked.  From part-time jobs to family commitments, from health issues to stressful schedules, you did your best.   I respect that.

So, thank you for being my student: thank you for not giving up; thank you for taking risks; and thank you for opening your minds.

Thank you for being MY teacher:  thank you for teaching me not to give up; thank you for teaching me to take risks; and thank you for opening my mind.

I can’t wait to see what this year has in store.

Sincerely,

Your Teacher

 

Student to Teacher Part 2: Entering OISE

With only two weeks left of my program, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the different aspects of my year in Teacher’s College – a program that people gaze upon with MANY different viewpoints.

Remembering back to September, it sometimes feels like a lifetime ago and other times like yesterday.  My cohort, my wonderful SP6 family as it came to be, entered our classes with a sense of curiosity and openness.  I enjoyed the format of the program, where we had a “homeroom” group that shared eight hours a week together with a mix of different subject expertise and life experience.  I found that this brought a surprising amount of richness to our program.  On a weekly basis, we met together in our “Teacher Education Seminar” and in “School & Society.”

In addition to the readings and the discussions, these classes opened my mind with a new way to teaching.  The behind-the-scenes policies and the current and relevant “pedagogy” and “discourse” (words I’ve never heard so much in my life as I did this year) lured me in to the academic side of a world I thought I was familiar with.  Even so, as we laughed through the requests for personal “reflections,” all the work we did was quite relevant to making me a better teacher.  Every class introduced something I hadn’t quite thought about before.  As I studied more closely with my colleagues, I got to know them through the perspective of their experiences and I got to learn a little about my own developing teaching philosophy.

My Curriculum and Instruction classes for English and Drama were also fantastic!  I had incredibly passionate instructors, and their energy was infectious.  I had a good balance between policy, lesson structure, curriculum guidance and practical suggestions for the classroom.  Strategies were often modelled for us so we could truly see what students feel when they are in our classrooms.  Before my first practicum, I often referred back to my teaching experience abroad and in Toronto in discussion about the concepts we were covering.  It made me wonder a few things:

How can someone complete a Bachelor of Education coming straight from their undergraduate degree?  I met some amazing people who were doing just that!  But I wondered what the general assumption was.  Were they too young to be stepping into a teaching setting- often with students only five years younger than them?  Should it be mandatory that you need some real world experience between an undergrad and a B. Ed simply in order to gain new perspectives and consolidate your desire to be a teacher?

The Studious One

Too often I have heard the phrase, ” I didn’t know what to do, so I went to Teacher’s College.”  That phrase makes me cringe.  There are so many fields out there. So many tiny niches of interesting work that perhaps would be better suited for some.  But no, they decided to be teachers because that don’t know or have the courage to explore or that they have been surrounded by teachers for so long that they see it as a good profession.  On the other hand, there are people out there that have known they wanted to be in a classroom from their very first day of school.  Like me, who “played” school with teddy bears and unwilling siblings, perhaps some people jumped into the program straight from undergrad because they had a passion to be a teacher and couldn’t wait to get started.

I still don’t know where I stand on this issue.  My bias is evident, as I was one of those people who jumped on an airplane after my four years of study to go and explore.  I am forever grateful for that experience, and I know I walked into OISE at the beginning of the year with those adventures plastered all over me.  I was happy to share them and basked in the stories of colleagues who had had similar experiences.  We quickly bonded as a cohort and supported each other.  It was a great community to build new relationships with a shared bond in a love for education.  Still, I wondered, how scared were those who had never stepped foot in a classroom before as an instructor?  I still        wonder.  Is there a right and wrong answer?  Probably not.

Finally, after two months of trying to cram in as much as our instructors could to prepare us, we were released for our first Practicum.  Mine, with an ESL department in a downtown Toronto high school.  I couldn’t wait!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Szoki Adams

Student to Teacher Part 1: Packing up my Desk

the hell?
This blog post is getting started much later than I had anticipated. I suppose that’s a direct comment on my life as a returning student – it’s a busy time!  But I did think it was important to think back to the beginning of this adventure so as to connect all the pieces up to now and to be able to have a better insight on what the future may hold.

Thinking back to the end of summer, I remember my final days at English School of Canada.  I walked through the halls, speaking to students and colleagues, and honestly knowing that I was going to truly miss my time there. I had built relationships with so many people, so many students from all over the world had walked through my doors over my eighteen months there.  I learned so much from them- about new cultures, about student motivation for learning, and about my own ability as a teacher.  I am forever grateful for each one of my students who contributed -mostly unknowingly- to confirming that my place is in the classroom.

The good-byes were mixed with sadness, anxiety, and excitement.  I’m a self-proclaimed perfectionist, so I would be the first one to admit that the unknown scares me.  That might sound strange coming from a person who has backpacked through almost ten countries dealing with the unknown every day.  However, I believe that professionally I have a fear of not being good enough, second guessing my decisions, but needing to put on a front that I know exactly what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

On the other hand, of course there was also excitement has September crept closer.  I was excited to be a student again.  I am a geek who loves learning, loves buying new notebooks and pens (even though most people just live off of their tablets and laptops these days).  I love working with experienced instructors and having meaningful discussions about different topics that I feel passionately.

Therefore, leaving a great job was scary because there was the possibility that I wouldn’t like being on the other side of the classroom.  Nonetheless, I had to take the risk.  Something big was calling me and I had to answer it.

Part 2: Entering OISE – Coming soon.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Chris Blakeley

Awards

Kristin’s Backpack won 1st Prize for TESL Ontario’s 2011 ESL Week Blog Contest.
About Me


Welcome to Kristin’s Backpack! I jumped on the blogging bandwagon in 2010 to share my Canadian-theatrical-backpacking perspective on my world adventures. With my return to Canada, I will continue to dig into my pockets and reflect on life as it has come to involve Teaching, Travel, and Theatre. Time to unzip the pockets!
Portfolios
Check out my past and current work here: 

Kristin's Library
Looking for some interesting reading material? Check out my Reading Picks and Bookworm post for some ideas! 

               
This is what summer is all about- finished a book yesterday and am on to the next today.  I just opened The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, which has been on my shelf for ages.  I have been extremely interested in reading accounts that stem from true stories in a dark history that is often swept to the side.  
At the same time, I have been listening to The Maze Runner series as an audio book and have been extremely captivated by the young characters’ circumstances and their view on the world.  
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