In ECS 100, I had the opportunity to observe a grade one classroom at W.S. Hawrylak School every Wednesday morning for eight weeks. I was very fortunate to be placed with Mrs. Holmes, who is a hard-working and selfless educator that loves her students unconditionally. Her dedication and heart for teaching became apparent to me within the first couple weeks of my field placement. She became a role model for me, as I hope that one day I will be able to demonstrate that amount of genuine love and care for my own students. Although I am studying to be a high school teacher, my field placement was an incredibly eye-opening and beneficial learning experience for me. Throughout my field placement, I learned the grave importance of forming connections within the classroom and how to accommodate the needs of diverse students.
The following are excerpts from the weekly reflections I completed outlining my experiences in the field.
“While I had the opportunity to talk with many of the students, I also realized that connection does not always require conversation. One student in the class had just recently moved here from China, and does not speak any English. When we were playing outside during gym class, I began to play football with her. We passed the ball back and forth for a while, and then I told her I was going to do a super big throw; I overexaggerated my movements to indicate I was trying hard to throw the ball high in the air. She caught the ball and we both began to laugh. She then threw the ball back to me, also with a huge throw. We continued to play and laugh together until we had to go back inside. It was an unforgettable morning and, even though I was so exhausted that I had to take a nap in my car between classes that afternoon, I cannot wait to do it again next week.”
“I worked with a group of three students on printing and sounding out letters. It was a bit of a challenge at first because of the varying skill levels among the students; two of the students needed help to print the letters correctly, while the third student completed the activity easily and quickly became bored. So, I had the student write out words that contained the letter we were working on until the other two students were done. This was an amazing experience for me because I know I will need to accommodate different skill levels every day as a teacher!”
“Before class started this week, we had the opportunity to talk with Ms. Holmes about some of the diverse struggles students face. She shared with us that one student’s parents are currently going through a difficult divorce and how she has taught a student in the past who was a victim of abuse. While this was not an easy discussion to partake in, it is vital to remember that many children are dealing with very real and serious issues outside of school, even at the age of six years old. This is one form of diversity that is not visible and, therefore, is often overlooked. It is so important to personally get to know your students; if you know their situation you are able to understand why they may act in certain ways and what activities may or may not be appropriate for them.”
“I had an incredible opportunity this week in which I got to experience the beauty of diversity first-hand. During numeracy, Ms. Holmes asked me if I would work in the hallway with two students who needed some practice counting and using blocks to represent numbers in different ways. I was working with a girl who just moved here from China and does not speak English and a boy who is on the autism spectrum. I expected this to be a big challenge, but it ended up being the most amazing experience of my field placement thus far.
I was so impressed with how far the female student’s English has come. After some counting practice, I asked her if she could make a house with the blocks. Her face light up, which I knew meant she understood me. When I looked over at the male student, I noticed he was counting all of the blocks; he ended up counting to one hundred and eleven all by himself. Afterwards, the female student made a girl out of the blocks. I asked if the girl was her and she smiled and giggled. Then, I asked her if she could count all the blue blocks. I did not expect her to understand me, but she did! She counted them perfectly. Then, she said, ‘Orange!’ and started counting all the orange blocks. I was so incredibly impressed and proud of how hard she must have been working these past few weeks.
When I turned back to the male student, I noticed he had arranged some blocks into a rectangle. I asked him what he made, and he replied ‘Four times five twenty!’ My jaw dropped. The rectangle he made had the dimensions 4×5, for a total of 20 blocks. In hopes of challenging him, I then asked, ‘What is five times eleven?’ He went back to arranging the blocks. It was less than a minute before I heard him saying, ‘Fifty-five!’ In shock, I said to the little boy, ‘Can you tell me what twenty divided by ten is?’ Now, I did not expect him to even know what the word divided meant. But to my disbelief, he took twenty blocks and started organizing them into groups of two. I will never forget this day. These two students are only in grade one, but I have no doubt in my mind they are going to do amazing things with their lives.”
“Overall, I believe technology improves the student’s learning experience and understanding. This week, Ms. Holmes used the Smart Board to show the students a video about counting by 5’s. The students thought the video was hilarious. They were laughing so hard; I could not help but laugh along with them. However, they were practicing their counting skills at the same time. This is an example of how technology can really enhance learning for students, as I believe that video will definitely stick with them and help them remember how to count by 5’s.”
“I learned so much about celebrating diversity, creating connections within a classroom, and accommodating students with various needs. I was able to learn about myself as well, as I further developed my personal educational philosophy through my observations and interactions with students. Through this, I was also able to develop new goals for myself as a future teacher, and my priorities as an educator have been forever changed. Most of all, I had the opportunity to discover how amazingly talented, funny, and loving students are when you take the time to truly listen and get to know them. Although I hope to become a high school educator, working in a grade one classroom was an exciting and fulfilling experience. The lessons I learned about diversity and accommodation within the classroom are relevant to every grade level. I did not only learn lessons about teaching, but I learnt lessons about life, and that was the most beautiful part of it all.”
On the last day of my field placement, I received a thank you card that was signed by each student, and they all ran to line up so they could give me a hug before I left. This was a shining example that proved to me the value of connection within the classroom. I will never forget this experience, and I am definitely going to miss these kids.