Stories from the Field

February 4, 2020:

On Tuesday morning me and Keisha had the pleasure of attending the Prairie Sky School which is located over by the airport. When we first arrived, I couldn’t help but notice all the children were having a morning recess and some of them were keeping warm in a tipi that is built in the school yard. It has a fire pit in the middle of it, so it can keep cold students warm! We were then introduced to our cooperating teacher who is named Vanessa and she was so incredibly nice and welcoming. She runs her class with authority, but she also has a close personal relationship between each student in her grade 7/8 split class. One easy way to describe it is that she seems to be more of a friend to each of her students versus them looking at her as the woman in charge. 

When we first got to the school, I first noticed that this school had a very different layout then most elementary schools that I have been exposed to. In most schools, there is many classrooms that are all separated and have their own uses. This school that we attended was far different in the sense that it is very open concept. You can almost hear everyone else in the school because a lot of the classrooms are connected in some way. For example, I noticed that the younger grades actually had noise cancelling headphones in order to block out other sounds while they are reading. I also noticed that there was many drawings, pictures and other art pieces that were hung up all over the school. This was to show that this school is very much based on hands on work and dealing with real life experiences when they are doing their school work. It was very interesting and a very fresh approach to education!

I also noticed that the way this school approaches assignments and things like that is also very different from other schools. I’m not sure what it is like for the other grades in that school, but in Vanessa’s grade 7/8 class she made great use of the technology available to her. For example, when we started with Math, the students were to go on to their separate computers and work on their separate math outcomes in whichever order they wanted. Whenever the students had a question they would just ask Vanessa, Keisha or myself for help. They also made great use of their computers when they did the “Virtual Tour of Anne Frank’s Secret Annex”. With this program they could personally go through the entire space and watch videos and read stories about each of the areas. I even found myself learning a lot about this subject while we were doing this activity. To conclude, my first experience at Prairie Sky School was fantastic and I look forward to the next couple of weeks that I will be going there!

February 11, 2020:

Tuesday February 11 was my second opportunity to go out into the field. Our class this time around was quite similar as my first time in the field with some slight differences. We started off our days very much the same with a meditation session and some light stretching. We then worked on the student’s protest posters which are all based on an exhibit from the Mackenzie Art Gallery which they visited the week before. We then went out for an extended recess period. When we returned we moved right into the music room and the students were to create their own songs with a xylophone. This was super fun to me because I haven’t been in a music class since I was in grade 5 and it was just a super fun experience! To finish off the morning the students got out their computers and worked on their separate math curriculums!

A few things I will mention in regards to the focus questions for the week is how great Vanessa is as a teacher. She shows us that she is able to bring out the student’s different ways of knowing. I seen this in week 2 when it came to how the students did their math. Many of the students brought out their computers to do their work but a few of the students don’t like working on a computer in math. the students were given an option to do their work out of a textbook which is honestly something I prefer to do when it comes to math. One other fun activity that Prairie Sky School does every February is a sort of “community week” which just so happens to be this week. The teachers get their students to go out on a scavenger hunt in their local community and they also do a sort of meet and greet. During this activity, students would go into the nearby stores and restaurants and introduce themselves. This gives the students a sense of what their community is like and it teaches the kids social skills with people other than those in their school.

Lastly, I want to mention how great Vanessa is with kids. She forms a special relationship/bond with each student and takes interest in their interests. Like I stated in my previous week’s upload, she almost seems like she is a friend to all the students first and a teacher second. Vanessa also expands her knowledge in education by exploring topics in which she may not be familiar with. She takes the chance to learn something new and to grow as both a person and as an educator. In conclusion, my second week at Prairie Sky was another unbelievable experience and I can wait to get back over there after the break!

February 25, 2020:

My third week at Prairie Sky School was such a fantastic experience because I got to experience something new and fun for myself! First off, we began the day as we have every other day with 5 minutes of silent meditation to get everyone in the right mindset for the day. The students then brought out their computers to work on their math. This was really fun for me because we were touching on the topic of statistics and probability which is a type of math that I am really good at. To finish out the morning, we packed everyone inside of the school’s big 15 passenger van and went to the Regina Climbing Centre. This was part of the school’s gym curriculum and it is something that I have never done before. The kids seemed to really enjoy it and so did I!

As for the students in my class, I will first say that they are all fantastic. They are a ton of fun to be around and they have been very kind and open to Keisha and myself while we are in their classroom. Each student is unique and they have different interests. I also noticed that some of these students learn in different ways. For example, in the math portion of the week, I helped a few students out but in different ways. One student I helped preferred that I explained things with numbers, the way I was always taught when was in school. There was another student that preferred that I walked the question through using a real-life example. I wish someone would have helped me this way when I was in school because ei also find that way a lot easier to learn.

As for the classroom space, it was very friendly and non-hostile. Everyone is friends with everyone it seems like and everyone gets along very well. Even with the teachers in the school, it seems like they are friends first but a teacher second. In saying that the students do still recognize the teacher’s authority. One last thing I will note is that when the students went out for recess, everyone seemed to be paying together regardless of their age. All the students knew each other’s names and did numerous things together such as the older kids pulling the younger kids on a toboggan or helping the young kids with their water art on the side of a concrete wall. It was super inspiring, and I really hope that the future school that I work at has the same type of energy and enthusiasm that this school has!

March 3, 2020

My fourth week at Prairie Sky School was another day full of fun and learning new things! We started the day with something new instead of our usual meditation session. We went around the circle and everyone shared a little story about their weekend. It was a nice time for everyone to get all their rigorous chats out early and it is a super easy way for everyone to connect. We then had a “Free Write” session. This is where the teacher will quickly write a wordier topic up on the board, then the students are given exactly ten minutes to write whatever they want on the topic. This was to get the kids warmed up for the day and start using their brains in a specific way. We then moved on to story writing for a few minutes. Each student has been given two characters and two action quotes by our placement teacher. Other than that, it was all up to the students to write whatever story they wish. This was such a cool idea that I have never used or experienced before, and it is for sure something I will use in the future. To end off the morning we went back to the rock climbing centre just like we did last week!

In Prairie Sky School, from what I have noticed, is a very diverse school and is welcome to everyone no matter who you are. Each student is unique in their own way, whether it be from their culture to the way they learn. This school accommodates to every student. For example, when the students are working on their short stories, the more advanced students got harder action quotes and character ideas compared to others. Kids that tend to struggle with story making, myself included, received easier action quotes and character arks so they can work on their own skills and not compare themselves to others. There are also many pieces of art that were made by students all around the school that are all related to diversity. For example, I saw a dream catcher that one of the Aboriginal students at the school created in art class. Finally, I wanted to mention the Tipi that is outside and some of the other Aboriginal activities that take place at this school. The Tipi that is outside was actually put up by a few elders from a nearby reservation in order to spread awareness of their cultural norms. Also, the school has put on certain events such as round dances and things like that in order to spread cultural awareness to different communities! 

March 10, 2020:

Week 5 at Prairie Sky was just as eventful as every other week I have been there. It’s honestly amazing to me how different each week is in terms of content and what my placement teacher has in store for the day. We first started off with a session of stretching instead of meditation. We did this in order to get ourselves warmed up and loose and ready for the day. This was also a very fun day for me because I got to teach a math lesson all by myself! The students were moving on to a statistics and probability section of their math and that is a section that I happen to be very good in. My lesson was mainly focused on probabilities on dice rolls. We then moved onto something that I have never experienced which was a typing activity. In this school’s grade 7/8 curriculum lies a section for typing. The kids are just tasked with typing out a specific paragraph in a certain amount of time. It was very interesting! We then moved right onto free write where the kids were tasked to write everything they can related to the word “green”. It was very interesting to see what the kids actually came up with. To round out the morning the students were to work on their essays that they were writing about certain events in World War II and it was interesting to see which events they all decided to write about.

As for diversity in the classroom, I believe that this school does have some diverse aspects, but it is also lacking in some aspects. I went ahead and asked some of the teachers some questions related to this topic. The younger classrooms such as kindergartens has a few books related to diversity in the sense of these books having characters of other cultures as well as same sex parents. In the grades 1-5 they didn’t really have much related on these topics. One thing I did notice though was that there were posters that the kids made that described who they currently are and what they want to be someday. This was very good because it gives the kids a chance to express themselves freely and in a safe space. As for my grade 7/8 classroom I didn’t notice any immediate resources pertaining to diversity. However, the students did get to do a similar assignment as the posters I mentioned earlier. They were tasked with writing a short paper talking about the who they are and what they plan to be someday. One other thing I wanted to mention was the posters the students were able to put up that relate to rising issues in the world. For example, one poster that I seen was related to women’s rights as well as Indigenous rights. This was a very fun week and I look forward to what is planned for next week!

Obviously, our final weeks of our placement were cut short. It really sucks that we couldn’t do our last few weeks but that’s just how things are sometime. My time in the field was so awesome and mind blowing, I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything! I really look forward to the next chance I get to go out into the field!

“A good teacher is like a candle, it consumes itself in order to light the way for others” Anonymous