End of Year Q&A: Meaghan

Three favourite things from this year (because one is not enough!):

1) The first week of my contract back in October when for the first time I had the thought “Ohhhh I DO know what I’m doing!” Somewhere between the crazy planning over Thanksgiving weekend and the end of the first week with my students I had that realization that I would make it through and it was a great feeling!
2) Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and making new professional connections and friends. I am shy – very shy sometimes… So every conversation and connection I’ve made this year has made me so proud!
3) Finding that balance between teacher and friend with my students and building relationships with each and every one of my incredible students. I’m going to miss them so much – I am so thankful for the best first class ever!

Worst moment from this year:

I’m going to combine a whole bunch of moments into one for this… The STRESS of not knowing if I’ll be working or not! Holy was that a steep learning curve for this girl! It took a lot of deep breathing, running and distractions to learn to be okay with the on-call thing. The first few months had me feeling as if I was pitted against my friends for my paychecks. I remember Karley and I both saying sorry over similar matters (i.e. “Sorry I went to YOUR school to hand out my cards”) and we both ended up laughing about it. In the long run, we get enough work and days off should feel sacred because come May and June I don’t think I had a second to breathe between all my shifts!

A mantra I continually used this year:

You are a teacher. You are meant to be here. There were so many times this year where I felt unsure of what I was doing or way too young to be a teacher (I could fill a whole blog with this “too young” perception I have of myself) . It took me a while to find my voice in conversations with other staff and to make decisions about what I thought was important or not in regards to my teaching and students. Reminding myself that there is a reason I am where I am was so helpful. I know I am a teacher in my heart and soul – it just takes a little reminder here and there 🙂

Something I wish I’d known last year at this time:

Man, Karley’s tip is pretty much right on the nose for me as well… I’ll add something else though! Please keep in mind that this time last year I was in a really bad place (think anxiety, unstable home environment, loss of a few people close to me, and just overwhelmed in general).

If I could go back and tell myself anything it would be that I will be genuinely happy at this time next year. That all of the hard times will help me to grow stronger and become more of who I am. And I would remind myself that it all happens for a reason because I truly believe it does even though we can’t always see the reasons until later on.

I cannot believe it has already been a year since we graduated!

I cannot believe it has already been a year since we graduated!

Going into my second year I plan to do _____ differently.

One word – assessment! I am still learning so much about assessment: what works, what doesn’t, how to organize everything, and on and on and on… I will take any and all tips and tricks you can send this way but I need to be more efficient and organized.

What I’m going to do during my first official summer as a teacher:

I will be doing a French course in July, running a leadership course for the first two weeks of August, and then taking some time off to enjoy my lovely new neighbourhood! Also starting my half-marathon training this week and playing some softball and volleyball. And my book list has grown unbelievably long this year so I have a good chunk of reading to do – stay tuned for the book reviews!

Plus I got a lovely bookstore gift card today... Uh oh!

Plus I got a lovely bookstore gift card today… Uh oh!

Meaghan

My June Survival Guide

So this has been my first year teaching in the month of June. And I think I’ve learned more about teaching in June than anything else this year! (Well that might be a bit of an exaggeration… But still!)

So many “wish I’d known that” moments… Here is my advice to myself for teaching in June

1. NO PROJECTS! Don’t assign projects due in the middle of June. The kids don’t want to do them and I sure don’t want to mark them while I’m trying to do report cards.

2. KEEP IT SIMPLE… I thought they talked too much in class the rest of the year? Just wait! June is the cant sit down, can’t stop talking, can’t pay attention month of all months! I am learning to keep my instructions short and virtually fool proof the closer we came to the end of the year.

3. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. No matter how much I am in love with my job by June I am tired! Soooo tired! Don’t plan to do huge, elaborate, takeshourstoplan lessons or activities! And please just try to get enough sleep because it will never feel like enough!

4. PLAY GAMES! I will never be more thankful for my 8 years of summer camp experience than I am in June. Games, games, games… My saving grace!

Field Games

Field Games

5. KNOW THAT TIME WILL NOT BE ON YOUR SIDE… Between all of the talking, the yelling, the assemblies, the field trips, and the craziness that June brings – I will never have the class time I think I have! Don’t plan too much and don’t stress when it doesn’t all get done… It’s June!

6. YOU’RE IN THIS TOGETHER. Remember that the kids feel done and so do I… I think reminding each other of this fact is helpful in remaining respectful to each other and somewhat productive.

7. IT’S FOR THE KIDS! In the end, those kids come first and matter the most. Soak up every last minute with those beautiful souls! Have those meaningful conversations and take time with each and every student!

So I had a lot to learn this June… But guess what? I survived! And although it was truly crazy and frustrating and joyful and stress-inducing… It was totally worth it! I’m so glad to have those last few weeks with my students and have the time to spend without worrying as much about the curriculum or marking or assessment.

In June, I got to enjoy playing games and chatting. I got to shake their hands as they graduated from middle school. I was able to reflect on those little things that matter the most. I built better relationships with my students. In June, I learned a lot as a teacher and a person… and in the end I had a great time!

Being new in the district I am unsure about job prospects for next year but it worked out so well this year that, although I’m a little anxious, I am mainly just excited to see what is up next!

Can you add to my list of things to remember in June?

How was your last month of school?

Meaghan

I’ll do it tomorrow…

Procrastination… Sigh. One of my biggest obstacles/challenges/learning curves/etc. this year! I absolutely love planning and prepping for my classes. I get so excited everytime I come up with a new project or lesson idea and I can work for hours of my free time on it. But marking? That’s another story! And report card writing? Don’t even ask!

So, because I’m always the one saying I’ll do it tomorrow, I tried to come up with some ways to avoid the crunch time marking, mark entry and report card writing that I struggled with in my practicum. My goal this year was to only assign work that I’m interested in marking, in hopes that I would actually be inclined to do the marking!

And for the most part – it worked! I really loved reading my students worked. I adored their completed projects (like our French Storybooks!) I was enthralled by their creativity – their ability to turn a simple assignment into a work of art or something truly personal and meaningful.

But I still had that pile of marking sitting on my desk more often than not…

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And I still had to hand back that assignment a couple weeks after spring break that no one remembered doing…

And I still had a student ask when I was going to hand something back that I had promised to hand back… errrr gulp… over a week ago!

This year I even had two different students write (respectful) persuasive essays about why teachers should have due dates too (they swore they didn’t write about me but the cards aren’t stacked in my favor on that one 😉 )

Although I feel that I’ve improved leaps and bounds over last year (re: not marking on my precious weekends!) I still have a long way to go on this one! I only had 2 subjects too teach this year… a full course load might send me off the deep end!

I want… No- I NEED your help!

How do you stay on top of your marking?

Do you mark all of your students’ work or choose key bits and pieces?

Any other tips for new teachers like me?

As always, your help and advice is loved and appreciated!

Meaghan

La Maison Francaise…

The last day of school for teachers in Victoria is on Friday, June 28th; however, after a quick Canada Day long weekend I will be back to packing lunches and heading to the classroom…but this time as a student.  That’s right, people, I am going to school for my summer break! (Don’t feel too bad for me, I get a dreamy two week vacation in August).  The kind of “school” I am going to is called La Maison Francaise (we call it LMF), a multi-level French immersion program meant for teachers and other people who wish to improve their French language skills.  I am absolutely terrified.  You see, my friends:

I had to ask my French immersion husband for the correct spelling...and then he had me check it on Google translate.

I had to ask my French immersion husband for the correct spelling…and then he had me check it on Google translate.

My second language is German.  I’m not fluent by any means, but I definitely know my “stuff”.  I started learning German from my Berlin-born-and-raised Grandma when I was little.  My first sentence auf Deutsch was “Hast du deine Zahne geputzt” (Have you brushed your teeth?)  I “studied” French from grade 5 through 7.  In grade 7 I volunteered to present my French pizza making project before anyone else and my French teacher’s reaction to my presentation was: “Well, you didn’t do the project correctly, but I appreciate you volunteering to go first!”  That’s when I decided the French language just was not my thing.  I stuck with German all through high school and excelled.  I was probably a pain in the neck for my poor Frau (my German teacher) because any work she gave me was just way too easy.  I went on exchange to Germany when I was in grade 11 and met some fantastic Germans (still friends with these people today!) and that’s when my German really came to life.  I started dreaming in German, thinking to myself in German, talking to myself in German…I began to understand every single word because I was entirely  immersed in the language.

Here I am, at 16, in front of the Brandenbuerger Tor in Berlin.  Can we please talk about how amazing that puffy white Old Navy jacket is?!

Here I am, at 16, in front of the Brandenbuerger Tor in Berlin. Can we please talk about how amazing that puffy white Old Navy jacket is?!

I was on exchange in Germany for almost a full semester, but I still had to write my final German exam when I came back to Canada.  I hadn’t done any of the course work while being away, but I passed the exam with a score of 96%.  My immersion in the German language in every sense had totally boosted my knowledge, vocabulary and grammar.  This isn’t to say it was a walk in the park for me; there were days when I refused to go to school in Germany because it was just too overwhelming.  I also may have cried myself to sleep (in German) a few nights during those three months.
Reunited with my amazing and loving German host-family in 2009, five years after my exchange.  We are still in constant contact today - in fact, Tina and I saw each other THREE times last year!

Reunited with my amazing and loving German host-family in 2009, five years after my exchange. We are still in constant contact today – in fact, Tina and I saw each other THREE times last year!

I went on to study German a tiny bit in college and I’ve been back to the Motherland several times to visit family and friends, but no experience will ever compare to my initial immersion in the language.  I guess what I am trying to say is that I have huge expectations for LMF this summer!!!  I suspect I will be in the first or second level of the program (I will find out after completing a placement test on the first day of class).  I know LMF will be life (and language) changing for me.  It was a shock to my German brain when I discovered that my German is essentially useless here in Victoria.  Our school system demands French, so in order to increase my job prospects for next year I have decided to make peace with French, put my German on the shelf for a while, and fully immerse myself into the language of love.  *Stay tuned for further rants…coming to a blog near you around July 3rd (when I know I will be frustrated to tears already!)
PS – the ONLY thing that will be saving my sanity this summer during LMF is the fact that Meaghan will be doing the program right alongside me.  We foresee many coffee/blog/French homework days in the weeks to come.
Karley

 

Learning in the Last Weeks

Whew! I can’t believe how close I am to the end of my first year of teaching!

Things have been pretty crazy these past couple of weeks from behaviours to finishing projects to marking and report cards! There has been so much to do and often the stress of it all has made me feel less like myself and more like a drill sergeant. Some afternoons it’s all I can do to keep them relatively on task for about 50% of the time…

But then they produce projects that still blow me away! Like  our “French Storybooks” we just finished this past week.

Le Monstre Sous Mon Lit

Le Monstre Sous Mon Lit

We have been working on writing, editing, and illustrating these books in class for about 3 weeks now and the last ones were handed in on Monday. Then, on Tuesday afternoon, we walked down to a nearby elementary school to share our books with a French Immersion Kindergarten class. This is the second time I’ve done Kindergarten French buddies with a middle school FSL group and I really love it each time! This visit was especially cool because the kids were so excited to share their books that they had worked so hard on.

Students reading together

Students reading together

One of my favourite parts of this day is watching how the older kids react to being around the little ones. There are some that light up just as you expected – the ones who are caring and nurturing on a daily basis. I like seeing them in their element looking after a little buddy but the students that I really love to watch are the ones who are disruptive in class or often being disciplined for their words or actions. Sometimes these kids are the ones who connect the most with their little buddy. Seeing one of my most difficult students reading with his buddy and then being a positive role model for the rest of the afternoon just melted my heart!

Each student read their story to two or three little buddies and then we went outside to play a game together. It was a great experience for my students to be in a French Immersion environment and see that they know more French than they think they do! When we were playing a counting game outside (similar to “Je passe”) it was so fun to watch my students interacting with the little ones and trying to be good role models.

After school I drove home with the biggest smile on my face because even on these long (and boy can they be long!) June days of school, I still am able to find such complete happiness in my job. My only wish is that I would have done more buddy days this year – we all had such a good time!

I hope you have some wonderful end of the year stories in your classroom! Please share them with us 🙂

Meaghan

Book Tale: Indian Horse

Back in December, I read “Indian Horse” by Richard Wagamese. It is honestly one of the best books I have ever read and I have recommended it to so many people since I read it – by recommend it I mean that I put it in their hands and said “Read this! We will discuss it in a few weeks, no excuses.” It is so beautifully written and I think it should be a mandatory read here in Canada. It tells the story of Saul Indian Horse as he recounts his journey through life as a northern Ojibway. There is joy and laughter in the book but it also shows the depth of grief and hurt like no other book I have read. It was eye-opening and it has really changed my perception on a lot of things. So now I’m telling all of you – Read this! We will discuss it in a few weeks, no excuses.

Indian Horse

Meaghan