The teacher I was shadowing had a prep period first thing so he used that time to give me a tour of the school and all that it had to offer. I was shown the computer labs and technology centres, the gymnasiums, the body break room, and numerous specialty classrooms for children with special needs, ESL, French Immersion and so on. The amount that this school was able to offer its students was remarkable. We also met with the SERT who gave us a rundown on the schools policies and procedures for students who require more assistance for a wide variety of reasons.
After my tour was math class (not exactly my strongest subject). The teacher handed out a work sheet on factors to see where students were at in their abilities and understanding of this concept (assessment for learning). At this time I took the opportunity to wander around the class and offer assistance where I could, however I will admit that every time a student raised their hand for help I thought to myself “please let me know the answer, please, please, please!” and surprisingly enough I did! It didn’t take me long to establish which students were struggling and required more attention and I made an effort to wander by their desks more frequently.
During the nutrition break my teacher informed me of the back stories to some of his students. I was impressed by how much he knew about each of his students even though he had only been working with them for a short amount of time. I was even more impressed by how he took their backgrounds into consideration for assessment and teaching strategies. He was really able to demonstrate how much he not only understood the needs of each of his students, but how he planned on using that information to help them succeed.
The day continued this way, with me trying to absorb as much information as I could, until I was presented with a student who decided that she no longer wanted to work on her assignment. She was one of the students that the teacher had informed me about earlier (her home life was far less than ideal to say the least). I found myself presented with two choices. I could either pressure her to do her work and suggest that it wasn’t an option, or I could be empathetic and encourage her to do her work, but let it be her choice. I decided that that as a 12 or 13 year old you weren’t given many options (and with her backstory she probably had even less) so I went with the latter option. I said that she didn’t have to start writing, but that maybe she could jot down just a few ideas, and I left it at that. I didn’t know if I had made the right call at the time, but I was quickly rewarded, because not five minutes later the student approached me and asked if she could run a few ideas by me. I listened to her ideas and after a few minutes she was writing out the assignment. Every so often she would pause and ask “now what do I do?” and I would answer that question with one of my own like “what did the monster look like” (they were writing scary stories), or “who went looking for it”, or it could have been as simple as “I don’t know, why don’t you tell me wat happens next?”. I used these simple questions along with a few beginnings of ideas as starting points and watched her run with them. In ten minutes of working together she had her ideas down and two pages written of an assignment that twenty minutes earlier she had decided that she didn’t want to do. When she looked at what she had accomplished she smiled at me and said “I actually feel kind of smart!” it was in that moment that I knew I was where I was supposed to be.
While working with this student was an extremely positive experience for me it also lead me to a question that I imagine most teachers have considered at some point in their career. I wondered how do you find a balance to work with students who would obviously benefit from one-on-one support without neglecting other students who also require attention and assistance? Nevertheless, I had an amazing first day and look forward to strengthening my relationships with the students and teachers at Henry Monroe Middle School.