I would like to start by thanking everyone who made my practicum a great learning experience about not only the profession of teaching, but of myself. My mentor teacher, supervisor, UVic staff and friends, my family, and each of my grade 10 and 12 students all set me up for success. Thank you all!! This success though, I don’t think I saw in myself.

Looking back over these last couple months I can now see and try to understand the stress I perceived that I was in. I guess it all started when I found out I had been accepted into the University of Victoria. I had never lived anywhere but my family home in Westbank, BC and am quite a home body. Moving away from my family and friends was terrifying, but I knew Victoria had amazing opportunities for me.

I like to believe I have always been a strong person. When stress comes my way I always try to look at the positive side of things. Often, though, this leaves me pretending to be ok. For a while life at UVic was going alright, I could see a light at the end of the tunnel and worked hard to get there.  I believe it was going well because I know how to go to school. I have been going to class, and doing assignments and tests for the last 19 years.

The practicum, on the other hand, I have never done anything like. It was similar, but like having 6 hours of assignments everyday while also going to / delivering class for another 6 hours with more than 60 people expecting to learn something out of it. Weekends weren’t any better (although I could do most work from my bed!).

We have been told that after a few years teaching gets easier as you get better, but I didn’t want to float by for 5 years to find myself lost at the end of it. I realized the third monday into my practicum that this way of living was very unhealthy for me at this time. I went through the course of the week mulling over large scale questions such as “do I want to be here?” On that Friday morning I decided that I was not going to do this practicum half ass. I hated to see myself losing care for the students, and caring more about that last day.

I also had a tough time with having to grade students and dealing with classroom management. Most of the frustration has to do with the ways schools are run. I don’t believe in forced learning at specific times with specific people. Learning is something we as humans do all the time and find reward in. Even though we may rarely have to factor polymonials in “the real world,” knowing how to do it correctly is actually kind of fun. But, expecting all people in grade 11 to learn how to do it from one person they may or may not like with 29 other people with varying needs is unrealistic.

I would love to see a school offering education to people aged 5-18 where there is at least 1 teacher to every 10 students. These students would be required to be at school for 6 hours a day between the hours of 9 am to 5 pm, for 4 days a week. The students would learn broad concepts while choosing their own specific routes, and learning from whichever teacher (or outside source) they choose. Students and teachers would work together to make unit plans and lesson plans. This takes a load off of the teacher and gives students responsibility for their own learning. There would be group meetings every other afternoon where every student had an opportunity to share what they have recently learned. This school would preach community, personal responsibility, and love for learning.

Ok, ok…so I’m tired, I’m frustrated, and I’ve withdrawn from my practicum. What now? I want to hang out with my Nana whenever I want. I want to crochet everyday. I want to make some money so that I’m no longer a broke student. I want to spend time with my boyfriend, friends, sister, brother… And on top of all that I want to live life! As said before I have been going to school for 19 years straight!!!! I want to make some bad decisions in a different country, and I want to meet people who are so unlike myself that it makes me question existence. You’re probably thinking “Rachel, you can still do all of those things while in school and as a teacher,” and you are right. I need to get better at having a work life and a home life that are equally strong and balanced.

I am going to take the next few months to do these kinds of fun things, while also brick by brick building my own knowledge around education. I have accepted a summer job in which I will be planning and helping with youth programs at a horticulture centre. I am very excited to be teaching young people about the life growing around them and what they can do to help it out. This kind of alternative learning will hopefully get my passion of learning and teaching back on track. I am also planning on taking a couple courses in the fall that are pre-requisites to get into a masters of counselling psychology. I am hoping these classes will give me a different and deeper insight into teaching so that when I do my practicum again the the spring of 2017 I will have more strength to complete it. I am already very confident that my next practicum will go better than the one I had to withdraw from. I have learned from that experience and will continue learning throughout this year in order to make my next attempt a success. I hope to find a placement for this next practicum in an alternative school hopefully close to the one I described above, as I feel that is a place my resources can be best used.

Music is one of the things I lean on when I need a space to think and reflect. I can always find myself in the lyrics of Beck…

“The least I had to lose from
Is the most I seem to care
Anything should make you happy
Nothing could make you scared”



Keep Going

Keep Going

Every week has its ups and downs. This week was Kingda Ka on steroids. The ups were amazing and surreal. I have never been “in control” of people’s fate and intelligence before. Seeing a students face when they “got” a concept I was showing them was one of my biggest accomplishments. On the other side of that, seeing confused faces as I try my hardest to explain something was earth shattering. My work ethic, too, was a double-edged sword. I have never worked this hard for something in my life, and I’m very proud of myself; work like this is exhausting, yet extremely rewarding!

Throughout my schooling, learning has taken time, so it is has been hard to notice new intelligence. With this experience I see myself learning every minute. I think about how everything I say or do could be better. I began this week pretending to be confident. This showed in the overuse of “ums” and “likes” in lessons. I soon learned that patience would be key to fixing this error. I needed to be patient with my words so that they came out meaningful. I needed to be patient with my time so that students had a chance to respond or be attentive. I needed to be patient with my actions so that my writing would be clear and concise. And I needed to be patient with the material at hand until students were comfortable. All of these things I believe I can still work on, but it’s amazing seeing my confidence grow through just slowing down a little bit and noticing the things that are happening around me.

Things I was impartial to are now meaningful. I realized that I absolutely hate writing on the board. I took this and started making more slides (I’ve always loved making slides). This cleared the air about my messy writing as well as my facing the board while I write. Although there is still a lot I have to write down on the board, not having to do it all the time has helped my nerves and therefore my confidence. I also realized that I love marking. In each of my classes I have my students do an exit ticket where they answer a question based on the content we learned in class, as well as a question about what they enjoyed and what they found confusing with the class. I love reading through the responses as it helps me see what students have taken from the class not only from the content, but from my modes of teaching. I have probably learned as much from their reflection as I have from my mentor teacher. It also gives me a chance to show off all my pretty coloured pens (haha).

My goals for this week include: addressing the students who come in late, being more clear with my expectations, making notes of who is participating and understanding, and making the learning more student centred.  I have pulled on my resources as well as thought long and hard about how I will address lates. I want my students to be coming to my class, and I want them to know that. This week I will write down the names of those coming in late and have a heart-to-heart with them during seat work asking if they are ok, and what I can do to make sure they are in class on time every day. I also need to work on being clear with what I want my students to be doing. I need to focus on what these expectations are and be concise with them. This week I also want to have the quiet students voices heard in the class, and will be asking for new volunteers or choosing them every day. Making the learning more student centred will take a lot of pressure off of me for having to relay all of the information, and will put student’s own learning in their hands. I have thought the activities I have used so far have been great in allowing students to come to understanding on their own, and hope to do a lot more of that this week.

One week of teaching down, and many more to to come. There will always be ups and downs, but all I have to do is admit them and work hard. Peter Bjorn and John say it well:

“And if you think your brain is hollow
You just have to scream
And dig a little deeper”





The Beginning

The Beginning

I don’t remember when I began to learn, but I will always remember when I began to teach. This has been the most exciting year of my life. After graduating from the University of British Columbia Okanagan with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Psychology, I got accepted into my dream education program at the University of Victoria in September 2015. I not only am learning how to teach math, but how to teach people, people with thoughts and feelings and histories. Everyone has a right to learn to their own maximum potential, and it is up to me to help my students reach that potential. Near the beginning of April I was ready to put what I had learned into action, and was very eager to begin my practicum at Okanagan Mission Secondary School teaching Relations and Functions 10, and Trigonometry 12 units. I did not know what to expect. Would my students be able to learn from me? Would my mentor teacher be helpful and inspiring? Would I like teaching math? Only having done a week of observation and helping out thus far, the answer to all of these questions is absolutely yes. Although I have not yet taught a lesson, hearing the “thank yous,” after I’ve helped explain a problem shows me that students are learning from me! And as far the mentor teacher thing, I feel like I have won the lottery. Working with such a smart, caring, and cutting edge professional has shown me the answer to my third question, I definitely want to be a math teacher.

This week I learned that there is always room for conversation and reflection in a math classroom (and in any classroom), and next week I plan to do this a lot with my classes to enrich the material. I want to make math applicable, hands on, and fun. I have also learned that the more practical the work I do, the more I care about it. Doing lesson plans for students is far more rewarding than doing them for teachers.  This will no doubt be a similar experience for my students; learning with a passion will deepen understanding. I also plan to try to make the material I teach related to everyday experiences so that students can start seeing the world mathematically. My goal for this week is to make and learn from my mistakes. I know I will make some, but I also know it always important to try and to grow from positive and negative experiences. In the words of John Lennon,

“There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy
All you need is love”

…and math.