So first week of practicum I spent a total of 4 periods (out of 30) in my classroom. The rest of the time (other than WE Day) was spent in the gymnasium preparing and performing the Remembrance Day play. It was a wonderful experience and definitely eye-opening for the amount of work that goes into this sort of endeavour. As much as I’d like to say that we had weeks and weeks to prepare or that in the future I’d take more time to prepare, the time really isn’t there. Remembrance Day is two months into the school year during which all of the clubs get establish in September and after the first month of helping students adjust and get accustomed to the schedule, formal assessments begin. It was crazy how fast it came! Even so, students know how to pull it out and do strong work when it’s crunch time.
I met so many students through the play – many of whom I would not really get to know otherwise. One of the most significant outcomes of the play for me was seeing young individuals step up and into leadership roles. While learning occurs in the classroom, personal growth often invades extra curricular activities and this play was no exception. Just as one student showed her amazing leadership potential, I was also learning how to work as a full educator in this capacity. This thirteen year old girl and I travelled a very similar path where we eventually stepped away from looking at others for permission or as decision makers and accepted our own capabilities and used them. It was quite a week.
In the middle of the massive play week, we took our WE Charity students to the Canadian Tire Centre for WE Day. This trip ended up as something I mostly planned which was excellent experience. One of the big problems that occurred was that we went to book a bus too late. With all of the activities through October and such, it ended up falling through the cracks. We discussed with Lisgar the possibility of busing together, but they apparently were taking a coach bus (as I think it was the only thing available). Originally, we could only bring 20 of our 30 possible students because of seat restrictions and that proved an early challenge for me – I had to find some way to select students to go to WE Day and, even more difficult, tell others they wouldn’t be able to attend. For a group of 20, it ended up fairly easy to determine who would come: they came to every meeting and helped out with our successful bake sale in September. When I told the group who would be coming, unfortunately only 4 out of the 24 attending that meeting were not coming. They were visibly upset, but seemed to accept my decision.
As the week went on, it turned out Lisgar had trouble filling their seats on the bus so we had more room which meant more students could attend. I went to the couple of students who gave up their seats so others who they felt were more deserving could go and asked if they would like to join us. Following that, I began to look for the remaining WE Charity students. One young lady (mentioned above), demonstrated such amazing leadership during the play as well as her willingness to work with me after I didn’t initially invite her on the trip (I felt she didn’t like me, but she mostly hid it) that I asked if she would come with us. Another student wrote a letter outlining why she felt she deserved a seat based on her past experiences. It was actually quite the experience to have students come up to me and show why they felt I made the wrong decision.
WE Day came the day after the 2016 presidential election and couldn’t have been a better time for it. Leaving, our energy was a little lower than normal, but as the day went we became more energized to combat the negativity from the election and media coverage.
One of our first initiatives after WE Day was an anti-bullying campaign during Ontario’s anti-bullying week. During WE Day, Margaret Trudeau challenged everyone to be ‘the light in somebody’s darkness’ and that is the theme we used for our campaign. During a meeting, all who attended created positive0-message posters that would be placed around the school with the intention of these posters ‘speaking’ to the reader and letting them know they are not alone and Glashan wants to be a safe space for everyone. I was thrilled with the students’ creativity in the posters and impressed that when I left in December (we put these posters up Nov. 22 and I finished Dec. 16) the posters mostly remained standing and not vandalized.
Being at an urban school, often times doing normal field trips is difficult based on socio-economic backgrounds of students. For example, Lisgar was charging us the entire cost of the bus (don’t get me started, but it got us there) so with only 20 students going we would’ve had to charge more than 10$ per student which even then is often a steep price for many students. That being said, being located in an urban environment has its benefits such as when the Ottawa Redblacks win the Grey Cup and the parade is literally one block away from the school. What a day! The entire population of Glashan (400+ students and staff) took the middle two periods and walked down to cheer for the team coming home. I’m not a sports fan, but wow it was incredible and the students seemed to have so much fun.
A great example of using extra-curricular activities for class work was the Lisgar production of Into the Woods. The entire grade 8 population as well as the grade 7 gifted class (and a grade 7 immersion class because my AT had them during the periods we’d be gone) walked to Lisgar to watch the play. While the play was lovely, having the students use the play in their drama class for a written assignment helped connect it back to curricular objectives and provided an opportunity to explore another side of drama in an organic way.
So my AT and the homeroom teacher of the second grade seven class she teaches were selected to take part in an exchange with a middle school in Terrace, B.C. While the flights are paid for by the government organization, students are responsible for some food costs and the costs of activities while there (around 400-500$). To lower the cost, the classes are fundraising. As I was scrolling through Facebook one day, Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s (a local company in Ottawa) had posted the ad below about fundraising with them. I offered to do the leg-work and organization of this fundraiser which, while a good experience, was a lot of work. At the end of the day, I’m glad I did it (it ended up raising about 700$), but you need to have buy-in from everyone for it to be truly successful. This fundraiser easily couldn’t netted us 2500$, but not a lot of people really got into it. Further, some constructive criticism I heard afterwards from those who were involved with organizing seemed misguided as it was either on things that were already discussed (such as the format of the fundraiser) or on the limitations of the company (which I hear in retail – I want this coupon extended, or the store hours are too short). Overall though, considering I’m not even going on the trip I didn’t listen to much because hey, I helped provide you with 700$.
Finally, December hit and with it Christmas (along with Hanukkah and Kwanzaa – though I celebrate Christmas). I spoke with the student council teacher to see if they do candy grams which they don’t because she felt December was too busy, but all the luck to me.I brought the idea to WE Charity and the students thought it was a great idea. We sold large and small candy canes and had cards where students could write messages. All went well. We put out a discount offer to teachers who wanted to buy for their class(es) and several did. Unfortunately, only about half to 1/3 of the classes were bought for and those that were to received candy grams from their teachers would be receiving 2, 3, or 4 (due to multiple teachers). We didn’t want this sort of fundraiser to be divisive in the school (most of the classes purchases for were immersion or gifted – only one, maybe two English mainstream classes). Consequently, we decided WE Charity would purchase the candy grams for the rest of the students… while well intentioned, we ended up having to create over 600 candy grams in less than a week! Again, the experience is invaluable for my future and though we raised less money with far more effort than the bake sale, students all across the school were super excited about receiving candy grams. It really seemed to be something small that brightened up students’ days.
The last extra-curricular activity in which I was a part was more for the teachers. From my experience at Rideau, I recalled the wine draw (to which student-teachers were not invited, thank you busy anyways). While I made a lot of connections with many students, I felt I didn’t branch out to staff – I rarely ate in the staff room and didn’t have a lot of reasons for meaningful communication. So I sent out an email to the staff explaining the rules and inviting them to participate. That email and the one about the mannequin challenge (to be posted later due to privacy concerns) ended up giving me a ticket to the principals office to talk about how good ideas still need to go through the administration so that the administration knows what is going on in their school – a good lesson and I very much appreciated it. But the wine draw continued on! And ended up being a good conversation piece for staff not even in it as they became interested and, it seemed to me, a little put out that they didn’t join. It was lot of fun, especially the jokes about how I seemed to be rigging things (though I eventually lost) – I’d definitely do it again and hopefully even more would participate.
While extra-curricular activities are certainly not the only part of teaching, they are without a doubt a big part. For the naysayers who think teaching begins at 9 and ends at 3 (firstly, don’t forget all teachers have the be at the school 20-30 minutes before and after school starts and ends), my day regularly started at 8am (others started earlier for sports and such), I gave up many breaks, and continued working long past the final bell (I made a rule to leave at 4pm so that I could spend time at home, but even at home I would do extra-curricular work on top of teaching work). Further, partners of teachers are regularly the unsung heroes in a teacher’s life and my fiancé is very much that. While working his full time job, he found time to help me by doing some shopping, helping me craft things, or just doing the household obligations if I was too busy or tired. Teaching is itself rewarding, but I could never be a teacher and I question how those few people who really do just come in to do their ‘job’ can do just that (though I’ve never met a teacher who only does their job) as the extra-curriculars added so much to my own experience. They exhausted and stressed me, but I loved doing them.