So you want to be a teacher

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The week of Aug. 10 began my first week of teaching solo. The experience was astonishing. With my sole teaching, I had the opportunity to teach content areas that are common, and not so common, in the United States for the classroom teacher. I felt myself step up as I was the one who was solely in charge. At times I found myself proud of the work I had done with the learners, and then there were times when I kept thinking that I should have done something different. Having either of these experiences had lessons to be learned. The following were some of my experiences and the takeaways from my three weeks of sole teaching.


Math started off rough, but gradually went really well by the end of my first week! My first lesson did not go as planned. I had a lot of learners in the group I was working with, and with both sides of the open-plan classroom doing math, it felt like a competition on who could be loudest. I wasn’t always sure whose class was doing all the chatting. I learned from this experience that when I have a large group, it would be best to bring them to a location that would not be as easily distracted. This worked really well for my next lessons on fractions, and the learners understood the material. It also helped that I used real-world models for the fractions – food! The kids loved that during the lesson, they were eating my “lunch.” Another group for math made great strides in the ordering fractions challenge task I gave them. They came to our full group session with lots of ideas to share.

Speech Making
One of my sole teaching weeks, my students had their speech presentation. I was impressed the entire week by the learners. They did an excellent job impressing me on all their WOW content on their animals. This unit was a lot of fun for me too because I use to participate in Forensics in high school. I gave feedback after every speech, and the learners took the feedback in stride. With each learner’s feedback, I would provide areas they excelled in and areas they can improve in for next time. All the learners did a phenomenal job being prepared and ready with their speeches. I am a bit sad that the speeches lasted only the one week, but we still have the semifinals and the finals of the speech competition!


CierraNZ20150830cFor my sole teaching, I designed a Poetry Unit Plan. My first day of poetry went really well – the students were engaged and enthusiastic. Throughout the lesson, the learners shared outstanding ideas with the entire class. I felt very successful at this moment with my teaching. My second day of poetry did not go as well as the first. Due to preparations for my teaching that week, I was staying up late putting final touches on lessons and marking students’ books. This caused me to have a lack of sleep over a period of two days, and thus affected my mood and dispositions in the classroom. My second poetry lesson was rough. The rainy day and the cancellation of field hockey made it a rough day for the learners, too. With all of these events, the learners were not focused and I did not do a great job instructing that particular lesson. I felt like I had failed the learners. After school, I told my cooperating teacher about my day, and she told me that we will all have those days, but I can’t take it personally. She also recommended (almost requested) that I needed to get more sleep that night. I did as she said, and I felt a lot better for the next day of teaching. My third day of poetry was back to excellence.

Physical Education
Instructing swimming has been a blast! I am so glad I had the opportunity to take part in the lesson planning of swimming. From primary to high school, I was competitively swimming. Swimming has always been a passion of mine. I always wanted the instruct or coach swimming for children, but the timing was never right for me to partake in either of those activities. My Year 6 class has given me the chance to instruct swimming. I have designed swim practices to fit the varying level of my swimmers. After my first day of instruction, I knew that I want to continue my time in the pool as a swim coach when I am not in the classroom. The two weeks of swimming were not only my students favorite part of the day, it was mine too! By the end of the two weeks, my students had become stronger with each of their strokes. For a little bit of fun, we tested this strength with some sprints and relays.


CierraNZ20150830fI was given the challenge to begin the dance practices for the Term 3 Production during my sole weeks of teaching. I was a little nervous for this because I have no experience with dance, and especially not the Charleston. The learners were excited to get started on their production material though, which boosted my enthusiasm. After our first dance session, the learners had conquered a very difficult move unintentionally. I had selected a video on YouTube to teach the learners some Charleston moves. The person in the video made it sound like these would be some of the easier moves to learn first, but later on I came upon other videos that had simpler Charleston moves. It was great to see the learners conquer this difficult move though, because now they know (and I know) they can do anything they set their mind too.

I will miss my sole teaching, but I am excited to team teach with my cooperating teacher. Plus, my cooperating teacher has a lot of responsibilities at Kelson Primary, so there will be times when I will take over in the classroom again. After my experiences at Kelson, I can confidently say that I feel ready to have my own classroom in the near future.


Cierra Bartol-Byers, a senior elementary education major at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia and New Zealand.