Beginner Teacher Conference 2017

I’ll be honest. I’m turning 40 this year. While I am indeed a beginner teacher, I’m not a young, fresh-faced, never-had-a-career-before teacher… I’ve worked in machine shops, retail, corporate environments, and have been all around the world. I thought the beginner teacher conference would apply strictly to new professionals and I would have little to gain.

At the insistence of my admin, I attended, and within a minute of showing up I realized why it was good for me to be there.

1. Familiar faces

In my mornings session there were 2 people I knew from my drama curriculum class. We ended up having lunch together as well.

It was nice, and (I realize now) important, to be able to reconnect with familiar faces from outside my workplace/division to hear and share stories about where everyone is teaching and what people are dealing with as new teachers. I really empathized with 2 of my former classmates who have difficult positions at their school (1 is at a specialized junior high with students with high needs, and 1 is drowning in lesson planning at a high school).

However, 1 is loving her grade 5 position a lot and I also was one of the ones raving about their students, co-workers, admin, and my whole situation. A little perspective about one’s own situation is nice once in a while, so seeing other people and sharing stories was a nice way to gain some perspective.

2. Learning new stuff

Improving one’s own pedagogy is a part of the job, and I was happy to see a great variety of sessions to attend. In the AM, I attended a Makerspaces session, and in the PM I attended a Creativity session. I have significant takeaways from each session and I look forward to implementing them and sharing them here in future posts.

3. The Mandatory ATA (Alberta Teachers Association) Session 

Although much of the information was available online, this session was informative and I did learn a few things that are important regarding my contract and regarding benefits, etc. Seeing all the other beginning teachers from my zone in 1 room was nice as well. I also got to see that I wasn’t the only old beginning teacher.

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Music PD Day

Today I had the chance to meet with other music teachers from the Elk Island Catholic School district and we had a full and interesting day regarding best practices. We shared games, assessment strategies, songs, and resources. I came away from the day feeling good about my approach so far, but learned some tips that I’ll be implementing quite soon.

One of the teachers has 5 sub plans written for the year – I may try to do something similar.

Main takeaway from today (which I keep hearing): when students are engaged, there are rarely any discipline issues.

And kids love having fun in music class. (I knew this already)

In full swing….

3 weeks into the gig all I can say is it’s a lot of work but it’s been so gratifying on so many levels. My household, my daughters, the energy in my classroom, the morning routine with my family… everything is pretty chill. This is because I live with a veteran teacher. She helped me considerably with getting my classroom in order, and with my Music & Literacy program. All my peace of mind comes from her help, and a very helpful admin and staff who have been nothing but supportive and welcoming. I still need some more strategies (besides the art of distraction) to keep the younger kiddos engaged. Sometimes my lessons for the younger ones have felt like I’m simply a child entertainer… If I keep singing and getting them to sing along, I have no problems… But if I try to talk to explain even the smallest element, I get students that think they can talk over me. Still working on that. Other than that, I’ve given about 3000 high fives in less than 3 weeks and I love the gig.

I have 2 planned days with subs coming up – I wrote some plans and I hope it works out. That’s the latest. Tomorrow we go on an overnight staff retreat for PD, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the staff better. I feel very at home at school so far.

I have some extracurricular things such as choir and worship band that I am planning for… I  hope they go well. Proper planning just really seems to be the “magic” antidote for feeling stress free at school. I’ve been planning lots. Doesn’t feel like enough but I think I’m strking a healthy balance between planning and rest time in my evenings.

My kids are thriving in school which I think alleviates my stress a bit. If they were struggling I think my stress would be up. But so far this year, we’re having arguably the best September of our lives! Don’t want to jinx it! Thankful and grateful for where I am right now.

Literacy & Music

I’ll elaborate further on this in later reflections but for now I wanted to reflect on the immediate success of using a music-themed book in my music class today for the 2nd graders. There’s an autistic child who can sometimes get quite overwhelmed by the noise that happens during the course of the music class. He then excludes himself from the activity and it’s something that bothered me in our last class together. Well today when I read this book “Be Quiet, Mike!” it was the first moment in the class where I don’t think an outside observer would’ve been able to tell which child was autistic or felt excluded. He was so engaged and participated in all of the call and response activities that this book naturally provides. Perhaps books are a less intimidating language for him because it’s something that he’s familiar with, or perhaps it was just a great book… All I know is when he yelled “Be quiet Mike!” with all the other kids, I know he felt included.

Integrating literacy with music was my wife’s idea, and I’m so glad I have the chance to use it as a strategy for teaching all students.