Those who can teach, DO!

Full Name: Ms Aisha Farhana

“Those who can’t do, teach?” I say, “those who CAN teach, DO!” the truth is, not every Tom, Dick and Harry can be a Teacher. It is a profession you cannot be sitting on the fence about, wanting to get in because you did not have a choice or simply because you think it is well, simple. We must all have had an inkling of how it might have been for our teachers when we were in school.. At the back of our minds, we did know whatever they did were propelled by certain motivations, decisions and well, constraints. Our job involves many stakeholders, we need to be proactive and be willing to learn. And I am pretty sure, we are coming to understand all these notions gradually.

My practicum experience was not an eye opener. It was predictable. I knew what was expected of me and I could actually plan my 10 weeks in the school way before. I knew I wanted to be outstanding and I knew I could give more than what was expected of me. I did not however, pre-empt many problems and therefore when something did go wrong, I had sleepless nights. I was losing faith.

There was one other huge challenge; excellence may not mean the same thing to everyone or what is excellent to you may not be to someone else. That ‘someone else’ referred to my Cooperating Teachers, Reporting Officer, Principal and The Moderator. They are people, just so you know. I make them sound like titles but yes, these names scared me during practicum. At the same time, I constantly reminded myself that impressing them also meant making a lot of sense to my students. That wasn’t easy. You needed to have a good lesson that tapped on engagement, strong content teaching, authentic tasks, immediate feedback and relevant worksheets. However, sometimes, the aforementioned can be very mundane and serious. How can we possibly bring life to something serious like that? I had a rescue list for my moments of paranoia. The list is as follows:

  • Formulas for every single lesson
  • Abbreviations that remind students of strategies so all I have to say is “jump” and they go “how high?”
  • YOUTube! (where ABSOLUTELY relevant)
  • Newspaper articles (when I can pitch it to relevant content. E.g. Racial conflicts. The broadsheets have a way of conveying things that can be put to good use in a classroom setting.)
  • Objects (I brought a painting and a bunch of roses to a Literature Class for teaching imagery, theme and inspiration)
  • Very firm and assertive persona who masks the usual funny person (until you give her what she wants – responsive, engaging lessons and of course, grades)
  • Care and concern (I want to know my students so I know what to do to help)

Please see below for a sample formula based on a lesson teaching reading skills for comprehension:

(Comprehension +video clips+ reading strategy) x 3 activities = Active Learning

It worked! I screened video clips of honey bees before they started reading an informative essay on honey bees. They buzzed about the fungus that was killing bees and destroying their hives. After which we performed a search on the fungus on Google search engine and shared with the classes our expert knowledge on various aspects of the honey bees. Then we settled down to doing our comprehension passage. We applied various strategies to reading and attempting our questions. You will certainly come up with your own strategies for your students based once you know how they learn and what they don’t know HOW to learn.

Practicum taught me all these things. I discovered a lot many things. My students and engaged in collaborative learning, outdoor lessons, we had recorded performances, we scripted dramas, wrote our own stories and of course, did our usual comprehension and composition writing. I could also experiment with some unconventional lesson plans (I was playing music while my students were crafting their first drafts for situational writing!) There were heads bobbing to the beat but there was also good writing!

Sometimes the same formula may not work with another class. This other class was literally sleeping when I was teaching a grammar lesson. I was appalled and felt like a total dope to be frank. I walked in the next lesson armed with a lesson out of sync with my lesson plans of the week:

Task: Watching The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and writing a review

Purpose: Usage of modals and action verbs to write a persuasive short essay

I did not keep to my plans but my students understood this lesson alot better since there was also a component where they could apply their grammar knowledge into writing. I soon started planned for better lessons that were more engaging and I became more creative with the way I infused language components. The credit goes to my students. They make me think. And I like that.

Practicum helped me to be oriented into the school culture (not the school system, we will need to spend some good time and observe to know more), it helped me to try out and see where, when and why I went wrong and what I could do a lot better in, I could observe and have time to chat with the teachers about what I can do in the classroom, I also had time to do research and prepare for the real thing. Practicum wasn’t just a trial period, it was an integral platform for me to get ready for my career.

Aisha Farhana
BA(ED)(Gen) Jul 2006

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