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Top 10 Things I Have Learned About Being A Teacher

Teaching may be an undervalued and difficult profession, but it has always been and will continue to be my dream job. Here is a list of the top 10 things I have learned in the pursuit of my BEd.

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10. Learning doesn't only happen in a classroom.

California Life Sciences Institute (CLSI) / Via

Taking the Teaching Outside the Classroom EDST/FOCI course in teacher's college really opened my eyes to the number of doors that a B.Ed. can open for you. Looking back at all of the field trips throughout this course and the experience I gained in my alternative practicum at the Ontario Science Centre, I truly understand that I do not have to be a classroom teacher to pursue my dream to educate children and foster an intrinsic motivation to learn science outside of a classic school setting. Science is EVERYWHERE. In our backyards, in the neighbourhood, in the sky, at the park, and even in our homes! I hope to one day curate a chemistry exhibit in a science museum somewhere in the world that focuses on the chemistry that exists in our everyday lives.

9. Keep something in your back pocket for rainy (aka your supply teaching) days.

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Only 1 in 10 people can typically solve this problem. Think you're up for the challenge to join their ranks? The task: Without cutting or bending any of the three pieces, rearrange them so that each "cowboy" is riding his own horse.

Sometimes full-time teachers cannot predict when they'll be sick or absent and can't leave behind a lesson plan. Puzzles like this are great for teachers who are just starting out (i.e. supply teachers!) where classroom management can be the biggest battle. They key is to tap into the students' intrinsic motivation to participate. I don't know about you, but I tend to work harder at tasks where I will feel like a part of a special group. Did you feel that way when I said that only 1 in 10 people could complete this? Challenges like this don't work for every student, but we'll get to that...

8. Move your class outdoors whenever you can.

Marcin Chady / Via Flickr: marcinchady

One thing that I learned from multiple visits to the Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area was that you can make a number of curriculum connections to nature from math, science, and the arts. Students will take away so much more about ecosystems and habitats by actually visiting a forest and feeding some chickadees than they might have from a class lesson about life in nature or reading about it in a book. You can even arrange even more curriculum based tasks on a field trip by investigating the math behind building bridges, or the simply admire the beauty and art of nature.

7. Always provide choice.

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I told you we would come back to this. Not every task or assessment works for every student, and one key thing I learned this year was to provide choice whenever you can. Some students need structure, and some students prefer absolute creative freedom. While this may not be feasible for every single lesson every single day, trying to provide at least some choice as often as possible will never harm your students. It's time we stopped treating students like they are empty vessels to be assembled along the factory line that is school, but rather creative and unique individuals that have different interests and strengths and deserve the opportunity to shine in the best way that they can.

6. Learn life skills and then promote them both inside and outside of the classroom as often as you can.

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Perhaps the most obvious tidbit, but you can make any setting into a "classroom" if you try hard enough. There is so much science and math in the kitchen alone, nevermind the art that goes into baking and decorating! There are always cross- curricular connections to be made to various real life applications, and doing so can make content covered in the classroom that much more engaging and relevant for students. One of the biggest issues with teaching is keeping students engaged, and much of the time students simply want to know "when will I ever use this?" or "why is this relevant to me?" Keeping curriculum content relevant and having accessible connections can really help keep students motivated and wanting to learn more.

5. Plan plan plan. But remember to breathe when things do not go according to plan.

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There is nothing wrong with planning. Planning can really help you feel confident about your work and be ready for the day. However, sometimes things don't go according to plan, and you have to be ready to accept that and keep moving forward. That was one of the hardest things for me to come to terms with as an educator. I am such a planner and enjoy knowing my schedule down to the minute when I am teaching. But the problem with this is that you can never truly predict what is going to happen in a day, or how your students will register or comprehend something, and you have to throw your plan out the window sometimes and make sure to address issues and concerns as they arise. It is ultimately much more important to make sure that your students understand the content being presented to them thoroughly and well as opposed to moving "forward" with the curriculum.

4. Reflect often. Reflect always.

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One of the best things I ever did for myself was keep an education journal. Every day I would outline (sometimes in detail) what I did each period, and also kept my lesson plans in the same journal. Now, looking back, I can go through my practicum day-by-day and follow what I did, when I did it, and how things turned out. Having this written down and not needing to rely on my memory is a big help for when I have to go back and fix or enhance lessons that I previously created, and ultimately made me a much better teacher in the classroom. I think teacher's college kind of preached reflection and almost made me hate it, but doing it on my own accord and simply for myself with no requisite information really made it seem more worthwhile to me, but it was definitely very time consuming. I hope to continue this practice in my future career, but perhaps can keep the details to simple prompts to job my memory, instead.

3. Get involved in the local community.


In any classroom or school, it is important to connect with the local community so that students and faculty alike can learn to appreciate the people and land around them. Unfortunately I did not learn a lot about Indigenous peoples throughout my schooling, and so exploring a little bit about their culture and their customs in my course really opened my eyes to how much we have taken for granted in Canada. What is happening to their population is saddening, but this can change. If well all banded together and decided to be involved and help, there would be far less problems for this group in our nation. The problem is that many people are uneducated about Indigenous crises, but the first step we can take to combat this is education. I am sure that Indigenous people want to share their stories and their culture, but first we have to be willing to listen. Opening our ears and our minds to their culture and their stories is the first step in becoming more global citizens, something that is so important in the current political climate throughout the globe.

2. Stay positive even when it's really, really hard to do.

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Teaching can be one of the most mentally and physically draining professions out there, and it is important to maintain a positive attitude as often as you can. People can sense others' stress and anxiety, and it can really bring the atmosphere of the environment down and reduce productivity, engagement, and interest. But by keeping a positive, go-get-em attitude yourself, you can really help others, too. Happiness is contagious!

1. Take time to take care of yourself.

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Speaking of mental and physical exhaustion, it is extremely important to learn how to take care of yourself. Over the course of my undergraduate degree (and now my professional degree), I have learned the importance of taking care of myself and putting myself first sometimes. I know that when I don't go to the gym and when I don't eat healthy and take care of my body, I feel very gross and become much more irritable and easily upset. However, when I am exercising consistently and meal-prepping regularly, I feel so much more prepared for the day and just life in general. When I take even just an hour for myself each day, I am ultimately more relaxed and have a more positive outlook on life. Sometimes life tends to get the best of me and I never take the time to pause, breathe, meditate a little, and relax. I know now that I need to learn when to focus on myself, because ultimately both myself and my students will appreciate my happy-self a lot more than my stressed-self.

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