In this setting, I was homeroom teacher to two 2nd grade classes, a total of 35 students. Since this was a duo-lingual program in which students alternated learning in English one day and in French the next, I saw my students two to three days a week. This presented many challenges as you can imagine, but it also presented the opportunity to fine tune my practice. Not having a teacher assistant meant that time was of the essence, and I learned to concentrate on what mattered most in terms of how my students and I spent our time, together. Students mainly hailed from Europe and North America.
I taught Literacy, Mathematics, and Units of Inquiry (Science & Social Studies). We had access to a class set of five iPads, and could reserve the use of an iPad cart which offered one-to-one use. We also had a Smart Board and an Apple desktop computer for student use. That said, the majority of my lessons focused on hands-on activities, and the use of manipulatives in both Math and Literacy to help students understand concepts. Units of Inquiry involved two field trips per unit, to help students make connections to what we learned within the classroom. Math and Literacy instruction were differentiated in terms of students' foundational understanding of numbers, spelling practice (Words their Way), and reading (PM Benchmarks, Fountas & Pinnell levels). We also had check-ins or reflections during which students shared their understanding, how they felt about the lesson, and what their current level of challenge was (Fist to Four). This gave me notice to either plan more challenging lessons, or to reteach a concept, making sure that students understood the basics before moving on.
I taught Math, Literacy, and Units of Inquiry to a 3rd grade class of 20 students. This was a large, IB school, and approximately 75% of students spoke English as an additional language. This was my first time working with a full-time teacher assistant (a brilliant lady!) and it was an experience that I enjoyed. Teachers joke that once you have had an assistant, you never go back, meaning that it's challenging to get used to working alone again, but I haven't found that to be the case. There are benefits to both, but I have found being creative an easier venture when given the space and independence to create.
I lived in Berlin, Germany for five years and what an adventure it was! My first post was at a newly opened IB candidate school, and on the first day of school, sparks were flying in the hallway because the construction workers were working during the school day! My first grade (mostly German) students and I took it all in stride. Although, this wasn't my very first class as a classroom teacher, I fell in love with these students. We built a classroom culture that was warm, loving, and empathetic towards each other and the students had such intrinsic motivation to learn and share what they knew. They challenged me daily in my practice because once literate, they demanded that we learn more about the world - beyond what was required of the curriculum. I was lucky enough to be their teacher again in second grade, reaping the benefits of the hard work of helping them become independent learners. In this setting, I used Read, Write, Inc. for reading and writing, and referred to Virginia's SOLs for Math.
My next and last post there as a first and second grade teacher was in a public, bilingual international school. I worked with a German counterpart, and an "Afternoon" teacher who was in charge of students after the school day was over. I must say that this was another illuminating experience as I was working for the German Board of Education and I had never worked in a public school, before. I led a class of 26 students, half of whom were learning Literacy in German, and the other half, in English, with me. Half of the class were of German descent, whilst the other half were foreign-born, whose parents had been posted to Berlin for work. I taught English Literacy (Read, Write, Inc, Nelson Handwriting) and Social Studies, while my German partner taught Math and Science. Since I was allowed the freedom to enhance my students' learning as I saw fit, my first and second grade students learned coding in our computer lab, after learning the rules of caring for technological tools. The results were impressive, and I was particularly heartened to see that students who had low confidence or a dislike for math, performed well, which boosted their confidence in their reasoning ability.
I enjoyed Berlin and learned about the differences between public and private schools in Germany. Interestingly, Berlin has a host of wonderful museums that are welcoming to children. I say interesting because people would always say that Germany wasn't a child-friendly place and I'd give them a bewildered look. In terms of scheduling field trips and finding (permit-free) public green spaces and parks, or eco-friendly playgrounds, life was much easier than in the other countries I'd lived in.
In each of my roles, I have worked hard to foster a love of reading and learning in my young students. In my experience, intrinsic motivation really propels students towards making progress in leaps and bounds, and that love of learning means that they will go even farther.
My varied experiences have exposed me to a diversity of thought, cultures, religions, curricula, and educational practices that have strengthened and deepened my expertise. For more details about other positions, please contact me via the contact form.