Field Experience 1

School: Lasalle Community Comprehensive High School

For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

~Rudyard Kipling

My first week at my host school was exciting and also terrifying, to say the least. However, upon arrival, my cohorts and I were met with a warm welcome by the administration and our supervisor. Prior to being immersed into the classroom climate, we were first debriefed on everything we needed to know about the school itself.

The first week comprised mainly of observation within classrooms that were not part of our focus subject at McGill. This offered a unique opportunity to get a sense of the different methods and dynamics of classes such as Math, Science and Biology.

Something worth noting was the encouragement of cellphone and technology use in the classrooms. Each student is assigned their own email to Google Drive at the beginning of the school year. From here, students may access resources such as class notes, homework assignments and schedules. Parents also have access to the Drive so as to keep up to date with what their children need to be submitting.

One example would be the math game, “Kahoot!”. The game, which is shown on the SMART Board (which are featured in all classrooms), allows students to use their cellphones to submit their answers to mathematical questions. The one who answers correctly in the shortest amount of time earns more points. This appeared to be a unique and fun way to get students to not only strengthen their mental math skills, but to also boost their enthusiasm of the subject.

Another main point to this is how responsible the students act when they are allowed to have their cellular devices. It shows a shift in the tradition power dynamic typically seen in schools. Now, both teacher and student are on the same level, having access to the same information and therefore learning together.

This was a pleasant surprise, and definitely affected me as a pre-service teacher. Initially, I would have disallowed the use of mobile devices in my classroom. But now, seeing how technology now has a strong foothold in our society, I have changed my view on it.

In closing, I would like to also touch on the great sense of community within the school environment. Over the week, I saw several murals and messages on the walls of the hallways that promoted peace and unity. The school’s slogan also promoted the same sentiment: “For the strength of the pack is the wolf; the strength of the wolf is the pack.” While a quote from The Jungle Book, what I took away from the slogan was that students, teachers and administration are all part of a single pack. The thought promotes an idea of inclusion and family, which certainly may boost the esteem and moral of students and administration alike. It certainly made myself feel better, as right away the school community treated my cohorts and myself as part of the pack.

 

 

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Learning Statement Vol.2 – Speaking at Kahnawake Survival School

I was one of them. 

So a few weeks ago, my old French teacher from Kahnawake Survival School, Mark Polson, had approached me with a unique proposition. He wanted me to return to my old high school and speak with the Grade 9, 10, and 11 classes on the importance of French both in CÉGEP and in daily life.

For context, Kahnawake Survival School (KSS) was founded in 1978, in protest to the controversial Bill 101, which required that students attend school en français. The students from Kahnawake, who were attending H.S. Billings in Chateauguay, decided to walk out. They felt that learning Kanien’keha, the Mohawk language, should be more important than learning French. Thus, Kahnawake Survival School was born.

Today, in addition to Social Studies, Math, Chemistry and Language Arts; KSS has one Mohawk class and one French class in its schedule. Social Studies focuses mainly on historical events from the perspective of the Indigenous population, as well as the Indian Act. The Mohawk class aims provide a foundation for the students to base their identity on. Students learn, or rather are reminded (because it’s common belief that the language resides within all Mohawk people), of Mohawk legends and vocabulary.

The French class aims to prepare students for the outside world, and more importantly, for CÉGEP’s French Placement Test. However, students tend to be opposed to the concept of taking on French. This may stem from the numerous negative encounters with Non-Indigenous people in the past, from Contact to the recent Oka Crisis. The motivation to learn this language is simply not there, and so Mark Polson (and the other members of the French Faculty) asked me to try and help the students.

So for two days, October 17th & 26th, I got up extra early to make the trip to my high school, and present to the students my story. I struggled in CÉGEP, and actually spent two extra years at Vanier College to finish up my French. The reason may be because I did not take my French classes seriously in KSS, and when I reached Vanier, I was met with students who had the advantage of Bill 101. However, I now had the opportunity to encourage high school students to be prepared for what’s ahead. Because I’m an alumni of KSS, there was an instant connection with the students, I was one of them.

This experience was perfect for honing Competency 1:

“To act as a professional who is inheritor, critic and interpreter of knowledge or culture when teaching students.”

Not only was this an opportunity to help the students, but it was also a chance to know what it feels like to be a teacher. The French Faculty welcomed me, and treated me with utmost respect; I was one of them. In the class, my background in theatre gave me an edge on having a large presence that held the attention of the students. Given that I had two days, I was able to learn from the first set of presentations and improve for the second set. I took note of the strategies I used; which was a mixture of both PowerPoint Presentation and an oral recollection. I noticed that my PowerPoint was not totally engaging, and that students tuned out when I was presenting. By the second set of presentations, I ditched the PowerPoint altogether and focused primarily on my oral presentation.

Along with the first Competency, it was also a chance to hone Competency 2: 

“To communicate clearly in the language of instruction, both orally and in writing, using correct grammar, in various contexts related to teaching.”