What I learned through HS Co-op this year

So, we are coming down to a little more then a week left with my Co-op student.

I have been taking on Co-op Students for the last 6 years of my 9 years of teaching and have had some wonderful people come through my classroom doors. This year, I had an eye opening experience that has brought me to tears a few times (and I AM NOT a sentimental guy – unless it comes to my family or my Wings), so I wanted to share my experience and my 2017 resolution is to blog more and low and behold here it goes!

She arrived early in the school year with us, as a full time Co-op Student (Full Days) at the request ,of my principal to attend MY classroom. This was somewhat ‘off’ from past  ways of taking on Co-op students, but I am always open for a challenge and adventure. What I experience though was something I was not foreseeing.

She came in unbelievably shy, very quite and would always somewhat reverted into a self-conscious shy demeanor as such is her personality. Overtime, she came out of her shell; started talking more and asking questions. I try to ensure people are comfortable before pushing them outside their comfort zones (this is something I try to do for growth and development for all around me – especially students, HS Co-op students, College and University Students alike).

This girls mother works diligently in our schools Parent Council and supports the Nutrition Program and after talking a few times with her and gaining a little more insight into Natalie as a person I knew I had a gem in which to work with. She is a genuinely kind hearted yet shy individual that always put others (the students) ahead of herself.

So setting to work, I gave her a reading group to work with daily, which began with me providing materials and within a week she took off on her own developing ‘next steps’ occasionally with a little support from me, which then lead to completely on her own. I would read through her notes and student work and the growth was fantastic to see. A highschool co-op student doing what we educators do on a regular bases with NO TRAINING at all. This lead me to believe there was so much more to and behind this girl, so she was asked to oversee ‘The Game of Things’ which is a card game every morning, that got my reluctant writers within my room writing daily on funny and engaging topics. After a couple of weeks of doing this she seen that they were becoming less and less engaged; so she tweaked the program and made it her own (similar to what we do as teachers) engagement rose again and they are now within their 10th week of this daily writing program.

Along side this she has asked if she could try more, which shocked me at first as I did not foresee her shell being exposed and released. This was the moment that I personally seen the caterpillar becoming the butterfly breaking out and becoming something amazing. She created sways for art, challenged students thinking behind everything we did, supported when needed but never providing the answers. She began using ‘Teacher Talk’ without realizing it, using probing questioning, getting the kids to inquire thoughts deeper to improve their work, all of which was on her own. Now whether it was unconsciously or not I am not sure, but she had evolved from the shy, quite very, very self-conscious person in September into a confident contributing member to the classroom teaching team.

Now, I have had other high school co-op students o very well, but I haven’t never had a Co-op Student have her final assessment as an actual lesson (plan and actually doing the lesson with the students). This, was requested by her High-school Co-op Supervisor. Normally I would be a little worried that this may be too much for a co-op student; but…I am not worried at all, she will have no problem completing this at all, not a doubt in my mind. Her plan of attack is perfect and will be differentiated for ALL students, engaging and provide a great learning opportunity that also encompasses technology as well.

Backtracking about two maybe three weeks prior to Christmas I remember having a conversation with her regarding future aspirations. She wasn’t entirely sure what her aspirations were; I had mentioned that she should consider something with kids, possibly even teaching. I do not think nor believe it was even within her mindset nor thoughts….so I left it as is and let it percolate.

Fast tracking ahead to this past week, she wrote a letter that took me off my feet. Within the letter she stated this was a learning experience that opened her eyes and now she has set her sights towards teaching. Reading this letter was inspiring and remarkable, as I took a couple of days to digest the words within it. A girl whom walked into our classroom, incredibly shy to the point of becoming red in the face each time she spoke beyond a whisper, evolved into an adult with a goal in mind the profession in which I love!

Taking this 4-5 month journey with her was great to see that behind all the things we do as educators; the up’s and downs, challenges and success’s people are watching and seeing how we interact, experience and build rapports. This girl and I did not have many one to one conversations as I typically do with teaching students, but….she took it all in! She did so her way, made it all hers and tried, failed, tried again did better and continuously pushed herself outside her comfort zone…now the once shy student I knew is now taken a step towards teaching!

The letter itself was hard to read because it reflected her growth as a person without direction towards an adult with a goal to become similar to myself! Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and think, that was a rough day, or am I doing right by the students? But, its times and occasions such as this where you know you are doing something right! I think the best part for me was the face to face I recently had when she informed me that she would be doing a co-op again next year and that I was not allowed to leave for another school as she WAS and WILL be coming back to my classroom again! She wasn’t asking, she was telling me it would be happening…that’s the go get it attitude that I did not believe was within the shy girl in September! Look out for this one people (especially if she is backing up in a car- hehe insider joke) she is going to do something remarkable!

I always enjoy taking on all types of students and usually try to keep track in some form or fashion! I have to say that this one hits home a little more then the others because upon reflecting deeper as to why; she reminds me of myself growing up…shy, quite not the greatest marks and no goal in mind, just trying to get by! I found myself in a similar situation as a high-school co-op student in a classroom at Doverwood Public School. My experience here lead me to believe I had an unknown love for working with kids;so  I went to Fanshawe College for Early Childhood Education, then off to Brock University; then a Masters Degree in Elementary Education at D’youville College….and now 9 years as a teacher – time flies when you are having fun!

My high-school co-op experience set my sights and goal on teaching and I worked incredibly hard to get where I am today, but without that original experience in co-op I may never have gotten here now! So, thanks Karen Peters, Jen Abbott-Smith (whom both taught my own kids now) for pushing me in this direction so I can do the same for others similar to myself….I hope to one day be able to do what I can do with them; calling them my colleagues (Which actually happened this past week with a former Nipissing Student – way to go Nick!) with her and all the others walking through my door! This stuff makes MY job the best job in the world, seeing the future unfold and unravel itself live before your eyes…this was an experience that I will take with me throughout my career and reflect upon after those tough days that will happen!

A big shout out and ‘Thank You’ to Natalie for showing me that inside all people is greatness, hope and inspiration waiting to be released into action…you are up girl, look at all those challenges and overcome them all! Set your goals and aspirations high and don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do it!

See you next year, not sure in what form or fashion but I am in for the journey sitting behind you in the corner if needed!! Best of luck in all of your future endeavors!

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