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Raadiyah Nazeem (MA-CSE, 2013)

Raadiyah Nazeem header

When did you graduate from the CSE program? 
I graduated from the CSE program in 2013.

How many years have you been a teacher?
I have been teaching for seven years – ever since I graduated! That summer I got my first long-term contract at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study as the Teacher-Librarian and Technology Integrator. 

What grade do you teach? What is your main focus?
I am currently teaching Grade One. It is a fantastic age to work with. The children are always so willing to participate and connect deeply to whatever content we are covering. In recent years, I have learned how to give more space to environmental education and helping the children to identify the role they play with the environment and how they can connect to the spaces around them.

What made you want to pick "teaching" as a profession? (you can walk through your journey of what factors impacted you?)
I think I fall into that category of people who say they have always wanted to teach. Growing up I was always told I was patient, kind, flexible, and had many other qualities that would make a good teacher. I guess this stuck with me. It was only in university that I learned about so many other career paths that I could explore. I worked in many daycare settings as an assistant and lead Early Childhood Educator. I also worked at camps and assisted with programming for young children. I think the biggest push towards the classroom was when I took advantage of shaping my placements during my university years – I purposefully chose experiences that were not in the classroom but gave me a macro perspective of the profession. I quickly realized that the policy work was interesting but not where I pictured myself spending my days.

What led you to choose the CSE program in specific?
To be honest, I didn’t know about the program until my third year of my undergraduate. One of my placement instructors that year had completed the CSE program and spoke so passionately about the mix of theory and practical experience. My undergraduate degree also provided the same blend of theory and practice and I thought it would just make sense to continue along the same path.

What is one (or more) of the most impactful experiences you have had with your student(s)?
Over the years there have been so many! I think the moments with the children that have the biggest impact are the ones where I am truly learning alongside with them. The moments in time where I am not really sure where our conversations or projects will end up. To be honest, it is the projects the children are helping me design and decide what the next steps will be. The conversations that stem from a group of children that are truly designing their learning experience are deep and thoughtful. Before March Break, the Grade Ones were spending a lot of time learning about our environment and ways we can build a reciprocal relationship. They had taken up the initiative of collecting discarded plastic from our playground and we took a deep dive into learning about plastics, microplastics, Toronto’s plastic problem and so much more. We also started to research artists that use found items in their artwork to deliver an impactful message. The children designed this project (it was not part of my original plan) and they were learning to work together to make decisions, offer ideas, improve upon ideas, and so much more! These types of moments cannot be designed, they have to be given room to grow on their own and when they do – they are the most powerful.

Raadiyah's working space
Ms. Nazeem's teaching space as she works from home.

What is your current work-day like? (you can walk us through your typical day "working from home"... how you conduct classes, give homework, mark assignments, plan exercises for your students, etc..)
My current work day seems to run on a 24-hour cycle these days! Our primary division decided to use Seesaw as our distance learning platform. I post assignments for the children the night before. When they log on, they can access a morning message video where I explain the types of activities available for the day. Attached to that video is a document with a schedule for the day and pages they may wish to print or reproduce. Activities are designed to be done offline as much as possible and to have some interactive component. Each activity is posted separately and usually has a voice recording or teaching video accompanying it. From about 8am I am online checking emails and replying to any children who have posted. I also may record videos or research content for future lessons. Throughout the day I respond to the children’s work, providing comments and feedback and acknowledging their contributions. I also post videos and activities that are designed by our incredible specialty teachers.

Recently, I have started offering more times for us to connect through Zoom. We have had a couple virtual field trips. We also meet in half groups so the children have an opportunity to share their ideas and respond to each other. We meet as a whole group once a week for a class meeting and to discuss anything we need to decide together. Every afternoon, the children have the option to log into Zoom and chat with me if they have questions about the activities offered or if they just want to chat and connect. Families can also reach out if the children need to connect in a different way or may need some support if they are having a particularly difficult day.

Evenings are for recording our daily calendar routine and the next day’s morning message. It is also a great time to record the next chapter in our novel or any books I wish to read to the children as it is quieter in my home. More research and videos or voice recordings at night and then start it all again the next day.

Sample of Ms. Nazeem's morning message that she sends to her students
Sample of Ms. Nazeem's morning message sent to her students.

What is one example of an activity that you have given your students?
It is tricky to select just one activity to share. I wanted to honour all the incredible learning the children had done throughout the year around the environment. With all of us in our own spaces, I thought it may be interesting to see what kinds of ideas the children had about nature and the environment now. Over a series of videos and activities the children were observing, thinking, and drawing about the nature around them – whether that was a space they could be in, look at, or nature they had brought into their homes. Together, we thought about how we feel in nature, how nature makes us feel, how nature may feel when we interact, how we can give nature space, and the idea that we were all connected. Through books, games, planting, daily activities, and conversations, we have come quite a far way thinking together virtually.

Ms. Nazeem's Math lesson for her students
Ms. Nazeem's Math lesson for her students.

What is one thing you are looking forward to after all this is over and you are able to teach in the classroom again?
I look forward to being with the children again - interacting, laughing, their stories, their contributions that would take us on so many tangents, being interrupted (over and over and over again), the deep conversations, the sharing of ideas, – I look forward to all the small moments, the moments I may have taken for granted, the moments that allowed us to become a community and the moments that have allowed this distance learning to even be possible. Those are the moments I miss the most.

What is some advice you would give a new or current MA-CSE student?
For those of you joining, or currently part, of our MA-CSE family, I would like to say thank you for all you do and will do in classrooms. You are a valuable member of each classroom you join. I am confident you have, and you will, rise to the challenge that distance learning presents and, come September, no matter what, you will bring your drive, creativity, flexibility, and willingness to dive in. You got this! There is something to learn from every experience, so soak it in and be the amazing educators we know you can be. Good luck!

If you would like to learn more about our MA-CSE program and get more information on how you can apply, please visit our homepage here.