Meet Ms. Phillips (she/her), who graduated from the MA CSE program during Spring of 2022 and is currently in her first year of being a teacher! She teaches all subjects except for drama, dance and french. We get to know Ms. Phillips a bit better below!
What made you want to pick "teaching" as a profession?
I have always wanted to be a teacher. My mom is a teacher and I always loved going into the classroom with her. Being exposed to this profession growing up made me realize I really love working with children and helping others. This actually made me want to become a social worker and I got my Bachelor of Social Work from Toronto Metropolitan University. While I was completing this degree, I had a practicum with Big Brother Big Sister, where I facilitated girls groups in public schools in Toronto. These groups focussed on building self confidence and self love in young girls. In this role I realized I had a passion for working with students as well as education, so I decided to combine those two passions and pursue a career in teaching.
What led you to choose the CSE program in specific?
I chose the CSE program because I really loved the idea of combining research with practice. I loved the theory and research component to this program, along with the practical experiences. I also really liked that it was a smaller program that would allow me to connect more closely with my professors and classmates. I really loved learning alongside so many amazing teachers.
What is one (or more) of the most impactful experiences you have had with your student(s)?
One of the most impactful experiences I have had with my students was when we were discussing what we all wanted to be when we grew up, during career day, and many students in my class expressed that they wanted to be a teacher like me. They said this was because they have loved learning about different types of people, cultures and experiences with me, and that they would want to teach others these same ideas of acceptance and celebration of all types of people. As a Black educator, working in a predominantly white community, it is important to me that I am always reinforcing the idea of acceptance, love and celebration for all, so hearing that the students were reflecting and responding to these lessons was extremely impactful for me.
What is your current work-day like?
My work day consists of coming into my classroom early, so I can feel prepared and relaxed when the students come in. I like to make sure we have a nice message on the board as we start our day, so that students are thinking of ways to be kind, empathetic, mindful listeners etc., as we share this space.
We start our day with a morning meeting. I used to do the morning meeting, however I have now transferred this to my students. During the morning meeting students will share a random fun fact, tell us a joke or riddle, do a poll, share a motivational/ positive/ uplifting video and then create a discussion question based on the video. For example, one student shared a video about kindness and then asked the class what are some ways we can be kind to each other in the classroom. It has been awesome to see them take on this leadership role in the classroom.
Our day usually consists of two language periods, one math period, French and then social studies, science, physical education and/or the arts. In language we follow a consistent routine. Mondays are focussed on media, Tuesdays and Thursdays are for centers, Wednesday is “Writing Wednesday”, where we focus on various writing skills and then Friday is for catching up. We do “Daily 4” on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We have one center focussed on word study (spelling), another on working on writing, one for reading to self and then guided reading (teacher time). I have found this format to work really well at ensuring we have a comprehensive literacy program that is organized and reaches the needs of all the students.
I like to ensure our day consists of many hands-on activities, where the students are engaging in inquiry and have space to wonder and become curious. I learned about the importance of this in the CSE program and I have seen how this really helps engage the students and allow them to guide their own learning.
I also really prioritize making time to be outside, whether that is learning outside or taking our body breaks outside. For example, during our double language periods we will often take a 10 minute body break where we walk outside or engage in an outdoor activity together. I find removing ourselves from the classroom once or twice a day has really helped calm the students and myself, so that we are focussed and engaged while in the classroom.
What is one example of an activity that you have given your students?
One activity I have given my students is a book talk/ trailer. This was a really fun activity for the students because they really go to dive into a book of their choosing, learn how to summarize and express their thoughts and opinion on a book. I gave them a few weeks to read a novel of their choice and then they had to write a short summary of the book, without giving away the ending. The students then had to either make a slide show or a video (trailer) to present the book to the class. Students had to share the title, author, genre, summary and give the book a rating out of 5 stars and explain their reasoning. The idea was for students to learn about summarizing while also learning about some other amazing books they may want to read, from their peers. My students really excelled at this project and it was amazing to see students start to really love reading. Many students expanded by adding fun facts about the author or series (if the book was a part of a series). I have even had students ask if they can do another book talk (FOR FUN)!!! It is great to see students get really engaged and excited with an activity.