Mind Growth Education Collective Q + A: this interview series highlights the positive and sometimes the negative in the education world while recognizing teachers (classroom and homeschool), educational assistants, administrators, even school secretaries and caretakers from all over the world! Keep visiting our blog to see new profiles being added as they become available! 

Tell us about yourself.
My name is Caroline Baril, I’ve been teaching for over 12 years now.  I’ve had the chance to teach in high schools and also elementary schools. Currently, I am a grade 7 and 8 teacher. I teach literacy and sciences.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?
I decided to become a teacher because I love kids, I love teaching them new things and get them prepared for the real world!

What do you bring to your school that makes you unique?
As a science teacher, I love watching students learn by doing experiments, there’s nothing greater than to see students who have a ah-ha moment when they understand the concept taught through an experiment.

What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is to inspire the kids in every lesson. I pay attention to the different kind of learners we have: the listeners, the ones that doodle and listen, the ones that take notes about everything you say with different coloured pen, the dreamers, the pen clickers, etc. I make sure that I connect with them in every possible way. If a student has a question that takes us in a totally different direction then where I was planning on going, then that is okay! I love questions, I love researching with them and learning.

How many students do you have in your class and what are the challenges with that number?
I have 29 students in my classroom. The challenges are that on a daily basis, it is hard to connect with all 29 kids. Some students take more time to help than others and I really wish that I would be able to have one on one with all of them but with rotating classes and short periods, it is really hard to do. I feel like speaking to each of them personally would really help them in many ways. If I didn’t get to talk to a student, I will email them asking them how they are doing in their assignment and if there is anything I can do to help. Despite the challenge, I find ways here and there to help everyone out!

What is a typical day like?
A typical day for me starts at 8:30am. Students are welcomed at the door. I like to joke with some of them, inquire about who won or lost at their hockey game the night before, check out their moods, see who is awake and who didn’t get to bed until 2am because they were playing Fortnite (typical behaviour for my students). Once class starts, we often review what we did the day before by asking questions, which usually excites me because it confirms they understood! We add to the lesson or add a new lesson and so on.  I think my favorite part would be when we get to challenge ourselves in groups. I love doing projects in groups and seeing the ideas that they come up with! I also love seeing the leaders, the note takers, the shy ones who get one or two words in per group. There are great life lessons to be learnt within group projects. I also love reading a good book with them. In grade 7, we read crime (énigme policière) stories where students try solving clues by identifying suspects, victims, robberies and kidnapping. We also try to discover the truth to all of it even before finishing the book.  The students love to remake the chapters into a production.  One day, the students appeared at my door and I told them that I was devastated because someone had died in my class and they (the students) had to write a small story on how this could of happened. It was quite fun! (See images below)

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Tell us about yourself.
I grew up on Vancouver Island, but I have also lived in Vancouver and Toronto. I enjoy gardening, art, building with wood, nature and spending time with my two children. As much as I like to consider myself an introvert, what I enjoy most in my relationships are quality one-on-one connections. I think it’s important to truly understand people so I know what I have to offer them! While working mostly for major health food grocery chains, I went to school for Advertising Design as well as Joinery.  My timing was always a little off for both those fields and upon moving back to Vancouver Island, the stores which I most enjoyed working at most were not accessible to me. We decided to start a family! I would spend the next 6 years staying at home raising my children. I always knew I would have to go back to work at some point, but I didn’t know for what!

Why did you decide to become an educational assistant?
My neighbour approached me and told me of a Community Support Work and Education Assistant program that she was looking into for herself, but she exclaimed that it would be perfect for me! Being nearly 40 years old, I didn’t imagine going back to school so I kept an open mind and began asking my trusted teacher friends. Everyone I spoke with gave me a big « Yes! » so I decided to look into the program. I must admit, I didn’t fully understand what exactly I was getting myself into until I was in it. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.  Not only do I get to be available for my children, I get to make quality connections with individuals I can help!

What do you bring to your school that makes you unique?
I believe what is unique about me is that I’m more of a big kid. I’m not afraid to get right into their world.  I seem to do it naturally, but it’s amazing how much ‘anyone’ will open up when they trust that you’re not there to judge them. My biggest challenge is toning that quality down so that I stay on task.

What frustrates you the most in as an educational assistant?
I’ve been an EA for less than a year now. What frustrates me the most is seeing individuals which seem burnt out and have lost the ability to offer the patience and care that their student deserves.

What is your EA teaching philosophy?
To build a relationship that’s sincere. If it’s not, individuals will see right through you and remain closed.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as an educational assistant?
My weakness is that there is so much I have yet to learn and I’m shy! My strength is that I’m not afraid of constructive criticism and am constantly evaluating my own actions.

What is a typical day like?
One thing you must know is that I’m in a grade 1 to 3 split class for the first 4 hours of their day. The energy in that class can be quite chaotic at time. The biggest challenge is transitioning from a fun activity such as recess or centres into a state where they’re ready for learning. Another thing which I have to be aware of is individuals that have a tendency to escalate in behaviour which in most cases, is emotionally driven. Given that, I spend the majority of my time taking one child on a break. That could look like bringing them to the sensory room for 15 minutes, helping them with their work in the hall or simply going for a walk. What I also do is go with the class to music and gym class to help when needed. Four hours goes by very fast as I supervise an area outside on recesses for a total of 50 minutes as well as a 15 minute break.

How many students do you care for and what are the challenges with that number?
My largest group is when the teacher takes smaller groups outside of the class for a more concentrated lesson. I will remain in the classroom and help students out with work which they have already been set up with. For the most part, I’m simply jumping around between a small handful of students that require my help. My biggest challenge with the larger group is that I haven’t quite developed the skill which allows me to grab the classes attention ‘before’ they begin to get off track. As I said! I am new. I am learning.

How do you balance work life and home life?
I find that I don’t have to!  I couldn’t ask for a better role. I am available for my own children at all times which I feel necessary as they’re at the young ages of 7 and 9. It’s nice to not have to worry about finding someone to look after them in my absence. In fact, I am currently working at their school which has been great. There is no need to bring work home with me, so my time is exactly that… my time. In fact, I would say that working at my children’s school has enabled me to help them out more efficiently if they need it.

What is one thing you would like to do in the future? And why?
I would love to further my education on behaviour. I find it absolutely fascinating. I would love to be more in tune with people at a faster rate so that I can ask the ‘right’ questions and speak to them in a way that makes sense.

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Tell us about yourself.
My name is Amber Ursich.  I am a proud Yukoner, born and raised.  I have had the great pleasure of living in Québec City, QC for a year, as well as in Vancouver, BC for 7 years while attending post-secondary education. I have travelled the world from Asia, to the Middle East, to Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. As much as I am always grateful for the learning, experiences, and excitement that travel provides; I am equally grateful for the return home to comforts and familiarities. I am passionate about languages, culture, and history.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?
I thought long and hard before deciding to become a teacher. I fought it actually. In high school, my peers used to tell me that I was going to become a teacher because I was always helping others where I could. I would always say « no way » because I saw how hard my teachers worked and how much they had to put up with from us kids. But the undeniable fact was that I love the teaching and connection aspects of being a teacher. I have been a certified Lifeguard/Instructor for over half my life. I loved teaching kids & adults to swim. I am genuinely happy (sometimes bordering on excited) when I witness a student grasp a concept that they have been struggling with. I was fortunate enough to have supporting and loving people around me when I was considering career paths.  They encouraged me to combine my passion for teaching and connecting with students of all ages with other passions such as languages, culture, and history, to become a teacher.

What do you bring to your school that makes you unique?
We all have unique qualities and life experiences that allow us to connect differently with our school communities. I have had the good fortune to bring my experience as a student (within the same school system, and even within the same buildings), to my current position as teacher. I have been blessed to work alongside my former teachers and have had the unique ability to connect with and support their current students as well.

How do you communicate with parents?
Phone calls and emails are often necessary tools for more specific or concerning communications.  For the broader aspects of information, I have dabbled with various online communication tools such as Schoology, teacher website, and Google Classroom. At the elementary school level, I really like Schoology. For the secondary school level, I prefer Google Classroom.  As it stands right now, amidst this pandemic, our students are being supported in their learning and parents are receiving course specific information through Google Classrooms. I have only been working with this tool for a matter of weeks, and I already see myself continuing with it in some form post-pandemic.

Is your school a part of the community? And how?
My current school is very much a part of the larger community in Whitehorse. Vanier Catholic Secondary School is one of three, publicly-funded, designated Catholic schools in the territory. Our school community branches out and is intertwined with the church communities. We participate in an annual food drive event for the local food bank. We organize social justice initiatives within our immediate community. We also work for social justice awareness and change as part of a global community.

How do you balance work life and home life?
At the moment, I don’t. We are all wearing many hats during this unprecedented time in history. For now, there is seemingly not enough of me to go around.

Tell us a little bit more about teaching in the Yukon.
Our first nations culture is embedded in our learning. We are presented with unique learning opportunities here in the Yukon such as taking our students on Bison hunts in the fall, or camping excursions in the spring. We have access to learning on the land through our connections with First Nations. We invite elders into our classrooms to share their stories and thus their culture. We offer immersive learning opportunities in visual arts, textiles, fashion, music, drama, experiential science, outdoor education…the list goes on. We offer four different French stream programming options : French First Language, French Immersion (both early and late entry), Intensive French, and French Second Language. We offer language learning in First Nations languages as well such as Gwich’in and Northern/Southern Tutchone.

The Yukon is a wonderful place in which to teach. I am blessed to work alongside other passionate and dedicated professionals.  We are all lucky to call this place home!

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If you are interested in being interviewed, email us at info@mindgrowtheducation.com