Our Stories

Making the Right Choice for your First Year Teaching Experience


a) Transition Journey

Kaitlyn King was a member of our first Bachelor of Education cohort that graduated from Mount Royal University in the spring of 2015. During her final year of the program she spent a great deal of time researching teaching positions that aligned with her values and beliefs as a Christian. The one school in particular that caught her eye was Bearspaw Christian School (BCS). Kaitlyn knew the school Registrar at this school, and when she submitted her resume this woman indicated that she would keep her "eyes open" for her.

In addition to BCS, Kaitlyn submitted a number of other applications for teaching positions in the Calgary area. She had an interview with the Calgary Board of Education scheduled when she got a phone call from BCS inviting her for an interview as well just a few days before her interview with CBE. The interview took place shortly after she finished her 4th year practicum. The Principal had already been informed about Kaitlyn by the school Registrar, and the interview was more of a conversation that ended with a job offer to teach Kindergarten. Once she was hired Kaitlyn began volunteering in the Kindergarten classes and observing the other teachers. At the end of June she was able to be part of many of the kindergarten planning meetings as well as order supplies for the new school year such as a new carpet and Art supplies.

b) Board and School Orientation and Support
Kaitlyn emphasizes how BCS's team approach has helped with her transition to first year teaching. She is now part of a four person Kindergarten teaching team and over the summer she was able to review all the long range plans that the other team members had already developed. She also had all the contact information for the other Kindergarten teachers so she could phone or text them over the summer if she had any questions. This meant that by the end of the summer she had plans in place for the first two weeks of the new school year in September.
Now that the school year has begun Kaitlyn stresses how she would not be able to survive without her other Kindergarten team members. They are constantly providing her with support, encouragement, teaching resources, and ideas. In return, Kaitlyn has been able to share the digital technology expertise that she developed at Mount Royal University. She has shown the other teachers how to use their new Epsom Interactive Whiteboards to take attendance, Pinterest to access teaching resources, and GoNoOdle classroom movement activities.

c) First Year Teaching Goals
I want to create lessons that challenge my students but also fit my learners' diverse needs.

d) Anticipated First Year Teaching Challenges
I think that it will be challenging having to multi-task. I am the one who is teaching 100% when I am there, but I'll also have to coordinate volunteers, plan field trips, and do report cards. This will be challenging.

e) MRU B.Ed. Preparation for First Year Teaching
When reflecting back on her experiences at MRU, Kaitlyn indicates that "the 4th year integrated practicum was the key for helping me transition to my first year of teaching. If I had not done that I definitely do not think I would be ready for my first year teaching experience. Since I was in the classroom for an entire semester I didn't just go from being in a university classroom to my own Kindergarten classroom. I was at Altadore Elementary School for the entire winter semester so it wasn't as much as a culture shock. It was just like going from one school to the next. I was able to apply what I learned at Altadore directly to my first year teaching experience. I was teaching Grade 5 at Altadore but our students were buddies with the Kindergarten students so I also got to work with the Kindergarten teachers."

In addition, Kaitlyn stresses how the B.Ed. Program portfolio was "super helpful in getting my Kindergarten teaching position. The Principal did look at my ePortfolio. I know there are rumours circulating in 4th year that nobody looks at your portfolio but they do. Principals really want to know who you are when they are hiring.

f) Recommendations to Improve the MRU B.Ed. Program
I would like to recommend that you modify the ePortfolios to become something more like a professional learning plan where we are continually setting goals for ourselves and reflecting on our achievements throughout the program. I just had to write my Teacher Professional Growth Plan (TPGP) for the year and I never wrote something like this at MRU. I think it would be wonderful if the ePortfolio became a TPGP. "

g) Advice to First Year Students
In terms of advice for students just entering the MRU B.Ed. Program, Kaitlyn recommends learning about the importance of relationships in your teaching practice, developing a vision for where you want to go after graduation, and creating a professional learning network (PLN). "I remember in the first class on the program (EDUC 1231) that we talked about our relationships with our students and parents but you kind of blow this off in first year as fluff. It's not fluff. It is so important. I really had to dig back into my 1231 notes about how I need to relate to both students and parents. The first week of the new school year that's all you are focused on - so don't treat it as fluff in first year. Teaching really is about relationships, relationships, relationships. Parents are your key partners."

"Also, develop a vision for where you want to teach after graduation. For me, this was my dream school for a reason. I wanted to be at Bearspaw Elementary School because of what the school stands for. It's a Christian school and I am a Christian and thus, it aligns with my values. I know that all the other teachers at the school have the same values as me, which makes me feel supported and safe. I feel like I can make a mistake in this classroom and it's going to be okay because I can trust these people. It doesn't matter whether you are applying to a Christian or French school. You've got to make sure that whatever that school stands for it aligns with what you stand for too because otherwise you are not going to fit in. It is so important that you feel part of the school community."

"Finally, definitely develop your professional learning network while you are at MRU and get a team around you when you start teaching. I cannot do my job without my Educational Assistant and the other 3 Kindergarten teachers. I don't want to do my job without them. If you don't have a grade team make up your own team. Buddy up with teachers who teach an older grade. You've got to have a team because you can't do this on your own definitely not in your first year of teaching."