What do teacher candidates wonder about on their first day?

First Day September 6I started my first teaching job in September of 1996 and today, 20 years later, I had the privilege to welcome students at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Education to their very first class in their professional preparation program. The course I’m teaching this semester is about Curriculum Planning, Instruction and Assessment. It’s a foundations course that every teacher candidate has to take and I decided that rather than just talk about the course (as is typical on Day 1) I would ask my new students to just jump right in and start designing learning experiences and assessments that would address a single overall expectation for Grade 1 Dance.


As we deconstructed the process of planning in the short amount of time we had, students realized:

(a) that curriculum documents use specialized, disciplinary language;

(b) that  overall expectations could be interpreted in diverse ways;

(c) that they weren’t sure how best to assess this expectation, or how to plan a scope and sequence of evaluations over the course of the year to be sure they fit everything in;

(d) that they probably needed more information about how the Ministry would recommend the expectation be taught.

Questions?As their ticket out the door, I asked students to write down a burning question. I wanted to know what questions their first class raised for them, and I also wanted to understand what kinds of follow ups will be needed. Categorized by theme, here are students’ questions.  If you’re a teacher or an educational leader, what advice would you offer? I feel like I have the next year’s worth of blog posts laid out for me right here in this list, and a clear sense of how these young teachers have begun to think about the complexities of planning, teaching and assessing student learning.

Curriculum & Planning

  • Does it become easier to navigate the official/intimidating language of curriculum documents?
  • How do teachers balance and maintain the overall expectations for each subject?
  • Are the overall expectations for activities always so vague and up for interpretation?
  • How do we reconcile the excitement for creativity (e.g., dance) wtih the need to educate?
  • How do I plan, implement and assess activities that both meet Ministry standards as well as reflect who I want to be as a teacher?
  • How do you plan and assess curriculum expectations throughout the year?
  • Why is cursive not taught anymore? It’s an important life skill.


  • Will we discussing more on assessments?
  • How will you (as our professor) assess how well we are doing in ths course?
  • How do you incorporate all levesls of abilities to be fairly assessed?
  • How many people will be in the group for the last assignment?
  • How does a teacher assess fairly and effectively?
  • How do you take into account IEP learning when doing assessments?
  • Is there an ideal way to assess a student?

Classroom Management

  • What should we do if kids don’t ever get along with group or in groupwork?
  • How do you discipline problem children without separating them?


  • How do you feel about integrating technology with young learners when adults in theis day and age have become non-communicative in a face-to-face capacity? How can we as educators combat this change?
  • Will you explain the online tools that we have to use for class?
  • How does the use of technology in the classroom as a teacher effect the attitudes of students wanting to use their onw technology at an inappropriate time?
  • Will there be extra help to learn about various technologies, apps, websites that we will be using in this class and as a teacher? (for those who are not tech savvy?)
  • I read ahead and read something about a digital hub. I was wondering if we could have a bit more explanation on this?
  • What technology will we be using to help us assess the curriculum?

Course or Program Logistics

  • How does reading curriculum impact the choice of teaching a particular subject? Is there a specialization in P-J?
  • How do we know about available workshops or certificates available for us during the year?
  • In this course, are we going to learn the curriculum and how to assess it for kindergarten to grade 6?
  • How will we be submitting our online documents?
  • Do you think an outside job will be unrealistic with our course load?
  • What is the attendance like?
  • How exactly does a hybrid course work? I’ve never had one and am nervous about it.
  • How much time should we put aside for weekly readings?

Development as Professional Teacher

  • How long did it take you to start “thinking like a teacher”?
  • What’s the best advice to give to a student teacher regarding approaching difficult parents?