Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Difficult Place to Stand

I have now been teaching for eight weeks. What an eight weeks it has been! Hard work, long hours, many hours spent in the car, and few evenings spent outside of my house. Time, effort and reward and I wouldn't trade for anything.

It is really hard to wrap my head around the fact that I am living my dream. I have spent some of my time reflecting on that simple fact and realizing that a part of me feels lost because of it - what's my next goal? what do I dream for now? I have since realized that it has only just begun - I intend to move out of my parent's house within the next year, have my car put into my own name and the ultimate goal being to own property. Those dreams are definitely big enough for now!

Put aside the daily trials that I face with my classes, working with others, managing parent contacts, keeping people safe, etc and I see myself standing in this system we call "Education" and realizing that I am not sure what it is supposed to accomplish anymore...realizing I don't know how to stand within it. It's difficult, everyday.

When you are preparing to be a teacher you spend a lot of time trying to figure out who you are as a teacher and what aspects are important to you. You make those things your focus and design your classroom, lessons, etc around it. Afterall, if you cannot be natural in your classroom it won't seem sincere. What I have come to realize is that we spent no time figuring out what to do with that information! So I know who I want to be as a teacher, and what I want to try to inspire my students to be...but can I really make this Education system work?

I have honest fears about where our province is heading. It is a frightening realization that this generation of kids lack the skills to think for themselves. And only we are to blame. Even as a first year teacher I know that what I am sitting in is different than when I was a student. I am not oblivious to the fact that there were struggling students 10 years ago, that is a fact, I am aware of it. What I do know is that the students in the Academic streams get to high school without basic skills in mathematics. The cannot add integers, never mind add, subtract, multiply and divide fractions. So how I am supposed to expect them to be able to think about problems and to learn how to solve them (and I walked into teaching with the goal to teach these skills to kids, not to teach them Calculus! so how can I not feel lost??).

You could argue that I am overreacting, and I wouldn't necessarily argue with you - but we NEED to over react to this! Something in this "new" curriculum isn't working! Whether we have somehow worked to scare elementary teachers away from math or we have changed things so much that the way in which it has to be taught isn't working, SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE!

We have this amazing idea of "Pathways" - they are often referred to as "Pathways to Success". We definitely have been working to change the definition of success in our schools to recognize that not everyone can accomplish the same things, and that going into the work force, an apprenticeship or college are just as successful as going to University - and I love it. But if the Pathways don't work they way the should even before high school, we have a problem! An applied class is supposed to be able to take a more hands on approach to learning for students who don't learn as well from books. They should, in theory, be learning similar material to the Academic stream...but this is impossible. The applied classes end up being a mix of students with various abilities, most who have fallen so far behind throughout elementary school that they cannot maintain the standards we want to have for them in Grade 9 (and we think it is good for the egos to not allow students to fail in elementary school?????? on what planet does all of a sudden failing in Grade 9 make for a positive ego???).

Anyway, this update has turned into a serious rant. So despite the fact that I have more to say on the matter I will leave some of it up to you. I think our system needs a serious change from the bottom up. Our future is certainly uncertain at this time...question is, how can us pawns (the teachers) make what we do have work for these students?

Any input, questions, or comments you have will be appreciated.

Or heck, write your City Councillor, the Mayor, the Minister of Education and your MP. We've got problems in our own backyards...we need to make SOMEONE realize that the problem exists and we know it!

For now, I will enjoy some Christmas music and a skate at the neighbourhood rink.

Merry Christmas and cheers to a safe and happy New Year!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Month One

Well loyal followers, it has now officially been 4 weeks since I began teaching. Which means that only 174 days remain on my probation period as a teacher. It has been quite the roller coaster ride, but I can safely say that I still love it and am so happy with my decision to pursue a career in teaching. There have been funny moments, overwhelming/stressful moments and some great learning moments so far. Some of them are outside of the classroom - it's always ironic when I get home to have my father say "are you REALLY a high school teacher? not grade 2?"

He has a point though, as I love that age group as well at camp and cannot believe that I handle teenagers everyday either, but I love that I can go into class every day and not know what is going to happen...and at the same time be able to be apart of such a tough/awkward time of a kid's life. There are pros and cons to being the "young" teacher that the kids think they can relate to - I find that they tend to be more open about life and class which can lead to them saying things they probably shouldn't but they also seem to really appreciate my efforts and want to put forth the effort to meet my expectations.

Speaking of expectations, I tried to walk into these classes with high expectations...if you lower your expectations students will tend to lower their standards and not work to their potential. They created my classes by splitting existing ones in half (ya, I am a lucky butt, I know!) so the classes are small but I also had to deal with starting partway through a semester and got some of the students that were struggling a bit more in their classes. I've been working hard with them and some of them are struggling, but I make myself available to them for extra help a lot and a few of them have responded to it.

I had to write report card comments and do the report marks for my students in my second week at the school. It was quite the experience and quite the learning curve, but I got through it and have become more acquainted with the process as well as using Mark Book - a computer software for recording and calculating marks. This week has marked a bunch of "milestones" as well. The new teachers had our NTIP meeting with one of the VPs to find out about that process (and of course I just realized that there is much to do and it got left at school, luckily my Teacher Performance Appraisal (TPA) isn't for another two weeks). It was also Parent Teacher Night this week - which marks my first as a teacher. I give camp experience a ton of credit for how easily that went and for the fact that I wasn't even nervous about it. Overall, it went really well and some great conversations with parents occurred.

There are so many things about this first month that have gone through my head when I have thought about finally getting a chance to write this entry, but of course I cannot think about much right now - the exhaustion on a Friday evening is aplenty. I have kind of gotten used to the idea of exhaustion being a constant state of being. I have yet to drink coffee still - hooray!

Well I feel I have spent enough hours thinking about school for now anyway. 53 hrs were spent within the school walls, plus some additional time at school and lots to do this weekend.

Something you would like to know about my experience so far? Post a comment and I will include it in my nest entry :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Journey Officially Begins...

After 20 years of my own education I will officially be a teacher in my home-grown province. Through a round of applications for permanent positions in Math/Science roles I landed four interviews in all and, in the end, two job offers. I accepted the first offer that came through thinking it would be a week before I heard from the last school and they ended up calling the next day. Not that this knowledge would have changed the decision to accept the offer, but it was a little ironic as I never expected to get two offers, nevermind land a full-time, permanent position my first year out of the Faculty. It feels really surreal still and I have had 24 hours to soak it in.

3 math preps at a semestered school will make for a very busy and interesting year. The school is small and seems like a great place to start my career and I will get a chance to teach a science class second semester as well. I am definitely excited, despite being rather nervous and unsure about it all (well, not about the profession itself, of that I know I want).

Time will tell what the experience may bring, and I will be sure to keep you posted (though I cannot guarantee frequent updates! haha).

Happy learning!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Realizing the Unknown

This week has largely been about realizing that I really have no idea what life has in store for me. Today it has really hit me that for the first time in twenty years I will not be heading into a classroom with a teacher standing in front of me the day after Labour Day. I am beginning to realize how strange this is and how much I am going to miss school - University was an amazing experience and was such a huge part of my life.

Not only do I have to move into a non-student life this September I am sitting here not really having any idea as to what the next 4, 8, or 12 months have in store for me. I have some short term plans as I continue the job search, but they could easily be cut short if my search is successful. I have been lucky to find some employers that will understand if I have to leave them, but there is a mix of a family business really needing my help in there as well. It makes the unknown and looking into the "rest of my life" feel that much more stressful.

I am so grateful for the support of all of my friends and family who really see the potential in me to be a great teacher and want to see me succeed. These networks are as valuable as the ones that help me meet the people that may be able to help me find a job somewhere down the road. It would be pretty daunting to have to tackle it all without people backing me up - so thank you to you all, for being a part of my life and pushing me to keep going and be the best person that I can be. In those moments where it doesn't feel worth it to do it for myself I will push myself knowing that there are people in my life who will be proud of me for it.

Well it is late and I have to get up to go to work in the morning, so I will leave with my congratulations to my friends who have started to find their place in the teaching world. Whether you are starting overseas, have found a job in another province or are starting in a permanent, occassional or LTO position around the GTA/Kingston I wish you the best this year and know that you will be successful in whatever you put your mind to!

Monday, July 13, 2009

If you know better, do better!

The title comes from someone who is in my Additional Basic Qualification (ABQ) course. It came up during our online chat tonight about a teachers role in the socialization of students. A stimulating chat we had, I must say, and it is unfortunate that we did not have time to debate some of the finer points. Since I haven't updated this blog in awhile I will give the basics of this course: Online version of a curriculum course that will enable me to be qualified to teach Senior Social Sciences.

It is such a simple line "If you know better, do better." But I had to take a moment to write about it because of just that - a simple motto in which to live by. Six words that encompass how I have tried to live my life as I have grown, matured, and developed a set of personal values. But as simple as it may sound, it is not always easy.

It is the every day things, like trying to be an active witness - being the one in your peers to stop someone when they use a particular term or phrase when no one else will. Like trying to throw every little piece of garbage into a garbage bin and recycling into a recycling bin. Like trying to be a good friend to everyone, even though it is virtually impossible to never say a bad thing about another person at some point. Like trying telling your mom or dad a little white lie, even though the truth probably wouldn't hurt. Like realizing just after the fact that you've made a mistake, and leaving it for someone else to deal with.

Anyway, this classmates life motto caught my attention long enough to bring it to your attention. I hope it makes you think a little bit about how you would like to lead your life better. About how you can make a difference for a better world.

Happy Summer!!

A future blog - the roller coaster of the job search!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Preparing to Write a Philosophy

One of the final assignments at the Faculty is to write a Philosophy of Education. This will be at least the third, if not fourth time I have been asked to do this, but as your experiences progress, the way you write and your views on Education change. This is for one of my Professional classes and has been presented in a way that I am really enjoying. We have touched on some interesting issues and the instructor is trying to bring up some things for us to think about and consider as we write. On the first day of our theatre lectures he posed a bunch of questions. I thought that it might make for some interesting reading into who I am as a teacher. So if you dare, read on and find out what my current stance is on Education. Who knows, maybe I will write a chunk of my Philosophy of Education in the process.


What is your role as a teacher?
I believe that my role is to facilitate and guide the learning of others. It is to provide opportunities for learning with regards to curriculum (subject matter), social issues (which is done by creating a welcoming, positive learning environment that students feel safe in and can trust), and current local and world issues. It is to make students aware of who they are as learners and provide them the means to learn from and about one another.

What is the learners role?

I believe that the learners role is to have an open mind and be willing to learn. To be curious, ask good questions, and expect a lot of himself/herself. What "a lot" is for one learner may not be enough or may be too much for another. I believe that the learner should expect a lot of me as a teacher and be willing to communicate his/her needs with me so that their goals can be met and we can be successful as a team.

How do you decide what is important for your students to learn?

I believe that it is critical to determine what is important for my students to learn by determining what their individual goals and needs are for the course and learning in general. I will decide what is important to each individual student through personal discussions. Considering the former along with the links that my curriculum has to that of other subjects, social and character education, and important skills (such as logical thinking, problem solving, and language-math understanding) will allow me to make an informed decision of what is important for my students to learn.

How do you find out if/what your students have learned?
Determining whether or not your students are learning what I am/have been teaching requires constant observation, research, and reflection. I believe that walking around the class every day to check on students notes and progress in their work is essential to gauging learning. Combining this practice with asking questions in class and keeping other lines of communication (i.e. communication log, online methods) with students open will help to determine if the students learned on a particular day. Providing multiple opportunities for my students to get feedback from assessments for learning will help me to find out what my students have learned and give them a chance to be better prepared for various forms of assessments of learning.

What strategies do you employ to help your students learn?
It is my belief that by varying the tempo, teaching style, and types of assessments and evaluations I use in class I can help my students learn. Changing the tempo allows students the chance to be reengaged and to refocus their efforts in class. Some of the teaching styles I use are lectures, class discussions, experiential learning, POEs (Predict, Observe, Explain), investigations and experiments, presentations, jigsaws, prompting questions, research, notes, handouts, interactive whiteboards, technology based lessons, and one-on-one discussions/help. Finally, by varying assessments for my students I am allowing them the opportunity to express their thoughts and learning in different ways - some students will not do well on tests but can express their understanding in a different way - which will also help them learn how to be more successful on types of assessments that they may not usually do as well in.

What do you feel is important for your students to remember about their learning experience with you 10 years from now?
If I were to run into one of my former students ten years after having taught them I would hope to discover that they remembered learning how to think about and solve problems. That they would remember being taught to think about things logically and that my classroom was not just about Science or Math, but about what life was like around them and becoming educated about the people who surrounded them. I want my students to leave my class having become a more conscientious, caring, empathetic, and logical person.

Describe your educational background.

Finding a passion for Mathematics in elementary school I was driven to follow through and complete any Math course I could get my hands on in high school. I was also musically driven and my Grade 12 year was spent largely in Math, Music, Physics, and Psychology based classes. I completed by B.Sc.H. in Mathematics with Physics as a second teachable through the Concurrent Education program. I also took interest in taking a wide variety of electives including credits in Health, Philosophy, Economics, and Psychology.

What are your future career goals?
I have now worked through my B.Ed. with intentions of completing an additional University credit required to take an ABQ course for Senior Social Sciences as well as the intention of completing Spec Ed part 1 early on in my career. I have aspirations to eventually become a department head and have not ruled out the potential to work as an administrator at some point in my career. Some of my shorter-term goals include: Setting up a safe, positive learning environment in which my students feel welcome and free to speak with me about anything and to speak with each other; being analytical of my own teaching practices and ensuring that these practices evolve as my students and I evolve; and continuing to make an effort to learn about and use technologies in my classroom.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation

Throughout the past three weeks I have been doing work with the Herbert H Carnegie Future Aces Foundation in Markham, ON. Future Aces is affiliated with many schools throughout the Toronto District School Board and the surrounding area doing leadership and character work with a focus on at-risk youth. It was really neat to get some experience in an Educational role outside of the classroom. This charitable organization definitely does some amazing work. I first heard about them when I was in my last year of high school and got to hear Herb speak at my co-op placement.

My tasks included creating a student journal for the student trip to Chatham, ON; developing a couple of Intermediate Science Character lessons; working through evaluations from the November Leadership Conference (which is run annually for Grades 7-10); attending and supervising the trip to Chatham (36 high school students from 5 high schools in Toronto attended); and organizing the ACES Team (Leadership Team) for the Returning Faces Conference in May (a follow up to the Conference in November). During my placement I was also able to attend one of their high school presentations - it was the first presentation at a school that started a Future Aces club just this year.

The most eventful part of my placement was obviously the excursion to Chatham, ON. The trip lasted for two nights and I rode the bus both ways with the teacher supervisors and the students. We met up with the Future Aces staff there. It was a bit of a 'no man's land' for me to be there on the "organizers" side of things, but to not really have much of a role with them, and not have a direct responsibility for the students, as their teachers had. In any event, it was interesting and I got to see some pretty neat things.

We stopped at the RM Classic Car Exhibit.

Visited the North Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, located on what was the Elgin Settlement - a last stop on the Underground Railroad where many Black men, women, and families settled after escaping slavery.

Spent time at the W.I.S.H. Centre, part of the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society, where we got to meet and speak with Ken Milburn - the first paid black firefighter in the Chatham department as well as the first black captain (it is believed that he may have also been the first in Canada of at least one, if not both).

Had a tour of the Milner House and Museum (we had also been to the house the night before while on our "Ghost Tour", it was neat to be back during the day time when the kids were less afraid!). The Milner house was built in the late 1800s and was restored as a 1905 home. Apparently the phrase "put a sock in it" comes from this time as the gramophone did not have a volume control - one would be told to "put a sock in it" to muffle the sound.

Our final stop on the Underground Railroad was Uncle Tom's Cabin, built on a part of the large portion of land that was once the Dawn Settlement. Rev. Henson played a big role at this settlement and was made famous when the main character in Uncle Tom's Cabin was developed based on his life. A small museum is housed here were we saw some of the torture devices that were used on black slaves.

We also visited some important First Nations sites. Stopping briefly at the Tecumseh monument (it was almost horizontal snow, so we did not stay long) and spent the better part of our third day on Walpole Island (aka Bkejwanong) learning from and speaking with some of the First Nations Youths, Elders, and the Youth Director. It was a really interesting day there and I think the students learned a lot (I know I did). I did not take any pictures on the Island, but definitely have many memories to take from the experience.

One of the important aspects of this trip for the students were the consciousness thinking sessions with Courtney Kazembe. We did a condensed version of his Awakenings session and it was interesting to what it unfold while he worked with high school students instead of his usual "middle aged" audience. I have much to say about this and will leave it for it's own entry.

Be the new you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Completing Practical

So practicum was coming to an end...and as my Associate Teacher (AT) put it, I was learning what a report card deadline felt like. Basically I had a huge pile of marking left and very little time left in which to do it. It's not like I could return it to the students at that point, but March Break and the fact that I wasn't coming back was big enough reason to finish it. Needless to say, I got to see what it was like to be one of the last people in the building...at 5pm the Friday before March Break.

It was kind of like I was there....in the moment...as this teacher that is really on her way to becoming who I want to become - I was no longer a student teacher, I was a committed, hard-working professional and had a huge smile on my face, even though I was exhausted. I was leaving, knowing I had helped some students understand new concepts and believing that what I had set out to become 15 year earlier (I was in Grade 3 when I realized I had a passion for teaching) was always going to be a part of me.

At the end of my last class with each of my Grade 11 sections I asked them to take half a sheet of paper and write me some feedback. To explain why they liked or disliked something I did or didn't do, etc. Some of the students were ones I had taught in Mathematics during the fall and some of them mentioned something that I had improved or that they had noticed I did different between the two subjects. Last night I got around to reading the comments from my last class and one of them had written something along the lines of 'you're way better at teaching physics than math'. I was kind of shocked for a second when I read this...but in the end it has few surprises...in Physics I was able to lead two labs, and do multiple demos throughout the chapter I was working on, as well as mentioning some things I had seen in the news, etc.

It is definitely true that my passion lies in Mathematics and teaching - and I can see even more clearly now that I need to let that passion out with my students and strive to find ways to demo math concepts and keep the classes more connected to the lives of my students. Now the next step - get the chance to do this in a teaching job!

Now that all of my classroom practicum opportunities are complete I will go forth, seek opportunities to learn, and make a difference for myself and in who I want to be.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Loving Online Marking and soooo Much More!

Wow it has been awhile since an update was written here. It must make it seem like I don't have much to say about what is going on (I'm sure those of you that know me are laughing/scoffing at that comment right now!). There has been so much happening but I guess some of it had to compound (and a few of you had to remind me to write) before I realized there was much I wanted to share.

I am in the midst of my first ever science placement. Teaching in a different department has brought on many new challenges and excitement since I have started. Math and Science both had their perks and their low points. Some of the things I have noticed are as follows:
- Coming up with and being able to perform demos as a normal part of my classes is a lot of fun and a great way to think about learning
- Doing demos is a lot of prep work and cleaning up is annoying! (But it is DEFINTELY worth it!)
- I am way less confident working with science concepts, but teaching it has led me to refresh my knowledge and even do a bit of research of my own. It has reminded me how much I LOVE learning and being curious about things!
- It really is amazing that departments within the same school can have such different dynamics!
- Getting to work with a new Associate Teacher has been a great experience. New things to learn and different approaches to observe.
- Enriches classes are SO curious about the subject. They are amazing to watch in class!
- Teaching four sections of the SAME course is REDUNDANT and I cannot keep track of who has be told what (Yikes!)

There are definitely other things that I have come across, but many of them are not directly related to the subject change so I will stop there. I will leave you with a brief account of some of the excitement I have encountered in the past two weeks.

1. I started teaching the Grade 9 sections today. You definitely have to be conscious of the ways you manage a junior Grade compared to a Grade 11 or 12 class. But you can also have a lot of fun with the material with them.

2. I was on the bench for the girls' last regular season hockey game. What an improvement they have made! Unfortunately I couldn't make the quarter finals or semis - but I was super proud of them for getting to the semi finals!

3. An experience of dealing with coming back to class after a supply teacher has been there...I was away and my associate teacher ended up being sick. Needless to say I am behind with my Grade 11's and there are more interruptions to come (gross).

4. Spending 3 days and 2 nights at an outdoor centre on a Grade 11 Biology field trip. SUCH a GREAT experience as a teacher candidate! An experience I will take with me and (dare I say) reflect on. It is definitely something I would do again and even though I have seen how much work organizing a trip like that can be I am definitely interested in doing something like that in my professional career. Getting to see what the students can get out of it and realizing that so many of them would never get some of those outdoor experiences otherwise. Lots of responsibility (and definitely some risk involved) and many new challenges with discipline and problem solving - and experience worth having!

I cannot believe that I almost signed off without talking about the title of this entry! I only remembered becuase I was running off to do more of it before I head to sleep. ONLINE MARKING!!!

My Associate Teacher uses turnitin.com - how awesome! It took him some time to get all of his students on the site and connected with the class they are supposed to be connected to, but now I can post bins for them to submit assignments to (in word format) that I am using to do formative assessments with my students. I will assign a communication type question for them to do based on something I have taught and they have to submit it before the next class. I review it (make comments on the work online that they can then access!) and then discuss with them the next class common mistakes I noticed or even realize that I need to reteach a concept. Marking this way is sooooo much faster than formative marking by hand. I am much less overwhelmed by it this time around. Oh, and I can also send entire classes emails from turnitin to remind them of the assignments, etc. I highly recommend checking out what it is capable of!

Happy March!!
(March Break in 2 weeks!!!!!!)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Calm and Assertive...Dealing with Language

Cesar Millan is a famous dog whisperer that deals with owners and their dogs. It is he who believes that leadership comes from being "Calm and Assertive". This idea has some interesting applications in the human world, especially in teaching. I wanted to link this idea to the entry I have been planning write for a few days now because I believe it has a place in the solution. I am sure there is a theme visible in what I write about and the issues I talk about (within and outside of class) so this will not likely come as a surprise - I have been noticing and trying to find new ways to deal with language that is not inclusive. So here I will discuss a few of the more common phrases used that I believe lead to exclusion and hopefully leave with a part of a solution to help myself, and others, to be active witnesses.

Faggot: I would be curious to know how many people actually know what it means.
- A bundle of sticks and branches bound together
The term came to be an offensive term as referred to a male homosexual when a group of 'witches' used homosexual men as kindling for a fire.

It absolutely appalls me that someone could continue to use this word once educated as to its meaning. Yes, we have to consider that it is done simply to offend someone - but if all we can do is use words as incredibly terrible as this then all I can think of to say is that we are incredibly uncreative. But away from that tangent - those who are educated as to the origin of 'faggot' should feel obligated to pass on this information, should feel obligated to make it a part of who they are to prevent others from using it.

- Was once a diagnoses in the DSM for a medical condition or psychological disorder
At one point it would have been considered the 'proper' term to describe same-sex sexual orientation

The goal behind bringing this up is that we have to work on the context in which we use words - even words like 'homosexual' can have a negative connotation used in a wrong way. The same goes for words like 'gay', 'queer', 'lesbian', or 'trans'.

- Refers to an old anthropological reference to a skull structure consistent with those from Europe, North Africa, West Asia, and South Asia.
As one can venture, not all of these areas consist of what we know as "white" populations.

This is more of a personal pet peeve of the assumption that "Caucasian" is the politically correct way to refer to a white person. I am white. And yes, I happen to be Caucasian, but if you need to refer to my race or culture call me white or Canadian!

I will admit it can be difficult, and at times awkward, to use the word partner or to choose other gender neutral terms when asking about or referring to someones significant other - but at times the assumption that a person is straight or the assumption that a person is not straight is unfounded and we find ourselves in an awkward situation anyway.

Why not get in the habit of using gender neutral terms. Just because the societal "norm" is to be straight doesn't mean that a person who is not should be forced to choose to either lie to you by omission or have to "come out" to you just because your language implies you are assuming that person is straight. That small effort by you allows you to show you are an accepting person and makes others feel more comfortable around you. And hey, setting a good example doesn't usually hurt anyone.

I will sign off with a general comment - be aware of your own shortcomings when it comes to inclusive language. Take the time to realize when YOU are excluding someone simply through the use of a word or phrase and make the effort to find something else to say.

Take it one step further and find your most common generalizations (be they about race, gender, sexuality, parenthood, age, culture, etc). Take a second to think about a time when someone generalized you for being part of a group to realize that it is possible for people to fall outside of their groups 'norm' just like you did.

These are just a few of the "solutions" I was referring to. You will have to find your own - but the connection is that I have found it is much easier to be an active witness if you are calm (and assertive) about your views. Share your opinion, stand up for others, and stand up for yourself - but don't be afraid to listen to what the other person has to say as well!

Happy Lunar New Year!
And thank you for taking the time to read this entry and/or others.
Feel free to leave a comment just to let me know you stopped by =)

Do your part - be an active witness!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Preparing for the "Next" Step

Earlier this week I was in class when a conversation ensued that made me want to write about the notion of teaching students as preparing them for the "next" step in their lives.

So often we hear that the system should prepare students for college and university, that the system is failing our children if they do not succeed in post secondary education. I believe that we are TOO focused on what comes next and, often, that we forget about what the student needs NOW. If we get too sunk into the tunnel vision of the future we will easily forget or miss something that our students will require to succeed in our courses.

It all starts in Pre-School. We want out children to learn to co-operate, socialize, and to stimulate their cognitive growth. Focus is on the whole child and on simple skills that will effect their success through their entire future. It would make little sense to skip the letter A in the alphabet when we are starting to teach literacy - and we wouldn't do this simply in the interest of saving time because we desperately need to get to the letter Z. So why, in a high school class, should we gloss over teaching a student how to study effectively or how to make organized notes in our class just to get through the entire curriculum? Why should we always lecture to a Grade 12 class just because "that's what they are going to get in University"? - This is completely irrelevant if they are not able to actually UNDERSTAND and THINK about the concepts that they need.

Anyway, I feel like I had much more to say about this topic at the time, but my general point has been made. Maybe the only other thing I think is worth mentioning is that sometimes, using an activity or manipulatives in a Grade 10 or 11 class isn't a negative thing. Yes, the academic students should learn to conceptualize things without them, but this skill isn't easy for everyone to develop and it is more useful for a student to use manipulatives to help them comprehend than for me to force them to conceptualize something they just do not get.


An aside: I once received an email from someone that described what you should say if someone asks you what a teacher makes. (A rebuttle for those ignorant people who think that we teach for the money, the "holidays", or think that we shouldn't teach because of the money). There is a video version of this, that I have linked to here.

I have also provided a link here for an article that compares football, teaching, and the finance sector. A little long, but a good read.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I have found that my writing can get pretty structured around whatever idea I title my entries, so I thought I would leave this one a little up in the air and see what happens.

The first week of the winter semester of my B.Ed. is well underway. The snow is aplenty and the freezing rain super-annoying! It seems like the air at the Faculty is pretty upbeat considering the weather - most of us are enjoying that we are back in classes being given the chance to review what we have done in practicum and to continue to get interesting ideas from one another. I could have used with a couple of days of vacation from my break to do nothing before classes started, but have found that doing no work has done about the same thing. There are drawbacks of course; I have yet to get any real move on with my resume and covering letter writing and I have an appointment to have it reviewed in less than two weeks.

In the first three days of classes and special programming I have already heard a few things worth writing down and attended another social justice lecture. This one was about Environmental Education, and was pretty interesting as I had not really thought of Environmental Education as a social justice issue prior to yesterday. We got a taste of a couple of good resources too. There is a video that shows you what the world would be like if we kept proportions the way they are but decreased the world's population to 100. You can view the video here, it is pretty short so watch it if you have a few minutes!

One of the things that has been said since I returned to the Faculty that has really stuck with me is "Beware the 'teacher reaction' - make sure to know the facts and react accordingly". I think that is stuck with me and led to me writing it down because it is so easy to relate to. I have had many moments in my life that I can relate to this statement. It's that reaction that I have from time to time that has the look "are you seriously saying/doing/acting like that right now??????" Many social and ethical issues have become so ingrained in me over the years that it can be easy to forget that it is not necessarily the norm in society (yet) and that the individual is a result of his experiences. Which leads me to something someone said today - we must remember that we are not just teachers in the classroom, we are educators everywhere. And so, with this thought in mind and having seen myself overreact to situations in the past, I will strive to remember to step back, take in everything, and then deal with a situation. And I will strive to be an educator in my every day life and to continue to try to be an even better active witness.

Well I think that I have shared enough for tonight. I hope to continue to find things worth sharing with you!

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!