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 5pm the Friday before March Break.

It was kind of like I was the 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 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.