Pre-internship! The ups, the downs, and the inbetweens

Photo credit: WebGadder- http://webgadder.com/see-what-you-miss-when-you-say-no-time/

To start off with, I will say one of the most obvious things I’ve learned from pre-internship is that time changes and the hours in a day turn into merely minutes. I was so focused on pre-internship that I forgot to post to my blog- so, instead I am going to give a summary of the things I learned and experienced in my 3 weeks of pre-internship.

1. The comic I started with… that’s literally how I felt. I was either at school learning and planning, or somewhere else and thinking about learning and planning. This is a very scary thought because I only taught 2 class –> how will I do it when I have 4-5 classes to teach?! I look forward to internship when I get to find out.

2. Teachers really are underpaid. I learned this from simply being in the Cooperative Room with all the science teachers. I cannot tell you there was a solid 5 minutes of silence. There was always students coming to the door needing help or trying to catch up on missed work, etc. The roles teachers have to take on to meet the needs of students is unthinkable: from nurse, to parent, librarian, accountant, cook, leader, team member, and so on. I constantly witnessed teachers stepping out from their role as an educator to whatever they needed to be to meet the needs of students.

3.  I also learned I need to buy a foot-massager and a pair of good shoes. Not only do teachers spend an awful amount of time on their feet, they also have to think on their feet! There was two times in the three weeks I was there that an assembly or other unexpected event took place that ruined the lesson I had set up. I had to think on my feet quickly to make it work. This is something I’ve come to realize can’t be taught, but rather learned through experience.

4. Relationships are crucial. At the start of my three weeks, my students were very shy and unresponsive to questions I asked. After about the first week I noticed the comfort level of both me and my students to increase drastically. I truly believe that the moments I had to simply talk with my students and build a relationship with them was the only reason some of them listened to my lessons and did what I had asked of them. This is an area I hope to grow more in until I can have great relationships with every one of my students.

5. Patience truly is a virtue. I would classify myself as a fairly patient person; however, there was one situation I was surprised how annoyed I became. I was doing a demonstration in a Superlab (a huge lab that allows multiple classes to use at the same time) to my class of 38 (yes 38… that’s not a typo unfortunately) when another class came in and started doing their experiments. The one other time I had my class do an experiment in the Superlab I had no problems with other classes using the space as well; however, because I was doing a demonstration I was also having a conversation with my students about the concepts for the day. They could not all hear or see me and were completely distracted to what the other class was doing. To be fair, they were doing something which involved fire and colour change which is wayyyyy more interesting that seeing how fast we could dissolve an alka seltzer tablet in water, but they needed to know this for their assignments and test! I finished my demonstrations and we went back to the classroom, but I was very surprised when reflecting at how my patience completely left me in that situation.

6. Concepts you think are easy… may not be so easy. My pre-internship partner had taught balancing chemical reactions in one day. I thought this was really reasonable and so when it came time for me to teach it to my class expected about twice as long, but 3 days max. Yeah… this simple lesson turned into a week and a half. Classroom diversity is completely in control of how fast or slow students pick up on certain concepts. I feel like we had taught it with a similar approach; but, her approach met the needs of her students where my approach left a lot of them more confused than ever. I felt like I had failed my students because of this, but came to realize it just meant I had to alter my teaching methods to ensure all students had the opportunity to learn it.

7. Learning can’t always be fun. Before this experience, I was delusional at how easy it was to make every lesson and concept fun. I still believe students learn better when the lesson is fun, but there are those concepts for which that just can’t happen. I had brainstormed for multiple hours on ways of teaching types of reactions in a way other than direct instruction. Although they could do an experiment with it, that still did not ensure they were learning the concepts that were being experimented on. In the end, I had to give students a brief, and boring, slideshow on the information present. Not everyone likes taking notes, but not everyone likes being in the lab either. From this, I’ve learned that the best way to go about it is to just provide multiple methods of instruction. While some of these may be boring to some students, other students need it to understand and move on.

I absolutely loved my time pre-interning and can say this experience has allowed me to grow in my teaching career. I am feeling more prepared for internship, but also more reflective on areas I know I plan to improve. My Coop, students, and the school itself has been detrimental to my professional development and for that I am very thankful. I will end off with another important lesson I learned during my three weeks summed up by John Dewey:

“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”

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Technology is not just a trend

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Technology is getting to be not only beneficial, but required, for learning to flourish. With today’s apps and resources, research suggests students’ learning has increased as well as productivity. It’s getting to be essential for teacher’s to have knowledge about technology and its use in the classroom. There is multiple professional development opportunities available for educators so long as the motivation and interest is there. It’s important educators stay ahead of their students with the up and coming trends of technology so they can prepare and teach netiquette that’s included. The education system has had to shift tremendously with the “trend” of technology and so will the teachers.

With all the benefits of of technology in the classroom, there is also the struggles. For one, not all students have access to technology, which places them in an awkward situation. Another struggle teachers will have to be prepared to deal with is the distraction technology can bring. One of the ways teachers can combat this is by educating their students about the proper uses of technology and setting up regulations for using it in the classroom. One other struggle that may occur is a more difficult situation to handle- this would be the data amount allotted to each school. A lot of times, schools get new tablets or computers and aren’t able to use them properly because of poor wifi. The only way technology can benefit the education system, is if it has adequate wifi to run off of. Technology is essential to learning…because of this, teachers need to be aware of the things that work against it.

Is Wikipedia lying to you?

Encyclopedia
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With over 3 million English entries, Wikipedia is a popular source for gaining information. Often we are reminded to think about the internets reliability. An example I’ll use is with twerking/fire fail. I had first watched this when it first came out and completely believed it was true without even second guessing. I guess I believed there are always people who want to try the “trend of the week” and not everyone can do it (an obvious example of this, is the cinnamon challenge). However, after I had watched the true version of the video and realized it was a prank and was shocked. The video had gotten 15 million views… This is the perfect example of how, not just in the technology world, but all the time one needs to question the validity of what they’re reading or watching.

After this thought had crossed my mind I had instantly started questioning where I usually get my information from. Although many teachers instruct you not to… I often find myself using Wikipedia because of the simple and easy way they display the information. I had heard both sides about the accuracy of Wikipedia and just decided I’d believe Wikipedia had to be mostly true. However, after this lesson today my curiosity was pushed further. I had googled quite a few articles about Wikipedia and it’s validity. The funny part was, the first website to popup was of course Wikipedia with an article about Reliability of Wikipedia. There was one site that actually talked about a study done specifically on this subject. The study had stated that with a comparison between Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica, both had contained 4 serious errors when 47 articles were reviewed. I thought this was pretty eye opening due to the fact that both have very different understandings of creditability.

After this research, the majority of articles I had read all pointed to a similar approach: always read more than one resource on the subject so you are able to cross-reference and find differences. No matter if you’re even using Encyclopaedia Britannica over Wikipedia it is always suggested you cross-references another source.

My final thought about this subject would be that I do now feel confident using Wikipedia as I usually always have more than one reference anyways. Information is always a good thing to have, but no matter where it comes from, you should always spend time questioning its validity.

What makes a good teacher?

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With pre-intership coming up I’ve been doing more and more research as to what will make me a good teacher. In my school years I’ve seen good teachers and I’ve seen bad teachers. It was sometimes obvious why some teachers were more preferred than others but sometimes it was more complicated. So, based on my research and previous experience I decided to make a short list of things to bring into the classroom as a reminder of how I should approach teaching:

1. Be yourself. Not all of the good teachers were the same and it was their unique characteristics that made them all great in their own way. Students can spot a fake. In order to gain students’ trust and respect, you have to be comfortable with yourself and establish your own teachings style.

2. Be Flexible. The classroom is never a constant. The announcements go off; the band kids have to leave; there’s an assembly taking place. As a teacher, you have to be flexible and accepting of the side-tracks your class may take. A good teacher is able to roll with the punches and adjust his/her schedule to work.

3. Have humour. A teacher who is able to laugh and have fun is much more approachable and relate-able for students. Although this can’t be taken to the extreme where it takes away from the learning of the students; however, it should be taught that learning is fun and interesting.

4. Be a role model. In some circumstances, students are with teachers more than they are with their own parents. Teachers are with youth at a very crucial age where students are figuring themselves out. As an educator, it is my job to be the best role model for my students as possible so that they always have at least one good example to learn from.

5. Be forgiving. Every day is a new day. As a teacher it is my job to allow for equal opportunity for my students. To do this I must take away biases and forgive any pass discrepancies. Everyone has bad day, don’t bring them forward.

A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.
– Brad Henry

Is Minecraft more than a silly game? (a great teaching tool?)

Minecraft
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Wow. So I never would have guessed I would be writing about this topic since I initially hated Minecraft and had never understood why my brother enjoyed playing such a pixelated game; however, my thoughts are changing. I had initially googled Youtube as a great teaching resource but was surprised when an article about “Minecraft being the ultimate teaching tool”  came up. After reading the article and watching the video I got to thinking that maybe my opinion about the game had been wrong this whole time.

To explain, Minecraft is like a huge online lego game. You have your character who can build, harvest, dig, swim, and many other things. There isn’t a particular object to the game besides stay alive and have fun. There are certain challenges you can take on (like defeating a dragon), but really the game centralizes around your own imagination. I had asked my brother once why he liked it so much and he had simply replied he enjoyed building whatever he wanted and playing with his friends to do so. I was amazed to see some of the houses, castles, and mines he created and how much time that went in to those.

Here’s a video I found on Youtube that helps show the game experience a little more and also show how creative the players can be. It’s a parody of the song “Wake me Up” done with Minecraft game play:

I was amazed with how much work and time that must have went in to this video. The combination of the lyrics, and videos, and putting it all together would be timely; however, the product is just so cool! Referring back to the article I had read, it had stated a few specific examples of how Minecraft is actually being used in the classroom by 20 000 students today:

1. Probability- build a random animal dropper

2. Physics- measure the time it takes a block to fall and then talk about gravity

3. You can build almost any historical architecture or build sets for Shakespearean plays

4. Use the block to talk about area and volume

5. Create art and put it in a gallery

6. Teach a different language with in-game signs (boards you post notes on)

One of the huge benefits to Minecraft is the flexibility is encompasses. It can literally be altered to fit so many different subjects and objectives while keeping students engaged and excited about learning. One of the main points the article had stated was the importance and benefits of the students being in charge of their own learning. Reaching out to students’ interests and teaching within those domains is always a positive teaching method and one I aspire to use.

While there are many regulations and lessons that need to come before the lessons with Minecraft can take place, there seems to be many benefits to using it in class. While it does not work for every subject, it is definitely interesting to think about how it could apply to my teaching. While I don’t find myself drawn to this video game to play in my spare time, I can now understand why so many kids enjoy it- the freedom to build and play however you imagine. This to me is a very interesting thought and possible teaching tool.

Is differentiation just a pipe dream?

A hot topic for debate in education revolves around differentiation. As a pre-service teacher nothing sounds more scary and time-consuming than designing my lessons to fit a vast number of needs. However; having a minor in inclusive ed, it’s a task I fully believe in. In today’s classrooms, students’ needs are more diverse and demanding than ever. With inclusion being more and more enforced, teachers often have a large variety of students in their rooms. For example, it wouldn’t be uncommon to have a student with a behavioural disorder, a student with cerebral palsy, 3 English as a Second Language students, and one with ADHD. These are the realities teachers face today… and also why differentiation seems so intimidating.

So what is differentiation?

Differentiation is accommodating your classroom and teaching to fit the needs of every student the best way possible. For example, if a student is blind, a teacher would differentiate by including either braille or auditory text. However, differentiation doesn’t simply happen with the way material is presented (process). Differentiation can take place in the content (material being taught), products (way students show knowledge), and learning environment (type of chairs, posters, etc.). There are those, who argue this amount of change is way too much to expect. As an educator, I am taught to put all of my effort into meeting the needs of students. So this is only true if its easy enough to do? Is wearing a microphone to accommodate a partially deaf student? Would it be too much work to allow a student who has anxiety about tests a few extra minutes to write their exam? I think the problem is people are overwhelmed trying to think of ways to accommodate every problem or necessity a student may need instead of worrying about the needs required in their classroom. Of course it would be stressful to plan a lesson thinking of ways it would for every need possible! That’s because it is impossible… And that’s not what’s expected. What is expected is that teachers differentiate their classroom and lessons to fit the needs of their students.

“Trying is always enough. ” ― Patricia Briggs, Dragon Bones

Treaty Education is not just Teaching culture

“We should be teaching about treaties in school, they should be a part of curriculum. We should be teaching about our history and how things came to be from out perspective”

~ Elder Emma Sand

Lobe, Gordon. The Foundation of Cree Education. Thesis. University of Saskatchewan. 1995.

Teach Truth

I had taken this quote directly from the Saskatchewan Treaty Education website. I find a common misconception about this topic is the idea that Treaty Education is simply teaching about Aboriginal people and their culture. That’s what I was taught and so that’s what I thought…. until I received my Treaty Education certificate and learned further through my classes. Likewise, I think a lot of teachers who actually knew this fact, choose to avoid teaching it out of discomfort and confusion. One of the questions that gets asked in almost every education class I’ve taken in University is “how can I include Treaty Education in this?”.  From my experiences, it’s not so much the fact that some teachers don’t want to teach this information (although sometimes this is the case), it’s that no one has ever been told exactly how to do this aside from providing a few examples. As an aspiring science teacher, this is an even more daunting task- but don’t get me wrong, a challenge I will to accept. The Saskatchewan Treaty Education website has a ton of resources that includes the Treaty Outcomes and Indicators, supporting resources, and history. Also, they provide a link to Treaty Education Steering Team (TEST), Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Office of the Treaty Commission, as well as a list of common questions with answers. The problem I face is not lack of resources, but actually not understanding how to connect the Treaty Outcomes with Saskatchewan’s curriculum without it being trivial. It’s easier to teach about Aboriginal culture (for example, lifestyle, customs, traditions, etc.) than it is to teach Treaty Education; however, that is the information that is required to be taught (although the other information is beneficial as well. Through further study, and with this class, I hope to continue to build my repertoire of teaching Treaty Education and allowing it to feel natural and important. If you are Canadian and/or living in Canada, you are a Treaty Person. As a Treat Person, it is important to have the knowledge about what that all means.

Education is the foundation of Racism

differences make the world beautiful
Photo credit: http://pinterest.com/pin/499477414894322773/

 

After completing my Treaty Education workshop, I have learned even more about First Nations people and the Treaties. Although I feel I have grown a lot from this workshop, I still know I have so much to still learn. However, I feel I am a lot farther in my knowledge and understanding of the Treaties than others around me. Having come from a small town, I have been around people who haven’t received enough education and still remain stubborn in their viewpoints. Lack of education is the foundation of racism. As a white person, I don’t deal with racism as much as any other racial group in Canada- more specifically, Aboriginals- so it can be hard to really understand how it would alter my everyday life.

Racism is an interesting concept itself. How is is possible two people could be treated so differently based on the colour of their skin and cultural identity? I often wonder if both the British and First Nations people expected the outcome of the Treaties to be the way it is today- my guess is the First Nations people did not, but what about the British? As a future educator, racism is a topic I should be prepared to talk about in my classroom. How does racism even occur? Is it with you when your born, or is it taught? Since its very hard for me to believe a baby already carries prejudice against certain coloured people I have to believe the latter.  Racism is something learned- this is great news! You may wonder why it would be great that children learn racism… my reasoning is because that means there is hope for change. Since it is not a trait one is born with, there is the opportunity that I can teach my students the real facts about Aboriginals and Treaties and not the ones they’ve learned elsewhere.

I have learned many things that I will bring into my classroom from these last 2 days in workshop. However, I can’t help to remember those people back at home who are stuck in their racial thinking. Therefore, in an attempt to get those people up to the level I am (which still isn’t as high as I’d like it, but baby steps in the right direction are always good) I am choosing to address some of the common misconceptions and statements associated with racism towards Aboriginal people. This is, of course, only from the best of my knowledge and further insight would be best learned from an Elder.

Common Racial Misconceptions (it should be noted these statements are not what I believe, but are more being used for proper education. I am choosing to tackle racism head-on in this post which may leave some feeling uncomfortable) :

1. All Aboriginals get free post-secondary schooling, and tax exemptions.

From my understanding, all of these hold some truth but are shadowed lies.  Firstly, until the Indian Act, only First Nations people were included in the Treaties and Metis and Inuit people were left out- meaning they didn’t receive any of the Treaties’ promises. Let’s start with the first statement. Money is set aside for Aboriginal people to receive post-secondary education. However, only a limited amount is set to each band so if this amount of money doesn’t cover all the people interested, they must find another source of money (for example, student loans). The next statement about tax exemption is also only partially true. First Nations’ people only have tax exemption on products purchased within the reserves, houses that lie within the reserve, and employees who work inside the reserve.

2. It’s no use using Canada’s resources on Aboriginal people when they don’t even want to help themselves.

Firstly, it’s not Canada’s resources- they’re shared. When Britain and the First Nations people signed the Treaties they agreed to share the land and all of the resources that are on it. Secondly, there is numerous groups of support that are working to better the lives of Aboriginals, many of which, are created by Aboriginal people. By simply ‘googling’ Aboriginal support a list of many resources and programs are given. Statements made about Aboriginal people being useless or doomed for disaster are usually formed from looking at the statistics: in the 2006 Statistics Canada, one third of Aboriginal adults (aged 25-54) didn’t have their high school education. This is significantly lower than the non-Aboriginal population with only 13%. Likewise, there are very similar statistics for the comparison of Aboriginal adults in custody and community programs and non-Aboriginal adults. However, much research has been done and has proven that these numbers are so drastic due to the Aboriginal population living through residential schools. Until that traumatic memory has been worked through, Aboriginal will have their negative statistics. However, with the help of support programs and increase in education, these numbers can decrease and result in less racism.

3. It wasn’t the one who signed and agreed to the treaties, why do I have to follow them?

This is a phrase commonly stated by the misinformed. No, you were not the person holding the pen (or whatever they had used) and signed the Treaty. However, as a Canadian citizen that is a condition that applies. You may not have signed the Treaty; however, you sure don’t mind reaping the benefits and living on this beautiful land. So unless you choose to move from North America, you should feel happy those Treaties were signed.

4. The Treaties were signed such a long time ago… haven’t we paid enough? Aren’t the expired yet?

No. Firstly, the Treaties did not ‘buy’ the land- they were an agreement to share the land in harmony. And although they were created many years ago, they did not have an expiry date. They will exist for “as long as the sun shines, grass grows and river flows”- this means forever.

5. They’re all alcoholics and criminals. They’ll never be happy.

This is a very common racial statement and to truly understand it, we need to look back in history. As a way to assimilate Aboriginal people, the British had enforced residential schools (their idea of providing education). They would take Aboriginal children away from their families and attempt to replace their traditional knowledge with that of the British. This ended up being a place where both physical, psychological, and sexual abuse occurred ultimately resulting in these schools to close. Because of this, generation upon generation have been influenced by such abuse (even generations not physically in residential schools. The violence that had occurred in these schools had created hatred and bitterness. While not all residential school survivors had such negative experiences, this event has caused many Aboriginal people to experience feelings of lost identity, and the inability to understand family relationships. To deal with these historical events and outcomes, some people get sucked into alcohol as a way of coping. Based on my understanding of the 3 elders who talked at the workshop, Aboriginal people are only fighting for what was promised to them. Until then, they will continue fighting and bringing awareness to the social injustice that has occurred in both the past as well as presently.
Based on my experience, the best way of preventing racism is stopping it as it occurs. When racial comments are stated, I find it best to address them head on. While it is important not make the person defensive, you should address the validity of the statement and provide the accurate statements (or a place to find this information).

Change does not happen in a day. It is a long process that takes a lot of work. As long as steps are being taking in the right direction, we will get there eventually. It is important to educate all Canadians to think critically about what they hear about Aboriginal people. While there is lots of negative talk in the news or on TV, they often come from a Caucasian viewpoint.  Statistics Canada also had a very interesting study finding that Aboriginal people are more likely to be the victim in a violent crime. It is important to teach that, until one has researched a topic without bias, it is unethical to make opinions and viewpoints about Aboriginal people.