A message about endings…

Well here I am…. Thursday April 12th 2012 and my time at the University of Regina has come to an end. I can not believe how quickly the past four years have gone by! So here I am, 21 years old and ready to dive into my teaching career. I know that I wouldn’t be here with out the support of my friend and family. I am extremely lucky to have such an amazing family who inspires and supports me in all that I do. You have all taught me the importance of working hard and I will be for ever in debt to all of you for giving me the opportunities that you have. The friends that I have made during my time at University have taught me so much. You are all amazing people who I know will be amazing teachers. I look forward to continue learning with you as colleges in the future. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

A message about thinking globally…

I believe in teaching for social justice and social change

I believe in place-based education to develop student’s sense of self, community and place.

Lately there has been a lot of buzz around social justice issues such as Kony 2012. When I think about social justice in the classroom, many things come to mind. First of all, I think it is really important that we take the approach of thinking globally and acting locally. Social justice issues are many and wide, and as teachers we need to expose children to as many of these as possible. There are so many resources available for children of all ages to bring these issues  to their attention. Once we have discussed, examined, and learned about these issues, we then need to make relevant connections for our students. This is where place based education becomes important. For example, a middle years classroom might watch a video about starving children in Africa, after doing so they might be inspired and wish to help. It is my opinion that volunteering at a soup kitchen in Regina would be more relevant and effective than raising money to send to an organization in Africa. A few months ago a stumbled upon this website that suggested 10 strategies for integrating social justice in the classroom. These provide many great starting points for teachers looking to integrate social  justice.

  1. Include in the syllabus guidelines for respectful interaction among everyone and model that respect.
  2. In the first few sessions, take time to solicit from students what they perceive as justice or equity issues related to the subject of the course and invite them to identify which ones are the most urgent. Use this information to develop subsequent lessons and student assignments.
  3. Create community service components as requirements for the class, and ensure that reflection on experience is a critical part of the assignment.
  4. Compare and contrast notions of justice historically and geopolitically.
  5. Investigate and discuss those agencies or government offices that hold responsibility for ensuring justice is administered in business and society; examine and evaluate the effectiveness and limitations of their work. Focus on those entities that relate most directly to the concerns initially identified in class.
  6. Profile biographies of individuals who have exemplified social justice, trace the development of their concerns and efforts to advance justice, identify any obstacles they faced. Examine the implications of these lives for students today.
  7. Construct a visual representation or graphic organizer that identifies the shared beliefs about justice expressed by various cultures.
  8. Create profiles of local, state and nationally elected leaders and identify their positions on social justice and equity issues.
  9. Invite local leaders and advocates into class to address social justice from their perspective and experience, or attend a session of the local assembly or city council and conduct a content analysis of social concerns and the leadership’s response to them.
  10. Acquaint yourself with current research on controversial issues in your field, and articulate how these relate to equity, democratic principles and social justice.
During my internship, I was searching for a picture book called And Tango Makes Three. This child friendly book is about two penguins and it discusses gay parenting. As I was explaining this to a family member she said “Allie, why would you read that to your students?” I was disappointed in her reaction and I replied “Why wouldn’t I read this to my students?” It is a positive way to expose children to these issues, and it fit in perfectly with the family unit we were studying at the time.
I know that there are many parents and teachers skeptical of social justice issues because they feel they might not be age appropriate, or may challenge the ideas of others. Therefore, as teachers we need to be careful to document how these issues relate to the curriculum and be an advocate for change. By helping our children see the injustice in the world, they will become advocates for another generation and hopefully change the minds of those who are scared of these topics, living a privileged lifestyle.

What do you think? Is teaching for social justice worth the risk of offending others? 

A message about inquiry, process, and lifelong learning…

I believe in inquiry-based learning, where the teacher acts as a facilitator of knowledge and students are constructivists.


I believe in the importance of the process as well as the product.


I believe in guiding students to be independent lifelong learners and engaged citizens.

” Inquiry-based learning is a complex process where students formulate questions, investigate to find answers, build new understandings, meanings and knowledge, and then communicate their learnings to others.” (source) This seems to be one the latest buzz words in education and it is trending with good reason. This student lead learning is the gateway to guiding students toward independent lifelong learners. As a teacher, making the adjustment to inquiry learning was challenging at first as I had to hand over the reigns to the students, their interests and ideas directed my planning. I feel like many teachers are somewhat timid to try this method because it requires differentiated instruction based on interest groups, meaning it requires more planning. Having said that my philosophy isn’t based on teachers, it is based on students and student success. I feel that inquiry learning can be a fabulous tool for all students because it is interest based, it sends students the message that their interest are valuable and worth exploring, their questions are valid and we can learn from them.

The only flaw one might find in inquiry is that students interest are inappropriate, or perhaps they are having trouble generating questions. I believe we can guide them to a related topic that is appropriate and probe for questioning and deeper level thinking. I have also heard the argument that this method can leave out those who are shy and don’t like to speak up in class. Once again, I feel that it is our role as educators to create groupings that allow all students voices to be heard, the little extra time it takes will be worth it in the end. Now, the other thing I have left to consider as to why I have this in my philosophy is “Is it just there because that’s what school divisions are looking for?” Well, at this point in my life when University is coming to a close and I begin searching for a job, I have been asking myself that a lot lately. Do I believe this, or is this what they believe? The truth is, I really do see the value in inquiry, process oriented, intrinsically motivated learning. Even if this wasn’t the latest buzz word, it would be hard to not adapt this style into your classroom. What are your thoughts on inquiry?  Does it really guide students to become independent life long learners? 

A message about ECMP 355..

This semester I had the privilege to take ECMP 355 with Dr. Alec Couros. As you can tell, this class provided with with a lot of useful tools t use in the field and a new philosophy about learning and sharing with technology.
I believe in collaborating and sharing with teachers and learners around the world through the use of technology. 

An important aspect of this class was contributing to the learning of others. I was really impressed with the thoughtful comments I received on my blog and through twitter, so I did my best to do the same for others. Here are some links to some of my blog comments that I feel were helpful and contributed to the learning of others.

What do teachers do?
Inspiration for teachers
Embarking on my learning project
Improv Comedy
Twitter in the Classroom
Student Success
Female Head-coverings 
Kony 2012
Kony
Something to Say
Classroom Idea

I also worked to help others through twitter. I started building a PLN by following educators on twitter and using hastags such as #edchat or #ecmp355. Here is an example of how I used my PLN to help others!

Through twitter, my blog ended up on a couple of online newspapers as well! Here is a recent example..

This class provided me with an abundance of tools to take into the classroom and use to enhance learning and showcase student work. It has been said that students who learning in the open, work much harder because the whole world can see their results, not just one teacher. By instilling this motivation in our students we send them the message that “your work matters and you are important!” There are many skeptics and fears around technology in the classroom, but we are at a point where we can not fight this, so lets embrace it! Teach students how to use technology to their advantage, to learn from other, to learn with others, and to make the most out of every situation.

A message about individualism…

Children are all unique, just like adults they all have different strengths and weaknesses. Yet for years, we have expected them to learn the same content, in the same way, at the same time.

I believe in the adaptive dimension, and having the right and responsibility to adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of all learners.
I believe in teaching to the whole child through a variety of instructional strategies.
I believe in the value of equity, not equality.

So what does this say about me? About my morality? About the kind of teacher I will be? Well first of all, it should be pointed out that SK teachers have the right and the responsibility to adapt the curriculum up to 50% thanks to the adaptive dimension. With that living document, I feel empowered as a teacher to make the differentiated classroom my reality. This idea of “individualism” is at the core of my philosophy, it relates to instruction, environment, assessment, social justice, the list goes on and on. Individualism is something I value, it is something we all value….yet it is also something that can be used against us, or we can use as a basis to judge others. Is it easier for a teacher at a white middle class school to embrace individualism in the classroom than it is for a teacher at a community school? How often does race, sexual orientation, disability,  religion, and/or class get in the way of “individualism” and become a vehicle for stereotypes?

When we embrace individualism, we accept the whole child for who they are. As teachers we do everything we can to help that child be successful. Whether it be modified assignments, different instructional strategies, incorporating different cultural components or taking the time to say “Hello” in the morning, we accept the challenge.These statements are a crucial part of my philosophy. Out of context these are easy things to say but through a critical lens they have become a part of the person I am trying to be.They tie my other “I believe” statements  together. There is lots of research and ideas out there surrounding differentiated instruction and adapted learning,and I think that is great stuff! I value the resources being made more and more available, but the idea I am getting at here is not a “How To” book on running a classroom, it is about the people involved. The share holders in your classroom, you and your students, the relationships, and the acceptance of individualism. The acceptance of each child. Are you up to the challange?

A message about environment…

I believe in creating a safe and caring classroom community where both students and teachers take risks to enhance learning.
I believe in creating a collaborative learning environment between the students and myself.
I believe in success for all students and celebration of achievements.

These are three statements from my philosophy of education that speak to the kind of classroom environment I strive for. When we consider the classroom environment we can speak to both the physical space, and the atmosphere within that space. (The actions, feelings, and emotions) To me, these two differenet definitions of environment are uniquely connected in the way they effect each other. Having said that, these statements largely refer to the abstract environment. For a glimpse at my ideal physical environment visit my pintrest board or this website with basic to the point information.

The key words in these statements are..

  • Safe
  • Caring
  • Community
  • Risks
  • Collaborative
  • Success
  • Celebration
        •  

I believe that before authentic and meaningful learning can take place, we need to build a classroom community. This starts by building relationships, developing trust, and setting out clear behavioral expectations. Students need to know that their classroom is a safe place where they will be accepted and appreciated. Through out my time at the U of R, different professors have referenced Harry Wong and The First Days of School. This book stresses the importance of routines and procedures, I see the value in that for classroom management, but I think something is missing. Teaching is about relationships, I would argue that teaching is relationships. Its about relationships between teachers and students, students and content, teachers and curriculum, students and students, teachers and administration, the list goes on and on. So if teaching is highly relational, to me the “First Days of School,” is time that should be spent developing these relationships and beginning to build a classroom community (environment) that is safe and caring, that allows for risk taking, this is collaborative, and that recognizes and celebrates success. I think this is the aim of many school divisions and I hope it is the reality of many classrooms.

I realize that relationships can take time to develop, especially for shy students or students who arrive later in the year so it is important to continue working at them. I believe that they are important and beneficial for all students. Have I left anyone out?
What have I forgotten to say here?

A message about Souls Harbour…

Tonight I had the opportunity to volunteer at Souls Harbour Rescue Mission here in Regina. The mission statement of Souls is “to Rescue people from poverty and addiction by offering emergency help, such as food, clothing and shelter, Life Changing Recovery Programs, and the Gospel Message.” Having the chance to serve a meal to members of the community was truly rewarding and very eye opening. I have known about the poverty and homelessness issues in Regina for quite a few years and I came to know even more about it last year during a class I took with Dr. Marc Spooner, but knowing and seeing are two very different things. We served over 200 meals to all types of people: adults, children, couples, singles, and families, all living in poverty right here in Regina. Only blocks away at the “city center” people were carrying on with their days, living a generally worry free life yet here is a building full of people struggling to meet their most basic needs. Something seems wrong with this picture… My time at Souls reminded me of a presentation I attended last year called Poverty as a Learning Challenge, you can find my post about that experience here.

I really enjoyed my time at Souls and I am grateful to have had this experience. My Dad always says “To know is to go!” but here is a quick look at what typical night looks like for volunteers at Souls Harbour