Finding Confidence and Realizing There is Never Enough Time

Time

This past week has been a pleasant shift for me. I am feeling more efficient, more organized, and more confident. These feelings mean that, even though I struggle with things and have lessons that don’t go great, I am putting my energy into growing and learning rather than feeling bad about myself. Getting to this point has depended on many things. I am the type of person that needs quite a bit of time to fully warm up to new things; I think I’m finally there. I have a great support team in my cooperating teachers and faculty adviser. They make me feel safe to try things, to make mistakes and learn from them, and to hear the advice they give so that I can improve. Lastly, I think I have gained a better understanding of the whole process of designing a unit, finding ways to help students reach the learning goals, and reflecting on the process.

I still have fears that I’m not moving quick enough or that I will let my students down. At the end of the day, I know I’m giving it my all. I have to believe that that’s coming through. I have to believe that the progress I feel I’m making, is coming through. I hope that this new found peace continues and that I can grow even more quickly in this second half of internship. I believe the stumbling and nervousness that I felt in the first part of internship were necessary to go through.

As I reflect and consider what’s ahead of me, I feel slightly panicked at the thought of all of the content I am running out of time to get through. My first unit went over the original time allotment and I worry that Hamlet will too. I just hope it’s not by too much. My brain is going crazy trying to think about where I will be able to fit in all of the things I need to teach my students. And I think it will be many tries before I am able to get everything done in good time. I think time is a huge lesson. How can I crunch everything together, make it cohesive, make it interesting, and make it beneficial for students to learn? I think this will be the question I ask myself throughout my career.

Making Connections and Building Rapport

As I will soon be entering into my internship, I’ve been considering rapport and classroom management. I’ve been thinking about the human connection and interaction part of education that can get lost in some discussions about educational theories and teaching methods. I find myself getting caught up in overthinking unit and lesson planning, but lately I’ve been thinking about those first moments. I’ve been thinking about how to make meaningful connections and build the kind of classroom rapport that will help with classroom management and build the learning environment I desire.

To do so, I believe I will need to take some risks. I can be a shy and introverted person, but I can also be an emotional and passionate person. I hope to find a balance that allows my students to see and trust me as their teacher. I wrote a blog post, “Considering Privilege as an Educator,” in which I put myself ‘out there’ more than I had been previously comfortable doing. It was the most rewarding post I’ve written, because I was being honest and I was making connections as an individual. When I allowed myself to be completely honest, I was able to make the connections between theory and my personal experiences.

As a high school student, I lived with some degree of anxiety almost constantly. In my last two years, I was often sick to my stomach before I left for school and there were days I stayed home because the anxiety was too much. Despite being overwhelmed, I was able to be very successful as a student. Despite being frequently consumed by worry, I was able to smile and hide this fact from my teachers and peers. I didn’t talk about my feelings and I never publicly let on that I was struggling. When I did voice my concern over grades or my fear of failure, others laughed it off, because it seemed an impossibility to them. This made talking about my anxiety difficult. Not only was I embarrassed that I was struggling this way, I felt ashamed. Worst of all, I felt as though I was alone in feeling that way. I have since opened up more, I have come to terms with myself, and I have found some ways to manage my anxiety. However, it has not completely left me either. I do view it as a part of my identity and I know that it informs aspects of my teacher identity as well.

I’m not quite sure what I want to do or say, but I want to be honest with my students. I want them to, as Chris Friend shared with me, in his comment on the aforementioned post, “think of me as a person who is sharing experience/insight with them, rather than a dictator sharing a curriculum with them.” I believe this connection will be important, as I know that I am not the only person who lives with anxiety. Chris Friend also reminded me to “think how vulnerable your students are when they submit their essays for grading” and how “they’ll appreciate a bit of equity” if I allow myself to be vulnerable.

In one of my (pre) pre-internship experiences, I had one of my grade eight student break down crying during what was supposed to be a fun and silly writing activity. I had asked the students to write any introductory sentence down, fold their paper and hand it to the next person who would write the second sentence down without knowing the first sentence. We were nearly done one round, when he raised his hand and I saw him in tears. He hadn’t written his introductory sentence down, because he didn’t know what he should write. It broke my heart and I knew exactly how he felt. I gave encouragement, the option to complete the activity, and helped him to do so when he told me he wanted to. I did my best then to comfort him, but I know now that what I really want is to be able to create openness in my classroom before something like this happens. I believe that if I can share my experiences as a person, my students will be able to connect with me and have trust in me.

My plan is to share my voice. I have the opportunity to make a difference and I will do everything I can to do so. The connections we make are incredibly important and will certainly set the tone of the learning environment. I will end with a question, because we can always learn from each other. How have you gone about building rapport with your students? How do you set up these conversations early in the year?

 

Lifelong Learning and Procrastination

ProcrastinationI haven’t written a blog post since the winter school term ended. I have done little networking on twitter (I always vow to participate in #saskedchat, but next thing I know it’s already Friday). I have read less resources on education than I would like to. I signed up for “Education on Air” and ended up not participating (thankfully, I believe I will be able to watch the recording of the lessons. These are all things I am interested in carrying out, but haven’t (yet!). I just started reading The Hobbit. I began writing a short story. I see myself as a lifelong learner. Despite not doing these exact things, I have been learning.

I learned a lot about interviewing processes and I’m getting more comfortable with them. I learned a lot about finding work and how important networking is for that matter. I’m learning more about the internship process that I will be experiencing come fall. I am doing some networking with other educators, which makes me happy. In my personal life, I have been working on my physical fitness. As always, I have a million ideas, goals, and projects on my mind. And I am also learning how to be okay with not getting them accomplished as soon as I conceive of them or becoming so fixated on the future and the road that leads to them that I miss the moments along the way. I enjoyed taking a small rest and I am enjoying being with my family again. It’s all about balance.

That being said, I am once again gearing up to strive to be a great learner, so that I can too be a great teacher. I will be finding myself on twitter for professional networking once again. I will be digging into the many education books I have accrued over three years and the Saskatchewan curriculum for that matter. I will be reading and writing to improve my own practice. I’m looking into other networking sites that will help me set small goals with my creative writing. Finally, I will be trying to blog more often (starting with this post) and improve my e-portfolio too!

I am a lifelong learner. I am dedicated to education, but sometimes I find myself needing to turn everything off for a while. That’s the balance though. I look forward to expanding my horizons and pushing myself farther this summer. I look forward to preparing myself for all that the next school year has to offer and all I have to offer it. Here I go.

Encouraging Students to Ask Questions

Question MarkWhile reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower for a Young Adult literature digital book talk, I read a passage that sent me even further into teacher mode. Charlie, the main character and a “gifted” student, describes how he will be ending his “first year with straight A’s” (Chbosky 165).

Charlie says, “I almost didn’t get an A in math, but then Mr. Carlo told me to stop asking ‘why?’ all the time and just follow the formulas. So, I did. Now, I get perfect scores on all my tests. I just wish I knew what the formulas did. I honestly have no idea” (Chbosky 165).

The sad thing is, this is a relatable school experience for many students. Even if it isn’t directly stated, it can be part of the invisible curriculum. However, asking questions is a huge part of how we learn. I think students suffer when their curiosity isn’t supported. I realized that this was a problem in my own learning. As a math minor, I have struggled in some of my classes and realized in my EMTH 300 class that it was because I was taught formulas, not to think mathematically. It is one thing to be able to plug numbers into a formula, and another entirely to understand the mathematical reasoning behind them. You can’t learn by being fed knowledge to memorize; questions are a necessary mode for deep learning.

Meaningful questions have to be asked by the teacher and the students. As teachers, it’s good practice to keep questions open-ended when you can. However, it is also important that we create a learning environment where student ask questions. On “The Critical Thinking Community,” they say that “thinking is driven by questions” and I can’t agree more. Innovative Management points out questions that people (Newton, Darwin, Einstein) asked that led to great discoveries (learning). This is another reason I want to include inquiry in my classroom.

In EMTH 300, we were asked to re-imagine the teaching of mathematics. The Pythagorean theorem had to be discovered, and students through critical thinking and problem solving can come to the knowledge behind theorems. They don’t need to be force fed formulas. They need to be able to work with idea and ask many questions until they are able to solve problems and construct their knowledge.

As I am currently inquiring into how I can engage learners through student-centered teaching, I thought about how I might take this moment to reflect on how teacher and student questions and inquiry can be a part of it. Edutopia asks the question “How Student Centered is Your Classroom?” in an article that gives two ideas for using questioning to support this kind of learning environment. Specifically, they point to guiding questions and ensuring the teachers role is balanced to support a student-centered design.

After reading the quote from The Perks of Being a WallflowerI was able to see the importance of questioning in learning and in creating a student centered classroom. I really don’t believe that great learning can happen without asking honest and meaningful questions.

What are your thoughts on this quote and the role of asking questions in learning? Do you have anything to add? Please feel welcome to share your thoughts and ask any questions you have.

Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: MTV Books/Pocket Books, 1999. Print.

Inquiry: Student-Centered Instructional Strategies

I found this video while inquiring into student-centered learning. I like it because it targets the practical aspects of teaching in this way and provides clear examples as well. The video presents idea on direct instruction, indirect instruction, learning in pairs, cooperative groups, heterogeneous grouping, individual roles, intelligent behaviours, inquiry and discovery, project-centered, writing across the curriculum, learning by games, graphic organizers, mnemonics, and music and movement (strong memory devices). Of these, there are a few that I would like to further reflect on.

Direct and indirect instruction

I like that direct instruction isn’t completely abandoned, but that it is said it needs to be limited/brief. I think for most learners learning purely through direct instruction doesn’t work. Moreover, instruction of all kinds need to be varied to target different levels of thinking and differentiate for learner needs. Indirect instruction may align more easily with the idea of student-centered learning as it can be a more constructive approach. I think both are needed and the extent to which each is used must be decided by the teacher and learners of a classroom.

Different ways of groups/group learning

The video expresses different ways and purposes of grouping. Pairs and cooperative learning groups are two things that I have been slowly wading into. My first instinct as a student is to recall frustrations that come with group work, but I am seeing the power of collaboration more and more. I believe that collaboration is important to learning and is a skill students will need. The idea of heterogeneous groups is another idea brought up in the video. I think it is good to have some groups, but I still think there is a place for some homogeneous grouping that can help with learners at different ability levels. I do, however, believe that creating groups that are made up of diverse learners with different and unique abilities could be a powerful learning experience for all.

Inquiry, discovery, and project learning

I really enjoy this aspect of student-centered learning. I believe that this is where direct instruction can be minimized. I believe that inquiry, discovery, and projects support higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Inquiry projects allow students to learn through areas of personal interest. In an English classroom, I think this could easily be done for essay writing by allowing students to research something they want to. I also believe students could pick out a theme or idea from a novel to explore further. Discovery and project learning invite hands on learning. I want students to take responsibility for and enjoy their learning. I think these strategies allow students to see how learning is relevant and how they, as individuals, are important.

Learning through games

This is a newer concept for me. I have looked into gamification of education and I have liked what I’ve found. To me, gamification uses intrinsic motivation that people have when they play games, but for educational purposes. For example, we will repeat a level until we succeed and we will work hard to gain and improve our skills related to the game. Why? Because we want to. Education can be the same. I think learning through games is completely relevant. It is another way to make learning engaging and get students responsible for their learning progress.

Strong memory devices

I know that some memory devices are needed. My worry is about the idea of memorization. I am more interested in deeper methods of learning, but I believe that ways that can help students own their knowledge is still good. Ideally, students will be able to analyze, evaluate, and create. In which case, simple memory devices won’t be necessary. I think it is important to use different learning styles (such as music and movement) in the classroom, but the goal should not be to memorize. The goal is to be able to do something with the knowledge.

Conclusion

These are some strategies that I will continue to consider and inquire into using for the purpose of student-centered teaching. Do you have anything to add? Are there issues with any of these methods or additional methods I should look into? I would love to hear feedback and get any further advice that can help me in my inquiry into student-centered learning. Thank you.

Why Multiple Intelligences are Important

Why do I believe multiple intelligences are important?

I believe they’re important because they represent another facet of student diversity. I appreciate that as learners we are all different. We have different ways of learning and demonstrating our learning. We are good at different skills to varying capacities, and one skill is not inherently better than another. I believe it is important to see the many ways learner diversity exists. I believe that it should be reflected in the classroom.

Classrooms, that don’t take these kind of diversities into consideration (and celebrate them), run the risk of pushing students toward conformity. Moreover, if we assume that there is only one way to be a good student or one way to learn, than we marginalize students. Additionally, if we do not encourage and celebrate the many ways people learn and use knowledge, we place certain ways of knowing above others. We can begin to place certain skills and intelligences above others. This kind of privileging tells people that there is only one way to be intelligent.

Sir Ken Robinson says that we know that intelligence is diverse, dynamic, and distinct. If we don’t support these notions then some students will begin to believe that they aren’t intelligent, just because they don’t fit into the valued intelligences. Sir Ken Robinson describes schools as progressively focusing on the upper body, then the head, and then just the right half of the brain. That is to say, that we hold the thinking of the right side of the brain over everything else. That is to say that we favor maths and sciences above the arts and humanities.

Schooling that only delivers instruction and assesses understanding from one form of intelligence is marginalizing all of the learners that don’t think that way. This kind of school says some people are smart and some aren’t. Some things are worthwhile and some aren’t. It can become too standardized and too lopsided. That is why I believe multiple intelligences are important. We need diversity and we need to value all different types of learners, because the best education is one that reflects all people and gives everyone a chance to learn and share their learning in their own way.

 

Inquiring into Student-Centered Learning

I am making an inquiry into how I can support student-centered learning in my classroom. I want to be able to help students become active in their education. I want them to construct their learning in ways that are meaningful for them. I don’t want to talk at students and tell them what to learn and how they should learn it. I think that giving students a voice is an important part of my job. I want to learn how I can take these theories of learning and teaching and work them into my practices.

I would like to hear from other educators. I am interested in thoughts and concerns, experiences in what worked and what didn’t work, and any other words that can help me in my inquiry. I will be sharing my journey and would love to have discussion throughout.

I am starting my journey with some rough ideas and general thoughts about where I will be going. I view student-centered learning as being generally about moving away from a teacher-centered approach and allowing learning opportunities that take into account student interests, student needs, and student ways of knowing and showing their learning. I have an understanding of the constructivism, but am interested in classroom structures that can support the concept.

Any words, resources, thoughts, and/or questions are welcomed.