ECS 350

Inquiry Project: What is the Best Way to Run my Classroom?

My inquiry project is simply put: “What is the best way to run my classroom?” This will be examined in six areas, each of which will examine how I felt before preinternship and then during/after preinternship

  1. Class layout
  2. Diverse Learners & Behavioral Differences
  3. Classroom Rules
  4. Assessment
  5. Teaching
  6. Summary

I’ve touched on all of these in some of my last posts, and numbers 1 – 5 will link to four blog posts that cover how I felt before going into preinternship and how I feel after. I’ve learned how I want to run my classroom (though it’s very likely to change once internship happens). In this post I will try to summarize all I discovered through-out the semester and the preinternship I had.

Classroom environment & layout, student behaviors and abilities, teaching practices and how/what/why to assess are all linked together. When one improves, they can all improve. At the same time, when one needs improvement, it affects the quality of the others. In a small, cramped, cold, and loud environment students will have trouble paying attention, doing quality work, and being taught. This was why I chose to take a broad subject to inquire instead of a specific.

The biggest thing I’ve learned from my inquiry was to have checks & balanced in how I plan and how to do a proper seating chart. Everything I do as an educator needs to have a good reason why it is happening and a proper way to implement it.

Sources:

The importance of a good seating plan | TES New Teachers. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://newteachers.tes.co.uk/news/importance-good-seating-plan/45960

The Psychology and Pedagogy of Seating Plans. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://community.prometheanplanet.com/en/blog/b/blog/archive/2012/06/07/the-psychology-and-pedagogy-of-seating-plans.aspx#.VO5d8_nF-So

Do Seating Arrangements have an Impact on Student Learning? (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2015, from https://k12teacherstaffdevelopment.com/tlb/do-seating-arrangements-have-an-impact-on-student-learning/

Seating Arrangements That Promote Positive Academic and Behavioural Outcomes: A Review of Empirical Research. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://www.academia.edu/706890/Seating_Arrangements_That_Promote_Positive_Academic_and_Behavioural_Outcomes_a_Review_of_Empirical_Research

Classroom Seating Charts. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://www.lessonplansinc.com/classroom_management_seating_chart.php

Seating plans in seconds & super fast behaviour management. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2015, from https://www.classcharts.com/

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My Preinternship: First time in the Classroom in Two Years

For the last week I’ve been in the classroom teaching as part of my pre-internship (first time in the classroom in over two years). I’ve learned some great tips from my little time here, and I am lucky due to my classroom schedule. In period 2 I have a social studies 9 group. In period 3 I have a social studies 9 group.

My partner in crime @LalondeKatED and I are blessed with the ability to make a lesson plan, implement it, and then pick apart what went wrong and what we can do better. We then re-teach the same lesson the next day to a different group. This makes for incredible pedagogical improvements in planning and implementing a lesson/unit/assessment. My last week has been phenominal and a very real-world experience. My co-operating teacher is giving me feedback that is making a true difference in my practice.

I’ve learned several tips and tricks to teaching better:

  • Have everything written out before hand for students to see
    • dumb-things down as much as I can in steps and procedures so students always know where they are and where they are going, and try and tell them why if I can.
  •  If doing a lecture / written out notes, have a wireless mouse to transition slides and walk around the sides and back of the room instead of standing in the front.
  •  Always reflect: ask yourself why you’re doing this and how you plan to accomplish it (and again, why are we accomplishing it this way?)
  •  Lay out your rules and expectations at the start of the year and the start of class
  •  Always focus on improving yourself

Finally, pray to the printer gods that technology is working. My partner in crime spent an hour printing sixty documents because the many thousands of dollars machine we were using kept breaking. And show mercy to me Katia about my inquiry project. I work full time while doing this… and am pioneering a program for diverse learners and government funded iPads. #SleepIsForTheWeak

Rick, Tyrion, Dexter, and Walt all die. Or do they?

During a long car ride I thought about what I would do in my first days of entering the classroom.

Long story short, I’m going to give a form and figure out what their favorite TV shows are, their access to technology, how they learn, and what their interests are. You may be asking yourself, why the TV shows? I had a bit of an idea during my car ride. What if I threaten TV spoilers if the misbehave?

“In place of the parents” is not “the new parent”

 

“Teaching involves conflicting roles. Teachers want all children to succeed and to develop a love of learning, yet much of their time and energy goes into controlling students’ behaviour and evaluating students according to external standards. The more one tries to reach students individually, the more one may feel conflict with other aspects of schooling, such as the need to sort students by ability or the pressure to have students conform to rules and standards.” – Young, L., Levin, B., & Wallin, D. (2014). Understanding Canadian schools: An Introduction to Educational Administration (5th ed.).

 

Sadly the above paragraph is one of the main problems that both teachers and parents are struggling with. We want to give students independence and give them the skills to question the world around them, yet our arms are twisted behind our backs with (outdated) curriculum outcomes, budgeting issues, and more responsibilities than ever before. Many educators come into the field to make a difference and help their kids embrace learning… but if they want to keep their job they are required to teach to the test.

 

 

Canadians are more lucky than our American counterparts. The no child left behind policy has decimated their educational system, and they under perform when compared to the First World countries. Teachers go through years of University learning the tools on how to maximize learning for each individual student, and then we enter the classroom and get burdened with a literal mountain of work and lose sight of why we entered the field.

 

JFK’s famous line “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you an do for your country” applies here. When it comes to education, the teachers should not be receiving all these burdens from the get-go. The number one contributing factor to student performance has been parents involvement in their child’s education for decades now. Dozens of major studies have confirmed this. So really, ask not what your teacher can do for you, but what you can do for your teacher is a motto I’d personally prefer to have implanted in the minds of all students and parents.

 

Teacher’s who’ve recently graduated. What are your tips to current student-teachers who are about to enter the field?

White’s have fun, others have none

I’ve been in Mike Cappello’s classroom to learn about controversial issues, as well as some anti-oppression conferences a month ago. Mike Cappello is an ‘expert’ on white privilege and racism, and it appears he has been rubbing off on some of the students and I. While at the University bar working on a group project, students and I talked about our ‘alcohol limit’ that we handle, and the stories that have influenced what our ‘limit’ is. We both realized quickly that we can have this conversation without fear of being judged or labelled due to us being white and presentable (aka in “nice clothes”). Had we been a marginalized and oppressed group such as the First Nations, we would have likely been judged by any ears that heard us (or just in general for being in a bar). Our conversation then switched to white privilege.

Student Teachers and New Teachers: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The teaching profession seems to be in the middle of a vast series of changes that are shifting the very nature of our profession. The old teaching format: Meet the curriculum, give the students content, and prepare them for university with tests and papers. The new teaching format: Meet the students needs, give them skills for independent learning, prepare them for the real world. Both have pros and cons.

Personally I enjoy the new teaching format. The problem with the new format is that we have to throw it on top of the already established method. At the end of the day, we as educators need to meet the curriculum and give students a final grade, and often times, give a final exam. This makes it difficult to meet the requirements and show the benefits of the new method. The old format also appears to be more  time and curriculum friendly towards teachers. I say appears because many of us have difficulties giving the new format the required time and dedicated it requires to really show off the punch it packs.

Every teacher has different opinions on both of these methods and we as students are having to use both at the same time. This is leading to a lot of confusion and chaos for both the students, teachers, and student-teachers in the schools and universities. I feel that if we were sent five years back in time to be taught how to teach, it would be a lot more clear what we need to do (I would still prefer the new format of teaching however). Additionally I feel that if we were sent five years into the future, we would have a much better idea on what we need to do as educators as most school systems would have finally adapted. What are your thoughts on this?

Where to Put my Effort and how to Assess

We are teachers are going to send 90% of our efforts towards students who AREN’T as likely to succeed. The student whom have good study skills, get homework done on time, do homework and assignments well, and contribute to the class could learn everything themselves. They don’t NEED help. We aren’t here for them, we don’t differentiate or skill-build for these students. They will already be successful in the classroom.  We do all these things for the students that aren’t as likely to succeed. Students that don’t complete their homework, don’t do a proper job of assignments, don’t listen to feedback they are given are the ones we will need to struggle to meet outcomes we set.

Personally I don’t think exams should be a thing we have.. or at least grade high. Inquiry project that receive multiple drafts, feedbacks, and skill-building sessions should be the major assessments. Students might not be great test takers or maybe they weren’t able to sleep last night. Every person who’s gone through school has taken an exam that they bombed due to whatever reason. This is not proper assessment of learning. If students truly did bomb a major assignment, I will give them the option to re-write it (or something similar).

In my assessment plan for one of my courses, I made an end goal of a unit being a dialectical thinking essay. My instruction and assessments for learning were based on skill-building, how do write an essay, how to source, and how to support an argument. They first do a one page outline worth 2%, then a rough draft of their essay worth 10%, then a final essay worth 23%. If they don’t do a good job of their final essay, they are permitted to re-write it. The grade of this final essay will be made up of the average of both essays (Essay 1 gets 40%. Essay 2 gets 80%. Students get a total of 60%). Late marks and Zeroes depend on the school policy and the students themselves. Shape your teaching and policies to your students.

Personally I want students have every assignment I give them completed it (and passed) in order to pass my class. If they fail an assignment they can re-do it. If they don’t complete their work the day it’s due, they can stay in my class during lunch and/or after-school to finish it and for my feedback.

When I was in my preinternship, my expectations shifted a bit and I received a small reality check. Due dates are for my convenience and it’s convenient for student to hand in their assignments, but students have lives, problems, and every student is different. I myself have a learning disability. My assignments are almost never on time, yet I can often hand in high quality work. One of my essays is the example for the entire geography. We as teachers are there for the students, and I’d rather be welcoming for students to hand the assignment in late rather than work my butt off tracking them down and giving them anxiety about doing their work and potentially arriving in class.

I also learned when to give this 90% to other students. I had the joy of teaching a modified math class and some students would not do work unless I managed to sit beside them the entire time. Some of my students arrived at school only 25% of the time and when in class, would not do work no matter how hard I tried to assist them (I tried all approaches in doing this). I instead made sure these students know for a fact that when they are willing to receive help, I will be willing to help them. Some students just need a small push to stay or get on task. If you read my classroom placement blog article, I learned to place my students who need this small push or supervision in the most accessible parts; the front and sides where I can walk to the best. 

How to Assessment

I’ve learned how to properly assess my students. An easy way to accomplish this is to use backwards design. The first step of backwards design is the outcomes, the second step is the assessment. The last step is the content. This is backwards from how teaching worked in the past; where we focused on the content. Before we might have dealt with a lot of content when teaching a worldview. But how does some facts and a multiple choice test truly affect if a student understands worldviews? This helps keep us organized and on-task with assessment.

I’ve altered my own lesson plan template to include three more steps:

Fourth: Checks and Balances – I basically ask myself why I have what I do in the above, how I plan to accomplish it, and why I will accomplish it this way.

Fifth: Targets – I write down a target or two to improve my teaching skills, and how and why I plan to accomplish it. These have proved instrumental in improving my practice

Six: Reflection – Reflect on what happened, what went well, what did not go well, and why for all of this.

I have learned to organize my thoughts and debate on what is important based on my beliefs, the curriculum beliefs, and the school’s beliefs. Many schools focus on graduation rates now and it’s actually a Saskatchewan goal to up the rates, so this will change how I assess, what I’ll assess, and how to grade it.

Overall I’ve learned to spend my time giving students a positive environment and not shunning them for failing to complete the work (on-time). Looking back, I was (and still am) that student. The only reason I’m not punished as severe is because I have was lucky enough to get diagnosed with a learning disability.