General

“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and give them the skills to question the world around them, yet our arms are twisted behind our backs with (outdated) curriculum outcomes, budgeting issues, and more responsibilities than ever before.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?

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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.

Doctors Notes: A note of stupidity

Just a quick rant. Doctors notes, in no way, help anyone accomplish anything. It floods Saskatchewans currently already overstretched health system. It puts other people are risk of being sick, it wastes employers, employees, and doctors time and money. I recently had to get a doctors note to avoid being expelled from my school. For three days of missed classes. I was so sick that I was stuck in bed for the first two days and could only stomach one meal. I was vomitting, had diarrhea, extreme headaches, stuffed up, disoriented, and dizzy. If I’m too sick to show up to class in my fifth year of University, isn’t it logical to assume that I’m too sick to wait in a medical clinic for an hour and a half to pay $40 for a doctors note? The only times I got out of bed were to go to the bathroom, make myself food once, and get a god damned doctors note. People who require these: you do nothing good for the system. That is all.

 

For more reasons why Doctor Note requirements are bad….

 

http://www.ecms.dragonflystyles.biz/pdf/1247754281.pdf

http://www.thepeterboroughexaminer.com/2014/01/11/sometimes-a-doctors-note-can-make-things-worse

 

If your student or employer says they have a nasty flu and have no habit of commonly falling ‘sick’ before, why harm the system.

What do I want my classroom to look like?

I’ve tried making a layout on many programs available, but they’re all glitchy and after the fifth time I’ve given up on it. I ‘ve thought about what my ideal classroom would look like… and here it is.

myclassroom

Student Layouts:

  • Four large tables with six chairs around each (two chairs on 3 of the 4 sides of the table… empty side is the one closest to the teachers desk & boards)
  • Each table will have a 3×2 whiteboard that they can have access to (or whiteboard paint on the desk… meaning students can write directly on the desk)
  • Preferable that each student has access to a tablet, laptop, or smartphone… or one for each two students

Boards & Projectors

  • Instead of a smart board like most classes, I would personally prefer a 55″+ HDTV with a chromecast attached to it (assuming internet in the school isn’t the equivalent of a potato)
  • White boards beside or behind the TV/smart board
  • White screen w/ a projector in a corner… within 10 feet of the tv/board
  • Each table has a tiny whiteboard attached to their tables

Miscellanious Things

  • Some noise cancelling ear muffs…. very cheap, and very effective. Have a few pairs attached t the wall for students whom do not concentrate well with noise to use when appropriate
  • Some sofas or bean bag chairs on the corners or against the walls… some comfortable furniture that students have access to
  • a regular desk or two in the corners or storage that can be brought out
  • Smart lights: I have in my own personal room two lightbulbs that are LED. They can be changed to any colour or brightness with a remote control. They can also be turned on/off with a remote control. It seems small and pointless, but trust me they are delightful
  • I’d like an L shaped desk with my own personal laptop on it… or a school one with good specs so I can stream to the chromecast or remote access my computer.
  • A toaster, microwave, and coffee pot in a corner that students have access to…. most students do not eat breakfeast. It’s something simple that can make a big impact

The above is what I wanted before I went into my preinternship. And I still want this after my preinternship. I love the concept of group work and having multiple boards & presentation screens. Now I will talk about what my classroom looked like during my preinternship and examine where and why students with learning problems, disruptive students, unmotivated students and talkative students are placed throughout the room.

jeffsclassroom

After doing intensive amounts of research I’ve found resoures and information that explains where to place students and why. There’s even apps that trace their performance and give you recommended seating plans based on their traits.

There are some pro’s to seating plans:

  • Students were asked how they learn best: In groups reply
  • Lets them learn from each other
  • Optimal for space
  • Gives greater flexibility in teaching strategies
  • Groups in five groups of six
  • Higher ability boys learn best with lower ability girls
  • Can pair students by achievement, learning style, or outcome/content
  • “Seating plans make teachers 2x more effective and raise lower ability student achievement by 2x”

And some cons to seating plans:

  • Will take a while to learn optimal seating plan
  • “condemns the highest ability girls to sit on a table with the three lowest attaining males.”
  • Poor class management with groups can promote tardiness
  • Need to know your students well before this become truly effective

If you want to know more about where to find information about seating plans you can find them at the bottom of this post. I’ll also include some pre-made seating plans that research shows will work (but each classroom and student is different so you will have to throw some personal touches dependant on your layout, your students, and how you teach).

premadeseats

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/

Use this —–>     https://www.classcharts.com/     <—–  Use this

Classroom Rules: Rad or Bad

Everyone who has gone to school has had that one teacher who had dozens of rules, many of which seemed to be pointless and lack sense. Every teacher has their own rules that they are passionate about and are must have. My personal must have rules are:

  1. Speak loud when answering my question or asking me something.
    1.  My ears are terrible, and we’ve all had many classmates who seem to whisper… I plan to help these students
  2. Keep noise to an appropriate level.
    1. Remember when I said my ears are terrible? I also have a disability. Lots of noise at the same time that I disorients me if I need to listen to it all at once. I also cannot key in on a single source when there’s background noise.
  3. Have respect for yourself, your classmates, and me.
    1. It’s good to define what you think of when you say respect. Your version and their version will be drastically different. Yours might include only one person speaking at the same time, while theirs might be not snoring when they fall asleep in class.

During pre-internship, I made the mistake of not coming out with my expectations and procedures. I should have had these rules posted somewhere to refer too. I noticed that my top two rules have relaxed much after my preinternship. Some students are too shy, have difficulty with the language, and setting a ‘talk loud so I can hear you’ precedent causes troubles.

I was very strict on my third rule. Students should have respect for themselves (this was mostly… enforced? in private with students who had some depression), respect for their classmates (aka don’t disrupt their work or be offensive) and respect me (don’t push the limits).

My minor rules that relate to late assignments and skipping school were also relaxed. The school environment has changed far too much for me to discipline students extensively because they did not hand in an assignment or were not in class. Observing my co-op, it was common for only half (if lucky) assignments to be handed in on due dates. We once did an in-class essay and only 70% of students handed in the essay… we saw them write it!

It’s important to remember that teachers should only have few rules. The less, the better. Too many rules become difficult to remember and make the students try to break them because you will be imagined as a dictator in their eyes. Studies show that having only a few rules that are strictly enforced instead of many rules that are rarely (or even worse – strictly enforced) referenced will cause chaotic classroom environments. What are your must have classroom rules?

Harsh Harper: Erasing Aboriginal Past

Residential schools are famous in Canadian history. I personally term it the ‘Canadian Holocaust’. The Canadian government and peoples are very infamous for being close-minded and racist on a personal and systematic level, and the majority of its citizens were (and still are) taught the White-European version of history and viewpoints.

Some progress has been made, but pebbles do not compare to boulders. Pebbles are the first official Federal apology regarding Residential Schools. The boulder in the room is the fact that the Government did not blame any specific individuals; no person was punished from the educators at the front lines of the residential schools, or the creators of such painful policies. This pebble and boulder are atop a mountain of the oppressive Canadian past.

Let’s move back to the official federal apology. Prime Minister Steven Harper, in July of 2009, apologized to all survivors of Residential Schools and admitted that the system was a complete disaster and failure. Residential schools were a result of colonialism, the believed Darwinism of Ethnicities, and assimilation policies of the ‘Canadian’ governments of almost 150 years.

Despite this, in only one year after his apology Harper has stated (at an international conference) that “Canada has no history of colonialism.” Quite the contradiction, ignoring the fact that Canada (and more specifically, Western Canada where the majority of residential schools occurred).

Fast forward to the modern age, and we reach Sir John A. MacDonald’s 200th birthday. On this day, Steven Harper was planning to lay a wreathe and celebrate the day, while Aboriginal rights advocated staged a protest in front of a statue of the creator of Canada. These protesters shamed John A. by stating that he (and by extension-his nation) denied Aboriginal peoples food, water, shelter, human rights, raped, murdered, tortured, and created a war of genocide on Aboriginal culture.

Due to this, Harper and his cabinet decided to cancel the ceremony/celebration of John A, but in a press Conference, Prime Minister Stephen Harper commemorated the occasion under tight security in Kingston, Ont. He described Macdonald as “a shining example of modesty, hope and success,” but also alluded to his reputation as a drinker. No mention was made of his treatment of Aboriginal persons and the policies he fronted or had major influence in.

It becomes clear that Harper’s apology was insincere and I guess was done only to gain a vote. I hope that Harper changes his recognition of the past atrocities of Aboriginal persons, or that a new leader whom truly repents for the past and present (and subsequently makes the future brighter) comes in soon.

Technology in Schools; the Good, the Bad, the Nitty Gritty.

Take a moment to think about the amount of years a fresh teacher will teach from graduation until retirement. For simplicities sake, assume that this is forty years. Every year, new students come in, and if a teacher works for forty years with twenty-five different students each year. At the end of each year, these students will have (estimated) two-hundred pages of notes. Add report cards, quizzes final exams, scrap paper, possible textbooks, distributed readings and so forth and it is safe to assume that this page count can be brought up to four-hundred. There are approximately 8,300 pieces of paper per tree. Doing the math of (semesters) x (years) x (students) x (pages) equals out to 800,000 pieces of paper over a math teachers’ career. That’s approximately one-hundred trees used to teach a class per teacher career. It’s important to note that most teachers teach multiple classes a semester (usually three to four). This means that in a teachers’ career, they will be personally responsible for the death of hundreds of trees. Multiply the number of teachers around the world, and a serious problem (along with interesting questions) emerge. How can a teacher reduce the waste from their teachings? Can educators teach in a paper-less environment? Is the tried-and-true method of paper and pencil due for an upgrade? What else can change in the education system, and how we teach? And the question the paper will be examining is using technologies in classes (specifically in Social Studies classes) to create and teach more comprehensive and complete content and skills.

Technology is rapidly changing and is more accessible and useful to students, teachers, and the general public. Teachers, parents, administration, and students are all beginning to see the useful aspects that technology holds, and thus are beginning to integrate it more into schools and their personal lives. Yali Zhao shows in his study that in 2005, 99% of schools in the US had a 5:1 student to computer ratio (2007). Nearly a decade later, and the ratio is as high as 1:1 in many schools. Zhao quotes students as being “born and comfortable in the internet and technology,” but with teachers this is less of a case. It is at this point in the paper that I stray from the formalities of paper writing and insert some narrative and structure changes. I first shall examine the pros and cons of using technology for the students and the teacher.

Students Pro

  • Most students have multiple access points to technology (library, home, cell phone, in class computers/laptops/tablets, computer labs)
  • Technology has the ability to turn student thought ‘boring or irrelevant’ content into hands-on learning by analyzing, creating, and allowing students to be as creative as they are able
  • Students and their teachers are able to keep up at home, when absent, or with substitutes
  • Real world practicality with researching, analyzing, summarizing, and presenting
  • Access to knowledge and resources (such as virtual tours, skype interviews, and so forth)
  • Less intimidation by a textbook and stack of papers (Griggs 2010)
  • Opportunities to individualize and express oneself better
  • Increased student inquiry (Griggs 2010)

Students Con

  • Some students will not have personal or home access to technology
  • Students may not have the knowledge how to use technology properly
  • Chance to abuse programs or technology
  • Too much change can be frustrating and intimidating
  • Students are becoming “wired for distraction” (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014)
  • Critical thinking issues and expectance of quick results (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014)

Teachers Pro

  • Ability to maximize time, creativity, and resources
    • Examples such as doing PTA over skype to increase participation and accessibility
    • Establishing online blogs, interactions, and communities
  • Summarize and express content, skills, and values more effectively
  • Technology can make a subject hands-on (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014)
    • Students using animation software to recreate the Lincoln assassination (Griggs 2010)
  • Non-technological literate teachers can be easily taught in workshops and PD conferences
  • Teachers were positive during PD training and workshops; using tech more often (Zhao 2007)
  • Large support system in the online community (twitter, skype, online journals, and so forth)

     Teachers Con

  • Some teachers have a lack of experience and training of apps, software, and technology
  • Classroom management concerns
  • Low teacher confidence in technology knowledge or skills (Griggs 2010)
  • Policy bans on websites or certain content
  •  Not using technology or using tech “as a crutch” (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014)
  • Using dated, clumsy, or inefficient technology
  • Easy to assume that students are competent in technology

Once teachers were trained with how to use technology in the classroom, they “expressed positive experiences with technology integration training, increased their use of technology in the classroom, and use technology more creatively” (Zhao 2007). An important note to remember with technology use and integration is that when teachers use too much, ineffective, or no technology at all, it can do more harm than good (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014). When used properly, the benefits can be reaped; in Griggs’ dissertation, he deduced from sample groups that students with technological integration (when used properly), that student inquiry and skills increased. His studies found that:

“Overall, participants were highly supportive of technology integration and willing to use emerging technologies in their presentation of world history content. Barriers to technology integration include lack of funding, lack of adequate access to technology, and lack of confidence among students and teachers in using technology.” (114)

Teachers need to have a good reason for including technology in their instruction and assessments. Teachers need to have a reason for using these tools such as saving time, improving learning outcomes, helping lesson plans, or anything else. They need to be thorough and well planned, and they need to be willing to adapt, change, and collaborate (“7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers Who Use Technology” 2013). When attempting to integrate technology in classrooms and control groups, studies found that teachers were knowledgeable about old and current technologies and were often successful in integrating into classrooms (Griggs 2010). One fault that Griggs found in his research is that pre-service teachers are lacking training, knowledge, and confidence when it comes to integrating technology and mostly when they are forced to teach without it.

The struggle with technology is that current supporters of it sometimes may push too hard for its support and put a wedge between non-users and supporters. Teachers also need to learn to balance the technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge in their instruction. It’s a fine balance between these three and too much can poison instruction. Several of the studies I read all state the same thing, that pre-service teachers need more training in general teaching:

Michael Shriner, Daniel Clarks, and Melissa Nails’ study concluded that:

“pre-service teachers’ perceived levels of competence and confidence in teaching social studies without technology assistance… the majority of pre-service teachers reported low competence and even lower confidence in their ability to teach social studies effectively, especially with regard to textbook utilization, resource acquisition, and instructional strategies.” (37)

It does appear that the experts are finding issues with pre-service and current teachers. The good side of this coin is that teachers were easy to instruct and motivate once shown a conference or PD on technology. Within five hours into a conference, teachers were able to learn how to find virtual field trips, how to insert hyperlinks, text, pictures, video, and even put audio of them recording a narrative of the tour. Within ten hours, teachers were also able to create electronic templates and plan lessons for students to create virtual field trips “to build social studies skills and content knowledge into inquiry-based lessons (Shriner, Clarks, and Nails 2010). Skills gained through self-inquiry are much better than presenting with powerpoint and lecturing. There are a limitless number of apps and programs for students to express themselves and inquire into interesting material, but we as teachers cannot take their knowledge for granted and group students together as all-knowing in technological literacy.

Teachers need to teach students about proper sources and how to find them, as well as how to think critically and read between the lines. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation states that students are much more likely to become distracted than remain on task (and at home, one in three kids are using tv or the internet for recreation while doing homework), and that many teachers believe this to be a problem (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014). While this is a problem, I personally wonder why we as educators and leaders are attempting to force students to subjects themselves to the boring, outdated, and ineffective lecture based system. Why can we not alter the lessons so that students’ minds are kept on short tasks instead of zoning out on long tasks?

Technology has its clear flaws, but the benefits when used properly outweigh the difficulties with it. In the studies, journals, and books I researched teachers and students, when taught with and/or how to use technology properly, there was overwhelming support and integration by students, teachers, administration, and parents. Changing how educators teach may save the forests as well as the school system.