The stress of final exams is now over and I am back in Quebec to spend the holidays with my family. I plan to eat a lot of food, see my friends and go to the ski hill! I just wanted to say a little “hi” since I will probably not be posting anything relevant during my vacations, but will be back at it when January comes around. I want to wish all of my readers a happy holiday season and I hope that you will take this time to enjoy all the precious moments you spend with friends, family and loved ones. I wish all of you health, love, happiness and that all your wishes come true!
As the semester comes to an end, it is fairly important to look back on the interactions that were made with classmates, instructors and presenters, either online or during face to face discussions, and reflect. To reflect on the thoughtful and critical interchanges one has had with others and to find out how this might have contributed to the construction of their knowledge. Throughout the semester, I have had many interactions with the online community on Twitter and read many educational, critical and inspirational blog posts and articles that have contributed to my personal learning. Feeling inspired by these new discoveries, I wanted to share the information that had contributed to my knowledge with the people who surrounded me, as it might also contribute to their learning. That is what I did.
Many individuals are life-long learners. Here I say many, because I personally believe that there are still people out there in the world who have yet to discover the beauty of learning and the concept of the happy learner. The concept of the happy learner is something I have come up with on my own, although it might already be out there and I am unaware of it. I believe that an individual who is learning what he wants to learn will be happy. By learning things he wants to learn, the individual remains curious, and I believe that someone who learns content that appeals to them will incite them to learn about numerous other things in addition to constantly be challenged. Something that many of us need to remember is that we also are at different learning levels, that we are not ready to learn the same things at the same time. Me and a few of my classmates had a meaningful discussion after our seminar one week where we discussed how we are at different learning stages, even at the university level. We discussed on how some people in our seminar group and lecture group might be ready to learn about social justice, respect, professionalism, the importance of stories, oppression, but that maybe some are not. Both of these situations are possible and nobody will hold where you stand against you. Everyone has a different background or living situation that influence their learning stage and engagement. Certain students might not even really know what they want to be doing in life, unsure if they want to be a teacher or not, and that is fine. I personally went through hair school, modern languages in college, translation in university before I even knew what really appealed to me. You need to try something at least once to see if you like it right? Things take time. This conversation permitted us to put ourselves in our peers’ shoes and to imagine different perspectives and different reasons why learning is very different from one individual to another. It was nice to see that everyone had something different to bring in the conversation, making many connections with all the amazing things we have learnt in ECS 210 this semester. All-inclusiveness, openness, critical thinking, justice, equity are elements that were touched during the exchange and it is really great to see our thinking and imagination blooming and shining through our conversations.
During his presentation on November 26th, Grant Urban put emphasis on how important our narrative curriculum is. Through our stories of personal experiences, people learn. If we all share our stories, the knowledge is immense. About a month ago, I commented on jordanlynnes Teaching Treaties and Disrupting Commonsense, in which he questioned the teaching of treaties and aboriginal content in Saskatchewan classrooms while pushing aside common sense. I shared with him that I was as well not introduced to treaties until my final years of high school in Quebec, and that we only brushed the subject, the focus being on the aboriginal peoples that were closer to our territories. In this short sample of my feedback, Jordan learnt that I attended high school in Quebec and that the content of our history lessons was completely different from the one taught in Saskatchewan. He might of also found out that the aboriginal groups that were established in Southern Ontario and Quebec were different from the ones that were found in the Plains. Furthermore, I informed him of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission event in British Columbia, where the devastating event of residential schools was brought and discussed to the daylight, where aboriginal people shared their stories with the thousands of teachers and students who attended the event. Many people attended this fantastic event, because people are curious and they want to learn, they want to be informed of all the horrible things the government was hiding in those places. The B.C. Teacher’s Federation also had in place a $100,000 program to help educators attend the presentation as we need to raise awareness of the many injustices that took place in the society and how it still impact the communities of today. Me and Jordan both agreed on the fact that “introducing aboriginal history or content in grade 11-12 is too late”, the content needs to be taught earlier on. If we are able to introduce our students to critical thinking, social justice issues as well as racial issues in grade 1, why is it not possible to introduce aboriginal content in the early years? The cultural diversity in our classroom will most likely be vast as many people have chosen to get established in Canada. Discovering the history of the land and all of its people is interesting, but discovering about other countries, cultures and languages can be amazing. If our students want to share, let them share and raise issues, this way they will learn and feel like they have also contributed to the learning of their peers, that it was not only “the teacher’s job”.
This semester, I have been particularly fascinated by the online community, but specifically by Twitter and blogs, thanks to my amazing ECMP 355 class which I suggest every educator at the University of Regina should take. Even if you are not studying in Regina, he often travels places to give presentations and he is very interesting to listen to. In Teacher As Learned Practitioner by Jordan Grebinsky, she raises points about how teaching should not be a “comfortable” profession and that students should not be “comfortable” in the classroom, as many of them learn better when they are challenged and found in an uncomfortable situation. I told her : “There is no way that we know ‘enough’ as our profession consists of constantly learning about new things and growing upon situations that will shape us, and our teaching methods. As a teacher, it is important to get out there and also connect with the aid of social media, which allows the discovery of new techniques and knowledge from all around the world”. Educators have a dynamic profession. Every single day students bring content from their personal “backpack” in the classroom and raise questions that we might not have answers to. But what better way to learn than looking for those answers together and visualizing the many outcomes or possibilities one can come up with. I have grown a lot in the past couple weeks by connecting with amazing educators on Twitter, reading their blogs and others’, as well as watching some inspirational education TEDTalks. I would love if some people would take the time to make those important connections that allow us to share, grow, to collaborate with others, and this also gives an amazing example to the children. Take the time to connect, you will construct your own knowledge and it brings us a very gratifying feeling. I can recall many occasions during the semester where I have told some of my peers to try to connect on Twitter, “just to see” and I know that some of my colleagues read my posts from ECMP 355 that teaches them or gives them more information about how technology is a powerful educational tool.
Overall, I cannot be sure of the ways in which I have contributed to my peers learning, but I know I have tried and they greatly influenced my personal learning too. I always look forward to feedback from my instructors or classmates and the questions they raise in their comments. I keep writing because I can see that some of you are reading and this motivates me to share, even though I do not always think that the content is “good”. It is crucial to remember that information, as insignificant as it might seem, can teach a lot to somebody else. Remember, learn and reflect.
After reading this story I found on CBC News, I found myself relating and thinking about what Dr. Nikhil Joshi chose to share with the rest of the world, with all of his readers. He starts his story by explaining how he has to make himself injections in order to stimulate his bone marrow to produce cells, how he came to discover he had cancer, how he feels and how the majority of the population has a very dramatic perception of cancer. While I was reading his post, I understood the majority, if not everything he was telling us about his cancer. If I would have read his post three months ago, I probably would not of understood half of its content.
As some of you might know, my mother was diagnosed with leukaemia at the beginning of October, and it has been a rough semester. But the good news is, she is pulling through and the cancer cells are mostly non-existent right now, but she still has to continue her chemo treatments so that it does not come back. Even though the medical staff cannot see malignant cells with the microscopes, it does not imply that the cancer is all gone, it could come back at any time. I do not want to explain in details my mother’s disease, but I want to share with you what I have learnt and make connections with Dr. Joshi’s post. When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, they could have had symptoms for a really long time before being diagnosed, or the symptoms can appear as late as a week before the diagnostic. Then, they get you in the hospital where they can treat you, and they start by doing intense chemo that brings your whole immune system down, aiming to kill all the cancerous cells. When they do this, the bone marrow cannot produce enough, if any, white blood cells that will help fight external infections, as little and insignificant they might seem to a non-sick individual. Having your immune system down is an invite for little infections to attack you, so you might be isolated during this period. Individuals might undergo several chemo treatments before the doctors are not able to see any cancerous cells under the microscope, and like I have mentioned previously, you might still need to do chemo for a while to make sure the cancer does not come back. This is called remission.
I might have skipped many important elements of an individual’s treatment, but I shared what I have learnt through personal experience and you have to know that the treatments can differ from one person to another, as we all have different bodies that have tolerance to different elements. I was very devastated when I first found out that my mother had cancer, it is still a little hard today, as I want her to be completely healed, but I progressed. Yes, indeed, cancer can sound very dramatic and people’s interactions change when they are around someone who has cancer. I have changed and so has my mom in some ways. I was never really close to my mother, some say it is because we are too much alike, I think of it as we just do not get along. When the cancer happened, my whole perspective changed. I was not ready to lose my mother and I found myself stupid for not getting along with my mother for such a long time, but I was given the chance to think about my past and make changes. The disease has brought us together and I can assure you that I am indeed closer to my mom now. When I went home to spend time with her, I only wanted to be with her because I was worried of the remaining time we would get to spend together. We went for walks, lounged on the couch watching her soaps, made suppers together and I made sure the house was always clean enough for her (it has to be immaculate!) and that she was not pushing herself too much, as she is a very active woman who loves to constantly be busy. I am very happy that I chose to go home and be with her, when all the way from Quebec, she told me to focus on my studies and to not worry about her.. Yeah right mom, as if!
Cancer is scary, but I was able to get good things out of it. I chose to make my bond with my mother stronger than ever and I was able to see how strong of a woman she really is. I knew she was strong before, but she is a “tank” now! She has kept a very positive attitude towards the whole situation and she knows that she will beat the darn thing. I am worried, but she is not. This right here is very inspiring and I have learnt from her to not let anything get to me, to always enjoy life and its beautiful moments, that there is always positive outcomes, that there is always a solution or an alternative. We all perceive cancer differently, but I would like to tell all of you who are reading this, to look for the positive, as it is always nearby. Smile, laugh and love, these are more powerful than anything else in the universe!
During last week’s seminar, our prof listed the following questions on the screen in front of the classroom:
When you applied to the teacher education program at the U of R, did you know that you were applying to a renewed teacher education program, whose focus is social justice? Did this influence your decision to come here? What do you think it means to be oriented towards anti-oppressive education or what do you think it means to teach for social justice?
As a student from the French Education Bac program at the University of Regina, I thought that these questions applied differently to me, compared to my peers in the classroom. During the second year of the program, all the students get to study for a year at the Université de Laval in Quebec City, in order to be immersed into the French language. For a certain reason, I remained in Regina to complete my second year instead of accompanying my peers in Quebec and as a result, have to complete my education classes in English with the English Education program students from the institution. So in answer to the first question, no, I did not know I was going to be taking classes from a renewed education program that is focused on social justice. Am I glad I am taking these classes? Yes, very.
Attending my ECS200 and ECS210 classes, I have been given tools that have strengthened my desire to become an educator. Being in a classroom and studying social justice and oppression in society is a big eye opener of all the hidden and not so hidden things that happen all around us. I believe that social justice is something that should happen all around the world, and it does not, even in 2013. We still have a long way to go, but by slowly trying to raise awareness and trigger minds to open up to change, we will get there someday, it has to be a collective effort. Not everybody is aware of even the small injustices that happen in our daily lives, but I believe educators should be aware of social injustices and try to make their students aware of it as well. Education should also be anti-oppression oriented. We should not be scared of bringing controversial subjects in the classroom for people to make them feel uncomfortable. It is okay to be critical and look at the many possibilities and aspects of a specific situation or event. In no way should we ever feel like we need to “hide” things from our students, as we aim to be as open-minded and as critical as we can. Critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, social justice, anti-oppression are all terms that should be included in your teaching philosophy, well it is in my philosophy that is still under construction. What are the main elements of your teaching philosophy? On which aspects do you agree or disagree with me?
After this Thursday’s ECMP355 class, I could not wait to start creating my presentation for this week’s assignment! I was inspired by Dean Shareski’s own presentation of “A Childhood Walk”. As most of the roads and trails I took walks on as a child are grid roads, and in the boonies, I could not access these special places on Google Maps, so I decided to put my own twist to the childhood walk. I would take you on an overview of a day with me at the age of 5. From the region I am from, to the school I attended, I take you in my younger self’s shoes.
As I was planning the making of this video, I use the Search for Creative Commons’ link we were given in class, and I was able to download a few songs that I could play in the background, as I was recording my screen and my own voice. Links for these songs are in the video’s description, and righthere. I hope you enjoy and show me your own versions of the “childhood walk”!
Some of you might wonder why I am not in class this week or why I will be absent next week and for other weeks as the semester goes on. I know I don’t have to share this with anyone, but I want to explain my situation a little bit. This week I received a phone call from my mother and she is very sick. I am not sure of all the details, but she is in the hospital and there is a big team of GREAT doctors looking after her. My father has currently left his work in order to be with my mom and well, I will be leaving shortly to go and join them during this difficult time. It was something I was definitely not expecting, everything was going so well, I am loving all my classes in university (maybe for the first time in my life) and I am just eager to learn. Although I will be making regular trips to Quebec during the rest of the semester, I will be back and participating in class when I am not in Quebec. Family comes first, but I am so in love and interested with everything I am learning. I will try my best to keep up with assignments and blog posts, but if I am away, you might not hear from me until I am back in Saskatchewan. I also want to thank all my teachers from the University of Regina for being understanding and supportive during this time, it really means a lot to me and my family. Things might change as time goes by, but for now all we can do is have a positive attitude and look at the bright aspects of life.