Rose Couture

Aspiring teacher. “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ― William Arthur Ward


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Hashtags, Tweeters and Bloggers

After spending amazing family time in Quebec during the holidays, I am now back in the Prairies. The routine is slowly starting back for everyone; going back to work, back to school, back to doing the activities you might of put aside for the holiday season. Unfortunately, I am not going back to the university this semester. I say it like it is a bad thing, but it is actually pretty amazing to have a little more time to breathe until fall comes around.

Since I will not be in school, I will have more free time and want to use it wisely. I want to follow up on hot education topics, follow my tweeters as well as participate in #cdnedchat, and I want to keep writing blog posts about topics that interest me. I noticed that my Twitter was kind of hectic, people I follow are not in specific categories, and I would like to organize people I am following in lists. This will be a long task but it will then be easier to organize my TweetDeck once this is done. I have started to add columns to my Deck with the hashtags (#) I want to keep an eye on during my time off such as: #cdnedchat, #regteach, #skteachers, #edchat, #edtech, #frimm, #langchat and #elemchat. Not quite sure this is the perfect list, but if you have any suggestions feel free to comment on my post or tweet me!

Furthermore, I would love to take the time and read more educational blog posts and write responses or reflections related to them. Reading and learning is important to me, it is important to shape the future educator I want to become. I have recently been offered a casual position as a special educational assistant with Regina Public Schools, and I am very anxious to see what I will learn from this experience. This is a great opportunity for me to learn, as I am not necessarily familiar with all the requirements needed for this position, and it is also a great opportunity to create more connections with students, teachers, principals and the community. Keep checking up on my blog, posts will come, and if you do not follow me on Twitter yet, do it right here. Wishing you all the best for 2014, cheers!


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Communication And Students Are Key to Change Education

As I was reading Students Ask: Why So Few of Us at CEA’s Calgary Conference?I was shocked. Why wasn’t I aware of this Canadian Educators Association? Of course I knew there were teacher federations for each province in the country, but I had never heard of this one association. And they had this gathering in Calgary? So close to me. I would be interested in participating in such event, but their online upcoming events calendar does not seem to be working, so I am unsure of when and where the next events will take place. It was very interesting to find out that people who attend the conferences have name tags that only display their names. The titles and surnames of individuals are left out so that participants can have meaningful conversations about education matters without feeling judged or left out for where they stand in society. At each table, students, educators and others are mixed to have different perspectives and ideas. I really like this aspect as it represents really well the current approach in teacher education at the University of Regina about how important social justice is and how we are still far from this in today’s society. Everyone has an opinion and can bring meaningful insight even if they are not an important director of a district, board or school. Individuals are given the opportunity to have a voice and to bring ideas to the day light and discuss them with amazing educators, directors, teachers and students. I would personally love to attend one of these conferences as I would have the opportunity to grow and learn, even if I’m “just” a student.

The CBE (Calgary Board of Educators) students also mentioned the important lack of students at the conference. This poses some problems as students are in “training” to become open-minded and socially just educators that will bring change to the country’s current education system. The majority of students in the classroom hope to make a change, they want to change education for the best. Yet, most of the time they are not at those “important” conferences that focus on changing education and communicates these issues. Some students are not as privileged as others and unfortunately, are not informed about the importance of the changes that are made to improve the education system. I do not like to brag, but we are the future of education, we are important too. Tell us about these conferences, tell us about the changes, give us feedback, have meaningful exchanges with us. I have said it before and will say it again, feedback is so crucial! Feedback helps us improve ourselves, we learn and grow from it. Change can be scary, but who said it was going to be easy? Students need to be more involved in these meaningful events that take place all over the country. It might be a bit intimidating to go to one of these conferences, as you might not know anyone, but it is good to get out of your comfort zone and to make changes, you will definitely need to cross some lines and be uncomfortable. But guess what.. When we are uncomfortable, we learn. We all have a role to play into changing education for the best, we all have the power to make a difference, even if you feel you are insignificant. Things take time, but if we all get together and work together, we are powerful. We really can make a difference. Be involved, inform yourself, connect with educators (Twitter is great for that
) and do not be scared, your opinion matters.

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The Headaches That Standardized Tests and Curriculums Can Cause

Standardized tests and curriculums are elements that have been the focus of many educational debates. Curriculums are made by the Ministries and authority figures, and are filled with standards that teachers and students need to meet in order to succeed on the standardized test, which is meant to measure the student’s capacity to retain the right information. These tests and curriculums send a message that if you do well, score high and have the right answer, then you are a good learner/teacher. This is wrong on so many levels for both educators and students. By having to meet standards and make sure that your students meet the test requirements, teachers are under constant stress and pressure. Knowing they will be evaluated on how well their students do, they will want to teach everything that could possibly be on the provincial test. To achieve this, they might have to follow a very strict schedule to ensure that everything that needs to be “learned” is taught and having little to no time for real learning, understanding and deep thinking. Under stress and pressure, educators might feel the need to have absolute control in the classroom and have a teacher-centric method, which rules out student-centric learning as well as transferring their stress to the student body, making the learning experience painful. Standardized tests and curriculums cause more harm than good, although some students are really good at memorizing information that will be on the test, allowing them to have high scores, but a poor understanding of the content. Teachers have a choice regarding what they want to teach in the classroom, but there is always the big test in the back of their minds that they need to prepare their students for and they need to adapt their content for it. “If the students score low, then the teacher is not doing their job properly” is probably what a lot of people in society think today. I firmly believe that, in most situations, those teacher consciously choose to drift away from the standards to prioritize actual learning, understanding and critical thinking of the students. 

Having lived in a province where I had to take standardized provincial tests, I can assure you that it is a very stressful experience, because if you do not have the right answer, you fail, you feel like a failure and you do not get to go to the next grade. It is not how I want my students to feel and I still do not completely understand why Ministries and governments think that standardization is the way to go. I’d love to know more about your experiences with standardized testing and curriculums and how it makes you feel. Please share!

 


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Why Are we Stuck in 20th Century Learning?

After reading Tom Whitby’s 20th vs. 21st Century Teaching last week, I posted his article on our ECMP355 Google+ page and my prof asked me the following questions that I started reflecting on: “Tom does a good job of differentiating. So, why are we so stuck in 20th century learning? Is it because we teach like we are taught? Is it too difficult to break out of the routine? Is 21st century more difficult? I’d love to hear your thoughts”.

While 20th century teaching is focused on teacher-centric learning, in the 21st century it sure seems like everybody is focused on student-centric learning, including myself. Although the schools are slowly changing to 21st century teaching and we are trying to teach new educators to go towards student-centric learning, many educators and institutions are still stuck in the teacher-centric learning era where students learn throughout lectures and whatever information teachers stuff them with, literally. As a university student who is taking a full load of classes, I can assure you that at least 3 out of my 5 classes are based on reading textbooks from cover to cover and listening to information the teacher is delivering to us, and we are expected to “memorize” this information and fully understand it. Not only is this boring, but I do not feel like I am actually learning anything. Yes, I remember some information, but I will probably forget all of it when the next semester will start and will be presented to similar classes where memorizing and brain cramming are dominant.

On the other hand, I have my education classes. I feel very privileged to be here in second year, as all my other classmates from the French Bac are in Quebec City. Because of this particular situation, I am required to take my education classes in the English program this year, which is amazing as it is a renewed education program. Every time I go to these ED classes, I feel inspired and I actually learn so much! Teachers present us some facts and general information and then we discuss it as a group, after some reflection. We are also asked to look at things on our own at home then post what we retained. By doing this, it allows us to do our own research and construct our own knowledge, and I personally find it easier to retain the information I found because I did it on my own. I would be curious to know how other students feel about those classes and if they like these education classes better than their complementary classes, as well as how their other professors teach them.

When I first started in the education program, when I decided I wanted to be a teacher, I did not know there was anything such as teacher-centric learning or student-centric learning. I just thought, like probably the majority of first year students’ that I would learn how to teach/give information to the students in my classroom and expect them to retain the information to pass their exams. Oh, how wrong was I! I believe that some teachers are “stuck” into 20th century learning because that is how they were taught in school and because they are comfortable with the way they are doing things. It is definitely hard to part with a routine where you feel comfortable, but we need to learn how to get out of our comfort zones and how to take on new challenges every single day. We learn so much more this way. Of course teachers will always be needed, as students need someone to motivate, challenge and support them. Giving little information to the students in order to trigger their curiosity is the most powerful learning tool. A child who is curious will be eager to learn, will be eager to find things on their own. I do not think that 21st century learning is more difficult. Yes it might require even more research, time, effort and learning of our own, but in the end it will make us feel good about what we have accomplished and students will remember the teachers that had an impact on their lives and what they learnt from them. I might be wrong on certain things I mentioned in my post, but it is my opinion and I am still learning about being an educator, as it is a lifelong learning process. I would love to hear your thoughts on education and if you have some ideas or feedback to give me, go ahead!

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Renewed Programs and Social Justice

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?

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Class Curriculum, My Curriculum, And Learning Through Crisis

At the beginning of my ECS 210 course, we were asked the following question: What is curriculum? As a classroom, everybody raised their hands in turn to give a characteristic of their own definition of curriculum, what curriculum meant to them. The prof in front of the lecture theatre wrote these on the blackboard and came up with a group definition/representation of curriculum.
Curriculum includes multiple documents from the ministry of education that are mandated. These documents form the fundamental basis for teaching and provide a framework or guideline for what should be taught including outcomes and indicators for learning. Curriculum is provided/shaped by the environment – context and culture matter. While curriculum does change, and can be adapted it also facilitates continuity across education systems. In curriculum, time matters; material must be able to be taught/tested within a timeframe. Curriculum includes what we choose to teach and what we don’t teach. Curriculum can be directed more broadly to being inclusive and directed to different types of learners and can be thought as contributing to success in life and the development of a well-rounded individual.
This week, we were asked to rewrite this definition on our own, so that it reflects our own sense of the idea of curriculum.
Here is mine:
A curriculum is a set of documents containing outcomes and indicators that were previously agreed upon by educators, directors and the Ministry of Education, before finding its way into the classroom, where the teacher will have to follow the “mandated outcomes”, within a time frame in order to test the students’ knowledge. These documents are seen as the fundamental basis for teaching and follow the teaching norms, previously established by government, ministries, educators and directors. A teacher has the choice to follow learning indicators that will help reach the numerous outcomes, or to come up with their own methods to achieve the same objective. While curriculum has been implemented to assure continuity across education systems, curriculum is different in every single classroom, in every single school, in every province across the country. It is believed that if educators follow all these outcomes and fundamental rules, they will produce a well-rounded individual, a student filled with knowledge. Curriculum is formal and hidden, as what we teach and what we choose not to teach, sends different messages in our classroom community. We also have the possibility to adapt the curriculum so that we are inclusive of the variety of students present in our classroom.
SK Curriculum for Social Studies Grade 9

SK Curriculum for Social Studies Grade 9

In this definition, I will have to admit that there is no room for ‘crisis’ and ‘learning through crisis’, which is not a good thing. It seems to me that many people see education as a ‘production’ process. We have students in our classrooms, we want them to learn and to pass standardized tests, and go on to the next level, they graduate, and we feel accomplished. Schools should not be seen as factories. As we know, schools are much more than factories, they are where students will feel inspired, where students will want to learn, where they will be challenged, and given the right support and resources to surpass those challenges. Curriculums are pre-determined, they are constructed in a way where an instructor will have to follow a tight timeframe, not allowing any room for crisis. As every single minute of our lives are different, every single minute in a classroom should also be different from one time to another. If you are teaching something and a student raises a good question that sparks interest in his colleagues, will you just pass on that opportunity because you are on a “tight” schedule? Many problems, ideas, and events that would benefit student learning may occur in our classrooms, but we have not necessarily planned time for these and might feel obligated to continue on with the objectives that were pre-determined by authority. I am not saying that curriculum is bad overall, I am just trying to show how so many events that could benefit our students in their identity and knowledge construction are often put aside to follow the rules, the “more important things”. Maybe curriculum should be examined even more in-depth, what are these fundamentals and curriculums saying about the individuals who created them, about the individuals we are, and the ones we want to help shape? What are your thoughts on crisis and curriculum in general? And education, is it really a production process?


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How to Leave Quality Comments!

This is a nice video we were introduced to in ECMP 355 and it could be a useful tool for ECS 210 students to leave their peers quality comments. These kids have it all together and they are fun to watch. This video could be something to use as well as a preservice teacher who is teaching students about blogging in the classroom. Here it is, let me know what you think!