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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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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Curriculum as Narrative and Community: How I Contributed to the Learning of Others

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”.

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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.


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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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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!


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Short Stories Continued

Heather’s Moms Got Married

In this short story, Mary Cowhey, a 2nd grade teacher from Northampton, Massachusetts explains the family diversity in her classroom and how she approaches different family situations with her students. Talking about gays and lesbians does not necessarily mean that we are introducing sexuality to children in the classroom. It is just showing the kids that everybody is different and that it is ok to be different from one another. If one kid raises a question about what being “gay” is like, you can simply answer that it is when two people from the same gender love each other in a romantic way. It is also very important to answer the kids’ questions about the matter and not just put it under the carpet. Once again, a teacher’s actions and/or inactions can be the difference in whether or not the child will develop prejudices.

Out Front

Annie Johnston discusses the importance of gay teachers “coming out” to their classroom to encourage positive gay role models. Straight, bisexual and transgender teachers can also help create an environment free of “slurs” that target gay people by establishing an anti-slur policy and taking action when students do not follow the rules. Support groups for gays/lesbians within schools are also very important so that children feel they have the opportunity to talk with people that are found in a similar situation in a safe environment. By establishing policies in the classroom, teaming up with other teachers and working your way through the school, we are creating an environment where kids and their families will feel safe to expose their identity to others without being bullied or left out.

 

‘Curriculum is Everything That Happens’

In an interview, Rita Tenorio discusses how important it is for new teachers to go beyond what is written in the curriculum. As a teacher, educating children towards multiculturalism and social justice is one of the most important things we have the power to do. New teachers need to be ready to learn from their colleagues, superiors and from people in the community who have social and political consciousness. It is also possible to find pertinent information and discussions related to education online. By doing so, it is easier for teachers to be involved and to keep focus on their goal to teach towards social justice. Teachers should encourage children to share a little bit of their background with the classroom and as a result, both teacher and students will learn, correcting some assumptions they might have had in the past.

 

Working Effectively with English Language Learners

There are many different programs for second-language learners and bilingual learners that teachers need to adapt their teaching methods to. Even though the children might be learning a new language, it is respectful for teachers to include a few sentences or common expressions in their students’ native tongue. This method demonstrates that we are culturally sensitive and the students might want to share some information or traditions of their own with the classroom. The teacher shall not single out students to read material aloud for the child might be very uncomfortable and not wanting to participate. Teachers should teach vocabulary words and concepts with visual aids rather than through lecture and verbal instruction before whole-class lessons. Reading in groups, acting plays and skits are ways to encourage kids to learn in a fun/stress-free environment.

 

Teaching Controversial Content

This short story demonstrates the fears that teachers and new teachers can encounter when they want to introduce controversial content in their lessons such as social justice and cultural diversity. You have no idea how the parents, teachers, students, colleagues, principal and community will react to the subjects you introduce in your classroom. There are schools that are more conservative than others, but if the teacher communicates with his superior and his colleagues about his intentions, the odds are that they will welcome the change or just not care about what you decide to teach in your class. “Only you” have the authority to decide what you will be teaching. By doing this, teachers are promoting changes in the classroom and the school context as well as encouraging the students to think critically and correct pre-conceived ideas.

 

Unwrapping the Holidays

Dale Weiss shares with us the “December Incident” where in his first year of teaching in a conventional school, he had to face a few problems concerning the celebrating of Christmas in the school. Not everybody celebrates Christmas so he decided to introduce his students to Hanukkah, Christmas in Mexico, Kwanzaa and the Winter Solstice, to introduce his class to cultural diversity, not religion. The principal thought it was a great idea to try to apply this openness to the school community, but some teachers felt like they were being challenged by a teacher who was fresh out of school. Some conflicts appeared, but overall Dale decided maybe he should of just applied this to his class to start and then gradually work his way to have his colleagues partake and then the school.