Beginning With the End in Mind

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As a student, and active learner, I know I have always struggled to overcome the fear – and even anxiety – that comes along with any assignment, quiz, or project. I would always hesitantly hand my assignments or exams in, and upon receiving the handed in work, I became even more nervous to find the grade attached at the end. We grew up extremely mark-driven, and I can honestly say that even if there was any form of constructive feedback, I would not have remembered it, simply because I would never have looked at the feedback given. In class, when we were handed out the diagram and asked to fill it in based on our readings of a few of the chapters from Anne Davies “Making Classroom Assessment Work”, I knew I had read and understood the chapters, and I also understood that the assignment was not for marks, but more to see what the students knew – in other words, it was a form of diagnostic assessment. Still, the anxiety came back, and I struggled to recall what I had read, words started to mix together, and my thoughts began to be unclear and jumbled together. It seems crazy to think that in a matter of a few minutes, I went from being “normal” into a state of panic as soon as I was asked to complete something for assessment.

In chapter 3, Davies talks about creating a clear link, or destination as she would say, towards what the students should be learning. When looking at the curriculum, it is assumed that all students in the classroom at a High School level are starting at the same place, with the same (or similar) knowledge, and all learn the same way at the same pace. We know this is not true, but from a curriculum standpoint, it is, or should be, true. As teachers we know this is not the case. As Davies pointed out, “teachers find out what students already know, can do, and can articulate, and then they teach”, which basically says that we need to find a multitude of ways to reach our students and meet their ever-increasing needs. It also goes on to say that we need to have a comprehensive understanding of our subject to help students learn. Even though I do agree to the said statements above to a point, I cannot help but to also think that this seems extremely theoretical, and almost impractical – especially as a new teacher. Not to mention, being a Health major in a secondary setting, there really are no options available for myself. Therefor, stating that a teacher needs to have a comprehensive understanding of their subject matter before teaching the students, although is true, I think would be a lot to ask as a new teacher, who even though might have majored in Health, or English, to end up teaching a subject outside of their comfort zone. 

I think it is important to be honest with students, especially when it comes to assessment. Diagnostic assessment can most definitely be effective if used properly. This website demonstrates several different types of Diagnostic assessment, which during our class discussions, we seemed to use a lot as a good frame of reference. Along with the website, there are several other PowerPoint’s with information regarding assessment in general. As a (be)coming teacher, I think it will really help to understand both the positive and negative sides of each type of assessment used, as some individuals will love exams, while others may love to perform. In the classroom, it is extremely important to explore, and let students have the opportunity to choose, their own “final projects” or assessments in terms of assignments.

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Assessment and Negativity

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We want to have and create lifelong learners, but we also want to make sure what we are doing in our classroom, and what our students are taking out of our classroom, is purposeful and meaningful to them. In other words, we as teachers need to bring the curriculum to life, and show our students how it relates to them, help them make connections to what they are learning in school to what they are living. In terms of the assessment portion of education, it is clear to know that assessment is messy, at times unclear, and potentially harmful. While we were in class, we were asked to reflect on our past experiences with assessments both in the school and with extra-curricular experiences, whether that be in a sport or a form of art/music, and through our conversations, most of the memorable experiences were negative. It shows that negative thoughts and experiences have a huge impact in our lives, and this negativity carries with us as we move forward. As a (be)coming teacher, I would hope that my students will not associate assessment (both formative and summative) to negative thoughts and experiences in my class. After it was pointed out that most of our experiences were negative, we started to understand that not everything we experienced with assessment was negative, rather that is what stood out to us when we thought of assessment and evaluations. As I was thinking about the class, I started to realize something. Most of the negative experiences that we had could have been avoided with a simple clarification in the assignments, or tasks.

As I reflect on my experiences, first within the school setting, initially I remember the bad experiences, and why they were bad. I also think that if my teachers had given me feedback as to what I did wrong, or what I needed to do to improve, the mark at the end of the assignment, or exam, wouldn’t have been as bad. If they would have taken a few extra minutes to provide constructive feedback, and even an opportunity to re-do the assignment with a better, more comprehensive understanding of the tasks, I know those negative experiences would have turned into positive ones instead. Maybe that is part of my beliefs as a teacher. I want all my students to be successful in my class, and understand what it is they are learning. I know it is easier said than done, but I would love to provide second, and third chances to my students, as I would rather them understand the content and be successful, than for them to see a bad mark and quit trying.

Several years ago, I had a teacher that I really enjoyed. He would cover the content with us to make sure we understood it, using current events and issues of interest to make it relatable and easier to understand. During and at the end of each unit, he would allow us the opportunity to work as a class and decide together when things would be due, and when our unit exam would take place. It gave us the responsibility and ownership we wanted and needed as a class to work together, while still meeting our own individual needs. If we wanted to have the exam a month from the day, he would allow us to, but he also made it very clear that we would be covering new content each day. He also always advised us that it would be easier to have the assignments and exam due earlier, so we would not get ‘lost’ or ‘forget’ important material we covered during the time within the unit. I think as a (be)coming teacher, I would love to adopt this technique into my classroom. Not only does it create a relationship with the students, but it also helps develop the trust with them as well. I think being able to relate and create open relationships with the students will help not only you as the teacher, but the students as well, both in terms of their assessment and evaluation, as well as their ability to communicate and ask the questions they have, or the misunderstandings that may come about.

Part Three

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Knowledge is the accumulation of different thoughts, perspectives, opinions, readings, discoveries. Knowledge is everything, just as curriculum is, and it can be found anywhere, from being outside with your parent(s), to talking and interacting with friends, meeting new people, discovering and questioning facts and realities. Knowledge can be a form of power, but it can also be used to better the individuals around you through the sharing of stories, or previous experiences, through recipes, or teaching in the classroom. As stated, some of the knowledge can be constructed through discussions, and interactions between learners, and instructors. In this class, we did a variety of different things incorporating technology, speakers and presenters, and different readings which were to develop and push our knowledge further. One is simply never done learning.

            In this class, we were told to use the blogs as one form of learning and sharing knowledge. I did not particularly like the blogs, and for my learning, I did not find it engaging, or beneficial. With that being said, there are always going to be people in the class who really like doing the activity, while others will detest the activity. As a becoming educator, I think this is an important lesson to learn. I feel that the online writing spaces were extremely impersonal. Either everyone agreed with what was being taught, or they were willing to play along with what was being said in terms of the content. In other words, people did not engage with their learnings. If I were to implement this in the classroom, I would choose a topic that was somewhat controversial but still was safe to discuss. In other words, I would choose something that might not have an answer to, and I would definitely not take their answers for marks, that way, it would be a more open and safe place to share ideas. I also was not particulariy partial to the blogs, or writing things in an online space especially when there was an association with a role in my future.

            Outside of the classroom and technology used, I participated in many different activities to aid in the construction of content and different knowledge with other individuals – including the students in the faculty of education at large. Being an active member of the Education Students’ Society (ESS), and further a V.P in Professional Affairs and STF, I along with some of the participating individuals worked collaboratively together to put on different events for students in regards to students professional development, and STF related manners. Some of the events put on this year included one on technology, one on ableism, and disability in the classroom, and LGBTQ.

            Along with putting on different events, this also included advertisement. Each time there was an event going on, I would always participate in classroom talks and spreading around the word to help encourage professional development and further their knowledge and understanding of different topics not necessarily covered in class, or to further reinforce what has been covered in classes. I also volunteered at the 100mYears of Loss Exhibit that came to the University a few months back. Contributive learning means not only sharing what I know, but sharing opportunities, sharing resources, in order to ensure that everybody gets the same, and equitable, experiences in education.

            Another thing that I had participated in was the Semi-Annual STF Council Conference in Saskatoon. This was a unique experience only to a select few members of the ESS, who were allowed to participate actively in the discussion around policy, school development, education, standardized testing, curriculum, and so much more. We were representing the students of the University of Regina, and more importantly, we were representing the pre-service teachers. In representing the needs of University undergraduate students, I was sure to discuss the need for more social justice, and anti-oppressive education strategies and supports being built within the curriculum rather than being add-ons.

It was a very interesting experience, full of political viewpoints, which brought back new knowledge as to the profession students will be getting into after graduating. This knowledge was a great conversation with different students, and further, it enhanced their knowledge as learners in regards specifically towards the class based on curriculum. It was interesting to talk to teachers out in the profession right now and obtain different opinions as to what our education system, and further, the curriculum, as lacking in terms of success, and meeting the student’s needs.

            During the weekdays, approximately once a month, I would sit in on a council filled with education faculty, representing the student body – the Faculty of Education Advisory Circle. The meetings would discuss various changes and improvements we could make to the program itself. More importantly, the meetings were used to incorporate more social justice and treaty education within the education system and classes. We discussed how we could make classes better, and more beneficial for the students becoming teachers, and what could be taken out of the classes offered now that might hinder the students learning.

            Proceeding our ECS courses and classes, a group of individuals and I met in the Education Lounge and we had conversations surrounding the content, information, experiences, feelings, opinions, and new knowledge about and regarding the content within the class and what was presented. We also talked about upcoming assignments. These discussions furthered all of our knowledge and it deepened our understanding of who we are as people, professionals, and what knowledge, curriculum, and the ramifications of teaching. This worked better for me in terms of personal communication rather than the online impersonal statements. I found that talking face-to-face with people was more interactive, and more educational for us, rather than reading the ‘final-draft’ speech someone had. Learning was a result of communication, and part of the process, rather than a product published for the approval of others. In other words, we bounced ideas off of each other, and shared perspectives, that we would not have gotten if we read just what was online.

            So what does this all mean for the future? I feel that when you contribute to someone else’s learning, not only does the individual, or individuals, learn, but you do as well. I feel that using online resources would be good for the classroom, but only in certain cases, and with specific outcomes. I feel that if I were to use an online source for educational purposes, I would create something similar to what we saw in the classroom the other day called todaysmeet, or if I were to use blogging, or twitter, I would not put a mark on what they have to say. I think it is important that you meet your entire student’s needs, and using different methods to teach a concept, or meet an outcome, would definitely benefit all students. I think when you contribute to others learning, it is definitely effective. Students, including myself, learn best in the moment, and it is those specific moments and interactions that create who we are, what we know, and what we will come to understand.

What is Curriculum – Re-Written

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The questions “What is Curriculum” becomes more and more complicated as the class develops. As noted, many of us have different opinions on what curriculum is and how we can define it. Looking at curriculum from an outsiders perspective, I would say that curriculum would be generally referred to the content chosen to be taught – the official curriculum mandated by the government. I think that curriculum has many different aspects. First, we have the curriculum that is set out by the government that everyone knows about and what parents are expecting us to teach. The second is the taught curriculum – what we as teachers decide to teach both explicitly and implicitly through our actions, words, and previous beliefs. Our choices in what we teach come from our knowledge, our experiences, and our feelings towards the subjects being taught, form our students in what they learn. There is the learned curriculum where students learn many different unspoken lessons within the environment of the classroom and school. The learned curriculum is much more inclusive, they can learn about respect, or lack of respect, when to ask questions, or how to learn/study. Finally, there is the tested curriculum – they curriculum most are familiar with through past experience.

I do feel that curriculum should be geared towards the students and what they should learn or take out of the lessons and information provided. I feel that we should encourage our students to explore and question their knowledge, and hopefully they will learn how to be a socially responsible person with a wide range of different knowledge not constrained by the formal documents set out by the government.

Rather than teaching to the test, we should focus on teaching for social justice. The curriculum should include different ideas, practices, activities. As teachers, we need to consider who our students are. In many cases, teachers tend to avoid teaching something they might not know or understand as well, and avoid topics that can call their own identity into question. If we teach towards social justice, these discomforting issues will be brought into attention. Although it may feel uncomfortable, and at times awkward, I think it is important for students to understand the world they live in and how they can help improve the current situations they will be facing, if not facing them already.

Kumashiro Reading

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I think that for the most part, we don’t include our race, or gender, sexuality, or any other form of identity because we assume that it wont make a difference in who we are, or how we developed. After the reading, and after class, I had left feeling uncomfortable with myself because I had no idea what was expected of me. I started to really think of where I came from. I grew up on and around reserves, went to school in a small place, didn’t practice religion, I never really thought that growing up where I did would have affected my way of teaching, or the implications it may have towards the class. I also came to the conclusion that our backgrounds and history’s are different for everyone, and those markers make us who we are.

I also realized that how people judge us depends on their initial markers they make on us. For example, I am white and female, therefore, the individuals who meet me for the first time are going to form impressions and opinions based on their perception of me. They will assume that because I am female, I will be hormonal, caring, and I will either be extremely nice, or I will be perceived as a horrible person. I am expected to be sympathetic and motherly, unless of course, I start acting outside of the norms constructed by society in order to assert my dominance as an equal to other people. Being white introduces the assumption that I am probably a good Christian, and that I am upper class. As a white person, there is also the assumptions that I have never been the victim of a hate crime, and whether true or not, I will always be the oppressor and never the victim. People will assume that I will never be able to relate to international or First Nations students, I will speak English. As a perceived white person, I would have never run into the law, or have been to jail, and if I have, it would have only been because I was having some ‘lighthearted fun’. The list of assumptions can go on and on, and unfortunately, we live in a society filled with stereotypes, prejudice, hate, discrimination, and so forth, which makes counteracting any of these judgments extremely hard.

Why do these assumptions matter? As I go into the classroom and teach the students, I will have to realize that these students will be basing their ideas and assumptions about me from what they perceive me to be. I also have to be aware that these assumptions are not just about me, but extend to every individual in the classroom. Whether I mean to or not, these hidden messages and assumptions re-create the classroom environment which can hinder the learning of others. I also have to realize that because of these identity markers we carry, it affects what we teach in the classroom, and what the students will get out of the lessons we teach. It is important that we understand where we came from and what we understand of the world today – we need to teach from both parts of the story. We also need to focus on multiple aspects of learning. Of course, my upbringing will be different from the next persons upbringing, and it is important that we as future educators, understand the different implications we may have when we stand in front of the classroom to teach our lesson about History, or English, or Health. 

I think that Kumashiro is correct in his ideas where when we teach, we consider the students are learning only when they can reiterate what we placed on them. I hope this is not the case for me, and I would want my students to question and engage in their learning in my classroom. Hopefully, I can push past the political implications of the knowledge and skills, and encourage my students to be radical thinkers prepared for what society has to offer today and in the future.

What Makes a Good Student

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After doing the readings for class, and after discussing what makes a good student, I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a perfect or ideal student. I would hope that my students would come to class being prepared and wanting to learn – being enthusiastic, and engaged in their learning. I would hope that they would listen, and question what they are learning. I know that this isn’t going to be true in all cases, but I guess that is part of the challenge of becoming a teacher. We need to make the students want to be there, want to come to class everyday excited, well rested, and ready to smodelshe next task at hand. We need to be the role models and we should inspire the students, encourage them to be themselves and want to excel.

How Stories Shape Our Lives Part Two

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Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year

By: Dale Weiss

            As new teachers, it is incredibly hard to not only prepare for the year ahead, but also to know what to expect in regards to the students, the classroom, the environment and culture, and the colleagues. I feel that it is extremely important as teachers to be open minded, and diverse in everything they do – whether that be in regards to race, culture, gender, religion, or any other social justice concern. Dale Weiss article “Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year” brings up many different, and interesting points, on becoming a new teacher while educating for social justice.

            Something that really resonated with me was the letter that read “Rights for Homosexuals next?”. I could not believe that providing a suggestion as to make the school more culturally diverse would produce homophobic comments. As an upcoming future educator, I feel it is imperative that we all be open to LGBTQ Rights. Further than that, whether we as teachers agree or disagree with any social justice issue, such as LGBTQ rights, should be irrelevant and we should focus more on the students’ needs rather than that of our own view points, perspectives, values, and opinions. In Mary Cowhey’s article “Heather’s Mom Got Married”, it shows that even at a young age, children are capable of understanding anything, including diversity or social justice. Developing openness within the classroom is a huge part of education and learning. Deciding what to teach based on personal views is, in a way, similar to the refusal to extend equal rights to anyone – both send an implicit message that somehow one group of people is inferior to the other group of people and therefore not important.

            Beyond just being open-minded, it is important to be knowledgeable in not only the subjects you teach, but in other cultures, beliefs, Treaties, the list is endless. The statement made by one of the teachers in Weiss’s article, “I just don’t feel comfortable teaching about something I just don’t know much about”, is a reality that many teachers face daily. The important thing to take from this statement is not the fact that we might not know much about a certain topic – which is in it crucial to succumb to – but instead, that we need to acknowledge we don’t always know everything and therefore should expand our knowledge and educate ourselves in other aspects. In this case, the particular teacher was commenting on other cultural practices during December.

             Curriculum is everything, both spoken and unspoken, and like we see with Weiss’s article, even though the decorations in the school do not at first appear to be curriculum, it is implicitly implying certain perspectives and values which can create a binary effect where one group of individuals could be superior to the other groups of individuals. Further than just the decorations placed on the wall, curriculum can be any and all interactions. As Rita Tenorio notes in her interview, curriculum can be the “attitudes, feelings, interactions” in which children are faced with. In Weiss’s article, it is explicitly shown that if students feel safe, motivated, encouraged, they will learn. If the security elements are not present, students can feel disrespected, neglected, and casted as outsiders, in a developing social world.

             As a future educator, it is extremely important to get to know, understand, and work alongside other staff and colleagues – supporting and helping each other, regardless of different opinions. It is important, moreover, to always put the student’s best interests first when planning any activity. When Weiss opened the article, he explained that with the strike at the beginning of the school year, he had thought that many of his colleagues and him had bonded. As soon as a comment was made in a staff meeting to be more inclusive in their educational practices, much of the staff blatantly disregarded and, at times, isolated him. It is important to note, here, that as a new teacher not only getting to know the area, culture, and colleagues is important, but also to understand other beliefs. I do find that Weiss was in the right to question his colleague’s actions, but I do think he went about it in the wrong way. As a future teacher, I would have asked around before coming to the conclusion that what the other teachers were doing was wrong and needed to be changed. Instead, I would suggest to make the school a more inclusive and multicultural environment.

               With that being said, I do think that it is imperative to create allies as teachers. As noted in Gregory Michie’s work “Teaching in the Undertow”, it is incredibly easy to begin drifting away from your personal beliefs and values into a more ‘conventional’ or ‘accepted’ way of teaching, deemed by Eurocentric views and ways of knowing. He goes further to state that one of the best things to do as new teachers is to create allies – both within the school as well as within the broader community of educators. Teachers whose philosophy and political viewpoints are similar should be deemed extremely valuable emotional and social supports for the battle faced ahead. As a becoming teacher, it will be hard to find the border line that exists between doing what is right in regards to social justice, multicultural inclusionary perspectives, and pedagogical ways, over what to conform to as deemed acceptable with the community of teachers, students, and parents.

             From reading the articles, I have come to the conclusion that teaching and educating students in regards to social justice will never be easy. I do think that starting, even if in a small way, is more beneficial to both you as the individual as well as the students in helping shape their perspectives and broadening their understanding as to the world they live in. Given everything we have learned so far, there is no set way to implementing social change. As future educators, we should definitely strive for social justice, even if it is starting with the posters we put up in our classroom, or implementing it into our lessons, at least it is a start to a better future.