The Students and Learning Environment at Albert Community School

It had been awhile since I had set foot in an elementary school. When I made the choice to take secondary education as opposed to primary or middle years I didn’t think I’d ever have to go to a primary school. It was a surprise to me when I was assigned to a pre-kindergarten classroom. Along with surprise I also felt confused, upset, and dare I say it – happy. I felt that because of my familiarity with this age group and even younger from my part time job in child minding and youth programming at the YMCA that this classroom would be a breeze. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Picture of me within the classroom
First Day in the Classroom

When I say it’s been awhile since I’d been in an elementary school, my reaction to the setup of the classroom really shows it. This classroom was packed full with child sized furniture, a loft, a small food preparations area, and a teepee. My minimalist sense of style and comfort clashed with the overstuffed classroom. Although the children noticeably appreciated a classroom that had any educational trinket or toy that they could ever desire, I felt claustrophobic in the tight space and knocked more than a book or two over with my uncoordinated feet.

The children, aged three to five, trickled in after the lunch bell rang. At least, I think it was the lunch bell. It’s low tone and quiet volume seems small in comparison to the harsh alarm that rang in my ears long after the bell had quit ringing in my elementary school. We started with a couple students who came with their older siblings. Albert Community School is placed in a community that is not very affluent, and I found over the course of my afternoon that authority is often lacking in the young students’ lives and older siblings take on a parenting roll very young. This in turn affects the students as their home life does not fully support academic success.

The teacher of this classroom opened with pointing out the importance of routine and professionalism as it aids in the students building respect for authority figures. In consequence to this important rule I had no opportunity to build significant connections with the students. The school removed recess from their school days which was another barrier to having informal conversations with the young students in the pre-kindergarten class.

This experience is a harsh contrast from my own schooling. For starters, my school did not offer a pre-kindergarten option. Although I did attend a Pre-K it was private and for only a handful of hours in the week. When I did attend school my experience was much different. My school participated in a school wide recess. As well, I had the privilege of having a parent drop me off in the morning and pick me up after school. I lived in an environment where my life at home helped to nourish success in the classroom. Albert Community School is definitely a whole different experience than what I thought, but I am glad I have the opportunity to be placed here so that I can have a wide variety of practice in different situations.

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Reconceptualizing the Reconceptualist

Some people believe that if something ain’t broke then it doesn’t need to be fixed. I also believe in this concept, but only in particular instances. Such as using the same fridge my grandparents had on their farm for my entire life.

Picture of an old fridge
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Does the fridge keep things cold?

Yes.

Does it have an ice machine and all the buttons that nobody ever uses?

No.

The same can be said for the schooling system. Many argue that change to the curriculum is not worth the effort, but with an ever-changing society the things we learn in school should prepare students for the lifestyle after graduation.

This brings us to reconceptualism, something I had never heard of before. I learned that reconceptualism is a belief that counters everything I had spent the first five weeks of class driving into my brain. It challenges the narrow worldview that the likes of Bronfenbrenner and Piaget share – the view of an old white guy. The challenges that reconceptualists pose aren’t backed with hostility. They are only suggestions for a different way to think.

I then went on to learn of the three broad focuses that reconceptualists adhere to:

1) They challenge grand narratives. I immediately connected this to Vygotsky who thought differently from what every other white, male, child psychologist believed at the time and began examining the classroom in its entirety instead of examining individuals..

2) They recognize and embrace diversity. This can be done by keeping an open mind and perspective as well as willing to ask the difficult questions. I was able to connect this to my very first school placement in ECS 100. I was placed in Albert Community School where the entire structure of the day was different from any other school I had known of. This was done in the best interest of the surrounding community because the staff at Albert Community were able to ask the tough questions.

3) Lastly, they acknowledge social and historical context. This is done by considering the many possibilities for transformation to eradicating issues around poverty, colonialism, gender, and many more social and historical issues.

In learning all of this, I aim to build a mindset of reconceptualism. But I am not sure I will be successful at the patience that goes along with this belief. How do patience and reconceptualism go hand in hand?

What’s With All This Face-Tweeting?

The internet has always been a large part of my life. I always had a computer at home and was always playing the most popular online games

Picture from club penguin website
r3beccaf Flickr via Compfight cc

such as webkinz and clubpenguin. I grew up with a life recorded on video and often go back to watch my younger years. I am not shy to social media or posting and I believe growing up with the technology acclimated me well to the world we live in today.

I am always amazed at how trends or people can become viral. My slightly jealous side wishes to experience the 5 seconds of fame that the internet allows. Such as in Michael Wesch’s video when he describes the success of the song Crank That which started out as a homemade song made by a regular person. This song went viral and soon Soulja Boy Tell’em was a household name in music.

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Participation has never been easier. The internet allows for everyone to join in whatever way they can or want. The world wide web has no boundaries and is not monitored by government or police on a regular basis, which means that the dark web is an unavoidable part of the internet. Aside from that, the internet can be a great resource in the classroom. We no longer have chalkboards and boringly long lectures, the new technology is smart boards and personalized learning.

I’m hoping that with a steady increase in technology that personalized learning will become the norm. Instead of everyone learning the same topics, groups can branch off, research, and present their findings easily through powerpoint to their classmates.

I plan to be a driving force in education as I teach my future students all about technology. Instilling the belief that you are no longer a hidden face on the internet and that kindness and acceptance should be extended through all areas of life is very important. The citizenship of the internet was missing for my generation, but I will not allow it to be missed for the ones coming.

In lecture we talked about “How do we capture the spirit of open, networked & participatory communities in our learning environments?” I believe that in order to accomplish this we must:

  • Having an open and honest conversation about the risks and benefits of the internet will help incorporate the positive aspects of cellphones and computers into the classroom.
  • As a teacher, facilitating areas online that extend from the classroom is important – such as having a class blog, twitter, individual accounts on learning sites, and participating in online discussions.
  • Ensuring that each person within your class has a positive experience online. Fearing the internet will not get you very hard in this fast moving world, and fearing change will never amount to progress in this area of the classroom.

Whether you can remember the invention of the microfiche or grew up with a 3D printer in school, we all have a lot to learn about successful participation in the internet. Ensuring that future generations get educated exposure to the internet is crucial to the advancement of the world wide web in the classroom.

How do you incorporate technology into the classroom? Leave your answers in the comments below!

Teaching From the Heart

Being a teacher is no easy job. Despite having the summers off and great job security, there often is no constant feelings of success or joy in the classroom. A single day can go from exhausting and futile to creative and enlightening. Parker Palmer is able to articulate the true lives of teachers in his article “The Heart of a Teacher”. He describes the highs and the lows, and looks within the teaching profession to analyse the true work of teaching.

I may not be far into post-secondary education, and I have not even begun to put a dent in the classes in which I will be required to take to become a teacher, but I already know that it is not what I expected. I assumed that I would be bestowed the secret powers of classroom management. At the very least I thought that there was a certain technique that all teachers were equipped with. When none of these expectations were met I find my answer in Parker Palmer’s words, “good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” He taught me that ability to teach comes from within.

Parker Palmer also writes about the importance of connecting with your inner teacher. He speaks that there is an ability within you to teach without fear. I found this particular quote astounding:

“I am painfully aware of the times in my own teaching when I lose touch with my inner teacher, and therefore with my own authority. In those times I try to gain power by barricading myself behind the podium and my status while wielding the threat of grades. But when my teaching is authorized by the teacher within me, I need neither weapons nor armor to teach.”

I have had teachers who use this armour and wield these weapons. I have also armed myself this way in my job working with kids. I relate fully to what Palmer writes in regards to the disconnect. I will walk into work some mornings so frazzled and disconnected from myself that I fall into this trap. I threaten with words of punishment and timeouts, I protect myself with distance because I know the second I let my amour down this disconnect will cause me to crumble. Palmer has taken this squishy and icky feeling I experience and put it beautifully in the above quote.

My question for this reading is why do we disconnect in the first place from our inner teacher, and how do we minimize this occurrence? I feel that if I can permanently make my teacher self and regular self into one cohesive identity that it would make the classroom a better place for all.

Parker Palmer speaks about the heart of teaching, and that all teachers must keep their hearts open despite the risk of breaking. I often hear that teaching is one of the most unselfish acts that there is. As someone who probably has not experienced the joys of teaching I wonder what kind of appeal that lifestyle has? Can I be a successful teacher while still valuing my well-being?

Jagged Worldviews

The world can be viewed in dozens of different ways. Primarily, in the western world it is easy to fall into an ‘us’ and ‘them’ narrative. We think this way, they think that way. Leroy Little Bear breaks down the Western worldview and Aboriginal worldview in his book Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision. He explains each worldview clearly and exhibits great analysis of both. In the end he speaks of the loss of culture within the Indigenous community and how worldviews of their ancestors are colliding with the western worldview. Making room in society for multiple worldviews is important now more than ever as Canada continues to grow and diversify.

From Leroy Little Bear’s article I learned of many aspects of Indigenous Worldview. For Aboriginal people time moves in a cyclical fashion. I could spend all of my time learning about the different ways in which people experience time, and how they view the notions of past, present, and future.

Image of North Dakota pipeline protests
North Dakota Pipeline Protest

Leroy Little Bear explained the fascinating Indigenous belief that all things on this earth are connected as one by a moving spirit. In turn, this would give life to what westerns would believe are inanimate objects. I learned that this particular way of viewing the world instills a more respectful attitude in regards to the natural world. It is not only reflected in Little Bear’s writing but when looking to the causes that many Indigenous communities support, many of them fight for the preservation of wildlife.

I also learned that embracing many aspects from multiple worldviews is important in building your own personal outlook on life. It is easy to follow the crowd and believe what others tell you to believe, but to form an opinion that is truly your own, you must take multiple different parts and work them together. The same goes for worldview. As Leroy Little Bear outlined in his book, with the loss of Indigenous worldview and the adoption of western beliefs leaves many Indigenous people at a loss. They often find themselves molding the two worldviews together to create a belief that is cohesive to them individually while staying true to their people.

As the Colton Boushie case moves through Canada, people are facing the underlying conflict between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal citizens. This takes me back to an Indigenous 100 class I took in my first semester. In this class we discussed the slow change of the Canadian legal system to incorporate Indigenous worldview in court such as verbal accounts. This clashing reminds me of Leroy Little Bear’s work because he writes about worldviews clashing across many cultures. I am puzzled over how much molding and shaping worldviews will go through, and excited to see the reflection of old worldviews in new ones.

The question that I end this reading with is one that I often ponder, even before reading this article. Upon learning of different worldviews I wonder that if two people who live within completely different worldviews are still living in the same world?

Just Another SuperBowl

Of all the reasons to dislike the SuperBowl, mine has to be the most ridiculous. Upon looking at my schedule I found that the only evening I would be available to participate in my very first twitter chat this week was Sunday. But this was no regular Sunday – it was Superbowl Sunday.

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In my first attempt I checked over 15 different education twitter chats to find them either not active or postponed a week because of this massive celebration of masculinity and entertainment and those oh-so talked about commercials. I eventually connected with a fellow EDTC300 classmate who was going through the same struggles as myself. We chatted for a bit through twitter and decided to come back for the next time slot to try another round of chats.

After spending an hour watching Justin Timberlake’s much anticipated halftime performance sans Janet Jackson I returned to the internet once again. It was at this time that my classmate from earlier notified me of a twitter chat that was going to begin at eight. I set #blogchat as my paste option and readied my newly created tweetdeck to watch the action.

The beginning was slow and the community on this chat was tight. It felt as if the step by step instructions from class had been thrown out the window. There were no questions. No moderator. Just a bunch of people who were using the same hashtag to communicate. All at once I was astounded. Partly because of such a clever use of technology, but mostly that I had been completely oblivious to the significance of twitter.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m still confused as heck when it comes to tweets, retweets, and tweetdeck, but I now have an appreciation for this world that I am struggling to be a part of. The information I learned from this chat may not have been the most useful, but I sure did learn a lot about netiquette. I had never before been a part of an internet conversation. I had never experienced the thrill of connecting with complete strangers online. Up until this point I maintained a very reserved social footprint, but this chat opened my eyes to what I was missing.

In a world where real life connection is suffering, the internet fills the gap. The relationships that can be built online are just as valid as the ones in real life. Twitter chats themselves become the boardrooms and the staff meetings. Instead of being

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Photo Credit: Ars Electronica Flickr via Compfight cc

limited to the people in the room to share your ideas with, the entire world is at your fingertips. This creates a sharing of knowledge like never before. Information can be shared, discussed, and transformed like never before. I can’t wait to continue exploring the internet and how it can help me in becoming a better educator and a better citizen.  

Have you ever participated in a twitter chat? Tell me about your experience in the comments?

Culture and Diversity in the Classroom

Culture is like an iceberg. This analogy may be overused and predictable, but I found the use for this purpose very fitting. I learned that we only see the top third of this iceberg, Image result for different coloured children armswhich is comprised of the food, dress, and language of a culture. These are all visual indicators of culture. Whereas child-rearing beliefs, cleanliness, and roles in relation to age, gender, and class which are found below the surface of the water are not visually seen. Culture is complex and textbook definitions are vague, so describing culture as an iceberg is a great way to explain the confusing concept.

When you can only see a small part of someone’s culture, attaching stereotypes and assumptions will not only lead to incorrect expectations, but also hurt the student in the long run. I learned that oftentimes stereotypes, even ones that seem positive, have heavily negative effects on students. For instance, the seemingly positive belief that Asian-American students are smart puts an unbelievable amount of pressure on student.

In education the words ‘achievement gap’ become a hot topic. I had never seen the study as problematic. Then I learned that when non-white ethnic students are compared to white students it sets the white students as normal, and everyone else as different.

When it comes to teaching in an ever changing society, I feel that I have a lot to learn to successfully teach multicultural education. I connected to the use of the social divide ‘us’ and ‘them’. These terms were used regularly in my Education Core Studies 110 class to dismantle the many binaries and biases we covered in the curriculum. I also connected to the use of gender bias in teaching. I often find myself affirming the statistic that high achieving males are given the most attention and high achieving females are given the least. It is easy to assume that females have their bearings together and that my attention can be focused on more problem areas, but I must try to stop this way of thinking as it is not fair.

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My question for this reading is what effect does having single-sex classroom have on social development after school is over? Also, how does the school system approach children who do not identify with either gender? This so-called solution does not seem to be in favour of the child’s social development.