The Big Picture

Albert Community School is a place where students do more than learn curriculum-based content. As a community school, that means that the school serves the community, rather than the community serving the school. The school reaches far beyond students and into family and community interests. This difference results in a different mindset for teaching. The teachers create lessons and expand job expectations in order to serve the students’ needs.

Sometimes it can mean raising engagement by bending curriculum in order to improve attendance. Other times it means constructing nutrition units that can be realistically implemented by an eight-year-old with little parental support. Or it can stretch to duties of a cab driver for students who can’t make it from home to school and back again. These are just a few examples of the extra work that teachers do in order to serve their students.

When educators reach out to their students, a funny thing happens, students reach for their teachers. They value the knowledge being taught and look forward to each lesson. The respect that the students have for their staff is evident in Albert School. Students and teachers joke around and share a passion for learning.

In Albert School students are not learning in traditional ways. Teachers design lessons to fit their students best learning abilities. They include activities for visual learners, hands-on learners, quiet and loud learner’s, independent and dependent learners. They learn through technology, stories, field trips, and much more creative ways that I have yet to see.

Most of all, teachers and students share in a community that thrives and continues to grow. Teachers instill values of respect and kindness, skills that reach far beyond the front doors of the school. At the end of the day, Albert Community School serves the community in ways seen and unseen, and I hope when I become a teacher that I will be a part of the service of a community.

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A Simple Extension Can Go Far

This week I was tasked with trying out an app, chrome extension, or website. I was to try it, become familiar with the software, and review it for all of you. Upon looking through the list I was overwhelmed with unfamiliar titles and wildly creative names.

 

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Nevertheless, the words, each connecting to a link, intrigued me and I found myself downloading each chrome extension, app, and visiting each website. Although I have not had time to explore each and everything I now have downloaded on my computer, I will be reviewing the ones that I have had a chance to look at.

TabMania

I’m one of those people that collects a series of tabs on my computer. The look of an empty tab bar is foreign to me and I fill it up quickly throughout my day, only for my stockpile to disappear at night when I shut my computer down.

In order to fix this problem, I added the chrome extension OneTab. With this extension, I am able to keep all the tabs I am not currently using one ‘collection’ tab. They are housed without connection to the internet and without taking up precious battery space but are accessible with the simple click of a button. This could be helpful for teachers because they can collect more and more tabs without threatening the integrity of their computer.

On my phone, I have the app Feedly, which houses articles for me to read whenever I get a spare moment of time. On my computer, I had nothing until I downloaded the chrome extension Evernote. This extension allows for me to save articles and websites to visit later. This could be beneficial to teachers because resources can be saved for days and weeks, making lesson planning easy to be done in advanced. No more saving links to a document for safe keeping.

Your Grammar Sucks

I like to pretend that I know what I’m doing when it comes to grammar, especially since I’m an English major. I know everything! Not.

 

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This is where the chrome extension Grammarly comes in. I have used the extension throughout this entire post, and I have noticed a huge improvement in my writing. Think spell-check with that built-in scary English teacher from middle school who handed back your work covered in red pen. Except, a little less scary. Teachers can use this because… actually, everybody could use this. It would save a lot of embarrassing grammatical mistakes.

This may be where the post ends, but my exploration of apps, extensions, and websites is just beginning. Tell me in the comments what other computer gadgets I should check out.

An Engaged Classroom is a Happy Classroom

At Albert Community School there are a range of students who attend classes. Some are only there for short periods of time, others grow and thrive in the surrounding community, and some are not proficient in the English language. In my time at school I noticed a common theme, no child is neglected because of their individual strengths and weaknesses. A sense of love and family flows through each staff and student, making the classroom an exciting place to learn.

As any school in Saskatchewan, there are specific curriculum requirements that each student is required to learn. How that knowledge is taught to students is at the discretion of the teachers. After weeks of observing different teaching styles among a range of grades I noticed that teachers catered to different learning methods. Each child learns their best differently, and the teachers create multiple activities to promote learning.

A common practice among teachers was ‘BRAIN’ groups. Students were divided into five different groups and rotated between five activities that each stimulated a different type of learner. There were typically flashcard stations, digital stations, visual and hands on stations, paper practice stations, and new concept stations. These different stations interested the children and allowed the teacher to work with a small number of students when teaching new topics.

After speaking with the staff I gathered new information regarding the types of learners. At Albert Community School teachers must adapt a specific teaching philosophy that emphasizes engagement over curriculum teaching. I noticed many times that teachers would ask children topics that interested them, rather than following the curriculum to a ‘T’. Teachers addressed internet trends and world news regularly in order to promote digital consumer awareness as well as positive citizenship.

The importance of student engagement stems from alarming facts announced by Bronwyn Eyre, the overall graduation rate had increased about one percentage point to 76.5 per cent over the previous year.” in contrast to, “[t]he graduation rate for First Nations, Métis and Inuit students also increased to 43.2 per cent in 2016-17, from 41.9 per cent in 2015-16.” Albert School is home to a large population of Indigenous students, and with such a large gap in graduation teachers are trying their best to keep students in school in order to create future opportunities for them in their adult careers.

The students may not be reaching all criteria outcomes, but their enthusiasm and appreciation for classroom learning is the most important.

The Implications of Technology

I was in grade 8 when Amanda Todd left this earth. At this age I thought I knew it all. She was bullied because of the internet, took her own life as an escape, and now teachers took every opportunity they could to scare us off the internet. In grade 8 I had a phone, Ipod, laptop, and had surpassed my parents knowledge of technology. I was not about to give it up because of one incident.

Years went by and teachers kept using the same scare tactics. It wasn’t very effective. As Amanda Todd kept being used as an example of failure, I saw her as a person failed by an outdated system. Now I’ve had the privilege of having Carol Todd speak to my EDTC300 class about the reality of the internet.

amanda todd legacy symbol
via Google

Carol Todd told spoke about her negative encounters on the internet through Amanda’s story and her own, but she does not believe that ignoring the internet will help. Her understanding perspective allows for a healthy conversation to ensue. She speaks about safety, education, and embracing the internet.

The man who sextorted Amanda Todd has since fled the country and is undergoing trials for his actions in the Netherlands. His cruel acts have effected multiple young girls, and men similar to him are repeating his actions to unsuspecting victims all across the world.

Law makers are recognizing this issue, but the law is not being updated fast enough to protect the vulnerable on the internet. This is where Carol Todd’s mission begins. She aims to educate children and youth about protecting themselves on the internet. She does in a multitude of ways:

Carol Todd works hard to make sure that her daughters suffering and death will not be forgotten. Amanda Todd’s story will continue to live on in it’s uniqueness as, “Snowflakes cannot be duplicated because they are one of a kind… just like Amanda”

Becoming M. Hodson

There are so many aspects of our lives that make up who we are. Past mistakes, current events, and future aspirations all contribute to who we are. What exactly lies within those ambiguous statements? Everything from your race, religion, and even occupation. As a pre-service teacher I have thought long and hard about my identity as a teacher, but never did I consider it to be so multi-dimensional before.

I learned that the act of transitioning from student to teacher does not look the same for everyone. The feelings that are often brought up by teachers are anxiety, ambiguity, and even control issues. These feelings are not pretty and by no means encompass the entire pre-service experience, but the feelings are similar in many drastic life transitions.

I also learned that within the teaching community comes a discourse. This is a type of work culture that pre-service teachers must learn to navigate. This is everything from the language used in the staff room to the silent expectations of student behaviour. Discourse is in every work place, but in teaching the cost of such culture sometimes ignores student and teacher needs.

Discourse describes a normal. These expectation encourages teachers not to stray from the norm.

This discussion held student teachers at the heart of it all, and as a pre-service teacher myself I found that I was already asking myself these important questions. I was able to connect easily to the fear and uncertainty because I face those challenges myself.

I also connected to the idea of discourse. Fortunately, I attend a university that puts student teachers in the classroom in the very first year. It is in the staffroom that I encounter an entirely different ecosystem that feels like I’m on another planet.

I fear that in my practice I may stray from the norm, and so I often wonder how far I can stray from the teacher ideals?

Punishing the Bullied

Ask anyone and I’m sure they’ll have a story about how bullying has affected them. Whether they were the victim, bystander, or the bully themselves, bullying is part of school culture that teachers can’t seem to eradicate. Bullying is harmful no matter what form it comes in – e.i. physical, verbal, sexual, or cyber. There is one group of students who suffer the outcasting and life threatening bullying that seems to escape the radars of adults and authority, LGBTQ+ youth.

Many times, homophobia and transphobia come hand in hand with bullying against sexual minority groups. It is this phobic and less than tolerant behaviour that is hard to speak about when the topic of LGBTQ+ youth is rarely recognized in society. In the reading “Deepening the Discussion About Sexual Diversity in Saskatchewan” it states that, “anywhere between 5-11 percent of people are non-heterosexual or questioning their sexual orientation (PHAC, 2011; EGALE Canada, 2011).” I learned that this sexual minority group is often categorized as too small to address.

After doing some research I came across an article about GSAs (Gay Straight Alliance) in relation to the government. In April of 2015 a bill was proposed that aimed at anti-bullying for LGBTQ+ youth. I learned that currently in Saskatchewan schools, if a school is to create a GSA, a student who desires one must step forward and create the group. Putting the onus on kids and teens, who already feel singled out, ostracized, and bullied, to face the barriers of creating a club that features the hottest issues of diversity is just plain wrong. This bill would mandate that schools provide students with a GSA. This attempt to address bullying of LGBTQ+ youth was garnered as unnecessary.

This reactive way of thinking that the Saskatchewan Government holds onto is similarly displayed in pop-culture. In the article “TV Bullies: How Glee and Anti-Bullying Campaigns Miss the Mark” I learned that often times, “homophobia is regarded as a personal problem rather than an institutional one that poisons school environments and leaves children emotionally and physically unsafe.” Although I love the show Glee, which was the example used in this amazing article, it is very true that the battles against homophobic bullying were minimized to appear as if it is a problem on a person to person basis rather than addressing the issues of the entire system.

Glee sheds light on the bullying that happens to the everyday high schoolers. Despite it’s cliche premise and stereotypical cliques the audience is able to look past this and see bullying as a real issue in schools. That’s it. A school issue that can be left in the past after graduation. In the article “TV Bullies: How Glee and Anti-Bullying Campaigns Miss the Mark” the issues of this thinking are addressed. If you picture the typical acts of bullying, you often think of students being shoved in lockers, fights after school with a circle of onlookers, and name calling that aims to break down the integrity of the victim. This is more than just bullying, it is a violation of human rights and is indeed considered physical or sexual harassment. Downplaying this harmful behaviour as high school bullying results in nothing good for the rest of society.

If this kind of behaviour is appropriate in school then what is stopping people from interacting this way outside of school and after graduation?

Why does this sexually minoritized group of students continue to be ignored despite the recognition of a problem?

The Difference Between You and Me

Diversity lies in all aspects of life and recognizing differences among peers is a great place for a school to start. Celebrating diversity is the next step. At Albert Community School the celebration of diversity is everywhere. A large population of students at the school belong to  ethnic minority groups, including Aboriginal people. Albert School works hard to equally represent and respect all students that go to school.

It is no secret that Canadian society is riddled with racism. Ignoring this problem is not something that Albert School is participating in. In order to promote diversity and equity among ethnicities the school focuses on reconciliation. They have community movie nights that recognize the traumatic effects of colonization. The school also promotes the restoration of Aboriginal culture by offering Cree language classes and having people from the Aboriginal Community come in to engage students in traditional Aboriginal storytelling and traditions.

Apart from racial diversity, Albert School also recognizes diversity in gender. In classes students are taught about the differences between females and males, and also the similarities. Respectful and inclusive practices in regard to gender are carried throughout the school. From school rules about personal space to respect for gender differences.

One part where the school falls short is support for the LGBTQ+ community. There is no GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) nor any type of support group for those that do not fit within the gender binary. Though I was assured posters that stated that this school is a safe place were enough in regards to sexual and gender diversity, I feel as if I’d like to hear from those who identify with non-binary labels.

Albert Community School works very hard to ensure students are treated with equity and feel included. I commend all staff and students for taking the time to participate in reconciliation, learn about diversity, and recognize the issues at hand in Canadian Society. Continue to work hard and never stop the progress that this school works hard to push forward.