Category Archives: Reflections

Having journals in science class

I’ve recently been interested in the idea of having journals be a part of Science class. When I was doing my short practicum, my Faculty Advisor had mentioned doing journals in class and definitely seeing a change in her students. The opportunity to allow students to explore, express, and reflect on the things that interest, intrigue, or frustrate them about science helped to keep them engaged. Helped to keep them invested, helped them to even understand science concepts better because they were routinely reflecting on what was learned. My FA did mention, however, that it was hard work to incorporate this aspect and although, when done properly, worked, she didn’t quite transition journals quite smoothly and it was more work than she anticipated. This whole idea totally and completely blew me away. I knew that I wanted to try it. Especially since, the whole process of becoming a teacher changed my whole perspective on being reflective. Heck, I’ve even started a blog, right? However, until I actually get my very own class to experiment on, my mentor for my long practicum has already shut down this idea. That’s okay. It’s quite a new concept especially in the Science/ Math classes and I totally understood.

Coming across Sam’s post about using journals in his class (http://samjshah.com/2012/09/22/a-high-school-math-science-journal/) had me really curious. His purpose of using the journals is to essentially learn what the students may find challenging or interesting and using this knowledge to create more outside of the box examples or activities. Hmmm. Had that been my intention, I would have likely done it this way too. Furthermore, Sam describes how the journals would work and to me, I sounds almost like a newspaper, with various students being the writers.

I do look forward to seeing how it works in his class, school. For me, however, I don’t think this is how I envisioned the journals looking. For someone like me who is incredibly private (ironic, since I have a blog), I would have loved to have a journal where I could communicate with my teachers and express to them my experiments, research, or curiosity, but laid out like the way described in the post, I would have gone in shut down mode. I’m not letting other people read it. I’m not going to say anything. What if it’s stupid? For these reasons alone, I think having private journals would be more effective. Having students be accountable for their own learning, reflection, thoughts, and understandings without the fear of having it go public, can more accurately and more meaningfully shed light on what activities and experiments can/should be done. I just think that having it be public where some students contribute will somehow take away from the students that can make meaningful connections but are too afraid/shy to.

Hmm.. Still a lot to think about but that’s my opinion.

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Community within the Blogosphere

http://reflectionsinthewhy.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/mathblogosphere-presentation/

My Math class ended today with a very sentimental goodbye from both us, the students, and Marc, my teacher. I took 5 courses this semester and out of the five, this Math course has been the most interesting and informative. This was perhaps my first Education course where we discussed practical activities and strategies we could integrate into our classes. In addition, Marc made the whole process extremely hands on; Less text book, theoretical, and more interactive. I love it. To say it was one of my better courses is truly an understatement. Out of my five years at university, it definitely holds as one of my favourite classes. I will forever be grateful for how he executed the class, the topics he chose, and his attitude. But one of the things I take away from his course is his emphasis on collaboration.

In the education stream, we always discuss collaboration and how it’s definitely a 21st skill that students need to learn. What Marc emphasizes is no different. He, however, discusses collaboration in the blogosphere, with fellow teachers, old and new. This was a super fascinating concept because when first brought up, I had never even considered this. I mean, of course, I had considered setting up a blog, twitter, and some sort of website to interact with my students outside of school. Deepening my relationships through media and technology. But, I had never even thought to perhaps reach out to fellow teachers across the keyboard.

This is still a very new concept to me. But, it is a very important one and in the future, I think, even more important. Today, as I said before is the last day of class. As I am writing this, I’m really sadden by that it. I won’t see many of my classmate for months, or if ever. And though, I only saw most once a week for about 4 hours, the short time we spent collaborating, working through problems, discussing different ways to teach, different strategies, different experiences, various tips, I will miss these moments. I will miss the moments where we are truly inspired by each other, and by ourselves. In those moments, I’ve never been more in love with my teacher profession than ever which is why the I chose the above blog post as a recommended read.

One of the most exciting aspects of being part of a new generation of teachers is the idea that we can have professional development days online whenever we want, whenever we can. Of course, face to face interaction is also essential, but I can see what that teacher from Tennessee presented on and read what was highlighted from that Pro-D in Washington, or that teacher from New York, how she made polynomials into a game. This is the new form of collaboration. A truly united front among teachers across the world. Sharing ideas, sharing thoughts; being a part of this new education system excites me. There are so many teachers across the country and world that are essentially sharing all their Yoda wisdom in blogosphere and I am overwelmed but honored to be able to read them. I know that I will never meet most, but somehow, I feel supported, I feel understood, and I feel inspired. Hopefully, in the near future, it is I that will reach other teachers through my blog.

I leave this post with a funny meme I came across. If only..

Heck, if I was a pirate, I would find me a Jack Sparrow pronto.

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Yes Yes!

So, since my last post, I’m sort of on a roll with reading different blogs. Mainly from other educators.

I came across a blog post that made me tear up and say, “Yes! I want that!”

http://mrvaudrey.com/2012/12/18/proof-my-class-culture-is-working/

The title alone says it all. “Proof my class culture is working”

My biggest goal when becoming a teacher is not getting the material across (that is one of my goals, just not my biggest) or even that they like me. No, my biggest, biggest goal when becoming a teacher is establishing a positive, safe, successful, respectfully, colourful class culture. More than anything, I want my students to be able to trust each other, respect each other, teach each other, and learn from one another. I want them to be confident with who they are and yet be invested in being apart of the class identity. It all seems vague and abstract and I’m sure a lot of you will be like, “That seems like a very unrealistic dream/fantasy/goal.” And yet, here we are, Well, here I am, telling you about a blog post in which a teacher has accomplished exactly that. A classroom where other students help validate the material learned. Where other students are inspiring, encouraging, and aiding other students. Where risks are taken and mistakes are an after thought. I love it. I teared up. And I am freakin’ inspired! Yes.

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Innovative Thinking

Math has always been easy for me. Heck, I was top of my class in every grade except Grade 12. I had a feisty Calculus teacher that didn’t quite mesh with me. She was incredibly nice, intelligent and very very passionate, but she wasn’t very patient. And if there’s anything I’ve learned so far in my teaching program, it’s how patient we, as educators, HAVE to be. In any case, the traditional approach worked for me. I thrived in this setting. I could work on my own, or work collaboratively but all in all, math wasn’t very hard for me. I never dreaded the class, I never had a problem with learning new concepts, and please, like as if I had to study for my exams. Essentially, I’ve never had to think about the way I learned Math until now.

Like my previous post, the teaching program is all about innovation. Finding ways to engage, to hook, to make things fun but also balance it with deep understanding of the concept, of Math. One reason why this is extremely, extremely difficult for me to accomplish is the fact that I don’t even have a deep understanding of Math. My math teacher in my program is excellent. He’s passionate, he’s animated, he’s so incredibly intelligent. But the one thing that stands out when you meet him is how deep his understanding of math is. If his different math shirts don’t tell you right away, once he gets into a concept, his ability to explain it in 600 different ways, beginning with 200 different angles, using 150 different tools, makes it contact clear. M knows his stuff inside out, right side up. And as inspiring as this is, it makes me insecure and intimidated. How will I ever be able to find ways to explain different concepts when I only know one way. In fact, there are times when my peers have explained their understanding in an extremely different way and I’m left picking my jaw off the ground. Say wwhhhattt? Again, this is not a new idea. I’ve written before about my insecurities in regards to innovative thinking. However, as part of our assignment in which we look at blogs to help find inspiration or reflection, I found one that helped me with my anxiety.

http://ispeakmath.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/algebra-vocabulary-with-dry-erase-necklaces/

The blogger for this post essentially made up an activity to help her student better understand algebraic terms. She made dry-erase necklaces and made a little game for her students to not only learn the terms but be invested in learning the terms. Her blog spot is just a reflection of her own practices. Up to this point, I had somehow made myself believe that I needed to figure this innovative stuff on my own. I needed to come up with activities, find ways myself. I needed to be smarter, braver, more creative. I had not realized how much I had put on my own shoulders. I failed to realize that there were many many teachers that became innovative through the internet world. The blogger mentioned, adopted most of her activities from other educators. There were times where she was also lost. I guess that is what makes a teacher. Not the ability have light bulb moments and have all things miraculously come to place. But instead, finding bulbs that already lit and figuring how to use them in your class.

She found activities that were successful and adapted them for her own class. She herself was lost. It’s something I have to wrap my head around and start to accept. I’m not somehow weak just because I’m lost. It’s still very hard to accept help, or inspiration when up to this point, when it came to my education process, I never had to. I am relieved to know that I am allowed, or that I’m finally allowing myself, to seek inspiration, creatively, and innovation elsewhere. Perhaps along the way, I myself, will come across my own brand of innovation.

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Wow

That’s the first thing that came to mind after reading this blog post: http://emergentmath.com/2011/03/22/what-teachers-want-an-education-parable-written-by-a-math-teacher/

Essentially, the blogger, who is a Math teacher, details how a traditional math lesson would play out. The teacher teaches the content, then supplies work to assess their understanding. The work will likely be similar to the examples that were given in the notes. The teacher is baffled by the many, “How do I do this?” and, “I don’t understand the question.” The student is frustrated by the lack of help, or guidance from the teacher. The blogger ends the blog with the question: “Both Teacher and Student have a gripe. The question is this: Which one has a legitimate grievance?”

What amazed me was how the blogger was able to capture how accurate a typical math lesson would play out. How the student would have felt. The internal dialogue that would have occurred and the frustration he/she would have felt. The teacher, at the same time, feels the same frustration and the internal dialogue is so real that I remember many times thinking the same thing when interacting with students.

I get so caught up in what I want to say. I spend so much time making sure I’m very thorough with my content. With how I present it. How I say it. How I explain it. I pick the right examples. Break it down to teh best of my ability. Explain it. Ask questions to gauge if they understand. Make sure to give them opportunities to ask any questions they may have. Expand on questions that the few brave souls do ask. And then when I give them work, confident that I got through to them, it’s like I was never up at the front. I’m repeating or rephrasing things that I thought I said perfectly well. I’m left, like the teacher in the blog post, baffled, frustrated, and down right confused. What happened? What the heck were they thinking when I was up there? Did I wear something too distracting?

Worse, I’m left feeling insecure without even knowing what I did or didn’t do.

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Connected to the world.

It took reading Dan’s blog post (http://blog.mrmeyer.com/?p=13826), “Asking Interesting, Natural-Seeming Questions”, for me to frustratingly admit to myself how disconnected I am from the world. In my education classes right now, we’re always discussing about how to make our questions, lesson plans, material relevant to the world. Making connections, making relations, engaging the students. And I admit that it is all very, very overwhelming. I grew up with material and questions that didn’t related to the world; I definitely didn’t see calculus is my everyday activites. I left math at the door when I existed the class. Biology was only in Room 215 with Ms. Breton. Gym was the last block of Day 2s. I don’t know any other to learn and now I’m expected to come up with all these great ideas, great lesson plans that incorporate connections with the world when I… when I don’t even know what those connections even are.

The other day, in one of my classes, we discussed having labs be exploration based and someone suggested that students be given limited number of materials and be given the freedom to experiment, discover, and essentially explore. My anxiety rose instantly. I was suddenly stressed. As a student, I would have hated, HATED to be put in that position. I would have been lost, felt overwhelmed. I needed direction, guidance, someone to tell me what to do! The realization immediately embarrassed and humbled me. While everyone around me was contributing to the discussion and giving out really inspiring ideas, I sat there pondering my own head. Maybe I wasn’t an innovative as the other teachers, maybe I’m not as smart as they are, maybe I’m not as good as the rest. Maybe I won’t ever be able to make connections. Lots of lots of maybes went through my mind.

I want to be creative, I want my students to regard the world with curiosity. I want my kids to look at my material and look at the world through them. I want them to have perspective. I want all these things but I have no, NO idea how the hell I do that. And what sucks for me is knowing that there are so many other teachers that do. They already know. Before even being in the class and teaching, they already have these great ideas, great questions, great activities and I sit there trying to pick my jaw off the ground. It makes me wonder how disconnected I’ve become. A big part of me is jealous. That much I know. I know the feeling of jealousy and I feel it, a huge load of it. But then there’s a bigger part of me that fears. Fears that I will never be that teacher that has the important teachings, materials, and lectures that are mind blowing. Not because of the great amount of information that is given, but by the quality of insight that is provided. I fear that as my students leave through the classroom door, that that is where exactly they will leave me, leave my material, my teachings. At the door. Just as I left math. At the door.

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What is the question, again?

I recently read a post by Michael, a math teacher, who brought up the topic of teaching “smarter” kids. (http://rationalexpressions.blogspot.ca/2013/02/strong-kids-v-weak-kids.html) After realizing that there was whole spectrum of different opinions on the topic, he had this to say:

Can anyone explain how there’s a disagreement this wide across the profession? Why does it seem straightforward to me that teaching students of low ability is harder, more challenging than teaching students of high ability? Why does it seem straightforward to others that this is a pernicious belief that ought to be challenged?

Is it harder? Is it straightforward? Do the majority of teachers feel this way? On his blog, he print screened a number of tweets responding to a teacher’s post. Who are these people responding? Are they even teachers? Is it a biased opinion? How many teachers are on twitter? Maybe some people are better at handling kids with low ability and thus, find them easier? What is going on!??! I’m scared! What if I’m not able to handle kids with low abilities! Gah!

Soooo, these were the thoughts that were running through my mind as I read his post. Mainly fear and the feeling of overwhelm. Once I got over this inconvenient phase, I re-read his post and really thought about it. If someone were to ask me which student would be harder to teach: a high-academic student or a low-academic student, I would have said the low-academic student in a heart beat. I wouldn’t have hesitated and this is why I instantly agreed with Michael. Of course it’s harder! There are so many issues that influence why a student is not performing well, that, as a teacher, can be difficult to handle. But the more I pondered that question, I reminded myself of my own experience in my short practicum.

As an upcoming teacher, I was terrified of my short practicum. I was worried about my ability to connect with the low-academic students. However, what I found was that the high-academic students were the hardest to deal with. They were the ones who resisted me, challenged me, questioned me, and quite frankly pissed me off. At one point, my mentor even had to step in because he could see I was having a tough time with them. Granted, it probably was my lack of class management, lack of confidence, and lack of structure. I can willingly say that my practicum went wonky due to the fact that I was thrown in without a life jacket, without swimming skills right into the deep end. And, in my experience so far, I saw how teaching high-academic students was hard.

BUT, I also have limited experience; don’t really know what I’m talking about; still don’t really know what I’m doing in class. Soooo, what is my opinion on this matter. Do I disagree or agree? What is the question, again? I guess, Michael, the question isn’t so straightforward as you might think.

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