Tag Archive | reflection

Learning Is Uncomfortable, Until It Works

I want to push my students in their learning. One of my biggest and most harped-on topics is making mistakes and learning from them. A lot of times, my students are quite resistant to this, since it is uncomfortable. However, that’s my job — to make them uncomfortable and push them to learn. It’s not fun sometimes, and often times, it is downright unenjoyable for them. Then they figure it out. And it’s not so bad after all.

What’s got my goat lately, as my students would say, is that I hadn’t really figured this would apply to me. I’m all for being a lifelong learner, and I strive to be a “reflective practitioner” daily. I’m not entirely sure why I figured that learning shouldn’t also put me out of my comfort zone. I didn’t really realize it until Wednesday this week.

On Monday, we began analyzing budgets. I partnered with my friend who teaches math in Ituna, SK, and we created a budget swap. Each class prepared budgets, then we swapped budgets to analyze. If we were in university, we would have totally gotten A’s. No doubt.

Flickr Photo Credit to Jeannie Kays. All Rights Reserved.

Sometimes Learning Can Be Uncomfortable — Not Just for Your Biceps
Flickr Photo Credit to Jeannie Kays. All Rights Reserved.

On Tuesday, I handed out the budgets from Ituna. The students whined and complained. They were a bit of a disaster. They didn’t know where to start (despite my awesome handout). They didn’t want to work. They didn’t want to exist in a productive fashion. To say the least, I was really rattled. I nearly scrapped the project on Tuesday, but I thought I’d give it one more day.

Wednesday rolled around, and just as the bell was ringing, I could feel myself cringing at the thought of what was to come. If Tuesday was any predictor, I was in for a hell of an hour. I took attendance, then asked the class if they had any questions before they got to work. The only question was, “Miss Thibeault, I think we should just talk today. Can we not work at all?”

Ugh. Weighing the options, I cut a deal. “You can have a ten minute break to talk/text/whatever so long as you work hard for 30 minutes.” To my surprise, they all agreed.

Surprise number two followed shortly. My students started asking me really good questions about budgeting. They were going to town on the budgets they’d received. Here I was thinking that I’d failed them as a teacher, that they hadn’t learned a thing about budgeting and were destined for homelessness, and they start working together to reconstruct and revise these budgets. They were commenting that some people needed to “re-examine their expectations for their life.” I may have laughed out loud, since many of them overlooked that key piece in their own budgets.

Surprise number three happened 31 minutes into class. I glanced up at the clock. No one even noticed that the most productive thirty minutes of their lives whizzed by without them noticing. One student noticed ten minutes before class was over. I agreed to let them take a break for the last few minutes, but to my surprise number four, almost no one packed up. Their conversations revolved around the budgets they were analyzing.

I guess that was a really long-winded way of me saying that it was really uncomfortable for me to learn the lesson of perseverance in the classroom. But, boy oh boy, did it feel fantastic when I learned it. My friend and I invested a lot of time and energy in creating this wonderful learning experience for our students. I’m so glad I stuck with it. Maybe I really do know what I’m doing, even if it isn’t comfortable all the time.

New Teachers Bring Chocolate

I’m on the home stretch. Only 14 instructional days left until finals begin. Looking back at the semester, I have to say it is a blur. Looking ahead, I’m pleased to say that I am ahead of schedule in two of my classes. The other two are on schedule. I have to attribute this to the acceptance and willingness at my school.

My students are fantastic. There are days where I know I’ll think back to writing this and wonder “What the heck was I thinking!?!”, but all in all, they’ve stuck with me. My students all know that I am a first year teacher, despite my best efforts to hide it. I think this is a good thing, because inexperience, aside young teachers bring a lot to the table.

Firstly, I think I bring a sense of exploration. This is the first time I’m fully teaching these classes. I’m exploring too. I know where I want to take my courses, but I have no problem stopping to smell the roses on the way. I found this especially in my psychology class. Going into it, I thought it was going to be lots of notes with me preaching daily. Yes, that happens, but I try to keep it down. Why? Because my students offhandedly ask phenomenal questions. These questions almost never arise after I ask if anyone has any questions. To be honest, they usually arise from a student challenging what they’re learning, which means that we are getting far more out of the course than we ever would with boring old notes. While I always feel like I’m in the hot seat, I know they are pushing me to be a better teacher too.

Secondly, my students see me make mistakes. More than I would like, I goof up. I do my best to be honest with my students, in order to model the behaviours I would like them to exhibit when they goof up too. I think this is a pinnacle part of a relationship I have with one of my students. He is on the bubble of passing one of my classes right now, because he got quite far behind. He is a very passive student normally, but when he feels wronged, he gets absolutely aggressive. The first time he had an outburst, it scared the bananas out of me. But, I learned to deal with it. A few days later, after he had calmed down, we had a long conversation about what he is doing in my class, and what he and I can do to make sure he is successful. The conversation was a two-way street — we negotiated with the behaviours that bothered us. There were somethings that I wouldn’t budge on (and he understood), such as him dropping the f-bomb, and others where I was really flexible on (we organized an assessment plan for him that he found manageable and not overwhelming; we talked about what I can do when he is feeling frustrated that will calm him down rather than agitate him, yet still let me get my point across). The conversation(s) — there were a few, since we didn’t get it quite right the first try — taught me a lot about what it means to be a good teacher. I have a great deal of respect for him, and he know shows a great deal of respect toward me as well.

I cannot believe how appreciative my students were when I brought chocolate toonies from my grandmother. She means the world to me. My students mean the world to me. Does life get better?

I cannot believe how appreciative my students were when I brought chocolate toonies from my grandmother. She means the world to me. My students mean the world to me. Does life get better?

Thirdly, new teachers bring chocolate. This one is a bit of a crapshoot, but I like things to come in threes. I’m the youngest in my family, and my Gramma is quite proud to have all her grandchildren through college and onto their careers. As the last one to convocate, I think I got a little bit of extra pride spillover. At Christmas time, she slipped me three little bags of chocolate toonies (for non-Canadians, they are our $2 coins, except made of chocolate) to handout to my students. She knows how much I love teaching and chocolate, so this is one of the most meaningful things anyone has ever done for me. I almost cried in class today when a student, who normally is a chatty-Charlie looked up from munching on his toonie and ever so sincerely said, “Miss Thibeault, please thank your grandmother for us.” Call me mushy, but I might be choked up right now.

Gosh. I cannot believe how much I’ve learned in the last four months, despite the blur they seemed to be. I have my students to thank.

 

And So It Ends… But Not Really.

I think the stars aligned. Why, you ask? Somehow in the chaos of my final semester, three of my classes all required (well, two required and one was optional) a personal project that was rather open ended. Between my Math Education, Moral Education, and Technology in the Classroom classes, I found a common niche. This niche was in a flipped classroom. Anyone who’s been reading my blog knows that lately, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with them. That is partly due to how awesome I think they are, and partly due to the fact that I’ve had a monster project involving them for the last two months. I elected to do a unit within the Math 9 Curriculum on Polynomials. For more information and a better run down of the project, click here.

So how does this project tie into a critical project for Moral Education? Well, the way I see it, there are two ways to interpret the phrase “moral education:” (1) The act of educating students about morality, or (2) education that is inherently moral. I chose to focus more on the second definition, since we covered the first definition a lot more in class. For my Math Ed class, I created the flipped unit, but at the end of it, I was left asking questions about the equity of using a regular assessment model. How fair was it to assess my students the way that I’d grown up being tested, the way they’ve probably always been tested, and the way that most teachers still test? This, in fact, is less of an assessment and more of an evaluation. How could I build authentic and informative assessment into this unit? I looked at two different ways, comparing and contrasting them with each other as well as with current Quiz-Quiz-Test Model. I came up with a learning contract that uses standards-based grading and an assessment through learning that uses the material covered in the unit to bridge the gap between grade nine and grade ten math, all while enabling me to assess each skill that the student needs to demonstrate in order to fully understand polynomials for the grade nine requirements.

However, I’m not about the ignore the first definition of moral education. Within this classroom, there will need to be a lot of discussion about equity, fairness, and ethics in math education. These conversations need to take place in order to justify why I would even consider challenging the status quo. These conversations could be overtly teaching morals and ethics. Implicitly, I am morally educating my students by treating each student with great respect — so much respect that I want to customize their learning for each of them and give them the opportunity to shine come assessment time, however that may manifest itself. More importantly, I want to provide them with a desire to learn, not just  force them to memorize, material. Showing this kind of respect for their intelligence, effort, and learning is modeling good citizenship for my students.

As for the critical side of my project, I have to say it was really intriguing and fun to start to dig into challenging the typical math classroom. I started off by flipping a classroom — a big change to begin with — then I challenged how the videos were made by pushing for a more inquiry-based approach. Then I got to challenge the assessment of such a classroom. This project has really helped me rethink how I want my classroom to look, and it has certainly made me more conscious of justifying why I would do something in a classroom. Is it just because that’s the way I was taught and it worked for me, or is it because it is truly best practice?

So I sat down in front of a video camera one afternoon/evening and I spoke. I gave myself a list of questions, many of which made the final cut, while some did not. I will apologize for a few things: firstly, I didn’t realize how daunting talking to a tiny lens would be, so I had several prolonged “ums” that I edited out, but not as smoothly as I would’ve liked; secondly, toward the end of filming, I started to get a scratchy throat, so my voice gets a bit raspy; and thirdly, it’s quite lengthy–as in it is over an hour–so you may want to grab a coffee and a comfortable chair. Other than that, I am quite proud of how this turned out. I’m glad I took the chance to sit down and reflect out loud. Even the editing process was quite reflective for me. Listening and having an internal dialogue with myself was a really cool feeling, and it has certainly pushed my thinking further and inspired me to keep thinking about these tensions.


If the video doesn’t play, you can view it on Vimeo here. Special thanks to the Vimeo staff for helping me through my uploading difficulties. They have a fantastic staff that helped me troubleshoot through their well-kept help forum. Much appreciated!

It seems like it is time to say that this project has finally come together, from the practical math education side of the polynomials unit, to the moral side of assessment, to the technological side of making this whole thing (the unit as well as how the project is assembled, researched, and presented). While I can officially say, “I’m done,” I need to add in a “… for now.” This project will never be done. It will always be a work-in-progress. It will always be evolving, and I never want to stop learning about it.

So How Did I Do? My ECMP Self-Evaluation

One of the hardest things I’ve been asked to do all semester is self-evaluate. For my Technology in the Classroom class, we were given the freedom entirely self-evaluate ourselves. Initially, this seemed like a pretty sweet deal. What could be better, right? Wrong.

If you’ve never visited my blog before, I’ll give you a quick heads up — I’ve been doing a lot of rethinking this semester. I haven’t really come to terms with grading and evaluating. I’m all for assessment. I love assessment, but numerically evaluating someone’s work just doesn’t quite sit right with me. This is compacted by self-evaluation. We’ve all been there — the stress of marking one’s self. You know how it goes… the students who put in a ton of work are really tough on themselves, while the students who put in the bare minimum give themselves outstanding marks.

I suppose part of my anxiety of this whole thing is that I know what grade I want. That’s the part of me that is so marks-driven. The other part of me worked to my advantage though too. That part of me saw an opportunity to learn, and, free from rubrics/grades/scary stuff, I learned for the sake of learning. I can honestly say that if I was being graded on my blog, it wouldn’t be half of what it is today. Why? I’m not entirely sure, but I guess it has a lot to do with me doing this for me, not for anyone else.

My mission today: honestly and fairly grade the last four months of my progress.

I’ve been sort of keeping track of my learning from this class on an excel spreadsheet, just to keep myself on track. Dean gave us a list of assignments that we needed to complete this semester. Each assignment is to be weighted no less than15%. How we distribute the marks after that is up to us. To make the math simpler, I gave myself a mark out of whatever percentage I had each category weighted at. He also asked that we justify each mark. Since I’ve become a reflecting maniac, that’s no problem at all.

Assignment: Weekly Blog

Grade: 29 / 30

Justification: Our blog was intended to hold weekly updates with reflections about our class, as well as its presenters. Over the last four months, my blog has grown into a regularly updated (usually a couple of times per week) blog. It has stuff not just from this class, but from other classes, as well as anything education that pops into my head. It’s become a platform for me to think about ideas, gain insight from others, and network. I’ve used to do reflect for the sake of learning (not just because a class told me to), publish projects, write a mini-blog series about WestCAST, post my philosophy of education, and so much more. I do regret not commenting on my classmates blogs nearly as much as I would’ve liked to. However, I did develop the confidence to start commenting on other blogs of the professionals I look up to. It also opened the door for me to have conversations via twitter with many teachers world-wide.

Assignment: Teach Us Something

Grade: 14 / 15

Justification: This was interesting. I decided to present about the flipped classroom unit that I was working on for this class, as well as my Math Ed (then Moral Ed for the assessment). I really wanted to talk about the website Sophia, but part of that meant explaining a flipped classroom. I figured that to really talk about a flipped classroom, I needed to flip my presentation. I couldn’t exactly do that, since I wasn’t able to get the Sophia Tutorial (as recorded on Jing) done in time for the class before. Instead, explained what a flipped classroom was, showed the tutorial video, then talked about how I was using Sophia for my flipped classroom. Aside from how chaotic it was to use Jing to record a tutorial about Sophia in order to talk about flipped classrooms within a 10-minute time frame, I thought it went fairly well. I did find it kind of bizarre to be presenting to a class, but have no indication of whether or not they are listening, engaged, or even in the room. It was certainly more nerve-wracking than I thought it might be. I did have some technical difficulties while using Elluminate at the beginning, but once things got going, I powered through. Overall, I’m really proud of my Teach Us Something presentation.

Assignment: Virtual Internship

Grade: 9 / 15

Justification: I have to say, I really dropped the ball on this one. I was in contact with one of my mentors and ended up being involved in her classroom for their celebration of the 100th day of school. It was very cool. Being a secondary math major, seeing how math looks in a grade 1/2 classroom was eye-opening. I couldn’t get over how capable the students were! They were so inquisitive. I did plan on doing lesson with her class again, but the end of the semester caught up with me and I wasn’t able to. Being one to keep my promises, once my semester calms down, I would like to reconnect and teach a lesson! No reason for learning to stop just because I’m not paying tuition! While that mentorship went well, I can’t say the same for the other. Between me not understanding time zones, getting overwhelmed with homework, and procrastinating, I only skyped with my other mentor once. She taught philosophy in a private high school. While it sounds like a fantastic class, it really wasn’t my cup of tea. I had all the good intentions of the world of getting involved, but I wasn’t as motivated to do so as I thought I would be. I’m really disappointed with myself for this one. I know I’m not that type of person, but I seriously dropped the ball.

Assignment: Create Your Own Assignment

Grade: 24 / 25

Justification: This assignment that I “created” flowed really nicely from my Teach Us Something assignment, my Math Ed project, and my Moral Ed project. I decided that if I’m really going to dig deep into something, I may as well dig as deep as I possibly can. I decided to completely flip the polynomials unit in the Math 9 Curriculum. How I justify putting that project in this course is that I know I put in the effort for more than three courses worth of work (if that makes sense). I specifically justify it in that I used technology for everything for this project. I learned how to use Sophia. I learned how to make a good screencast/tutorial. I learned how to reach out to my twitter network (and build a bigger twitter network) to aid my research. I primarily used blogs for my research (I didn’t use on theoretical, scholarly journal article, since I wanted my research to be grounded in field-tested, real-life classrooms). I used my blog as a platform for publishing my project, reflecting, and networking with other teachers. Lastly, and most frustratingly, I learned how to negotiate Movie Maker when it doesn’t want to cooperate. I spent nearly 14 hours trying unsuccessfully to get it publish my video reflection for the Moral Ed portion of this assignment, so I tried to play it on full-screen mode with a screen recorder. Eleven different software programs later, and still no luck. Magically, it began working again, so my project saved. I then learned how to compress a wmv file down to a mp4 file, then adjust the compression settings to keep it under 500 MB. Needless to say, I feel pretty tech-savvy right now. All in all, I am beyond happy with how this project turned out. It really pushed me to re-establish my beliefs, it’s changed the way I feel about education, and it’s changed the way I want to teach. Because I didn’t have a grade looming over my head with this project, I had the freedom to take it as far as I could, and I certainly did. This project will forever evolve and it will never be complete, which is the beauty of publishing it on a blog. All I can say is, “Stay tuned, folks!”

Assignment: Final “Exam”

Grade: 14 / 15

Justification: Little did I know, but I was learning about my learning while I created my video reflection. It went a lot more smooth than my Moral Ed video did, but it was still a learning experience. I am not a short-winded person (my word count right now is at 1390… oops), so summarizing an entire semester of learning in 5 – 7 minutes was like pulling teeth! I had so much to say and so little time to say it. I can honestly say that I did stay within the time requirements. That in and of itself was a victory. I decided to combine video, audio, and visuals to enhance my reflection. I spoke somewhat candidly to the camera for part of my reflection, but for other parts, I recorded myself in Audacity to make a kind of a podcast that I added visuals to (screenshots and photos from flickr). For ambiance, and to make it seem more professional, I went on a hunt for some soothing music for the background. I initially searched through FreePlayMusic, but I couldn’t quite find what I was looking for. I tweeted out my conundrum and got a few responses of different websites. That’s where I found “6-26-11,” as song by “Easy Listening Section” on Sound Cloud. I messaged him, and he was quite flattered to receive the message asking for his music. It was so cool to get in contact with a complete stranger all for this project. I am so in awe of what I’ve learned to do. Never would I have guessed that I would experience that. My only regret is that it wasn’t done the night before. I finished editing it and publishing it only a few hours before class, so many of my classmates didn’t have a chance to watch it prior to class.

Overall, I have been pushed, challenged, and amazed throughout this entire course. I don’t know what I would do without Google Reader, my Twitter feed, or my blog. It’s really helped to change the way I look at education.

FINAL TOTAL: 90 / 100

How do you think I’ve done? Leave some comments for me — I’m always up for some input.

Final Reflection

For my Technology in the Classroom class, I’ve been tasked with summarizing my learning from the last four months. This in and of itself is a learning process, since there is quite a bit of reflecting. Why so much reflecting? Well, we have a 5 – 7 minute time limit. For me, this means trying to figure out exactly what is the most important stuff to squeeze into my video reflection. Anyone who’s read my blog before (and probably anyone who is reading it now) knows that I am, shall we say, not exactly short-winded. Part of this meant having to edit down each audio clip and video clip to be comprehensible, seamless, and somewhat brief. Not an easy task.

At the very least, I’ve got everything I wanted to say said, and the majority of it made it into my video reflection. I tried to stray from the traditional “what did I learn”-style reflection, and looked more at “how is this going to apply to my life/career”-style. While I did end up mashing the two together, I’m still happy with the end product.

Enjoy!

PS. Even though this class is over, I’ll still be thinking, learning, reflecting, and blogging.

E-Advisership: Great on So Many Levels

At WestCAST, I had the pleasure of presenting about my internship with my faculty adviser. Why? My faculty adviser designed a new framework for advisership. The best way to explain this is by giving you a run down of our presentation.

It started off with Kathy explaining her plan and how it fit into the U of R. She wanted to enhance the engagement of the faculty adviser and build a stronger relationship with their interns. The basic set up we had was that she would visit me once or twice in person (as per a usual faculty adviser set up), and a few times I would either Skype her directly into my class or record a lesson and send it to her. However, the modification was that before each time she came to visit/watch, we had about a week lead up of planning, reflecting, fixing, and improving. We would set up a time about week before, then a few days later, I would send her my initial lesson plan. She would send it back to me a few days later, and we would have a Skype meeting talking about the highlights and the things I needed to improve upon. She would then watch/visit and we could post-conference about how the lesson went, how the changes did or didn’t work, etc. It definitely lead to deeper conversations and greater learning on my behalf.

For my portion of the presentation, I got to speak to the benefits and drawbacks of the E-Adviser Model. To save time (and avoid rehashing the twenty minutes), I’ll give a quick summary below.

Skype

  • It was very good to have 1 on 1 pre-conference conversations prior to teaching a lesson
  • It worked great to get in touch with other interns
    • More diverse feedback
    • Good to see how others are doing (not stranded on my own “island” wondering if everyone else was doing what I was doing)
  • I used it on the iPad 2 to Skype Kathy into a lesson, which enabled me to literally take Kathy with me wherever I went. Ultimately, she was more connected and observed the conversations better than had she been there in person.

Electronic PDP

  • This referred to the emails and Skyping back and forth prior to and after a lesson.
  • The feedback on lesson plans was constructive.
  • It enabled both pro-active and retroactive feedback. A typical Faculty Adviser Model (FAM) only allows for retro-active feeback on a lesson.
  • Emailing opened up the conversation/pre-conference on Skype. It was less about me telling her what I was planning and more about getting feedback on what she thought worked/didn’t work in my lesson plan.
  • Having another set of eyes reviewing my plans made me a better planner, which doesn’t typically happen within a typical FAM.

Flip Video

  • Kathy provided each of her interns a Flip Video Camera to use during internship.
  • Initially, it was very intimidating; however, forcing myself to watch the video before I edited it down and sent it off to her was very useful for my own professional growth. It was like getting double the feedback.
  • It forced deeper analysis of my teaching since we both got to watch me teach.

Top Ten Reasons Why  E-Advisership Is a Good Idea

  • I had all the support of a typical FAM — I knew Kathy would come in person if I needed her too.
  • It built a community of learners within the interns she was advising for.
  • It enabled deeper conversations and reflection.
  • Both sides (both Kathy and I) saw what each other was seeing/thinking.
  • I had a closer and better relationship with Kathy because we were so connected. I knew she had a lot to offer, so I was able to get as much of that knowledge as I possible could.
  • Because of the timelines and the constant connection, it forced me to be more accountable and more prepared (no “night-before-at-2-am” lesson plans)
  • It enabled me to have better reflection on my own planning.
  • It enabled me to have better reflection on my own teaching.
  • It opened up the conversation with my cooperating teacher as well.
  • It helped me to become more excited about using technology within my classroom, and pushed me to build my own PLN through twitter, this blog, and beyond.

Downsides

  • The interns need to have a good internet connection
  • All the software needs to be installed and up-to-date
  • Each intern needs to be sold on the idea of the E-Advisorship or it won’t work out as well as it could

Overall, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I am ever so grateful to Kathy, and I certainly hope that I can incorporate some of the the professional development we did into my future classroom teaching.

On Checking Out

I love learning. Love, love, love it. While I have a particular interest in math, math education, English, English education, education in general, baton twirling, sports in general, dancing, the arts in general, etc., I like to learn about anything. Anything that builds my knowledge, I tend to find some benefit someway.

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated for some students in my graduating class, as well as teachers who have their degrees, that they have checked out. They think that getting the almighty degree is the end of the learning road. I’ve done my darnedest to ensure that I’m milking these last four months of my degree for all they are worth. Three down and one to go, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job. I’m seeing students around me with a different feeling though — they are making comments or acting in a way that suggests they are thinking, “Three down and one to go. Thank goodness. I want out of here. I’m just putting in my time for a degree. This is all make-work stuff.”

It's frustrating to see these metaphorical signs around me when I really do care. Flickr photo credit to justinjagged.

I’m here to say (and vent – sorry for the rant) that no, it’s not a make-work project! What you make of it is the work you put into it. I don’t think I can say that enough. Any good dieter (oxymoron, maybe?) knows that it’s all a matter of calories consumed versus calories expended. Same in learning — what you put in to it needs to be equal to what you get out of it. I want to get as much as possible out of the next four weeks as I possibly can, so I am working my butt off, and doing so rather happily. I can honestly say that staying up until 3 a.m. is actually kind of pleasurable if you like what you are doing. It all boils down to motivation. I am motivated to learn (on most days), because I love it; whereas, it seems that some of my classmates are just motivated to get the heck out of there.

I’m publicly stating this now — I have learned more in the last three months, with the exception of my internship, than I did in the three years leading up combined. I learned a boat-load in those three years. I had to, but I have learned so much more as a result of my internship, thinking about what I did well, what I could have done better, and what I can do to fix it. How can I be a better teacher? How can I be a better role model? How can I be a better learner? None of this growth would have been possible without an internship, but I sure am glad I try to stop growing after internship.

All I can to these prospective teachers is this: when will you ever get the chance to find something you are passionate about, learn about it from at least five experts each week, interact with fellow teachers about ground-breaking education ideas, design the perfect earth-shattering/mind-blowing/kick-butt unit just because you can? When? I don’t know about you, but unless they add another 10 hours to the day once we start working, it won’t be happening.  This isour time. We can reflect. We can grow. We can conjecture new ideas. We can research. We can find things we are passionate about.

How you handle all this is up to you, but for me, I’m going to take advantage of it. Why wouldn’t I?