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Kerrie Craske- Teacher & Learner

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." -Nelson Mandela

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ecs210

My Digital Story

As a final project in ECS 210, we were asked to create a digital story representing what we have learnt about curriculum and how it has shaped us as future educators. Check out the video to hear my story!

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My Professional Learning Network- Building A Community of Learners

     Creating a professional learning network has provided me with a deeper mindset of building a community of people, while at the same time expanding my knowledge on the use of technology. The online space of blogging has made me accept others opinions, but also challenge others thoughts. When starting out my blog, I was excited and nervous at the same time. I knew that people would be reading my opinions and I had to put forth professional thoughts with deep consideration.

     Having a space that was available for all students to access one another’s blogs helped me into discovering the learning of others. Google Docs allowed me to freely choose a friend’s blog or someone I did not know quite well, and I was able to get to know them. One blog I enjoyed reading throughout the semester was by Kayla Onufreychuk. {http://kaylaonufrey.wordpress.com}. She challenges the social justice issues such as identity and racism. Kayla has provided me with great insight to a different perspective of these issues, while incorporating how her personal life has shaped her experiences. I have also had the opportunity to contribute to others learning through commenting on other blogs and stating my resonances and dissonances.

      Sometimes, when writing about a particular topic, I found it very difficult, such as my blog on “Teaching Hidden Messages”. However, the struggles that I faced made me realize that I was uncomfortable or unknowledgeable in the material I was writing about.  I came to realize that the topics we were discussing were about social justice issues, anti-oppressive education and treaty education, and that it is important to acknowledge these tensions as it allows for growth. Claire Krueger, a guest lecturer who is a grade four teacher from Moose Jaw, taught me the importance of learning treaty education within the classroom, and the variety of technological tools you can use to enhance and express students’ knowledge. Claire opened my eyes to the possibilities and effectiveness of creating a learning network within the classroom on her blog {http://mmekreuger.edublogs.org}. I need to be comfortable talking about these tensions, because questions and scenarios will arise in my classrooms that I will have to face and discuss with my students.

     I chose not to use twitter for this class, because I found it would disengage me from the class lectures rather than centralize my attention to the lecturer. I believe that if we were encouraged to use twitter in our seminars like we were with our blogs, I would have gained a better understanding of the community network it builds, as well as the connections and uses it has within the classroom. It could connect us to the other seminar groups and the discussions they have, as they differ from seminar to seminar. After researching the uses of twitter within the classroom, I have come to understand that it can be used for student exploration, evaluation, applying and understanding knowledge and creating a community. {http://www.edudemic.com/22-effective-ways-to-use-twitter-in-the-classroom-2/}

      The positive experiences I gained from the online space were the connections I made with others. I found that it was really insightful to see people I have never talked to and from different parts of the world who begun to follow my blogs, which showed me that others like myself find the importance of speaking out against issues of our education in society today. Another positive experience I have taken away is confidence in my ability to write freely and express how I feel, while being rewarded with positive feedback and positive criticism.

      Educational Core Studies 210 has taught me the various uses of technology and the importance of bringing them into students’ learning. The online space has helped me further my knowledge of schooling and society around me, while at the same time I have begun my professional growth as an educator with an online space to reflect on. I think that it is important for me to continue my blog as my years of education continue. I am seeking out other technological uses that I can incorporate into my classroom, such as Skype and Evernote. I have already begun this exploration by beginning to learn about the technology tools I discovered in this website- {http://www.edudemic.com/50-education-technology-tools-every-teacher-should-know-about/}. In the future, I want to expand on my blog, talking about experiences and tensions that occur while I teach. I would like to incorporate varieties of technology into the classroom, and create a blog for my future students, where we can share with parents and the community our progress and discoveries as a class.

 

My Understanding of Standardized Testing and Standardized Curriculum

Following a standardized curriculum is becoming more common in education today, however the effects that it is having on teachers and students is demeaning and wrong. Standardization insists on only one set of correct answers and one truth. It does not allow for students and teachers to express their ideas, questions and opinions. Students no longer play an active role in their learning, and it disengages them from wanting to learn.

Standardization does not allow for students to make sense of the world around them. With increasing multiculturalism in schools, students do not know how to properly approach the issues and questions they may have, as the standardized curriculum only focuses on the dominant culture. “Test questions inevitably focus on discrete facts, but cannot address the deeper, multifaceted meaning of facts” (p. 173, The New Teacher Book). The standardized tests are culturally biased and are made close to impossible for success in students who are new to Canada and cannot understand the English language or North American culture.  

The standardization being introduced into schools can have a detrimental effect on both teachers and students. Teachers become overwhelmed and pressured to teach all material in a short period of time. They cannot go into detail or follow student’s interests in learning. They are unaware of what material will be on the standardized tests, and they want their students to be as prepared as possible. The tests degrade the teachers’ role as a teacher. They display to students that they should memorize the facts being taught to them, and if their teacher goes beyond and in detail on a topic, they are simply wasting the students’ time. The students become stressed as well, and may form anxiety and only retain the material being taught for a short period of time.

I believe that standardization of the curriculum and tests is wrong. But, if standardization is becoming more common throughout North America, how can we prevent it from occurring in the school’s we teach?

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{Burant, Terry. The New Teacher Book: Finding Purpose, Balance, and Hope during Your First Years in the Classroom, Second Edition.  Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, 2010. Print.}

Reflection on “Building Community from Chaos”

While reading the short story Building Community from Chaos by Linda Christensen, I felt connection with the issues that students face when learning throughout school. Many of the subjects and topics we are taught throughout school seem irrelevant and unimportant. Often we spend more time pondering when we will use what is being taught, rather than doing the work.

I find that the issues of not wanting to learn may seem more problematic at a middle to high school level. Although I am going to be teaching elementary students, this story makes me aware of the problems and struggles my students may face growing up. Therefore, it is important at a young age in school to let children know that they have a voice and an opinion that matters. I believe that it is vital for students to express how they are feeling and struggles they are experiencing, so a community among the classroom can be built. This community can be an inclusive and expressive place for all students.

“Each September I have this optimistic misconception that I’m going to create a compassionate, warm, safe place for students in the first days of class because my recollection is based on the final quarter of the previous year” (p. 68). This quote really stood out to me. We have to enter our classrooms with an open mind, being ready for any challenges or bumps we may face. It may take time to build a safe space for students, but to begin this journey we must start by building a community of learners.

{Burant, Terry. The New Teacher Book: Finding Purpose, Balance, and Hope during Your First Years in the Classroom, Second Edition.  Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, 2010. Print.}

Teaching Hidden Messages

Kumashiro’s chapter three of Against Common Sense is very powerful and allows readers to deeply think about what it means to teach. As teachers, we should always expect that there is more to learn and more to understand than what we intend. However, people often teach based on their own knowledge and understanding. Therefore, every person has a different perspective or outlook on the material they are teaching. Kumashiro expresses, “…the goal is not to rid our classroom of harmful hidden lessons and the various lenses students use to make sense of them” (p. 41, Kumashiro). Although we may perceive something in one way, our students may look at the lesson being taught in a different way.

When looking back on my autobiography that I had written, I begin to think about the hidden messages that I left out, such as my gender, race and religious views. I believe that at times, people leave these hidden messages out of their lives for two reasons. The first reason is that people simply do not find these things important, and they believe that they do not influence the person they are as a whole. On the other hand, people may leave these messages out about themselves because they know that others may look at them differently or judge who they are.

 In order to overcome anti-oppressive education, we need to discover the meaning of hidden messages in our teaching. This will allow us to become more aware of possible alternatives to teaching material we would usually shy away from. “Ironically, we need to put front and center the very things we do not want in our teaching, the very things we do not even know are in our teaching” (p. 41, Kumashiro). 

{Kumashiro, K. (2009). Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice. New York, NY; Routledge.}

The Issue of Bullying in Schools

The “Fine Bros”, who make a variety of videos on YouTube, chose to film a “Kids React” video about bullying.

The children in this video range from ages 7-14. We see their reactions and hear their opinions on the constant and increasing social issue of bullying in society and schools today.

Towards the end, the children are asked what their schools do to educate students about bullying. The children say that the things that are being done, such as assemblies or bullying videos, are not effective messages. If the things that are being done currently are ineffective, what can be done to make the rates of bullying decrease to allow school to become a safe environment for all people?

In my visual representation, I displayed the connections of family diversity and attitudes of society towards racism and family types within a school context. In beginning my representation, I began looking at the story “Framing the Family Tree” by Sudie Hofmann. It describes the dissonances that children face when doing class activities and assignments regarding families or members that may not be present in every child’s life.

I realized that this story connected with two more; “Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club” by Rita Tenorio and “Heather’s Moms Got Married” by Mary Cowhey. Both these stories discussed the issues of ethnicity, racism and other forms of family life. All stories resonate on the effects that these issues are having on children. Children begin to feel insecure, abnormal, alienated and inferior in comparison to their other classmates. Likewise, many of the teachers in these stories struggle to find ways to address these issues, along with finding alternative ways of teaching class material.

I chose my representation to be in the shape of a tree, to represent the ‘family tree’. It portrays how each family can be made up differently and each person within that family is unique. The images show both positive and negative issues that arise among families and in school life. I chose quotes from each of the stories that stood out to me. These quotes display what family is, the various tensions that arise for teachers and children in school, and the positive things being done to overcome these tensions.

My first image of “The Family Tree” in connection with stories from “The New Teacher Book”.

“The New Teacher Book” Summaries

  1. Teaching in the Undertow: Revisiting Pull of Schooling-as-usual By: Gregory Michie

Being a new teacher can push you out of your comfort zone, and you may feel like an outsider. In order to overcome this, as teachers we can begin by seeking allies like teachers within the school and people in the community around you. Becoming a teacher is a life journey, so you need to choose the right battles and never lose sight on the type of teacher you want to become.

2.    The Brown Kids Can’t be in Our Club By: Rita Tenorio

We live in a racist society where children at an early age discover racist attitudes within a larger context. With children, we can explore racial and cultural differences with age appropriate activities and materials. As teachers, it is wrong to ignore the issues of racism. We should stand up and make children at a young age aware that we are all unique and are to be accepted within society.

3.    What can I do when a student makes a racist or sexist remark? By: Rita Tenorio

If an issue of racism or sexism is brought up in class, teachers should deal with it and respond appropriately. These issues should be a discussion of why the words should not be used, and strive towards finding alternative ways of expressing one’s self in the future. If we ignore these remarks, students will begin to adapt the view that it is normal and acceptable to speak in negative ways.

4.    Framing the Family Tree By: Sudie Hofmann

Many teacher preparation programs bring up family diversity without realizing the effects it can have on children. It is important to have support between the teacher and parent. We must engage students in creative and secure ways when learning about their private or family lives, because children come from all different backgrounds and forms of families.

5.    Heather’s Moms Got Married By: Mary Cowhey

The issues of family diversity should be accepted and explained to student in school. If they are not accepted, it gives children the message that their own families could be unequal, inferior and not the ‘norm’ of society.

6.    Out Front By: Annie Johnston

Conversations with students about sexuality and anti-gay language make the whole class aware of these issues, and it becomes a normal and acceptable thing to talk about if problems arise. Teachers need to talk about social issues and incorporate them into the curriculum. “ “Gay has to be integrated into our picture of current events, historical reality, literary themes, and scientific exploration”” (p. 117). This helps all students learn that everyone in society is different, but we should all be treated with equity and acceptance.

7.    Curriculum is Everything That Happens By: Rita Tenorio

As teachers, we can’t always assume that our classroom is safe and separated from everything that goes on outside in the real world. Instead, we must come to understand that large social forces impact schools. It is the teachers’ obligation to make each student feel valued through learning. The curriculum entitles not just learning through lessons, but looks at other aspects like children’s interactions, emotions and attitudes.

8.    Working Effectively with ELL By: Bob Peterson and Kelley Dawson Salas

When working with ELL students, teachers must research how ELL students learn best and teach them material in an understandable, yet effective way. We must remember that ELL students are competent individuals; they do not obtain intellectual barriers, simply just communication ones.

9. Teaching Controversial Content By: Kelley Dawson Salas

There are numerous fears that teachers face when wanting to integrate questionable, social justice issues that would benefit students by incorporating them into the curriculum. Quite often, teachers question whether they are allowed to teach the way they want. We are allowed to do so, but we need to be prepared for criticism, questioning and provide reasoning for our desire to teach certain material.

10. Unwrapping the Holidays By: Dale Weiss

When conflicts arise in schools, we can over come them or deal with them by    stepping back and realizing your place and voice in the school, among students and educators. When being pulled down by the undertow, you must swim beside the wave instead of trying to battle it all at once.

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{Burant, Terry. The New Teacher Book: Finding Purpose, Balance, and Hope during Your First Years in the Classroom, Second Edition.  Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, 2010. Print.}

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