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My Teaching Philosophy After Pre-Internship

After completing my pre-internship experience, I am now faced with a question: Has my teaching philosophy changed? My answer to this question is yes! There are things that I definitely feel more stronger about, that I am now questioning, that I know have realizations about, and that I would like to add.

One thing that I..

1. Feel stronger about:

I definitely have a stronger belief in the fact that teachers need to help students understand subjects (like mathematics) rather than memorize it.  For some subjects I know that this could be hard but up until I started taking education math classes, I never thought that there was a way that we can actually teach and learn math so that it can be understood and be connected to real life rather then through memorization and being basically spoon fed the information.  Now, I realize that there are always ways to help students understand material and not just memorize it (although sometimes it will require a bit of work!).

2. Am I now questioning:

I question my understanding of putting in 100% of my effort to try to help my students learn and succeed in their schooling.  During my pre-internship, I noticed that there was on average one student in every class where the teacher just didn’t even try to get them to write notes, do the assignment, or get them off of his/her phone.  They basically said that as long as the student wasn’t disrupting others, they could just sit there and do nothing.  This makes me wonder at what point do you just give up (or I apologize maybe this isn’t the correct term to use…) on a student so that way you aren’t slowing down the rest of the class.  It also makes me wonder if this same way of thinking will happen to me?  Will I just allow a student to sit there and do nothing and refuse to learn?  I just don’t see the point in being in school if you are just going to sit there and do nothing.  But now comes a question that I now have: Is it appropriate to ask a student to drop a class if they refuse to learn or do anything in that class?  Or can I ask them why there are there in that class if they are just going to take up space and not do anything?

3. Now realize and would like to add:

I now realize the importance of allowing students to individually practice examples of the material that we have just covered and having the teacher walk around checking for understanding and clarifying any questions.  

I unfortunately learned this the hard way in my pre-internship.  In one of my grade nine classes, we had spent 3 and a half days on one section of the text book (which I personally feel was quite a bit of time to cover that one section which built off of the previous section so they should have had a really good understanding of the material).  In the first day and a half, we spent the class time taking notes and doing A LOT of examples as a class.  Everything seemed to be going fine; many students were answering questions and shouting out answers so I genuinely thought that they would be ready for a quiz after some practice.  So, the next two days I had spent with them doing an assignment and a worksheet.  On the fourth day, we had a quiz and I was very surprised to see that a lot of students were struggling with it!  I knew that there would be a few students who would struggle with it but it seemed like more students were struggling with this than I had expected. 

After this, I had realized my one flaw that most likely had the biggest impact: I didn’t get to do much one-on-one work with my students and be able to check if ALL students were understanding the material (I couldn’t even get much one-on-one time with the students during the assignment and worksheet time because I was trying to get students who had missed previous classes caught up). 

Also, by being able to walk around and check students work, this would have been a great classroom management strategy to get the students writing down notes and all the examples (which I found out many were only watching the board and answering instead of taking notes as well).

Also, just because students are either quiet or many shout out the answer doesn’t mean that they completely understand the material which is another reason why allowing students to do individual work while the teacher is circulating the room is important.

So clearly, I now would like to add to my teaching philosophy the importance of allowing time for students to do examples and work individually while you walk around and check their work.  Big lesson I learned there.

4. Would like to add:

I actually no believe in tiered assignments.  I tried this out during my pre-internship and it actually turned out to work fairly well!  The students have done tiered assignments in that class before so they had an understanding of the expectations and what to do.   I did struggle with actually creating the assignments because I didn’t really know what assignments would be considered equal amount of work or time so that students didn’t chose which assignment was faster or shorter. 

What I would do now that I didn’t  realize until after but is I would do all the questions first (which I did) and then I would assign a mark to each question.  Then, I would make one assignment and then use the total value of marks to create the next test.  When doing this in my preinternship, I just looked at the questions and just kind of randomly picked the number of questions and made it all roughly the same number of questions rather than the same amount of time or work.

Differentiated First Nations Lesson Plan – ECS 350

ECS 350 First Nations Lesson Plan

Above is the differentiated First Nations lesson plan that my partner and I did for our ECS 350 class.

In this lesson plan, our plan was that we would get students to create a hand drum (including making hide if possible, but with the time we just gathered all the supplies) and then use this to help in math.  This first part could be done in an art or music class if possible.  The hand drum creates a circle so we would use this to discuss the grade nine unit on circle properties including central angles and inscribed angles.  While discussing the properties, students would draw/paint on their hand drums so that they have a visual representation of what they were learning.

The process of creating this lesson plan was both difficult and relatively simple.  Differentiating the lesson plan was fairly easy because for the most part, many of the students had many adaptations that were common with one another.   However, there were a few that we found very difficult to try to incorporate into our lesson plan and left out (only some though!).  Another difficulty, that was also easy in a way, was deciding how to incorporate First Nations culture or Treaty education into math.  In a way it was easy because I  feel that the education professors do a very good job at trying to make us aware and understand how to incorporate treaty education into math.  We have had a few presentations and work shops where we have learned different ways to include First Nations content and treaty education into mathematics.  The idea that we had used for our lesson plan came from a couple presenters from Leading Thunderbird Lodge, which is a residential youth treatment center for male youth.  This idea that these presenters had shared with us had originally been shared with us to fit the grade 8 curriculum which is where Ali and I had run into a few problems.  The ideas presented had to do with labeling a circle and this idea would have worked great.  However, since Ali and I are secondary education students, we tried to adapt this idea to fit into the 9-12 curriculum.  We found our outcome in the Shapes and Space unit in the grade 9 curriculum but it didn’t exactly fit with the idea presented to us.  So, after some time, Ali and I came up with the idea to change the labeling and use of the hand drum.  Instead of labeling the hand drum, we would get the students to create a number of subtended angles and their corresponding central angles.  By doing this, students could create their own generalizations about the relationship between these angles and therefore have a deeper understanding of the content.  This also creates patterns and allows students to be creative if desired.

Ali and I were very happy with the way our lesson had turned out.  However, we and others determined a few minor changes after a completing a lesson study with other classmates.  During this study, we came up with the following changes to the lesson plan (which we have not changed in the lesson plan that we have uploaded):

1. In Essential Question 1, this should be “what is the meaning of a hand drum and what is it used for?” rather than “what is a hand drum.”

2. Instead of labeling their hand drum, tracing their hand drum, and then drawing inscribed and central angles on this paper, we would get students to just draw these angles directly on the hand drum (and of course in different colours so they can tell apart each angle).

3. Also, we should include questions about what would happen if the top point of the inscribed angle changed while the bottom two points stayed the same? (they should find that the angle stays the same no matter where they move it).

4. Include graphic organizers.

ECS 350 Reader Response #2

For today’s reader response, I read chapter four of the Differentiated Instructional Strategies” by Gregory and Chapman.  This chapter was all about assessment and evaluation and the different types of assessment and evaluation.  Many ideas were introduced for different ways to assess and evaluate students.  A few of the ideas that I liked were the graffiti wall, mostly because I thought it was an interesting and more student engaging version of doing a KWL chart, and also the portfolios.

One of my “AHA” moments while reading this chapter was at the section discussing portfolios.  The main reason why I had an “AHA” moment at this part was because it reminded me of one of my teachers who had used this.  It was one of my high school math teachers and she mostly kept our tests, exams and homework in these portfolios.  One reason that I really liked this idea, both now and at the time, is because it displayed some of my work of what I was doing in the class and because it made for a really detailed review that covered all of the content.  Also, now with my new teaching experience and knowledge, I also like this idea because it’s something to show parents at conferences (so basically make it quite a bit easier for parent-teacher interviews) and because it’s a good way to see how a student has progressed and what they need to work on (or even what I need to work on if it’s a common error between quite a few students).

Another sort of “AHA” moment that I had while reading this chapter was the section discussing the type of feedback that we should give students.  I have never really thought of which type of feedback I should be giving my students but when I think of it, I probably would have just thought to just give a mixture of both the grade and the descriptive feedback.  However, I began to think that I shouldn’t when the textbook stated that students are still more focused on the grade if we give both so they don’t really improve.  Also if we only give the descriptive feedback, it’s been proven that students will improve up to 60% better.  I didn’t just cave in that easily to what the text was saying.  I thought about this and how I’ve received feedback in previous classes, and now I completely agree with what the text was saying.  For assignments (especially essays!), I always went straight to the mark first (and I still do this, sadly).  If I am satisfied with the mark that I received, I wouldn’t look at the descriptive feedback; if I was unsatisfied with it, then I would actually go back and read through the comments and take them seriously.  So, I do strongly agree with this statement and it definitely made me more aware of the type of feedback I should be giving to my students.

After reading this, I still am left with a few questions.  The first question I have is about grading:  Should we grade on the individual quality of work and how much a student has grown or should we mark based off of certain standards already set out by the teacher/school?  I just have this question because I do believe that students who put in quite a bit of effort and have grown should deserve a good grade, even if they aren’t quite getting the content versus a student who doesn’t try very hard and hasn’t grown much.  My second question is: If students improve more when we only give descriptive feedback, should we be doing more descriptive feedback type of assessment or should be grading them?  One thing that I have talked about in this class and others is that we need a variety of assessment for students because not all students excel at certain tasks, so it wouldn’t be fair to only grade exams and tests or just homework because not all students can properly show their understandings and knowledge that they have gained through certain tasks.  So, what type of feedback should we be mostly giving them?  Could it be the combination of the grading and the descriptive feedback but only give them the descriptive feedback?  Or could we do both as well but give the grade some time after we have given the descriptive feedback and they’ve had a chance to look over the comments?  I’m thinking that it should be the last, but that one itself does pose problems, such as students could catch on to the fact that they will just receive their grade later so then they won’t even bother to look at the feedback.  So I am curious… what are your thoughts?

Statement of commitment: I really wish that I could create a statement of commitment for finding the answers to either of my questions but I feel that they are almost dependent on what the teacher believes and so then there really is no right or wrong answer.  So, I will not commit to finding an absolute answer to either of these questions, but what I can commit to is trying to find what I feel is the answer that reflects both who I am and what I believe as a teacher.

Case Study Response #2 Reflection

Just a recap on what we did in class today for others, we continued to work on the case study that I had completed a previous response for.  We got into groups and tried to determine the best way to merge the two classes and teach them effectively.

Coming up with a project plan merger definitely wasn’t an easy task.  I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but I was hoping for a solution that could work for all students.  A few things that we considered when merging these two classrooms were the decorations around the classroom, seating arrangement and where students will sit, how we will get the class to be more comfortable around one another, the type of material we should begin with, how we should present it (teaching methods), and also how we could accommodate for every student (including the student who has a child).  However, of all the things discussed, I feel that the teaching methods and adapting the classroom to fit everyone’s needs was the most difficult question to answer.

Trying to organize and teach a class so that it fits the needs of all students cannot be done in one way.  It is nearly impossible to be able to meet the needs of all our students when teaching a lesson, especially if you have a diverse and new group of students.  Even if you do make individual adaptations, you cannot meet every single students needs, especially if you don’t know your students or they won’t open up to you.  So when determining which teaching method to use that will accommodate as many students needs as possible, which should you choose?  You also can’t use the same teaching methods over and over again because then students will get bored of it or for those students that it doesn’t meet, it will just cause them to either fall back or work that much harder to keep up (which if its students with low retention rates, this wouldn’t be very encouraging for them!).  Also, which students do you choose to meet their needs?  You would think the bottom two thirds of the class since the students doing above average should be smart already and should be capable enough to be able to adapt and change to the different ways of teaching, right?  But would that really be fair to them?  Would this cause them to lose interest in school or fall behind?  Also, what if the bottom 2/3 of the students is really where all the diversity of learning needs is?  Then how would you adapt to that?

For me, I really think that you just have try and see what works for the majority of your students and if that doesn’t work for the few students that you couldn’t make adaptations to fit as a class, then you will have to try to make individual adaptations as best as you can.  You also can’t just use one teaching method because it could get boring and/or wear the students out.  Using a variety of teaching methods and trying to find ways to make them in charge of their learning I believe will be key to keeping them engaged and involved.  Also, knowing and understanding your students is going to play a key role in this situation and could greatly increase your chances of understanding how to maximize the learning for all your students in your class.  The second teacher (at least in this situation) I believe will also play a key role and it will be important to work with him/her.

Kumashiro Chapter One Response

So I know that I have already read the Kumashiro book, “Against Common Sense,” but to be honest, I don’t exactly remember a whole lot of what his initial messages were in his book and I had also read it in the beginning of the semester before I had gained my new knowledge and understandings. So, I thought it would be appropriate to do another reflection on this reading and see what new understandings or connections that I could come up with.

So, in this chapter, Kumashiro focuses on how 3 different images of “good teachers” that come out of teacher education programs being taught in the U.S., which are:

1. Teacher as Learned Practitioner – Coming out of the program, these teachers usually have a general understanding of three things: a) who young students are, how they develop, and how they learn, b) what they will teach and be able to demonstrate this, and c) how to actually teach.  These teachers are also more commonly being introduced to and made aware of oppression.

2. Teacher as Researcher – These teachers have the idea and belief that everyone should be life long learners.  They also know how to conduct research projects and reflect upon their teaching experiences.

3. Teacher as Professional – These teachers have a belief that teaching and fulfilling certification requirements are professional developments.  By thinking themselves as professionals, they also have a fairly set definition of what a “good teacher” actually is (which actually discourages looking forward and troubling knowledge and understandings).

Now, these not the only ways that teachers are viewed, but they are the most common.  Also to note is the fact that these views/images are not perfect. This is an understandable conclusion though, especially with living in a constantly changing and diverse society.  It is nearly impossible to keep up with the latest information or even to possibly cover the amount of information in the programs.

One thing that I noticed was a huge emphasis (and is basically what the book is about) is that a “good” teacher is aware of social justice and oppression issues occurring in his/her school (and also other schools).  At first, I thought that this doesn’t really have to be a factor for being a “good” teacher, thinking that a teacher who may be oblivious to oppression or social justice can still be a good teacher as long as his/his students are learning.  However, the more I thought about it, the more my opinion changed.  If students are being oppressed in schools and teachers are not trying to prevent it or unaware of it, this could affect students learning and ultimately the students themselves.  One thing that we continuously talk about (and I’ve repeated quite often in my blogs) is that students need to feel safe, welcome, and accepted in their classroom in order to help students maximize their learning.  So, if students are being oppressed, then there’s a good chance they aren’t learning to their full potential.  So, after that consideration, I now agree more with the authors push towards teachers become aware of oppression and social justice.

One thing that I was quite surprised that I didn’t do the first time I had read this chapter but thought of now, was how the education program at the University of Regina (the program that I am currently in) fits into these images.  In my opinion, I feel that the program here is aiming to create teachers that fit into a combination of both Teacher as Learned Practitioner and Teacher as Researcher.  Throughout my studies in this program, some of the more discussed topics were understanding our students, learning how to teach and different ways to teach, and oppression.  As well, they have also pushed the belief that everyone is a life long learner and that we need to reflect on our teaching and ourselves as teachers.  As for Teacher as Professional, the program has covered a very slight portion on this issue.  However, this program has not pushed the fact that teachers should be viewed as professionals and has really just left the topic open for individuals to deliberate among other different views of teachers.