EdCampDelta Response

Ed Camp Delta Session: How do we align assessment with the new curriculum? A packed library full of Educators interested in and wanting to find the answers to this question?? YES! I was excited, thrilled even, to be in this … Continue reading

Dear Student Teachers: Go Outside.

The bell has rung and after a flurry at the door you’re left with an almost empty classroom. There are a few scragglers (as always) still trying to fill in their planners or stack their chairs so you don’t waste any time; you look around the room and start compiling your mental to-do list that seems to grow and grow but never be ‘to-done.’ Even before you finish making that never-ending list, even the most distracted student finally needs you to sign their planner. You do so, reminding them not to forget their gym strip on Monday– and boom – like a flash they’re out the door.

My advice to you? Go outside.

Walk the playground. Join in on a basketball game. Play hop scotch or jump rope. Ruffle a few tops of heads and talk to the kids out there. They’re the reason you’re here and when you’re Continue reading

Volunteering Abroad as Professional Development for Teachers

Having done a teaching practicum in China, being a teacher in Canada, and now having volunteered in a Standard 3 classroom here in Kenya, one thing is clear: teaching abroad is a worthwhile opportunity for professional development.

In a grade one classroom in Xi'an, China where I taught in 2011

In a grade one classroom in Xi’an, China where I taught in 2011

The obvious aspect of professional development that comes with teaching overseas is adapting to your new environment. No electricity, limited resources, and bright eager students. At times I wondered how easy it would be if I had a document reader or an interactive whiteboard, but instead you have a few textbooks, a blackboard, chalk (sometimes), and an always disappearing eraser which is actually a small plush kitten. You realize quickly that without technology or even an adequate number of textbooks you can still be an effective teacher and find ways to reach your students in the best way you can. Continue reading

When Teachers Blog/Tweet it Shows Students They Care

I’ve been preparing myself for my Volunteer trip to Kenya where I’ll be teaching in Children’s Centres in Mombasa for 6 weeks. To do this I’ve been doing the pre-departure course work from Global Vision International on Teaching English as a Foreign Language and I’ve picked up a few resource books myself. One in particular, “The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide,” seemed appropriate not only for my trip but for my own career at home as ELL students are numerous in the schools that I have worked at.

The authors of this book, Larry Ferlazzo and Katie Hull Sypnieski, start off this guide by outlining the three R’s that make up a positive and effective learning environment. Relationships, Resources and Routines. What I failed to notice, and what these authors pointed out to me, was that blogging is an easy and effective way to show students you care about them inside and outside the classroom.

“In today’s world, many teachers already blog and write about their teaching experiences. However, they may not take the extra step of sharing this writing with their students. This can be powerful on a number of levels, but in terms of relationship building, it shows students that the teacher things of them outside of the classroom.”

They are so right. Whenever students would ask me about Twitter I would usually say, “Yes I have Twitter and even a blog, feel free to follow me but I tweet and write about education/teacher stuff – you might not be interested.” But, students should see you on Twitter and your blog posts because it shows students how methodological you are in how, what, where and why you teach and how you learn. 

I did have students come up to me one day and say they found me on Twitter and that I tweeted a picture of my water bottle from class (students put a post it note on it reminding me to drink more water and not just coffee).  I explained to them how happy that post it made me, because even within our short two weeks together we had a community started where we took care of each other and got to know each other. I thought it was wonderful.

I now realize that this twitter-verse and blog-overse is not just for me to develop and network with other teaching professionals. But is also a way to show how connected we are with our students and that we are very focused on doing our very best to provide our students with classrooms we feel they deserve. 

“Taking a few minutes to write about the class (whether it is a simple reflection on how a lesson went, how a student demonstrated an exceptional insight, or sharing a few success and challenges from the week) and then sharing this writing with the class can increase trust and respect between the teacher and the students.”

So I’m urging teachers! Please, if you don’t have time to blog – because yes, it does become something of another job on its own, please tweet! Share your thoughts, your learning moments, things that inspire you and ways to change our classrooms for the better! Use hashtags to join the conversation!

There’s a great twitter cheat sheet to help you out found here: http://www.learningunlimitedllc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Twitter-Cheat-Sheet-Tool-4-Learning-Unlimited-by-Kimberly-Tyson.pdf As well, some Districts have their own hashtags that are very helpful to guide the conversation to be specifically about their Schools. For Delta: #sd37 #deltaschools #deltalearns. Non district hashtags but helpful ones for my purposes: #inqBC #LiD #LiDinaction #BClearns

Here’s a reminder though, Hashtags are only as effective if they are being used! They can be great promotional tools for an upcoming school wide event, a district initiative, or if theres a topic you want to really learn/chat about with other professionals about. This is why some districts, like Surrey, can be so connected on Twitter because they seem to have agreed upon hashtags for their district that they use: #sd36learn #surreylearns #sd36 #edcamp36

So, If you can’t blog, tweet! Even 150 characters can go a long way to show that you are connected, learning, and caring about your students and your school. Adding a hashtag in between those 150 characters will help your thoughts be found and connected with in a much more efficient way too!

“Celebration of Inquiry” a Showcase of Delta’s Inquiry Progress

Delta School District had their “Celebration of Inquiry” Day today where Schools could set up examples of how their inquiry questions/projects worked in their schools. This was a way to share ideas, examples, some good food and great conversations. As … Continue reading

Reflections on China and Bill Gates’ Call for Teacher Feedback Systems

Bill Gates: Teachers Need Real Feedback

In his TED talk that aired on PBS for TED talks Education, Bill Gates argues that countries that score highest in reading proficiency correlate with those that have teacher feedback systems in place.

He points at Shanghai as the top in these scores. When I was doing my short practicum in Xi’an, China (and also observing teaching in Beijing and Shanghai) I was able to sit in and take part in this feedback and observation rotation system. I am not convinced it’s doing the job Gates believes its doing there in China, but I do agree teacher’s need constructive and thoughtful feedback.

In China, teachers would video tape their lessons to be sent in to their governing education board. But, the lesson that is being sent is one that the teachers have done multiple times with the exact same students that has been viewed & critiqued by multiple teachers and crafted into a lesson that has nearly all students showing success before they even reach the camera stage outside of their classroom. This did not happen in the first lesson they tried out though. Yes there are positives to redo a lesson over and over again, but does that make best practice? I love how teachers are supporting one another and trying to find ways to make the lesson successful, but their ways of encouraging that success are troublesome to my education philosophy.

The teaching methods in China are highly dependant upon external rewards. Most of my notes and my writing while observing these lessons were criticizing and wondering about the function of external rewards in learning. Teachers carry tins of stickers around to be awarded to students with correct answers, each group is given stars or hearts on the chalk board when they’re quiet or if they participate. So much so that every lesson I observed, especially the ones in front of the camera, felt like a game show with the students trying to win the grand prize of the most stars and stickers. I guess you could call this engagement, since most of the students want to win the prizes but I wouldn’t call this a ‘full education’ in the poetic sense that I like to believe education can be about.But it sure does give high scores on exams.

Maybe Gates is too much about the numbers?

Sure, Shanghai has impressive scores. So does Korea, but in third place amongst those numbers is Finland, who doesn’t have a Teacher Feedback system in place. I find myself looking at Finland from time to time in awe of how their education system works; the amount of support and funding received from government and the community. So maybe achieving those high scores it’s not just about the feedback system but also the cultural forces surrounding the success of these students.

I find the issue in our North American classrooms is less about numbers and more about learning and engaging learners. The numbers will come later. Our culture is vastly different than Asian cultures that usually rely upon drill, stratification, standardization, and high work ethics. This doesn’t seem to exist in full swing here in Western culture (or wouldn’t work as fluidly). The task we have is to engage our learners and inspire them to put forth an effort that isn’t rewarded immediately with a sticker.

Regardless of what numbers Gates uses and his reasonings for it, I have to agree with him.

    Teacher feedback is very important and crucial.

I know as a student teacher I had consistent feedback, video taped myself and had peers observe me teach as well – this was integral to my growth and development. I don’t think I’ll ever be at a stage where I’m not calling myself a learning teacher – because I really hope I don’t stop learning and improving upon my skills. So as much as I had an overwhelming amount of learning at the very early stages of my development, this doesn’t mean that the learning is done – especially  when you’re a teacher.

Taking the time to have yourself video taped to be viewed by other teachers with constructive criticism is helpful in professional development. No, it does not require a specific Microsoft camera geared for this purpose only – most of our mobile devices and the technology supplied in the classroom are equipped with video recording capabilities. Problem solved. (I should note he did not specifically propose a Microsoft camera as the solution (since I could not tell the brand of the camera he showed), but I’m wondering about the cost of 5 billion dollars for the US to have these feedback systems)

But again, if we are to have these sessions be video taped and observed by our colleagues schools need to be given more funding to have collaboration time for teachers. So instead of spending this money on cameras to do the observing, the funds can be diverted to teacher time to go through the recordings and make thoughtful observations and well put together suggestions.

As a a TOC, I get to see all the wonderful things that happen in various classrooms of all grade levels. I find things that excite me, that I’d love to try out in my own classrooms, and things that I see wouldn’t gel with my teaching philosophy. I also see how great something can work in one classroom, but not in another. To be a full time teacher and have my own classroom would be a dream. But I would hope that I am not limited to the walls of my room and would still find opportunity to be inspired by others and to have others help me be the best I can be for my students.

Professional development starts with self and if I’m never observed as myself teaching, how can I know what to do better. This is something that can tell me more than the calculated average of my classroom.

My Digital “Portfolio of Learning” Experience

Task: Show your learning any way you want in a digital portfolio of your choice. Reaction: Okay, but how many words should it be? What do you mean “show your learning” – do you need it to be visual? What’s … Continue reading