26 Mar

Today is the OSSLT (Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test) and yet again, I’m questioning the necessity of this standardized test. My current timetable includes two sections of ENG 2PI and so I’ve dedicated a great deal of my class time to preparing the students for today’s test even though the test goes against every aspect of my pedagogy.

I really don’t understand how a one size fits all test can adequately assess the literacy skills of my students. It doesn’t include access to technology (except for certain situations) and in our society, that is such an antiquated idea.

It also doesn’t allow for creativity. The students have very straightforward tasks that are designed to produce very similar answers and that is not what education should reflect. We want outside the box thinkers who push limits and this test squashes all aspects of creativity.

I also question the inclusion of a news report writing task. I have not written a news report in my lifetime and I can’t imagine how this is a critical skill for life…

But one of my final criticisms is that the test takes assessment of students’ abilities out of my hands. What happened to professional judgement? Why is it that I can spend all semester assessing a student’s abilities only to have people who don’t know my student decide that they are “literate” based on a three hour pen and paper test? It doesn’t make any sense to me and in fact makes me angry. I spend so much of my time making my lessons engaging and assessments meaningful and the literacy test does neither. How is what I do credible as compared to this test where the rankings are splashed through the media and touted as an accurate means of assessing teaching? (Obviously I don’t care what the rankings are and how my teaching differs but EQAO results matter to many parents and play a role in some family decisions and that’s what bothers me.)

But as I told my students yesterday, it’s just a hoop to jump through. And even though it goes against all my beliefs about education, it’s something I will prepare my students to do because I must do everything in my power to help them be successful whether I believe in it or not. Sigh.

Education- it’s in my blood

26 Mar

It’s been a week since my grandfather died and I am still reflecting on his life. My grandfather was an elementary teacher and principal in the small town where I grew up. It’s been really interesting to read the tributes and memorials that people have been sharing and it has given me a window into what he was like as an educator because to me, he was Grandpa Reaburn.

One of the comments that keeps coming up was his sense of humour. Many people mentioned the “twinkle in his eye” and that he always seemed to have a joke or laugh with his students. It warms my heart that he had fun with his students as I think school is about rapport and making personal connections and it’s wonderful that my grandfather had the same philosophy.

Another frequent comment was that Grandpa taught “life lessons” not just content. Many former students commented that he helped prepare them for life by teaching about and exemplifying the concepts of fairness, self discipline and happiness. He promoted the idea that everyone has a something special and unique inside and you have to follow that inner passion.

One last aspect of my grandfather’s pedagogy that I learned about this past weekend came from my grandmother. We were talking about planning for lessons and my Grandma asked me if I reuse my lessons year to year. I thought this was an odd question but when I answered that I virtually never do anything the same way twice, she mentioned that Grandpa didn’t either. He didn’t believe in reusing the same lessons because he had different students in front of him and they deserved learning in a way that suits them- not the students from previous years.

It’s amazing to me that although we are teaching decades apart, that we have very similar ideas about education. I am further honoured to follow in his footsteps.

Hip Hop Reflection

27 Feb

I love my weekly hip hop class, but tonight, my brain just wasn’t in it. I usually love challenging my mind to get the steps down while simultaneously challenging my body to move the way I want it to, (side note: this requires a lot of concentration for me) however, my brain was zoned out. Granted, I have a lot on my mind right now, (as we all do) but on my drive home, I was frustrated with myself. Frustrated that I couldn’t get out of my head to have the usual amount of fun this class provides and frustrated that I didn’t get the work out I was craving because I couldn’t put all the steps together properly. 

However, what my zoned out brain did remind me about is that there are days when students come to my class feeling the exact same way. Something is going on in their lives and it’s consuming them-  they are physically present but mentally absent. It’s my job to guide them to be as successful as they can despite this blockage… Which I need to do for next week’s class.

Power of Social Media

22 Feb

One of the aspects of today’s society that still astounds me is the ability to connect with people from all around the world.

Tonight I received a reply on my blog from Michael Mills, one of the founders of unlooker.com. He replied to my post about Dove’s ‘Selfies’ video and, honestly, I am still in shock. My initial motivation for writing that post was to get some outside perspective on the video and share it with my students. I, myself, am skeptical of the Dove’s intentions, and was looking for people to challenge my thinking, but never considered that my lowly post would be read by and replied to by one of the founders of the site!

This alone reaffirms my belief in how important social media is to our society and why it is something that can’t be ignored in the classroom.

Wow. Just wow.

Challenge Accepted

15 Feb

As of today I’ve completed my first full week of school. At this point in my career, I’m again low on the seniority list (I changed boards three years ago) and am at my third school in three years. I feel quite blessed to have a contract position as it’s a very difficult job market for teachers, however, being “the new girl” has its challenges and it’s especially challenging when you’re different.

I had a student comment today that I am not a “traditional” English teacher and this student is absolutely correct. I am different. I use technology extensively, but that’s not what makes me different.

I believe in being open and authentic. I feel that in many cases we hide the curriculum from our students and they are left wondering why something is important. Very few students question a task and just play the game to achieve the necessary grade, but this worries me. I want students to question. I want them to know what is going on and why I am doing what I’m doing. I feel they need to know as this allows them to take ownership of the daily tasks and assignments but also of their own learning.

Furthermore, I worry that we make learning out to be compartmentalized. To me, learning is far more organic in nature. I want my students to realize that they can learn about English through studying other topics, disciplines and activities. And to be completely honest, I want them to be learning far more than just the “English” curriculum. I want them to be learning resilience, dedication, strong work habits, collaboration skills and many other “learning skills” that aren’t a means of achieving grades.

Finally, I want my students to have fun because learning is fun. I spend a lot of time watching my three year old discover the world. Everything she learns is exciting. She asks a million questions and has the most insatiable curiosity about life. She is constantly discovering new things and it brings her immense joy. I don’t think she is unique in that respect, but I’m worried that somewhere along the way, she is going to lose the pleasure she gets from learning. She is lucky, however, that both her parents are always striving to learn something new but I don’t think this is true for every student and I believe it’s my job to rekindle a love of learning in some students. (Some students never lose it thank goodness).

With all that being said, I realize that some days are going to be more difficult than others, as I have a different outlook on education than others, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to give up. In fact, I’ve never been so sure about my teaching style.

Thank an EA

8 Feb

It’s Friday night and I have the first week of school under my belt, but my brain just won’t turn off yet. The week was great as I loved being back in the classroom and I have been so very welcomed at Cameron Heights, but I really must thank the Special Education department for assigning me an EA for two of my classes.

I have two sections of grade ten applied English and we have had a good first few classes, but there are A LOT of students. And, as my teaching style centres greatly on cooperative learning and group work, I spend most of the class helping students either one on one or in small groups which can be difficult in a large class. Therefore, I’m so appreciative that I have Kim in my classes. She has embraced my style of teaching and jumped right in. It is a blessing having her there and I really believe she is going to be integral to the success of both classes.

So thank you CHCI Spec Ed, but especially thanks to Kim.

On a side note, the government really needs to spend time in classes with EA’s to see the crucial role these individuals play in the classroom. I think then they would realize that they are one occupation that is severely underfunded and extremely underpaid.

Selfies -response to the unlooker.com video

29 Jan

This week on the web, unlooker.com posted a promotional video by Dove called “Selfies.”

I actually have mixed reactions to this video. On one hand, I think it’s wonderful how they are promoting the idea that everyone is beautiful and that many women have insecurities (not just teens.) But on the other hand, I see it as a marketing strategy by Dove and I’m not completely convinced that they have the best intentions for girls and women at heart as ultimately, they are still a corporation trying to make money. To me, the promotion of “true beauty” is just their marketing ploy. Call me a skeptic but the fact that they splash it all over the internet suggests marketing over any other reason.

Since this is such a current issue and I think it will be excellent fodder for discussion in my grade ten applied English class, I’m looking for help from the public. I’m using this with the Media Studies strand expectation 1.4 “Audience Responses” and I would love for some feedback for my students. I would love if people commented in this post or tweeted back what kind of “audience” they are (parent, teacher, student, male, female, or whatever audience deemed appropriate, etc) with a personal response to this video and concept. Feel free to include your own selfie too!

Thank you in advance and here is a selfie just for fun.



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