September 24

Motivating Students to Complete Assessments of Learning

Being an educator means more than just teaching your students the standardized curriculum administered by the government; rather, they seek to understand their students in a holistic sense in order to best support them in their learning. When the topic of late or incomplete assignments is mentioned, many people who are not a part of the education system feel like the “fail” label is appropriate for the student. If the work isn’t complete, then they get a zero and that’s that. But does that approach truly stem out of an unconditional support for the education of our younger generation?

Homework2
In Cooper’s text Talk about Assessment, he discusses the topic of students failing to complete assessments. He also addresses the threat of punishment approach to this topic (i.e., you don’t do the work, you get a zero). Cooper quotes Guskey & Bailey as they point out:

“No studies support the use of low grades or marks as punishments. Instead of prompting greater effort, low grades more often cause students to withdraw from learning (p. 64)”

What, then, is the proposed solution to this issue? How about addressing the problem before it occurs? Would teacher have to give a student a zero if the student was more inclined to submit their work?

This idea led me to think of a few ways that I would be able to adopt a proactive approach to this topic, especially given the urban setting of the school that I am currently doing my placement in (my Associate Teacher warned me that the students received very little support in their academics after school hours). After looking into a few different solutions, I have chosen two that would be easy to implement, yet affective in their approach.

The first idea came from reflecting on my own education experience. Why did I submit my work? Well, for a number of reasons:

  • To appease my teacher
  • To avoid a phone call home to mom and dad
  • To be viewed as smart by my peers
  • For self-affirmation in my own work ethic
  • To earn those stars in Mr. Devine’s Grade 5 class so that I would be one of the top 5 students that he would take out for lunch to Pizza Hut’s buffet

Yup, that last one was a huge motivator! Rewarding students for their efforts in completing homework and assignments is easy and effective. No student would pass up Pizza Hut, so they complete all their work in an effort to earn that reward. If we expect students to complete assignments, it has to be worth their time; there has to be some type of incentive to encourage students to complete their assignments.

Another idea would be to record the occurrences of late or missing assessments. This provides students, parents, and the teacher a tangible reflection of the work ethic and completion rate of the student’s work. No matter what the reason, if the assessment is not complete, the students would have to record this in a stationed “Incomplete Work Log”, outlining their name, the date, what was incomplete, and the reason. This forces students to truly reflect on why the task was incomplete while also making them accountable for their actions.HomeworkAs educators, we must continue to teach students in all areas of their life, even if that means teaching them the skills of time management, accountability, initiative, and homework completion. The curriculum is one half of education; the student as a person is the other.

September 16

Blogging: The Writings of the 21st Century

Technology changes so rapidly in our current day and age, and schools are doing a great job of keeping up-to-date with the trends! Many students have their own blogs and websites, or they are familiar with how they work based on their experiences with social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.). Additionally, students enjoy reading blog posts compared to newspaper articles or textbooks. From what I’ve read, many teachers are changing their writing and English projects to be completed in cyber space in the form of a blog. This keeps the students engaged and invested in the school work that they are doing!

Check out the image below for more information about blogging is not necessarily about the technology, but rather about the continual engagement of the students:

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March 5

TEDxTalks

TEDxTalks
I’m sure by now, most of you have heard about TEDxTalks. But I bet you didn’t know they’ve been around since 1984! For those of you that don’t know what TEDxTalks are, here’s a brief overview from their website:

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

These presentations are engaging and jam-packed with information, yet short enough to maintain the audiences attention. There are thousands upon thousands of TEDxTalks! On the topic of education alone, their website has 352 pages of videos! Theses talks are a great teaching tool and can be used with pretty much any lesson being given in any subject.

The following video is from a TEDx conference and features a number of big name presenters discussing the topics of education, teaching, and leadership:

Looking for a content-relevant way to fill up those last 10 minutes of class? Try a TEDxTalk!

January 20

Is Twitter An Effective Teaching Tool?

Yes, technology runs our world. Yes, everyone is consumed with the latest technology trends, gadgets, and apps. Yes, technology can be beneficial in our learning. But does there come a time when we stretch too far to qualify a specific technology as an effective teaching tool?

Take Twitter for example. Information is posted in condensed, 140-character posts in real-time from around the world. Seems useful. However, does allowing students to use Twitter for an educational purpose outweigh the distractions that can come with the website? Will a student be more interested in searching what the teacher has instructed them to, or will they want to know what so-and-so #subtweeted about so-and-so?

The following image displays some of the current ways that teachers can use Twitter with their students:

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What do you think? Is Twitter a beneficial tool to be using with students in the classroom? Or are teachers trying too hard to adapt their lessons to their students desires in the hopes of maintaining their attention? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

January 15

Inclusivity in Schools

Inclusive
While I was taking my Educational Psychology course last term, inclusivity in schools was a topic that was mentioned often. When I was in school, the teachers always talked about “including one another” in our activities and creating an environment where everyone felt “included”. But what makes inclusion work in schools? After doing some research (and looking through my Ed. Psych. textbook), here is a list of what I have found about this topic:

  • An understanding of, and commitment to, inclusion
  • A welcoming and safe school environment
  • A strong administration team
  • A focus on teaching all children
  • Involvement from families and outside agencies
  • Professional development for teachers and other school personnel
  • Common planning time for teachers
  • Effective instructional and assessment strategies to meet student needs
  • Appropriate accommodations and support systems in place
  • Opportunities for relationship and team building
  • A commitment to continuous improvement and growth

Essentially, inclusion cannot just be taught to the students and forced upon them, but rather, it must be demonstrated and role modeled to them in all areas of their life. The student, the school staff, their individual families, and the surrounding community must all come together to foster a sense of inclusivity.

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January 11

Teaching Special Education

Teaching is a profession that is not for everyone. It is taxing, time consuming, and takes a lot of work. Sometimes the work is in the planning, sometimes in the instruction, sometimes in the guidance of students, and sometimes the work is in figuring out what works best when working with our students in our classrooms. But all of this work intensifies when you’re working with a student that has a learning disability or has an IEP.

Special Education teachers take pride in working with their students to excel beyond what would be achievable in a typical classroom. Their job is arguably one of the most difficult in the field of education, yet they display the same passion and dedication for their students like a classroom teacher!

What keeps them going? I have always believed that an exceptional teacher understands that education is more than academic excellence and standardized curriculum. In fact, a teacher can have a positive impact on the life of a child that can extend far beyond the classroom. Watching theses students overcome their challenges and excelling in school is what keeps Special Education teachers motivated and their spirits high.

I am definitely interested in earning an additional qualification in Special Education! This interest led me to find the video below. It talks about the importance of teaching special education and the rewards the come with the profession.

December 22

Teachers as Leaders

Every report card I can remember bringing home had one thing that stayed constant from Kindergarten to Grade 12. My marks varied on each report, but the line “Spencer is a leader” was always present. For the longest time, I just brushed it off. There were other students that I would recognize as much more powerful leaders than me. I was never on Student Council in high school, I was never the captain of a sports team, and I was never had the top mark in the classroom. But year after year, teachers recognized me as a leader.

Thinking back, I can remember times when I would have my desk moved beside a student that was struggling with their school work. I was also sat beside special education students throughout elementary school. It never occurred to me until later in life that I was sat beside them as a positive role model; a leader.

I’ll admit, I always thought of teachers as authority figures and “adults”, but rarely as leaders. Only those teachers that coached sports teams or ran leadership programs were leaders in my eyes. But what never occurred to me is that teachers could perhaps be the most under-appreciated leaders in our lives. Maybe the lesson they taught us was dry and boring, but it’s the skills they didn’t blatantly teach us that fostered leadership skills in each and every one of us.

Teaching and leadership skills
I’ve had teachers that I hope to one day be like, and I’ve had teachers that I hope to never be like. Regardless, these teachers have given me a sense of idealized influence, pushing me to pursue a career in teaching to either emulate or correct their teaching strategies. A good teacher makes you want to be them when you grow older. Perhaps this is what happened to me in Kindergarten?

Teachers can also be motivational inspiration. I’ve had teachers that, despite the trials that they are going through in their personal life, they perform every day at work at an exceptional level. Teachers who have lost loved ones, broken up with partners, or had medical complications with their pregnancies, yet they stand strong at the front of that classroom and give their all for the sake of their students, showing them that no matter what is going on in your life, you are always able to help someone.

Students that feel as though their teacher has given them individualized consideration speaks volumes. These are the teachers that go out of their way to set goals with the student, help them to achieve them, and celebrate with them when they accomplish those goals. They go out of their way to make personal connections with each of their students, displaying a genuine concern for what each person needs to develop fully.

Of course, you cannot just place any leader at the front of a classroom. In order for the students to succeed academically, the leaders must be a teacher, providing the students with intellectual stimulation. This does not equal teaching out of a textbook (BORING!), but rather facilitating activities that engage the students and allow them to further their knowledge in a creative and interactive way. These teachers encourage students to think outside of the box, rather than allowing them to regurgitate knowledge on a test.

Some of the most influential role models and leaders in my life are the teachers that went above and beyond their role, treating and shaping me as a person rather than just a student. My passion for helping others and my desire to provide a positive school experience for a child is the drive behind me wanting to become a teacher. I look forward to having an opportunity to shape youthful minds and foster the personal growth of students one day, when I become a teacher.

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December 21

I’M A TEACHER! Well, sort of…

I may not have achieved my ultimate goal of being a teacher in my own classroom with my own students, but hey, everyone has to start somewhere! I’ve recently been hired at Oxford Learning and have been getting training over the last two months. Now, I’m considered an Oxford Learning Teacher!

Oxford Learning Logo
I have learned so much since starting as a teacher, and I really respect what they stand for. Oxford Learning has assumed a cognitive approach to learning, aspiring to teach their students how to be the best students possible, in areas such as confidence, self-esteem, homework habits, social skills, and of course academics. From their website:

Life-long tools like high self-esteem, an active, agile mind, and an understanding of how to study, learn, and think. Only Oxford Learning® puts all these outcomes within your child’s reach — along with better grades — with our cognitive approach to learning, where we focus on helping children learn how to learn.
The fact that I get to go to work each week as a teacher and I am able to make a difference in the life of a student is something that I am very grateful for. This is just the beginning of a lifetime of teaching!
December 20

Back to the Basics

I figured before I could start a website dedicated to education, teaching, and becoming a teacher, I should take a step back and define what it is that I will be talking about.

What is education? (Google Dictionary)

1. The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.
2. An enlightening experience.

What is the purpose of education? (Forbes)
  • To prepare children for citizenship
  • To cultivate a skilled workforce
  • To teach cultural literacy
  • To help students become critical thinkers
  • To help students compete in a global marketplace

What is a teacher? (dictionary.reference.com)

1. A person who teaches or instructs, especially as a profession instructor.

What makes a great teacher? (Huffington Post)
  • A teacher teaches students, not a subject matter.
  • A teacher never ever gives up.
  • A teacher is a gift. Cherish them.

Why become a teacher? (CollegeXpress)

1. It’s fun.
2. You’ll learn a lot.
3. It will help you keep your own life in perspective.
4. Teaching is a very respectable profession.
5. Teachers get to be a positive influence on the next generation of young people.

While all of this information is just the basics, it’s a solid starting ground for the information that will be presented in the days/weeks/months/years to come!