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PAA-Practical Applied Arts also known as Please Anticipate Accidents

With my first teaching contract, three of the classes I was assigned were Practical Applied Arts. The school I am at is great because it has a large woodworking shop, welding supplies, a full home ec room complete with three stations, and administration who was willing to help as needed. All of this is great…except I know nothing about PAA. I mean I took PAA in middle school, and I am very knowledgeable  about the school, but throughout the whole experience I felt completely out of my comfort zone.

My goal for the classes was that I would never have two classes based out of the same area, this would prevent any arguments about who is responsible for cleaning what, and anyone wrecking someone else’s work. In theory the plan is great…in reality this plan rarely worked. I started with having my PAA 30 class finishing the projects they started with their former teacher in the woodworking shop. PAA 9 was going to start with cooking, while the PAA 10 class did drafting. The biggest problem with this was that PAA 9 could not handle the responsibility of  cooking for more than 2 weeks, and the 10s did not take drafting seriously. Realizing a change of pace was needed I decided to go way out of my comfort zone…and guilt my dad, who is a welding instructor at Moose Jaw Sask Polytech, into teaching welding for a week, followed by three other experienced welders into coming in for two following consecutive weeks to help facilitate the actual welding. This means that I had to get all the supplies for welding, and contact people and actually have a general idea what was going on in the shop. Since I was offering this to one class, I figured that I would offer it to all classes. That was until the grade 10s complained so much two weeks in  that I cut their short, and decided to switch them to baking. I felt throughout the whole semester that I was changing the units every time the students started to get difficult. Part of this was to keep them entertained, part of it was to keep myself sane, and part of it was to keep the rest of the staff happy as I seemed to always be in the way.

During my time teaching PAA I took on the following projects,

PAA 30

  1. individual woodworking projects
  2. welding pencil holders
  3. Group woodworking creation
  4. Cooking
  5. building a shed

PAA 10

  1. drafting
  2. welding pencil holders
  3. baking
  4. CO2 cars
  5. cooking

PAA 9

  1. cooking
  2. welding pencil holders
  3. CO2 cars
  4. wildlife management

During the units, many things happened that I was not prepared for, like having 4 drafting sticks be broken by other students, which halted my drafting unit for a few classes while I found more. I was not prepared for regularly blowing the breakers during my welding unit, or to have a valve leakage which means by oxy-acetylene welding was going to be only stick and mig welding. Every class I got to face an unanticipated situation, some caused by students, some caused by equipment, and some caused from me still figuring things out. Teaching students to respond to accidents that happen while working with tools and dangerous equipment, was one of the lessons I value most, because while you hope that a student will never have to deal with a dangerous situation as a result of human error or faulty equipment.

With every class I learnt something new, with every class I wondered what I was doing, and at the end of every unit I figured out what I liked, what I hated, and how I would do it differently. Even though I started having no idea what I was doing, I actually enjoyed what I was doing. I would be quite happy teaching PAA again, and actually look forward to having the opportunity.

What does it mean to “level” math–and why was I not taught it in university?

With my new job I now teach grade 9/10. I took over grade 9 at the end of the polynomial unit, and start with the grade 10s Foundations and Pre-calculus class. In grade 9 and 10 I hated math, like cried everyday, would wake up with nightmare about math before tests, would be violently sick before finals. It was bad; however, in grade 11 math suddenly clicked. I understood it so well that I even took it as my minor my first two years of my degree before switching to Middle Years. Math was one of my favorite subjects to teach during my internship, because you can have fun with it, its easy to grade (the right answer is the right answer, regardless of how you do it), there is more than one way of thinking, and you can connect to all types of learners. Teaching this class was not even a concern for me, I am teaching at my old high school, and would have the support of a lot of fantastic teachers. Within three days of taking the job I realized how under prepared I was for math. We are told as graduates of the University of Regina, that an education degree allows you to teach any grade, and any subject. I quickly learned that this does not mean you are prepared by the university to teach any grade or any subject. I took two math curriculum classes during my education degree and four higher math courses, I don’t know how much more I could learn about math. I even sat in on some secondary math curriculum classes, and attended professional development based on secondary math. Yet, I cannot seem to follow any thing that the former teacher did with her students, which are now mine, and I have no idea what I am missing. Even when I ask how she did her math and grading, it still makes no sense. She uses a system where the students do as much as they can, and that determines their grade, but if they only want to do the harder questions, they will get a higher grade because the level of thinking is higher. How does she determine what the levels are, I looked at her notes, and I looked at my math notes, and at a dozen different sites, but I have no idea where she sees the levels. If this is the new way of teaching, why was it not taught in University. It makes sense that higher level of thinking allows for higher marks, but how do you know something is higher, just by how long it takes to solve, how many steps are involved. I’m trying to use the strategies that I learned for teaching math in university, but I quickly realized that those strategies do not work with a group of students who do not want to learn, and who believe math has no use in their lives (regardless of how many real-life problems I give them). What am I missing? What do I need to change? And can someone please explain to be what leveling questions means, and how do it? I love math, and I want my students to love math, but I feel like I’m failing them.

Teaching Inequalities-Week Seven Reflection

This week I made a strong decision to start teaching about things that mean something to me. I spend a lot of time talking with those that know me about the inequalities of the world, but I have been nervous about bringing them into my own classroom. I have no idea why I have been nervous, I know that my students are great, and that they have strong and passionate ideas about everything, but I was very hesitant about bringing in the topic of inequalities up with these students. However, between the Treaty Ed Camp that I attended a few weekends ago, and the book I am reading “White Like Me” by Tim Wise, I have been feeling guilty about letting my fear get to me. So I decided to take a chance and have my students participate in a talking circle. With a class of 9, the circle covers a lot of information quickly and jumps topics fast. But I also get to make sure that all students get to voice their opinions, thoughts, and questions. Since this is a class that can be a little (or  a lot) wild, I thought it best to have students start with something small, so the first attempt was their name, and what they did on the weekend. Which led into 4 students watching the Jays defeat the Texas Rangers, this led to a student mentioning that at the game against the Orioles that someone threw a beer can at the ball, but the Jays issued an apology. Which some how spiraled off that the Jays, and the city should not be responsible for the actions of a fan, just like how the class should not be held responsible for the actions of one classmate, or that the actions of one person does not many that every person that looks like them, or acts like  them are responsible for the actions of the wrong-doer. These students, who have never really experienced a world outside of their own protect bubble could instantly grasp that just because one person does something wrong does not mean that every person of that race or culture is to blame. It was at this point that I was happy with my decision to bring in talking circles into the classroom.

Friday last class, or more specifically the last class of the week will be for the talking circle that allows for reflection. Friday was my holy crap moment, when a student, who is often regarded as being a nuisance in class, spoke up about an issue that was brought up in class. Earlier in the week Donald Trump released an image of the people voting for him, the largely red map concern all students in my class. I spent some time investigating and found out about the #repealthe19th movement currently happening. This one student spoke up saying women not being allowed to vote is as stupid as First Nations people not being able to vote, and going back to worse times did not make the world better, and people that thought it did clearly care more about themselves than the rest of the population. Coming from a student that appears to take very few things in life seriously you know that this is a strong opinion of his, which means that I finally feel like all the stuff I have been teaching them is actually getting through to them. I ended the class saying that each student is to do two nice things for people that they do not know, so I guess I will see where this goes on Monday. Overall the week was busy but beneficial for both the students and I.

Why is everything about marks? Week five of Internship

In university, we are taught to use formative assessment, to provide feedback, and to allow students to make mistakes, which they are than able to fix and improve. But, while actually teaching everything is about the marks. How does one student compare to others, which student is the smartest, and how does one school, school division, province or country compare to the rest? Why does any of this matter? Could someone please explain to me what the difference between a 90 and an 80 really is, so you know slightly more or you were able to memorize more? Really all that a grade proves is that you were able to give a teacher the exact information that they wanted, regardless of what actually matters. Yet all I hear is how we need to mark every assignment, but I am never told why. Not every assignment is going to truly prove that a student has learnt anything, or test their understanding of a topic. But unless I am evaluating the students ability to research I do not see the point in evaluating an assignment that provides me information found only online. I want students that can take the information they find, and apply it to something more than a few questions. Students need to be able to take more than one piece of information which they can use and apply it to other information which they have learnt to develop well thought out and strong answers that relate to the outcomes that are being evaluated.

Technology…from a chalkboard to YouTube to Apps

When I think of technology I think about the internet, computers and the ever changing devices found in our world. The problem with learning on one device, is that in a year the device is likely going to be obsolete. We live in a world where technology is changing faster than we can buy it, this is even more true for our students who have found hundreds of apps that they can download, learn, and use before we even know its a thing. How can we be expected to teach our students about new technologies and ensure they have the newest technology pieces in a classroom, when they are changing before we can learn about them.

The role of teachers went from needing to learn how to use a chalkboard and more than 200 years ago people thought that they were all the rage. They were also the topic of many discussions regarding how the changing of the chalkboard was at times to intense (Karpf, 2012). I would love to see these same teachers now learn that a chalkboard is really nothing more than an app that students can download onto their smartphone or tablet. If a chalkboard was considered to be such a great advancement of technology in the classroom (can we really call it technology?) than what is the overhead, or the projector, or indoor plumbing considered? I doubt that the teachers who were in the classrooms when chalkboard became a thing, could even begin to comprehend that chalkboards are rarely found in classrooms, because teachers would rather have boards with the internet attached to it.Why right notes on the chalkboard when you can either type them and provide a copy for every student, or find a video that tell the same information. The role of a teacher, and the role of a student has changed so much and this is because of the access and used of technology. When teachers no longer need to spend hours writing copious amounts of notes for students to copy down, the time can be spent doing a limitless amount of more productive and intriguing learning.

Who would have thought that a website created in 2005 to show other people your lame webcam videos, would now be used in the classroom to teach students material from a person who is in the top of their field. YouTube opens a whole portal of exploring and inquiring minds. My dad uses it every time he needs to show his students welding techniques because it is easier to pause the video in a classroom to explain, than to complete the entire weld himself and have to explain it later. I used YouTube to learn the material for the majority of Chemistry and Math classes I took in both high school and university, plus I could also find funny cat videos when I needed to de-stress. YouTube is not the unnecessary distraction people once thought it was, it is an educational and knowledge filled site to further learning.

Our students, can teach us just as much as we can teach them. Technology is just the medium that they excel with, while for us it is the ability to find a book in a library. I’m not even kidding, take a class to a public library, give them the code, and ask them to find the book; it will be quicker for them to find the book online, order it from amazon and pay for it with their parents visa, than to actually search for it in a library.

Why search for something, when surely there is an app that can teach you the same thing, through fun games, pictures, videos or activities. Technology is changing the way our classrooms look, and while it creates more complications than a simple chalkboard, it also creates more learning opportunities. So if you don’t know something, don’t worry there is an app for it.

Karpf, J. (2012). The last dramatic instructional innovation? The chalkboard and music education in a historical prospective. Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, 34(1), 62+. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.libproxy.uregina.ca:2048/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA348569307&sid=summon&v=2.1&u=ureginalib&it=r&p=EAIM&sw=w&asid=950fcf64567c73478643bceb5242f506

The joys of Art…in Math?!

I have always believed that cross-curricular teaching is important in middle years; many subjects can link together such as  science and health, social studies and english, physical education and health, the list of combinations can go on continuously. However, I have never considered math and art to be linked, even the brain has them separated. Logical thinking is left sided and creativity is right sided; so without even realizing it I have always left the two subjects unconnected. That is until I decided to attend a guest instructor’s presentation about the connection of the two. Susan Gerofsky, who was visiting from the University of British Columbia specializes in the connection of art in mathematics.Two of the people that Susan focused on were George Hart and his daughter Vi Hart who both have a major focus on using art in mathematics.

The presentation was focused around learning how to create three-dimensional shapes using two-dimensional drawings. Susan started with referencing the learning we received in our youth regarding the creation of cubes. Even this sparked a discussion about the difference we received in learning how to make a cube and which way was correct or easier. The first way was to draw two different squares, with one being slightly behind the other, than you connect the squares with lines. The second creation is based on drawing one square, than using the corner of the square to draw a second square and connecting the two squares with lines. The outcome, regardless of which strategy is used, is a regular cube. The different perceptions of a cube can result in seeing something besides the cube. An example of this is if you look directly at the corner of a cube you will see a regular hexagon. Perception is a major theme in art, especially visual art; however it is rarely thought about in math, does the way you look at something make a difference in math, not usually but the way you look at something in art can change the entire image.

The next thing that we looked at was creating an icosahedron, which is a twenty-sided figure. The creation of this is based off of the pentagon. The first step is to draw a regular two-dimensional pentagon. In the center of the pentagon, draw a dot. Form a solid line from the center of each vertex (corner) on the pentagon to the dot in the center of the pentagon. The next step is the find the center of each edge of the pentagon, approximately a pinky width from the outer edge of the pentagon draw a dot at this point. Connect each vertex on the pentagon to the newly created dots. Connect two adjacent vertices on the new edges with a dotted line, along the inside of the pentagon. The new vertices also need to be connected to the center point with dotted lines. This is now a three dimensional icosahedron, drawn with  two-dimensional figures.

The activity listed above was created by George Hart, who has than taken this figure from an image drawn on a piece of paper and turned it into a physical three-dimensional sculpture. I did not have the pleasure of creating this sculpture because of other commitments, but the basics of the sculpture is that it is a icosahedron made out of CDs.

This activity made me what to know how else art can be incorporated in mathematics. Both George Hart, and Vi Hart use cooking to incorporate math, this can be especially helpful when the students ask the question “when am I ever going to use this?”. Every student will have to cook at some point, if they can see the connection between math and a life skill they may become more engaged and involved with their learning. George Hart has hundreds of activities that are based around using art and creativity in mathematics.Using math in art is a great way to bring those that are creative into an integrative method of applying math to applicable skills.

 

 

My Relationship with Inquiry based learning

Inquiry is a term that I first learned in my second year of education, at this point I hated it. Not only was it confusing for me but it was really poorly explained. At first I found that it was way more complicated to teach inquiry than to teach traditionally. Later in my second year I got to experience a different type of inquiry. This method discussed that a unit is focused around one essential question, but students get to design what they want to know about the topic and how they want to research, create and present what their question, or wonder is based around the topic. This confused me even more, how can I create a different lesson for every student to fit their personal interests. The more I learned about inquiry the less I liked the idea of using it to teach. I got to see it used in multiple classes, in Science using the 5Es; Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. This made me so confused, how can every single lesson be part of an inquiry unit, but it is all teacher guided, and than the unit is inquiry as a whole. There is way to much miscommunication for the students, you are questions students but almost direct teaching them, but the students are not really forming their own questions or ideas, they are just going off of what the teacher is saying. I then did a class where I had to create an inquiry unit based off the art curriculum, it was not until this point that I could actually see how inquiry can be used and taught in a way that has the students using one topic, but creating their own representation of what they learn.  Once I finished creating the unit for art education, I started to realize why I have had so many problems with the inquiry assignments in the past. The first reason is that not every unit can be inquiry based, some units are more information based, or can be taught through directed projects. Rather than stretching units to fit inquiry based learning, it is better to allow inquiry to happen in units naturally.  I am willing to teach inquiry for some units, but not all. I think that there is more than one way to teach, and while inquiry is going to be one way to teach students, I also want to use other methods of teaching such as project based learning, assignment based learning, and having occasionally tests/ quizzes. Some material has to be taught directly, and than the students can apply it to other situations that occur in real life situations. There is a time from inquiry teaching, but it is not the only method to teach.

Project Connect on Saturday January 16th 2016

For the past 3 years I have had the unbelievable pleasure of volunteering with the Education Students’ Society with their community outreach organization; Project Connect. Most of the volunteers that work with project connect only get to experience part of the whole thing, but with E.S.S. I get to experience the whole thing  from the initial planning, the fundraising, the final planning and than the actual volunteering. People always talk about how great it is to volunteer with different organizations, but many of them only get to take part in the final product.

While Project Connect may be the most stressful thing that I do with the E.S.S., it is also one of the most meaningful things that E.S.S. does. Project Connect is when the E.S.S. organizes a day of activities for a community school. This weekend was Kitchener School, since the weather was so cold many of the students were unable to attend. It caught me off guard when the staff representative informed me that out of the 20 students that are registered, less than half would likely be attending because their guardians were unable to bring them, and it was too cold for the students to walk in the cold weather. I have been with project connect for 3 years, not once have I encountered this problem. The other volunteers did not pay much attention to the fact that we were short kids, but I had different feelings about it, part of me was frustrated because for every student that is signed up we have to pay a certain amount of  money for their lunch, supplies and activities. So when a large amount of students are missing, it takes money away from those that are able to attend. But, the a different part of me felt bad for the students, project connect is something that a lot of students really enjoy, it is something that not all schools in Regina can take part in. Which made me start to think about different ways to prevent this problem in the future. How do schools ensure that students will always be attending classes, they cannot cancel class every time the weather is cold, so how do different schools deal with this problem. The school buses make a big difference, because it  ensures that students have a safe and reliable way to school, but on weekends there are no school buses. Other schools use taxis to bring some of the students from their houses to school and back, so maybe we can figure out a pick up/ drop up system where those that are unable to attend because of outside factors may have the opportunity.

The theme this weekend was Art, so four different activities were planned; bubble wrap art, t-shirt design, hand print art, and improv. The students all loved the different pieces of  art. In the afternoon we brought the students to the university to take part in different activities. The first part of the afternoon was the students getting a tour of the university. The rest of the afternoon had lots of different pieces of art, we had an area for modelling clay, and one for making different creative things out of plates and Styrofoam balls. We also had two different paint stations set up, a comic strip area and a Popsicle stick colouring place. The kids all loved the day and asked repeatedly if we could come back next weekend. I wish that we were able to come back more often, but other schools get to take part in project connect.

Project Connect is a lot of work, it is stressful and at times I wish that we just donated money to causes rather than organize our own event. But once the day is actually happening, it is so rewarding. The students have so much fun, and the whole experience is educational for me as a teacher, who takes this as a chance to see what classroom management techniques work, and what doesn’t. Volunteering is great, but being able to make my volunteering impact what I do as a teacher makes it even better.

My First Ever English Lesson- Pre-internship day 6

Today I taught my first ever English lesson. Surprisingly it went better than I thought it would. I started with a presentation reviewing the figures of speech, was not much of a review since most of the students did not remember anything from it being taught before. One thing that I would have changed in my presentation was the way I laid it out, I had the slides set out with the term, definition and examples. I should have had the term appear first, had the students try to define the term, than have the term appear, have the students think of examples and than have the examples I thought of appear on the board.  The next part of the lesson was to have the students find different figures of speech in one of two poems (A Thunderstorm by Archibald Lampford or Hurricane by Callum). In the future I would  only use the Hurricane poem, having students work on two different poems created confusions for both the students and the teachers. With these two changes the lesson would have ran much smoother. My target that I chose for the was class engagement, based on the cooperating teachers response I feel that I achieved this in my lesson today. One week left of Pre-internship part one, I am both sad to be done but excited to done another semester.

Science class with the Grade 5/6 room- Pre-internship Day 5

This week was very different from other weeks because the daily schedule was changed since the students did not have class for 3 consecutive days. This meant that our cooperating teacher taught science for the majority of the day. Amy and I were trying to step out of our comfort zone by teaching a 5/6 class rather than our normal 7/8 class. It did not take us very long to question this decision, not only did we know NOTHING about the class, we did not know what they already understood about the topic. We were to teach about the body system using outcome HB5.3, we did not know what terms they talked about, or how in-depth they went into some topics. Eventually we decided to do stations that would focus on a wide range of understandings. Our first station was watching a short video and answer questions, the video was a good length but their were too many questions for students to answer in 6 minutes. The second station was labeling different bones of the human body, using sticky notes and one of  the students as a model. The sticky notes did not sticky to moving people very well, and the students were not familiar with any of the terms that we used. In the future I would have a laminated skeleton, and laminated terms that could be attached with sticky tack. The third station was using the nervous system, students would throw a ball and focus on different senses that they used, these senses were prompted by questions such has what are you thinking before you throw the ball, what is your body doing, what are your eyes seeing, etc. The final station was having the students focus on muscles through doing physical activity and reflecting on how their body felt afterwards. Stations 3 and 4 went really well, it would have been nice to have more room to spread the students out while they were doing the activities. The lesson went overall, pretty good, we wrapped up with a think, pair, share about how could the three body systems work together to kick a ball which a lot of students responded well to.

Besides the teaching of our lesson, I found the day went pretty smooth. At the start of the day the students had to work on their portfolios, where they had to chose one needs work example and one good example for English, Math and a choice subject. Instantly Amy and I noticed the dynamic of how it was set up, with the focus only being with those two subjects. Students found creating portfolios a little frustrating,  some of them did not have work that they were really proud of, and some did not have anything to show that needed improvement. For some students a 90 was needs improvement and others a 80 was a good example. Seeing the different connections that students made to their work and the different expectations they had for themselves was really interesting. It gave me an opportunity to see what some students are capable of, which gave me new ways to build relationships with the students.