Personal Identity and Teacher Identity

It’s the beginning of a new school year, which means I should probably start blogging again!

A topic we talked about in one of our classes this week is whether or not personal identity and teacher identity should be separated or combined.  On one hand, you can’t change who you are, and on the other, certain aspects like language, casual drinking, etc. need to be separate from school.  I remember thinking it was so strange to see a teacher outside of class when I was in elementary school and high school.  Why did I think this way?  Did I think that teachers did not leave their houses or leave the school?  I think this is because I mainly only got to see their teacher identities, opposed to their personal identities.  So when teachers go out in public, they have to be conscious about how they are acting and thinking.  I have a friend that was doing her internship last year and she was always worried about how she was acting because she saw her students everywhere.  So where do you draw the line when it comes to your personal identity intertwining with your teacher identity?

In an article called, “Sense of Self: Embracing your Teacher Identity” by Carrie Donavon, she mentions, “we employ many of the techniques of actors, but in order to be most effective, our teaching must not be artificial”.  I’m not sure if I agree with a comparison to actors because they are the masters of making people believe anything based on their ability to act out an imaginary situation.  In this way, it it seems that by being an actor, we have to be someone we’re not–someone artificial.  But, as the quote says, we also have to not be artificial.  The standards of how a teacher should look and act is definitely a bump in the discussion of if our two identities should mesh, based on this point.  Especially as a new teacher, educators are very conscious about how they are portraying themselves, and they may forget to bring in their own personal qualities into the classroom because they are trying to become the “perfect teacher” and they are trying to avoid conflict.

The activities outside of work are another thing.  Obviously, teachers should not be heavily drinking or swearing in public, but are there other things that we need to avoid doing? Based on the stories I’ve heard about teachers going out in public, they have to go to extreme measures to even have a casual drink.  Do we need to avoid going out in public in fear of our words becoming misconstrued or our decisions looked down upon?  If a teacher goes out with his/her child and a parent of one of his/her students disagrees with their parenting style, will that affect their professional image?  I feel like every personal glimpse into a teacher’s life seems like the end of the world and that is strange to me.  Obviously, teachers are humans, too.  They have personal lives and a life in the classroom.

What do you think about this issue about separating teacher identity and personal identity?  Do you think they should be completely separate or have a healthy balance of the two?

Curriculum as Becoming

Becky and I decided to create a puppet-like stop motion video for our digital story!  We debated a lot of options before we stuck to this idea.  One idea in particular was that we were going to create a song or a poem out of the tweets our classmates sent over the semester.  This became difficult because the #ecs200 hashtag didn’t show all of the tweets.  We ended up basing our story on the things we tweeted throughout the semester as a guideline.  This was our first experience with stop motion, so it was quite nerve wracking at first, but I think it turned out great!  You can tell in the beginning that it was more of a puppet-style type and near the end, it was more of a stop motion video, although the entire video was stop motion.  I realized that stop motion is very time consuming and requires a lot of work!  We first started out using an app called “Stop Motion Studio”, but then we just took pictures on my iPhone and transferred them onto iMovie through iPhoto!  I hope you enjoy the video!  We definitely worked very hard to finish it!

Building a Community of Learners

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I started my blog a year ago, but I never posted anything about educational issues, thoughts or ideas.  The purpose of my blog was originally just to have a place to express what I was thinking.  It was a great way to organize my thoughts and I found it be very therapeutic.  If I wanted to rant about something or get something off of my chest, I knew that I could express myself through my blog.  For an example, here is my first post.  Being a shy and awkward person, blogging was a great way for me to voice my opinion.  It’s amazing to see how my writing has changed and I truly believe that blogging has contributed to my increased confidence and my ability to voice my opinion in public over the past year.

Being connected to people all over the world through blogging is very interesting.  It shows that people do read and care about what you have to say.  The blogging activities we went through in this class were very beneficial to introduce many people to the idea of building a Personal Learning Network.  We were able to post blog posts, comment on other posts and critically respond to other comments.  Doing this on a smaller scale is a wonderful starting point in order to learn how to reach a larger audience.  I really enjoyed how we were asked to comment on the blogs of our peers during seminars, especially since we were encouraged to pose thoughtful questions and positive responses.  An example of a thoughtful response by one of my peers is Kari Davis’ comment.  She said something positive about my post and she also posed a question that really made me think about my response back.  Having a well thought out comment on your blog post really shows that the person is engaged and it’s also wonderful to get feedback on your writing.

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Whenever I got around to commenting on someone’s blog, I had to take a while to really think about what I wanted to say, which I think is a good thing because that means that their blog post made me think.  I enjoyed reading everyone else’s posts because you get to see and understand issues from multiple perspectives.  Some of the things I read were so interesting because I never thought of some of the ideas my peers were discussing.  The way people in our class chose to represent and frame their discussion on their posts really amazed me.  For example, for the post on standardized testing, Eriko Parker chose to search the definition of “standard” and frame her discussion on the startling result.  In this way, I think it is very important and beneficial to read the opinions of other educators because the posts of others will always make you think about your own ideas and maybe those new ideas will help you in the future.  Reading from various blogs will also make you see an issue from a whole new perspective and light.

commenting on post

Through my inquiry project this semester, I learned a very interesting feature with WordPress.  I thought I knew everything about the world of WordPress through my explorations before, but was I ever wrong!  I found out that you could have multiple administrators for a WordPress blog.  This feature is amazing because this could be a great way for educators to collaborate to create a blog.  An image that comes to mind is kind of like an educational magazine, but in blog form.  Multiple perspectives could be portrayed on one blog instead of searching through different blogs.  This could also promote up and coming bloggers so that they can build a larger readership.  The members of an existing blogger’s PLN could possibly read the posts of a new blogger on this collaborative piece and become a part of the new person’s PLN!

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I believe that our experiences through blogging will encourage us to keep on reading and commenting on blog posts we find interesting in the future.

TWITTER

I joined Twitter in 2011, but I hardly ever used it.  When I did, it was mainly for keeping up with what my favourite celebrities were doing.  As you can see from my very first tweet, I was quite clueless about how to use twitter and hashtags.Screenshot at Apr 02 11-25-37

It wasn’t until last semester in ECMP 355 that I actually started using Twitter for educational purposes.  Since last semester was kind of like my introduction to using Twitter as an educational tool, I was not as comfortable with using it yet.  In ECS 210, I feel a lot more comfortable with sharing my thoughts on Twitter because I have used it quite a bit now.  I also feel comfortable with sharing my thoughts on Twitter because the people in our ECS 210 class are great with creating conversations on Twitter and supporting the opinions of their peers.  Having your tweets retweeted or favourited is an awesome feeling and it lets you know that your peers and fellow educators are supporting what you are expressing.

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Posting relevant and interesting things onto Twitter and knowing the right hashtags to use are very important to branching out to other educators, which is something I’m still learning to do.  I have started actually looking at educational blogs and tweeting out the blog posts I found interesting, which is a new thing for me.

techhacksI’ve also realized the importance of commenting, retweeting and favouriting tweets of others.  This creates a great support system for educators and it also gives others a chance to give feedback on someone’s work.  An example I think of from class was when Raquel Bellefleur posted her slam poetry assignment.  She received encouraging comments from many people, including me, on Twitter and I can tell that she really appreciated the responses of others.

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Check out Raquel’s blog!

I also found it very interesting to look through the tweets that my classmates would share during classes.  It was wonderful to see the multiple perspectives and the key messages they got out of our presentations.  I’ve always had difficulties with creating conversations on Twitter and I really didn’t understand it, but through this class and other past classes, I’ve realized that it’s really easy to create a thread of conversations.  I would include an image, but Twitter wouldn’t allow me to view some of the past tweets that were sent out during the year, which brings me to the thing that I didn’t enjoy about Twitter.  I tried to look back on some interesting conversations that my classmates were having when Claire Kreuger came into our classroom and also when Grant Urban presented.  When I searched the #ecs210 hashtag, hardly any of my classmates tweets showed up on the day Claire Kreuger came and no tweets were visible from Grant Urban’s presentation.  It frustrated me to say the least.  Does anyone know why this happened?

 

GOOGLE DOCS 

I’ve realized that a great tool for educators is GoogleDocs.  For my inquiry project, my group members and I used a Googledoc to organize our thoughts and to share ideas with each other.  It served as a great way for us to have all of our information in one place and it was easy to take information off of it to work on the different parts of our lesson plan and our online space.  I think GoogleDocs would be a great tool for teachers to collaborate and provide feedback.  If a few teachers want to work on an idea together or create a document of some sort, they all have the option to edit and make changes whenever they want.  With that being said, you have to make sure you trust the collaborators because you don’t want to lose important information.  Google Docs is also a great way to share a document online.  Most often, when sharing a document from Microsoft Word, you have to provide a folder for someone to download.  This can become quite inconvenient because downloading can sometimes be slow and tedious.  With a GoogleDoc, you can see an online version, which makes it that much more accessible for people in your PLN to view.  With the different editing tools, you can share the document with all different kinds of privacy settings. google docs

 

FINAL REFLECTIONS

Overall, I think this was a great class and a great introduction into what a PLN is and how to build our PLN.  I feel like the group of educators in our class were very supportive and involved in the learning process of each other.  I think that is the whole point to building a PLN: creating a support network.  If we need advice or feedback, we can rely on the members of our PLN to offer suggestions.  If we want to seek out new ideas or gain a new understanding of an issue, we can read the blog posts or the tweets of the people we are connected to.  It’s wonderful that we can connect to people all over the world, instead of only connecting to the people we are around.  It’s important to connect to those people as well, but creating relationships on a global level will offer you even more support and insight on particular issues.  People from different parts of the world may carry different and unique experiences and sharing these experiences can be very beneficial.  I think that the knowledge we now carry from this class will become very consequential in the future and it will allow us to build a larger support system.  It’s great that we will be able to carry these skills with us as we finish our degrees and also later on after we get our teaching degrees.

Standardized Testing Does Not Encourage Diversity

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Standardized testing… What a topic!  I can only remember taking a few in my schooling years, but I do remember how frustrating it was to take one.  I briefly remember one in Elementary school and I found it to be really difficult because the language was different than what I was used to in my classroom.

Standardized testing goes completely against our “mosaic” multicultural view that Canada is supposed to have.  Bill Bigelow explains, “Multiculturalism attempts to uncover ‘the histories and experiences of people who have been left out of the curriculum'” (pg. 170).  With testing, aren’t we leaving out a large number of people? The system assumes that all students should learn and approach learning in the exact same way, which is far from reality.  Students have different learning styles, experiences, learning needs, etc.  If a student was not originally from Canada, they are going to hold different experiences, which will reflect in the way that they learn.  Bill Bigelow also writes, “Curriculum standardization is, as Berlak indicates, a way to silence dissident voices” (pg. 170).  This is so true because the tests are going to obviously reflect the dominant “common sense” ideals that are evident in our area.  This is not beneficial to students that don’t identify with the dominant way of thinking.  It’s almost like we are raising our students to become robots.

As a teacher, we are supposed to take into account the interests of our students.  How are we supposed to do that when we need to worry about preparing our students for standardized testing?  It’s not going to have questions for students to relate to and it’s not going to create a positive experience for all students.  The benefit of the teacher making a form of assessment–perhaps a test–is that the teacher knows his/her students and they can implement the language used in lessons, make relatable connections, etc.  In a standardized test, the language could be far off from what the students can understand.  Treating students as all the same is never beneficial.  We need to celebrate the diversity in our students and making them take these tests will not encourage this.

It’s almost like teachers are encouraged to treat their students as a prize or a measure of their ability.  Standardized tests do negatively affect students, but teachers are also very pressured to “produce” students to be what they are “supposed to be”.  In this way, we are implementing a factory model because students are trained and conditioned to prepare for these scheduled tests.  Students are all so diverse, whether that is from their race, gender, experiences, opinions, learning styles, learning needs, etc.  Instead, students will become subject to a ranking system from a life of standardized testing.  These tests do not adequately measure our students abilities or teacher abilities.  Humans are capable of anything as long as they are in the learning environment that encourages to their ways of learning.  We’re throwing out our goals of social justice out of the window with standardized testing!

How do you feel about standardized testing?  Do you have any negative or positive experiences with them?

Women as Objects

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This will just be a quick little post, but I’ve been meaning to share my thoughts about this topic.  A couple of weeks ago, one of my Facebook friends shared the photo above onto her profile.  She used the picture as a form of empowerment, but it had the opposite effect on me.  I think this picture is further objectifying women, even if it was intended as an empowering statement.  The quote is pretty much saying, “Women are cars”.  The fact that there are women in the picture that look like they are from the fifties also gives me the impression that we are expressing the ideals from that time, which was not a time for women to shine.  You see so many commercials, magazine ads, billboards, etc. with uncomfortable images of women as objects.  For example, here are a couple of images where a women literally become a part of a product: 

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Even though the first image is not really painful to look at, I believe that it has hidden messages in it that makes it very oppressive to women.  I just feel like people are finding comfort and power in the wrong ways.  Yes, it is great to be proud of who you are, but comparing yourself to an object is not helping your situation very well.

I’m curious about other opinions on this matter.  Did you feel the same way I did? Do you feel empowered by this picture?

 

We Teach Who We Are

We teach who we are

 

*I sketched this picture to represent the quote, “teaching holds a mirror to the soul”

In a previous lecture, I remember hearing, “we teach who we are”.  This idea is also expressed in Parker Palmer’s, “The Heart of a Teacher“.  Palmer writes, “As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together” and “teaching holds a mirror to the soul”.  To me, this reflects a connection between the teacher and their students.  Thinking of this in Palmer’s terms makes the experience sound very personal and intimate because it’s a transfer of your own values and teaching.  I think that this has a similar effect, also, if you switched the role of the teacher to the students.  Children and youth have an amazing ability to teach you new and intriguing things everyday and the things that they choose to share is an extension from their own thinking and a reflection of themselves.

These words really resonated with me and I never thought about how true this is!  It made me think about past teachers and professors I have come across over the years.  I’ve wondered about why certain educators teach the way they do and I’ve realized it’s just because they are portraying themselves in the classroom.  Since no one is the same, different teaching styles and attitudes will emerge.  I’ve had silly teachers, serious teachers, laid back teachers, you name it!  If an educator is having a bad day, it is reflected in their teaching.  If they are excited, then the classroom environment changes.  If emotion can have this huge effect in the classroom, imagine how views on social justice will be reflected.  If we aren’t careful about the messages in the hidden curriculum, we could potentially raise students to be racist, sexist or generally oppressive.

Do you have an example of how a teacher’s identity is expressed in the classroom?  Has there been any problems with incorporating anti-oppressive teaching?

Addressing Gender, Sexuality and Race in Our Identities

We created an autobiography for ECS 210 and we are now looking back on them and reflecting on what we included and what we did not.  We were asked: “What does it mean that you did not address your gender, or your sexuality or your racialization as important or constituitive of your identity?”  I did talk about the privilege I receive from being white and also from being Aboriginal, but I did not mention my gender or my sexuality.  Now that I think about it, I’m quite shocked that I didn’t mention the fact that I was female in my paper.  I have been a feminist for a few years now and I feel empowered being a woman. I think this comes directly from my assumption that these facts are “common sense” based on how I write and the dominant narrative.  This sounds absolutely horrible, but the message of this “common sense” model is definitely not what I intended to put across in my paper.  This is very interesting to think about because Kumashiro writes, “the goal is not to rid our classroom of harmful hidden messages since such a goal is unattainable” (pg. 41).  I feel the pressure already of saying the wrong things or portraying an oppressive idea through the hidden curriculum, but Kumashiro is suggesting that our students need to develop a critical lens to make sense of these hidden messages.  This allows students to think deeper about what they are being taught and it also encourages them to bring up questions that you may not have thought of before.

Name: Ashley

Gender: Female

Race: White, First Nations

Sexuality: Heterosexual

These are not typically the things we find out about people when we first met them.  This partially stems from the fact that a lot of us do not share our life stories right from the beginning.  I have to feel comfortable around someone before I share personal things about myself.  This might be a result of the fact that I feel better in my comfort zone and that I’m reluctant to go outside of that zone.  Kumashiro writes,  “After all, our hidden lessons demonstrate how it is that oppression can play out in our lives unnoticed and unchallenged, and our lenses of analysis demonstrate why it is that we often desire making sense of the world in only certain, comforting ways” (pg. 41).  This quote stuck out at me while reading this because I need to really think about how I make sense of the world and why I choose to live in more comforting ways.  The only way I will truly become comfortable is by doing the things that make me uncomfortable.

How do you identify yourself to others? How do you encourage students to use this critical lens that Kumashiro mentions?