“Just don’t go gay”- a conversation with a child 

It’s been a very long time since I have taken the time to blog. My life this summer has become so busy and exhausting, which is how I imagine a teacher’s life feels. I have been working two jobs and one of them is at a day camp. This job is really testing my ability to interact with children and how to deal with difficult situations, which is essential for the field I’m going into.  I’m also gaining skills with collaborating with coworkers, whether that is coming up with an activity together or asking for advice on what works for individual children that they have worked with. I didn’t make this post to talk about what I have been doing for my job, however.

I wrote this blog post because I wanted to talk about a conversation that I had with a child the other day. It started out with the child asking me if I was married and I responded by saying no and that I was not in any rush to be married. The child responded by saying, “just don’t go gay”. I then asked the child why they thought this way and explained that we need to be kind to everyone, even if their beliefs are different. I’ve thought about this situation quite a bit over the past couple of days and I wonder if I should say more. In my past classes, we’ve talked about social justice and how we can spread awareness and encourage acceptance. I’ve been so confident that I could do it, also, but I felt awkward in that situation. I can’t just change this child’s beliefs that they have had throughout their life in their catholic household.

So I guess I’m making this post to ask others about what they would have done in this situation. How would you talk about social justice if it goes totally against their religious beliefs?

Building a Community of Learners

WORDPRESS

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.

blog comment

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!

wordpressadmin

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.

twitterRTandfav

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.

commentingontweets

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

standardised-testing-1

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?

How Stories Shape Our Lives

Part one of my ECS 210 assignment was to summarize 10 articles in “The New Teacher Book” and part two was to critically respond to the resonances and the dissonances in one or more articles.

Part One 

Part Two:

I chose to reflect on the article called, “Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club” by Rita Tenorio.  As a child, I was raised around people of all colours, including my own family.  One side of my family is mainly Aboriginal, another side is mainly white, my neighbours were Chinese, and a few of our family friends were Jamaican.  I realized, through this article, that a lot of children were not exposed to as many diverse people as I was.  The article says that, “we have to acknowledge that we live in a racist society and that children typically mirror the attitudes of that society”.   Although a lot has changed from when our parents were kids, people that are my age still tend to be racist, so I hope that through anti oppressive teaching, the next generation will be even more accepting of differences.

Reflecting back on my schooling in elementary school, I realized that we never really did talk about race and differences.  We learned about First Nations history, but we did not recognize physical differences between the classroom and the larger community.  I feel like education was more about creating a classroom where everyone was seen the same and treated the same.  Now, we are focusing more on how we are different and why we think that way.  I think a classroom that encourages diversity is way more effective than thinking that everyone is the same because none of us are the same.  We have different family lives, different skin colours, different hobbies, different learning abilities, etc.  The list goes on!  Whenever I had to draw a character in elementary school, I would always colour them peach.  I even referred to this pencil crayon as the “skin-coloured” one.  I find this quite interesting since I am far away from being “peach” coloured.  Even when I was in the older grades of elementary school, I still drew white characters and wrote about white characters.  If we learned about our differences in the classroom, I might have drawn a Native American person or an African American person.  My dad refers to me as “Heinz 57” because I have so many different layers of culture and race; I am Aboriginal, Ukrainian, French, Scottish (I think) and so many more that I can’t keep track of.  Most of us today do not identify as one thing because we have so many different components of ourselves.

We watched this video in ECE 325 the other day and I think it is very relevant to what I’m talking about in this blog post.  It brings these anti oppressive ideas into action.  They compare skin colour and hair textures, they have conversations about different races and they build a tolerance to all people.  The part that I really liked was when the teacher showed her students pictures of animals dressed up as Native Americans and actual pictures of Native Americans.  The students were able to pick out the stereotypical attributes in the animals, like the fact that not all Native Americans wear feathers on their heads.

One of the activities the children did in this article was first to put their hands onto the table to recognize the different colours of the students.  Later on, they would mix paints together to try and match their own skin colours.  A student in this article said, “We put black, white, red and yellow [together].  I like the colour of my skin”.  After reading this activity, I decided to try and do the same with my skin colour.  I used five coloured pencil crayons: Arizona Topaz, Roan Red, Soft Peach, Cotton White and Chestnut.  I was amazed at how many colours I had to use in order to somewhat match my own skin colour.  As mentioned before, if I ever had to draw myself, I would automatically take out the peach-coloured pencil crayon.  I find the fact that some people refer to themselves as pink, brown or black is quite interesting now that I have read this article because based on the experiences written in the article and on my own experience, we are not all one colour.  Even people from the same racial groups have different colours because we are not all the same.

DSCN1002ScanDSCN1006

A “bump” that I thought of while reading this is the content in an anti bias classroom may challenge the beliefs of families.  I know of a lot of parents that are still not accepting of different races and sexualities, especially the parents of the children of my generation.  I feel like they have these old fashioned ideals from when they were younger and it is definitely hard to try and make them see and appreciate how far we have come with the acceptance and encouragement of all people.  Some of us may have been influenced by our parents to think in these oppressive ways.  I think the problem I would have is how to approach a family that has such different views from you.  Both parties would have completely opposing views and you cannot just compromise on issues of racism and sexism.  I do not want to force my ways onto these families, but at the same time, I want to build this anti oppressive classroom where everyone is on the same page.  This may be an unrealistic dream because there will be some opposed to the ways I want to structure my classroom.

Another thing that conflicts me is the fact that not all schools receive as much support as this one does.  In the article, “Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year”, the teacher felt like an outsider because he tried to change the ways in how the school decorates for Christmas because not all students celebrate Christmas.  A lot of staff members were angered by this and thus did not support or encourage this individual.  This is all because people today are very sensitive about their traditional and usual ways of doing things.  In order to feel comfortable with teaching controversial issues and collaborating with others, you need to build a support system of educators.  Without this, you may feel alone and terrified to create an anti oppressive classroom and curriculum.  I’m scared that I would get hired in a school with educators that did not support my ideas or without anyone to talk to for advice, especially as a first year teacher.

In conclusion, I think that including issues of race and recognizing differences is very important to have in a classroom.  These children will grow up with different ways of thinking and will be able to recognize why everyone is different.  I think it is also beneficial for adults to educate themselves on anti oppressive teaching because it has been very valuable learning to me and several of my classmates.  In the video I posted above, there was a scene where a child asked what was wrong with a woman that was in a wheelchair.  The mother quickly apologized and ran off.  I think this is a perfect example of how not educating children on differences can result in these awkward moments.  The mother could have, instead, explained to her daughter why wheelchairs are needed or maybe the woman in the wheelchair would have been okay with explaining what happened.  Having conversations with children about differences will encourage acceptance and will open their eyes to the fact that our differences are what make us unique.

Learning ASL: Final reflections and Progress

Throughout this semester, I have taken on the challenge to learn American Sign Language for my learning project in ECMP 355.  I have learned terms mostly from a series of Youtube videos from the channel “Sign Language 101“, and “Smarthands“.  Both of these Youtube channels provide great education and resources to help you learn ASL.  Sign Language 101 is a very informal and personable instruction based learning tool, while Smarthands is geared more towards a younger audience with songs, dances and children instruction.  These are both very good for learning terminology.  I have also recently used Lifeprint, which was very beneficial to my learning.  As I mentioned in a previous post, they provide lessons for language learning, which includes videos, descriptions and pictures of hand movements.  They also recognize different ways of using signs and alternate ways of signing.

It was interesting to rewatch all of my videos to reflect upon my personal growth throughout the semester.  I liked the fact that I tried to include different ways of presenting my content.  I did tutorial videos, voice over videos, songs, a collaboration video and even a silent movie type of video.  My confidence level in front of the camera has definitely gone up, which was one of my own personal goals.

I started out my videos by doing voiceovers or signing songs because I wasn’t comfortable with speaking in front of the camera while filming myself.

In my video about pronouns, I was very nervous because this was my first video actually speaking to the camera.  Note the weird eye contact and fidgeting in the beginning!

My videos on colours and family were somewhat more confident because I had a friend with me, but I still feel like it was a step for becoming more comfortable.

This is the last video I taped myself and spoke at the same time, and I really do believe that my confidence level has gone up in it.  I think my instructional methods can improve, but I think I have more volume and confidence in my voice!

Fingerspelling has been a part of my journey in every topic that I have learned over the semester, which has improved the speed and accuracy of my fingerspelling.  You can definitely see progress from my first time signing my name in my videos.

I think another big improvement with my ASL learning was that I was able to formulate a couple of sentences in a conversation, with the help from Lifeprint!

I was going to sign a song in the end, but I found it to be very difficult because I’m not as advanced with formulating proper sentences yet and I don’t want to get confused with Signed English.  When I was looking at different tutorials for songs in ASL, the people were using signed English, which is not proper American Sign Language.  I felt like it would defeat the purpose of my learning if I learned how to sign according to English.  This journey has been exciting and educational and I plan on continuing my learning of ASL and maybe become fluent in it!

Learning ASL: Conversation!

I took my learning from my lesson from Lifeprint and created a conversation video with myself!  I feel like it is kind of like a silent movie!  Meet Ashley and Amy!  My costume changes are brilliant, I know!

Learning ASL: Lifeprint

While I was looking for new resources for learning ASL, I came across Lifeprint.  I’m sad that I didn’t find it before!  The site provides various free lessons, with short videos demonstrating each sign.  The great thing about it is the fact that they teach you how to put words into sentences right away.  I’ve been learning mostly vocabulary through my journey this semester, so learning a couple sentences was great!  For each lesson, they provide the short video, pictures that show each movement, and an explanation of each sign.  For example, I learned how to ask if someone is deaf.

deaf1deaf2deaf3

Handshape: index finger
Location: Starting location:  In general it starts on the cheek near the ear but occasionally you will see it start near the mouth (on the cheek). Ending location:  On the cheek near the mouth.
Orientation:  If done with the right hand, the right palm can face either left or somewhat forward.
Movement:  Small arc.
Variation: If you do this sign while puffing out the cheek, with a larger arc it means, “Deaf, and proud of it!”
Description: Touch your finger on your cheek near your ear, then move your finger in a small arch and touch it near the mouth. Remember, start and end the sign on the cheek. Do not do it on the ear or mouth, but rather near them.

To ask the question, “Are you deaf?”, you do the sign for deaf and point to the person you are asking.  You literally sign, “Deaf you?”.  When you ask questions in ASL, you have to furrow your brows for questions using who, what, why and where and you have to have your brows up for other questions.

I’ve been learning from this site for a while and I will continue to blog the things that I have been learning for the next couple of days!