For my last journal reflection I want to reflect on the last educative experience we had as a class. From the moment Bing introduced his past educative experience to our class of the silent walk, I became curious about the idea. Last class, I got to experience the silent walk. When we started making our way out of the building, I realized how difficult it was going to be not to say anything for the remaining time. At certain times, it was easy to get used to the idea of not talking because no one else was, but it was strange not to be exchanging conversation when so many people surround you. As an introvert, I value and cherish silence. I find that it allows me to observe and listen what other people have to say, which often makes it difficult for me to offer my opinion. However, what stood out for me the most in the walk is how much voice it gave to my inner thoughts. Usually, when I take a walk in the woods it will be with somebody else, so it was interesting to see how silence is acceptable in specific environments. Even hikers, or cyclists who walked past us could not help but notice our silence. Accepting silence in a different setting for me was a good opportunity to both meditate and reflect. Even though I tried to keep my mind on the walk, it was difficult not to think about other events that occur in my life. For example, stressing out a little bit about my final exams. It is interesting to experience the power of silence. Especially when it is given to you for a long period of time. This made me realize how little time I give to myself to experience silence for a prolonged period of time. I feel like silence is a component that gets overlooked, and needs to be covered up with noise or music. I cannot describe in enough detail how much I realized about myself as a person in just a brief period of time in class. It is interesting to hear my inner voice make observations of trees, and gets carried away into deeper and deeper thoughts. Overall, I came to the realization of how valuable silent walks are for physical, emotional, and mental health. By giving the self quiet time it is amazing and a new experience to feel independence. In relation to the quote we read, “be prepared to leave your family, your wife and your children to go on a walk”. From this ambiguous quote, I interpreted it as experiencing independence and an experience that takes you on an inner journey. One that others cannot identically experience, and one that is uniquely your own experience.
This week I came across an article that discusses the topic of student-centered education for my i-search. From past experiences researching student-centered education I find that author of this article, Luba Vangelova, takes a more drastic approach in student-centered education than most educators. Like most student-centered educators, Vangelova’s core beliefs is that schools should be an environment that supports the dreams of students, and helps students achieve these goals. However, what is interesting to me is how much he questions the curriculum’s utility in student education. He, in turn, proposes the idea that student interests should be a central concern in education and should shape their curriculum. He strives for an education that offers “children autonomy, trust that they want to learn, and let them become owners of their own enterprise”. As a future teacher, I hope to take part on a student-centered education; however, it makes me curious about how the structure of schools and education would look like if education assumed the student-centered education Vangelo discusses. Since it is a system that is different to our own, it is hard to imagine or picture how this system would be adopted. I think my fear regarding such a different system stems from how incomprehensible it appears, as we are currently implemented to a seemingly different system. I agree with Vangelo’s belief regarding a shift for students taking ownership over their learning. However, it makes me inquire how permissive or non-permissive the system would become. Although Vangelo’s “ideal” system raises a lot of questions and concerns, I would not altogether dismiss the potentiality it has to offer. Instead, I think we should consider and explore the different opinions people have to offer in order to craft an education that is most suitable for our future generations.
As I further into my research for my i-search topic of “Student-centered Classrooms” I came across a video that neatly summarizes student-centered learning. This powerful video brings awareness about the current outdated classroom system that is embedded into our education system. The video notes that approximately 50% of students are getting by through the traditional classroom structure. We are defining school by what we know, but have not tried to find a system that will improve and benefit our students. The video highlights that through student-centered learning, students are able to experience learning in a way that is personalized and such that involves the student is his or her own learning. There are 4 principles that come with student-centered learning. The first and probably the most contentious one is “learning is personalized”. This includes involvement from the teacher. By creating strong teacher-student relationships, students feel their teacher is a person they can trust. The teacher in turn gets to know their students more so that he or she can adapt their teaching strategies in a manner that benefits his or her pupils. The teacher sets a structure in the classroom that allows the students to personalize their learning and meet the expectations so that they can exceed. Further, when learning is personalized teachers are able to nurture to each of their students learning based on their level of competency. The second principle is “competency-based”. This principle highlights that all learning occurs at different rates. Instead of generalizing every students learning according to lesson plans, a teacher can do student-assessment activities that can determine what stage each student is at of their own learning. From here they can form small groups of students who are at similar learning stages and become more personal with these students to find out how the teacher can help. The third principle “learning can happen anytime and anywhere”. Learning is often confined to a school building, but learning can in fact occur at any given point. Lastly, the last principle touches on the subject of “students take ownership”. I think a common misconception in student-centered classrooms is that it is often assumed that the students are completely in control and the teacher plans around the students interests. However, it does not imply that there is no structure or control from the teacher. Student-centered classrooms instead find a medium that gives students the freedom to take ownership in their own learning. The video encourages teachers to make classroom decisions with students and discuss criteria so that students feel like they are included in their own learning. Overall, student-centered learning provides an opportunity for students to be supported in their school system. It allows for school to be a place that gives them confidence and support from teachers wherein they can succeed.
I was drawn to the article “How do you know your students ‘Got it’?” by Starr Sackstein for my journal entry this week. I think it addresses one of the most fundamental questions a teacher can ask him or herself after a lesson: what did the students learn? (If anything at all). This is a question worth asking after every single class as a teacher. It is not only an effective way to check whether you met your own goals as a teacher, but also, how much students are learning. Sackstein addresses that although teachers most often feel confident that the their lesson plan was delivered as planned, they cannot guarantee that all the students learned what was intended for them to learn (Sackstein, 2015). Since all students learn at different rates and in different forms, this method can be very useful in distinguishing the types of learning that took place. This can be done through simple and quick activities at the end of class. Some of the ideas Sackstein brings up are exit slips, or reflection time at the end of class that allow for the discussion of personal learning experiences. This is of mutual benefit for both the teachers and the students. For the reasons that teachers get feedback on how students are learning and to determine which students have reached proficiency apart from the ones need guidance to reach proficiency of a task. Further, students can benefit from the task of reflective thinking about their learning. This in turn can allow them to determine what their overall strengths and weaknesses are. In addition, the act of reflective practice allows them to understand what steps they can further take to improve their learning. Altogether, the process of checking how much students learned after class is a beneficial activity for both teacher and student assessment.
For this week’s second journal reflection I want to talk about today’s educative experience. Today I felt like I was out of my comfort zone even before the class began, as the class was at the downtown location. As soon as Phoebe went through the class instructions I become anxious about the educative experience. One of the things that made it easier for me to engage in this experience was how easy it was to get along with my partner, Deena. We were both on the same page and were willing to give this experience a try. When we were walking to the bus stop I just remember thinking in panic “how are we going to go through all of these?” However, when we got on the bus we started a conversation with a lady on the bus, and were surprised by how nice and willing she was to talk to us. This in turn made me feel more confident about the experience and made me realize that it was not so bad. Following this we sparked up conversations with other people and followed the instructions. At this point, I felt more at ease and came to the realization that it is not as bad as it seems. One of the things that stood out to me the most about this activity was how many people were uneasy, threatened or alarmed by seeing Deena walking blindfolded. In addition I felt like people were shaming us for having done something they consider as socially unacceptable.
Stepping out of my comfort zone brought out a new perspective to my life. I feel like we are very conformed to societal norms and expectations that behaviours that are outside this comfort zone make people feel uncomfortable. This is evident through my own initial reaction to the activity and from the responses we received from other people. Additionally, I got to experience the prejudice and shame certain people elicit when they display behaviour that is recognized as “socially unacceptable”. This occurred when I sat in the garbage bag on the floor. I felt that even though I was trying to make eye contact with other people and read their expressions, people just pretended I was not a part of their world. Also, I thought that they would think I am a teenager that “ran away from home”. I got to learn that we all form these sorts of assumptions as a form to justify odd behaviour but are not open-minded enough to give people the benefit of the doubt.
Overall, I found that stepping out of my comfort zone pushes me to be someone that feels free, one that society may not want me to be, and one that may become labeled. This is evident in classrooms today by how we perceive grades. Each student is judged and labeled by the grades they receive, and not by the progress or initiative they take. We are looking for the students who get “A’s” and form negative assumptions about students who get “F’s”.
Lastly, I discovered a new perspective that is different to my own. This new-found perspective has motivated me to stop forming judgments and assumptions about other people and to be more open-minded and optimistic! At the end of the day your toughest critic is yourself.
As I further into my i-search “student-center classrooms” research, I found a news article that discusses and reflects upon Platt High School’s most recent advancement towards a student-center curriculum. One of the central components they have incorporated in the curriculum is technology. It was interesting to read about the different types of technology that the classroom has adopted in the classroom. To name a few, these include computers, laptops, cellphones, and iPads. One of my main concerns with technology is the use of personal cellphones is how can teachers guarantee their students are being productive and keeping up with their work? For example, through the use of one’s personal phone one has other personal app’s such as “Instagram” that are easily accessible. Is there a way to minimize these potential interactions? Would relying on technology sources such as school computers and iPad’s minimize these distractions and prevent students from being tempted to use them?
However, the news article mentions that with this new approach “oddly enough, most of [the students] are not distracted”. Technology offers to different methods from which students can learn. For example, they can research through Twitter, Google, etc. Technology in classrooms is described as a “use for education”.
Another big concern with student-center classrooms is how effective they are in classrooms. The news blog shares this same concern, “Of course giving teenagers this kind of freedom can be a double-edged sword. Some students take advantage or become distracted.” In other words, teachers have to be very diligent when doing lesson plans and have to make sure students are staying on top of their school work.
Since it is hard to keep track of each student’s work every class I think teachers can give out self-assessment worksheets to be done after every class. This way a student is able to explain and provide evidence to their teacher regarding the work that was accomplished in class.
Although, student-center classrooms appear difficult to execute, reading personal experiences from other classrooms such as this one brings new knowledge and possibility to teachers who are considering adopting this type of methods in the classroom. It is through trial and error by which our education system improves!
The book I have chosen for my book review is “I Hate School” by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias. Tobias takes note of the unattractive perception children have toward school. She mentions that school has become the dreaded chore children have to do. This negative perception has turned children who could be active learners to students who are forced to abide and conform to the expectations of a social system.
Tobias writes her book with the beliefs that the school system needs to evolve into a place that supports the needs of diverse children. She stresses that the “one size fits all model” is outdated. Tobias begins her book with the analogy of taking her kids shoe shopping. She does not force her child to squeeze into a tight pair of shoes nor selects baggy shoes. She cannot change her child’s foot but she can instead proceed to find the right pair of shoes that fit her son’s feet comfortably. That is what we have to do with education; we cannot continue to squeeze different kinds of feet to the same pair of shoes. We have to offer alternatives to the student’s that are part of the school system and adopt methods that provide an environment for them to grow and thrive.
Tobias believes that the education system is one that is focused on “outcome based” results. She mentions that schools are deeply focused on making students ones that “succeed” by good grades. The concept of “grades” in school is one that instills fear and insecurities in students. Good grades are seen as the purpose and end-goal of schooling as opposed to learning. Tobias emphasizes that we are conforming all students to think and act in the same manner. But in the end, when these students want to get hired, their employers are looking for unique and authentic qualities that the education system has discouraged to display.
Tobias offers practical applications for parents and teachers, so that they can improve the educational system. Tobias divides her book into four parts that addresses issues in schools that can be improved. The first encompasses the importance of physical environment. Students need to a stimulating environment that enables them to learn. One of the issues mentioned in this part is the time of school, and whether it is the optimal time in which children can learn. The next part of the book is approaching different learning styles. Teachers often teach in their own learning style, however there should be alternatives and other methods that support the needs of those students whose learning styles are different. The third part discusses issues of homework and testing. These are contentious issues that have been largely debated. The last part focuses on why as a community we should strive to change schools and not the children that are part of them.
Overall, Tobias’ beliefs underlie central issues in the educational system today. We want children to be active learners in the classrooms. But in order to benefits our students the most we should first be able to address the question “what is the point of school?”.