Archive for January, 2014

Edu-babble

Posted: January 30, 2014 in Education

joke

*I thought the above caption was funny…it has nothing to do with ‘edu-babble.’*

There are too many buzz words in education. I’ll start there.

One of my most recent pleasures has been sitting down on the weekends with a cup of coffee and reading some blogs about education on my iPad. I am a teacher-geek, well-aware. I like to stay up-to-date with new trends and strategies – though, some blogs and ideas are simply awful. At the end of the day, I’m really only looking to improve as a teacher in any way I can. I like reading about the success stories and even the times where maybe something didn’t quite work out and why. THOSE blogs are more important to me than just another research article written by someone who’s not a teacher. Here’s why:

I have cared deeply for the state of education for a long time, but became engrossed in it while attending teacher’s college. That’s when they really start hitting potential teachers with all of the new buzz words in education or, as we call it, edu-babble. Strategies in education are like the newest trend – what is cool/hip/popular today is highly uncool, unhip, and unpopular tomorrow. Staying ahead of the game is very difficult, as teachers are often pulled in a million different directions (hyperbole). No matter if you are a parent, educator, student, or none of the above, I thought I would list a few of these recent buzz words and provide my five cents worth.

1. Inter-Curricular Education: This is the idea that science, for instance, shouldn’t be treated as a separate subject than, say, geography. In other words, lessons taught in one subject should overlap other subjects to provide interconnectivity. I like the idea, but the follow through can be difficult depending on the courses. Moreover, when two subjects collide wonderfully, it is usually by accident. For example, my colleague’s civics class and my discussion of politicism in Lord of the Flies. 2. Project-Based Learning: This is becoming HUGE in education circles. We are quickly veering away from the days of individual work and are now trying to teach students to work well with others – a very kindergarten-esque concept. The idea is for students to work together to complete a tangible task by taking on a variety of responsibilities. Some subject-areas lend themselves to this concept quite nicely while others, not-so-much. It can be a very successful task if you can get the students to buy into the idea in the first place. 3. 21st-Century Skills: I really just find the term more annoying than anything. This refers to teaching students the “soft skills” – to think, to solve, to make judgments, to communicate, and to collaborate. It’s actually a great idea because I’ve argued in a previous post how incredibly important these skills are…I just don’t like the term. Lame. 4. Flipped Classroom: I tinkered with this idea about 1.5 years ago, which involves creating a series of lessons for students to watch at home and then using class time for course work only. This would be in contrast to using class time for both the learning of material and the demonstrating of material. This goes under the assumption that students want to watch a lecture at home AFTER school hours. Not a chance. My question has always been: What happens to half the students that don’t watch the lecture – what happens the next day in class?

I am all about trying new things and keeping an open mind. At the end of the day, it’s whatever helps to facilitate learning. There are teachers who engage in the act of teaching (where teachers teach and no one learns), and then there are those who teach to achieve learning.

 

 

Deep into the Rabbit Hole

Posted: January 2, 2014 in Education, Humanity

Students, parents, guardians, teachers, admin…we’ve all heard the same scary news: The state of education in Ontario is suffering. University degrees no longer secure graduates with a job, the arts are being cut, and the idea of “success” isn’t changing. Even my friends in fields not having to do with education (specifically, teaching) know that “things are changing” and not for the better. I’ll admit to this: When students are scared by the media telling them that there are no jobs, I’m not too sure what that really means. Are we having difficulty procuring cashier jobs at McDonald’s or is it just that all of the CEO positions are taken? The fact of the matter is that graduates want to be paid what they feel they are worth, so having to work at the local Shoppers or Tim Horton’s seems ridiculous for a recent University graduate. Let me tell you, it’s not. I worked at a night club and Sportchek before I was hired into my first teaching job and even THEN, I taught full time at an elementary school that paid next to nothing. I went in everyday simply because it was a teaching job and it got my “foot in the door.” The downside is this: graduates are living at home longer (sometimes into their late 20’s) simply because of the lack of jobs, but jobs that, specifically, allow one to move out and live comfortably.

I know this much – there are very few teaching jobs. I think we can still blame the lack of retiring teachers for that one and I’m not afraid to say it (type it). Not to mention that Ontario makes it next-to-impossible for new and energized teachers to fill a position. These new and energized teachers must put their time in supply teaching and covering maternity leaves while the old and out-of-touch teachers (who, mostly, couldn’t care less about connecting with the students of today) get to teach and collect that pay check. This, however, will end soon. I am personally witnessing a influx of newer and younger and fresher teachers occupying spaces in schools – it’s nice to see. Sidenote: I work in the private system where the best are hired and continue to strive to be the best to keep their position – it’s competitive and I like that.

Canada, as a whole, was third in sciences, mathematics, and reading (as of 2010) – that’s pretty good. I’ve heard, though, that many elementary schools (and maybe high schools too) are trying to cut the arts (music, drama, art, dance), which are ever-so-important to the creativity and curiosity of a young and developing student. I believe that all students want to learn – they really do. But, as I’ve argued before, when too much thinking is involved, the drive to learn is curbed (pun intended). My argument is that the arts allow students to, of course, be creative and expressive (blah blah blah), but it also makes students stop, think, create, pause, think, create, alter, and so on. It teaches patience and it helps with motivation.

The last point is that the idea of success hasn’t changed for years…maybe decades, and that is that success equates to wealth. University students don’t want to think, they just want to the piece of paper for the job and the job for the wealth. I can’t entirely blame them. We are so deep into the rabbit hole of education that it’s tough to change both mindset and the process by which education is taught. My advice: though the hard skills are important (reading, writing, etc…), the soft skills will set you apart – ORGANIZATION, RISK-TAKING, CREATIVITY, AND DECISION-MAKING. I’m sorry to say, but you’re not just competing with your neighbour anymore, you’re competing with everyone around the world.