ECS 200: CBSL Reflection

Below is the written script for my video with the borrowed photos linked in,

Hope you enjoy,

-Miss. S

Welcome to my learning journey! My name is Kendall Schneider and I had the honour of volunteering at the Regina Open Door Society (RODS) for the community-based Service learning portion of the ECS 200 course. Regina Open Door Society is a non-profit Organization that has been providing settlement and integration services to government-assisted refugees and immigrants in Regina since 1976. The organization is committed to meeting the needs of newcomers by offering programs and services that enable them to achieve their goals and participate fully in the larger community. RODS aims to build a welcoming community enriched by the diversity and strength of newcomers to Canada and values diversity, Respect and Dignity, Service excellence, and Partnership and collaboration.

Specifically, I was given the role of an English as a second language (EAL) support group facilitator which provided me with the opportunity to help newcomer youth improve their academic performance, enhance their English language skills, build social networks, learn about life in Canada, become involved in the community, and pursue educational opportunities by assisting them with their homework and providing friendly mentorship.

My learning timeline began on October 2nd when I attended my first homework session and it proved to be a gratifying opportunity and educational experience for my future. One particular young girl gave me a big hug after working on math problems together and at that moment, I was reminded of why I chose to pursue teaching; through my choice in profession, I have the means to make positive differences in the lives of society’s youth.

Over the course of my next few visits, I was consistently impressed by the resilience, grit, and passion that the students demonstrated. The minority youth showed their ability and ambition to be successful despite difficult circumstances and threats to their cognitive development due to their varying cultural experiences and their deficient English language skills. The students do their part by seeking out extra guidance and it is crucial that in turn, I played the role of a caring and supportive adult to guarantee that they were provided with a positive environment for cognitive development.

On October 30th, a boy who I had bonded with over my past few visits was consistently yawning. Jokingly I commented that his yawns were contagious and asked him why he was so tired expecting a stereotypical teenager response such as “I stayed up late last night” or “I don’t know, I’m always tired” but instead he expressed to me how he works a night shift at Superstore to help provide for his family and only got home at six in the morning. This was also the reason that his math notes were incomplete because he frequently skips the first period in order to get some extra sleep. The conversation illuminated that many students live vastly different lives than I did throughout my high school years and reminded me to acknowledge my personal lens so that rather than judging students for skipping class and not completing their notes I will figure out why such events are occurring and attempt to make suitable adaptations that can help them to be academically successful.

November 1st was an inspiring visit as one of the students taught me lots about his native language. He shared how in Arabic one reads right to left in comparison to English where one reads left to right which was one of the most challenging aspects of learning English for him. He also wrote out the digits from one to ten in Arabic showing me that an Arabic six looks identical to an English seven which always causes him confusion when performing math problems. He then expressed that sometimes he thinks in a combination of the two languages but how most of his thoughts are still strictly in Arabic. Thus, even having a basic conversation with me insists that he translates my words, think of his reply and then translates his thoughts back to English before responding. This illuminated that educators must be extra patient when working with students who have varying native languages as it takes them longer to process questions and replies. It also made me realize how daunting tasks for all students such as performing stoichiometry calculations or factoring polynomials have added levels of difficulties for those who are not proficient in English.

November 15th was another session that drastically opened my eyes and provoked many thoughts in my brain. I was helping a small group of students with a chemistry assignment which tasked them with balancing equations. After going over a few examples I noticed that several of the students still appeared puzzled and it dawned on me that it was because they didn’t know how to multiply and were confused when I used the words “times” in place of multiplication. Not only was the language barrier evident, causing problems in communication, the students also had not been taught the basic skills required to complete their assigned task. This demonstrated the importance of the skills taught in elementary school and how it is vital that teachers are aware of their students’ prior knowledge and are accommodating of students at various stages in their classrooms. It also made me think about inclusive classrooms and how I am very supportive of diversity within classrooms, however, I believe that students who are not at the appropriate grade level inhibit teachers to meet their required curriculum goals and hinder the learning of other students in the classrooms because they require extra support with review topics.

My time spent at RODS was inspiring and challenged my educational perspectives as I was exposed to diversity among education and students. Initially, I was hesitant about the practical component of this course not occurring in a classroom setting and how volunteering with a community organization would provide me with valuable experience for my future in teaching. Fortunately, the advantages became clear almost instantly.

Whenever meeting new students, I was curious to know how many years they had been in Canada and was always thoroughly impressed to find out that this averaged between 2 and 4 years because many of them had fluent spoken English skills. Their stories regarding how they learned English varied but it remained constant that they were able to learn brand new concepts with the guidance of educators. This demonstrated to me the importance of education because it allows teachers to influence who their students become as members of our community.

The homework help sessions confirmed the social construction of schools and how schools continue to reflect the dominant cultures in society. Many of the students expressed to me how they were looking forward to a break from school over the Christmas holidays but that their families do not celebrate Christmas and they did not have any plans for their break. This demonstrated to me the importance of acknowledging different cultures within my classroom to ensure that the beliefs of all my students are recognized and appreciated.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs was demonstrated at the homework help sessions as I saw the importance of meeting the fundamental needs of students prior to expecting them to achieve their fullest potentials.  The program ensures psychological needs are being met, and that students feel a sense of security and belonging to help boost their self-esteem.  Volunteering with the organization illuminated the importance of building secure attachments with students to provide them with undeniable support and ease so that they can focus on learning while having the confirmation that they are cared for.

As described in Bronfenbrenner’s model, there are many aspects beyond school that directly influence individuals. The homework help program provided the students with the opportunity to interact with peers, community volunteers, and professional staff from various cultures creating a diverse and social environment. It also encouraged learning beyond school subject material. I loved engaging the students with foreign concepts to them regarding Canada such as my farming experiences and watching their faces beam. This illuminated that as an educator, it is crucial that I am a mentor for my students and involve them in learning outside the course content.

The opportunity to provide homework help in small group settings permitted me to physically see the various ways individuals learn. Fortunately, I was able to help students in subject areas including Math, Biology, and Chemistry which are the areas I have chosen to major and minor in. It was reassuring to know that I am able to adapt what I have learned about the topics to various learning styles in order to share my knowledge and benefit others. I worked alongside some students who preferred to visually watch me solve a problem before attempting similar ones on their own and other students who first wanted to try by themselves and then go over their work together. Every student is unique due to their past experiences and their personal beliefs and it is crucial that educators recognize the variations among their students.

Volunteering with Regina’s Open-Door Society provided me with a glimpse into the teaching profession and made me excited about my future as an educator. The students consistently voiced their gratitude for the help they received from me over the course of my visits and many of them expressed that they would miss me if I didn’t continue to volunteer with the program. As an educator, I hope to make a positive difference in the lives of my students and through the homework help program, I learned, that by simply showing I care and applying myself to helping each individual, I can be an inspiring mentor in the lives of my students.

Thank you Regina Open Door Society for the opportunity to gain valuable experience as a pre-service educator.

Sincerely,

-Miss S

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Education as a Profession (week 12)

Due to the variations in occupations, it is difficult to place a definition to the term “profession”, but characteristics of careers in the fields of medicine or law which are socially constructed as “true professions” create an ideal view of how working institutions are classified as professions (Levin, Wallin, & Yong 2007). Unfortunately, analyzing teaching according to these attributes is the reason that teaching has been labeled a “semi-professional” career. It is crucial that, when studying teaching as a profession, we are able to reconstruct the concept of what classifies a profession to reflect the roles of educators. For example, surgeons are expected to be highly educated and skilled in their field in order to successfully operate on a patient, but they are not required to pass on their knowledge to their patients, and their success does not depend on the level of effort contributed by their patient. In sharp contrast, teachers are required to pass on their knowledge to their students, but in order for students to learn, they must engage in the learning process which requires “reciprocity of effort”, making the roles of teachers and surgeons considerably different and incomparable (Levin et al., 2007).

Education is constantly evolving in Canada as expectations for educators to prepare their students to be active members of our progressively developing society are very fluid. In order for teachers to meet these changing expectations, they can not simply play the role of a leader. They must also commit themselves to continuous learning where they are critically engaging with the knowledge that they obtain rather than simply regurgitating it. When teachers become leaders of their own learning it is vital that they also become leaders among their learning peers to continue developing professionally. As discussed in seminar, mentorship is being used in schools providing experienced teachers the opportunity to serve as guides, supporters, friends, advocates and role models for beginner teachers which permits teacher networks to thrive. Mentorship results in a commitment to lifelong learning among educators and facilitates the development of teacher professionalism (Saskatchewan’s Teachers Federation, 2015).

Educators are a collective voice with the power to change the way people perceive learning and teacher professionalism. It is crucial that teachers commit to professional development and lifelong learning in order for them to critically evaluate education to evolve with advancements in technology and societal influences, and to utilize the strength they obtain through working as teams. With this in mind, how can teachers be expected to be proactive in the classroom and exposed to continuous adult learning opportunities within their scheduled work week while maintaining an enjoyable life outside of school?

-Miss. S

Levin B., Wallin D., Young J. (2007). Understanding Canadian Schools: An introduction to educational administration (4th ed.) Scarborough ON: Nelson Canada.

Saskatchewan’s Teachers Federation. (2015). Creating a Supporting Environment: An administrator’s handbook for working with beginning teachers.  Saskatoon SK.

Finding the Balance (week 11)

School can be termed as a bureaucratic workplace meaning it is a “hierarchical organization that is governed by rules, staffed by people with expertise and operated on the basis of standard procedures and practices” (pg.183). My position as a pre-educator majoring in mathematics aligns me directly within the bureaucratic system and insists that I acknowledge my role and responsibilities. It will be my job to work with the group of students that I am assigned to and meet the curriculum goals of the subjects that I am allotted to teach. Luckily, beyond the bureaucratic aspect of schools, they may also be seen as professional organizations due to the level of autonomy that teachers have in their classrooms. As a teacher, I will have a vast amount of choice regarding how I approach subject material and a major influence on the overall atmosphere of my classroom. Beyond meeting curriculum expectations, I will also be tasked with building relationships with my students, ensuring each of them feels safe, working alongside my colleagues, and promoting common goals of the school to strive towards a community environment. In order to promote an effective learning environment, schools must develop a balance between the bureaucratic, professional, and community models.

Throughout my years in high school, I consistently monitored my teachers’ behaviours and asked them questions regarding their profession due to my interest in their field. The principal at my high school was very involved in the lives of the student body and would periodically be in and out of classrooms for brief visits. I noticed that the teachers with minimal experience would become nervous and change their style of teaching while administrators were in the classroom which was assumedly due to their concern of evaluation and being intimidated by those who hold positions of higher rank in the hierarchical system. The staff members consistently expressed their enjoyment of being in a classroom with their students but disliked the politics of education. They expressed the difficulty of balancing changes in curriculum, meeting the demands of administration, assessing various views on how classrooms should be structured, and applying ideas learned during professional development activities in their classrooms. They also expressed the challenges of their working conditions steadily changing. Factors including class size, the number of different courses being tasked to teach in a given semester, prep time allotted, and participation in supervision or extracurricular activities all influence their work environment and demand teachers to be adaptable. This leaves me wondering how I will be able to develop a proactive classroom under the pressure of administrative evaluation and the uncertainty of job security during the first few years of my education career.

-Miss. S

Chapter Six: Teachers, Administrators, and the School System 

Society Influencing Education and Education Influencing Society (week 9)

The Social cognitive theory that permits some people to have advantages in society while simultaneously disadvantaging others can cause and perpetuate class differences. Unfortunately, schools play a role in reinforcing social inequalities and do not permit the assumed meritocracy of our society. There are many factors that influence a student’s ability to be successful in the education system beyond their control. It has been shown that differences in school quality are directly connected to varying outcomes for students and that access to adequately funded quality schools corresponds to college enrollment. Due to schools being funded locally, wealthier communities tend to have highly funded schools in comparison to poorer communities which supports the troubling idea that the rich get richer as superior education can be equated to economic success. Students whose parents have time, money, and knowledge to support education are also advantaged in the school system (Venator, 2018). One student at Regina’s Open Door Society (RODS), expressed to me how he does not have access to a computer or internet at home which makes it difficult for him to complete particular assignments. The students at RODS also address how their parents are not proficient in English and are not able to help them understand their homework. Working alongside these students has opened my eyes to how fortunate I am that my parents read to me and consistently incorporated basic skills such as spelling, counting, and mathematical operations into my everyday routine as a young child. Acknowledging that I am privileged in the education system due to the community that I live in and my parent’s involvement in my school life reminds me that education is not neutral and as an educator, I can not pretend that it is. Why does the powerful and dangerous belief that education can be free from biases continue to circulate despite the clear societal factors that influence one’s ability to be successful at school?

Luckily, introducing social justice concepts into classrooms is becoming an increasingly popular idea as faculties of education across Canada continually acknowledge the importance of encouraging kids to “become critical analysts of contemporary issues” so that we can strive towards building an equitable society (Reynolds, 2012). The integration of these ideas can be challenging because everyone has their own opinions regarding what and how content should be taught in classrooms, and when is the appropriate time. Despite the challenges, the integration of social justice into classrooms is vital for anti-oppressive education and societies due to the reciprocal relationship that they share.

-Miss. S

Reynolds, Cynthia. (2012) Why are schools brainwashing our children?  Macleans Canada. <https://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/why-are-schools-brainwashing-our-children/&gt;

Venator, Joanna. (2018) Schools and Social Inequality: Crash Course Sociology #41. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYMk3Bk08NA&gt;

 

Dismantling Philosophies of Education (week 8)

Studying the philosophies of education has opened my eyes to various perspectives on how schools should function and what should be prioritized in the classroom. Personally, I am a rational individual who likes to think logically and have concrete answers to questions, however, the Perennialism philosophy is worrisome for me. I believe that human nature is consistently changing as societal influences have varying impacts on different people causing us to think, feel, and behave differently than someone from a prior generation would have in the same situation. There are notable depersonalizing effects caused by assuming everyone is equal and therefore contradicting the Perennialism philosophy, I believe that education should not be the same for everyone. It is crucial for teachers to consider the history, intellectual capacity, socioeconomic status, and culture of their students when designing lessons that will provide equitable education for all learners and an inclusive environment where everyone has the opportunity to be successful. The Essentialism philosophy is also alarming as it compares schools to assembly lines and emphasizes the importance of having structure and order in a classroom. The role of a teacher is not to assimilate their students but rather to treat them like the unique human beings they are, accommodate their individual needs and assist them in developing their own personal identities which would require more freedom of thought than the essentialism philosophy permits. The progressivism philosophy which promotes the development of the whole child and believes in active and collaborative learning that builds reflective skills does a better job at acknowledging the importance of students learning through direct interaction with their environment and reflection on their actions.

The case study regarding preservice teacher’s beliefs and assumptions about teaching and learning triggered me to think cognitively about what I value most in education. Initially, I did find myself agreeing with Miriam’s skepticism because I understand the importance of meeting curriculum guidelines and ensuring that students are exposed to all of the content that they are expected to learn in a particular class. However, from a learner perspective, I know that I received greater benefits from interpreting content on my own rather than strictly memorizing structured material. As a preservice teacher, I think it is vital that I teach my future students how to learn, and provide them with skills that will be useful to them in their futures beyond structured education. The question then becomes how can an educator successfully meet curriculum outlines while simultaneously promoting individuality among their students and providing them with techniques that will permit them to be independent and participating members of society.

-Miss. S

Simply Trying isn’t Always Enough (week 7)

How do you not understand this? If you just did your homework, you wouldn’t be failing. Why didn’t you finish your assignment before handing it in? This project is not difficult it just takes time. How come failing test grades do not motivate you to try harder? All you have to do is put adequate effort into your studies. These are just some of the questions and comments that I have caught myself making when sitting in a classroom surrounded by my fellow students. Unfortunately, all of these thoughts are extremely damaging to express, and make one detrimental assumption; students are fully to blame for their low academic achievement in school and just need to need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

As a preservice educator, I have been exposed to many factors that impact one’s ability to be successful at school and I have been taught to critically think about why some individuals may struggle more than others. Personally, I was raised by two supportive parents who consistently demonstrated an interest in my school life, provided me with educational resources to be successful and motivated me to set achievable academic goals that related to my personal passions. It is crucial that I acknowledge the benefits that the parental guidance I receive has on my educational experience and understand that not every child will acquire similar support. It is proven that “when parents from any SES (Socioeconomic status) level support and encourage their children – that outcomes of their children are better” and that the more children practice a particular skill the better their ability to perform the particular task becomes (Woolfolk, Winne, and Perry 2016, pg. 198). This requires guardians to consistently be involved with their children’s studies and prioritize time and space for learning. Similarly to SES, race and gender also have significant effects on student’s identities and cannot be disregarded.

By learning to understand the various factors that may impact a student’s ability to be successful, I as an educator can strive towards increasing educational equity for all students. In order to create a culturally compatible classroom, it is crucial that students learn about diverse cultures through an approach that is relevant and allows every individual to effectively gain understandings of their fellow classmates’ upbringing through direct encounters. Once educators and students all understand that there are systematic influences that manipulate our unique capacities to perform at school, will the destructive bootstrap myth go away? How can I as an educator ensure my students do not have the same damaging thoughts that I did regarding my fellow classmates?

-Miss. S

Woolfolk, A. Winne, P. Perry, N. (2016) Educational psychology: Sixth Canadian edition. Toronto: Pearson Canada Incorporation.

Opening New Doors to Education (week 6)

As a nineteen-year-old white female who was raised in a middle-class home by both my mom and dad, I see life through a unique lens. This personal lens can blur my vision from other perspectives and prevent me from acknowledging and understanding the viewpoints of other individuals. Similarly, Jean Piaget was a white, upper-class male who was a prodigy during the 1950s through the 1970s, possessed his own anecdotal lens which influenced his Cognitive Development Theory. Piaget failed to acknowledge that children learn from individualized experiences and that cultural differences have a major influence on a child’s thought process and understanding of the world around them. The belief in a “universal child”, which influenced Piaget’s theory and many other universal development theories, is a myth that reconceptualists believe has the potential to categorize some children as either gifted or delayed (Cannella, Swadener, Che, pg.694). Thankfully, the way education is structured in schools is growing away from “linear determinist curriculum to curriculum theory as understanding, human functioning, and learning” where each section is “embedded within culture, history, politics, and social context” (Cannella, Swadener, Che pg. 694). These changes in curriculum increase the number of ways the world is viewed and understood which is exemplified through Indigenous children now being taught that it is okay to be who they are. As a future educator, I must play the role of a reconceptualist and question theories about education in order to promote hope and possibilities for all individual children.

Through volunteering at the Regina Open Door Society, I have noticed the concept of spirit guiding learning. The students that I work alongside all have grit, or the passion and determination to learn. They are seeking out extra help through a homework group but in order for their learning spirits to shine through, they require unconditional caring and support. The homework help program is guided by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs ensuring that the basic needs of every student are met to permit cognitive development. It is an honour to assist children in small group settings and watch their grit lead them to success where their learning spirits can shine through. My experiences and knowledge about individualism leave me wondering how I can provide unconditional care to a large group of students to ensure they are all receiving the unique support that they deserve and require to be successful?

-Miss. S

Battiste, M. (2017) Nourishing the Learning Spirit: Learning is our Purpose in Life. 

Cannella, G.S. Swadener B.B. Che, Y. (2007) In Early Childhood Education: An International Encyclopedia: Reconceptualists.