Module 4: Part 1: Planning for Teaching and Learning

When I think about classroom management, my style has evolved over the years. When I first started teaching, a student made the comment that “You have no bend.” I was flattered at the time. I wanted to be strict, I did not want to be thought of as a pushover, and I wanted to maintain control at all times. After I thought more about what he had said, I realized that being inflexible is not a desirable attribute to have. I realized that I could be in control, and that changing my mind, or going a different way did not signify weakness or indecisiveness, but stubbornness and inflexibility. Somehow I had received the message that sticking to my guns showed I was prepared, organized and I wasn’t going to be pushed around. In reality, being prepared and listening to feedback, allows you to change direction and shows a willingness to engage, and allow students to be apart of the decision making in our classroom.

When I was taking my education degree, we had a course partially dedicated to classroom management. One of the most disappointing aspects to this course came out of a series of visits from a principal of an inner-city school. She spoke about the importance of maintaining classroom management skills and establishing rules in the classroom. As an assignment, she asked us to come up with a set of rules we would post in our classrooms and discuss why we chose these particular rules. What a disappointment this exercise turned out to be. She didn’t agree with any of us about the rules we had listed. Either we had too many rules, they were too vague, they were too wordy, or they weren’t comprehensive enough. She did not want to give us examples, since we are all different, but I left this class unsure of how to go about establishing rules. It’s like she had a specific answer she was looking for, but kept it a secret for herself. She also suggested that we needed to bond with our students by attending their plays, hockey games and accepting birthday invitations. While I have gone to some recitals and hockey games, since those are for everyone, I don’t agree with attending birthday parties. I think that takes away from family time and puts the teacher in a strange position. Overall, my experience with learning about classroom management was lacking, and I had to find my way on my own.

As I mentioned, my first approach to classroom management was largely behavioural. It wasn’t until I reflected on the feedback from a student did I realize that I was holding on to control, rather than expecting students to develop their abilities of self-discipline and self-control. I feel like I moved towards an ecological approach, after I received feedback from my evaluator that my transitions needed to be improved. I was often told I had “with-it-ness” and I did practice overlapping. I like to use proximately to give students the idea that I need them to focus, stop talking, or whatever behaviour I want improved. Students quickly get the message that I am approaching them for a reason. This way, I can keep talking and not have to disrupt the flow of the class. I find this method extremely effective. I also practice an interpersonal approach to classroom management as this is an area of strength for me. I now provide a democratic leadership style and empower students by allowing them an important role in the decision making process.

When I look at the list of successful practices, I have used many of the approaches listed. I like to tell my students how smart they are, how kind they are, and I try to maintain a good sense of humour. I do offer my students helpful suggestions and I am well prepared and organized. One area I would like to develop further is the internal control approach. I especially liked the phrase “building discipline with dignity” (Wubbels, 2007). I remember reading a book: Punished by Rewards, by Alfie Kohn, in which he said punishment works, but only when the teacher is present. As I recall, he used the police as an example. We may not follow the speed limit when driving, but as soon as a police officer approaches we tend to go the speed limit or even lower, and increase our speed once the officer is out of sight.

An article I read from Early Childhood News described the guidance approach to classroom management. This is a way to teach children alternatives to their negative behaviour and provide them with positive alternatives instead. For example, if two children are fighting over getting to use the blue pair of scissors, the teacher could ask them to each choose another colour, which in actuality, punishes both children. Using the guidance approach, the teacher could ask the students to come up with an alternative to fighting over the colour of scissors. If the children need help, the teacher could suggest some possible solutions, like one child using the blue ones today and the other child could use the blue ones tomorrow. One child could use the blue scissors for half the period and then switch, (students could be given a timer to ensure this happens) or the teacher could suggest the two students sit together in order to share the pair of scissors. If this situation presents itself again, the students will have three alternatives to fighting over something in their repertoire. These students may even be able to advise other students on ways they can solve their dispute. This approach would work wonders for primary students, but could be used in difficult situations for older students. For example when navigating difficult friendship issues or communication breakdowns. To help other students who were not involved in this exchange and to solidify options to negative behaviours, students may be tasked with role-playing negative behaviours and then offering solutions to the behaviours. The audience may also have suggestions for correcting behaviours. This can help students build up their “toolbox” of alternatives.

Resources

Crosser, S. (2005). Approaches to Managing Children’s Behaviour. Early Childhood News. (http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=508

Kohn, A. (1999). Punished by rewards the trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise, and other bribes. Mariner Books. 

Wubbels, T. (2007). 18 A Cross-Cultural Perspective on Classroom Management. The SAGE Handbook of Research in International Education, 261–273. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781473943506.n18 

Module 4: Part 2: Building Bridges Through Technology

I would love to use Google Classroom in my classroom. Because I am teaching English right now, I am not using this technology, but I am certainly familiar with it. My son uses Google Classroom and he is a great advertiser for the product. He loves the To Do List feature and the Calendar feature. He simply has to look and see what is due and if he has completed the assignment. He is a very diligent student, so I rarely look in depth at the Weekly Summary that the school sends, but a few weeks ago, I saw a section I don’t normally receive letting me know he was missing an assignment. I told him about it, he gasped and he went and handed it in. What an amazing save! Like I said, I don’t pay too much attention to the updates, because he rarely, if ever, misses any assignments. This program is great for students, teachers and parents. All the the information pertaining to my son is on one page, including any extra-curricular activities. He is a little worried, as his school has announced that they will be moving to Toddle soon. Toddle is designed for IB schools and since it aligns with the IB themes, it makes sense that the school would be switching to this platform. The Primary School has already implemented it, the MYP will be next the roll out. I had a look at the demos and it does seem to be simple, streamlined, and offer similar features as Google Classroom. I imagine it will be more functional for teachers, since it aligns will all the IB themes and evaluations.

In terms of technology, my goal is to embrace as many platforms as possible. I want to get my skills back. When I first started teaching, I was the go-to person for any technology we used in the school. People would come to me for help in setting up their report cards, for managing their attendance folder, and for creating I-movies. Our principal asked every teacher to create an I-movie that would be played in the gym during our monthly assemblies. This was an onerous process. Students and teachers had to take pictures and videos and put them together with music that celebrated some aspect of learning in your classroom. My favourite video was a story my students created about a student who was always getting into trouble and a ghost came to help him do the right thing. We even made our library assistant cry. I feel like over the years, if you do not use technology regularly, and learn about new websites and platforms, it is easy to be left behind. I want to again be the go-to person to ask about using technology and to offer tips and tricks to my colleagues. Through my courses at Queens I have improved so much. I have used Padlet, Powtoon, Zoom (before it was popular), Trello, Prezi, Keynote, Google Slides, Coggle, Mindomo, Twitter and WordPress. To achieve my lofty goal, I commit to using the existing technologies I know, and embracing all new technologies. When I am done my Master’s Degree, there is always a situation to use these platforms to keep up to date. Since I am moving to Singapore in the summer, I can create a: Places to visit in Singapore presentation. Additionally, I can make a mind map to prep my family for things we need to do before we move. I am eager and motivated to expose myself to as many tech tools as possible. The benefits for my future classroom are endless in both presenting material for my students and introducing them to new modes of communication and presentation platforms.

Here is a screenshot of one of my first assignments for Queens

I have noticed that my son is using technology more to keep in touch with his friends due to the pandemic. At first, they would simply play games together and only discuss the game. Now, he sometimes leaves his microphone and speaker on for hours while he is doing his work and chats casually to one friend or multiple at a time. He uses Google Hangouts and then switches to Google Meet if more than one person wants to chat. He used to hate the game Fortnite, but now he plays it regularly with his friends. I think this has to do more the pandemic than anything else. He has one friend who has moved to Cairo, whom he still communicates with often. He unfortunately is picking up some not so positive generalizations of the students and the culture in Egypt. His friend has reached out crying a few times, which has been heartbreaking. Thank goodness for all the ways these friends have to stay in touch, even when they are far away. Not everything, however, has been positive. Sometimes his friends are demanding and want to know why he has not responded. He is not yet at an age, or has the disposition, to be fully connected to this online world. When Logan plays a game with us, or watches a movie or a show, he will not check his devices. We still get his undivided attention.

I have noticed that my son’s teachers, in an effort to not overwhelm students with screen time, have provided a variety of learning activities that can be done off line. I think teachers understand that students need to develop skills that don’t involve technology and this provides them an opportunity to create something tactile and allows for some time away from the screen.

Students do seem to have a preference for social platforms based on what their friends are into. My son, Logan, has reported that all the girls in his class love Tiktok, and they spend their time making and watching Tiktok videos. The boys are into Roblox, Fortnite, Minecraft and PUBG. Since he is only 11-years-old, he is not on any social media platform like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. When he had to choose a picture to accompany his school work, this is what he chose:

He is a cute kid, if I do say so myself, but he is bold, no-nonsense, and not at all self-conscious, as is evident from the photo. Even the fact that I asked him if I could post that picture to my school work, he did not mind at all. I wish I had that kind of confidence when I was 11.

Here is a more “normal” picture of Logan, which is the kind of picture I would use to represent myself

This reminded me of the students in the Prayas School. The students in India did not agree with the student in South Africa using Lil’ Wayne as his profile picture. It is interesting what we are willing or unwilling to put out to the world. Everyone’s aesthetic is different. When I thought of my own social media picture on Facebook, I have convinced myself that I don’t care enough to update my photo from 2009, but I think I’m a little worried about the aging process. In terms of the types of technology that students use at school, I think educators are weary of using Facebook and Twitter due the negative aspects of these platforms. I suggested to a Grade 8 student that she could find the listings for English language movies here in Kyiv on Facebook, and she almost spit out her drink. She basically told me all I need to know about her opinion of Facebook. While I’m not a fan of the platform, I know that it is used a lot in Ukraine and I want to stay connected to what is going on. I know Twitter is also seen in a negative light, but I have seen Twitter used successfully by students in school who have used it for quick, instant updating of happenings to do with school news. Instead of students being responsible for making the announcements in the office over the intercom, they now Tweet out announcements online. I have also used both Twitter and Facebook for educational purposes myself and I have been impressed with the results I have received.

In terms of the local community at my son’s school, the real divide can be seen in which instant messaging platform you use. Most Ukrainian parents use Viber, and most other internationals use WhatsApp. I have a British/Canadian friend who was incensed that her kids were left out of playdates and birthday parties because everything was communicated on Viber, and she refused to get the app. Another divide is the elaborate way in which Ukrainian parents want to celebrate activities in the school or birthday parties. Many non-Ukrainian parents follow a more subdued response to these events, which is a less-is-more approach. This causes conflict and quite often a divide. Technology quite often plays a role, since all the planning is done on Viber and the final plan is presented to the group. I was the Classroom Parent Coordinator one year and one parent was angry that I wouldn’t post a list of teachers and their birthday’s, so the families could send flowers. I tried to explain that this is not expected by the teachers and not even welcomed in some cases. Privacy is prized by many of the teachers, and here is an area where the cultures clash to some degree. Flowers are very important in Ukrainian culture. On the first day of school in Ukrainian schools, the teachers are given a large bouquet of flowers from all of their students and the students and teachers dress up. It is a beautiful sight, and a wonderful start to the year. I think it is a great way to set the tone for a successful year.

Language is also a barrier for many parents. Some parents complain that the school will not send out messages in Ukrainian or Russian, but the school explains that the working language is English. I can see why the school will not change their policy since there are over 52 countries represented at the school, but this must be a barrier. Our school sends out a plethora of information on a weekly basis, as well as having bi-weekly town hall meetings. All correspondence is in English and all meetings are in English. I know that Ukrainians have a choice of where to send their children to school, but if you do not speak English, it must be hard to be connected to the school for the most part. I am a native English speaker and I could not imagine reading everything that is sent home, as it would take too long. We even have an app for our school with alerts, which can be overwhelming sometimes. I would never accuse our school of not communicating with parents.

In the reading regarding civics learning, I thought instantly of a docudrama I had watched on Netflix called: The Social Dilemma. How difficult it must be to teach children about civics, when their source of media is skewed or used to manipulate them. I used to ask myself how can so many people think Donald Trump is doing a good job? This program finally answered that question. All of the algorithms provide people with information that works to confirm their own assumptions or bias of the world. If you believe Donald Trump is doing a good job, your social media feed will include videos from Fox News praising the president; you will see mentions of him working at all hours and a list of accomplishments that “beats any other president in modern history.” If you despise Donald Trump you will see videos of him golfing, lying, sweating, and mentions of the crimes he has committed. While this is an oversimplification of this process, it speaks to a greater concern regarding people who get their news from Facebook, or other questionable sources. I watch CBC News: The National, on Youtube every morning to stay in touch with what is going on in Canada, and I think the reporters do a good job of presenting a balanced approach and not sliding into commentary. I can’t imagine teaching civics to Americans in this culture. I think the news networks in the States are very overt in their political leanings. It is difficult to find a media outlet that is “balanced.”

I do agree with the point made in the article that “digital natives” means students who have come of age during a time when computers were the norm. Alan November in his book and video: Who Owns The Learning, points out that digital native does not necessarily mean nuanced digital native. Just because students can navigate 8 open tabs and quickly get around using technology, they may not be any better, or sometimes worse at understanding how computers actually work. November gives an example of a student studying the Iranian hostage crisis. The student couldn’t find any sources besides American ones. November asked the student if he considered that the Iranians would not call it “The Iranian Hostage Crisis.” Also, he taught the student to find articles by using the country code of Iran and looking for Middle Eastern Media outlets to find his sources. Students may be more adept, but not necessarily nuanced in their ability to search out multi-view points and find a variety of opinions. That’s what makes social media so dangerous for young people who may not receive messages from a variety of sources, and this is where schools can be so important. Schools can tackle tough issues and open students’ eyes to the danger of confirmation bias.

Resources

November, A. (2014, May). Who Owns The Learning? Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age. [Video] Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOAIxIBeT90

Orlowski, J. (Director) Rhodes, L (Producer). (2020). The Social Dilemma. [Docudrama]. https://www.netflix.com/ua/title/81254224

Module 4: Part 3: Creating a Global Community of Connected, Reflective Curriculum Theorists

I thoroughly enjoyed all the readings and videos in part 3. I appreciated the vivid description by Foxman about the pull factor of technology vs the push factor of education that is boring or outdated. It’s so true; no matter how I have used technology in the classroom, the students are excited and engaged in learning. That’s not to say anything sort of assignment will due, but children embrace technology and are energized by its use, especially as they become more proficient at using it. I also appreciated the quote by Anita Simpson: “The brain on choice lights up” (Foxman, 2016). How amazing to grow up during this era and be offered choice in your learning and choice in the way in which you learn. I found the video about 21st century skills to be fascinating, as I have always wanted to know the answer to the question Steve Paikin asks about a general set of facts that every student should know. I embrace active learning and allowing students to choose topics that interest them, but I was wondering about gaps in their learning. The answers from the people on the panel convinced me that when students take a deep dive into their learning they are going to gain foundational skills and there is little evidence that memorized facts provide more than points on a trivia contest. When I think back to the way we learned geography in school, it was pitiful. We were given a blank map of Canada every year and asked to label the provinces and territories and their capital cities. We then had to colour the map and label the Rocky Mountains and the oceans. The map was jagged on the west coast to indicate the mountains. In a conversation someone mentioned the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, and I was confused. There was no indication on my map that there were mountains in Alberta. I was born, raised and educated in Alberta and I didn’t know until Grade Six or so that the mountains I had been visiting since I was a baby were the Rocky Mountains. I thought the Rockies were only in B.C. When I mentioned this to my parents they asked “What are they teaching you in school?” I guess the better question is what are you not learning in school? What a complete waste of time. I think the assignment was little more than busy work, which rewarded good colouring skills and small, neat printing, and nothing else. Think of all the ways in which students could do in-depth learning about Canada. Students could work in groups to find out about a different province and then present their findings to the class. This could even be done in chunks and then jigsaw the learning, by having each student or group teach the others about what they have learned. Students learn best when they teach others. Students could choose to research the bodies of water, the mountain ranges, the forests, the topography, or the climate in various regions. Students have access to Google Earth and Google Maps, which can help them to gain perspective of the size of Canada and distances between provinces. Offering choice, and allowing for a deep dive would be a much better use of time and would allow students to obtain a better understanding than a colouring sheet disguised as geography.

When reading about the 6 C’s, the learning partnerships stood out to me. I love hearing about students who partner with people in their community to make their learning authentic and “up their game” due to their audience. It can be life changing to have students who are interested in animals, for example, to get in contact with a vet and visit to find out what it takes to become a vet or what a day to day life it is like to work as a vet, especially in a rural community. I remember a reading I did for a previous course where students worked with their local municipality to try to get clean drinking water in their community. I can’t even imagine how fulfilling this type of work would be. As a student, the legacy of your hard work could improve the health and wellness of your community. I also want students to reach out to experts online to help them find the answers to questions they have. Guiding students to seek out a variety of sources will help them to understand how to go about researching topics in the future. Also by engaging in authentic learning experiences, students will begin to see that learning need not be limited to the classroom, but it can be done anywhere at anytime. The pandemic has offered few positives, but reaching out to people on Zoom, or connecting with people online has become a necessity, and opened more doors for reaching out to busy people.

In the video with Dr. Bill Cope, I could totally relate to the role of the teacher as all knowing and those who provide a very traditional type of teaching. I replaced a teacher who was retiring after 40 years, and I went to visit her classroom, while her students were there. What a time warp. The students would do their busy work, line up at her desk, where she sat, and made corrections while the other students waited in line, and then they were required to go back to their desks to make their corrections and complete the whole process over again. There was an authoritarian approach to discipline, and there was no room for choice or creativity. The kindergarten teacher at the school often wondered how I could allow my students to create art projects of their choosing, as she had her students create exactly her choice of art project, step by step without any room for creativity or choice. I felt so sad for those students. Allowing choice in art projects seems the minimum you could provide. In this classroom I was taking over, there was a carpeted area with a ton of books, a circular table and two long tables. They were used poorly by the former teacher for rote learning with the teacher in the centre of the round table, while other students worked out of text books. With this size of room and options for unique learning spaces I was overjoyed. I was able to have some students quietly reading on bean bag chairs on the carpet, some students working on art projects at the long tables and group work at the desks and at the round table. The learning environment is key to make collaboration, experimentation, and provide room for quiet reflection possible for all types of learning. I doubt I will ever have a room of that size again, but setting up your classroom for the type of learning you want to see is key. In the Bill Cope video, the students had to crane their necks to be able to talk to anyone, let alone learn together. I have found that the janitors, in my experience, are the ones that need convincing to change. The janitor didn’t like having the desks pushed together into pods, and would often move the desks into rows without warning. Old habits die hard and getting everyone on board can be a challenge.

The 6 C’s can allow students, through deep learning experiences, to follow their passions and think about how they can become change makers. In my son’s international school, like most international schools, he had to complete an exhibition in Grade 5. He had to learn about the United Nations Sustainability Goals and choose a topic of interest. He chose sustainable travel and he learned about hyper loops, electric cars, electric busses and electric trains and how our cities could be made more bike friendly and walkable. He learned about the environmental impact of flying, and ways to minimize the impact by taking direct flights over connecting flights, for example. Travel and maps are two of his passions and he was able to use both in his presentation. He was able to take his learning to the next level by adding in the global perspective of the UN sustainability goals and thinking about the impact his travel can have on others and come up with safe and unique alternatives to meet transportation needs such as the hyper loops. This project has made a big impact of the way he considers travel and plans itineraries. When went to France, he figured out our entire itinerary including transportation for a week. He figured out the Metro routes, bus and train routes, and the airport train shuttle to get us to our hotel. This project allowed him to see the practical applications of what he had researched and to give him the confidence to know he could be responsible for our travel plans for a week. His teacher provided a set of questions during the project that he was to ask himself, and he held individual and group conferences with students to allow them to express frustrations, successes and challenges they had overcome. This allowed students to reflect on their learning and in some cases allowed them to commiserate on their set backs. Students felt supported, challenged and responsible for their own learning.

What drives the curriculum at your school?

Again, I will be using my son’s school as I am teaching English mostly to individuals. The Learner Profile drives the curriculum at our school. As learners, students strive to be: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled people, open-minded learners, caring, risk takers, balanced, and reflective. Students also drive the curriculum at our school. So much so, that my son made a mistake in his Grade Four presentation and the teacher and my son handled it beautifully. Each student was tasked to research an explorer of their choice. My son either misunderstood the assignment or didn’t realize that John A. Macdonald was not an explorer. As time went on his teacher, who is American, realized what happened and asked him how he could use the information he had gathered and still be able to present something to the families and the school community. The first sentence on his presentation went as follows: “Sir John A. Macdonald explored the world of politics.” I thought it was brilliant. The teacher did not reprimand him for the error, she did not make him start again, she asked him to come up with a solution, so he did not lose all the effort he had put in. Overall, she cared about the process, the skills he was learning, and the way in which he presented the material. His teacher encouraged him to take responsibility for his learning, and did not turn this situation into a negative one. He still brings up this mix up regularly.

How would you describe the culture of your school?

The culture at the school is a positive one. The Director of our school is everything a leader should be. She is kind, extremely knowledgable, assertive, complimentary, understanding, proactive and reflective regarding herself and her decisions. She is open to listening to dissenting view points and she is able to back up her decisions with science (in the case of COVID) or pedagogy in the case of other relevant decisions in regards to educational practices. This really sets the tone for the whole school. She holds biweekly town hall meetings with the whole community and is happy to lead the discussion, or take a step back to allow others to voice their options and ideas. This school celebrates learning and puts children at the heart of everything they do. The school is still offering extra-curricular activities both over Zoom and in person, with all the necessary precautions. My son is in Cross Country running and all the students need to continue to wear masks outdoors and students are required to stay a safe distance from others, including staggering change room access. This is something the school could have easily canceled, but the mental and physical health of our students is always top of mind. It may sound like I am overselling this school, but I feel truly blessed that my son continues to receive the best education possible, even through the worst situation most of us have lived through. I could not ask for more. I know that some students in Canada have not been so lucky. When the pandemic hit and students were forced to learn online, our school took one day off to prepare and the students were up and running. The school was very proactive and taught the students how to use Zoom, and they only missed one day of school. A friend of mine who lives in B.C. had the opposite experience. Her son was off school for a week, and then when school started again, he was asked to set up his work station as his only assignment for week one. What a difference in our situations. When we, along with other families, were evacuated to Canada, the teachers would provide asynchronous learning for their students, as well as meet up with them every week to see how they were doing. Students were expected to continue on as usual, including video taping themselves exercising in gym and doing all their art projects. Nothing was left out. The expectations remained high and teachers outdid themselves in providing quality, challenging learning opportunities at all times, regardless of what was going on in the world.

What pedagogical tools or dispositions are prevalent?

Our school is equipped with Smart Boards, laptops, iPads and Chrome Books. Every student is either issued one, or brings one from home. Students, teachers and parents are connected through SeeSaw, Google Classroom or Toddle. There are no text books in the PYP or MYP program. The school takes an enquiry based learning approach. The school is very focused on bringing in guest speakers and field trips, (prior to COVID) and with creating partnerships in the community. The school has partnered with a Ukrainian company called No Waste Ukraine to help teach our students about sustainability and to collect recycled materials and food waste from the school. The students have also received funding through a grant from the United Nations for a community garden and hanging gardens inside the school. Through service learning projects, students work with local animal shelters, a Ukrainian kindergarten and local orphanages. The school is not only a physical building, but it extends outside the walls to allow students to engage in service learning and challenge them to see themselves as global citizens and use problems solving skills and empathy to help others in need.

Resources

Cope, B. (2014, March). From didactic pedagogy to new learning. shiphttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIWM7Ot9yD4. 

Forman, S. (2016). Teaching Generation Z. Education Today. https://ereserves.library.queensu.ca/ares/ares.dll?Action=10&Type=10&Value=143006. 

Fullan, M. (2014, August). 21St Century SkillsThe Learning Partnership. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKbCgikH1F4&feature=emb_title. 

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