Interrior Designs of Expanding Minds

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Dancing and Dreams

An Incredible Day in Kosova

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Alt Practicum: Star Trails

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Shiny Happy Glass

Life in the glass gallery is fabulouso. I really think having a trade skills and artistic passion can really make life so much more interesting. For my first week here, I spent my time getting to know the shop and all the millions of sparkly things in it. I've got to meet some of the many artists who show and sell their work in the gallery. Most are completely selling their work for too little, me thinks. I don't think many of them are supporting themselves on their art alone - only the artist who owns the shop and gallery. The learning curve is pretty high and I get to start some of my more interesting projects through the gallery this week. I've got an amazing manager and co-ordinator!!!! There's no internet connection at the shop or home, so I'm just able to check in once and a while. I think that I will be a lot more springy and shiny when I get back.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Last Week in Grade 8

I haven't been so good with posting about Grade 8, so far. It has certainly been the practicum that I've gotten the most out of. I've received a lot of direct feedback and encouragement to try new things. There aren't any restrictions on what or how I teach, but there are high expectations on me to improve my classroom management skills. For example, shutting down chatter and making sure that people are on task at all times. I've been told to 'get mean.' Haaa. I have had a lot of experience in managing my own classes, so I don't feel discouraged at all. I recognize that it is a bit of a contrived situation for us 'student teachers' to be teaching/judged/evaluated as we teach in classes that are not our own. But, I have never felt uncomfortable in this placement with being judged/evaluated. The Associate Teacher that I work with is one of the most senior in the district. He basically knows what he's talking about and what works and doesn't work with this age group. I really respect his energy and his firmness with students.

I did my first Power Point presentation this week on Permafrost/Soil. It passed the test, if there was a test. I went on to do another PPoint for a science lesson on Animal Organ Systems. On Friday, I did a presentation for 'Guidance' class that I think put me closest to feeling the 'ole teaching flame within me than any other of my teaching so far in this program. The main thrust of the presentation was to encourage the students to volunteer and to look at ways to grow/discover throughout high school that would better prepare them for life. I did a rant about learning other languages. It was a very anecdotal and personal presentation and afterward, my AT told me that he thought it was unique and that he really felt like I was passionate about the topic (I am!). It was a bit of a breakthrough for me, in terms of feeling my groove again in the classroom. If I didn't have the full freedom to do what I want in my lessons though, I wouldn't have had that breakthrough. I really owe a lot to my AT. He's got a reputation for being tough and gruff, but he's anything but (I do still have 2 weeks left to go though in my bootcamp, so maybe we'll see what lies ahead!).

I got an idea for one of my Grade 7 math lessons on Cartesian Co-ordinates and Translations/Reflections. I actually was able to try out some of the new methodologies in experiential math that have been hammered into us at the uni. The skipping rope/shape idea was purely mine!

I spent all day Saturday reflecting on this lesson in a 10 page report for a very overdue assignment, so I don't have it in me to add too much more right now. I can say that this approach to teaching math is called 'constructivist.' The idea of it is to not just do 'show and tell' math, but to give the students one problem to work at (usually in groups) instead of giving them numerous problems and no feedback. The job of the teacher is to relinquish control and to step back and let the students explore math. Students have to be able to communicate their solutions and defend their decisions as to why they think what they've done is correct.

The students in this exercise, exceeded all of my expectations and went ahead to tackle the next topic: rotations. It's a bit scary for teachers to just let students go nuts with math. I did experience the reality that students can be a lot smarter than teachers. One of their combination rotation-reflection-translation solutions was totally beyond me. So, that kind of was my week. I missed writing about so much though.

Only 2 weeks left of Grade 8 (and 7 math and science). I hope I get to try out some new tricks.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Other Weekend Updates

In case I haven't mentioned, I am not going to Macedonia for my alternate practicum. I didn't get the funding, despite putting together a great proposal for the travel scholarship. Maybe that's fate intervening, because you'll see below where I am heading this August!

On March 12th, I'm heading to London and Bristol for my alternate practicum. I am not posting a flag quiz because it'll be too easy. UK! England! I'll be visiting my History and Archeology Guru and getting lots of insight on glass and glasswork.

I've updated some postings below, in case you're interested.

A New Flag Quiz

I've Signed a 2-Year Contract to Teach in......
Well, if I haven't told you yet, or you haven't guessed from the clue above, scroll down to my updated entry about the recruiting fair.....exciting times!
I'm not sure when I'll have more information. I think it'll start rolling out as the time to leave starts approaching more quickly. In addition to finishing up my last assignments, I have the exciting task of compiling lists/resources for everything to teach Grades 1 to 6 (roughly). I'm starting to read a lot now about my next home for 2 years. Here's a link I read today.

Big Winds and Banging Doors

The ski trip for me was actually part of my cooling down from the last 6 busy weeks. I didn't plan on skiing. I was just there as an extra chaperone, so spent the 2 days mostly in the lodge acting as the check-in person. It was relaxing, actually.

My roomate for the trip was a mother of one of the students. Her son has severe allergies and I learned a bit about what it's like to be a parent of a student with life-threatening allergies. Basically, it's really tough. I didn't get around to asking her if what her view is on 'nut-free' schools (for example) , but I hope I get the chance to. I went to a workshop on civil liberties back in January where both sides of this allergy debate were discussed. Last week, I heard from a nurse/educator about the 'NO' side. I'd guess that the Mom I met would argue that 'YES' there should be '-----free' schools.

It is so hard to have a child with severe allergies! I could see how often the Mom that I met stopped what she was doing to wonder where her son was and how he was doing. Imagine how many years she's been doing the extra allergy duties!!?? By Grade 8, too, kids are coming into their own, so to speak. It's really hard for students who have allergies to be independent, yet not feel 'different' than their peers. I had no idea until this ski trip, how hard it was for parents of kids with serious allergies. Wow.

The class really did ski their guts out. Everyone gave it their all. They have soooo much energy. Despite all their warnings, it was really hard to keep them quiet in the halls of the hotel. There was no concept of closing doors quietly. You can't control their energy easily. We had a little dance party and karaoke party on Thursday evening. They could not decide on which songs to play. There was some great breakdancing....many moves and inspirations came from the breakdancing workshop they did with Miguel in October! Was that November? They wanted to do it again!

My favourite moment was probably when one of the students - an intense performer and perhaps the best breakdancer - insisted on singing 'Born to Be Wild.' There were only the 3 adults and one student left at this point in the evening, but he belted out the song while listening to his Ipod at a very high level. It was soo hilarious. When he was done, he wanted to sing another but we really had to call it a night. Imagine wanting to sing to an audience of 3 adults and your classmate? That's total artistry. It would have made an insanely good Ipod commercial, actually.

On Thursday night, a crazy icy rain moved in. The roads were pretty much closed on Friday, so the students decided to ski! It was so cold because of the winds that I thought I'd die walking over from the hotel to the lodge. I am in awe of how tough the kids were. They were out in the insane weather probably more than they were the previous day when it was sunny and not too cold. I am sure their teacher was proud of the hearty students he's cultivated. I've heard stories of them crying as they canoed through crazy rain during their camping trip in the fall. The snowy rain storm was nothing compared to that, I'm sure.

They are a very endearing group of students. I've officially completed my first 'teaching' trip. It's great to work with students on many different levels: the formal, the informal, and on the road.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

My First Class TRIP!

I'm off to be a chaperone on the Grade 8 ski trip tomorrow. I think that I'm sharing a room with parent. This is a picture of the neat art project that the class did as a lead-up to the trip. The teacher painted the background and everyone added a little picture. There's even an 'underworld' scene. The lodge is drawn in somewhere. That's where I'll be holding fort for the next 2 days. I've got lots of chips and snacks and some DVDs from the library to keep me busy while the skiers hit the hills.

Valentine Spirit

There was a cake raffle yesterday on Valentine's Day. It was a fundraiser for the Grade 7 class trip to Quebec City. It was telling of the community of the school that cakes were donated by people from all grades, not just from the Grade 7 class. I really wanted to win Cake #2, but my winning cake was a luscious homemade carrot cake. Silly kids don't put their names in the 'ugly' cakes. I did! This is the second thing that I've won in a year. I know that the winner of the Bubblegum Machine Cake entered 9 tickets to win it. I love the determination of kids. I have to say that cake raffles are a pretty cool way of raising spirits, especially if you're a big winner. I got to carry the Caterpillar Cake for the winner down to her classroom. I haven't seen a kid beaming so much on Valentine's Day.

The BE MINE Cake

The Love Squared Cake

The Hot Dog and Fries Cake

The Gumball Machine Cake

The Caterpillar Cake

The Big Kids

They Can Use Saws to Cut Celery
Grade 8 is such an amazing age group to work with. As I've mentioned before, my associate teacher is a self-proclaiming 'Old School' teacher. Every day that I work with him though, I am realizing how important it is to be Old School. He's fearless, demanding, and strict. The kids respond to him so well. I don't really know what it is to be 'New School.'
The other day, we did a science experiment, using celery and food colouring. I am sure you can imagine the experiment. When I brought the celery in, I asked my teacher if I should get knives for the students to cut the celery. He laughed and said they didn't need them. They used saws.
In this classroom, where the teacher has worked for many, many years, there are electic saws, and all sorts of carpentry tools. I've heard that a lot of equipment has been removed from his classroom due to safety 'concerns.' Every inch of the classroom reflects the teacher's interests, such as carpentry and science. It's a very hands-on classroom environment - messy and stimulating.
My favourite teaching moment of my associate teacher from the past week was when he brought out the 'new' overhead projector for the class. They had really needed one and he found one in the basement that had been taken away by the 'safety psychos.' He brought it up and rewired it (the plug had been the source of contention) and put in a new bulb. Voila - hundreds of dollars saved on something that had been cast away. He gave a very powerful talk to the class, too. I also liked his rant against bottled water during the week. Priceless!
As someone who has lots of fears myself, I can witness in the Grade 8 class how important it is for a teacher to toughen kids up at this age and to empower them through a lot of different means: practical tasks, discipline, critical thinking, and encouragement. One doesn't have to say much to get the messages out to Big Kids. Is this 'Old School?'

The Weekend Recruiting 'Fare'

Quick Lessons in International Recruiting Fairs

They Are Stressful Events!!!!
The overseas recruiting fair took over my life for a few weeks. I had so much to prepare: the online data form, the resume, the letters of reference, the statement of teaching philosophy, the photos, the outfit, etc. etc. The Friday that it started, I met up with my 'team' for the weekend: Crystal and Riz. We were all quite surprised by the schools that had preselected to interview us. I did think that I'd have more requests for interviews, but I think one reason why I didn't was that I had put 'nursery to Kindergarten' as my top choice for teaching positions (not true, but my mistake...I thought I was checking off all the areas I'd be qualified to teach with my degree) and there were few jobs being offered in these areas.

Here's the breakdown of preselected interviews we had:

Me: Quito, Columbia, China/HK, and Bahrain
Riz: Turkey, Columbia, Kosova
Crystal: Mexico, Bangalore, Guatemala, Bangkok

I did all of my interviews, except for Bahrain. I'd say that I completely destroyed the interviews for Quito and China by being 100% unprepared for the questions. I didn't have anything ready to answer what I thought about Math and Literacy programming. Ooops. For future reference, I'll be most prepared. I added a few other interviews Friday night to my roster.

The line up procedure in the gym for procuring more interviews wasn't totally as stressful as I'd anticipated. But, I know that the 3 of us weren't totally prepared to 'sell' ourselves as we sat down and requested interviews. My understanding was that we'd just line up strategically to get interviews with the schools we wanted. I (and the others) weren't aware that we had to convince the interviewers to give us an interview. Thus, I really did not perform when I sat down in front of the first school's administrators. I quickly learned, by listening to others as I was in line, that one was NOT supposed to be modest in their requesting of interviews. Learning the hard way, yet again. I really am still not that comfortable doing self-promotion, but have realized that sometimes it has to be done.

Saturday and Sunday were full of interviews. Some did actually go quite well. It is quite a long story, but I did learn that 1) some of the recruiters used unscrupulous techniques to sign teachers and 2) that making life decisions is hugely stressful under time constraints. By the end of Saturday night (as I was on the phone in an instant teller 'room'), I had happily agreed to a contract with a school that I feel offers the most challenges and opportunity for professional development. The story of how the contract came to fruition is one that merits an account in person. For what was the most stressful weekend of my life in recent times, the ending ended on a great and surprising note.

Riz and I will be teaching together in Kosova, starting in mid-August.

(Crystal has accepted a contract in Thailand! Her Mom, who also attended the weekend, is happy)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Arriving tomorrow......

Tomorrow begins the huge recruiting fair that I'm attending. Saying little now because I am so exhausted (but less than at the end of last week, when classes ended and I had to have all the papers in for the recruiting fair), but tomorrow when the fair starts at 3 p.m., we find out in our registration packages if we've been preselected for interviews by schools. Some schools don't do this. After a few preliminary meetings of all the schools in the auditorium (at my regular academic building), we get to RUSH to the gym and line up and try to get interviews with prospective employers. I still can remember the crushing line that ran into the gym to sign up for limited workshops earlier on in January. There was a pencil stabbing! What's going on? Anyway, we'll see what/where transpires, if anything, this weekend. Interviews will be all day Saturday and Sunday and schmoozing is the key word of the weekend. Well, one of the key words. I'm so out of practice. Let's see if anything pans out from this weekend. I'm curious.

Grade 8 so far

I taught a science lesson on my second day. I've been teaching Grade 8 math, too. Today, we started with a new unit and made some tesselations. I went back to visit the kindergarten room. The JK's were in today. There were 3 poops and a vomit today. I was more impressed by the "zamboni" that the kids playing with the big wooden blocks hade made and were driving in the back corner. Then, I ran back to the Grade 8's. My Associate Teacher of now is really incredible. A man of few words, but the messages he sends the students are tres cool. I can't wait to post some pictures of his unbelievable classroom. He was lamenting today the band saw that was taken away. That's such a loss to students, truly. He's a tough dude. I've got science and math to prepare to teach on Monday. It's going to already be a crazy weekend. My new printer ink arrived.

Last week of classes in 5 week session

These pictures are from my last science class before we headed out for our last practicum. That week was a blur. Hoot Hoot Who was going crazy? We all were. That's why it was so fun to search for bones in regurgitated (sterilized!) owl vomit!!!!! I messed up my friend's bones while he was in the bathroom and he believed me when I told him our prof did it. Pure silliness.