Reflecting on Culture

My community field experience has come to an end and I am now in a position to take what I have learned and apply it to the classroom.  There are a lot of things that I will reflect on in the days and weeks to come but I would like to write down some thoughts on culture as it has been a personal goal of mine during my program as well as a major component of the new curriculum for French.  Admittedly it has been a challenge trying to understand what it means to engage the students with authentic cultural material while maintaining sound pedagogical lessons and keeping the interest of the students high.  On Wednesday I had the chance to accompany the students to Café Salade de Fruits inside the French Cultural Center near the school.  My expectations for this experience were pretty average regarding how the students would experience culture and to be honest I did not expect them to be too ready to “show off” their year of language acquisition or polishing in this kind of setting.  After all, they were teenage boys of various grade levels who would have difficulty using any of the “risk it” behavior that we need in learning a language.  What occurred was amazing.  The students actually lived the culture.  I spent a year living in France as a language assistant and my one hour in the café made me feel like I was back there.  The students made the necessary mistakes and they corrected each other if they could.  It actually seemed like some students were practicing what they had learned but not just to show what they knew to the café staff, teachers, and their peers, but actually were using this hour as a transition point for going to French speaking countries or parts of Canada where French is the dominant language.  It struck me that without this kind of a cultural link or spring board language learning may not complete itself for students.  For some they may not use their high school core French for anything else in their careers but at least they will have the experience.  I am inspired to find a way to have mini spring boards scaffolded into my teaching and it will be a fun challenge to figure out how to do this in my lesson planning.  Thank you to the staff at Vancouver College for the amazing opportunity and to my Faculty Advisor Jim McCleod from UBC for the encouragement to reflect and to patiently allow teaching culture and pedagogy to form who I am as a person.


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Self analyzing

After another week of my community field experience I feel that I am in a better position to analyze my actions and reactions in the classrooms and within the school community at Vancouver College.  More particularly I feel confident in talking about what seems to be happening naturally for me as I move into the third week.  The most important area of growth for me is my communicative relationships with the students themselves.  I am humbled by the fact that in just two weeks the students have accepted me into their learning environment as well as their social activities in and outside of school.  I have heard many senior students talk personally to me about their plans for the summer and for the next steps in their education.  During my extended practicum I received feedback that suggested I modify the way I listen to students, with the useful objective of making my one on one dialogues more of a “teacher to student” dialogue.  When I reflected on that feedback three months ago I processed it as giving more “student useful” advice to the inquiring student as apposed to less “teacher listening” when the student was communicating to me.  I kept in mind that my role as student teacher was still to teach the students within social and personal dialogues that always benefited the students’ learning.  When given the opportunity now I always try and listen in with a little extra effort when I am around other teachers involved in these kind of student teacher interactions to see how the teachers are naturally balancing these incredibly important and interesting moments in learning.

My comfort as a student teacher is definitely linked to how the students are doing in their lives at school.  I often think about how I might be able to construct a comfortable and strong social learning unit in my first classroom when it happens and these thoughts usually lead to questioning how am I able to balance the dialogues that showcase the excitement or other decided emotions of the students.  This will always be an area of growth for me as I know myself to be a person that loves listening and building students up with this listening.  The (best) teachers I have observed somehow listen and teach with this incredible balance 100% of the time.  I did an activity in French class on the multiple intelligences and while not thinking too much about it at the time, I have realized that my talents and skills at thirty five years of age are kind of a work in progress.  My weaknesses are in progress too, and I am dealing with them or embracing them as the situations arise.  As long as I am open to keep improving and analyzing myself on the way to becoming a teacher I will make it and enjoy the dialogues on the way too.

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Reflecting in the field

I have been looking forward to the field experience part of my teacher education program for quite a while now.  Until I started it this past week the anticipation was admittedly that it might be charged with the relief of having finished practicum and the chance of seeing how I came across as a newly practiced teacher candidate.  The feelings changed as I fumbled once again into a new role.  Yes, I had a little more confidence meeting administration, students, and the school community at Vancouver College.  It was not really a confidence that I could fill any role that the community asked of me, which I was excited to do, but more of a confidence that I could recognize aspects of the field that I have been training for.  It was an incredible amount of humility and excitement that I was not expecting when I was introduced to students in classes as the French student teacher visiting from UBC and was there to be part of their school and learning community.  I followed a few of these general introductions with my own remarks about being there to help the students in whatever way I could.  This was probably the wrong thing to say in higher level French classes at this school because some of the students came up to me after and asked if was a tutor / able to help raise some grades that I assumed were very good already.

The week went really quickly and had some pretty incredible moments.  I shouldn’t have been surprised when one of the Christian Brothers, having finished a French unit, had the class up out of their seats singing the “Marseillaise” lyrics to a video, complete with the class marching and gesturing for some of the more violent elements of French national history.  This is the risk-it kind of activity that I have been trying so hard to incorporate in my teaching formation as a language teacher.  In the learning center, I was shown an incredible amount of trust when I was allowed to participate in the student personal check-in from the previous weekend just minutes after entering the door to this beautiful classroom.  I am looking forward to next week as I continue to reflect on where I’m at and what I can do to keep growing as a member of the school community and as a future member of the teaching profession.  Thank you Chelsea for the opportunity to be a guest of your reflective learning project and the motivation to get started.

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Guest Blogger

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, and this time I’m doing something different!

I’d like to introduce a guest blogger – my husband, Paul.  It’s interesting that we’ve been simultaneously working on our teaching diplomas…only mine was for adult education, and he is focusing on secondary education.  We’ve had lots of great discussions about pedagogy vs. andragogy, how to engage learners, and what makes teachers awesome.  Paul needed to write a few blog posts for his current field experience, and I thought this was a cool opportunity for us to have our teach/learn journeys on the same page.  I hope you enjoy reading what he has to share!

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The truth about teaching naked

It’s hard to believe I’m in the last week of PIDP 3240 (online)!  And that means it’s time to wrap-up the blogging – for now.  It’s been a busy, but enjoyable, 8 weeks…lots of great discussions with peers, some cool new web 2.0 tools to try, and of course having the motivation to blog regularly.

When I resurrected this blog for PIDP 3240, my initial post was about teaching naked (eek!).  I was confused…why is a course about media-enhanced learning using a book that says get technology out of the classroom???  Working through the course text (entitled ‘Teaching Naked’) and through the online discussion forums, I’d like to share a few things I have discovered about teaching naked.

First truth: There is no need to remove clothing.  Ha!

Second truth: Technology in learning is inevitable, and it can be a very good thing.  The best, and most common way for students to first be exposed to new material is online.  Technology has given us more content and more ways to deliver the content.

Third truth: Face time is too valuable to waste.  Our classes need to deliver something more than what students would get if they just stayed home and accessed the online resources.  We need to make class time meaningful – something they don’t want to miss.  If they can just get all the info online, why bother showing up?

What really hit home for me about Teaching Naked was that students need and crave connections – with their instructor and with their peers.  Technology is great, but it is only a means to an end.  Students want instructor contact, discussions, opportunities for feedback, engagement, social/professional bonding.  And instructors want the same thing.

Teaching is about balance.  The perfect mix of technology, teaching practices and human contact…32fc16026a36617a7e0c066b45013ec3

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Meditation for teachers

A PIDP 3240 colleague commented on my recent blog post (Online learning -> brain damage???), thanking me for addressing the topic and shared her views on the importance of meditation.  And she’s absolutely right!  In this world where we are surrounded by technology, our brains will surely benefit from a little bit of meditation and striving for mindfulness.  I discovered this website: The Mindful Teacher, which aims to help teachers reclaim peace and cultivate attention.  The website provides opportunities for discussion, resources, online courses, and even daily morning, midday, and evening guided meditations.  To start your day with a meditation geared for teachers, check out the daily morning meditation here!


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Taking the Tech Out of Technology

it20students20lab20classI LOVED this article!!  I posted it on our PIDP 3240 discussion forum and it generated a lot of commentary.  Peers were intrigued, interested and totally engaged in discussing this article.  In the article, the author states that instructors who were involved in the Virtual College at his school were actually not interested in technology at all….they wanted to learn ways they could increase social interaction.  Likewise, students wanted instructor contact.  Although we get very excited about new technology and great new tools, we still need to maintain the human connection.  The author sums it up well: “A blend of teaching practices, technology, and basic human contact just might be the recipe needed” (Buemi, 2015).

I tend to agree very much so with Buemi.  Although I like the options that technology gives us, I still like the human connection, between students and instructor.  Linking back to the hybrid course delivery model, this is a great way to achieve exactly the perfect recipe that Buemi describes.  Does anyone else see the risk of technology interfering with human connection in the classroom?

“Our excitement over the latest technology has started focusing on the wrong thing. It ought to reside in the praxis of teaching, not the tool.”

Source: Taking the Tech Out of Technology

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Educational ACDC

Here’s an interesting spin on teaching!  And no, I don’t mean the band.

  • Active Learning
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Discovery Learning
  • Community

“ACDC Leadership and Consulting was created by Jacob Clifford in 2007. We are dedicated to creating student-focused teaching resources that make learning exciting, powerful, and fun. We offer teachers, schools, and districts a variety of programs, activities, and workshops. […] we have what you need to get students out of their seats and into the curriculum.”

One example of a student project using the ACDC program is having the students create a music video using course content as lyrics.  I remember taking anatomy and physiology and wishing it could be converted into song lyrics…the terminology would be much easier to remember if I could sing through it!

Here’s another example of using movies/music to help student remember content that may be difficult to recall:  (I shared it with my nursing class and they loved it!)

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Online learning -> brain damage???

computer-evolutionThe damaging effects that screen time has on individuals has been thoroughly researched and well documented.  However, when studies recommend to limit screen time, they are generally referring to recreational screen time.  So where does necessary (work/school-related) screen time fit into the equation?

Surely our bodies suffer the same health issues whether or not we are logged in for pleasure or business.  So it is interesting to me that with the explosion of online education, no one really speaks about the health concerns associated with this kind of screen time.  I recognize that online courses are more involved than matching various candies in a row, however, our bodies are surely suffering the same health effects.  Sedentary lifestyle, increased risk of obesity, heart attack, stroke, decreased vision, poor concentration, brain atrophy, and the list goes on…  (As I sit in front of the computer typing this, I can feel my pulse rate rising with unease).

Universities need to keep up with the times and offer online learning, I get it.  Learners want convenience, flexibility, and online courses offer all this and more.  Online learning also saves the learner and the school money (no room booking fees, resources available online, etc.).  But has anyone really considered the costs… the ones we cannot put a monetary value on…?

To read about the damaging effects of screen time on the brain, click here.

“Taken together, [studies show] internet addiction is associated with structural and functional changes in brain regions involving emotional processing, executive attention, decision making, and cognitive control.”  –research authors summarizing neuro-imaging findings in internet and gaming addiction”

(Lin & Zhou et al, 2012)


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Effects of music on learning

1147531654The Mozart Effect isn’t a new theory.  The phrase was coined in 1991 and the idea is that music (specifically, listening to Mozart) somehow improves the brain.

In our PIDP 3240 discussion forum however, a colleague revealed that she prefers to listen to classical Indian music while studying.  Interestingly, this was not related to her cultural background.  I had never considered that other forms of “classical” music may also have some positive effect on learning.  I did a little searching, and it turns out that there are actually 5 recommended types of music to enhance learning.

Check them out here:


Judging by the multi-million views on Youtube videos of “Study Music”, many people subscribe to this theory.  It doesn’t work for everyone, and it won’t work for all learning tasks, but perhaps it’s worth a try…

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