Journal Reflections:

Outline::

Journal Reflection -Studying Curriculum Classes 9 - 11

Journal Reflection--- March 21, 2000- Class 8

On Goodson. . .

One curriculum theorist this week was Goodson. He takes an interesting perspective on understanding curriculum; he studies life histories and life stories in order to understand how teachers enact curriculum. He believes that to understand a teacher’s practice, one must first understand the teacher. In a way this connects with Grumet’s Bitter Milk because she too was looking at how life experience, being a women and mother, impacts the career and performance of female teachers. It is interesting that Goodson thinks that teacher education programs do not really make much of an impact on teacher performance or curriculum enactment. It really makes me think about what impacts my teaching.

I have always wanted to be a teacher. When I was little I used to line up my stuffed animals and ‘teach’ school to them (some make better students than the ones I have now, ha, ha!!). My little brother was ‘forced’ to learn all of his alphabet before he started kindergarten at my ‘school’. I was a bossy older sister who really enjoyed speaking out and being the leader. Later I tried to have as many ‘teaching’ type experiences as I could: teaching music lessons to friends, summer day camp, Sunday School etc. Although I didn’t have a straight A report card, I thought teaching was something I could do so I worked at it. As was mentioned in the discussions, maybe not being perfect is an asset when it comes to teaching because you’ll be better able to understand the ‘bad’ or ‘poor’ students. Nevertheless, my student experiences did not turn me away from teaching. I knew what I wanted way before I left high school.

So, try this line of thought . . . Since I invested so much of my time and energy in the desire to become a teacher, I had ownership in my career. Now I feel that I have ownership in the school and the students; I call it ‘my school’, and the students are ‘my students’ or ‘my kids’. We have such a teacher turnover in the north that it’s not funny. Is it because they lack this sense of ownership? Should we be looking more closely at the life histories of the applicants in the interview so that we will better able to determine their level of commitment to the school? How could we do this? Is it even ethical to ask questions of this nature? How do we foster this sense of ownership?

 

One of the questions that was asked during the presentation was: How can teacher training be made more relevant and useful for prospective teachers? Here are some of my ideas in point form:

- study text - studying teachers’ lives, reflection journals

- writing a biography - experiences in a course . . .

- role of mentor, contracts and works with, more of a bridging role for site placement

- cognitive coaching

- encouraging a Why Not? attitude instead of the ‘why?’ -- more risk-taking or a spirit to try something new in the class

When I thinking of my experiences in teachers’ college, I remember best the time I spent in the classroom. The program had us in the class for two days a week over the entire year (plus practicuum time). The ability to see the children develop over the year was really valuable and we able to visualise what ‘being a teacher’ was all about. It was really great. That’s what encouraged me to realise my dream.

 

 

On Fullan. ..

Again, the question of teacher education programs came up with the Fullan presentation. This time Fullan believes that teacher education programs are the only way to better the teachers we have in the schools. Goodson thinks teacher education programs have no impact and Fullan thinks that they are the way to make change. Go figure. Nevertheless, Fullan is of interest to me because I understand that Barrie Bennett works rather closely with him and if you remember my journal on the Victoria conference, I was really impressed with how Barrie Bennett was able to put the pieces together for me to a difference in the classroom.

The question echoes: What would you suggest for teacher education? Well, our group wondered about the idea of a caring teacher. Of course, we all agree that a teacher should be a caring teacher and one that has a moral goal which is to make a better life for students regardless of their background. Fullan seems to say that teacher education programs should encourage educators to become experts in the dynamics of change or become skilled change agents with a moral purpose. Our questions are: How can you teach someone to care? What is the definition of caring? For some people, caring means being there every morning with a smile on your face and asking, "How are you?" For someone else, it means giving money to students or inviting them to stay in their homes. Where is the line? What is the definition? How can you judge caring? I care about my students and I try to be there for them whenever they need a hand BUT I don’t lend money nor do I have my students using my home for a hangout. Does that me that I don’t care? I hope not. What are your thoughts?

On Chapter 7

The fidelity Vs adaptation debate is another interesting way to think about things. This is one of those observations that I have made with the differences in teacher style but I had never heard of the labels Fidelity or Adaptation. When reading the text, I thought myself as in the adaptation camp. However, once the discussion started, I began to wonder more and more about the accountability issue. I like the idea that teaching is a craft or an art but I suppose that one has to take care that what they do is accountable to the curriculum or the philosophy of the school. My brother phoned the other day wanting to know what it is like to be a teacher because he is considering going into the field. What did I tell him? I’m not sure because teaching is such a dynamic, multi-tasking, complex job. It is an art. How do artists describe their job? Do they just say they mix paint and put it on a canvas? Of course not! Then why can’t the public see the same type of complexity goes with teaching? I don’t think I gave my brother a good answer and I feel a bit guilty because I told him most of the challenging potions of the job - those were easier to list. The positive parts of the job are harder to say. Barrie Bennett said it best at the workshop when he stated that the reason teachers teach is to see the look of understanding on a child’s face -- the Ah, Hah! Look -- You know it, don’t you. When the eyes open up and bright and light comes from within. Teachers get a ‘high’ from that look - euphoria. That’s why we teach! Not for the money, the holidays nor anything else. We teach for that feeling. How do you explain that to someone? How do we bring this into the teacher education program?

 

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Journal Reflection March 28, 2000 Class 9

D: Evaluation. In the thesaurus it comes up with: rating, assessment, criticism, commentary, judgment, critique, examination, opinion, ruling, appraisal, analysis, estimation, valuation, and review. And then there are formative, summative, objective, subjective and other terms. The presentation by Ted Aoki really gives us ways to think about evaluation. I like the fact that Aoki suggests using a variety of methods to evaluate our students. I agree with the statement: Evaluation needs to include lots of discussion so that you can see all perspectives and be aware of the frameworks that they bring to the table.

To start with, I use many different tools to evaluate my students. I teach English and Music and these subjects may allow for a bit more flexibility than others. I don’t have many ‘tests’ in my English classes but we do have written examinations four times a year. I try to have the students choose from a variety of ways to show their learning. I strongly believe in the theory of Multiple Intelligences so I try to incorporate this into my tools for evaluation. I use multiple intelligence projects, writing work samples, posters, presentation, literature circles, HyperCard presentations, research projects, poetry anthologies, etc. The Kitikmeot Language Inventory determines the skill items that are to be evaluated. I feel that by making anecdotal records which indicate specific pieces of work for individual students in the inventory, I can fill my obligations with respect to accountability.

 

With the Music course, I miss this type of accountability. In fact, I tried to create a music inventory based on skills (ex. for clarinets, the ability to play over the break without hesitation). For the history and theory elements of the course, I can easily evaluate objectively using tests and other such methods but for the performance and composition elements, it becomes very subjective. I always wonder if I am truly doing justice to their performance because on the surface, my marking is very subjective and sways to my preferences. Can I justify my scoring and maintain accountability?

For example, I don’t know how anyone can really evaluate these journal entries (no offence Dawne) because they are personal thoughts and there is little by which of criteria to go by. If you completed the journal and it makes some sort sense and reflects the class, then you should pass. Okay, but what about the varying degrees: A, B, C, etc. How do you deal with this level of subjectivity? This is kind of what I feel when I try to evaluate musical performance or writing. I find myself judging the student’s work against another student’s (norm referencing) and this is not always an accurate look at progress. Then again, do you always look at ‘personal bests’ of students to evaluate work? What about criterion-referencing? AHHHHHH!!!!!!

 

The reflection activity that was given on the Aoki worksheet that I found interesting was:

"Teachers continue to stress the need for curriculum evaluation to be wide-ranging and responsive to specific situations. After all, curriculum is about teachers, students, and their interactions with the curriculum within a particular setting. At the same time, there is a societal need for accountability. How would you change the current methods of curriculum evaluation to reflect multiple human interests such as these?" The whole issue of accountability while reflecting multiple human interests is difficult.

At the conference in Victoria, Howard Gardner spoke briefly on this type of discussion. He feels that the ‘one-shoe-fits-all’ type of evaluation and curriculum is no longer appropriate for the citizens our society wishes to create. Gardner believes that no two human beings have exactly the same blends of intelligences, even identical twins due to experiences. The implications of this are that we, as educators, can no longer teach uniform education and think it is fair. Individualized Education is the key; we must craft education to the needs of the child. Evaluation is the same thing because in order to get a true picture of a child’s learning, you have to be able to ‘see’ their progress from all perspectives.

Gardner believes that by using the theory of multiple intelligences, teacher will be better able to ‘know’ their students and evaluate their progress. He spoke about evaluating understanding; to understand is to take what you learn and use it in a different context - ‘performance of education’ which is to make connections back and make it ‘actionable’.

Our devotion to paper/pencil testing does not do justice to a student’s learning. I haven’t read Gardner’s "The Unschooled Mind" yet but it is sitting on my shelf waiting for me to get to it. I suspect it will have more details about how we can achieve this type of individualisation in the classroom. Barrie Bennett also spoke about ‘knowing your students’. He feels that you have to understand the student well (using MI, Learning styles, Gender implication, At-Risk knowledge etc) so that you can adjust your program accordingly to fill the need of the student. Evaluation must also adjust accordingly so you get a full picture of progress.

Unfortunately, our group determined that ‘knowing’ you students is very difficult if you’re teaching in a large school with many students in your courses. It must be necessary then to consider changing the structure of the school (scheduling of classes, class sizes etc) so that teachers can have more personal and human interactions with their students. Teachers need time to know their students well and there is just not enough of it in a day. Unfortunately, the way we have things now, it appears that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ type of education is what we’re dishing out.

But then again, isn’t that what curriculum is? One member of our group said that this is exactly what a curriculum is intended to do: teach all students the same information so that they all learn the same content. What do you think? This seems to go against everything I’ve just said about ‘individualisation’, doesn’t it? So what do we want? What is a curriculum then after all? And, should we reconsider the whole thing and change the entire structure? Thoughts? Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers and our group was cut off before we got into it. I’m interested to know what you think the future of education should look like.

Try this thought: Our system requires a curriculum which outlines content for study. Treat it as a foundation of knowledge. In order to reflect multiple human interests, teachers must consider how they deliver their programs: activities and evaluation. Teachers need to work harder at educating the public on these methods of individualisation of programs. Accountability comes when others value these ways of evaluation. Thoughts?

 

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Journal Reflection -- April 4 --Class 10

This week we had four very quick book reports from Bryon, Mavis, Murray and Glen.

The first presentation was Sergiovanni. Sergiovanni’s ideas are very pertinent to concerns expressed today. The book that was reviewed was on community involvement and the sense of community within a school: Building Community in Schools. Sergiovanni states that there is a loss of ‘community’ that is crucial to the success of schools. When I went to Victoria, Sergiovanni spoke on this same topic and his suggestion to big schools was to create a sense of smallness within them. He cited an example of one large school that created more than 70 clubs for students to make them feel part of the ‘family’ of the school. We really don’t have much of this problem up here. Our classes are relatively small, especially in the upper grades. Even so, I like the way that Sergiovanni emphasises the more connected feeling of schools rather than the organizational view of schools. I feel that the students, once inside the school, have a sense of community amongst themselves. This is mainly because they are closely related. I don’t think that the bigger picture of community in schools is as evident.

So often northern schools are seen by the community as separate and distinct from the community. The teachers are foreign, from different cultures and backgrounds, and the curriculum is taught in a different language using southern standards. Admittedly, we try hard. Over the last decade, a curriculum called Innuqatigiit or the Inuit perspective on education, was implemented and schools are using this resource in a number of ways. You and I have discussed the value of the document in other reflections but you must agree that it was a valiant effort. Unfortunately, it was done without the appropriate knowledge of how to put a true curriculum together. Our school also uses as much Cultural Inclusion in the classes as possible and we have Inuktitut immersion from Kindergarten to grade 2. Nevertheless, it’s a southern style school.

Byron also asked me directly how community applies in my northern experience. We were discussing gemeillschaft and gesellshaft. In Tom Gougeon’s Social Dynamics in Rural Education, we talked a lot about this too. I think that as a community, is more of a gemeillschaft because the Inuit are very tight knit and the community tries to take care of one another. But as a school, with teachers from all over and from all cultures and backgrounds, it is more of a gesellschaft. Maybe I’m wrong but it’s just a thought.

Glen did the next book report: Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms, by Jacqueline Grennon Brooks and Martin G. Brooks. I agree with the general premise of the book which is that education today does not encourage learning. Teachers disseminate information and it is the students’ job to replicate it. Coverage of an inflexible curriculum is the chief concern. I think this is really the problem in content-oriented subjects like math, social studies and science. Language Arts is based on skills and the themes that I use can differ as long as the students have the opportunity to practice their skills. I try hard to make learning happen in the class and to have students discover meaning for themselves using techniques like multiple intelligences projects, literature circles, learning styles etc. We had a little discussion on deconstructivism that I don’t quite understand yet but I’m going to try to find out more about this. Have you heard of this term?

Mavis reviewed Caine and Caine’s book Unleashing the Power of Perceptual Change: The Potential of Brian-Based Teaching. I read their other two books in another class. Unfortunately, I think we missed point of the book. It is an experiment based on Caine & Caine’s theory on brain-based teaching and learning. Everyone always views this book as an example of the failure of brain-based theory but I think it is more of a learning experience than anything. The study is to be an experiment and anyone who knows science will realize that you learn from an experiment even if it doesn’t have the same results as what you are anticipating. The barriers that the book mentions are not necessarily excuses; they are things that need to be mentioned before change can take place for the better. In Victoria, Caine and Caine spoke about this ‘failure’ and stated that they need to take a further look at the connections between emotions and learning. They learned from their experiment that other factors determine learning. I think it was a great example of how we need to have an open mind and use all the tools available to us. I still strongly believe in their concept of downshifting because I do it all the time and I can tell when the stress is getting too high and when I revert back to older patterns. I strive to be a third level teacher - Principle Orientation 3 (PO3), where teachers understand why they do what they do. This is the goal according to Caine and Caine is to think this way. PO3 thinkers can use all three instructional approaches but are embedded in the larger context and purpose.

Murray looked at a book called Stirring the Chalkdust: Tales of Teachers Changing Classroom Practice by Wasley, Patricia. We had a heated discussion about the value of learning all of the ‘modern’ teaching methods. Werner said he feels that we’ve been lectured to the teeth about the negative aspects of ‘traditional’ teaching - it feels like a four-letter word. But what exactly is ‘traditional’? Stand and deliver? It works for Werner, he feels. Here are my thoughts. I think that the difference today is that we, as teachers, have more tools in our toolbox to help kids learn. Traditionally they only knew one way of doing things. Now that we’re ‘educated’ in a variety of teaching theories and methods, we are able to me a choice depending on what is appropriate and most effective for our students. This makes all the difference in the world from my perspective. But we have to make sure we understand WHY we are choosing one approach over another. And we have to be skilled enough to know what works and when to change it.

I think teachers are looking for a manual to follow and that’s just not what teaching is about. You can’t teach directly to a textbook, test or even to a curriculum without changing the teaching into an art. It is a complex activity and teachers are the artisans in the learning. We design, plan, adjust, reflect, and do it all over again without even thinking. It is an art!

I think it is as much an art as it is a science, because I think that I spend a lot of time experimenting, developing theories, testing them out, and making conclusions. The art for me is where the heart is, the affective domain that balances those cut and dry assumptions and observations. Teachers who are stuck in a rut are what I call ‘traditional’ because they have no tools in their toolbox to use. It’s sad to see kids stuck in such programs where it is so evident that things aren’t working but the teacher doesn’t want to try anything new. Is it downshifting or just a lack of motivation?

Anyway, I am so sorry that it has taken me so long to write. I was busy writing by 30-page paper about CPP instructional workshop for teachers. Everything is fictional at this point but someday it would be nice to see some action on this front. Students drop out left, right, and centre and it would be nice to work on ways to retain them or at least get them involved in other programs. Maybe there’s not enough motivation to learn up here because of the lack of jobs and so many are unwilling to move away from home to learn or work. That’s a whole other ball game so I better stop now before it’s a novel.

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Journal Reflection--- April 11, 2000- Class 11

 

D: Hurrah! It’s the last journal entry of this course. We have dissected the concept of curriculum so much I’m not sure if I am actually clearer or just more confused. We now know so much more about the planned, enacted, and experienced curriculum and how they work together to provide our students with what is considered their education. We’ve looked at how the focal point of curriculum has altered between society, student or subject. My work with Freire has shown me just how many people believe that education is the key to a better world. All of the theorists that we have studied have wanted a change in the current situation and if education just went their way, all would be perfect. Unfortunately, our critical discussions of their theories and ideas have proven else wise. Instead, I believe that we need much more of a balance and more of a blending of ideas.

This week our group carried on our discussion of ‘traditional’ approaches and I was able to express what I wrote in my last entry about my view of this. If you remember, I feel that one of the main differences from those who are traditional teachers and those who ‘aren’t’ are their knowledge and willingness to try other forms of teaching methodologies. They have less tools in their tool box from which to approach curriculum and do not know how to best serve the needs of students in the class. One teacher that I can think of that is an example of a ‘traditional’ teacher says things like, "I learned everything I need to know from rote and drill. Everyone learns this way. That’s all students need." She never tries anything else and has very little interest in finding ways to reach her students. Of course, her biggest complaint is that her students are stupid with no motivation and are all failing. Caine and Caine states one of the most important things is to change the mental model of a teacher. They think we should strive to be teachers who can use all three instructional approaches (stand and deliver, teacher organized based on prescribed content, and student centred) but are embedded in the larger context and purpose of educating the student.

I think, if anything, I learned from this course that there are a lot different ways to think about curriculum and all are valid when in context. I am impressed with the number of theorists who have devoted their life to this topic with hopes that they can make a difference. Some day, I would like to have the skill and knowledge to take a piece from each of the theories and make them into a new practice for myself. This is what I think a master teacher does. When I first enrolled in this M.Ed. program, I was given a small pamphlet about the program. It described the Teaching and Learning strand as program designed to enhance the skills of teachers: "Graduates of this program typically seek to become the master teachers and involve themselves in curriculum development." Over the last three years, I have been immersed in discussion and reflection about my own teaching practice and how it fits into the overall picture of education. I know that we’re not completely perfect yet, but I think that the only way we can do better is for each teacher to get involved in the learning. Whether it is to enter into a post-graduate course or whether it is to subscribe to an educational journal, I would encourage all to LEARN and REFLECT!

This course has taught me many things. I am far more knowledgeable about the curriculum theorists than ever and I can now see how they fit into the bigger picture of the development of education. I am always so amazed how I am able to connect my own personal experiences to information learned in a course and I am thankful that my group and my reflection partner was able to reaffirm my understandings and add more to them. I also found it interesting to read about the development of curriculum over history and in the current times. The text was able to put order to my somewhat vague understandings about these approaches. Although, I didn’t always agree with the others in my group, they were able to challenge my thinking and isn’t that what good teachers do best?

As I look back at my first journal on defining curriculum, I see that I am almost more confused than I first was. Maybe it’s not confusion . . . just because I don’t have the one-liner definition doesn’t mean that I don’t have a grasp of the concept. And yes, I think it has become more of a concept and less of a single word. Our Van Manen expert even ended the class by thanking us for helping create a curriculum ‘within himself’. Wow, what an idea about curriculum! The three main things that I see happening with my definition are the balance and equality between the planned curriculum, the enacted curriculum and the experienced curriculum. Each has equal importance and each is worthy. This is interrelated by all those in the class, and all influences on the student. Evaluation must be done in a variety of ways so that all perspectives are represented. Schools today must look at new ways to foster the uniqueness of each student and we must come up with new ways to structure schools. I really believe that that the old ‘one-shoe-fits-all’ programs that are being presented for today’s students are not the way to go. There are many new theories and ideas out there and somehow we must meet this balance