education work

Ed 2500 Practicum – Day 1

It was about 10:15 the night before my first day at Westminster school. I was worried — should I wear a tie, no tie? Where were my khaki pants? I knew this pent up anticipation was overblown, but the school day would still arrive much too quickly. I was terrified I would wake up late and begin my descent on the slippery slope to failure. Despite my fears, I woke up bright and early, had no problem deciding what to wear, and made myself a breakfast fit for a champion. I arrived exactly one half hour before class and waited nervously in the office for someone to say hello. There isn’t much going on at Westminster at ten to eight in the morning, but I could hear the principal and the secretary talking in another room. Time stood still as I reflected the moment. Memories of my own experiences in elementary school flooded my mind. There were teachers that I loved and maybe one or two that left me with some unpleasant memories. I pondered what Mrs. Day would be like, how she would teach, and how I would interact with the students.

When I met her, I knew immediately that we would get along just fine. We took a quick tour around the school. There were so many names of teachers — I remember thinking, how am I going to remember them all, let alone the names of the kids in the class. Mrs. Day asked me to help her prepare breakfast for the kids — Westminster provides breakfast for each student, assuring that they’ve all had something to eat before they are expected to learn. I opened a box of apple juice and began to pour. Juice dribbled out in all directions. I’m not sure why I felt nervous, but I remember thinking sarcastically, what a great way to start things out: the very first thing I’ve been asked to do and I make a mess. No big deal though, Mrs. Day grabbed me rag and I cleaned things up. I finished pouring drinks while she cut bananas and muffins. Next we headed out for supervision and then back into class when the bell rang.

I liked watching the control Mrs. Day possessed over her class. She confidently instructed and the students listened. She identified which students weren’t paying attention and called them to order. She maintained the flow by not only identifying children individually by name but also by row; thereby calling a few students to action at a time. She also utilized their birth months when selecting a group of students to go back for second helpings. I liked the efficiency and order and how the students knew the routine and listened patiently for their turn.

The smart board lesson on how to write a story was fantastic. First the class listened and watched as a story was read and illustrated. Following that, Mrs. Day discussed with the class the formal elements of a story writing. I tried to watch which students were answering most of the questions, and while there were a few that consistently answered and a few that almost never answered, Mrs. Day did a good job of balancing out who she called on for responses. It was clear that she had given this lesson before and was very well prepared. She is a master at the smart board.

It was about this time that hands began to raise to ask if they could go to the bathroom. It was very interesting how some kids got permission while others were told to wait. I wasn’t sure how to feel about making anyone wait, if they said they needed to use the bathroom I would have trusted them to go, but Mrs. Day had experience and knew who was to be trusted and who was trying… not to take advantage, but who might have been more likely to waste time in the hallways. One of the students who asked to go to the bathroom didn’t explain that it was because he was feeling ill. When he came back he sat with his head on the desk.

Mrs. Day asked me to mark some math homework, which I really enjoyed. It was something I could do rather than feeling awkward about wandering the classroom and just observing. I had finished marking most of the homework when suddenly Mrs. Day said to me, “Mr. Milner, would you please go get the caretaker, one of the students just threw up.” I looked over and sure enough it was the kid that hadn’t been feeling well. I thought, what a thing to happen on my first day! Luckily it was pretty mild compared to how it potentially could have been.

Later, the kids had a math test in which I helped by answering kids questions about what a specific question meant. My limited assistance felt a bit useless but clarifying exactly what a question was asking was enough to help most of the kids complete their answers. Mrs. Day asked me to go out in the hallway with one student in particular and go through the test with her. (I didn’t realize she was a she and not a he… apparently not an uncommon assumption). It was a bit sad to realize that this little girl had a very limited reading ability. In the hallway behind us a police officer was talking with a student. I was a bit shocked to see a police officer questioning a student in an elementary school.

I’m not going to say I didn’t enjoy my first day. I certainly felt it to be an interesting day and I’m very excited to be here. I definitely thought the kids were cute and nice. However, I did remember thinking that elementary school wouldn’t be my first choice. I also remember thinking the neighbourhood where the school is located makes a big difference in the kind of issues a teacher has to deal with on a daily basis. I was very impressed with Mrs. Day’s manner with the kids and her clearly well honed teaching skills. She made me feel very welcome and just before I left we discussed what I can do to take part in teaching a lesson with the smart board next week. I’m looking forward to it.

education life

Back to School

I’m back at the university today for my first day back at school. I am considering joining the swim team and applying for a position as the Fine Arts Rep for the Students Union. I’m about to go to the welcome lunch with my friend Kelly Sushinsky.

I spent the afternoon attending my Painting 1 class, which was brief due to the fact that we don’t have any supplies yet. Afterward I slipped into the Swim Team’s orientation meeting and decided that maybe joining the swim team again is too large a time/money commitment.


Wikipedia’s List of Common Misconceptions

I enjoyed reading through Wikipedia’s list of common misconceptions.


Open Source Online University Coming Soon

Israeli entrepreneur, Shai Reshef, plans to combine the world’s open source educational material and create the world’s first free global university*.

“The open-source courseware is there, from universities that have put their courses online, available to the public, free,” Mr. Reshef said. “We know that online peer-to-peer teaching works. Putting it all together, we can make a free university for students all over the world, anyone who speaks English and has an Internet connection.”

Reshef plans on starting things small. Starting this fall, 300 students will enroll in bachelor’s degrees in business administration and computer science.

*Free as in open source, not free as in beer. However, it doesn’t look like it will be particularly expensive. From the article: “students would pay only nominal fees for enrollment ($15 to $50) and exams ($10 to $100), with students from poorer countries paying the lower fees and those from richer countries paying the higher ones.”

education religion Science

Five must see open course video lectures

Since the introduction of open lectures by progressive thinking educational institutions like M.I.T., Stanford, Duke, Yale, and others, many exceptional presentations have bubbled to the top and should be watched.

Here are five must see open course video lectures as recommended by Virginia Heffernan of the NYTimes.

  1. Walter H. G. Lewin, Powers of 10, M.I.T. (At about 2:40 watch Power of Ten video that is cut from the lecture)
  2. Randy Pausch, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, Carnegie Mellon
  3. Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational, Duke and M.I.T. (the rest of his short clips)
  4. Langdon Hammer, Modern Poetry, Yale
  5. Christine Hayes, Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), Yale

I also recommend Mark Schlissel, Introduction – The Cell Theory, Bacteria, Animal Cells, Evolution (Viruses and Midochondria). (The good stuff starts at about 13:00).

I listened to about a quarter of all the lectures from this course—most of which were over my head, but the first and second (mp3) classes are fascinating and make me wish I studied biology at school.


Is Becoming a Teacher the Best Plan?

After another meeting about the possibility of becoming a teacher, I’m even more conflicted about what I’m eventually going to do. The meeting went well, possibly as well as it could have, but some concerns still need to be addressed.

I realize the actual day to day of teaching in a public school may not be as fun as teaching New Media summer camps over at the University—with many students suffering teenage angst and apathy for learning in general. That isn’t what’s bothering me.

The real conflict comes from the fact that I’ll still have to take two art classes before I can even apply to the Faculty of Education, and another five after that before I can start the year and a half of practical studies requirements. So the best case scenario would mean I wouldn’t start PS1 until Fall 2009, PS2 Spring 2010, and PS3 Fall 2010—I could be a fully paid teacher by January 2011. I’ll be almost 32.

Perhaps when it comes to furthering my education, I should think about a higher level degree, as opposed to moving laterally. Do I really want another Bachelors degree? Perhaps I should be thinking about a Masters.


Thinking About Teaching

About a week ago when I was in Medicine Hat visiting my family I went over to an old Pronghorn teammate’s place to see how he is settling into teaching at my old high school.

He mentioned that the principal couldn’t find anyone qualified to teach the drafting/design class that they used to offer when I went there. It got me (once again) pondering the idea that perhaps I would enjoy teaching New Media at the high school level. I really enjoyed teaching the New Media Movie Making Camps a couple of years ago. I would be a very good teacher and I’d really enjoy it. I figured that since I already have B.F.A. getting the B.ED wouldn’t take THAT much more time. So, I looked into it.

What I learned irks me, but it does explain why there are so few qualified New Media people going into education. The Faculty of Education at the U of L only gives its B.F.A. students three choices for a combined degree:

  • B.F.A. (Art)/B.Ed.
  • B.F.A. (Dramatic Arts)/B.Ed.
  • B.Mus./B.Ed.

Notice the conspicuous absence of B.F.A. (New Media). The U of C and U of A seem to have similar options. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s entirely absurd that they don’t offer it, after all New Media is still pretty new, however, I hope that the principals of schools within the region make it known to the ATA and local universities about the need for such a program. It would be nice to know they are at least thinking about it.

As for me, without drastically changing the world first, in order to be able to teach New Media I’ve got to go back and take at least two more semesters of Art before I could even start on the year and a half of classes and practicums that I would need for the B.Ed. It seems like a long haul with a giant debt attached to it.

I haven’t yet decided if it’s completely out of the question.

Update: I went back to school, and in the time since I’ve finished, the U of L now offers a B.Ed. New Media degree.


826 Valencia

I just watched Dave Eggers TED talk about the 826 Valencia project. It’s inspiring and funny; please enjoy:

Accepting his 2008 TED Prize, author Dave Eggers asks the TED community to personally, creatively engage with local public schools. With spellbinding eagerness, he talks about how his 826 Valencia tutoring center inspired others around the world to open their own volunteer-driven, wildly creative writing labs. But you don’t need to go that far, he reminds us, “it’s as simple as asking a teacher: How can I help?” He asks that we share our own volunteering stories at his new website, Once Upon a School.

education Music

Guitar Noise Podcast

Guitar Noise PodcastI just subscribed to the Guitar Noise Podcast. In the first episode, managing editor David Hodge goes through some of the basics of strumming. If you’re just learning the guitar, as I am—my parents gave me a guitar over the holidays, then I recommend you check it out.

I hope that, as they get a little more familiar with the technology, they will take advantage of dividing their podcasts into chapters and then show relevant “artwork” such as a JPG of the strumming pattern or chords that they want you to hit. But as it stands now, it’s still a great example of using podcasts for teaching.

(Yes, I realize in order to use chapters the podcast needs to be in AAC format instead of mp3, but as an iTunes user, it’s a trade-off that works for me. Perhaps they could have two streams, a normal podcast and an enhanced m4a version.)

Feed link.

education life

Memories of a Forth Grade AIM Class

Despite repeated emails and Christmas cards that continually expound the details, I can’t seem to regurgitate my parents’ plans for Christmas except in the most general terms. I’m expected in Medicine Hat on Sunday? Food will be eaten? Religious differences will be tolerated? The important details just don’t stick in my mind.

However, ask me which questions I couldn’t answer on my 4th grade aptitude test to see if I qualified for AIM, and boy, do I have a list for you!

For the record, I didn’t answer “Christopher Columbus” because my fellow test taker, Christine, who finished it the day previous, told me, “contrary to popular belief it was Captain James Cook that discovered America.”

Why WOULDN’T I believe her? And to be honest, I don’t even know if Columbus is the answer they were looking for—what about the Vikings? And while we’re at it, do the First Nations people count for anything?

Don’t lose any sleep over it. I got into AIM anyway.

In case you’re curious, AIM was this once-a-week afternoon program they had for students who were high achievers. While my peers at George Davidson were learning about the First Nations (Native American Indians as they were called then) and the settlement of Western Canada, I was busy across town learning advanced science, math, and computer skills.

In AIM they taught us about negative numbers, statistics, and among other things how to use a word processor—this was a pretty big deal considering that in 1988 most people hadn’t even heard of word processors. I still remember typing away in front of those state of the art monochrome green monitors. Our teacher Mr. Freeman insisted typing would be a useful skill later in life. Who knew he’d be so right?

And even though this might sound pretty cool, I hated AIM.

One of my complaints was that I wasn’t interested in learning how to type. Computers were for games! and as any 9 year old of that time will testify, learning about home row is significantly less entertaining than Lode Runner.

They also demanded too much homework. Any extra homework, is too much. The weekly afternoon assignments at AIM more than doubled my load for the entire week. And to make matters worse, I was completely stressed out that I wouldn’t do a good job.

Homework wasn’t the worst part though.

The worst part was that none of my regular teachers had ever gotten around to teaching cursive handwriting. Mr. Freeman, liked to mix his chicken scratching with cursive shortcuts. Basically I was in a class of geniuses and I when it came time to read our homework off the board, for all intents and purposes, I was illiterate. Talk about HUMILIATING.

Mr. Freeman wasn’t exactly understanding either. There were a few of us in the same boat and he lipped us off saying that if we couldn’t read his writing, that was our problem. It was the next week that I began skipping. (How did you think I found out what everyone in my regular class was up to on Wednesday afternoons). Shortly after that I ended up dropping the program&8212;but I’ve kept the guilt.

And in so many ways, I can’t help but feel like my performance in AIM has been a reflection of my life in general. If only my circumstances had been different… if only I had a half decent teacher, or someone to inspire me… and besides whatever it is I should be doing, it’s significantly less entertaining than any number of my daily distractions.

At least I can take a break from my worries with some holiday cheer.