July 18, 2015

Don’t everyone raise your hands at once.

So now it’s your turn: when it comes to feedback, whether for or from your students, or received as a student, what do you want to discuss? What do you want to know? What can you share from your own experience? Any feedback myths to bust? Burning questions? Aha moments?

Share as much or as little as you want, and please feel free to share the post!

July 14, 2015

Looking back on looking forward

A now-cliche interview question is “where do you see yourself in five years?” In other contexts, we encounter the same concept – visualizing fitness results, planning a family, designing a home renovation… it all comes down to looking ahead.

Since I’ve been deliberately looking back lately, I’ve had the chance to reflect on where I saw myself going, and to compare that vision to the eventual reality. It’s an interesting way to learn about oneself, as well as to come to terms with the idea that ultimately, we have very little control over the universe – which can be a very liberating notion.

My journal entries from ten years ago sound like me. I haven’t changed, in many ways, but in so many others, I am different. So, yes, the ten years ago me would not be surprised to know I am still teaching English at Cegep, I am still married to Dr. T., I have a cat, I have two sons, I live in a beautiful house in Montreal, and I’m writing about education in a blog (meta alert).

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July 11, 2015

Quick! Slow down!

Going back to the journals I wrote for my M.Ed. courses has been an interesting exercise, and not just because I’m revisiting some ideas and concepts that I haven’t looked at in a decade. It’s the “in a decade” aspect that got me thinking about the passage of time.

One of my yoga students from the YMCA where I used to teach came to one of my new classes at my local Y, and he talked to me after the class. He was quite agitated, because he wants to “fix” his energy. He wanted me to come back to the first Y, and pass my energy to him, or give him a way to get to perfect mental, physical and spiritual balance, NOW.
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July 9, 2015

Different Ways of Knowing

Originally posted as a M.Ed. course journal assignment, February, 2005

I’m glad we have a chance to reflect on Baxter Magolda’s stages_of_knowing_model.

Interestingly, when I read her chapter on teaching to the four levels, I was thinking strictly in terms of my students – when I looked at the journal questions, I was actually surprised to find the first one is “how would you classify yourself as a learner today?” I suppose that given the objective of the journal, I shouldn’t have been surprised!

In terms of Baxter Magolda’s framework, I can see a definite progression in my own learning over the years – and in reflecting on those years, I can even pinpoint a couple of specific instances where I realized that a particular teacher had become a peer, and how incredible that felt! I can also now understand a little better my resentment when, just last year, a friend introduced me to her husband, a university professor, whose style of conversation was more like an interrogation – there was a palpable professorial tone, which I immediately resented. I am a colleague, buddy, not a first-year student! (I could probably go on for ages about my relationship with my Dad, who seems to think I will always be a teenager, stuck in the Absolute phase forever, but there’s only so much therapeutic reflection I should inflict upon you!)

In my second year of university, I took my second philosophy course, because I had absolutely loved my first one. The second one was taught by a different professor. In the very first class, she said something that immediately made me raise my hand – I wanted to question what she had said, to better understand her point. Her response was that “we’d talk about that later on” in the semester. I dropped the course. Continue reading

July 8, 2015

What do I know? I’m just the teacher!

When I began my M.Ed., I used my then-blog, Something Up With Which I Will Not Put, to reflect on and share ideas that came up in the courses I was taking – much the same way I plan to blog through this next phase of my development. I figured it might be interesting to revisit those posts. At first, my plan was to import them all in one shot, but now I’m thinking that it might be more beneficial to bring them here one at a time, taking time truly to revisit them, rather than just dumping them all and not appreciating them. I’m leaving the date stamp, and wherever possible, the links, as they originally appeared. I will also attempt to import comments from the original posting, and try to comment on the posts as I upload them. Please feel free to add new ideas, insights, questions, or feedback!

January 19, 2005

One of the on-going assignments I’ll be working on for the course I’m taking is a journal. Apparently, the journal is something I’ll continue working on in subsequent courses. [NB- the course in question was the first Master Teacher Program course, “College Teaching: Issues and Challenges.”]

Our first journal assignment was to write about knowledge – we’ve been talking about the term in class. Some writers in the field of education think of knowledge as the bottom chunk in the Maslow-esque learning pyramid. For instance, one such writer posits that student first know facts, then understand these facts, then apply the facts to given problems in a given context, and finally recognize when the application of these facts is required in a new situation given out of context.

Anyway, for the sake of nothing in particular, I give you my first journal entry…  Continue reading

July 7, 2015

Once more unto the breach

As a teacher, I cherish that special bundle of emotions that comes with the start of a new semester: a mix of nervousness and excitement, tempered by the calm that descends when I step onto campus, because I’m home.

As a student, I’m also excited, also nervous, also at home, but add to the bundle a certain sense of distress that comes from knowing I have very little control. I have to rely on, and trust, other people – professors, classmates, administrators – and that trust is sometimes tested. One advantage to being a player on either side is that I’ve come to understand that very few people are actively working against you, no matter how frustrating things may sometimes feel. I try to remind myself of this fact when I encounter those bureaucratic roadblocks that are inevitable, but ultimately surmountable.

My newest adventure as a student is about to begin, or rather is in its initial stages. After just over a year of the aforementioned roadblocks, this morning I registered for my first PhD courses at McGill.

This blog is part of this adventure. I want to spend the next few years looking into the communication between teachers and students, and how both sides of that dialogue can get more out of the discussion. This focus comes from work I did for my M.Ed., in which I looked at teacher feedback on student work, and discovered that no two teachers give the same feedback – some write lots of comments, some write nothing; some use codes and graphics to express themselves, some use only words; some question, some correct; and no two use the same complete package. These results led me to wonder just how much students can get from this feedback , since they cannot rely on consistency. Even if they manage to figure out one teacher’s comments, they have to start at square one the following semester. Both sides end up frustrated – teachers spend hours on student work, only to witness students glance at their mark and ignore the comments; student don’t understand the comments or how to use them to improve their work.

I’ve been teaching in the CEGEP system for over a decade, and I love my job, my colleagues, and my students. I’ve also been a student for pretty much my entire life. In recent years, as well as completing my M.Ed., I studied as a fitness instructor, and am now a certified yoga instructor. One of the interesting aspects of my training in the fitness field is that what makes me a good teacher in the classroom makes me a good teacher in the gym or yoga studio – and vice versa. As a yoga teacher, I can see much more tangibly the idea that different students respond to different kinds of feedback and instruction. Some need to see me move, so they can mirror my physical placement. Some need to hear my instructions, because they want me to tell them what to do. Some need me to adjust their bodies, because they need my correction to get the right alignment. Some need me to leave them alone, so they can figure it out on their own!

The purpose of this blog, at least for now, is to document my adventure. I want to use this space to explore some of the ideas that emerge, to engage in discussions of practice and of theory, and to do what one does with any adventure: record my progress, share some souvenirs, and have something to reflect on when it’s all over.

Your feedback is welcome.