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Navigating Personal and Professional Development Amidst a Pandemic

In my previous experiences with youth as a camp counsellor and private English teacher, I was focused on practical knowledge; how to gain children’s attention, how to maintain engagement, how to instill respect with one another, relay content, while stating clear guidelines to follow. Although these tactics facilitated to keep a group of children cooperative, safe, and involved, I had not inquired greatly into the depth of the learning at hand. With the start of this program, I began to investigate what makes a remarkable teacher, what external factors are contextualizing each child’s experience, as well as theoretical approaches to pedagogy.  Furthermore, by exploring Helen Timperly’s Adaptive Expert (2012) I have gained the tools needed to embark on a cyclical reflective process consisting of assessment, refinement, application and professional conversations. This year has been full of uncertainties, but one thing that is for certain remains that teachers must be adaptive.

Despite just graduating undergrad, there is a lifetime of learning ahead of me with infinite room to grow as an educator. Often time growth feels uncomfortable when learning novel content, and unprecedented modes of instruction, but to me, this development serves as an opportunity to remind me what the learning process feels like for students. In turn this joy and challenge of learning will further equip me to understand the student perspective.

Commitment to lifelong learning is integral so students can receive the utmost current and engaging pedagogical approaches and content. After being exposed to the Communities of Inquiry, I have never been more motivated to participate in and promote various educational contexts.  Coincidentally, over the course of the pandemic, expert knowledge has never been more accessible as numerous institutions have been offering free master classes, and live streams. Apart from the B.Ed. program, I am currently furthering my practice by enrolling in “Art & Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies For your Classroom” a course offered by the Museum of Modern Art, I have attended virtual events hosted by the Art Gallery of Ontario, and numerous Scientific conferences offered by Labroots. Moreover, I have also expanded my listening to podcasts including Science Vs. and Ologies, which delve into various scientific topics and address common inquires. As a future teacher I realize that it is my responsibility to seek knowledge from extended learning communities so that my students receive an expanse of insight from diverse contexts. Furthermore, within my practicum I aim to promote extension of learning by facilitating a learning community in a leadership role.

Over the past few months, I have been fortunate to participate in concentrated discussions with peers and professors to refine my professional knowledge and reframe my beliefs.  Within these groups, we share areas of strength while teaching, areas of worry, and areas that can be improved upon. This supportive and collaborative space assists to take collective agency to create the most valuable learning environment for our students.  

One of many themes that remains consistent through all courses, outlines above all, students are at core of all pursuits. When deciphering what to teach and how to teach it, I will stop and ask my self what will offer the students the most positive and productive experience, to guide instruction. Likewise, I am dedicated to providing students with the most accurate assessment of their skills, in a mixed ability classroom this does not always look identical as fairness does not always mean ‘sameness’. In this respect I will uniquely tailor learning plans for individuals who are struggling and instill differentiated instruction when necessitated.

Lastly, I resonate on three areas; what I know now, what I continue to struggle with and what I aim to achieve. What I know now is that within education system there are hidden agendas, expansive social inequities, and diverse theoretical approaches to pedagogy.  What I continue to struggle with is how can I diverge from Eurocentric approach to curriculum content, when majority of policy makers represent the colonial perspective. What I aim to achieve as an educator is an inclusive classroom, appreciation of diverse culture and expertise, a classroom that uniquely challenges and supports students to their own potential, and eliciting engagement and fostering connectedness.

First Year Reflection

 Educator and researcher, Helen Timperley once stated that successful teachers “…are able to flexibly retrieve, organise and apply knowledge to new problems and are not restricted to executing established routines of practice” (Timperley 6).  Over the past year, adaptability has been integral and at the forefront of every teacher’s practice. Although course content may remain unchanged, instructional strategies are ever-changing.

Throughout the first year of the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) program, I have acquired immense knowledge of what it means to be a teacher. I have challenged preconceived notions and disrupted any hidden biases I possessed prior.  Inadvertently, due to virtual learning, I also expanded my digital skillset. Within the program, I am routinely grounding learning through multiple Communities of Inquiry. For instance, I have increased insight from peers in the B.Ed Program, with ongoing projects I have situated learning by reviewing educational research, and countless zoom lectures including discussion boards have contributed to fostering virtual communities.

 After attending Professional Learning Communities (PLC), I feel greater equipped to formulate my pedagogical approach with areas concerning mental health, well-being, creating equitable learning environments, in addition to integrating inclusive practices.  

  With the majority of extracurricular activities being cancelled, it is integral to instill a sense of community in the classroom, regardless of a remote location.  With the start of each lesson, I look forward to using diverse discussion prompts to gain a comprehensive perspective of students. I will keep communication a priority throughout my practicum by offering ongoing classroom support, live polls and check-ins. I will also be mindful of student’s screen time/ attention span and incorporate short breaks throughout lessons.  As an educator in a unique point of history, it is my job to understand how each student learns and how I can accommodate them on their learning continuum.

When instilling classroom management, I will diverge from punitive measures and consider, does this strategy contribute to building the student’s self-worth and integrity? Following the ‘Responsive Teaching, Diversity in the Classroom’ PLC I gained a broader perspective of how to conduct classroom management. For instance, I will utilize restorative questions to guide students to self-reflection. These questions include “what were you thinking at the moment? What have you thought about since? Who has been affected by what you have done? What do you think you need to do to make things right?” Overall, we can utilize proactive discipline approaches by knowing ourselves, knowing the students, understanding policies and curricula standards, then plan effectively and practice healthy behaviors in the classroom.

 In this sense, I aim to embody Leadership in Learning Communities one of the professional standards of practice as stated by the Ontario College of Teachers. Recognize the overarching responsibilities and influence within these settings, to enable student success. 

Within my practicum, I look forward to fostering a great sense of socio-cultural awareness. I will be attentive to how one’s intersectional positionality may affect their learning experience. Consider how to minimize any barriers at play and work collaboratively to assist students uniquely. Furthermore, I will tirelessly strive to avoid assumptions of universality by curating diverse exemplars through art, artists, scientists, diverse ways of instruction, providing a platform for students to share traditions, varying values, expansive historical context, as well as continually highlighting BIPOC leaders. I am aware that equity and inclusion are lifelong practices, and I am devoted to continuously learn.

 With the recent pivot to online learning Students now have access to online platforms which grants a vast opportunity for differentiated informal assessment where applicable. Utilization of Kahoot,  exit ticket to assess student’s progress at the end of each lesson. Submission of a short elevator pitch of a concept over video, live, or over a chat interface. Creating a digital portfolio of their best work to be graded, virtual poster sessions, video or audio reflection. Peer assessment adapted for online to instill a collaborative classroom assessment. Dividing students into breakout rooms with clear success criteria. With multiple avenues to participate with low stakes, students can receive feedback to propel them forward on their learning journey.

Although I would have preferred to experience practicum in person, the placement in an online setting allows the opportunity to strengthen Ongoing Professional Learning, as encouraged by the OCT. While becoming acquainted with Google Classroom, I will seek online materials to inform pedagogy, and ultimately enhance student learning. Overall, throughout the next eight weeks in practicum, I aspire to be a prepared engaged educator, know the learners, all while building a sense of community.

Timperley, Helen. “Using evidence in the classroom for professional learning.” Étude présentée lors du Colloque ontarien sur la recherche en éducation. 2010.

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