It could happen to you.

What do you do when your student shows up late and doesn’t apologize? And then continues to show up tardier and tardier each lesson. Do you yell at them? Call them out in front of the class? Do you make them do push-ups? Pay a fine? Force them to stand for the remainder of your lesson?

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A good teacher understands that punishing their students isn’t going to help them. At some point in your career, a student is going to upset you. They’re going to get under your skin and you’re going to want to punish them SO BAD – but you’re better than that.

Remember, the only immediate decision you have to make in the classroom is to dial 911. You’re allowed to take your time and make the correct decision, just ensure the student in question and the classroom is aware that a decision is coming. Otherwise, they’ll just walk all over you.

I know, I know, everyone wants to be the cool teacher – but does the cool teacher get anything done? It might look like they’ve created meaningful relationships, but what’s happened is they’ve forgotten the rules and policies and have become more of a friend than a teacher. Students need love, they need respect, and they need rules and structure – not another friend.

Rules exist because they work. Work your students to the bone with the school policies in the first month, ensuring they know and are aware of the consequences of their actions if they choose to break them. If rule breaking (e.g. showing up late) is occurring in your classroom, possibly mention to the student that you’d like to see them after class. A student showing up late disrupts your teaching which then disrupts the learning. That’s not fair to your class. Definitely do not ask them what’s going on in front of their peers, because you never know what a student carries around in their invisible backpack.

No one likes letting his or her teacher down. When you pull them aside after class or on their lunch period, find out what is preventing them from being on time so that you can resolve the issues. Then tell them what you need from them to be a better student.

If you remember anything, remember this: If you are an English teacher, you do more than just teach English. Do not let this title define you. You teach the whole child and your classroom management strategies and policies should reflect this concept.

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“Started From the [Beginning], Now We’re Here” – Drake

At the beginning of the semester, we were asked to develop a list of learning goals. These goals allowed me to become a self-monitored and self-directed learner, as I knew exactly what I was to work toward. Along with these, we were to develop a success criteria, which are essentially the tasks we would carry out to ensure that the learning goals were achieved. Allowing for the individualization of both the learning goals and the success criteria led to being a more responsible and empowered student. Now that the semester is over, it’s time to reflect and assess my overall performance based on the criteria I outlined at the beginning of the course.

Learning Goal #1: Become a 21st Century Educator

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Success Criteria: Create a blog (& use it)

If you are reading this, it means that you already know that I achieved this goal! Instead of doing a traditional reflection paper, I opted to continue to use my blog to evaluate myself. Not only have I used my own blog, I have also completely submersed myself into the blogs of others, trying to learn as much as possible from other educators. This is a really important tool to increase your knowledge and experience and I’ve found it especially great when I’ve hit writers block writing a paper. (Fun fact about my blog: I had one view from a user in Singapore! Click here for my reaction)

Success Criteria: Watch TED Talks related to Education:

As this is one of my favourite past times, it was not hard to complete this task. TED Talks are the perfect pick me up when I need a quick study break or when I start to doubt my abilities. They have taught me to believe in myself, to fight for equality amongst my future students, and to embrace all of the challenges life has to offer.

Here are a few of my favourites:

Here is a honourable mention to a non TED Talk but great video nonetheless:

Success Criteria: Use Twitter to network with other professionals:

I’ll give myself a 50% on this one. Yes, I made a twitter (@RyanRidler51), spruced it all up, and followed a bunch of professional educators, but I didn’t take advantage of what they really had to say. To be honest, I only really checked Twitter when I couldn’t sleep. In the future, I look forward to using this more to stay more up to date with the news so I can incorporate current real life events into my lessons. Also, I would like to use it to connect my classroom with another class on the other side of the world to demonstrate how fast and far social media can travel.

Learning Goal #2: Integrate Assessment into Curriculum

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Success Criteria: Pay attention in class, take good notes, do readings before class:

Let’s be honest – University is tough. It’s really hard to get everything done. Instead, I try to focus on doing most things well. I always attended class and paid attention for the majority of the lecture (to be frank, some videos dragged on), but I really struggled with completing the readings beforehand. The first three days of the week, are really busy for me but I have lots of free time on Friday so I would always catch up the readings then.

Success Criteria: Develop a growth mindset:

This course was hard! There were a lot of times when I felt really uncomfortable completing assignments because of minimal instruction and not being experienced with it. Instead of fearing failure, I accepted it and tried my best to roll with it if it happened. I think because of this, I was actually able to achieve more success. It’s humbling and empowering to accept failure as an option, and be willing to learn from it instead of run from it.

Learning Goal #3: Become the Best Educator I Can Be

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Success Criteria: Campus Tour Guide:

To work on my public speaking skills, I started working for the University as a Campus Tour Guide. This has allowed me to grow as a person and educator, becoming more comfortable at talking with large groups of people. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone has definitely led to me becoming better at public speaking, which is a vital skill to have as a teacher.

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Success Criteria: Dialogue in lecture:

Using the skills I’ve learned as a Tour Guide, I increased my participation as the semester went on. To be honest, I much prefer to discuss things with the people around me so I felt much more comfortable doing that. However, I felt I really grew and evolved with public speaking so dialoguing was something I got much better at.

Final Statement: Yes, I was successful.

Albert Einstein was once wrongfully quoted as saying, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” (See full argument here: )

Whether this is true or not, the quote brings up a valid argument: as a future educator, I have to begin to look beyond grades. Being a student for 18+ years makes this difficult, but it is a reality that I must face. What I’ve learnt most from this class is that through achieving my success criteria, I received a good grade in the course – my actions defined my outcomes. For me, the majority of my success comes from practices outside of the classroom. Therefore, I believe it is instrumental that we push this idea on current students and use it as a vehicle to change their thinking too. Having students get good grades is nice and important, but I think there’s more to teach them than just academic success: to be kind, to be thoughtful, to be mature (but to enjoy their youth), to stand up for what they believe in, to be reflective, to demand equality for all, to admit their wrongs and say sorry, to hold the door for people, to text their mom goodnight, to give more compliments than insults, to laugh at a friend’s joke (even if it’s bad), to give up their seat on the bus, and to appreciate one aspect of every person they meet. Their grades can’t define who they are as a person and they shouldn’t be the only details that count. As a future educator, I want my students to know that through developing and achieving relevant learning goals and success criteria, the stuff we can’t always count, the grades will take care of themselves.

 

 

Genius Hour: The Time is Now

Boredom: the sad inevitable reality of most elementary and high school classrooms.

However, should students accept this as a universal truth? Why should they be forced to sacrifice their interests for the purpose of ‘learning’? Shouldn’t we as teachers be doing a better job of intrinsically motivating our students to learn? I know that when I was a student, there was nothing worse than having a teacher talk at you for an hour and a half, using a presentation that was clearly three years old, or being forced to sit through a forty-five minute video on photosynthesis. I was so uninterested in the material that I would not do well on tests because I had trouble internalizing and relating to the information – all I wanted was the opportunity to pursue my own interests, not what someone else found interesting.

The problem is that half of the curriculum walks into your classroom when your students do – therefore, spending your time planning generic lessons will not be beneficial for your students. You must teach to their interests – but how do we as teachers do that?

I introduce to you: Genius Hour!

Genius hour originated from the search engine company, Google (you might have heard of them). They allowed their engineers to spend 20% of their time to work on any project they wanted to, with the hope that spending time on things they enjoyed would increase their overall productivity. As Drake, Reid, & Kolohon (2014) suggest, it is the perfect opportunity to, “develop 21st Century skills such as independence, learning how to learn, and creativity through inquiry” (p. 102).

If you’re struggling to develop autonomy in your students, genius hour could be the solution that succeeds in your classroom. It works because the teacher asks students to develop an essential question that will motivate them to explore a topic (some examples here) related to what is being taught and challenges them achieve deeper learning. A contract is written up, which determines the amount of time students have to work on their individual projects and sets specific guidelines without restricting the creative process. The teacher shifts from using the banking model of education to becoming a facilitator of knowledge, able to provide students with the help and resources they need. Teachers can step back from the learning process and allow their students to direct their own learning.

Here are three requirements to implement it into your classroom:

  • You, the teacher, must approve the project.
  • The project must be researched (using books, the internet, and any other resources available).
  • When complete, the project must be presented and shared with the rest of the class (and even the world!)

Students use this “free” time to break the cycle of boredom and follow their passions, demonstrating their presentation skills and acquiring knowledge relevant to a subject area that their inquiry belongs to (cite this, textbook). Can you imagine if this had existed when I was in school? I’m not sure I would have ever left.

I highly suggest playing this video when you introduce Genius Hour into your classroom, it will surely motivate your students to achieve success (I’ve seen it several times and still get excited watching it).

As he puts it best, “what will you do to make the world more awesome?” I challenge you to ask your students the same question.

Time is truly the greatest currency we have. To use it as best as we can, to passionately pursue our interests as much as we can, and to have as much fun as possible while we can. Why not give your students 20% more time to do so?

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Check out more helpful tips and strategies from a fellow teacher here, and to receive a free module on how to implement genius hour into your classroom click here.

Reference

Drake, S., & Kolohon, W. (2014). Interweaving curriculum and classroom assessment: Engaging the 21st century learner. Don Mills: Oxford University Press.

Peer & Simple

As a future teacher, I can’t think of anything better than sitting at my desk, relaxing, and watching my students mark their partner’s work so I don’t have to do it – Doesn’t that sound like the life?

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Unfortunately, this is the bad rep that teachers can get when using peer tools to evaluate their students’ learning.  However, it is so much more than this belief! Let’s explore!

Now this isn’t the type of peer assessment we all used to do as kids… you know, when we would write a test, pass our papers to the person beside us, they would mark it, through marking your partner’s paper we would painstakingly realize all of the mistakes we made, we would get it back, and our teacher would record our mark.  The type of peer assessment I’m discussing is used strictly for Assessment as Learning (AaL) and is used for the purpose of feedback.  To be able to effectively evaluate their peers, your students themselves must first understand the general principles of assessment, your success criteria, and the different levels of quality.  The best way to do this is to create a rubric together as a class.

I remember doing peer assessment when I was in elementary school.  The hardest part was always trying to figure out what kind of comments to write.  I would always revert to writing simply, “good job!” I realize now that this never provided them with any real feedback. I might as well have said nice socks.  You should require your students to be as descriptive as they can with their feedback to their peers so they will internalize it and improve on the next time.  Also, you can challenge your students to call you out every time that you yourself tell them that they did a “good job” without any specific feedback.  This will make both you and your students better!

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Peer assessment works well for multiple reasons.  It activates students to teach one another, therefore empowering them to be active learners. Through thinking through what their partner needs to do to be successful, the students themselves internalize the success criteria, increasing their ability to meet and exceed its expectations.  However, I think the biggest asset it provides is the creation of an honest and raw learning environment.  In Grade 12 English class I struggled to understand the use of literary devices.  My teacher told me that I needed to read more in depth about the use of symbolism in books but at the time, it really didn’t mean anything to me.  It wasn’t until the person I sat beside told me that I ‘sucked at life because I was unable to recognize the symbolism of the green light across the water in The Great Gatsby’ that pushed me to improve.  While this isn’t the feedback we’re shooting for in our classrooms, sometimes it is this honest peer assessment that teachers cannot verbalize that pushes students to become better and really get to work in the classroom. I know it did for me.  I think it especially works for classes where students don’t know how other students are performing.  It can be a really big motivator to improve their grades if they have to share their work with other students.
This video has some great strategies on how to get your students assessing each other:

However, as beneficial as peer assessment is there are still some negatives to using this method.  Here is a list of some more advantages as well as a list of disadvantages.

But all of this can be perfected with experience and hard work.

As important as getting peer feedback is, you won’t get good feedback unless you ask good questions. Here are some teacher resources that I’ve found to be successful at this:

But remember, making your own with your class is the best way to go!!!

As Drake, Reid, & Kolohon state,

“When the student no longer needs a teacher, the real work has been done.” (p. 89)

Reference
Drake, S., & Kolohon, W. (2014). Interweaving curriculum and classroom assessment: Engaging the 21st century learner. Don Mills: Oxford University Press.

 

The Why…

The purpose of this blog is to share my thoughts, feelings, and desires as I pursue a long and successful career as an educator. Ultimately, through reflecting on my personal experiences, I hope to continue to develop my teaching vision to best serve my students. This quotation supports my personal aims on my teaching journey.

“All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.” – John F. Kennedy

I truly want to make a difference in the lives of others. In every class, in every city of every province, there are children who are being marginalized and not achieving their potential because of a poorly delivered Physical Education program. I believe the hardest part of ending this marginalization is getting others to truly believe that physical education is an important aspect of development. We have conditioned students to believe that a high mark is a result of athletic dominance and wearing your uniform. Once, during a placement, I heard a student ask for 100% in participation just for showing up. The teacher responded, “So what? I breathe every day”. This is the mentality that we need to continue with as we fight to have Physical Education revamped and redesigned to effectively develop the physical talents of children, providing them with the resources and the desire to be active for the rest of their lives.

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