A Teacher’s Plea: I Don’t Care If You Listen To It, Though.

For the first time in my teaching career, I will be leaving students I’ve taught for a few years. This has hit me really hard in a lot of ways because, for the first time, I’m not going to see the amazing students I see every day. I know there will be new students, but there is an overwhelming grief that comes when you are leaving students who you’ve made a connection with. I’m grateful for this grief mindset because, honestly, I don’t know if I would have had this moment of clarity if I was returning next year. At the time of writing this, my students did not know I was leaving.


I had a very vulnerable moment with my  students today. Over the course of my four years of teaching, I’ve seen an increase of students coming into the classroom saying, “I can’t do it.”

This comes in a variety of forms. “I don’t know what to write. I’m bad at this.”

“I just don’t understand math.”

“Man, I’m not an artist. How can you expect me to do this?”

So, when the phrase, “I just can’t write essays,” came up today. I saw what I have seen time and time again. The student did something that drives teachers absolutely insane: behaved with complete disrespect. There seems to be a variety of things students do because kids are just “plain ol’ disrespectful these days”: going on their phones, talking loudly to distract others, not starting their assignment, putting their head on your desk and leaving a strange greasy sweat mark (who knew their heads would be so greasy?!) coming in late, or worse not coming in at all.

I get it. This is super frustrating as an educator. And I’ve reacted the way I’m guessing many of you have: trying to help, offering extra time at lunch, getting frustrated, stress eating the snacks in your class so that you can’t tell them the internal monologue in your head, telling them to be responsible and do their job as a student, repeating the expectations, asking for respect, kicking them out of class, sending them to the office. My reactions are always based on a lot of things, and it usually depends on what’s going on in my personal life, like not getting enough sleep.

But today, I had a different reaction (because I’m leaving, so what’s to lose?). I didn’t react.

I simply said, “Can I ask you guys a question and just be honest with me…. Do you feel you can either do something or can’t and that’s that?”

And there I saw it: a classroom of students, simultaneously bopping up and down. Yes. Yes. We feel like we are either good at something or not.

You don’t have to take my word for it, but they knew exactly what I was talking about it. These grade 9 students knew already.


So, there a couple reactions that might immediately come to mind…. Things like, “that’s crap. I gave you clear instructions.” Or maybe, “I told you if you needed support to come and find me. So that’s on you.”

Those are totally normal reactions as educators, by the way. I’ve had them before and will likely forget this letter one (or several) days in June and react like it again.

But my reaction today was heartbreak.

No one wants to be bad at something. That goes against human nature. Every person wants to feel successful in what they’re doing, even if it’s not their strength. Why choose to be unsuccessful? That doesn’t make any sense. So why are students saying this, time and time again?

If you’ve lost interest in this story already, then you might as well stop reading at this point because it won’t matter. You’ve already decided. You’ve already decided I don’t have enough teaching experience to know the realities of the profession, or one simple story with my grade nines does not an all-knowing teacher make. It’s fine; I get it. You’ve already decided this doesn’t matter, even though I haven’t finished, and that’s the problem.

You just went through what students are going through every single day in our education system.

The students have already decided that they “can’t do it” before they enter your classroom. That’s not your fault. It wasn’t your choice. You didn’t cause it. You can’t change it.

I really want to make sure you get that part. You can’t change it. You can’t change the past. You can’t change that kids won’t stop talking about Fortnite or the fact they have cell phones. So, let’s stop talking about it, okay? No, seriously. Stop talking about it. You are wasting your energy on complaining about realities that exist, regardless on if you agree or not. Think of what teachers could do if they used the energy they have on what changes they could make. Yes, it’s going to require you to rise above the various things you disagree with, but you can’t change them anyway. So,what can you change?

What can YOU change?

What can you change tomorrow? What can you change in a year?

The truth is everything we do is a choice. It’s a choice that I react the way I do with students who “can’t do it.” My students make the choice to misbehave in class. The difference is they don’t know they are making a choice; they honestly feel like trying isn’t worth it because, let’s be honest, our society doesn’t reward trying; it rewards doing.


Well, here are the choices I made today in my grade nine classroom.

    • I made the choice, despite being an “expert” English teacher, to tell them that I was at a grade 3 reading level in seventh grade. I usually choose not to admit that because it’s not something I am very proud of. Again, no one is proud of not being successful. And I am their English teacher, so I want them to think I can teach them with my super, amazing “expert” knowledge that I seemingly got out of nowhere.
    • I made the choice to tell them that I got a 51% in chemistry in high school. And that’s okay because it was the best I could do. I went to class. I tried. I didn’t get it. That’s alright though because there is another guy in the school teaching chemistry– sweet!
    • I made the choice to explain that there is a very big difference between not being able to do something because you can’t and not being able to do something because you aren’t trying— a message students don’t seem to be getting.
    • I made the choice to tell them I’ve never failed a student who was genuinely trying their best and just couldn’t quite get it because I knew that student gave me the most they could give. By the way, I’ve never had a struggling student who tried their best for the entire semester because they’ve constantly been told by society that trying doesn’t count for anything, and they don’t believe I’ll be different (because sometimes I’m not, but at least I am trying).
    • I made the choice to tell them the next time they have the urge to say, “I just can’t do xyz” to try and have a different reaction. I told them changing their reaction will be difficult to do, and they might fail at it the first couple times, because it’s a habit. But it’s okay because they will have opportunities to try again.
    • I made the choice to say it’s okay that English class isn’t their strength because they’ve got some pretty amazing talents elsewhere. It’s fine if they can’t do the assignment, as long as they give me all they got. I chose to mean that and not just say it.
    • I told them the way they are feeling is not their fault and validated what they told me. I said I believed them. I said the system has failed somewhere because, at one point, they tried really hard, and it wasn’t their strength, so they failed. It didn’t matter that they had tried. And then they stopped trying (shocker).
    • I made the choice to write this letter for my  students because their opinion is more important to me than anyone else’s.
    • I made the choice to be potentially laughed at in staff rooms because teachers think I’m disillusioned with the education system.
    • I made the choice to have these authentic conversations with my students, which you may think aren’t very insightful, even though I could have chosen an easier path of blaming them for not being motivated.
    • I made the choice to read this letter to my classes before posting it because I don’t want to speak up if it’s not their truth, and, if it is, I want them to hold me accountable for my words. Their response when I asked them if I should post it was, “SEND IT!”

 

 

Now, this is what I’m choosing to work hard on doing for the present and future:

  • I’m choosing to be vulnerable and share this letter because I believe I have something valuable to say that’s not being talked about in society.
  • I’m choosing to publish this, before having another teaching position next year, knowing it’s a risk. Because if I don’t get hired at another school due to what I’ve said in this letter, then I won’t be a good fit in that environment and my administration might as well know it now.
  • I’m choosing to write this to keep me accountable for my words to my students, future coworkers, and administrators.
  • I’m choosing to collaborate and support co-workers who are struggling with some of the things I’m strong at simply because it improves students’ lives.
  • I’m choosing not to say, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” when a student comes to me complaining about an assignment because it 1) does not express remorse and 2) makes it clear I think my student’s reaction is irrational.
  • I’m choosing not to blame my students for their lack of motivation in learning because it completely alleviates my responsibility as an educator to meet their needs.
  • I’m choosing to seem naive to others because I honestly believe students want to learn and their behaviours are a result of oppressive, invisible forces that perpetuate the idea they aren’t intrinsically motivated.
  • I’m choosing to put students’ mental health before any curricular outcome.
  • I’m choosing to outwardly state how grateful and proud I am of students when they meet the high expectations I know they’re capable of.
  • I’m choosing to have honest, open communication with students who aren’t meeting those expectations and, rather than lowering them, construct a plan together to reach their highest potential.
  • I’m choosing to use my position of power that I’ve been given in society to make decisions with the students’ best interests at heart because I am beginning to understand why they’re drowning.
  • I’m choosing to make my struggles visible, so they know it’s okay to mess up or not understand something as long as they are trying.
  • I’m choosing to never become a mediocre version of myself for other people because my students deserve me at my best.
  • I’m choosing to believe what my students are telling me is how they are really feeling and do my best every day to listen to them with an open heart and the respect they deserve.

You might not believe a single word I am saying right now, and that’s your choice. Honestly, I respect it. I’m glad we live in a society where people can make their own choices, or I wouldn’t be able to write this letter right now.

Heck, you might be questioning my motives for writing this letter to begin with. That’s your choice. I don’t care because I know the only reason I’m doing it is to support my students who said they’re struggling.

Believe it. Don’t believe it. Read it. Don’t read it. Digest it. Don’t digest it. Think I know what I’m talking about. Or don’t.

I can’t change any reactions I get to this, so I’m not wasting my time worrying about it. You can choose how you react.

I really don’t care. I mean it. It’s your choice.

But I will say this for the sake of students, and because they asked me to be their voice: I hope some people in the education system start making different choices. It’s okay if you fail because you’ll have tomorrow to try again.

I want to apologize to my former students for the choices I have made in the past that made them think trying wasn’t important. I want to ask them for forgiveness because I am now making a choice to do better, even though I will screw up sometimes.

Just Do It: Trying Out ALL the Platforms!

In a blog post a few weeks back, I talked about how I quit trying new things when it comes to blending my classroom. This semester, I decided to just do it: make all of my classes blended on different platforms and see how she goes. Which platforms do I like? Which do I hate? I’m thinking, after this semester, I will know the answers to these questions.

The first thing I thought of when deciding which platform to use was the content in the course. Is it a skills-based or content-based curriculum? How will I organize my documents/assignments? Do I care more about organization or interaction? Pretty much all of these courses are new to me this year, so I am still in the oh-God-what-should-I-teach-this-week mode. My course load this semester is Psychology 30, ELA B10 and 20, Social Studies 30, and Media Studies 20. I will go through my rationalization with platforms now:

Psychology 30 and ELA 20

Platform Used: Moodle and Google Classroom

Psychology 30 is more of a content-based course, with a lot of room for interactive assignments.  I’ve seen assignments from raps to puppet shows that demonstrate knowledge of content. However, I had to think of how to set up information in an organized and fluid way, since students need to retain a lot of information. Moodle offers an online ‘binder’, where I can organize content, embed YouTube videos, and provide a place to ask questions. I also wanted an easy way to collect and give immediate feedback on assignments, so I decided to create a Google Classroom and students hand in assignments on that platform rather than Moodle.

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Image Retrieved From: Josh Pigford

Drawbacks of Moodle: 

  • It’s difficult to take in and mark assignments. You have to, like, download them to your computer and change the names and then email it and it’s the 21st century, man– get with it. I mean, come on! I have a social life you know…. (I don’t :'( )
  • It does not give teachers the opportunity to provide immediate feedback and check with student progress.
  • It doesn’t encourage interactive assignments. While you can make it interactive with help from Google Slides and other online tools, the platform itself doesn’t offer those options.

Would I use a mixture of Google Classroom and Moodle for Psychology 30? Yes.

Would I use a mixture of Google Classroom and Moodle for ELA 20? No. 

While Psychology 30 is based on retaining knowledge, ELA classes are skills-based — meaning students need to be able to accomplish x amount of things by the end of the semester, rather than know x amount of information. I am teaching two ELA classes (B10 and 20) and using separate platforms for each. I’ll explain my ELA B10 and then explain my rationale for why I think Google Classroom suites ELA more.

ELA B10 (and SOC 30)

Platform Used: Google Classroom

I have never used Google Classroom before, so I thought my ELA B10 (new course) would be a good opportunity to try a different platform. Google Classroom works really well for ELA because it’s less about organization and giving information and more about practicing skills, discussion, comprehension, and composing different texts.

While Psychology 30 has 6 different units (that need to go in order since they build upon each other), ELA has been renewed and only has 2 units. creative-staircase-designs-21-2Teachers are given a bit more opportunity to switch up thematic units and still reach curricular outcomes. In fact, I find using popular culture to teach ELA is extremely effective for learning new skills. I mean… come on, you can compare a popular culture icon to Lady Macbeth– BOOM– there is your compare/contrast essay.

Image Retrieved from: BoredPanda

Similarly, Social Studies 30 units do not build upon each other, so it gives me the opportunity to create a more “chaotic” online space that is less focused on organization and more on building knowledge/skills. Immediate feedback is important for both of these classes, so it’s nice I can see students’ progress on assignments and help them with problems before they complete an assignment. I also think the stream aspect of Google Classroom is modern and keeps the platform lookin’ fresh! Posting current events and having online discussions is really easy with Google Classroom and it’s nice to have an online space to discuss what’s going on in the world.

Drawbacks of Google Classroom

  • It definitely doesn’t provide the same kind of “online binder” experience that Moodle does. Moodle is more organized and provides teachers with more opportunities to alter the format (topics, units, weekly, etc.) based what makes the most sense for the course you are teaching.
  • I have had to really change the organization of my lessons to make Google Classroom fluid and intuitive for students. My assignments usually include a Table of Contents now, so I am not posting 100 million things on the Google Classroom stream.
  • I wish there was a way to “Make a Copy” for students when it’s not an assignment. Sometimes I just need to provide them with information/content, and it does not allow me to “Make a Copy for Each Student” unless it’s posted as an assignment.

Media Studies 20

Platform Used: Blogging!

Okay, I should probably preface this portion of my blog post by saying my favourite class to teach is Media Studies 20. I think this course offers so many amazing opportunities for students to explore their online identity and showcase their talents/passions. I was supposed to teach it last year and was pretty sad when I didn’t get the chance. I have a small class this semester, and so far we have done some introduction material to media awareness and started blogging. I post all of my assignments to my classroom blog, so it’s open to educators and students.

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Image retrieved from: NorthXEast

I’ll be honest, I thought teaching blogging to students would be a bit of a gong show. I wanted to use WordPress as a platform because 1) it’s the only one I have used and 2) students can really customize their own blogs so it shows off their personality. I like having the ability to change header images, create tag lines, and widget it up! My worries of teaching blogging quickly went away when my students explored WordPress on their own. I can safely say that some of my students knew more about WordPress than I did after about two days. Why? I think it was a mixture of excitement and exploration: It’s pretty damn cool to create an online identity that reflects your passions and thoughts. I also think students see the relevancy in creating a positive digital identity and what future opportunities it might bring.

Also, my media studies students follow this blog so SHOUT OUT TO THE MEDIA STUDIES CREW! What up, folks? Ya’ll rule!

I’ve put all of their blogs on this Google Doc. If any of you get the chance to check them out and comment, I’m sure they would appreciate it!

Downfalls to Blogging

  • If you have a lot of students, it’s difficult to find the time to navigate through everything. It’s definitely not as efficient for submitting assignments, but that’s why it works so well for classes that require more reflection and narration.
  • You have to ensure students won’t post inappropriate content. Additionally, some divisions may have strict rules/regulations for students creating blogs.
  • I think blogging lends itself to certain courses a lot more than others. I don’t think I could have students “buy in” to blogging the same way with my Social Studies 30 course.

If I can offer anyone some advice before deciding what platform to use, I would get them to answer the following questions:

  • What kind of summative and formative assessments do you use in your practice? Which platform encourages those assessments?
  • Is organization a priority? Do outcomes build upon each other, or are they separate skills/knowledge that do not require chronologic order for deep understanding?
  • How much of your class are going to blend? Will a large portion be teacher-led?
  • What kind of access to devices do your students have? Will it be easy to navigate these platforms from a student perspective? Teacher perspective?
  • Do I want my online platform to be a hub for discussion and conversation? Or will I primarily use it for distributing and gathering assignments (and focus on discussion in class)?
  • Does the course content lend itself to a specific platform? Can I use the platform as part of a curricular outcome? Ex. In Media Studies they need to create different kinds of media, so creating a blog actually hits an outcome.

 

  • Koskie Out!

 

To Google or Not To Google? That is the Question…

Well, my initial reaction to this question is: What’s the point of even asking it? Google is not going away and people are going to continue to access it if I tell them to stop.

BUT….

This question sparked some interesting questions and discussions around the current 21st century shift in education. Terry Heick argues Google impacts the way students think and that students are uncertain how to “apply, integrate, or synthesize their findings [on Google], making it almost useless.”

Many students have difficulties with applying, integrating, and synthesizing information they take in, which is not the fault of Google itself.  Google has drastically changed the amount of sources that can provide information to people and how often they access information.  I think it’s ridiculous to call Google “useless” because students have trouble interpreting the findings on it. If we ban Google in the classroom, students are going to use it as soon as they leave my classroom walls. It’s dangerous not to teach students how to decipher what sources include accurate information.

And, while people continue to say Google is the cause for problems, let me just say the pre-Google era was dangerous in a different way; textbooks that produce and circulate stereotypes, sexism, imbalance and selectivity, unreality, fragmentation and isolation, linguistic and cosmetic bias used to be taken as fact. Is the information in textbooks “more accurate” than some of the information on Google? Yeah, probably. But at least students are being taught NOT to trust all of the information they find online, rather than viewing what a textbook says as unbiased information.  Teaching students how to navigate the digital world is difficult and requires teachers to embrace educational reform.

I often wonder if the common phrase “just Google it” is detrimental to our critical thinking abilities.  Alarmingly, “the average number of Google searches per day has grown from 9,800 in 1998 to over 4.7 trillion today.” When I am having dinner with a friend and they ask a question, we simply Google the answer. We live in a world of instant gratification and Google gives us the opportunity to solve problems without thinking . It’s a habit that educators need to be aware of and combat. If I find my students trying to Google something, I tend to ask them follow up questions or discuss other possibilities so they can’t simply use a search engine to produce simple answers. I want students to wonder. I want them to discover. Ramsey Musallam discusses how important it is for educators to spark learning and stop using”Googleable” questions:

It’s important that teachers are innovative in their practice because students have grown up in a world of instant information. Technology is widening the generational gap between teachers and students. In fact, Jay N. Giedd asserts that “the way adolescents of today learn, play, and interact has changed more in the past 15 years than in the previous 570 since Gutenberg’s popularization of the printing press.” It’s not surprising many educators are hesitant to embrace such a rapid change in learning. To be clear, that does not mean that old-fashioned teaching ideas should not be revisited because there still are benefits to skills like memorization. Blooms taxonomy is based on the idea that skills need to build on each other and educators need to scaffold learning so they can build upon prior knowledge. As Tayler Cameron states on her blog, “Memorization has it’s place, but we must build upon that information to reach the analyzing, evaluating and creating phases of learning.” I often wonder how teaching pedagogy will be able to keep up with the digital world. Will blooms taxonomy need to be re-visited? What other practices will we be questioning 5 years from now?

My brain hurts.

  • Koskie Out!

The Digital Project Story

Well, I am going to be honest. Every single time I had to write a reflection for my major digital project, I thought of this poem by Peggy Smaith Krachun:

Cursor, Cursor, blinking Cursor
Shade of iridescent green
Cursor in the "Home" position
On my new computer screen

Cursor at the starting gate
Chomping at the bit and byte
Pawing at the screen, impatient
Nagging me to start to write

Cursor poised for the race
In position One, Line One
Waiting for a brilliant word
To set off the starting gun

Until now a plain old scribbler
Was the only thing I'd use
On it I would draw and doodle
While I waited for the Muse

Now I have winking cursor
Mocking me in brilliant green
Have you ever tried to doodle
On a blank computer screen?

Nagging cursor, cursor cursor
Blinking on without a sound
Go away until I'm ready
I'll never write with you around.

I really appreciate how EC&I 831 takes educational theories and puts them into practice. Honestly– it’s a tough and rare thing to do. This class has demonstrated how powerful participatory culture can be. I’ve met a lot of supportive classmates throughout this blogging journey who I will continue to engage in dialogue with. However, I seriously struggled with posting progress on this project.

I pretty much summed up how my digital project went in a previous blog post. The golden rule that I had discussed is something that I am terrible at remembering for myself: continuously reinforce that progress is more important than end result. I never used to consider myself an academically inclined individual — seems weird to even type that out at this point in my life — but this project has demonstrated just how much I have been raised in an environment of the end product being the only thing that matters.

Each time I started a blog post to reflect on my major digital project, I stared at my computer screen for a ridiculous amount of time. Damn that blinking writer’s block cursor! I’m not going to lie, there is a big part of me that wants to talk about how my project was all sunshine and rainbows but I am going to #keepitreal and give you both the positives and negatives:

Sunshine and Rainbows:

  • High level of engagement – Students having the ability to choose and change their skill made them excited to research about it. I never had students complain about working on their major digital projects.
  • Students would teach each other (and me) what they were learning. While I initially thought this would take place through comments on the blog hub I created, students discussed what they were learning in person to their peers. And the Jedi becomes the master!
  • I used some of the readings in this class to show relevancy of what they were doing. I think reminding them to focus their attention while technology surrounds them is a necessary behaviour to learn.
  • I adapted this project for students who did not enjoy writing in ELA. Many students reflected on a construction, welding, or mechanic project that they were currently working on (cross-curricular).
  • Students were able to work on this assignment when they finished other ELA work early since assessing and reflecting is a continuous process.
  • Sometimes I include “Grammar of the Week” into their blog posts so they can practice skills we are learning in class while they assess and reflect on their skill.
  • I was able to build stronger relationships with students because this assignment offered me a lot of opportunity to discuss their passions and hobbies. As Rita Person states in a TED talk discussing the importance of being a kid’s champion:  “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”

What’s the opposite of sunshine and rainbows? Rain? Failures? I’m going to title this “Feedback” because failure implies I’m not going to adapt this project in the future (boo-yah, word win)

Rain/Feedback

  • Setting up blogs for students is a lot more difficult when they are in high school. Being a new teacher, I sometimes forget I need to explain the purpose of hyperlinks, where to put images, why titles are important, etc. I know this will improve over time but it’s frustrating when I forget how much modelling I need to do to support students.
  • My blog hub isn’t working for all my students and I’m at the point where I have given up on it. I am trying to get their feeds into my site slowly but this is my first year teaching ELA so I need to prioritize my time (right now it’s planning engaging activities and marking).
  • I wish I would have adapted a rubric earlier because students’ posts have improved since creating it. I always see students looking at the rubric as they write the progress posts now. It has also decreased the amount of time I get, “But, Ms. Koskie, what should this post have on it?”
  • I need to reinforce that students should be looking at a variety of resources. Some students are only using one or two resources, but part of this assignment is to recognize how many online programs can help them learn.
  • Keep whatever date you decide to do this project on consistent. I forgot how important routines and being consistent is for students. Once I started making this project due on Mondays, students understood my expectations.
  • Right now I am using Moodle for most of my classes but I would like to set up a classroom blog next semester so students are familiar with using wordpress.com. I also think it’s valuable to open up my classroom so other’s can learn from what is taking place in my class.

Implementing this projects TAKES A WHOLE LOT OF TIME AND ENERGY. I think it will be worth it in the end!

I feel like there is a pretty cliché English teacher way to end this…. are you ready? Oh man, I am pretty excited about this:

Yeah, it happened.

  • Koskie Out!

Hello, it’s about that time / that we start summarizing

WHO IS TIRED OF HEARING ADELE’S SONG “HELLO”?

I decided to write a song for my Summary of Learning because I thought it would be a challenge for me. It’s difficult to summarize knowledge from an entire semester and give an accurate idea of what was discussed (never mind doing that in a song). I definitely had some issues with fitting the words “misogynist” and “pedagogy” while keeping the same rhythm to the song. Here is the final product:

I struggled mainly with two things:

  1. Adele knows how to sing hard songs without making them sound difficult. This song is really soft in some parts and then really loud during the chorus. The microphone I was using wasn’t a big fan of this change of dynamic so I had to sit far away from the microphone.
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Take note of where the microphone is and where my face is.

2. Making a lyric video is not as easy as it looks. The first few attempts cut off important lyrics and/or the lyrics didn’t align with my song. It was frustrating. I’ll give you an idea of how I created the lyric video below.

In order to make the lyric video, I used a few different programs:

  • The first website I used was called LRC Generator. This website creates .lrc files with the lyrics to whatever song you choose. I always wondered how people would sync up words with music on karaoke videos and now I know. Family Christmas will never be the same again.
    • The process is rather tedious because you need to write lyrics line-by-line with ~ 3-5 words per line. Want a longer sentence on your lyric video? ABORT. The program I used to make my lyric video would cut off lines that were too long.
    • The generator I linked also allows you to download your lyrics as a .txt file, which you will also need to create a lyric video.
  • The second program I used was called YouTube Movie Maker. This program requires your .lrc and .txt file and generates the font and background of your video.  It’s a pretty simple program to use and this video tutorial shows you how create a final lyric video.

That’s it my lovely EC&I 831 people!

I had an absolutely blast learning from all of you.

  • Koskie Out!

Quieting that Inner Voice: Slacktivism DOES Promote Action

Sometimes I hate that inner voice. The inner voice that tells you “Ugh, instead of changing your Facebook picture to have a deep blue, red, and white flag filter could you actually take action to prevent terrorism?” or “can you please stop posting pictures of yourself ‘getting fit and happy?” I’ll be the first to admit I battle this voice all the time. Now, I stand back and think why am I having this reaction? Is it because I promote social justice on social media in a more meaningful way? No, I don’t think that’s it. Do I have a negative reaction to people becoming fit because I am currently balancing Cheetos on my stomach as I type this? OK, that one may be true.

We are born in a world where we feel the need to compete with each other. I’ve met a select few people who don’t seem to have this need, or maybe they can simply hide it better than most.  Part of the problem is that people internalize the dominant narrative in order to fit in.  An example of this happening is how women will call other women derogatory terms as much as men do. Unfortunately, what ends up getting lost is the message or issue we are trying to fight for.

The simple fact is that slacktivism does promote social agency. Who cares if you disagree with it? If it’s helping people spread awareness of a cause, it’s better than the alternative (balancing Cheetos and doing nothing else). Do I wish people would become more involved and take action? Yes, I do. I wish we all had time in our days to help the less fortunate and work towards a world where people can meet their basic needs with dignity.

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For those of you who don’t know what slacktivism is:

“Slacktivism is actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, e.g., signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website.”

The Wikipedia article has a negative definition of slacktivism that emphasizes how it does nothing at all but make us feel better about ourselves: “It is the act of showing support for a cause but only truly being beneficial to the egos of people participating in this so-called activism.” Woahh, calm down Wikipedia. I don’t speak for the entire population, but I certainly don’t feel like I’ve changed the world by sharing or tweeting a social justice issue. Scott Gilmore argues that slacktivism makes people less likely to donate to a cause because we get instant gratification from a “like” or “share.”  In fact, Gilmore goes as far as shaming people who engage in slacktivism while other researchers suggest that people are more likely to donate to a charity after they’ve signed an online petition.

Well, Mr. Gilmore and other slacktivist critics, here are a few things that slacktivism has helped spread awareness of and/or raise money for:

  • ALS Bucket Challenge (raised $115 million in six weeks w/ more searches for A.L.S in 2014 than in the entire previous decade)
  • #YesAllWomen – brought awareness to street harassment, and specifically bystander intervention
  • #NotYourMascot – addresses the “misappropriation of Indigenous identity, imagery, and culture.
  • #IdleNoMore – honouring Indigenous sovereignty and protecting land and water rights.

I’ve even included a few hashtags that are no longer widely used (and some would argue show how slacktivism is not effective). Here is the thing, though: These hashtags or “slacktivism campaigns” have led to some meaningful conversations in my classroom where students want to know why people are “sharing” or “liking” a cause/issue. Social media is especially important because it provides an opportunity or “buy in” to show students how historical issues are still relevant and have implications for today. It makes my social studies heart happy. Awareness is the predecessor to action; so, instead of wasting your time complaining about slacktivism, start having conversations around the issues that matter.

I don’t know about you, but I think we have bigger things to complain about.

  • Koskie Out

 

Assessing Process – High School Style

Well, one of the greatest parts about the teaching profession is that you can steal things from other teachers and implement it. I would like to give a round of applause to Katia Hildebrandt and Alec Couros for creating this rubric for our Major Project.

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As a new teacher, I am aware of a multitude of assessment strategies that help students succeed.  I have tried a lot of different strategies in my classroom: peer evaluation, fishbowls, checklists, questioning, exit slips, but nothing comes close to the love I have for rubrics. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are downsides to every assessment strategy— rubrics included.  Sometimes they hinder students from taking risks in their assignments and the end results are very formula.  However, I have found that rubrics have drastically helped some students who struggle the most.

It gets especially tricky when trying to create a rubric that values process more than product. So, I thank Katia and Alec again because I don’t have to start creating a rubric from nothing. I basically adapted their rubric to fit the Assess and Reflect Outcomes in ELA 20/30.  I left a lot of the same details, as the project is similar to what people are doing in EC&I 831. I am trying to resist the urge to put a lot of detail into my rubric so that I can allow students to focus on their strengths. I will most likely need to adapt this based on the responses I receive, but that’s all part of the teaching game.

I have also changed the date for when students write posts for their Major Digital Project.  At first, I thought it would be a great thing for students to do on Friday. However, I found that students sometimes forgot to work on their skill; allowing students to write posts on Monday gives them the ability to practice on the weekend. This seems to be working much better so far.

We are also currently learning how to properly integrate quotations, so I will be requiring they practice that skill on their blog posts. They can look at different readings and integrate quotations from experts in their chosen skill, or a quote that explains the process of learning something related to their skill.

Frustration of the Week:

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Photo Credit: Robin Hutton via Compfight cc

My blog hub is not showing all of my students posts. I really wanted this to work seamlessly so that students could see and write comments on each other’s blogs. I set it up by getting students to fill out a Google Form that required them to put their blogs:  wordpressblogs.com/category/koskieela/feed.

However, only a few of my student’s posts have been showing up on koskieela.ca so I am going to prevail this week and figure it out!

  • Koskie Out!