Be a “good” student! – What are we really saying?

The problem of common sense (Kumashiro. (2009). Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. 19-33.

As previously discussed, “commonsense” is something that we cannot get away from in any classroom. It is the acceptance of what are the norms, without regard to the oppressive nature of these assumptions – that everyone should fit neatly into one mold because “that’s just how it is”. If we approach the idea of who the “good” students are, we can easily see this commonsense clouding the vision of the educational system. Kumashiro notes that being a good student in the eyes of society encompasses: being able to learn in one specific way, having none – or few – behavioural outbursts in class, and proving that the student has learned sufficiently by being able to regurgitate the desired information on command. Unfortunately, this pays no attention to all of the variables that play a part in developing the early understanding of kids. People learn differently. That is a fact. Also, some people have a natural predisposition to certain skills and abilities – this is also known as the theory of Multiple Intelligences. For example, I am an Arts Education student. My areas of “comfort” are dance and music, and maybe even literature. Ask me to create draw or express those same thoughts in visual art – not a chance it will turn out the way I am hoping, or at least a VERY minimal chance. Putting this into Kumashiro’s world of education, I would be a terrible student in an Art class because, frankly, that is just not my best subject. This idea privileges those who are simply more academically inclined and marginalizes – and discourages – those who learn differently. Kumashiro wrote of a story of a young child who struggled to stay focused in lessons and did not follow directions “normally”. At the end of this story it was stated that at the end of every day the child would ask “was I bad today? […] I’ll be better tomorrow.” How heart-breaking is that? This young child already had in their head that they were a “bad” student. When a child only sees the label placed on them by society, they often do not strive for anything greater. Their goals and dreams are placed in the far recesses of their minds while they accept the fate that has been handed to them – that they are not a good student and cannot learn in the conventional way, therefore they are not “smart” enough.

Instead, why can we not break this “commonsense” that tries to fit every student into a neat little box of what they should strive for? Instead, why not celebrate the individuality of each student and allow each student an opportunity to learn differently? I am not saying “don’t teach curriculum, kids can learn whatever they want.” But perhaps there is more to learning than regurgitating information to get the highest grade. Instead, why not encourage passions to grow and develop – allowing students to explore what makes them an individual?


Does Skype really have a downside?

So upon discussion with Nicole Climenhaga, from my ECMP 355 class, we decided to compile a list of pros and cons associated with the use of Skype in the classroom. We were both hoping to get a big more creative than that, however due to circumstantial reasons (did I even use that in context properly? Oh well) *cough* other University classes *cough* we quickly ran out of time and ideas to make it any more interesting than the following table.

The lovely pros vs cons list Nicole and I created.

The lovely pros vs cons list Nicole and I created.

I also thought of a few other negatives after Nicole made the table, and I have no idea how she did it or how to edit it.

  • Students may get distracted by other conversations on Skype, if it is being used individually.
  • It opens up one other way for cyber-bullying to occur, with the teacher being unable to monitor how each student is communicating with each other.
  • There are sometimes spammers who add random people on Skype, claiming to know them. Students would need to understand not to add strangers or to give out important information.



Much of the information was found here, though I found many of the reasons included to be fairly repetitive – they said the same sort of thing, but used it in different context. While, according to the look of the table the negative side looks a bit longer, they are a lot less worrisome than the positive column is beneficial. There are a few concerns of whether or not the users of Skype will have access to internet, though being used in a classroom there should be a guaranteed connection for the teachers, and the hardware required to have a successful call (ie. webcam and microphone). Though there are a few others mentioned on the list I would not consider them to be a high-concern issue, whereas on the positive side of the table it has more beneficial aspects. Aside from the typical voice and video calls that are able to be made, there is also the option to send files and video or audio messages to a specific contact or group conversation. Also, Skype gives the teachers the ability to collaborate between each other, with the student’s parent(s), or even with the students themselves. Even just these few benefits greatly outweigh the disadvantages to using Skype in a classroom.

If anyone knows of or finds any glaring disadvantages (or other advantages as well) to using Skype in a school setting please let either Nicole or I know. We would love to hear everyone’s personal take on other advantages or disadvantages.

Control-Freak Much?

I am not entirely certain what the purpose of this story will be – I suppose to ask for advice on the situation more than anything.

Over what has now been almost two months of working with these kids, I have caught on fairly quickly to who they are and certain personality traits each of them has. Previously I have elaborated on London’s lovely tendencies, but that is surprisingly not where I am struggling. Georgia, the grade 3 girl, is whom I am finding difficulties managing. Being the older sister of Texas, the youngest boy, I knew from the get-go that she liked to control him and all the lovely traits that all older siblings have (okay maybe not all of them, but definitely a good number). My favourite and first moment of knowing her these past months was the first morning she and Texas came. Texas and Hastings were off fighting somewhere, or likely having some sort of competition with the skipping rope and, upon seeing their antics Georgia turned to Harbour (the oldest girl who is in grade 5) and I, exasperatedly rolled her eyes and sighed, “ughh, boys!” – before she ran off to ‘show them how it’s done properly.”

Now, she is a darling girl with a lot of personality and spunk, but she can be excessively controlling. While trying to boss her brother around is one thing, she has gotten it into her head that if she suggests playing a game that she then gets to make up the rules, dictate how to play, change the rules mid-game whenever she wants, and she has to approve everything anyone else does while playing the game. For the most part it is not too bad, Harbour will sometimes play with the younger kids but is willing to just go with the flow of what Georgia says and Texas is used to being bossed around by his older sister, however Hastings and London have already developed their own ‘alliance’ and I fear for what chaos might ensue if one day they do not agree with something Georgia says. They are both strong-willed kids and, though normally fairly flexible in how they let their games play out, occasionally over react to who-knows-what.

What I am getting at is this: while so far there has been only minimal issues when all the kids are playing together, how is the best way to handle a bossy kid without sounding critical, mean, or angry with them for wanting to control? And how do you handle the situation when the other kids notice she is bossing them around and they do not want to listen to her anymore? Georgia is a good kid and is actually a real sweetheart, but I am giving her the benefit of the doubt and hoping that she just does not realize how controlling she is trying to be. Help?!

Fact 9

Today (yesterday’s post) I will gift you with multiple facts, solely because they are all sort of under one unbelievable category.

Some of the baby names that celebrities have given to their children (not making judgments, but the website I found them on speaks for itself). Here are 10 of my personal favourites, though I suggest taking a look at the full list. (The child’s name – Their parent(s)).

Along with a few that have fun with the whole family!

Sorry I’m a day late with this, but it took some time to narrow down my favourites.

MediaSmarts Enables Slacking

MediaSmarts enables slacking, and I mean that in the best possible way. What I mean is this: it has such a wide range of topics, grade and age specific information, and resources for parents and teachers that it immensely reduced the amount of preparation time needed before approaching a subject with their students or children. From their main website you have instant access to a Digital and Media Literacy tab that drops down into a multitude of subject areas with information on many of the prevalent issues within digital media and how kids are using it. Not only that, but under each individual topic it has resources for parents and resources for teachers to access about how to address these issues. If that is not enough, there is then a page for the MediaSmarts research projects, informing readers about the studies done and being done, as well as a blog page that also covers many different categories and topics. Finally, the most useful tools I found were under the teacher resources tab being:

1. Find Lessons and Resources – This page include a variety of teacher resources that can be accessed by grade level, resource, topic, or media type. There are over 50 topics to choose from folks. 50. That is an insane number of lesson plans and ideas that is all right there waiting to be accessed by the lesson plan version of ‘writer’s blocked’ teacher. I realize there is obviously not every topic for every grade, but there is bound to be some information somewhere to nudge you on your way.

2. Class Tutorials and PD Workshops – Now these resources are licensed, however in my ECMP 355 class we were given access to the MyWorld resource. This would be an amazing tool in any classroom and I would highly suggest looking through the overview of it and considering using it. It approaches digital citizenship from such a realistic and understandable way, while teacher the kids how to appropriately reply to questionable situations they will inevitably encounter on the internet. It includes mock social media, instant messaging, video calls, search engines, and library resources for them to access in response to a given situation, while being prompt what is the proper way to accept, research, and reject information they encounter.

Basically what I am getting at through all of this is that MediaSmarts is a potentially invaluable resource that could save time and frustration in trying to figure out ways to approach what can be very difficult topics with your students and children, without scaring them or boring them to death.

Think Critically – People Suck

Ridiculousness, and I do not mean in the funny TV show way. I mean I am completely dumbfounded at how society is developing. In actuality I should not be that surprised, realistically we all see how sexually focused society is becoming. That it is not just accepting provocative behaviour, but it is actually being encouraged and endorsed. Unfortunately it is not something people bring up in everyday conversations.

Quick recap: Sext up Kids is a short documentary about the increasingly sexualized image of women being portrayed to kids and how it is affecting not only their self perception, but also boy’s perceptions of girls and sex. Now, I realize this is not a light topic but I encourage everyone to watch this documentary (about 45 mins long).

Something that really struck a chord with me in the video was the statement made that if you want to be seen, you have to present yourself as a sexual object. If you choose not to expose yourself then you are basically choosing to be invisible. This sort of “black-or-white” thinking is really bothersome to me. I will take this moment to thank my mom, I do not know how she did it, but I think she did a mighty fine job raising me. Being raised in a Christian family, I was always taught the importance of values, morals, and self-worth. While yes, in high school, there was pressure in my life to degrade myself and to try to attract boys with my body, I never felt the need to do so. It is not that I did not want the attention, realistically what young adolescent girl does not want a cute guy’s attention, I just realized there are so many other ways to go about getting it. I know this will sound cheesy but girls (if there are any that might ever read this): you do not have to make yourself up into the sexualized idea of what being attractive is made into. It is better to have an attractive personality that radiates through your external appearance and shows confidence and value. Following up with that, the documentary also stated the issue of kids sexting and sending nude pictures or posting them online. First of all, really?!? Maybe it if just me, but I do not understand how anyone in their right mind thinks that it is appropriate to be posting those pictures online (typically on social media) for everyone in the world to see. It does not matter what your privacy settings are, it is called the WORLD-WIDE-WEB for a reason! Second, people need to stop and think critically for even 5 seconds to consider “Wait, if I send this picture to someone they can instantly go and sent it to anyone else or post it anywhere without my knowledge or consent. Should I really do this?” Even just taking those pictures pose the risk that what if your phone or computer gets hacked (anything ever connected to a data connection can be), or if it gets unknowingly added to Dropbox or iCloud? What then? A clever comparison I thought of is that the use of cell phones and internet is kind of like being read your Miranda rights, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law…etc.” the rest is irrelevant. In the case of technology though it could be “You have the right to remain silent (technologically). Anything you make into a digital copy can and will be used against you in your future for the rest of your life…”

The main idea I would like to end with is that people are, and always will, be looking for ways to make you feel worthless and ways to hold you back. Do not hand it to them on a silver platter. The internet is the permanent record of your life.

Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

Photo Credit: ToGa Wanderings via Compfight cc

Fragile or Dramatic?

Now it has been awhile since my last work-related posted, oh the joys of childcare. I inevitably have many more entertaining stories, but I feel as though this should be shared first.

So London, the youngest girl (who is also one of the two kids who return after school) has made herself known to be a bit of a tantrum-thrower – awesome. At least I caught on to this early on. My first hint: it was her dad’s birthday and he was there to pick her up. I offhandedly suggested that she and Hastings sing happy birthday for him, to which Hastings decided that he did not want to and would instead let us do the singing and he would follow-up with a special performance. Now I am not a singer, or at least I do not sing happy birthday – I have a thing – long story short, once London realized she was singing a solo she was not too impressed. She stopped mid-song and went storming off saying we lied to her because she thought we were going to sing with her. Her dad quickly dealt with his distressed child and took her on her way. My second hint: later that same week, London and Hastings were playing in the gym with some bouncy balls. My supervisor-overseer-figure came in and told London that someone special was waiting for her and it was time to go. London became immediately excited to see who this special mystery person was, but as she approached the room where they get picked up she became visibly disappointed with who it was. Once again she stormed off, floodgates opened, and said that my supervisor had lied to her because she thought that someone special meant that her mom was picking her up instead of her dad. I felt bad for this poor dad who had basically just been slapped in the face by his 5-year-old daughter. Nevertheless he took over her situation and off they went. Since then there have been many-a-day with London breakdowns, but so far I have found that the tough-love sort of relationship is working fairly well with handling those instances.

The point of this post? Well I suppose it is mostly the reminder that kids take everything that you say incredibly literally and will believe everything you say. If you say you are going to do something, then you best make sure you will actually do it. It is also important to remember that everyone has breakdowns and just needs to get it all out now and then. Now if it is a frequent occurrence something might need to be dealt with, but every now and again is normal. Lastly, do not let kids get away with everything they want just because they start crying. I feel sorry for the parents who do, we will see how they last in 10 years.

Adventures of working with children

Morning crafts at work.

Morning crafts at work.

So far the program has had a slow start and of the five kids we have each morning only two of them return for care in the afternoon, Hastings and London.  A few days ago they were playing a game in the gym and, though I was left questioning the specifics, it had something to do with a giant evil rat god trying to kill them.  This imaginary giant rat was strangling Hastings, but he managed to escape by electrocuting it with his jedi powers.  London then found a small rat (still imaginary thank goodness) that she wanted to keep.  Hastings told her it was the sidekick of the giant rat, but he had changed sides and was now helping them so it was okay if she kept it.  Then, after placing it in a safe place (a garbage bin that the balls are stored in), she spoke with it and made this proclamation: “He said to me he has powers, and he told me what his powers are.  He said he could run really fast to the end of the world.  And then when he’s at the end of the world he will run up the end of the world.  And then he’ll be on top of the end of the world!”

Lesson of the day: Kids do not know everything, and that is OKAY.  They may have the craziest imagination that completely defies all scientific laws of this universe but that is okay too.  As adults we tend to try and contain that imagination because it has to make sense and be logical, often because we think it is important for them to understand how things work – there is nothing wrong with that – but they will learn that soon enough.  Let their innocent and pure imaginations run wild while they can, before the world puts the harness of reason on and reigns them in.  Let them have fun.