Darin Janssen’s Weblog

Reflective Blogging?

When I was reading this article it stuck me that most of my professors have been telling us to reflect on everything we do as teachers, but not really helping us find a way which works for us.  I think the problem is that whenever I handed in some sort of reflection there were no comments back; no pushing of my thought process.  Most of the time there was comments like interesting, insightful thinking, or just check marks (which are the ones I hate the most).  Check marks are not helpful or thought provoking.  How do I even know they read it or thought about what I was saying?  My four year old son can put check marks on a page.  Thought out comments or suggestions are the most helpful to me.  I know that meaningful comments are time consuming to write, but they are useful and will help me and others become more reflective about what we are doing.

The next thing to think about is why it is hard to become a reflective blogger.  From my perspective I have some things that challenge me to becoming, what I consider, deeply reflective on my blog.  One is that I am still learning how to think more deeply about the ideas which go through my head.  That is where most of my reflection happens; in my head.  I have never been someone who wrote a journal so I have little experience with writing my thoughts down.  I usually keep them to myself.  One reason why I keep my thoughts in my head is my second reason why I am challenged to become more of a reflective blogger.  I am unsure of what I should be posting on the internet.  To clarify, this may help.  I am a pre-service teacher who is married with two kids.  On top of my family, I also have a mortgage and other bills which need to be paid.  I need a teaching job!  I hope that my future employer takes the time to look me up on the internet to see what I have been doing.  I am scared that they may see something that causes them to not to hire me.  I would hope the fact that I am being reflective about my life and teaching would be a huge positive to a future employer, but that is something I will never know.  I even question what I have written above; should I post this or make changes?

In the other stuff which Dean suggested to read and the presentation I watched, I have started to change my mind about what is important for me as a teacher.  I know that reflection is important, but I think that a possible conversation about some of my reflections are also important to push me to places which I never thought of.  I should not be afraid to post something because of what some potential employer may think, because what is important is my personal growth.  It will continue to be a challenge for me to be more reflective online, but I can now see that my blog can be a place where I can gain some comments on what I have written, which I need to push my thinking and learning.  Now I just need to start commenting on some of the blogs I follow to draw more people to my blog.  I guess I need to stop lurking and start conversing.

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January 18, 2010 Posted by | ECMP 455, General, Reflection | , , , | 2 Comments

Into Video for ECMP 455

For my ECMP 455 class I was asked to create a short introduction video.  I have created videos with photostory and voicethread before but this is the first time I have ever created a video with a web cam and added stills.  It has taken me a while to figure out how the web cam and windows movie maker work because I have not used either one before.  I am sure that there are many other programs I could have used but I do not know what they are.  I am interested to know if  anyone could recommend a program I could have used besides windows movie maker.  Please post your suggestions in the comments.

I am not one hundred percent thrill with how the video turned out because of transition and my stumbling.  But I have spent more hours trying to perfect it then I should have already, so here it is.  It is a very basic video so I hope you have some program suggestions for me so it will be quicker for me next time when I have to create what in theory is an easy task.

January 13, 2010 Posted by | ECMP 455, school | , , | 2 Comments

Footprints

I leave or do not leave may different types of footprints.  Whenever I am out camping I try to Leave No Trace so I minimize my footprint.  As a family we recycle some of our household waste but not all of it.  We have made a good start and over time we will become better at not leaving that footprint for future generations.

One footprint I am leaving is with this blog and the other things that I am doing on the internet.  I do not receive many visitors to my sites so my footprint is not that big right now.  But over time I will develop a larger list of people which I connect and communicate with and I probably will receive more visitors to my sites.  Being mindful of what is posted on the internet is always in the back of my mind and I always think deeply about everything I post.

The other footprints which I am leaving are in the minds of the students I have taught and the students I will be teaching in the future.  I do not take this very lightly and that is probably why it takes me so long to create unit and lesson plans.  I think about if the students will understand what I am teaching them or if it is the correct way to teach a lesson.  Is it all curricular.  I am shaping young minds when teaching.  I am putting my footprint in the minds of my students.  Other then with my family, this is a much larger footprint then I make anywhere else in my life.

The saying in the poster is very important.  The words are words to think about and live by, but part of the meaning is taken away by the image for me.  When I look at the poster again and think about it, the image is of footprints in the sand.  When the next wind blows those footprints will disappear.  I do not know of an image which could visually represent how my footprint, whether physical, digital, or mental, will always be present.  Our footprints are always visible and we need to remeber they are present with everything we do.

January 5, 2010 Posted by | General, school | , , | Leave a comment

I have had some time

I have had some time over the break and it has been nice to not only catch up and spend time with my family but also try some new stuff on the computer.

We have spent many hours as a family during this break and most of it was spent enjoying the time together not really doing anything.  It is too bad that we all have to go back to school and work in a few days.  We have not done a lot of things but it has been great.  Garrick and I went out to the beach to help my parent put on baseboards and move furniture, and we found an hour to take a break and go snowshoeing.  Christmas was spent not only with our direct families but also “orphan Christmas day supper” with friends and family who are in town and want to join us.  We had 15 people for supper this year.  We had some time to go tobogganing, playing cards and games, shopping, house work and probably going to see Alvin and the Chipmunks the squeakquel today.  I am still hoping to get in a few hours of snowshoeing before school starts.

Over the break I have been able to spend some time on my computer.  I have caught up on some of the blogs and podcasts I follow.  I also went through all my pictures on Flickr and tagged them, put them in sets and collections, and deleted the ones that should not be there in the first place.  Now I just have to upload all the pictures from the last year, which is going to be a big project but I still have a couple days before school starts.

I signed up for  Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Both have been on my list of things to explore for a long time.  I still have not figured out what all the hype is about Facebook; it has only been a week though.  I like Twitter so far.  I have not tweeted much but I can definitely see the potential once I build my list of people I follow and people who follow me.

I decided I am going to try my own 2010/365 photo project.  I do not know if I will be able to accomplish it but I am going to try.  I have enjoyed a couple of professor’s projects and the idea really interests me.  I enjoy taking pictures and carry a camera all the time but usually do not remember to use it.  I think that my focus is going to be on exploring what my camera can do and taking photos which interest me.  I have asked some family and friends to take up the challenge as well and I hope they do.

January 2, 2010 Posted by | Family, General | , , , | 1 Comment

It has been a while

I have not posted in quite some time.  I had a busy summer and then I went straight into internship.  I made some choices as to what I had time for and what I did not and the blog went to the wayside.  I have a couple of reflections which I did at the end of internship I am going to copy and past into the blog before this one.

I have some more time now so I hope to blog some more, and I am taking the next level of educational computers in the new year so I will probably end up blogging for that class as well.

December 28, 2009 Posted by | General | Leave a comment

Reflection for IPP

Reflection for final IPP – Dec. 7, 2009

1. What area of the IPP do you feel that you’ve had the most growth?

Although I think that I still need more practice in this area, I think that I have had the most growth in classroom management.  I have become better at transitions, time management, classroom awareness, and knowing what will or will not work with the students.

By telling the students the time they have for work to be done, warnings about when we will be changing activities, and trying to smoothly change from one activity to the next, my transitions have become better.

Time management was a problem not only at the beginning of the year but also the beginning of the block.  I was planning lessons which were too long or too short for the time available because what I thought the kids should be able to do was different than what they could accomplish in the time period.  I also am better at keeping track of the actual time, rather then teaching and having the bell ring on me without doing any sort of wrap up.

I am more aware of what is happening in the class when I am teaching.  I do not miss as much off task behavior or management problems as I did at the beginning of the year.

Now that I know the students better I can plan activities which are more likely to be successful.  I still have lessons which I think should work and they do not, but most of the time while I am planning I can decide certain things will not work with this group because of the dynamics of the group.  At the beginning I was planning stuff based on my pre-internship grade 4/5 class which was a very different class.

2. Was there something that surprised you about teaching during your internship?

There is never enough time during the day to accomplish everything that I either wanted to accomplish or had to accomplish.  I had ideas of what I would like to accomplish and explore in units and in the end was not able to accomplish it all because of time.  Either I did not have enough time or the students did not move through things or understand things as quickly as I thought they would.  I feel I have become better at knowing what can be accomplished in the time available, but I also have a long way to go.  I have to become better at focusing in on the key areas and teach them really well.

I knew that teaching and planning was a lot of work and time, but I can now see that until I have more experience and have some past experiences to pull ideas from, I think teaching will be more work than I initially thought.  Being new to teaching and not having files or previous experiences to pull ideas from, I am starting from scratch.  Everything either needs to be found, bought, or built and it is the finding, buying, or building which is time consuming.  It is not the lesson planning which takes the most time.

3. What are you most proud of yourself personally and professionally?

I am personally and professionally proud that I was able complete the internship without too many struggles or backwards steps.  I was worried about internship and most of my worries were based on the unknown.  The start of the year had so many unknowns for me that I was worrying about them.  I do not have any one thing that stands out to me as my proudest moment.  I am happy with how my internship has turned out.  If I had to do it all again there would be things that I would do differently.  I think that is a sign of a good professional, always thinking about how I could do things differently the next time.  I think that is why we have internship, to come out to a classroom and try things; some will work and some will not.  The whole point is to learn something from the experience and make adjustments for next time.  Some days I wish that I could do internship over so that I could do a better job of it.  Other days I think I have learned so much in my internship which will make me a better teacher that I do not want to do it over; I just want to move on to my own classroom where I can continue to learn from my students, my successes, and my mistakes.

4. What have you learned about students that is going to effect the way you teach?

I learned that all students and classrooms are different.  I taught in a grade 4/5 class last year for pre-internship and the two classes are totally different.  Every class is totally different; if some of the students in our class were changed, the entire class dynamics would change.

I really need to get to know every student as quickly as possible.  Every student is different and has different wants and needs.  Until I get to know what to say or do for a particular student, problems can develop with a student.  eg. We started out at the beginning of the year with a certain student who would cry a lot.  That student has not cried in quite a while because we now know more about how to talk and work with him.

Special needs students in the class require a lot of extra thinking and planning.  Some days it seems like this is not the best place for special needs students, but on other days I feel that it is.  I think that this is the right place for our student; with her friends and with students her own age, but I think she needs to have an aid full time.  She needs the aid to keep her on task so that she is accomplishing her goals and learning rather then sitting and colouring or disrupting others.

December 28, 2009 Posted by | Internship | Leave a comment

End of internship block

End of Block Reflection – Nov. 24, 2009

Well, I taught the last full day of my block today.  I am both happy it is done but sad that it is done.  I am happy because my workload starts to decrease now.  Tammy takes on LA tomorrow and Math the following day.  I am sad because it means that we will now go back to the confusions of switching off repeatedly during the day and not have easy transitions from subject to subject.  I am also sad because there are things I would have liked to do/try but do not think I will be able to have that opportunity; I guess I will have to wait for my own classroom.  I do not regret not doing them because they did not fit into what needs to be taught or because of time constraints just were not possible.  The end of the block also means that my time teaching at St. Theresa is coming to a close.  This has been my first placement where students and teachers have made me feel like I am a teacher and part of the staff; not just a university student.  I can see that it is going to be a tough last few days one month from now.

The last week and two days has gone better then the first two.  I have been better at using my time at school to do some of my planning for the upcoming days; not only the next day but also rough plans for upcoming days.  This made planning in my evenings easier because I knew what I had to do and only needed to plan how I was going to accomplish it.  There are still not enough hours in the day, but I have been able to get an extra hour of sleep each night and that makes a huge difference on how I feel and how I teach.  My confidence level has definitely increased and now I am sure that I can do the job well.  I now see that more pre-planning is needed so that unit plans are laid out and ready so that only daily adjustments need to be done rather that having to plan as I go.  I can also see that with more experience the planning will become easier for basic stuff so exploration into different teaching approaches can be implemented; such as blogs, wikis, inquiry, etc.  Trying one new thing at a time will help me expand the ways I teach students.

I feel I have become better at transitions from subject to subject, classroom management, planning student work time and using my time more effectively.  I feel that if the block was not finished and I had to continue to teach full time, I could do it and at the same time continue to make gains in these and other areas.

December 28, 2009 Posted by | Internship | Leave a comment

In the darkness

In the darkness

Earth Hour 2009.  I had not heard of Earth Hour before my science class last Thursday.  What a great idea; one hour with the lights off.  My whole family was prepared and ready to participate in earth hour.  On Saturday morning Briana and Garrick made some posters to put up on our front window and door.  Briana had participated in a school wide Earth Hour on Friday afternoon so she already knew what it was about.  Garrick is only 3 so he did not have a clue but he was enjoying himself.  Michelle and I decided we were going to participate but the question what what could we do to keep the kids entertained with for an hour in the dark?  I thought of starting a fire and making smores.  Then we decided that that was too much sugar when we wanted the kids to go to bed shortly after.  Then we decided we could make bush pies in the fireplace.  So we ran out to the store and picked up the necessary ingredients.  Sandwich (square) bread, cream cheese, pie filling, and of course a bush pie iron.  A bush pie is some filling between two pieces of bread which is then put into the iron and cooked in the fire.  In the end you get a small personal pie because the edges of the bread are squished together creating a pocket with filling in it.  We used apple and cherry pie filling but you can use anything you would like.

It was great.  We sat around the fire with some candles burning and we just enjoyed each others company.  The kids had never seen bush pies before so they thought that it was great to cook in the fireplace and have desert in the darkness.  It was fun; no kids arguing, only laughter with some silence.  All around it was a great experience.  One that reminded me of camping and how much I miss the sitting around the fire, in the darkness, in the wilderness.  I am so glad that it is spring soon because we are getting into prime camping season.

Darin

March 30, 2009 Posted by | EPS 255, ESCI 215 | 1 Comment

End of the Block

What are some of the things I have learned from my three week block?

Teaching is exhausting both physically but mostly mentally.

Planning is important but things do not always end up the way you planned.

There is never enough time.

Just because a bunch of lessons fail in a row does not mean you can not do the job.

Plans work and fail depending on the kids that day.

Kids have wild imaginations and can take you places you never thought possible.

Those are just a few things that popped into my head right now.  There are more but I would end up writing forever.  Teaching is exhausting; after three days of being in a classroom full time my brain hurt and my body hurt.  By the end of the three weeks I was starting to feel comfortable with standing all day, but by the end of every day I did not want to think anymore.  On three different days with three different teachers I was told that I should be mentally exhausted at the end of a day because the average teacher makes about five thousand decisions everyday.  Knowing that did not help my exhaustion but I definitely could see that many decisions are possible and would make my head hurt.

I planned the crap out of my unit before I went into the classroom and after the first couple of days I realized that most of it was not going to work the way I had planned it.  I had to redo everything I had planned on a daily basis.  I can not imagine having to do that for every subject; I will never get any sleep.  The plus is the I was getting quicker at planning lessons by the end of the three weeks.

I never had enough time for any of my lessons.  I have come to the conclusion that I was planning too much for too short of a time.  I had so much I wanted to accomplish with the kids but I just did not have enough time.  I am sad about that but I only had three weeks with them and that is not really that much time in the big picture.  I can not have them experience everything.

I spent time questioning my teaching abilities because I had many lessons fail in a row.  But I was trying a lot of stuff that was new to the kids that I should have thought about more closely.  I now see that there is a lot of base knowledge in procedures and such that have to be modeled very slowly at the beginning.  I can not expect that students will get things right away and be able to preform a task that should have been modeled for weeks before.  Lessons also failed because the kids were just not cooperating with the lesson on that day.  The lesson, with proper set up, would probably succeed on a different day.

My students’ imaginations blew me away in the blogging stories.  All the stories went to places I did not even imagine when I thought up the project.  There were some minor problems with the blogging but I call it a huge success.  I know what I would do it differently next time and I know that I will have to allow for more time to write, edit, and represent, but the students loved the blogging.  On my last day they made cards for Andrea and myself and three quarters of them mentioned how much they loved the blogging.  To allow them to experience blogging when most of them had not heard of it before was a great experience for me.  From there cards and in things they said I know that it was a great experience for them too.  I will take what I learned with the blog and be able to make a blog in internship that is even more successful.

In the end I learned that I can teach, but I still have more learning to do.

Darin

March 25, 2009 Posted by | EPS 255, ESCI 215, Pre-internship | Leave a comment

Pre-intern Block

I was supposed to post a reflection at the end of each week of my block, but I have been so busy that I totally forgot about last weeks.  I will discuss both weeks in one.

My first week was okay but I did have some problems.  I am going to start with the blogging.  My first day was an introduction to blogging and it went good.  The kids were extremely excited about the blog and are having a lot of fun creating their stories.  At the end of the first week I realized that we just did not have enough time for the blogging.  I only had fifteen minutes per day for the kids to review the story and then write their additions to the story and this was just not enough time.  I talked to Mrs. Walker and she said that I could ask the six kids I was blogging with per day if they would like to stay in at recess; this would give them half an hour worth of blogging time.

I am teaching a language arts unit on stories to learn from.  We are not only answering questions about the stories but also figuring out what the lessons are that the stories are trying to teach.  By the end of the second lesson, which was day three, I realized that I had started to quickly with the students and was expecting more than they could do without really modeling it for them.  I guess you could say I learned the hard way that I have to teach them first exactly what I want and model it for them not just tell them what I want.  I ended the four-day week with a teacher in role drama based of “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs”.  The drama went very well and the kids enjoyed it.  The only down fall was that I ran out of time and was not able to do the tableau with the students.  I was upset about this because I was going to film them and put them up on the blog.  I know now to plan more time next time.  Because the kids were not getting what I was trying to teach, what I had planned for week two was not going to work so I had to re-plan the whole second week.  I was upset and questioning if I could even do the job because not only were the students not getting it, but I was also not finishing my lessons.  Between the mental and physical exhaustion at the end of the day and the late nights making adjustments to my lessons I was on the verge of breaking down.

I must look at the positives of the week though.  The kids are loving the blogging and the stories are turning out better then I imagined, and I stepped completely out side of my personal comfort zone to do the teacher in role drama and it went well.  Andrea told me after that my voice was even shaking at the beginning of the drama; I was crapping myself at that point though!

Week two started with a review of the previous weeks lessons.  I was having some problems with my pacing and was not able to make it through my lesson again.  At the same time I was also having classroom management issues.  This added to my frustration and I continued to question my teaching abilities.

Tuesday was stories on video day.  I had three aboriginal trickster tales that I wanted to get through with the kids.  The videos were very short and they only needed to answer three or four questions per video.  I planned the crap out of the lesson; I did not want to feel like a failure after another lesson.  The videos helped to keep the interest of the students and we went through the questions together so that they knew exactly what I was looking for.  The lesson went very well.  I was in need of a successful lesson to build up my confidence again; it really did help me refocus.

Now that my confidence was built back up a bit I felt that I could actually accomplish the jigsaw activity I had planned for the next two days.  Let me start out by saying that we had indoor recess everyday so far this week.  Day one of the jigsaw went not too bad.  Day two was a different story.  My lesson ended up being split before and after recess.  Before recess was a complete management disaster.  After recess I regrouped, made some adjustments and told the kids that if things started to get like they were before recess I was going to pull the plug and direct teach them the information.  They lasted fifteen minutes and I pulled the plug.  I told them sorry but it just was not working.  I tried something knew and there was no way it was going to work that day.  The lesson did fail, but I did learn a lot from it.  I also thought of many ways to make adjustments for next time.  I was also very happy that I was me that was the more critical about the lesson than Mrs. Walker.  It almost looked like she was laughing at me as my lesson was sinking.  I told her the same thing I told the kids; I tried something new and if just did not work today.

Positive sides of this week.  Blogging is going great (other than the one day with no internet), I do not feel like a failure as a teacher, and I tried something new and lived to talk and laugh about it.  I hope that next week will end on a positive note as well.

Darin

March 15, 2009 Posted by | EPS 255, Pre-internship | Leave a comment