All posts by ycleovoulou

Holland Bloorview: Another School that Shows what is Possible

Holland Bloorview is a remarkable place.

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital is Canada’s largest children’s rehabilitation hospital focused on improving the lives of kids with disabilities. 

Holland Bloorview is a global leader in applied research, teaching and learning, and client and family centred care. 

Our vision is to create a world of possibility for kids with disability.

We pioneer treatments, technologies, therapies and real-world programs that give children with disabilities the tools to participate fully in life. We see children with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, muscular dystrophy, amputation, epilepsy, spina bifida, arthritis, cleft-lip and palate, autism and other developmental disabilities. A small number of our clients have complex chronic diseases that require round-the-clock medical care. 

Holland Bloorview is a world-class teaching hospital fully affiliated with the University of Toronto. We are home to the Bloorview Research Institute and the Teaching and Learning Institute which are both located onsite, allowing us to integrate cutting-edge research and teaching with frontline care to improve children’s quality of life. 

Our state-of-the-art building has been recognized by the International Academy for Design and Health as an inspirational building which speaks to a child’s right to participate in our society.

To find out more:

http://www.hollandbloorview.ca

What’s more is there is an Integrated Kindergarten program at Holland Bloorview. This kindergarten program integrates typically developing children with children with disabilities.  Here is a link to their website that includes a short video about the program:

http://hollandbloorview.ca/programsandservices/ProgramsServicesAZ/Integratededucationandtherapy

Holland Bloorview has close connections with the Laboratory School at the University of Toronto (the school I wrote about in my last blog post) and to our faculty as well. Our student teachers in the Child Study and Education Program have had the privilege of learning to become teachers through practice teaching at in the Integrated Kindergarten and have found the experience to be remarkable.

The program may be at risk of closing. I came across this link and encourage anyone interested in supporting the continuation of the program to take a look and participate.

https://www.change.org/p/keep-the-bloorview-integrated-kindergarten-program-open

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Une École des Emotions/The Possible School

We are fortunate at the University of Toronto to have the Dr. Eric Jackman Laboratory School (Jackman ICS) as part of our community. “The Lab School” is a small elementary school that has just over 200 students from nursery to sixth grade. I (Yiola) have had the privilege of working with and learning from the teachers, students and administrators at the school. Together we teach pre-service teachers in our Master of Arts in Child Study teacher education program and student-teachers practice teach in the classrooms,  I have conducted longitudinal, observational research at the school and have been so deeply inspired by the daily teaching of young children. The children — oh the children — are truly the evidence of what is possible when a school community focuses on the child.
Recently a documentary film has come out that gives a small glimpse into the life of the school.  Jackman ICS was featured in a documentary film by Daisy Gand, a Masters student from France who visited Jackman ICS last year and is titled, “Une École des Emotions”/“The Possible School”. The link to the film is here and it is a must see:
Principal Richard Messina states:
At the Jackman Laboratory School, the student, parents, and teachers all benefit from the secure learning philosophy and pedagogical approaches that inspires deep understanding, creativity, curiosity, and confidence to flourish.  Our environment honors diversity and values an interconnected community, in which all members feel known, respected, and supported as active, engaged participants. 
 Children currently in our Early Years classes will graduate in the 3rd decade of the 21st Century, an era that will demand creativity and ingenuity, responsibility and compassion.  Their ability to thrive depends largely on the experiences they have at school.  
The latter part of Richard’s statement reflects the sentiments of Clive’s blog that was posted just yesterday… children need to experience “real life” at school in order to feel a sense of purpose. The laboratory school does this in so many ways: through its pedagogy, philosophy, curriculum, and approach.
What happens at the Jackman ICS can happen in any school and classroom;  yet, public schools often struggle with an inquiry-based pedagogy that places the child at the centre of the learning.  All students should have opportunity to learn at a “possible school”.  In light of this the Lab School is working hard to broaden student admission and retention policies that support all forms of diversity in equity and accessibility.
To make this happen the school has a fund that offers tuition support that accounts for  economic diversity.  Please see the link below if you would like to learn more about the fundraising efforts and support the work of the Laboratory school.
 This is JICS’s biennial fundraiser for tuition support.  Please purchase your tickets here:  https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/jackman-ics-diana-rankin-tuition-fundraiser-gala-tickets-32296391376?aff=es2 or donate to the JICS Diana Rankin Muncaster Family Tuition Support Fund at https://donate.utoronto.ca/give/show/40

Thoughts on being a student of teaching

As I (Yiola) prepare for the upcoming AERA conference by finalizing and editing my papers I am drawn to a few key ideas on teacher development that I have come across in the literature.

The International Handbook of Teacher Education  volumes 1 and 2 (Loughran and Hamilton Eds., 2016) include a number of chapters on topics in teacher education. Our own team leaders Clare Kosnik and Clive Beck along with close colleague Lin Goodwin (Teachers College, Columbia University) share a chapter on Reform Efforts in Teacher Education. 

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The volumes are filled with interesting chapters.  What has caught my attention at this time is a chapter on teacher led professional development. Bullough and Smith write on Being a student of teaching: Practitioner research and study groups.  The chapter describes the idea of being a student of teaching (as a current practitioner) from two dimensions: the personal and the contextual. Exploring reflective practice (the personal dimension) and opportunities and support for teacher learning (the contextual dimension), the authors share insights from Dewey (1933) to Avalos (2004, 2011) and Livingston (2011).  The chapter also explores ways of being a student of teaching: through practitioner research and study groups and the varied ways one can learn. An in-depth and detailed review and analysis of teacher led professional development.

This work fits beautifully with my paper titled: Examining the Professional Life of an Elementary School Teacher: Literacy Education in the Making where I have taken one participant from our 13 year longitudinal study of 40 elementary schools teachers from Canada and the USA and shared her literacy teaching trajectory (mainly from the contextual dimension). I am looking forward to sharing this paper and work at the upcoming AERA conference in late April.

Poet and Philosopher Vera Korfioti

During my time in Cyprus I (Yiola) had the pleasure of visiting with renown author and dear friend, Vera Korfioti.

Vera has published a number of collections of poetry, as well as books in Greek literature, Education and on the works of Greek Philosophers.  Her most recent publication is on Pythagoreanism.

Vera Korfioti holds degrees in History and Archeology from the University of Athens. She also studied Journalism in Athens. Her greatest love of study is Philosophy and this can be seen throughout her poetry.

I share here one of her short poems of the place where I stayed during my time in Cyprus:

  

There is a tenderness in her poetry; and yet its intensity towards precision and detail gives it such power.

A highlight of my trip was talking about life and the nature of people in today’s age with Vera. While we live on opposite end of the world we share similar understandings on the philosophy of life.  Perhaps what connects me to Vera is not only the beauty of her poetry but her love of teaching.  Vera worked as a teacher of Philosophy in Secondary Education in Cyprus. She also studied in the area of children with special needs in England and the United States.  And, for several years she has been teaching at the Philosophy School of Cyprus.

Language, literacy and teaching brought together for the world to enjoy!

Vera Korfioti, myself and my son Gallaway.

Greetings from Limassol, Cyprus

“Yeia Sou! Kalo sorises.”  Hello! Welcome.

I (Yiola) am writing to you from the beautiful island of Cyprus. A small Mediterranean island so strategically placed its location is ironic.

Caught between European and Middle Eastern influence (and a long history of varied occupation) I dare to claim that Cyprus is one of the most unique places on earth.

Last week’s blog about language as culture and language as power came to you from my short time in Vienna. This week I find myself in a country where I speak the language (Greek). I can communicate (sort of) and can identify with the culture (sort of). As a visitor, I feel welcomed and because I have some knowledge of the language I have a sense of knowing, of so many things, and a sense of belonging.  Language is power.

Of course, it is not so simple. The nuances and complexities of culture and its constant evolution make it challenging for anyone not living in its place to fully understand. The beauty of travel is that we can experience and through our experiences learn something new and refreshing about the world and ourselves.

Some images of Cyprus:

17203221_10158519375885121_7027915947110758556_nA map of Cyprus — my father pointing to Limassol (which is where most of the images below were taken)

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a city view from the Limassol castle

yermasoyiasmall villages in Limassol

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a historical Cypriot home in one of the villages

17190912_10158524077520121_6422749005511709267_nThe island’s most popular attraction: beautiful beaches.

My daughter Sylvia Clare and I sending warm greetings from Cyprus!

Language is culture: Heading back to the basics

Hello Friends! It is great to be back online blogging about all that is literacy and teacher education.

I (Yiola) came across this link on youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1xy6l9JlSY

The story of a young woman at work who stepped in when a man wanted to place an order and did not share the same language. How simple, yet utterly complex, is the power of shared language. The video clip is a clear and real message that represents the power and purpose of language.

When someone is understood, through language, they belong.   It reminds me of James Gee’s work and the idea of discourse communities. We are all part of discourse communities, multiple discourse communities.  How wonderful it is when we can connect with one another through discourse — through language. This kind of connection also leads to cultural connection.

I am travelling this month and currently in Vienna. Now that I am removed from “my place” I feel the disconnect through language.  My inability to communicate well (I do not speak German) is not only a communication barrier, it represents a cultural barrier, and in turn, exclusion.

In these times of intense consideration of (and experiences of) exclusion, it is worth nothing the power of language and how language itself can foster inclusion, especially with our own “place”.

Language: dialect, nationality, symbols = culture. Culture = understanding and inclusion.  Language is culture. Language is power.

 

Researching Teacher Education

Most recently we are reviewing the data from a study that explores graduates’  impressions of their teacher preparation from one teacher education program. The participants are graduates from 1999-2014 and we have well over 200 respondents. A survey was conducted that included qualitative responses. So far, the responses have been incredibly interesting. As we work through the data I gain more and more excitement for the possibilities of understanding teaching education and improving not only my personal practice as a teacher educator but also the potential for improving the structure and programming of teacher education.

As we review the current data I keep in mind the many findings and recommendations of past research.  For example, in 2009 Clive Beck and Clare Kosnik along with a strong team of graduate researchers published their findings from a qualitative study on classroom teachers’ understandings, perceptions, and explanations of their practice and teacher education experience. Their book, Priorities in Teacher Education: The 7 Key Elements of Pre-Service Preparation, is the first of several from what has become longitudinal study (13 years and counting) of teachers work and development.  In Priorities of Teacher Education Beck and Kosnik identify seven priority areas for teacher areas:

  • program planning
  • pupil assessment
  • classroom organization and community
  • inclusive education
  • subject content and pedagogy
  • professional identity
  • a vision for teaching

 

These priorities are coming up in several interesting ways in our current research and I look forward to analyzing and writing up the findings in the months ahead.  More so, I am excited to be thinking about research-based considerations for improving our teacher education program and my personal practice.

Teachers’ and Teacher Educators’ Roles beyond the curriculum

For decades academia, teacher education, and teachers have been talking about critical pedagogy. Like everything in education debates continue as to how much, when, it what ways it can and should be taught. My current post is not about whether we as teacher educators and teachers should or should not be critically conscious or the extent to which we should. This post is a consideration for how to teach for equity. I found this video about teaching inclusively our university’s website:

http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/oise/About_OISE/PrideVideo_Story.html

The video is a safe start. It is basic awareness and consciousness for more equitable practice. We, in North America, have been overwhelmed with what I feel are devastating events surrounding people: People of Colour, LGBTQ People, Police Officers, People of Muslim Faith and many other marginalized groups. Social media is exploding with perspectives and emotion surrounding the varying issues and people everywhere are left to understand what it what based on their own experiences and contexts. What responsibility do schools have in teaching for a more equitable society?

Critical pedagogy in education is not new. It is a pedagogy that has been studied and discussed and to some extent taught in schools and yet it continues to be a pedagogy that sits on the periphery of practice. It is pedagogy that is left to some to tackle in teacher education ~ usually those who themselves have a personal connection to inequity (as our research on literacy teacher educators has shown). Sometimes critical pedagogy is infused in some courses but mostly it is taught in an isolated course. We know that many teacher education programs continue to be dominated by White, middle class, women. Knowing this, I wonder how much impact one or two courses has on the consciousness and practices of a teacher who has not had many opportunity to even think, let alone experience, inequity.

What can be done? What should be done?  I think about my courses and the teacher candidates and feel that deep critical understandings within context, content and pedagogy is essential. In light of the movements and violence and confusion that is happening across the globe I see no option. If teaching is a relational act, then we must deepen our understandings of the varying relations that exist in communities and prepare teachers to not only teach for equity but have confidence in dealing with media literacy.

 

 

School’s Out. Move over Alice Cooper: A response to traditional schooling

What is good pedagogy? What works for student achievement? What engages students? What are our end goals for schooling? As another school year draws to a close I begin to reflect on what the school year looked like, what was achieved and if in fact the intended goals for student development were met.

Our team writes on a variety of topics associated with 21st century literacy and learning. The pedagogy, vision, and goals of 21st century learning differ from traditional literacy learning and teaching in many ways.  Sometimes tradition and contemporary methods connect and sometimes they clash. As Clive has written in past posts; the idea isn’t to contrast and compare or pick and choose one particular position; instead, there is value in understanding the purpose, strengths and outcomes of varied stances and consider our contexts and goals for teaching and learning.

I came across this interesting article that brings to the table a “newer” consideration for literacy teaching: makerspace.  Not an entirely new concept, and inclusive of several well known pedagogies and approaches, the maker movement does challenge more traditional ways of learning.

“Making is a stance about learning,” Martinez said. “It’s the landscape you create in a classroom or any kind of learning space where kids have agency over what they do and a large choice of materials that are rich, deep and complex.”

The link to the article is here:

How to Turn Your School Into a Maker Haven

Now that “school’s out for summer” it may be a good time to think about how to improve our practice for student learning. It may be a good time to learn more about the maker movement, what it entails, and how we can learn from our students, from each other, and, more about the elements for achieving creativity, problem solving, collaboration, innovation, and literacy.

Another school year almost over

Teachers are wrapping up report cards and teacher educators are recovering from the intense end of year marking. We are now shifting gears. Another great year ~ filled with challenges and obstacles and experience and fun ~ is just about to come to close.

What will you be doing to fill the summer months? Many will take courses, teach summer school, read, write. I hope you find time to relax and rejuvenate the spirit.

I look forward to a long stretch of writing.  I will be writing about some of the incredible findings from our research on teacher education and literacy education. I look forward to sharing articles on the topics of  pedagogies of literacy, and assessment of literacy, and examining the learning trajectory of a literacy teacher.

I also look forward to some time with my family;  playing with my children, helping them develop their literacy skills. Here is my young son “reading” and “navigating” the Metro Zoo map. What sophisticated literacy skills already! And, my daughter in the wagon patiently waiting for her brother to figure out the way to the Polar Bears! Without a doubt, he will figure it out!

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A wise mentor reminded me the other day that all the work that we do, the commitments we make and the challenges we face should lead us to happiness. It was a heart warming and encouraging reminder. I wish you all: teachers, researchers, teacher educators and friends a happy of the school year!