A poem I wrote today to try to relieve some first day jitters:
T’was the night before a new school year and all the through the house
Papers were flying and textbooks arouse
The course syllabi posted online with such care
In hopes that the students soon would be there
The readings updated and carefully writ
Ensuring inquiry, equity and technology fit
And I in excitement yet dutifully prudent
Wait for the joy of engaging with each student….
Revising university courses is not a simple task. I (Yiola) have spent several weeks reworking my courses and developing new ones for the coming year. While my courses have been consistently well received by students I felt they needed updating: readings, perspective, pedagogy as though the domino effect could not be more evident. Piecing together what to share and how to share it so that student learning is not only deeply enjoyable but also optimal is no easy feat. As teacher educators we need to model good practice — after all, how can you spend an entire 3 hour class talking about the importance of inquiry pedagogy with power point presentations and lecture notes and expect students to understand and transfer their learning to the classroom? And then, on the other hand, how does a Masters level instructor justify spending hours having Masters level students “inquire” as children would in their elementary classrooms?
Finding the balance between theory and practice, between scholarship and the “daily grind” of classroom life, between academic rigour and child centred practice is, for me, an exceptional challenge. I want student teachers to know what to do when they enter their elementary classrooms and I want to model it for them in our class (i.e. small group activities, equitable practices, varied experiences, and direct instruction) and I also want students to understand WHY we do it (i.e. research based literature and engaging discourse). I want students to be self-directed learners (to share their ideas, to bring news to the classroom, to extend their own learning outside our class time) and I also want to provide students with connections between best practice and what they see out there (use of technology, positive learning environments, etc…)
Some changes I have made to my courses this year:
- more use of technology (in my teaching, in my teaching of, and in students experience with)
- lessened the number of assignments but deepened the expectations of the ones included
- varied the nature of the assignments (included presentations, group and individual assignments, concept maps, papers)
- updated my methods of assessment: to reflect/model practices used in our school system, to include students in the process itself
- continue to invite guests to the class (classroom teachers, doctoral students, school administrators) as co-presenters as a means for sharing knowledge and modelling collaborative practice
- Updated the readings to better reflect the issues of 21st century teaching
Researching teaching education, speaking with colleagues who are deeply invested in teacher education and knowing what other great educators are doing not only keeps me motivated but is one of the best professional development tools out there.
I wish all teachers and teacher educators and wonderful school year!