Jesse Sawka’s Teaching Journey

Making a video was very challenging for me, but here is my best attempt at displaying my teaching journey so far in my pre-service teaching career!

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My Professional Learning Network Revealed

Technology has never been a fan of me for as long as I can remember and eventually I gave up trying to utilize technology because I thought it was a pain.  To this day I cannot set up the DVD player or blue ray or whatever you want to call it, especially after my brother unhooks everything to play on the Wii or X-box or whichever device he chooses to use.  If the T.V. doesn’t work when I press the on button I don’t watch T.V., simple as that.  It’s not that I have never tried to figure technology out, I have, but I never seem to get anywhere productive and because of that I find it a waste of time.  Furthermore, I was the last person in my entire high school to own a cell phone and create a Facebook account.  Call me old fashioned but in my opinion phones and Facebook were pointless and caused more drama then anything.  I grew up appreciating the good ole outdoors as a sense of entertainment and connections were made face-to-face, not through a screen.  With this mindset of technology I thought this class was going to be excruciating the way technology was portrayed as this ‘almighty saving grace’ to our teaching journeys.

Boy-oh-boy was I ever wrong!  Turns out there is this whole other side of technology aside from depriving children of play, increasing cyber bullying, and fragmenting face-to-face conversations, technology builds knowledge bases, provides unlimited resources, and builds networking connections.

When we were asked to start a blog the inside of me groaned, but as a learning pre-service teacher I dutifully created my very first blog.  Telling my family that I had created a blog only caused them to laugh because they knew of my extremely limited technological capabilities.  Technology is definitely a weakness I have, but I was eager to keep an open mind and see where this class and blog would take me in my teaching journey.  My first post I wrote felt like it slid past the radar unnoticed and I remember thinking “what is the point of this?”.  However, after writing my second blog post I received feedback and I was ecstatic, someone actually read my blog!  These first comments,  https://smalltowngirlmeetsbigoleworld.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/history-of-education-through-race/#comments, led to the beginning of my expanding professional learning network.  As I continued to write blog posts I felt that I found my voice and became stronger in my values and beliefs through sharing my thoughts on my blog.  It is easy to sit back in the classroom and not state your thoughts or feelings of what is being addressed.  Therefore, I made it my goal to write a blog post once a week in order for me to critically reflect on the material being presented each week.  This was tough, but through exploring other colleagues’ online spaces and hearing different perspectives I felt like I was a part of a supportive group of educators.  I expanded my horizons and was challenged during the process, especially in reflecting on my autobiography.  The biggest moment of growth I felt that changed my perspective of technology was after writing and responding to comments on my blog post of “Identity Inequalities” https://smalltowngirlmeetsbigoleworld.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/identity-inequalities/#comments.  Hearing opinions and being challenged from colleagues I do not regularly see or talk to on a daily basis elevated my learning experience.  After so many years of despising how technology was eliminating kids from the great outdoors and increasing cyber bullying I saw how technology positively connected pre-service teachers to “think outside of the box” by scaffolding learning and critically thinking from each other.

Next on my ECS 210 bucket list was facing twitter.  For me this was a lot harder than simply creating a personal blog.  I’m not sure why twitter was such a hard thing for me to join.  All of my friends have twitter and have tried to convince me numerous times to join, but I never did.  I saw twitter as a waste of time.  Part of me felt like I had to join it because of the class, but another part of me said ‘why are you caving in to joining twitter because of one class, join twitter because you want to, not because you’re forced to’.  So I decided I wasn’t going to create a twitter account because I was told to, I wanted to create one because there was a meaning for it.  I must admit for most of the semester I was “twitterless” until one seminar Katia started off with a tweet regarding educational issues.  I was perplexed after this seminar and was not sure where I stood anymore, so I expressed myself through my blog, posting the following https://smalltowngirlmeetsbigoleworld.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/chirping-peeping-tweeting-from-the-eyes-of-the-technologically-illiterate/#comments .  From this post my professional learning network increased dramatically and I was able to connect with one of my professors.  This is when it all hit me; twitter was similar to having a blog!  Seeing as I enjoyed the connections I was making with colleagues I figured twitter will further increase my greatly expanding network.  I am still new to twitter, but I am trying, and I am proud to say I officially have a twitter account at, https://twitter.com/Sawka20j !

Now with some technological advances in my personal life I felt I had a solid foundation and I even managed to branch outward into the community.  I joined a relay for life Uof R team called the “Tumornators” and in using twitter we helped raise awareness for cancer.  All throughout the night any photos or tweets using the #URrelay https://twitter.com/search?q=%23URrelay&src=hash was posted on the big screen.  I felt that I developed my professional learning network by connecting with all of the other people in this world who have been affected by cancer.  This made me realize that technology offers unlimited resources globally; all I have to do is engage myself by building a network and watching the opportunities become available.

By keeping an open mind this semester I was filled with an abundance of knowledge, which I could have easily lost at any point by closing off association with technology because of my previous negative technological experiences.  This led me to learn how we are always learning and will continue to be life- long learners as long as we keep our critical reflecting lens intact to new experiences.  I feel like my professional learning network journey started as an empty attic with a few boxes that grew to acquire many spider webs or webs of networks to help me as a future educator.  My experience has been an eventful journey so far and I feel I can bring an aspect of 21st century learning into the classroom, whereas before I was not as competent in providing this.  Reflecting on how I acquired my professional learning network enables me to see how my learning style is more so of a hands-on approach, but in trying a technological approach I was able to gain a new perspective.   Having different learners in the classroom provides different options of teaching and new ways of learning.  Overall, there is good and bad in everything, so we may as well focus on the good!

 

Happy Medium Teaching Spaces!

How can we all be treaty people when only certain people gain treaty status?  This question has been troubling me ever since I have learnt ‘we are all treaty people’.  I now do believe we are all treaty people, but if you would have asked me this a year ago I would have argued otherwise.  What really cleared a lot up for me was when Grant stated in his presentation, “Treaty people, and First Nations terms are not interchangeable”.  I completely agree with this statement because First Nations Peoples refers to numerous people such as Ojibiway, Dene, Blackfoot, and much more; whereas, treaty people is all of us who essentially benefit from treaties because they mark the sharing of land.  I previously did not know this and I think that is why most people do not believe we are all treaty people either.  Based on my lived experience (before university) treaty people to me were people who had a treaty card, and because I never wanted to offend anyone I never dared called anyone a treaty person because that was racist.  I believe many people still believe this, and why shouldn’t they?  Giving treaty cards to certain people further segregates us all from being treaty people.  I do fully believe that people should still have their rights that associate with their identity, but I believe these rights should fall under “First Nations peoples’ rights” instead of “Treaty rights” and furthermore specifically they should be addressed to a person’s cultural identity.  How can we all be treaty people if only some of us are eligible for a treaty card?  It doesn’t make sense and I think that is because we are interchanging the terms First Nations and Treaty people so frequently that their differences are fading.  Therefore, in most cases First Nations and Treaty people are considered the ‘same’, when in fact they have separate value.  As Grant mentioned in his presentation these terms aren’t the same and this is why many problems exist.  As teachers I believe it is our duty to educate and provide people with knowledge to further understand each term, and also to understand the links between treaty education and the SK curriculum instead of focusing on differentiation.  By doing so we can eliminate self and other in the classroom; however, educators need to be aware of how this is done.  I believe teaching treaty education is very complicated, frustrating, and complex.  Some days I’m scared brainless to approach treaty education.  This is why I think Grant has a good point about finding the ‘happy medium teaching space’ between lived experience and standard curriculum requirements.  We cannot go about teaching treaty education by simply upholding the standard treaty education requirements and thinking we have done a good job.  Whether we want to admit it or not and regardless of how limited, all students (even elementary students) have a concept of race and knowledge of treaty education.  Society gives us our own perception which creates our lived experience.  Addressing lived experiences of treaty education, and tying them to the mandated outcomes and indicators, provides a fruitful experience for both students and teachers.  Treaty education is all around us and for some reason when it is involved in the classroom it is most often in a bubble.  However, I do not blame educators for doing so because treaty education is a controversial subject area where we fear making unintentional politically incorrect mistakes.  Despite this fear, we as educators can push past mistakes and learn from them to create social change.  It all starts with one person & that person is you!

Positive Papers: Proud To Be Who We Are

All throughout this semester I dutifully read the readings and challenged myself to critically question everything I was introduced to.  With this in mind a major dissonance I felt was the complexity of how some of these issues are addressed in action in comparison to seminar discussions.   I felt class discussions were inadequate in presenting me with the reality of the classroom.  However, today, I faced my dissonance head on in a ‘real’ classroom setting.  I must say I always felt like learning about these things was never enough, and I needed to get out there to fully experience challenges or barriers in the classroom.  Now I realize that patience is essential to understanding discomforting knowledge.  I was ready to rush right in head first to overcome my dissonances without knowing that time is the biggest helping factor.  I have learnt that discussions are as equally important and contribute to lived experiences, which is something I have overlooked.  I know discussions are important, but I overlooked them sitting next to experience.  Both types of learning are adequate, sometimes we do not realize the importance of our learning until later on.

My lived experience helped teach me all these aspects in a challenging situation.  I was volunteering as a ‘Go Girls’ mentor and we were doing an activity that required each grade 5 girl to write down a positive comment for every girl in the group.  After, we were to discuss ‘feeling good’ about giving and receiving compliments.  During this reflective piece of the assignment one girl quietly tugged at my sleeve and pointed at her sheet of paper.  She never said anything as her bottom lip quivered and my eyes followed the direction of her finger pointing across the page to read:

“proud to be

brown 🙂

I couldn’t believe my eyes and had to reread the comment.  This is a good/bad comment coming from a Grade 5 perspective.  yes be proud of identity, but stereotypes are hurtful.  How do I reinforce proper language to avoid racism without silencing identity?   Frantically looking at my partner she brought the rest of the girls to another space, continuing the session.  Seeing as every girl had a distinct marker colour I knew who wrote the comment and casually brought her to the side as well.  Inside of me my heart was frantically pounding.  I suddenly felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.  This was something I felt directly connected to social justice issues addressed in class lectures.  I felt I had a strong grasp on the course concepts until being put on the spot in this moment.   Having this event happen unexpectedly from out-of-the-blue was a lot harder to deal with than continually discussing ‘safe’ situations in the class.

I gave the girl with a quivering lip a hug and asked her if she was offended by the comment, she nodded her yes and I further asked if she wanted to talk about what was hurting her.  She didn’t want to elaborate which was fine; I told her it was alright to feel upset.  The other girl looked concerned and did not realize her comment was offensive.  She voiced her opinion about being proud of being Aboriginal.  I told her I knew she didn’t mean to purposely hurt her friend.  I began to explain how we must choose our words carefully because some words hurt.  I elaborated on how we should feel proud of who we are as people and focus on culture instead of stereotyping skin colour.  Once I felt the situation had more stability apologies were made.  Because I wanted the girls to feel good about themselves and to leave feeling happy with who they are so they could proudly hang up their ‘positive papers’, together us three girls fixed the visual representation.   I rearranged the comment to say “proud to be who you are” and drew an outline of a heart around the word ‘brown’ and a line down the middle of the heart.  I took the two darkest markers and handed one to each girl and told them each to fill in a side of the heart.  Here is the transformation:

“proud to be      =                   “proud to be who you are

brown 🙂”                                                        ♥                       🙂

 

Once the session was over I couldn’t help but replay this situation in my head over and over again.  Questions arose in my head asking myself “did I handle the situation appropriately?”; “what could I have done differently?”; “did the girls truly understand what I tried to do?”; “What are they going to tell their parents/guardians?”; “Am I over thinking this situation?” ect…

From my understanding both girls are proud of their identity.  I don’t think anyone meant any harm whatsoever.  This situation has taught me a lot of things, but the main point for me is how racism is so embedded in our society that it is often unintentionally reproduced.  I will never know the impact I had on the two girls and if they understood the message I was trying to instill in them both that they should respectively be proud of their identity.  I can only hope that with knowledge and education these girls can grow firm in their own identity and voice throughout the people, places, and things that will additionally frame their perspectives of social justice issues in society.

As a pre-service teacher I wanted to share my thoughts on the situation because I believe we strongly learn through stories and collaboration.

Standardized Testing= Standardized Teaching

Standardized tests are produced to increase the quality of education for students, though ironically standardized testing is contradicting everything we as teachers stand for.  How are standardized tests increasing educational studies when they are limiting the depth of knowledge for both students and teachers?  No matter how hard we try to enforce a standard level of knowledge throughout the world it cannot be met unless we standardize teaching.  Today teachers are trying to incorporate social justice in the curriculum to benefit all students and further reduce the ‘hidden curriculum’.  Using standardized testing erases any progress or any chance educators have in producing a just educational system.  As Kumisharo mentions we only have access to partial knowledge because it is impossible to gain complete knowledge.  Standardized testing sets limits to partial knowledge, which decreases partial knowledge furthermore in the classroom.  Each teacher brings their own perspective of teaching to the subject matter; therefore, each teacher evolves new information in each student.  Not one teacher will teach the same subject matter precisely the same as the teacher instructing in the neighbouring classroom.  Conforming to standardize testing restricts teachers to standard and traditional methods of teaching, most likely involving memorization rather than deep or critical thinking used for understanding.  The astounding thing about teachers is the fact that each teacher brings their own diverse methods or talents to the classroom to facilitate learning.  If we use standardized testing we subscribe to standardized teaching which diminishes the dynamic aspect teachers bring to education and the education system becomes a general conforming practice.  In fact, we would no longer need teachers anymore, we would just send out a booklet of knowledge students need to know, then line them up to test them, and pass them along to the next booklet.  This is not the path I want to see the Saskatchewan education system travel on and I believe that students learn best from experience.  A teacher is there because “students ‘know’ in different ways” (178).  If we truly believe in multicultural learning then as future educators we must support the numerous ways students can be assessed aside from standardized testing procedures.

Creative Chaos!

Stories! Stories! Stories!  Right now I feel like I am being overwhelmed with so many perspectives and experiences, and I have the challenging task of decoding each story to find the learning message underlined in these experiences.  As I try to use a critical reflecting lens my head swirls with creative chaos.  All these stories have important aspects that are critical to understanding how to become a good future educator, but as they are thrown at me all at once I feel lost.  However, after reading “We Teach Who We Are” by Palmer, Parker I took a step back from analyzing these stories and started to look at how I felt rather than what I thought, which is easier said than done because sometimes emotions give a much deeper connection than thoughts.  After reflecting on my emotions I realized that Palmer’s main points of education are in three categories of subject, student, and who we are, and each category incorporates all of these learning experiences we draw from stories into a realistic approach to the classroom.  Each of these categories embedded in education of subject, student, and who we are, need to find balance together.  When we prioritize an area over another we are often met with struggles because each category is essential in teaching holistically.  Looking at the category of subject, as a future educator we must realize that ‘subject’ is related to partial knowledge.  We can never fully know everything and when we forget this and try to capture every ounce of information we may get discouraged and  lack focus of the ‘student’ and ‘who we are’.  Similarly, to the category of student when we overlook students’ interests we often end up with un-engaged students, and meaningless ‘subject’ or lack of ‘who we are’ in our teaching.  I believe understanding the category of who we are is valuable in education because that is what connects subject and student together.  We are each unique individuals who have our own personal talent or skill we bring into the classroom to connect subject with student in an engaging manner through listening to “the heartbeat of the classroom” (The New Teacher Book: Building Community From Chaos, Christensen, 2010, p. 73).  Without bringing ourselves into our future classrooms we cannot fully connect education to our students in a meaningful way.

Teaching Philosophy

Jesse Sawka

Teaching Philosophy

As I continue to grow as a pre-service teacher to become a future educator I hear the guiding words of a professor echo in my ears saying, live fully to teach well.  These words have stuck with me ever since and continually help me grow to the best of my abilities each day.

In order to learn we must have opportunities for experience.  The best learning tool is actively participating.  Learning should be an engaging process where imagination is present and flowing creatively, thus adding to create a positive classroom atmosphere further providing collaboration to inspire others.  We learn from each other.  As a teacher I will learn alongside my students.  Becoming a good teacher means always using a critical reflecting lens and constantly asking ‘what can I do to improve?’.

Students enter the classroom carrying their own unique skills and talents they gain through life experience.  As an educator I believe in adapting to provide learning styles to incorporate different types of learners to enhance these skills of individual students.  Children will believe they are capable of anything until someone tells them otherwise.  In developing as an Early Childhood Educator my goals and aspirations are to quench students’ questions with knowledge and let them believe they are capable.  I have a passion to make a difference in a student’s life whether it is big or small and I believe children know when you genuinely care.

Society often predetermines students’ position of whether they are privileged or oppressed within the education system, but in trying to incorporate social justice in the classroom I believe educators are giving students an opportunity to succeed.  Addressing Treaty Education in the classroom is an important aspect educators should be teaching because we are all treaty people. Treaties are a shared agreement to benefit us all.  Improving the future starts by acknowledging past events and tying them to contemporary issues.  Technology is a limitless learning tool in today’s society and is increasingly growing in the classroom.  As educators I believe we need to find the balance of how technology can enhance our critical thinking and not over compensate or be excluded in the teaching and learning process.

Following a career in education is a complex journey and should be travelled with support.  Building a network of mentors, colleagues and community members to collaborate with is beneficial in all areas of teaching.  We learn from others and by expanding our connections we increase our knowledge base.  Trying new opportunities and new experiences constructs a holistic approach to education.  Education holds high value and should be a challenging and rewarding experience for all learners and educators.

Identity Inequalities

At first glance I wasn’t sure what ‘hidden messages’ I had lurking inside my autobiography because to be honest my perspective was along the lines of ‘my autobiography is my personal reflection, why does it matter that I left my gender or race out?’.  The autobiography is how I view my experiences.    However, leaving out my gender and race is in fact due to what Kumashiro refers to as ‘common sense’.  I take my gender and race (specifically) for granted.  I did not realize that some of my experiences and opportunities were shaped because I fall in the dominant aspects of society.  I simply overlooked key aspects in identifying myself because not until critically examining my ‘self identity’ have I realized these factors play a role in my life.  This leads me to question… How would my life experiences be different or similar if I was considered a minority in society? If I was identified as a part of the minority would I be limited or oppressed to the experiences I was once entitled to because I am a part of dominant society which gives me certain privileges?  Facing these questions parallel situations in the classroom seeing as every student will have their individual autobiography and as future educators we need to face ‘common sense’ assumptions associated with identity and dig deeper to uncover where hidden inequalities lie in the classroom.  Acknowledging inequalities is a start toward social justice because we cannot pretend that oppressions or limitations do not exist.  Society enforces divisions of identity and the classroom is an ideal place to explore these divisions where solutions can be constructed to ensure success for all students. 

Chirping? Peeping? Tweeting? … From the Eyes of the Technologically Illiterate

This morning in my seminar we started off with an intriguing tweet.  I must note though I am currently not a very technological person and I do have a bias that technology is often overpowering other teaching methods.  However, I am keeping an open mind and I am slowly coming to terms in grasping a side of technology that I can use in my own future classroom.   Bit by bit I see that technology really does have a lot to offer, I just have to learn how to utilize the positive aspects of it.  After today’s seminar I have been inspired to consider creating my very first twitter account, which I once told myself I would NEVER create.  My aspiring thoughts have all been provoked by the tweet which stimulated questions along the lines of: “Is Curriculum set in the Stone Age and is it necessary to be memorizing the multiplication table when technology is readily available to provide support?”.  When I first reflected upon the tweet and the questions it arose I became defensive that the multiplication table was even being considered debatable as no longer useful or necessary in this day and age because I have always thought of it as the foundation for math and critical thinking skills.  How could a core foundation be eliminated from the education system?  Which also led me to feel annoyed by how technology seems to overrule what I believe are important aspects in critical thinking, due to the fact we are slowly becoming over-dependent on technology and losing certain skills and knowledge as this happens.  However, as we carried out our group discussion I came to realize that yes, the multiplication table is necessary, but the ways of teaching this material may be in fact ‘stuck in the stone age’.  Why not use technology as an aid in learning the multiplication table, rather than strictly expecting memorization to be the only learning tool?  Youth are focused on technology because that is the direction society is giving them to follow.  Many students will find strength in technology and many will be limited or oppressed because they have lack of access.  As educators I believe we need to find the balance of how technology can enhance our critical thinking and not over compensate or be excluded in the teaching and learning process.  The curriculum is often set in Stone Age ways by using memorization to produce successful students, which is something I have personally overlooked until Katia stated; “you all have a good memory and that is what makes you a good student and that is what makes you succeed and look now you are here, but what about the students who do not have the ability to memorize?  How do they succeed?”.  I am privileged in the education system, but how can I teach to privilege every student and their learning needs?

Family Identity

The front page of this collage asks “who is your family?” & represents diversity of all kinds of different people. Similarly, the back page recognizes that a family is built from “the circle of people who love you”. With this visual representation students can feel proud of their personal family structure, rather than feeling misplaced because they do not represent the “ideal” Standard North American family. I focused on the story “Framing the Family Tree: How Teachers Can Be Sensitive to Students’ Family Situations” & “Heathers Moms Got Married”. I believe a family holds identity and school should further encourage students to find their identity, not oppress the structure of a family identity by setting limitations on what creates a family.

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