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Showing posts from 2018

Youth in the Margins

For the majority of my career, I've been working with young people in schools who often don't feel a sense of belonging, who often feel that teachers don't care and who often feel that success is not something that they're going to find in a classroom. Learning from their experiences and stories have not only profoundly impacted me as a person but has no doubt made me a better teacher.

I admittedly have a huge soft spot for these students. I struggled to an extent when I was in high school and know what it's like to be in a classroom feeling inadequate, I know what it's like to have a teacher not believe in you, and I know what it's like to act out in a classroom because being kicked out of class is easier to deal with than having to stay in class. I used to think of these experiences as deficiencies within myself as to why I wasn't able to find success as a high school student. I thought of myself as inferior to my peers and for a time my future possib…

Tackling Race and Justice in the Classroom

Yesterday, Gerald Stanley was acquitted of second-degree murder charges in the death of Colten Boushie. There are many folks on Twitter and elsewhere who are providing incredible analysis as well as sharing experiences and feelings of rage at how the Canadian justice system has failed Colten Boushie, his family and Indigenous folks in general. This case has become another example of how systemic racism is perpetuated within our institutions and within our communities. As a teacher, I'm interested in how we will take this issue up in our classrooms.

As I was scrolling through twitter last night and catching up on the news of the verdict, one of my favourite educators, Janis Irwin, tweeted this:

Teachers, your students may come to school on Monday wanting to talk and share about #ColtenBoushie. Listen. Offer a safe space. Listen some more. Difficult conversations are needed more than ever. #abed#sasked — Janis Irwin (@JanisIrwin) February 10, 2018

As teachers walk into their classro…

My Favourite Teacher

"But I don’t think we teach in order to prepare people for exams. In order simply for them become quote successful and make their way in society and become sort of another little cog in society’s machinery. Not that we want our students to starve, yes, of course, everybody has to make a living and so on. But it seems to me that people who teach social studies want something more than that. They want it that young people should come out of their classes, I think, you know, imbued with the desire to change the world. A modest little aim, right? That’s what we want." - Howard Zinn

When I dedicated my teaching career towards working for equity and social justice, I quickly realized that I did not have a lot of models or mentors in my life to discuss the challenges and struggles of teaching for social justice. My early inspirations in those days were the folks I was reading who dedicated their life's work to critical pedagogy and reimagining what teaching and education could l…

Managing Your Classroom for Equity and Social Justice

When I think back to when I was training to be a teacher there was not a topic I hated more than "classroom management". I remember the course I took on the subject reading a text about how to maintain control and order in the classroom. And while most of my early conversations in teaching revolved around how I should embrace more authoritarian styles of classroom management, I wanted to seek, search out and experiment with what and how classroom management could look like when approached from a more just, equitable and democratic model. This task has proven to be difficult as I have never been a student in such a classroom and although there is ample research to advocate for equity and democratic practices in the classroom, putting these practices into place has been both a struggle and a worthwhile adventure. I've outlined my approach to classroom management below in no particular order. Just a few things I've learned over the years in working to create classrooms …

From the Inner City to the Suburbs - Social Justice Education is for Everyone

I've spent many years teaching in Inner City Edmonton focusing on how incorporating social justice into my classroom curriculum and pedagogy can not only help engage students in the margins of our system but also how it can help us re-imagine what teaching and learning can look like. As fortunate as I have been to do workshops with teachers, speak at conferences and engage in learning with colleagues, I often hear from other educators how social justice education is great for more "disadvantaged" students but it's not needed for those who are not facing social issues such as poverty, racism, etc. This understanding of social justice education couldn't be further from the truth. 
Social justice education is for absolutely everyone. I truly believe that a fundamental goal of education is to not just merely ensure that students become workers and find meaningful careers, but that an essential job of any citizen in our society is to uphold our democracy and contribut…

An Alternative Teacher in a Mainstream Classroom

I haven't taught in a traditional high school with 30+ students in a class since my first year of teaching. I have spent the last 8 years working at alternative schools in Nova Scotia and Alberta with students who were unable to find success within these traditional schools. I learned a lot from these students and in fact, I owe any success I've come across to them. They taught me how to be an effective teacher who can reach young people who have become disillusioned with their experiences in schools.

As I started back in the classroom this year teaching to large class sizes and working with diverse student populations, I quickly became aware that my teaching needed to do a better job of adapting to my new classrooms and students. For so long I became accustomed to working with 10-15 students in a class, sitting in a circle, talking about social studies and how the issues of the world impacted our lives. Within this environment, I quickly realized that building authentic relat…