A. Grace Martin

Author, Student Teacher, Optimist and Promoter of Self-Empowerment


To my students...

Posted by agracemartin on November 26, 2015 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (70)

Dear Science 24 Students,

I love you. I really do love having each and every one of you in my class. I am sorry if I do not always show it. I am sorry if I get strick and stern on a daily basis, but please remember that I am fun on a daily basis, too. Sometimes I feel that I need to enforce strick rules in order for you to have the best learning environment possible. That doesn't mean that I don't care about you; just the opposite. I'm strict because I care. I follow through with consequences to your actions because I want you to learn how to behave as responsible young adults.  

If you do not know already, I lose sleep over you because I'm so concerned about your well-being. I dedicate hours to planning, organizing, setting up, and taking down the hands-on activities and labs we do in class. I know that each of you learns differently and so I try my hardest to ensure that I give you every opportunity to understand the content.

I make you sit quietly when someone is talking or reading aloud because other students in the class cannot focus when there are whispers to distract them. I make you put away your phones because I want you to focus on your learning. I constantly remind you about respect so that you can graduate from our high school with the attributes of rigor, relevance, and relationships.

I know that you will never read this, and yet I will post it online anyway. Perhaps one day you will realize that when I said I was proud of you, I really meant it. My only hope for you is everything. I only hope that you receive everything good in life. I only hope that you find enormous success. I only hope that you realize the happiness of existence. That is all I wish for you: the best. If I have helped you in any way on that path, then I have done my job. 

I'll say it one more time: to all of my students,

I love you.

Mrs. Martin

EasyTeacherToolbox Published!

Posted by agracemartin on November 20, 2015 at 10:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Teachers! Do you need fresh, efficient, and easy-to-use strategies in your classroom?

Have you ever Google searched "strategies" or "engagement" and found nothing more than the common Jigsaw or Think/Pair/Share?

Young Shin and I have compiled an online resource for you! We collaborated on our professional inquiry project to create a toolbox of instructional strategies that are known to work.

Look no further! Check out our Easy Teacher Toolbox! 


PBL: organization, engagement, questions, feedback, and choice

Posted by agracemartin on August 12, 2015 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (2)

My Problem Solving with Communications Technology instructor posed the following questions, which I answer below:


  • What do you think is your greatest challenge in PBL design?
  • How will you support students in a PBL task?
  • How will you communicate with parents, administrators and colleagues about your PBL tasks? Is this even necessary?


There are many things to consider when designing a constructive Problem-Based Learning project. The greatest challenge, to me, in PBL design is organization and authentic engagement. Not only does a teacher have to make a problem or project meaningful and relevant to the students, it must be thoughtful and organized in an easy-to-follow manner with transparent outcomes (see my previous module entry “PBL in Biology” for examples of relevant and meaningful ideas as well as our readings on High Tech High projects). This requires a lot of creativity and planning from the teacher, which can be demanding on time constraints. Getting students on board with an engaging entry event can also be challenging, but there are many good ideas out there and we have the technology to access them via the Internet and our professional learning networks.



In order to support students in this process, I think that open-ended questions, specific and frequent feedback, and choice of presentation are important aspects. Open-ended questions allow for students to run with an idea and explore it to the best of their potential. In this manner, students with exceptionalities and highly academically achieving students alike can all partake in the same project topic in a way that suits their individual strengths and needs. I like the idea of driving questions from our readings, such as “how can we create…?” in a format that encourages original student thought. Detailed and timely feedback is imperative for student success as a lifelong learner. Peer and teacher feedback guide and support a student’s project. Formative assessment for learning early in the project process allows for correction of any misconceptions and informs a teacher of what other content students may need to be made aware of or clarified through direct instruction. Direct instruction can actually be a strategy of reinforcing what students are learning through the PBL process. When doing a project in the sciences or mathematics, I think that it is especially important to allow for student creativity by giving freedom of expressive presentation, and thereby differentiating the product in order to support unique student needs.



Communicating with administration may be necessary if the project grows outside of the classroom or requires additional resources. Communicating with other teachers in the school may be helpful to make cross-curricular connections to the problem or project and to gain additional ideas for planning, organization, and execution of a successful project. Verbal communication seems best with colleagues and administrators. Most importantly, parents should be aware of the project, especially if it requires time at home. Often students will not take home written notices, and phone calls may take a long time, so I think that electronic communication via e-mail, applications such as Remind, or a web-based tool would be most appropriate to communicate with parents.

PBL in Biology

Posted by agracemartin on August 12, 2015 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I am currently reflecting on PBL with a biology class in mind. I do not think that inquiry-based learning is the best model for concepts and terminology in biology, as the answers to these questions are often definitions that would not provide rich exploration. I think that for a problem-based inquiry project to go smoothly in biology, students need guidance either through direct instruction, videos, readings, or jigsaw groups to learn definitions and factual information that relate to the knowledge outcomes in the curriculum.


To me, a great idea for problem-based learning in biology is asking students to answer a question with a real-world application in order to develop the scientific skills and attitudes from the curriculum and experience the knowledge concepts in a more engaging manner. In a science classroom, problem-based learning can address the skills of initiating and planning, performing and recording, analyzing and interpreting, and communication and teamwork as well as the attitude outcomes of interest in science, mutual respect, scientific inquiry, collaboration, environmental stewardship, and even safety.




For example, when teaching the Bio 30 unit on the brain, an overarching question to guide students would be: “How would a tumor affect a person’s behaviour and bodily functions if it were located in different lobes of the brain?” This project could be introduced with an article reading or video on Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old who chose death with dignity due to severe brain cancer. What an intense, emotional, and thought-provoking way to introduce a complex problem with cross-curricular implications! It is sad but meaningful and could stimulate powerful responses from the students. Of course the above example would only be appropriate in a high school classroom because of the level of maturity required to grapple with sensitive content (and would not be used if a student in the class were dealing with cancer in their immediate family).


Another example would be a Bio 20 inquiry into the correlation of crop-based food production in Canada and the levels of photosynthesis in areas with optimal sunlight, precipitation, and temperature variables. I would introduce this project with a scenario that an apocalypse has shut down all technology and transportation (take 5 minutes to explain that no it is not a zombie apocalypse), requiring you to grow your own food to support your community. Which communities in Canada would be able to grow the most plant-based foods and why? From here, the project could branch out to include other interactions in the biome including population density, carrying capacity, different food sources, and sustainability. Which modern-day communities would most likely thrive if they had to sustain themselves over several decades and why?


Both of these examples can provide opportunities for technological research and the usage of technology to formulate a finalized project. I believe in offering choice of format for presentation (video, song, PowerPoint, poster, brochure, essay, etc.).



This brings up the challenge faced by teachers: what conditions need to exist in order for PBL to exist in a classroom? Student independence, creativity, engagement, determination, patience, and discernment all come to mind. How do we facilitate such attributes in our classrooms? We can create an open, safe, risk-taking environment for our students from day 1 of the semester and model the thoughtful question-asking process throughout the course or year. Technology could be used in the research process after a mini-lesson on proper search terms or how to perform complex searches in an engine such as Google. Modelling the scientific process can be valuable here (and in any subject) as we identify an issue, hypothesize a solution, creatively construct and safely execute a plan to test our hypothesis, observe and record the results, then report and discuss our conclusions based upon the data gathered. This requires the teacher’s differentiated planning and organization to set up the optimal environmental conditions (emotional well-being, intellectually stimulating problems, and available materials and resources) for great learning experiences. Then the teacher must continually facilitate the inquiry process with probing questions and well-supplied information.

PBL in Biology

Posted by agracemartin on August 12, 2015 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I am currently reflecting on PBL with a biology class in mind. I do not think that inquiry-based learning is the best model for concepts and terminology in biology, as the answers to these questions are often definitions that would not provide rich exploration. I think that for a problem-based inquiry project to go smoothly in biology, students need guidance either through direct instruction, videos, readings, or jigsaw groups to learn definitions and factual information that relate to the knowledge outcomes in the curriculum.


To me, a great idea for problem-based learning in biology is asking students to answer a question with a real-world application in order to develop the scientific skills and attitudes from the curriculum and experience the knowledge concepts in a more engaging manner. In a science classroom, problem-based learning can address the skills of initiating and planning, performing and recording, analyzing and interpreting, and communication and teamwork as well as the attitude outcomes of interest in science, mutual respect, scientific inquiry, collaboration, environmental stewardship, and even safety.




For example, when teaching the Bio 30 unit on the brain, an overarching question to guide students would be: “How would a tumor affect a person’s behaviour and bodily functions if it were located in different lobes of the brain?” This project could be introduced with an article reading or video on Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old who chose death with dignity due to severe brain cancer. What an intense, emotional, and thought-provoking way to introduce a complex problem with cross-curricular implications! It is sad but meaningful and could stimulate powerful responses from the students. Of course the above example would only be appropriate in a high school classroom because of the level of maturity required to grapple with sensitive content (and would not be used if a student in the class were dealing with cancer in their immediate family).


Another example would be a Bio 20 inquiry into the correlation of crop-based food production in Canada and the levels of photosynthesis in areas with optimal sunlight, precipitation, and temperature variables. I would introduce this project with a scenario that an apocalypse has shut down all technology and transportation (take 5 minutes to explain that no it is not a zombie apocalypse), requiring you to grow your own food to support your community. Which communities in Canada would be able to grow the most plant-based foods and why? From here, the project could branch out to include other interactions in the biome including population density, carrying capacity, different food sources, and sustainability. Which modern-day communities would most likely thrive if they had to sustain themselves over several decades and why?


Both of these examples can provide opportunities for technological research and the usage of technology to formulate a finalized project. I believe in offering choice of format for presentation (video, song, PowerPoint, poster, brochure, essay, etc.).



This brings up the challenge faced by teachers: what conditions need to exist in order for PBL to exist in a classroom? Student independence, creativity, engagement, determination, patience, and discernment all come to mind. How do we facilitate such attributes in our classrooms? We can create an open, safe, risk-taking environment for our students from day 1 of the semester and model the thoughtful question-asking process throughout the course or year. Technology could be used in the research process after a mini-lesson on proper search terms or how to perform complex searches in an engine such as Google. Modelling the scientific process can be valuable here (and in any subject) as we identify an issue, hypothesize a solution, creatively construct and safely execute a plan to test our hypothesis, observe and record the results, then report and discuss our conclusions based upon the data gathered. This requires the teacher’s differentiated planning and organization to set up the optimal environmental conditions (emotional well-being, intellectually stimulating problems, and available materials and resources) for great learning experiences. Then the teacher must continually facilitate the inquiry process with probing questions and well-supplied information.

Solving student disinterest with a combined approach

Posted by agracemartin on August 12, 2015 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (0)

My Problem Solving with Communications Technology instructor asked us to describe an instance in which we witnessed another teacher employ problem solving. My response was on solving student disinterest with a combined approach.


I witnessed my PSI teacher associate incorporate a mixture of note-taking lectures with project-based-learning in a grade 6 Social Studies classroom. This teacher had noticed that stand-and-deliver instruction followed by assignments was a huge problem for student engagement, deeper understanding, and long-term retention of meaningful skills and knowledge. This teacher had also noted the issue with only using a project-based learning approach that had complete student independence in their research process, because students did not know where to start or how to find what they were supposed to. My PSI teacher associate mostly referred to online resources for PBL (project-based learning) and spoke with other teachers interested in PBL. The solution to this problem was a mixed approach of direct instruction on alternating days to work periods for student projects. This system worked very well right away.



In the first unit of the grade 6 Social Studies class, students learned about the governmental processes of Alberta. The teacher gave students the information that they needed and then encouraged them to come up with a proposal for a new building or center that would benefit the community. The proposal was presented in a PowerPoint format to the class and to guests from the town council. This gave the students an authentic audience and allowed room for a lot of creative exploration of centers that they were interested in. While I was completing my PSI practicum, I taught Social Studies and English Language Arts with this teacher associate. I would teach lessons about democracy in “Ancient Athens” and then the following day my teacher associate would guide them through their group project about a day in the life of an ancient Greek person. The students took on their roles of citizens, metics, and slaves with excitement. They became engaged with the subject matter and creatively expressed their new-found knowledge. The culmination of this project was on my last day of practicum, in which the students modeled an agora marketplace by bringing in a food item and exchanging the coins they had made in art class for snacks and treats. It was a lot of fun for teachers and students alike.



In summary, my PSI teacher associate engaged in the problem solving process by identifying the issue of disinterested students under direct instructional methods and confused students under PBL strategies. This teacher was successful in solving this issue by taking a balanced approach that informed students and engaged them in meaningful activities. The wonderful result of this approach, too, was that students began to learn the problem solving process by identifying the requirements of the project and being guided through the steps to create a finalized and polished presentation.

When I posted this resposne to our online forum, another student teacher asked me to elaborate on the evidence of student learning, to which I replied:

My TA had been grappling with this idea in the previous year, so I came in after he was already implementing the combined PBL/instruction approach. It was new that fall when I arrived. The benefits were evident even without seeing how my students were "before." The "after" that I witnessed showed how excited they were about their Social Studies projects. The main thing that I could notice were that students actually CARED about their projects. They seemed fairly disinterested in most things but their projects were meaningful to them and they enjoyed telling me about what they were working on.


I think the key to transitioning was routine. The grade 6 Social Studies class got the laptop cart on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when they had group time to work. Mondays and Wednesdays were instructionally-based classes. Fridays were a mix of instruction and current events. The grade 6s got accustomed to this routine in September, so the combined approach was very well balanced.


PS2 might have been a more difficult buy-in because you did not get to establish routines from day 1 in September. I also had difficulty with my Science 14s buying in because I did not get them from the start of the semester.


In PS2 I ended up "tricking" my Science 9s into hands-on learning. I came in with collaborative and explorative strategies and there was an instant outcry for "can't we just take notes!?" because they were concerned that they would not do well on their upcoming tests unless they took notes from the board. Instead I balanced note-taking from direct instruction and PowerPoints with experiment days. Suddenly saying it was a "lab" and giving them a "lab report worksheet" for marks made inquiry-based learning acceptable to them. Sometimes we just need to change our terminology to something familiar to make the "fear of the unknown" lessened.

Creativity in Science

Posted by agracemartin on August 12, 2015 at 9:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Creative Confidence

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My Problem Solving through Communications Technology instructor posed the following questions to my class:

  • Do you consider yourself a creative person? Has this always been the case or has it changed recently?
  • How do you model creativity for students in your classroom?
  • How do you encourage and teach creativity in your classroom?
  • What aspects of the problem solving process are you most comfortable with? Which cause discomfort or uncertainty?
  • When was the last time you used a problem solving process? Was the process you used effective?
  • Why might innovation seem less common in education?

I have always been a creative person. When I was very young I would create fashion designs on paper-made dresses or come up with imaginative games to play. In school I started to write poetry and short stories and excelled in art class. As a teenager and young adult I let my creativity be confined to writing my fantasy novels, and did not let it shine in other areas. In fact, when getting my performance review while working at a golf course my boss told me that I was extremely uncreative. This hurt my feelings and I began to wonder how I could show my innovative side in the workforce. Now that I am pursuing an education degree, I see many ways to express my creativity in the classroom. I can set up the physical environment with posters and manipulatives (such as my Newton's cradle and slinky's), introduce each class with a two-minute mindfulness breathing exercise to calm and centre everyone's emotions, and especially create wonderful learning opportunities through hands-on activities, experiments, exploratory stations, and project-based learning. Teachers are highly creative people because they are always differentiating and constructing new learning opportunities for themselves and their students. As an adult I feel more inspired to become resourceful and innovative as an author, family member, and teacher.


In my classroom I have modeled creative and critical thinking to develop the scientific attitude skills of scientific inquiry, environmental stewardship, and collaboration. For example, when learning about alternative forms of energy I showed my class a video clip from the 2006 documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” and followed it with class discussion and thought-provoking questions about the values of practicality and convenience versus pursuing environmentally-friendly products. Setting up hands-on exploratory activities and experiments was also a fun way for my grade 9’s and Science 14’s to engage in an inquiry-based approach to the concepts they were learning. My students generally saw these approaches as creative and entertaining; their engagement was evinced through my formative assessments of the activities.


Teaching the cognitive processes of critical and creative thinking to find solutions to environmental issues was a theme throughout my units. During class time I would encourage students to come up with their own ideas and explanations of concepts. On assignments and tests I wrote open-ended questions with options for which topic students preferred. I asked, “justify why you are for or against a particular energy source such as coal, nuclear, wind, or hydro-electric power using benefits and drawbacks to support your argument.” This may not seem to be a very creative question but the responses that I received were remarkable. My students brought up wonderful cost/benefit analysis arguments that were meaningful to them after our time in class and clearly exuded understanding and passion for their well-justified opinions.


Now that I have received my PSIII placement teaching Science 10 and I am so excited to be planning a student-centered project that is designed to give back to the community in any form that the students choose. While this is extremely open-ended I have developed suggestions for students that include: research paper/poster/video supplying others with information on an environmental or technological issue, development of a community gardens with information on maintenance and yields, construction of an electrical generator, or even an inquiry into “earth ships,” the environmentally-friendly self-sustaining homes that are essentially made from tires and dirt. I’m really looking forward to this imaginative project and hope that I can learn more about how my students could use technology to help them with problem-solving in this upcoming project.

Accommodating for Individual Needs of Students who are Visually Impaired

Posted by agracemartin on March 5, 2015 at 12:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I worked with my colleague Jodie on this assignment do develop a learner profile as part of an IPP or ISP. Want to know more about Jodie? Visit her website at: jodieeinarson.weebly.com

Accommodating for Individual Needs (IPPs)

By: Jodie Einarson and Grace Martin

Characteristics of students who are blind or have low vision:

- Having poor to no visual perception.

- Students with visual impairments or low vision are able to use their remaining vision for learning but need a combination of compensatory visual strategies, low vision devices, and environmental modifications to access and respond to visual information.

- Visual impairment can involve a loss of visual clarity, and/or peripheral vision. Some conditions may result in reduced or loss of colour vision, sensitivity to light, or rapid, involuntary eye movements. These factors affect the student's degree of visual efficiency

- Low vision students usually are print users, but may require special equipment and materials.

- Low vision is defined as limited or diminished vision that cannot be corrected with standard lenses

- Clumsiness can occur when the eyes misjudge a distance. Sometimes young children who do not walk well actually have problems with their vision.

- May appear to also have a short attention span.

- May blink frequently or squint when looking at an object, reading, or watching TV.

- Crossed eyes, eyes that turn out, eyes that flutter from side to side or up and down, or eyes that do not seem to focus

- May become very isolated and stop doing activities they once loved

- Skim reading may be very difficult due to eye fatigue. Eye fatigue can cause headaches, and can also affect their study time.

- Difficulty recording notes

Learner Profile


1. Assistive Technology

• Device: Ideally we would give Orrin a laptop or tablet. We can borrow one laptop from the school’s laptop cart. Unfortunately, this would not have Zoomtext software as it is expensive software, but we can manually zoom in on Microsoft Word (and on most computer pages like websites). If the laptop cart is unavailable to borrow from, Orrin may use the teacher’s laptop while in class. Orrin having a laptop would allow him to successfully read and write all assignments. This approach would require some supervision to teach him how to zoom-in on a particular device. The other students should be aware that Orrin requires this device because he cannot see assignments as clearly as the other students do.

• Large print: If computers or tablets were not a possibility from the school, the teacher would have to take care to print all assignments large enough to be read by Orrin. Large lined pages and markers could be used by Orrin to write on to make his own writing more visible to him. This approach helps to solve the problem of when Orrin has homework and cannot take home a school computer or tablet. After the teacher has prepared this assistance, Orrin can use it independently. The other students won’t notice this assistance as much, but if it’s brought up the teacher can explain that large print helps Orrin read.

• Audio Technology: We could apply for grants to purchase Orrin a device with speech-to-text and text-to-speech software and a headset for the device. This software would aid Orrin in reading and writing because he does not need to rely on his eyesight to do so. Since he is also an orally processing thinker, he can better express his ideas verbally. This gives him more independence when completing assignments. If funding is still an issue, then audio books (textbooks on tape) can be given to Orrin during textbook research/reading time. The parents should be notified that Orrin is using this technology at school to help him get his ideas down efficiently.

• Braille Textbook: If a textbook is available in Braille version, it should be given to Orrin for use in class and at home. Or, Braille books on related science subjects can be found and purchased using the school’s book budget. Since it is difficult for Orrin to read small text, Braille is an assistive resource that would allow him to read science content independently. The parents should be aware of this approach in case they have not used Braille with Orrin before, and to be aware that the books are school property and must be returned.

2. Environmental Accommodations

• Physical Classroom Setup: Teacher must be aware while setting up the classroom with minimal furnishings, consistently located materials, and clear pathways. The lab area’s perimeter could be well defined with brightly coloured tape on the floor so that he can distinguish between different areas of the classroom. The teacher could put a high-contrast coloured fabric on the back of Orrin’s chair to help him find his seat. His desk should be placed in an easily accessible spot.

• Classroom Maintenance: The teacher must teach students how to properly maintain a tidy classroom by pushing in their chairs and returning materials to their proper location. This helps Orrin navigate the classroom and find materials that he needs.

• Noise Pollution: The teacher must control the student’s noise level during instruction because Orrin is an auditory learner and needs to be able to hear the teacher speak in order to learn. In this way, students can begin to respect Orrin’s auditory needs, including saying his name clearly when they wish to talk to him.

• Noon-hour Club: Since Orrin has a difficult time making new friends and engaging in social interactions (like communicating with peers over lunch hour), peer supports can be put in place to help Orrin feel accepted at school. The club could focus on nature, anti-bullying, leadership, alliance club, etc.

3. Academic Accommodations

• Differentiating product: Orrin can compose music and lyrics to express his knowledge of a concept in science. He is interested in music and has musical-rhythmic-harmonic intelligence. Allowing Orrin to compose would utilize his strengths to demonstrate his understanding. Orrin’s intrapersonal intelligence is expressed through this approach. If the topic is difficult to express through song, then Orrin can record verbal reflections. Other students should be allowed to differentiate their products as well.

• Differentiating instruction: Teacher’s verbal cues and relationship with Orrin are very important. The teacher should check in with Orrin to see how he is doing and use verbal assessments with him. Orrin can tell this teacher if he/she is using the proper volume for him to successfully understand. The teacher and Orrin can agree upon a hand signal that Orrin can give if he cannot hear properly. Students should know that they should use verbal cues with Orrin as well, like clearly saying his name. This should help with peer communication and enhancing Orrin’s social interactions.

• Differentiating process: For assignments, the teacher should encourage quality over quantity. In science lab reports do not have to be as formally structured, but instead focus on content. During lab experiments, Orrin should be paired with one of his friends who is not visually impaired. An expectation should be established that the friend is in charge of gathering materials and recording data, while Orrin is in charge of data analysis, interpretation, and lab report discussion. Since Orrin is not taking a large part of the experiment, the teacher can provide physical models of the systems that we are studying. If Orrin can manipulate the models then he is learning through his tactile preference as a kinesthetic learner. Parents can be informed that Orrin is being included in classroom activities according to his strengths.

• Differentiating content: If the science topic allows it, content could be focussed on nature and birds to appeal to Orrin’s interests.

Other Considerations

Peer Explanation:

• The teacher must explain to the rest of the students that Orrin has a visual impairment and needs adaptations to be successful. The teacher can explain that if a person has a slight visual impairment they can be helped with glasses, but Orrin cannot be sufficiently helped by glasses and so accommodations are made so that he has “better glasses” if everyone cooperates to help him.

Effectiveness Assessment:

• Asking Orrin how he feels about the accommodations can assess their effectiveness. Orrin is good at verbally expressing himself and he is self-aware of his needs and weaknesses. If he feels more confident in the classroom then the accommodation has been successful.

• Orrin’s academic performance can be an indicator of the accommodation effectiveness. If his grades improve, that is a measurable response.

Parent Communication:

• Open communication should be available to all parents at all times.

• The teacher can help Orrin’s parents find grants to pay for the laptop and Zoomtext software that he prefers.

Reflection on Students who are Gifted

Posted by agracemartin on March 5, 2015 at 12:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I wrote this reflection for my Educational Psychology of Exceptional Learners class after a group presentation on Code 80 students in Alberta.

Reflection on Students who are Gifted

Learning about gifted students was a very insightful project for me. I enjoyed this project because going into it I knew nothing substantial about highly talented or gifted students. As an aspiring physics teacher, I tried to think about what learner exceptionalities I would most likely find in my future classroom. I am glad that I chose this exceptionality because now I feel better prepared if I were to be teaching a student of this description.

The most important things that I have taken away from the research are the qualities of gifted students and the implication that acceleration is not always the best option for helping them. Some of the amazing qualities of gifted students that I learned were: verbal proficiency, curiosity, creativity, intensity, logical thinking, depth of comprehension, rate of learning, range of interests, and ingenuity of applying their knowledge. With such an advanced student in the classroom, acceleration seems like a logical strategy to support them. However, while acceleration places an exceptionally talented student with his or her intellectual peers, it is often a good idea to encourage social development by keeping these students with their same-age peers.

The research made me think about gifted students in inclusive classrooms. Differentiation means that we provide the help, support, and resources that all individual students need in order to be successful. Although gifted students do not seem to need as much help as students with learning disabilities or behavioral disorders, that does not mean that they do not also deserve and need our attention just as much. Since gifted students are often bored, it is valuable to give accelerated worksheets after they have completed their grade-level curricular expectations. That way they are not bored while their peers complete grade-level requirements at a slower pace. Alternatively, all questions and projects can have open-ended questions in which students are encouraged to go as deep into the problem as they desire. These open questions appeal to their individual strengths and interests while promoting classroom inclusion.

Not every student is the same and so not every strategy or program will benefit all children with exceptionalities. As a teacher, it is important for me to incorporate multiple ideas and strategies to appeal to as many students in my classroom as possible. Not every gifted student is accelerated in all areas, nor do they need the same programs. Gifted students can present vastly different abilities and behaviours. If I have multiple perspectives to draw upon, I still have strategies available to me if some do not work for a particular student.

It is realistic that I would face a gifted student who is bored and disengaged with the course content. One challenge could be that a student would not be diagnosed or even coded as gifted. Sometimes gifted students go unnoticed because all of their work gets completed accurately and they often do not present a behaviour issue. Others will try to hide their extraordinary talents for fear of being labeled “different.” I also learned that many students have had their code 80 removed so that teachers no longer need to follow up on the status of a gifted student. If I suspect that a student might be gifted in one or more areas, then I could try testing the waters to see if the student has escaped notice as being gifted. I could do this by giving that student accelerated work in areas that they show interest (or boredom) in and see if they enjoy the advanced material.

Another set of challenges could arise from a student’s behaviour. A gifted student’s advanced verbal proficiency could lead him or her to talk incessantly, use a large vocabulary to manipulate others, or complain loudly. They could escape into fantasy or demonstrate tunnel vision when applied to an area of interest. If I were to encounter these behavioural challenges, then I know that I would have to identify the causes and present solutions to them in a timely manner. I would have to reassure my student that he or she is valued, that I want them to work on areas that interest them, and that I care about their feelings. By establishing a relationship I would hopefully have the awareness to propose behaviour interventions. Perhaps a student is simply bored, like “Sarah” in our group presentation case study, and just needs more stimulation.

If I had a gifted student in my PSII practicum, I would first discuss all potential strategies with my teacher associate. If my T.A. agrees, I will ask the principal and the child’s parent. Depending on the needs of the student, acceleration may be a good idea for the particular class or classes that he or she excels in. If acceleration is not an option, perhaps my T.A. and I could take turns pulling the student aside to discuss their areas of strength, give additional higher-level worksheets, and later check-in with them to see how they are feeling. I would like to use learner contracts and independent studies as an approach to frame their additional coursework. Unfortunately, both of these options take the gifted student away from his or her peers. I would like to see if that student could help tutor others who are having difficulties in class. I think that it would be valuable to conduct group projects that have open-ended questions, meaning that the gifted student could choose to excel in their designated sub-topic as a part of the group. To further include my gifted student, I could construct all of my lesson plans using a universal design for learning and differentiated instruction that include hands-on activities. This would help not only my gifted student, but also all students in my classroom.

If one day I receive a gifted student in my physics course, I now feel far more prepared to give them appropriate challenges and support to set them up for success. In a high school physics class, I would encourage a gifted student to self-monitor and set individualized goals. Since I intend to teach using a flipped classroom, a gifted student could quickly go through the provided video for homework and complete assignments collaboratively with peers at school. This would establish a habit of doing homework and could increase social development for a gifted student, preparing them for a future in university if they choose.

Validity of Standardized Tests and Solutions for Change

Posted by agracemartin on March 5, 2015 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I wrote the following paper for my Evaluation of Student Learning class on the topic: Assessment of Validity in Standardized Tests.

Validity of Standardized Tests and Solutions for Change

Validity of Assessments

Authenticity arguments improve our assessment instruments to be both reliable and valid (Winke, 2011; Chapelle, 1999). Reliability means that the assessment results are reproducible and repeatable (Davies, 2011; Chapelle, 1999). Validity, according to Chapelle (1999), is the overall quality and acceptance of an assessment, including concurrent validity—which measures the same skills and knowledge as other assessments—and predictive validity to predict future performance or skill development.

Standardized testing may or may not be valid. Wiggins (1993) believes that conventional test design assumptions are false because they are based on being able to break knowledge down into elements and being able to know a particular concept in absolutely every context. Standardized tests do not assess whether all students everywhere have the same “knowledge” because genuine intellectual performance is individualized (Wiggins, 1993). A test’s reliability, concurrent validity, and predictive validity can be quantitatively measured, though the statistics of these tests shows a narrow perspective; teacher’s opinions are an important component in determining exam validity (Winke, 2011). For a particular language exam, teachers disagreed with the time dedicated for testing, inappropriate length and difficulty of the test, and the singling out and social labeling of ELL students (Winke, 2011). Many teachers said, “the test stressed and frustrated some students, made them feel inadequate, humiliated, or embarrassed, or led them to question their self-worth” (Winke, 2011). Valid tests must be developmentally appropriate, fair, feasible, and practical for students as well as statistically reliable, concurrently valid, and predictably valid (Winke, 2011).

On the contrary, Slomp et al. (2014) argues that content, concurrent, and predictive validity evidence have failed; we now call upon construct and consequential validity evidence. In standardized tests, complex constructs, such as writing ability, are less likely to be assessed completely (Slomp et al., 2014). Studies found that “class time was diverted from regular instruction to focus on test preparation [for] low-level skill-and-drill work rather than higher-order literacy skills; teachers fell substantially behind in their course material; and teachers felt compelled to prepare students for the test even though they questioned its usefulness and validity” (p. 294). Test standardization stunts the growth of innovative teachers but reinforces veteran teacher strategies that lack diversity (Slomp et al., 2014). Tests constrained writing as a construct by ignoring the importance of differentiated assessment (collecting multiple evidences of student learning over time), limited pedagogical diversity by encouraging convergent thinking, and marginalized students and teachers by undermining diversity in the classroom (Slomp et al., 2014).

Not everyone agrees on what it means to have valid assessment. Davies (2011) says that validity is the extent to which the evidence from several sources aligns with the learning objective. While the above articles argued the validity of standardized tests, a more practical approach can be taken in classrooms:

"Evidence of learning needs to be diverse because it requires performance and self-assessment or reflection to demonstrate application and the ability to articulate understandings. This means that written work or test results can never be enough. Observing application of knowledge, listening to students articulate understandings, and engaging students in demonstrating acquisition of knowledge can be valid evidence." (Davies, 2011)

Davies (2011) argues that triangulation of evidence increases both reliability and validity. Triangulation involves observations, conversations, and collecting products (Davies, 2011). In triangulation, standardized tests only make up a small portion of summative assessment under the category of collecting products, and therefore are not entirely valid.

My Personal Connections

My grade 9 Social Studies teacher instructed our class heavily on Russian history, the implications of communism in the USSR, the industrial revolution, and the implications of capitalism on North American society. I remember studying dutifully; I could have been assessed as understanding all course content with impeccable detail. Yet, when I wrote my PAT (Provincial Achievement Test) it focused on applying ideologies to made-up economic situations. Everyone was frustrated: our teacher had thought that she had prepared us as well as she could, while my classmates and I felt like we had not been assessed on what we had learned. The standardized test caused a lot of anxiety and confusion. I ended up feeling that school put an immense pressure on answering as many questions correct as possible, making me stop caring about what I had learned. Was the time taken to learn content and facts wasted? While I value the history that I learned, I certainly felt as though Alberta Education did not.

Many of my teachers since have revolved their instruction around exam content. Ironically, I have not learned subject matter as in-depth in such courses when compared to my excellent teacher with passionate and engaging differentiated instruction. I have found that both high school students and teachers put far too much emphasis on test results. I placed a huge priority on my grade 12 Social Studies diploma, but afterward intentionally forgot all course content. If I had been re-assessed later, I doubt I would have received honors. I do not even remember what we covered. I do remember getting an 83% in grade 9 and a 95% in grade 12, but I believe that I learned more in the former and was not validly assessed in either. I do not feel that standardized testing promoted the longevity of my learning.

As a tutor, I have worked with students who experience test anxiety. In tutoring sessions, one girl seemed like a 70 percentile student and yet her quiz and exam grades were failing. I encouraged her to ask her teacher for an oral interview. As a student teacher, I watched my teacher associate give oral re-tests. Without the writing component and formal situation, many students were able to verbally explain their understandings. Yet we expect students to perform well on standardized tests even if it disadvantages them. Why do this?

My Conclusions on Test Validity

I do not think that standardized tests are valid forms of assessment. Concurrent validity is meaningless to me because I do not care if a test can measure the same knowledge as another test—that way of thinking justifies a cyclic loop of poor tests. I like the idea of predictive validity to gain insight into future skill development, but why would I want to label my students’ future success based upon past exams?

I believe in Winke (2011)’s consideration of teachers’ professional opinions as important in assessment validity. Standardized tests encourage teachers to focus on getting students to achieve high marks instead of focusing on student learning and assessing students fairly. As Slomp et al. (2014) suggested, I think that teachers are pressured to focus on testable skills, narrowing their assessment and limiting student choice in demonstrating their knowledge. Not every student has an equal opportunity to perform well on standardized tests, which can have negative psychological impacts on students.

Valid assessment must include more collections of evidence than just examination statistics. I identify with Davies (2011) triagulation of observational evidence (such as watching the scientific method being applied during an experiment), conversational evidence (class discussions, student-teacher interviews, peer feedback, written conversations, and group work records), and collection of products (summative projects, exams, quizzes, and assignments, as well as formative assessment notebooks, journals, photos, student worksheets, graphs, and work-in-progress portfolios). To me, triangulation of evidence is the most valid form of assessing a student’s knowledge and understanding—something that standardized test results cannot fully convey.

Implications For My Assessment Practice

I plan on teaching high school physics, which means that I unfortunately cannot prevent standardized diploma exams from influencing my students’ grades. To work around this barrier, I intend to incorporate PAT-like questions into my regular assignments. While I will still require students to show all of their work, I can structure the practice problems in either multiple choice or numerical response formats. I hope that familiarity with the standardized format will alleviate some anxiety in this situation. I can validly assess student coursework through triangulation of evidence from multiple sources such as homework checks (for observed participation), experimental lab reports, assignments, projects, quizzes, unit tests, and presentations.

If I am pressured for higher student test achievement, I could compact my year-plan timeline to include a full week of review and test preparation at the end of the semester. I want to avoid this because I do not wish to transfer excess pressure onto my students. As well, this time could be better used to delve deeper into the key learning objectives. I will try to avoid teaching for the test, and instead strive to focus my attention on the learning processes of my students. This approach could arguably help my students do better on exams anyway, since their learning experiences have been richer. I feel that validity must help educators improve their assessment instruments, and that frequent assessment and feedback will enable learning for higher achievement in my future students.


Chapelle, C. A. (1999). Validity in language assessment. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 19, 254–272. doi: 10.1017/S0267190599190135.

Davies, A. (2011). Making classroom assessment work. [Book]. Solution Tree. 555 North Morton Street, Bloomington, IN 47404.

Slomp, David H.; Corrigan, Julie A.; Sugimoto, Tamiko. (2014). A Framework for Using Consequential Validity Evidence in Evaluating Large-Scale Writing Assessments: A Canadian Study. Research in the Teaching of English, 48(3), 276-302.

Wiggins, G. (1993). Assessment: Authenticity, context, and validity. Phi Delta Kappan, 75(3), 200-08.

Winke, P. (2011). Evaluating the Validity of a High-Stakes ESL Test: Why Teachers' Perceptions Matter. Tesol Quarterly, 45(4), 628-660.

Visiting an English Language Learner Program

Posted by agracemartin on March 5, 2015 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

The following is a reflection assignment from my Social Context of Education class in which I visited a middle school program for English Language Learners (ELL) also called students with English as a Second Language (ESL).

When I visited the middle school’s ELL program, the first thing that I noticed was the clearly amicable relationships that the teacher and educational assistant had with the students. The teacher knew what activities each student was interested in. I noticed that a student was using the Internet on the teacher’s computer, and the teacher asked, “When did you start playing that game?” To me, this demonstrated the teacher’s authentic awareness and personalized connection with the students.

This relationship seemed to make the students feel comfortable and at liberty to joke around. The teacher had a relaxed manner with an easy sense of humour. When students talked out of turn, they were not berated, punished, or even singled out. The teacher would simply say, “Hmm, I wonder why I’m hearing voices but no hands.” He did not once tell students before class to speak English only, allowing them to talk with their friends in any language they chose. In class, however, he said, “Please try using English—even if you are talking across the room when you shouldn’t be.” I liked this style of classroom management because it encouraged practice of both the English language and North American school norms. If I were to apply this strategy in a classroom without ELL students, I would adapt it to say something positive, like: "please use proper grammar" or "be polite even when you are talking out of turn."

While sitting at the back of the classroom, one of my fellow student teachers made a comment about a few of the girls being too young to have nose piercings. I sincerely hoped that none of the ELL students heard this comment, and I whispered to my colleague that it is culturally and religiously significant in South East Asian countries for girls to get piercings on the left-hand side of their nose. This further reminded me of the incredible importance of knowing your students’ backgrounds to avoid offensive or uncomfortable situations due to misunderstanding.

The teacher started the school day with a daily writing page. He wrote a prompt on the board: “if you were principal of our school, what would you change? What would stay the same?” I noticed that the teacher first asked if anyone knew what a principal was. It would not have occurred to me to ask this question, but the teacher knew his ELL students might not recognize the word at first glance. One student did not know the meaning of “change,” so the E.A. quickly said, “to make different.” I thought that it must be an acquired skill to give a simple definition quickly, and that a teacher might need some practice to do so. I was struck by the fact that I take communication in the English language for granted, especially with what I would deem to be “simple” words. I am not accustomed to defining common words, which could be a challenge for me if I have an ELL student in my future class. I am more than willing to practice this however, because simply vocabulary can also benefit a wider range of students with differing reading levels.

I liked the daily jobs, in which one student had to read the calendar, and one student had to read the weather forecast for the day. This got two students a day speaking in front of the class in English. I thought that it was a great idea to have another board with common language on it that the teacher changed each day. He wrote, “What a horrendous morning! Today Is Moonday February 2rd, 2015. Tomorrow iS Tusday and. Yesterbay was Suhday. Different animals had tales…” This looked like an effective daily exercise to correct mistakes and spelling of very common words.

As the class corrected the spelling together, one said that it was the wrong “tale.” Immediately the teacher said, “Oh wow! You know what that means! We need to get out our book for what? That’s right, homophones!” I liked this strategy because it is clearly a fun way to sprinkle in homophones into daily instruction. The students got excited about homophone time. They drew a monkey next to the word tail. Pictorially, such visuals seem to be the best way for ELL students to differentiate between homophones. After drawing pictures, the students came up with simple sentences to practice their writing.

For a while I wondered why the teacher asked students to color their pictures. It was a very time-consuming task. Surely the time could be better spent? Then I realized that it was the end of the period. Coloring provided a break without changing the class. Also, slower-working students were allowed to continue coloring while the class worked on their corrections on the board. I later asked the teacher and he commented that all of his ELL students are immigrants who have not acquired skills that we normally do in elementary school, like coloring and using scissors. He has to be very patient and offer his students a lot of time to complete their work.

Then the students were split into groups. The four groups were reading, playing apples to apples, playing boggle, and reading games on the iPods. Each group went to each station and rotated. It was beneficial for me to work with a small group because I was able to answer questions and get a good feeling for their level of comprehension.

Before teatime, the teacher held interviews (meaning that he sat at the front of the classroom to talk with students by asking them questions, then allowing the students to interview him). It was an approach to encourage student conversations in English and also gave the daily job students time to serve tea. I appreciated that the teacher took time to get to know his students and learn that they enjoy having tea when talking in a circle. This clearly made a strong, culturally significant connection with them. He told us that for him, the biggest part of his job is identifying his students’ needs and modifying his instruction to meet those needs.

In my future science teaching, I can help ELL students by giving definitions in two ways: one as the science textbook definition, and one using simpler words to be more commonly understood. When I teach science courses, I can offer multiple ways to say the same thing, meaning that I can teach a concept using different words. On examinations, I can differentiate tests to have the same question worded in different ways and give ELL students more time to complete their work. This approach contributes to a universal design for learning (UDL) that can also benefit students with learning disabilities as well as ELL students.

In the future, I can give more time for ELL students to write notes down. I think that one way to approach this is through a flipped classroom. Students can watch a lecture video at home at their own pace, pausing and rewinding the video until they understand the content. In class, I will then have more time to answer questions that arose from the video and give students time to collaborate with their peers while working on practice problems or other projects.

I think that the most important implication for my future teaching is for me to know my students and do background research into their cultural values. Truly the first step in the teaching profession is to build relationships.

Sexuality, Differences, and Finding LGBT Support in Alberta

Posted by agracemartin on February 11, 2015 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Today in my Social Context Education class we had a group present on homosexuality in Alberta. Our conservative province with its ex-pastor Gordon Dirks as minister for education passed Bill 10, saying "the bill was designed to ensure that children would get GSAs if they desired them." Yet Bill 10 allows school boards to reject student requests for gay-straight alliances (GSAs). How exactly does this protect our children? 

This topic made me think about the welfare of our students. No person should be made to feel unsafe in our educational system. The Alberta Teacher's Association Code of Professional Conduct explicitly states that in relation to pupils, "the teacher teaches in a manner that respects the dignity and rights of all persons without prejudice as to race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical characteristics, disability, marital status, family status, age, ancestry, place of origin, place of residence, socioeconomic background or linguistic background." But bill 10 allows us to discriminate against gay-straight alliances and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) students based upon parent disapproval?

Okay, Alberta, I grew up in a conservative rural town, too, in which we weren't exposed to a lot of differences. The movie Brokeback Mountain was met with a lot of disdain, and arguments of "get that out of my face" were common. I, too, was ignorant of the importance of gay rights because I did not have enough expose to the topic. Sorry MLAs, but you can't use ignorance as an excuse. I did my research and so can you. No one should stand behind legislation that marginalizes students. Welcome to the 21st century, where people have finally woken up to the fact that homosexuals are normal human beings who deserve the same rights as anyone else.

The student presentation in my Social Context class made me want to watch the entire short film that was referenced. I came home and viewed: Imagine A World Where Being "Gay" The Norm & Being "Straight" Would Be The Minority! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnOJgDW0gPI). This short film describes a young, straight girl who is bullied because of her heterosexuality--which she cannot help.

Well, I just love how YouTube puts similar videos on the sidebar, because it led me to several others! A couple of minutes on BuzzFeed's If Straight People Had to Come Out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkFewRm_YC4) satirical representation had me nodding. Then I watched the short film "Boy," about a transexual youth feeling caught in the wrong body.

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I watched a few others on YouTube but the next one worth noting was another short film called "What Have We Done" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stqswTez1bw). It was a good recap of the past few classes in Social Context, referring to homosexuality, bullying, and suicide. I recommend it for an eye-opening watch and don't worry: there is a happy ending.

So what did I learn today? As it turns out, I'm quite passionate about standing up for my students--no matter how different from the norm they are. Not bad for a small town conservatively-raised country bumpkin, but this isn't exactly news. What I learned today was that (to my disgust) the government actually passed Bill 10. Albertan MLAs, I'd like to see you stand up for LGBT kids and teachers, too. 

Talking About the Uncomfortable Subject: Suicide

Posted by agracemartin on February 9, 2015 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Teenagers experience emotions much more intensely than adults do. Throughout the teen and young adult years, the prefrontal cortext is developing. In adults, the prefrontal cortext is responsible for decision-making and puts the brakes on our emotional center, called the amygdala. Since this is still developing in teens, they FEEL every situation more intensely. This is why teens always say, "adults just don't get it," because as adults we tend to forget how difficult it was for us to grow up. As adults, we tend to look back upon our teen years as melodramatic and juvenile, but that attitude de-values the experience of teenagers. If a teen tells you that they feel bad, don't tell them to "suck it up," but rather be understanding and give them tools to deal with their emotions.

Suicide is a very uncomfortable subject. In my Social Context class today, we had a presentation about suicide geared towards what teachers need to know. I really appreciated their approach to this topic because it was focussed on making students feel acknowledged, cared for, and open to talk. If someone has personal issues or experience with this topic then it can bring up a lot of intense emotions. As educators, we need to recognize that approaching this topic must be done with sensitivity.

I recently watched a Ted talk called Why We Choose Suicide (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1QoyTmeAYw) by Mark Henick in which he shared his struggles. While watching this video I felt pretty down by talking about such a sad and intense sob story. It brought up sad memories and I started reliving struggles as a teenager. In junior high (middle school) I struggled with suicide, and later in high school I helped friends through similar struggles with suicide. As I watched and listened, I was waiting for Mark to get to the message of hope. It didn't come in the way I expected. Mark Henick brought up the idea of "collapsed perceptions." I think that understanding "collapsed perceptions" is an important part of helping individuals who are suicidal. Mark asked: how can suicide be a choice when the person doesn't think they have any other option?

What I find to be most important when talking about suicide is not the sob story, statistics, or statement of how dangerous suicide is. What I find to be the single most important thing to include in suicide prevention talks is changing the way that we think about suicide. As Mark Henick argues, changing the way you think changes the world. Thinking about and discussing suicide is a very uncomfortable topic, but talking about it might just save someone's life.

In the future, I am sure that I will deal with suicide issues in my classroom. I am comfortable with this topic because I have lived through it, helped others through it, and become a stronger person for overcoming negative thoughts and self-talk.

The thing that I want to talk about with my future students is that they have a wonderful potential within them. They deserve to overcome the tough times. They have an amazing life purpose that they haven't discovered yet, but when they do will give out and get back so much more happiness than they've ever experienced. Many great people have faced tough times; they are not alone. They are also not alone in getting help. Teachers, counsellors, family and community resources are available to help, and it doesn't make them "weak" to access these resources. The main thing is to never give up hope. 

Teachers: reach out, ask if a student you are concerned about is suicidal, acknowledge their emotions and pain, show them you care, and talk with them about how you can help. With compassion you can ask, "are you thinking about killing yourself?" and ask "what can I do to help you?" Never promise to keep it a secret because you are legally bound to report this to the counsellor and administration, but assure the student that their peers do not have to know. You are there to help them, not publicize their feelings. Thank them for coming to you and opening up to you.

In short, the presentation I watched in Social Context class today summarized what to do with three simple words in the acronym, A.C.T.





Recognizing Hidden FNMI Racism in Canada

Posted by agracemartin on January 30, 2015 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Sir Ken Robinson said, "If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original." As an educator, I am going to go out on a limb here and admit that I have been wrong.

My past thinking has been wrong. I am guilty of stereotyping and I am going to admit it in hopes that others recognize their own harmful stereotypes too.

In my Social Context class we have been studying critical pedagogy. This is different than critical thinking, which involves making objective and rational decisions based upon a collection of evidence. Critical pedagogy is defined as a philosophy of education and a social movement that combines education with critical theory, but it is more than that. The desire for social justice comes from a deep caring and compassion towards students, and from this compassion comes the awareness of unequal opportunities that students face and a desire to level the playing field. Critical pedagogy requires the disclosure of one’s subjective beliefs to understand where the writer/speaker is coming from.


My subjective beliefs sound airy-fairy, partially because of my spiritually leaning toward the core ideals of all major religions: to love everyone, to not pass judgements on others, and to be as giving and compassionate as possible. But I don’t think that we need to “label” these values as religiously-oriented. So let us take away the dogmas and say that I value being a good human being.


Of course it is very difficult for us to not judge others. We contextualize our interactions based upon our pre-judgements and that is not a bad thing.

We learn new content by relating it to something that we are familiar with in our past experiences. Where we come into a problem is when we judge others based upon their “labels.”


Ask me if I am discriminatory and I will immediately say no. I love and honour all people as individuals. I am a supporter of equal rights. I believe that both men and women are equally capable in the workforce. I believe that people who live with disabilities should be identified by their strengths. I believe that you deserve to marry the partner that you love no matter what your sexual orientation is. I believe that your age is not a number so much as a personal feeling. I believe that all religions are to be respected as long as no one is harmed by it. Finally, I believe that skin colour is an honoured part of an individual’s heritage but that is the only way that it should matter.


I grew up in a middle-class family. My mother reprimanded us for using the phrase, “that’s so gay” until we understood that it was inappropriate and derogatory. We respected that not everyone would be raised with the same religious beliefs as us. My parents were open and honest about treating people equally. We would get outraged at the prospect of racism against people who were black (probably because we have black family members).


Yet even with such a tolerant and well-educated family, I somehow managed to adopt stereotypes against Aboriginal Canadian peoples. If you had asked me this morning if I was racist against FNMI (First Nations, Metis, and Inuit) people, I would have said absolutely not.

Isn’t ignorance bliss? I thought that because I am against racism, that because I enjoy learning about different cultures, that because I believe in equality, that I was not racist and could never allow racism to go unchecked around me. Somehow, I was not aware that my stereotypes are racist.

I love nature. I am deeply spiritual and identify with any spirituality that honours our connection with the earth. I admire FNMI artwork. I love watching Pow Wows and hoop dancers. I have not yet but am looking forward to attending my first drum circle. How could I possibly be racist?


I have had friends from multiple different heritages which have never influenced my relationships with them. I have had friends who identify as FNMI and that has not influenced my friendships with them, either. I have, however, stereotyped that most people on reserves have intensive problems including poverty and alcoholism. I have thought that part of Canada’s economic problem is giving welfare checks to one native person after another. I have nodded in agreement at the saying, “If I need a drug-tested to do my job, welfare checks should require them too.” I have felt disgust at reservations for asking for more money, because apparently the handouts that we give them are not enough. I have felt anger over the fact that I have thousands of dollars of student debt because I did not get a free ride like FNMI students do. I was especially offended when a colleague said that [he or she] would be highlighting [his or her] status to get a job—and would likely get the job above a more qualified individual because of [his or her] visible minority FNMI status. I have seen homeless people in my city and cast my eyes away thinking, "Oh please, not another drunk native asking for booze money." I have wondered why can't we just let the past go and move on? Even though I have always been aware of these sentiments within me, I did not realize until today that I was racist toward Canadian Aboriginals. That is because I have also seen wonderfully successful people of Aboriginal descent. I have been friends with them. I have seen many FNMI individuals studying hard alongside of me at my university. I even checked "yes" to the education practicum form question: would you want to teach on a reserve? In my mind I was not racist because I did not apply these stereotypes to all FNMI individuals--just some.


This, I think, is the real heart of the problem. Privileged middle and upper class individuals in Canada seem to be blind to the inherent racism in our country.


Wonder what changed my mind? I started reading a MacLean's article for my Social Context class. At first I was taken aback by the title: “Canada’s race problem? It’s even worse than America’s.” Then I started reading. Here is a quote from the article: “If we don’t have a race problem then what do we blame? Our justice system, unable to even convene Aboriginal juries? Band administrators, like those in Attawapiskat, who defraud their own people? Our health care system that fails to provide Aboriginal communities with health outcomes on par with El Salvador? Politicians too craven to admit the reserve system has failed? Elders like Chief Ava Hill, cynically willing to let a child die this week from treatable cancer in order to promote Aboriginal rights? Aboriginal people themselves for not throwing out the leaders who serve them so poorly? Police forces too timid to grasp the nettle and confront unbridled criminality like the organized drug-smuggling gangs in Akwesasne? Federal bureaucrats for constructing a $7-billion welfare system that doesn’t work? The school system for only graduating 42 per cent of reserve students? Aboriginal men, who have pushed their community’s murder rate past Somalia’s? The media for not sufficiently or persistently reporting on these facts? Or: us? For not paying attention.”


Another part of critical pedagogy is asking some hard questions about the status-quo. Consider the idea that those in poverty are kept in positions of disempowerment in our society due to hegemony—a system of dominance without overt oppression that is upheld by societal structures and generally accepted by the populace. If we want to bring about change, then let’s live by the proverb, “a fear named is a fear tamed,” and admit that Canada is not as racially tolerant as we would like to believe.


If you are like me, then while reading these articles you will start to feel an overwhelming mix of emotions, one of which being “I just realized that I am a part of the problem.” Another emotion might be a feeling of hopelessness. What can we possible do to fix such a messed up situation? Since this generation is the product of reservation schools taking away parental role models, can we give mass counselling sessions to teach parenting skills? Is there a way that we can overcome genetic predispositions to alcohol and substance abuse?


Then go ahead and read this article to the bottom: “Welcome to Winnipeg: Where Canada’s racism problem is at its worst. How the death of Tina Fontaine has finally forced the city to face its festering race problem.”


This past August of 2014 a young girl by the name of Tina Fontaine died in Winnipeg, which has apparently brought the issue of racism against Canadian FNMI peoples to a head.

Thankfully, there is hope. I believe that awareness cultivates understanding, and understanding can instigate change. Hope lives in every advocate for change.

I was especially inspired by Michael Champagne’s Tedx talk from 2012. Michael Champagne says "those labels--that oppresion--do not define you" and advocates for a focus on opportunities, as evidenced by his group AYO: Aboriginal Youth Opportunities.


This Ted talk led me to several others. As an Albertan citizen, Judge John Reilly’s talk hit a little closer to home for me.


When referring to a case of domestic violence, this judge realized that there “was a need to empower victims. She was accepting beatings like that because she didn’t know any better. She needed somebody to teach her that.” I also appreciated when he defined justice as every child having a safe bed at night.


I then found the video Reshaping racism by Matika Wilbur. I was struck by the usage of “American-Indian,” because I will admit, I am confused at what exactly is the most respectful terminology to refer to people of this North-American aboriginal heritage. As far as I am concerned, an Indian person is someone from the country of India. From my understanding, FNMI is the best terminology in Canada.


I have come to the conclusion that awareness is the most important factor in this discussion. Sometimes the solution can be as simple as raising awareness to think again. Growing up, I played Cowboys and Indians. I dressed as an Indian girl for Halloween one year and was very excited because my I had found a gunny sack and thick brown face paint to look as authentic as possible. Yet if someone had said, “here’s some great black-skin-tone face paint, why don’t you go as a black person?” or “this wig stretches your eyes so that you can look Asian,” my family and I would have called them racist. So how was me dressing up as an Indian not racist? Nancy Marie Mithlo gives a great TedTalk on this subject.


So what’s my big take-away?


Well my next Social Context class will certainly be one with an interesting discussion after reading the two above articles.


More importantly though, I am willing to admit that I have been wrong. I have passed judgements. I have not recognized my stereotypes as racism and for that I apologize not only to others but to myself. I am willing to forgive myself for not being aware of my double-standard. My colleague reminded me that it is very important not to dwell in guilt, but let new realizations like this spark a desire to promote change. Now that i have admitted my wrongdoings, I am ready to search for solutions. I am open to suggestions if you want to contact me!


What’s the solution?


Naming the issue as one of racism does not solve anything. The problems of poverty are still present. To quote the MacLean’s article, “federally funded reserve schools receive 40 per cent of the funding that non-reserve schools do, amounting to a per child gap of $2,000 to $3,000. Many reserve schools don’t have libraries. One in three doesn’t even have running water.”


Come on, Canada, we can change our system. We need to stop giving repeat “hand-outs” in the place of much-needed “hand-ups.” Seriously, let's give all Canadian citizens what they NEED, and stop throwing money into a broken welfare system that promotes learned helplessness. Help these individuals take back their dignity. Stop portraying FNMI people as “Indians” in the media. Put funding back into our educational and social work systems. Most importantly, we need to stop thinking of poverty, violence, and substance abuse as an "us" versus "them" problem. It's the 21st century and we are all Canadian citizens. Let's put our heads together and see what good we can do. Social justice advocates for change. If we encourage our youth the possibilities and opportunities are limitless.

Promote self-empowerment! 

Gender Neuroscience, Stereotyping, and UDL

Posted by agracemartin on January 29, 2015 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (1)

Should we give teenage boys and girls different high school curricula based upon brain development differences?

I don't believe so.

The following in my personal response to a reading assignment for my Science Curriculum and Instruction class. The reading was an excerpt from "Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults"

I believe that gender stereotyping places limiting labels upon students. Since there is no causal link between cognitive abilities and gender-based brain development, I do not think that any special treatment should be given to either gender. While generalizations can be made, it is dangerous for us to begin stereotyping based upon these generalizations. Even if the research says that boys develop good attention, planning, and organizational skills more slowly, that does not mean that adolescent males are incapable of these tasks. Even though the author of the article that we read predicts that girls could benefit more from earlier math and science courses (because they reach specific levels of cognitive development before boys), I disagree with considering any gender-based high school curricula.


Brain development is a product of both nature and nurture. Nurturing teachers can reduce classroom stresses to establish a positive learning environment in which habits can be taught to overcome developmental delays and place every student on an equal playing field.


I think that it is important as an educator to understand the differences between neural development of boys and girls, but that this understanding should be used to integrate teaching strategies into a universal design for learning. All students could benefit from a teacher instructing students to put a particular sheet in a particular section of their binder to alleviate student disorganization. A teacher who gives exact schedules and reminds students not only about due dates but the content involved in each assignment is not just appealing to disorganized students but is setting clear and consistent expectations. I think that it is unfair for any teacher to require rapid decision-making of their students, not only because boys’ frontal lobe develops more slowly than girls’, but also because students with learning disabilities are put at a huge disadvantage if you require a quick decision. A universal design for learning differentiates instruction to give all students an equal playing field, and that often means more time allotted for students to think and process information.


One thing that I learned from this article was that males have more neural connections within the two hemispheres of their brains while females have more connectivity between hemispheres. The left and right hemisphere connections in females help them to change tasks more quickly, and understand concepts holistically. I think that good classroom management can also overcome this apparent adolescent male disadvantage. Teachers can cue students and give them countdowns before transition times, which prepare all students for a change in setting. Then, if a teacher wants students to see the big picture of a concept, it may be prudent to use graphic organizers and deliberately “spell out” the related ideas with a multimodal approach. Multimodal teaching strategies appeal to all learning styles (visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic), again leveling the field in a differentiated classroom.



Media and Gender Roles

Posted by agracemartin on January 22, 2015 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

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We viewed the above video in our social context class and discussed the implications for educators. Even though advertising portrays hyper-sexualized gender roles, at least there are individuals like the creators of this video who are willing to challenge our stereotypes. The media puts pressure on both our male and our female students. Boys don't cry. Real men get ripped muscles. Girls are sexual objects. Women need a multitude of beauty products and fad diets to be beautiful. 

What messages are we sending to our kids? Why can a girl not be athletic, strong, powerful, and masculine? Why can a boy not be sensitive, caring, insightful, and in touch with his emotions?

Load this video to 58 seconds and consider the role-reversal:

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Media and Critical Pedagogy

Posted by agracemartin on January 22, 2015 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The mass media influences us all--whether we are aware of it or not. In my social context class, we discussed how students are constantly being inculcated due to advertisements. Worse, corporations don't seem to care how many toes they step on.

This makes me think that we need to be diligent as educators to encourage critical thinking and critical pedagogy in our students. Let us question the status quo. Why is society the way it is? Who has the power? Who is making the big choices on what we see on television and internet advertisements, and in the news?

To investigate this concept further, we viewed the following video. I found it to be informative and interesting. This clip ranked the movie "Shadows of Liberty" to the top of my to-watch list.

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Confrontation With �??Otherness�?? Assignment

Posted by agracemartin on January 22, 2015 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Too often we take our senses and abilities for granted. Our vision, hearing, and motor skills are often the first abilities to come to mind when talking about physical impairments. What about the ability to speak? Some students have select mutism or are completely mute. How do these people cope with their daily lives? From a less intense perspective, it is interesting to note that some individuals are introverted and choose not to voice their opinions in front of groups of people. What is it like to be one of those students, one who observes and listens to others first?

I spent a school day not talking. I began first thing in the morning, which was fine because my husband and I do not really talk then. I gave him a kiss, went to the door, and turned to call my dog to let him out. I realized that if I were permanently mute, I would have to try re-training my two-year-old dog to respond to clapping and hand signals. Thankfully he heard me walking and arrived at the door shortly. The next obstacle that I faced was while walking to school. I saw two people in my class and wanted to call out to them to say hello. When I realized that I could not, I felt rather lonely and “shoved aside” because neither person noticed me. Upon arriving in the classroom, there was a note on the board to sit with your major, and all tables were full. I sat alone and waited for another science major to arrive. When they did, I waved, but again they did not notice me and tried pulling up chairs to crowded tables. The teacher sent them my way, but I felt very shunned. My instructor tried to find a small whiteboard for me to write on, but apparently they were all being used in another classroom. I ended up writing notes on post-its to communicate, especially during pair-shares.

I found that my mind was more distracted because I could not actively participate. I took the initiative to write things down, but that process was longer than speaking would be, so I needed more time. I noticed that if I did not take that initiative, I could easily use my mutism as an excuse to not be engaged with the content. I always wanted to talk, and caught myself whispering—even just to myself.

Lunch hour did not present much of a challenge because I was not eating socially with friends, but instead attended a professional development lecture in which I sat, listened, and took notes. This structure certainly was not a detriment to my learning, much unlike the discussion-based Education classes.

In Social Context class I felt very lonely and invisible. At break someone asked me a social question, but did not wait for me to get out my computer or a post-it note to write a response. In pairs or small group discussion, others would patiently wait for me to communicate by writing, but it was a timely detriment. During whole class discussions I experienced a very high degree of anxiety. I noticed that I was not even formulating my ideas in the same way because I was not expecting to answer questions orally. I started to fidget and feel a lot of frustration because whenever opposing views to mine were voiced, I felt extremely bottled and disempowered to raise a counter-point.

I was frustrated specifically that no one seemed to understand the underlying imperialistic tones for the English majority-speaking language. Although it is a good point that if an individual is attempting to learn a language, the best way to learn it is to practice it frequently. However, one student said if those students want to speak their native tongue, then they can leave the building. What is it saying if you have to get out of the building to speak your own language? Is there any free choice in students being forced to use the dominant language at all times? I wanted to chime in so badly.

The most difficult moment for me was when another person said that they were not sure if they would want to see society changed, that it was sufficient. I am extremely opposed to this view. While I would not deny that we are arguably a more efficient society than medieval times, I believe that our society is riddled with inequalities that should be brought to light and addressed. I feel that anyone who argues differently has become too comfortable with their privileges and is blind to the social injustices inherent in our current structure. Therefore it was extremely difficult not to express my desire to see educators encouraging students to question the status quo. Even if I had tried to write down my opinion, it would have taken too long and the moment of that discussion quickly passed. Not to mention that I could not seem to formulate my thoughts into words because all I felt was emotional frustration and anxiety in that setting.

Going into this confrontation with differences assignment, I thought that I would gain insight into introverted students, but I did not. I could not seem to get over the fact that I could not cognitively focus and comprehend at my usual level. I felt emotional about being ignored, frustrated that I was distracted from the teacher’s instruction, and annoyed that I could not communicate in a timely manner. I feel that I gained an insight into what a learning disability must feel like, because I apparently process information by engaging with it and formulating responses to it in my own words. Oral participation keeps me accountable to the course content, so I can see how some students with a disability acquire a sense of learned helplessness. I realized that if I had wanted to, I could have skipped the readings and no one would have been the wiser. Class discussions do not hold all students accountable to the information.

This made me think about differential assessment. If not all students can present a triangulation of evidence in the same way, then it is the responsibility of the educator to evaluate that student’s understanding in a way that is fair. In my case, a teacher would not have been able to collect conversational evidence by listening in on my group’s discussions, nor able to collect observational evidence shown by participation. The only evidence that would be accurate for a student who is mute to showcase his or her understanding is through written work. This would be quite a disadvantage for someone who also had writing difficulties. The entire process of assessing such differentiated needs seems to be a very tricky grey area. I think that the inequalities some students face makes it difficult for teachers to provide an equal playing field for all. I think that it takes a lot of determination on the part of the teacher to recognize, come to understand, and propose solutions to these disparities.

My Paper on Anti-bullying and Self-Worth

Posted by agracemartin on January 7, 2015 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (0)


By: A. Grace Martin

Course: Education 2500 

Date: April 2014

The late Nelson Mandela said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

As a student of personal development, I believe that every person has an astounding capability to recognize and fulfil his or her potential. I wish to share this idea of self-empowerment, so I have learned to employ the strategies of positive self-talk and goal-setting in order to become a good role model for others. Since I feel confident in myself, I know that I can teach others how to attain this feeling as well, which is important in schools because the relationship between confidence and learning cannot be undervalued (Piek et al., 2005). With the increase in college and university graduates in today’s society, my colleagues and I have become the most educated age group of our time. Now imagine if we and all of our children confidently aspire to achieving higher and higher goals. I believe that educating people to realize their worth and potential will be the next great catalyst for change in our world.

I think that my success as a teacher will come from my experiences, research, hard work, professional development, and inherent talents. My time in the Education 2500 course: Orientation to Teaching, has been useful in confirming that I am an excellent candidate teacher and would enjoy teaching as a career. My strengths of confidence, dedication, organization, adaptability, creativity, and leadership will serve me well as a teacher with good classroom management and communication skills. Unfortunately, I am weak in the area of previous experience working with children, save babysitting and tutoring. I acknowledge that I will have to volunteer and take summer jobs that will pertain to instructing children if I wish to acquire this practical experience outside of the education program.

I am a dynamic person with many fields of interest and expertise. I feel that I will be an interesting teacher because of my wide array of personal interests, which include: a published fantasy novel (Spirit Rider and others yet to come), creative hobbies (painting, writing, and music), physical health (proper nutrition and exercise), and mental health (stress management and emotional wellness). Already, the grade fives in my practicum have found me to be interesting, friendly, and knowledgeable, which are all attributes that I wish to develop even further as I progress through my career.

As a tutor I have engaged with junior high and high school students to find that explaining concepts comes easily to me. I have had research experience in the sciences—mainly biophysics—which has given me a deeper understanding of the scientific method and allows me to use interesting examples while teaching science. My academic background in biology and physics qualifies me to instruct secondary math, biology, chemistry, and physics classes. Tutoring these subjects has been especially rewarding to me. The best educational context for my knowledge-set would be a high school physics classroom. However, my talents and dispositions as a teacher make me flexible and I would be comfortable teaching all elementary and junior high school subjects.

I did not seriously consider teaching youth until just this past year. I originally pursued university with the intention of getting a Ph.D. so that I could teach as well as do academic research. At this time I cannot pursue the biophysics graduate studies of complementary health that I desired. Instead, I made a decision to teach at a high school level. I have now realized that I could easily continue to an Education Master’s degree if I wished to pursue school further. My thesis could focus on complementary health education as a means of developing positive self-image. I can integrate my passion of scientific research and health and wellness into teaching. In the future, I can see myself as an empowerment leader. I believe that an individual can excel at many things when they unlock their potential, and that I could be a successful teacher, author, and motivational speaker.

Through this course I have developed several beliefs on learning and teaching. Every individual has a need to feel loved and accepted, therefore learners respond well to a caring, trustworthy, and respectful attitude. Students need specific, clear, and repeated instructions to follow and learn by making personal connections to the material. I believe that teachers need to adapt and be flexible for each situation that they find themselves in. A great teacher goes beyond the curriculum to inspire, motivate, and facilitate a student’s personal and career goals. Teachers help students to realize their own potential through encouragement and challenging activities. Finally, teachers should dwell in the learner’s place with them by remembering what it was like to be in their shoes. These beliefs are the foundation for my nascent style as a teacher.

The reality of teachers’ work lives seems to have both benefits and drawbacks. Teachers work many extra hours every week to complete planning and marking. I like that I would be working the same business hours as my husband, and that I could take my work home with me every night so that I could be with him. Of course the drawback to this is being distracted by my work or distracted by my family and perhaps not giving optimal attention to either in the evenings. I feel that I could work around this obstacle by arriving to work earlier in the morning. I also know that two months off during the summer essentially balances out to the same total vacation hours per year when you consider the extra daily hours worked. I like the versatility of my specialization as a female in physics because I am more likely to get a good job, however my first job may require me to travel a certain distance outside of Lethbridge, which again contributes to long working hours. If I feel burnt out by teaching, my writing and marketing of my published fantasy novels could be hindered. On the other hand, being in a classroom may stimulate my creativity and motivate me to write more. I feel that compromise is unavoidable and that we must do our best to balance every aspect of our lives to feel fulfilled.

One of the most pressing issues for me to address as a teacher happens to be what I am most passionate about: teaching self-worth. I know that we can combat bullying by promoting its opposite. My interest in this topic comes from my childhood experiences with bullying. You would think that anyone who has felt the pain of being bullied would feel empathetic towards others in the same situation, but I beg to differ. In my understanding, bullies only lash out because there is an inexplicable hurt or anger within them that is difficult to face. I was bullied in the fifth grade, yet somehow in the seventh grade I became the bully. As an adult I feel immense guilt and remorse for my teenage bullying and wish to prevent others from making the same mistakes that I did. I think that every person experiences a feeling that they are not good enough in some way (such as athletics, academics, social skills, or physical appearance). I would like to teach individuals to see themselves in a more positive light, so that they can become the best that they can be. Feeling worthless will get you nowhere; feeling empowered will motivate you to pursue your deepest dreams.

Research studies have been done to evaluate the effects of anti-bulling education in classrooms (Andreou et al., 2008). Since bullies enjoy attention, other children may unintentionally reinforce aggression by becoming silent bystanders, thereby making the situation a school-wide problem that should be addressed by entire classrooms (Andreou et al., 2008). It is interesting that short-term programs have been successful in changing students’ attitudes towards bullies, victims, and intervention, but unfortunately these outcomes are not sustained in the long term (Andreou et al., 2008).

The Andreou et al. (2008) study outlined three distinct topics to be addressed over three hours of instruction time each: awareness raising, self-reflection, and a commitment to new behaviours. Raising awareness and describing the different types of victimization may be beneficial for young students who do not identify certain situations as bullying. Self-reflection in the Andreou et al. (2008) study focuses on participant roles adopted by the children, and causes, benefits, feelings and consequences involved with bullying. This is where I think that the emotion of empathy must be instilled through intensive role-playing activities, such as watching vivid film clips or being read an emotionally stirring book. For teaching empathy to be effective the children must identify with the content being presented and feel for the victim. Finally, a commitment to new behaviours could involve presentations of peer conflict situations, ways of solving them, and a formulation of new class rules (Andreou et al., 2008). I believe that these rules should focus on a establishing a sense of community, a desire to protect one another, and a feeling of pride in providing an inclusive and safe environment for all students.

Although most students express anti-bullying attitudes, surprisingly few will intervene when witnessing a classmate being victimized, as their thoughts on what should be done conflict, causing their by-standing behaviour to show inconsistency (Andreou et al., 2008). Anti-bullying programs targeted to altering peer attitudes seem successful, but there are confounding variables within the programs such as age, maturity, attention span, and age-related social skills (Andreou et al., 2008). Personally, I believe that long-term classroom programs that focus positively upon the intervention of bullying by peers is a huge step in the right direction, but that these programs must have a heavy focus on self-esteem.

The past research into bullying has clearly shown a negative correlation between bullying and self-image (Piek et al., 2005). However, the correlation may be deeper than this. Children from disparate backgrounds, upbringings, age groups, and genders may be affected differently by bullying. For example, children with motor coordination disabilities were studied to understand the association between instances of bullying and the child’s sense of self-worth (Piek et al., 2005). Piek et al. (2005) reported that students with motor problems experienced the same amount of victimization, yet they had different responses to these experiences. Girls with coordination disabilities were most affected by bullying, as their self-worth significantly showed a negative impact after bullying events (Piek et al., 2005). Therefore, it is not so much the amount or frequency of bullying that matters most, but the extent to which the victim perceives the bullying that must be given attention.

Taken together, the studies of Piek et al. (2005) and Andreou et al. (2008) show the importance of proper focus when teaching an anti-bullying program. It is one goal to stop bullying from getting any worse in a school, but quite another to reverse its lasting negative effects on students’ sense of confidence. This is a difficult issue to solve, because every individual sees themselves differently, and will respond to lessons in self-worth in varying ways. It is further difficult to make generalizations on programs that should be implemented at different schools, because certain schoolchildren come from varying backgrounds and because age groups can vastly change in maturity and attitudes even between successive grade levels.

I believe that one of the best approaches to anti-bullying is teaching positive self-image and encouraging supportive peer behaviour. This should be done over long-term school-wide programs as a part of the Health class curriculum. Cultivating a sense pride in a safe school community gives students something to “hang their hats on,” which signifies an important benchmark to them that they continually strive for. I hope to be a teacher on the leading edge of this movement for healthy self-esteem, as I encourage students of all ages and backgrounds that they can become more than they are in every way.


Andreou, E., Didaskalou, E., & Vlachou, A. (2008). Outcomes of a curriculum‐based anti‐bullying intervention program on students' attitudes and behavior. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 13(4), 235-248.

Piek, J. P., Barrett, N. C., Allen, L. S. R., Jones, A., & Louise, M. (2005). The relationship between bullying and self‐worth in children with movement coordination problems. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 75(3), 453-463.

Positive Learning Experience: Intro to Communism

Posted by agracemartin on January 7, 2015 at 2:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Welcome to Communism:

It was a small town in middle-of-nowhere eastern-central Alberta. Our grade nine classroom knew each other very well and the eleven of us got along. Most of us played hockey, and a few spent the majority of their time working on their family farms. Our parents were either farmers or worked in the oilfield, as a substantial tank farm was the only claim to fame that our small town could support. And so we attended our K-9 school and enjoyed our last year at the top; we were the older kids that all the others looked up to. Our close-knit class still had its divisions however. Our academic performance broke down into two 90 percentile students, about five 70 percentile to honour students, and about four that hovered above passing.

We had a particularly strict teacher who taught Language Arts, Social Studies, French, and Art to every junior high class. The rules were clear and no one dared to misbehave in her class. I remember her classes being so strict that we were docked marks if we did not underline our assignment titles in red ink—ensuring, of course that the words did not float up into the top margin of the page. I daresay that she was the most remarkable teacher that any of us would ever know, in that she taught us more in her subjects than we ever learned even in high school. We knew that she demanded much and all attempted—with the more than occasional failure—to meet her expectations.

It was our third year with her as a teacher when she did something unheard of in our ninth grade social class. One day she announced that for the following unit, we would all assume the final mark that was the class average. She said that she had already cleared it with our principal and superintendant, in an experiment to see how cooperation would help all members of the class. Her theory was that the higher-graded students would give help to those who were struggling, and in so doing each would raise their marks, on account of the whole.

I was outraged. Being one of the only two A+ students in the classroom, I saw no gain to be had by spending extra time on others when it would drop my grades so drastically. I recall thinking, “What’s the point of working hard when everyone else just gets to ride on my shoulders?” It is funny now that I thought so highly of my academic performance then, but I certainly understand why I was upset by this new concept of “sharing.” On the other hand, a few of the students whose marks already sat around the class average were very open to the idea, and said that we could make it work. The class clown laughed and said that one of his buddies would surely corner him in the hallway and threaten a foot to his rear and fist to his nose unless he did his homework.

Our teacher let every person speak his or her opinion, but did not comment herself. After everyone had spoken I was fuming and about ready to leave the classroom entirely, when she picked up her marker. My teacher nonchalantly went to the whiteboard, pausing as if for emphasis. Now I can almost see the smirk on her face as she wrote down three words that would become my favourite lesson in social studies:

Welcome to Communism.