CBSL Video

My Community-Based Service Learning (CBSL) placement was with the U of R Campus For All Program. Campus For All is a four year inclusive post-secondary education experience for adults with intellectual disabilities. Students in this program attend regular university classes, participate in campus activities, make friends, prepare for the world of work and enjoy the same opportunities as other university students.

The attached video below is an interview with my assigned Campus For All Student in which we discuss his involvement in the program.  He explains how one qualifies for the program, what classes he has taken, which ones he has enjoyed and why, what assistance he finds helpful, whether he recommends the program to others and what his future plans are.

It is stated in the ECS Student Handbook that, “service learning is about giving to the community while learning about oneself.”  This simple statement developed particular significance for me as the semester progressed.  I initially entered this experience with the expectation that I would be solely giving my time to help a student succeed in a university class.  I assumed my role would be to assist with notetaking, understanding classroom material and providing help, if necessary, with classroom assignments. However, it quickly became apparent that this experience was so much more than providing a “service” and assistance to another student.  Over the semester, I gained an appreciation of how one’s resolve, motivation and fortitude truly determines what one can accomplish.  The well-known quote, “you can do anything you set your mind to” is definitely true! I witnessed this first hand while working with “my” student.

It is often assumed that university education is suitable for students of typical intellectual ability who have achieved a certain level of previous academic success.  The Campus For All program challenges this assumption and rightfully so.  As Faith Savarese, Coordinator for Campus For All stated in a 2016 interview, “Research shows that post-secondary education enhances employment outcomes for individuals who have an intellectual disability, including a wider range of job opportunities and greater pay – just like it does for their peers.” Savarese goes on to say that, “Nearly 70 per cent of Canadians living with a disability are unemployed.”  Despite more progress needing to be made in order for the intellectually disabled to achieve equality, programs like Campus for All are beginning to make their mark and are changing these traditional assumptions.

Through this experience and my newly formed friendship, I learned several valuable personal lessons that will carry over to my career as a future educator.  Inclusive education is important for intellectually disabled students but is equally valuable for those who are not.  There is much to learn from one another.

It is important look past the constructed “labels” students may have been given in order to find out about their individual interests, dreams and goals.  No matter how an individual learns or the struggles one faces, everyone has individual strengths and are all capable of learning successes.

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Inclusive Education

Three things I learned are:

1) In the video it stated, “56 percent of kids in this country with intellectual and developmental disabilities spend their entire day in self-contained, separate settings just for kids with disabilities whether it’s classes or separate schools” (Habib, 2013). This surprised me as inclusion has been a talked about topic for several years now.

2) Segregation is maybe about the other children and that maybe we need to show/prove that inclusion benefits typical developing children much more than the children with a disability.

3) The integrated classroom of students that are typical developing along with students with a disability had an average of 15-point increase in their academic achievement compared to the segregated classrooms. This was explained by working collaboratively with peers, and if paired with someone who needed a little extra assistance or coaching that student is much more engaged with the assignment and curriculum and therefore understanding it on a different level.

Two connections I made are:

1) The explanation of why students do better when in an integrated classroom reminded me of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development where children learn little from performing tasks that they can already do independently. Instead, they develop primarily by attempting tasks they can accomplish in collaboration with a more competent individual. This is when they attempt tasks within their zone of proximal development. It is the challenges in life, not the easy success that promote cognitive development.

2) In the video had the fact that 56% of kids in this country with intellectual and developmental disabilities spend their day separate. This number really surprised me as inclusion has been a talked about topic for several years and was even integrated in the rural school I went to.

One question I still have is:

Inclusion has been proven many times that it benefits everyone. How would you go about integrating inclusion in a school that has never had or believe in the importance of it?

Constructions of Identity

Three things I learned are:

1) The Secret Path tells the story of 12-year-old, Chanie. Chanie died on October 22, 1996 walking the railroad tracks trying to escape from the Cecelia Jefferey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario.

2) The Secret Path is only one part of the graphic novel. There are ten tracks in total.

3) Gord Downie created a fund through the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation named The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund to donate to reconciliation.

Two Connections I made are:

1) Even though Downie never met Chanie the impact that his story made on Downie is an evident reason on why reconciliation is so important.

2) Children were taken from their families. The children’s families had no idea of where their children were being taken to. I could only imagine that The Secret Path is a way of closure for family and friends of Chanie’s.

One question I still have is:

What is the most effective way to teach our student’s while valuing and honouring each individuals culture to ensure that their culture is not lost in our society?

Gender and Sexual Diversity

Three things I learned are:

1) “Smear the Queer” is a game. It is played with a big red rubber ball. The ball was tossed around to individuals either they threw the ball away or sometimes the person who threw the ball would yell “smear the queer” and then everyone would pile on top of that person. This person was normally less popular or weaker (Loutzenheiser, p. 193).

2) The school does not recognize when playing this game that the LGBTQ child is in desperate need of help and love (Loutzenheiser, p. 193).

3) There is no understanding that the heterosexual child in the middle of the pile has played a part in the harassment but unknowingly sent a message to this child that this person is less than (Loutzenheiser, p. 193).

Two connections I made are:

1) As a teacher it is our job to ensure that every student is accepted no matter the differences and make it the “norm.”

2) The crucial need to integrate the various sexual identities into the curriculum is so important so students see themselves represented.

One question I still have is:

Gay, Straight Alliance student clubs are becoming more evident in schools however, not all. As a teacher how do we make schools see the true importance of student clubs like these?

Second CBSL Blog

My initial thoughts on my CBSL placement at Campus For All have changed. My initial thoughts about class presentations and how this class was not hands-on enough, are completely different now.

Since that first blog entry, there have been no other presentations and every class has contained hands-on activities.  However, in the next two weeks, students will be presenting their completed group projects, which were all hands-on activities.

The first activity was that each group created a wearable design.  The group that “my” student worked in created a bracelet. It was cool learning about the technology that they used to create and design this bracelet.  The design was then sent to the library to be printed on a special machine. I had no idea that this process can all be done right here at the university.

The second project the group created was a wearable item that contains a switch that lights up when a specific motion is made or something is touched.  For example, a flower design lights up on the front of a shirt when your arm is placed by your side and touches the contact switch. The groups had the choice of using a contact switch or a bridge switch. What has surprised me the most are the endless possibilities of technology and how it can be incorporated into design to create many daily wearables.

The biggest area of learning to-date has been the process of making a contact switch and actually have it work successfully. The picture below is of the contact switch.

Three things I continue to learn are:

1) Confirming “my” student’s understanding of course assignments, deadlines and expectations is crucial to his success and comfort level in the course.

2) Taking time each week to meet for lunch has strengthened our connection and friendship and has allowed me to gain a better understanding about how his brain injury has impacted his abilities and how best to help him.

3) How diverse technology is becoming and the endless possibilities of technology in our daily lives. In addition, the hands-on practice of utilizing the different elements has also been a huge learning curve.

Two Connections I made are:

1) How the huge umbrella of technology connects to our daily lives and the endless uses of it. For example, such things as creating an article of clothing that lights up or displays a message or how something placed on your body (twitter dress, tattoo, etc) can be connected to an app to have a recorded voice or sound played.

2) The amount of motivation a person has determines what they can do or what is possible. The well-known quote, “you can do anything you put your mind to” is definitely true!   I have witnessed this first hand while working with “my” student.

One question I still have is:

Technology provides many options for teachers.  How can we remain current and successfully incorporate some of these not so “well-known” technologies into the classroom?

Construction of School Administrators

Three things I learned are:

1) In the article it talked about teachers having quite a bit of choice on how they teach. Teacher do have to follow a prescribed curriculum however, lesson plans, teaching methods, discipline approach, etc. the teacher has a considerable amount of choice (p. 184).

2) New and experienced teachers may feel isolated as teaching remains to do that. Teachers spend most of the time with students leaving little time to interact with other adults (p. 185).

3) The hiring process for teachers has common elements but varies across schools and districts. In some areas, during the hiring process time may be used to gather staff opinion or community views, and to think about the kind of person wanted for the position (p. 190).

Two Connections I made are:

1) When it talked about teachers having a considerable amount of choice for having to follow the curriculum I have experienced in one of my classes creating a unit plan. As this is new to me it seems overwhelming that in the elementary curriculum it does not have a recommended list of books for grades in ELA, etc. However, once I have planned a few units and gained more knowledge I think I will enjoy the freedom of being able to meet the criteria needed from the curriculum but doing it in a way that meets the student’s needs.

2) I have never thought about teaching being an isolating job however, after specifically thinking about this I can see how it is now. At first, I thought more so elementary teachers are more isolated than high school but I think both are in the sense that you teach students for most likely 6 periods a day, have to take a turn on supervision, extra-curricular activities are often done on your own with the students so unless teachers are team teaching or have PD, meetings most of your day is very isolated with students.

One question I still have is:

When first becoming a teacher and starting a new job how do you try to fit into an already formed setting where it feels like people are not approachable for help?

Constructing Teacher Professionalism

Three things I learned are:

1) Discourse is defined as “a socially accepted association among ways of using language, of thinking, and of acting that can be used to identify oneself as a member of a socially meaningful group or ‘social network’” (Shannon, 1992, 21). Teachers have their own discourse. In the article it gave the analogy of thinking as your own “identity kit. It comes complete with the appropriate costume and instructions on how to act and talk so as to take on a particular role that others will recognize” (Shannon, 1992, 21). However, the lingo of a discourse is only something you learn by being fully immersed in the environment such as: lesson plans, goals, standards, etc.

2) The first month or so of internship you will feel like a leach; stuck to the side of your mentor. However, as time goes on you become more comfortable and the attachment becomes less and less. This is scary as this is where all your hard work of unit/lesson planning is proven whether it be good or bad, whether you have enough things to say/do, how the students react to the lesson, or if they will listen and behave for the “new” teacher, etc. It is not easy for the mentor either as they are giving up their class.  However, when success happens it is a proud moment shared by both (Yerkes, 2004, p. 8).

3) Loss affects you as a teacher in ways that you may not have expected. Losing valuable resources such as lifelong teachers that you had as a student may pass away or retire and you no longer see them every day when you are at work and have no one to ask those simple, but yet challenging questions. Teachers also may feel loss when one of their students becomes suddenly ill or succumb to a mental health such as suicide, etc. (Yerkes, 2004, p. 9-10).

Two Connections I made are:

  1. Learning the lingo or discourse in various areas such as unit/lesson planning will be a huge learning curve. In one of my other classes this semester the major assignment is to create a unit. This has proven to me how much I don’t know and how much is still left to learn. Teachers really do need to be continuous and life long learners in our profession.
  2. I have a few friends who are doing their internships right now and the analogy of feeling like a leach is certainly how they have described their first month of internship. However, after being there for almost two months, they have built relationships with their mentor, other teachers and staff and are feeling more independent now they are teaching classes of their own.

One question I still have is:

What resources have you found the most useful when creating units/lesson plans, activities, etc. for students?

Constructing School Systems

Three things I learned are:

1) “In the early twentieth century, many educators advocated a philosophy of educational progressivism. Educational progressives, combining faith in the twin virtues of science and humanism, viewed schools as institutions that contributed to the realization of social progress by allowing students to develop their full human potentials. They wanted to replace earlier models of child development, which emphasized routine tradition and factory-like regulation, with approaches that provided opportunities to foster interest, creativity, and positive personal growth.” (Wotherspoon, p. 66-67). Progressivism is a holistic approach that focuses on the whole child.  This approach has student learn through their own experiences and revolves around the students’ needs including teaching them to be good people and citizens, in addition to good learners.

2) “Progressivism advocated the incorporation within schooling of subjects that allowed for artistic and interpersonal development rather than strict academic courses. Teachers, in turn, required specialized training, in part to learn the scientific principles on which pedagogy and human development were grounded” (Wotherspoon, p. 67). The progressivism philosophy stresses that children should actively test ideas through active experimentation.  The focus is on the child rather than the teacher solely delivering content.

3) “In Canada, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in education increased 5.8 times between 1960 and 1970” (Wotherspoon, p. 69).

Two Connections I made are:

  1. In the early twentieth century there was a movement in education entitled progressivism. During the progressive movement many teachers were advocating for this new way of thinking and teaching. These views were completely opposite to the forced assimilation in Residential School teaching.
  2. The Progressivism philosophy of the twentieth century promoted children learning by testing ideas through active experimentation.  This has evolved and the concept is still current today and is the center of the Early Year’s Play and Exploration Model for preschool children and into kindergarten and the early grades.

One Question I still have is:

Throughout the Wotherspoon reading, it is stated several times that education continues to get bigger and bigger. While the education system grows, the government funds for education are shrinking so it often feels like we are moving backwards. How can we continue towards the progressivism educational philosophy with fewer and fewer resources?

First CBSL Blog

My CBSL placement is with the U of R Campus For All program. Weekly I go with a student to his wearable art class.

Three things I have learned from this experience so far is:

  1. When I went to have the initial meeting with the Campus For All Director she explained what the organization was, etc. We got chatting how they place students and what potential volunteer options were available to me. She was worried about not finding anyone who would want to attend the class, Wearables:  Art and Body Tech with a student. I asked what that entailed and said I would do that as it sounds new and exciting. It is a hands-on class where students learn such things as how to build circuits, create body art and sew, to name a few. I am excited to learn about these things while providing assistance to my Campus For All student. I will attend the weekly class with my student and help him wherever possible.  He may need help taking course notes, understanding assignments, etc.
  2. Attending the first class with my student was not exactly what I had expected. There was no hands-on component that day. Instead, each person had to do a presentation on a unique piece of technology. I found this very interesting as this is not my area of study at all and learned about many technologies (both new and old). I also found it very interesting how presentations are done in other areas of study. In the Faculty of Education, I am used to presentations being very prepared with everything ready to go (technology, handouts, etc.) and presenters addressing the group from the front of the classroom. This was not the case with these presentations. Each presenter had to take time to set up their technology and hook up their own devices. The presenters remained seated, behind their technology piece, to address the class.  In addition, a large number of students were on their personal phones and devices while their peers presented which I think must have been very uncomfortable for the student presenting.  My student did not know that he needed to do a presentation as I think he had not fully understood the directions from the previous week. However, he went ahead and did his presentation on moveable hand technology.  I realized that confirming my student’s understanding of course assignments, deadlines and expectations will be one way that I can support him.
  3. I went for lunch with “my” student before class. Learning about him, his life, his likes and dislikes was nice. Taking the time to get to know each other first will allow us to work well together and also find common interests we both enjoy.

Two Connections I have made so far are:

  1. No matter how an individual learns or the struggles faced with learning, everyone has individual strengths and are all capable of learning.
  2. Circuit building is a lot like playing with Lego as a child. This was something that I never was particularly good at and I always had my younger, “Lego loving” brother build everything for me!   This will be a new “Lego building experience” which I hope I enjoy more so that I can be of some assistance to my student.   I am definitely excited to learn more.

One question I still have:

The class was quite small which is nice as it is easier to get to know other students. I am interested to know what these students want to do after they finish their degree as classes such as this one have so many diverse aspects to it!

Campus For All is a service at U of R that I was not aware of until signing up for this volunteer experience.  In addition to learning more about this program, I want to be able to provide a useful mentorship for my student and develop a friendship that will continue after my volunteer experience ends.

Socio-Emotional Development and Motivation

Three things I learned are:

1) “Other psychologists see motivation more as a state, a temporary situation” (Winnie, Woolfolk, Perry, p. 400).

2) “The types of goals we set influence the amount of motivation we have to reach them” (Winnie, Woolfolk, Perry, p. 403).

3) “If students believe they lack the ability to understand higher mathematics, they will probably act on this belief even if their actual abilities are well above average” (Winnie, Woolfolk, Perry, p. 416).

Two Connections I made are:

1) I was the student who truly believed I was not good at math. No matter how hard I tried or the amount of effort I put into learning math I never improved and therefore the belief became so strong that I was unable to understand higher mathematics.

2) I can see how some psychologists see motivation more as a state, a temporary situation. For example: when studying for an exam that is the next day that motivation is a temporary situation. After the exam is done the motivation will be gone.

One question I still have is:

How do we teach students and give them the tools to be confident in their abilities?