To say summer flew by would be the understatement of the year. Life took over once again, and next thing I knew it had been another month since I last blogged. I know, not exactly an award winning performance since ECMP wrapped up (sorry, Dean!). But I'm a glass-half-full kind of gal, so I am optimistic that with internship getting underway this week, blog posts will begin to flow like lava. So, what have I been up to since July 11? Let's see. I wrapped up my summer with Ta-Wa-Si Recreation mid-August and am seriously missing those kids. It was such a pleasure to see those smiling faces every day and to spend my afternoons soaking up the sun and the sound of children's laughter. Nothing beats that! We visited beaches, the QCX, went rock climbing and swimming, made corn husk dolls, and wrapped up the year with a day at IPSCO playing and exploring. Best.Summer.Ever.
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Our Humble Abode
On the personal front, my partner and I sold our home and purchased a new (to us) one! It is a perfect blend of old and new without sacrificing any of the charming character. I am not generally a believer of fate, but after this whole process, I may be a convert. We have been browsing for our dream home for years. When I say that, I literally mean YEARS. Since we were in the tricky position of buying and selling, we had to be sure that there was a home we really wanted before we listed, so we could avoid being caught in a position where our condo was sold and we were forced to buy something to avoid becoming homeless. When this house came on the market, it was way over priced. But as days turned into months and the price slowly came down, our interest began to climb.

Then one day, in a whirlwind decision, we prepped our home for a sale, hired an agent, looked at the property, fell in love, listed our condo, put in an offer contingent on the sale of our home, and began the waiting game. This is where I will say my belief in fate was altered. This house was literally everything we wanted and so we were nervous about how long it would take to sell ours and the looming potential that another offer would come rolling in leaving us with no choice but to walk away. Our condo came on the market on a Wednesday and I waited all day for someone to call. That night I got my first call to show the place. Hooray! The next day I received another call. And another one. And then another! We ended up with five showings and three offers on the first day. One week later everything was done and this gem was ours. Now we wait a little more until our possession date in late September - a much less stressful wait!

While I am waiting to move, I will be busy prepping and planning for internship. Last week my coop and I participated in Internship Seminar. It was three long days spent getting to know one another and what this whole process will be about. We came up with a way that will work for our unique programs for me to gradually take over the classroom. Just having an idea of what my initial classroom duties will be has me feeling more at ease about this whole process. We are officially back to school tomorrow and I am looking forward to getting started.

I'm not sure how to describe it, but I feel as though things are really coming together. It's verging on scary how well things are falling into place. It almost has me thinking that my luck must be on the brink of running out. But until then, I will relish in the awesomeness that is my life right now!

 
 
The end of my semester has come and gone.  My final marks have all been posted and yet I still have this anxious feeling in my guts that I have something due.  I wonder when that feeling will subside and give way to the freedom that is my reality and allow me to actually enjoy my summer?  My semester proved to be fruitful in more than just a learning sense.  In fact, things almost seem too good to be true right now.  One of my instructors has moved on from her role as classroom teacher and into the role of consultant with the Ministry of Education and she generously donated all of her classroom resources to me.  I have a bajillion boxes to go through and decide what to keep and what to toss, but I am so grateful for the offering because it can be expensive for a new teacher to go out and purchase these things.  Another one of my instructors happened to also be a superintendent with the school board I am hoping to work for in January and has provided me with some advice for my internship as well as a foot in the interviewing door.  Although none of this guarantees me a job, I am feeling optimistic about my future career.  

I started work this week at the Ta-Wa-Si Recreation program.  I am working the luxurious hours of 1 - 5 and spend the better part of my day outside, engaging with most of the same children I have spent the last 6 months working with.  I enjoy that I can say, "I love my job" and mean it.  You would have to meet and get to know the children I spend my days with to get it.  They are such a cool bunch who continue to humble me with their perspectives.  I have been working to find camps and activities of interest to connect the children to so that they can take advantage of the programming that is available to them.  I thought I had a basketball camp lined up for a group of boys who love to shoot hoops and played on the school team, but some issues have come up causing us to look elsewhere. The YMCA is really great about making things work for these children so I am hopeful we can find something.  I actually have to deliver the bad news to them today that the camp we had been talking about is now a no-go.  Hopefully the fact that we are going swimming this afternoon will provide some sort of silver lining to the day, as I know they are going to be disappointed.

On a completely different note, this morning I committed myself to blogging and visiting my neglected Google Reader.  Check and check!  I had about 150 things that I had missed since I looked at it last.  I am glad I scrolled through instead of marking everything as read because I found a really neat resource that I want to share with my fellow primary teachers.  It was a post from Amanda at One Extra Degree about a resource she is selling over on TeachersPayTeachers.  I had purchased her pirate themed mapping package during my pre-internship and loved her ideas, so when I saw her dinosaur themed word-work bundle, I was equally enthusiastic to share.  The resource she has created is geared toward grade-threes, however I can see it working for my kinders in the fall.  I am envisioning a centre with buckets of sand or dirt and rakes for the children to "dig-up" their laminated popcorn or sight words.  Check it out and leave a comment about how you might use it in your classroom!  
 
 
It is hard to believe our spring semester has come to a close.  I still have a couple of things to wrap up before I can officially declare my completion of my last University classes ever.  Or at least for a little while.  But it feels good all the same as the assignments will be enjoyable to do.  One of them is a summary of learning on how I contributed to the education of others and how they contributed to mine.  I have decided to make my summary as transparent as this entire experience has been for me thus far, and so consider this post my recap of the semester.

In my very first post, Dean made a comment about my "voice" and how glad he was to see that I was comfortable with mine.  Writing is always a laborious process for me.  It's a bit of a love/hate relationship in that I usually love the product but hate the process.  It took me hours to write most of these posts because of the time I take to make sure they are properly edited, they are well resourced, and that they are enjoyable to read.  So I appreciated that Dean noticed my effort to let my personality shine through as that was something that was important to me.  One is always a little nervous about the first time he/she puts him/herself out there because, as they say,
someecards.com - You only get one chance to make a first impression
So his feedback let me know that I was heading in the right direction.  And over the next seven weeks, comments are what continued to let me know how I was doing.  I had a classmate take note of my map widget and express an interest in using one herself.  She used the word "steal" and in any other University program that would be an appropriate term.  But in the Faculty of Education, and this class in particular, we were always encouraged to share our ideas so I was happy to have someone take an interest in mine.  On the other hand, I also appreciated the feedback when someone wasn't digging what I was doing.  I received some not-so-nice realities about the lackluster appearance of my posts but put the criticism to use and made sure to add some type of media to the majority of my work.  This also happened to coincide with the syllabus so kudos to my sister for laying it out for me, otherwise I may have missed that one.

Disagreements or having someone challenge your point of view can also be a great way to learn.  Sometimes having someone point out an opposing stance can help us to either reconsider our initial thoughts or solidify our position on a topic.  One article that had everyone chatting was the story of an Edmonton teacher who was suspended for not abiding by his school's No-Zero Policy.  I wrote my own post on the topic and also engaged in conversation with others about their views on the matter, both classmates and strangers.  This was a challenge for me as I often think of my views as "irrelevant" or "uninformed" because I am not working in the field yet.  But as I took chances and publicized my opinion, I received some positive feedback as well as some alternate perspectives, all with my professionalism intact.  These are learning opportunities I would have missed out on if I had remained safely on the sidelines.

I did the same on twitter where, after several failed attempts, I  finally participated in an #edchat.  It was there that
I received a suggestion for posing questions to increase the likelihood of receiving a comment or starting a conversation, so I began trying to incorporate them into my posts.  I found some interesting conversations ensued after a question was asked, like one another classmate posted about homework.  As I was checking my Google Reader one day, I saw a similar post from an educator in Alberta and shared the link for Jane in her comments. She checked it out, posted a comment for Joe about her own blog, which then brought him into our discussion.  If you look at the conversation there, lots of different ideas and resources were passed around.  A great example of collaborative learning and Jane has since started following Joe too.

Another thing I found with questions, are that they can be an actual call for help.  I noticed many of my peers asking for assistance with some aspect of technology and I always tried to respond because I know how frustrating it can be sometimes!  I read about a classmate struggling with the size of something she was trying to embed in her blog.  Since we both use Weebly, I played around with it in my own blog first and then sent her the instructions so she would have them for next time. I also provided Jane with some assistance with embedding her survey in WordPress and directed another classmate to Jane on twitter when she was struggling with the same issue.  I've even extended my helping hand to people outside the class with technology troubles like my friend here.  I am a problem solver by nature, so I love responding to challenges.

Throughout the semester I tried to remain conscious of the positive feelings and motivation I got from knowing that people were reading my posts.  For me, comments are a measure of reader engagement so I made a point of sharing my thoughts with fellow bloggers.  I did it for children and I did it for adults and both made me feel great.    Part of a teacher's job is to inspire, inform, share, and collaborate with students and other educators.  I consider myself lucky because, in my chosen profession, I will get to do this kind of stuff everyday.  And Dean, my classmates, and everyone else I have connected with along the way, have all taught me that technology has expanded the audience with which I can do those things.  I think I really embraced the collaborative style of this class, which is so critical because as Dean wrote, "You can't be a lurker in [this] class".  I value all of the input and resources I have received over the semester and I hope that my classmates feel the same way about my contributions.

Education is changing.  What an exciting time to be a teacher!       
I would also welcome any comments below about how I might have helped in your learning process.

Thank you everyone for a great semester!
 
 
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I saw a link to an article today in my twitter feed from @MorningsideCtr.  It was an article from The New York Times, featuring stories from high school students about their use of study drugs to compete in some of the elite schools in the States. A similar conversation had come up in my EPSY 322 - Students with Special Needs - course the other night after one of my classmates presented on the topic of ADHD.  And after reading some of the accounts from students, most of them agreed that it had nothing to do with getting high.  Instead, many of these students felt they needed the help of drugs to cope with the overwhelming demands placed on them by schools and society.  

A 17-year-old girl from Austin, Texas said that she started taking her younger brother's Focalin prescription to get caught up after she missed a week of school:

        "The benefits were amazing. I had been sick a week before, and in one night, I caught up on several physics         and calculus assignments and knocked-out the first act of Hamlet. But the productivity was just one of three
        perks that came from that little 20mg pill: I was able to stay up until 3am, then get up again at 6am feeling
        completely rested, more so than if I had slept ten hours."

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I wondered why students in high school would feel such an enormous amount of pressure; I don't recall high school being that way for me.  Then I remembered that getting into University in the United States is a completely different ball game than it is here in Regina.  A young woman from Pittsburgh explained how Adderall helped her deal with the added pressure the economic crisis has placed on students:

        "Young adults today feel like they need straight-A's, a good internship, a jam-packed social life and more or
        we're failures. We're worried about our future . . . We know we're going into an abysmal job market and
        need any edge we can get, and no effort feels like its enough. You have to pick two: sleep, social life or
        grades.  Stimulants like Adderall give you a much needed boost when your in such a high-stress, exhausting
        situation."

Is this the type of message schools are sending to children?  The competitive nature of post-secondary schooling seems to have created an every-person-for-themselves mentality that has young adults grasping at whatever tools will give them the extra edge they need to get ahead.  Some of the students end up addicted to the pills, claiming that the effects of not taking them daily has left them unable to function.  One boy from New York City was fortunate to have kicked the habit after being accepted to college:

        "The last time I used it in high school was around the end of my first semester of senior year. I was admitted
        to college at that point and high school seemed less stressful to me, and thus the reliance on drugs for good
        grades dissipated."

Although standardized testing in Canada has not been awarded the same level of value as it has in the US, some provinces have begun taking more stock in their results than others.  The pressure to perform on these exams can increase levels of stress in both students and teachers.  However, stress can come from many areas of our lives.  It is important that educators equip students with healthy coping strategies to deal with the added stress that getting older seems to bring along with it, so that they don't begin misusing or abusing drugs to deal.

What are some ways that you deal with the stresses in your life?  Mine is making lists to keep organized and to help put things into perspective.  Post your advice below!

 
 
I am admittedly a little behind in watching the live sessions for my ECMP 355 course.  I am just coming off my mid-week that was full of papers, presentations, and exams and just haven't had a chance to sit and watch for an hour. Tonight I watched the session from last week which featured Alec Couros, professor of educational technology and media at the University of Regina.  He presented on the topic of Digital Citizenship and Identity. He talked about lots of things like the scare ads put out to encourage children to be safe about what they post on the internet, because you never know who might be looking at the content.  Here is one I found:
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Picture courtesy of http://www.softwarewithstyle.com/guides/13?page=5
This always reminds me of the cautionary tales the Faculty of Education pass down to us about school boards searching for new teacher hires on Facebook to see what they are up to.  This seems to cause some panic amongst my classmates which makes me wonder what they have posted on their profiles.  Personally, I am friends with my dad so I always think about whether or not it is something I would want him to see.  If the answer is no then chances are it isn't suitable for the internet.  Plus, I am partial to posting things like good recipes and prompts to encourage people to read this blog.  And every once in a while I do what I refer to as a "friend cleanse" where I go through and delete people that I don't actually consider a friend.  I have one criterion and that is if I would look the other way if I saw you in public, then we are not friends and I do not think you need to be updated on the happenings of my life.  Or the delicious things I made for supper.

Alec also talked about some of the positive things that have come from the accessibility of the web and one was a website called the It Gets Better Project, which is a site dedicated to giving hope to youth from the LGBT community who face a great deal of harassment.  It all started with one video by Dan Savage and is now something much larger with inspirational videos from US President Barack Obama, Anne Hathaway, and Lady Gaga. Here is a short video that Google Chrome put together about the initiative:
I had never seen this video before Alec asked us to watch it tonight, and it almost moved me to tears.  Then he mentioned the video that a young man by the name of Jamey Rodermeyer contributed about his experience. Unfortunately, Jamey ended up committing suicide a few months later due to the bullying he was experiencing because of his sexual orientation.  I watched his video and you could tell that he was trying to stay positive but that the hurt he was feeling was cutting quite deep.  It made me sad to think that his life had come to be so unbearable that it had become not worth living. But when I scrolled down to the comments on YouTube, it all seemed so blatantly obvious.

I have never read such hateful and ignorant comments about something so serious.  Some had been written hours ago, some days ago, but they all had the same message of intolerance and were all being posted by the same user. I was astonished that no one was doing anything more then engaging this person in banter, so I took matters into my own hands and reported him/her to YouTube.  However, this was not as easy as it should have been.  It took me nearly 10 minutes to figure out how to report the inappropriate comments. I had to search in a number of places before I found the form here.  I am trying to stay positive about the situation by thinking that maybe other people had as much trouble trying to report the comments but weren't as persistent as me.

This whole situation reminded me about how easy technology has made it for people to spew hateful words at or about another human being.  It is much easier to say those things when you aren't confronted with the pain and emotion on the face of the other person.  Would that person have said those things to Jamey's face?  Or to the face of his grieving parents?  I doubt it.  I think I did the right thing tonight.  What would you have done?

“Always stand up for what you believe in…even if it means standing alone.” ~ Kim Hanks
 
 
I have had a very busy week already and it is only Tuesday.  But after my quiz tomorrow night I will finally be able to breathe a little more which will hopefully inspire more blogging because as of late, I have had nothing but presentations, exams, and papers on the brain.  On the brighter side, tomorrow morning I am meeting with my coop and hanging out with her kindergartens over at Henry Braun.  I have a really great feeling about spending my upcoming semester with her and am confident that I am going to learn so much that I will use later in my career.

On a side note, I had an interview today with the YMCA's Camp Ta-Wa-Si summer program.  I only I wish I would have found this article from The Onion earlier today so I could have prepped my handshake.
 
 
I am just coming up on the halfway point of my semester and things are reaching a peak in terms of busy.  I have papers, midterms, and presentations all coming up in the next couple of weeks, but I've got my eye on the prize. June 20 - the Summer Solstice.  And the last day of the semester/the last day of University classes for me.  For a while anyway.  My first presentation is coming up on Monday and I was in charge of creating some sort of visual presentation to organize our information.  I chose to use Prezi for this.

I was first introduced to Prezi in my second year of education during my ECI 302 - Environmental Education - course.  My instructor used it to create a presentation introducing herself to the class.  I have tried to use it a few times since then, and each time I learn something new.  The possibilities are really endless for creating eye catching presentations.  For example, you can assmble really intricate drawings using the shapes buttons. I figured this out when I was trying to delete some of the elements from the template I used to create the Prezi below.  I had to delete each line separately (or maybe I didn't, but I did anyway) and there were a lot of them used to form things like cartoon people, clouds with lightening bolts, a telescope, ants, and other fun creatures.  Normally, I would create a Prezi from scratch, but time is just not on  my side these days.  This one still does the job though:
What are your favourite programs for creating presentations?