Teaching “Outside the Box”

I saw this post on Buzzfeed about a high-school teacher teaching students about privilege . I enjoy the idea of teaching students in a non traditional way. The responses of the students were a great way to enhance understanding.

“Your job — as students who are receiving an education — is to be aware of your privilege. And use this particular privilege called “education” to do your best to achieve great things, all the while advocating for those in the rows behind you.”

This quote really hit me and re-iterates the idea that we are in charge of our own education. As an instructor it is our job to help students achieve great things, but we can only do as much as the students allow us. It is in their hands how far they take what we provide.



There are many types of questions that I have come to hear through my years as a student and an instructor. I am going to discuss some of them here and how the proverbial ‘we’ as an instructor can deal with it.

There are good questions, bad questions, lazy questions, and many other defining adjectives of questions. However, as the old phrase goes: “There is no such thing as a stupid question”.

This phrase is very definitive, and I think that there is a lot that can be said about it, and I will later on in this post.

First, the good questions. Good questions are the ones that have clearly been thought through, the student has taken the information that you have provided them and they have constructed a question that digs deeper into the question or leads you right into the next topic of the lesson, which helps solidify your decision on the order of your lesson. We can encourage these questions as much as possible to keep them coming.

Then there are the bad questions. I don’t like using this phrase because you should be encouraging the question process and there should not be a bad question, however, in this case I am saying that bad questions are ones that a student has asked in order to do one of a few things, 1. Have you go off track. This is a popular tactic amongst students lately, I have noticed an increased amount of questions in class that take the topic that we are learning and try and switch to something else in order to ‘pump the brakes’ on the class and provide some buffer time. When this is the motive behind a question, we need to make a note to keep on track and come back to this if there is time later, or offer to help the student with that question after class. 2. To provide a laughing break for the class. Sometimes a student asks a ‘bad question’ to get a rise out of the class or the instructor, we need to be sure that regardless of the question we try and keep the class calm and don’t give them a reason to think that this is something everyone should be doing.

A lazy question is the one that is asked right after you finish explaining how to do something. For instance: “And that is how you tie your shoe” and then the student asks you “But how do I tie my shoe?” These questions are lazy because the student was not listening when you were teaching this part. We need to not get upset with the student, and instead use this as a teaching opportunity, place it out to the class saying “No problem Johnny, we just talked about this Sally, can you tell Johnny how to tie his shoe?” This not only gives Johnny his answer, but also provides Sally an opportunity to prove that she understands and we get to ensure that our lesson is sticking.

Lastly the issue with There is no such thing as a stupid question, the main problem with this statement is that there are questions that should not be asked, I referred to these as bad questions, or questions that should have already be answered (lazy questions) however stupid is not the way they should be addressed. Instead we should provide students with the phrase, “You are not the only one that has the question” this helps confirm with them that they aren’t stupid (which is what the original phrase is trying to do)

All of these questions can be found in many classrooms around the world. We can make our lives easier by providing students with our knowledge and not making them feel as if their questions are not warranted.

What is the hardest part about teaching?

I love to teach, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I find it hard. I find that it hard for many reasons, to name a few:

I find it hard when the students are not as passionate about what we are learning as I am I realise that you can’t expect everyone to be as passionate about creating an Access database, but sometimes there is just such a lack of motivation on the students part that it drains me.

I find it hard when I have other commitments and am teaching a class with a new section and I have to struggle to get all the material ready in time in order to provide students with all the information they require.

I find it hard when the person administering the class has a difficult time creating a line of conversation in order to ensure myself and the students have what we need in order to succeed in the class.

But most of all I find it hard when no matter what goes wrong I take upon myself to personally right every wrong that occurs and sometimes, it just feels as if it’s not appreciated. I find it hard that I love to teach so much that I will put aside other commitments to make things go smoothly, and as Murphy’s Law proves, not everything can work out all the time.

I am fortunate enough now that I have a great team behind my as administrators in my department and even on contracts they are there to hear me out when I have problems.

Anyway, that’s what I find hard about teaching, what about you?


Understanding Curriculum

I’ve been flip-flopping back and forth to try and figure out what I want to do with my life. I’ve decided that one of the things (other than teaching) that I am passionate about in the field is curriculum development. There is something about organizing information in order to prepare for the next step that feels invigorating. While it is super time consuming at the moment when I’m balancing 4-5 classes, three jobs and a life, I think it’s going to be a great experience when I’m done to be able to organize a whole course. It is very exciting and throughout all the stress that I have nearing the end of the semester, it’s a great feeling of excitement.

Thoughts of a student/teacher

I currently am a registered full-time student at UFV working for a Bachelors of Computer Information Systems with an Extended Minor in Visual Arts, enrolled in two online courses at VCC for my Provincial Instructor Diploma and am working as a lab monitor in the CIS department at UFV and a continuing studies instructor at UFV in the Bookkeeping/Computer Skills department. I also work 21 hours per week at Kilby Historic Site as their IT technician. Needless to say I am pretty busy. However after this semester I am one class away from graduating at UFV and three from VCC, as this date gets closer it starts to get more real and I realize that it means I’m going to have to start job searching and finding a job that allows me to do what I enjoy. Ironically, though I am immersed in a tech environment I find that I am not great at keeping up in online classes. Throughout my journey as a student/lab monitor/instructor I have shaped the way that I teach, and I’m sure that this will continue throughout my career.

One thing that has happened, is that for one of the first times in a long time I am excited (albeit slightly terrified) about my future. I have had a discussion with the director of my department and she has discussed with me the possibilities of creating a new course and possibly requiring a coordinator for the position, and that I should get my PID as that will be a requirement, and without so many words it sounded like this position would be perfect for me. It is very exciting, yet very stressful.

Growing up is hard…

Teaching What you don’t know

It’s been four years this month since I began my journey as a Continuing Studies Instructor and I have had quite the journey. I teach Microsoft Office for the most part, and sometimes I get a keyboarding class, or even a class on Cashier Training. Due to the fact that I was hired on for my teaching experience and not necessarily my education in teaching, I try to be as accommodating as possible, they often ask me to take classes that I am not 100% comfortable with my knowledge of as I would love to be an expert in everything. However, I am not always an expert. My best friend is a high-school teacher and we have spent many discussions on how difficult it can be when you’re learning only moments before the students learn the same topic. I read Teaching: It’s Harder Than It Looks by Gerry Dee, as I enjoy the TV show “Mr D” and I must say that even though it is geared towards Elementary – High-school teachers it was interesting and also very humorous. After reading this I felt that I wasn’t alone with not always being an expert in everything that I teach. I am currently reading  Teaching What You Don’t Know by Therese Huston and it is a more focused towards adult education. It is very encouraging and I encourage anyone that feels they are out of their element to read one of these books!

Group Work

Group Work… As a student these two words are the bane of my existence. I understand the benefits to group work, I do, BUT I always end up being the student that has to do everything OR I am grouped with the student that has planned this project when they registered for the course, and they are doing it their way or the highway and you don’t get any input. I know that group work is a touchy subject for students everywhere, there are the ones that love group work because they enjoy the interaction, there are the ones that love group work because they feel they can let someone (often like myself) do all the work and get a good grade for it. Then there are the ones that hate group work because they are held accountable or they loathe it because the other members of the group do not have the same passion as they do.

I also recently watched Susan Cain’s TED talk: The Power of Introverts, she suggests that we do away with the constant group work due to the detrimental effect it could have

Because of all of these factors I have made the conscious decision that I will assign group work in my courses, however, I will allow in many situations the students to choose if they would like to work with others, I won’t force it on them though and after listening to Cain’s talk I still feel strongly about it.

PIDP Digital Project – Problem-Based Learning

I made a video for my digital project in PIDP 3250 and while creating it I was able to learn a lot more about Problem -Based Learning and how to implement it in the classroom setting. I found it difficult to get all of the information that I wanted to share in a 5 minute video, but I think that I was successful in creating a clear, concise overview of what Problem-Based learning is and I encourage you to look into it when you go forth in your endeavors and are creating and instructing classes.

See my video here

PIDP 3250 Thoughts Week 2

Looking through Instructional Strategies I found it interesting what is considered an instructional strategy. While I felt this way at first with more thought, I realized that really any decision you make while teaching, conscious or not is part of your instructional strategy. The first one that surprised me is Adaptive Scheduling which is being adaptable with your students to find exam dates or quiz times that work with everyone. While I do not have much say in when my students exams are as I am usually given a schedule that I have to stick to, I am able to offer students the options to take a quiz right away before they forget everything or to take a break and let it sink in before they have to complete an assessment on what they have learned. Another teaching strategy that I haven’t thought of previously is a way to randomize questions and I feel that this will be a very useful tool for me to use when I am teaching in order to give everyone an equal opportunity during evaluation.