Jim Weller [jimweller]
What subjects do you teach? What types of students do you have?
Currently, I am able to teach all subjects in the intermediate level. However I have academic experience in physical education, science(biology) and my major being history. I also have an extensive art portfolio which demonstrates my artistic talents and give me the confidence to also teach that subject. Upon completing my upcoming AQ course, I will also be able to teach history at the high school level. Currently I have been working with students from the grade 4 to grade 8 level. My student base is like any average middle school environment.
Can you provide a link to a site where we can see something about what you do or the center where you work?
How have your past experiences prepared you for teaching? How did you become interested in education?
I became interested in teaching for a number of reasons. The first being past teachers which I hope to emulate during my own profession. Secondly, my experience with children at many levels has only increased my passion for teaching. I first began in a day care setting for 2 years. I then bounced around following jobs in day camps and after school programs. After having a family myself it only strengthened my resolve.
Who was your most influential teacher and why?
Mr. Coutts was my grade 11 - OAC biology teacher. His constantly jovial attitude, mixed with his sense of humour and willingness to help his students both in and outside of class has been a true inspiration for me. He single handedly, helped me out and put me back on course when my life was of course during high school.
What is your educational philosophy?
There is no one philosophy to follow. In my case I believe that three are equally important and feed off one another. The first is Perrenialism. I believe that there is a base of knowledge that all students enrolled in the Ontario Public System need to learn. Yet this is simply the starting point. From here I promote a constructivist approach and allow students to take that knowledge and relate it to their own lives and create their own reasoning under guidance. my third philosophy is progressivism. I believe that differentiated instruction is essential in allowing your students to display their talents and show you what they know and have learned. Students cannot be graded on marks alone but also how they progress from one task to the next and how they adapt to different learning situations.
What is the most challenging aspect of teaching for you?
The most troubling aspect is having the time to teach my students the importance of social skills and personal and interpersonal skill building. This is an aspect of teaching that os often over looked but is essential in building character and strong sense of self in all your students. This is not in the curriculum, nor should it be as it should be seen as a duty and a privilege to teach to all your students.
What kind of relationship do you have with your students?
We share a mutual respect. This is best described by TRIBES, an additional teaching tool for building relationship between you and your students. It is important to show that you stand beside your students and you help each other in achieving their goals. The time of the "sage on the stage" is over. It is time to embrace a new style of teaching where students can look at their teachers in more of a friendly manner rather than simply a professional
What is the secret to instilling interest in knowledge?
It stems from differentiated instruction. It is important to realize that not all of your lessons or in some case lectures can be done openly with a multitude of choices. However, when teaching a strong attempt should be made to use different teaching teaching tools such as books, computers, internet, video cameras, art and many more to constantly have change to engage your students. Create quiet or technological corners within your classroom. Don't be afraid to get your students out of their seats and outside to explore when it fits with the curriculum. Be willing to organize field trips, it is surprising how much children retain when you get their head out of a book.
What is your philosophy on homework and grading?
Homework is a question that all teachers take a different stance on. With the new changes and the ability to charge late marks once again having cut off lines, I believe that homework is essential in building academic and personal qualities that will be needed by students later in life. In no way am I saying that homework should be assigned on a regular basis and grade level has an obvious effect on how much is given. Nonetheless, a teacher should not be afraid to assign homework. Grading is another aspect. Unfortunately, teachers are subject to the current grading system where a 3 seems to be what students strive for. It is equally important to describe the living skills portion of the report. Grading is something that takes time to get accustomed to based on grade level but with time comes naturally.
Is it possible to teach creativity? how?
It is not possible to teach creativity. But as a teacher, you can create different situations for your students to become creative. This is why differentiated instruction is so important. Allow students to decide how they will present their findings with little to no restriction and creativity will come on its own.
How do you establish authority? What do you do when a discipline problem arises?
At the beginning of every year, it is important to go over the rules with your class. Let them help you establish them and write them down. Following the creation of rules have your students sign at the bottom so they take ownership of what they have done and what is expected of them. In older grades this will not work as well therefore I have a specific philosophy. It let it be known that if a student is talking during class at an inappropriate time they themselves have decided that they do not want to take part in class. Therefore, they are to leave the classroom so that they do not interrupt those who are participating and may return when they are ready. Again this gives them ownership of their own actions and I have yet to have a problem with this philosophy. Every time a child leaves the class they come back much more willing to learn and the teacher does not need to raise their voice nor fight with the student and cause further distraction.
How do you individualize your teaching? How do you handle the different ability levels of students in classes?
Unless there is a student in my class with an IEP, I will not make modifications to my lesson plans. In every grade there will be different levels of students in regards to their academic levels. As a professional it is important to time manage in order to reach out to every student. Some children may need more guidance, and that is why a teacher must allot time before or after school on certain occasions to reach these children. In order for this to be successful, you must make an open and inviting atmosphere where children feel comfortable to confront you with such issues. We guide lessons towards a goal and it should be no different when it comes to guiding students towards understanding.
What cooperative learning means to you. How have you used it?
Cooperative learning is a wonderful teaching tool. It is obvious that monitorial schooling is a practice of the past. Having students working together to achieve a goal is far better than individual work. We can not eliminate individual work because it is our best form of assessment and will always be included in the school system. But brainstorming with others opens students eyes to what they may have otherwise not seen. Also, group work mimics for most what they will eventually have to take part in later in life. By basing a lot of your evaluation on group work such as projects promotes academics as well as social and living skills.
What do you expect from your supervisor? What qualities would you like to have in your principal?
I expect an open and respectful relationship. The willingness to listen to my opinions and ideas and allow for every teachers personal preference in regards to teaching. Not all students learn the same way, therefore different teaching philosophies should be allowed. I would also like to receive different teaching ideas from the principal since in most situations they have a vast knowledge of teaching built off their own experiences. A principal should also be someone who is willing to take part in extra-curricular activities when possible. They should be seen in the hallways promoting their views in a pleasant manner. No student within the school should feel threatened by them. It is a mutual respect so both teacher and principal can learn from one another.
What issues in education are of greatest concern to you?
My largest concern is in regards to funding and its non-static nature. Due to the changes in politics, education is constantly having to shift. If there is one aspect Canadian life that should be consistent, it is education. We speak of multiple intelligences and how we should embrace the whole student but are hypocritical in regards to its practice. Art, music and other subjects such as physical education are the first to take funding cuts. How does this embrace the spatial or kinestetic learner? There is no denying that math and language are needed in school, but many professions do not require more than basic math and how often must a trade worker write an essay? As teachers we should be promoting more of an equal funding ideal for all subjects.
Would it be a good thing if teachers had economic incentives based on student performance?
Absolutely not. How far would it go and where would it stop? Will other subjects be neglected because it is not being tested? Does that mean it has far less importance? What is to stop a teacher from giving better grades than what was earned in order to receive incentives. It allows for corruption within the school system. We should be promoting learning at all levels and each individual learns at different paces. Marks are not the only aspect of education that has relevance to growth.
Besides more financial resources, what do today's schools lack?
A sense of community is missing in many schools. Many teachers do not work with each other or help each other. Imagine what type of learning environment could be had if all teachers shared their ideas and worked together to create the best possible learning environment. Also there is a serious inconsistency in regards to teaching philosophy. Many children can progress one year under a specific philosophy but regress the next due to malpractice.
What are some ways you have incorporated technology into the classroom.
Technology is ever increasing and no longer can teachers neglect its importance. Those who are unwilling to use and implement technology should reconsider their stand point. Many of the professions today require an individual to be technologically literate. In my classroom there is a technology corner where students can use computers and other devices such as video cameras or voice recorders. Many of my projects that are created and allow the students to choose from a list of possibilities with technology being a component in many of them. Some lessons are run using technology but must be spaced out so that they do not appear repetitive and children remain engaged.
In light of new technologies, do we need to reinvent the school, its methods and objectives?
No. It can be a positive for schools to bring in more forms of technology. However this should not be done simply because they feel they should have the best technology or have a "techno lust" for new gadgets. If there are no teachers willing to use the technology than there is no reason to bring it in. Programs such as physical education are taking cuts because 5 new smartboards are purchased and never used. Teachers should be implementing technology but only to a certain extent. No computer is going to increase the significance of WWII studies or long hand mathematics. Ontario has already implemented technology classes such as the I.T. class. It is the teacher's responsibility to integrate technology into their classroom when necessary.
If you could create the ideal school, what would it be like?
It would be built like a community. Where teachers and students share common ground and all areas of study are embraced equally. Teachers help one another to achieve common goals and children are engaged through various learning strategies that are implemented by the entire staff.
What do you think schools will be like in 20 years?
There is likely to be little change considering politics has such a large impact on how schools are run. Technology will increasingly be implemented into schools and textbooks may become a way of the past. However, the fundamentals will not change over the course of 20 years.
What are your professional goals? Where do you want to be in five years?
I hope to make a change in students lives. I want to be that teacher that is remembered when former students look back on their time in school. I hope to continually increase my knowledge base both in subject base and teaching principles and strategies. In five years I would like to be the head of a history department in a high school to engage students in the subject and expand class subject from traditional knowledge.
What qualities would you need to see in someone before advising him/her to go into teaching?
Essentially there is the want to work with children and adolescents. They must be open, honest and have a desire to teach. They must be personable and have the willingness to work as a team. They must demonstrate good moral and ethnic traits in order to have the responsibility to educating our youth. Hopefully they want to continue their own education as they develop that of others. As Robert Heinlein eloquently stated, "when one teaches, two learn". As teachers, we must never settle for consistency and comfort, but strive to make things better.