Warren Franklin [warrenfranklin]
What subjects do you teach? What types of students do you have?
During my practicum, I taught grade 8 students in an elementary school. The students were predominantly from middle income families. Some were from families with single parents.
The subjects I taught were: history, geography, art, literacy, and physical education. My goal is to teach social studies in the middle school environment once completing my studies.
Can you provide a link to a site where we can see something about what you do or the center where you work?
This was only the school where I did my practicum placement, it is not my employer.
How have your past experiences prepared you for teaching? How did you become interested in education?
I spent of years teaching and learning in South Korea. When I arrived I believed I could bring my understanding of good teaching to the Korean classroom. I was wrong. It was like hitting a brick wall how wrong I was. How I learned is completely different than how a 7 year-old Korean boy learning a 2nd language does. I also learned that cultures learn differently. The Socratic method of learning in the west is almost incompatible with the Confucius method of rote memory, testing, transmission, and where age plays a huge part. I had to find a way to teach to 7 year-olds and 27 year-olds that could bridge what I believed, but was also familiar to what they were used to. To be honest, I never perfected it but I didn’t consistently try to employ new methods or improve upon successful strategies. And I think that is a strategy that I would use in my management of a classroom: trial and error. A lot of my time during my first years in the classroom to come will be heading back to the drawing board to revamp and re-try. I’d be a fool to think that what I believe now as good classroom management could work for every student in every class.
In Korea I also witnessed the hours and effort Korean students put in. Most middle and high school students study 6 days a week for a minimum of 10 hours a day. I understand it, but I do not agree with it. Korea is not blessed with a huge land mass or tonnes of minerals, oil, or tracts of woodland. Their people are their resources and they have to be the smartest in the world if they want to raise themselves ever higher. I do not think after hour 6 most of these students are actually retaining anything, but they are far more advanced in the maths, sciences, and languages than Canadian students. Witnessing this made we believe that we do not push our students hard enough and sometimes coddle them too much. I think our students are not reaching their potential, but can. I hope to have a classroom that encourages students to put in that little extra because there are people around the world who want what we have and are working hard for it. That is not to say that time outside of the classroom will not play a part in my management plan. I believe in the motto of ‘work hard, play hard’. Exercise and social time is important. For me, it is my balance. It keeps me level and moving forward. Coaching teams and encouraging my students to get involved in them is also good management in my mind.
Who was your most influential teacher and why?
My personal learning style probably derived from my father. He was a man who made me believe that I could do anything as long as I put my mind to it. He pushed me to dream, to never settle. My father encouraged me to ask questions because this is how knowledge could be gained. I would sometimes ask several different people the same question just to get the different perspectives on things. This pursuit pushed me to learn and question more because more often than not, the people I questioned did not provide me with the whole answer or they seemed insincere. My teachers were often these people. I think too often in schools teachers, and parents, are not encouraging their students to dream big. They are encouraging them to settle. I want my students to leave my class at the end of every day feeling that they can do anything they put their minds. I still believe this for myself and if I do not instill that in them I am betraying what I believe in.
What is your educational philosophy?
I believe in creating an environment that is student oriented. The focus should be on the student developing and clearly articulating an idea, argument, or task. It is not important to just feed information to students. The environment should be one where students are interacting with the teacher and themselves. The environment should also be emotionally engaging and created in such a way that students push themselves to want to learn. I will try to encourage students not to hold back when learning simply because they are afraid of making mistakes. It is only by making mistakes that they can learn. But if they do not even try because of the fear of failure, they will never progress. It is the core of this style that I hope to bring to my classroom: a democratic style that promotes the transaction of ideas, but pushes it to a level that students are partners in learning and feel that they have created what they have learned.
By creating what they learn, they are able to express their knowledge in a manner that is unique to them. I believe in employing differentiated instruction within my classroom to able to meet these goals. Differentiated instruction can be used as an overarching management technique because students feel that are not necessarily being taught, but more so being guided and mentored through the process of learning. No one likes to be told what to do and my philosophy will be one that uses tools to make it feel like students are not being directed, but given a taste of different ways to express the prior knowledge they have learned in a meaningful way for them.
What is the most challenging aspect of teaching for you?
The most challenging aspect for me is probably making sure every lesson connects with the students. Although I consider this to be challenging, I believe it also the most important part of creating a lesson. Connecting to a varied group of students with different attitudes and interests is a large task. Some classes will not connect with everyone, but you can at least try to connect with most of them over the course of a day. If you demonstrate to students that you are eager to find something that interests them, they will work for you. Every day, every class, every lesson this a challenge. But, it's also the key to creating meaningful knowledge and experiences for your students.
What kind of relationship do you have with your students?
Overall, I believe that my philosophy touches upon the four Ethical Standards of Teaching outlined by the Ontario College of Teachers. Care: my philosophy provides positive encouragement and a desire to see students reach and succeed their potential. Trust: my philosophy and my strategies will aim to have students ‘own’ their work and feel it was them doing and not me directing. Respect: my philosophy believes in the democratic approach to learning that is open and shared. My specific strategies will try to show this respect. I will also encourage students to respect themselves by promoting social time and time to take care of themselves. Simply, have fun. Finally, Integrity: my philosophy is one that will be ever evolving. It will aim to use what works, adapt when the need arises, learn and listen to my students, peers and parents, and to grow as a professional by challenging myself and never settling.
What is the secret to instilling interest in knowledge?
I think every lesson needs to begin with the ‘hook’. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or involve a lot of planning and expense. It could just be a simple idea, question, statement, picture, event, or action. The important thing about the hook is to make it relevant to the lesson, but more importantly, relevant to the students you are teaching. One hook might be great for a grade 8 class, but flop when presented to a group of grade 4 students.
The hook gets them involved and wanting to learn. It’s similar to a newspaper article or cover letter for a job posting. You have to get their attention immediately and hold it. You want them to feel that they aren’t studying but are doing something they enjoy. Emotion is key to this. There must be an emotional reaction within the student to want to learn. Excitement, interest, disgust, and curiosity could motivate a student to learn and retain.
What is your philosophy on homework and grading?
I’m still not too sure where I stand on the importance of assessment and evaluation. I think this is something that is going to take me a while to grasp. I have questions that I cannot answer at this time about this area. Some of them are: Are we evaluating the students or the teachers? My problem is I think a lot the provincial direction pushes teachers to get students to a certain level and then that’s it. I think it’s a great thing for the children who need the help because it provides a benchmark for what they need strive for. But what about the ones who get there easily? I feel it leaves them lost and without challenge. I think we are inadvertently punishing the ones who ‘get it’ simply for getting it. I understand the need for equity in a classroom, but children are different and have different needs. High schools separate students based on level and ability. Could the same not happen in the elementary grades?
I believe homework is important. I think students should be encouraged to take home what they learned during the day and search out more about it. The key to making this work is creating lessons that are engaging and exciting. When the students become passionate because of a well-thought out lesson they will race home to discover more. Otherwise, homework becomes a chore and a responsibility. And we all know how much children enjoy chores!
Is it possible to teach creativity? how?
Yes. Give the students freedom and space to create. Give them options. Use differentiated instruction to mentor them toward expressing their knowledge that is personal to them. All students are creative they just need to be given the space and the nudge demonstrate it.
How do you establish authority? What do you do when a discipline problem arises?
I believe students and teachers should be partners in learning from the early grades on up. If I think it is important that students ‘own’ their work then they should also have a say in how the classroom rules are formed. I would hope to try to have a type of ‘roundtable’ discussion in the first week of class in the school year. I would want to gain feedback from students in what they think would be important to them in order to create a positive learning environment. I would also give what I think and provide reasons for it. When this is complete we would create something like a social contract, but more of a ‘success contract’. For themselves and their peers. Here again, the students will begin to feel like active participants in their learning. The idea of ownership comes back into the picture.
I believe the use of eye contact, proximity, and silence are great non-verbal cues that will support good classroom management. I do not believe a teacher should ever raise their voice or get caught in a match of words with a disruptive student. Once they do, they have lost. The student will always win this because others in the class will most likely always side with their peers. Also, if a teacher demonstrates this attitude it shows students that the teacher is no better than the disruptive student.
Verbally, I believe a good teacher should use language with students that is respectful, positive, and encouraging. This demonstrates to students that the teacher cares about their success and respects them as people. Speaking to them in such a way begins to help them build positive personalities and models for them how to treat others.
How do you individualize your teaching? How do you handle the different ability levels of students in classes?
One of the best things I took from my studies this year is the use of F words. One of my professors constantly dropped F words in his explanations but also in his actions. He modeled his class in a manner where his use of F words were prominent and not just talking points. Flexibility, fair, fun, forgiving, and firm are F words that will create a learning environment that is positive, productive, and inspiring. If students know that they will be given every opportunity to be successful because their teacher is a fan of F words, they will work harder to accomplish what is needed. Knowing that the teacher is on their side in reaching their successful completion of their school year will hopefully push them to want to work harder because they will want to uphold their end of the partnership.
This can work well in a classroom of different abilities because students who know what their strengths and weaknesses are will be more comfortable in asking for help or guidance from a teacher who employs F words in their classroom.
What cooperative learning means to you. How have you used it?
To me, cooperative learning is one where knowledge is shared and learning is organic. Strategies are used in the classroom to have students learn from each other. The teacher's perspective should only be one of many in classroom. Group work should be encouraged. Student-led learning stations should be utilized. Jig-saw style activities where groups share with other what they are learning. The above are all effective cooperative learning techniques that I've used in my classrooms thus far.
What do you expect from your supervisor? What qualities would you like to have in your principal?
I expect my supervisor to be a mentor in my professional quest. They should be willing to pass on knowledge, but at the same time they should willing to learn from the team they lead. Flexibility is an important quality for a good supervisor. A good supervisor should also be personable, but not insincere in their praise. I would also like to know that the person I am working for has interests outside their school duties. This is key to keeping them focused when on task and keeping them positive while at school because they have an outlet for their frustrations when they leave school.
What issues in education are of greatest concern to you?
As I am still a junior in terms of my involvement in the professional side of education, I will talk about my experiences as a student for this question.
I think the greatest concern I have about education is that it is limited to the space of where we live and grow up. I think every Canadian student at some point during their university or high school career must study abroad. I think this should be mandated by school boards and university councils. The fact is, as a world, we are connected more than ever. It is so important to see the world not just in books and movies but with your eyes. Students will be able to view themselves and others and challenge the perspectives they've been surround with from this. This exercise will be one where we may even find we have a lot more in common than we once believed.
Would it be a good thing if teachers had economic incentives based on student performance?
No. The fact is teachers get paid well, maybe not as well as they'd like, but it's sufficient to enjoy a good life. Incentives will only create a more competitive and less cooperative environment among their peers. It will also create an environment that treats kids as commodities to be traded and view as dollar signs. Teachers could skew results in order achieve their financial goals. It could turn into a educational Enron.
Besides more financial resources, what do today's schools lack?
I think Canadian schools are lacking in technology. They are still in the 'testing' stages and have yet to fully embrace it in classrooms. Technology should not be the only option, but it should be used as a supplement to every lesson. The fact that the majority of schools don't have that option is frightening considering other countries are embracing it wholeheartedly. Also, educators are not being trained well enough to implement the technology they do have. Some are resistent to it and that is only because they are not give the information or knowledge to effectively harness it.
What are some ways you have incorporated technology into the classroom.
During my teaching practicum I tried to incorporate some sort of technology into every lesson I taught. Whether that be using student netbooks, showing a video from my computer, music, Notebook presentation, etc. technology is a great way to supplement every lesson. Students spend most of their time with technology. It is important for 21st century teachers to use technology to make connections with their students that is meaningful and relevant. I believe it is also important to foster capable, responsible, and safe digital citizens. We know students are using technology and we can help guide them how to use it effectively and without fear of doing the wrong thing with it.
In light of new technologies, do we need to reinvent the school, its methods and objectives?
No. I don't think technology will reinvent the school. I think it should be used to deliver the same information in a different way. Teachers may have to reinvent how they distribute information, but the overall knowledge we try to communicate to students should stay very close to what we know now. The objectives will not change, they will be expanded. It will be difficult for teachers to meet these objectives, not impossible. The learning curve will come for the educators in order to make the delivery of knowledge to students meaningful and relevant.
If you could create the ideal school, what would it be like?
My school would have a global focus in terms of curriculum and members. It would place equal importance on knowledge, health and fitness, and community. All students would be encouraged strive academically, in sports or sports related activities, and within and outside the school community. The Socratic method of dialogue and argument will be encouraged. Technology will play a large part in all areas of study. Travel and exploration would be supported and mandatory as a part of graduating. Also, understanding the value of money and it's effect on people and society would be developed from an early age. Respect for others opinions and efforts will be a pillar to the ideal school. It would be great if the school could obtain a private airplane, like AirForce One, that could jet classes to places they are studying to fully immerse themselves in other cultures. Language learning will be a key to this school as well.
What do you think schools will be like in 20 years?
In Ontario, not that different. Maybe more technology, but also more rules and regulations to stifle creative thought and responsibility. We will be struggling to catch up with other nations.
What are your professional goals? Where do you want to be in five years?
In five years time, I plan to be in an administrative position in the international education system. I hope to be working toward my PhD. in Education.
What qualities would you need to see in someone before advising him/her to go into teaching?
Flexibility. Adventure. Patience. Drive. Love of children and learning.
North Bay, Canada