University of Ottawa Bachelor of Education

Two years ago, I arrived in Ottawa from Gangneung. I had just completed four consecutive contracts at Gwandong Middle School, as a Native English Teacher, and that was on the heels of three consecutive contracts at a private academy in Daegu. My exit from Korea had been in the works for a while, and had been carefully planned (much like my intention to go to Korea after graduating from Dalhousie). After spending seven very formative years abroad, teaching EFL, I arrived in Ottawa feeling like an outsider.

Things didn’t make sense. The cultural and social norms were different. The vocabulary was different. How people interacted with each other was different. I was an expat returned home, but not really. I’m Canadian, but not from Ottawa. When people asked me where I was from, I would offer Halifax as a response.  I had lived there for nine years, the longest of any of my father’s military postings, but that wasn’t strictly true. I actually lived in Porters Lake, however since no one had heard of it, I gave the name of the capital city where I attended university.

The transient nature of my life made for a confusing identity. I had split my life between military postings in Ontario and Nova Scotia. I was born in Ontario, but identify as Nova Scotian. To further complicate matters, I now live in Ontario, and haven’t seen Nova Scotia since 2007.

If there has been one stable element in my life, it has been teaching, and the journey to become a better educator. I didn’t know how long the journey would last when I departed Halifax for Daegu, a decade ago. Yet, April 2017 saw me reach one more milestone: graduating with a B.Ed.

I came into the university program with a lot of practical experience under my belt. Teaching overseas had been good to me, and it allowed me to help others in my program’s section. Many a confusing assignment would require clarity, and years of juggling different EFL classes definitely helped. Because I felt I had such a good handle on things, I would often volunteer for different initiatives.

This degree wasn’t an easy one, though. It challenged me in ways I wasn’t expecting, and in ways I would never have been challenged in Korea. There were times I feared I had taken on far more than I could handle, and wouldn’t be able to live up to my commitments. There were times I had to reach deep down and find something in myself I didn’t know was there.

In the process I discovered more about myself than I had previously. I knew that at my core, there was a really good teacher. That was something to build off of. I had discovered my love for teaching overseas, and I knew that I was great as an EFL teacher. Coming in to Ottawa, I wasn’t sure if my success over there would translate to anything measurable. Teaching EFL in Korea can be a very specialized skillset.  A healthy amount of self-doubt allows you to push yourself to overcome challenges, and in the end it made me a better teacher.

It was a collaborative effort. As much as I lent a hand to others, outstretched offers of support were also there for me. One of the most unexpected treasures of a two year professional degree was being with the same group of people in all my classes throughout the program. What started as a bunch of disconnected strangers, became a tightly woven family. With that foundation strongly in place, I stand firmer against the uncertainty of what tomorrow might bring.

Two years later, the reverse culture shock is wearing off. Where I am from isn’t as interesting as where I have been, or where I am going. I’m still a former expat, and a Haligonian living in Ottawa. I’m also a teacher, and that hasn’t changed.

If you have been along for the ride since the beginning, you might be wondering what comes next. Essentially I am in the process of submitting an application for the Occasional Teachers list at a school board (that means working as a supply teacher, or a substitute). I am preparing for interviews, and other things that may come my way.

Grade Six Science Resources for Space Unit

Grade 6: Space

Overall Expectations:

  1. Assess the impact of space exploration on society and the environment
  2. Investigate the characteristics of the systems of which the earth is a part and the relationship between the earth, the sun, and the moon
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the components of the systems of which the earth is a part, and explain the phenomena that result from the movement of different bodies in space

Specific Expectations:

  1. Identify components of the solar system, including the sun, the earth, and other planets, natural satellites, comets, asteroids, and meteoroids, and describe their physical characteristics in qualitative terms
  2. Identify the bodies in space that emit light (e.g., stars) and those that reflect light (e.g., moons and planets)
  3. Explain how humans meet their basic biological needs in space
  4. Describe the effects of the relative positions and motions of the earth, moon, and sun

Item type: Science guide (non-fiction, with fictional elements)

Reference Information:
Fazekas, A. (2016). Star Trek, the official guide to our universe: the true science behind the starship voyages. Washington, DC: National Geographic.

Description: The Official Guide to Our Universe is an exploration of different facets of the universe, using Star Trek as a hook to capture interest. The book is broken into different parts, going into the minutiae of our solar system to formation of stars, nebulae, and galaxies. Detailed photographs of different space phenomena are included on nearly every page, allowing readers to get up close and personal with extra-terrestrial bodies. Detailed star charts map out the night skies, allowing readers to locate stars and galaxies on their own.

This book offers a lot of information, in text, and visual formats. It could act as a resource guide for students studying this science unit. The diagrams it includes for objects within our solar system would allow students to quickly see what the different moons, comets, and asteroids look like, and provide them with their histories. It would be relatively simple to copy pages from the book to distribute to the students. Areas of the text that touch upon elements from the TV show would allow the teacher to find the appropriate clips online, and use them as a hook in class to illustrate different scientific concepts (the immensity of different stars, or the composition of a comet’s tail). Rather than having to look on different websites for appropriate pictures, this book conveniently contains many of the Hubble Telescope’s greatest images. Although it has elements from the Star Trek universe included, the real-world histories and science take precedence over the fictional elements.

 

Item type: Children’s literature (fiction)

Reference Information:
O’Brien, P. (2009). You are the first kid on Mars. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Description: You Are the First Kid on Mars is a storybook that imagines what it would take for a kid to live on Mars, and how they might get there. It explains different scientific concepts for earth-like conditions to be replicated in space (spinning the spaceship to create gravity). It also explains how humans might prosper in space, or on other planets, through the use of plants, which create food but also provide breathable air. The book is heavily illustrated, with minimal segments of informative text. It follows a young boy as he leaves Earth, travels to Mars, explores the planet, and then returns home. Concepts not yet realized are given explanations on how they might operate once the technology becomes available.

This book is very easy to follow along, and would be ideal for this age group. The illustrations are captivating, and the text isn’t difficult to read, as it is kept to a minimum. The storybook would be excellent for explaining how humans might survive in space and on other planets. It could provoke discussions on the kind of planning explorers would need to consider prior to leaving for Mars. The final pages of the book include many bite-sized pieces of Martian trivia. Some of the units of measurement follow the Imperial System, so I would have to explain the Metric equivalents. The example they use for the “first kid on Mars” is a white boy, which is limits the appeal somewhat. With a little creativity, they could have obscured the identity of the child, allowing any reader to picture themselves as the main character.

 

Item Type: Application

Reference Information: Sky Map Devs. (2016). Sky Map (Version. Varies by device) [Mobile Application Software]. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/store/

Description: This mobile app allows users to identify, in real time, objects in the night sky. By moving the smart device around, the app tracks the user’s position and labels each star, planet, or galaxy that is visible. The constellations are also identified. Each object remains relative to the others in order to make identification easier. The app is intuitive to use, and doesn’t have a cluttered interface. In order to reduce eyestrain at night, or make looking at the stars easier, there is a red-light function, which allows for astronomers to see finer points of light in the sky after glancing away from the screen. The app makes used of compass, and gyroscope, functionalities, so devices without these functions may have limited functionality.

Since this app can track the movements of objects in the sky, it would be ideal for students to use in this unit. Students could be asked to track different planets, and which constellations they will pass through. When discussing different objects in space, the application could be used to demonstrate where the objects are, even if they aren’t immediately visible. With the “time-travel” feature, students could see how differently the objects move in relation to each other during different moments in time. Phases of the moon can be tracked, allowing student to predict what the moon will look like in subsequent days. The app can also be pointed at the “ground” and show what stars and planets are visible on the other side of the world, thus introducing outer space as a 3D concept.

Star Wars Club- Mindfulness and DPA

For a class assignment, we were told:

As a group, decide upon and select one school where you feel a well-being intervention would be welcomed… Over the next 5 weeks, design, implement and assess a plan for promoting  well-being. You may join an existing well-being initiative and tailor your group’s plan accordingly or work with your peers/colleagues to create a new initiative.

I’ll admit to being nervous when that assignment was first introduced. It appeared to be a fairly substantial undertaking, and even if it looked good in our portfolios, would it be possible to get such a thing off the ground? As the butterflies worked their way through my stomach, I tried to think of a good starting point. I decided it would be best to tackle it as I would one of my Korean seasonal camps: start with a theme, and create activities that would tie into it.

In Korea, there are two vacation breaks, and I would design a camp for students to join and work on their English. The camps would run for about a week during the summer and winter breaks. Students from any grade could join, and that often meant a massive wave of applicants.

The themes I managed to create camps out of were: Winter Countries, Superheroes, the Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, the Avengers, and Nintendo. The students didn’t necessarily know the themes inside-out when they began the camp, but they were well-versed in the appropriate geeky parlance by the end.

For a well-being initiative in an Ottawa school, I thought Star Wars would be a good fit. The Jedi ethos follows pretty close to mental and physical health initiatives. We could easily convince students to participate in high intensity exercises if they thought it could tie into Jedi training. Having them be pay heed to their emotional awareness and how to center themselves would also promote mental health.

My group would create a bunch of different activities, and go to a school during second recess. We would test out our activities with the students, and create a booklet. The booklet would include all the necessary steps for a teacher to start their own Star Wars Club. Even if the teacher didn’t want anything to do with Star Wars, they could easily adapt the exercises to promote physical activity within their own classes. Finding engaging activities for students to get that Daily Physical Activity (DPA) is a task all by itself, so if we could cut down on the hassle that’d nicely do.

There were still unanswered questions while we were in the planning stages. Would enough students be interested in Star Wars to sign up? Would students find the activities engaging enough to want to return the following week? Was the Club inclusive? We hoped our natural enthusiasm for having a Star Wars Club would be enough to win the students over.

Our doubts, on whether students would be interested in signing up, were laid to rest on the first outing. It was a snow day, and my associate teacher emailed me saying we might want to postpone due to the number of students. However, we had made up our minds and would go in to report for duty. We were guaranteed seven students from her class, so I was expecting a dozen students at the most. We had opened it up to the junior grades to keep things simple (grades 4-6). Despite it being a snow day, over 34 students showed up in the gym, some of them wearing Star Wars shirts, and one dressed up in Jedi knight cosplay!

On a good day, I figured we would get 20 students, and that would be a success. We certainly weren’t expecting the number we got, and the game we created (Death Star Trench Run- a combination of dodgeball and basketball) wasn’t designed to handle that many participants. We improvised on the fly and reworked the rules. The students didn’t seem to mind the well-orchestrated chaos, and vowed to return the next week.

We had seven days to plan out a new set of activities. We floated out the idea of using activity stations this time around. That way students would be in more manageable groups, and they could cycle through different exercises. We would have a pattern game, where the students would be Ewoks following the movement pattern set out by their chief. One student wouldn’t know who the chief was, and would need to guess. We would also have a lightsaber reflex game, where the students would have to dodge an instructor’s imaginary blade in the proper direction. We would also have an exercise using scooters, where the students would have a relay race to bring down some AT-ATs. The day would end with a cool-down and mediation moment.

Did the students have fun in the week prior? Would we see a decline in numbers? If so, we would be able to have the students in a single group, and cycle them through the stations. We believed we had a solid strategy going in.

Students started popping by much too early, even before they had a chance to eat their lunch, so we told them to do that first. A line began to form outside the gym. When they were finally admitted into the gym, and sequestered into their squads, we had at least 46 students. Our little recess club had grown. This was now much bigger than I had hoped for, but our strategy of different squads and activity stations held up.

The students were really enthusiastic and enjoyed themselves. They were buzzing about the activities and vowing to return next week. They complained it was for too short a time, because the period went by so quickly. My fellow teacher candidates were just as jazzed by the success.

Going in to volunteer could have been a massive time sink, due to all the planning involved. There was no guarantee it would work, or if we would get the greenlight to have a school host us. The success it has enjoyed thus far caught us off-guard and we’re excited to see what else we can bring to the students. The Force is very much with us.