Courtney Langton

Courtney is an aspiring high school teacher. Her teachables are History and English, but she's happy to teach anything that doesn't involve numbers or formulas. Her particular interest is in promoting gender equity and anti-oppression both in and outside the classroom. She writes a detailed To-Do list every morning, and enjoys nothing more than a good book and a plate of bacon on a rainy Saturday.

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan's primary interest is moral education. His teachable subjects are English and Music. He encourages critical thinking and hopes to teach his students to recognize, and strive for, what is truly important to them without forgetting to be compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded along the way. He likes making analogies and his favourite is one that compares life to jumping on a trampoline.

LINKS: Blogger
Canadian Chalkboard
Coffee, Calculations and Colombia!
Progressively Unnecessary
TeacHer Finance
It's Not All Flowers and Sausages
So You Want To Teach?
Classroom Confessions
Teach Hub
Web English Teacher
Blogging the Renaissance

ARCHIVES: June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 March 2010

Dress Codes, Part 2
Monday, September 28, 2009

I had a short discussion with my friend on dress codes for practicum. Here is what we came up with.

Tie = Dress shirt with a tie
No tie = Dress shirt sans tie
Polo = Polo shirt

Being at prac for 4 weeks, 5 days a week (4 days for the week post-Thanksgiving):

Week 1 (Mon-Fri): Tie - tie - no tie - no tie - polo
Week 2 (Tues-Fri): Tie - tie - no tie - polo
Week 3 (Mon-Fri): Tie - no tie - no tie - no tie - polo
Week 4 (Mon-Fri): Tie - no tie - no tie - polo - cat/bear/witch/costume

Thanksgiving threw off our rhythm a bit. So did Hallowe'en. The point is that we were shooting for getting progressively more lax horizontally (day by day) and vertically (week by week).

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Jonathan posted at 10:13 PM - Comments (1)

Resource Round-Up!

We're at T-minus 7 days until our practicum starts, and odds are many of our readers are in the same boat. As you're scurrying around making pesky phone calls, packing your stuff for a month, and frantically grabbing books off of the Education Library's shelves, take a few minutes to scroll through the incredibly useful links we've managed to track down in the past few weeks. And of course, comment if you've got great websites to add!

  • Planning on studying primary sources in your history class? The Canadian Letters and Images Project has a huge collection of letters and photos from real Canadians from within a variety of different time periods.
  • Make a good first impression in the staff room by reading up on some networking tips from successful blogger and avid conference attendee Latoya Peterson. Though this article isn't tailored specifically to teachers, it'll help you to break the ice during the first few days and make lasting contacts that will be useful your entire career.
  • Teachers of tweens rejoice: our wonderful English Curriculum professor's daughter, Adrienne Kress, is the author of some seriously empowering, adventurous, butt-kicking books for young readers. Read an excerpt of Alex and the Ironic Gentleman, the story of a girl on a quest to find her kidnapped (by pirates, no less) teacher, and don't blame us if you find yourself booking it (heh, puns) to your nearest local bookseller to finish the whole thing!
  • Whether you're looking for props for drama class or a history simulation or just wishing you had supplies and decorations for your classroom, look no further than Once you join the network, just ask for what you need and wait for generous strangers to oblige.

So there you have it folks, go to it! And please feel free to share your fear, excitement, anxiety, anticipation, etc etc about Practicum (or wisdom from having been through it all before) in the comments!

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Courtney posted at 6:20 PM - Comments (1)

A Small Tribute
Friday, September 25, 2009

When we first started blogging here at class-dismissed, we promised that we would take time, every so often, to honour some of our own teachers. So I thought I'd take some time now to do so. Interestingly, this first tribute is actually to a peer rather than someone like Dr. Morrison (though I should probably find some time to pay tribute to him at some point). This is how it came about:

I've always enjoyed singing as a recreational activity. I mean, I never deluded myself into thinking that I was all that good. I knew I wasn't tone-deaf (obviously, being a musician in other capacities) but I also recognize a good voice when I hear one and I know I don't have a spectacular voice by any stretch of the imagination. I always wondered about whether or not a good singing voice is something people are born with or if it's something we learn. So as you can imagine, my music ed teacher piqued my interest when she told us we would be partnered up, one-on-one with one of our classmates, and that we would practice our teaching technique by teaching each other. Enter Kate, who would teach me some beginner techniques in singing; I, in turn, would teach her some beginner techniques in playing the drums. Yeah, that last part was interesting - I didn't think I would be called upon to put my drum-playing skills into use in music ed class.

We've had 2 lessons so far (and we're going to have our last one next Tuesday). To be honest, I think I'm getting more out of her lessons than she is from mine. I know that she's definitely getting better at playing the snare but if she wanted to truly utilize what she's learned, she'd have to do a lot more practicing, just to get to a point where playing the snare would be of any practical use to her. Such is the learning curve of learning an instrument. 3 short lessons won't be enough to be of any practical benefit except maybe in the sense of inspiring someone to continue learning/practicing.

Vocal training, though, is a little bit different. And that's mainly because I've been "practicing" all my life, in the sense that I've been "singing" - to use a refined term for what I do when I chant along to songs I like - for years and I will probably continue to sing for years to come. And in these 2 short lessons I've had thus far, I have noticed a marked improvement in my voice, just from applying certain techniques Kate has taught me. From breathing correctly, to posture, to sound-generation, to embouchure, to using my hands to mimic rib expansion... I've never had anyone point these things out to me before. But man, what a difference they make.

Now, I'm not saying I've suddenly turned into a great singer, but I have definitely made some strides, and I think that Kate deserves a lot of credit for that. There's a term in education called "scaffolding," where a teacher is always challenging you in such a way that calls for you to improve without making you feel like you're called upon to do too much at a time - and she has done exactly that in the 2 lessons I've had so far. When I think about everything I've done at the faculty of education, those lessons were definitely the highlights of this past week. When you look forward to going to a class at 6:30 PM on a Thursday night, that says something. So I take my hat off to you, Kate, even though you didn't really have a choice in the matter.

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Jonathan posted at 1:03 AM - Comments (1)

Teacher Burnout
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Due to a very nasty viral fever this weekend and four, yes FOUR big assignments all due on Thursday which I have yet to find time to work on, this will be a pretty intensely hectic week. I do have my lesson plan from "The Drum," which makes a very interesting juxtaposition to Jon's lesson plan from the same short story, but I won't have any time to post it until Thursday afternoon. Same goes for two consecutive Gleecaps (*sob*) and several other interesting discussions I had in mind for this week. Boo!

Anyway, that's what real life is about, especially for a teacher. We just have to roll with it. So  in the meantime, I'll ask you, dear readers: What do you do to prevent yourself from burning out? What techniques do you use to get twenty different things done in one week, and how do you preserve your sanity in the process?

I'll post the best of the best in a collaborative list next week-- and I might try some of your tips while I'm at it!

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Courtney posted at 1:20 PM - Comments (0)

A lesson plan in 30 minutes or less
Monday, September 21, 2009

A few days ago, Courtney and I (as well as the rest of our English class) were instructed to plan a lesson in 30 minutes based on a short story (which I can't seem to find on the internet) we were given. So no prior preparation or knowledge of the text. And did I mention we had 30 minutes to do this? I think our professor wanted to see how well we could do in a pinch. And how well did we do? I'll let you be the judge. Here is a verbatim copy of what I wrote down:

A Short Story Lesson Plan (in 30 minutes or less)

Title of the story: The Drum

Motivation: What happens when we give meaning to something? When something, big or small, becomes important to us or holds significance, we tend to notice details about it. And the way we think about these details can oftentimes reflect the overall significance it holds for us. For example, if you showed me a car, I might just see a car. But to someone for whom cars are a hobby, he or she might notice details about the finish, the model, the year, the hood ornament or anything other number of things. What are some other examples? What are some things you take a particular interest in? (10 minutes)

1. Read the story silently (5 minutes)

2. Read aloud (2 minutes)

3. Generally speaking, what's actually happening? (2 minutes)
  • Nothing much, actually
  • The narrator's unexcited about practicing
  • He's bored in Calculus
  • He notices a drum
4. If nothing is really happening, why is the story so long? (3 minutes)

5. Close reading, in groups, partners, or self. Look for adjectives, descriptors, metaphors, and other fun parts of speech. How do they contribute to the story? (10-15 minutes)

6. Reconvene: What did you discover, if anything? Was it boring? Interesting? Why or why not? Would it be any different with a different subject, i.e. a pretty girl, an iPhone, a concert? (10 minutes)

7. What happens in the last paragraph? Why is it different? (pending time constraint, this might be considered extra material)

  • The importance of personal meaning, i.e. what happens when something takes on significance for you.
  • Respect for what other find important, even if you don't understand why. There will be times when you will want others to respect the things you find important, even if they don't see things the same way.
  • A reminder to search for, recognize, and understand, what's important to you. Maybe you'll begin to feel for certain things/people/ideals in the same way the narrator does for his drum.
Assignment: Write 2 short stories/paragraphs. One about something you find like or find important, the other about something you find absolutely no interest in. Synthesize the differences.

Jonathan posted at 12:11 PM - Comments (0)

More on teaching English
Saturday, September 19, 2009

Awhile ago, we posted on reasons for teaching English: Part 1 and Part 2.

Our English professor made a comparison between students' reactions to a science class vs. their reactions to an English class. And the thing that struck me the most about the comparison is that English students very often learn "about" something. It was interesting to realize how often the preposition "about" seems to find its way into descriptions of English class. And it's interesting because it indicates that what often happens is that we simply slide into providing factual knowledge [when we haven't got a clue as to what else we're supposed to be doing]:

"We learned about short stories."
"We learned about Shakespeare/Hamlet."
"We learned about Lord of the Flies."

Well that is just fantastic. Because we all could use a little more knowledge "about short stories".

But for those of them who don't really care "about short stories" or "about Shakespeare," it might be important to remember not to fall into the trap of vigorously teaching content as if it were the be-all and end-all of knowledge. As educators, we'll be teaching subjects that, presumably, we take a personal interest in (or at least, took enough interest in for us to be willing to devote 4 years of undergrad to its study), and oftentimes, we forget that just because we thought it was "fun" to memorize Hamlet's entire 35-line soliloquy, doesn't mean our students will find it equally "fun" (shocking, I know) or meaningful in any way. It's probably important to remember that content is good, but what's more important is how you use content as a vehicle through which you teach skills and other areas of knowledge that are more universally applicable.

A few tips we got from our professor were:

1. Remember to teach for a reason.
2. What do they get to keep?
3. How will they benefit from what they are about to learn?

It might also be helpful to think about other types of responses that you hope to generate when your students are asked what they learned in your class. For example...

"We learned that..."
"We learned how..."
"We learned why..."

Students should be able to take something away from your class aside from a general and temporary increase in knowledge about a subject they probably don't care very much about. I mean, that's what substantiation is isn't it? When we ask ourselves and our class, "Why is this important?" It might not be a bad idea to ask ourselves that question at the end of every class, just to check that what we've taught actually carries importance beyond our own egocentric opinion of stuff that interests us.

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Jonathan posted at 2:23 PM - Comments (1)

Overheard in the Classroom
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One of our much-lauded favourite bloggers, Duke Fandango, recently reminded me of one of the unique joys of being a teacher. Though we are authority figures, the kids we teach often tend to kind of forget we're human beings with functioning ears sometimes. They'll say anything off-the-cuff or totally out of place right in front of us because, in their amygdala-dominated brains, they sort of assume we either don't listen or don't understand them. This leads to many moments of hilarity for us.

Many of us teacher candidates will be going into the classroom in about two short weeks, so we want everyone to get in the mood for anonymous comical comment-sharing from the get-go! When you hear your students say something truly ridiculous or so clever you choke with laughter, send it to us at We'll collect them all and publish a collection as often as we can!

For now, we'll leave you with a nice big heap of comedy from Overheard Everywhere: 

History Teacher: "Ah, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Well, I definitely did the rock 'n' roll bit. Not the drugs, though. And uh... Hm. So did you all do the assignment?"

Student: "Is there anything I can do to make this grade better?"
Teacher: "Uh, do better work."

Teacher, incredulously: "You never read Harold and the Purple Crayon?!"
Student: "Well, sorry, I was reading Machiavelli."

History professor, lecturing on the early 1900s: "I mean, the problem of being the only person with a telephone is, well, who you gonna call?"
Class, in unison: "Ghostbusters!"
History professor: "You kids scare me."

Teacher: "Jordan! Can you tell us the answer to the problem on the board?"
Student talking in back of class: "Um... no sir."
Teacher: "You are interrupting the class! What were you talking about?"
Student: "Petroleum lightsabers."

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Courtney posted at 9:41 PM - Comments (1)

More teaching blogs

Check out Scholastic's list of Top 20 Teacher Blogs-- they've organized it by category, making it even easier for us to find interesting, relevant blogs about teaching. I know I'm going to check out the Best Student Teacher blog first!

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Courtney posted at 10:55 AM - Comments (2)

Lesson Plan Assignments
Monday, September 14, 2009

This week, we're gearing up to start completing and handing in lesson plans in some of our curriculum classes. For half the Teacher Candidates, this task is simple. Those of us in ConEd have written many lesson plans before. All we really need to do is continue tweaking our strategies a bit and practicing writing lesson plans for different subjects. Consecutive students, on the other hand, may never have even seen a lesson plan before they walked into class last week, let alone have written a plan or executed any kind of lesson.

I've been writing lesson plans in some form or another since I was 15 years old. When an Air Cadet decides to take the Leadership route instead of becoming a pilot, he or she begins a series of classes, evaluations, even entire summer courses on how to effectively lead and instruct young teens. My first lesson plans were written on loose-leaf paper with a myriad of colourful markers, and the lessons themselves sometimes taught in large tents or even the middle of the woods. My methodology has become more sophisticated, but I still retain the foundations of lesson planning that I learned from Cadets.

Now that I've convinced you to trust my experience, I'm going to provide an example of how a lesson plan might look. The following is my original work, and I do require that you obtain my permission before reproducing in anywhere in any form-- but it can be helpful as a jumping-off point for your own lesson planning.

Remember that your lesson plan will be your only guideline when you're actually teaching your class. We already know how catastrophic reading off your papers will be in the classroom, but if you write down everything you need to know in a coherent manner, you'll be able to recall that structure in your head and use it to your advantage when you're in front of the class. So include anything, anything that will help you when you're up there teaching. When I print out my lessons, I'll go back to my beloved markers and write some reminders and encouraging words in the margins. When I find myself unsure or stumbling during the lesson, those scribbles and doodles catch my eye and help me get back on track.

So, without further ado, here's one of my sample lessons:

(Note: This lesson was an assignment for a class on teaching for equity. It is designed for a mature, thoughtful group of grade 12 students. Unfortunately, to be cautious, this lesson would need to be reviewed and approved by the principal. I intended this sample to serve as a lesson plan template-- the issues within the actual body of the lesson are legitimate but will need to be explored in a different context. In other words, focus on the structure of the lesson, not the sex ed. Thanks!)

Lesson Plan: Achieving Gender Equity in Sexual Education


PPL 4O - Grade 12 Healthy Active Living Education

Purpose: To address the assumptions, stereotypes and double standards often present in sexual education for students.

Goal: To promote students’ awareness of the issue and help them develop strategies to avoid making sexist or heterosexist judgments in relation to sex and sexuality.

Focus: Questioning the images being promoted by popular culture; critical analysis of prescribed gender roles; self-reflection and self-awareness in relation to sexual identity and sexual activity.

Specifics: 75 minute class. Include review of last week’s lesson. Assign project. Leave 5 extra minutes in case discussion gets carried away.



Part A: Review and Introduction            15 MINS



-       Name 4 methods of contraception and describe their function

-       How is HIV/AIDS transmitted? (2 or 3 examples)

-       What are some factors that contribute to healthy pregnancy and birth (2 or 3 examples)

-       What is Canada’s legal age of consent to sexual activity? (

Quote of the Day (for discussion)


“Sex education may be a good idea in the schools, but I don't believe the kids should be given homework.”

-Bill Cosby


-What does this suggest about the attitudes towards sexual education?

-What sorts of arguments would you make to convince someone that sex ed does not encourage promiscuity?

*Play devil’s advocate in this situation. Remind students of adults’/parents’ concerns and that they may be having trouble recognizing that their children are becoming adults. Emphasize the fact that mature behaviour and decisions in other aspects of their lives will show adults that they are trustworthy and responsible.



Now that we’ve covered the facts of contraception, pregnancy, and STIs, we will be examining the more abstract and complex issues connected to sex and sexuality.

Main Teaching Points (write on board)


  1. Sex Ed in the 20th Century
  2. Abstinence-Only Education and Sexism
  3. Heterosexism in Popular Culture
  4. Assignment!

These are pretty big topics to tackle in only one class, but a good background in these issues is crucial. I encourage you to explore further on your own! Your project will also provide you with a more extensive study of your chosen focus.



Part B: Sex Ed in the 20th Century (The Crazy Stuff Your Grandparents Were Taught)            10 MINS


We’re very lucky to be living in the time and place we do. Canadian students are given access to scientific, correct information about sex and taught about relationships in addition to the biology of sex. However, this is a fairly new phenomenon.

As recently as the 1990s, students were taught that they must conform to specific gender roles and given little to no information about sex and forced to glean their knowledge from television, magazines, and hearsay.

*Ask whether any students have anecdotes about the misleading information their parents, grandparents, etc received as youth.

*Be sure to explain that a lack of sexual education did not mean that no one was having sex back then or that most people didn’t know how it worked, but that they believed some silly myths and there was more of a risk of preventable STIs (VD, to them) because they did not have the same access to or knowledge of contraception.


Show examples of the seemingly ridiculous myths about sex and sexuality that were perpetuated throughout the 20th Century.

ü     Time Magazine, “Kids, Sex, and Values.” May 24, 1993. Nancy Gibbs.

§       “Nowadays sexuality is the way you look, the way you wear your hair. It’s all physical, not what’s inside you.” (53)

§       “Parents have told Miedzian that they will not let their boys watch TV’s Mr Roger’s because of his gentle demeanor.” (54)

§       “Other parents have told me that they’re afraid not to have their sons play with guns because they’ll grow up gay.” (54)

ü     Pamphlet from 1973 - “Growing up: facts about sex for boys and girls” : Family Planning Federation Canada

§       “If continued long enough, the habit of masturbation may make it less easy to enjoy a full sexual relationship later on in married life. But most people stop the practice once they are married, if not before. They find it is a poor substitute for proper loving.” (10)

§       “Usually the boy is more easily stimulated to sexual excitement and his feelings are more difficult to control.” (11)

§        “[A woman’s] climax is not very easily reached and often it does not occur until she has settled into marriage for some time—sometimes not even then. But it makes little or no difference to whether she becomes pregnant or not.”

§       “But most people grow out of [homosexuality] as their relationship with the opposite sex develops. Homosexual conduct between men is against the law in this country.” (11)

Final Question: Do you think any of these myths, misrepresentations or stereotypes still exist today? Even remnants of them?



Part C: Abstinence-Only Education (The Double Standard)            20 MINS


(Short Lecture Portion)

            Unfortunately, the answer to those questions is yes. One of the most disturbing examples of this is the double standard that exists for boys and girls when it comes to expectations surrounding sex and sexuality.

            You would have noticed from the pamphlet especially that girls were perceived as more rational and less concerned with personal pleasure. For the boys, it seemed that they could not control their “urges” and should be excused them. Essentially, this sets up a system of blaming girls for things like rape.

            Even now, it’s a widespread belief that boys think about sex more often, look at porn more often, the list goes on. Many girls think they’re abnormal for thinking about sex too much, and many boys think they’re abnormal if they feel they’re not thinking about sex enough!

            Most strikingly, however, is the fact that women, especially those in U.S. States that teach abstinence-only education, are being taught that their sexuality is a commodity and that their virginity doesn’t belong to them. Abstaining until marriage is a personal choice that many teens do choose, but it is being marketed almost exclusively to girls. The decision not to have sex should be one made by examining personal beliefs and values and weighing benefits and risks, not because young women think they will be damaged goods, blemished, or unwanted otherwise.


Watch video clip. Ask the students to jot down a few of their impressions of what is happening in the video, paying particular to the gender roles being shown.

Divide into pairs. (Students choose, so they can feel comfortable with their peers)

Discuss the impressions you wrote down during the movie. How is a purity pledge beneficial to a student? How might a purity pledge be detrimental to a student?

Present different perspectives to the rest of the class (write them on the board). They will probably bring up a lot of important points, but make sure certain issues are mentioned if they don’t think of them, for example:

-       the effect on girls’ self-image: when/if they do have sex, they may feel that it is shameful and wrong.

-       Males are also receiving subliminal ideas, especially about their roles as the “active” participant who must take charge and even be having a lot of sex to be considered a man.

No matter what you choose, make sure it is an informed choice that is physically and emotionally healthy for you. Remember that stereotypes and outdated ideas about the roles of men and women are just that- outdated. We now live in a society that should be able to accept the same behaviour in men and women. The next time you are about to gossip about someone, ask yourself whether you are treating the situation differently because of the person’s gender. Always look critically at the things that you take for granted! 

We’ll get back to the issue of sexism for your assignments, but first we are going to all-too-briefly discuss heterosexism in popular culture.



Part D: Heterosexism in Popular Culture (Your Role Models)            15 MINS


Brainstorm as many famous TV/Movie (heterosexual) couples as you can in 1 minute. Shout out examples in 1 minute.

Then, name as many famous TV/Movie gay/lesbian characters as you can in 1 minute. Shout out examples.

            We simply don’t see very many non-normative (in other words, people who seem different from the majority) images of love and sex in our day-to-day lives. That doesn’t mean it’s not a perfectly natural and acceptable thing not to ‘fit in.’

            I want to show you a quick, wonderful video clip now before we go on to the assignment. This video was produced by two women in the Midwestern United States in response to what they felt was inadequate sex ed in schools. A lot of kids in the States have only this show to turn to. There are a lot of other episodes they’ve done in response to viewer questions, but we’re going to watch their show on homosexuality:

(Approx. 8 minutes)

            Sometimes adults don’t give kids enough credit- there are certainly a lot of kids who, faced with inadequate information, go looking on their own. However, there’s an even bigger number who, since they’ve been told that birth control doesn’t work so don’t have sex, forgo contraceptives altogether and wind up with babies, diseases, and (especially for girls and queer individuals) a powerful sense of shame.


Part D: Assignment!                        10 MINS

Due: Next class

Media Critical Reflection


            In this class, we have discussed the sterotypes and assumptions made in relation to sex and sexuality. In order for you to get a broader idea of how these misconceptions are at work in society and to encourage you to question what you take for granted in popular culture, you will write a 3-4 page response to a representation of teen sex or sexuality.

Curriculum Expectations

            In this assignment, you will:

ü     Identify the stereotypes and assumptions being made in your chosen representation.

ü     Identify instances where this representation subverts assumptions of teen sex and sexuality (in other words, when it didn’t conform to the stereotype)

ü     Discuss the impact this representation has on teens.

ü     Pay special attention to how characters communicate in relationships, how teen sex and sexuality is treated by adults, and how things are different for men and women.


1. Choose a representation of teen sex or sexuality. It can be an episode of a television show (ex. That 70s Show, Ugly Betty, Family Guy), a magazine article (ex. Seventeen, Maxim), a book, a song, a blog, anything you feel you can effectively respond to.

            2. Jot down your initial impressions.

3. Consolidate these impressions into a clear, critical analysis of the factors described above.


            As mentioned, you will hand in a 3-4 page (double spaced, 12-pt font, standard margins) critical response. Feel free to write informally (using “I” and personal anecdotes is fine) but keep in mind this is still an academic assignment.

Resources used:

Midwest Teen Sex Show

Moran, Jeffrey P. Teaching Sex: The Shaping of Adolescence in the 20th Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002.

Valenti, Jessica. Full Frontal Feminism. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2007.


Is there anything you feel I missed in this lesson plan? I'm sure those of you who are real, live teachers rarely use a lesson plan this formal, but do you have any tips from your Teacher Candidate days? Let us know!

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Courtney posted at 2:35 PM - Comments (2)

Post-Glee Recap #1
Friday, September 11, 2009

Now that Glee has finally starting again, we're going to fulfill our promise and start doing recaps of each episode. Like I mentioned earlier this summer, the show touches on a lot of issues that are familiar to teachers and we wanted to add those issues to our discussions on this blog. As well, we'll be doing recaps of Tony Danza's new reality show, Teach, when it premieres later this year-- mostly because I love Who's The Boss, but also because he's going to be teaching in a Philadelphia high school. Another show about teaching, the animated Sit Down, Shut Up, might also make an appearance here, though it is a lot more on the satirical side so it may not be quite so relevant to us. Either way, it's a banner year for teacher sitcoms!

Today's Glee recap-- Gleecap, if you will (I totally thought of that in the shower this morning. Man I'm hilarious)-- is a bit late, as the episode aired on September 9th. Thursday mornings from now on won't be too busy for me, but this week is the first official week of classes so I've been running around buying books and dodging frosh week festivities. Who could have guessed that TV wouldn't be my first priority?! (That's sarcasm, my friends, in case it doesn't translate in print).

I enjoyed this episode for two main reasons-- one, it called out some of the myths of abstinence-only education; and two, it portrayed Will as a regular, fallible human being who made the mistake of putting his needs and desires first and ignoring his students' valid and important ideas. Let's add a third reason just because it was so darned hilarious.

In this episode, Will and the Glee kids are trying to recruit more members. Without more singers, they will not be eligible to compete in regionals, so they need to find a way to appeal to the rest of the school (the students of which are more preoccupied with tossing Glee members in dumpsters and port-a-potties than joining them in three-part harmony). Will decides that the best way to attract new members is to perform the same Disco number that was such a hit when he was a Glee kid-- in 1993. Needless to say, his already unpopular students are horrified about performing "Le Freak" in front of all their peers. Instead of listening to their concerns, Will insists that everything will work out fine. He's so preoccupied with making sure New Directions is a success that he forgets about the perils of high school. 

It's a lesson we can be glad Will learned for us. No matter what's going on in your personal life, no matter how old you are or how little you understand your students, always remember what it's like to be a teenager. It's a minefield out there, and those kids don't have the benefit of experience and hindsight to remind them how little those high school dynamics matter in the real world. This kind of stuff does matter to them-- it matters a lot. So when you find yourself thinking of a good-natured joke about a student's outfit or assigning a mandatory rap performance of Romeo & Juliet, consider how your students will feel and react. They're still going to have to do embarrassing things, things they don't like, in your classroom, because sometimes we have to do that in life. But try not to make your class too traumatizing-- they'll thank you for it.

Notable Quotes:

Sue: "I'm not sure there's going to be anyone else who wants to swim over to your little island of misfit toys."

Will: "I believe in my kids."

Will: "Hold on a second, Sue."
Sue: "I resent being told to hold on to anything."

Sue: "There's a very clear beaurocracy when it comes to photocopies."

Will: "Contrary to your beliefs, it's not always about you... or, I've realized, about me."

Check out the pamphlet titles in the guidance office!

Also, Will thanked a student for bringing him an apple? Kids still bring their teachers apples?

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Courtney posted at 11:34 AM - Comments (0)

A bit of psychology
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

We learned a few interesting things about the human brain last week so we thought we'd share some of the more interesting bits here.

So apparently, they isolated the parts of our brains that are responsible for instinct and reason. Instinct is generated from this little bit of your brain called the amigdala while reason comes from the part of your brain called the frontal lobe:

*photo source:

You'll have to excuse the fact that it's not in English. But as you can see, there's that little red bit there - the amigdala - that's responsible for most of your more instinctive urges and behaviors. Not exactly the biggest part of your brain but, then again, we as humans tend to stifle that part of us from a young age so I guess it shouldn't come as a complete surprise. Nor should it surprise anyone that that frontal lobe bit - known as "lobulo frontal" in, I think, Spanish - is so large, considering how much we put into reasoning things out.

So apparently, part of the reason why teenagers are so bad at controlling their emotions is because our frontal lobe doesn't fully develop until we're much older. The amigdala, on the other hand, is one of the first parts of our brain to come online so it's been around and kicking for much longer than the frontal lobe.

You might ask, then, shouldn't younger children have even less developed frontal lobes than teenagers? Well, that's probably true. That's why young children sometimes behave in ways that indicate a blithe disregard for self-preservation. But I think we're less fearful of younger children because their amigdala is probably telling them more consistent things. Teenagers, on the other hand, what with having hormones and all, probably fluctuate wildly when it comes to emotions so their amidgala is probably working harder than usual. And with their frontal lobe not in its peak form, it probably can't keep up with the rapid changes in what the amigdala is telling the rest of your brain to do.

So there you have it. An oversimplified precis of what we learned in our short psychology lecture on the brain. So just remember: the next time your students act out in your class or in the halls, blame their underdeveloped frontal lobe!

We also learned that people are incapable of taking in more than 10 minutes worth of information before needing time to process it and that the human brain doesn't function well as the day goes on. But they also scheduled a 3-hour night-class into my week so I don't know whether they actually believed what they were saying about that stuff.

Jonathan posted at 9:11 PM - Comments (2)

More Impressions
Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ever since I decided to study music (and by extension, teach it), I always felt that I was in way over my head. Music Ed. was no exception yesterday. The only thing that kept me from launching myself into a flurry of self-doubt was the knowledge that I have gotten this feeling before every single music class I've ever taken in university. This is not an exaggeration. I don't think there has ever been a music class I have taken where I was able to walk out on the first day and think to myself "I think I can handle this course."

So you may ask, how did I manage to survive my undergrad? Well, it was mostly a product of first year impulsiveness. Back then, I knew that the simple fact that I was a bachelor of arts (not music) student meant that I would always, to some extent or another, start off a few steps behind everyone else. And being an impulsive (and, some might argue, idiotic) first year student, I must have decided to approach it as a challenge to overcome or some zealous variant of the "we will prevail!" mentality.

Also, I like music. Have I mentioned that? High school music was one of my favorite courses.

Anyhow. To my surprise, I actually managed to prevail, not only through first year, but in every year after that! And by fourth year, it was too late to change my second teachable subject, even if I had wanted to. I mean, to say that I was "stuck" teaching music would be a misnomer because it's not as if I don't like music and don't desire to teach it. I just always had doubts as to my ability to do so effectively. But I suppose this year will be telling.

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Jonathan posted at 8:21 PM - Comments (3)

Check out these tips for new teachers!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nothing from us until tomorrow evening, but I wanted to point you all toward one of our favourites, Duke Fandango. He's just written a fantastic post on tips for the teacher trainee.
Based in the UK, he's a teacher mentor himself and he's got a lot of great suggestions-- not to mention his quick wit and hilarious pop culture references. Let us know what you think of his list!

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Courtney posted at 11:08 PM - Comments (0)

RE: First Impressions
Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I found the day exhausting too, and not only because I wound up falling asleep sometime after 2:30 this morning and then woke up on my own at 6:30, an hour before I had to be awake.

No, I found it very overwhelming for many reasons. I didn't notice it right away, but as I left campus this afternoon, I felt incredibly drained. Which I guess is to be expected on the first day of such an "emotionally challenging" (or so says my prof) year.

I was definitely not expecting to be met with 749 other Education students this morning, that's for sure. There were so many people that Jon and I didn't even run into each other once, which was kind of disappointing. I'm not great with huge crowds, and I found myself missing the days of being one in 120 in ConEd. Once we left the auditorium for our classes of 25 students, I started feeling more comfortable.

I met the 7 other students who will be joining me at my placement school this year, which was quite a relief. I'm the most nervous about that practicum, so it's good to know I won't ever feel alone there, especially since I don't know the area well. The professor that teaches what is essentially our Practicum class seems really great-- funny, smart, and very reassuring. He told us in no uncertain terms how tough our placements are going to be, but also let us know that he was there to help us succeed and that he'd do everything he could to ensure that we have a positive learning experience.

The other big thing I did today was attend an optional lecture on teaching abroad. I've sat in on meetings like it twice before, but that was in my undergrad when I still wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do. Now that I'm thinking more seriously about teaching internationally, I felt like I would have a different perspective. The two-hour session was very informative and interesting, but it definitely contributed to my general feeling of confusion and indecisiveness, which probably wasn't the best idea on the first day. Basically I'm left with no clear idea of whether I should stay in Ontario, go to another province, teach in an international school in a non-English speaking country, or work in a public school in an English-speaking country abroad. I want to choose a situation I'll thrive in where I'll have a good chance of being hired, but so far I have NO IDEA what that situation might be. 

I keep reminding myself that my mantra needs to be, "Calm. Down." I have to quiet the frantic voice in my head that stresses me out and tries to convince me that I need to have everything figured out right away. There's no way I could make any decisions on the first day let alone before my practicum starts and my classes are underway. So I'm going to focus on taking things one day at a time and try to make the most of my time here.

Do you remember your first day of teacher's college? (for some of you, it was probably today!) What was it like? Did it all work out in the end? Got any words of wisdom for us new kids?

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Courtney posted at 10:39 PM - Comments (1)

First Impressions

I had one class today... and I'm exhausted.

I also helped a don put up the 12 zodiac signs on her floor ceiling using paper stars and tape. This may have contributed to said exhaustion.

I also recognize, though, that a lot of the exhaustion just comes from the fact that today was the first day and that we were all taking in a lot of new information. Nothing was really all that unexpected except for the registration process (where I was told I needed a new student card and then informed that I didn't). I've been racking my brains, trying to think of something else to say that would be interesting but I'm drawing a blank. But I also thought I should at least drop a line to say that the first day went as expected. I did not react in any sort of extreme fashion, which I suppose was good. No arms were waved.

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Jonathan posted at 6:55 PM - Comments (0)

The Beginning of the Beginning...

We start our very first day of teacher's college tomorrow! Eeeep!!

As is my nature, I have been unable to sleep as yet because I'm too wired. Whether that's from nerves or excitement is anyone's guess, although I imagine it to be a bit of both. It's now very very close to 2:00am though, so I'm really not looking forward to tackling the first day on less than 5 hours of sleep. Lucky for me, it's mostly a welcome-to-Queen's, here's-your-student-card, hey-why-don't-you-check-out-a-few-workshops kinda day. Which really makes me wonder exactly what is keeping me awake right now. 

It's the symbolism though, right? It's the fact that starting tomorrow, our last 8 months of school begin; and after those 8 months comes real life, for better or worse. 

We'll check back in tomorrow night with our thoughts on how the first day went-- until then, wish us luck and think best-first-day-of-school-ever thoughts!!

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Courtney posted at 1:51 AM - Comments (0)