Gallery Educator, Art Gallery of Alberta 2010 - 2011
· Developed and implemented educational programs designed to increase visual literacy skills in students and connect exhibitions to school curricula
· Attended professional development workshops on constructivism in teaching, Aboriginal art and art history, media and visual literacy, and art creation
Reflection on my experience: My work at the AGA was my first experience with formal teaching, and it was incredible. I loved the challenges of teaching in that environment: new students would show up every day, and I would have to instantly create rapport with them, set expectations, and measure their understanding of the material. While I had an extensive background in art history, I came to the AGA with very little experience in art creation, so I approached art creation lessons through the lens of reflective experimentation. In other words, rather than position myself as an expert, I instead tried to make the studio a space for learning more about materials, trying new things, and reflecting on what was successful (and what was not). This approach has coloured my work as an educator and as a learner, in that I view the classroom as a space for experimenting and critical thinking, rather than as a space for the creation of perfect products on the very first try.
SAT Preparation Course Instructor, New Haven Reads 2013
· Developed instructional materials related to the Critical Reading, Writing, and Mathematics sections of the SAT
· Taught group of 10 high school students twice per week over six weeks
· Instructional approach included large-group direct instruction, working through questions in pairs/trios, and independent problem solving
Reflection on my experience: As a Canadian living in Connecticut, I had the unusual experience of teaching a course on the SAT without having written the exam. Because of that, I was able to see the exam through the eyes of the students and to identify aspects that may not be intuitive to them. I structured each class in the same way, beginning with large-group instruction around an important concept, and then having the whole class work on a problem together using that concept. Then, students would work through more problems in groups, and then end the class by working independently. We would then discuss the answers and students would have the chance to demonstrate how they solved the problems to the whole group. I chose this approach, which I learned about at the AGA, because I felt that it would help students gain confidence - most of the work and the answers were coming from the students, not from me, and I made that fact clear to them. It also created active engagement in the material, since the students could not rely on me to lecture them as they passively listened to the information.
This SAT preparation course was my first teaching experience where I had the same group of students over multiple sessions, and I was able to get to know them, their strengths, and their expectations, which helped me to tailor my lessons to them. I was able to not only build on what I knew about their needs in the classroom but also on their lives outsides of the classroom to create a sense of community amongst us.
On-Site Supervisor, Literacy Across the Curriculum, Syracuse University 2013 - 2015
Literacy Across the Curriculum is a course for pre-service teachers designed to teach them about how to integrate and teach literacy in discipline-specific ways. This class is mandatory for those preparing to teach at the secondary level, and as such has a wide variety of students enrolled at the same time: Undergraduates from Music Education, Math Education, Social Studies Education, and everything in between all come together in this course. This class is taught so that students actively collaborate and spend much of the in-class time working together, leading their own small-group discussions, or participating in demonstrations.
In addition to the on-campus lecture component, this course includes an observation and one-on-one tutoring element that sees pre-service teachers visiting a local middle school once a week to push into a literacy classroom and then tutor a student. From 2013 until 2015, I acted as the On-Site Supervisor and spent each weekday morning with a group of pre-service teachers as they completed this off-campus course component. Our days would begin with me leading a short meeting in which I reinforced a concept from our class or shared key information. Then, the pre-service teachers would observe a classroom for two class periods, and then would spend another class period tutoring a student from the school as I observed them and gave them feedback.
In the summer of 2014, I acted as the Supervisor for a slightly altered version of this course in which middle school students would come to our campus every weekday to be taught by a team of pre-service teachers, immediately after the pre-service teachers had attended that day’s lecture. In that case, I attended the lecture portions of the class and provided support to the instructor, then observed the tutoring sessions that took place, often providing feedback as soon as the middle school students had left for the day.
As the On-Site Supervisor, some of my duties included:
· Designing an in-person orientation for pre-service teachers to prepare them for field assignments
· Delivering course content both in-person and online using the Gradual Release of Responsibility teaching model, in close collaboration with the course instructor
· Collaborating with in-school partners to deliver information to students
· Managing online discussion forum via BlackBoard for students to deepen their understanding of course content, express concerns, and communicate with one another
Reflection on my experience: My experience as the On-Site Supervisor for Literacy Across the Curriculum was my first formal introduction to the Gradual Release of Responsibility teaching model, and it served me well in terms of my growth as an educator and my understanding of how learning can proceed in a university classroom. For most of my post-secondary experience, I had participated in either "sage on the stage" lecture classes or small, competitive seminars. Through Literacy Across the Curriculum, I was introduced to the ways in which post-secondary learning can be active and collaborative, which has informed the ways that I think about teaching and learning in general. The instructor of the course also gave me several opportunities to suggest in-class activities or texts (such as videos that could be used to generate discussion), create instructional materials, deliver course content, and manage some of the online parts of the course with increasing independence as the semesters went on. All of these experiences have proved to be foundational in my own approach to post-secondary learning.
In addition, I learned a great deal from the somewhat challenging context that our field placement occurred in – an urban middle school in the Syracuse City School District. Many of the pre-service teachers from Syracuse University expressed uneasiness or anxiety about being in such an environment and working with students that they felt were quite different from themselves. My advice over the semesters grew from vague to concrete as I learned how I myself could relate to my own students better. In many instances, I found that the key approach lay in recognizing and appreciating the knowledge that students brought to the classroom, rather than expecting myself to be the expert on all things. This way of conceptualizing the classroom – as a space where everyone is learning, including the instructor – continued to serve me when I became the instructor of this course in the Spring 2015 semester.
Instructor, Literacy Across the Curriculum, Syracuse University 2015
After acting as the On-Site Supervisor for this course over several semesters, I was given the opportunity to teach it myself in the Spring of 2015. I continued the collaborative model that the course had in previous terms while also experimenting with a few new ways of engaging students, such as designing a field trip.
As the Instructor for this course, I:
· Designed instructional materials in a variety of formats
· Created assignments using the principles of Universal Design for Learning, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, and situated cognition
· Planned class sessions and activities for both face-to-face and blended lessons
· Administered assessments and evaluated student work using a shared rubric and with multiple forms of feedback
· Created a BlackBoard site for course content and interactive discussions
· Ensured that course content reflected current, research-based approaches to instruction and relevant, up-to-date information on technology by continually seeking out and incorporating new research on teaching and learning
Reflection on my experience: Being the instructor of record for a university course was both exciting and nerve-wracking. I really loved being able to try things out (like going on a field trip to a public library in order to find discipline-specific texts) and having a small class allowed me to receive candid feedback on those things in real-time, which I appreciated. I was not anticipating some of the challenges that I faced, such as a lack of clarity around the role of the on-site supervisor for the course, but good advice from my teaching mentor and a few conversations allowed us all to be on the same page and work through those challenges. Overall, I gained a lot of confidence through this experience and have had some students reach out to me and tell me that they found the content of the course valuable, which I find extremely gratifying.
Facilitator, Writing Our Lives After-School Program 2015
· Planned and implemented 6 weeks of sessions devoted to teaching secondary students about journalism, interviewing, reporting, and multimodal texts
Reflection on my experience: I worked very closely with another graduate student in the planning and implementation of this program, and I found it extremely valuable to be able to brainstorm with her about possible class activities and the overall direction of the program. We designed a series of lessons around journalism and arranged to have students' work published in an independent newspaper. We chose this focus because it felt authentic to us - having students write for a real audience instead of for a single instructor. To our surprise, the students pushed back on this and let us know that they did not share our view about the authenticity of our lessons, so we decided to overhaul our plan and focus on a different, multimodal form of expression each session: one week would be creating collages, and the next would be making short videos of monologues, for example. This approach was much better for our students, and my experience with the program led to the co-writing of a chapter in Reframing Public Spaces: Youth Voices, Literacies, and Civic Engagement with Dr. Marcelle Haddix.