Thursday, December 11, 2014

Revealing the Brand New Classroom Canada Website


New Year, New Look

On the threshold of 2015 comes a new, polished, refurbished and revitalized look for Classroom Canada! Now easier to navigate, as well as easier on the eyes, our new website is more convenient and simple to use. The modern look allows new candidates to find out more about us, what kind of teaching positions we offer and how to apply - while at the same time keeping you informed of our upcoming workshops, FAQs and up-to-date job board. And as always, links to our blog, facebook and twitter pages are all accessible straight from the new site.

We hope you enjoy the new look Classroom Canada page and we look forward to speaking to you soon!

We are still looking for teachers and TA's for the upcoming term in January. Don't hesitate to contact us at apply@classroomcanada.com or simply to chat with us about your interest in teaching in London.

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Set of Standards for Teaching Assistants

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New measures to be set for Teaching Assistants in England

Ever a strong supporter of good, solid teaching assistants in England's state schools, I was quite curious when I came across this article by Judith Burns from the BBC, outlining clear measures that will "make the most of their skills and expertise." I found this announcement very welcoming. As Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, who is quoted in the article, put it herself, "Teaching assistants are important members of the education team and the key work they do in schools and colleges need to be properly recognised through a framework of professional standards."

Most of our teaching assistants at Classroom work daily with special needs students, and the BBC piece retirates the importance of support staff who work directly with children with disabilities and learning difficulties, even teaching small groups of children. The article also touches on a belief I firmly have of teaching assistans in London schools: They push students to reach their full potential, raising the standards in the classroom on a daily basis. Jon Richards from Unison states it best when he says, "When deployed properly, teaching assistants have a positive impact on children's education."

If anything, these new measures will only add value to the hard working teaching assistants throughout London and all of England, in addition to giving them more confidence in their positions.

If you are interested in making your own difference in the classroom as a teaching assistant, please don't hesitate to contact us at apply@classroomcanada.com, and we would be more than happy to discuss your options with you!

Vital Links:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Successful Teachers in London: Who are They?

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Who Teaches in London?

Teachers who enjoy teaching in London possess many common qualities and attitudes. Over the years I have found that first and foremost, they are flexible and adaptable, eager to take on new challenges. Their work rate is exceptional as they adapt well to change, whether it is in the subjects they teach or simply day-to-day interactions with staff and students. A good teacher in London can also shake off a bad day and start each day anew.

Aside from positive work mentaility, successful teachers in London also have exceptionally positive attitudes in the classroom and outside. They are outgoing, see the glass as half-full, laugh easily and see the humour in everyday life. Successful London teachers love teaching kids of all backgrounds and believe that all children want to learn, and it's their job to help them. They see kids as kids, no matter what their troubles are.

Educators who enjoy teaching in London want to travel, and appreciate holidays every 6-8 weeks. Lastly, they know one of the reasons why they are in London and remind themselves of that often: I am here to learn new things.

To learn more, please see our website at classroomcanada.com

Monday, September 22, 2014

Using Video Messaging to Improve Student Engagement

From Edison's Telephonoscope to today's iPads. Source
Video Messaging: The secret to better student engagement?

Keeping on the theme of technology this past week, I was sent an interesting tweet yesterday from a fellow blogger who shared with me a post on a 2013 case study done in Dallas. In this particular study, teachers from the Dallas Independent School District tried to see if student engagement and performance could be improved through a more interactive learning environment with education technology.

Traditional classroom vs 'Hybrid' classroom

The principal test involved the comparison of two types of classrooms. In both cases, students had to fully attend class and had the same content and class instruction given to them. What separated the two classrooms was the fact that in the Hybrid classroom the instructions were given to the students using education tech and web tools - 80% of them.

The use of video messaging was specifically predominant, creating demonstrations and visual instructions for students to follow. The positive use of the interactive tools and mobile lectures allows "students to learn at their own pace and actively engage with their teacher and lessons." With a traditional lesson, students might miss certain ideas or concepts. Using video messaging and recorded lessons specifically, they could simply review any of the lessons at their own time after class when they might feel less rushed or under pressure - as many times as they want. Communication with teachers is also made better as a result, including giving students the opportunity to make up missed assignments and/or lectures - not encouraged to do so, of course.

In the end, the Hybrid classroom outperformed the traditional one by 19%.

This study and its effective use of technology particularly caught my attention since I have personally seen its similar use in the past. A former colleague of mine also used this idea to record his lessons or revision material with his iPad at home then make it available to his students via an app that he had them each install on their personal iPads.

The reality is that each student learns at a different pace and style. Some might like visual material to help stimulate their comprehension, whereas others prefer discussion. As always, teachers have to adapt to these different methods understanding how each of their students learns in the classroom.

I think this clever use of video messaging and recordings can benefit every student in any school system since it brings in an element of core material instruction, as well as revision, which students can use immediately and on a daily basis. It's just a matter of implementing it. Many teachers in the UK use a central hub for students to post discussions, comments, blog posts, etc. - as well as to upload their work. This is another step in that process. An even effective one that allows them to look at school material at their own pace and comfort level at home or anywhere else for that matter.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ontario's $150 Million iPad Investment

Technology fused with education? Or a hub of distraction? Source
Investing $150 million for iPads in Ontario's classroom

Technology is slowly but surely becoming an integral part of our classrooms in Canada. I remember a time, not long ago (well, 12 or 13 years) when my classmates felt like students of the future. Scrambling to find the nearest Apple personal computer with the super futuristic aqua coloured frame so that we could browse on Netscape, while quietly chatting up the nearest downloads on Napster. ICQ reigned supreme and photoshop was uber cool to use, let alone have it installed on our desktops at home. Then came the famous "brick" Nokia cell phone. Ever reliable, you could play dodgeball with it and still be able to use it to call your Mom to pick you up after school.
Super futuristic Mac Source
All those advances in tech made our classrooms very much interesting. Graphics class was incredibly fun, but so was the ability to head to the library at lunch and check our lineups for the fantasy soccer league that afternoon. Students could express themselves better and even enjoy some of the fun aspects of web browsing. Yet, we continued to rely on pen and paper in the classroom, reading extensively from books and texts, our memorization skills tested to their conventional fullest. Call me old-fashioned. Still, there were some who thought: Could we do more with these gadgets?
Indestructible: The good old days of reliability mixed with weight Source
With the announcement of Ontario's Education Minister investing $150 million in funding for technology earlier this September, one can't help but think how iPads will directly contribute to increased grades in school. More importantly, as someone who has first hand experience using iPads extensively within a classroom, I find myself wondering if they will be more of a distraction in schools.

Having taught in England and in the Middle East, I have seen two different approaches when it comes to teaching. In London, the focus was very much on texts, handouts, and plenty of writing within workbooks. This is the very system I grew up in. Nevertheless, positive stimulation of a pupil's mind comes into play here, as does differentiated instruction. Yes, Powerpoint presentations by educators and different methods of teaching can improve the process of learning, however, technology offers a different level of learning altogether.

Having taught in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. as well - where iPads are fully integrated within the system of teaching in many schools within the capital - I saw the effects that too much technological freedom and innovation brought on a practical level each and every day in school. On the one hand, iPads gave students an incredible tool to create fantastic Powerpoint presentations and allowed them to use so many different apps to increase and improve their knowledge and skills in various subjects. However, it also hindered simple things, such as classroom management, as well as forcing teachers to constantly check that students were on task and not just playing or using one of a plethora of games and apps that the device provides.

Nevertheless, I also found that certain International schools within the city, particularly IB (International Baccalaureate) schools had the right idea and implemented iPads very wisely - using them in focused lessons and sparingly. This enhanced their lessons greatly.

We need to find a balance where using iPads or any other form of technology can help students "think differently" when tackling a math problem or geography question, while also making school fun for students again - keeping in mind that higher scores are also a priority. I truly hope that this infusion of money into a fascinating piece of technology will be successful and long lasting in Ontario.

In the end, in these early stages of this new global implementation of technology - such as iPads and cell phones - within schools, there are many instances of success as well as failure. It depends on so many factors. I hope to delve into these possibilities even further as time goes by and we see how teaching methodologies evolve.

The debate continues.

Vital Links:

Cbc.ca article on the $150 million investment

Monday, September 15, 2014

Classroom Canada on Twitter


Classroom Canada on Twitter: News, updates, educational discourse and insight @classroomcanada

I am very pleased to announce to our teachers in the UK, Canada and all educators around the world that Classroom Canada is finally on twitter! I have always enjoyed posting on my personal twitter account and it dawned on me during the summer that twitter was the exact central hub I wanted for all things Classroom Canada and education in general - sprinkled with a little tidbit or two on traveling around the UK and beyond!

The focus will be on education in the UK, through various fantastic twitter accounts that we follow ourselves. From UKedchat to UKEd Magazine, there is so much to see, read about and discover in the digital world. However, I will also delve into education systems, info and tips from around the world, from the extensive use of technology in the Middle East to the innovative teaching happening in Finland and Asia. There is so much to learn from our global colleagues.

My main goal is to provide all updates regarding Classroom Canada's blog and facebook posts, teaching opportunities, as well as teaching tips from some of the best sources of education around the world.

All are welcome!


I hope you enjoy reading the tweets, re-tweets, news and information on our Twitter account on a daily basis. Feel free to comment, re-tweet and have your say whenever you feel the need!

Enjoy the journey @classroomcanada

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September 2014: A Back to School Promise

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Summer makes way for school halls and educating young minds

It's time. Time for another year of intellectual growth, epic battles of dialogue with students of all ages, paperwork, marking and even more marking! It's also the time when our teachers in London are officially back to work. Some long term teachers have already organized their classrooms and met their new students. While others - predominantly new cover teachers who have just arrived in London - are waiting anxiously for their first phone calls to begin their substitution duty and exploration of the UK school system. After almost two weeks, I can say that the hectic year has started already.

The weather is already cooling in London and autumn is just around the corner. Brisk morning walks to the tube, changing leaves, the toll of another church bell, peaceful strolls in parks after school. Shopping for last minute school supplies. Yes, it's a great time to be in London teaching.

As with any year, the challenges and workload pile up, yet we learn from each other as we go along. Whether it is from a fellow teacher at work, a caring sibling, or simply one of our students. Besides helping provide the best opportunities for Canadian teachers to find work and be successful in the UK, this blog is also a bountiful resource. This year, I promise to bring to all of our teachers in London, Canada, and from all over the world, even more insight into this teaching profession that we love and can sometimes hate. Further input on teaching methods and styles, classroom management, use of technology, interviews with teachers in London, and of course, travels in the UK and beyond.

The internet is our forum to share and I hope that we all have a busy, prosperous and fulfilling school year this 2014-2015 academic year!

Vital Links:

Classroom Canada website - to apply for new teaching jobs, ask us about teaching in London or just to get to know us better


Check out our new twitter account: @classroomcanada

Friday, August 22, 2014

Things to do this Fading August in England!

Festivals and good cheer since the days of old @ Source
Summer holiday events abound in the waning days of August

With the beginning of the school year rapidly approaching, many teachers can relish in the comforting thought that we are refreshed and recharged for the year to come. I can only hope that everyone will feel the same way by the time September returns to our calendars. Nevertheless, another one of the reassuring aspects of life in the UK is the plethora of events that happen all year long throughout the island. The month of August is no different.

Perusing the trusty 'Visit England' website in eager anticipation, I came across many fascinating adventures ripe for all to see and experience! August itself boasts 29 upon my initial search. The events ranged from the Oxford Foodies Festival, End of the Road and Bournemouth Air Festivals to three days of music in Leicestershire and the Robin Hood Festival. With a fantastic list to choose from, I only wish I had the opportunity to see it all!

Take a look, choose and enjoy.

As always, wherever you are in the world at this late stage of the summer break, I can only continue to emphasise the great importance of enjoying your surroundings and unique experiences anywhere you go, either by yourself or with your family and friends. Whether it is Canada - as you pack your bags to go back to London in the next couple of weeks - or Istanbul, on one of your final vacation stopovers this summer; or finally England itself - if you were so inclined to remain there this summer. It's what makes the difference between feeling like you are just doing a job in another country and knowing that you are having the most incredible time teaching and traveling in this vast world.

Vital links:

Visit England official website - list of events this August

Monday, August 4, 2014

John Venn's Big Day

The big 180 for Johnny V.
Happy Birthday John Venn!

Indeed it is John Venn's 180th birthday. For all of us here at Classroom Canada, I wanted to extend a heartfelt thanks to the man that created the essential, vital, eternal Venn Diagram.

Its use varies extensively, to say the least. From logic to statistics, Math and Geography, to Computer Science and even English. As definitively summarised by Wikipedia, the Venn Diagram is a diagram that "shows all possible logical relations between a finite collection of sets." For example, the relationship between creatures with two legs and creatures that can fly. Simple, yet ingenious, it allows us to find the common variables between two or multiple points of study.

Many times I have found myself using it in my English classes, from evaluating the similarities/differences between two poems on love, to comparing Lady Macbeth with the murderous advances of other nefarious characters in literature. The Venn Diagram brings perspective, order and focus to students who crave understanding and vision.

Venn Diagram showing which upper case letter glyphs are shared by the Greek, Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. Source

A man who began his education in London, in today's Highgate School, and ventured on to Cambridge to complete his degree in Mathematics - John Venn is a testimony to ingenious creativity mixed with pure logic and philosophy.

My hat off and a toast to you, good sir!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Misusing English Words

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Misusing English since Chaucer's days

What do the words Travesty, Ironic, Bemused and Enormity have in common? Why, they are simply part of a series of words that we have all been probably misusing since we first heard of their existence!

In '10 Words That You've Probably Been Misusing,' Tyler Vendetti has cleverly outlined ten of the worst offenders in terms of improper word usage. He touches on the fact that there are plentiful words in the English language that have had their definitions mixed up because of the simple fact that there are so many words in the English language itself.

Which begs the question: How long have each of us been using some of these words incorrectly? Rather than contemplate that question, I would rather turn your attention to Vendetti's 10 most common culprits:

Travesty
Ironic
Peruse
Bemused
Compelled
Nauseous
Conversate
Redundant
Enormity
Terrific

Sound familiar? To find out what you think each of these words mean, followed by an entertaining explanation of what they actually mean, be sure to check out Vendetti's post in the Vital Links below. Enjoy!

Vital Links:

10 Words That You've Probably Been Misusing 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Social Media: Bridging the Gap between School and Home

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Embracing Social Media

The extensive use of social media in every aspect of our live is undeniable. It's a part of our daily routine, some more immersed and intertwined in it than others. The fact is that it's there to stay, no matter how many people can't stand it, blaming it for their children's woes and failings in schools, and claiming the 'unplugged' life as the key to success. Be that as it may, social media is an important part of almost any successful profession, and it waits for those students who grow up and graduate from school. However, that's their future. The focus today is on our current students at school in the here and now.

I think the first underlying point we need to accept as educators is that kids enjoy using social media. It's one of the main ways they feel they can express themselves, keep in touch with their friends and thrive in a way of socialising that is quite different from the traditional, old school ways of 'hanging out.' Even students who don't fully embrace it use it, knowing it's a normal part of life, inside and outside of school. It incorporates both aspects of 'chat' - being able to talk, gossip and comment - as well as 'visual' - sharing photos of each other, whether to show their friends what they're doing on the weekend, or simply to take a picture of something they find interesting. As an extensive user myself, I find those aspects of social media brilliant.

As it stands, eradicating social media is an impossibility. Parents and teachers can try to curb and limit it's use, but inevitably it is there at the end of the day, waiting for eager kids and teenagers to resume their digital socialising ways with intensity. It think the more wiser choice would be to first understand the use of social media, the mentality behind its use; followed by embracing its positive potential and implementing ways of utilising it to help students achieve their goals at school - while also understanding your students better.

Constructive feedback through social media

Recording feedback onto an online system - which parents can then access -  via a smartphone is a great way to provide constructive feedback to your students while also keeping their parents up to date on the progress of their children, including their strengths and weaknesses. This parent-teacher-student interaction does not have to be limited to only parents' evening anymore, or end-of-year reports. It's now, immediate and interactive.

ClassDojo is another great program which enables teachers to record feedback for students which they can see immediately, both academic and behavioural - it's a great resource for enforcing better classroom management. Students can be rewarded for good behaviour, while also being reprimanded for poor antics. Best of all, it's all recorded and all parties can see students' habits and progress over time. Some teachers even choose to blog and tweet about the work their students are doing. Apps such as Evernote enable teachers to share students' portfolios with their parents. Edmondo lets parents see the written work of their kids, including teacher feedback and homework for any particular day.

I think all of these great tools really push students to work harder since they know their parents are watching their progress, as well as their teachers. As for the parents themselves, it gives them a medium to keep in touch with the school work of their children in a more efficient and manageable way - rather than the old method of letter sending.

Finding a balance amid the risks of social media and networking

Naturally, with each social media platform comes risks. Namely, the spread of false information, gossip and plain lies. Closer interactions with parents can unfortunately lead to a forum for complaints, inappropriate and uncomfotable situations, and cyberbullying. And it's not the students that are necessarily doing it.

Vigilance, careful planning and execution is paramount. We need to have a sound strategy of how to implement each social media platform, understanding its full capabilities, potential, and knowing exactly how we want to use them. This, of course, varies with each teacher. The ultimate goal is to get students to work harder and take responsibility for their schoolwork. Not being shy to use the tools out there and getting parents more directly involved will only aid in this quest for academic betterment.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Weekend Trips in the UK #2 - Aviemore, Scotland

Scenic views in Aviemore, Scotland. Source
Peaceful trekking in the Highlands

I have always been fascinated with Scotland, particularly the Highlands. Thinking about it now, I can't recall if I became enamoured with this magical place studying UK history as a young boy or after watching Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery swinging swords in 'Highlander' for the first time all those years ago. Whatever the case, travelling to Scotland to witness the beauty of the Highlands became a dream for me early on in my life.

As teachers, we all feel the need to detox and relax after frantic days in school, especially near the end of the academic year. A trip to the Highlands is certainly one of the best ways to recharge your energy and spirits. When I got the opportunity to teach in the UK not long ago, I seized my chance almost immediately and made the long journey north, several times.

The journey itself to any location in the UK is always a joy. Whether you choose to rent a car, take a tour bus or fly, each method of transport is unique. When travelling to Scotland, however, I insist you take a train. There is just something about a peaceful, coasting train ride through the English countryside, followed by a plodding climb up the fields and hills of Scotland.

Source
My senses were certainly stimulated that early summer weekend on the train from Paddington. It is particularly fascinating when you pass the border of England and Scotland. There was no wall of Hadrian proportions barring potential invaders - rather a modest looking fence, much like a farmer's boundary, separating the two countries.

Aviemore itself is a town and tourist resort that can be found in the Cairngorms National Park in the Highlands. The town itself is known for its ski resort - Britain's most visited during the winter months. However, what drew me to the place was the prospect of hillwalking in the Cairngorm Mountains. The railway station at Aviemore offers a particularly majestic view of the Cairngorms. There are plenty of things to see, and Aviemore - with its surrounding ancient forests, lochs and rivers - is one of the finer spots in the whole of the UK, summer or winter.

In terms of accommodation, The Cairngorm Hotel is right in the middle of town. And after a day of exploring the peaceful surroundings, there is no better way to wind down the evening than sitting with your friends by the open window and sipping on a "Sheepshaggers Gold" or "Tradewinds." The days do tend to go by quietly, but there are pubs and nightspots within the town itself if you fancy that as well.

Dell Lodge Source
For those seeking more of the "good life," there are holiday cottages in Aviemore you could only imagine in your dreams. Quaint, pretty, splendidly serene. One option is the Dell Lodge in Aviemore, a Georgian country house by an ancient Caledonian forest in the Cairngorms. It is run by a couple who organise several interesting activities and workshops, from yoga to bread-making and even playing the ukelele. They offer a weekend package for those who are interested. I think it's a spectacular idea for a relaxing weekend. Alexandra Topping, from the Guardian, wrote a great piece on this very location, detailing the experiences she had on a weekend at the Dell. Reading by the fireplace in the winters, or biking nearby in the summer, accentuated by plenty of food, drink and good cheer, the "good life" is surely a lovely prospect to consider.

For me, this part of Scotland is summed up best by Alexandra after she had just spent a few hours mountain biking through the forest: "The key is that the activities draw you into the surroundings, engage you over dinner, and stimulate mind and body...'I think people are starting to realise that checking your phone all the time doesn't make you feel great,' says Louise. 'This,' she adds, spraying through mud, 'makes you feel great.' "

Aviemore, another jewel of the United Kingdom.

Vital Links:

A 'Good Life' at the Dell Lodge in Aviemore - the Guardian article

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Canada Day 2014

Just lounging about with Johnny A. Mac on a beautiful Canada Day. Source
Happy Canada Day 2014!

It's that celebratory day on the calendar, July 1st! Hockey touting, Tim Hortons questing, Maple Leaf wearing, hanging out with all our buds, time of year again! As Canadians, we know how to have a relaxing, fun time, whether it's with our friends, family, or just fellow citizens. Taking a stroll through the online world yesterday, I was interested to see what exciting events were on hand in London for July 1st.

What struck me right away was that the Canada Day festivities at Trafalgar Square, a staple of all things Canadian in the UK - food, concerts, visiting RCMP's, etc. - for the last 8 years, was sadly cancelled. "Due to extenuating circumstances..." Which of course smelled like financial obligations not being met. Alas, whatever the case, one of the most popular 'Canadian' events of the year in London was not happening today. No home away from home.

And so like many other Canadians, as I noted on the Canada Day International facebook page, I just moved on to see what else I could find. I wasn't the only one. One Mark Sultana, from Burlington, posted that he was organising an event called 'Pop Up Canada' at a pub by Trafalgar Square - there will be a one-man act, but plenty of Canadian drinks and poutine. There are always alternatives and opportunities to make the most out of today.

Yes, the celebration this time may lack the pomp and grandeur of yesteryears, but as always, we make do with what we have. It's Canada Day, time for whatever you want it to be. Humble barbecues with your mates outside the flat, catching a dinner and a movie with some Canuck friends, going to a concert, or just wearing a Canadian shirt on this day, to remind all your students that you are from Canada - yes, that country beside America. No, you don't say "eh" in every sentence. And no, Justin Bieber did not live on your street. We are the country that rocks at the Winter Olympics, but woeful at the Summer games. Rubbish at football (saw-kah - British for soccer), but getting better at tennis. Just all around cool teachers and even cooler people.

From all of us here at Classroom Canada, I wish everyone a very Happy Canada Day!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Does Going Online Help Students Appreciate the Classics More?


Digital Dickens you say? Source
Turning students towards online access to primary texts

Ever since I can remember, I have always enjoyed reading classic literature - from Swift and Defoe to Sterne and Dumas. As my enjoyment of studying the English language became stronger in high school, so did my interest in writing. The connection between the two grew inexorably, eventually leading me to the teaching profession itself.

It's a typical English teacher's story, told by a typical English teacher.

Not every person, however, has the same interests. This is natural, encouraged and expected. Many students flock to maths, science and business; some to art and PE. We are all unique in our interests and passions. Nevertheless, I have always believed in a balance between all subjects. As a student, I made an effort to dabble in many different subjects - Geography, Social Sciences, Astronomy. I have always felt that our students need to have a certain understanding of most of the subjects we teach in school. A good, basic comprehension. You never know what knowledge or skills you will need in the future. For example, for some reason I have constantly found myself using math over the years. Did I study it in Year 13 in school or university? Absolutely not. But there it sits, needing to be used, as if to say gloatingly: "You know you need me." So I crunch the numbers, add, subtract and multiply. Another skill.

Studying literature may seem pointless to many, but I believe it has such an importance in our lives today and for the future. Many ask, "Why is it important to read a story about something that happened to a fictitious character in a setting that is 150 years old?" In itself, this is a true statement, logically makes sense. But there lies a richness in classical literature that explores so many themes, issues and topics that echo in our world today in the 21st century. It is one thing to say that, but quite another to make our students understand and grasp this themselves.

The classic approach struggles to say the least. A paperback book intimidates all those who first glimpse it. A Dickens novel looks very much daunting. Take 'Bleak House' for example. Its size is staggering, littered with such rich, descriptive writing. Still, not very appealing to your average 16 or 17 year old. We read the books aloud, ask comprehension questions, sprinkled with critical ones, and it can all be hit or miss depending on the class we are teaching, as well as the individuals. At the end of the process though, the students always feel like they are being forced to read the literature we give them. They ultimately struggle to identify with classic authors. What is the best approach then?

In a recent Guardian article by Roger Walshe, he writes about a survey which concluded that "94% of teachers reported that students rely on online sources when conducting research." It seems staggering, but completely makes sense. Why read a 150 page chunk of 'Pride and Prejudice,' one night, highlighting and taking notes - the proper way - when I can just 'sparknotes' that, finding all the answers, character analysis and plot summaries that I need. Yes, I kill the thrill of discovering the plot twists as I go, but at least I won't get zero on my homework.

It's the unfortunate truth - many students don't mind killing those precious moments of literature exploration, as long as the work is done.

One reason springs up: According to another survey by Walshe, "82% [of]...students struggle to identify with Victorian or Romantic authors..." In their opinion, the resources teachers are given are uninspiring. Walshe suggests exposing students to more authentic primary sources, such as letters, manuscripts, newspaper reports and notebooks - "student respond to the aura and authenticity of the real thing." It's one thing to imagine Dickens writing "back in the day," but an entirely different thing to see some of his old manuscripts and drafts, observing words crossed out, corrections made, realising that even a great author such as Charles D. made mistakes in his day.

But how to get a hold of these original sources that have always been in the possession of those chosen few historians and literary academics who have the privilege to handle and study them. Walshe has a solution for this as well: Discovering Literature. In his own words, it is a "digital gateway to more than 1000 of our greatest literary treasures, from the manuscript of Jane Eyre [to]...newspapers, maps, photographs and other supporting materials which bring their lives - and works - to life."

I think it's a brilliant resource. It enables students to learn about classic literature through the use of material that "brings to life the social, political and cultural world of the author." Perhaps with these original materials, we as teachers can inspire our students, and ourselves, to see classic, old literature in a new, more relevant perspective where each student can find something significant they can identify with - whether personal or social. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing classic literature to the inevitability of time and the digital landscape of our modern society.

Vital links:




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

New Teaching Jobs This September in London

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2184/2474763910_9898b00e9c.jpg
A plethora of classroom opportunities. Source
Opportunities abound in London this September 2014!

As the school year winds down, here at Classroom Canada we are already looking at teaching positions for Canadian teachers to fill for this September. Hence today's post has a more 'business air' about it. On we go!

After perusing the list of teaching jobs just handed to me from London for this coming fall, I must say the opportunities are boundless and very extensive. Here are just a few Primary, Secondary and Teaching Assistant positions that are available for YOU to take advantage of, whether you are in London already or thinking of going to London to teach this summer:

Primary KS2 Teacher in East London, September - This is a great opportunity to work in a fantastic school in East London. We are looking for a flexible and adaptable teacher, who will in return, be fully supported by the school. This position is for September.

Primary KS2 Teacher in Haringey (North London), September - We are looking for an exceptional teacher to join a department which is proud to promote excellent teaching and learning in order to secure outstanding outcomes for students, thus inspiring a love of learning.

Teaching Assistants at an Oustanding SEN school in NW London - An 'Outstanding' SEN School in North West London require learning support assistants to join them on a full time basis from September 2014 until July 2015.

Secondary Teachers needed for Long-term teaching positions in various London schools - We are looking for Teachers of all subjects to fill our Long-term positions that we have recently received. If you are a Newly Qualified Teacher or an experienced teacher looking for a change we may have many options available for you. If you are not looking for a Long-term or Permanent position then we also offer supply work Daily or short term.

English Teacher needed in East London for September - A modern school in East London is looking for an English teacher who is looking to become part of a strong team of teachers looking to inspire and teach the young minds of this generation. We are searching for an exceptional teacher to join a department which is proud to promote excellent teaching and learning in order to secure outstanding outcomes for students, thus inspiring a love of English.

These are just a few of the positions to consider this summer for a September start date. Please do click on the links and take a moment to fully read the descriptions for each available position - including key attributes and skills we are looking for, as well as the benefits of working with Classroom. There is still plenty of time to apply and start living the career you have always wanted in teaching in the magnificent city of London!

You can also find a list of ALL the currently available teaching jobs that we have for you in London here. All 68 of them!

To apply for these teaching jobs in London, or to apply for supply teaching & other contracts with Classroom Canada, simply submit your resume/CV and cover letter to 

apply@classroomcanada.com.

 

Vital Links for Teaching in London:

 

Classroom Canada website

 

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

10 Things Parents Want to Say to Teachers, but Can't...

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"Well, now that you mention it, I have something to say to you too..." Source
Secret Parent shares the reasons behind parents' frustrations with teachers

A few days ago I touched upon a very insightful and honest article from theguardian.com, outlining '10 things teachers want to say to parents, but can't.' It covered different aspects of the parent-child relationship, as well as parental support in the education of their children, inside and outside of school. Some of the points are so very true, but at the same time, I thought 'what would I think or have to say if I read that post as a parent?'

The answer was obvious, naturally:

"10 Things Parents Want to Say to Teachers, but Can't..."

Just as candid, this article - once again from the Guardian - was apparently created by a Secret Parent who, I believe, has some very good points to make.

My top 5 include:

1. We're confused by complicated grading
2. Homework - let's all keep it real
3. Ditch the crumpled letters home
4. We are not a blob - rather, a lot of individuals
5. Talk to us honestly

Indeed, lots to read and think about here. Do enjoy the article and I hope you can also appreciate both perspectives in this vital balance that needs to be attained by parents and teachers in order for all students to succeed.

Vital links:

"10 Things Parents Want to Say to Teachers, but Can't..."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

10 Things Teachers Want to Say to Parents, but Can't...

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"I have something to say to you..." Source
Things you have always wanted to share with the parents of your students

With the end of the school year closing in rapidly, many teachers like to reflect on the year that was, both professionally and personally. Thinking of ways to help my students improve their performance for next year, I find myself contemplating the numerous meetings I had with the parents of my students. Meetings both during Parent-Teacher evenings and other times during a school day itself when certain academic and behavioural issues needed to be discussed with particular students.

For the most part, the parents I have met and gotten to know over the year have been patient, supportive and very much helpful when it comes to encouraging their children to succeed in school. However, as we all know, there are some parents that can be, let's just say, a little more difficult to deal with. Professionalism and patience need to be at their best in these cases, to say the least.

Often, in those situations, we all wish we could say a thing or two about how we really think they should help their children - your students - succeed. Advice that you know, and I know, would be incredibly beneficial to all parties involved.

And with that, I give you "10 things teachers want to say to parents, but can't." It's a very candid, informative and, dare I say, entertaining article from a primary teacher writing via theguardian.com.

My top 5 from the list:

1. Your kids are not your mates
2. Data levels aren't everything
3. Video games carry certificates for a reason
4. John Terry is no role model
5. Sorry, your kid's just lazy

Please do check out the full list, complete with great explanations for each, at the vital link provided below. I highly recommend you read the numerous comments provided by other teachers who gave their two cents on the topic - they have some great lists of their own as well!

Vital links:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tech Meets Handwriting

lernstift
The Lernstift pen - Source
The Lernstift pen corrects your spelling, grammar and penmanship

Last week, I wrote a post on the declining skill of handwriting that is affecting all our students from daily classwork to exams. It has been a growing problem over the years as technology has extended its reach and hold on teenagers who often rely too much on their use.

Improving students' handwriting is something that I have always been conscientious of while teaching. I want my students to improve, while at the same time understanding the transition period involved in practicing one's writing form. It cannot be done over night and yet students have notes to write on a daily basis and tests to complete every week. I've suggested before that they could work on their handwriting over the winter and summer breaks, but enforcing that is difficult. Parents would be as much a part of that process as the students.

So what could help them improve their handwriting in a positive, supportive and useful way on a daily basis? This weekend I came across a Time article from last year that featured the Lernstift pen - which promises to "bring handwriting into the current century." It's function seems simple enough: It has motion sensors that analyze your strokes as you write, either on paper or in mid-air; if it detects any errors then it will buzz via a vibrating motor built inside the pen itself - letting you know that you need to make a correction.

It has two modes: Calligraphy and Orthography. One to detect any words that you have written wrong or illegibly. The other mode vibrates once if you misspelled a word, and twice for any grammatical errors in the sentences you form. There is still an element of challenge for the user as the pen will not indicate exactly which word was incorrectly written or misspelled - simply that a mistake was made and you must find out which one. An interesting feature.

Even though the German company that designed the pen is still in the process of raising enough money to mass produce it, they hope that they will be able to launch limited quantities of the pen's first version this summer.

I find the concept really interesting, and the potential is certainly there. However, I can also envision many frustrated students having immense difficulties coping with the amount of error-induced vibrations that will tingle their hands as they practice, at least in the early stages. I guess the old adage "no pain no gain" seems appropriate here. At the very least, it is a positive attempt to link technology with the old tradition of transferring ink/charcoal to paper, and will one day hopefully improve the handwriting (and grammar/spelling) of all students.

Vital links:

Time article - Lernstift Pen

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The World Cup 2014 Beginneth - Enjoy it in London

Brazil's showcase in 2014 Source
Where to watch the World Cup in London

No matter who you are, where you're from, what subject you teach, or what sports you favour, everyone can be a part of the Fifa World Cup. One of the greatest sporting events on the planet, it boasts teams from a very diverse collection of countries, with supporters from all over the world. For those who have been fortunate enough to have a home country participating in the tournament, it will be a month of drama, frustration, joy, disappointment, and perhaps euphoria. For the neutral observer, however, the World Cup is a feast of football, pleasing to the eye and soul - at least those who love the game of football!

And it all begins today.

Truth be told, not everyone likes watching football, but I have found over the years that this global tournament for football greatness and immortality is a spectacular event that always brings together family, friends and countrymen for one glorious month. This year's edition will not be any different. If you are traveling anywhere this month on the weekends, watching the World Cup in different countries can be such a thrill. A stopover in France this Sunday, for example, to watch Les Bleus play Honduras in a cafe in Paris would be exceptional. All the French supporters sitting or standing around you, their nerves being tested to the utmost degree. It's a great experience. Or perhaps watching Switzerland versus Ecuador in Basel the same day if you happen to be in the Swiss city on the weekend.

I remember being in a lovely little cafe/restaurant in Zurich, Switzerland to watch the World Cup Final in 2010 between Spain and the Netherlands. The place was filled with Holland supporters. For the fun of it, my friend and I were supporting Spain as we knew so many of their players from the domestic league in Spain, which we follow. A seesaw battle, when Spain finally scored the first goal - which was the eventual winner - late in the game, the two of us jumped with excitement. I then found out how many other people were pulling for Spain in our little venue - two. After the momentary silence that ensued, followed by the final whistle, I remember having a chat with the Holland supporters after the game, talking about the game in friendly banter. I just love seeing the reaction of fans who have invested their time and heart to watch their teams compete at the highest level, hoping and praying that they'll win. It's great fun!

Let's not forgot the three lions of England. They too are in the World Cup, as they usually are every four years. Usually enshrouded in disappointment with each passing edition of the tournament - with the exception of 1966 - there is nevertheless always hope for the team at the start of the competition. Many Canadians have their roots in England, so it's only natural to follow them when the action begins. The support can be immense.

But where would be the best place to watch each game?

Besides the comfort of your home, there are so many places to watch the World Cup this summer in London. I was perusing a good article from Conde Nast Traveller this morning and found out about some really great and interesting places in the whole of the UK where you can go watch the games - either with some friends, colleagues, or just on your own:

From a Brazilian cultural experience at a place in Soho that shows EVERY single game to the massive outdoor screen at the Summer of Sport in The City - including street food from all over the world. There's also the 'Fever Pitch' in Fulham which will be strung out with flags and fitted with 14 large screens so fans can see from every corner of the venue. Other unique and really interesting places include the rooftop venue at Netil360 - where you can bring your own beverages. Go see the spectacular views of London while catching the games at Paramount at Centre Point or The Dome at the O2 and so many more. A plethora of different themes, cuisine and drinks for all tastes. Take a look at the link below for all the details in full for every single place!

At the very least, the World Cup is a welcome distraction of excitement to all the lessons and schoolwork that still await this month and next. Enjoy!

Vital links:

Conde Nast Traveller article

The world's most amazing football pitches - in pictures

Official list of all the World Cup Matches

Monday, June 9, 2014

Losing Marks Because of Poor Handwriting

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How's your handwriting? Source

Losing marks in exams due to bad handwriting

"Sir, I can't actually lose marks because of my bad handwriting, right?" I remember this infamous question last year while teaching one of my Year 7 English classes in London. Years ago, I would have lightly jested that "of course you can't lose any marks. Unless the person grading your test cannot understand a single word you are writing because your handwriting resembles a doctor's scribble." However, on that particular day last year, I had a different answer for my student.

According to a recent article by Graeme Paton, Education Editor at The Telegraph, research is suggesting that "digital technology is having a major impact on pupils' handwriting skills, with teachers unable to read exam scripts and emoticons creeping into students' work." This naturally affects their marks as teachers penalize them for illegible writing. And that's two-thirds of teachers who have admitted doing so, according to the figures. Admittedly, I wasn't too surprised when I then read that more than a third had also seen emoticons in exam answers and coursework (35% of teachers found them in exam answers). You think students would know when it is appropriate to use emoticons, but apparently this isn't the case - I have seen this myself, by students even in Year 11.

Paton also writes about the great number of students who "were being left with blisters and aching hands after being forced to write for long periods because of a lack of practice." Who could ever forget that feeling of marathon writing back in the day? Thinking of my current students, I frown with deep concern when one of my pupils complains about his hand aching with pain after writing a single page of paragraph writing that comprises his essay response. It is definitely a concern, especially with the over-reliance on ipads and other technology at school and home. But that's a topic for another time.

Paton further points to previous research that suggested that "children who struggle to write fluently devote more brain capacity to getting words onto a page during tests - interfering with their ability to generate ideas, select vocabulary or plan work properly." I have seen evidence of this numerous times over the past few years. You can see it in the disorganized writing of many students, their work unplanned and conveyance of points and vocabulary scattered.

Fortunately, because the student I mentioned above is only in Year 7, he and his classmates still have time to improve their handwriting. At the time, I already had a collection of specifically designed pens that helped improve my students' writing. I used about 4 per class, I recall. But that was not nearly enough. The same chance for improvement can't be said for many of my Year 11 students who have developed their own style of writing for years - many unique yet not legible. This poses a particular problem for them as they might not be as willing to work hard to improve their writing.

As an old school 'handwriting person,' I understand when other teachers scoff or severely criticize students for these "travesties" in English writing, but I also know that it is not a simple issue that can be remedied easily. There are other things to consider as well - for example the situation and viewpoint of the student. They've grown up in a society that embraces and overuses emoticons. Yet, it's part of our language now, how we communicate with each other. At one point last year, I was also teaching the use of technology in English classrooms to my Year 9s. We watched a very entertaining and interesting TED Talks video on the use of text messages and how the 'decline of handwriting' has been talked about for millennia by many. The speaker, John McWhorter, believes that there is much more to texting, both linguistically and culturally (see video below).

This deterioration in handwriting skills has been predicted for many years by countless traditional English language standard bearers. I remember reading articles commenting on the decline of handwriting skills back in 2008 (see similar articles below). It's definitely tough to see kids who struggle with handwriting, especially if they have not had enough practice over the years and have settled for simple scribbles to get their answers across on a piece of paper. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement, but it needs to be a conscious and assertive effort from parents, teachers and especially students. They need to understand the importance of good handwriting in order to be successful in Primary and Secondary school, as well as University and College. It is vital. I can't even begin to think how I would have survived so many of my exams without my ability to hand write cursive quickly and legibly.

Going back to Graeme Paton's article, he mentions that the UK Government has "now pledged to improve standards, with handwriting playing a bigger part in a newly revamped National Curriculum...Schools are required to hold 'frequent and discrete' lessons in handwriting for five- to seven-year-olds, with pupils being expected to hold pencils properly and form letters correctly and confidently." This is certainly a step in the right direction.

However, it shouldn't stop there. The solid practice of handwriting needs to continue for students into their teens. Anyone who has ever taken notes in high school or during lectures knows how important handwriting is in the retention of knowledge: "The fluid motion of writing and rewriting notes helps to instill the data in the mind more efficiently than the process of typing, making it an effective revision tool which aides information recall."

The last statement is a keen observation and fact that currently holds an advantage over technology. This is true for both complex passages and historical facts, as well as simple, basic English or Math formulas. For students that have difficulty achieving high scores on spelling quizzes in my classes, I always suggest they write out the words 10 times each as they prepare for a quiz. Once they apply this old and extremely simple method, I find that there scores are nearly always flawless once they write the test itself. Again, the underlying point here is the use of handwriting to practice, not typing words on a keyboard.

Still, there is hesitation and low motivation from many students who themselves scoff - in return - the very mention of handwriting. As Paton sums up at the end of his article, "Some 89 per cent of those responding to the poll said they now revised using laptops and computers, while more than half deemed the 'traditional method of note-taking with a pen and paper outdated.'"

The debate surely continues.

Vital Links:

the-principal.com article - Link to the actual article from 'The Telegraph' by Graeme Paton

TED Talks - John McWhorter: Txting is killing the language. JK!!!

5 Reasons to teach spelling and handwriting

Pupils with poor handwriting 'do less well in school tests'

Pupils' handwriting 'increasingly illegible' 

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