A Look Back at My Professional Learning Network

How have you contributed to the learning of others?

It’s hard to believe that a few short months ago my ECMP 355 class met for our first online class, using Zoom. This video application that was relatively new to me.  The first class was a basic overview of what the class would be about, what tools we were expected to use to help grow our PLN, and we even participated in a “mock” class chat on Twitter using the #ecmpchat.

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The idea of a Twitter chat was not new to me.  During internship I had my class participate in a #myclasschat led by Miss Smith’s internship class at Pilot Butte.  However, before beginning ECMP 355, my participation in these types of chats have been limited and few and far between.  I was wondering why this was the case and I think the reason was my own self-doubt.  I did not credit myself enough to actively engage in these chats.  However, I have learned that this isn’t the case at all.  I have learned that Twitter chats are relatively safe spaces to share ideas, listen to others, and critically think about important concepts in a collaborative manner. One regret I have is not having the chance to participate in a #saskedchat. These chats take place on Thursday nights. The problem is that I had volleyball this semester on Thursday nights during the time these chats took place.  However, I did get the opportunity to participate in Twitter chats that S.T.A.R.S (Student Teachers Anti-Racist/Anti-Oppressive Society) faciliated.  Take a look below at an example of the #STARSchat where I engage with my friend and colleague, Meagan Dobson on the importance of creating an inclusive classroom, but the reality of feeling unprepared.

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The first time I remember creating a Twitter account for the purpose of expanding my PLN was in my second year of university for an education class.  If I am being honest, I rarely utilized this account. The only time I engaged with Twitter was when I was prompted to do so by my professor.  Skip ahead one year and I found that I was beginning to see the benefits of Twitter during my pre-internship year.  Although at this time I was not interacting to the extent that I had hoped on Twitter, I was able to learn from other educators using Twitter, interact with my colleagues, and use my account as a platform to share the work I was doing in my pre-internship. Now, as I am finishing up my final year of my education degree, I can see that ECMP 355 has encouraged me to be an active member of Twitter. Certainly I can continue to work on expanding my PLN through the means of Twitter. I would argue that every educator should have this same goal whether you have a network of five or five hundred.  The moment we stop working on our PLN is the moment we stop growing and learning as educators.  As a result we become stale for lack of a better word.  However, as I mentioned above, this class has allowed me to grow my PLN through Twitter by contributing not only to others in ECMP 355 and ECMP 455, but also by contributing to learning networks outside of this class.  Take a look below at a summary of some of the times I was able to contribute to the learning and growth of others.  It might be something as simple as a re-tweet, sharing an article, or responding to questions, blog posts, etc.

The other two areas where we were encouraged to contribute to our online community of learning were through blogging and Google Plus.  I was a lot more active on blogging than I was on the Google Plus community.  I struggled with this at the beginning of the course because I felt I was neglecting my responsibility to engage on Google Plus.  This is not to say that I never used Google Plus. I used the Google Plus community to respond to classmate’s questions or prompts.  Here is an example of me responding to Shaylane on a video she posted to the Google Plus community.

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However, my choice to engage more with my blog and the blogs of my classmates was a personal choice as much as it was a growing experience. In my first blog in ECMP 355, Why Blog? I shared my personal feelings with my own discomfort of blogging.

“To be completely honest, blogging is not something that comes natural for me. At times I find it uncomfortable to share my experiences with others on the Internet.  I am not one who posts or shares a lot on social media.  I am the type of person that would rather sit and have a cup of coffee with a friend to hear about their latest adventure or simply catch up as opposed to read it off the screen.  Therefore, I was a little skeptical of having to fire up my blog again for ECMP 355.”

I will admit that through ECMP 355, blogging is something I started to look forward to on a weekly basis.  It became a time when I could sit down and disconnect myself from everything else going on in my life and reflect on something that was meaningful, authentic, and important.  I thought less about what people might critique about my posts, and more about my personal feelings, emotions, connections; it became an outlet for me to speak in a relatively safe space, and a space where I could begin to unpack some significant issues alongside my classmates.  When I look back, some blog posts that I wrote that really mean a lot to me personally include the following.

I Dare You to Disconnect

What is Your Word?

Are Kids Losing Their Childhood?

The topics of my posts, whether chosen or given a prompt, to blog about allowed me to think critically.  I always appreciated seeing when people commented on my blog.  It means a lot to know someone is taking the time to read something you have put a lot of thought into.  Trust me, my blog posts were never something that were whipped together.  Although ideally that would have saved a lot of time, I always found I was reconstructing, editing, revising, and removing things from my posts before publishing.  Even when I did hit publish, I was never one hundred percent satisfied. However, I was able to take a lot away from the comments on my blog and I always made an effort to respond to those that took the time to leave a reply. Below are a few interactions that took place on my blog.

For me, reading other blog posts of classmates was equally important as writing my own.  It is amazing to think that a group of pre-service teachers, soon to be entering the workforce, are blogging about such meaningful and critical issues.  The fact these conversations are happening is an important step.  Blogging is more than just writing a post and closing the laptop.  Blogging involves being an actively engaged and valued member of an online community.  By reading other posts, commenting, and interacting with others in the class, I was able to challenge my own ways of thinking, learn new perspectives, and expand my knowledge.  Although I was diligent in reading and writing on numerous blog posts throughout the semester, I found that there were a few individuals in the class that became very valuable members of my PLN.

Gillian’s posts always inspired me to think beyond the issue with a deeper lens. Sometimes her posts challenged my ways of thinking. Throughout the semester, I noticed my blogs were often influenced by her thoughts, or adversely, I often found myself reading her posts after writing mine and realizing there was so much I did not consider.

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Larissa’s blog and comments always reassured me that I was writing posts that were somewhat worthy of reading.  I found comfort in reading her posts and was able to relate to a lot of the things she was writing about.

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Andrew’s post were deeply layered with critical thinking, humour, and maybe most important of all, the duel perspective of teacher and father.  He allowed me to view concepts with a double lens, one of which I was not able to provide for myself as I have no experience being a parent.

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Lastly, Ashton’s blog had a sense of easiness to them.  She was able to write in a way that spoke directly to her intent behind the post.  I especially appreciated her learning project posts because they gave me a sense of direction in my own project.

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It is a shock to me, but I found a sense of place commenting and interacting with other blogs.  By that, I mean that blogging created a unique network, where I felt comfortable taking part in valuable dialogue with others. Below is a couple more examples of interactions I made in order to help contribute to the learning of others and myself.

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As I sit here reflecting on my work in this class and consider how I have come to appreciate the art of blogging I cannot help but laugh. Thinking back to the beginning of this course, we discussed what makes a good blog post.  We talked about creating a catchy title, sharing personal insight, and not making posts too lengthy.  Ironically enough, this final blog post for ECMP 355 does not fit all the criteria. But as ironic as it may be, it is not the length of this final blog post that I want to emphasize. Instead I want to focus on my accomplishments.  I think this post speaks for itself.  This class, the platform given to create weekly blogs, and the contributions I made to the learning of others gave me the encouragement I needed to begin to create an online space to expand my digital identity as I move forward and continue to grow my PLN as an educator.

Here is a brief summary log of my PLN interactions.

Cheers ECMP 355.

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My Learning Project Summary: A Personal Reflection

A PERSONAL JOURNEY…

My major learning project is coming to a close and I have really been reflecting on what I have accomplished over the last few months. When I think back to the beginning of this project I remember feeling nervous to begin. I also remember feeling a little bit embarrassed to tell people about my learning project. Was I embarrassed because I thought I would fail? Was I embarrassed because I did not know how to utilize a gym? Was I embarrassed because I felt vulnerable to let others see my journey? I was experiencing all of these feelings.

Vulnerability Quote

As uncomfortable as I was at times to share this personal learning project, I am thankful that I stuck with it. This journey became so much more than a simple learning project. As much as it was a journey of learning to use the gym and lead a healthier lifestyle, it also became a journey of self-empowerment. I feel more confident and comfortable. I no longer walk into a gym and lack confidence or feel like people are judging me. Throughout this learning project, I have never claimed to be a fitness expert. I am actually the farthest thing from it. I still have a lot of goals at the gym, a lot of learning to still be had, and a lot of growth that I still hope to see. This major learning project was the platform that I needed to begin this journey. It is not something that I plan to stop, but instead, it is a lifelong journey.

I started to think about the progress that I made. Physically, I notice that I feel better. Maintaining regular physical activity at the gym has improved my sleeping habits, I feel more energized, and I although not noticeable to others, I have gained some (not a lot) muscle mass. However, the biggest growth might have been mentally. Mentally, I have gained confidence, I became more knowledgeable about what I am doing at the gym, and I feel a sense of calmness. Although my physical transformation is not noticeable to others, my main goal was not to gain three inches on my arms or develop a six-pack. Instead, my goal was to gain confidence and feel comfortable using the gym in order to develop a healthier lifestyle. With saying that, I think it can be discouraging when we do not see results. At times, I felt this throughout my project. Realistically, I did not expect to see a huge physical transformation after a few months. This article was extremely important for me to read as I move forward in my journey. The article discusses how living a physical lifestyle is only a part of seeing a physical transformation. I know one area that I need to improve on is my nutrition. This is an area where I feel I lack knowledge and need to further educate myself.  My learning project has allowed me to see this as one of my weaknesses. However, it has also made it possible for me to be one step closer to making this change.

TAKING A LOOK BACK…

I accomplished a lot of things during this major learning project. Here is a summary of the exercises that I learned more about.

  • Cardio Exercises (treadmill, spin bike, elyptical, HIIT)
  • Free Weight Exercises
  • Lower Body Exercises
  • Upper Body Exercises
  • Circuit Training
  • Full Body Workout

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As well, I learned a fair amount through the different online articles that I read throughout this project. I think the resource I used the most throughout this project was Men’s Fitness. I found that Men’s Fitness was a great resource for finding various beginner exercise programs, it was a great resource for motivational pieces, and it was a great resource for quick tips. The Huffington Post was also an important resource throughout my learning project. I appreciated the articles related to fitness and health because they were quick reads, often wrote in numbered tips, and shed light on some of the fears I was facing throughout this journey.

You may have noticed that I kept referring to my major learning project as a journey. I think this is significant because it highlights that there is no end to this project. This was a project that pushed me outside of my comfort zone to gain the confidence to learn about the gym. How do I make the gym a part of my daily routine? How do I learn what works for me? These are questions that I have wanted to answer for years and this learning project was the encouragement that I needed. So, this is not the end of my learning. This is merely the beginning. This is a journey, and an important journey, that I aspire to continue.

Journey Quote

Final Tip of the Week: Don’t be afraid of to try something outside of your comfort zone. It can be the change that makes a significant difference in your life.

A Look into the Digital Playground with Carol Todd

Unfortunately I was unable to attend our live broadcast of ECMP 355 on Wednesday evening, but thanks to the power of technology, I was able to watch the recording of the class this weekend. Our prompt for our blog this week was fairly open ended. We were asked to respond to our guest presenter, Carol Todd. One would think that this would be easy. Carol Todd is the mother of Amanda Todd. For those of you who have not seen the 5th Estate documentary, The Sextortion of Amanda Todd, I highly recommend watching it. As I watched Carol Todd speak to the idea of digital citizenship, relating it to her daughter’s own experience, I was overwhelmed with her strength, her power, and her resilience. She was able to speak to her daughter’s legacy in a way that was uplifting. A way that shone light on what others can do to educate about digital citizenship, how to constructively use technology, and to think about how our actions can reflect who we are as human beings. But as I try to unpack everything that Todd shared with my class, I sit here unable to refine my thoughts.

I took the advice of my professor, Katia Hildebrandt, and watched the 5th Estate documentary, Stalking Amanda Todd: The Man in the Shadows. If you have any background with Amanda Todd’s story, this documentary follows the investigation of her online stalker. The disturbing part of this short, forty-minute documentary is the lack of commitment to finding this online predator. Could he have been stopped before Amanda Todd took her life? Watching this documentary helped me connect to some of the things Carol Todd spoke to our class about, mainly the steps that need to be taken by parents and educators in the technology literate world kids have come to know and love.

The Digital Playground

Something that Carol Todd spoke to our class about was this idea of the digital playground. This analogy she used was so effective because she was able to relate the world of yesterday to the world of today so to speak. She said that when her kids were growing up and going to an outdoor playground, she would take the time to make sure the park was safe. This means she would check the playground for broken glass, unsafe equipment, and document the other people using the playground. In the same way, parents need to take the time to check the so-called digital playgrounds that their kids are using. This means understanding the technology kids are using and teaching kids how to use them. Todd has an effective way of explaining this in her words below.

“Would you ever not teach your kids about driving a car when they are sixteen. As parents would we just hand over the keys and say ‘here you go, drive it, you’re sixteen now. We wouldn’t. So then why do we hand over cellphones and tablets without teaching them how to use it?’’

Digital Playground

via https://www.google.ca/search?q=Children+online&espv=2&biw=1440&bih=736 &source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj M2v3kk_PLAhVFsoMKHcEdDQoQ_AUIBigB#im grc=TBtKCZJ1qVA8NM%3A

The problem is that not all parents see technology in the same way as they view their child driving a car. Why is that? Is it because they do not understand the dangers of technology? Is it because they don’t want to take the time to teach their kids about technology? Maybe it is simply that they did not grow up with the same access to technology as their children so they are unaware of the measures that need to be taken. Whatever the reason may be, parents need to understand the risks of the digital playground and take the time to educate themselves and their children. Technology is not going away. It is a part of the world that kids will grow up in. The question that everyone needs to answer is how are ways of parenting and teaching going to shift to meet the needs of technology. If there isn’t a change, the story of Amanda Todd is going to become an all too familiar one.

A Week in the Life at the Gym

What works for me? This is something I have been thinking a lot about throughout my learning project. I have tried exercises at the gym that I really liked and workouts that just did not work for me. For example, I have come to realize that I am not a huge fan of machines. There are certain machines that I now use on a weekly basis, but I never spend an entire session at the gym using only machines. In general, I find that machines do not maximize my workouts and my goal every time I go to the gym is to use the time I spend there both effectively and efficiently.

So, what works for me? A question I have been trying to answer through learning how I can use the gym. Here is a 4 Week Full Body Workout for Beginners that I am interested in trying in the future. I am always skeptical of the workouts I find online, but this project has taught me to view online sources with a critical lens. Both Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness have become great online resources for me throughout this project. Of course, even with these two sites, I am critical of what I use. Given the time frame of this project and everything I have learned, I decided to focus this week on a total body workout that I created using the exercises I have learned thus far. One of my goals for this project was to be able to learn the foundations of a variety of exercises that targeted different muscle groups.  I had weeks where I focused on particular muscle groups such as the upper body and lower body. I also had weeks where I looked at particular types of exercises such as cardio and circuit training. I am not claiming, by any means, that I am some fitness trainer. Instead, the week at the gym that I created below is what I found worked for my lifestyle and me.

Take a look at what my week looked like.

Monday

  • 30 minute Cardio (Treadmill)

Tuesday

  • Upper Body Dumbbell Workout

  • Core Circuit

Wednesday

  • Circuit Training (lower body, upper body, high intensity intervals)

Thursday

  • Rest Day

Friday

  • 30 Minute Cardio (Spin)

Saturday

  • Rest Day

Sunday

  • Circuit Training (lower body, upper body, high intensity intervals)

You might have noticed that I am partial to circuit training. The reasons I like circuit training are because I can focus on more than one target area, I can continually change up the exercises I am doing, and it keeps me moving. I dislike going to the gym and feeling like I walked around for the majority of the time. I would rather go for thirty minutes to an hour and work hard  as opposed to spending over an hour feeling like I  wasted time walking around. I have learned that I like going to the gym with a plan. I rely on Men’s Fitness and YouTube videos to decide what exercises to include in my circuits for the day. This way I can decide what area I want to focus on, but still have direction and instructions for the particular exercises.

Tip of the Week: You do not have to be an expert to be your own coach! Use technology and other resources for direction, but make your own plan. It keeps you motivated and on task!

The Day I Became a Coder

Today I became a coder, or so I like to think. At the least, I began to learn the basics of coding. Coding is something that I have been hearing a lot about in the so-called education world. With a simple Google Search you can find a variety of resources to assist with coding in the classroom. This edutopia website provides five different articles that can help a teacher introduce the world of coding in their classroom. A good friend and colleague of mine, Mr. David Brown, is an advocate for the benefits of teaching students code in the classroom. I’ve been fortunate enough to have conversations with David about this topic, as well as attend his session at #TreatyEdCamp in the fall where he used code to develop an entire Mine Craft world based on Batoche. However, the idea of coding in the classroom has always left me feeling uncomfortable because I would never consider myself a coder. Well, that is until today.Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 4.50.00 PM

Today I participated in my first Hour of Code. I went in knowing nothing about this program besides seeing the odd tweet about classrooms taking part in the Hour of Code. I chose to do the Classic Maze tutorial with Mark Zuckerberg and Angry Birds. The tutorial begins with a an intriguing video that explains the benefits of learning to code. The Hour of Code I participated in included 20 puzzles. I was frustrated at the beginning because if I wanted the bird to move three times I had to drag and click three “move forward” blocks and it was time consuming. However, moving into the second stage of the game, I was taught how to repeat an action. This made the process run quicker and more effectively. I would also say that this is the benefit of the Hour of Code program. It teaches the skills in a progressive way that makes it easy for teachers and students to learn and follow. However, it does it in a way that still makes you have to think. Yes, I had a few puzzles that took me a few times to figure out.

STAGE 1: Below is the first few puzzles that I completed. The basic skills learned in these puzzles is how to move the bird forward, left, and right.

STAGE 2: As I mentioned above, I then was able to learn how to repeat a code. This way I did not have to drag five “move forward” tiles over. Instead, you can adjust the number of of times you want the code repeated.

STAGE 3: The levels continued with teaching me how to use the repeat mode until hitting a certain barrier.  This was the stage where I had some difficulties. The benefit was that is caused me to use critical thinking and problem solving skills to move forward.

Stage 4: This was the final stage of my Hour of Code where you can see below how a level of difficulty was added to the coding problems. In the end I was able to successfully complete twenty puzzles.

I was amazed that I was able to complete the Hour of Code. But I couldn’t help but wonder of I was actually learning code. During the puzzles I realized you could translate the moves I was making into JavaScript, the common form that code is written in (see below).

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As I reflected on my experience with Hour of Code. I also begin to ask myself why coding would be beneficial to teach in the classroom? The resources are accessible for teachers to use in their classroom. The best part is that teachers can learn alongside their students. In the same way I just completed the first stage of Hour of Code. But why is it important to teach? I reached out on Twitter and more specifically, to my friend, David, to understand his perspective.

So what did I learn? Maybe most important of all I learned that you should not limit yourself as a teacher. I always liked the idea of using Code in my classroom, but was held back due to my lack of knowledge. However, after participating in my own Hour of Code, I learned that I do not need to know everything about coding. Instead, I need to take the time to learn with the students. I need to remind myself that students can teach me as much as I can teach them. So I encourage all teachers to give the Hour of Code a try and stop limiting yourself based on your perceived lack of knowledge.

Circuit Training

Have you ever heard of circuit training? If you remember when I was learning about cardio exercises at the gym, I learned about high-intensity interval training. This is a form of circuit training. As defined by For Dummies – A Wiley Brand circuit training “is a fast-paced class in which you do one exercise for 30 seconds to 5 minutes and then move on to another exercise.” This website gives a brief outline of circuit training which I have included below.

This week I focused on circuit training. The great thing about circuit training is that I was able to incorporate a lot of the things I have learned in my learning project thus far. I created three different circuits this week. My circuits usually consisted of working on different target areas. However, when creating circuits you can adjust it based on your personal preference. Therefore, you can create an entire circuit focused on lower body or an entire circuit based on upper body. If you still are not convinced that circuit training is for you, read these 7 Benefits of Circuit Training. I also learned that circuits are easily adjustable. If you only have time for a quick workout, you can set up a short circuit that you repeat two or three times. If you are looking for something longer, you can set up a five-station circuit. The most important thing about a circuit is to choose something this is practical and works for you! Below is a circuit I created this week after completing a half hour of cardio on the treadmill. I was looking to focus on my upper body and keep it short and simple. This circuit was great for engaging the core and arms.


Upper Body Circuit Training

  1. Bosu Ball Push Up (10 reps)
  2. Plank (1 min.)
  3. Kettle Bell Press (10 reps each arm)
Repeat the circuit 3 times.

If you are looking to try out circuit training, feel free to try the workout above to get a great upper body workout.

Are Kids Losing Their Childhood?

K - KIDS
A - ARE
G - GETTING
O - OLDER
Y - YOUNGER

Last night I watched the documentary, Sext Up Kids by Doc Zone.  If you have not had the chance to view this documentary, I highly recommend that you take the time to give it a watch.  The documentary explores the hyper-sexualized world that kids are growing up in. It makes you question…are kids missing out on childhood?

In a world where technology easily accessible and consumers are becoming younger and younger, children are struggling to create a healthy identity for themselves. They struggle with understanding the difference between public and private. The problem stems from the fact that consumers are marketing sexualized products, such as clothing that mimics adults, to children. Children are constantly being reminded of highly sexualized representations of stars that they look up to.  The Internet can be a scary place for children. Especially when they are not aware of the risks or the implications of their actions.

So, what can we do?

Teach children about digital identity.

The reality is kids are accessing technology from a much younger age. With technology comes the unpredictable world of the Internet.  We are naïve to think that children aren’t living in a world where they have more exposure to hyper-sexuality and inappropriate material. Basically, they are exposed to too much, too young. Therefore, I believe adults have the responsibility to teach children safe use of technology. It needs to be taught by parents, educators, and other role models that children look up to because without this guidance, children grow up in a world where they feel pressured to look and act a certain way. This can lead to them making poor decisions online that can be extremely detrimental. Children need to understand that anything they share online becomes public and essentially becomes a part of their identity.

Help preserve childhood.

If students are growing up in a world where they are exposed to too much too soon, how can we help preserve their childhood? I think it starts with creating a positive balance at home.  If children are allowed unlimited time with technology that is not being monitored they are going to grow up with unrealistic and problematic expectations of themselves.  Sext Up Kids discusses how children are accessing pornography at a much younger age. Consequently, it can overshadow their lives.  It becomes the norm for boys to grow up watching and talking about porn and as a result they develop this fixated idea of sex. Pressured by this idea to be sexy girls are becoming the targets dressing provocatively at a young age.  These mixed messages of how they need to look combined with social media and texting pressures teens to think and act in alarming ways. Are the days when children played kick the can or rode their bikes to get ice cream after school part of the past? What can we do to make sure they don’t lose their sense of childhood?

Recognize the problematic aspects of media.

Media plays a big role in the way children are growing up in the world. Social media, magazines, and advertisements are all sending unrealistic messages to youth.  Boys are growing up in a world where they are learning to treat girls as sexualized objects.  Girls are constantly being pressured to appear a certain way. The argument can also be made that there is a double standard between what it means to be a girl or a boy.  Consider this article by the Daily Life that questions, “why is it that only girls are permitted to enter the playground of gender fluidity?”  Although this article is somewhat unrelated to the documentary, I think the important part is teaching kids to view media with a critical lens. Somewhat related is this article by the Cool Cat Teacher that discusses the idea of being “not just a girl.”  Most importantly, and definitely easier said than done, is teaching boys and girls to feel empowered and to be who they are NOT who media wants them to be.

As I reflect on my thoughts about this documentary, I have come to the realization that I am no farther ahead. I have identified the problems with growing up in a hyper-sexualized world where technology can be damaging to the lives of children, but I have so many more concerns than answers. Do you think hyper-sexualization will progress in the next ten years? What can be done so youth are not pressured to look and act older than they actually are?

Upper Body Workout

I just got back from the gym and thought no better time to reflect on my learning project than now. I am going to keep this week short and sweet. Now that I have had the chance to learn about free weights and machines, I wanted to be able to take my knowledge and construct an effective upper body workout. Thanks to Ashton, I used workoutlabs.com to access pre-made and customizable workouts. I began the week trying a pre-made workout and then moved on to creating my own customizable workout. You can check out both workouts below.

  1. Arm & Shoulders Gym Workout (Arms and Shoulder Gym Workout)
  2. Upper Body Workout (Customized Upper Body Workout)

I completed the pre-made workout once and the customized workout twice with a rest day or cardio day between each workout. Yesterday I ran outside because it was so beautiful and couldn’t resist, even though it was scheduled as a rest day! I also spent this week focusing on my abs and core, which is an essential area to work when focusing on upper body. I began to question how often you should be working out a particular muscle group. In short, there is no specific answer to this question, but this Livestrong article describes the four basic types of workouts and how often you should be focusing on that target area in a week. Like I said, I will keep this weeks post, short and sweet. I will end by saying that this is the first week I have not had a self conscience moment in the gym. It just feels comfortable now (even when I don’t exactly know what I am doing).

Tip of the Week: When working on the upper body, vary the areas you are working within your weekly gym schedule. For example, focus on the shoulders, biceps, triceps one day and then focus on your back and abs.

What Does Success Look Like?

Have you ever asked a teacher how they feel about assessment? If you have, I am sure this question has been met with frustration, hesitation, or possibly even confusion.  I would be shocked if the reply to this question was that they love assessment. Whether a teacher has been in the profession for one year or thirty years, assessment never seems to get any easier.   As time-consuming as assessment can be, the problem really seems to be how damaging labeling a student can be.  Besides, what does assessment truly tell us about a student? Is it measuring their growth? Is it reflecting their socio-economic background?  How can a teacher authentically assess each and every student?  Assessment is something I have always struggled to understand and I am beginning to think that it will be something I struggle to understand throughout my entire profession.

The reason I chose to write about assessment and its connection to success this week is because it is something I appreciate talking about with others in the profession.  During internship I would get so tied up with the idea of assessment. Am I being too hard on the students? Is teacher bias playing a role in my assessments? Are my assessments meaningful and authentic? What are my goals with this assessment? These were all questions that would constantly be on my mind.  Then I remembered a video that was surfacing the Internet at the beginning of my internship.

This video was just what I needed to hear as I was embarking on what seemed to be the most valuable semester of my university degree.  At the end of the day, a grade on a piece of paper is nothing compared to the relationships that I was able to build with my students. Students need their teacher to believe in them, to not allow them to give up, and to be there for them every single day.  What is truly more important? That students are able to memorize and regurgitate facts or that students learn to overcome adversity, build good work ethic, establish values, and become a respected member of society?  If we are only teaching students that success is a grade on an assignment are we really reaching all of our students?

I often find myself having similar discussions with one of my good friends and colleagues, Mr. Mike Schienbien. I remember reading his blog post, The Student Achievement Mountain: Do we celebrate the peak or the steps that get us there? this past summer.  Something that Mike writes about in his post is the fact that success is going to look different for everyone, but “success=success, regardless of how it may look. All success deserves to be celebrated.” Something that Mike demonstrates well is the power of building relationships with students and how it can result in a healthy learning environment.

It got me thinking about this Ted Talk by Rita Pierson, Every Kid Needs  a Champion.  This may be one of my favourite educational Ted Talks. No matter how many times I watch it, I get fired up. I love how passionate she is about helping students recognize their strengths and successes. When talking about handing back a math test to a student who received an “F” and putting a happy face at the top of the page, she explains “minus eighteen sucks all the life out of you. Plus two says I ain’t all bad!”  Something as simple as thinking changing the way you think can make all the difference.

So, what is the real purpose of assessment? In a Maclean’s article back in 2007, they published an article titled, Do Grades Really Matter? The basis of this article is talking about the connection between grades in schools and success later in life. More specifically that high grades don’t automatically count for successes in life. Sometimes a high grade only means that a student has “figured out the system.” How do we change the system so all students feel the success?  So, in conclusion what should our main concern be as teachers? Should we be concerned with making sure every student makes the honour role? Sure, it would be nice, but that shouldn’t be the definition of success. We have to be able to form genuine and caring human relationships in order to build success so that students can see their own potential not only in the classroom, but also in life.  As Rita says, “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”

How are you going to make sure your students can see their success?

When Can I Walk Again?

Do you ever wonder why you always feel your muscle soreness two, three, or even four days after working out that muscle group? It is called “delayed onset muscle soreness” also referred to as DOMS. According to the Huffington Post, “DOMS usually sets in one to three days after your tough workout, but it may persist for up to 10.” It is usually a combination of lactic acid and damage to muscles. For me, it is a lot of pain every time I have to use my legs and it always seems to affect my lower body more than my upper body. Why is that?

This week was focused on the lower body. The first machine that I learned about was the rowing machine. I have found that this machine has become a great way to begin my training sessions at the gym because it is a great form of cardio and works my lower body.

Watching my form in this video has made me more aware of the proper technique and the things I need to work on.

Here is a look at the machines and exercises that I focused on for my lower body workouts.

  1. The Leg Press: this machine exercises the gluteus and more specifically the front and back of the thighs. The first step is to select the appropriate weight and then adjust the seat according to your height. You want your feet in a central position. Something I learned about using this machine is to avoid looking at your knees. Why? I am not sure, but that is what I was told by a frequent gym goer.
  2. Lunges: although I am familiar with lunges this week I learned a few variations. Throughout some circuit training, I used burpee lunges and weighted kettle bell lunges (AHHH!).
  3. Squats: I decided that I wanted to learn the different variations of squats and once again, Men’s Fitness came to the rescue.

Tip of the Week: You don’t need a lot of equipment to work your lower body. Your own body weight can be your greatest mechanism! HINT: there are a million kinds of adaptations that can be made to lunges.