Philosophical musings, if you will

Philosophy of Education, Journal Entry #1
In the last few weeks, we’ve been talking a lot John Dewey, and more generally, about what we understand education to be, namely, a transmission of something from one person or group to another. We haven’t yet really tackled the question of what the something is – we’ve speculated that it may be moral or social values, which certainly seems to be the crux of Dewey’s argument, or that it may be intellectual habits of mind, which we might argue is the position of the Quebec government, as manifested in its competency-based program approach to education. Finally, that something might simply be knowledge itself.

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And you thought I wasn’t up to much this fall…

Along with a full-time course load in the day section and a continuing education course this fall, I managed to squeeze in yet another M.Ed. course. This one, ‘Constructing Knowledge in Your Discipline,’ was intended to help us transfer some of the theoretical stuff we’ve been looking at to more practical, discipline-specific knowledge.
As with the other M.Ed. courses, we were asked to maintain a journal along the way; unlike past courses, I didn’t post the journal this time, mainly because I felt the entries were too closely related to the research I was doing for the literature review. But since I just submitted the review, as well as the final journal entry, it occurred to me that I should post the entries, as well as the review itself, just in case anyone’s interested.
Also, this post should bump the bat down the page for the benefit of those who are tired of looking at it.
So, without further ado:
Journal I: Beginning the research process
Journal II: Learning in my discipline
Journal III: Mapping the Learning Process
Journal IV: Reflections on the Research Process
Literature Review: Formative Feedback and Learning in the English Classroom
There will be a test, so remember to take good notes 😉

One down…

Classes ended Tuesday!!
I just submitted final marks for one of my four courses.
Long-time readers will know what I mean when I say – tell the dog to start warming up.

Why I love my job

In St-Henri, George-Etienne-Cartier Square
In the heart of St-Henri, in the footsteps of Jean, Florentine, Emmanuel & Rose Anna
A dozen students from my Montreal Writers class joined me for a walking tour of the St-Henri neighbourhood this morning. We have just finished reading and discussing Gabrielle Roy’s The Tin Flute, which is set in this area of Montreal.
This class is one of those classes that teachers rave about. The group dynamic is positive and energizing; I love that I teach this class on Fridays – I always end the week on a high note.
Nonetheless, when I suggested a walk through St-Henri, I expected a subdued response. After all, Saturday mornings are precious – what student wants to spend one with the teacher? So I was touched, amazed, thrilled when ten students and two “guest” students showed up at the Atwater Market this morning.
We had a great time, and I think we even managed to learn a little about the area. Maybe. At the very least, we’ve introduced Kelvin to pumpkin pie.
So thank you, Nick, Dina, Kelvin, Matt, Rebecca, Alex, Rupal, Raihab, Balal and Gilbert – and Francesca and Tara – for reminding me how much I love my job, even on a Saturday morning.
Rebecca, by the way has graciously allowed me to share her poem, a reaction to the Dawson shooting. I’ve included it here.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, your attention please:

I am in the process of compiling a teaching portfolio, based on the first four M.Ed. courses in the Performa program. One component of this portfolio is my journal, including my musings on how my entries since January 2005 reflect my evolution as a teacher (or, perhaps, my intelligent design).
I would very much like to include everyone’s responses to my entries – many of you have commented on a post or two, adding further insight and illumination, as well as the wisdom from your own personal experiences. I’ll be contacting some of you via e-mail, naturally, but there may be some people whose addresses I don’t have – so please let me know if you would prefer to have your comments omitted.
Finally, if there are any comments you considered posting but didn’t, I’d be happy to include them now – just drop me a line (

Mommy Dearest (Journal 3)

Hello, my name is Maggie and I am a working mother.
They say that admitting the problem is half-way to solving it.
There is an essay by Margaret Atwood called ‘If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Don’t Say Anything at All.’ Much like Judith Warner and Anna Quindlen, Atwood’s point boils down to this: for some reason, regardless of generation and historical context, women are compelled to be Woman; i.e., we strive for some unattainable feminine ideal. Once upon a time, that meant always wearing gloves, sitting as elegantly as Jackie Kennedy, knowing how to cook the perfect pot roast, and always knowing where your vacuum bags were. Now, the perfect woman is independent, politically aware, and educated and ambitious – while still reading all those Cosmo articles about ‘what he really wants in bed.’

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Be True to Your School

Alexander Astin’s Theory of Involvement makes a lot of sense to me, not only in the context of recent class discussions, videos and readings, but also in terms of understanding my students and my own student experiences.
When I think back to my Cegep experience, I can see Astin’s theory in practice: my first attempt at Cegep ended in complete disaster, and not just academically. I finished my first semester in Pure & Applied Sciences at Champlain St-Lambert with five failed courses (including English), depression and an utter lack of motivation, a rejection of authority, and a rift with my parents that took many years to heal.
Three years later, when I started taking evening classes at Vanier, my motivation had returned. Success in those courses led me to enroll as a full-time day student. I joined the student newspaper – and school was suddenly the best place on earth. As a member of the newspaper group, I met many students in other clubs and associations, I dealt with our student politicians, I developed relationships with members of the administration, and I learned more information about my school than I knew existed.

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Timing is Everything

My first Developmental Psych journal entry, based in part on recent posts and comments:
After our first class, I became a little obsessed with the question “when did you become an adolescent.” I have been conducting an informal poll ever since. My sons, who are 8 and 6 years old, both said that they would be teenagers when they turned 13, because, as Colin said, “it’s thir-TEEN.” My husband and another male friend said they became adolescents when they started high school. I’m still debating whether I trace my adolescence back to the onset of menstruation or to my last year of elementary school. Perhaps our sense of one’s adolescent self is really a social construct. My mother and her sister both said that they never felt like they were teenagers. They grew up, the oldest two of six children, in Glasgow, with a lot of academic pressure – my mother started at Glasgow University at the age of 16. They both emigrated to Canada almost immediately upon graduation, and when I talked to them it seemed to me that they both felt that they had been thrown from childhood to adulthood with no real chance to adjust along the way.

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Guest poster

In response to my earlier post, my good friend Chris sent me the following (and agreed to have it posted) – thanks Chris!
1964 � Born Lachine, Quebec. My family then promptly moved to Winnipeg for 4 years and we then returned to Pointe Claire in 1968 where I lived until 1985. I then lived in various places in NDG until moving to Ontario in 1989.
Perhaps it is a function of being male, but I think my perceptions revolve more around large institutional or peer-group transitions than �biological� maturity as you relate. I think I would actually break down the process into several stages which I would identify with building more and more independence, which perhaps is the critical element of �adulthood� for me.

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Smells like teen spirit

Yesterday was the first class session of my next M.Ed. course. This one is Developmental Psychology: The Emerging Adult. Part of yesterday’s session was devoted to small group discussions in response to the following questions:
1. When did adolescence begin for you? Why did you choose this age?
2. When does adulthood begin? Why?
So I thought I’d ask you, my loyal readers, the same questions. Consider it informal research.
Keep in mind that what we’re looking for here are experiential answers, not technical, clinical or legal definitions. In other words, answer according to your personal experience – when did you become an adolescent, and what emotions/events/circumstances made you feel you were no longer a child? When did you feel you were really an adult, and why? As a follow-up, do you think your parents would have different answers about themselves?
Some of the discussions we had – in class and at the supper table last night – made it clear that answers may vary according to generation and location, so try to include some chronological and regional data in your answer.
For example:
I was born in the summer of 1969. I spent my so-called formative years in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, in West Bolton. I went to elementary school in Knowlton, and high school in Cowansville. For me, adolescence began in Grade 7. Initially, my gut reaction was to link the onset of adolescence with my first period, but I started late (13), and all of my friends already had theirs (I still remember one wise old 12-year-old telling me that I’d soon wish I had never started menstruating, after all). I felt like a teenager long before I “became a woman,” and a lot of the elements were in place in Grade 7. As a group, I think we felt significantly older than the rest of the elementary school we were still trapped in, and we started “going out” with boys (there was never any actual “out” to go to, of course, it was just our euphemism for “this is the guy I hold hands with at recess.”). Many of the girls had started their periods. The guys were suddenly conscious of their clothing. The girls were suddenly deeply embarrassed about breaking a sweat in gym class. The way my friends thought and felt about things mattered a lot more than the way my parents saw the world; for instance, in earlier years, when my parents chose to enrol me in an immersion program, it never occurred to me to object. In Grade 7, when my mother enrolled me in the high school immersion program for the following year, I wept for days. Immersion wasn’t like real high school! I would be an outcast. My mother was clearly determined to ruin my life. Sigh.
As for when adulthood starts, well, I’ll save that response for another entry. Now it’s your turn!