Tag Archives: teacher

Making is a Click Away: 3 Kid-Friendly Maker Projects I Can’t Wait to Use in a Classroom

I’ve always felt like STEM was out of reach for me. It wasn’t that I felt locked out of the party, like many women throughout history have been, I just never thought I would actually enjoy a job in any of those fields. Much like our guest writer Emily explained, I love the idea of more women working in STEM… but other women, not me. Just the thought of sorting through code or equations when I could be reading or writing makes my eyes glaze over.

Luckily, over the last couple years, I had the serendipitous opportunity to work at a lab that combines the hands-on approach of maker culture with consideration for the humanities. This job forced me to approach a lot of tasks that I had never really encountered before, but it allowed me to do so from the perspective of a humanities student. We were prototyping, yes, but with the goal of understanding more about history, culture, and theory. My experiences at the lab gave me a whole new level of interest in the field of STEM and, while I still don’t feel like it’s the field for me, I feel confident enough to approach coding or engineering for some very (VERY) basic projects. It’s opened the door to ideas that once felt impossible to even consider.

I’m particularly excited to learn about the accessibility of maker culture because I recently decided to pursue a career in teaching. The more I learn about in the world of making and prototyping, the more excited I am to implement these approaches when teaching.

Building Circuits

If you look up the basics of circuit building online you will probably find a page that highlights all the tools and parts you will need to build a basic circuit. While this is incredibly helpful, for someone like me it’s also overwhelming. Even when approaching a much more accessible tool, like Arduino, circuit building can seem like something only experts should do.

That’s why I’m so thankful for kid-friendly tech companies who want to make this process simpler and more interesting for kids (and those of us with a child’s attention span for detail).

The first time I tried circuit building was with a Makey Makey, a kit that easily assembles into a simple circuit and allows you to use a variety of household items as computer keys (like food, pencil markings, and play dough).

I also brought it to work with me when I was running a summer kids program and got the kids to assemble it themselves. They loved the experience and were full of questions about why and how we could turn cucumber slices into a piano keyboard. I can only imagine how a simple circuitboard like the Makey Makey, or circuit stickers like those at Chibitronics, could make simple physics that much more exciting to learn. Continue reading

Why I Can’t Wait to be a Teacher

John and I recently found out we were accepted into the education program we’d applied to. I wasn’t exactly surprised that we were accepted (since we both have a great deal of experience working with kids), but I was surprised at just how ecstatic the news made me. Maybe I’m feeling motivated by my student loans, since they’ve just been there, looming. Maybe I’m just excited to move beyond the academic world of writing essays for affirmation. Then again, maybe I’m just excited to start a job that I love doing.

As I head towards my new career I feel a little torn by the stigma the profession carries. Here in Canada, many people accuse teachers of being overpaid for a job they don’t consider very difficult. Then there are the teachers who have worked for years only to be burned up and spit out by the system they dedicated their lives to. Some of them have asked me if this is really the route I think is best. There’s also the general sentiment that “those who can’t do, teach,” so despite my own excitement over my career path, I often feel the need to defend my choice or explain that “I might explore other options later.” Not to mention that, as a woman, it feels like I’m giving in to that traditional cliche of finding the kind of job that people can classify as “women’s work”.

Yet in spite of all the ideas about teaching that I’ve internalized, or at least had thrown my way, I keep feeling drawn back towards the profession. Finally, I’ve allowed myself to recognize what an amazing and rewarding career path it is. Don’t believe me? Well, let me explain.

You get to be creative

Last summer I got a job running a kids’ program at the local library. My role consisted of reading books to kids, encouraging them to read at home, and doing a few crafts with them. Basically I was babysitting them for an hour so that their parents could have a break.

While I knew I would enjoy entertaining the kids and reading children’s books (who doesn’t love reading children’s books?), I had no idea I would become obsessed with crafting and building forts. After a year of focusing my attention on a computer screen, I was suddenly able to make stuff by hand. It was bizarrely exhilarating.

forts

A few things I made out of old fridge boxes for the kids to play in. The Minecraft creeper is a little worse for wear, but that’s because the kids were throwing beanbags into his eyes and mouth. The fishing poles that the kids would drop into the fishing pond also became thoroughly destroyed.

Continue reading

Quebec Pt. III: 4 Things You Inadvertently Learn in French Immersion

1) There are muscles in your mouth you’ve never used before

I’ve never thought much about language, at least not beyond trying to figure out what to say next. Even then I don’t really think things through. If you never had much of an interest in linguistics (like myself) it can come as a surprise when you start to learn about the basics of how spoken language works.

Here at Trois Pistole one of the French Teachers is a linguist and, incidentally, an anglophone. This gives him a lot of insight. As an English Speaker he has first-hand experience with the kind of mistakes we are likely to make while learning French. Then, as a linguist, he has a good idea of why exactly we make those mistakes. Luckily for us, he also hosts a phonetics clinic once a week to teach us the little details of pronunciation. Last week he focused on how French vowels work. The image I’ve included below is meant to represent where French vowel sounds come from in our mouths.

The French “i”, which sounds like an English “e”, is formed at the front of the mouth when the jaw closed (antérieure, fermée). In contract, the French “ɑ” comes from the back of the mouth and requires a wide open jaw (postérieure, ouverte).

Continue reading

Devalue System

A week ago, Malik Richmond and Trent Mays, two high schoolers accused in a widely publicized rape case, were found guilty and sentenced…

to two years in juvenile detention.

Now there’s no rant I can write which is going to effectively communicate just how psychotic it is that Richmond and Mays received minimum sentencing, so I’m going to forgo any attempt and jump right into a list of crimes receiving harsher penalties.

Sale of Marijuana in Amounts Under 50 Kgs: 5 years.

Larceny in Excess of $3,500: Up to 10 years.

Mail Fraud: Up to 20 years.

Heck, Aaron Schwartz, an MIT student and internet activist who downloaded thousands of academic papers from JSTOR, was sentenced to 35 years in prison, in addition to a million dollar fine (Schwartz tragically killed himself in January of this year). Is what Schwatz did seventeen times more heinous than rape and dissemination of child pornography?

I don’t think so either.

And I don’t think people like Patricia Spottedcrow should be given twelve-year sentences for selling a dime bag of weed while someone who commits domestic violence may receive a maximum (in Nevada) penalty of 180 days in jail.

But I’m not hear to rail on our demented and irredeemably corrupt legal system.

I’m hear to talk about our values as a whole.

Back in 2011, during the teacher’s union strikes in Wisconsin, a complaint I heard a lot was “That teacher makes more than I do, has better benefits, and wants more money? That’s just greedy!” or “I saw that teacher driving around in a <insert fancy car here>!”

Now I honestly don’t know where these figures were pulled from; I have yet to see a wealthy teacher, let alone one who drives to and from work in a 1965 Chevy Impala, but that’s not really the point.

I do get being ticked off at people demanding more money when there aren’t enough hours in the day to spend all that they already have. Believe me, that resonates.

But if that’s the case, then where’s all the righteous indignation during the NBA lockout in 2011? No matter which way you slice it, those players were making millions, and pretty much shut down the NBA for half a year because they felt they weren’t making enough.

Now I’m not trying to pass judgment one way or the other, partly because I don’t know enough about the politics of the sport, and partly (mostly) because I think everyone involved makes and obscene amount to begin with.

So do actors, for that matter.

I frankly don’t see why actors should be paid millions to act as teachers in the ghetto while real teachers in the ghetto wouldn’t make that kind of money if they worked until their deaths. The same goes for doctors, civil rights lawyers, independent journalists, and so on. Pay an actor $5,000,000 to pretend to be a teacher, and everyone’s fine with it. Pay a real teacher $50,000 and the world is apparently coming to an end.

A professional footballer makes about $2,000,000 a year. Y’know how much a grocery store clerk makes? $28,000 (if we’re going ridiculously high). And you’d best believe my life is impacted more by any grocery clerk than anyone catching/kicking/hitting a ball for a living.

Now all this is to say we need to step back and take a hard look at our value system. What do we really consider to be a terrible crime? Is selling weed or beating your spouse senseless a more awful crime than rape? Is the work done by actors really so much more valuable than that done by teachers and nonprofit works *cough*? And even get me started on our military budget and the perks we give our politicians.

Again, I’m not here to pass judgment (not until tomorrow, anyways). I’m here to simply present the facts before you. Do you think we’ve got our priorities in order?