Just Sort of a Reflection on Passions

Being in university is such an estranging experience to the rest of the world. It feels like we are constantly operating in our own little university-world. Everything revolves around university for me. What and when I eat, when I sleep, when I get coffee, when I work at my job; it all revolves around my schooling. Perhaps it is because I am in my final semester of my degree, but I am just so sick of my stress revolving around university, too.  Perhaps it is because I literally have not slept since 7:30am two days ago. Regardless, I’m done with dedicating every thought that passes through my mind to university. I want to take myself somewhere new so that I can see how creative I can be. I want to explore my place in the world before signing a contract to teach in some town I may never fit into. Not to mention, I have only ever known myself in a school setting. The thought of going straight out of school to begin my career in more schools without getting the chance to explore what its like to not be in school would suck the soul out of me. I know these thoughts sound depressing but to me, coming to the realization that I need a break is a huge relief in itself.

Lately, I’ve been day dreaming about what I’m going to do with my spare time when I am not constantly under pressure due to major projects coming up. I’ve been day dreaming about what it would be like to have my biggest cause of stress removed. What would I do with my time? After a really good chat with a classmate of mine, who has embarked on the exact same four year journey as I, I came to a conclusion. University is entirely hypocritical.

In my anti-oppressive education we constantly discuss how we can continue to dissect narratives that are overarching our society. We learn about classist, racist, and sexist narratives that dominate society and oppress those who fall outside of the so-called “norm.” However, as our professors collectively turn our eyes towards these narratives, they have been enforcing a narrative upon us, too. It is subtle, and behind the scenes, and taught as though it is a matter of fact. What exactly am I talking about?

The expectation that my generation will get a degree, and then work the same job until the day I die, or retire. The way professors talk about teaching is as if it is the only possible answer. The terms and phrases used imply this. Not a single professor throughout my entire degree has suggested that it is acceptable to pursue another career after completing an education degree. My parents assume that if I get a job teaching, I will be doing that for the rest of my life. My grandparents assume that if i start teaching, I will teach for the rest of my life. Everybody I’ve ever talked to about life after university has only always assumed that I will teach for the rest of my life. This makes me feel like a failure, because this does not coincide with what I want to do. I feel inferior because of my life decisions, when really, I should not feel this way at all. There is nothing wrong with what I want to do.

After my internship, I began to doubt that teaching was for me. Granted, a lot of things were happening during my internship that I will never have to deal with again, purely because of the way internships work. If I get hired, I am free to practice my pedagogy so long as I can relate it directly to the curriculum. I will not have to sacrifice my personal teaching philosophies in order to have the right to stand in a classroom. If I get hired, I will be able to be my own, independent educator. However, I find that the educational system itself requires a lot of work. The right people are not always in positions of power, and even if I receive a degree, get hired, and start working in schools, my power can much too easily be taken away from me. Also, in light of the recent budget cuts to education, so many doors have been closed on my face for my future career. The wrong people are always in power, and I am sad to say that teaching anti-oppressive education is no longer enough.

Let me say it again:

Teaching anti-oppressive education is no longer enough on its own. We have to do more.

But how? Everybody tells me that the first few years of teaching are the worst. During my internship, the most  common comment that I heard was, “You think internship is hard? Wait until your first year of teaching.” It was incredibly negative and disheartening and my colleagues offered no support of advice beyond that. I felt as though they were trying to alienate me further and further from the profession that I just spent the last four years of my life working towards. So many doors have been closing on me and my career and because of this, I had to step back and truly, honestly ask myself if teaching is for me.

When I took a step back, I asked myself, “Do I really have to do this?” But in asking myself that, I realized that I’ve only ever imagined “this” as “teaching for the rest of my life.” Nobody talks about taking a year off. Nobody talks about furthering their education before they move on to teaching.

In a talking circle in my class last night, a peer of mine said the following.

“I started my post-secondary education late in my life. I know a lot of you are in your early twenties, and you are feeling apprehensive about moving on to your teaching career. Let me just tell you, looking back to when I was 22, I never would have been able to do this, so all of you are already years ahead of where I was at your age. However, I just wanted to add that there is nothing wrong with waiting to teach until you truly feel ready.”

When my peer said this, I cried. I had been stressing and stressing about teaching because after my internship, I do not feel ready, I feel even further away from being ready than when I was in my first year. When he said this, it was the first time I had ever imagined doing something other than going straight into a lifetime-career. I knew I needed some time off, but now I’m considering taking a decade off from school.

My professors have pushed on me, subconsciously, that if I do not go straight into teaching, I would be missing out on certain experiences and important learning experiences by not teaching right away. This is not true. My professors made it sound as though the only experiences in life that will ever matter are ones that are directly related to my pedagogy and education. This is also not true. I began to see the world around me as locked away or unavailable to me, because my professors all told me over and over again, “You are a teacher for life now, so you better act like one.” This terrified me. I felt like I signed my soul to the devil and in a way, I did. There are so many things in life that I want to do that I can’t do as an educator purely because teachers are expected to be above-perfect role models for society. In our digital age, everything I do can easily be discovered, so I can’t go out and do anything that anyone could potentially take offense to (Which could literally be anything at this point) and so I feel as though I am chained to my degree. Except now, my degree is a 10 ton anvil that is popping my leg right out of it’s socket.

Over all of the years I’ve lived and been in school (which is nearly all the years I’ve lived), I’ve been taught that school is the most important thing. It will always be the most important thing I’ve ever attended, or facilitated. This is also not true. I digress.

Here is where I hope you’ll understand me:

If I’ve done nothing but go to school for my entire life and my entire future, I too will be pushing the subconscious narrative that school and post-secondary school is the only answer to how you can achieve success. My students will be just as diverse as Canada can get, and so to enter my classroom while operating in such a perspective, I am bound to push this onto my students. I need to get my head out of this post-secondary coma I’ve been slapped into.

Don’t get me wrong, I think education is the best thing that has ever happened to me, but I cannot allow myself to push my perspectives onto my students. I like being able to share my experiences with my students but how can I relate to students who do not want to move on to post-secondary? I need to live a little.

This is why I will be moving away from education for a few years. I’ve never lived a life outside of school. I’ve taken a summer class every summer, or attended a camp every other summer. I have, in every sense of the word, never not been in school. What I hope to achieve by taking a few years off is life experience. I want to travel and meet all kinds of people who do not necessarily fall into the post-secondary community and culture. It is not the only life that exists. There are many ways to live one’s life and I want to get out in the world and experience this for myself so that when I eventually decide to teach again, I can come into the classroom with a well-rounded, not-naive perspective that myself and my students will benefit from. If I decide to go back.

Time to Collect Yo’self and Make Yo’self

For my art class we have a month to complete our final project. As always, I like to tie my art class into my learning project because I have to really push myself to be better and to try new things. Without naming any names, I’ve noticed a few people in my art experience fail as artists because they refuse to draw anything with character, and they refuse to draw anything new. They draw what they “think is cool,” but fail to realize that every decision the artist makes is fully up to them.

Every decision an artist makes must not be without purpose.

I thought I was working away from this; I was trying to make every decision count in every piece. It started with my keys drawing from this post. I was putting so much thought into every little object and colour choice, and although I was not happy with the end result, I feel as though I succeeded in taking control over my art work. I pushed myself until my brain hurt and I wanted to cry, and the result turned out better than I expected.

However, when I started my final project, I was stumped. This is what I first began with:

IMG_7336Done on Photoshop CS6 with a Wacom Bamboo Tablet!

I watched multiple YouTube tutorials but I’m posting my favourite below:


I find that watching a YouTube tutorial like the one above is the best method for me to learn how to draw. I am a visual and kinesthetic learner. I’ve noticed over the past few years that the best way to get me to learn something immediately is if the person in charge of teaching me thinks out loud. This way, I understand the process and the mindset and what to look for in order to do whatever it is that I am learning to do. I need mental checklists and guidelines, then I replicate what my tutor has done, do it a few more times, then I know I’ve learned it when I can do it on my own. However, this can be excruciatingly painful for some people to do.

When I was little, I quite piano lessons and asked my dad to teach me how to play songs by ear. I learned, but I had to have my dad sit and show me how to play each song note by individual note, and it would take hours. Granted, my father had the patience of a saint with me, so it was possible, but not everybody wants to set aside three hours to grind out a lesson with me until I get it wholly. The next best possible replacement is to watch a YouTube tutorial that essentially does the same thing.

The difference is this: I can pause, stop, and repeat as many times as I would like, and in doing so I do not feel guilty about asking somebody to dedicate so much time to me. What I’m trying to say is that YouTube tutorials and incredibly detailed books accounting for the thought process is the best way for me to learn. For the rest of my learning project I’m going to try to continue to use the book I bought at the beginning of the semester and watch YouTube tutorials so that I can learn on my own time.

However, that is not all that I have to say!

While working on my triptych I just had the image of the blonde woman (I’ve named her Fate, stay tuned to find out why), but there is hardly anything that sets her apart. There are a few interesting things to take note of, like her bare feet, the rosary, the pose itself, but other than that, her actual physical body is nothing out of the ordinary. She fits into the cookie cutter shape of every character I’ve ever drawn. When I came to realize this it saddened me because the whole point of my learning project was to learn how to draw more dynamic but also diverse characters. This means I have some more research to do. I don’t actually know how to create a diverse character, so I feel like some research into this matter would go a long way.

That’s all for now! Thanks for checking in!

Differentiating Instruction w/ Screencastify

Yes, that was a long title, but bare with me here.

I chose to review Screencastify, as it is a tool that I have invested myself in for the purpose of my learning project this semester. I’ve already mentioned it in this post in which I used the tool to record my work on a digital drawing of mine.

Overview: Some basic information

It is a chrome extension that allows users to record everything that is happening on their screens at the time. It connects to your mic as well, so you can provide spoken instruction in conjunction with the recording. It has a free version available, but there are obvious limitations. On the download page it says, “The free Lite version limits recording time to 10 minutes per video, has a watermark, 50 videos per month, and has certain features turned off like mp4 export and editing tools.” 

The paid-for version has no limitations. Personally, I think this tool is worth spending the $20-30 on, because I know it will be something that I plan on using extensively as both an educator and an artist.

Pros & Cons

Pros: This extension is really simple to use. It appears as an icon at the top-right of your browser and if you have the full version, it organizes and saves all of your videos and has them up for easy access through the chrome tab/extension. It is easy to edit the length of your video, crop it, save it, and share it, as the app provides all of these services at the click of a button. Another benefit is that the program allows you to annotate what is on your screen, giving you the benefit of underlining or highlighting specific items.

Story time! Here’s another example of how I used the app:

I had my friend record a presentation I did on my mom’s art, and the video was too big to email or send through Facebook messenger. I had her post it to her Facebook page with tight privacy settings so I was the only one who could view the post. Now, I wanted to save it so I could send it to my mom and for whatever reason I couldn’t get Facebook to let me download the video, so instead I just used screencastify to record the entire video. Now I have it saved to my google drive and I can send it to my mom, who can also download the video and actually view it. Neat!

Cons: If you don’t pay for the full app, its not really that great. Ten minutes recording time may be well enough for short little tutorials, but can really limit your opportunities in regards to what you want to share. Another con: The app claims to be “pixel perfect” but in my case I found that it really wasn’t as clear/focused as I was expecting it to be. There is a tiny chance that I am doing something wrong, but the app has such a simple interface that I’m fairly sure I’ve explored all possible solutions to my pixel problem. However, its not bad. Its just not excellent. There are definitely apps out there that could record a clearer picture, but there are not nearly as many screen-recording apps that make it so easy to use, crop, and share.

Why Teachers Need This Tool

You will be doing all of your students a huge favour by using this. If there is ever some kind of visual instruction that students miss due to illness, skipping, etc., you can record the same lesson without losing any of your presentation notes and the like, while making sure students who were not there that day still get all of the information.

Another benefit is that anyone can watch it. If you record yourself doing anything informative really, you never know who could benefit from your tutorial. It is worth it to upload your videos to YouTube, because chances are, another educator could use the video you’ve made.

Another benefit: Students can re-watch it as many times as they want. Some students can remember what the teacher said after the first time it was said, but most students need to hear it twice, or more. With screencastify, you can upload the video to YouTube, email it out, whatever works, and students can watch it repeatedly until they get the lesson at hand. This has many benefits for students of all levels and capabilities. This can be especially effective for students with auditory-learning disorders. Some students that you will encounter throughout your years will have real difficulties processing information that is heard. The information must be accompanied with notes or images for the student to look at later. With screencastify, they will get more than just notes or images. They get the best of both worlds combined, working together to create a solid learning tool that benefits nearly all students.

Another benefit: When differentiating your instruction in this way, it also does not single out any one student. Sometimes when differentiating our instruction, we struggle to find a way to do so in which the student is not singled out, embarrassed, or made to look like they are any “lesser” than students who may not necessarily depend on these extra resources. With this tool, teachers can make it mandatory to watch it once for homework (have you ever heard of a flipped classroom?) but it is up to the students if they need to watch it more than once. Another thing: their peers will have no idea who watched it multiple times to get it. It allows for privacy, in a way.

Another benefit: You can annotate your recordings in a way that highlights exactly what students or viewers should be focusing on. This allows for more precise tutorials, because it adds another layer/style of learning: text. If you annotate your videos, you are providing three different ways all at once for your students to process this information. They will be viewing, listening, and reading. And, hey! That’s three strands of the English curriculum! (See pages 28 and 32 of this ELA 9 Curriculum document to check out what I’m talking about.)

 Overall Rating:

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, which is equivalent to, I think, 8 out of 10. 

It’s pretty great, and I highly recommend that educators use this tool to benefit their students.

Thanks for reading!