Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Life Long Learner

Not a very exciting shirt but I have several versions of this one as I sat on the Education Students Association as AMS Rep the year that I earned my Bachelor of Education degree. As of this year, I have belonged to the Education Faculty twice as long as I was an Arts Undergrad Student member. Sheesh. 


There's a version of this shirt in my wardrobe that I don't wear to school. Across the back is emblazoned "I GOT MY DEGREE IN BEd". Once, possibly during my practicum, I did wear it, forgetting what was written on the back and a student asked me, point-blank,"Is that supposed to be dirty?" Haven't worn it since. In fact, I believe the ESA was prohibited from using that slogan again. The last one I saw sported around the Neville Scarfe building at UBC read "DON'T MAKE ME USE MY TEACHER VOICE" instead.

Like I said, I'm still enrolled in the Education Faculty at UBC, eight years into my teaching career. Last May, I finished my diploma in Teacher-Librarianship and had a short-lived 24 hours of "I am officially FREE of UBC" celebrations only to be informed that the Faculty had reinstated the MIA Diploma in Special Education that would have been eminently more practical for my current job. Having taken 21 credits in courses in Special Ed while completing the 30 credits for the T-L diploma, I called the admissions office to inquire what kind of frequent flyer points I could get in light of the Spec. Ed Diploma's return. "Oh, that's easy," the nice lady on the phone said,"You just need to come back and take another 9 credits." NOT the answer I was looking for. > <

So I officially hold triple alumni AND current student status. And because I had taken nearly all the secondary school applicable Special Ed courses UBC had to offer, I signed up for something new - Special Ed training for students with giftedness with an intro course this term and a more practical follow-up course on program design next term. Ironically, as much as I detest online courses, this has been the best organized course I've taken in a long time. I've found the readings (all of which are available for free online) interesting and informative and the assignments less than onerous. Especially nice is the extremely reasonable word limits the instructor(s) have set out. 

This week's reading and assignment was centred on an article by Ronald A. Beghetto about his theory of "Ideational Code-Switching" (ICS), a metaphor for classroom appropriate creative expression based on the linguistic theory of code-switching that multilingual people use when faced with a challenging conversational partner. In Beghetto's ICS theory, students/learners source their creativity within personally relevant ideas/skills but need to be able to express their idea or utilize their skill in a way that benefits the curriculum-based, classroom-framed task at hand. A child with an amazing gift for dance isn't necessarily going to be a sought-after group contributor if all he does is pirouette around the room constantly. However, if he has been taught some basics of movement and choreography, he may be the go-to person to organize the group for a cheer routine or direct a scene within a play. He may also be able to express his creative expertise through media - video or still art/poses. It's the MacGyver theory of useful knowledge/talents, the Swiss Army knife of exceptionalities - great if you use the right gadget in the right context, seriously disruptive when you don't.

Part of what drew me to education in the first place (well after my B.A. completion, btw) was the fact that no two classes are ever the same whether you are the teacher or the student. Even when I was teaching academic curricula and had multiples of the same course, every discussion that emerged was a whole new frontier of learning. And something I try to instill in my students is that learning happens in spite of disinterest or frustration. We're constantly learning to cope with new things and setting out new goals for ourselves whether it's conscious or not.

Working on the Beghetto assignment made me realize that this blog is an example of me taking what he calls "mini-c" personal elements (ie. my t-shirt collection) and trying to turn them into "little-c" general-applicable products (ie. blog posts). He defines "big-c" Creativity as the life contributions of Coltrane, Pollack, or Kubrick - talent and inspiration that significantly changes whole genres. Ultimately, this blog is designed to solve my problem of not writing regularly by using stuff I already have and establishing a routine I can keep. So far, so good.

So what have I learned recently (say, the last 24 hrs)?
  1. Don't design an envelope without a method to securely seal it
  2. Legion Halls in Vancouver are okay with you ordering food to be delivered as long as you clean up after yourself. Especially on a Monday night. Especially if your group is buying a lot of beer from the bar.
  3. Don't ask for blog post comments on a specific topic if you've written something more controversial in the post itself, even if it was only a moment of frustrated venting.
  4. Pizza is (still) the best food to eat as a cold left-over.
  5. One of my friends is cousins to a guy who spends summers in a shared rented cabin with John Hodgman (Hi, I'm a PC) and Jonathan Coulton. They're school buddies.
And, going back to the weekend, I learned that this existed:
 

So.... what have YOU learned lately?