Monthly Archives: January 2017

Putting Theory into Practice: Getting Volunteer Experience Through a U of T Club

Hi there! 🙂

I hope everybody had a good start to 2017, and feels prepared to tackle the rest of the year.

This blog post is going to be about how one of my courses from my first semester of graduate school here at OISE has inspired me, and what I’ve been doing to gain more practical experience in the field of education.

Last semester, I took a course called Reading in a Second Language with Professor Esther Geva. Professor Geva is particularly passionate about teaching young children to read, because early literacy development can determine a lot. The logic is that young children won’t like to read if they aren’t good at it, and won’t try to improve their reading skills if reading doesn’t come naturally to them. This leads to poorer readers having more difficulty with their schoolwork as the years progress, and feeling increasingly frustrated with their academic progress. Professor Geva’s lectures and the preparation I had to do for the presentation I mentioned HERE convinced me of the importance of early intervention.

Accordingly, I decided to gain more experience working with children and teaching young children to read. I hadn’t been very interested in working with children before, since I had been accepted to the MEd in DPE due to my experience working with young adults my age. I was initially a bit confused about where to even start, but I eventually found a U of T club called Working Around The Clock Helping (WATCH). WATCH helps children and families in Toronto’s Regent Park neighborhood in a variety of ways. More information about the club is located on their website HERE and on their Facebook page HERE.

After some thought, I decided to volunteer for their In-class and After School programs. WATCH’s social media/Facebook person Layla was very helpful in assisting me in figuring out where to get my Vulnerable Sector Screening done, since anybody who wants to work with vulnerable people such as children has to do that (and get a result saying that they have a clean criminal record) before working or volunteering.

I have begun volunteering for the In-class program, and am enjoying the experience so far! 🙂 I am helping out during Thursday morning at a Grade 1/2 classroom, helping students read and spell. I also assist the classroom teacher with general administrative tasks. It’s very interesting for me to see the variation in students’ abilities, especially since this is a split class. Some students are very proficient readers, while others are struggling. I hope that every student manages to learn something at school while enjoying the experience, and will try to assist when I can. I’m only volunteering a few hours every Thursday, but hope my being there is helpful.

I am in the process of being able to volunteer for the After School program. WATCH works with the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs, helping this organization get volunteers for their After School programs. I attended a Volunteer Orientation with other U of T students interested in after school volunteering this past Friday, January 27th. I’ll be able to start volunteering for this program once the background check that the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs runs for each potential volunteer goes through. For now, I’m familiarizing myself with this organization’s values, and reading the Volunteer Manual/guide I got during orientation.

I like that the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs strives to make their programs accessible to every family, and that they strive to involve youth at every age. There’s a Youth Program available for teenagers, and past participants of the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs programming are encouraged to get involved through work and volunteer opportunities.

I also attended a Volunteer Social for members of WATCH this past Monday, January 23rd. It was nice to meet some U of T undergraduate students, and become a bit more familiar with another building on campus. I had never visited any club offices or rooms at 21 Sussex Avenue before, and it was good to find out where things are located. I spend a lot of time at OISE, but it’s only one part of U of T St. George. It would be a shame if I just went to OISE and never got to know any other part of campus.

Final Thoughts:

I’m glad I’m getting more experience working with a different age group than I am used to, and hope that my involvement in the lives of these children will be beneficial. I can’t help everybody, but I can try to help some people. OISE offers a lot of courses that DPE students can take that will hopefully inspire students to gain more practical experience, like this one course inspired me.

What is a Service Learning Project (SLP)?

by Susan
Master of Teaching


Remember the 40 hours of community service you had to complete in high school?  Volunteering at soup kitchens, retirement homes, clinics, and youth organizations?  The service learning project is much more than that. You may have completely your high school hours but you did not log the experiences you gained through self-reflection and what it means to you as a student to serve your community. The SLP is an opportunity for teacher candidates to making meaning out of teaching roles outside of the classroom and contribute to the development of “socially responsible global citizens” and 21st century competent students.

Now, I had some trouble grasping what it meant to support students to become “global citizens”. I was wondering, “is my role to integrate concepts of global citizenship (whatever that meant to me at the time) into the student club I would be involved in and hope the students take with them outside of the club?” or “is my role to be an example of a global citizen and teach students the qualities I have that makes me a global citizen?”.  Sitting down with my issues professor, I figured out that I needed to determine my definition of a “socially responsible, global citizen”. That led to documents attempting to define competency…

“Defining 21st Century Competencies for Ontario”

“Global competency for an inclusive world”

The documents actually helped me understand my role better and how to engage my students. I noticed some parallels between the abilities and competences outlined in the documents similar to a paper I read on the evolving meaning of the term “science literacy” for my MTRP by George DeBoer at the turn of the century titled “Scientific literacy: Another look at its historical and contemporary meanings and its relationship to science education reform”. They all call for students to be able to take what they learn in the classroom and be able to use it in or make contributions to society.

I have selected the Brain Bee club and Dissection Club at UTS as my SLP. These clubs are interesting in that it challenges me as a teacher to be able to work with younger grades that my practicum and teachables class seldom offer. The intermediate/senior stream allow teachers to teach grades 7 to 12, however practicums and teachable classes mostly cover high school grades 9-12. I really wanted the opportunity to teach a diverse age group because that would challenge the way I foster critical thinking, ethical thinking and teambuilding skills for different developmental stages. Brain Bee is a neuroscience club that offers local, national and international competitions. I foresee the challenge of preparing two different groups of students- a competitive group to go to competitions and a group of non-competition students to enrich their interest and understanding of neuroscience for school with grades from 6-12. The dissection club is a pure interest and hands-on club for students only in grade 7 to 9. It would be an opportunity taking into account cultural perceptions, biases, and other ethical dilemmas while handling specimens.

*Disclaimer: SLP a component only required by the Issues course as part of site-based cohorts. This means not everyone in the MT program has to complete the 20 hours of service learning. As of right now, there is only one Intermediate/Senior and one Primary/Junior site-based cohort in which the students can “give back” to the school through the SLP.

Teaching Democracy – Demystifying the Electoral Process

by Susan
Master of Teaching


Let me begin by saying, this was one of the most informative and eye-opening workshops I have ever attended. The reason I am making such a big claim is that teaching democracy isn’t an issue teachers and teacher candidates frequently talk about. While students are taught specific subject content in preparation for graduation and post-secondary education, how future Canadians can contribute to the governance of their country has been pushed to the sidelines.

The workshop was structured as roundtables with guest speakers rotating among the discussants. Here’s a recap of the November 29th workshop.

So why teach democracy?

The electoral process is typically taught in the Civics course in gr 10 and keynote June Creelman (Elections Canada) urges for educating young future voters to overcome the challenge that many people (particularly young people) don’t vote. And as teachers, educators have the ability to impact future voters.

Keynote Ali Nason, who teaches history and civics focuses on student contribution to their communities. Her mantra is to start with something closer to home and create the world they want to live in through civic action. Consider multiple perspectives by describing their innate political stance.

A third keynote given by middle school Maria Vamvalis reminds teachers the number of years they spend with students in their formative years, have the ability to nurture the future society their students create. To move away from the “banking model of education” teachers must increase critical thinking.

My impression

Wow this session was informative and new to me. I never took Civics in high school and I find the electoral process complicated to the point I get headaches. I often hear kids expressing their opinions on the US elections more so than CAN elections. Just this past practicum, I walked into my office the morning after Trump’s win and I could hear the conversations in the hallway and arguments coming from classrooms. If only we got that kind of reaction for Canadian elections…

Teachers are not and do not have the ability to be the only source of knowledge…as I have learned from my practicum and a review of literature. However, teachers should be able to pose questions that have ongoing answers to scaffold learning.

Have questions about the MT program? Feel free to leave a comment!

Thinking back: Teaching High School and University

by Susan
Master of Teaching


As university graduates, many of us have been out of high school for at least 4 years. One big question I constantly ask myself is “What level of students do I want to teach?”. High school teaching offers a more personal learning environment while university teaching brings research into the classroom. Below is my account of some of the differences between high school and university based on my experience as a student teacher in a high school and as a teaching assistant in university.

High school class of 30 students

Time: 75min

Attention span: intervals of 15 – 75 min

Number of Hands-raised (questions/participation): ~2-5 times per student (nearly all students participating)

Troubleshooting behavioural issues: lots

Coaching and repeated instruction/direction: LOTS

University lab/tutorial of 30 students (first and second year undergrad)

Time: 60 – 120 min

Attention span: ~2x that of high school students

Number of Hands-raised (questions/participation): ~2 – 5 times per student (less than 50% of students participating)

Troubleshooting behavioural issues: little to none

Coaching and repeated instruction/direction: a few…lots only when it’s needed

Educating for Peace and Justice Conference: Part 3

Here is Uthish wrapping up part 3 of the Educating for Peace and Justice Conference student reflections.

“At the Educating for Peace and Justice Conference (EPJ) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), I attended the “A Literacy Approach to Anti-Bullying” workshop. The presenter, Larry Swartz, explained how to generate awareness about bullying in the classroom and presented strategies to help educators have a greater understanding about bullying. Although I am in the Intermediate/ Senior stream, the resources provided, which included young-adults, drama-based guides, and poems can be used throughout all learning levels. One of the activities Swartz used in the workshop, to have participants understand the complexities of bullying, was having the participants use abstract drawing. The abstract exercise required the workshop attendees to draw a circle, square, and triangle on a sheet of paper and offer the role of the bully, bullied, and by-stander to one of the shapes. The activity allowed us to reflect on the relational power dynamics in bullying scenarios. As the role-relationships changed, we took factors of readiness, home-related issues, and methods of outreach. The EPJ allowed my colleagues and I to interact with working methods to reduce bullying in schools, which influenced and will continue to influence our own practices as we take on the role of the educator.” -Uthish


Uthish Ganesh

MT I/S English and History


Educating for Peace and Justice Conference: Part 2

Here is part 2 of 3 with Michelle DeFilippis.

“On January 21st, I had the opportunity to attend three very informative and wonderfully executed workshops as part of the Educating for Peace and Justice Conference at OISE. Choosing from the list of workshops was nearly impossible; each and every one had an intriguing title and I found myself trying to cover as many areas as possible in my choices. One of the workshops I attended was called Developing Strategies to Optimize Learning: Connecting with the Stillness Within. I chose it because it sounded like this workshop would focus on encouraging mindfulness in each individual student as opposed to the class as a whole, which I found interesting. The two presenters, Ella Karia and Julia Arbuckle, used their unique personal and professional experiences as educators to share relevant research, personal anecdotes, the teaching and practice of a breathing technique called The Victory Breath, and an outline of the resources and workshops for teachers and schools, for instance the Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES!). Their focus was on how to bring about more self-awareness in our students; they described the idea that most children and adolescents don’t actually know how they get angry or why, but that as educators we have the tools to help them in this process. The takeaway message was that the parents and grandparents of our students, may not have had the resources available to cope with their own stress and anxiety, but today’s educators have an opportunity to create a new model for kids to follow when they feel stressed.” – Michelle


Michelle DeFilippis

MT I/S General Science and Math

To catch on part 1 click here. To continue to part 3 click here.

Educating for Peace and Justice Conference: Part 1

This year, OISE brought back a sought after conference called Educating for Peace and Justice Conference. To show you a glimpse of the workshops that were offered, I asked some fellow MT candidates to give you their take on the conference. Here is part 1 of 3 with Abbey Ramdeo, enjoy!

“Hey friends! On January 21st, I had the pleasure of attending an EPJ Conference that hosted workshops with themes ranging from Social Justice to Mindfulness. With the quickly approaching deadline for the first draft of the Master of Teaching Research Paper in mind, I chose each of my workshops in order to expand my understanding on Global Citizenship Education (which is related to my own research on antiracist education). These workshops were chosen based on the title and not description– I am a firm believer that my first instinct is the best choice – so I had a limited idea of what to expect. But, I knew what I wanted to learn. Specifically, I wanted to learn strategies that would foster students with skills and competencies to be socially responsible, global citizens. This expectation is exactly what the first workshop (“Creating a World-Changing Classroom”, with Maria Vamvalis) I attended was able to satisfy. Maria provided strategies for grade 7 and 8 Geography, but I found that I could apply these in my own science classes (and even other disciplines, such as English). One strategy that surprised me and stuck with me is how to formulate questions in ways that would engage students in “critical, creative, and collaborative” thinking. As future teachers, it is our role to nurture these skills, and I discovered how something as simple as asking a question could support that.” -Abbey

Abbey Ramdeo

MT I/S Biology and Social Science

To read part 2 click here or to jump ahead to part 3 click here.

Learning About Educational Issues From a Variety of Perspectives

Hi everybody! 🙂 I hope that anybody reading this post is settling into 2017 well.

For this blog post, I’d like to share a bit about a course I’m taking this semester. It’s a graduate course in U of T’s School of Public Policy & Governance, taught by OISE Professor Michal Perlman. It’s called Public Policy for Children, & basically about how to make good policy decisions regarding children’s issues. I enrolled in the course because it seemed interesting & useful.

Professor Perlman takes the perspective that creating good policy & critically evaluating research happens best when you learn from a variety of different perspectives. Hence, she’s arranged for a variety of guests speakers to come & give guest lectures to the class.

The first guest lecturer was Michael Baker, a professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Economics.

I come from a psychology background, & I enjoy things like writing poetry. I don’t like statistics or math so much. It was a bit challenging for me to make sense of Professor Baker’s guest lecture,  but I did the best I could.

The main idea I got from it is that governments have limited resources, & need to determine how to best allocate money towards community & social programs. That’s where policy makers come in; they critically evaluate research, & make targeted recommendations accordingly. It can be a bit depressing to realize that certain people won’t get government support or access to certain programs that could help them due to lack of funds/resources, but that’s life.

I also found it interesting that the marginal benefit of each additional year of education that a person receives is decreasing. This essentially means that everybody benefits from going to school up to secondary school, but that the benefits of post-secondary education are more mixed. Pursuing higher education essentially takes an individual out of the workforce, and this impacts their future earning potential- especially if said individual doesn’t pursue any type of part time or casual employment while in school.

Issues of education & how to best serve the people are complex, however, & should not be reduced to mere statistics & equations. It’s important to understand that social programs cost money, but that isn’t the only fact to consider. Professor Perlman has also arranged for experts from areas such as political science & children’s rights to give guest lectures. It will be interesting to learn from so many different perspectives, & I look forward to hearing the next guest speaker! ^_^

For anybody considering going to OISE, don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the typical background! Your perspective may be different from your potential classmates’, but that’s okay. Diversity, in its various forms, helps others learn. Susan, the other current OISE Student Ambassador for this academic year, comes from a STEM background & her perspective is definitely valuable. It’s likely very helpful for potential OISE students interested in teaching Science.

Final Thoughts:

I hope this post was useful, & look forward to answering any questions that others may have- either about this specific course, & or OISE in general. If people are interested in hearing more about this course, I can definitely write more about it! Don’t be shy; reach out if you’d like more information. 🙂

OISE’s Educating for Peace and Justice Conference

Hi everybody,

I hope that anybody reading this post is doing well. On Saturday, January 21st I had the pleasure of working at OISE’s Educating for Peace & Justice conference. I was there to help run the event, & to document it for this blog! ^_^

A picture of the itinerary for the day.

The day began with an Opening Plenary in the OISE auditorium, from 9 to 10:15 AM. OISE’s Dean Glen Jones started off the conference with a welcome & opening remarks. Merlin Charles, who was one of the organizers of the conference, served as MC. I wasn’t present for most of the Opening Plenary since I had to help register participants for the conference, but was fortunate enough to catch about 15 minutes of it. I thought that giving participants name tags to wear upon registration was a good way of promoting dialogue and helping people network with each other.

Imagine my surprise when I saw some of the participants I had helped register up on stage, reading lines from a script. They were participating in a performed ethnography called Hong Kong, Canada. I was initially confused, but quickly caught on to the meaning of the presentation after a few minutes. It was about how immigrant students who use languages other than English at school might experience racism & discrimination. The performance was about a high school setting where English-speaking students felt frustrated that immigrants from Hong Kong were seemingly getting preferential treatment. I think that the topic addressed was a very relevant one in a country as diverse as Canada, and very appropriate to the theme of the conference.

After the Opening Plenary, participants went to the first workshop of their choice from 10:15 to 11:45 AM. Workshop topics included being an ally in the social justice process, anti-bullying, children’s health, creating an inclusive classroom, and various other issues of interest. I didn’t get to attend the first or second round of workshops because I was needed to help run the conference, but I hope that all the participants enjoyed themselves & learned something useful.

There was a lunch break from 11:45 AM to 12:45 PM

Conference Organizers Merlin Charles (bottom left) and Sheldon Grabke (bottom right) having lunch with presenters.

Presenters having lunch together.

More presenters having lunch together.

I think it’s absolutely fantastic that Sheldon & Merlin arranged for so many knowledgeable people to educate future teachers & community members on the same day! Educating about topics such as racism & how to be more inclusive ought to start young, and now so many participants are more informed about how to best support young people.

There was also a Resource Fair going on in the OISE Library from 10:15 AM to 4 PM. I got to meet & take pictures of some of the exhibitors.

Exhibitor Rogue Witterick introducing people to resources in the 519 in Toronto.

An exhibitor educating people about the Indigenous Education Network at OISE.

There was a second round of workshops from 12:45 to 2:15 PM. Topics included things like identity, stress reduction, and how to educate students about sensitive issues effectively. During this time, I was helping registering the last few participants who had come to the conference late, & registering presenters for the third & final session of workshops.

The third round of workshops went from 2:30 to 4 PM. Since I was going to be covering the conference for this blog, I got to attend a workshop called “Sit Still, Look Pretty”: Exploring Notions of Gender-Based Violence in the Classroom, Amongst Students and in the Community facilitated by Meccana Ali & Tamika Royes.

It was exciting for me to finally attend a workshop, and I used the opportunity to increase my knowledge and awareness of the topic presented.

Workshop presenter Meccana Ali talking about the various barriers that women in unhealthy relationships may face when trying to seek support.

I learned about why people leaving unhealthy relationships are in the most danger, that girls as young as 12 years old experience unhealthy relationships dynamics, and that it’s important to frame things in a positive light when trying to convince a vulnerable person to access resources.

Workshop presenter Tamika Royes discussing scenarios with workshop participants.

I think both Meccana & Tamika brought a lot of experience and insight  from working in the community that workshop participants really benefited from. I especially like that they included various scenarios that participants discussed in small groups, to give everybody there some ideas about how to effectively deal with students experiencing sexual harassment & discrimination. They were also very in tune to the fact that some of the material discussed could be triggering for some participants and encouraged us to step out of the room and/or check in with one of them if we felt unsettled.

Final Thoughts:

OISE’s Educating for Peace & Justice Conference is definitely an event that I want to fully attend next school year, as a participant. The organizers & the presenters all did a fantastic job, and I am proud to have played a (relatively minor) role in this event. It can be hard for educators & community members to help students dealing with harassment and discrimination. It can also be difficult to educate students about sensitive and/or controversial topics. Thankfully, OISE and various other organizations run workshops & have resources available to help with these monumental tasks. Together, everybody can help ensure that young people are more informed about how to treat others with respect and handle challenging situations.

Parent-Teacher Interviews: The Cherry On Top To My Practicum

by Susan
Master of Teaching

With November and my first practicum behind me, I am quite sad I couldn’t stay to finish the unit. My colleagues in my cohort are also feeling the same post-practicum withdrawal and we all agreed we just can’t get enough of teaching!

Parent-teacher interviews marked the second last day of my practicum. It was the highlight of my month as a student teacher. Although I had taught a mere 6 classes to my two grade 10 classes, I had gotten to know them by name, by their voice and even by their hand-writing!

What surprised me the most was the fact that I was able to articulate at parent-teacher interviews the dynamic their child brings to the class, their strengths, their next steps. I realized how much I knew about each of my students from the short period of time that I had been in their classroom and the parents seemed to appreciate that I did not just know their child by the grade they were receiving in the class.

Ă€ bientĂ´t practicum!