Author Archives: Anna Dinissuk

About Anna Dinissuk

Hi there! :) I'm Anna. I'm a 1st year MEd student in the Developmental Psychology & Education program at OISE. Previously, I went to York University where I got a BA Honours degree in Psychology. I'm interested in working in student services, helping students who may be encountering difficulty. In my spare time, I enjoy writing poetry, reading fanfiction, browsing Etsy, playing Candy Crush Saga, and annoying my cat. :P Feel free to comment on any of my blog posts if you need help finding information about OISE or have questions about what I write. ^_^

Final Post and Reflecting on My Time as OISE Student Ambassador

Hi there! ^_^

It’s now the last week of February, and my Work-Study contract as an OISE Student Ambassador is done. I thought I’d use this final post to reflect on what I’ve learned from this experience, and wrap up any stories I started telling earlier.

I’ve learned……

  • that running a large event smoothly takes a lot of work and preparation. I played a relatively small role in OISE’s Educating for Peace and Justice Conference, but it was still obvious that organizing and facilitating this conference took a lot of effort. I had to troubleshoot relatively minor matters, such as figuring out what to do when presenters didn’t have name tags,  so I can only imagine how the organizers of the event must have felt when they had to problem-solve bigger issues.
  • that theoretical issues I’ve learned about at OISE have practical applications. I’ve previously discussed that my experience in my Reading in a Second Language class motivated me to get experience teaching young children to read. I’ve also discussed that using the My Virtual Life software in my Foundations of Human Development & Education class provided me with useful, albeit simulated, experience about raising a child and an adult. I’m glad I chose to continue my education at OISE precisely because it is so practical.
  • that I enjoy working with children! ^_^ I do prefer working with individual children or small groups as opposed to larger groups, but I do generally like working with young people. I hope to gain more experience working with children and families throughout my degree. Since writing that post about gaining volunteer experience through a U of T club, I’ve been approved and have started volunteering at that after school program run by the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Club. I’m also in the process of potentially volunteering at a March Break camp at York University. These activities ought to help keep me occupied for the rest of the academic year.
  • that blogging about my experience as a graduate student helped me reflect on my experience. It also shows potential future employers that my MEd has practical value, and that I’m not just at OISE to avoid dealing with real life. Writing this post has helped me realize how far I’ve come since September 2016, and it’s important to recognize one’s growth as an individual.

Lastly, I’d like to show my readers what that ceramic mug I painted at the beginning of the school year looks like now:

This used to be a blank, white piece of ceramic before I painted it, and now it’s a functional part of my daily life. It’s amazing what I and this mug have gone through since September. I’ve overcome struggles, gotten to know a diverse group of people in my classes, and generally figured out a bit more about what I’d like to do for the rest of my life.

It is with these final words that I bid my readers goodbye and good luck in their journey towards OISE and during their time here.

I’ve truly enjoyed blogging for and representing OISE, but now it’s time to move on. Goodbye! ^_^

Review of Cabaret The Musical

Hi there! ^_^

I hope that February has treated everybody well. It’s hard to believe that my second semester of graduate school will be done soon. It seems like almost yesterday that I was going to my first class at OISE.

For this week’s post, I’ve decided to share one of my other interests outside of the field of education: musical theatre! 😀

My past few posts have been a bit too serious, so I figured it was time to liven things up a bit. Late last year, I received an email from Mirvish about discounted seats to certain shows. One of them was Cabaret, a love story set in 1930s Berlin. I enjoyed this musical when I saw it several years ago at the Stratford Festival, so I figured it was high time to see the show again.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw Cabaret at the Princess of Wales Theatre with my mother! ^_^ We had a fabulous time, and my understanding of the show definitely improved from when I was younger.

Cabaret follows the story of American writer Clifford Bradshaw’s ill-fated romance with British nightclub singer Sally Bowles. I won’t spoil the plot of the show too much, but let’s just say that these were two people who didn’t have enough in common to make a relationship work.

Along with this love story, viewers also got a look at the inner workings of Berlin’s KitKat Club and the romance between Cliff’s landlord and a Jewish fruit seller. While all this was occurring, the political climate of Hitler’s Germany was quickly taking shape. Some characters of the show insisted that Hitler’s political nonsense would easily pass, but the audience unfortunately knew better. Our hero Clifford had the right idea, and quickly left Germany for Paris before things got too out of hand.

The show began and ended with Clifford at a train station in Berlin, to signify that the plot of the show and his romance with Sally had run its natural course. I don’t feel it would be appropriate to write too much about the plot in case I spoil it for potential viewers, but this production and its cast was truly spectacular! 🙂 Standouts included Randy Harrison as the Emcee of the show, and Leigh Ann Larkin as the irrepressible Sally Bowles. Harrison did a lot to keep the plot moving along smoothly, while Larkin had just the right amount of charisma and talent necessary to play Sally.

I also enjoyed the way “The Pineapple Song” was staged. All the little pineapples being included in the scenery was a nice touch, and using a disco ball provided this tender scene between two characters with a nice ambiance.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I’m glad that I got to see this musical in Toronto. The Princess of Wales Theatre is a fantastic venue, and its bathrooms are spectacular. I didn’t take any pictures of the performance auditorium because people aren’t supposed to do that, but I did take a photo of myself in the bathroom. 😛 I highly suggest that people see a show at this theatre if they live, work, or go to school in Toronto.

I do, however, suggest that people subscribe to Mirvish’s mailing list and try to get some sort of discount. Theatre tickets aren’t cheap, and students don’t always have a lot of money to spare. I paid less than $50 per seat for tickets for my mother and I, and we were seated in the second row of the balcony. Considering the discount I received, our seats were pretty good. ^_^ You could also try to get Rush Seats by showing up to the theatre  an hour or two ahead of the performance times. (Rush Seats aren’t always available for every show or performance time, but I figured I’d bring it up anyway in case people were interested.)

If you ever do see a show at the Princess of Wales Theatre, you’ll be able to use a bathroom that looks like this:

Isn’t that just classy? 😛

Interview with: Domestic Student, Farhana Shaheed

Hi everybody! 🙂

I hope you’ve been doing well. For this week’s post, I’ve decided to interview a domestic student I met in one of my classes. Hearing from the perspectives of international students in my previous interviews has been invaluable, but domestic students do go to OISE too and their voice also deserves to be represented.

I got to know Farhana Shaheed a bit better when we were working on an assignment about moderating discussion in our Interpretation of Educational Research class. She’s a 1st year MEd student in Developmental Psychology & Education who’s graduating in 2018.

Farhana graciously agreed to be interviewed after I asked my group members if they were interested in being profiled on the OISE blog after our assignment together was over, so here are her thoughts on OISE & DPE:

What drew you to OISE’s program?

I completed my undergraduate degree through OISE/UT as a part of the first cohort to pioneer through the Concurrent Teacher Education Program (CTEP). After a two-year stint teaching English and Social Studies in a secondary school in Southeast London, I found myself back in Toronto unsure of where the field of education would take me. I always wanted my next step to be graduate school. I researched several grad programs and schools; I found that the DPE program was most in line with my research and vocational interests. As an OISE alumnus, I also felt a real sense of nostalgia about the prospect of returning.

What did you love about the program and/or your professors and peers?

The DPE program and its courses offer students the opportunity to explore all sorts of topics and research interests. There is a real range of subjects you can take with varied times offered – this gives me the chance to work and study in a way convenient for me.

The peers in my program all have similar ambitions, but are driven by different motivations and end goals. There is a great mix of educators and individuals from completely different fields; we also get the chance to work with colleagues from around the world.

The professors are experienced and offer the opportunity to contemplate and explore topics so we arrive at our own conclusions. I really enjoy the courses that mix assignment types so we get to apply our learning in different ways: learning seminars, research papers, conferences, online discussions, flyers, and so forth. All of these experiences really come together to create a dynamic learning environment.

What did you learn about yourself at OISE?

I have always loved learning; however, I am now more cognizant of the fact that if I’m not overly interested in a topic I can easily drift off. Therefore, OISE has taught me to ensure I am taking courses that I find intriguing. I know that I really enjoy working with like-minded colleagues and can learn well collaboratively. OISE has made it possible to manage my time effectively. Working and doing a Masters full-time is not easy! I am always organizing my day to make sure I am maximizing opportunity to do all the things that need to get done while trying to maintain a social life as well. I have also learned that taking advantage of events held by the department and university are always great experiences to learn what research is taking place and learn from others.

What would you say to a future OISE student?

Pick an area of study that you are truly excited by! That way classes, readings and assignments will seem that much more enjoyable. Take advantage of all the services offered to graduate students: study rooms, writing centers, work-out rooms, social events, etc. Don’t forget to have fun! Graduate school is different from your undergrad; you’ve got a lot more control.

Final Thoughts:

I think that Farhana is a really interesting person, and commend her for being able to both go to school and work full-time. I don’t think I would be able to do it! 😛 Her testimony is evidence that OISE offers a lot of flexibility to its students, and that an MEd in DPE is worth considering to anybody truly passionate about the field of education.

Anybody interested in reading my previous interviews can go HERE to read my interview with my friend Yisha, or go HERE to read my very first interview with my friend Siwen. OISE has a really diverse student body, and I’m glad I have the opportunity to document some people’s unique experiences. ^_^

Interview with: International Student, Yisha Tang

Hi there! ^_^

For this week’s blog post, I’m going to take a bit of a break from talking about my experience at OISE and let somebody else share their experience.

I’m going to share an interview with my friend Yisha Tang, who I met last semester in my Reading in a Second Language class. She helped me set up and run my PowerPoint for the presentation I mentioned HERE, and I really appreciated her help. I’m not that good at figuring out how technology works sometimes, and having somebody help me run things the day of my presentation was invaluable.

Yisha just finished her MEd in Developmental Psychology & Education this past semester, and will be graduating this June 2017. She is an international student from China. Without further ado, I present her thoughts on her OISE experience:

What drew you to OISE’s program?

The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) was a totally new institution for me, but Chinese people are familiar with the top-ranking universities all over the world. The University of Toronto, with its academic reputation, appeals to many Chinese students and their parents. The reason why I choose to pursue further study at OISE is that, firstly, OISE plays an important role in educational research worldwide. OISE has a large number of teaching and educational resources, qualified faculty, and diverse teaching and studying groups. Secondly, as a crucial unit of the University of Toronto, OISE has attracted many renowned scholars and professors, who share their research experience with students by offering lectures, seminars, and taking part in the classroom. Thirdly, OISE has diverse community groups who like to share their culture and values to bring a better multicultural perspective.

What did you love about the program and/or your professors and peers?

I did not study psychology and education systematically before I came to OISE. My professors and peers are very willing to provide their advice and offer their help. We have a lot of team work for each course, in activities like group presentations, poster displaying, and designing lesson plans.

My peers always offer good suggestions and constructive ideas to create a cooperative learning atmosphere. Professors in our department, Applied Psychology and Human Development, have research expertise and lots of teaching experience. They value different perspectives brought in by local and international students. Their lectures are informative, research intensive, and well-structured. They are willing to offer their own insights into issues on developmental psychology and education.  In each class, I can meet so many kind and knowledgeable colleagues from different countries, hear their opinions, and share our experiences and viewpoints.

What did you learn about yourself at OISE?

In addition to professional knowledge and research, I have a clearer understanding about myself after I completed this program. It triggered my interest in early education and psychology, which remained unknown to me before I started the program. The passion of the faculty at OISE has motivated me to explore more possibilities in educational research.  I find myself curious about theories of child and adolescent development after taking courses in the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development. Besides, I learned to be an independent thinker and a critical reader. In my previous learning periods, teachers usually asked us to memorize all core text content and figure out the right answers without critical thinking. However, scholars at OISE encourage us to read and learn critically and use evidence-based proofs to illustrate our points of view.  It takes effort at the beginning, but then I found myself enjoying the process of reviewing literature and critically summarizing existing research. In addition to independent learning, I also developed my teamwork skills and interpersonal communication. Nearly all the courses in our department involve cooperative activities around academic topics. Students are very willing to contribute their ideas and experience to group activities, such as discussions, presentations, and demo teaching.

What would you say to a future OISE student?

As an international student myself, I highly recommend international students join the OISE community. The courses, lectures, classrooms and libraries provide students with an optical learning environment.  The professors and scholars create an encouraging and harmonious study atmosphere. You can meet friends from all around the world and share experiences and knowledge with your peers. OISE provides various seminars and student services, such as career consultation, paper editing and resume designing. Meanwhile, courses at OISE are so flexible that you could choose online courses or mixed courses if you are occupied with your job.

Now that you are done your degree, what are you doing to secure employment and/or figure out what to do next?

I would like to look for jobs related to education and teaching. I had a part-time teaching job when I was a full-time student at OISE, teaching IELTS prep courses at a private school. I also volunteered to teach kids on the weekends. With the knowledge and skills I learned at OISE, I believe I have a more mature teaching perspective and professional knowledge to develop my teaching career path. Fortunately, the school where I worked as a part-time teacher is willing to offer me a full-time job. They value what I learned from the program and speak highly of my personal efforts.

Do you have any advice or tips for current or future OISE students about how to prepare for the workforce?

Yes, definitely. My advice is, firstly, prepare your resume and cover letter as early as possible. Post this information on LinkedIn if you want to expand your professional network. You can also book resume writing and editing sessions at the OISE Student Success Center. You can join various workshops offered by the Career Learning Network at the University of Toronto. They offer hands-on materials, and a series of workshops on getting a job.  Generally, building a network plays an important role in finding an ideal job position in the job market. Actually, OISE provided me with a large network of stakeholders from different school settings. I learned a lot from them and obtained first-hand job-related information and resources. They shared many education-related job posts available online with me, and encouraged me to take part in job fairs on campus. You could also approach tutors and professors in your department to ask for their guidance and suggestions about your future career path. 

I think it is beneficial for international students to reach out and get more local working experience. The urgent concern for international students, including me, is to apply for a valid Work Permit which allows them to find a full-time job after graduation. Besides, although Toronto has an optimal job market in Canada, jobs related to the educational field are limited- especially for international students, based on my research.

Final Thoughts:

I think Yisha has a good head on her shoulders, and is well-prepared for the next stage of her life. What she says about finding a full-time job and building a career makes sense. I’m glad I got to know her during my first semester here at OISE, and wish her the best of luck with the rest of her life! 😀

Anybody interested in reading another interview with an international student at OISE can go HERE to read my interview with my friend Siwen Tang.

I have learned a lot about life and education through meeting so many different people with so many different perspectives at OISE. I highly encourage anybody who is interested to apply to OISE, and start their own journey here! ^_^

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.

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.

Reflecting on My First Semester of Graduate School

Hi there! ^_^

I can’t believe so much time has passed, and that I’ve already done my very first semester of graduate school here at OISE. I still have a few final papers to write, but my last class of the semester was this past Monday, December 5th. It’s amazing to think of how much I’ve learned in such a short period of time. For my last blog post of this semester, I’m going to take a look at what I did well and what about my habits may need some improvements.

Accomplishments/Positive Things:

I got a job as an OISE Student Ambassador! This is also a position that’s fairly different From the Work-Study position I used to hold at York University. Getting a job in this economy is hard, and I’m glad that I was able to transition to employment at the University of Toronto/OISE.

I was able to persevere despite obstacles. During early November, I broke a bone in my right hand. Despite this injury, I still went to class and wrote blog posts. This was aided by the speech to text software, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which I have installed on my computer. Bad things happen sometimes, but I was able to pull through. My hand is now mostly healed, and I’m looking forward to going to school uninjured next semester.

I procrastinated less. Thankfully, I did some of the smaller assignments in my courses earlier than needed. I signed up to lead discussion groups in one of my classes, and selected weeks to do this assignment that weren’t right near the end of the semester. This contributed to my feeling less overwhelmed right around this time of year.

I was able to learn from a variety of different cultures and perspectives. OISE has quite a few international students, and I’ve gotten to know some of them – both inside and outside of class. This has broadened my ideas of what people can be like and what values different cultures hold. This has also broadened my career prospects by making me more likely to consider working abroad.

I have accomplished quite a few things, and really grown as a person. I have, however, also been entrenched in some bad habits that would be in my best interest to fix. Therefore, I’ve made some goals for next semester.

For Improvement:

Work on my time management skills. I procrastinated less than I did in the past, but there’s still room for improvement. In the future, I will make more of an effort to break large assignments into smaller steps and work on them gradually throughout the semester.

Continue to get to know new people. I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten to know people at OISE mainly in class, and not through very many other avenues. In the future, I will make more of an effort to go to events at OISE & within the larger U of T community.

Learn more about fields that I am currently not familiar with. My favorite class this past semester, Introduction to Special Education and Adaptive Instruction, was about an area that I was already pretty familiar with. It was nice to broaden my knowledge, but it may also be beneficial to learn more about areas of study that I haven’t studied before. I’m taking a public policy course about public policy as it relates to children taught by an OISE professor next semester. I don’t know that much about policy, but think that this is an area that warrants further study.

Be more optimistic about my future. I am a bit concerned about my career prospects after I graduate from OISE due to the tough job market, especially for young people. It worries me because I don’t know what’s going to happen, but maybe that’s a good thing. In the future, I will try to be more tolerant of uncertainty. I don’t know what’s going to happen after I graduate, but maybe those changes that will eventually occur after I transition from school to full-time employment will be positive. As such, I’ll try not to be so pessimistic.

Final Thoughts:

I think that reflecting on one’s experiences is a fantastic tool for learning and growth. Writing this blog post has helped me understand how much I’ve accomplished, and how much I have yet to learn. I encourage everybody to reflect on what they’re currently doing, whether it is working full-time, applying to graduate school, or just finishing up their undergraduate degree. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ve learned.

What To Do While Waiting for Grades….

Hi there! ^_^

I hope that everybody had a good winter break from school, & is ready to start the new semester.

I’ve submitted all my coursework for my Fall semester courses, & am now just waiting for my grades. According to OISE’s Important Dates page, grades for Fall semester courses are due on January 13th & will be available for students to view online a week after they are due.

It can be hard to wait for grades sometimes, so I figure it would help if I included a list of things students could do to distract themselves from worrying or being overly anxious.

  1. Prepare for the upcoming semester! It may seem a bit obvious, but focusing on current courses & getting required materials such as textbooks is important.
  2. Do something creative! There are various paint studios, art lounges, & art supply stores in Toronto. I personally recommend going to The Clay Room on Danforth Avenue, which I mentioned in my first post as an OISE Student Ambassador. There’s also Paintlounge, which a friend of mine visited for her work holiday party.
  3. Go to a museum, & immerse yourself in history and/or culture! The Royal Ontario Musuem (ROM) & the Bata Shoe Museum are pretty close to OISE, so why not go there after class?
  4. Join a club on campus! I’m in the process of arranging a volunteer placement through a U of T club called Working Around The Clock Helping (WATCH), which assists children in Toronto’s Regent Park neighborhood.  On-campus clubs can be a great way of gaining practical experience, & getting to know people at school. There’s also a Clubs & Summer Experience Fair on January 17th, organized by the University of Toronto Students’ Union.
  5. Participate in Welcome Week Events! 😀 There’s Winterfest, with events geared mainly toward undergraduate students, and a Winter Welcome Week organized by the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union.
  6. Explore the city of Toronto with some friends! There are various little cafes & places in Toronto that I’ve never been, & I’m going to visit the Iron Rose Tea Gallery with some friends this coming Saturday. For a vegan cafe that’s run by U of T students, check out Harvest Noon! The possibilities are endless, & taking some time to discover the city while you aren’t bogged down with assignments could prove helpful later on.

Toronto is an amazing, vibrant city, & the resources that the University of Toronto offers to students are expansive. It can be challenging to wait for grades, but distracting yourself from worrying can be easy if you just look around you. I hope the things I’ve pointed out in this blog post prove helpful to people, & wish everybody a good first week back to school! ^_^

La Decolonizing Conference- Guest Post by Roxana (EN ESPANOL)

Hi there! ^_^ As promised, here is former OISE Ambassador Roxana‘s post & thoughts about the Decolonizing Conference written in Spanish. If you’d like to read her post in English & hear my thoughts about her experience, please visit my previous blog post HERE.


La Decolonizing Conference


Del 3 al 5 de noviembre, el OISE organizó la Decolonizing Conference 2016, conmemorando el 20 Aniversario del Centro de Estudios Integrativos contra el Racismo (CIARS). La conferencia fue un gran éxito, y atrajo a estudiantes de todas partes de Canadá y diferentes universidades del mundo. Durante la Conferencia, muchas presentaciones y un panel fueron expuestos, así como sorprendentes meas magistrales. Los profesores Eve Tuck, Walter Mignolo y Joyce fueron increíbles. Sus ideas nos permitieron repensar el contexto político y social actual de Canada y el mundo, desde teorías decolonizadoras y pensamiento indígena.

Durante la Conferencia Pacha Arts, una tienda propiedad de activistas indígenas ecuatorianos, estuvieron presentes. El trabajo de ellos es muy importante, dado que su activismo se ve reflejado tanto en la lucha por la justica de poblaciones indígenas canadienses como para poblaciones indígenas en Canadá.

Tuve la oportunidad de presentar en un panel constituido por solo Latinx. Fue una oportunidad increíble para nosotrxs. Recibimos tanto amor después de nuestra presentación y múltiples comentarios de estudiantes diciendo que nunca habían visto una presentación conformada sólo por Latinx en universidades canadienses. Esos comentarios me hicieron apreciar aún más la existencia de la Decolonizing Conference y, por supuesto, la posibilidad que la OISE da a sus profesores y estudiantes para celebrar un evento tan maravilloso.