Category Archives: Student Reflections

Back-to-school, back-to-OISE


by Susan
Master of Teaching


With big goals, comes big responsibilities…

I’ve been away form the keyboard for a while, but I’m back to update you on everything that has happened since April. I will kickoff the first post of the school year in Question and Answer format. Continue reading for some exciting news! 😊

How was summer?

As you may know, the summer between Year 1 and Year 2 MT, consists of two sessions with two courses in each session. This summer for the Intermediate/Senior stream, I had:

  • Anti-discrimination Education
  • Authentic Assessments
  • Issues II in Secondary Schools
  • Integrating Technology into the Classroom

Towards the end of my undergrad, interdisciplinary education started getting a lot of attention from different faculties, however I wasn’t around long enough to get a sense of what that looked like in post-secondary

What’s going through my head currently?

I am getting those back-to-school jitters again, but not the same as last year

What new plans do you have for this year?


I’m eager to get my research paper started and recruiting participants.


I took on an executive role on the Master of Teaching Student Association (MTSA) as the VP of Professional Development. Sometimes I treat this like a full-time job because my team and I have so much planned for this coming year. We are introducing everything from professional headshots to MT clothing to an MT formal.

What hasn’t changed?

Same cohort as before! These people are my rock, I can’t imagine going into my final year without them!


Reflections on my first year in MT

by Susan
Master of Teaching


I will be going down memory lane to summarize my year in the MT program. This year has been a fun roller-coaster ride.

  1. What was first year like overall?

Time went by so quickly. I still remember the Cohort Meet-and-Greet in June before classes began, the September welcome week, and unwrapping the famous pod chairs OISE classrooms are known for. Through all the classes, assignments, extra-curriculars, the people in your cohort  and the OISE faculty and staff become your ultimate support system.

2. What was tougher? Courses or Practicum?

Both courses and practica came with a different set of responsibilities and they were challenging in their own ways. For example my courses required lots of time management over long periods to coordinate group work with other cohort members. Most people commute or have work and family commitments so becoming familiar with everyone’s schedule that actually ended up saving time when major assignments were due. As for practicum, there is a lot of learning to do in such a short span of time. You transition from sitting and listening in class to all of a sudden the teacher for a month. Learning to switch gears and walking into the classroom as if it was my own was the toughest.

3. Do you like the courses you are taking?

To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about the courses because its been pre-selected to meet the teacher certification requirements. My expectation originally was that the courses were like a rule book you needed to memorize in order to be a teaching professional. As the semester progresses, you see how all the courses compliment each other like certain wines with cheese…my point is I saw the relevancy in these courses over time. The courses promote working with each other, a practise that is not utilized enough in schools to help teacher plan lessons and get input from other disciplines. Teaching is a soft skill and what teachers do is teach soft and hard skills. There is no other program out there that teaches you how to teach.

4. Has the program changed your mind about teaching?

Not at all. My practicum placements has allowed me to work with grades I had previously thought would not be a good fit for me. I am in I/S that means grades 7 to 12, but typically that means high school grades 9 to 12. I experienced working with grade 7 and 8 students and now I am open to all ages, elementary and post-secondary teaching. Teaching is an aspect of a job that I find motivating!

If you would like to see the perspective of a Primary/Junior MT, please see the previous ambassador Caitlin’s blog. Please check out her “FAEQ: Frequently Asked Email Questions for the MT Program” post and other posts regarding Primary/Junior divisions of the program.

First Welcome to new MT’s at the March Meet and Greet

by Susan
Master of Teaching


Hi everyone!

This post is a quick check-in about my thoughts on the MT Meet and Greet in March 2017. This event was hosted by the MT program – Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning and the Office of the Registrar and Student Services. It was a night for prospective students who have been given offers (final and conditional) to get to know more about the programs. This session focused on the cohort-model at OISE, unique off-site learning opportunities, practicum and course details.

I took part in meeting and talking to prospective students in the Intermediate/Senior breakout session and the library information session. Let me just say, the level of enthusiasm and energy in the room felt like the warm feeling of family that my cohort has brought me!  (OISE never fails to select a great bunch of teacher candidates haha).

Finally, my highlight of the night in addition to all the eager questions I received, was hearing that students were reading my blogs and found them helpful and reassuring. I am so happy if my own experience helped or will help you decide whether OISE is the right place for you 🙂

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. ^_^

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.

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. 🙂

Late Start Days – What it means for teachers

by Susan
Master of Teaching


While in elementary school and high school there were days where I stayed at home as a student because is was a Professional Activity/Development day (usually a Friday). Other days I got to sleep in because school started later in the morning due to Professional Learning Community (PLC) projects for teachers. As a teacher, there is no such thing as a late start morning or a Friday off.  If anything, these days are mandatory for teachers to come together as the entire faculty -not just as departments- and discuss goals and challenges for the school year.

During my practicum this month, each Thursday is a PLC late start day. This means a portion of the morning schedule is dedicated for teachers to work on their PLC project and classes begin later in the morning. At my practicum school, the PLC topic is focused on teacher learning and how that may impact their leadership with students. The teachers are divided into groups that focus on a subtopic and each subtopic must have goals that are measurable and a method of inquiry to meet the goals.

Topics include Equity, Well-being for students, Well-being for teachers, Well-being for bridging interactions between students and teachers and Achievement. Being a part of the PLC groups shed light on to secondary issues that haven’t been discussed in class.

One topic that caught my attention, in particular, was teacher well-being. The issues brought up in the subgroup was marking load and that teachers are bringing their lesson planning and marking home with them. In any particular school day, teachers are constantly readjusting their lessons, working around field trips, absences, assemblies, you name it and on top of that running errands and organizing papers and grades for at least 100 students. The prep period that teachers have each day is maybe enough time to collect your photocopies, answer some emails and attend a meeting or two with the VP or a parent. Not to mention, the many responsibilities before and after school making sure students are supervised and behaving on school property. So where does that leave time for evaluating student work and putting together the next lesson?

I often hear about mental health and well-being in the context of student burn-out but on the flip-side teacher burn-out is an issue no one seems to address openly. Instead, people (non-teachers) often talk negatively about a teacher’s workload and “easiness” of their job. I think until you have been in a teaching position, the job isn’t just teaching the same material and giving out homework every day. Teachers need to feel human, especially if they want their students to be able to relate to them. Some ideas to support teacher well-being include: staff retreats, staff vs. students sports and provide little things like occasional breakfast/luncheon to get teachers through the day. At the end of the day, I believe a teacher’s well-being is partly determined by the appreciation and support the school shows for their teachers.

You can read my post on PA Days HERE.