My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

22 Articles Tagged with “teaching”

  1. Travelling is not my favourite thing

    What a week, or to be more precise, three days!

    Last month my former boss asked my current boss if I could travel to Guelph to present some Office365 training to teachers at a workshop. I don’t like travelling, nor do I think I bring much unique to the table in terms of doing training. But I was flattered that he had requested me, and I want to stay in his good books, so I said yes. The workshop itself was two days, but I committed to coming for the second day only; this week was the last week of the session, and I didn’t want to miss two of the last three days of classes while my students were completing culminating tasks.

    Travelling from Thunder Bay is always an interesting experience. We have an “international” airport because we have direct flights to the States and places like Cuba. But pretty much any other destination involves going through a connection in Winnipeg (west) or Toronto (east). So to get to Guelph, I had to fly to Toronto, then take a shuttle to Guelph. The realities of scheduling—finding a flight in the evening with enough time between the end of the…

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  2. Sharing the knitting knowledge

    Today I showed someone how to long-tail cast on, and I can’t help but feel like I did a good thing for the world.

    I was working in the evening at the gallery, and had just taken the vacuum cleaner out. Winter is upon us, which means people track salt de-icer from the walkway onto the carpet. Vacuum every day!

    As I came back to the front with the vacuum, I saw a mother sitting there waiting for her child’s art class to finish. She had her knitting needles out and was casting on with some bulky Lion Brand yarn. (I love Lion Brand. It’s so soft, so nice to use.)

    I love talking to knitters in the wild, so I did something unusual for me and struck up a conversation! I asked her what she was knitting (a scarf, with some lacework since she has find a new technique to try). I mentioned that I was a knitter, of course, and we agreed that knitting in front of the TV is about as good as life gets. She also told me that her son, who is probably 11 or 12 years old, knits too, and that she hopes…

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  3. When they speak

    I had an excellent class this morning.

    Previously I blogged about how, in this combined ENG3C/NBE3C Grade 11 English course, we looked at various texts to help students article their identity. We’ve now moved on to looking at the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada. We have watched three documentaries (Trick or Treaty?, Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, and We Were Children), and the students are working on research reports on topics of their choosing.

    Today we listened to the Canadaland Commons episode on residential schools and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report. After watching We Were Children the day before, I wanted to give students more information and access to more perspectives. Desmond Cole and Andray Domise play excellent hosts to Ryan McMahon and Chelsea Vowel, who are both so passionate. While we listened, I modelled for my students that kind of note-taking I expect them to try when they are researching for their own projects.

    After we listened to the podcast, I opened the floor for discussion. It was a slow going at first, and even at its peak, I’d say that three or four students dominated the discussion, with one or two…

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  4. Exploring Self and Identity Through Short Stories

    I have two book reviews I really should be writing instead, and some planning to finish, because I’m off tomorrow afternoon to Sudbury (of all places) for a two-day workshop. So of course I’m blogging instead!

    In the previous session (March to April) at the adult education centre, I taught a Grade 11 workplace math course (MEL3E). I’ve taught this course several times now, and I didn’t bring much new to the table content wise (although I like the tweaks I made to the culminating activity). However, now that my board is getting on board with Office 365 and I had access to a classroom cart of iPads, I, along with a few other teachers, investigated the possibility of using Microsoft OneNote’s Classroom Notebook. That experience in and of itself is worthy of more blogging, but that’s not what I want to talk about today.

    Last week we started a new session (May to June), and I’m back at the Aboriginal Student Advancement Program (ASAP), teaching adult aboriginal students Grade 11 college English (ENG3C) and a Native Studies English literature course, Contemporary Aboriginal Voices (NBE3C) as a split class. As you might expect, this means a lot of content from…

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  5. That time I made a music video

    The school year ended today at Thetford Academy, where I worked for two years, teaching math and English to English schoolchildren. It was an interesting, challenging time. While I’m happy to be back home, I also miss it very much. In particular, I miss my former Year 10 students, this year’s batch of Year 11s.

    Both years that I was there, I had the privilege of attending the Year 11 Leavers Prom, where teachers and students alike celebrated the massive achievement that is completing one’s GCSE exams. It being a prom, I, of course, danced.

    I love dancing.

    Much to my surprise, my students also loved my dancing—not just the Year 11s, but other years as well.

    So I was sad that this year I wouldn’t be able to dance at the prom, particularly because I had such a good time with that group of students last year. My group were very motivated, and even when they weren’t keen on learning the math, they did their best for me. That meant a lot. Some of the group were also among the first students I taught, back when they were in Year 9 and I was on the now-legendary south…

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  6. Report cards are not the problem here

    Yesterday Martin Regg Cohn wrote in the Toronto Star about how the work-to-rule action by ETFO is harmful to students because of the inconvenience and delay it causes in notifying parents about those students’ final marks. He says:

    Marks don’t matter. Achievement goes unnoted. Adversity remains unremarked.

    Cute—far cuter than Cohn’s attempts to belittle the seriousness of the industrial action happening here later in the column with his own work-to-rule parody.

    But this post, unlike my last response to someone protesting labour action, is not actually about labour, collective bargaining, or the right to take these actions. Rather, I take issue with the way Cohn, and others, have chosen to focus on the refusal to complete report cards as some kind of grave sin that demonstrates the insincerity of teachers’ commitment to our students.

    Here’s the truth: if teachers and schools have been doing their jobs all year, then those final report cards don’t matter as much as you claim.

    Firstly, I’m so disappointed that anyone wants to make this a debate about marks in elementary school. What, are you afraid your kid isn’t going to get into the most prestigious Grade 6 class? If a student is in…

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  7. Modelling epidemics to learn about probability

    My major focus in my work at the Adult Education Centre has been adapting online courses for the Hybrid Learning Project. Basically, these are high school courses adult learners can complete online, but there is also an in-person tutorial component to them. I’ve been adapting the e-Learning Ontario MDM4U (Grade 12 Data Management) course. I’m almost done.

    I could write an entire post about this assignment and how I feel about it, but that’s for another time. Instead I want to share something cool I made for the course.

    When I hit the lesson on experimental probability, the assignment was basically, “Create an experiment and perform it ten or twenty times and then estimate the experimental probability.” Yeah. As if someone doing an online course would really do that.

    So I searched for some kind of interactive resource—and I found this NRICH activity on modelling epidemics. It’s a neat Flash applet that lets you adjust variables and then simulate an epidemic in a village. After each epidemic finishes, the simulator calculates the mean and standard deviation for a few different variables. The idea is that students should adjust one variable at a time and then hypothesize what effects this…

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  8. The problem with teaching STEM

    Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine have announced they have evidence that mice can pass traits to offspring through bacteria’s DNA.

    That’s it, guys, I’m done.

    I took biology in high school, and enjoyed it, even though it is the squishiest of the sciences. I remember learning about genes and DNA and inheritance and Punnett squares. In the textbooks, it all looks so cut-and-dried. But it has been simplified to the point of being almost-but-not-quite a lie. (Physics has the same problem when it comes to extremely complicated matters like flight or, you know, relativity; with chemistry, it’s the whole solar-system model of the atom business.)

    Science is wonderful, and the best thing about it is that it’s an ongoing process of discovery. We know about DNA now, but the way DNA and genes interact to influence our growth and development continues to surprise us, even though we know more about it than we did ten years ago. Above all else, however, discoveries like the one I mentioned above underscore a fundamental truth: science is weird and wacky. There are stranger things on this Earth than are dreamt of in any of our philosophies, and just when…

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  9. Home via Halifax

    I’m home. I’m sitting in my bedroom, in my slightly-too-short-for-this-desk rolling chair, a cup of tea in my big blue Eeyore mug to my right, and my fabulous bookshelves to my left.

    Oh, and my room is a mess. My suitcases lie on the floor in front of the bookshelves and TV, bulging and gravid with my life in England. I haven’t even attempted to unpack yet. I need to tidy the room first, for it has become mired in the accumulated kipple of two years’ near-continuous absence. Snuggled between the cases and the shelf are books I didn’t succeed in getting rid of before leaving. More books that I haven’t read yet are strewn around my room: on my desk, atop my dresser, in envelopes and boxes and bubble-wrapped packages. I have a lot of work to do, and a lot of organization.

    So I’m blogging instead.

    My flight across the Atlantic was uneventful. It was my first transatlantic flight with Air Canada, and they were surprisingly punctual. I was a bit bored; fortunately, because I was flying to Halifax, the flight was only six and a half hours instead of the eight and a half it takes to…

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  10. Last day teaching in England

    Picture if you will: finding it difficult to get a job in your chosen profession near home, you elect to move to an entirely different country to start your career. Now, some of you might have actually done this. So factor in having stayed in your hometown for almost your entire life, including university studies, with only occasional forays to other places. Oh, and you’re not a people person—you generally find their unspoken signals and expectations annoying and disconcerting and would much rather be reading a book, or at the very least interacting with them at arm’s length via Twitter. But no, you uncharacteristically up sticks and trek to a distant land where you are thrust into a brave new world that looks and feels a little bit like what you’re expecting but is also strange and alien in other ways. You spend two years there, two very long and difficult and fulfilling years. You have the, frankly, terrifying responsibility of moulding the minds of the next generation and are expected to engage them, educate them, and keeping them from killing each other. At times you feel variously exhausted, elated, stressed, amused, despondent, and content. For two years, this is…

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  11. Have you got “swag”?

    All this week has been “Transition Week” at my school. The school operates across two sites, creatively named “North” and “South”, which were formerly two separate schools. Some teachers work across both sites; others, like me, are based on a single site—I spent my entire year on South site. Next year, however, the entire school is moving into new buildings on the North site. This has been a move several years in the making, and with the departure of this year’s Year 11s, only Years 9 and 10 remained on the south site. They have to go to a “new” school next year and mingle with new peers.

    So this week, each year group has had its own Transition Day. They all come to the north site, in non-uniform clothes. They meet their tutor for next year (if that teacher is here already; some new staff aren’t) and participate in a series of structured activities in the morning: graffiti, drumming, and sports challenges/teambuilding. In the afternoon there is a fête, with a few student-run stalls and various supervised activities: Segways, quad bikes, a climbing wall, zorbing, and more. It’s a fun chance for students to relax, meet their counterparts…

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  12. Playing host to herpes zoster

    It started the weekend before last. I woke up with my right eye slightly swollen and a little irritated. I groaned and worried I was developing conjunctivitis. Every since the half-term, I had been battling an epic cold that just wouldn’t go away, and a few times before, the toll such a cold takes on my hygiene has resulted in a bout of conjunctivitis at the tail end of the illness. I sighed and booked my first appointment with a doctor since I moved here and registered with a surgery, wondering if I would need to take work off on Monday in order to keep it.

    Monday came round, and it brought more bad news. When I woke up, the swelling around my eye had turned into a tiny, bumpy white rash. I knew there was no way I could go in to work, so I called in sick, sent in some cover work, and composed myself for my appointment. The doctor saw me promptly, took a look at my eye, and told me I had shingles. Good thing I went to the doctor so quickly after developing the symptoms! He was able to put me on antivirals.

    Well,…

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  13. You can go home again

    I’ve spent the past eleven days back home in Thunder Bay, enjoying my break and catching up with friends and family. It has been good. I have reconnected with our cats, who began merrily disassembling the Christmas tree one ornament at a time approximately an hour after we put it up. I saw my 3.5-year-old nephew and gave him some gifts courtesy Scotland. I hung out with my mom, watching movies and drinking tea and baking cinnamon buns. And I did much the same with my dad, minus the cinnamon bun part (he did bake two pumpkin pies, though, while I happened to be in the house—does that count?). I saw a few groups of friends, learned how to play Cards Against Humanity, Munchkin, and a few other fun games. Good times.

    Now they are over, and I fly back to Toronto in slightly more than four hours. From there, I take an 8 pm flight back to England and a four hour coach trip up to Bury. Perhaps my least favourite part of travelling (aside from the travelling) is how much time it consumes! However, there is nothing I can do about that. I can only make…

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  14. Teaching and Twitter

    So, my students finally found me online.

    Seriously, what took you so long?

    Not to boast, but I’m easy to find online. There are few enough Ben Babcocks that my various accounts, not to mention my website, eventually show up sometime on a Google search. So I knew it was just a matter of time.

    Knowledge of my online presence has spread quite quickly. I’m not that bothered. Long ago I made a decision to discard anonymity. While it’s a valid option, I found that in my case I wanted to be able to keep my online and offline lives as closely linked as possible. I knew that, with my chosen profession, this might pose some difficulties. However, it also provides a few opportunities as well.

    After all, we are still figuring out privacy in the digital age. Having hit its 20th anniversary this year, the Web remains relatively new. My generation is among the first to grow up with it as a professional platform for self-promotion, self-aggrandizement, and self-expression. We have to suss out what is private versus what is personal. The bottom line, though, is that we are unquestionably making more information available in public (or to…

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  15. I'm an adult now

    I’ve had a good run. Aside from the last period of Friday last week, my last two weeks have been good. It’s still difficult and exhausting, but I’m still surviving!

    I am still coming to terms with the significance of this new chapter in my life, and last Thursday hammered this home. We had an Open Evening, where children from Year 6 and their parents tour the school prior to deciding where to go for Year 7. We teachers were expected to stay there and represent our departments, and so I ended up not getting home until around 9:30. In the hours between the end of the school day and the start of the event, I was hanging around in the staff room and my room, marking and otherwise marking time. And it occurred to me that I was actually a teacher.

    Yes, I’ve been a teacher for a while now—at least on paper, and perhaps even in practice. But it still hadn’t sunk in. With these events in the past, even if I were there helping out as a student, I was still a student. I wasn’t privy to the behind the scenes featurettes in the staff room. That…

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  16. Life in England: It goes on

    Welcome to the first of what will hopefully be more frequent (albeit probably shorter) updates! I have been meaning to write this post since the beginning of last week, but every night seemed like a good night to procrastinate. My reading is also suffering, as those of you who follow my reviews on Goodreads have probably noticed. This too shall pass.

    I’m firmly ensconced in teaching now: school is in session, I’ve learned all my students’ names (much to our mutual surprise), and I have found a few more bow ties. I’m absolutely, incredibly, indescribably exhausted almost all the time. This is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. (To be fair, though, it’s not like I’ve done much with my life so far.) I rather expected it would be, and I’m not trying to complain (too much). I’m just not sugar-coating it or allowing myself to have any illusions: this is a demanding, challenging, stressful job. I care a lot, which is good and is what will help me be a great teacher—but it also means I have to be careful not to burn myself out with planning and worrying. The old adage “work smarter, not…

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  17. I teach now. Teaching is cool

    I’ve had a long and interesting week, so let’s get started.

    As some background, my school has two sites (North and South) as an artifact of combining two schools. North site is undergoing extensive renovation, with an entire new building being added, so South site is being phased out. I’m teaching entirely in one room on South site. Aside from having a Promethean board instead of a SMART board, I’m OK with this. Firstly, South site is a lot quieter. Secondly, it’s only five minutes (or less) from a bus stop on the route between Thetford and Bury. I have a ride, thanks to a teacher who lives literally at the end of the block, but it’s good to have a backup plan.

    I was told to show up bright and early on Monday morning. Since everyone else was starting on Tuesday, I took the bus, and then took a cab to the slightly more distant North site. The other teachers with my agency arrived shortly thereafter … and no one was expecting us. No one was really there. The administrative staff put us in a room, gave us tea and coffee, and printed off our timetables. Then we left.…

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  18. Educating the “innocent”: This classroom is not yet rated

    A few weeks ago I discussed gender stereotypes in ads with my Grade 8 class. I knew I would have no trouble finding examples to bring in to demonstrate what I meant. Indeed, I found this awesome website, the Gender Ads Project, with thousands of scanned magazine ads categorized by the stereotypes they portray. What I didn’t anticipate was how difficult it would be to find ads that both clearly demonstrate a stereotype and are safe for a Grade 8 classroom. I knew ads were hypersexualized, but it has never been more apparent than the hour or so I spent discarding various ads for being too racy for the classroom.

    This annoyed me, but the source of that annoyance was not the advertisers themselves. Oh, I’m plenty miffed by advertisers for all those gender stereotypes they perpetuate in their attempts to sell, sell, sell. But in this case, I was annoyed by how, as a teacher, my hands are often tied in a way that prevents me from truly addressing important issues in an authentic way. It’s silly to think that kids aren’t being exposed to hypersexualized ads outside of the classroom: these ads pervade every medium, from television…

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  19. Sailing off the edge

    Last Thursday I wrote my final exam as an undergraduate university student. This marks the end of my formal schooling (for now). I have this week off, which is a welcome break and short vacation, and then I begin my second five-week practicum. Come the last full week of April, I will be finished completely. No more assignments. No more tests. I’ll be a transcript and some bureaucratic processing away from being a certified teacher.

    I have mixed feelings about being finished school. On one hand, it is a relief. This last term of classes went by slowly. Many of my friends remarked that they were not getting much from their classes this time, that they were anxious to get back out in the field or to be done … and I can see whence this line of reasoning comes, and I agree in part. We had an intense conversation about this in my Philosophy of Education class, about how we would redesign the teacher education program if we could. All of us spoke with the voices of very tired teacher candidates.

    On the other hand, it is also terrifying. This is it. When I entered university, I entered as…

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  20. Student teaching, come and gone

    My practicum is over.

    But you might not have known it had even started. I kept meaning to blog about my experiences in my “professional year”, and then when my practicum began, about that. Yet I never got around to it. This has been my busiest year in long memory, and my practicum kept me busier than ever. So hopefully a short recap will suffice.

    First, professional year—the first nine weeks. I enjoyed most of my classes. There was a lot more reading and many more assignments than I was used to in my previous years, which mostly consisted of weekly math assignments and the occasional essay. But my classes have raised important issues I need to consider as a teacher, and they have prepared me well for teaching. (I still hate group work.)

    Now, the practicum. I was lucky with my assignment. I went to a local high school, to the math department. In fact, my associate teacher was the same teacher in whose classroom my group had taught a “mini-lesson” for my math instruction course. So I had already met her, and she had already seen me teach (sort of). This reduced my trepidation as I went into…

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  21. Learning to look past my privilege and listen

    I keep meaning to write a more general post about my experience in professional year, but other things always seem to be happening. Such a post will happen eventually. Or maybe it won’t, and I’ll look back at this blog three years from now and wonder what I thought about learning how to teach—except that, hopefully, the threads of what my nascent personal philosophy of pedagogy will be visible in some of these posts. Now that I am fast approaching that moment when I can call myself “teacher”, I am always thinking about how I am going to teach. And everything I read or watch or see relates to that, in some way.

    Take Slutwalk, for instance. We talked about this in my Media, Education, and Gender class last week. We discussed it in relation to violence against women and how to prevent sexual assault, as well as the implications of “reclaiming” a word like slut. Indeed, we asked some very interesting questions: who can reclaim the word, and why would that group want to do so? The N-word was brought up as a comparison. So imagine my surprise when, this weekend, Slutwalk and the N-word intersected…

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  22. Next year I kind of enter the adult world

    I'm almost finished my fourth year of university, and with it, my HBA in Mathematics. It doesn't feel like four years! It feels like barely yesterday I was a nervous first-year student trying to figure out how to get around our campus (which I now realize is tiny compared to other campuses).

    I won't be graduating at the end of the year, because I'm actually in a five-year concurrent education program. For those of you unfamiliar with it and with teaching certification in Ontario, let me give you a brief run down. Instead of completing my mathematics degree and then doing a one-year education program ("consecutive education" or colloquially known as "teacher's college" around these parts), I have for the past four years been enrolled in concurrent education. As the name implies, I'm taking education courses concurrently with the courses I need for my math degree. So at the end of the five years, assuming I complete the program, I'll have an HBA in Mathematics and a BEd. In Ontario, teachers are certified to teach in a specialization defined by grade level. Mine is "Intermediate/Senior," or I/S, which means grades 7-12. I really want to teach high school, but…

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About Me

I’m a 27-year-old math and English teacher back in Canada after two years teaching in England. In my free time, I read books! When I’m not reading, I’m writing, coding, or knitting.

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About this site

I started coding websites, in bad HTML on Geocities, in 2004 in a fit of whimsy. Since then I’ve learned PHP/MySQL, coded my own blog software, and rebuilt this site several times. With the exception of the blog, it’s currently running on the exquisite Symphony CMS. This website is hosted by HawkHost

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