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Reflections on a Pandemic Semester - "Communities of Inquiry" in the Virtual World

Due to the unfortunate circumstances of covid, I have not yet had the chance to begin practically integrating the lessons that I have learned from my coursework into the classroom. However, I do feel fortunate to have the opportunity to enter into my practicum experience with two semesters worth of study into the field of education and a lot of personal reflection under my belt.

This experience with the BEd program has left me thinking a lot about what it means to be involved in ‘communities of inquiry.’ Currently, I am not directly involved with a school, I do not have any children, and do most of my work from my home, other than my nannying. My first instinct was to feel alienated from the communities that surround education, and to let this feeling of alienation make me feel even more nervous and unprepared for going into the classroom. However, I have reminded myself that the scholarly community that surrounds the field of education is a perfectly relevant place from which to learn and reflect upon what it means to teach. Although my PED3112 class was entirely asynchronous, I found so much value in the studies and experimental lessons that we were given to read in the class, particularly those that came from The National Council for Social Studies and The Journal for Early Childhood Literacy. The thorough nature of these studies gave me both the opportunity to understand the intentions behind the lessons and get an idea of how they played out in the classroom. The articles offered fresh perspectives on how to teach literacy and social studies. For example, I particularly loved the highly experimental approach to literacy education described in “‘Go Be a Writer’: Intra-activity with Materials, Time and Space in Literacy Learning” by Kuby et al. This approach to literacy involved giving students as much time as they needed to explore and manipulate craft materials. The intention was to give students the opportunity to find inspiration about what they wanted to write. As a child, I remember playing hours of ‘pretend’ in an effort to craft the arc of an entire story. When the idea was clear in my head I sat down with my marbled composition notebook one day and 20 pages came spewing out of my fingers faster than anything I have ever written since. The article made me consider the importance of fostering imagination and encouraging children to develop mental habits that can help them generate their own ideas. These are the kinds of ideas that transcend the curriculum and the day to day realities of being in the classroom. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to really sit with and consider different teaching philosophies and strategies because I will use these frameworks as I start to develop my more concrete lessons in the future.

When it comes to thinking about my teaching practice more practically, I think that my time in PED3141 was incredibly helpful for addressing my fears about teaching. Before entering this program, I was filled with a lot of uncertainty about how I would ensure that every student was getting the attention that they needed in order to succeed. I worried that every student could potentially be struggling with a different element of the material being taught and that I would never be able to address every student’s needs. Previously, most of my teaching experience had been private and one-on-one. I was able to enter into my lessons with one idea of how I would relay the information being taught and I anticipated having to adjust my methods based on my one student’s trouble spots. This reactionary form of teaching would never work in a large classroom setting. While developing our unit plans in PED3141, I learned about the concept of backwards design planning and the importance of assessing students for learning and consistently monitoring where students are in their understanding of a topic. When I think of Timperley’s concept of the “adaptive expert,” it seems to me as though backwards design is the framework through which teachers can become efficiently adaptive to every student and every need. By taking the time to synthesize the most important takeaways for all students in a lesson, it becomes easier to differentiate learning for each student, allowing everyone to feel accommodated and appropriately challenged. By frequently monitoring student understanding it is easy to adapt teaching to different subgroups of students and give appropriate amounts of attention to all students.

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