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Earlier this summer, The College of the North Atlantic’s Respiratory Therapy program lost its accreditation. In 2016 the Council on Accreditation for Respiratory Therapy Education placed the program on a one-year probation, and then although the college tried to address deficiencies, apparently there was not enough improvement to maintain their status. For more see this CBC article and this interview on NTV. 

The 13 students accepted into the program for this fall have been refunded their money, but another 26 who have completed their first and second years are stuck. Regardless of the issues, as is often the case in post-secondary struggles it is the students that pay the price. As one student echoed, even if they are able to have their money refunded, they are still out the time and effort they have invested.

In one department I teach in, we are not externally accredited per se, but because each course is university transferable, routinely each PSI in the province, reviews the outline and learning objectives to determine if it will be transferable and if so what the equivalent course or number of credits it will be. Maintaining standards is important not only for an institutions reputation but also for how we value our students. I think often PSI’s forget that they are or should be in the service of students.

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September!

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What a couple of weeks! It is back to school time, my favourite time of year! A brand new start with new and returning students.

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of meetings, orientations, and classes. This semester should be interesting as I am teaching two classes, outside of my specialty in addition to another brand new course, and don’t forget all the admin work. I am looking forward to experimenting with some of the techniques I learned in the Instructional Skills Workshop and of course my PIDP Professional Practices module.

Let the games begin!

I found it!

Last week I took the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) as credit for PIDP 3220. To be honest I had been procrastinating enrolling because I was terrified. Preparing lessons and presenting them to colleagues? What could be more nerve-racking than that?

Mostly because of the wonderful facilitator, the ISW was one of the best experiences of my teaching career. I met other passionate educators, honing their craft and best of all learned so much!

At the end of a very intense four days, we each selected from a stack of educational quotes, one saying that reflected our pedagogical beliefs. I picked:

“…we teach what we love. Isn’t that a major part of what’s caused us to become teachers in the first place? We want to spend our life helping others experience the pleasure we experienced as students as we became more knowledgeable and skilled in the discipline we find so fascinating.” 

I knew it was by Brookfield, but I didn’t expect the lines to be included in the chapter on “Understanding Students’ Resistance to Learning”. Among the reasons Brookfield lists for students resisting learning are poor image as learners, fear of the unknown, a normal rhythm of learning, a disjunction of learning and teaching styles, apparent irrelevance of the learning activity, inappropriate level of learning, fear of looking foolish in public, cultural suicide, lack of instructor clarity, students’ dislike of teachers, and going to far, to fast (p. 218-225).

I found this chapter helpful, because I remembered it isn’t all about me. Sometimes I need to stop taking it personally and consider the learner’s perspective. That being said, as the next chapter explains, there can be ways to respond to students’ resistance to learning in a fruitful way.

It’s funny, in art history some of the best work has come from struggle, where art has emerged from the resistance. Maybe resistant students will make me work harder, become more reflective and improve.

Maybe some of the most beautiful learning will emerge from a place of resistance.

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Teaching to Transgress

The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom. ~ bell hooks

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In Chapter 18 of The Skillful Teacher, Stephen D. Brookfield cites bell hooks work on exercising teacher power wisely. As can be expected, hooks provides a thoughtful assessment of the teacher’s position of power as one that can work “in ways that diminish or in ways that enrich” (hooks, 1989, p. 52). This statement comes from her book Teaching to Transgress: Education as the the Practice of Freedom in which she argues the classroom to be a site of both constraint but also potentially a space of liberation. This chapter inspired me to investigate her approach further and what I found really resonated with me. I particularly liked her definition of teaching as “a catalyst that calls everyone to become more and more engaged” (11).

Here are some of my favourite internet resources on hooks and teaching:

Radical Openness

Teaching according to bell hooks  

Engaged Pedagogy

and just for fun

Saved by the bell hooks 

Can art amend history?

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This week a student sent me an email sharing a link to a TEDtalk she thought I would enjoy. In the message, she said, “I think what he is saying in the video is something you made a huge effort to do in class.”

YES, YES, YES! I can’t describe how happy I was to hear a student not only understand some of what I was trying to accomplish, but also recognize it as part of my teaching philosophy!

Here is the TEDtalk “Can art amend history?” by Titus Kaphar.

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Learn more about his work at the Jack Shainman Gallery.