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.



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


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?


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.


Learn more about his work at the Jack Shainman Gallery.  


“There is no Apolitical Classroom”

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 2.50.42 PM

What a crazy week it has been. I really wish I was teaching a course on sculpture this fall. Boy would there ever be some interesting conversations.

One of the only positives to emerge amidst some of the heartbreaking recent events has been a tidal wave of conversations, posts, and resources on how to take a stand agains racism.

Yesterday, NCTE’s Standing Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English posted the following statement along with these resources “to use as statements of love and support.”

We know that racism exists in our classrooms and in our communities. We feel that silence on these issues is complicity in the systemic racism that has marred our educational system. We see no place for neutrality and urge each member of NCTE to educate as many people as possible about the ways that systemic racism affects all of us in negative ways.

There is no apolitical classroom. English language arts teachers must examine the ways that racism has personally shaped their beliefs and must examine existing biases that feed systems of oppression. In light of the horrific events in this country that continue to unfold, and the latest terrorism in Charlottesville, Virginia, we would like to share resources that we hope will encourage all NCTE members to speak out against the racism and bias that have been a part of our nation’s fabric since the first immigrants disembarked from European ships.