Education is Building Confidence/and other notes on the CEC

At the (CEC) conference this past week, I learned many things. One of the things that I want to grab onto strongly is that in order to educate, we have to look through the lens of building confidence. Is the way I respond to my students building their confidence? There is neuroscientific evidence that building confidence allows learning to take place at a much greater rate than the opposite. If we instill fear in our students, the stress hormones associated with that will be a detriment to learning, physically. Their brains won't be as capable when they are afraid. This is also partially what happened to me last year when they said I might fail, I became paralyzed with fear, I made more mistakes, and I couldn't do half of what I normally could, so they fear of failure made it almost inevitable as a result of physiological or neurological changes that fear creates. So, as an educator, in any classroom, it is important to do the opposite, to create a space where students can take risks and build their confidence, even when they are small victories, setting them up for success will do just that. Its like a double feedback loop, when they get it right, they think they can get it right, and their brain is then exponentially more ready to learn, which means they get more right.

Singing is such a vulnerable act, so when people are first singing together, it is important to be careful to structure the environment in such a way that they understand that when you correct them, they are not being hurt or torn down, but built up. If a student sings alone if front of the class, and they do it wrong, they need to be built up because of the courage it took to sing in front of the class. They need to be given confidence to do it again, despite their error. They need to be told frankly and gently that they made a mistake, but also praised because the only way they could have noticed the mistake was to sing in the first place. Its a really long project. I think it makes sense that in a high school choir teaching situation, I would have five years to know students and help grow into adults through the development of confidence using their voice in a community of music making, because it will take that long just to get started.

My mentor teachers at school have been so supportive, a night and day difference from last year. They have been able to give me honest critique in a way that has continued to build me up. I was so lacking in confidence when I arrived, but their willingness to let me try things and give me the freedom to learn while still giving very clear instructions and boundaries, and to be invested as educators but not take things personally has shown great maturity and wholeness on their part. I think my current set of mentors, though half the age of the previous set, has shown that they are much more balanced people, and therefore they are more effective educators. You can see it on the faces of their students, they know they are being taken care of.

I also attended a session on 21st Century learning that was very engaging and I am very keen to learn more about it. It had almost nothing to do with technology like I thought it would, but was much better. The presenter talked about giving students a guided thought process and telling them how to reflect in the moment and how to engage with their partner, and she mentioned that when teaching like this, the students lose their ability or desire to bully one another because they are creating knowledge together, working on things together all the time. And its not JUST collaborative, it was so much more than that. SMART learning.

click this link to get to the website that will explain more if you are interested, I surely will recommend her Pro-D as one of the more valuable sessions I have ever had.

I also skipped the mass that was at the end of the conference, and I felt a tiny bit guilty about that, but I also felt justified and here's why: I got a ton of valuable information out of the conference, I went to mass the day before and sat with my mentor teachers, the theological point of a catholic mass is to partake in communion and as I am not catholic I do not partake in communion. So...I skipped out. I couldn't find the few staff members that were still there from STM, because there were about six, and 1200 people. Its funny, I don't think I even really need to justify it except that it could be seen as part of my responsibility to have gone to mass as a practicum student, but that seems weird, especially being a UVIC student (hello super liberal campus where the pro-life group is denied funding because its a pro-life group) anyways.

The main point is that I learned waaaaay more than I thought I would at the Catholic Educators Conference. They really have their stuff together as far as excellent and cutting edge content. I was impressed. Even the uber catholic keynote address was quite challenging and uplifting, if preachy. Did I mention I got do an assessment session? It was great too. oh man.

And its been a busy weekend, not as much prep time as might be good, but I don't have TONS to prep for this week, as ash wednesday is this coming wednesday, the choirs are singing a bunch of music that I used to know from my bygone days of being a protestant, which I find odd, but convenient seeing as I know the music. (except that I have to sing written harmonies that are different than the ones I used to make up)

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