Oct. 30 – Nov. 3

The Raiders en route to a 5-2 win.

As Trace spoke to the hushed gymnasium on Thursday afternoon, it became glaringly obvious that the group of girls he and Ellen were taking to provincials was more than a collection of athletes, they were a team. The planning and execution that lead to the pep-rally told a story of a group of girls who love the game, and truly care about each other. The girls played hard, and it was the combination of dogged determination and superb sportsmanship that stood out to me the most, as they were able to let misplays or missed calls fall by the wayside as they continued their pursuit of a gold medal. Unfortunately the team did not capture gold, Warman was much too strong this year for anyone to handle, however our group of youngsters captured the bronze medal, and the future looks very bright for our Raiders soccer team. What impressed me was the way Trace and Ellen brought together so many unique talents and found a way for all of them to shine in their own way, and it was fun to cheer them on Friday and Saturday morning.

Fast forward to Saturday night where I had the opportunity to watch a different group of people “take the field” and show the fruits of their practice. My son, Bobby, and daughter, Eva, have been taking piano lessons for a couple years, and Saturday night was their fun recital for some residents of Diamond House in Warman. It was a great location as the room provided excellent acoustics for the pianists to perform, and offered the audience a comfortable listening experience. I was so proud of the kids as what started as plink, clank, blonk turned into some nice music that they were very happy with. The recital featured close to 20 different students, and the ability levels ranged from cringe worthy to toe-tapping excellence. What I really noticed was that every student was given the exact same opportunity to perform to their best ability and every student received a resounding applause as they bowed or curtsied. There were no grades handed out, and no one was denied the treats at the end because they messed up a few notes, or had to restart. What I love about the entire process that my kids are a part of is that there is no end to their learning, they don’t simply reach the end of piano lessons. It is a process that can (and hopefully will) continue for years and years.

So, what do provincial soccer playoffs, piano recitals, and learning at Waldheim School have in common? In every case I see kids being given the opportunity to shine. I see coaches, teachers, EAs, admin assistants, SERTS, and caretakers setting up the students at Waldheim School for success. I had a great conversation with Jamie last week about teaching and learning, and she reflected on how she had to really know her dance students in order to really help them learn the steps or moves to a certain type of dance. She understood that she simply could not just dance for the class and then tell them to practice, she had to come along side them, and give them the feedback they needed to become lighter on their feet. This is similar to what Trace and Ellen did with their soccer team, and what Bobby and Eva’s piano instructor did for his students. Do you do this for your students? Do you determine where each of them are through a variety of assessments for (your) learning? Do you tailor your teaching to maximize learning and meet each student where they are? How do you know? One of the challenges we face as a growing school is larger classrooms with a much more diverse group of students. I found an interesting article on Edutopia this week, and it speaks to the challenge of differentiating for a large group, but also offers many resources you might find helpful. Have a read, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here’s what lies ahead for this shortened week:

Monday:

  • School carnival planning meeting (3:10…Departures???)
  • Classroom visits ~ Big Idea: what would you like me to notice that could speak to your artifact?

Tuesday:

  • Classroom visits ~ Big Idea: what would you like me to notice that could speak to your artifact?

Wednesday:

  • Classroom visits ~ Big Idea: what would you like me to notice that could speak to your artifact?

Thursday:

  • School Carnival (4:30 – 6:30)
  • School Dance (7:00 – 9:00)

Friday:

  • No School ~ Day in Lieu

As always, create a great week….and if you are brave enough, feel free to listen to some music created by a 7 year old and a 10 year old. 

Count Bobula at his recital

Posted by Bruce Mellesmoen on Saturday, October 28, 2017

Eva did great at the recital.

Posted by Bruce Mellesmoen on Sunday, October 29, 2017

 

229 total views, no views today

October 23rd – 27th

What a “dog’s nose” of a weekend….cold and wet! Yuck! Oh well, it gave the little ones a chance to do some crafts with grandma today, always a favorite pastime of theirs. So it was Lego, stickers, old boxes, single socks, markers, scissors, crayons, glue, and their imaginations. As I watched them I’m was not sure who was enjoying the activities more, my kids or my mom, all I know is that it’s quite a fun stage of life to be in. It was also a good weekend to experiment with some comfort food as we had some pulled pork enchiladas on Saturday night, they were really good!

I came across a really good blog post by Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp) today, and while it speaks about the impact we have on our students’ love (or hatred) for reading, I think it can be applied to many more things. In her blog post she says, 

In some schools I see AR points, pages read, or books read used as a way to separate those who can and do read from those who can’t or won’t.  I see scores set by others determine how a child’s experience will be with reading in the future.

I see arbitrary measures shared with home as if the points from AR or another computerized test will truly tell the story of that child’s reading identity.

And I see punishment.  Privileges removed from the child who fails to meet their goal.  Reading rules implemented that instead of eliciting more positive reading experiences, completely undermine the entire experience.  And the kids stand idly by while we destroy their love of reading.

A quote for Brenda…Brenda loves quotes 🙂

It is an interesting commentary, saying that we are trying to punish our students into becoming readers, or with other subjects, learners. And I wondered, is that what we are trying to do? Or are we trying to punish our students into becoming compliant, simply doing what we ask because we have asked it? Either way, is that what we want to be? A school that punishes our students  into compliance disguised as “learning”. As I walk the halls and visit the classrooms, I certainly do not think that’s who we are. I think we are at a point as adult learners that we have realized we cannot simply punish our students into becoming learners. I see amazing things like:

  • students creating metal bowls that look like they should be in an art gallery
  • students creating amazing puppets that showcase their own unique sense of design
  • students working together to create dialogues for brief skits
  • students working side-by-side to come to know the Pythagorean theorem
  • students discussing ethnocentrism in kids books
  • students using string and sidewalk chalk to learn about the unit circle
  • students organizing and running popcorn sales and video game tournaments
  • students modeling what they can do when they are functioning in their green zone
  • students analyzing biomes and then teaching other students
  • students critically analyzing a piece of literature and applying it to their own lives today

Are we reaching all students? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we are doing and/or on Pernille’s post.

Here’s what lies ahead for a busy week:

Monday:

  • Staff meeting at 3:15 (please refer to agenda e-mailed last week)

Tuesday:

  • Bruce at ALT all day
  • Bruce at Classroom Environment Committee mtg (4:30 – 6:30)

Wednesday:

  • Bruce at ALT all day
  • P/T Conferences (day 1) ~ supper provided

Thursday:

  • P/T Conferences (day 2) ~ supper provided

Friday:

  • Jon Yellowlees coming out to observe 1st/2nd year teachers
  • Picture retakes

As always, create a great week!

186 total views, no views today

October 16 – 20

What a tremendous weekend! The fun started for me Friday night as I got to go see one of my favorite things, live WWE wrestling. Now, before you laugh, or worse….judge….I’ve enjoyed this entertainment for years, dating way back to the late ’70s when I used to get caught up in Stampede Wrestling. And yes, I know it’s staged, but it’s still fun! Saturday and Sunday were quiet days around the house, I caught up on some reading and some laundry, which were both overdue, and now I look forward to another great week of learning.

If you will allow me to go back to the wrestling event I went to, I made a connection on the drive home between what I had been a part of and a conversation Jon Yellowlees, Jesse and I had earlier that same day. Jon was curious about the work we had been doing at school, and more specifically around our school goals. I shared with him the work you did on Friday, November 6th, and I was so excited to share stories from our day of learning together. As he read over the goals we discussed, and as he reviewed the great things you are focusing on he asked me a question that I struggled to answer. He asked, “what is that one common goal the entire staff is working towards this year?” The thing was, I knew that question was coming, and still I struggled with putting into words what that goal is, that one thing that unites us all, regardless of assignment or grade. As we talked, and as he coached, it became clear to him what it is we are working on. Every adult at Waldheim School will have a deep and thorough understanding of every student they work with as learners in their subject area(s). What it took for Jesse and I was a coach to reflect to us what it is we are doing, and it helped me see the forest from the trees.

So, what is the connection between our school goal and a bunch of pumped up professional wrestlers? I started to think about the goal that company has each and every time they go out and perform. These guys travel the road, working over 200 days per year for different audiences all over North America, and their goal is simple; give every fan in the crowd an exciting evening where they can suspend belief and root for the good guy and boo the bad guy. Now, for that company, it does not matter if you are the guy who sets up the ring or the girl who announces the wrestlers or the two mammoth men who fight in the main event, everyone plays a role in achieving the company’s goal.

As you think about our goal, every adult at Waldheim School will have a deep and thorough understanding of every student they work with as learners in their subject area(s), how do you feel? How does your professional goal that you are working on support the broader goal? I think about the conversation I had with Evan earlier this year, and how he is working towards developing assessments that go beyond the typical pencil and paper tests that are typical of a math class. I think about how doing this will lead to a deeper understanding of his students, and thus support our broader school goal. I’m looking forward to many more discussions with all of you about your goal and how it supports the work we are all doing.

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • beep, beep,  bus driver appreciation day!
  • classroom visits: what question can I ask you to help you reflect?

Tuesday:

  • Jesse away at ALT coaching
  • classroom visits: what question can I ask you to help you reflect?

Wednesday:

  • Jesse away at ALT coaching (day 2)
  • classroom visits: what question can I ask you to help you reflect?

Thursday:

  • classroom visits: what question can I ask you to help you reflect?

Friday:

  • classroom visits: what question can I ask you to help you reflect?

As always, create a great week!

217 total views, no views today

October 9th – 13th

Thankful for the simple things in life, like a yummy dessert and a coffee.

When a person stops, and really takes stock of the great things they have in their lives, it can be overwhelming. I think about the amazing family I have, my mom, brother, sisters, nieces, nephew, cousins, aunties, uncles, and in-laws. I look at my kids and marvel at who they are becoming. It truly is a blessing. I also think about my work family, the wonderful adults and students I get to spend time with on a daily basis, working on learning. It’s easy to get caught up in the hectic nature of our day-to-day work, but it is weekends like this that allow us to pause and reflect on those who surround us. Hopefully you were able to take some time to relax and reconnect with those who are the most important to you.

On Friday we spent the morning discussing what we believe is important for our students, and then discussed how we see ourselves bringing these things to life for all learners at Waldheim School. It was one of those mornings where it felt like the learning conversations could go on and on, and I felt terrible for having to cut some of them short. Hopefully you will find time to continue those discussions, and continue wrestling with the big question, how do we know. I tried to capture our thoughts from your goals and conversations and attempted to highlight the essence of our work. Here is what I saw and heard on Friday morning:

Goals for Waldheim Learners

What I found so encouraging on Friday morning was that every goal each of you brought to the discussion was focused on students and their learning. Some of the goals were centered on literacy, some on mathematics, some on leadership, and some on assessment, but all of them spoke to wanting to make Waldheim School a better place for all students. As we continue to grow as a learning community, consider the following questions:

  1. how will you know if you are on the right track?
    1. what will you do to recalibrate if you aren’t?
    2. what will you do to stretch yourself if you are?
  2. how can you use your colleagues as a means of support?
    1. can they stretch your thinking?
    2. can they offer you feedback?
  3. how will you share your celebrations with
    1. students?
    2. colleagues?
    3. parents?
  4. how will you remove barriers for your students?

I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations and more in the days to come.

Here’s what’s on the horizon:

Tuesday:

  • Lori Jeschke popping by for a visit (am)
  • Bruce at division office (pm)
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

Wednesday:

  • Library closed (meeting 9:00 – 10:25)
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

Thursday:

  • Fire drill ~ pm (K – 6 assembly to follow (tentative))
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

Friday:

  • Jon Yellowlees school visit
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

As always, create a great week!

 

226 total views, no views today

Oct. 2nd – 6th

It’s like Mother Nature saw me flip the calendar to October, but I sure love how the trees look, the bright yellows, oranges, and reds turn the river bank into what looks like an artist’s canvas. It’s hard to believe we have completed our first month of the 17/18 school year, but here we are, into October, knee deep in our learning. I’m excited to welcome Amy Ward to the Waldheim School family, she is going to be taking over the grade 3/4 class for Bobby-Jo who is getting ready to welcome a new addition to her family. All the best Bobby-Jo, on behalf of the entire staff I hope everything goes well for you and baby during the entire process. We can’t wait to see some pictures!

This past week I saw some great evidence of teachers using student feedback to guide their planning. I was able to pop into Steve’s class the other day, and I noticed his students were given the prompt, If you give a                                                                 . As I walked around I saw some really cool titles, one that caught my eye because it works on some many levels was If you give a panda some colour. The student knew the big idea was to create a story to share with a Kindergarten student, but also knew that she could embed a message for the older students as well. It will be interesting to see where this story goes. I recognized this lesson of Steve’s and we spoke a bit about how he “tweaked” it from the last time he had students do this activity. He talked about what he had learned through observing the students and how he used that feedback to guide his planning for this year. Sometimes it’s the small changes that make the biggest difference.

A simple way to let the kids know how much you care.

This past week I also noticed one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time when I strolled past Brittney’s classroom Thursday morning. In her room, Brittney had jotted a quick message for each student, and that would be one of the first things they would see to start the day, what an amazing thing to do that costs nothing but gives so much. Why this moved me so much was because Brittney’s class had a bit of a bumpy day on their field trip, and she could tell they were feeling a little down on themselves as a group. Instead of ignoring the feedback they were giving her, Brittney tuned into them and realized they were needing something. As I said above, sometimes it’s the small things that make the biggest impact. When you think about the month we’ve had, what are some of the little things you’ve done that may have gone unnoticed by most but paid off for those few in need? Maybe it’s the quick conversation in the hallway, or the high-five to a colleague in the staffroom. Maybe it was a little note on an assignment or a terrific learning activity that resonated with the kids. Whatever it was, take a moment and remember that those are the times that count the most.

I came across this graphic today on Twitter, and it spoke about how to facilitate student centered learning. In it there are a lot of great suggestions, and as I read it, I kept reflecting on My Prairie Spirit Classroom and the work we are doing. I compare our learning journey to the growth of a child. On Saturday we were at a family event, and one person who had not seen my son Bobby (the 10 yr old) in quite some time commented on how much he had grown and changed. Of course he has, but as I see him everyday, I do not notice it the same way someone else might. When I think about how much our schools have changed over the past few years, I wonder what we are not noticing because we are immersed in our work. What would someone who has been out of school for a few years notice if they came into your room? What would today’s students notice if they were taken back to your classroom when you were their age?

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Bruce away (am for sure, possibly all day) ~ son’s medical appointment
  • New supervision cycle begins
  • Classroom visits (I am going to focus on asking questions to help you reflect, bear with me if it feels a bit ‘forced’ for the first few)

Tuesday

  • Classroom visits

Wednesday

  • Classroom visits

Thursday

  • Bus driver meeting & bus evacuation drills (first thing in the morning – classes will be called down)
  • Classroom visits

Friday

  • PD / Prep day (more information coming out this week as to what you should be thinking of coming into the PD)

As always, create a great week!

147 total views, no views today