November 27th – December 1st

As another wonderful weekend draws to a close, I’m reflecting on how lucky I am to be able to be a kid with my kids. Today we spent time at the Shaw Centre water sliding, sitting in the hot tub, and doing cannon-balls, and I get to take part because of my kids. It’s similar to the fun I get to have with them sledding on the hill by our house, or building snow men, or playing Lego. Part of the reason I play with them is because my 4 year old twins still need a lot of supervision, but the other part is that it is just plain fun! All of this playing with my kids reminds me of the fun we get to have at school on a regular basis. I’ve seen teachers and students laughing and learning side-by-side; from Kindergarten role playing to senior science phalanges creations, there are many wonderful things happening all the time from room to room. I’d like to throw an invitation out to anyone willing: during your prep, or perhaps if you are an elementary teacher, during recess, pop into someone else’s classroom to see what they are up to. Just know that you are, in no way, expected to do this, but I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the exciting stuff going on at Waldheim School. Jesse and I get to do this on a daily basis, and it is such an energizing activity.

Now that’s “hands on” learning if I’ve ever seen it.

Last week I stumbled across a headline on Twitter for the attached article. The headline read: Is This the Most Important Thing a Teacher Should Know? Eye catching, isn’t it. The author, Terry Heick (@terryheick), claims, “while relationships building and classroom management and organization and lesson planning and assessment design and dozens of other competencies are crucial to teaching, the ability to parse content into usable blocks that can be built (alongside students) into a compelling ‘wholes’ might be the most important thing a teacher can know how to do.” Interesting. Heick maintains that to complete a complex task there are multiple, simpler skills that need to be mastered to be successful. This caused me to reflect on a conversation I had with Brenda on Friday about our students’ ability to type. Recently, we have moved away from teaching keyboarding skills, hoping that it will be learned through authentic writing tasks, and this seems to make sense. I believe Heick would claim the danger in this would be asking students who can’t type to complete two complex tasks at once: 1. learn how to use a keyboard that at first glance makes no sense in it’s set up, and 2. craft a written document, such as a story or a research project. When you think about your students, are there times you ask them to complete complex tasks without knowing, for sure, if they have the necessary, basic skills to complete said tasks? If you are unsure if they are ready to complete the complex task, how could you find out and then support them if they are not?

Here’s what lies ahead as we wrap up November:

Monday:

  • classroom visits: what I’ll ask the kids is, “what skills or abilities have you learned that make your current task achievable?”

Tuesday:

  • Grade 2 assembly
  • classroom visits

Wednesday:

  • classroom visits

Thursday:

  • classroom visits

Friday:

  • Grade 1 – 6 progress reports will be sent home today, thanks for your hard work on these!
  • Jon Yellowlees visit ~ professional goals conversations with Jesse & Bruce
  • Hot dog sale

As always, create a great week!

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November 20th – 24th

A relatively quiet weekend around our house, as November colds have caught up to a few of us, but that does give one a good excuse to watch football, even if it was a heart breaker. Like the Riders, our volleyball teams have wrapped up their seasons as the senior boys finished their year in Langham on Saturday. It was nice to see such involvement from so many kids at the junior and senior level, and it looks like it will be a similar story with the basketball teams who get rolling this week.

I’m very excited about our staff meeting (gotta think of a better name for these…suggestions?) and the sharing that will be taking place tomorrow. Joanne, Cara, Shantel, and Amy all have amazing things for us to learn about, and I’m so thankful that they have agreed to share what they have been learning about recently. I saw a post today on Twitter that caught my eye, and it was a link to an  interesting website (found here) that views Bloom’s Taxonomy through the lens of digital learning. What I noticed in the planning verbs is that they are not only at home in our classrooms, but in our staff meetings (any thoughts on a new name yet?) as well. I’m wondering what planning verbs from the list will be used at tomorrow’s meeting.

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Staff meeting 3:15 (Mr. Derksen’s room)
  • NOTE: the team meeting previously scheduled for 9:00 – 10:30 in the library has been postponed, the library will be open all day

Tuesday:

  • Steve & Brenda at LF meeting

Wednesday:

  • Team meeting 9:00 (Brenda’s room)

Thursday:

  • Business as usual

Friday:

  • Jon Yellowlees school visit

As always, create a great week!

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Nov. 13th – 17th

  • “This supper is yummy!”
  • “No! I want that sled, this one is no good!”
  • “I loved that movie!”
  • “Hey dad, the snow makes good snowballs, but you have to really squish them.”
Spaghetti squash with meatballs and tomato sauce.

This year we are asking, how do we know, and those four statements were some of the feedback I received this weekend from my kids. It was feedback that I was not intentionally seeking out, but it was information none-the-less. It was then my choice to decide what to do with it. I will try to replicate the meatballs for next time, I will make sure I get the kids to choose the right sled before going to the hill, I will rent Diary of a Wimpy Kid again, and I will make sure to keep an eye on Bobby when he’s making snowballs. When I think about all the feedback I was given this weekend from my kids it makes me think about the way we communicate with each other. We are continually bombarded with information, both spoken and unspoken. A hearty laugh or a pair of crossed arms coupled with a furrowed brow is usually all you need, but sometimes it’s more subtle than that.

I was reflecting on Monday’s staff meeting with Jesse last week, and we discussed the amazing feeling in the room, and I wondered aloud how we could have heard everyone’s voice during the artifact sharing. This wondering lead to Jesse’s idea to capture everyone’s description of their artifact. This is another example of using the feedback we are given. I was excited about the meeting, yet unsatisfied with the fact that I didn’t get to hear everything. Jesse used that information to come up with his idea, and then put it into action. How do you use the feedback you are given on a continual basis to improve the teaching and learning in your room? Elena Aguilar (@artofcoaching1) talks about the questions you can ask your students at the start of the year in her post (found here), however I’d challenge that these questions could be asked at any time of the year, particularly #7, I love that question!

How do I know if he’s having fun?

This week we will be asking the students to give us some feedback through the annual student survey (OurSCHOOL, formerly, Tell Them From Me) that all students in PSSD will be completing. This information is important, however just like our DRA data, or our attendance numbers, or our graduation rates, or our student grades, it is just one of many pieces of information we get to use. While the numbers tell part of the story, there is another side as well, the human side, and it’s one that I overheard in a hallway conversation that I had to stop and join in on. Joanne and Jamie were discussing students staying after school, and Joanne described the change she has noticed this year. I’ve asked her to share a bit of her thinking with us,

I’ve been teaching in Waldheim school for eight years and I’ve always appreciated our school for its level of engagement and compassion.  I could even been accused of taking it for granted. That being said I’ve noticed a difference this year. During the regular day the hallways are filled with more children and noise due to our higher enrollment but the biggest change I’ve noticed is the time after school.  Walking down the hallways the rooms are still buzzing  with activity.  In many of the classrooms there are students and teachers shoulder to shoulder learning.  At 4:00 pm there is a vibrant life in our school of laughter, learning and sharing with students being the core of that rumble. Students are staying to learn and teachers are staying to support that learning.  I believe there is a fresh feeling of us all being a team of engaged teachers and learners supporting one another for growth for all. This feeling may be because I’m more grounded in my own purpose and position but the dedication I see in our young teachers gives me tremendous hope for our school and our students this year and into the future. Us, mature teachers LOL  are constantly in conversation with the young teachers sharing ideas and we hope wisdom while being spurred on ourselves by their enthusiasm and passion.  At the end of the day , I’d probably call the feelings I’m experiencing, the magic of authentic learning mixed with a large portion of genuine caring.

What have you noticed this year?

Here’s what lies ahead for this shortened week:

Monday:

  • stat holiday

Tuesday:

  • OurSCHOOL survey begins (see schedule e-mailed last week)
  • Psychology 20/30 assembly (period 1)

Wednesday:

  • OurSCHOOL survey continues

Thursday:

  • OurSCHOOL survey concludes

Friday:

  • Business as usual

As always, create a great week!

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Nov. 6th – 10th

You know you are home when certain smells welcome you as you walk through the door, and old familiar memories flood over you. Such was the case today as I went to visit my mom, sister and her family who all live together in Saskatoon. As I walked down to mom’s place I could tell something was up as soon as I smelled the beets, and they weren’t even cooking yet! She had gathered up all the ingredients she needed to create a large batch of borscht for the company she was having later this week. My mom comes from a large family, and next weekend she’s hosting five of her siblings along with some of their kids, and she has been extra busy baking and cooking in preparation. What was fun to watch was her granddaughter, my niece, Ally, working away at the recipe in an attempt to help her grandma get ready for the house full. As she chopped and measured, stirred and sampled, I could not help but think about the genuine learning and teaching occurring right in front of me. My niece, who is in her first year of University, has a love for cooking and baking, and much of this comes from spending time with my mom who has helped nurture this through authentic side-by-side learning. While we were there we also had some time to spend visiting my little grand-niece, Malia, who recently turned 4 months old. My kids adore her, the twins look at her like she is a real live doll, and they can’t help but crack up whenever she makes any “typical” baby sounds. They are learning so much every time they visit her, hold her, feed her, and as her mother hopes, eventually change her. So much of this learning is through observing, careful guidance, continual feedback, and close observation of the baby and how she reacts.

All of this learning has me very excited about this week’s staff meeting where we will get to share an artifact with our peers and learn along side one another. I’m curious to see what people are going to bring, there has been some talk about what will be shared, but I almost get a sense that people don’t want to let the “cat out of the bag” before Monday afternoon. Something I’ve been thinking about is the learning culture at our school, and how far along our learning journey we are. Currently I’m reading, Everyday Courage for School Leaders and I’ve been reflecting on how lucky I am to work with such a great staff. Author, Cathy Lassiter (@cathy_lassiter), writes, “(a)s it relates to moral courage for school leaders, Leithwood, Harris, and Hopkins (2008, p. 28) point out that principals can have an impact on pupil learning through a positive influence on staff beliefs, values, motivation, skills, and knowledge, and ensuring good working conditions in the school, and that these factors all contribute to improved staff performance.” The mental note I made was that I do not need to change anyone’s mind on our staff about student learning. I have noticed that we all play a part in creating those good working conditions by pushing each other and pushing our thinking. I wonder how you would answer these questions:

  1. how do you contribute to the overall learning culture at Waldheim School?
  2. who nudges your thinking on a regular basis?
  3. whose thinking do you nudge?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these questions, or on any other thoughts you may have on our learning culture.

Here’s what lies ahead for another busy week:

Monday:

  • Staff meeting 3:15 – 4:15
  • Classroom visits: what do I notice about the questions in the room?

Tuesday:

  • Bruce gone to ALT (pm only)
  • Classroom visits (am): what do I notice about the questions in the room?

Wednesday:

  • Trace gone with PE 20/30 & Wildlife Mgmt. 20/30 joint field trip
  • Classroom visits: what do I notice about the questions in the room?

Thursday:

  • Remembrance Day Ceremony
  • Classroom visits: what do I notice about the questions in the room?
  • 7 – 12 Progress Reports sent home today

Friday:

  • Prep Day

As always, create a great week!

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