Sharing Learning With Our Parents: Jan. 29th – Feb. 2nd

A fresh blanket of snow always looks so nice, even if it means the streets are a little more slick than we are used to lately. My kids had a great time helping me shovel, although it did add a little more time to my job as they usually left more mess behind them. Oh well, quality time, right? As Krista was working nights this weekend we needed to keep the house quiet, so we took advantage of the free fun at the University checking out the fossils, fish, and other cool features. My kids are still as excited about elevator rides and automatic doors as they are with the t-rex or the koi fish, but the highlight for them is always going for a little treat downstairs at Lower Place Riel and playing the piano in the Arts building.

Rooooaaaaar!

Something I began to notice at the U of S on Saturday was the role my older kids were taking with the 4-year old twins. Charlie was quickly following Bobby, asking him questions, pointing exciting things out to him, occasionally annoying him, but ultimately learning from him. It was cool to hear Charlie ask him, “why is there a dead snake in there Bobby?”, only to have Bobby explain that what he was seeing was, in fact, discarded snake skin. #Sidebyside learning! What was just as cool was to see the approach Eva (7) was taking with Maggie, Charlie’s twin sister. The two of them were playing field trip and Eva was leading Maggie through the different areas, reading her the information she could and then asking her questions just like her teacher would do with her. #Engagement! The kids were creating their own learning based on their interests, and they were really into it. I wonder what would have happened if I gave them a test after? What would happen if I told them to go discover 5 facts and then report on those facts? I worry it would suck the fun right out of the afternoon.

Seeing the kids learning in action caused me to think about the ILO Sharlene was a part of last week discussing #assessment with other educators and the potential of online portfolios. When I can see my kids exploring and wondering, and when I can hear them asking questions and having discussions I am part of their learning experience. This is what Sharlene is trying to capture with her students. Obviously it is much easier with 4 kids on a Saturday afternoon than it is with 20 – 30+ kids on a hectic Tuesday morning, but does that mean we don’t try? I’m seeing more of this in other places too, like Genius Hour open houses, numerous tweets, Instagram posts, e-mails home, literacy cafes, parent volunteers, and assemblies (I know I’m forgetting others). We have so many more ways to bring evidence of our students’ learning to their world than ever before, I certainly remember the days when my parents had no clue what I was learning at school. I wonder how different my learning would have been had they been more involved? I wonder if my parents would have made different parenting choices had they known more about me? When you think about the intentional choices you make when sharing the students’ learning with their parent(s), what is working? What else do you want to try? What do you need to take that next big risk?

I’m so excited about the upcoming week, semester turn around is always a great time to reflect on how things are going and to re-calibrate as we head into the back half of the school year, much like a golfer thinks about their round after 9-holes. Hopefully you aren’t like me as a golfer, usually after 9-holes I was ready to throw in the towel! We do have an exciting week of learning though, starting with our staff PD meeting on Monday afternoon where we have two presentations taking place. Trace is going to share what he has been working on and Steve will be leading us through a book talk.

Here’s what lies ahead:

Monday:

  • staff meeting (see agenda e-mailed  on Friday)
  • final exams continue
  • classroom visits: what are the big ideas? 

Tuesday:

  • assembly with grade 3/4’s from 2:30ish to 3:00ish
  • classroom visits: what are the big ideas? 

Wednesday:

  • Prep day (EA’s at PD in Warman all day)
  • Staff supper @ 4:30pm

Thursday:

  • Semester 2 begins
  • classroom visits: what are the big ideas? 

Friday:

  • 7-12  progress reports sent home
  • Bruce in a webinar learning about My Blueprint 11:30 – 12:30
  • classroom visits: what are the big ideas? 

As always, create a great week!

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Jan. 22nd – 26th

For the past few years my oldest, Bobby, has enjoyed playing Minecraft and it is quite common for him to come to me with his latest creation. This weekend he surprised his sister, Eva, with one that was made just for her, a Minecraft pet store. Bobby was so excited to walk me through this, from the big sign he had made, to the double doors, to the different animals, to the lighting, everything was well thought out. When Eva returned from her play date with her friend from down the street, Bobby could not wait to share the pet store with her. She was so excited, and it was nice to hear things like, “thanks Bobby!” and, “that’s so cool!”, as opposed to some of the things siblings say to each other. This is one of the things I like about Minecraft, it allows Bobby to be creative in meaningful ways, he knew Eva would love a pet store based on what he knows about her.

Don’t get me wrong, Bobby isn’t always this altruistic, most of his creations reflect his interests, and it is very interesting to look back at his early worlds (as they are called in Minecraft) and compare them to where he is now. We were laughing yesterday at the very first time he logged on to Minecraft, all of his hockey buddies at the time were into it and he felt he needed to see what all the fuss was about. He struggled away, and we chuckled that his first great accomplishment was digging a hole. That’s it, a hole. Fast forward to today and he’s built a myriad of worlds, like Cruise Ship World, Roller Coaster World, Farm World, Hotel World, Mansion World, and Hill Ride World. In between digging his first hole and creating his interactive pet store, most of his work has been saved and his growth can be seen. Without even thinking about it, he has created a portfolio of his work, and could speak to each world if asked about it.

Do you only share one picture with students, or are you creating a photo album for them?

Do we do this with our learners at school?

On Friday, Brenda and Ellen were discussing effective assessments for her science classes, and they were looking for ways to go beyond traditional, teacher lead assessments. Ellen was asking questions about how to get the students owning more of their own learning, and being able to talk about it in a way that adds to the overall picture of a student’s understanding. This discussion and Bobby’s Minecraft work make me think about an article I read the other day about creating a more complete picture of our students as learners. In the article, the author talks about how we are using formative and summative assessment to develop a better understanding of our students. When you think about how you know your students as learners, what are some ways you are going beyond using only summative assessments to inform students and parents? What are some ways you are using observations and conversations to support what you are seeing in more formal assessments? When I think about assessment, I often reflect on what is going on in Glen’s workshop, and think about how authentic his assessments are. If you ever have a chance on one of your prep periods, and Glen is okay with it, I’d invite you to pop into the lab to watch him work side by side with his students.

The end of semester one is always a natural time to stop and reflect on how we are doing with our students. You had a vision in August, looking back, what do you think? Did you meet your goals? How do you know? Will your teaching in semester two be any different than semester one? Why?

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • fire panel  inspections (there may be the odd alarm going off, we’ll share more details in the morning announcements)
  • classroom visits: what does collaboration look like in your room?

Tuesday:

  • Bruce away at an ILO in North Battleford
  • Sharlene away at division ILO, enjoy!

Wednesday:

  • Sharlene away at division ILO, enjoy!
  • classroom visits: what does collaboration look like in your room?

Thursday:

  • 10-12 Final Exams begin (please remind students to keep the noise in the sr. wing to a minimum)
  • classroom visits: what does collaboration look like in your room?

Friday:

  • Final exams day 2
  • classroom visits: what does collaboration look like in your room?

 

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Jan. 15th – 19th

I’m sitting here on a Sunday afternoon, a Tim’s double-double in hand, after a fun trip to the skating rink with 3 of my 4 kids. It’s been a quiet weekend after everyone had a successful return to school last week, but everyone is noticeably tired. Hopefully you had a relaxing weekend and are ready to go for another week ahead. Just to make sure everyone is on the same page, I’m excited to announce that after some restructuring at the division office level, Brad Nichol is now our Learning Superintendent as Jon Yellowlees has moved into an HR position with the division.

As I said, I was at the rink with my kids today, and I was having fun watching them learning at their own rate. Bobby has been skating for years, and continues to improve each time he’s on the ice. Today was exciting for him as he donned a brand new pair of skates and took them for their maiden voyage. By all reports they worked very well. The twins are the ones that are the most fun to watch right now, as they continue to push their limits as they get more and more comfortable on the ice. Maggie seems a little more brave than Charlie, and as a result she spent a lot of time picking herself up and dusting herself off. I also realized how much they help each other learn. As Bobby took his time coaching the little ones, he’s was forced to stop and change how he was skating, making him better in the process. As Charlie wrestled with the skating aid, he watched his little sister zipping around, occasionally trying his luck hands free. It was the free, risk taking fun that was helping build their skills. After we were done, and the kids decided when they had had enough, we all celebrated with a treat. There were no formal evaluations as they were changing into their boots. No marks were given, or comparisons made. The twins were quick to comment about how much fun they had, repeatedly asking me if I had seen how fast they were. Bobby was a little more “cool”, simply saying he was tired, but that the new skates were good.

In her comfort zone.
Taking a risk.

We’ve all done this, be it skating, skiing, swimming, driving a car, writing poems, painting pictures, building a deck, cooking, etc. We’ve done things we enjoy and were the owners of our learning and through trial and error, and a variety of feedback, we became better. So, how are we doing this in our classrooms? How are we allowing our students to play with light in the science lab, water colors in senior art, fabric in home ec, manipulatives in math, books in their reading time, or roles in drama? How are we doing as a staff? Are we playing around with learning as adults? This Monday we will get a chance to look at the data from the OurSCHOOL survey, and from first glance, it seems that the playing we are doing with our adult learning is paying off. The students have told us they are happier and more engaged. There is a feeling in the building that is hard to measure, other than knowing it’s there. You are doing incredible things in your classrooms, and I’m so excited that, as the journey continues, we are getting some of that positive feedback.

I’m looking forward to our meeting Monday after school, here is what else lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • staff meeting
  • classroom visits: what do the smiles and laughter say about what’s going on in your room?

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & Jesse away at ALT, Trace is acting admin

Wednesday:

  • classroom visits: what do the smiles and laughter say about what’s going on in your room?

Thursday:

  • EA meeting (8:00)
  • classroom visits: what do the smiles and laughter say about what’s going on in your room?

Friday:

  • classroom visits: what do the smiles and laughter say about what’s going on in your room?

As always, create a great week!

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January 8th – 12th

As they always do, the holidays have quickly evaporated, and it’s now time to come back together and continue the learning and laughing at #WaldheimSchool. I hope everyone had an amazing break, even though the weather was less than perfect we did have some nicer days in January. We had a great trip to Elk Ridge (from the 23rd to the 26th), and I have a feeling this might become an annual thing. The kids had so much fun during their break, the highlight for them was spending time with their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and their cousins. What was the highlight for you?

A holiday tradition with my brother and Bobby.

I know it’s going to be tough for everyone to get back into the routine, which includes making lunches, picking outfits, getting back into healthy sleeping patterns, and getting back on a regular eating schedule, but I’m sure we’ll all survive. As you return, what are some ways you’ve thought about getting your students back into their learning? What are some neat things you are planning for Monday? I’ve seen many variations on the morning meeting in our elementary rooms, I wonder if this video can compliment what you are already doing? What about for high school classes? Do you have an opening routine to help get the students set up to learn as they transition from class to class? Have a look:

https://www.edutopia.org/article/morning-meetings-building-community-classroom

Looking at the calendar, it’s only a short 2 1/2 weeks until our students in grade 10 – 12 begin writing final exams, which means the semester will be wrapping up in 3 1/2 weeks. As you look towards the end of the semester, who do you already know will need a little extra help? How will you communicate this to them and their parents? What can you put in place to give them the opportunity to do the work and show you what they know?

Those were some chilly days!

I’m very excited to get back to work, and back with the #WaldheimSchool family as we continue to write our 2017/18 school year story. The new year is going to give us a chance to dig into our results from the OurSCHOOL survey and keep looking for ways to take our school to the next level for our students. We will also begin our staff presentations at our staff meetings as we share what we’ve been reading, what we’ve been trying in our classes, and how we’ve been growing as professionals as we continue to strive to improve our understanding of our students as learners.

There is nothing formal planned for the week ahead, so Jesse & I will have many opportunities to pop in and visit classes this week.

As always, create a great week!

 

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