Our Kids Are Problem Solvers: February 12 – 16

Between forts in the basement, new toys for the dog, cold weather, and a Costco shopping trip, it’s been a whirlwind of a weekend. The kids were busy today playing with Bella and making their Valentines Day cards for their classmates. It reminded me of when I was a youngster, the 14th was always one of my favorites, as everyone in class was anxious to pass out their cards and then equally as excited to empty their boxes to see what well-wishes they received. It was a great exercise for Charlie and Maggie as they practiced printing their names over and over, it was cool to see Charlie celebrate after each successful card.

This week we get to learn from each other again, as Trace and Glen will be presenting at our staff meeting on Monday. As you may have seen on the agenda I sent out Friday, Trace will be discussing student engagement, while Glen is going to share some of the research he’s been doing in relation to his subject area. I love the opportunity to learn and listen from everyone, and am constantly reminded of the amazing work that is going on in our school. As you come into the meeting tomorrow, what role will you play in the learning in the room? What are you prepared to give as a leader on the staff? What are you hoping to learn? As Glen and Trace share their work, how is their work supporting our over-arching goal of getting to know each student as a learner on a deeper level? How will you share your thoughts with them in the days that follow?

Last year I was lucky enough to get to meet, and spend some time chatting with a presenter at a conference I attended in Prince Albert. His name is Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy), and in his latest blog (found here) he asks the readers if they are fixing or teaching. The article is geared towards administrators, but certainly applies to the classroom, and how we are teaching kids to be resilient, problem solvers, and how we are inviting teamwork. He writes,

Here are 10 things to consider to help propel your team(s) to becoming more independent and eventually more successful in resolving their own issues so they can help others resolve theirs.

  1. See yourself and others as learners first.
  2. Listen to concerns with the intent to understand, not respond.
  3. Ask questions to gain more clarity. Don’t lead off with possible solutions. (Asking better questions will only come as the result of you being a better listener)
  4. Spend more time in conversation. This shows others you value the relationship too.
  5. Bring a third or even a fourth party into the conversation to model the importance of team resolution.
  6. Value all opinions in order to help nurture an environment that values curiosity.
  7. When others struggle to resolve their own issues, don’t stamp them with a label.
  8. Provide ongoing support, time, and resources needed for a successful resolution.
  9. Follow up with an encouraging word or note and then check-in again to recognize and celebrate the progress.
  10. Encourage them to repeat the process with other similar situations they encounter to support and honor them in their growth as learners, teachers, and leaders.

For the most part, almost every dilemma you will encounter as a classroom teacher or a school or district leader will have a solution, it just doesn’t have to be you who comes up with it.

As I read that, I thought about how nervous I was when I came over from Hepburn last year. For a while I felt that, as principal, I had to solve every problem that came my way. Thanks to everyone on staff, I quickly learned that we are much smarter than me. I’d invite you to pause for a moment and think about the team you work with. It could be your students, or your colleagues, but ask yourself, how are you working together to solve problems?

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • 9:00 ~ covering Amy’s class
  • 11:00 ~ team meeting regarding new student
  • Classroom visits: what questions are the kids wrestling with?
  • Staff meeting

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & Jesse away at ALT (part of the learning focus will be on our data from the OurSCHOOL survey)

Wednesday:

  • Classroom visits: what questions are the kids wrestling with?

Thursday:

  • Jesse away (Following Their Voices PD)
  • Locker clean up (schedule to be developed Monday/Tuesday)
  • Classroom visits: what questions are the kids wrestling with?

Friday:

  • Trips:
    • 1 – 3 (Saskatoon for bowling, then back to school for winter carnival style games)
    • 4 – 12 (skiing at Table Mountain)

As always, create a great week!

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What Language Are We Choosing To Use With Our Kids: Feb 5th – 9th

If you are a fan of football, or frigid weather, this weekend was certainly for you! I’m not a big NFL fan, and as such I’m not sure if I’ll catch the game tonight or not. I will likely tune in to try and see the halftime show, those are usually quite enjoyable, if they can stick to entertainment and leave politics on the sidelines. We had a wonderful weekend as the kids are getting used to our new dog, Bella. They are busy learning how to live with a pet, how she reacts to things like running in the house, or dropped pizza on the floor. Like I’ve been saying, getting a new pet is not so much about training the animal as it is about training the kids.

Our new friend Bella.

Last week I indicated that during my classroom visits I’d be curious about big ideas, and how these ideas were being made explicit to the kids. Some of the things I saw involved inviting kids to expand their thinking as they developed machines in grade 6, or how the kids were using their imagination through words and pictures in grade 2/3, or how the kids were relating perimeter and area in math. These were just three of the many things I saw, and that was during a short week with final exams kicking things off! As we head into our first full week of the second half of the school year, I find I’m reflecting on some of the words from Choice Words that Steve shared with us last week.

…the language  that teachers (and their students) use in classrooms is a big deal…[t]hese words and phrases exert considerable power over classroom conversations, and thus over students’ literate and intellectual development

-Peter Johnston

This week when you engage with students and are trying to be aware of #20/80, what are some ways you can be intentional about the words you choose? What are you hoping the students hear? Is it the same as what you are saying? As I visit classrooms and pose questions I will try my best to be intentional in the words I choose as well.

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Steve away marking provincial ELA exams
  • Classroom visits: how is our language intentional?

Tuesday:

  • Steve away marking provincial ELA exams
  • Classroom visits: how is our language intentional?

Wednesday:

  • Brenda & Joanne away at SERT meetings
  • Classroom visits: how is our language intentional?

Thursday:

  • Grad photos in the library all day
  • Classroom visits: how is our language intentional?

Friday:

  • High school career fair (in gym all morning)
  • Bruce away (am only)
  • Classroom visits: how is our language intentional?

As always, create a great week!

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