One Eye Open. March 26 – 30

A very quiet long weekend here, we found ourselves busy with the day to day that is our lives with four kids and a dog. I did manage to get out a couple times for coffee with the kids to their favorite place in Martensville, and we did spend a lot of time playing with Bella inside and out, especially on this nice Sunday. Hopefully you were able to rest and relax after two busy nights connecting  with parents and students during our conferences.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we look at our learning in our school through two lenses of the same binoculars, one is focused on the here and now, while the other is focused on the long term, years into the future. I wonder, sometimes, do we spend too much time with the same eye closed? I recall a particularly challenging group of students I worked with years ago, and as a beginning teacher I was solely focused on getting through the year, not only was I looking just through one eye, I didn’t even consider the long term view! What I found was that I was in survival mode, a place that wasn’t much fun for me, and likely wasn’t too great for the kids. What I realized years later, was that I simply passed on a group of students that presented the same learning challenges for their next teacher, I spent the whole year with one eye closed.

I’d invite you to think about where you are right now with your learners and the journey you are walking with them. Are you looking to survive the year, or are you thinking about what each student needs to be a graduate of Waldheim School? If you were to have a transition meeting tomorrow with next year’s teacher, what would you tell them about each student? What work still needs to be done? What are your greatest celebrations? When I think about the things I’m seeing in our school, I would celebrate the way each of you are finding ways to challenge your learners as you help them grow. Nothing illustrates this better than this image from last week:

Gr. 5 Hardy Genius Hour Presentation at #WaldheimSchool

Looking at this picture:

  • What kind of learning are you seeing?
  • How is MPSC alive in this image?
  • What does this say about how the teacher knows her students?
  • What insight did future teachers of this group gain by participating in this event?
  • What are you wondering?

I’d love to hear some thoughts.

Here’s what lies ahead for this shortened week:

Monday:

  • Ken Dueck workshop for grade 4 & 5 (parent & teacher workshop after school ~ all are welcome to attend)

Tuesday:

  • Greg McJannet (U of S) here to observe student teachers

Wednesday:

  • Library to classroom transition work

Thursday:

  • Locker/classroom clean up
  • Library to classroom transition work

Friday:

  • No school ~ begin Easter break

As always, create a great week!

 

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What Will You Hear? March 19 – 23

Last week Brittney and Amy hosted a Read-a-thon for the students in their classes, and the result of opening the doors and inviting the community in created an incredible buzz in their wing of the building. As I walked around, there were kids with parents and grandparents sitting side-by-side enjoying a good book. They were on the couches, at tables, on the floor, in the hallways, they were everywhere! And while the group was free to move about as they wanted, it was not chaos, rather it was a relaxed atmosphere where kids and adults were fully engaged in the activity. As I watched, I wondered:

  • what are the parents learning about their kids as readers?
  • what are the kids learning about their parents as learners?
  • what are Brittney and Amy learning about their students as they strive to meet the goal of developing a deep understanding of every student in their class?
  • what are other teachers in the building learning about risk taking?

This week we have another opportunity to invite our families into the school as we open our doors for our parent/student/teacher conferences. When I think about the way we have typically conducted these conferences, I wonder  if there are more opportunities for #Innovation as my friend George Corous (@gcouros) would ask. Do these conferences need to be a time for parents to sit and hear from you, or is there an opportunity for more side-by-side-by-side learning to occur? One such innovation that we will see is in how Leah is going set up learning stations for the parents, basing these on her students’ #GeniusHour creations. What she is doing is taking the typical parent/teacher interview and flipping it on it’s ear, allowing the students to lead the conversation through a celebration of their work. Another unique approach to sharing student learning that I’ve seen is how Sharlene has used #FreshGrade to showcase the work her students are doing as readers, as writers, as mathematicians, as wonderers.  This article may offer you more ideas or things to try for your time together with parents. As you prepare for Wednesday and Thursday, I’d invite you think about:

  • evidence…how do you know your students as learners, and how can you share this with their parents?
  • voice…will you drive the discussion, or will you facilitate a discussion between parent(s) and student?
  • goal…how can the time we are sharing be as valuable as possible to the success of each learner?
  • feedback…how will you know if the parent(s) have a deeper understanding of their child as a learner?

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • staff meeting, an opportunity to learn alongside Katharine, Marla, and Cara
  • classroom visits: what does side-by-side learning look like, sound like?

Tuesday:

  • classroom visits: what does side-by-side learning look like, sound like?

Wednesday:

  • classroom visits: what does side-by-side learning look like, sound like?
  • P/T Conferences (supper provided)

Thursday:

  • grade 6 basketball tournaments (girls to Stobart with Jesse, boys hosting here with Bruce)
  • P/T Conferences (supper provided)

Friday:

  • Day in lieu

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What’s Good for Some…March 12 – 16th

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). A goal like that can seem quite daunting,  however I’ve been so excited to witness this coming to life everyday in our school.  Some of the things I saw last week speak to how you are getting to know your learners. I watched as students talked about their  favorite animals and the teacher learned about them as researchers and  presenters. I watched as students sat beside their teacher discussing how to potentially solve their math problems, all the while the teacher learned more about them as mathematicians. I watched as teacher and student problem solved how to fit a lid on a beautiful jewelry box, the teacher learning about the student as a problem solver. I watched as a teacher worked with a small group of students as they shared what they noticed in a picture from a big book. I could go on and on, because everywhere I look everyday I see all of you getting to know your students as learners. It’s an incredible thing to watch.

I was thinking about this today as I made another trip to Table Mountain, however this time Eva joined the twins, and this would be her first time ever skiing. I quickly learned that how I helped the twins learn to ski was not going to work for Eva, as she was much more tentative. After her second run down the hill, with tears in her eyes, she said she’d had enough, and wanted to quit. The lift operator saw this conversation, and offered me a ski aid (just a reinforced hoola hoop), which we used for quite a while. I was hoping that she’d be able to start skiing on her own, however she remained very dependent on me and the ski aid, to the point that I wasn’t sure what to do to help her, after all, I can only say “pizza skis, pizza skis” so much. One of the great things about Table Mountain is the many volunteer instructors who are on the bunny hill, and one of them, Dave, happened to spot us getting ready to go for another run down the hill. He asked how Eva was enjoying it, and she sheepishly replied that she was having fun. Dave offered a couple of pieces of advice for her, and as he modeled this for her, I was able to pick up a few things I could use as I continued to help her. It was amazing how quickly what he taught her had her swishing down the hill on her own, I was amazed! The day wound up with her cheering about how much she loved skiing, and I was so happy for her as she called out, “dad, I’m doing it, I’m skiing”! I just wish I could have found Dave to thank him.

On the way home I started thinking about how sometimes we get stuck as we work with our learners, just like I was stuck with Eva today. It took the advice of someone else, in this case it was an expert instructor, to help get us out of the learning rut we were in. Tomorrow we get to learn together as Jesse has worked hard to tailor the PSSD PD to meet the needs of Waldheim School. We get to learn together, and in the process have an opportunity to ask each other for the help we may be needing. As you come into tomorrow’s PD, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What will someone else learn because you were in the room?
  • What are you hoping to learn?

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • PD/Prep Day (pot luck lunch)

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & Jesse at ALT (Steve acting admin)

Wednesday:

  • Classroom visits: What would you like us to notice?

Thursday:

  • Classroom visits: What would you like us to notice?

Friday:

  • Classroom visits: What would you like us to notice?

As always, create a great week!

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I Know Some of You: March 5 – 9

“I just feel I need to get to know you better”. This was a piece of feedback I received last year in my year end survey that I sent out to all of you as I was looking for indicators of things I was doing well, and areas in which I need to grow. When I read that response, I just feel I need to get to know you better, I was taken a little off guard. I thought that I was doing very well getting to know everyone on staff, however my perception was not, in fact, reality. When a person gets a piece of feedback we are left with a variety of choices, and we need to decide how to proceed. I really appreciated that feedback, along with the rest of it, but it was that sentence that has continued to guide some of my work this year.

At the start of the year we spent some time working on our goals, and developing our own personal learning journeys. This week we get to listen to June, Sharlene, and Jesse, and  I’m so excited to hear about the work they have been doing with and for their students. I wonder how they are getting to know each of their students as learners on a deeper level? As you listen and wonder on Monday, I’d invite you to reflect on how things are going for you. How are you getting to know each student you work with? Would their reality mirror your perception? How would you know?

During the February break, I had an opportunity to take my twins skiing to Table Mountain. I was very worried about taking two 4-year old kids to the hill alone, but for some reason I mentioned  it to them, and after that, there was no turning back. So, we loaded up the van and headed to North Battleford. We spent close to four hours on the bunny hill, and initially, I was so scared that the kids would either hurt themselves, each other, or someone else. We locked on our skis, headed for the lift (the magic carpet), and the fun began. I tried to tell them a few things, but they needed to feel how the skis felt, they needed to experience the speed, they needed to figure out how to control themselves. I could ski beside them, but I couldn’t ski for them. In the end, it was one of the most amazing days I’ve ever spent with them, and I was almost brought to tears of pride as I watched Charlie blaze up and down the hill completely on his own.

Charlie giving Maggie the final instructions, lol

Posted by Bruce Mellesmoen on Saturday, February 24, 2018

Maggie did very well too, but it came much more naturally to Charlie. When I think  about the people who helped him learn that day, I think  about myself, but I also have to consider the help he received from the lift operators, and how he learned by watching other kids skiing with their parents. Having watched them, I now have a much better understanding of my twins as skiers, but had I not been there, talking with them, observing them, and celebrating with them, my understanding would not nearly be as great.

So, I go back to the question, how do you know? How do you know each student as an artist, a mathematician, a reader, an author, a programmer, a designer, an athlete, a singer, a dancer, a leader? As you read this, I’d challenge you to think about a student you haven’t connected with in a long time (maybe never), and think about how you can share the gift of time with them this week. We all know some students are tougher to connect with than others, but we also need to remember that they may be the ones who need our time the most!

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Staff meeting

Tuesday:

  • Classroom visits: What would you like us to notice? (you can e-mail Jesse & I,  you can post it outside your door)

Wednesday:

  • School hockey tournament

Thursday:

  • Classroom visits: What would you like us to notice? (you can e-mail Jesse & I,  you can post it outside your door)

Friday:

  • Classroom visits: What would you like us to notice? (you can e-mail Jesse & I,  you can post it outside your door)

As always, create a great week!

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