How’s Business? April 30 – May 4

What a gorgeous day Saturday was, and while today isn’t quite as warm, we still had a chance to get out in the back yard with the dog. The kids enjoyed their swing set, and played made up games, while I tidied up the mess from the long winter. Speaking of Saturday, we had a lot of fun visiting my mom while Krista slept after her night shift at the hospital. Eva (my 7 year old) got a craft for her birthday, a white tea set with paint and brushes, and has been dying to do this. So, we all sat around my mom’s table, painting away, making quite a mess, but everyone was proud of their saucers, cups, pots, etc. It was a fun way to spend some time with mom.

My dad with Eva 7 years ago.

Something we talked about as we were visiting was my dad’s business that he ran through the 1980’s and part of the 90’s. He had a business where he sold bulk Esso petroleum products and fertilizer to farmers around the Watrous area. My first job as a high school student was to go to the business after school, and usually I needed to pull weeds, cut grass, clean oil drums, or organize stock. As I got older, I became more involved in the fuel and fertilizer delivery, and eventually in the financial end of the business. Reflecting now on how dad approached his business, he was very particular about a few things. The buildings, grounds, and stock needed to look good. Things were clean, and organized, and to dad, this was a sign of pride in his work. The way all of his employees treated customers was extremely important, he knew they were the key to his success as their was always competition down the road. Dad also believed it was crucial to take care of his employees, he was very responsive to their needs, he cared about them, and their families.

I’ve been thinking about the parallels between an effective business, and an effective school for a while. Of course there are differences, as I’ve never viewed students as customers, nor staff as employees, but there are many similarities. I’ve seen how hard everyone works to make their rooms inviting for students, and this is mirrored by the amazing work Jamie and her crew do on a daily basis to keep our school looking clean and welcoming. I think about how we try to reach, each and every student, just like how dad tried his best with every customer, from our largest, regular accounts, to our one time visitors. I also think about how we support each other. Just like any great staff, we learn together, we struggle together, and we celebrate together.

As I think about the staff presentations we’ve been having this year, I’ve been struck by the common thread through all of them: students first! If we were all business owners, presenting to each other, I know the common theme would be customers first. As you think about the presentations, what have you heard? How has your “business” improved this year because we have been learning together? How can we measure this when after all, we don’t have profits or losses in the monetary sense, like my dad did. Will you do a customer satisfaction survey? If so, what would you ask? When and how often would you do one? How would you respond to your customers’ responses? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

As I look at my calendar, I see I only have one scheduled event, which takes place Tuesday after school in Warman, so the week will be filled with classroom visits, side-by-side learning, chats and Tweets, and lots of laughs!

As always, create a great week!

 

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They May Still Need Training Wheels. Apr. 23-27

Well, I just counted them again, and I have all 4 kids, none of them blew away in this wicked wind! It was fun to watch them get back on their bikes and wiggle carts in front of the house, they had a blast and love being outside. While they were playing it gave me a chance to do a bit of tidying up of the yard, but there is still a lot to do. Hopefully you found a way to enjoy the better weather. Two really cool things to share from the weekend. First, my 7-year old, Eva, had a friend over on Saturday, and Eva was making muffins. It was quite a mess, and to be honest, they seemed more like scones than muffins, but they went good with a coffee. What was cool was listening to her explaining to her friend how to measure out things like flour and sugar, and how only she could put the muffins in the oven. I didn’t record my wife teaching Eva, but I’m sure it sounded very similar. #side-by-side! The second cool thing was watching my 11-year old, Bobby, help my 4-year old, Charlie with his bike. Last summer, Charlie was still in the age of training wheels, and after watching his twin sister rip up the sidewalk on two wheels, he’s determined to get his two-wheeler going. Bobby was trying to give him tips, trying to help by holding his seat, and trying to help by cheering him on. Alas, it didn’t work, and Charlie found comfort on his other bike (a tricycle), which allowed him to be a part of the game they were playing.

Dunning sisters learning together.

This makes me think of the learning that has been going on in our school. Sometimes kids are ready, and can move to that independent stage where they can teach others, like Eva and her so-called muffins. Others are not ready, no matter how much we cheer them on and help balance them, they just need a little more time with their training wheels. This past week there were so many examples of side-by-side learning going on in and out of Waldheim School. The play, Annie, was an incredible success, and Joanne could attest to the side-by-side learning that was going on during rehearsals leading up to the performance. As I watched and enjoyed the acting, I was struck by how effective the music and lighting were.

Don’t worry, they got this covered!

Behind the scenes was an interesting crew helping bring the magic to life, there were veterans from grade 12, who had been running sound and music for years teaching the next generation of kids in grade 8, 9, and 10. Lots of #side-by-side! There were also many examples on staff last week of collaborative learning. Brenda and Steve were hard at work helping teachers, the EAs worked feverishly on their presentation during their EA meeting, and David and Brittney were able to spend a whole afternoon planning together on Friday. All of this in the name of what’s best for our students. Hats off to all of you and your efforts! All this side-by-side reminded me of a blog post from my friend, George (@gcouros), who wrote about a conversation he had with a group of leaders. He talked about the impact that performance has on people. If you have time, have a look at the post.

Here’s what lies ahead on this busy week:

Monday:

  • Staff meeting (Leah, Shantel, Brenda presenting)
  • Bruce & Jesse presenting at PSSD AGM at Division Office (5:30 pm)

Tuesday:

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

Wednesday:

  • Lockdown (am ~ details to be sent out prior)
  • Assembly (1:00 ~ note: part of assembly will include cheque presentation from Affinity Credit Union)

Thursday:

  • Hold and Secure (am ~ details to be sent out prior)
  • 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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How Pretty Does it Have To Look? April 16 – 20

This weekend was another quiet one around our place as Krista was working all weekend at the hospital. The kids and I were busy tidying up the winter toys, cleaning up the van, getting dad’s car ready, and keeping up with the day to day duties. There was also lots of time spent chasing the dog around the basement and playing with their new sketch books and sticker books (the things you find when you open the trunk of your car after 6 months!)

One thing the kids love to do is to help make lunch and supper. On Saturday, we had fun making homemade pizzas using flatbread as our crusts. The kids were able to slather on their sauce, add their toppings and then continually ask, “how much longer, how much longer?” I reflect on this activity after having read my Sunday e-mail from Brad Nichol, who spoke a lot about side-by-side learning.

When I think about the learning that was going on making these pizzas, I think about things like estimating portions, fine motor skills, learning about time, shapes, fractions, and even healthy eating. While Bobby has no trouble spreading his sauce and estimating how much cheese to grab from the bowl, Charlie has a few struggles. So while he was left with a pizza that wasn’t as professional looking as Bobby’s, he enjoyed it all the same. Something else the kids learned about was how to take turns, and how to be patient. With 6 pizzas to make, and only enough room for two kids at the kitchen island, they needed to practice patience. It was a fun time for the kids, and for some reason, they always like their pizzas a little better when they have a hand in making them. From my perspective, it’s more time consuming, it leads to frustration and mess, and truth be told, I likely rather just do it myself (confession: there are many days that I do).

On Sunday, Bobby had to work on writing a persuasive piece for his teacher, and decided to argue in favor of bringing vending machines to his school. He worked on this beside me, asking for some suggestions and wondering if I could read what he had wrote. As I read it, I wanted desperately to tell him to add this or change that, but I had to resist. For Bobby, the letter he was writing was similar to the pizza Charlie made on Saturday. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but in the end it was his, and just like I put Charlie’s pizza in the oven, I did help by typing Bobby’s letter. These are skills they are still working on.

How does this relate to what we do as we learn side-by-side with our kids at school? How much do we tell or show? How much leading is too much, and do we let our kids struggle enough? When we talk about My Prairie Spirit Classroom, we talk a lot about side-by-side learning, effective feedback, relevance, rigor, and student voice and choice just to name a few. As you think about the tasks you are asking the students to complete, how do you know if they are ready, and what do you do if you find out they are not? Last week, Ellen was discussing a risk she was taking as she was inviting her grade 10 Environmental Science class to learn about various forms of energy through a class debate. Part of this process involved bringing in experts from outside of the school, like the local mayor. I wonder how she knew her students were ready to be a part of this conversation with him?

As you read this, and think about your students, I’d love to know what you are wondering.

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • setting up gym for Annie play
  • classroom visits (Brad has me thinking about things I can do to make these visits more valuable for you, I’ll discuss that with you individually this week as opportunities present themselves)

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & Jesse at ALT (Katharine is acting admin)
  • Annie matinee performance

Wednesday:

  • Annie evening performance
  • My wife’s birthday (don’t let me forget!!!)
  • Classroom visits

Thursday:

  • EA meeting (presentation planning)
  • Classroom visits

Friday:

  • Annie evening performance
  • Classroom visits

As always, create a great week!

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What Are You Excited For? April 9th – 13th

The tragic events that occurred this past week involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team has given us all a reason to pause and remember the important things in life. As I began to learn more and more about the accident that has claimed the lives of 15 people, I felt a need to hold my kids a little tighter, to hug a little longer. The kids that were on that bus were sons, brothers, nephews, grandsons, and friends. They were teammates, doing what they loved to do, and were taken from the hearts of loved ones much too soon, and for those people, life will never be the same.

As we return to work this week, it is important to remember the why when we think about what we are doing on a daily basis. The kids we are blessed to work with are going to be coming back to school with mixed emotions on Monday. Some kids will be excited to be at school, for some it’s a new beginning with our restructured classes in grade 3, 4, and 5. Some kids will be excited to see their classmates, and get back to the routine a school day brings with it. Some will be excited to get back to the challenges of finding just right books, working with fractions and decimals, building or sewing their projects, grappling with issues, solving equations, or figuring out just how the heck to calculate molarity! Some kids will come back with other feelings, for them, school can be a tough place to be. This is where we, the adults in the building, come in. How are you going to welcome each student back to your class this week?  Our school goal is to develop a deep understanding of every student we work with, and this week presents another opportunity to do this, will you take advantage of that?

I’m very excited to be coming back to school tomorrow, there are so many things I’m looking forward to, but there are few that stand out as special tomorrow:

  • Seeing Dwayne back where he belongs
  • Watching David build a culture in his new, makeshift classroom
  • Connecting with some of the vulnerable kids to see how their week off was
  • Learning from Amy, Brittney, Evan, and Krisinda at our staff meeting
  • …and most importantly, getting in each and every one of your classes to watch the magic you do every day!

Get a good rest tonight, we’re into the home stretch, let’s make the last 3 months of this school year the best they can be for every student and for each other!

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday

  • staff meeting, learning side-by-side with Amy, Brittney, Evan, and Krisinda

Tuesday

  • MyBlueprint presentation to grade 9 class
  • Classroom visits: reconnecting with kids

Wednesday

  • Classroom visits: reconnecting with kids

Thursday

  • Classroom visits: reconnecting with kids

Friday

  • School dance (7 – 12)

As always, create a great week!

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