Feedback Makes Us All Better

I’ve always loved music and that love of music has never been restricted to just one genre. I enjoy country, jazz, pop, rock, blues, soul, reggae, classical, and yes, even rap music. To me, it’s not the genre, it’s the song. One of the bands I really enjoyed in my youth, and still do to this day, is Queen. They have a unique sound that was defined by the iconic voice of lead singer, Freddie Mercury. While they are one of my favorite bands, some of their songs do not strike a chord with me, like Another One Bites the Dust, or, ironically, Bohemian Rhapsody. It is ironic because that is the title of the movie documenting the evolution of the band, and it is the recording of that song that is such a pivotal moment in the arc of the story. In one of the most touching scenes in the movie, Mercury shares with his band mates the reason he feels their band is so successful: feedback. He talks about their greatness as a result of their ability to collaborate and to push each other to be one of the best bands of all time (#52 of the top 100 artists of all time according to Rolling Stone Magazine).

I thought about this scene as I was reading Softening the Edges this weekend. The author (@KatieWhite426 ) invites us to think about the importance of feedback as part of our formative assessment practices. In the movie, Mercury talks about how feedback helped create beautiful music. In her book, White talks about how feedback helps create beautiful learning. She quotes John Hattie, who says,

The most powerful single modification that enhances achievement is feedback. The simplest prescription for improving education must be ‘dollops of feedback’

I like the term dollops of feedback. Phrasing it in such a way allows us easier entry points for our feedback, simply because we are doing so in dollops. I think about how Shantel offers dollops of feedback during her LLI time as she invites students to ponder things. I think  about how Krisinda offers dollops of feedback as she invites her students to ‘taste the soup’ in Home Ec class. I think about how Steve offers dollops of feedback as he engages in conversations with students who are thinking about why Saskatchewan has the highest teen smoking rate in Canada. I think about how Glen offers dollops of feedback as he stands beside a grade 9 girl who is turning a piece of wood on the lathe. I think about how Ellen has adopted a “thinking classroom” based on her work with Peter Liljedahl (@pgliljedahl) and how she offers dollops of feedback through the questions she asks her students as a response to their own questions. I think about the dollops of feedback Corinne shares with students who seek her guidance on a daily basis as she offers a quiet ear and a few timely questions. I think about the dollops of feedback Leah offers Sam through their work together as cooperating teacher and intern as Leah asks questions that allow Sam to formulate answers for herself versus simply telling her what to do. 

So many terrific examples of the dollops of feedback I saw just last week alone.

As you head into the week, I’d invite you to think about what Katie White writes in chapters 3 & 4, especially in the area of formative assessmentAs you approach your work this week I wonder how you’d answer questions like:

  • what did I learn about my students last week that will have an impact on how I teach them this week?
  • if there was only one learning goal that I had to accomplish this week with my students, what would that goal be, and how would I know if every student achieved it?
  • which student(s) have not benefited from the gift of feedback lately, and how will I make sure I have a learning conversation with them?

Heading into this week, I am going to use those three questions to help guide my thinking. What did I learn last week about leadership that will impact how I lead this week? What is the one leadership goal I get to accomplish this week? Who have I not engaged with in learning conversation, and how will I ensure I do so this week?

Here’s what is on the horizon this week:

Monday:

  • K – 4 Staff Meeting (please have chapters 3 & 4 completed. See agenda for information)
  • Classroom visits to work on the one big goal for the week

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & Jesse away at ALT meeting

Wednesday:

  • Classroom visits to work on the one big goal for the week

Thursday:

  • Remembrance Day ceremony
  • 7 – 12 Progress Reports sent home

Friday:

  • Teacher Preparation Day

As  always, create a great week!

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Dad Was a Good Fisherman

Even the weather can’t put a damper on the wonderful feelings that have been created over the past few days. There are so many incredible things for me to be thankful for, from our amazing staff, and the learning we did together Friday, to my wonderful family, to the ability to spend some time at Waskesiu on Sunday, to the fun we will be having during our games night. So many wonderful things in my life. I’m also excited about the week ahead, and the addition of another family member at #WaldheimSchool. Briane Saathoff starts tomorrow, and I’m thankful for that.

As I mentioned, our family made a quick trip up to Waskesiu and Elk Ridge on Sunday. We spent the cold afternoon at the Discovery Center, followed by a delicious latte, and then looking for wildlife. The afternoon wrapped up with a tremendous turkey supper at Elk Ridge. Whenever we venture up north, my thoughts always wander back to my father, and the times we spent together there as a family. My father made a modest living from the business he operated, but he always made sure we would be able to spend a week or two at Waskesiu. We’d stay in the same cabins every year, and while they were small and, well, ‘rustic’, we felt like we were the richest people on earth. One of my favorite memories is of the times my father and I would head out early in the morning to try our luck fishing. I have no clue how many fish we caught over the years, that wasn’t what was important to me. What was important, and what I remember so clearly, was the time I spent with my father. Now that he has passed, I know I can never have those moments again, however, what I can try to do is remember why it was so enjoyable, and try to be there for my kids the way my father was for me.

Something I will always have, however, is my dad’s tackle box. This box of fishing lures, extra line, a filleting knife, some pliers, and other items a fisherman may need still sits in my parent’s garden shed. I know some of the favorite hooks in there as well. If you’ve fished, you may recognize spoons like the Len Thompson five of diamonds or red and white, or the rapala floating lure. These were some of his favorites, and he always seemed to have success with them. This success, however, was not simply because of the lure on the end of his line. I used these as well, and he always seemed to catch more fish than I did. No, it was more than the tools he had access to, it was the way he used them, and it was his intuition and his patience. Dad did not simply cast his hook at random, he knew the signs to look for, and knew when, and more importantly, when not to fish. The more I think about, the more I realize, my dad was a pretty good fisherman.

It makes me think about assessment and about our conversations from Friday morning. We talked a lot about getting to know our kids, about meeting them where they are, about using assessment to inform, about working together, and about believing that as a group we have the ability to help students achieve success (I believe Jesse called that collective teacher efficacy). I think about the tackle box we have access to for our assessments and am reminded of all the shiny, colorful lures I was tricked into buying. Thinking of your experience in education, what shiny, new assessment tools have come along? Were they effective? Just as it wasn’t the hooks my dad used but how he used them, it isn’t the tools we use to assess, it’s how we use them. Just as my dad used his intuition to find out where the fish were, you use your intuition to find out where your students are in terms of their learning. Just as my dad was patient, and believed the fish were there, you are patient, and believe the knowledge is there. And just as my dad knew fishing with other great fishermen made him better, you know learning with each other makes you stronger teachers.

Here’s what lies ahead on this shortened, yet busy week:

Tuesday:

  • Briane’s first day, WELCOME!
  • Bruce & Jesse at ALT ~ Katharine acting admin
  • K – 6 assembly (fire prevention week)
  • K – 4 staff meeting (Shantel facilitating)

Wednesday:

  • Grade 6 soccer day: boys hosting 3 other teams, girls travel to Duck Lake

Thursday:

  • Student services meeting (Bruce, Joanne, Brenda, Jesse) at school

Friday:

  • Fire drill and fire fighter challenge

As always, create a great week!

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Let’s Have Fun.

Bags are packed, clothes are selected, groceries are purchased, and alarms are set. We are ready to go! I have to imagine that similar scenes are playing out all across Saskatchewan this weekend as the turning of the leaves remind us of the familiar time of year. A coolness accompanies the early morning, and there is a familiar smell in the air as harvest continues to roll on. It’s back to school time. There will certainly be a nervousness, some restless sleeps in anticipation of what the first day will bring. For some it will be just another year, nothing to fear going into the room on day one. “This isn’t my first rodeo” they may think, but for others it’s a feeling in the stomach that makes them wish for just one more week of holidays. This is especially true for those who are new to our school, those who have not had a chance to live the day to day that Waldheim School brings.

And the students may be feeling this way too!

Every year I think about the possibility the new year brings for all learners in our building. Students have a chance to start again, building on what they learned last year and what they experienced over the summer holidays. We say students can come in with a clean slate, although I often wonder, who is responsible for what is written on this unseen slate, the student or the teacher? Adults also have an opportunity to start over, to build on what they have learned last year and over the summer. We get to make choices as learning leaders in our rooms and in the building, we can take a risk and try something new, try something we’ve read about, or seen in action. I think about things like the curiosity Marla and Krisinda showed in how Glen shares student work on Instagram, the wonderings Sharlene has about using online portfolios to communicate with parents, the way Shantel has been working with Brenda to get ready for her new role, the way Dan has been curious about working with new students, and the way Jesse has thought about parent engagement. Everyone is trying something new this year; EAs have new assignments, teachers starting their masters, new roles, new courses, new opportunities.

This change can be scary, and at times this change can stand in our way of taking that risk. I’ve shared this video (below) before, however every time I watch it it reminds me that everything will be okay, and that we are not alone.

Finally, a word before we open the doors on Tuesday for our #partners in learning. Let’s have fun! Our goal this year is to use our assessment strategies to continually learn about our students and what they need from us to be successful. I cannot think of a better way to do this than by being #side-by-side with our learners having fun. Help the students see that we are partners in this learning journey, we are in this together. Another video (below) I’ve shared stresses the importance of having fun at work. Something I noticed last week was all the laughter in our meetings and in our hallways.  There is an optimism that permeates everything we do, a belief that together (students and adults) we can achieve great things. I have, and will always, believe that it is these #relationships that make the biggest difference in what we do as a school.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZKiJejNRtw

Thank you once again for allowing me the honor of being Principal at #WaldheimSchool. I look  forward to the amazing year that lies ahead.

Monday: Labor day holiday

Tuesday: First day back!

  • opening assembly (10:00)
  • helping students with course selections
  • classroom visits: what are you looking forward to this year?

Wednesday:

  • classroom visits: what are you looking forward to this year?

Thursday:

  • classroom visits: what are you looking forward to this year?

Friday:

  • Bruce/Joanne team meeting (noon)
  • SRC assembly: fundraising kickoff
  • classroom visits: how was your first week?

As always, create a great week!

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I Saw This Going Differently! May 7-11

A beautiful Sunday morning, I’m enjoying my coffee as I prepare to pack up the van and hit the road with the kids for what should be a fun day in Waskesiu. We love doing these day trips, the kids have their routine; grab some snacks, a couple of toys, a few books, a bit of arguing out the door, and we’re off. Today I’m hoping the kids get to see Waskesiu in a new way, I’ve never had them there at this time of year, so I’m wondering what they will see and hear. I wonder what they will learn about how their favorite place looks and feels in spring.

The kids made the space their own.

The more we visit Waskesiu, the more at home the kids become, especially the twins, who have learned what the expected behavior is from their older siblings. What I have also found is their independence continues to grow, which allows me to be more relaxed, and do more watching, versus all the hovering and correcting I felt I needed to do. This makes me think about our classrooms, and how our students come to know what’s expected over time. Thankfully students in our rooms are not still in the figuring it out stage, routines are in place, and kids know, understand, and appreciate how things work. With the recent addition of David’s class in the library, we’ve been able to see this process repeat itself as Mr. G has transformed his space of desks and books into a classroom. It’s been a fun process to watch, and it’s apparent the kids take pride in their room.

So why is it that sometimes, during a learning task, things seem to go sideways? You have what you feel is a perfectly designed lesson, the expectations are clear, and your assessment rubric is in place. The kids are ready to go, but then it happens, they disengage, they miss the mark, and you think, “I gave up my Sunday night for this?” I’ve been there so many times, and wondered, “what’s wrong with me?” or “I thought the kids would love this!”

Kids may fool around, but when they cannot produce anything for assignments that they know will impact their grade, there must be something else going on that I’m missing.

I would talk with other teachers, and my administrators wondering why things weren’t working. Often times we’d discuss the need for me to scaffold my lessons better as the kids were off task because they were either bored or confused. The above quote comes from a good article that talks about doing more than just providing the scaffold, it talks about the need to teach kids how to use the scaffold. What it speaks about reflects the beliefs around effective teaching and assessment we find in our #mpsc documentIt is so nice to be able to see the connection between what we are working on as a school and a division with what is currently being written about in professional articles. If you have a moment to read the article, I’d love to hear what you think. What does it make you wonder?

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Brad Nichol out to learn with Evan, Ellen, Amy, and Shantel
  • L4L presenters (Corinne, Jamie, Jamey,  Kimberly,  Jesse, Brenda) meeting after school

Tuesday:

  • Classroom visits: do kids know the BIG idea?

Wednesday:

  • Brenda & June learning together at KCC
  • Classroom visits: do kids know the BIG idea?

Thursday:

  • Celebration Day!!! We get to share our school’s learning story at Learning for Life

Friday:

  • Game Night! Talk to the SRC for more information
  • Classroom visits: do kids know the BIG idea?

As always, create a  great week!

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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?

 

 228 total views

October 9th – 13th

Thankful for the simple things in life, like a yummy dessert and a coffee.

When a person stops, and really takes stock of the great things they have in their lives, it can be overwhelming. I think about the amazing family I have, my mom, brother, sisters, nieces, nephew, cousins, aunties, uncles, and in-laws. I look at my kids and marvel at who they are becoming. It truly is a blessing. I also think about my work family, the wonderful adults and students I get to spend time with on a daily basis, working on learning. It’s easy to get caught up in the hectic nature of our day-to-day work, but it is weekends like this that allow us to pause and reflect on those who surround us. Hopefully you were able to take some time to relax and reconnect with those who are the most important to you.

On Friday we spent the morning discussing what we believe is important for our students, and then discussed how we see ourselves bringing these things to life for all learners at Waldheim School. It was one of those mornings where it felt like the learning conversations could go on and on, and I felt terrible for having to cut some of them short. Hopefully you will find time to continue those discussions, and continue wrestling with the big question, how do we know. I tried to capture our thoughts from your goals and conversations and attempted to highlight the essence of our work. Here is what I saw and heard on Friday morning:

Goals for Waldheim Learners

What I found so encouraging on Friday morning was that every goal each of you brought to the discussion was focused on students and their learning. Some of the goals were centered on literacy, some on mathematics, some on leadership, and some on assessment, but all of them spoke to wanting to make Waldheim School a better place for all students. As we continue to grow as a learning community, consider the following questions:

  1. how will you know if you are on the right track?
    1. what will you do to recalibrate if you aren’t?
    2. what will you do to stretch yourself if you are?
  2. how can you use your colleagues as a means of support?
    1. can they stretch your thinking?
    2. can they offer you feedback?
  3. how will you share your celebrations with
    1. students?
    2. colleagues?
    3. parents?
  4. how will you remove barriers for your students?

I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations and more in the days to come.

Here’s what’s on the horizon:

Tuesday:

  • Lori Jeschke popping by for a visit (am)
  • Bruce at division office (pm)
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

Wednesday:

  • Library closed (meeting 9:00 – 10:25)
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

Thursday:

  • Fire drill ~ pm (K – 6 assembly to follow (tentative))
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

Friday:

  • Jon Yellowlees school visit
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

As always, create a great week!

 

 256 total views

Sept. 25th – 29th

How do I know? How do we know?

These questions have been rattling around my head for weeks, especially after our last Administrative Leadership Team (ALT) meeting. These questions were asked to the ALT group as we discussed several items related to student and adult learning, and since then I have found myself struggling to find answers. Last week I wondered if my daughter was “learning” anything as she created a stuffed owl (read here), and how, if I had to, could I measure that learning. So often we feel we need data to validate what we feel. As teachers we have an instinct about our students and about what they have learned, and often we use tests or assignments to support and report. The numbers support our beliefs and we can use them to report to parents. I think that’s why when a student scores poorly on a test or a project and we have anticipated they would do very well, we start asking questions. Rarely do I remember asking myself, “hmm, how did that top student score well on that test?” Nor do I remember wondering why a student who consistently struggled in the past failed a test, after all it was just validating what I had anticipated.

But why should it take a misalignment of our predictions and the results to prompt us to ask why?

At our ALT meeting we were asked to predict the outcomes from our 2016/17 developmental reading assessments (DRA) for grades 1, 2, and 3. After taking some time to reflect I committed myself to my predictions and waited in anticipation as our learning superintendent shuffled through his papers to find our data. When I saw the data and set it beside my predictions I noticed the two sets were not aligned, in fact I was way off! While our results showed our students in grades 1, 2, and 3 were performing slightly below the division mean I was not overly worried about our students and their ability to read at grade level now or in the future. What caused that feeling? A clear understanding of the commitment to student learning that each teacher at Waldheim School has shown over the course of my 14 months of being associated with this school. What did give me pause was the fact that I did not “know” the students better than that. How could my hunch be so off? How is it that I overestimated their results so drastically? For whatever reasons, and I’m sure there are many, I did not know the students as well as I thought I did. This leads back to the question, “how do I know”. Obviously when I made my prediction it was based on shaky ground, I didn’t really know, but rather I was being cautiously optimistic. As you know, my goal this year is to be more curious. More curious about what you are working on and more curious about what and how the students are learning. Hopefully next year when I’m asked the same question I will know a little more than I did this year.

When you think of your students’ learning, how do you know?

Here’s what lies ahead for a relatively quiet week:

Monday:

  • K-6 staff meeting (3:15 @ Departures)
  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)

Tuesday:

  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)

Wednesday:

  • EA meeting (8:00 am ~ library)
  • Fire Drill (am), Lockdown (pm)
  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)

Thursday:

  • Terry Fox Run/Walk
  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)

Friday:

  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)

As always, create a great week!

 285 total views

Sept. 18th – 22nd

As I am sitting down to write this week’s edition of On the Horizon, my 7 year old daughter, Eva, is busy working away on one of her birthday gifts. She received a sewing kit from her auntie, and in it are all the materials for her to create her own little stuffed owl. It’s pretty cute, but it also requires a lot of side-by-side learning. This is one of those moments when I’m in a little over my head, as I am not a master at sewing, not even close! What I have noticed, however, is that she is much more able to solve her own problems as she continues to struggle with her kid-safe needle and thread. This whole activity is a perfect microcosm of what learning should be, a kid engaged in an activity that interests her (she’d have given up on Lego long ago), is stretching her (it even says it’s for 8+), and has a clearly defined product. My role has gone from helping her set up and demonstrating how to pull the needle and thread through, to a cheerleader on the side.

So, what mark should she get?

My friend, George Couros (@gcouros), posted a link to this article by Bill Ferriter. In it Ferriter talks about the good old, SWBAT acronym, and for those of you relatively new to the profession, SWBAT stands for students will be able to. When I was teaching math, all of my lesson plans would contain SWBAT, and to be honest, it was pretty easy to come up with these objectives, especially for my senior level math classes. While it was easy to create a statement to put on the board (i.e. students will be able to identify the numerical coefficients from a quadratic equation and use the quadratic formula to solve the equation), it wasn’t always easy to measure what they had learned. In the end, I was focusing on what was measurable, not what was meaningful.This brings me back to Eva’s sewing activity. How do I measure what she has learned, and how do I share this with her mom who is currently at work and not seeing the process? I could count the number of errors she has made, but will that be an accurate measurement? I could record how long it took her, and then ask her to complete another one, but will that be an accurate measurement? I could find out if any other kids her age have sewn an owl kit like this and set them side by side and see which one looks better, but will that be an accurate measurement? The funny thing is that’s how I used to measure learning when I was teaching other subjects, like grade 5 social studies, or senior psychology, and as I reflect, I am sure I wasn’t always measuring what was important. As Eva was working, I asked her, “Eva, what are you learning?” Her response was, “I’m not learning, I’m just sewing”. Interesting. I bet if I had given her a sheet of addition questions or a spelling list she’d be able to formulate a different answer to that question. Has she already been trained to think that if it isn’t readily measurable it’s not really learning? If so, that makes me a little sad.

As we continue along our learning journey this year, keep asking yourself, “am I measuring what’s measurable or what’s meaningful?”

Maybe the smile is all the measurement I need.

 

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Jon Yellowlees is popping out for a visit
  • Cross country meet in Langham
  • Class visits

Tuesday:

  • SCC meeting 5:00 pm
  • Class visits

Wednesday:

  • EA PD meeting 8:00 am (library)
  • IA magazine sale fundraiser kickoff (9:00ish ~ library)
  • School pictures (in the gym)
  • Holly Kruger at school to meet with various teachers
  • Class visits

Thursday:

  • Meet the teacher BBQ
  • Class visits (am) / BBQ set up (pm)

Friday:

  • Classroom visits

As always, create a great week!

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May 29 – June 2

What an incredible week of learning! Last week I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to learn in so many exciting and unique ways, starting last Tuesday at our school track and field meet. A person’s first year at a school is always full of new events and traditions, and I was excited to see how our elementary track and field day worked. I was so impressed with the incredible leadership shown by the teachers, students, and parent volunteers. There were so many smiling faces on a day that can be fraught with tears if it is not set up properly, and sometimes even the students cry! Wednesday and Thursday were a great opportunity for David and I to get some dedicated learning time together at the CAP2017 conference.  The opening speaker, Anthony Muhammad, spoke passionately about the importance of school culture and the impact the teachers have on student learning. He spoke at length about John Hattie’s Visible Learning study, and shared some of the key things we can do to help our students grow. Some things that really stood out from this information was the impact that collective teacher efficacy has on student learning, along with how a teacher predicts a student will do prior to entering the course. I’d invite you to consider the following two questions:

  1. how important do you feel you are in the lives of your students (do you believe you are an agent for change)?
  2. do you have predetermined beliefs about how well your students will do before your course even begins or is in it’s beginning stages?

As a staff, I’d like to explore Hattie’s work together on a deeper level. There was a lot more great learning that occurred over the two days that I’d love to share with you over the next few weeks, so keep looking for that in upcoming On the Horizons.

On Saturday Bobby (10) and Eva (6) performed in their annual piano recital in Saskatoon. There were over 25 students playing a variety of pieces, from the very basic, to the very complex. What stood out to me the most was the feeling of pride each and every pupil displayed as they played for us. There was no comparing student A to student B, it was simply a showcase to celebrate their hard work and (sometimes) daily practice. Two highlights for me, besides the obvious pride I felt when my kids played, were the performances by the teachers and the quote on the program. First, the teachers. All three of them played for us, and all three of them played pieces that were just a touch beyond their current skill level, which was evident as all three of them had one or two tiny miscues. To me this showed a belief that there is always room for growth and that the teacher is and should be just a passionate about their chosen pursuit as their pupils are. Second, the quote.

This quote sums up what it is we should all be striving for everyday.  School should not be about perfection, but rather the passion that should live in the learning journey. Ask yourself this, are you more concerned with the journey or the destination?

Here is what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Bruce, David, Trace, June, and Brenda presenting our Learning for Life story at division office (9:00 – 2:00)
  • Book fair set up (any help after school would be greatly appreciated)

Tuesday:

  • Day one of the book fair

Wednesday:

  • Literacy day, hot dog lunch!

Thursday:

  • Staff meeting (am) ~ focus: student awards, ROA’s, forward planning (elem)
  • Final day of the book fair

Friday:

  • Jon Yellowlees visit (9:00 – 10:30)

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