We’re All Gardeners. May 28 – June 1

“She’s good, all I can do now is leave her alone”. These were the words spoken to me by a parent at Griffiths Stadium on Friday morning as a parent/coach knew her daughter was getting ready to take part in the shot put competition. She knew that her daughter had received all the coaching she needed, and now it was up to her, nothing that could be said was needed as her daughter had been here many times before, and was able to psych herself up, without psyching herself out. The parent knew that her daughter didn’t even want her watching, different than her son who loved having his mom cheer him on and give him feedback. As I watched this it made sense, she knows her kids, she knows their strengths and their areas for growth. She knows when to push, when to pat on the back, when to hug, and when to avoid. Did her kids win every event? No, and that’s not the point. The point is she knows that each of her kids are unique and require unique teaching as she strives to get them to be their best.

Which students in your room need you to push a little more? Which ones thrive when given their own space to think, create, and struggle? Which ones need a little more cheer leading? How do you know?

“Mommy, look at how big these seeds are!” Eva was very excited to help plant the garden this weekend, even if it is a little later than usual. Gardening is my wife’s domain, however she is a firm believer that kids need to get a little dirt under their nails and learn how to grow some produce. It’s something that was passed down from her grandmother to her, and something she has always carried on. I know my role in this process. Prepare the soil, grab a coffee, and stay out of the way (I’m good at that!). The neat thing to watch as our kids grow up is the way Bobby now is able to be independent, and can help with the twins, who are still content just digging holes and using the watering can. As they planted the garden, each kid had a job, Bobby was responsible for the potatoes, start to finish, and he had Charlie helping out covering the holes up, making sure to give them a little pat with his small shovel. Maggie stuck close to mom, asking a million questions and marveling at the size of the seeds. Eva, who had planted before, took care of the beans, peas, carrots, and beets, and in the end, we all pitched in for the clean up.

When you think about the learning in your room, who are the independent leaders that you can count on? How are you stretching them on a regular basis? Who are those beginning learners? How are you meeting them where they are and providing them opportunities to grow? Who are those kids ‘in the middle’? Those ones we might inadvertently overlook if we are not careful. How are you meeting their needs? As the lead gardener in your room, how are you modeling for your kids and how do you celebrate the “learning harvest” that happens every year?

It was an incredible past few days, with our elementary track and field competition on Thursday, to the district meet on Friday, to Saturday’s garden fun, to today’s experimenting with our smoker. What stood out for you this weekend? Will you share this with your students? I wonder what they did, and if they will get a chance to share their stories.

As May turns to June, we are in the process of looking back as we plan for the future. This Monday is another opportunity as Jesse is leading us in some important, big work at our staff meeting. Moving forward we will be asking for your input on our adult learning for next year, and for your feedback on how you felt things went this year.

Until then, here’s what lies ahead for another great week at Waldheim School:

Monday:

  • Staff meeting
  • Classroom visits: what are you reading/writing about, and how is your voice being included?

Tuesday:

  • Classroom visits: what are you reading/writing about, and how is your voice being included?

Wednesday:

  • Fire Drill
  • K & 6 Assembly (1:00 pm)
  • Classroom visits: what are you reading/writing about, and how is your voice being included?

Thursday:

  • Classroom visits: what are you reading/writing about, and how is your voice being included?

Friday:

  • Classroom visits: what are you reading/writing about, and how is your voice being included?

As always, create a great week!

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It’s Not a Pond, It’s an Ocean! May 22 – 25

As the familiar miles rolled by, the kids continued to ask, “dad, are we almost there?” We’ve been to Waskesiu dozens of times, either on a day trip like we were on Sunday, or for an extended holiday, but each trip is met with the same curiosity on the drive north, “dad, are we there yet?” I have come to expect this question, and have realized the best answer is always the truth, because saying, “just a few minutes” when there is actually close to an hour is usually a tactic that backfires. This past weekend we ventured up to enjoy the amazing weather, and the kids had already planned the entire day. Eat a quick lunch that we threw together before we left, hit the beach with shovels in hand, dig a few holes, throw a few rocks in the water, play on the play structure, grab an ice-cream cone, go on an adventure, then supper and finally, sleep all the way home.

Smoke hangs over Waskesiu Lake.

As we walked towards the main beach it was apparent there was going to be some minor adjustments to the plan, as the parking lot was packed, and the beach was equally crowded. On our last trip the kids had most of the beach to themselves as there were only a few other people crazy enough to venture north before the ice had even started to break up. Just like their names in the sand being wiped away by the water, the kids’ disappointment with the jammed beach quickly disappeared as they found what they considered the perfect location by the water to start their “project”. With shovels in hand they began to dig. Bobby barked orders as the kids brought rocks, and shovel loads of sand to the make shift pond that was taking shape on the beach. The dam was breached several times, but on each occasion the excitement was tempered by team work as they fixed their barrier and continued working. As is the norm with these types of things, be it drawings, snow forts, or Lego creations, I usually am not allowed to inspect their work until they are all satisfied with what they’ve created.

Sunday was the same, I sat patiently by the cooler, enjoying a snack and the sun, until all four of the kids came running up to me to invite me to have a look at their handy work. Not wanting to spoil the fun, I didn’t give away the fact that I’d been watching the whole time, and as I made my way over I saw a pond made from sticks, sand, and rocks. On top the walls were decorated with feathers and more twigs. The kids were so proud of their work, and quickly asked what I thought. As Bobby will attest, I can be a bit of a know-it-all when it comes to things like crafts, snowmen, and sand castles, but today, the only feedback I gave was a resounding, “wow! What a great pond! You guys did awesome”. This was met with Maggie’s response, “it’s not a pond daddy, it’s the ocean!”

My goal for the day was for the kids to have fun outside, to play together without knocking each other over the head with a shovel or pail, and to enjoy their time together. I didn’t share this with them, but from afar I was able to observe, and in the process continue to learn about my kids. It’s becoming more and more apparent that while Bobby is the leader due to his age and ability to do (and reach) things the others cannot, it’s Maggie, my 4-year old who is developing into a leader. By allowing them the time, space, and tools to create as they desired I was able to watch this unfold. Fast-forward to Monday afternoon, and my kids were explaining to their grandma what they had been playing just the day before. She listened and smiled as the kids shared stories of digging holes, making new friends, and getting soaked by other kids jumping in the pon…er, ocean.

As I sat down to write tonight’s blog entry, my mind wandered, wondering what to write about, and how to make it, even slightly, relevant to what we are doing at Waldheim School. The more I thought about it, the more I connected what the kids created on Sunday to what we created this year through our adult learning. Each of us moved through the summer of 2017, wondering to ourselves, “how much longer?”. Each of us approached the year with a general understanding of what lied ahead, but also brought along a degree of uncertainty. Just as the kids had shovels and pails, we had our tools. We had our curriculum, our books, our journals, our colleagues, our PLNs, our LFs, our experience, and our drive. Together we worked to start designing and mapping out our adult learning journey, and together we dug in and started researching, practicing, creating, and ultimately, presenting. I’m proud of the pond we started to build, and the way we have grown together. Sure there were missteps along the way, but as David Guenther would say, there is no learning without failure. As May continues to melt off the calendar, I’m filled with pride with what we created this year, and I truly appreciate the hard work you’ve all put in to get us to this point on our journey. Looking back, I can honestly say we’ve created an amazing pon….ocean of learning.

Here’s what lies ahead for this shortened week:

Tuesday:

  • Grade 8’s at cardboard boat races
  • Facilities department beginning to change out bulbs in gym
  • Classroom visits: what are the kids writing, reading, and talking about?

Wednesday:

  • Bus driver meeting in staff room (9:00 – 9:30)
  • Final preparation for elementary track and field
  • Classroom visits: what are the kids writing, reading, and talking about?

Thursday:

  • Elementary track meet

Friday:

  • District Track (Evan, Trace, Bruce away)

As always, create a great week!

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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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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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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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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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December 11 – 15

Whew, what a weekend! Bobby had his 11th birthday party on Friday night, and it was quite the party at the Shaw Centre. The kids had fun eating pizza, posing in the Lego photo booth, and then of course, swimming! I’m quite certain there were some tired kids on the way back to Martensville, with this big kid being the most tired. Saturday was a great day as I was able to get some one on one time with Maggie as we ventured out for a coffee and a quick oil change on the SUV, at 4 years old, she is so fascinated with the little things in life. The weekend ended with the kids taking part in my niece’s annual Christmas cookie decorating afternoon. She has hosted this for years, and my kids really enjoy playing with the other kids. Of course, the highlight for them is snacking on the special decorations while they create their unique creations.

My friend George Couros (@gcouros) had a great post on Twitter today which really had me thinking about the stages of my career and how comfortable I felt in the classroom when I discovered balance. When you look at this quote and reflect on your daily work with your students, can you identify when you wear different hats? Do you feel comfortable wearing these hats, or are there certain ones that you feel “safer” in?

When I reflect on my time teaching grade 5 in Langham, I had the opportunity to teach ELA, math, social studies, science, health, and phys ed. I felt very reluctant to step away from being being the sage on the stage during ELA, and I think it was that I did not feel confident enough in my own ability to see learning if I did not set it up in a way that I controlled everything that was happening. My science class was a stark contrast to my ELA, however, as I loved to turn the kids loose as they investigated different properties in an effort to answer different scientific questions. Unlike ELA, I was much more confident with the science curriculum. The point is, I was aware of my strengths and the areas I needed to grow in so I could develop a more enjoyable learning environment for the kids. By tapping into other experts I continued to work on my ELA, and to a lesser extent, my social studies, and was quite happy with what I had developed over the years.

Today I was excited to see the results from the survey (OurSCHOOL) the students completed in November, and upon my first, quick perusal, the results seem very positive. I am going to spend more time looking into what our kids had to say, and would like to invite all of the staff at the next staff meeting to have a look, and discuss the feedback. Before you get a chance to have a look, what do you predict will be the sentiments of our students? What areas of growth do you think the kids have identified? I’m sure it will be great food for thought!

Finally, I read an article that I just had to share. It talks about learning to love those students who may be tough to like. It resonated so loudly with me for two reasons. The first is that I know I was a tough kid to like for some teachers as I was growing up. I recall being asked to sit in the hallway on a couple occasions because I was too worried about getting laughs from my peers than from learning what the teacher was trying to teach me. The second is that I have had the pleasure of working with many of these students over the years. One student I taught in my very first year was a challenging grade 9 student who was very uninterested in my industrial arts course (it likely did not help that I had no clue what I was doing at that time). During the course of the year we would butt heads on a regular basis, and in the end I know neither of us enjoyed working together. Little did I know, he felt like I never gave up on him. We spoke years later at a social event, and he apologized for being such a pain (his words) and thanked me for always giving him a fresh chance everyday. He said he appreciated that I tried to make class interesting and fun and that he regretted not being a better student. I was shocked. We had a good chuckle over it, and today he is a successful educator in a different division. Is there a student you are having trouble “liking” right now? If so, what are you doing about it?

Here’s what lies ahead as we enter the final two weeks before our Christmas break:

Monday:

  • Bruce in a team meeting 9:00 – 10:45 (library closed)
  • Career fair expo in the gym (as discussed at our last staff meeting)

Tuesday:

  • Classroom visits: question for students, “what has been the coolest thing you’ve learned this year?”

Wednesday:

  • Classroom visits: question for students, “what has been the coolest thing you’ve learned this year?”

Thursday:

  • Grade 8 toy sale (see Trace for more details)
  • Classroom visits: question for students, “what has been the coolest thing you’ve learned this year?”

Friday:

  • Bruce at Laird to watch Christmas concert final rehearsal
  • Classroom visits: question for students, “what has been the coolest thing you’ve learned this year?”

As always, create a great week!

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Nov. 13th – 17th

  • “This supper is yummy!”
  • “No! I want that sled, this one is no good!”
  • “I loved that movie!”
  • “Hey dad, the snow makes good snowballs, but you have to really squish them.”
Spaghetti squash with meatballs and tomato sauce.

This year we are asking, how do we know, and those four statements were some of the feedback I received this weekend from my kids. It was feedback that I was not intentionally seeking out, but it was information none-the-less. It was then my choice to decide what to do with it. I will try to replicate the meatballs for next time, I will make sure I get the kids to choose the right sled before going to the hill, I will rent Diary of a Wimpy Kid again, and I will make sure to keep an eye on Bobby when he’s making snowballs. When I think about all the feedback I was given this weekend from my kids it makes me think about the way we communicate with each other. We are continually bombarded with information, both spoken and unspoken. A hearty laugh or a pair of crossed arms coupled with a furrowed brow is usually all you need, but sometimes it’s more subtle than that.

I was reflecting on Monday’s staff meeting with Jesse last week, and we discussed the amazing feeling in the room, and I wondered aloud how we could have heard everyone’s voice during the artifact sharing. This wondering lead to Jesse’s idea to capture everyone’s description of their artifact. This is another example of using the feedback we are given. I was excited about the meeting, yet unsatisfied with the fact that I didn’t get to hear everything. Jesse used that information to come up with his idea, and then put it into action. How do you use the feedback you are given on a continual basis to improve the teaching and learning in your room? Elena Aguilar (@artofcoaching1) talks about the questions you can ask your students at the start of the year in her post (found here), however I’d challenge that these questions could be asked at any time of the year, particularly #7, I love that question!

How do I know if he’s having fun?

This week we will be asking the students to give us some feedback through the annual student survey (OurSCHOOL, formerly, Tell Them From Me) that all students in PSSD will be completing. This information is important, however just like our DRA data, or our attendance numbers, or our graduation rates, or our student grades, it is just one of many pieces of information we get to use. While the numbers tell part of the story, there is another side as well, the human side, and it’s one that I overheard in a hallway conversation that I had to stop and join in on. Joanne and Jamie were discussing students staying after school, and Joanne described the change she has noticed this year. I’ve asked her to share a bit of her thinking with us,

I’ve been teaching in Waldheim school for eight years and I’ve always appreciated our school for its level of engagement and compassion.  I could even been accused of taking it for granted. That being said I’ve noticed a difference this year. During the regular day the hallways are filled with more children and noise due to our higher enrollment but the biggest change I’ve noticed is the time after school.  Walking down the hallways the rooms are still buzzing  with activity.  In many of the classrooms there are students and teachers shoulder to shoulder learning.  At 4:00 pm there is a vibrant life in our school of laughter, learning and sharing with students being the core of that rumble. Students are staying to learn and teachers are staying to support that learning.  I believe there is a fresh feeling of us all being a team of engaged teachers and learners supporting one another for growth for all. This feeling may be because I’m more grounded in my own purpose and position but the dedication I see in our young teachers gives me tremendous hope for our school and our students this year and into the future. Us, mature teachers LOL  are constantly in conversation with the young teachers sharing ideas and we hope wisdom while being spurred on ourselves by their enthusiasm and passion.  At the end of the day , I’d probably call the feelings I’m experiencing, the magic of authentic learning mixed with a large portion of genuine caring.

What have you noticed this year?

Here’s what lies ahead for this shortened week:

Monday:

  • stat holiday

Tuesday:

  • OurSCHOOL survey begins (see schedule e-mailed last week)
  • Psychology 20/30 assembly (period 1)

Wednesday:

  • OurSCHOOL survey continues

Thursday:

  • OurSCHOOL survey concludes

Friday:

  • Business as usual

As always, create a great week!

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