Nov. 6th – 10th

You know you are home when certain smells welcome you as you walk through the door, and old familiar memories flood over you. Such was the case today as I went to visit my mom, sister and her family who all live together in Saskatoon. As I walked down to mom’s place I could tell something was up as soon as I smelled the beets, and they weren’t even cooking yet! She had gathered up all the ingredients she needed to create a large batch of borscht for the company she was having later this week. My mom comes from a large family, and next weekend she’s hosting five of her siblings along with some of their kids, and she has been extra busy baking and cooking in preparation. What was fun to watch was her granddaughter, my niece, Ally, working away at the recipe in an attempt to help her grandma get ready for the house full. As she chopped and measured, stirred and sampled, I could not help but think about the genuine learning and teaching occurring right in front of me. My niece, who is in her first year of University, has a love for cooking and baking, and much of this comes from spending time with my mom who has helped nurture this through authentic side-by-side learning. While we were there we also had some time to spend visiting my little grand-niece, Malia, who recently turned 4 months old. My kids adore her, the twins look at her like she is a real live doll, and they can’t help but crack up whenever she makes any “typical” baby sounds. They are learning so much every time they visit her, hold her, feed her, and as her mother hopes, eventually change her. So much of this learning is through observing, careful guidance, continual feedback, and close observation of the baby and how she reacts.

All of this learning has me very excited about this week’s staff meeting where we will get to share an artifact with our peers and learn along side one another. I’m curious to see what people are going to bring, there has been some talk about what will be shared, but I almost get a sense that people don’t want to let the “cat out of the bag” before Monday afternoon. Something I’ve been thinking about is the learning culture at our school, and how far along our learning journey we are. Currently I’m reading, Everyday Courage for School Leaders and I’ve been reflecting on how lucky I am to work with such a great staff. Author, Cathy Lassiter (@cathy_lassiter), writes, “(a)s it relates to moral courage for school leaders, Leithwood, Harris, and Hopkins (2008, p. 28) point out that principals can have an impact on pupil learning through a positive influence on staff beliefs, values, motivation, skills, and knowledge, and ensuring good working conditions in the school, and that these factors all contribute to improved staff performance.” The mental note I made was that I do not need to change anyone’s mind on our staff about student learning. I have noticed that we all play a part in creating those good working conditions by pushing each other and pushing our thinking. I wonder how you would answer these questions:

  1. how do you contribute to the overall learning culture at Waldheim School?
  2. who nudges your thinking on a regular basis?
  3. whose thinking do you nudge?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these questions, or on any other thoughts you may have on our learning culture.

Here’s what lies ahead for another busy week:

Monday:

  • Staff meeting 3:15 – 4:15
  • Classroom visits: what do I notice about the questions in the room?

Tuesday:

  • Bruce gone to ALT (pm only)
  • Classroom visits (am): what do I notice about the questions in the room?

Wednesday:

  • Trace gone with PE 20/30 & Wildlife Mgmt. 20/30 joint field trip
  • Classroom visits: what do I notice about the questions in the room?

Thursday:

  • Remembrance Day Ceremony
  • Classroom visits: what do I notice about the questions in the room?
  • 7 – 12 Progress Reports sent home today

Friday:

  • Prep Day

As always, create a great week!

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Oct. 2nd – 6th

It’s like Mother Nature saw me flip the calendar to October, but I sure love how the trees look, the bright yellows, oranges, and reds turn the river bank into what looks like an artist’s canvas. It’s hard to believe we have completed our first month of the 17/18 school year, but here we are, into October, knee deep in our learning. I’m excited to welcome Amy Ward to the Waldheim School family, she is going to be taking over the grade 3/4 class for Bobby-Jo who is getting ready to welcome a new addition to her family. All the best Bobby-Jo, on behalf of the entire staff I hope everything goes well for you and baby during the entire process. We can’t wait to see some pictures!

This past week I saw some great evidence of teachers using student feedback to guide their planning. I was able to pop into Steve’s class the other day, and I noticed his students were given the prompt, If you give a                                                                 . As I walked around I saw some really cool titles, one that caught my eye because it works on some many levels was If you give a panda some colour. The student knew the big idea was to create a story to share with a Kindergarten student, but also knew that she could embed a message for the older students as well. It will be interesting to see where this story goes. I recognized this lesson of Steve’s and we spoke a bit about how he “tweaked” it from the last time he had students do this activity. He talked about what he had learned through observing the students and how he used that feedback to guide his planning for this year. Sometimes it’s the small changes that make the biggest difference.

A simple way to let the kids know how much you care.

This past week I also noticed one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time when I strolled past Brittney’s classroom Thursday morning. In her room, Brittney had jotted a quick message for each student, and that would be one of the first things they would see to start the day, what an amazing thing to do that costs nothing but gives so much. Why this moved me so much was because Brittney’s class had a bit of a bumpy day on their field trip, and she could tell they were feeling a little down on themselves as a group. Instead of ignoring the feedback they were giving her, Brittney tuned into them and realized they were needing something. As I said above, sometimes it’s the small things that make the biggest impact. When you think about the month we’ve had, what are some of the little things you’ve done that may have gone unnoticed by most but paid off for those few in need? Maybe it’s the quick conversation in the hallway, or the high-five to a colleague in the staffroom. Maybe it was a little note on an assignment or a terrific learning activity that resonated with the kids. Whatever it was, take a moment and remember that those are the times that count the most.

I came across this graphic today on Twitter, and it spoke about how to facilitate student centered learning. In it there are a lot of great suggestions, and as I read it, I kept reflecting on My Prairie Spirit Classroom and the work we are doing. I compare our learning journey to the growth of a child. On Saturday we were at a family event, and one person who had not seen my son Bobby (the 10 yr old) in quite some time commented on how much he had grown and changed. Of course he has, but as I see him everyday, I do not notice it the same way someone else might. When I think about how much our schools have changed over the past few years, I wonder what we are not noticing because we are immersed in our work. What would someone who has been out of school for a few years notice if they came into your room? What would today’s students notice if they were taken back to your classroom when you were their age?

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Bruce away (am for sure, possibly all day) ~ son’s medical appointment
  • New supervision cycle begins
  • Classroom visits (I am going to focus on asking questions to help you reflect, bear with me if it feels a bit ‘forced’ for the first few)

Tuesday

  • Classroom visits

Wednesday

  • Classroom visits

Thursday

  • Bus driver meeting & bus evacuation drills (first thing in the morning – classes will be called down)
  • Classroom visits

Friday

  • PD / Prep day (more information coming out this week as to what you should be thinking of coming into the PD)

As always, create a great week!

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