Feb. 13th – 17th

Sharlene models adult learning and risk taking to help PSSD admin learn.

“What I’m hoping is that at the end of each day, every teacher in our building is reflecting on how their day went, and how they can make tomorrow even better for their students.” This was a comment I made to David in his office last week during one of our many learning conversations. On Friday morning, during our learning with @Sandra_Herbst I had what I’d call an oh duh! moment, not and a-ha! moment. If my goal is to have everyone in the building reflecting on their practice on a regular basis, I need to do a few things. First, I need to assume that you already are reflective practitioners and that you do spend time wondering how you can reach every student, every lesson. Second, I need to ask you questions that help me develop a deeper understanding of who you are as educators. Finally, and this is the oh duh! moment, if I want people to be reflective, I need to ask them questions that lead to reflective thought. What this means is you will likely hear a change in the questions I ask you on a regular basis, and while at first it might seem a bit awkward, or clumsy, please bear with me. I received a lot of amazing feedback from the administrators that were here on Friday, they spoke about the learning climate they could feel as soon as they walked in the door. They commented that this type of culture does not happen over night, rather it is built one day at a time, slowly and intentionally. This is the work that dates back years, not weeks, and it is the work that David and I will continue to focus on, because in the end it is the best for our students.

Over the next few weeks, save for the February break, we will continue our peer visits, and I am hoping as we are watching each other teach we can offer support to help take the learning in our building to even higher levels. One of the main topics on Friday was asking mediative questions, which are questions that engage and transform the thinking of the person being asked. I’ve included a link to a PDF that is a quick guide to asking these types of questions. I think it would be fun to practice with your peer, and then see how this could work with your students and taking their thinking to higher levels.

Last Tuesday morning,  I had the fortune of listening to a colleague, Paul McTavish (@peemactee), talk about how he approaches teaching and learning. While he is the principal of Colonsay School, he also has some teaching assingments, namely senior science. He spent a lot of time discussing learning time and performance time. He also shared with us a teriffic TEDtalk that I’ve included. As you watch this, I’d like you to think about how you set up your learning time and your performance time for your students. I’d also like you to think about your own learning time and performance time.

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Business as usual

Tuesday:

  • Valentines Day
  • Jon Yellowlees will be visiting our school in the afternoon

Wednesday:

  • OH&S Meeting (tentative)
  • David @ Aspiring Administrators Meeting (pm/evening)

Thursday:

  • Pizza sale
  • Valentines Dance

Friday:

  • K – 6 Assembly (2:15???)
  • Locker clean up
  • Classroom clear out for waxing (classes affected will be notified)

 

As always, create a great week!

 196 total views

Feb. 6th – 10th

Are you planning on watching the big game, or if you are reading this on Monday morning,  did you watch the big game? I’m not a huge NFL fan, but there has been a lot of talk about the game, the commercials, and the half-time show that has me intrigued enough to tune in. Such is the power of marketing. It caused me to think about how we market ourselves. What are we saying that has parents, students, and other teachers thinking, “hmm, I need to go visit that classroom, that sounds interesting”? I think about the things that are happening in our school that need a little more push from the marketing department, things like Sharlene’s heritage fair, Krysten’s investigations in Forensic Science, Steve’s karaoke challenge in his drama class, Glen’s wood turning demonstrations, Trace’s archery lessons in phys ed, and the list could go on and on. If I missed something you’ve done, I apologize, my number one goal for semester two is to be much more visible in classrooms. Something you may want to think about is, how can you create lessons that kids are going to be talking about after they leave the class?

This weekend was a busy one around our house as Krista took Eva and a group of Sparks for an overnight trip to the Science Center in Regina. Eva came back exhausted, but full of excitement. She could hardly get the words out when she was describing everything she had seen and done while on the trip. While they were gone Bobby decided to spend his birthday money on the latest craze going on in his school, Stikbots. These are simple little plastic robots that allow the user to manipulate them in several ways, however the coolest feature is the package they come in, it is a green screen! After you buy the Stikbot you download the app onto your mobile device and start creating stop motion movies. The built in backgrounds allow the users to put the Stikbots in a variety of settings for the movie. I was amazed at how fast Bobby caught on to filming with a green screen (there is also a blue screen) and how curious he was about how the app worked. It was a great example of learning for the sake of learning, it was also another time for me to play with something Bobby bought.

Leah has devised a great way to communicate with students.

In the end, all of this investigation and hands on learning is great, but it is so critical we take the time to communicate what we are doing with our parents. One of the things I’ve heard since I’ve been at Waldheim is that we do not always communicate as well as we could. Now, I am a parent of a grade 4 boy who has been guilty of stuffing a note or newsletter into the bottom of his backpack or, worse yet, into the back of his desk, so I understand that even our best intentions can come up short. How do you communicate with your parents? Do you use a monthly or weekly newsletter? If you do, I’d love to receive a copy so I do not miss out on any exciting activities. Do you communicate via e-mail? Do you use a blog or a class webpage? Would you like to create one? If so, I’d love to sit down with you and help you, it’s relatively painless. This morning I created a mock blog that could be used to keep parents informed of what is going on in a class. Of course the key to any effective communication, in my opinion, are the 3 C’s: consistency, clarity, conciseness. People will abandon a blog if it is not updated regularly and they will not want to read a 5000 word essay that is difficult to follow. So, keeping my advice in mind, I’ll wrap this week’s message up.

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • staff meeting after school in the Home Ec lab

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & David are both gone for the morning to our monthly ALT meeting, we will be back for the afternoon
  • There is an SCC meeting at 5:30 pm

Wednesday:

  • Business as usual

Thursday:

  • Business as usual

Friday:

  • We are hosting Sandra Herbst along with  some in-school and senior administrators and will be doing a couple of classroom visits. The focus of this is on helping administrators build their feedback skills so our daily walk abouts are more effective.

Create a great week!

 193 total views

Jan. 30 – Feb. 3rd

So I am typing this post from my office as my home access to the PSSD blogs has not been working for a couple weeks. I’m sitting alone in my office, Chris has said his goodbyes, and it is a very surreal moment. I knew this day was coming, but now that it’s here, the reality is kicking in. It goes without saying that Chris was and will continue to be an amazing leader. His love for the students and staff was evident everyday through everything he said, and everything he did. He brought a love of learning to the school and has had a tremendous impact on the work we have done as a staff this year, and the work you had done prior to my arrival at Waldheim School. I will miss Chris greatly. He will continue to serve as a mentor to me, and will be someone I keep on speed-dial for those moments when I need someone to ask for support and guidance.

But saying goodbye sometimes means we get to say hello! We are so fortunate to have David, Shantel, and Evan joining our team next week, they are going to add so much to our already terrific programming here. David is very excited to learn along side everyone, and you can expect to see him in classrooms on a regular basis. Evan is also overjoyed with his new opportunity. It will be a great chance for him to see our students in a different light, no longer a sub, but as a classroom teacher. He will be working alongside Leah, Danielle, and Trace to help support their math programs. Shantel has already demonstrated a deep commitment to learning alongside her students, and I’m very confident this will continue in grade 3.

As semester one comes to a close and new beginnings start on Tuesday, what are somethings you are looking forward to? When you reflect on the first half of the year, what you really proud of? What would you like to have a do over at? Very soon we will need to have a conversation on technology in our school as we need to continue upgrading the devices we have here. If you can, take a look at the learning link included and start thinking about ways you can use technology in your class in a way that allows you to not only augment your teaching, but allows you to try things that are otherwise impossible without technology.

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

Prep day

Tuesday (day 4):

First day of semester two

Wednesday:

Business as usual

Thursday:

Groundhog Day!

Friday:

Wood turning in-service hosted by Glen

As always, create a great week!

 158 total views

Jan. 9th to 13th

Hopefully everyone is back up to speed after the Christmas break and things are going well with your classes. Technically, the days are getting longer, but you’d be hard pressed to know it given the temperatures we’ve been dealing with. Oh well, it’s great for those with outdoor rinks or a penchant for ice fishing. I’ve been enjoying the pictures my brother has been posting from Mexico as he is on a nice holiday with some friends of his from BC. Unfortunately this is as close as I’ll get to Mazatlan for a while!

It is assessment time at Waldheim School, as elementary teachers are gearing up for their first round of reading assessments and high school teachers are putting the final wraps on semester one. As there are only 3 weeks until semester two, students may be feeling the stress as final exam week closes in. Please make sure you are taking the time to ensure students who are missing assignments have an opportunity to finish those up so they are not facing a mountain of work at the last minute. If you have any concerns about students not successfully completing their course work please connect with Chris or I this week.

The end of semester one gives us an opportunity to reflect on the risks we’ve taken and lessons we’ve learned. The cover photo this week is from Krysten’s Biology 30 class, and it is an example of the hands on learning that is happening all over the school. The kids were busy extracting DNA from saliva samples and what caused me to stop and take that picture was the amount of laughter that was going along with the lesson. Who said learning can’t be fun? As you think about the first 5 months of this school year, what lessons have really stood out? Which ones will you try to re-invent next year? Hopefully you are able to find the fun like the Bio class did.

Semester two offers us a chance to try those changes we want to, the changes to how we teach and how we assess. We have done a lot of talking this year about student centered learning and utilizing the workshop model to help all of our students reach their full potential. During semester two we will begin our peer/peer observations and it is an excellent opportunity to have a second set of eyes in the room to offer feedback as you explore new methods. Learning link one is a presentation on using the workshop model in a math class, and as this is something we have discussed with Karen Campbell I thought it might be a useful resource for those of you starting down that path. Regardless of where your focus lies, hopefully the peer observations will be another opportunity to grow as a professional. I’m excited to be part of this process, if the book study is any indication, this too will be an excellent adult learning opportunity.

Here’s what lies ahead for this week:

Monday: 

  • Subway orders are due

Tuesday:

  • Chris away all day

Wednesday:

  • Business as usual

Thursday:

  • Pizza lunch

Friday:

  • Subway lunch

 

As always, create a great week!

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January 2nd to 6th

The force was with us!

What a wonderful, relaxing break! I spent a lot of time playing with the kids, visiting with my family, watching hockey (go Canada!), eating too much great food, and I even managed to get out to see Rogue One. Regardless of what you did during the break, I hope you were able to take some time for yourself and recharge your batteries. Both of my older kids have been saying repeatedly they can’t wait to get back to school, Bobby is excited to see his best friend who went to Cuba and Eva is looking forward to seeing her teacher again. Think about your students, how do you think they are feeling today as classes are just one sleep away for them? What are you going to do or say to remind them how important they are to our school family? We are also welcoming back a family member who has been away on maternity leave. Katherine is coming back to grade 4, and it is so great to have her back.

Of course this time of year is a time for “best of” lists. Everything from sports to science to politics to entertainment, everyone has an opinion on the best and worst of 2016. If you had to create a “best of” list for your year, what would some of the highlights be? There were a lot of links coming across Twitter during the break, and learning link one caught my eye for a couple reasons, the first being the title, the second being the author. Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) has been one of my favorites lately, and this post is another great one. As you read think about how you have grown as a teacher, has it been slow and steady or are you staying the same fast? The second learning link is a to an online chat tonight with Dave Burgess (author of Teach Like a Pirate) where the topic is getting kids engaged after the winter break. I often check out these chat sessions as I find the questions cause me to really reflect on what’s happening in my school. Occasionally I’ll add my two cents or ask a question, but usually I’m more of a quiet observer.

It looks like the weather is going to be a bit nasty this week, so bundle up 🙂 Here’s what lies ahead:

Tuesday 3rd 

  • Welcome back!

 

Wednesday 4th

  • Business as usual

 

Thursday 5th

  • Chris away (pm only)

 

Friday 6th

  • Epiphany

 

Create a great week!

 

 499 total views

December 19th – 23rd

Hard to believe, but it looks like there is some warmer weather heading our way! Great news as we are closing in on our Christmas break, and hopefully for those of you travelling you can do so in a safe fashion. We had a great weekend of birthday celebrations, as my sister celebrated hers on Saturday and my son celebrated his today. It was fun to get together for lots of laughs and some delicious birthday cakes. Times like those remind me of the important things in life.

Tonight, Jon Yellowlees sent out a terrific message to the school administrators he works with and in it asks some great questions that caused me to stop and think about the past year. His questions were:

10 Questions for Christmas Break Reflection

  1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
  2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
  3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
  4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
  5. Pick three words to describe this past year.
  6. Pick three words your spouse or a close friend would use to describe your year—don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your they see you.
  7. What were the best books you read this year?
  8. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
  9. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
  10. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?

 

Great questions to think about over the break.

I’d like to take this time to wish Jeffery all the best as he wraps up his internship with us this week. I know he has enjoyed his time with us and has had a terrific cooperating teacher to work with. It will be hard to say goodbye to Jeffery, but in the world of education paths seem to find a way to cross again. The staff and students will miss you and your happy smile, and I worry that our dodgeball team will not be nearly as strong without you. All the best to you as you continue your journey.

Here’s what lies ahead for the week:

Monday:

  • Christmas concert matinee performance

Tuesday:

  • K-6 pizza sale
  • Christmas concert evening performance

Wednesday:

  • Gr. 1 & 1/2 field trip
  • Classroom/locker/desks clean up
  • SRC afternoon activities

 

Create a great week everyone!

 160 total views

December 12th – 16th

So much learning last week, it’s hard to know where to even begin! Thanks again to everyone who participated in our staff meeting on Monday, whether you were a featured presenter or a thought creator in the small groups, your participation was greatly appreciated. Having heard Jeffery,  Leah, and Shantel speak got me thinking about our willingness to be vulnerable, especially in front of a group of our peers. As I reflect on the week, I’m forced to think about three particular things; a piano recital, a one-on-one conversation with a principal, and a math workshop.

Math work

First, the piano recital. My two oldest take lessons and last Sunday they performed in the annual Christmas recital along with 20 other students. What stood out to me was the final piece that was played by the instructor. He could have selected any piece he wanted and it would have been fine, however he chose to go down a path that surprised and impressed me, he chose a piece that stretched him. As he played and struggled over the occasional note I could not help but marvel at his courage and willingness to show that his learning will never stop. The second thing I reflected on was a conversation I had with a principal at our ALT meeting on Tuesday. The theme for our day was feedback  and my question for this administrator was, “how to you get daily feedback?” This question lead us to a place where we discussed those moments when we feel like impostors, like we’re just faking our way through it. We wondered how many others in the room or in our schools feel like this from time to time, and we also wondered how we could be a support for those who need it. The final thing I thought about was our math workshop with Karen Campbell. During our conversations it was apparent that none of us were 100% satisfied with our current path program. As an administrator I was humbled by the honesty in the room. It was a great reflection of the learning stance you have taken as a staff and I’m very excited to be a part of this journey moving forward.

Hands on learning

I wonder how you are vulnerable with your students? Dr. Robert Dornsife states that, “(b)eing vulnerable is the inevitable result of the trust we must have in our students, as we expect to teach and learn from them and with them in every respect.” His article, which is the first learning link, is written from a University perspective, however it does provide food for thought regardless of the age of students we teach. How do you build trust with your students? What are some things you do that shows them you respect them as learners? The second learning link comes from Oprah Winfrey’s conversation with Brene’ Brown, PhD, who talks about the importance of vulnerability and how it is a cornerstone to self confidence. It’s a short, but powerful video, and I wonder what it caused you to think. I really believe as we continue to take risks as educators to move learning for every student forward, we must be willing to be vulnerable.

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • the gym is closed for play practice, and will remain closed until the 21st

Tuesday:

  • Chris is away all day

Wednesday:

  • Wednesday is our Christmas lunch which takes place in the Home Ec lab

Thursday:

  • Staff meeting (final book club meeting) 8:00 am
  • Bruce is away today

Friday:

  • Chris & Bruce are taking the bus drivers for breakfast as a token of everyone’s appreciation

 

As always, create a great week!

 160 total views

December 5 – 9

So we’re 20 days from Christmas and I better start thinking about shopping, I’m a terrible procrastinator this time of year as I’m not a huge fan of venturing out to the stores. We had a whirlwind of a weekend, my son’s birthday party on Saturday followed by his and his sister’s piano recital on Sunday, needless to say, a lot going on.

This week is shaping up to be an amazing week of learning for us at Waldheim School, all starting on Monday with our staff meeting. We are going to listen to Jeffrey and Leah discuss the internship process as well as hearing Shantel reflect on her time here. The true power of this process lies in the questions we will have and the self-reflection we will take part in. On Tuesday Chris and I will be at our monthly administrator’s meeting and I fully expect to be engaged in several different learning conversations as is the norm. On Wednesday we are so lucky to have the opportunity to work with a familiar friend as Karen Campbell is spending a few hours with some teachers who are beginning to explore how to employ the workshop model in their math classes. Thursday and Friday will be days to reflect and begin implementing new ideas.

Speaking of learning, the following video was suggested to me by Glen, and it contains a very powerful message, whether you agree with his politics or not. As I watched this, the word that resonated with me was empower. I was forced to think about the students I’ve worked with in the past and I wonder who I have empowered and more importantly, who I let slip through the cracks. Take a look and see what you think.

Something new I’m going to try this week (and I hope a few others will try it too) is some computer programming through an initiative called The Hour of Code. The second video speaks about coding and how students around the world are taking part in this great activity. See what you think.

Here’s what lies ahead for another week:

Monday:

  • Staff meeting (pm)

 

Tuesday:

  • Chris & Bruce away at ALT
  • Taco in a bag sale (7-12 only)

 

Wednesday:

  • Karen Campbell math workshop

 

Thursday:

  • Business as usual

 

Friday:

  • Business as usual
  • Gym closes for concert practices

 

Saturday:

  • Sr. boys basketball home tournament

 

Create a great week!

 

 

 153 total views

Nov. 28 – Dec. 2

Grey Cup Sunday is always a great reminder of what it means to be a Canadian, every year at this time I think back to the days when we used to break out the TV tables and mom would make me hot dogs, potato chips, and pop for supper. She knew how bad of a meal that was, but she also knew how much it made watching the game even more fun for me. Even though I’m having trouble rooting for either team I’ll likely still watch the game…or at least parts of it, but alas, no hot dogs and chips this year.

gr-9It was a great week of learning last week, with some teacher observations by our Superintendent and our book club work together, there were lots of great conversations around the building. While Jon was here Shantel, Tom, Brittney, Danielle, and Krysten all delivered unique, engaging lessons that challenged the students to think outside the box in both individual tasks and group endeavors. From learning about the Mars Rover, to creating clinometers, to exploring poetry, to investigating literature through the workshop model, Jon was treated to some excellent examples of the great work going on at Waldheim School.

gr-10What are some things you are trying? Remember to have a look at the bulliten board in the staff room to see what’s going on in some other rooms. You may want to see how Sharlene is using FreshGrade to communicate with parents and share evidence online. Check in with Leah and Blaine to see how genius hour is progressing. What about popping into Trace’s room to discuss how he integrated some art, science, phys ed and health into one amazing project….the results look incredible! These are just a few examples of the awesome things happening around the school. Now, if you are thinking you want to try something new that may hook the kids, give this week’s learning link a read. It’s all about the 4th annual Hour of Code. Coding is a skill that anyone can learn and it is a great way to teach the kids about the importance of accuracy.

Here’s what lies ahead for the last week of November:

Monday:

  • Chris away (am only)

Tuesday:

  • grade 4/5 skating
  • Chris away

Wednesday:

Thursday:

  • pizza for sale at the booth

Friday:

  • grade 9 & 10 skating
  • Chris away (am only)

As always, create a great week!

 210 total views

November 21st – 25th

Way to go Waldheim Raiders senior girls volleyball team! The girls captured gold in the 3A category this weekend, dominating the field only dropping 2 sets all tournament. They worked hard and came together as a team focusing on a singular goal, and through practice and feedback they achieved that goal. Pretty amazing what we can do if we put our heads together and put our shoulder to the wheel. It makes me think about the work Joanne is doing with her group of students. She had a vision for what she wanted to see these kids accomplish and last Thursday was the first piece of evidence that they are well on their way.

When I think about the examples above or the amazing work happening in our classrooms, I can’t help but feel that the people taking these risks and pushing their students/athletes have the right mindset, a growth mindset. You feel that your students have to ability to grow and that your job is to walk beside them. It is great to see! In the learning link this week there are 5 videos that talk about this growth mindset. It would be interesting to hear what your students think about this mindset, particularly the example from Sesame Street. If you have time to watch a few I’d love to hear about your “yet” situation. For me it involves being a learning leader. I found this great article on Twitter on the weekend and it caused me to stop and take stock of my strengths and areas for growth as a leader. As I reflected I found I need to work on my inner resources, I’m not there….yet. What is your “yet”? The Workshop Model? Technology? Formative assessment? Whatever it is, remember to add the “yet”.

Here is what lies ahead for the last full week of November…yes you read that right!

Monday:

  • OurSCHOOL survey, day one. Schedule posted in staffroom
  • Diabetes presentation (elementary)

Tuesday:

  • Chris away all day

Wednesday:

  • Grade 10’s in Regina
  • Subway order forms due

Thursday:

  • Staff meeting (am)
  • Jon Yellowlees visiting school
  • OurSCHOOL survey day two
  • Grade 7’s in Saskatoon all day

Friday:

  • EA meeting (8:00)
  • Subway lunch

As always, create a great week!

 145 total views