Let’s Go for Coffee

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love a good cup of coffee. It can be iced or hot, black or fancied up, I just love the whole coffee experience. This was one of the pleasant surprises when I began working in Waldheim, the wonderful coffee shop, Departures. It has become a favorite place for me to pop in for a cappuccino or a latte, and while it would be easier and cheaper for me to simply brew a cup at work, there are a couple things that keep me going back. The two things that bring me back day after day are the art and the atmosphere, and recently I was thinking about what great teachers are doing in their rooms that are similar to what’s happening at Departures.

First, the art. I have an espresso maker at home, and buy good coffee, usually from Starbucks or McQuarries Tea and Coffee Merchants. When I’m craving a good cup of coffee, I dig out my maker, the coffee, the milk, and some flavoring syrup. I load up the portafilter, tamp it down, and begin to brew. After the shots are pulled, I begin steaming some milk, making sure to create some foam for the top. Once this is all done, I put it all together, and sit down to enjoy my creation. Every time I make a coffee this way I think to myself, “well, it’s okay, but it’s no Departures”. While the baristas at Depatures or Starbucks are using machines that are much higher quality, I believe it’s something more than that. It’s the art that they bring to their creations, and it’s an art that has been learned and honed over many, many pulls. It’s the same way I feel when I get to watch the incredible work that is going on in our classrooms. There is an art to the way Glen moves effortlessly through the shop that makes every student feel like they are important to him. There is an art to the way Steve captures every student with his combination of wisdom and wit. There is an art to the way Trace makes every athlete in his gym classes feel like they can do it. There is an art to the way our teachers and EAs do what they do. As you think about yourself as an artist, who have and continue to be your mentors? Who do you think you are impacting?

Second, the atmosphere. There are many coffee shops from franchises like Starbucks to local shops like City Perks, and while they all try to bring their own unique twist to this industry, they also all have things in common. Coffee shops are more than a place to quickly grab a cup to go, they are places where people go to meet friends, to work, to read, or just to relax. It would seem strange to go to a coffee shop today and not have access to free Wi-Fi while sitting in a comfortable chair with a plug-in handy. It would seem strange if there were no music playing and no art hanging on the walls. And of course, it would seem very strange if there were no friendly, knowledgeable baristas there to greet us and share their art with us. It’s the same way I feel when I get to walk into your incredible classrooms. The way Sharlene has made her room a safe, caring place for kids to explore and wonder. The way Katie and Cara have created environments that are like the fertile ground of a garden, just waiting for the kids to plant their seeds of learning on the walls to share with others. The way Ellen spends hours making what could be a sterile science lab into a place where the kids feel welcome and are encouraged to wonder. The way Joanne and Brenda take their smaller canvases and create beautiful spaces for some of our most vulnerable students to feel safe. The way Jamie and her crew work tirelessly to make sure the school is safe, tidy, and inviting. As you think about your room, what have you been intentional of as you’ve tried to create an atmosphere suited to bringing MPSC to life? How will you know if your ‘customers’ are satisfied?

My friend, George Couros (@gcouros) often speaks about his incredible parents, and how they created a thriving restaurant business in Humboldt by keeping things like this in mind. They created a successful business by caring about their customers and serving great food. How can you use the model of a successful coffee shop or restaurant to make your students’ learning experiences the best they can be? 

Look at your learning space with 21st century eyes: Does it work for what we know about learning today, or just for what we know about learning in the past?
Sir Ken Robinson
The Third Teacher (2010)

…now I’m craving a coffee!

Here’s what lies ahead this week

Monday:

  • K – 4 staff meeting (agenda)
  • Classroom visits: listening to the learning

Tuesday:

  • Grade 8 bike trip
  • Bruce & Jesse at ALT, Steve acting admin

Wednesday:

  • Classroom visits: listening to the learning

Thursday:

  • Classroom visits: listening to the learning
  • Meet the Family BBQ (4:30 – 6:30)

Friday:

  • Classroom visits: listening to the learning

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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Partnerships

Normally I save my blogging for a Sunday afternoon, after I’ve had some time to reflect on the week that was, and had some time to think about the different things that are on the horizon for our school. We’ve been officially back to work for two days, and there has been so much learning that I had to record some of it for fear I forget as the next few days fly by in preparation for our students. If you are taking a moment to read this, you are likely a staff member at #WaldheimSchool, however if you are not, thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Monday was our official first day of work for the 2018-19 school year, and as has been the practice in our division, all of the members of the Prairie Spirit Teachers Association (PSTA) gathered together for our general assembly. Every year I can usually predict, with a high degree of precision, much of what will be seen and heard as we come together. It starts with jammed parking lots, raucous hallways as teachers reunite after a summer off, inspirational messages, dizzying budget numbers, and of course coffee and cookies! Another highlight for me each year is the opportunity to reconnect with a close friend who has worked in the division since we both graduated from the University of Saskatchewan way back in 1999. It is always wonderful to spend time chatting and laughing with him, and every year we plan to get together during the school year, and every year we fail to….maybe this year.

One of the highlights for me this year came during the address given by the PSSD board chairperson, Sam Dyck.  Sam took the time to welcome us back for another year, and shared some words of wisdom and encouragement, however it was one line that really resonated with me. As he spoke, he said, and I’m paraphrasing, “would you want someone to talk to you the way you talk to yourself?” Many of us are susceptible to the shackles of harmful self talk. We tell ourselves that if those around us only knew the “real” us they would be disappointed. We feel like impostors, and tell ourselves we’re not good enough, and we hope that today will not be the day we’re exposed. Sam made me stop and think, how would I feel if someone spoke to me the way I’ve been speaking to myself for decades? Time for me to start talking to myself the way I talk to the people I work with and learn from.

That brings us to today, Tuesday, August 28th, and another moment that made me stop and wonder, “how the heck did I get so lucky to be where I am today?” The staff from #WaldheimSchool gathered together at Queen’s House of Retreats in Saskatoon for our opening learning meeting. At our meeting we covered important topics like supervision, budgets, Christmas concerts, and of course, student and adult learning. This year, our work will once again be focused on developing a deep and thorough understanding of every student we work with. Our staff has committed to working on our assessment practices and our parental engagement as two strategic ways to deepen this understanding. During today’s meeting the theme of partnerships guided our thinking and our discussions. We talked about the myriad partnerships that we are a part of, either directly, like the teacher-EA partnership, or indirectly, like the student-parent partnership.

 

It was during one of the discussion that I noticed something that made me smile and I had  to capture a picture of it, I think I may have even Tweeted it out to the Twitterverse. The image, shown here, shows something that looks very typical of a staff that is learning together. However, what I love about this image is the diversity of the group. At the table there were six people, all deeply engaged in meaningful discussions about student and adult learning. They included our admin assistant, an EA, our grade 1 teacher, our vice-principal, our senior math/science teacher, and our K-7 special ed teacher.

Different people, different roles, the same goal: student learning! What an amazing way to start the year, it excites me to think about what else is on the horizon for 2018-19.

What has you inspired, motivated, and excited for the new year? 

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The Ritual of Reflection. June 4 – 11

Evan battles for 3rd place in his heat.

“You go, I’ve got it. Things will be fine here.” These were the words that met me Friday morning as I arrived at the school. Jesse knew I was planning on heading up to Prince Albert to watch our provincial track athletes, however due to circumstances, I felt I should stay at the school. He reassured me he had already arranged the day, and felt that it was important that I go and cheer on our students in their events. So, I hopped back in my vehicle, pointed it north, and up to PA I went, ready to cheer on our kids in what I was anticipating would be a cold, rainy, and windy day. I am so glad I was able to watch a few races, the kids were amazing, and it will be fun to add some new names to our provincial track banners!

This weekend was a good reminder of the importance of rituals, and working together, as the kids and I had a lot going on. Krista was busy volunteering with the Girl Guides at Buster Days on Saturday, and working at the hospital on Sunday. This meant I was in charge of the kids, and as I said, we were busy, busy, busy. On Saturday morning we once again took part in what has become an important ritual to my son, Bobby, as we attended the annual Buster Days pancake breakfast. Every year we do this, and every year I am amazed at how important this is to him. After all, it’s not like this is a gourmet breakfast, it’s mass produced pancakes and sausage served with weak lemonade and lukewarm coffee.

Eva & I had a blast doing this one.

Whatever it is, it’s a ritual, and it is important to him, therefor it’s important to me. After the breakfast we returned home, and given that the weather wasn’t the greatest, we decided to get to some crafts the kids had been waiting to work on. Eva, Charlie, and Maggie had bought some wooden bird houses at Michaels earlier this year, and have been waiting and waiting to get the chance to paint them. Eva painted away, inviting me to add my design to her house, while Charlie and Maggie were busy slopping on gobs of color here and there. It was a great time, and in the end the houses ended up looking pretty cute, maybe even inviting enough for a bird or two!

When you think about the important rituals and teamwork that happen at our school, what is it that comes to mind? Is it the annual celebration of excellence that you think of? Is it the difficult process of saying goodbye to your class? Is it the process of preparing final progress reports? Maybe it’s the opportunity to share all the great things about your kids during our transition meetings. What ever it is, I truly hope that one of the rituals you take time for is reflectionToo often, we get caught up in the hectic nature of June as we try to get everyone across the finish line in one piece. I’d invite you to take a bit of time to think about everything you’ve accomplished this year. Celebrate the great work you have done, and think back to your presentation, and how proud you were to share what you were working on. I’d also invite you to think about how you have brought My Prairie Spirit Classroom to life in our school this year. As I walk the halls and visit classrooms, I’m amazed at how effortless you all make it look, and I’m enthused by the constant desire to get better and better. Finally, as you reflect, think about how you want to grow as a professional, and think about what it could look like next year after you have successfully accomplished your goal(s).

With four weeks to go, there is a lot of work yet to be done, here’s what lies ahead for next week:

Monday:

  • K – 6 swimming, day 1
  • Bruce away (pm ~ medical)

Tuesday:

  • 1 – 3 Reading Data due
  • Classroom visits: how do the kids feel they have grown this year? What evidence can they point to?

Wednesday:

  • WHRS 4-6 track and field in Duck Lake (Jesse, Dwayne, Leah attending)
  • Bruce away (pm ~ classroom environment meeting)

Thursday:

  • K – 6 swimming, day 2
  • Classroom visits: how do the kids feel they have grown this year? What evidence can they point to?

Friday:

  • Classroom visits: how do the kids feel they have grown this year? What evidence can they point to?

As always, create a great week!

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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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Thanks Mom! May 14 – 18

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, hopefully you enjoy your day. It was another great weekend here, spending as much time as we could out in the yard. I was excited to set up our new smoker BBQ yesterday, and will be even more excited to try it tonight. Before that there are several household duties that need to be done, and a trip to mom’s house, one of the kids favorite things to do (they sure love their grandma!). As I’m writing this today, I’m listening to my wife help my 7-year old, Eva, through the process of making a cheesecake. The cute thing is, it’s a Mother’s Day cheesecake, which makes me wonder if I should be the one helping, not just enjoying the results.

Mom (plaid vest) and her siblings.

Today has me reflecting on all the lessons my mom taught me over the years. Some were very intentional, and planned out, while the other lessons, some of which were the most important, were the subtle ones. To know my mom is to know a kind, caring person who strives to find the best in everyone.  Growing up, she used to get so frustrated with me when I’d speak ill of others, and would always encourage me to work harder, as she saw ability in me I never thought was there. She was also my greatest cheerleader, and one of my favorite memories of growing up in our big, old house in Watrous was the picture she kept of me on her dresser. It was a picture of me water skiing, which she knew was my favorite thing to do as a teenager. When I was doing that, she knew I was confident, happy, and free of my self-doubt. She is like this with everyone in her life, from all of her children, to her grandchildren, to her family and friends. She understands the importance of relationships, and I love to see her laughing and chatting with her brother and sisters when they come to visit, or to listen to her stories on Sunday after she gets home from church. She has always had a great visit with someone, or heard a valuable message from the sermon.

This is what today has me thinking of, critical relationships. On Thursday, part of our school family had a chance to share just a snippet of the incredible work going on at #WaldheimSchool. While we did talk a little bit about learning, after all, that’s the business we are in, our main focus was on the relationships that have been formed between the learners in our building. We talked about the relationships between kids, between adults, and between kids and adults. Our story revolved around the work we do with our vulnerable learners, and while the team would have said the message was about how it helps our students, what I heard was how it helped the adults. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from lending a helping hand, and while the kids we help certainly benefit and grow from our work, its that personal growth we sometimes overlook.

This is the video we showed to start our presentation.

People have asked what’s so special about #WaldheimSchool, and you do not need to look  any farther than the bond that is so strong between all of our family members. As we head into the home stretch, and are dealing with learners who may be feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, let’s remember the power of relationships, and the gift we all bring with us every day. After all, it’s like my mom always told me, “look for the good in others, and always lend a helping hand when you can.”

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • staff meeting with 3 more amazing presentations (please see agenda sent on Friday)
  • classroom visits: asking kids, “what are you struggling with, and how is that helping you learn?”

Tuesday:

  • classroom visits: asking kids, “what are you struggling with, and how is that helping you learn?”
  • Bruce at a classroom environment meeting (after school)

Wednesday:

  • Bruce away at appointments
  • 7 – 12 Track & Field at Griffith’s Stadium

Thursday:

  • classroom visits: asking kids, “what are you struggling with, and how is that helping you learn?”
  • SCC Election Day

Friday:

  • classroom visits: asking teachers, “are you enjoying your prep day?” 🙂

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

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

Dunning sisters learning together.

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

Don’t worry, they got this covered!

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

Here’s what lies ahead on this busy week:

Monday:

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

Tuesday:

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

Wednesday:

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

Thursday:

  • Hold and Secure (am ~ details to be sent out prior)
  • Classroom visits: What would you like us to notice?

Friday:

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

As always, create a great week!

 220 total views

What’s Good for Some…March 12 – 16th

Every adult at Waldheim School will have a deep and thorough understanding of every student they work with as learners in their subject area(s). A goal like that can seem quite daunting,  however I’ve been so excited to witness this coming to life everyday in our school.  Some of the things I saw last week speak to how you are getting to know your learners. I watched as students talked about their  favorite animals and the teacher learned about them as researchers and  presenters. I watched as students sat beside their teacher discussing how to potentially solve their math problems, all the while the teacher learned more about them as mathematicians. I watched as teacher and student problem solved how to fit a lid on a beautiful jewelry box, the teacher learning about the student as a problem solver. I watched as a teacher worked with a small group of students as they shared what they noticed in a picture from a big book. I could go on and on, because everywhere I look everyday I see all of you getting to know your students as learners. It’s an incredible thing to watch.

I was thinking about this today as I made another trip to Table Mountain, however this time Eva joined the twins, and this would be her first time ever skiing. I quickly learned that how I helped the twins learn to ski was not going to work for Eva, as she was much more tentative. After her second run down the hill, with tears in her eyes, she said she’d had enough, and wanted to quit. The lift operator saw this conversation, and offered me a ski aid (just a reinforced hoola hoop), which we used for quite a while. I was hoping that she’d be able to start skiing on her own, however she remained very dependent on me and the ski aid, to the point that I wasn’t sure what to do to help her, after all, I can only say “pizza skis, pizza skis” so much. One of the great things about Table Mountain is the many volunteer instructors who are on the bunny hill, and one of them, Dave, happened to spot us getting ready to go for another run down the hill. He asked how Eva was enjoying it, and she sheepishly replied that she was having fun. Dave offered a couple of pieces of advice for her, and as he modeled this for her, I was able to pick up a few things I could use as I continued to help her. It was amazing how quickly what he taught her had her swishing down the hill on her own, I was amazed! The day wound up with her cheering about how much she loved skiing, and I was so happy for her as she called out, “dad, I’m doing it, I’m skiing”! I just wish I could have found Dave to thank him.

On the way home I started thinking about how sometimes we get stuck as we work with our learners, just like I was stuck with Eva today. It took the advice of someone else, in this case it was an expert instructor, to help get us out of the learning rut we were in. Tomorrow we get to learn together as Jesse has worked hard to tailor the PSSD PD to meet the needs of Waldheim School. We get to learn together, and in the process have an opportunity to ask each other for the help we may be needing. As you come into tomorrow’s PD, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What will someone else learn because you were in the room?
  • What are you hoping to learn?

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • PD/Prep Day (pot luck lunch)

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & Jesse at ALT (Steve acting admin)

Wednesday:

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

Thursday:

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

Friday:

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

As always, create a great week!

 209 total views