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!

 195 total views

Our Kids Are Problem Solvers: February 12 – 16

Between forts in the basement, new toys for the dog, cold weather, and a Costco shopping trip, it’s been a whirlwind of a weekend. The kids were busy today playing with Bella and making their Valentines Day cards for their classmates. It reminded me of when I was a youngster, the 14th was always one of my favorites, as everyone in class was anxious to pass out their cards and then equally as excited to empty their boxes to see what well-wishes they received. It was a great exercise for Charlie and Maggie as they practiced printing their names over and over, it was cool to see Charlie celebrate after each successful card.

This week we get to learn from each other again, as Trace and Glen will be presenting at our staff meeting on Monday. As you may have seen on the agenda I sent out Friday, Trace will be discussing student engagement, while Glen is going to share some of the research he’s been doing in relation to his subject area. I love the opportunity to learn and listen from everyone, and am constantly reminded of the amazing work that is going on in our school. As you come into the meeting tomorrow, what role will you play in the learning in the room? What are you prepared to give as a leader on the staff? What are you hoping to learn? As Glen and Trace share their work, how is their work supporting our over-arching goal of getting to know each student as a learner on a deeper level? How will you share your thoughts with them in the days that follow?

Last year I was lucky enough to get to meet, and spend some time chatting with a presenter at a conference I attended in Prince Albert. His name is Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy), and in his latest blog (found here) he asks the readers if they are fixing or teaching. The article is geared towards administrators, but certainly applies to the classroom, and how we are teaching kids to be resilient, problem solvers, and how we are inviting teamwork. He writes,

Here are 10 things to consider to help propel your team(s) to becoming more independent and eventually more successful in resolving their own issues so they can help others resolve theirs.

  1. See yourself and others as learners first.
  2. Listen to concerns with the intent to understand, not respond.
  3. Ask questions to gain more clarity. Don’t lead off with possible solutions. (Asking better questions will only come as the result of you being a better listener)
  4. Spend more time in conversation. This shows others you value the relationship too.
  5. Bring a third or even a fourth party into the conversation to model the importance of team resolution.
  6. Value all opinions in order to help nurture an environment that values curiosity.
  7. When others struggle to resolve their own issues, don’t stamp them with a label.
  8. Provide ongoing support, time, and resources needed for a successful resolution.
  9. Follow up with an encouraging word or note and then check-in again to recognize and celebrate the progress.
  10. Encourage them to repeat the process with other similar situations they encounter to support and honor them in their growth as learners, teachers, and leaders.

For the most part, almost every dilemma you will encounter as a classroom teacher or a school or district leader will have a solution, it just doesn’t have to be you who comes up with it.

As I read that, I thought about how nervous I was when I came over from Hepburn last year. For a while I felt that, as principal, I had to solve every problem that came my way. Thanks to everyone on staff, I quickly learned that we are much smarter than me. I’d invite you to pause for a moment and think about the team you work with. It could be your students, or your colleagues, but ask yourself, how are you working together to solve problems?

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • 9:00 ~ covering Amy’s class
  • 11:00 ~ team meeting regarding new student
  • Classroom visits: what questions are the kids wrestling with?
  • Staff meeting

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & Jesse away at ALT (part of the learning focus will be on our data from the OurSCHOOL survey)

Wednesday:

  • Classroom visits: what questions are the kids wrestling with?

Thursday:

  • Jesse away (Following Their Voices PD)
  • Locker clean up (schedule to be developed Monday/Tuesday)
  • Classroom visits: what questions are the kids wrestling with?

Friday:

  • Trips:
    • 1 – 3 (Saskatoon for bowling, then back to school for winter carnival style games)
    • 4 – 12 (skiing at Table Mountain)

As always, create a great week!

 294 total views

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!

 201 total views

Sharing Learning With Our Parents: Jan. 29th – Feb. 2nd

A fresh blanket of snow always looks so nice, even if it means the streets are a little more slick than we are used to lately. My kids had a great time helping me shovel, although it did add a little more time to my job as they usually left more mess behind them. Oh well, quality time, right? As Krista was working nights this weekend we needed to keep the house quiet, so we took advantage of the free fun at the University checking out the fossils, fish, and other cool features. My kids are still as excited about elevator rides and automatic doors as they are with the t-rex or the koi fish, but the highlight for them is always going for a little treat downstairs at Lower Place Riel and playing the piano in the Arts building.

Rooooaaaaar!

Something I began to notice at the U of S on Saturday was the role my older kids were taking with the 4-year old twins. Charlie was quickly following Bobby, asking him questions, pointing exciting things out to him, occasionally annoying him, but ultimately learning from him. It was cool to hear Charlie ask him, “why is there a dead snake in there Bobby?”, only to have Bobby explain that what he was seeing was, in fact, discarded snake skin. #Sidebyside learning! What was just as cool was to see the approach Eva (7) was taking with Maggie, Charlie’s twin sister. The two of them were playing field trip and Eva was leading Maggie through the different areas, reading her the information she could and then asking her questions just like her teacher would do with her. #Engagement! The kids were creating their own learning based on their interests, and they were really into it. I wonder what would have happened if I gave them a test after? What would happen if I told them to go discover 5 facts and then report on those facts? I worry it would suck the fun right out of the afternoon.

Seeing the kids learning in action caused me to think about the ILO Sharlene was a part of last week discussing #assessment with other educators and the potential of online portfolios. When I can see my kids exploring and wondering, and when I can hear them asking questions and having discussions I am part of their learning experience. This is what Sharlene is trying to capture with her students. Obviously it is much easier with 4 kids on a Saturday afternoon than it is with 20 – 30+ kids on a hectic Tuesday morning, but does that mean we don’t try? I’m seeing more of this in other places too, like Genius Hour open houses, numerous tweets, Instagram posts, e-mails home, literacy cafes, parent volunteers, and assemblies (I know I’m forgetting others). We have so many more ways to bring evidence of our students’ learning to their world than ever before, I certainly remember the days when my parents had no clue what I was learning at school. I wonder how different my learning would have been had they been more involved? I wonder if my parents would have made different parenting choices had they known more about me? When you think about the intentional choices you make when sharing the students’ learning with their parent(s), what is working? What else do you want to try? What do you need to take that next big risk?

I’m so excited about the upcoming week, semester turn around is always a great time to reflect on how things are going and to re-calibrate as we head into the back half of the school year, much like a golfer thinks about their round after 9-holes. Hopefully you aren’t like me as a golfer, usually after 9-holes I was ready to throw in the towel! We do have an exciting week of learning though, starting with our staff PD meeting on Monday afternoon where we have two presentations taking place. Trace is going to share what he has been working on and Steve will be leading us through a book talk.

Here’s what lies ahead:

Monday:

  • staff meeting (see agenda e-mailed  on Friday)
  • final exams continue
  • classroom visits: what are the big ideas? 

Tuesday:

  • assembly with grade 3/4’s from 2:30ish to 3:00ish
  • classroom visits: what are the big ideas? 

Wednesday:

  • Prep day (EA’s at PD in Warman all day)
  • Staff supper @ 4:30pm

Thursday:

  • Semester 2 begins
  • classroom visits: what are the big ideas? 

Friday:

  • 7-12  progress reports sent home
  • Bruce in a webinar learning about My Blueprint 11:30 – 12:30
  • classroom visits: what are the big ideas? 

As always, create a great week!

 218 total views

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?

 

 235 total views

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!

 304 total views

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!

 216 total views

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!

 207 total views,  1 views today

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!

 190 total views

October 23rd – 27th

What a “dog’s nose” of a weekend….cold and wet! Yuck! Oh well, it gave the little ones a chance to do some crafts with grandma today, always a favorite pastime of theirs. So it was Lego, stickers, old boxes, single socks, markers, scissors, crayons, glue, and their imaginations. As I watched them I’m was not sure who was enjoying the activities more, my kids or my mom, all I know is that it’s quite a fun stage of life to be in. It was also a good weekend to experiment with some comfort food as we had some pulled pork enchiladas on Saturday night, they were really good!

I came across a really good blog post by Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp) today, and while it speaks about the impact we have on our students’ love (or hatred) for reading, I think it can be applied to many more things. In her blog post she says, 

In some schools I see AR points, pages read, or books read used as a way to separate those who can and do read from those who can’t or won’t.  I see scores set by others determine how a child’s experience will be with reading in the future.

I see arbitrary measures shared with home as if the points from AR or another computerized test will truly tell the story of that child’s reading identity.

And I see punishment.  Privileges removed from the child who fails to meet their goal.  Reading rules implemented that instead of eliciting more positive reading experiences, completely undermine the entire experience.  And the kids stand idly by while we destroy their love of reading.

A quote for Brenda…Brenda loves quotes 🙂

It is an interesting commentary, saying that we are trying to punish our students into becoming readers, or with other subjects, learners. And I wondered, is that what we are trying to do? Or are we trying to punish our students into becoming compliant, simply doing what we ask because we have asked it? Either way, is that what we want to be? A school that punishes our students  into compliance disguised as “learning”. As I walk the halls and visit the classrooms, I certainly do not think that’s who we are. I think we are at a point as adult learners that we have realized we cannot simply punish our students into becoming learners. I see amazing things like:

  • students creating metal bowls that look like they should be in an art gallery
  • students creating amazing puppets that showcase their own unique sense of design
  • students working together to create dialogues for brief skits
  • students working side-by-side to come to know the Pythagorean theorem
  • students discussing ethnocentrism in kids books
  • students using string and sidewalk chalk to learn about the unit circle
  • students organizing and running popcorn sales and video game tournaments
  • students modeling what they can do when they are functioning in their green zone
  • students analyzing biomes and then teaching other students
  • students critically analyzing a piece of literature and applying it to their own lives today

Are we reaching all students? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we are doing and/or on Pernille’s post.

Here’s what lies ahead for a busy week:

Monday:

  • Staff meeting at 3:15 (please refer to agenda e-mailed last week)

Tuesday:

  • Bruce at ALT all day
  • Bruce at Classroom Environment Committee mtg (4:30 – 6:30)

Wednesday:

  • Bruce at ALT all day
  • P/T Conferences (day 1) ~ supper provided

Thursday:

  • P/T Conferences (day 2) ~ supper provided

Friday:

  • Jon Yellowlees coming out to observe 1st/2nd year teachers
  • Picture retakes

As always, create a great week!

 224 total views