We’re Not Even Getting Marks for This!

There was a quiet anticipation as we made our way through the old, winding corridors. I could hear the conversations as the students trailed behind me, this was a new experience for most of them, and it was clear they were in awe of their surroundings. This learning activity was set up by their Physics teacher, @ellen_verity , and the students only knew one thing, and that was that they would be completing a learning lab studying inelastic collisions. I was along as a chaperone and was just as excited. Part of the excitement was in the wonder of what we’d be learning, the other was the flood of memories as we walked by old classrooms where I had studied mathematics as a University student many years earlier.

We were met by two men, a lab instructor and a graduate student, and they took us to the science lab where we would spend the next two hours creating collisions. After an introduction and a brief discussion outlining the lab the students would be completing, the work began. The students were busy determining mass, calculating velocities, and wrestling with formulae that first-year university physics students would normally encounter. It was a treat to watch the students learning together as they completed the 90-minute lab experiment. One of the comments that stood out to me above all the others was from a grade 12 boy who had been struggling to determine the energy loss in the experiment. He had repeatedly tried and failed to calculate the correct answer, his only support was from the facilitator who encouraged him to “check his math” as his answer fell outside of the acceptable range that the instructor had told the students to keep in mind. He turned to his lab partner and said, “I can’t believe I’m still working at this, it’s not even for marks”. The boys laughed and then returned to their work. Eventually, they had found the error in their calculation, and when they had succeeded they could not hide their pride. They had persisted and were rewarded for their hard work. This ‘stick-withitness’ was demonstrated at all the stations, not a single group dropped their pencils and said, “that’s it, we’re done here”. It made me think about why, and I have a few theories.

1. Environment: the students were working in a different environment than they were used to, and it seemed to be a big change for them. In reality, there was not a lot of difference between their school lab to the one they were in on this day; the tables were similar in height, the stools looked and felt the same, the lighting and temperature were familiar, and one student even noticed the laminate on the counter tops was peeling, just like back at school! So while the different setting surely had an impact on their mindset, I do not think it was the greatest influence.

2. The lab facilitator: the students commented on how smart the lab facilitator was. One student marveled at how he would manipulate different formulas with ease, while another student found it interesting how the facilitator could predict the mistakes students would make. It was apparent to me that the students wanted to do well for this facilitator, and wanted him to know that they brought with them a solid understanding of high school math and physics. While this desire to impress was apparent, like the environment, I do not think this was the greatest influence either.

3. The challenge: this lab involved shooting a 60-gram steel ball into an apparatus that consisted of what I would describe as a cage attached to a pendulum that would swing up using the momentum of the shot. The challenge was to use simple measurements (i.e. height, distance, gravity) to determine the initial and final velocity of the ball. From there the students were challenged to use this information to calculate momentum and eventually determine if there was a conservation of energy. All of this flew straight over my head, but it was fun to watch the kids work through a lab that was not too difficult, yet not too simple. It was a task that was just right in terms of rigor. While the task, was in the Goldilocks zone, much like the environment and the facilitator, I do not think it was the greatest influence.

4. A sense of pride: above all else, I believe the students wanted to successfully complete the lab for their own sense of pride. It was wonderful to see the smiles on their faces when they had correctly calculated the velocity or the momentum. It was wonderful to watch them work together to compare their calculations and discuss what they had learned. It was wonderful to watch them traverse the highs and lows that are typically associated with deep learning. I believe it was this sense of pride that was the greatest motivator for the students, after all, like that student indicated, they were not getting any marks for this. This was truly learning for the sake of learning, and I could feel the engagement in the room.

Given that we are currently immersed in looking at and talking about our assessment practices, I could not help but think about how closely engagement is tied to our assessment work. In her book, @KatieWhite426  writes,

engagment is strongly connected to assessment. Not getting the best effort from our students and feeling like we are working harder than our learners are symptoms of a system not grounded in authentic learning” (p. 153).

Reading this took me back to many times in my classes when the kids were not as “in to” the learning as I had thought they would be. I felt like I had created a highly engaging lessons only to see slumped shoulders and partial efforts. I would have chalked this up to “kids being kids”, however there also numerous lessons when the exact same students were highly engaged and motivated. I had to come to terms with the fact that it was me, not them. I also had to be gentle on myself and forgive myself when a lesson fell flat. I had to have the belief that I could learn from it and improve on it.

This also makes me think of our mindset, as Katie’s quote invites us to view engagement as something that is within our control versus looking at it as something the students consciously choose (either they want to be engaged or they don’t). Of course, going one step further, this also takes me back to our school goal, every adult at #WaldheimSchool will develop a deep and thorough understanding of every student they work with as learners. If we really know our learners we can then begin to craft engaging learning opportunities which in turn will lead to authentic assessments. I’d invite you to think about this the next time it feels like you are working harder than the students are.

Here’s what is on the horizon for our final week before the Christmas break:

Monday:

  • 9 – 12 staff meeting (any 5 – 8 staff are welcome to join us as our meeting last week was cancelled)

Tuesday:

  • Final preparations for Christmas concert

Wednesday:

  • K – 4 Christmas concert matinee performance

Thursday:

  • K – 4 Christmas concert evening performance

Friday:

  • 7 – 12 locker clean up (schedule to be posted Tuesday to assist with your planning)
  • K – 6 Christmas classroom activities
  • 7 – 12 Christmas activities (pm) lead by the SRC

As always, create a great week!

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I Played My Best For Him…

“I thought my heart was going to come right out of my chest”

These were the words Bobby whispered to me in the church on Saturday afternoon at his piano recital. He had just finished playing The Little Drummer Boy for a room full of people he had never met before, and in his words, he ‘nailed it’. Every day for the past three weeks Bobby had been practicing in preparation for this moment. I remember when he was told the title of the piece he was learning, and how excited I was to share that that carol was his mother’s favorite Christmas song. With dogged determination, he practiced over and over and as the days passed we both began to hear the improvement (I wrote more about this here.) I recall the day when he went mistake free, start to finish, because all he did when he was done was let out a quiet, “yes!” with a subtle fist pump. All of that work led up to his performance, a solo that barely lasted one minute from start to finish, including his shy bow before heading back to my side. He did a great job, and I could not have been more proud.

In our work we often talk about learning and assessment in terms designed to help us wrap our heads around what is considered best practice. We talk about ‘practice time’ and ‘game day’ when we refer to formative and summative assessments. As I watched and listened to the kids playing their pieces at the Christmas celebration, I could not help but think about how I was seeing the results of authentic learning in it’s purest form. This was ‘game day’ for those kids, their guests, and their teachers. The students were given a piece to practice over a period of time, coming back weekly to their teacher to demonstrate their progress. It was during these lessons that feedback was given to the students and next steps were set up based on where they were at that moment. The students then went away and practiced some more, and the cycle continued. During this entire learning journey there was not one mark given, only feedback. Some of that feedback occurred in the moment beside the teacher, some of it was in written form in their journal. It was simple process; work with the teacher, practice at home while self-assessing, demonstrate growth for the teacher, receive feedback, practice with teacher, repeat.

The recital could be viewed as their summative assessment, a culmination of their hard work where they had one shot in front of the crowd to show what they know. Of course this does not mean that Bobby is done playing the piano, nor will he now put The Little Drummer Boy away. He has already talked about how he will be playing this for his relatives this Christmas, and we’ve discussed the possibility of creating a performance tying the songs he knows together in a longer performance. Summative assessment should not mean over and done with, it should be a snap shot in time. Katie White (@KatieWhite426) writes, “summative assessment is the way we verify learning and determine proficiency. It is an essential  part of the learning cycle” (p. 153). Note how she says it is part of the cycle, not the end of the cycle. Saturday afternoon was a verification of what Bobby had learned and an opportunity to show his teacher he is ready for the next challenge.

What about the cycle in our classrooms with 15, 20, 25, or 30+ students? It is through the art and science of teaching that you are making this happen at #WaldheimSchool. I’ve seen the creative ways teachers are carving out time in the day to listen to students read, to sit beside students as they wrestle with concepts, or to simply stand back and watch them work together to deepen their understanding. One of the best examples of this is watching the home ec students, especially when they are in their cake decorating unit. I love watching the students experiment, collaborate, and then seek feedback from Marla and Krisinda. I also secretly hope for a slice of cake when they are done! Assessment is not easy, and when I reflect on how I used to teach, particularly my math classes, I am embarrassed by the steps I failed to take. Here was the normal learning cycle when I taught:

  1. Tell the kids what they’d be learning (I’d post my objectives by writing, today you will learn…..)
  2. Have them copy notes off the board
  3. Demonstrate two or three examples from their upcoming assigned work
  4. With about 25% of the class time remaining I’d assign several questions for homework
  5. Get frustrated the following day when the kids hadn’t ‘figured it out’ on their own
  6. Move on with the next lesson because we didn’t have time to stop
  7. Get more frustrated when the kids failed their tests
  8. Repeat…

There were so many opportunities for me to do a better job with my teaching, and looking back now I have to pause, understand that I was doing what I thought was best in the moment, forgive myself, and move on. I wonder how well Bobby would have done had he learned how to play piano the way I taught math. Imagine him showing up for lessons to sit and listened to his teacher play The Little Drummer Boy so he would know how it should sound, but not getting to touch the keys for 75% of the lesson. Imagine the frustration he and my wife and I would have when he came home to practice, only to have us fail to know how to help him. Imagine him returning for lessons having experienced little or no growth. Now imagine how he would have felt in that church getting ready for his summative assessment.

I’m glad Bobby learned how to play The Little Drummer Boy the way he did. I’m glad he ‘nailed it’.

Here’s what is on the horizon this week:

Monday:

  • 5 – 8 staff meeting (hopefully you’ve had a chance to view the agenda and think about the reflective questions)

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & Jesse at ALT, Katharine is acting admin

Wednesday:

  • Tentative relocatable classroom walk through with contractors and facilities

Thursday:

  • Ellen & Bruce in Saskatoon all day for 11 & 12 math/science learning trip

Friday:

  • Laird Christmas concert (matinee & evening performance)

As always, create a great week!

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The Power of an Audience

Sometimes, when I least expect it, I catch myself thinking about learning and this happened today while I was preparing supper. As I was tending to the pots on the stove, my oldest son was practicing the piano. The song he was practicing at first sounded vaguely familiar, however once he started playing it with a little more confidence it occurred to me he was playing my wife’s favorite Christmas carol, Little Drummer Boy. Stopping and starting, he really struggled with the song. He knew how it should sound, for he had heard it numerous times in the past, and he also knew what he was playing was just not quite right. The notes were off. He would mess up the timing. He would lose his place. And he would growl with frustration. One thing that is important to understand is that my son has inherited his father’s short fuse. When I get frustrated or angry it’s not a pretty sight, and if I’m trying to complete a task and I end up in this zone, the only thing I can do is walk away and try to reset. I could sense Bobby was heading this direction, so I asked why he was practicing this song with such intensity.

His answer reminded me of a powerful tool we have as educators, audience.

Bobby told me his motivation for practicing was that he wanted to perform this song at his auntie Susan’s house this Christmas season. One of our family’s Christmas traditions has been to gather around the piano and sing carols. I recall Christmas sing-a-longs many years ago at my grandparent’s home in Carrot River, and as young child I loved to hear my aunts, uncles, and grandparents sing together. I’m so happy that my children have had the opportunity to be part of this experience, even if their dad does not sing along (I’ve come to accept that my musical talents are pretty much restricted to playing the radio). I’m even more excited that Bobby now wants to have more prominent role in this and actually play the piano to lead one of the carols.

This is why he is practicing over, and over, and over. This is why he is getting better and better. He is learning.

He is learning so he can perform for an audience. This makes me think of how often our students are asked to ‘perform’ for an audience. I recall asking students to complete learning tasks as a classroom teacher, and at times their hearts were just not in it, however, if I asked them to create something for a learning fair that involved other classes or parents, they would always be a little more diligent. This also makes me think of ‘performances’ I’ve seen in our school in the past, such as:

  • the grade 1 class singing at the Remembrance Day ceremony
  • the grade 7 science fair
  • the genius hour presentations at parent/teacher conferences
  • Life Transitions learning fairs
  • math cafe
  • readers cafe
  • writers cafe
  • assemblies
  • plays

These are many things that you may have also seen in your school in the past. There are also some other very cool ‘performances’ I’ve seen that create an opportunity for students to present to an audience.

  • the IA teacher lets his students know their projects will be shared online via Instagram (check it out here)
  • a geography teacher inviting his students to present their tourism ideas to two other adults instead of just presenting their ideas to the class or the teacher
  • the journalism teacher asking her students to seek real sponsorship from businesses in town to support the school yearbook
  • the Psychology teacher challenging her students to create real learning activities that will be taught to the Kindergarten class
  • the senior ELA teacher inviting the kindergarten class to hear his students’ If you give a                             stories (for example, If you give a panda a crayon)

In all of these cases (and there are more) the students know that the audience will not just be the teacher or their classmates. They know it will be a more diverse set of eyes and ears, and because of that their pride kicks in, and they usually put in a greater effort.

Obviously not every learning activity can be set up for an audience, but, are there ways to invite students to share their learning with more people than just their peers or the teacher? I’ve seen an increase in the use of online sharing tools, like See-Saw, Class Dojo, and FreshGrade. What else can you do? There is Facebook Live, Twitter, and YouTube. Of course with online sharing comes other factors teachers must consider. Some families do not want their children sharing online, but are there ways to share processes and products without sharing faces and names? If we want our students to work towards mastery and deep learning, how can we occasionally use the power of an audience to accomplish this? I’ve seen it in our school, I’d love to hear other ideas, so please comment below.

And as far as The Little Drummer Boy, I’m expecting to hear an awful lot of it over the next few weeks!

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I Wanted to be a Comedian.

Waiting for the bus

My twins are absolutely loving Kindergarten, and it’s only been a couple weeks. Stories and samples of work are shared on a regular basis, and Charlie loves to ask me questions like, “dad, what does B stand for?” I play along, of course, and reply, “no, what does B stand for?” With a smile he says, “buh, buh, buh. Ball.” He’s been having fun learning all sorts of interesting things, some he learns at school, other lessons he learns on the playground and on the bus. One thing he has learned is that the bus ride is not what he had thought it would be. He tells me it’s loud and it smells funny.

Something I’ve noticed with my twins is that so far making mistakes does not really bother them. When they print their names, if they reverse or miss a letter and we help them fix it, they do not get upset. I see this a lot in our youngest learners at #WaldheimSchool. There is no fear or hesitation as they learn a new song or dance in Kindergarten, or create a unique pattern or poem in grade one. As I visit classrooms in our K to 12 school, something I notice is that as I move into middle years or high school, students become a little more reluctant to take a risk with their learning. We’ve all seen kids take risks in other areas, and it reminds me of a mindset I had as a middle years student; I’d rather look funny or silly in front of my peers than look stupid or ill-informed. As a result of this, I would never take a risk with my learning, even if it meant passing up on opportunities to explore things I was curious about. I remember a learning task our grade 9 ELA teacher asked us to prepare for. This assignment was to write and perform a quick comedy routine for the rest of the class. I’ve always loved comedians, and was secretly excited about this opportunity to perform an original piece. Not being the first to perform, I quickly noticed the ‘cool’ kids were simply reading Laughter is the Best Medicine, one of my favorite sections from a copy of the Readers’ Digest. I was disappointed and scared at the same time. There was no way I was going to buck that trend, even though I secretly wanted to. When it was my turn, instead of taking a risk, I grabbed my friends Readers’ Digest and quickly read a funny story and returned to my chair.

Learning opportunities for all students are characterized by high expectations
(rigour), personal and purposeful application (relevance), collaborative learning
environments (relationship), risk-taking to consider alternative instructional
approaches (innovative) and student choice (engagement).

You will recognize the above quote from our guiding document, MPSC. When I think about the teacher’s intentions for our class, I recall being surprised by such an innovative (although I didn’t use that word at the time, I think I thought it was cool) approach. I still remember that lesson and how excited and engaged I was, and ultimately how disappointed I was. I often wondered what our teacher thought about that lesson. I wonder if he felt like he failed. He took a risk, and it was through our actions as students that it did not work out as I’m sure he’d hoped it would.

What have you tried that may not have worked out as you had envisioned? What risks have you taken that ultimately came up short?

The fear of failure can stand in the way of all of us, from administrators to teachers to support staff to students. So what can we do about it? As I think about my grade 9 ELA class, it was not a safe environment for risk taking. In fact, the more I reflect, our entire school during the early to mid-eighties, was not a safe environment for risk taking. That’s where I feel we need to start, creating a safe place for students to take risks. In his article, Youki Terada states,

despite how common mistakes are, students often perceive them as negative and as a potential threat to their self-worth. A positive classroom climate—one where the teacher and students treat mistakes as learning opportunities—can create better conditions for learning.

As we continue to grow, we need to keep looking at our learning environments and ask ourselves if they are a safe place to take a risk. What are your students telling you through their words, actions or in some cases, lack of action? I know I’ll be asking myself that at our staff learning meeting on Monday.

Here’s what is on the horizon this week,

Monday:

  • all staff meeting after school (see agenda sent out Friday)
  • SACL presentation 6:30 pm

Tuesday:

  • Bruce at PD planning meeting (1:00 pm) ~ tentative

Wednesday:

  • Carnival preparation

Thursday:

  • Elementary Carnival (4:30 – 6:30)

Friday:

  • PD/Prep Day

As always, create a great week!

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What Would Dr. Dre Say?

As I was tidying up the dishes my oldest boy, Bobby, who will turn 12 in approximately 3 months, made his way back up stairs from his basement bedroom. He announced to me he was going to practice his piano, something my wife and I try to get him to do on a regular basis. “Our pleading and prodding is paying off” I thought to myself, he was doing what we had hoped he would do, practice! As he sat at the piano and started playing, I noticed this was different, and frankly, it wasn’t that good. As he played it sounded strangely like a cat walking across the keys, as I said, it wasn’t very pleasant. This went on for a short while, and I could sense some frustration in him. “Hey Bobby” I asked from the kitchen, “what are you trying to play?”

“It’s something I heard on a meme on YouTube” he responded. No sooner did he say that, than he was up from the piano bench and running back downstairs to his room. I thought he’d given up due to frustration, however I was surprised to see him return back upstairs, this time with his tablet. He spoke into the Google search engine, asking it to find him information on how to play the song he was trying to replicate from what he had seen and heard. After a couple of quick searches he had found what he was looking for, and as he pressed play I realized what it was he was trying to replicate. If you know me, you know that I’m not a big fan of music by artists like Dr. Dre or Snoop Dogg, it’s just not what I choose to listen to. But my son liked the sound of the piano from the meme and wanted to learn how to play it.

Undaunted, he sat at the piano and tried over and over and over. It was brutal, but he did not give up. He had found a tutorial on YouTube that was guiding him, and he would watch a few seconds, pause it, try to reproduce what the anonymous hands on the video had done, and then he would repeat the process. On and on this went for several minutes, until he nailed it. It came right out of the blue, but what he was playing sounded very much like what he had been listening to. The next thing I heard was real music to my ears, Bobby was so excited that he actually cheered when he recognized that he’d had a break through. I heard things like, “yes!” and “awesome!” As a father, I was proud, and always the teacher, I was so happy to hear my son celebrating his learning.

In that 20 minute span, my son, through no intentions of his own, made me stop to think about what real learning is. It was in those moments that I saw and heard what I wish I could see and hear every single day in every single classroom, not only in our school, but everywhere. Neither my wife, nor I play the piano, but we wanted to give our kids the opportunity to learn, and if they wanted to pursue it, we’d make that happen. So the ingredients were there for him tonight. He was motivated by something that interested him. He had a base knowledge from which to build. He had the tools he needed; those being the piano, his tablet, and the WiFi. He had time and a safe, non-judgmental (remember, I just thought to myself it sounded like a cat on the keys) space in which to work. He also had the freedom to stop when he was satisfied.

I think about the things he didn’t have. He didn’t have assigned music sheets chosen for him. He didn’t have a timer sitting on the piano, nor did he have a person sitting beside him giving him feedback. He had a video tutor, and his ears provided all the feedback he needed. He was not playing for a grade, he was playing for himself. As he struggled he saw and heard hopewhich was the feedback and encouragement he needed to keep playing. In the end, he had success.

Scenes like this play out all over the place, time and again. You see it at skate parks where boys and girls try and fail at stunts. You see it on playgrounds where kids try to master their skipping while singing, “strawberry shortcake, huckleberry pie….” (it’s in your head now, isn’t it). You see it at the lake where people try and fail to master the art of paddle boarding. If you look, you see it everywhere. But, do you see it where it matters most? In the classroom.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by!

 353 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!

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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!

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June 12 – 16

What a great weekend, the weather wasn’t perfect, but there was a lot of opportunities  to get out and about and enjoy a June weekend. We had an action packed weekend, as Krista, who is a Guides Leader, took Eva to Redberry for an overnight camping trip with the rest of Eva’s troop. Judging from an exhausted six year old’s report, it sounds like it was the, “best time ever!” She talked about the fun activities they took part in, and even went so far as to celebrate the fact that she was allowed to wash and dry her own dishes, I wonder how long that will last. This meant that Bobby, Charlie, Maggie, and I were fending for ourselves, and we had a blast at my niece and nephew’s family and friend grad celebration. I found it so interesting that we were celebrating 12 years of education for my sister’s twin children just as my twins are getting ready to begin their journey. All in all, it was a wonderful, but very tiring weekend.

We are certainly in the home stretch now as the 10 – 12’s have 9 days of classes left, while the other students have 13 days, and we all know the days will fly by. We also know that this time of year can be very trying for all of the learners in the building, and at times it can feel like we are just holding on by the thinnest of threads. Larry Ferlazo talks about this in his article, Finishing the School Year Strongwhich is an interesting read with some great ideas. He discusses the idea of finishing strong, offering these two suggestions;

Students can reflect on these two questions, turning their answers into posters that can be hung around the classroom as reminders and shared with each other:

  • What are three things you can do to help finish the school year strong academically?
  • What is one thing you can do to help your classmates finish the year strong academically?

As you think about where you are with your course loads, what needs to be done to finish strong, while maintaining that critical relationship with the students? We know it’s not easy, but how can you make everyday count from here on in? While you do this, I sincerely hope you find joy and happiness in every moment with your students.

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

Grade 5/6 off to Camp Kadesh

Tuesday:

Grade 5/6 return from camping trip

Wednesday:

High school ball tournament

Thursday:

Bruce away all day at daughter’s field trip to Pike Lake

Friday:

K1, 2/3, and 5/6 swimming in Rosthern

 

As always, create a great week!

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June 5th – 9th

A touch windy, but wow, was that a beautiful weekend! The weather was perfect to be outside, and we took full advantage both days. On Saturday, we took part in the annual Martensville  Buster Days Pancake Breakfast. We have been doing this every year since moving to Martensville, and it is so cool to be able to share the experience with the kids, who gobble down their pancakes and sausage as fast as they can so they can get a look at the model train exhibit. From there we ventured downtown, found a prime spot and waited for the parade, another huge hit with the kids. Sunday was another great day to be with family, as we went for a picnic at the University (beside Innovation Place), and then wandered over to Grandma’s house for some dessert, and some shade. While we were there the kids were put to work, pulling weeds and planting flowers.

Grandma teaching Maggie how to plant flowers.

As I watched my two youngest planting marigolds with my mom, I was reminded of something George Couros (@gcouros) spoke about at CAP2017. He talked about how it’s sometimes necessary to be the “sage on the stage”, that we can’t always leave the learning to the students to discover all on their own. My mom and dad were always so proud of their flower gardens in Watrous, and were always in contention for yard of the year, as that was an annual award that was presented in our home town. It was wonderful to see our kids learning from their grandma, she gave them clear instructions and helped them navigate the soil, helped them press the flower into the dirt with just the right touch, and then apply just enough water. As I watched I was guilty of thinking about school and how we balance when to lead and when to step aside and let the kids explore on their own. When you think about the skill building that goes on in your class, when do you need to be the “sage on the stage” and when do you need to be the “guide by their side”? This also made me think of this very popular video of a girl learning how to ski jump, it’s a fun video.

We have a shortened week ahead, however we all know it will be no less busy. On Monday you have a full prep day, this is your time to use as you wish. I will be in and out of meetings all day, so if you see my door closed, it’s likely that I’m in with someone. I’m very excited to say that Jesse Reis will be joining us for part of the day, hopefully you will get a chance to meet him and introduce yourself to our new VP. On Thursday our 4, 5, and 6 qualifiers will be heading over to Hepburn for the annual WHHRLS track meet, that should be a great day!

Here is what lies ahead for the week:

Monday:

  • Prep Day
  • I’m in meetings at 9:00, 10:30, and 1:30

Tuesday:

  • Bruce, David, and Jesse at ALT

Wednesday:

  • Bruce in transition meetings with Joanne

Thursday:

  • Katharine, Dwayne, and Bruce at WHHRLS all day

Friday:

  • Bruce in transition meetings with Joanne

As always, create a great week!

 

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