October 16 – 20

What a tremendous weekend! The fun started for me Friday night as I got to go see one of my favorite things, live WWE wrestling. Now, before you laugh, or worse….judge….I’ve enjoyed this entertainment for years, dating way back to the late ’70s when I used to get caught up in Stampede Wrestling. And yes, I know it’s staged, but it’s still fun! Saturday and Sunday were quiet days around the house, I caught up on some reading and some laundry, which were both overdue, and now I look forward to another great week of learning.

If you will allow me to go back to the wrestling event I went to, I made a connection on the drive home between what I had been a part of and a conversation Jon Yellowlees, Jesse and I had earlier that same day. Jon was curious about the work we had been doing at school, and more specifically around our school goals. I shared with him the work you did on Friday, November 6th, and I was so excited to share stories from our day of learning together. As he read over the goals we discussed, and as he reviewed the great things you are focusing on he asked me a question that I struggled to answer. He asked, “what is that one common goal the entire staff is working towards this year?” The thing was, I knew that question was coming, and still I struggled with putting into words what that goal is, that one thing that unites us all, regardless of assignment or grade. As we talked, and as he coached, it became clear to him what it is we are working on. 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). What it took for Jesse and I was a coach to reflect to us what it is we are doing, and it helped me see the forest from the trees.

So, what is the connection between our school goal and a bunch of pumped up professional wrestlers? I started to think about the goal that company has each and every time they go out and perform. These guys travel the road, working over 200 days per year for different audiences all over North America, and their goal is simple; give every fan in the crowd an exciting evening where they can suspend belief and root for the good guy and boo the bad guy. Now, for that company, it does not matter if you are the guy who sets up the ring or the girl who announces the wrestlers or the two mammoth men who fight in the main event, everyone plays a role in achieving the company’s goal.

As you think about our goal, 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), how do you feel? How does your professional goal that you are working on support the broader goal? I think about the conversation I had with Evan earlier this year, and how he is working towards developing assessments that go beyond the typical pencil and paper tests that are typical of a math class. I think about how doing this will lead to a deeper understanding of his students, and thus support our broader school goal. I’m looking forward to many more discussions with all of you about your goal and how it supports the work we are all doing.

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • beep, beep,  bus driver appreciation day!
  • classroom visits: what question can I ask you to help you reflect?

Tuesday:

  • Jesse away at ALT coaching
  • classroom visits: what question can I ask you to help you reflect?

Wednesday:

  • Jesse away at ALT coaching (day 2)
  • classroom visits: what question can I ask you to help you reflect?

Thursday:

  • classroom visits: what question can I ask you to help you reflect?

Friday:

  • classroom visits: what question can I ask you to help you reflect?

As always, create a great week!

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October 9th – 13th

Thankful for the simple things in life, like a yummy dessert and a coffee.

When a person stops, and really takes stock of the great things they have in their lives, it can be overwhelming. I think about the amazing family I have, my mom, brother, sisters, nieces, nephew, cousins, aunties, uncles, and in-laws. I look at my kids and marvel at who they are becoming. It truly is a blessing. I also think about my work family, the wonderful adults and students I get to spend time with on a daily basis, working on learning. It’s easy to get caught up in the hectic nature of our day-to-day work, but it is weekends like this that allow us to pause and reflect on those who surround us. Hopefully you were able to take some time to relax and reconnect with those who are the most important to you.

On Friday we spent the morning discussing what we believe is important for our students, and then discussed how we see ourselves bringing these things to life for all learners at Waldheim School. It was one of those mornings where it felt like the learning conversations could go on and on, and I felt terrible for having to cut some of them short. Hopefully you will find time to continue those discussions, and continue wrestling with the big question, how do we know. I tried to capture our thoughts from your goals and conversations and attempted to highlight the essence of our work. Here is what I saw and heard on Friday morning:

Goals for Waldheim Learners

What I found so encouraging on Friday morning was that every goal each of you brought to the discussion was focused on students and their learning. Some of the goals were centered on literacy, some on mathematics, some on leadership, and some on assessment, but all of them spoke to wanting to make Waldheim School a better place for all students. As we continue to grow as a learning community, consider the following questions:

  1. how will you know if you are on the right track?
    1. what will you do to recalibrate if you aren’t?
    2. what will you do to stretch yourself if you are?
  2. how can you use your colleagues as a means of support?
    1. can they stretch your thinking?
    2. can they offer you feedback?
  3. how will you share your celebrations with
    1. students?
    2. colleagues?
    3. parents?
  4. how will you remove barriers for your students?

I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations and more in the days to come.

Here’s what’s on the horizon:

Tuesday:

  • Lori Jeschke popping by for a visit (am)
  • Bruce at division office (pm)
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

Wednesday:

  • Library closed (meeting 9:00 – 10:25)
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

Thursday:

  • Fire drill ~ pm (K – 6 assembly to follow (tentative))
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

Friday:

  • Jon Yellowlees school visit
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

As always, create a great week!

 

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Oct. 2nd – 6th

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

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

Tuesday

  • Classroom visits

Wednesday

  • Classroom visits

Thursday

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

Friday

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

As always, create a great week!

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Sept. 25th – 29th

How do I know? How do we know?

These questions have been rattling around my head for weeks, especially after our last Administrative Leadership Team (ALT) meeting. These questions were asked to the ALT group as we discussed several items related to student and adult learning, and since then I have found myself struggling to find answers. Last week I wondered if my daughter was “learning” anything as she created a stuffed owl (read here), and how, if I had to, could I measure that learning. So often we feel we need data to validate what we feel. As teachers we have an instinct about our students and about what they have learned, and often we use tests or assignments to support and report. The numbers support our beliefs and we can use them to report to parents. I think that’s why when a student scores poorly on a test or a project and we have anticipated they would do very well, we start asking questions. Rarely do I remember asking myself, “hmm, how did that top student score well on that test?” Nor do I remember wondering why a student who consistently struggled in the past failed a test, after all it was just validating what I had anticipated.

But why should it take a misalignment of our predictions and the results to prompt us to ask why?

At our ALT meeting we were asked to predict the outcomes from our 2016/17 developmental reading assessments (DRA) for grades 1, 2, and 3. After taking some time to reflect I committed myself to my predictions and waited in anticipation as our learning superintendent shuffled through his papers to find our data. When I saw the data and set it beside my predictions I noticed the two sets were not aligned, in fact I was way off! While our results showed our students in grades 1, 2, and 3 were performing slightly below the division mean I was not overly worried about our students and their ability to read at grade level now or in the future. What caused that feeling? A clear understanding of the commitment to student learning that each teacher at Waldheim School has shown over the course of my 14 months of being associated with this school. What did give me pause was the fact that I did not “know” the students better than that. How could my hunch be so off? How is it that I overestimated their results so drastically? For whatever reasons, and I’m sure there are many, I did not know the students as well as I thought I did. This leads back to the question, “how do I know”. Obviously when I made my prediction it was based on shaky ground, I didn’t really know, but rather I was being cautiously optimistic. As you know, my goal this year is to be more curious. More curious about what you are working on and more curious about what and how the students are learning. Hopefully next year when I’m asked the same question I will know a little more than I did this year.

When you think of your students’ learning, how do you know?

Here’s what lies ahead for a relatively quiet week:

Monday:

  • K-6 staff meeting (3:15 @ Departures)
  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)

Tuesday:

  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)

Wednesday:

  • EA meeting (8:00 am ~ library)
  • Fire Drill (am), Lockdown (pm)
  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)

Thursday:

  • Terry Fox Run/Walk
  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)

Friday:

  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)

As always, create a great week!

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Sept. 18th – 22nd

As I am sitting down to write this week’s edition of On the Horizon, my 7 year old daughter, Eva, is busy working away on one of her birthday gifts. She received a sewing kit from her auntie, and in it are all the materials for her to create her own little stuffed owl. It’s pretty cute, but it also requires a lot of side-by-side learning. This is one of those moments when I’m in a little over my head, as I am not a master at sewing, not even close! What I have noticed, however, is that she is much more able to solve her own problems as she continues to struggle with her kid-safe needle and thread. This whole activity is a perfect microcosm of what learning should be, a kid engaged in an activity that interests her (she’d have given up on Lego long ago), is stretching her (it even says it’s for 8+), and has a clearly defined product. My role has gone from helping her set up and demonstrating how to pull the needle and thread through, to a cheerleader on the side.

So, what mark should she get?

My friend, George Couros (@gcouros), posted a link to this article by Bill Ferriter. In it Ferriter talks about the good old, SWBAT acronym, and for those of you relatively new to the profession, SWBAT stands for students will be able to. When I was teaching math, all of my lesson plans would contain SWBAT, and to be honest, it was pretty easy to come up with these objectives, especially for my senior level math classes. While it was easy to create a statement to put on the board (i.e. students will be able to identify the numerical coefficients from a quadratic equation and use the quadratic formula to solve the equation), it wasn’t always easy to measure what they had learned. In the end, I was focusing on what was measurable, not what was meaningful.This brings me back to Eva’s sewing activity. How do I measure what she has learned, and how do I share this with her mom who is currently at work and not seeing the process? I could count the number of errors she has made, but will that be an accurate measurement? I could record how long it took her, and then ask her to complete another one, but will that be an accurate measurement? I could find out if any other kids her age have sewn an owl kit like this and set them side by side and see which one looks better, but will that be an accurate measurement? The funny thing is that’s how I used to measure learning when I was teaching other subjects, like grade 5 social studies, or senior psychology, and as I reflect, I am sure I wasn’t always measuring what was important. As Eva was working, I asked her, “Eva, what are you learning?” Her response was, “I’m not learning, I’m just sewing”. Interesting. I bet if I had given her a sheet of addition questions or a spelling list she’d be able to formulate a different answer to that question. Has she already been trained to think that if it isn’t readily measurable it’s not really learning? If so, that makes me a little sad.

As we continue along our learning journey this year, keep asking yourself, “am I measuring what’s measurable or what’s meaningful?”

Maybe the smile is all the measurement I need.

 

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Jon Yellowlees is popping out for a visit
  • Cross country meet in Langham
  • Class visits

Tuesday:

  • SCC meeting 5:00 pm
  • Class visits

Wednesday:

  • EA PD meeting 8:00 am (library)
  • IA magazine sale fundraiser kickoff (9:00ish ~ library)
  • School pictures (in the gym)
  • Holly Kruger at school to meet with various teachers
  • Class visits

Thursday:

  • Meet the teacher BBQ
  • Class visits (am) / BBQ set up (pm)

Friday:

  • Classroom visits

As always, create a great week!

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Sept. 11th – 15th

Another wonderful weekend with the kiddos, lots of fun activities going on to keep us busy. On Saturday we spent time visiting my mom, and my niece and her new baby girl. Bobby and Charlie are interested in the baby, but it’s Eva and Maggie who are really over the moon with her. They spent a lot of time holding the baby, feeding her, and just laughing at the noises and faces she makes. It was so cute to watch as they were playing with their own real live doll. Sunday was another fun day as we celebrated Eva’s 7th birthday. It’s hard to believe it’s been 7 years already,  but she’s growing up to be a pretty spectacular kid.

It’s also hard to believe we have completed a week of school already, it just seems like yesterday we were enjoying the beautiful summer weather. When I think back on the week, I am very encouraged by the enthusiasm I’ve seen and heard in the hallways and classrooms. The students were hard at work and I saw things like:

  • coding
  • creating oobleck
  • sketching objects from different angles
  • running football routes
  • practicing multiplication skills
  • getting over fears and self doubt
  • small group discussions on learned helplessness
  • discussing our favorite numbers

And this was just in one short week! One of the things that really stood out was the mindset all of you have taken with your students. There is a feeling of belief in every classroom, and I hear things like, “you can if” and “what if you tried this”, it’s so great to see! During the year there will be a lot of discussions about mindset, and lots of opportunities at staff meetings and during hallway conversations to think about the power of our belief in the students we are working with. A friend of mine posted this article online today and as I read it I really wanted to go back and start my teaching career over. So many of my tasks were very superficial, not intentionally, but rarely did I really push my students to make “stretch mistakes” nor did I seize enough on “a-ha moment mistakes”. Too often I jumped in to help rescue the students, this is something Joanne and I talked about last week as she was discussing learned helplessness with her psychology class. If you have a chance give the article a read, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Staff meeting (3:15 pm) ~ Big Idea: How do I structure my environment to optimize learning
  • Bruce meeting with SCC chair (am)
  • Classroom visits

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & Jesse away at ALT, Katharine will be acting administrator

Wednesday:

  • Meet the teacher BBQ preparation
  • Evan away with senior golfers
  • Classroom visits

Thursday:

  • Meet the teacher BBQ (4:30 – 6:30 pm)
  • Brittney away learning about effective writing instruction
  • Classroom visits

Friday:

  • Katharine away learning about effective writing instruction

As always, create a great week!

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Sept. 4th – 8th

I took the twins to Watrous today as they are spending the next few days with their grandpa and grandma, an annual trek that all of our kids have enjoyed over the years. They have so much fun learning from grandma, be looking after her dog, helping her bake cookies, or learning about why Little Manitou Lake is so buoyant. One of my favorite things to do when I drop the kids off is take some time to drive around Watrous and Manitou Beach, I love the colors and smells of September as the leaves begin to turn and fall.

While I love the sights and smells of fall, what I really love is the feeling of first day back. Your rooms look great, the kids will have their supplies nice and new, there will be fresh hair cuts, new shoes, fancy outfits, and a lot of happy parents. I know how my kids are feeling about going back tomorrow, Eva is so excited for grade 2, while Bobby is a little more reserved, but I know he’s excited as well as he heads for grade 5. How do you think your students are feeling? What’s going through their minds as they lay their heads on their pillows tonight? I’d also invite you to think about your own thoughts about the students who are coming into your classes. Who is going to need a little extra love? Who is going to learn in a way that is different than the rest? Who is going to teach you to teach in different ways? Through all of this, I’d invite you to reflect on our conversation last week, our conversation about why we do what we do.

Enjoy tomorrow, create a great day for your students, and let’s make this the best year it can be for everyone!

What Lies Ahead:

Monday:

  • Labor Day, no school

Tuesday:

  • First day of classes
  • Assembly at 9:30 (listen for all call prior to coming to the gym)
  • Classroom visits

Wednesday:

  • Classroom visits

Thursday:

  • Classroom visits

Friday:

  • Classroom visits

As always, create a great week!

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June 26th – 30th

Hopefully everyone had a terrific weekend, whether you were working in the yard, playing with your kids, catching some music at the JazzFest, or just relaxing with a book on the deck. We had a quiet weekend, we spent Saturday at the University where the kids took time to look at the dinosaur bones, ride the glass elevator, run around on the grass, and have a snack. Sunday was also a quiet day, we were able to get lots of chores around the house and yard completed.

This will be a short message this week, as I just want to say thank you for an incredible year. Coming over last August, I was nervous and excited, however all of you quickly helped me feel at home, and it wasn’t long until I felt like part of the team. I was amazed at the level of adult learning that all of you have committed to this year, your hard work has helped make Waldheim School an amazing place for all of the learners, young and old. Thank you for all of your support and trust this year, moving into the principals role mid-year presented it’s own unique challenges, however your patience and honest communication helped make this a very successful year.

As we look forward to the new school year, I will be sending out some information regarding what to expect during the first week and month of school next year. Until then, create a great week, and a wonderful summer!

Here’s what lies ahead:

Monday:

  • Grade 1 – 6 swimming
  • Kindergarten orientation
  • Jesse Reis visiting

Tuesday:

  • Grade 8 field trip

Wednesday:

  • Last day of classes for grades 1 – 9
  • Progress reports (1 – 9) go home

Thursday:

  • Work day at school (duty sheet will be put up in staff room)
  • Grad

Friday:

  • Last day of work for the 16/17 school year
  • Grade 10 & 11 progress reports available for pick up
  • Staff free to leave at 12:00 noon
  • Please leave summer contact information at the office

Create a great week!

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June 19th – 23rd

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there! I hope your day was a great as mine, I had an incredible weekend in the company of my family, which is always nice. On Friday night we had the twins’ 4th birthday celebration (their actual birthday is on Tuesday, 20th), and that was as wild as you can imagine a party for twins would be…lots of gift wrap and cake crumbs 🙂 On Saturday, I took the kids to the movie Cars 3, which was really interesting as the first Cars movie was one of Bobby’s early favorites, and one he has watched repeatedly in the van or on TV. I think he even got a little tear in his eye at one point, lots of fun! Today was another wonderful day as the kids and I ventured up to Waskesiu for the day. This gave us some time to play and explore, while leaving the house nice and quiet for Krista as she’s working nights at RUH. Needless to say, I’m a tad bit tired tonight, so this will be a bit of a shorter post.

David and I were marveling at the incredible feeling around the school this week, between the Jones Awards, the ball tournament, the elementary swimming, and the commitment to learning each and every day. While we were at the CAP conference last month, I jotted a note down in my book as this thought popped in my head, “how do you measure the unmeasurable?” Last week was one of those weeks, one where there was such a high level of student engagement, but engagement that does not get measured or reported on through any  surveys. I was amazed at the level of engagement at the Jones Awards as the students who dared, put their talents on display. Not every piece was performed flawlessly, but the students didn’t care, they cheered just as loud for each and every one. Not sure how to quantify how my heart felt during those performances. At the ball tournament, students of all abilities and ages took part in a student organized, student lead activity. Kids were coming and going from the tournament, and there was never a sense of students getting into mischief, or looking for ways to create problems. As David and I watched we were so impressed with the incredibly positive choices every student was making. Not sure how to quantify how my heart felt during those games.

What last week reminded me of was how blessed we all are to be working with such amazing students. This is the result of the culture you have fostered. You have given the students the power and desire to lead, thank you for that! As you take time over the next two weeks to reflect on the year that was, I invite you to think about which students you have really connected with, and the impact you have had on them. I’d also like you to think about the impact they have had on you. How have your students changed you this year? How have they made you a better teacher? Will you tell them? Thank them?

Here is what lies ahead this week:

Monday

  • Staff meeting (3 pm)

Tuesday

  • Celebration of Excellence Ceremony (1 pm)

Wednesday

  • 4/5 Hardy to Shekinah
  • Kindergarten Grad
  • Gr. 1 Science Fair

Thursday

  • Kindergarten Grad

Friday

  • Swimming, swimming, swimming!
  • Farewell luncheon
  • Final exams (day 1)

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!

 287 total views