March 20th – 24th

I’m most proud of the blessings that God has bestowed upon me, in my life. He’s given me the vision to truly see that you can fall down, but you can still get back up. Hopefully I’ll learn from my mistakes and have the opportunity to strengthen and improve the next thing I do.

Martin Lawrence

Last week was one that was filled with all sorts of learning opportunities for me, as I walked along side all of you during another week of learning at Waldheim School. I was filled with pride when I witnessed the hard work of the student organizing committee under the guidance of Trace come together for our annual hockey tournament. While the hockey wasn’t NHL caliber, heck I was allowed on the ice so that says it all, the feeling in and around the rink reminded me of a very special time in my life. About 35 years ago my mother’s side of the family all gathered in Waskesiu for a family reunion and while we were there we organized a game of softball. My mom comes from a large family, she had 6 sisters and one brother, and with many of my cousins there, we had enough for two teams. I can still remember how much fun it was to be playing with my family, just enjoying the weather and enjoying each others company. I sensed that feeling on Thursday at the rink. Not only were there classmates cheering on the students, there were parents, grandparents, former teachers, current teachers, and community members. I felt so blessed to be a part of that day. Thank you to Trace and the crew for such a great event.

There were other learning opportunities last week, times when the feelings may not have been as exciting as they were at the rink. These moments will happen when people work together, and it is these moments when some of our greatest growth can occur. I really like the quote from Martin Lawrence that I included above, however another quote that has really stuck with me since I heard it is, trees grow in the valleys, not on the mountain tops. It is from the high peaks that we can see the growth that has occurred in the valleys. That quote has been paraphrased, and I borrowed it from a very smart friend of mine, I’m sure he won’t mind. As we move into our parent/teacher conferences this week, I invite you to stand upon the mountain tops and look down into the valleys below. What have you learned about each student in your care? How will you celebrate the great things with their parent(s)? How will you present future learning opportunities in a way that gives people hope and gets them excited to come back to school? In this week’s learning link I’ve included an article from Edutopia that contains resources and ideas for parent/teacher conferences. Have a look and see if there are some ideas that can have a positive impact on your conferences this week. Here’s a little inspiration for you…hopefully no interviews like this 🙂

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Business as usual

Tuesday:

  • Business as usual

Wednesday:

  • P/T conferences (supper provided)

Thursday:

  • David gone all day (VTRA Level I Training)
  • P/T conferences (supper provided)

Friday:

  • Teacher prep day
  • Bruce gone all day (Prince Albert ~ Conference)
  • David gone all day (VTRA Level I Training)

 

As always, create a great week!

 207 total views

March 13th – 17th

One last taste of winter (hopefully), as it looks like there are some great days ahead in the forecast. Great news as we can get back to outdoor recesses, which I know the students (and you) all missed. Let’s make sure we’re helping Jamie by reminding our students to keep their wet outdoor clothing as neat and tidy as possible. Speaking of Jamie and our care taking crew, Malinda has now started her leave as per her doctors instructions, and I’m excited to announce that Megan and Kailey Fehr have been the successful applicants for the replacement position as assistant caretaker.

Thank you to all of you who worked so hard to get your progress reports, with comments, into the office by Friday. This will give David and I plenty of time to read over them, not to find fault, but to deepen our understanding of the students. If we spot things that need to be altered we will let you know as soon as possible, this way there will be less stress on Corinne to get them all printed and out by this Friday. Having a look at the comments will also give us a better understanding of where we are at as a school with how we share our students’ progress with our families. I believe that while they are just a snap shot, progress reports are a tremendous way to share with our parents what their children are doing well, what they can improve on, and most importantly, how you as a teacher will work with them to help them grow as a learner.

We have a busy week ahead with many learning opportunities for us to seize upon. David and I are away at an ALT meeting, where the focus is always on collaborative learning, we have an EA meeting this week, again the focus is on learning together, David and Brenda will be attending another Aspiring Administrator meeting, deepening their learning, and finally, Jon Yellowlees will be out on Friday to visit classrooms. When you think about all the great learning opportunities that present themselves, what role do you think you play in the overall learning culture of our school? What do  you bring to the school that no one else does? How can you share that? How can David and I celebrate that? When I think about the gifts you bring to the school,  I’m reminded of a video I saw where Denzel Washington (who doesn’t love Denzel?!?) shares a motivational talk with his fellow actors. The audio isn’t great, but the message is. Have a look, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Leah’s Genius Hour school presentation (afternoon & evening for parents)

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & David at ALT all day

Wednesday:

  • Brenda & David at Aspiring Administrators course (pm)

Thursday:

  • EA meeting (8:00)
  • School hockey tournament

Friday:

  • Jon Yellowlees visit (pm)
  • 1 – 8 progress reports sent home

 

As always, create a great week!

 

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March 6th – 10th

Guitar making. Just the start of the hands on learning that will continue for years and years with this project.

Sunday morning greeted us with a fresh blanket of snow, and a reminder that we aren’t “out of the woods yet” as it relates to winter. The snow is actually quite timely as we will be handing out the ski trip information sheets on Monday, lucky coincidence I guess. Along with the changing weather in March comes another regular event, that being progress reports and parent/teacher conferences, which are just around the corner. We are asking for the grade 1 to 8 progress reports, with comments, to be submitted to the office no later than Friday, March 10th. This will give David and I plenty of time to read over the reports which serves multiple purposes:

  • we get to know the students better
  • we get a greater insight into how you see your students as learners
  • we have a chance to offer feedback
  • we are able to catch any typpos typos that might sneak through

When you are crafting your progress report comments, please consider the following approach:

  1. What evidence do you have that the student has achieved the outcomes you have laid out
  2. What is something you would like the student to work on (academic focus) during the next reporting period
  3. How will you work with the student towards achieving point 2

 

Progress reports and parent/teacher conferences cause me to reflect on the work David and I have been doing around classroom visits and reflective feedback during the month of February. David and I have had many conversations sharing our struggles as we are trying to develop our skills as they relate to asking you questions to help move your learning forward. As we reflect together there are several things that are clear:

  • we are recognizing things we need to work on (i.e. how to ask an open ended question that honors what it is you are wanting us to look at)
  • we are taking time to work together on this
  • we are blessed with a tremendous staff that is patient and willing to learn with us
  • we are blessed to be inheriting a collaborative culture that Chris and Reg created
  • we are having fun! I can’t count how many times we’ve laughed at ourselves and caught ourselves on the cusp of tears due to the amazing things happening at Waldheim School

 

Side by side learning can take many forms. Sometimes it just requires creativity, risk taking, and collaboration.

This week’s Learning Link is an article from Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) and it is focused on how teachers reflect. He shares four approaches he takes, some are unique (VLOGs), some are downright scary (asking kids for feedback), but all of them caused me to think about how I reflected as a teacher and how I reflect as an administrator. One of my favorite ways is to send out a quick tweet, but for deeper reflection, I often turn to my mentor. I will share celebrations and struggles with her, and she has an amazing knack for asking the right questions to move my thinking forward. I’d love to hear how you reflect.

Here is was lies ahead this week:

Monday

  • Staff meeting 3:15 in home ec lab

Tuesday

  • Sharlene away at an ILO

Wednesday

  • Karen Campbell here to work with Brittney & Trace

Thursday

  • Brenda off to Rosthern to shadow their SERT for the morning

Friday

  • 1 – 8 reports & comments due to the office
  • Geography 20 $10 city trip (curious? Talk to David, it’s a cool idea!)
  • Subway lunch

 300 total views

Feb. 27 – Mar. 3rd

I hope everyone had a relaxing break, whether you were lounging on a beach somewhere, hanging out at hockey rinks, or just taking things slowly at home. We stayed close to home this week, with the odd trip in to Saskatoon to grandma’s house, some skating in Warman, and a couple of meals out (5 Guys for lunch and Amigos for supper….yum!). I’m really looking forward to getting back to work, back to a routine, and back to the energy and enthusiasm of the students and staff.

As David and I mentioned earlier in February, we will continue to visit classrooms, however we want to be much more intentional about what we are looking for, and the discussions we are having with you. This is where we need your help. Please let David and I know what you would like us to be looking for when we do our classroom visits. We realize that timing will have an impact on this, for example, if you wanted us to listen to how you use wait time with your questions and we pop in during the independent work portion of your lesson, we may not see much questioning. In that case we could talk about other things, but I don’t think it is helpful to try and force feedback where it doesn’t fit. Please complete this very quick 3 question survey to provide David and I with some guidance.

When Sandra Herbst was here in February one thing she talked about was the environment as the third teacher in the classroom. Classroom set up was something I was always playing with when I was in the classroom, always tinkering with the set up to the point where students started questioning me on Monday mornings if I hadn’t moved things. One thing I never considered was moving furniture during the lesson, how things looked in the morning was usually how things looked at 3:00. After watching this video, which is this week’s learning linkI wonder how much more effective the teaching and learning could have been had I used the environment as a tool to differentiate. Have a look, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here is what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Day 6, first day back at it.

Tuesday:

  • Grade 8 field trip to Saskatoon

Wednesday:

  • Business as usual

Thursday:

  • Pizza for lunch at the booth

Friday:

  • Business as usual

 

As always, create a great week!

 202 total views

Feb. 13th – 17th

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

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

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

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

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Business as usual

Tuesday:

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

Wednesday:

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

Thursday:

  • Pizza sale
  • Valentines Dance

Friday:

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

 

As always, create a great week!

 199 total views

Feb. 6th – 10th

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

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

Leah has devised a great way to communicate with students.

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

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • staff meeting after school in the Home Ec lab

Tuesday:

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

Wednesday:

  • Business as usual

Thursday:

  • Business as usual

Friday:

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

Create a great week!

 196 total views

Jan. 30 – Feb. 3rd

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

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

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

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

Prep day

Tuesday (day 4):

First day of semester two

Wednesday:

Business as usual

Thursday:

Groundhog Day!

Friday:

Wood turning in-service hosted by Glen

As always, create a great week!

 160 total views

Jan. 9th to 13th

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

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

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

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

Here’s what lies ahead for this week:

Monday: 

  • Subway orders are due

Tuesday:

  • Chris away all day

Wednesday:

  • Business as usual

Thursday:

  • Pizza lunch

Friday:

  • Subway lunch

 

As always, create a great week!

 145 total views

January 2nd to 6th

The force was with us!

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

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

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

Tuesday 3rd 

  • Welcome back!

 

Wednesday 4th

  • Business as usual

 

Thursday 5th

  • Chris away (pm only)

 

Friday 6th

  • Epiphany

 

Create a great week!

 

 501 total views

December 19th – 23rd

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

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

10 Questions for Christmas Break Reflection

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

 

Great questions to think about over the break.

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

Here’s what lies ahead for the week:

Monday:

  • Christmas concert matinee performance

Tuesday:

  • K-6 pizza sale
  • Christmas concert evening performance

Wednesday:

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

 

Create a great week everyone!

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