Just Let Go. June 18 – 22

“It’s okay daddy,  just hang on and then let go!” Those were the words of my seven year old daughter, Eva, today as we spent a bit of Father’s Day at their new favorite place, Clip and Climb. This is a place that makes wall climbing accessible for all ages and abilities, and does so in a safe, fun way. As I watched all four of my kids scurry up rope ladders, climbing walls, and jungle gyms, I noticed my palms were beginning to sweat, and my chest was getting a little tight. You see, I’m very scared of heights. This fear makes several things difficult for me, like hanging Christmas lights on my house, cleaning eave troughs, or fixing the banners in the gym. I don’t like heights, but there I was, in my safety harness, with my little ones who were encouraging me to go for it. I cautiously started up a pretty basic structure, and when I was about 8 feet off the ground I went for it….almost. That’s when my seven year old reminded me to just let go. So I did. It was such a rush of adrenaline as I was lowered safely to the ground via an autobelay that is specifically designed to prevent you from free falling to the ground.

Eva floating down.

I had successfully dipped my toe in the water, and was ready for my next climb. This is when Bobby asked me to climb the rope ladder with him. As we made our way up, I noticed I was beginning to feel very nervous again. Bobby swiftly made it right to the top of his ladder, while I froze half way up, a height that I’d say was about 50 feet up, while in reality, was likely more around 15 feet. Regardless, I was faced with the same challenge, just let go. It took quite a few deep breaths, and some encouragement from the staff, but again, I went for it. I repeated this pattern over and over, even commiserating with some other parents that had been coerced into the “fun”. As I kept trying different structures something started to change. I have no idea when exactly it happened, but after a while I noticed I was not scared anymore, I was tired, but not scared. I was taking more chances, climbing higher, taking a few more risks, and all the while, having a lot of fun!

My sister’s b-day cake. Always lots of joking in our family.

Initially I was going to write about the importance of laughter, and it’s therapeutic benefits (see here) after we had spent time at my sister’s birthday party on Saturday. It was today’s experience, though, that had me reflecting on the work we’ve done this year and the change that awaits all of us next year. I know when we started our learning journey this year there was some fear and nervousness, and each of us had to just let go at some point. Just as I was completely exhausted at the end of the day today, I know we are all tired as the end of the year approaches. While I was exhausted, I was also proud of what I had done in overcoming some of my fears. As the end of the year creeps closer, I am also very proud of the work that has been done at our school this year. For a moment, I’d like you to consider the following:

  • what filled you with fear and/or nervousness at the start of the year?
  • how did you work to overcome these fears?
  • how do you feel about the work you’ve done now that the end of the year approaches?
  • how can you draw on what you learned this year to help you continue to grow next year and beyond?

We have a great week ahead, with a lot of work for all learners at #WaldheimSchool, and it starts tomorrow with a grade 7 & 8 field trip. Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday

  • grade 7/8 trip to Redberry

Tuesday

  • Bruce away (am) swimming with kids pre-K class

Wednesday

  • Annual awards ceremony

Thursday: National Indigenous Peoples Day

  • Bruce away (am) classroom environment meeting
  • Bricks 4 Kids day 2
  • Annual Jones awards
  • Last day of classes (10 – 12)

Friday

  • Final exams begin
  • Laird Grad

As always, create a great week!

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Pride and Joy: June 11 – 15

What gives you pride and joy in your work? When Brad was out for a visit on Friday afternoon, he asked that question, one which had been asked by Lori Jeschke on a few different occasions. Pride and joy at work. At one point I would have thought that was an oxymoron, I would have said pride and joy at work was like jumbo shrimp, or found missing. The thing is, when asked about what gives me pride and joy at work, I actually had more trouble narrowing it down than I did with coming up with just one answer. Before you read any further, however, I’d like you to answer the question yourself. What brings you pride and joy at work?

I’ll get to my answer in a bit, but I need to share the other side of the coin, what brings me pride and joy in my life. If you visit this blog, it’s likely very obvious; it’s my children. I am always in awe of the things they do, and sometimes I may be in awe of the poor choices. For instance, how did anyone think that putting apple sauce on the family dog would be a great idea, but one of my kids did, and I was in awe of that decision. Of course there are other moments, moments when I sit back and think, “how did they become so awesome!?!” This Saturday was one of those moments when I was full of pride and joy.

The forecast was for clear, sunny skies, so I could not resist a trip up to Waskesiu with Bobby, Maggie, and Charlie, while Krista and Eva were at Girl Guides camp at Pike Lake.As my kids were playing on the beach, I noticed a grandmother and her granddaughter, who I’d assume was about 15 months old given how she walked on the beach, approach the area where my kids were digging. I made my way over to them, just to be sure Charlie would not inadvertently hurt the little girl, however to my surprise, Charlie got down on his knees and said, “hi there. Do you want to play?” She instinctively reached for the shovel he had, and that’s when the pride kicked in. He offered it up to her, and then proceeded to show her the rest of their beach toys. They played together under her grandmother’s supervision for a few minutes before she toddled away on another adventure, while Charlie returned to the place that Bobby and Maggie were playing. These two will likely never see each other again, however it was during that moment that their lives intersected that I felt great pride in my little guy.

When I think about the joy in my life, I also think about the time I get to spend with my family. Today was one of those days as I was able to take the kids to the University for a walk, then to my mom’s for a visit, and finally, to Art in the Park to look around and listen to a little music. We have so much fun together, and the part that brings me so much joy is the way they fully capture me, allowing me to put the rest of my life on pause for a moment. This brings me great joy.

Have you answered the question yet? What brings you pride and joy at work?

For me, I feel great pride when members of the #WaldheimSchool community achieve success as a result of their efforts. It could be personal bests in athletics, nailing a line or song in the play, creating a great product in class, hitting a home run in a lesson they’ve delivered, delivering an engrossing presentation to the staff at a staff meeting, or successfully planting the seeds for a more engaged community. So many people do so many different, amazing things at our school, and it’s being able to be a part of that that brings me great pride.

When I think about what brings me joy at work, I think it’s when I see or hear about those who struggle the most have moments of success. I’m never as happy as when someone who is full of self doubt smiles with pride, and when someone who tells themself, “I can’t do that”, and then they turn around and exceed their own expectations. I see it everyday, kids and adults alike who are faced with challenges find a way to overcome, and grow. I truly hope you can identify what brings you pride and joy in your work, and I hope you are able to share that with others.

We are three weeks away from the end of the year, let’s make every moment count, and it starts this week:

Monday:

  • Staff meeting
  • Gr. 6 at Camp Kadesh

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & Jesse away at ALT
  • Gr. 6 at Camp Kadesh

Wednesday:

  • Katie Kulchar coming for a visit

Thursday:

  • Div. III Soccer
  • Bricks for Kids (gr. 1/2, 2, 3, 5)

Friday:

  • Grade 7-12 Slo-Pitch tournament

As always, create a great week!

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The Ritual of Reflection. June 4 – 11

Evan battles for 3rd place in his heat.

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

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

Eva & I had a blast doing this one.

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

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

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

Monday:

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

Tuesday:

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

Wednesday:

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

Thursday:

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

Friday:

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

As always, create a great week!

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We’re All Gardeners. May 28 – June 1

“She’s good, all I can do now is leave her alone”. These were the words spoken to me by a parent at Griffiths Stadium on Friday morning as a parent/coach knew her daughter was getting ready to take part in the shot put competition. She knew that her daughter had received all the coaching she needed, and now it was up to her, nothing that could be said was needed as her daughter had been here many times before, and was able to psych herself up, without psyching herself out. The parent knew that her daughter didn’t even want her watching, different than her son who loved having his mom cheer him on and give him feedback. As I watched this it made sense, she knows her kids, she knows their strengths and their areas for growth. She knows when to push, when to pat on the back, when to hug, and when to avoid. Did her kids win every event? No, and that’s not the point. The point is she knows that each of her kids are unique and require unique teaching as she strives to get them to be their best.

Which students in your room need you to push a little more? Which ones thrive when given their own space to think, create, and struggle? Which ones need a little more cheer leading? How do you know?

“Mommy, look at how big these seeds are!” Eva was very excited to help plant the garden this weekend, even if it is a little later than usual. Gardening is my wife’s domain, however she is a firm believer that kids need to get a little dirt under their nails and learn how to grow some produce. It’s something that was passed down from her grandmother to her, and something she has always carried on. I know my role in this process. Prepare the soil, grab a coffee, and stay out of the way (I’m good at that!). The neat thing to watch as our kids grow up is the way Bobby now is able to be independent, and can help with the twins, who are still content just digging holes and using the watering can. As they planted the garden, each kid had a job, Bobby was responsible for the potatoes, start to finish, and he had Charlie helping out covering the holes up, making sure to give them a little pat with his small shovel. Maggie stuck close to mom, asking a million questions and marveling at the size of the seeds. Eva, who had planted before, took care of the beans, peas, carrots, and beets, and in the end, we all pitched in for the clean up.

When you think about the learning in your room, who are the independent leaders that you can count on? How are you stretching them on a regular basis? Who are those beginning learners? How are you meeting them where they are and providing them opportunities to grow? Who are those kids ‘in the middle’? Those ones we might inadvertently overlook if we are not careful. How are you meeting their needs? As the lead gardener in your room, how are you modeling for your kids and how do you celebrate the “learning harvest” that happens every year?

It was an incredible past few days, with our elementary track and field competition on Thursday, to the district meet on Friday, to Saturday’s garden fun, to today’s experimenting with our smoker. What stood out for you this weekend? Will you share this with your students? I wonder what they did, and if they will get a chance to share their stories.

As May turns to June, we are in the process of looking back as we plan for the future. This Monday is another opportunity as Jesse is leading us in some important, big work at our staff meeting. Moving forward we will be asking for your input on our adult learning for next year, and for your feedback on how you felt things went this year.

Until then, here’s what lies ahead for another great week at Waldheim School:

Monday:

  • Staff meeting
  • Classroom visits: what are you reading/writing about, and how is your voice being included?

Tuesday:

  • Classroom visits: what are you reading/writing about, and how is your voice being included?

Wednesday:

  • Fire Drill
  • K & 6 Assembly (1:00 pm)
  • Classroom visits: what are you reading/writing about, and how is your voice being included?

Thursday:

  • Classroom visits: what are you reading/writing about, and how is your voice being included?

Friday:

  • Classroom visits: what are you reading/writing about, and how is your voice being included?

As always, create a great week!

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It’s Not a Pond, It’s an Ocean! May 22 – 25

As the familiar miles rolled by, the kids continued to ask, “dad, are we almost there?” We’ve been to Waskesiu dozens of times, either on a day trip like we were on Sunday, or for an extended holiday, but each trip is met with the same curiosity on the drive north, “dad, are we there yet?” I have come to expect this question, and have realized the best answer is always the truth, because saying, “just a few minutes” when there is actually close to an hour is usually a tactic that backfires. This past weekend we ventured up to enjoy the amazing weather, and the kids had already planned the entire day. Eat a quick lunch that we threw together before we left, hit the beach with shovels in hand, dig a few holes, throw a few rocks in the water, play on the play structure, grab an ice-cream cone, go on an adventure, then supper and finally, sleep all the way home.

Smoke hangs over Waskesiu Lake.

As we walked towards the main beach it was apparent there was going to be some minor adjustments to the plan, as the parking lot was packed, and the beach was equally crowded. On our last trip the kids had most of the beach to themselves as there were only a few other people crazy enough to venture north before the ice had even started to break up. Just like their names in the sand being wiped away by the water, the kids’ disappointment with the jammed beach quickly disappeared as they found what they considered the perfect location by the water to start their “project”. With shovels in hand they began to dig. Bobby barked orders as the kids brought rocks, and shovel loads of sand to the make shift pond that was taking shape on the beach. The dam was breached several times, but on each occasion the excitement was tempered by team work as they fixed their barrier and continued working. As is the norm with these types of things, be it drawings, snow forts, or Lego creations, I usually am not allowed to inspect their work until they are all satisfied with what they’ve created.

Sunday was the same, I sat patiently by the cooler, enjoying a snack and the sun, until all four of the kids came running up to me to invite me to have a look at their handy work. Not wanting to spoil the fun, I didn’t give away the fact that I’d been watching the whole time, and as I made my way over I saw a pond made from sticks, sand, and rocks. On top the walls were decorated with feathers and more twigs. The kids were so proud of their work, and quickly asked what I thought. As Bobby will attest, I can be a bit of a know-it-all when it comes to things like crafts, snowmen, and sand castles, but today, the only feedback I gave was a resounding, “wow! What a great pond! You guys did awesome”. This was met with Maggie’s response, “it’s not a pond daddy, it’s the ocean!”

My goal for the day was for the kids to have fun outside, to play together without knocking each other over the head with a shovel or pail, and to enjoy their time together. I didn’t share this with them, but from afar I was able to observe, and in the process continue to learn about my kids. It’s becoming more and more apparent that while Bobby is the leader due to his age and ability to do (and reach) things the others cannot, it’s Maggie, my 4-year old who is developing into a leader. By allowing them the time, space, and tools to create as they desired I was able to watch this unfold. Fast-forward to Monday afternoon, and my kids were explaining to their grandma what they had been playing just the day before. She listened and smiled as the kids shared stories of digging holes, making new friends, and getting soaked by other kids jumping in the pon…er, ocean.

As I sat down to write tonight’s blog entry, my mind wandered, wondering what to write about, and how to make it, even slightly, relevant to what we are doing at Waldheim School. The more I thought about it, the more I connected what the kids created on Sunday to what we created this year through our adult learning. Each of us moved through the summer of 2017, wondering to ourselves, “how much longer?”. Each of us approached the year with a general understanding of what lied ahead, but also brought along a degree of uncertainty. Just as the kids had shovels and pails, we had our tools. We had our curriculum, our books, our journals, our colleagues, our PLNs, our LFs, our experience, and our drive. Together we worked to start designing and mapping out our adult learning journey, and together we dug in and started researching, practicing, creating, and ultimately, presenting. I’m proud of the pond we started to build, and the way we have grown together. Sure there were missteps along the way, but as David Guenther would say, there is no learning without failure. As May continues to melt off the calendar, I’m filled with pride with what we created this year, and I truly appreciate the hard work you’ve all put in to get us to this point on our journey. Looking back, I can honestly say we’ve created an amazing pon….ocean of learning.

Here’s what lies ahead for this shortened week:

Tuesday:

  • Grade 8’s at cardboard boat races
  • Facilities department beginning to change out bulbs in gym
  • Classroom visits: what are the kids writing, reading, and talking about?

Wednesday:

  • Bus driver meeting in staff room (9:00 – 9:30)
  • Final preparation for elementary track and field
  • Classroom visits: what are the kids writing, reading, and talking about?

Thursday:

  • Elementary track meet

Friday:

  • District Track (Evan, Trace, Bruce away)

As always, create a great week!

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Thanks Mom! May 14 – 18

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

Mom (plaid vest) and her siblings.

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

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

This is the video we showed to start our presentation.

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

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

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

Tuesday:

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

Wednesday:

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

Thursday:

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

Friday:

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

As always, create a great week!

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I Saw This Going Differently! May 7-11

A beautiful Sunday morning, I’m enjoying my coffee as I prepare to pack up the van and hit the road with the kids for what should be a fun day in Waskesiu. We love doing these day trips, the kids have their routine; grab some snacks, a couple of toys, a few books, a bit of arguing out the door, and we’re off. Today I’m hoping the kids get to see Waskesiu in a new way, I’ve never had them there at this time of year, so I’m wondering what they will see and hear. I wonder what they will learn about how their favorite place looks and feels in spring.

The kids made the space their own.

The more we visit Waskesiu, the more at home the kids become, especially the twins, who have learned what the expected behavior is from their older siblings. What I have also found is their independence continues to grow, which allows me to be more relaxed, and do more watching, versus all the hovering and correcting I felt I needed to do. This makes me think about our classrooms, and how our students come to know what’s expected over time. Thankfully students in our rooms are not still in the figuring it out stage, routines are in place, and kids know, understand, and appreciate how things work. With the recent addition of David’s class in the library, we’ve been able to see this process repeat itself as Mr. G has transformed his space of desks and books into a classroom. It’s been a fun process to watch, and it’s apparent the kids take pride in their room.

So why is it that sometimes, during a learning task, things seem to go sideways? You have what you feel is a perfectly designed lesson, the expectations are clear, and your assessment rubric is in place. The kids are ready to go, but then it happens, they disengage, they miss the mark, and you think, “I gave up my Sunday night for this?” I’ve been there so many times, and wondered, “what’s wrong with me?” or “I thought the kids would love this!”

Kids may fool around, but when they cannot produce anything for assignments that they know will impact their grade, there must be something else going on that I’m missing.

I would talk with other teachers, and my administrators wondering why things weren’t working. Often times we’d discuss the need for me to scaffold my lessons better as the kids were off task because they were either bored or confused. The above quote comes from a good article that talks about doing more than just providing the scaffold, it talks about the need to teach kids how to use the scaffold. What it speaks about reflects the beliefs around effective teaching and assessment we find in our #mpsc documentIt is so nice to be able to see the connection between what we are working on as a school and a division with what is currently being written about in professional articles. If you have a moment to read the article, I’d love to hear what you think. What does it make you wonder?

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Brad Nichol out to learn with Evan, Ellen, Amy, and Shantel
  • L4L presenters (Corinne, Jamie, Jamey,  Kimberly,  Jesse, Brenda) meeting after school

Tuesday:

  • Classroom visits: do kids know the BIG idea?

Wednesday:

  • Brenda & June learning together at KCC
  • Classroom visits: do kids know the BIG idea?

Thursday:

  • Celebration Day!!! We get to share our school’s learning story at Learning for Life

Friday:

  • Game Night! Talk to the SRC for more information
  • Classroom visits: do kids know the BIG idea?

As always, create a  great week!

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How’s Business? April 30 – May 4

What a gorgeous day Saturday was, and while today isn’t quite as warm, we still had a chance to get out in the back yard with the dog. The kids enjoyed their swing set, and played made up games, while I tidied up the mess from the long winter. Speaking of Saturday, we had a lot of fun visiting my mom while Krista slept after her night shift at the hospital. Eva (my 7 year old) got a craft for her birthday, a white tea set with paint and brushes, and has been dying to do this. So, we all sat around my mom’s table, painting away, making quite a mess, but everyone was proud of their saucers, cups, pots, etc. It was a fun way to spend some time with mom.

My dad with Eva 7 years ago.

Something we talked about as we were visiting was my dad’s business that he ran through the 1980’s and part of the 90’s. He had a business where he sold bulk Esso petroleum products and fertilizer to farmers around the Watrous area. My first job as a high school student was to go to the business after school, and usually I needed to pull weeds, cut grass, clean oil drums, or organize stock. As I got older, I became more involved in the fuel and fertilizer delivery, and eventually in the financial end of the business. Reflecting now on how dad approached his business, he was very particular about a few things. The buildings, grounds, and stock needed to look good. Things were clean, and organized, and to dad, this was a sign of pride in his work. The way all of his employees treated customers was extremely important, he knew they were the key to his success as their was always competition down the road. Dad also believed it was crucial to take care of his employees, he was very responsive to their needs, he cared about them, and their families.

I’ve been thinking about the parallels between an effective business, and an effective school for a while. Of course there are differences, as I’ve never viewed students as customers, nor staff as employees, but there are many similarities. I’ve seen how hard everyone works to make their rooms inviting for students, and this is mirrored by the amazing work Jamie and her crew do on a daily basis to keep our school looking clean and welcoming. I think about how we try to reach, each and every student, just like how dad tried his best with every customer, from our largest, regular accounts, to our one time visitors. I also think about how we support each other. Just like any great staff, we learn together, we struggle together, and we celebrate together.

As I think about the staff presentations we’ve been having this year, I’ve been struck by the common thread through all of them: students first! If we were all business owners, presenting to each other, I know the common theme would be customers first. As you think about the presentations, what have you heard? How has your “business” improved this year because we have been learning together? How can we measure this when after all, we don’t have profits or losses in the monetary sense, like my dad did. Will you do a customer satisfaction survey? If so, what would you ask? When and how often would you do one? How would you respond to your customers’ responses? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

As I look at my calendar, I see I only have one scheduled event, which takes place Tuesday after school in Warman, so the week will be filled with classroom visits, side-by-side learning, chats and Tweets, and lots of laughs!

As always, create a great week!

 

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

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

Dunning sisters learning together.

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

Don’t worry, they got this covered!

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

Here’s what lies ahead on this busy week:

Monday:

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

Tuesday:

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

Wednesday:

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

Thursday:

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

Friday:

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

As always, create a great week!

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How Pretty Does it Have To Look? April 16 – 20

This weekend was another quiet one around our place as Krista was working all weekend at the hospital. The kids and I were busy tidying up the winter toys, cleaning up the van, getting dad’s car ready, and keeping up with the day to day duties. There was also lots of time spent chasing the dog around the basement and playing with their new sketch books and sticker books (the things you find when you open the trunk of your car after 6 months!)

One thing the kids love to do is to help make lunch and supper. On Saturday, we had fun making homemade pizzas using flatbread as our crusts. The kids were able to slather on their sauce, add their toppings and then continually ask, “how much longer, how much longer?” I reflect on this activity after having read my Sunday e-mail from Brad Nichol, who spoke a lot about side-by-side learning.

When I think about the learning that was going on making these pizzas, I think about things like estimating portions, fine motor skills, learning about time, shapes, fractions, and even healthy eating. While Bobby has no trouble spreading his sauce and estimating how much cheese to grab from the bowl, Charlie has a few struggles. So while he was left with a pizza that wasn’t as professional looking as Bobby’s, he enjoyed it all the same. Something else the kids learned about was how to take turns, and how to be patient. With 6 pizzas to make, and only enough room for two kids at the kitchen island, they needed to practice patience. It was a fun time for the kids, and for some reason, they always like their pizzas a little better when they have a hand in making them. From my perspective, it’s more time consuming, it leads to frustration and mess, and truth be told, I likely rather just do it myself (confession: there are many days that I do).

On Sunday, Bobby had to work on writing a persuasive piece for his teacher, and decided to argue in favor of bringing vending machines to his school. He worked on this beside me, asking for some suggestions and wondering if I could read what he had wrote. As I read it, I wanted desperately to tell him to add this or change that, but I had to resist. For Bobby, the letter he was writing was similar to the pizza Charlie made on Saturday. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but in the end it was his, and just like I put Charlie’s pizza in the oven, I did help by typing Bobby’s letter. These are skills they are still working on.

How does this relate to what we do as we learn side-by-side with our kids at school? How much do we tell or show? How much leading is too much, and do we let our kids struggle enough? When we talk about My Prairie Spirit Classroom, we talk a lot about side-by-side learning, effective feedback, relevance, rigor, and student voice and choice just to name a few. As you think about the tasks you are asking the students to complete, how do you know if they are ready, and what do you do if you find out they are not? Last week, Ellen was discussing a risk she was taking as she was inviting her grade 10 Environmental Science class to learn about various forms of energy through a class debate. Part of this process involved bringing in experts from outside of the school, like the local mayor. I wonder how she knew her students were ready to be a part of this conversation with him?

As you read this, and think about your students, I’d love to know what you are wondering.

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • setting up gym for Annie play
  • classroom visits (Brad has me thinking about things I can do to make these visits more valuable for you, I’ll discuss that with you individually this week as opportunities present themselves)

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & Jesse at ALT (Katharine is acting admin)
  • Annie matinee performance

Wednesday:

  • Annie evening performance
  • My wife’s birthday (don’t let me forget!!!)
  • Classroom visits

Thursday:

  • EA meeting (presentation planning)
  • Classroom visits

Friday:

  • Annie evening performance
  • Classroom visits

As always, create a great week!

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