Monday, 29 September 2014

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 29: Changing Me

Day 29: How have you changed as an educator since you first started?

Because I've fallen behind in this blog challenge, sometimes I read the posts of my fellow #comcon members before I get to writing my own. This is both bad and good. I don't want to mirror their ideas closely, but I often get inspiration from their awesome work.

In this instance, I have been inspired by Maria Verwey and her post, "Moi? Changed?". Like her, I'm going to write this post as a letter to my past self from my current self.

I don't know how much I've "changed", but I've definitely learned a lot and if I could go back and share that wisdom with my past self, I'd make my own life a whole lot easier.


Dear Past Shauna of 2004,

  You look great. Seriously, I know you don't think you do, but you do. Ten years and a bunch of sleepless nights and a lot of stress eating changes you. Enjoy how you look right now.

  Cut yourself some slack. When you start to accept the advice you give to your students, life will get a lot easier. "Don't worry, be crappy" - just get things done. They don't always have to be perfect. "Be Velcro. Let the good things stick to you. Be Teflon. Let the bad stuff slide off you". The bad stuff does NOT weigh more than the good stuff. Let it go.

  You have a sphere of influence. Those kids who come into your classroom everyday, they deserve the best of you. For the time you are with them. They have lives away from you, too. You can't fix everything about those. You are their teacher and they'll see how much you care for them, but they don't have to haunt your every waking hour. You're only one person.

  There are only 24-hours in a day. Some of that needs to be spent on you. Captain Handsome and your friends deserve your full attention at least some of the time.

  You can say no sometimes. You will meet so many amazing people who can run clubs, go to meetings, help students and mentor others. You don't need to do it all. Other people can do it just as well as you. Sometimes better. You don't have to be an active part of every single cool initiative you hear about. Sit back sometimes and encourage someone else to take a chance. Remember, you only have 24-hours in a day. I'm not kidding, working for 18 hours a day doesn't make the day itself any longer. You do have to sleep.

  Take a day off when you are starting to get sick. Don't let the scratchy throat turn into Strep, then Bronchitis, then Pneumonia twice or three times a year.

  Track your spending. You will spend thousands on teaching resources. It will be good to one day tally it all up and see the percentage of your earnings you reinvest into your career.

  Those days when you feel like you are a failure? They get fewer and farther between over time. I promise, they really do. You'll also get better at holding on to some of the good stuff. It doesn't help right away when things go wrong, but having an "Atta Girl" folder on your email and keeping beautiful handwritten notes from students, co-workers and parents helps build you up.

  Everybody makes mistakes. Even you. It's OK. People will like you more when they see that you're not perfect and when you let them see (a little) behind the facade of strength. You will start to make your best friends you've ever had when you do.

  Relax. Laugh more with your students. Following their ideas, passions and interests always makes for the best relationships and the best learning. Don't worry so much about making the BEST educational use of every single moment. You, and the kids, will remember the other stuff more.

  You know those people who said, "Never hug a kid" or "Don't smile 'till Christmas"? Your initial reaction to them was right. They're so very wrong. For you at least, the relationships you'll build with your students will make all the difference in how you reach them.

  Let go of envy and jealousy. You're doing a good job. Teaching and learning are life-long processes and you're on a journey. You are exactly where you should be right now. Other people's successes do not change what you are doing.

  Don't doubt yourself so much. You have pretty sound judgement most of the time. Trust it. When you make a mistake, own up to it, and then learn from it. You don't need to beat yourself up.

  You know those kids who seem like they HATE you right now. They don't. They really don't. Someday, years from now, you'll get the most incredible reaction running into them in public. They'll tell you which of your words made all the difference to them. What you are doing is worthwhile. Those kids need you and you're doing what they need.

Take care of myself,
Love,
Future Shauna (2014)

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 28: Technology

Day 28: Should technology drive curriculum, or vice versa?

Both.

Curriculum should drive technology - Technology is a tool. It can be used (often very effectively) for students and teachers to share their learning, connect with others, communicate, collaborate and create. For many students, technology engages them and allows them to share their voices in ways they never dreamed possible.

Technology should drive curriculum - Our students will need to use technology in many aspects of their lives. Our curriculum needs to keep up. The Ontario Media Literacy Language strand is outdated. I'd love to see responsible digital citizenship built into our curriculum.


30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 27: Holidays and Weekends

Day 27: What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching?

Too much. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I have a lot of trouble turning of my teacher brain. That's probably good for my students, as I'm basically always thinking about them, but it's not always great for me. Or for my in-person relationships.

I spend a lot of time online, reading, watching, writing, planning and sharing. I like to be easily accessible to co-workers, parents and students (current and former). A lot of my "downtime" is spent up - reflecting, planning and thinking. That means I spent evenings, weekends and holidays working.

I have this ridiculously awesome team of people behind me (partner, friends, colleagues, professionals) and all of them push me to look at my life and find a better work-life balance. The problem is, my work IS my life. That might sound lame, but I really, truly, madly, deeply love what I do and love learning from others and pushing myself to be better.

Because I am aware of the potential to burn out, I try to listen to my team and take some time for pleasurable, happy-making activities. Even if my teacher-brain is still on, I value the time I spend tuned into real live human people who love me. I need to do a better job showing them that.

That said, my mom and Captain Handsome need me right now. The rest of my blog catch-up can wait!

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 26: Resources

Day 26: What are your three favourite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in your teaching?

The volume of information and ideas for teachers is overwhelming. There are great books, videos, websites, courses, conferences and people to learn from. I spend a lot of time online sharing my ideas and resources and learning from others. Picking three sites wasn't actually that hard, as each of the three I describe below are filled with unlimited ideas and inspiration.

TED Talks - When I need inspiration, not just in teaching, but in life, TED Talks are always there. The ideas worth spreading that are shared certainly open up my mind creatively. When I heard of a principal that ends interviews with the question, "What is your favourite TED Talk?", I thought, that is someone I'd like to work for!

EduAllStar podcasts - Passionate educators talking about their craft never cease to inspire me. It feels like you're sitting down for a chat with an amazing mentor. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, these interviews always empower me.

Twitter - If you're not on twitter, you should be. Play a bit, give it some time and start to interact. I'll never look back. I don't know what I did before I became connected. I have met so many amazing people, been directed to so many incredible ideas, blogs and resources. By selecting great people to follow, twitter curates all the info out there on the web and customizes it just for me. The resources I get are incredible. The connections even better.

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 25: Student Collaboration

Day 25: The ideal collaboration between students - what would it look like?


This month, the Gladiator Snails brainstormed what great groups look like. As we've been working in groups all month, we regularly refer back to this list. 

I think they hit on most of the qualities that make ideal collaboration between students, but I'll add a few of my own.

Ideal Collaboration Between Students
  • Student driven: students following their passions in an eager, enthusiastic way
  • Organic: seeking feedback and help from a number of sources as more questions emerge - including teachers, other students, books, magazines, films, online resources, human resources, families, etc...
  • Global: students take opportunities to collaborate with students from around the world through Skype, email, blogs or twitter; students contact experts from around the world through Skype, email, blogs or twitter
  • Multi-aged: opportunities for students to work with people of different ages (not just in their own grade), they can buddy with younger or older students or work with teen/adult mentors
  • Collaboration and compromise: an understanding that we don't always get our way and figuring out creative and comfortable solutions for all
  • Democracy: understanding that everyone has a voice, all ideas are considered and some are put into action
I love pushing myself and my students to collaborate. The smartest person in the room IS the room. That's not to say four physical walls are sentient, but that when people get together, their ideas get better. I know that is the case for me through collaborating in person and online.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 24: Passion, Choice, Voice and Creation

Day 24: Which learning trend captures your attention the most, and why?

I love Passion-Based Learning, Genius Hour and the Maker Movement.

Giving students voice and choice in their learning and having them create, innovate and share is so incredibly powerful.

I enjoy finding ways to creatively allow students to have choice in what and how they're learning, all while being accountable to the curriculum. When students own their learning questions, tasks and outcomes, they really realize that they matter. They see that their learning does not take place in the classroom only, but that they can be life-long passionate learners.

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 23: Community Connections

Day 23: Write about one way that you "meaningfully" involve the community in the learning in your classroom.

Last year, we live-streamed some events in our classroom. One that was particularly meaningful was our World Water Summit, in which grade 5s represented levels of government and grade 6s represented international organizations and we presented and debated about what each group was doing to solve the issue of global water shortages.

By live-streaming the event (on Google+ Hangouts on Air), parents and friends were able to watch, comment and question. Other classes watched and got inspiration. A parent in the class watched and when she heard about an event in Ottawa for the UN Think Tank on Water, she scored us some invites. Students saw that they were truly members of a global community and could have an impact on changing the world. They were listened to, respected and consulted by real members of local government and international agencies.

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 22

Day 22: What does your PLN look like, and what does it do for your teaching? 

My PLN, online and in person, continues to grow. There are people who I have never met that I learn from regularly, but I don't think they'd have a clue who I am. There are people who I chat with online and hope to someday get to chat with in person. There are people who I work on big projects with. There are people who are in my building each and every day.

People Who I've Never Met and Would Have No Idea Who I Am:
I was a part of #SummerLS hosted by Todd Nelsoney this summer, and enjoyed virtually learning with and from educators from all over the world. I hadn't been listening to EduAllStars, Todd's podcast, before this challenge. It ended up being a big part of my professional development this summer, introducing me to the ideas of amazing educators like Angela Maiers and Kevin Honeycutt.

People I Chat With Online and Hope to Meet Someday: 
I have been getting more involved in Twitter over the past few years and really enjoy edchats, especially Dave Burgess' #tlap, Doug Robertson's #weirded and Jonathan Kegler's #nbtchat. Spending an hour online sharing ideas, discussing education and learning from inspirational, passionate, devoted educators has become something I'm totally addicted to. I have gotten so many "TODAY" and "SOMEDAY" ideas that I use in my classroom from my PLN on Twitter.
This summer, I started an online community called Comment Consortium. Educators read one another's blog posts and engage in conversation about what we're learning. I have met or know a few members in person (Amy Bowker, Aviva Dunsiger, Sue Scott, Rola Tibshirani and Tiiu Tsao). Others, I hope to meet someday (Sandy Otto, Ann Pimentel, Sean Robinson, Heather Theijsmeijer, Maria Verwey, Elisa Waingort, Brynn Morgan Williams and Victoria Woelders)
Robin McLaren from California and I met on Skype in the Classroom and worked together for the past two years, collaboratively planning and connecting our students.
Heidi James and I chat a lot on Twitter, and I'm so happy she's back in the classroom after a long BC teacher's strike. I'm trying to push her into blogging so I can peek into her classroom daily!

Connections I've Made Online that Have Led to Friendships:
It cracks Captain Handsome up when I meet my "Internet friends" for the first time.
Dean Shareski let me mentor some of his university students and then, when he was in Ottawa running a conference, we got to meet in person and I got to present.
Pam and Toby Jones are a super cool married couple who I met through emails and then, with whom, I attended a GAFE conference in Montreal.

People in Ottawa:
In Ottawa, there are terrific educators doing mind-blowing things and I'm thrilled to be building my in-person PLN. I love working with people from the Public and Catholic boards, as well as educators at other institutions in the city. I worked with an incredible team for Playdate Ottawa, who we called the "Task Force". Amy Bowker, Bill Corcoran, Jeffrey Humphries, Julie Joanisse, Jennifer King, Nick Lafrance, Karen McEvoy, Rola Tibshirani, Tiiu Tsao and (new mom) Megan Valois were a pleasure and inspiration to work with. I miss our regular collaboration and look forward to planning with them again in the future.
Tomorrow, I'm finally kicking off a project that has been a dream for me for a while. Amazing educators are coming together to talk about the future of education at our first Think Tank meeting. I'm really looking forward to seeing incredible thinkers come together and collaborate.

People in My Building and my Daily Real-Life Life:
I work with terrific people. I love being challenged, supported and pushed by my colleagues, Gillian Penman, Tiiu Tsao and Natalie Shorkey, among others.


I use my PLN to give me energy, ideas and inspiration; to support, witness, validate and support me and to bounce ideas off of. I love that, not only have our classroom walls come down, but so have our staff room walls. I can collaborate in real time (or asynchronously) with people who I admire and respect from all over the world. It's pretty amazing and I know I would feel much more isolated without the people listed above (and others as well!). One of the (many, many) reasons I love the Internet is for the people I have access to on a daily basis. Going back to not being a Connected Educator would be so lonely and isolating.

If you aren't connected and building a PLN, you're missing out on SO. MUCH. Dip your toes in. See what you learn!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 21: Octopuses, Travelling, Disney, Puppets and Tech

Day 21: Do you have any hobbies/interests that you bring into your classroom teaching? Explain.

I'm into a lot of things. Most of them make their way into my classroom in one way or another. I can't really turn off my teacher brain, so even when I'm doing something that is happy-making for me, I'm thinking about how it can make things more engaging, innovative or educational for my students.

Octopuses: I have a lot of interesting octopus stories and facts because I'm fascinated by the eight-legged wonders. My students get used to hearing about octopuses and know, from the first day, that I'm in love with them (although, this year, it was slightly less apparent for them - usually I wear my custom-made octopus necklace on the first day. After a request to wear it on the last day last year, I broke it while dancing. I have to get it repaired so the Gladiator Snails can see it!). Over the years, I have collected (and been thoughtfully gifted) a number of octopuses that are displayed on a shelf in the room.

Tech: I love playing with new tech tools and toys and bring them into my classroom for my students to figure out along with me. I've learned about blogging, Sifteo tiles, iPads, Skype, Chromebooks, Sphero and MaKey MaKey with my students. Things that I can't get my hands on (like outrageously pricey Google Glass, drones and 3D printers), I share with my students through videos, articles and imaginative discussions.

Disney: This one has been more closeted in the past, but has come proudly to the forefront this year. Walt Disney has always been a hero and an inspiration for me and it's only in the past year that it became totally obvious how wonderfully his philosophies fit into mine in the classroom. Our EPCOTclass is modelled on Walt Disney's ideals of dreaming big, storytelling, creating magic, authentic collaboration and bravely going against the expected.
Once a student at the school where I currently teach, I signed out a lot of books from our school library, in the old fashioned way - on library cards in the back of books. A student last year discovered my name written in the back of a Walt Disney biography she signed out. I did a lot of projects on Walt as a kid.
(I am not totally blind to issues of corporate greed and sexism inherent in much of the Disney brand - but my students and I explored some of that in the past. Last year, my grade 5s wrote "Un-Disney Stories", by taking the narrow, sexist messages from Disney films and re-writing them for a modern audience, changing role models to appeal to all different kinds of kids!)

Puppets: I've always loved the idea popularized in "The Velveteen Rabbit", "Winnie the Pooh", "Toy Story" and other tales of stuffed animals coming to life on their own - especially while unwatched. Puppets give me the ability to make that happen in a tiny way (stop motion could make it happen, too...hmmm...future project?). I think Jim Henson's Muppets are so incredibly gorgeous, enchanting and alive that when I found "The Muppet Workshop" at FAO Schwarz in NYC, I nearly lost my mind. I created Norman several years ago and he lives in my classroom (he doesn't know Math, so we consider all the things he can't do and we try to teach him). Last year, Norman got a friend, a beautiful purple monster named Hedwig. She's shy about reading, but loves when students sit with her to read and learns from their efforts and confidence. Norman and Hedwig have become cherished (and hilarious) classmates.

Travelling: I LOVE to travel. I love sharing with my students about the way my perceptions of myself, my culture and the world change through my adventures. Getting to relive amazing journey by sharing stories with my students has been a gift.

Since my first year of teaching, I have gotten to know my students at the beginning of the year through "Pieces of Flair". We each bring in items that represent us as people and display them in our classroom, making it ours. This post is basically a list of (some of) my flair!

(NOTE: Yes, "pieces of flair" is an Office Space reference. Well done, friend. I often say that a good percentage of what I do in the classroom is to entertain myself. Flair is one example.)

It's wonderful to be able to share my passions with my students and learn about theirs. If teaching is all about relationships (which, honestly, it is), then building relationships with whole people (not just who they are in the context of a classroom) is crucial to reaching all students.

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 20: Collaborative Curator and Student Curation

Day 20: How do you curate student work - or help them do it themselves?

I see myself as a Collaborative Curator in the teams I work with. I help students to curate the huge amounts of resources available to them and help provide them with strategies, tools and resources to enhance their learning.

In terms of curating student creations, I am still working on that. I do a number of things: we post our work around the classroom, in the hallways, on our class blog, on Twitter and we organize it in our "Book Apartments" (I hate desks, so students always work at tables, but that means they lose desk storage space. I have wooden shelves for them to keep their notebooks, duotangs and work, a few years ago, the students named them "Book Apartments". The name stuck), we put work together in collaborative books (Class Glossary, an atlas of imaginary places, poetry collections), we organize our work on the Google Drive, and each individual student selects examples of his or her work to showcase in SLCs (Student Led Conferences).

I would like students to take more, regular ownership over curating their work. I really liked using "Proof Cards" in the final SLC of the year last year and found that, after a year of modelling how to curate work, reflect on our learning and celebrate the process of learning (not just the product), students effectively used them. They selected work that showcased all stages of their learning and that proved what they had learned. They curated work in their Work Apartments and talked about their ongoing learning.

I hope to incorporate blogs into my teaching this year. Several years ago, I helped four classes students curate and distribute their work through individual History blogs. This was terrific for them and for me and I am considering ways to make this work with my grade 3/4s this year.

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 19: Student Reflection

Day 19: Name three powerful ways students can reflect on their learning, then discuss closely the one you use most often.

Without reflecting on their learning, learners are missing out on metacognition, the way that we become actively involved with our thinking. Metacognition ensures that students are more independent and effective learners.

Three ways students can actively engage with their learning by reflecting through:

  • goal setting and monitoring
  • reflecting on their own and others' work
  • written reflections
In my classroom, we:
  • set goals and monitor our progress
    • we collaborate to create SMART goals that are individual
    • we post our goals in places where we'll see them often
    • last year, we tracked our goals online using lift.do daily
      • because it is a social network, we could give one another encouragement and celebrate successes
  • reflecting on our own and others' work through planned reflection and dialogue
    • from the beginning of the year, we provide constructive feedback to one another, focusing on successes and areas for improvement
      • students learn to phrase their feedback for peers as, "I liked it when....Next time...." and the person receiving the feedback simply replies with "Thank you". 
        • in this way, we are constructive and supportive and the we don't argue with feedback, we simply take it in the way it was intended, to support us and push our learning further
    • we watch one another trying new things in a "Fish Bowl", where a small group sits in the middle of a circle and practices a new skill (such as group work)
      • the observers outside the "Fish Bowl" watch, when we are finished, we offer feedback about the process to help us all
    • we show "Examples" and "Non-examples" to prepare all
      • students get to act out great work habits as a model as well as undesired behaviours and methods
      • we are inspired by the Daily 5, where this strategy is written about extensively
  • reflect on our learning in writing (and drawing) to know ourselves as learners and push our thinking further by asking questions and making coneections
    • students think about "What Stuck With You Today?" and share it aloud, in writing or in drawings
    • students reflect on different elements of their learning through 321 organizers
      • For example: 3 things you learned, 2 things you're still wondering, 1 thing you are proud of
I am still deeply in the process of learning, and I find I use a number of different strategies to reflect. The two I use most often right now include seeking feedback from my PLN (online and in person) and writing on this blog.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Follow-Up on Line-Ups

Today was our annual Community BBQ and I was happy to spend time with current, past and future students and their families.

Several graduates of our school came to help out and it was wonderful to see them helping current students Tie-Dying t-shirts, chowing down on BBQ and running around our tiny school yard.

At the end of the evening, I was walking to my car and ended up on the route of two former students. We started chatting about their experiences in their new middle school. They shared about some things that they are particularly enjoying and other things that they miss.

Because of a discussion that popped up on this blog regarding an earlier post, I was very interested to hear that one of their biggest problems with their new school is hallway behaviour. I kid you not, they said how much they missed lines. They were shocked that their new school has no structure in hallways and expressed that halls and stairwells are noisy and feel unsafe. They were incredulous.

It was interesting to hear their perspective. I hadn't realized how much the lines and calm atmosphere in our hallways and stairwells was appreciated by our students.

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 17: Class Sizes

Day 17: What do you think is the most challenging issue in education today?

Since I have to pick one, I'd say that the most challenging issue (for me) in education today is class sizes. So many of the other issues in education could be addressed if class sizes were addressed.

I think my ideal class has twelve students.

If we had better funding for public education this might be possible.

Imagine the possibilities and advantages to a class of twelve. When I had a chance to think about having a superpower in the classroom, I picked Time Reduction to give me the time to do the things I need to do. A class of a dozen students with one teacher allows for significantly more personalized attention and a much better educational experience for all.

With a dozen students in a class:

  • you'd only have a dozen families to get to know really well
  • emails would be much more manageable
  • meetings with students and their parents could be held regularly to discuss progress, challenges and collaboratively set goals
  • you'd only have a dozen report cards to write
  • you'd only have a maximum of twelve IEPs to write. In fact, with only twelve students, you could (and should) create an IEP for each and every student (not necessarily an official "IEP", but something like the Annual Learning Plan that I'm using with my class this year)
  • authentic differentiation would be much easier
  • assessing and evaluating twelve students would take significantly less time
  • you'd have space for the kids to move around in the classroom
  • the relationships you'd form with a small group would be real, deep and meaningful
  • teachers would realize that their job is valued and that society sees how challenging it can be to try to "put cats in a bag". That's how teaching a large class feels most days.
It's not to say that great educators don't accomplish this with classes upwards of 30, but imagine how much easier it would be with tiny classes.

On the rare days (or parts of days) when I've had twelve students in my room, I've seen how productive, engaged and valued they feel with far fewer people dividing my attention.

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 18: Collaborative Curator

Day 18: Create a metaphor/simile/analogy that describes your teaching philosophy.

Sage on the stage is ancient history.

Guide on the side no longer responds to the needs of a modern learner.

Teachers today need to be collaborative curators.

We need to:

  • respond to our students passions and interests
  • embrace the ideas of our students
  • create situations for our students to learn and extend their learning
  • provide resources for our students
  • learn alongside our students
  • help curate the massive amounts of information found in texts and online
  • conference and collaborate with our students
  • provide opportunities for our students to collaborate and work together within our classrooms and our buildings
  • provide opportunities for our students to collaborate outside of our classrooms and around the world
  • celebrate our students' successes 
  • share our students' learning and help control the message they put into the world
By helping to create environments for our students to collaborate with us, each other and the world and by curating and sharing information and resources with them, we help our students to challenge themselves, create and prepare for their futures.

Think about it, are you a collaborative curator?


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 16: Superpower

Day 16: If you could have one superpower to use in the classroom, what would it be and how would it help?


If I could have one superpower to use in my teaching it would be Time Reduction, it's a sub-power of Time Manipulation. 

Like Ilyria from Angel in this gif, I would slow down the things happening around me, and still be able to move at my regular pace. 

I would finally be able to get more than 24 hours worth of work in 24 hours. 

Imagine how many students I could get to. Imagine how many emails I could reply to. Imagine how many parent phone calls I could do. Imagine all the assessments I'd get done. Imagine all the paperwork I could get done. Imagine how much planning I could do. Imagine all the twitter chats I could participate in. Imagine how clean my desk would be. Imagine how much time I could spend with Captain Handsome. Imagine how many hilarious pranks I could pull.

I could do all the things. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 15: So Uncomfortable

Day 15: Name three strengths you have as an educator.

I thought some of the earlier posts were hard but this one is the hardest by far.

I am hyper aware of what how people perceive me or how I think they might perceive me. Every time I thought of a strength, I figured there could be somebody who would read this post and think, "No, that's not accurate," or come up with a time when I didn't demonstrate that quality and be critical.

I think that's a problem. I'm not writing this blog or doing this challenge for anyone else. I'm doing it for myself.

In that way, it doesn't matter if others agree with these ideas, below are three strengths I feel benefit in my career as an educator.

I am creative.
I like trying new things and being challenged.
I can get through to a lot of kids.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 14: Assessment for Learning

Day 14: What is feedback for learning and how do you give it to students?

Feedback for learning is an incredibly useful way to look at feedback. Ongoing, authentic assessment for learning is what actually helps students. Looking at assessment and feedback as a tool for student learning is powerful and productive.

Assessment and evaluation with purpose can educate and challenge learners to go further.

Some of the ways I make sure that students in my classroom participate in feedback for learning include:

  • I am sensitive to each child's individual needs
    • I spend a lot of time getting to know each of my students and work very hard to provide them with appropriate entry points for all tasks so that they can meet success and feel challenged
  • giving genuine, authentic praise for students' efforts
  • I give feedback verbally, non-verbally and in writing
  • explaining what students are doing correctly and areas of need that they still have
  • from the beginning of the year, we practice giving and receiving feedback. Students learn to comment on one another's work with the prompts, "I liked it when...." and "Next time....", the receiver responds with a simple, "Thank you"
    • this ensures that feedback is specific and timely
    • by replying with "Thank you", the receiving student acknowledges the constructive criticism and does not argue or try to justify. He or she can then choose what to do with the feedback
    • students share their work with "Accountability Apprentices" and offer suggestions and praise
  • I ask for and graciously accept feedback from my students. I am the Lead Learner in the room and demonstrate that though my actions, including seeking feedback
  • We set thoughtful and realistic goals
    • we track them in conferences, meetings and with a website called lift.do
    • we regularly reassess, celebrate successes and set new goals if needed
  • I am working on sharing regular feedback with parents so that they can hear about the small and large successes and challenges of their children
    • this year, I am creating "Annual Learning Plans" collaboratively with students and parents
  • I am working on having more short one-on-one conferences with students each day
  • students fill out "What Stuck with You" surveys daily so that I can quickly check in and see what still needs to be reviewed, taught or practice
  • students focus on self-assessment, pointing out proof of their learning
    • inspired by Sandra Herbst, we used "Proof Cards" in our Student Led Conferences this year to show our families specific elements about what we had accomplished and areas where we are still working
  • also inspired by Sandra Herbst, a group of staff created a "Writing Continuum" last year to demonstrate levels of achievement for students
    • students put these criteria in order and used them to reflect on their work
  • I use: "I noticed...." and "What do you want me to notice?" as conversation starters with students
  • as a class, we collaboratively create Success Criteria checklists and rubrics
    • we outline the specific elements (skills and knowledge) we are working on in an individual task, limiting them appropriately so students can focus in their work
    • students use these to guide their work
    • students use these to self- and peer-assess
Any feedback on these ideas?

Saturday, 13 September 2014

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 13: EdTech Tools

Day 13: Name the top edtech tools that you use on a consistent basis in the classroom, and rank them in terms of their perceived (by you) effectiveness.

Tool: Google Apps for Education, particularly the Google Drive
Use: Creation and collaboration. Students effectively create slideshows, surveys, documents and drawings on the Google Drive. They can easily share them with their teacher and peers for help, feedback and to work together.
Effectiveness: Green light - once you learn how to log in to your account, transferring word processing skills from Microsoft's publishing suite is simple. Students consistently discovered new features and shared with one another. So empowering.

Tool: Chromebooks
Use: Individual devices with Chrome accounts personalized so each student's experience was completely differentiated and targeted at him or her. Used for creation (Google Drive), collaboration, (Google Drive) research (all over!), backchanneling (Today's Meet), practicing skills (IXL, Khan Academy, TypingWeb), contributing (Kiva, Free Rice), goal setting and tracking (lift.do)
Effectiveness: Once they're up and running - green light. My current 3/4s still need to do their training before we're off and running. Teachers need to carefully monitor on-task work!

Tool: iPads
Use: CREATION! We use our class iPads (Isaac, Ivy and Ilys, and our class iPod, Itty) to create. We love apps like Puppet Pals and iMovie to create videos that we share with our school, families and the world. We've created stop motion films of our class pets, clubs and daily activities.
COLLABORATION! We meet with other classes from around the world to work together and play games (like Mystery Skype). Students who are not able to be in class (on holidays, illness) join us on Skype. Parents and families near and far Skype in to see what we are up to! We share our ideas on Twitter and our class blog and seek feedback.
Effectiveness: Green light - super easy to use, intuitive, good battery life, with the iGuy Speck case, iPads are sturdy and are carried around the school like members of our team!

Tool: Projector and Smart Board
Use: In my room, the projector is hooked to my classroom desktop (which is not working!) and I can hook up our iPad or my laptop. In the past, it's been used daily to collaborate as a class - students or I take notes on what we are discussing and work together on documents. Last year's class needed transparency in their learning, so our Daybook was posted on the projector each morning (as well as shared with them)
Effectiveness: Yellow light - since my classroom computer needs to be replaced, my daily use of our projector is temporarily limited. I do not use the Smart Board effectively yet. We play with the touch screen ability sometimes, but I am not terribly comfortable with the system and miss out of what are surely lots of great learning opportunities.

Some other tools we started to play with last year and I hope to explore more this year include: Our Sphero, our MaKey MaKey boards and Sifteo Tiles. These are awesome maker tools.

Overall, I love how using tech in the classroom can help engage kids and make them creative, critical thinkers.

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 12: Me as a Teacher in 5 Years

Day 12: How do you envision your teaching changing over the next five years?

I was recently having a conversation about exactly this. In the next five years, I hope to continue to develop my own practice and help others to do the same. However, the path I'm going to take is uncertain.

There are lots of Blue Sky things I'd like to do in the future, including:
-study for a Masters degree
-become a full-time professor in the BEd program
-present at an international teaching conference
-reform curriculum
-open my own school
-write a book

I need to narrow down some of these dreams in order to get on a path to becoming Future Shauna. I'm just not sure which one is my most urgent goal.

Everything I'm doing now is in service to these goals, but it's been pointed out to me that I need to narrow my focus.

The one thing I do know is that I have no desire to leave the classroom in a full-time capacity. I get energy from working with students and am not willing to give that up.

Hopefully working with the Think Tank, Comment Consortium and inspirational colleagues will help me sort out the path I'd like to take.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 11: Best Part of the Day

Day 11: What is your favourite part of the school day and why?

Despite trying to create classroom routines, my days are aways different. It's hard to narrow down a favourite part of the day, as every day changes.

There is one part of every day that is the same, though. My morning routine is really special to me. It's simple, but it starts the day off right. I meet the students on the yard, they line up in class order (by first name), we make sure we're in a 6S Line (single file, straight, silent, safe, slow, smiling) and head into the school. We greet our VP with a smile as we pass by her and say "Thank You" in sign language to the door holders. The students wait at the classroom door and pick up the mail from their individual mailboxes as they head into the room. My favourite part is that they walk in slowly, so that I have a chance to greet each student by name, make eye contact and start our time together with a cheerful "Good morning".

The school day gets so busy that taking a moment to individually connect with each student is the best part of my day.

Last year, our morning routine also included the students picking up their Chromebooks and filling out a "How Do You Feel Today?" survey. This allowed me to "take the temperature" of the room really quickly and students shared their stories with me.

Starting my day like this helps the students and I connect and build relationships so that we can trust each other, realize we matter and work together effectively.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 10: Carebear Countdown - 54321

Day 10: Share five random facts about yourself.
Share four things from your bucket list.
Share three things that you hope for this year, as a "person" or an educator.
Share two things that have made you laugh or cry as an educator.
Share one thing you wish more people knew about you.

5 Random Facts

  • I watched a voice-over documentary the other night and both my husband and I decided that was a job we'd be really good at. 
  • I am a textural eater and cannot stand bananas or big bites of yogurt.
  • I have a life goal to visit at least one new country a for every year of my life. I could take 6 years off before I go somewhere new. 
  • I lived in a mud hut in Lesotho for three months. It felt like home. Being that far away and totally out of touch for weeks at a time should have been hard. It was the best thing I've ever done.
  • I have two cats. If it was up to me, I'd have at least twenty. The only thing between me and a crazy cat lady is Captain Handsome.

4 Things From My Bucket List
  • Become a mom.
  • Go to Antarctica - the last continent I haven't visited.
  • Volunteer at Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary.
  • Write and publish a book.

3 Hopes for the Year
  • Attend #edcampmagic at Disney World.
  • To stay fairly healthy.
  • Help the Gladiator Snails be brave all year and accomplish things they never knew they could.

2 Things that Have Made You Laugh or Cry
  • Watching a former student pick up her six-month chip at NA (cry)
  • Our new class name, "Gladiator Snails", every time I say it (laugh)
A fun challenge: try to figure out whose arms are whose!
1 Thing I Want People to Know About Me
  • I am P2. I am the second of five Pollocks. The rest are all boys. They're my favourite humans.

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 9: Biggest Accomplishment

Day 9: Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care).

This one is really hard for me. I'm struggling to think of the "biggest" accomplishment, and something that "no one knows about". It feels like this question is leading me into a #humblebrag trap. I already did all that in my "About Me" page. (Find it if you want.)

I think my proudest accomplishments are the differences I see in individual students that I work with over the time that I get to work with them.

I had one student in the past, who on the first day I was with her, could not even say her name aloud in front of the class. Not a whisper of it. Paralyzed with shyness.

By the end of two years of working with her, she was confidently presented her research in live streamed events. Not only were her classmates and parents there, live, she was speaking a loud, clear, proud voice about really important things.

Getting to be a part of helping kids "hatch" into ever better versions of themselves is a humbling experience that I don't often brag about in public. There's a newer, better version of the #humblebrag.

EDIT: Oh man, I forgot. One student's mom told me I was his "second mom". Made me bawl.
One tough former student cried in a video and told me he'd always thought of me as his mom. Ugly crying for that one (on my part, that is!).

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 8: The Desk Monster

Day 8: What's in your desk drawer, and what can you infer from those contents?

Students and parents know never to leave anything on "The Desk Monster". If they do, it could disappear forever. The top of my desk is usually a disaster with piles of forms, stacks of work to assess, my assessment clipboard, several picture books, at least 2-3 devices at a time, and bins of pleasing coloured pens.

Last year, some of my lovely students said that what they wanted to do at the end of the year was clean my desk. I even got a handmade coupon to do so from one.

My desk was such a disaster, I didn't want anyone else even trying to tackle it.

On the second last day of school last year, I spent longer than I'd like to admit sorting out my desk. So far, it's remained pretty good on the inside. The top of the Desk Monster isn't great, but I'm working on it!

Here are the contents of my top drawer.

Looking objectively here are the things I observe and could infer:
Yard duty sash - since it's tucked away, the owner of this desk must not have much outdoor duty
Thumb Sumo set - this person likes to have fun
Cords - this person is in to tech and likes to be prepared
Colourful, different sized sticky notes - this person is a labeller and likes to be organized
Greeting cards galore - this person values handwritten notes of gratitude
Colour Your Own Birthday Cards still in boxes - this teacher had good intentions of giving out birthday cards to all her students last year, but never got to it

Here are the contents of my bottom drawer.

Cards and letters - this teacher values things that her students and colleagues make for her and is sentimental
Sealed "Letters to Self" - this teacher stays connected with former students by sending them letters they wrote for themselves when they were still in her class (sometimes 4-5 years later!)
Colourful pens and markers organized in cups by brand - this teacher has an unhealthy obsession with fancy writing tools
Moisturizer - this teacher doesn't like to have dry skin in the winter
Hair products - this teacher tries to fight the frizz
Cup of change - this teacher gets small donations from caring students to help buy supplies for the class pets
NOTE: It is absolutely NOT worth it to break into my desk to steal the change. There is not much. However, there is a small fortune in Sharpies and Papermate markers.


Sunday, 7 September 2014

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 7: Inspirational Colleague

Day 7: Who was or is your most inspirational colleague, and why?

My first (and forever) "work wife" is a colleague I had the pleasure to work with for several years.

Changing schools four years ago was a great decision for many reasons, but I haven't stopped missing seeing Sara every single day. I was really lucky that she was assigned to be my "mentor" when I finally got a contract with the board. We'd already worked together for several years by that point, so formalizing it didn't change much. Any chance we've had to spend time together, though, we scoop right up.

Sara is good for me professionally and personally. Those little voices I hear in my head? She's always there.

Here are some of the ways that Sara impacts me (and the world):
(She's gonna be so CROSS about this post!)
  • we are telepathically connected. One little corner of the eye look, and we know exactly what the other is thinking
  • she's INSANELY patient. She'd tell you she's not, but until you've seen her working with a new Canadian who has just come from a refugee camp and can't speak a native language or English, you haven't seen true, understanding patience
  • kids know they matter when they're with her
  • she's SUPER old (ha ha) but she's open to trying new things, and refuses to get stuck in a rut
  • she's supportive and non-judgemental, but she'll still push me to look at things in a new way
  • she's really good to collaborate with. We were asked to present to our staff about differentiation several years ago, and working with her was a breeze and a pleasure
  • she does what is expected of her and SO MUCH MORE, silently. She never seeks credit, doesn't get it nearly enough, and doesn't let that bother her
  • she always notices the little stuff and finds ways to make your day better
    • the time she is willing to give up for anyone who is struggling (or doesn't even realize they're struggling) is selfless and just crazily thoughtful
  • she actually balances work and home life. She is an amazing mom whose kids really, really like and respect her
    • she gives them the space to be themselves
  • the way she can zero in on exactly what is the root of a problem and finds ways to help solve it
    • even more than that, she zeroes in on what will make someone else feel great and does anything she can to make it happen (one tiny piece of evidence: the incredible video she had my students make for me when we all "graduated" from school the year I left)
  • she has a wicked sense of humour

There are those forever people in your life who you are so very lucky to meet. Sara is one of mine. No matter if we see each other everyday or once every few months, she remains one of the all-time most influential people in my life.

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 6: Mentors

Day 6: Explain: What does a good mentor "do"?

I have had several mentors in my career, only one of them formalized. You'll hear more about Sara in my next post.

Some mentors I have met, and others I haven't.

Those I've Met: There have always been lots of awesome people in my building and I've had the opportunity to learn from them. Even before I became a teacher, I had some incredible mentors whose influence has been indelible.

Those I Haven't Met (Yet): Being able to interact with people who I look up to and learn from through Twitter, blogs and other social media has become an integral part of my practice.

Do you remember the show, Herman's Head? Whether they know it or not, I have several mentors whose support, ideas and questions have affected me so deeply, they're basically stuck in my head at all times.

To me, a good mentor:
  • inspires others through his or her actions
  • encourages others by focusing on collaboration and celebration of differences, not competition
  • becomes "stuck on my shoulder" (like a little cartoon angel), and I can almost "hear" his or her voice encouraging and questioning me
  • challenges and questions your thinking 
  • supports you through good times and bad, without judgement
  • listens and really hears and remembers what you've shared
  • doesn't necessarily know all the answers, but can direct you to people or resources that might


30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 5: My Classroom

Due to an exhausting first week and a bout of tummy troubles, I'm two days behind on TeachThought's blogging challenge.

Time for some Sunday Ketchup (what we call "Catch-Up" in my classroom!).

Day 5's challenge was: Post a picture of your classroom, and describe what you see - and what you don't see that you'd like to. 

There's this thing called "House Blindness" that I totally have. Living in a place day after day, I stop noticing the details, everything becomes "wallpaper", where the individual elements no longer stick out. At home, this goes doubly for the little piles of paper and school supplies I leave all over the place that drive Captain Handsome crazy.

I've also developed "Classroom Blindness". When I'm told my room is "too cluttered" by Health and Safety, I honestly can't figure out the problem is. Similarly, I took some photos before the first day and, looking at them, I thought my room looked dull and boring.

Taking some time to reflect with this prompt, I'm trying to look at my room with fresh eyes and reflect on its purposeful set up.

EDIT (Sept 7th, 2014 at 1:30 p.m.): The design for the classroom was made by my students from last year. They reflected on what worked for them last year and what they thought would make a great learning space for my future students. This week, my current students will be planning the "Dream Classroom" set up and we may make some changes.

The work in progress (my classroom the week before school):
The week before school, I was lucky to have the help of two of my brothers and my teaching partner to move furniture, boxes and piles of books around.  

Last year, my grade 5/6s rearranged furniture at the end of the year, thinking about (what I then thought would be) the incoming 4/5s (as you know, I'm now teaching 3/4s!). They created this amazing reading nook, complete with the ever popular Bungee Chairs, foldable tables and lamps.
I tried to empty out the coat-room as much as possible in preparation for students. I selected coat hooks for them, which were labelled on Day 1. The 2 bulletin boards straight ahead were rarely used last year. I need to make better use of that space this year. The standing shelf beneath the bulletin boards is awaiting our Chromebooks!
I love starting the year off with tablecloths on the tables. These are cheapo thin plastic ones from Target. They don't last long, and I'm completely fine with that. This year, they lasted all the way until Friday and our first painting project.
You'll also notice my amazing bay window and stage area in this shot. It's always a popular place for students to read and work.
Under the blackboard (yes, I still have two huge blackboards in my room!), you'll notice cardboard bins - those are students Book/ECLIPSE boxes to be filled with their ongoing reading. Under those are their "Work Apartments", which hold notebooks, duotangs and other in-class work. I can't stand desks, so these solve the personal storage issue when a classroom is desk-less.
I always set up my classroom with tables (the larger the better!) to make collaborative work part of our classroom culture.
I really wanted to get rid of my teacher desk this year, but couldn't find a way to do it. I spend a lot of time outside class hours working there, and have a special chair because of my terrible back. Students' French time happens each morning so that I can have Prep, and the students stay in the room at this time. My desk space is a working space for me with my teaching resources easily accessible behind me.
You can also see my projector (hung from the ceiling), which is an essential, daily resource. Right now my computer is working terribly (I am awaiting a replacement) so I'm not able to rely on my projector. More than ever, I'm actually using my blackboard!
You'll notice a former occupant of my room taped a Word Wall onto the huge blackboard. I don't love it. Maybe with 3/4s, it will be more useful, though.
A use my enormous carpet many times a day. Students and I gather there for instruction, discussion and large and small group work.
This year, I have primary and junior sized chairs because I have primary and junior sized people!
Our class supplies are all shared and are located in several places around the room. The daily supplies like pencils, rulers and scissors are sorted into sections and back onto my desk.
The huge wooden structure behind the blue table is the cage for our awesome class pets, Speedy and Caine (they're degus). I adore having live animals in the classroom and so have my students!
Our world map has pins in it indicating the global connections the students and I have made since I moved into this room.
We hand make a calendar each month and refer to it regularly.
Tiiu made me "Kid President" posters for each month of the year.
On the top right of this photo, you'll notice my two precious "Muppet Workshop" Muppets. I made these guys in NYC at FAO Schwarz. Norman is green. He doesn't know any math. We help him a lot. Hedwig is purple, she isn't that confident at reading. Students like to help her out too.
Between the Muppets and the globes is my ever-expanding octopus collection.
I collect globes. This collection has been much larger in the past, but several were destroyed last year.
You'll notice a strip of patterned duct tape on the left hand side of this image. I measure my students three times during the year - the first day, the last day before winter holidays and during the last week. It's fun to see how much they grow during a year!
On the counter, you'll see a blue and white bin. Those are Hand-In and Hand-Back boxes. Completed forms and work go in the blue Hand-In bin. Putting them on my desk results in the Desk Monster consuming them mysteriously. Putting them in my hand is never relaible. The Hand-In Box makes sure I can get the work students complete! I empty this at least once a day. The Hand-Back Box gets filled with things that need to be returned to students after I've given some feedback. Soon, a student will have the job of being "Hand-Out Clerk" and hand these back to students.
Also on the counter are boxes of books organized by month. I got this idea from a colleague. I hope this will keep my read-alouds organized this year and remind me to get through certain books each month!
In the shelves below are reference materials (dictionaries, thesauruses, rhyming dictionaries, atlases) and non-fiction books. There is an overflow of some picture books here as well.
On Friday, the day I was *supposed* to be writing this post, one of my new students was a "Pickle" (he'd finished his "Mustard": Must-do and "Ketchup": Catch-up) work. He picked to work in his Imagineering Book. He surprised me by coming to me with this awesome diagram of our classroom! I told him the serendipity of his drawing choice and asked if I could post it. He agreed!
Above is what I see when I look at my room.


In terms of what I'd like to see:

1. Students! My room is so much more interesting when filled with the little people who spend hours each day working and creating in there. I'm still waiting for all my media permission forms to come in and then I can share what it looks like full of my team.

2. Student work: On all the bulletin boards, there is space for student work. I look forward to those filling up and changing over the course of the year.

3. A standing work space: I like to offer students a variety of places and ways to work. Some work sitting, some lying down, some in Bungee Chairs. I'd like to raise one of my tables this year. I've noticed that some of my students enjoy standing up to work anyway and know that it will be better for those who hunch over tables to have a table at standing height instead.

4. Homey furniture: A dream is to have a classroom that is much more like a living room or coffee shop than an institutional space. I'd love to spend a small fortune at Ikea and stock up on couches, tables and comfy chairs. (This is a bit of a Blue Sky dream and probably will not come true this year!)

5. A better organized class library: I'll enlist the students to help me with this. I'm not sure if we are going to sort books into bins or standing up. I like having them standing up only because they take less space that way. I'd like the students to have the largest voice in this, though, as they're the ones who will be using the class library all year. Right now, novels are on the tall bookcase (which was a gift from last year's class!) and the horizontal one is filled with picture books. I look forward to seeing how my team wants to organize our library. (I do, admittedly, have a desire to organize them all in rainbow-order, but don't know how practical or helpful that would be to my readers!).


When you look at my room, what do you see and wonder about?
What are some things that make your room a great learning space?
What do you think I should add, change or think about?
What are you still thinking about in your classroom?

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Tech Helps to Prepare Our Students for the Future

A member of my PLN and #comcon, Aviva Dunsiger, recently posted the above comment on one of my blog posts. Aviva is great at pushing me to think. She always makes sure to comment thoughtfully and ask questions to encourage further thought.

I am also thinking a lot about my rationale behind using educational technology because of discussions that took place between my BEd students yesterday in our first class. As a whole, my students were less familiar with edtech than I expected. Some even questioned the need for it.

We are responsible for preparing our students for the future. As teachers, we have to be futurists. The future includes technology in our daily lives. For better or for worse, kids in today's classrooms will be using technology every day throughout their lives. If we don't help to prepare them to be responsible digital citizens and how to use technology effectively, who will?

As those of you who know me in person know, I love technology. I love playing with new things and finding ways to make them help my students. I've gotten a reputation amongst peers and students that I am a "tech expert". I am not an expert by any means, but I am an eager learner.

Using tech with students has been transformative for me (and for them). Students who struggled to find and share their voices in a busy classroom suddenly feel empowered through the use of tech. Some ways I've seen this is in the work they create on the Google Drive, the videos they create to share in class (sometimes if they're too shy to present in person), and the projects they collaborate on. Notice that in the previous sentence, I mentioned "creation" twice. It is too easy to be a consumer in our world. Creation is key in life and in education. It's part of the reason I'm committed to blogging more this year. We are all responsible to control our own impact on the world - in person and online. The sooner students start living this the better.

Of course, there is a need for balance, and I don't, by any means, suggest that technology is a replacement for relationships or in-person contact. I only know that it enhances everything I value in a classroom. Tech helps with differentiation, creation, collaboration, authenticity, transparency, communication and engagement.

My Rainbow Eggheads presented at a conference for local teachers last year about how tech enhances their learning. They can tell you far better than I can about the impact edtech has on them.

I think today's teacher is not just a "Guide on the Side", but should be seen as a "Collaborative Curator". Technology gives me the abilities to: personalize all student learning and collaborate with each of my students; aid them in collaborating and connecting with each other and those in the world who can help and support them; help them sort through the huge volume of information available and curate effectively; give each student the opportunity to share his or her voice with each other and the world.

Technology, as Bill Ferriter wrote, is a tool, not a learning outcome. Like any educational tool, it can be used in a variety of ways depending on the creativity of students and teachers, and it does not stand alone.
I share this image frequently. I think Bill effectively summarizes so much about what great educators do, in the face of fears of technology. 
Technology allows me, as a teacher, to bring my practice and student learning to another level. I have deeply internalized the SAMR model to not just enhance, but to transform my teaching. Just substituting a paper worksheet for one online does not an educational enhancement make. When you start to redefine teaching entirely, that is when technology becomes indispensable. Providing my students with opportunities to Skype and collaborate with students in California, create a video for a student in hospital undergoing cancer treatment, bring their families from around the world "into" the room by live streaming class events and sharing our inquiries with changemakers through Twitter and our blog would not be possible without technology.
I think every teacher NEEDS to know and understand the SAMR model. My class learned and lived it last year.
Becoming literate today means a lot more than being able to speak, read and write. As I shared with my BEd class yesterday, there are "New Literacies" illustrated by Silvia Tolisano that was can use technology to help our students develop. 
"New Literacies" include the abilities to collaborate globally, create multimedia and design effectively. 
My new grade 3/4 EPCOTclass is very excited to get started using their Chromebooks. We are several days and some training away from starting to use them daily, but I look forward to exploring with them the challenges and advantages of having access to technology anywhere, anytime in our classroom.

Teachers, we have to keep up with our students and help them keep up with the world. Technology is a tool that can help us do just that.

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 4: What I Love About Teaching

Day 4: "Respond: What do you love most about teaching?"

So much.



I love the journey I take with my students every year, learning with them and from them.

I love the relationships I form with students and their families. I tweeted yesterday that I call my students "my kids" because they really do feel like that. I proudly bring my family into my classroom to work with "my kids". Even when they move, on they still feel like a part of me. Running into former students, having class reunions and being the person they contact when they need something or want to share happy news is a true priviledge.

I love being the person who believes in a room full of kids, some of whom don't yet believe in themselves.

I love seeing them do things they never thought possible.

I love that every day of my job is different.

I love getting to be creative, innovative and experimental. Thinking of something or reading something one night and then trying it the next day is amazing.

I love being the Lead Learner and a Collaborative Curator with my students.

I love collaborating with colleagues in my building and around the world.

I love how much inspiration I get each and every day from my students, my colleagues and my PLN.

I love learning what parts of me stuck with my former students:
"Miss Pollock, I never swear because in grade 7 you told me that people who swear aren't creative enough to come up with interesting things to say." - one of my former students, who is now in grade 11

I love that today, I heard this conversation in my class:
"Are you finished your tweet?"
"No."
"Why are you Imagineering, then?"
"I'm actually doing my Dream Class right now."

I feel so lucky to have found a job that is so much more than just a job. Teaching is my hobby, my habit, my passion, my vocation and my calling.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

30-Day Blogging Challenge Day 3: Observation Area for Improvement

TeachThought's day 3 challenge is to: "Discuss one 'observation' area that you would like to improve on your teacher evaluation".

It's five minutes until day 4 of the blogging challenge, so I've gotta write quickly!

In my school board, teachers are only evaluated every five years and I am pretty sure I'm not due for an observation for a few years yet. However, I'm always working on improving my practice.

An area I would like to be observed in this year, if possible, is in ongoing formative and summative assessments. Based on my own experience and feedback from students and families, this is an area for growth. In response, I've created my Annual Learning Plan for students. In the coming weeks, I will have one on one meetings with each of my twenty-three students (yep, my class reached it's cap today!) and their families. Together, we will collaborate to set curriculum-related goals for each student. The Annual Learning Plan document will be shared with students and their parents or guardians. Periodically, I will add feedback and have check-ins with each student to monitor progress.

Please let me know if you have any ideas on how to make this document more powerful or helpful for all three stakeholders: students, families and teachers.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

In Which 22 Students and Their 2 Teachers Begin to Learn Together

I can't understand why, after eight long weeks making my own schedule, doing what I want to do every day, it still feels like I never left my school. Walking in this morning for a fresh new year felt like not even a single moment had passed since the last week with the Rainbow Eggheads in June.

However, there were some HUGE differences that made me realize time had, in fact, passed. My former grade 6s moved on to middle school (I got a set of tear-enducing photos of a group of them starting grade 7) and my former grade 5s are now amongst the leaders of the school. They are in grade 6, split amongst two classes. Meeting new students and parents and watching the Rainbow Eggheads line up with other teachers brought me into the moment. As unforgettable and magical as last year was, I have a new group of students who are ready to get going and need me to be in the moment, every moment.

This year, I have the priviledge of working with an OT (Occasional Teacher) named Catherine who will be teaching our students every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. I'll be out of the school those times for my BEd course and she'll be teaching integrated Science/Math/Phys Ed and Health. Even though it wasn't her day to be in, Catherine gave up a precious sleep-in and joined us from the first moment this morning. I think it really helped to cement in our students' minds that we are all a team.

Of course, I over planned the day.

Below is what I hoped to get to:

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
Time
Subject
Notes
Before school


8-8:20 a.m.

Class numbers - line up outside
Drop off bags in coat room (hooks labelled)
8:20-9 a.m.
French
PREP
9-9:40 a.m.

-Name game - name with actions
-teacher marks our height against the wall
-My Flair, Flair Success Criteria
9:40-9:55 a.m.
Snack

9:55-10:20
Recess

10:20-12 p.m.

10:30 a.m. - Assembly

-Class photo
-doodle: Char Stars (in sketchbook)
-expectations/rumours about grade ¾, Room 209, Shauna
-Vision to describe the year - great class, great teacher, great classmates, supportive parents (fold paper in 4), “the first thing I do is always the same, mate!”
-How do you feel today? Sticky notes
-Getting to Know you survey
12-12:20 p.m.
Lunch

12:20-12:50 p.m.
Recess

12:50-1:50 p.m.

-Go Noodle
-Marshmallow Challenge (cooperation, innovation, making, planning)
Day 1 - marshmallow challenge - 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard tape, one yard string, marshmallow, 18 minutes, 4 ppl - highest free standing structure w marshmallow on top http://www.ted.com/talks/tom_wujec_build_a_tower  - graph standing structures (repeat 4 months later)
-measure heights of towers
-What Stuck With You Today? on sticky notes
-distribute package of newsletters from office
-get dismissal info - to office, in supply teacher book, by classroom door
1:50-2:20 p.m.
Music
PREP
After school

-Staff Meeting

Here are some of the things we ACTUALLY accomplished:
  1. For the first time in ten years of being in classrooms, I learned every student's name by the end of the day. I play a game where each person has to introduce his or herself and use an action to represent his or her name. Then, the rest of us say, "Helloooooo, ______" and mimic the action. I'm terrible with names. These movements are a huge help to me. My own is a paw-lick (get it? Pollock = paw-lick!?). Bringing in the students after first recess, I was able to greet all twenty-two of them by name. I only had to stare at a few of them for an awkward moment before getting their names. I wonder how many I'll have retained tomorrow.
  2. Students got their class numbers. They practiced getting in line and, man, are they good at it. Each student was assigned a class number (based on organizing their names alphabetically by first name). These help with getting in quick, orderly lines; doing attendance in seconds and keeping track of students on field trips, among other things. I've never had a class "get" this so quickly. They were pretty proud. I wonder how many they'll retain tomorrow! 
    This is not pretty, but it got the point across! Later, we might make this into an anchor chart near the door as a reminder.
  3. Students started their Getting to Know You surveys. I've done a variation of these for years. They're super helpful and several of my colleagues now use this as a template too. These are a great way to get to know your students' interests and also to get a quick snapshot as to their reading and writing skills.
  4. I gave out Brave Bots! The students carried them around proudly all day. I must admit, every time a Brave Bot chose a student, I let out a squeal of joy. Similar to the sounds I made as each Brave Bot got completed!
  5. We sorted out the dismissal procedure for the whole class and got them all to where they were supposed to be. Only one quick cry, which was calmed instantly with a Brave Bot.
  6. We took a first day photo.
  7. Students started their Imagineering Books. They're not allowed to erase in them. We did a warm-up doodling activity called "Char Stars" to get them loosened up and start the flow of creativity. 
  8. Inspired by Victoria Olson, who deliberately doesn't outline rules or expectations in the first days (or weeks!) of school, I let students sort out a lot of things amongst themselves. They chose seats, including sharing the five bungee chairs. We'll talk about how that went in our first class meeting on Friday. 
  9. We listened to the EPCOTclass playlist while students worked. When some students complained about "Everything is Awesome", we took the chance to have a quick discussion about respecting others' preferences. 
  10. We talked about the traffic light scale. Students used hand gestures to reflect on how they were working and how their behaviour was. Red light reminds us we need to stop right away and change things. Yellow light means we can improve. Green light means we're doing things how we should be. My class last year added Neon Green to the scale as well. 
  11. Students taught each other the sign language symbols for "Thank you", "You're welcome", "Toilet" and "Water" to save us lots of unnecessary interruptions.
    I know - a CHALKBOARD?! My computer wasn't working and I wrote this out. I hope the students will turn it into a poster soon.
  12. I remembered to measure each of the kids' heights. I do this three times a year - first week, week before winter holidays and last week. Seeing how much they're grown is always exciting. 

Some things I learned:
  1. Students at the very start of grade 3/4 just coming off summer holidays have a different output level than students at the end of grade 5/6.
  2. I can use my week 1 plans for about 3 weeks! The amount I didn't get through today could fill at least two more days. Plus, I already have the rest of the week planned. That'll fill a lot more. Time to put my feet up. (Yeah right!)
  3. My students' handwriting is really big and I need to leave a lot more space for them to fill out surveys.
  4. It's really easy to get my step goal in when I'm at school. I recently got a Jawbone UP24 to track my sleep and activity and I achieved 92% of my step goal during the day.
  5. It's OK to say no to some things. We were asked to update the extracurriculars we are in charge of and I took my name off of several responsibilities I've held in the past. 
  6. I have tweeting students! I already knew that one of my grade 3s was on Twitter, but I found out that one of my 4s is as well. I wonder how many I can get tweeting by the end of the year?
  7. Twenty-two grade 3/4s take up a lot less space than 29 grade 5/6s. 
  8. My former students will ALWAYS be "my kids".
  9. It's awesome to be working towards a shared vision with my co-teacher, Catherine and our students. 
  10. EVERYBODY is nervous on the first day of school. I didn't even have butterflies. I had moths. Huge moths. Once the day got rolling though, I didn't even have time to think about being nervous.
  11. Parents approach a new school year with eagerness and excitement and really do trust us to do our best with their children.
  12. It's worth it to unplug everything and try again. I've had really bad luck with tech lately. My classroom CPU is totally fried. I dropped by iPhone and smashed it. My (sort of former) teaching partner replaced my CPU (she had to try five different ones), but it wasn't working today. The monitor simply WOULD NOT turn on. After a lot of grumbling, I unplugged everything, plugged it all back in, and voilĂ , back in business. The computer is still the slowest one I've used in many, many years, but it is functioning again.
  13. Primary teachers get a LOT more hugs than Junior teachers.
It was a really lovely first day. I had a great time and heard a rumour that a couple of students were talking about what an awesome year they think it will be in Room 209. I think so too.