Defining Moments

I was in the middle of a project when Jonathan first tagged me in this challenge of sharing our top 5 moments.A whole slew of great educators reflected on their top 5 defining moments in their teaching career. Thanks to Lisa’s post yesterday for the reminder to reflect.

As I reflect on the last 15 years or so there are so many moments that stand out. It’s hard to pick defining moments. What makes those moments worthy of such a title? The more I reflect, the more I realize the impact my teachers, my family, my experiences have on my day to day work but here are a few that happened right within the walls of the school house or at least the daily schedule (couldn’t decide on 4 and 5). Some are big, others small. They may seem insignificant but it’s crazy to see how they all add to my journey.

  1. Diving in with Both Feet – I’m not sure why I didn’t question leading lunch and learns in my first year of teaching. I was just so excited to get the job that I said ok to everything. It maybe wasn’t amazing and I maybe did sessions on Bailey’s Book House (I can’t believe I am sharing this) but it’s amazing what that small act taught me. I walked away with an understanding that everyone could be a learner, no matter how far along in their journey. We could all learn from each other in our learning community, even from a timid first year teacher.
  2. Wait – I can’t even remember which colleague it was now but I walked into their classroom to collaborate in my role as a Literacy Coach. They were in the deep of a conversation with a friend. The gesture was so simple. A quick show of the hand to ask me to wait one minute. I know this may seem silly but it has always stuck with me. Learner first. Everything else can wait.
  3. Community – An offer came up to collaborate with two other boards as we looked at instructional intelligence in our practice through a collaborative inquiry. I had never done anything like that before. Having opportunities to be challenged, pushed by and learn alongside great educators outside my board changed my perspective. More than anything the experience reminded me of the power of community and set a high bar for any future collaborations.

It’s fun to look back and see the small moments. Moments that made me stop and reflect while challenging me to look at learning differently.

What are your defining moments? 

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At the Start of a New Year

With the start of a new school year comes the excitement of new plans and projects. You start with one and before you know it you have a list from flexible seating to diving deeper with design thinking, reflecting more, exploring Microbits and livebeacons. The list gets longer and longer as you read and browse, chat with colleagues. Then that overwhelming sensation starts creeping in. Where to start? I get why colleagues sometimes ask what initiative should I pick? Which one should I focus in on? Exciting goals and plans quickly turn in to a long list of individual to dos.

As participants came in to our Primary Basic AQ course this summer, this quote was on the screen from How Learning Happens:

Children are competent, capable of complex thinking, curious, and rich in potential. They grow up in families with diverse social, cultural, and linguistic perspectives. Every child should feel that he or she belongs, is a valuable contributor to his or her surroundings, and deserves the opportunity to succeed. 

We came back to the quote time and time again. It was our anchor as we explored, discussed, challenged. Although we have used the quote each session I think what caught me off guard was how the idea of seeing kids as competent, capable, rich in potential kept coming up in our discussions in the Teacher Leadership course as well. The more I reflected on the quote I realized it became a lens that brought all the pieces together. It all comes back to the child. Our list of ideas, strategies, resources to explore may be long but if we keep this is mind, they just become a tool to empower and engage.

And then I thought…

Do I look at educators, parents, leaders with the same lens? Do I assume positive intentions and realize we share a common passion for education? How am I sparking curiosity? Do I value their past experiences?

Then the hardest reflection…

Do I look at myself and my work from that same lens? Can I say I’m compentent, capable and curious? Am I acknowledging how my past affects my practice?

So as a new year begin and the ideas start swirling, I’m printing off the quote as a daily   reminder to focus on our competent, capable, curious and rich in potential friends.

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Standing at the Waters Edge

Every summer for the past three years I head to see my parents. They live on the beautiful island of PEI where it seems hard NOT to find a long secluded beach to wander. It is always out first stop.

It seems silly but standing there at the waters edge, the waves crashing in one after the other, I felt peace. After three weeks of madness rushing between jobs and learning adventures with limited sleep I hadn’t really paused. As each wave came in, it seemed to pull back the haste and replace it with calm. Funny when those reminders will hit you. Its at the waters edge that I could hear Jack Miller, the prof for my last MEd course say:

What makes your soul sing?

A simple question as we chatted about mindfulness in education but the more I ponder it, the more I realize how essential it is. I can list what makes my heart sing: a photo walk, time by the water, a great story, a kids excitement when they have that aha moment, tinkering & making, even writing. I know that when I take time to do the above I can give more but yet I let the BUSY creep in. And maybe it isn’t about being busy but making sure the long list includes activities that refresh and do not drain. 

As a group of us have been reading the Empower book by AJ Juliani and John Spencer I’ve been thinking about this question in regards to empowering learners. What role does it play for us as educators? Are we more willing to share ownership when we are full? What if we asked learners the same question? If we tapped in to what made their souls sing would it change our relationships together?

It may not be as secluded or clean, but I have a waters edge at home too. I think for the year ahead I will set myself a regular reminder to step away and find some calm at the waters edge.

What is Teacher Leadership? – Our First Week

This summer I was asked to facilitate our first run with a new Additional Qualification course, teacher leadership with OISE. I was excited for the opportunity as well as a little nervous. My mind went back to our open space activity at OCT as we were writing the guidelines and the richness and diversity in the conversation. I found the hardest part those days was defining teacher leadership. It meant something slightly different to each of us. What could we all agree upon?

So as we tackled just that question of what is teacher leadership and the various roles it can take on on Tuesday, I thought I would send the question out on Twitter. I am so grateful for a PLN that is so willing to jump in and support. Check out all the responses here.

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Going through the responses and knowing a bit about each path, I can see that uniqueness come through. I loved how Maddie jumped in after Chris had done his reflection. It was interesting to see the two words broken down and Maddie working through the definition.

Going through the clips there are so many different skills we tap in to as teacher leaders from modelling to listening, leading to supporting. Mike pulled out a great set.

As I listened to the responses and reflected on our conversations this week and the various readings/clips in the course I realized it may always be hard to define teacher leadership but there will always be common skills we can agree upon.

Teacher leaders

  • understand the power of relationships
  • they listen attentively
  • provide support when needed
  • share a passion for learners
  • are always learning and they show it

What does teacher leadership mean to you? Leave a comment or add to our flipgrid collection. 

“That’s how you get it wrong but right sometimes”

I was scrolling through my Facebook page one day when I stumbled on a clip of Jamie Foxx on the Graham Norton show, talking about his first encounter with Kayne West.  A line at the end of the clip caught my attention

That’s how you get it wrong but right sometimes.”

After planning and chatting with the classroom teacher, we started our 3 part design task with a grade 6 class creating games in Hopscotch. Convincing friends of any age to design a game is usually not a hard task but this time around there was a friend that didn’t quite seem to buy in. He wasn’t really causing a rukus so it was all good. I was a little bummed but I was reassured by educators who knew him better than me that he was engaged. Fast forward to our last session together. Our games were starting to come together and I looked over to see my friend’s game. I looked over to see random shapes across the screen. Like Jamie in the clip, my brain was thinking “what is this?” but instead of jumping in I decided to ask a question. One simple question and I was blown away. Not only were the random shapes not random, but he had figured out code we never chatted about. We even chatted about how we could improve the game.

A lesson learned: sometimes things aren’t as they seem, sometimes my first thought can be wrong, sometimes a simple question can teach you so much more.

“That’s how you get it wrong but right sometimes.”

Summer Learning

Or this should be titled, how I got myself it to two projects a week before the end of the school year.

With only 2 more days with little ones and three days left to the 2016-2017 school year, you would think it would be time to slow down yet the excitement of summer this year has led to two summer adventures. They may fail miserably but there is no harm in trying I guess.

Empower Online Book Chat

A small group of us did an online book chat with A J Juliani & John Spencer’s book Launch this spring. It was a great opportunity for growth made even greater when we were able to do a face to face inquiry with some of the group this spring. So when we saw that a new book Empower was coming out we were really excited. I mentioned to Wendy on Twitter when I first saw the post that we should do a book chat and have to admit I forgot. Then Brandon mentioned a book chat for the book as well and I thought, why not let’s see whose interested. I’m always amazed how educators will so willingly give of their free time to learn. We already have 12 on the Google Form and can’t wait to get our hands on the book. The group has decided on a slow chat over Twitter so if you are interested, leave a few details on the form.

#peel21st 10 Summer Challenges

It was the end of June after a strike and in the middle of work to rule for me. With the gift of time Jay and I were sitting around (I promise for just a moment) wondering how we could help kids see that digital tools were more than Youtube, Snapchat and Clash of Clans so we came up with 10 summer challenges for the summer. Each week we would tweet out a different theme with resources to help folks get started. We had 2000 views that first summer and would share it when we had a chance but like most things with time it needed an update. I didn’t know if it was worth the investment of time. Fast forward to the end of this month and I was chatting with Sylvia one day. As excited as some friends are for the summer, we know others are not as excited to leave the structure and learning of school. It seemed like the summer challenges could be a resource to support some of our friends looking for an adventure. As I updated the cards and site I realized we needed something more. How do kids like to get information? All I could think of was Youtube and video. Enter the new Clips app by Apple.

If nothing else the weekly prompts will be an opportunity to work on my skills with Clips. At beast I hope a few learners find a spark to their own summer learning journey. If you want to join in, I’ll be posting the weekly prompt to a dedicated Flipgrid where you can share some tips around the theme for that week or where you can show off your creations!

So the year may be coming to a close but the learning is just ramping up.

Happy Summer!

Empowered Modern Learners – This is It!

I mentioned in my last post that as a school board in Peel we have just released our vision for Modern Learning. It was a long journey from our first conversations to the final twelve page glossy document. I wonder sometimes if the glossiness deters from the message. It’s easy to see the words on the page as static and not as a living.  Maybe I’m too idealistic but as I stood in the Steam Lab at West Acres yesterday Wednesday afternoon, I could see it come to life. Full disclaimer here we broke all the rules including those on the often retweeted Edtech posters. We didn’t have a particular curriculum link or a clear overarching goal other than to explore. This was our inquiry to see where learners would lead us. Sometimes the best learning comes when you break the rules.

I walked in to Westacres Public School yesterday afternoon with my bag of #makeymakeys, fruit and foil. In conversations with Trish, the teacher librarian, we thought the Makey Makeys could be a great way to build on all the awesome designing and creating learners had done to date with digital and physical materials. A chance to see that the two, the digital and physical world, could collide.

The Spark

We started with a simple prompt having one of the Makey Makeys set up with fruit connected to the Makey Makey Drum Machine on Scratch. As learners came in I’d invite one or two to help me test it out. With our first group it took about a minute before one of the friends started explaining that we were creating a circuit (using those exact words) adding on how we were transferring energy through our touch. All it took was this small spark and carefully laid out materials to have students get started. In the past I would have set up the Makey Makeys, I would have given detailed steps to get started but yesterday I realized it wasn’t needed. From that one spark we could say try it and they would figure it out. Those that needed support would seek it out.

A spark of curiosity, an invitation to learners is all that was needed.

Noticing and Naming

After setting up their Makey Makey and exploring some different conductive materials (the fruit is always a hit) we wanted to add another layer with code. We worked through how the code could help us create our own response looking at the sounds and notes blocks in Scratch (which was new to some friends). Again, honestly a minute or two after the mini-lesson, I could overhear one group say “We should use B A G so we can do one of our songs.” I moved a little closer and prodded with some questions. Why B A G? They replied that they are the three notes for their recorder songs. After some success with Hot Cross Buns and the like they were ready to add another note. Trish was listening in to a group at the back of the room. They were frustrated and all wanted to play their instrument at the same time and the one alligator clip grounding their circuit wasn’t cutting it so they discovered that they could use the Makey Makey tin to create a larger earth to ground them. I fear that if we went in with a detailed checklist we may have missed the opportunity to notice and name the learning.

Listening closely & asking questions allowed us to revel in our competent, capable learners.

100 Languages

One of the best parts of my job as I support educators, is that I can come in to a room as a blank slate. I don’t know what is in the OSR or the details of last year’s report, or those friends that we have just not been syncing with that day. I always find it is fascinating to debrief the learning and find often student’s who do not experience success in other areas of schooling find their voice in making. We noticed just that as we listened closely to their designing, creating and making. A colleague reminded me of  the 100 Languages of Children that the Reggio Emilia approach .

Making, creating and designing let us see the 100 languages of our learners.

This is it!

img_4030-1.jpgAs we started reflecting on the day I could see the elements from our Empowering Modern Learners vision document come to life. As learners collaborated and communicated, questioned and wondered we could see the work through out the year in their STEAM lab had created a culture of curiosity. Our role as educators was to observe and notice the learning. Our observations let us see learners in new lights, finding their strengths and jumping off points. Access to the technology made the learning possible, but the learners powered the experience it as they collaborated, problem solved, persisted through the challenges and their disagreements in their flexible environment.

I left my afternoon with the Westacres crew with a feeling of this is it. This is what the glossy words look and sound like. It is learners taking the lead. It is seeing a room of capable, competent, rich in potential learners. It is curiosity and wonder. I’ve seen it as we explore green tablecloths on floors with Kindergarten friends or coding Dash to meet Dot in grade 1. I see it as we design our own worlds for retelling and in creating dual language books with newcomers.

It isn’t about the tools but the tools often push us to a place of discomfort. They push us to a place of exploration, wonder and curiosity. They force us to take a different stance then we are used to. And in the process they bring out the competent, capable, curious empowered learners we sometimes miss.

You may see glossy words on a page, but this is it