Just ignore the calendar, please…

My grade 7 students have been inspiring me a LOT lately. They remind me of the surge of pride one feels when faced with a challenge and persevering… and praised for fortitude in spite of the outcome. Pride in trying.

They remind me of the beauty of music when, upon sensing technical difficulties with the PA system (again), they don’t miss a beat before starting to sing it themselves, word for word. Beauty in music.

They remind me of the glory of silliness when, while writing a History quiz someone’s stomach isn’t right and a very long-winded sound rumbles against the plastic chair… and they wait until the test is over to laugh their butts off about it. For a long, long, long time. The delayed hilarity.

They remind me of the magic of inquiry when their questions become so deep and rich in critical thinking that they finally are okay with having more questions than answers, and see glory in asking even bigger, deeper, more unanswerable questions. The intrigue of discovery.

This is the time of year when we are beginning to feel growing anticipation for warmer weather and the sun begins to tease us into turning our faces upward to blue skies as we see summer on the horizon. Yet there is comfort in the routines of learning and relationships within the classroom. We have hit our stride and day by day, the teaching and learning comes second nature. Indeed, it is a pretty awesome feeling of accomplishment. Educators are prone to look at the calendar and do this crazy thing where we measure our accomplishments (read: curriculum covered) against instructional days, and more often than not, what results is a sense of panic and incompetence and frustration. Add to the mix a healthy dose of standardized test pressure and you’ve got a perfect storm for stress-induced irritability.

But that’s teachers. With students, it’s different.  They are oblivious to all that and just like those flies beginning to bounce against the windows, they have no idea of the impending erratic buzzing… the hormone/sunshine connection that is about to hit them hard. So before spring fever truly sets in, I  find myself observing and appreciating these guys and their roll-with-it take on learning and being. They are embracing the learning strategies we’ve been discussing since the fall. They continue with the learning without me in the room and transfer their skills to other subject areas and with guest teachers in my absence.They support one another when someone is down and stop to ask me how I am doing as well. In short, they are thriving.

Advice to self: Ignore the calendar. This is good.

Global Read Aloud- Day 1

Today marks the very beginning of this year’s Global Read Aloud, and my grade 7’s are on fire!! If #GRA14 is new to you, here it is in a nutshell:

It’s a global book club.

For kids.

The purpose: to make as many connections as possible.

So the reason my students are going bananas, is because we had the first chapter of our new book READ ALOUD by the actual AUTHOR.  How cool is that?  You can check it out here:

On the Global Read Aloud site we have provided basic information on who we are, where we’re from, so that we may connect with other classes from anywhere in the world. We can’t wait to make those connections and to potentially share our learning via video or text with students from other areas.

So today, after Lynda Mulally Hunt read the first chapter for us, we hopped on our shared Google Doc and did a quick write where each student was asked to comment on these two items:

Things I know about foster care        and     Predictions I can make about the book

I’ll share the document shortly, but promised three students a little more time when they get home today to finish up. (I see one on the doc right now.)

But because I cannot wait…

Here are a few of their unedited responses:

I dont know mutch about foster homes but I think that if child does not know about there real parents let them know

 

One thing I know about foster homes is that is that some parents treat some kids better than others. I also know that you really want to go back with your real family.

 

I know that it can be a lot of fun learning and doing a lot of things but it can also be a little sad because you might never see your real family or you might miss your real family.

All I know is that you dont get to choose

 

I know quite a bit of foster care because my friend foster cared some kids and its usually with kids who have an illness or who are sick

 

One thing I know about Foster care is that I am in a foster home for 8 years now,It does get boring and you will start to lose hope about going and living back with your real family after a period of time.

 

I only know a few things about foster care like that the foster parents get the house checked because it has to be safe for the foster children and you  need to have places for them to sleep thats pretty much all i know and i know it because i might do respite and we had a person check our house.

 

I, like the munchkins, am so darn excited about this book. About this process. About the possibilities of sharing and connecting and learning with people in other communities and challenging ourselves to learn in a new and awesome way. All in one swoop we are engaged in reading, critically thinking about the content, connecting with one another, collaborating on a product, and developing digital and global citizenship skills.

“hashtag, I love my job”

 

PS- want to join in on the fun? It’s not too late to sign up, it runs for 6 weeks. and today was day one. Stay tuned as we continue to capture and share our learning.

What does Mindset have to do with Student Success?

Children’s Mental Health is a hot topic in our schools these days. We are increasingly aware that we simply can NOT effectively teach students who are in a state of crisis.

And many of our students ARE in a state of crisis.

Educators can feel helpless in supporting students with mental health challenges. In a world of instant gratification, it can feel like an uphill battle to get to the roots of the problem (on top of our lofty goals of covering curriculum, using effective assessment, building relationships etc. etc. etc.) If this sounds, familiar, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Connecting via social media can help.

psychcentral.com is one of many resources that comes to me via my Facebook feed. The article this week begins like this:

Today’s children are at a higher risk for depression than any previous generation. Almost one in 10 children will experience a major depressive episode by the time they are 14 years old, and almost one in five will experience a major depressive episode before graduating from high school. The good news is, there is apparently something that parents and educators can do to decrease the likelihood that children will succumb to this statistic.

Research suggests that teaching children to think and problem-solve a certain way works to decrease the likelihood that children will become depressed. A team of psychologists developed an innovative school-based program which basically taught children how to be optimistic. Specifically, children learned to identify the negative beliefs they hold about themselves, others and the world, and then learn how to replace their pessimistic beliefs with more positive ones. It was much like a preventative form of cognitive behavioral therapy.

PRO TIP:

-When an interesting article or blog comes your way, check on the site for the FACEBOOK icon. By following the site, you will see similar features in your Facebook feed.  (The same is true of Twitter and other social media sites.)

WHAT THIS MEANS:

Our own learning as educators is at the centre of good pedagogy. When we model lifelong learning, we demonstrate not only that we are not the source & keepers of all information, but that we are problem-solvers as well.

When we model positive speech and a growth mindset- ESPECIALLY through explicit wording of our own weakness and strengths- we foster the opportunity for our students to do the same.

We do NOT have to give up curriculum focus or other good pedagogical strategies… but we also cannot afford to ignore the mental health needs of our students.

Connecting the dots… slowly… intentionally… we have more than a fighting chance to do it all.

superpower

Connecting (our) Educators

It’s a tricky thing, choosing how/when/where to share online. I talk the talk with my students and yet still struggle myself whenever I choose to post or email my colleagues.

Will they appreciate the message?

Will it be seen as simple sharing or being pushy?

Will they be annoyed by the “SEND ALL” format, or be empowered to use as they see fit?

These are but a few of the thoughts bouncing along when I’m composing an item to be shared. Why is that??

Regardless, I want to be sure to share some of the awesome things going on out there in the world outside our brick walls. I want to remind our colleagues that we’re not alone. Listening to educators on Monday, discussing the great things going on in their classrooms and hearing the awesome things they want to learn more about, it’s easy for ME to see the connections. And so, what do I do with that information? What good is scanning my Twitter or Facebook feed, reading blogs and participating in webinars and make connections to the work of others, if I keep it all to myself?  (Insert pep talk here)

So…

in a Send All email I put out earlier today, this is the content of my message:

Hey all,

With the work we’re all doing with our 21C goals and plans, I thought I’d share some related resources. October is Connected Educator Month and there are a LOT of webinars and events taking place. As we think about our own learning goals and personalizing our learning in our PLCs, perhaps there is something that connects to your work.

I’ll share some items regularly, with the subject area #CE14 (the hashtag one would use on Twitter to find similar events). Please use as you feel fit-

6 strategies

Here is a link to the Connected Educator site and an introduction of the event as described by my friend Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SFnp70Gvew

You’ll see that there are events every day of the month. Some are real-time, but any are asynchronous, meaning you can participate when you choose. (I personally also enjoy the infographics and posters that I can use immediately or make me think, such as the one above.)

Enjoy,

L

(NOTE- I received several “thank you” emails immediately following the clicking of “SEND”. Feedback is so important right??)

Again- stay tuned.  🙂

IT’S CONNECTED EDUCATOR MONTH!

Well… almost.

Maybe “Connected Educator Month EVE” is more precise.

While I have a really hard time coming to terms that we are facing the month of OCTOBER (where did Sept. go??), I am VERY excited for the awesome sharing and learning that happens every year during this month. And this year, it couldn’t be more timely. As I work with our school team on our School Improvement Plan, we are taking the learning stance that we will adopt a specific 21st Century goal. This, it so happens, is a direct connection to our BOARD strategic improvement plan, and of course, from the Ministry itself. (The hope, I might add, is that each and every staff member will align this work with individual Annual Learning Plans.

See how this works?

Top-> Down

Side-to-Side

All Around.

(And sometimes, upside down).

Another reason…

Connected Educator Month couldn’t be more timely… (aside from the obvious, that we are here as educators and requiring the need to connect more than ever, and to make opportunities for our students to do so as well).. but also, there’s this.

I am here, in our 3rd last session of our Principal Qualifications Program Part Deux.  (Yes, the fancy French title is all my own.) In our session, we are talking, planning, digging deeply into what it means to be a Connected Educator. It kind of looks like this:

PQP

PQP2

We are, in our very make-up, the essence of connected educators. We have come together face-to-face over the course of two summers, and are in our second set of synchronous webinars. These are my homies and although we are separated by hundreds of kilometres, we come together through technology to discuss, (tonight) things like being Connected Educators.

SO….

stay tuned. I may have accepted a blogging challenge this month.

Explicit Instruction vs. Inquiry Approach- Parent Edition

Those who know me, know I am all for Inquiry in the Classroom. From kindergarten through senior academic classes, I believe there is room for inquiry. Quite simply,

 it creates better thinkers, learners and problem-solvers.

So, when #ossemooc decided to do a month-long series on what I learned today I happened to be working through a dilemma of inquiry as a parent. Specifically, in the Henderson House, we have an ongoing discussion about money and chores. Without bringing in the many layers (read: years) of history with this topic, let’s just say that it’s the standard, Kids want money, I want a clean house, not sure how I feel about allowance…

So when the ten-year-old incessantly asks if she can learn how to do laundry, I say sure, sounds great. She has chosen this as a chore she wants to do, what’s better than that? (Plus: Family of five= no shortage of laundry.) Now I KNOW laundry isn’t rocket science, but it does involve some specific and explicit instruction. I will admit, it’s taken me three months to get to taking some time to SHOW her how to do laundry. (I can’t explain it, time just PASSES.) So there she is, happy as can be, sorting colours, adding detergent, PROUD AS CAN BE.

Except it’s not that simple.

“Mom, what if there is white AND red on the shirt?”

“Mom, what if I MISS your sweater and it ends up in the dryer?”

“Mom, what if there is grease on a part of dad’s pants that I can’t see?”

Deep sigh.

I WANT to be the parent who says, don’t worry, it’ll work out. We’ll be fine. I WANT to be the parent who has patience enough to answer every single question all day long, but also trusts that she can problem-solve on her own. I WANT to appreciate the thoughtfulness of these questions, and the value of the thinking that these imply. I WANT to. Really I do.

And most of all, I DO NOT WANT to give up and go back to doing the laundry myself.

Explicit instruction vs. Inquiry?

On a related note,

we’re working through inquiry in a cross-panel (intermediate-secondary) PLC. In this professional learning community, we have a team of wonderfully talented and energetic educators who are at all levels of adopting inquiry into their teaching practice. Together, we are learning what inquiry looks and feels like in different classes, subject areas, levels and grades. Best of all, we support one another in this journey. In yesterday’s PLC I remarked how relieved I feel that we are able to share and have this support… that in early years I did not have this support and always found myself wondering, Am I doing this right? How do I know it’s working? Am I still covering all of the content? Are the struggles worth it in the end? How much and when do I give up control? Are my students becoming better learners because of this?

So. Back to the laundry.

I don’t have an official parenting PLC. I do know that, as in the classroom, there is no guidebook, no absolutes, and that it is a process. I also know that, in all learning, there are no absolutes.

Inquiry AND explicit instruction are necessary.

Formative assessment is essential.

Questions are at the root of the best learning.

(Hers AND mine.)

At the end of the day, I have more questions than answers.

And this, my own words thrown back at me, an echo from my cheerleading support for a very uncertain teacher…

that’s how we know learning is happening!

Blogging Challenge- Here we go!

I admit it- It’s taken me longer than I would like to get to this blog post.

And I REALLY want to do it!

So, what gives?

A fellow “northern girl” Donna Fry (@fryed) challenged me last week to this blogging challenge, which has been circulating as a meme near and far. I kinda’ love these things! I love that it focuses a blog, connects others, gives us a glimpse into the writer, and personalizes this sometimes vast PLN of ours. I ALSO love the silliness… that we can post about things that may not necessarily be edtech-based… a topic which seems to be the glue that brings many of us together.

So, without further adieu… the questions, and answers…

1.What was the first “subject area” you studied after high school?

Education! I went straight to Brandon University where I was in one of the last classes of “Concurrent Education”, so I was able to get right into both Arts and Education courses. I continued to take every English course I could- had my first “C” on a paper in first semester and almost had a heart attack- and jumped into student teaching as if it was a co-op placement. (Broke all the rules- I’d had THREE co-op placements in high school, and in spite of Manitoba’s regulations, did every one of my practicum placements outside of Manitoba.)

2. If you could cook anything, what would you cook for supper tonight?

Anything seafood. Hands down.

3. What makes you stop and pause during your day?

Music. I travel a great deal, so music in my life is sporadic, varied and essential. The genre varies, based on my physical location. In my own vehicle, it’s my satellite radio or my iPhone via Bluetooth, (which has more than once been the butt of my friends’ jokes, as my “M” list might be Metallica, Michael Buble, Mozart)… I love taking note of the music in schools and in public offices, and in my office and work vehicles, lately, my radio is most often set to cbc radio. Jian Ghomeshi’s voice always makes me pause.

4. Cats or Dogs?

Both. Have always had both.

(Last week when my shepherd Hank ate a Bible, definitely would have said CAT.)

Quote of the century…

“Lindy, I can’t believe you are choosing a BOY over a cat!?”  (Sister, upon learning the hubs is allergic to cats.)

5. If you could only have only one Pinterest Board, what would the topic be?

Kitchens.

Surprises most people more that I do not pin.

6. What was the catalyst that got you blogging in the first place?

While my mom would say “all the world is a stage”, I say “All the World is a blog post!” I think in terms of blogging… I see people in terms of my blog… oh, how I wish I could comment on THAT! It’s kind of become my filter of sorts. And of course, in my diet of professional development, my daily intake of blog content from others is a must.

Why I began blogging, however, is when I was completing a Media Specialist and realized I had a great opportunity to make the platform part of the content. This continues to be the home of my favourite and most frequently-contributed-to blog. Media Madness for sure.

7. What is one (funny) childhood misconception that you had, or that you have experienced with a young child?

My little sister (see dog vs. cat) and my big brother both love music and pop culture. Growing up, Leigha would sing her heart out to anything on the radio, and quote lines from tv shows every day. She lived for this. An outsider would think Bart and Homer were people who lived in our house. (Wait, she had a cat Homer, so in a way, that’s true… I chose to believe it was after the author but who are we kidding?) So the funnies were inevitable when this pop culture lifestyle would lead a little girl to misquote song lyrics.

we would die fortycents, we were merely freshman… come on down, you’re the next text-to-text on the Price is Right!… or-or-orEO, or-oreO! What’s in the middle? The WHITE STUFF!

The tradition continues with my eldest daughter- Fill up my cup- mightaswelltalk!

8. What was your favourite summer job?

Hmmm… I’ve had SO many! I began working when I was 10 at our small-town newspaper, stuffing flyers, and in my entire life since, have had ONE SUMMER when I haven’t worked, taught or  taken courses. (Which is why I DARE someone to chide me for going into education just to take summers off.)  🙂

My favourite summer job was probably the year I ran a small ice cream shop on Main Street in Kenora. A tiny, TINY little cubicle, owned by a family friend; it had two employees, me and my friend Vanessa. We loved watching people on the street, and had only happy customers because, hey, who isn’t happy eating ice cream???

Or maybe it was the year I worked for the Humane Society with my OTHER friend Vanessa, where the entire summer was spent doing research for a project on people’s perceptions of animals… we collected responses based on a highly-scientific method of counting every (5th?) person in the phone book… and phoned, visited, solicited their thoughts and opinions. Admittedly, we spent a LOT of time on decks, on the lake, in people’s cottages… came to work in less-than-stellar work mode, but took the work very seriously most of the time… LOVED that summer with my bestie… also learned much that summer about people and my own perceptions of all things man and nature…

And I would be absolutely remiss to not mention the hundred summers of working at Clearwater Market… where I served in a restaurant, was a cook, pumped gas, counted minnows… back in the day when I asked every customer if I could check their oil, cracked up EVERY time I asked from behind the till “Did you have gas today?”, made literally thousands of sandwiches, hauled 50 lb bags of potatoes to peel for fresh-cut fries, counted cigarettes by the pack and carton, almost cried every time a bus of seniors pulled up for Maple Walnut ice cream, scrubbed urinals, and my all-time favourite- when it was DEAD QUIET in the winter, making up challenges like “sack races around the pumps” or gluing a quarter to the floor to watch others work SO HARD to try to pick it up. #classic  I tried to quit- twice- and was given a raise instead. These summers I would say work WAS my social life, and I loved working 6:30-2:30 so I could spend the rest of the day on the lake… and this is of course where I met my husband. So yes, I guess the market takes the prize as “favourite summer job”.

9. Where do you find flow?

Varies. Love my home. People inspire me, technology enables me to curate and create. Art is a passion. My kayak is my happy place. Fresh air is always ALWAYS good. A quiet lake, forested area or ski trail always clears the woes. Where, when and how it all comes together? Varies.

10. What was one personal challenge you faced in 2013?

This summer I left my brood for two weeks to work on my PQP. Left on July 1st, while my family went to the party at the park, fireworks in the boat… cried most of the way to Thunder Bay and every time they texted me happy pictures. This extended throughout the year as I plot my path in terms of career… ALWAYS the pursuit of balance is at the centre of my work and life. It’s also the first year I have been released from the classroom full time. I love/hate that too. We are in a time of major change in education- It is a challenge and I take it personally!

11. What are YOU passionate about?

The little people in my life. Family Dinners- every night and big, noisy ones with family and friends. Putting students first. Wellness. Human Rights. Literacy. Inspiring young people. Making the world a better place. Music, colour and laughter.

(from today's post...)
(from today’s post…)

 I can’t help but see the resemblance in this graphic to another favourite, that which helps me find flow, a borderline passion…

(pouring a glass of red perhaps?!)

Happy Holidays! What do you think- can I get ELEVEN comments on this post???? Anyone?????