Our Educational World Is Changing

I recently was forwarded this incredible video by Dr. Tony Wagner who is the Expert in Residence at Harvard Innovation Lab. It’s a powerful talk about the status and direction of Education held at the World Innovation Summit For Education.

Our educational system is changing and I have never been more excited for the opportunities our students will have for a successful future. This talk focuses on the changes happening and why innovation, creative problem-solving and knowing HOW to apply information learned within collaborative environments is so vital for our students.

If you have a free moment, I would highly encourage you to watch:

“When knowledge is a free commodity, we need to innovate” Tony Wagner – WISE 2014 [Special Address]

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Our “Who Do You Think You Are?” Presentations

Students today had the opportunity to connect, collaborate and share their family’s history with their peers from Mrs. Krefting and Mr. Kolody’s class. They each had presented their findings to one another in our classroom and received both peer and teacher feedback but this afternoon they connected with peers outside of our homeroom for a different perspective.

Each student paired up with one or two other students to present and learn about one another’s ancestors and family origins. Thier discussions were centered around our three guiding questions for Social Studies:

  • Why did your ancestors come to Canada?
  • Where did they settle?
  • Why did they choose to settle there?

Each student-chosen group was provided with a venn diagram document on which they took jot notes of their partner’s family history, their own family history and the differences and similarities between. Students were quickly able to pick out the most important of details and make those connections about their own families.

It was an incredible afternoon of connection and learning and I have never been more proud of LC5B!  Here are a few pictures of our learning this afternoon:

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Our next step was for students to blog a reflection to share their learning with a focus on:

  • What they learned about themselves and their family
  • What they would do differently and what surprised them
  • What they felt was the most valuable part of the process

If you’d like to read their reflections, they are posted on their blogs at www.psdblogs.ca/dariss, however these are a few highlights:

Who Do You Think You Are Reflections

1. Ashley

2. Ian

3. Cassie

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Classroom Learning – Term Two Update

Hi everyone,

I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday break and a great first week back to school! We eased back into our routine last week and have begun some new projects. Below is a brief overview of the learning focus for in our room for this term:

Language Arts

We are finishing the book Out Of My Mind for our read aloud and students will continue making predictions, connections, inferences and asking questions for our reading strategies. They will post their reflections on their blogs and this term we will have a deeper focus on conventions in their writing. Emphasis and assessment will be placed on capitals and punctuation use in all writing.

We will also be focusing on the Organization trait in writing and students will be learning how to gather their thoughts and compose them in a fluent way. We will start a group read aloud on the book Wendell The World’s Worst Wizard and students will have the opportunity to write their own stories with detailed beginning, middle and end while also connecting predictions, inferences and questions with other classes also reading this book.

Students will also start their own book clubs and literature circles this term. Books will be chosen by student groups so as to focus on their interest but also their instructional levels. This may involve some at home reading if a student is not able to read in time allotted in class time. They will meet daily with groups and discuss the book, its contents, their reflections and predictions. Individual at home reading is still to continue whenever possible and is to be recorded on Good Reads or in their reading duotang  – whichever they have been assigned. Students are encouraged to continue to review their books, provide recommendations and search for additional books they want to read on Good Reads as well as set their 2015 Reading Challenge goals.

Our Reading Tree!
Our Reading Tree!

We had a beautiful Reading Tree drawn and painted by the incredibly talented artist Aiden. which we cut out and placed in our room. Students have begun to fill it up with all of the books they have read and rated. Our goal is to have it overflowing by June with all of the books we have read!

Mathematics
We are working on our multiplication strategies with integrated division strategies so students can make the deeper connections between the two with a focus on fact families and deep meaning and understanding of multiplication and division. Students are also working in groups on Tuesdays and Wednesday with Mrs. Krefting‘s class to strengthen their mathematical understandings. We also are continuing with our Problem Of The Week every Fridays and students will reflect on their processes on their blogs.

This term we have also started participating in the Math Photo A Day Challenge with other classrooms around the world. Students are provided with mathematical prompts daily and they are to find and represent their understandings through a photo. We have begun to tweet our photos on Twitter using the hashtag #MathPhotoADay and I will curate all of their photos monthly and post them to this blog for you!

We are also learning how to use charts and graphs by integrating our understandings with an upcoming Science unit of Weather. Students will be graphing weather trends globally.

Science
We began our Classroom Chemistry unit and students have started learning about the States of Matter : Solid, Liquid and Gas. We have watched a Bill Nye video and they have implemented their jot note skills on the states of matter. Students will begin experiments this week with key learning features: mixtures, crystallization, properties of matter and chemical reactions.

Social Studies
Students have worked so incredibly hard on their family history presentations and we are all so honoured to learn about one another’s ancestries and family backgrounds. They began their presentations to our class this week while at the same time received feedback from both myself and two peers. They have been using an assessment tool and interactive feedback document in their Google Docs which allows them to leave and receive peer and teacher feedback. As a student presented, two peers were leaving them feedback and everyone else was practicing their jot note taking and picking out the most important features of their peer’s presentation. I have never been more proud of the hard work and dedication they are demonstrating!

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Presenting, providing feedback and taking jot notes!
Working hard on our presentations and our feedback/assessment documents.
Working hard on our presentations and our feedback/assessment documents.
Providing feedback and taking jot notes, working on our 1000 piece Map of Canada puzzle and presenting!
Providing feedback and taking jot notes, working on our 1000 piece Map of Canada puzzle and presenting!

We will be meeting with Mr. Kolody and Mrs. Krefting’s class this week and re-presenting our family histories in small groups and making connections between the histories of one another.

This term we will also be focusing heavily on the Regions of Canada. There are six regions:  Atlantic, Arctic,  Plains, Canadian Shield, Great Lakes St. Lawrence and The Cordillera. We will be diving deep into the Arctic and the Great Lakes St. Lawrence regions and then collaborating with our peers in  Mr. Kolody and Mrs. Krefting’s class to make the connections between the other four regions. Students will research and participate in a variety of activities to deepen their understanding of each region. They will then write a persuasive argument for one of the regions and present to the LC 5 groups in a Socratic Circle.

Students who are participating in the Minecraft region creation can continue and share their building as they go.

I will continue to update you on our learning adventures as we continue!

Miss D. Ariss

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2014 – My Year Of Change & Growth

The start of a new adventure!
The start of a new adventure!

This reflection will be framed in a different format than my usual posts. This is just how I feel I can accurately reflect on the year that has passed as it contained such force and fundamental change that I have compartmentalized most of it by time frames.

January – February 2014

I felt it…that feeling in the pit of your stomach that digs away at you. It whispers quietly at first, but it quickly becomes so loud that you have to listen: “Dana, you need a change.” I loved my school, my co-workers, my district and most of all my incredible group of students who had been my little family for three consecutive years. I remember first meeting them in January of 2012 as they were told they would have a new teacher and a brand new classroom. They had been in a combined grade one-two and extra funding had come up enough to hire a full time teacher for them. There I stood in their old room and watched as each one came up to me, introduced themselves by name and told me their favourite colour. I still remember their anxious faces and their half-smiles as I walked with them down the hall to what would become our new room. “THIS IS OURS??” they exclaimed with joy and squeals as the doors to their new home opened. I nodded yes and in that exhilarating moment, I knew in my heart that I also had found my home.

So when that whispering feeling of change started coming around, I panicked. Ignorance is bliss as they say and so I ignored it.

March – April 2014

I knew that no matter what was to come in the future, my students and I were to be separated at the end of this school year as they moved on up to grade five. I went into full “make the most of every moment” mode and these months brought us so much innovation, creativity, inquiry and excitement in learning. I did my absolute best to ignore that feeling to the point where I wasn’t doing much beyond working. I planned, I connected, I shared, I communicated, I read, I tweeted, I moderated, I presented, I travelled to conferences, I blogged and I taught and learned with my all of my heart for and with my students. These were the most exhilarating moments of teaching I have experienced (all of which have been documented in my blog and our Twitter account Miss Ariss’ Class). I poured my entire being into teaching and making every minute count. However, that feeling of change didn’t go away and it was wearing me down as the days went on. I learned that no matter how hard you want to run from the feelings that scare you, it is often those that need to be felt and addressed. I finally stopped and really evaluated what I wanted and needed:  Leadership mentors, group collaborations, constructive feedback loops for growth, opportunities for larger impacts on educational change, learning PD for my own growth and a more permanent home-base both professionally and personally

Change was happening and that feeling became so loud within that I finally started listening. Sometimes in life, things happen for reasons beyond our control but when we look back upon them, we often see the real meaning and the learning that can occur from them if we have the right attitude. As much as I loved everything about my career, I knew in my heart that my time in my little community, where I felt the safest and happiest I have ever felt, was ending. I could continue to ignore my personal and professional needs for growth and stay in my comfort zone or embrace that feeling and move forward into uncharted change. Those who know me well….know how this story will end.

May – July 2014

I can only describe these months as an absolute blur. Somewhere between full-time teaching, numerous educational conferences, presentations and travelling….I found the courage to listen to my heart. I took a huge leap of faith and accepted a new position at an incredible middle school a few hours away. Many would call me crazy for leaving a permanent teaching position, but they would not know who I am and what teaching truly means to me. Its not about positions, status, rank or authority; for me, teaching is about continuous growth and learning. To truly be an effective educator, I needed to continually embrace the difficult situations and decisions in my life and learn from them in order to grow and develop into who I am as a person which has a direct affect on my teaching, because I teach from my heart. I cannot remain in my zones of comfort and expect my levels of teaching to grow. I needed to widen my experiences in order to become the educator I need to be for every student that I have the privilege of working with.

I make this sound as if it was easy when in reality, this truly was the single most difficult decision of my life. I had built a safety net and it was never harder to accept the truth that nothing in life ever stays the same. I became almost paralyzed with fear; I was so afraid of losing the only family I had come to known, so afraid of moving away from everything that I had built and created, so afraid of what was to come, that I completely became focused on the impact failure could have on me by making this decision. I forgot how much I would champion making mistakes and learning from them to my students, but the difference was that we had built a safe environment for failing. I didn’t feel so safe as my entire life depended on succeeding with this decision I had made. I turned to the safety of my closest friends and family, who rallied alongside me and supported me in every way imaginable. By July 1st, I was living in a new home, in a new city and preparing for a new school, new colleagues and my first group of “new” students in three years. That is a lot of NEW and it happened within a span of barely two months. This was that feeling in the pit of my stomach realized: Change.

August 2014

Questions, questions, questions swirling in my mind all the time!

Where is our room?

Who do I contact for this?

Where can I find?

Will I connect with a new group of students?

Will I make an impact on their lives?

Will my colleagues accept and welcome me?

Can I really do this? Oh wait… I AM DOING THIS!

September 2014 – December 2014

When I first started this reflection I didn’t fully grasp or realize the amount of learning accomplished during the final half of 2014 until I started looking at the photos I had taken. I have grown immensely both personally and professionally in these past few months by being active in my new community and surroundings, by embracing the uncomfortable, by being honest and open about my strengths, strong passions and areas of growth but most of all in my own self-confidence as an educator.

I found myself surrounded by communities of support, expertise and varied experiences in an environment prime for growth. This is what I had hoped for and I knew it wouldn’t be an easy journey, but I have never been one for easy. I have come from close to 5 years of independent teaching in small rural schools. I have always planned, coordinated and constructed all of my own materials, units, and assessments based on my own student needs and most recently, students with whom I had looped with for three years and knew like family. I now was in a team of six grade five educators collaborating together on the learning for our students, in a school almost seven times the size of my previous.

A few of my fun-loving colleauges!
A few of my fun-loving colleauges!

Reflecting on the start of the school year, I see now that underestimated the transition into this. It has been years since I needed to share who I was, my true self, with other educators, as when working within a small district everyone knows everyone. My other collaborations have been with educators who follow me on Twitter or read my blog and have a strong sense of who I am. The individuals within my comfort zone, who are my rocks, all know my deep passion for learning, know how excited I get at the thought of planning a unit with my students and finding those connections for them, know that I am honest, genuine and will ask a lot of questions because I have a need to know the why behind everything I bring into my classroom, but that mostly I care…about everything and everyone all the time.

I learned that when working within a large group, fostering a relationship beyond work is essential for the dynamics because once everyone truly knows one another a foundation of trust and an environment where vulnerability is welcomed can be built, however that this also takes time. Effective collaboration doesn’t happen overnight, it needs to be built step by step by each individual party. My sheer optimism and strong will to ensuring meaningful things happen despite obstacles, is who I am however this is something that is shown over time through sincerity and action. I am learning how to communicate my passions, thoughts and ideas outside of my comfort zone and am pushing myself to hear (not just listen) and understand more and more.

Our LC5B!
Our LC5B!

These few months also taught me about the power of student connection and relationships. I had worried whether I would be able to connect with a brand new group, but as the weeks went on I started receiving hugs, drawings, jokes, stories from home, open discussions about their lives and genuine interest in mine, shared laughter and that feeling of knowing these are the amazing kids I am so lucky to know and work with every day. I love the community we have built and will continue to grow.

We are a family and their words mean so much to me!
We are a family and their words mean so much to me!

Just a few weeks ago, I decided to surprise my previous students by attending their Christmas Concert at my old school. I snuck into the dark auditorium hoping to grab a seat when one of them noticed me from behind the stage. Within a few seconds, they all popped out from behind the stage and began furiously waving to me. I can’t begin to describe that moment, but a lot of tears were involved. The kids I am honoured to meet and work with throughout my career are what make being an educator the most  meaningful to me.

Learning and sharing...always!
Learning and sharing…always!

This term also brought forth a lot of Professional Development and new projects which I am so honoured to have been a part of. Collaborating with other PSD70 educators on the first ever #EdCampPSD70 and co-keynoting the opening with Kelli Holden in the presence of so many incredible colleagues was truly humbling. Kelli and I reconnected again in November to present at ATLE on the use of SKYPE in the classroom.

I was also honoured to be asked to present an IGNITE session by Dean Shareski, who ever so kindly arranged the presentations to start alphabetically which in turn had me presenting first. This required me to dig deep into who I truly am as an educator and helped build my confidence in sharing that with the larger community of educators. Despite the nerves, it was an absolutely thrilling experience where in five minutes I shared my passion for education and spent the evening learning about the passions of others.

I was introduced this term to many new forms of PD focused on #MakerSpaces and #MakerEd, which I had implemented in my previous teachings but never had the opportunity to dig deeper into. From a Saturday road trip to Calgary with my AP and three other teaching colleagues to attend a one day MakerFaire to an ERLC hosted MakerSpace session where I connected with local librarians on the new creation of Innovation Labs in our city. I am so excited to share these experiences with the kids as they completed their first Innovation Week projects in December and will be visiting the labs in January. Not to mention continued collaborations and discussions surrounding Alberta’s Curriculum Redesign which I am currently a part of the committee for my new district in working on the competencies in learning.

In remaining true to myself and constantly having a need to learn and absorb, I along with my #Cdnedchat team continued our weekly collaborations continued and our chat is livelier than ever on Monday evenings! I also jumped in to three separate book clubs with Google Hangout reflections with various educators within my school and across the world to expand my learning and push my mind further. One of the book clubs focused on Leadership through being a part of my district’s Exploring Leadership committee.

Present – 2015 and beyond

My biggest take aways from 2014 have been to always listen to your heart, no matter how scared you are, and that how change is viewed depends solely on how you approach it. Is it an adventure filled with learning opportunities or will you view it as something horrible and choose comfort?

I learned how to truly be vulnerable and to rely on others when I need to. To not be afraid to say I need help or I don’t understand this can you show me. Reach out to others and in doing so, you open the lines of communication and make your connections just that much stronger.

I was reminded by my own inner fear and worries that we all face insecurities, hardships and stress. Our job isn’t to add to that, but to lift it off of one another. Be kind to all, especially the ones who may seem to have a hard exterior because somewhere down their path of life their experiences helped to shape that. Our students may come to school with brave faces, but they are looking to us to create the safety of an environment conducive to learning, just as we need in our own professional lives.

So what does 2015 have in store for me? I won’t even venture a guess, but I certainly hope my years continue to provide me with continued learning opportunities, strong supportive networks and a deeper understanding of my purpose as an educator.

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Classroom Learning – December 2014 Recap

December was an absolute blur as we finalized projects and dove into our very first Innovation Week. I have a few additional photos to post for you as during Innovation Week teachers are separated from their classes and are spread out amongst students from all grades and so I was not able to capture every moment.

There are a few photos to add as well from other happenings in our classroom last month!

Innovation Week engagement!
Innovation Week engagement!
They built their gingerbread houses and then wired them using circuits for Innovation Week!
They built their gingerbread houses and then wired them using circuits for Innovation Week!

We also had the opportunity to connect with three other classrooms and program developer Gretchen Noelle from the app Kodable to learn about computer programming and coding. Students had the opportunity to learn about how computer coding their own apps and games feature math, language arts and science. Some were so fascinated, they made their Innovation Week projects centred around coding.

Skyping to learn about Code.
Skyping to learn about Code.
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