Tag: Inquiry

What I Have Learned To Be True

 

If someone were to ask me what I thought my greatest strength as an educator was, they may be surprised when I say it’s not technology as that is what I am most vocal about. While I love technology and use it purposefully in every way I can, it’s not what I would identify as my greatest strength or contribution.

In my five years as an educator and my varied experiences ranging from teaching Grade 2- Grade 6, I have discovered that my strength lies in my strong connections with students. When reflecting on this, it occurred to me that my passion for working with children has always been innate and it took removing myself from the comfort zone of corporate life and embracing what I truly love to understand that education is my calling and purpose.

It’s summer break and those connections have become evident to me from the amount of emails and messages I have already received from parents and students. I also recently read this article “13 Reasons Students Hate Teachers” which made me wonder what it is that I know to be true about kids and what I have learned from teaching that I hope makes a positive difference on the life of a child.

I’m five years in with so much more to learn, experience and grow. These five years however have taught me the following about kids:

1. They are free-spirits.

They say what they feel and notice, do what they want and enjoy the small things in life that most of us adults gloss over. They can mix and match outfits without care or worry about judgement because they love the colour. They dance, play, laugh and can talk up a storm when comfortable because it’s fun. They will pick flowers (weeds) for you because they were pretty and draw you pictures because they look up to you without concern. They live life to the fullest which is something that can cause unease with adults who are unable to go with the flow or appreciate their whimsy.

2. They are funny.

When was the last time you sat down with a group of kids and really and truly listened to them? When did you spend quality time at recess or lunch and just chit-chatted? I will guarantee you that some of the jokes and life experiences they have will have you in stitches. We often overlook that “free” time during school to catch up on emails, photocopy papers, run errands, but if we slowed down and took that time to hear and be a part of their stories, our own lives would be made so much brighter.

3. They are human.

This point is the one that I hold closest to my heart. They are not robots or machines churning out worksheets, booklets and dioramas. We do not get them fully charged every morning nor do we get to plug them in upon arrival to school in order to do “work”. They have full and complete lives that do not centre around school and we must honour this. There will be days where they are tired, hungry, upset, anxious, worried, scared and those are the moments we must stop what we are doing or have planned and talk to them, work it through and support.

4. They are honest.

Yes, you read that correctly, they are honest. If a child trusts you and knows you have the best of intentions for them, they will tell you the truth whether they are in the wrong or not. Without a solid relationship built on trust, honesty cannot be forged. The reason most people lie is because of fear and if they knew that the person they are being honest with cares about them and is not out for punishment but is there looking out for them and wanting to help them be better, they will tell the truth.

5. They are not looking for a boss.

I am a leader, confidante, guide and a trusted adult who is there to support them in learning about the world around them. I am not their boss nor do I ever want to be. This is not to be confused with being their friend either because that too is not my role. A student once told me ” Everyone always nags, nags, nags. Thank you for getting us and giving me a chance to do things on my own.” As an educator, I guide them in the right direction and in making the better choices. I teach them the tools they will need to succeed in life and I will be there for support in the areas they are struggling in both academically and socially.

6. They all have special needs.

Every single one of us is unique and all of us have areas of strength and areas of growth. There hasn’t been a single individual I have ever encountered in my life that didn’t require assistance in some way and this is the same for all students. We provide varying accommodations for all students depending on their needs at certain times which takes a strong educator to identify and apply. Every child deserves an education that allows them to be pushed to the barriers of their understandings. This requires dedication and hard work on our part as educators to ensure we are providing varied activities, assessments and content which target every child with what they require to learn.

7. They possess emotional strength greater than most adults.

When I hear the life stories of some students, my first thought is usually “how are you still able to bring yourself to our classroom everyday and engage in the learning because I know I couldn’t do it.” School is the safety zone away from whatever else is going on in life for a large majority of students that enter our schools. Some stories we know about while there are many others we may never know about however despite the turmoil, they show up everyday. I applaud and honour their strength and every day in our classroom is a celebration of life and learning because school is the one place in the world we have the power to make that possible.

8. They are curious.

They want to know what, how, why, where and who over and over and over. If they don’t, then their natural curiosity has been stopped at some point or they have learned that the schooling system doesn’t give much time for curiosity so why bother. It is our responsibility to ensure they retain that curiosity because it is the foundation for deep learning. They are curious because they care, are interested and looking for a way to understand. If we honour and harness this by not only allowing but encouraging it, they will engage in meaningful and relevant learning.

9. They want to love school.

Note that I didn’t say they all love school but that they all want to love school. Every year they walk into the unknown with a new class and a new teacher which could make or break their entire year. They start the year hopeful and excited because they truly want to learn, want to have friends and want to be a part of the community. We, as educators, have the ability to ensure this excitement remains all year-long for all students. Some start the year with self-imposed labels from previous years: “I’m always in trouble”, “I can’t do math and I am not smart” or “I have no friends, so I don’t want to be here”. We need to see these as cries for help and work with students to ensure they get past them. We need to find out the reasons and causes and together come up with the solutions to help them because deep down, they want to love school.

10. They are longing for connection and meaning.

They want to know that this place they have to go to every day where they spend the majority of their time is for a purpose. School has to connect to their life which means it must integrate the same tools and ideals they use outside of the building, build on their understandings and curiosities as well as be relevant for their future. No longer do we live in isolation and there is no reason why our classroom doors should be closed. Kids are connecting via social media, Minecraft and YouTube videos,to name a few, and yet school remains this isolated entity. They want to know how others around the world live, work and learn. They want to know that what they are learning has a deep purpose and is not just repetitive busy work. If there is a disconnect, they will disengage. The best way I found to do this is by explaining the “why” and having those full classroom discussions about the relevancy and purpose of the learning happening but most importantly by being flexible enough to change everything if need be to ensure it truly is meaningful to them.

The education of our youth goes far beyond just delivering curriculum and providing assessment after assessment. They are children and we are so lucky to have them in our lives each and every day. I cherish the learning I receive from each of them and I am so honoured to work with every child that enters my life. The above is my own personal roadmap and while I know not everyone will agree, it is what I follow in my heart and what I have learned to be true.

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Forging The Path

transformational-leadership-quote

I’ve always been a very reflective individual; a deep processor of information. Sometimes I see that as one of my best qualities and other times it feels like a large burden. It is when my thoughts overtake my ability to gain new insights, to grow and to be creative that I know I need to pull away and focus on other areas to maintain that balance.

I have been surrounded by such an incredible amount of learning this year that my focus has been on just that: Learning. My presence has been felt most in my classroom by my students, time with co-workers, on the field coaching and with myself as a life-long learner. My online PLN has contacted me numerous times this year wondering if I was ok, or if something was wrong because the one area I have pulled back from is being constantly connected.

I have learned that in order for me to be the best educator I can be for students and to also foster change and innovation in my passion, I have to grow in other areas outside of my online educational world. I have spent this year reading more than I ever have in the past and pushing my mind to think in different ways. I have implemented new ways of inquiry learning, unit planning and assessment along with my love of technology for authentic teaching practice. I have grown tremendously as an educator by maintaining a strong focus on one area of my career: what is best for kids.

This year has brought me to a point where I am realizing the importance of focusing on one thing and truly dedicating myself to deep reflection and evaluation for growth.  I have found that we as educators rarely ever take time to just learn, stop, reflect and evaluate, myself included and so that is what I have been doing. Reflective time is of the most importance and I have chosen to be mindful in how I spend that time in order to become an educator who will have a large impact on the lives of all students that I encounter and learn with in my career.

So while I continue to have an active social media presence, sometimes in full force and other times quiet just know that I am always there; learning, absorbing, applying and processing. The learning process is one of give and take and I’m now readying myself to not only give but to give authentically based on learning experiences.

Sharing what I have learned is my next step because I truly believe in transparency, openness and authenticity for true growth, however I want to ensure that what I share is relevant, true and something I am truly passionate about. In order for this to happen, I need to teach; I need to be active in my classroom; I need to see and witness the learning process first hand and grow through it. I cannot lead, nor can I seek growth or ask for authentic feedback, if I myself, am not walking the path. I have learned not to deny the world around me as in the Seth Godin quote, but to engage wholeheartedly in it to not only describe my vision for the future of education, but to start on the path of creating it.

Dear PLN…. do you also find yourself attempting to balance your time between absorbing, applying and sharing new learning? How does that balance look for you?

 

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LC5 Made The Front Page!

Our learning community’s partnership and visit with our local Spruce Grove Public Library to introduce our students to their brand new Innovation Lab was featured in the Spruce Grove Examiner this week.

Here is the article written by reporter Karen Haynes:

Ella Morrison didn’t seem shy as she belted out the lyrics to her favourite songs during a tour of the Spruce Grove Library’s Innovation Lab on Jan. 16. Morrison was using the library’s GarageBand technology to record her voice. - Karen Haynes, Reporter/Examiner
Ella Morrison didn’t seem shy as she belted out the lyrics to her favourite songs during a tour of the Spruce Grove Library’s Innovation Lab on Jan. 16. Morrison was using the library’s GarageBand technology to record her voice. – Karen Haynes, Reporter/Examiner

The Spruce Grove Public Library’s (SGPL) Innovation Lab is open for business and students from Greystone Centennial Middle School know first hand just how cool this library addition really is.

From Jan. 13 to 16, Grade 5 students from the Spruce Grove school toured the library’s Innovation Lab, testing its virtual reality program, Lego robotics, GarageBand software, 3D printer and circuitry systems.

“Libraries are not just about books anymore and they haven’t been for a long time,” said Leanne Myggland-Carter of the SGPL.

“We are a community hub — for many ages and stages in life… We have intergenerational learning going on. Kids come with their parents and grandparents, and they are helping each other. It’s a community based learning space,” she said.

Dana Ariss, a Grade 5 teacher from Greystone said the partnership between the library and the school was a prime opportunity for students to learn about the technology and resources that are available to them.

And it perfectly complemented the school’s recently completed Innovation Week, which finished right before the Christmas break.

“It was such a valuable experience for the students to see what there is. For them to have one-on-one building time, creation time and play (time), that’s where they construct their own knowledge. To give that to our students is something that is an absolute must,” Ariss said.

From Dec. 15 to 19, Greystone students participated in their fifth Innovation Week. For four days, students are challenged to question, investigate, process and create a final project in an area of deep interest to them.

“They go through the design making process. It helps students to have an understanding of themselves as learners and how to share their learning,” Ariss said.

Focusing on some of Alberta Education’s cross-curricular competencies — knowing how to learn, think critically, how to identify and solve complex problems, and how to create something innovative — students started their projects by zeroing in on what they are passionate about.

“It’s unbelievable the amount of dedication and perseverance these kids demonstrate. It’s something that is important to them,” because they take ownership of their projects, she added.

The projects included sewing, clay animation, creating special effects and make-up art for film, robotics, stop motion, caricature drawing, and others with a focus on engineering, horticulture and baking.

“The main focus is not just on the final project but also on the process: how did they get to this point; what did they learn; where did they fail; and how did they learn from the problems they faced.”

Greystone Centennial Middle School will host its sixth Innovation Week in the spring of 2015. At the end of the week, parents will be welcome to visit the school and see what the students have accomplished.

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Classroom Learning – October 16, 2014

Building community within a group of diverse learners is not a one time lesson or activity; it is an on-going and continuos conversation. As we get to know more about who we are as a team and how to work well together, certain themes continue to arise:

  • Demonstrating respect for one another
  • Showing care and understanding for one another’s needs
  • Taking personal responsibility for our actions
Sharing our promises to our learning community.
Sharing our promises to our learning community.

We took some time in the morning to review these conversations and to express what we are each bringing to the team. Students the shared out loud to the class to demonstrate ownership of their contributions.

In Math, we started to learn about estimation and rounding strategies. The three we are focusing on this year are Front-End, Compatible and Compensation. Students are learning how and when to use each strategy and the reasons behind why estimation and rounding is so important.

In Language Arts, we continued to read The Fourteenth Goldfish with our Global Read Aloud and make predictions. We also located a large Google world  map that had been started by a participating classroom detailing locations of all of the classrooms reading with us.

Students trying to figure out what the map is about.
Students trying to figure out what the map is about.

We then located Spruce Grove and placed our pin amongst the hundreds of others. Students immediately wanted to differentiate themselves and had figured out how to re-create the pin icon in Maps. We changed it to a fish, but in doing so….we accidently also changed everyone else’s! We hope they like our icon…

We changed our pin to a fish to represent The Fourteenth Goldfish!
We changed our pin to a fish to represent The Fourteenth Goldfish!

The afternoon was focused on Science as we learned what a circuit is and how it works. We worked through The Blobz Guide To Electric Circuits together and wrote the important information we would need to know when it comes time to building our own circuits and electrical inventions.

One of our classmates has a deep passion for creating and building electrical devices. He had brought in a fan he had built using batteries, wires and a computer fan. Once our discussion led to the use of batteries, negative and positive charges, the students asked him to show us what would happen if the batteries were not placed properly in the circuit.

What will happen if the batteries in a circuit are not positioned correctly?
What will happen if the batteries in a circuit are not positioned correctly?

Last week I had brought in a MakeyMakey that a teacher friend of mine generously let us borrow to experiment with. The students were absolutely fascinated by the intricate details of the circuit and after learning how circuits operate, we decided to try it out. No one knew how to operate it, myself included, but that was what made the learning more fun and authentic.

Working together to find out how we can build a working circuit.
Working together to find out how we can build a working circuit.
We figured it out together!
We figured it out together!

We used carrots that one of the student’s had grown at home, along with my laptop, alligator clips, the MakeyMakey and connectors. We finally got it working due to the student’s perseverance and sheer excitement to make it work : ” Try this!”, “It’s that cord!” “No, maybe this way?” until we saw the cursors on the laptop work through the circuit we built!

It was a great day full of learning! Students have been asked to find the electrical mains in their homes as well as research different ways we can use a MakeyMakey.

Do you have any suggestions or ideas for us in creating circuits?

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Classroom Learning – September 22, 2014

Providing peer feedback
Providing peer feedback.

Students today reflected and brainstormed on the differences between leaving comments to generate conversation on a written piece and providing effective feedback to help peers grow their learning.

They shared their written pieces via Google Docs based on the topic “Microsoft bought Minecraft…Now What?” and practiced providing feedback to their peers focused on how, where and why their work could be improved. Students also ensured that their feedback was kind and helpful instead of judgemental. I was really impressed with how they thought and re-thought the wording of their feedback to make sure it provided growth opportunities.

photo 3-9
Collaborating on peer feedback.

What has also really stood out was the enthusiasm students had for this writing topic. We had discussed the implications of the sale and how it might impact them as the target audience, and they had quite a lot to say about the situation. Their posts will be uploaded to their blogs by the end of this week, revised using the feedback provided to them by their peers.

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Working on peer feedback.

We have also began our focus on the importance of understanding mathematical place value and the role it plays in our lives. Students were asked to think about where a knowledge place value is needed, and the majority struggled to find examples beyond the use of math in a classroom. Students will be asked this year to step outside of the box, and apply in-class learning to real-world necessities and applications. This is a difficult concept, but will be vital for their growth.

I have also noticed a struggle in saying large numbers, beyond a thousand, out loud and so today we practiced visualizing and saying numbers through an activity using a deck of cards and student-made place value holders. The place value focus this year is on whole numbers to 1,000,000.

Visualizing place value.
Visualizing place value.

This activity assisted students in visualizing numbers spoken and applying their individual values. It was a great way to have them practice saying the larger numbers out loud in a fun setting.

Miss D. Ariss

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