Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Know Thy Impact

A colleague and I were chatting the other day about how it can be challenging for central office staff like coaches and consultants to be able to see the impact our work has on educators, administrators and students.  As a classroom teacher I think it seemed easier to gauge our impact, especially since I mostly taught primary grades.  As a kindergarten teacher, students might arrive with no pencil grip and by October they were printing their name!

Interestingly enough, only a few minutes after this conversation we received an email from a teacher thanking us for inviting her to attend a two day session facilitated by the Learning for a Sustainable Future organization that was held at one of our schools.  

She wrote:
I just wanted to thank you for putting my name in for the "Making Inquiry Authentic" workshop.  I feel like me again and completely have a rejuvenation for what I can do and what I will do with so many outlets and so MUCH positivity!  YOU are both fabulous and I APPRECIATE YOU!!!!  Thanks again for being apart of my crazy year and supporting me in so many ways!

The fact that a teacher took a few moments out of her day to send a quick email made a big difference to me and to my colleague.  I have resolved to do the same for others.  Today, I wrote two quick thank you notes to leaders in our teachers federation (ETFO) who have supported my work in so many ways over the year.

Years ago someone advised me to keep all the thank you letters and notes that I might get from colleagues, parents and others and to take them out and look at them when I had "one of those days!"  I don't often look in the box of letters, but it makes me feel better just knowing that they are there if I need them.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Next steps

When writing report cards for students, we conclude each subject area with 'next steps.'  The Ministry of Education in Ontario has recently released Growing Success: The Kindergarten Addendum which addresses Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting and it states that  Next Steps in Learning refers to ways in which the child can move forward in developing knowledge and skills, in relation to the overall expectations, both at school and at home. Developmental stage, learning trajectory, and/or other individual processes of learning should be taken into account when determining next steps in learning.

Since we believe that as educators we need to think about next steps for learning for students, I think we also need to think about our own next steps. At different times in my career, I have had to reflect and determine my next stage and learning trajectory.  Staying at the same school in the same grade assignment doesn't fit my restless nature.  I've been fortunate to teach a range of assignments in a range of settings - from open concept school to a classroom in a portable out by the parking lot.  I've taught in urban, suburban and county schools; in small schools with barely 200 students to large schools with over 800 students.  I've had my own homeroom classroom, taught 'rotary' when I was the primary literacy teacher for 14 primary classrooms, and then moved on to work at the board level.   I worked as an instructional coach for primary math and primary literacy - travelling from school to school supporting teachers and administrators with implementing balanced literacy, small group instruction and hands on mathematics. 

Taking a group of educators to Fighting Island for Outdoor Education 
Facilitating conversations during in-school collaborative inquiry

After school math workshop - doing the math!

At the end of this month, I will be retiring and moving on to my 'next step.'  Only 7 more work days and then I will be moving forward to new learning and a new stage.  I am only one year in to my studies at UWestern on my Educational Doctorate, so there will be that new learning and I intend to continue to teach online for Queens.  I wonder what other new learning will be part of this next stage?  

Monday, 6 June 2016

What to Tweet and When?

I joined Twitter back in 2008 after attending a workshop where it was promoted as a tool for connecting with other educators. But I wasn't hooked.  I used it for a few weeks and mostly connected with a few other teachers in our board who were using it.  After a month or two, I had drifted away from twitter and didn't use it at all.

Fast forward to 2016, and I'm giving Twitter another try.  Several colleagues had mentioned that they were finding it a useful tool for professional learning and networking.  I began to follow more educators, groups and organizations that were addressing issues that resonated with me.  And, after following others for awhile, I began posting interesting literacy and mathematics learning that I observed when I was in classrooms.

My big 'aha' moment came when I was live tweeting from the ETFO Learning Math in the Early Years conference in May 2016.  Educators from all over began retweeting and commenting on my posts.  I found myself thinking about which were the most salient 'nuggets' from each presentation to tweet?  What was a tidbit worth sharing that would spark conversation or inspire someone to try something new in their classroom?   It was a different way for me to process my learning at each session.

One tweet that really took off was this slide from a presentation by Dr. Juanita Copely:

People were intrigued by the student thinking - is it procedural understanding or conceptual understanding or is a combination of both?  Teachers used this as a prompt with their own students while others shared links to related articles about the children's developing understanding of the concept of equal.  Days after the conference had ended discussion linked to this tweet continued. It allowed me to engage in extended conversations and thoughtful reflection on this one slide, but it also lead me to think about the impact that one tweet had on so many educators.

While this tweet reignited my interest in using Twitter, I want to ensure that I don't become one of those people who are so busy taking pictures of an event that they aren't really present.  You know - you see people who are so busy recording a concert on their cell phone that they experience the whole concert through their phone and miss out on the bigger picture.  When I was at the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina I was walking down a trail, and there were constant sounds coming from the glacier that sounded like shotgun blasts in the distance.  I turned to look at the glacier and there was a crack that was so loud it sounded like a jet plane taking off as two huge sections of the glacier separated and crashed into the water.  The visible part of the glacier is about the height of a 23 story building, and the pieces that fell off were about 10 stories tall so watching them crash into the water was breathtaking.  However, I have no photos of this event.  I could have tried to grab the camera from around my neck and take a photo but it was happening so quickly that I decided to just 'be in the moment.'  I'm trying to approach Twitter in the same way - I want to capture and share ideas that I think will inspire other educators as well as celebrate the great learning happening in our schools, but I don't want to let it stop me from being in the moment whether I'm with students or with adults.   

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Leading and Learning in the 21st Century

Starting this blog has lead me to reflect on the different ways we learn and lead learning in the 21st century.  When I began teaching over 25 years ago, I could choose to attend after school workshops, full day workshops with supply coverage or I could attend night classes or summer courses at the local university.  My co-learners were people from my own board and the instructors were often from our board as well.  If you were really fortunate, you might have funding from your board or your union to attend a conference off site with educators from other boards.

How things have changed!  Last night I was online doing a group presentation with three colleagues from my Doctorate of Education program at Western University.  One of my colleagues teaches in Toronto, one in Tanzania and one in the United Arab Emirates.   We meet via Skype several times and used Google Docs to work on our assignment.  Unfortunately for them, we were presenting at 8:30 pm EST which was 4:30 am for one person and 3:30 am for another.  I guess I can't complain about being tired after work and having to present when they both had to set the alarm and get up in the wee hours of the morning to attend.

All the comforts of home while attending a live streamed meeting for the 2015 EdD class.  

Teaching online for Queens University also allows me to connect with educators from across the province of Ontario and beyond.  It's been great to get the perspective of teachers in IB programs around the globe, teachers working at remote Northern villages, teachers in small rural schools and teachers with diverse populations in urban schools.  Sometimes I think I learn more by teaching courses than the students!