Thursday, 30 March 2017

Borrowing Trouble

Over 10 years ago I published my first online article - a reading lesson for the International Reading Association's website ReadWriteThink.  The lesson was called A Bad Case of Bullying and is linked to the book A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon.  My original lesson was for primary grades but the reviewers and IRA suggested I revise the lesson for junior grades.  Since this was my first time trying to publish something, I revised and resubmitted and was accepted for publication.

Yesterday (March 27/17) I received a tweet from RWT saying that they had had an email request from a reader to contact me about this lesson.  YIKES!  For some reason, I immediately went to 'worst case scenario' mode.  They hate the lesson. There is something horribly wrong with it.  But wait - it was reviewed by three peer reviewers and by the staff at RWT.  It must be okay - right?

I hadn't looked at the lesson in years and when I went online to check, I had never noticed that you could leave comments.  And there were comments.  Nice ones:

So after a few emails, we were able to connect on the phone last night. Turns out, she was a graduate student studying for her Masters of Library Science in Chicago.  She is going to use my lesson in an assignment for a class she is taking and she has to teach it as a demonstration lesson while her classmates act as the students.  We talked about differentiating instruction for students with special needs, we talked about how to provide multiple and varied opportunities for assessment and how to modify the lessons for different age groups. It was a lovely conversation and I'm sure she'll do well on her assignment.

My grandmother used to warn me 'Don't borrow trouble.'  I guess ever since I was a kid I would worry about things that hadn't happened yet and, in many cases, never did happen.  Looking at this through a self-reg lens, I can see that this adds unnecessary stress to my life.  I think it will be challenging to try to break this old habit. Perhaps next time I find myself starting to 'borrow trouble' I need to stop and ask myself why and why now?  

Anyone else have this tendency to borrow trouble?  What are your strategies for catching yourself when you do and turning it off?

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

My Last 10

Doug Peterson shared a challenge from Alec Couros - If you were summed up by your last 10 Tweets or Facebook posts, what would that look like?   I've decided to just use my last 10 Tweets; I tend to use Twitter for professional purposes and Facebook for personal/education.

My last 10 Tweets:

So what do these last 10 Tweets say about me?
I follow a lot of smart people from a lot of different places, some of whom I know 'in the real world' and some of whom I've never met. I love that about social media; being able to learn from so many different people in different contexts.

Two of the posts are about A Day In The Life, an upcoming event at my former board that was part of my portfolio as a consultant. Even though I am retired, I am still like to promote important things happening at 'my board.'

Many of the posts are about kindergarten and early primary grades. My educational background is Early Years, my first teaching job was as a kindergarten teacher and my final assignment was Kindergarten Consultant. I have a passion for early years, even in retirement.

Two posts on leadership reflect my current learning as an EdD student in Educational Leadership at Western. It's a great program, challenging in so many ways, but fantastic learning.

And lastly, my most recent tweet is about some self-regulation courses coming up in Toronto. I started the self-reg courses in the fall for a number of reasons but mostly because self-reg was emerging as a key part of my doctoral Problem of Practice. What I didn't anticipate was how much learning more about self-regulation would help me in my own day to day life.

What about you? What do your Tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts say about you?

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Exploring MindMaps

I'm hoping that some of you who are far more tech savvy than I can weigh in with some helpful hints and suggestions.  Please!

My final assignment in my current online course is to create a mind map for a three chapter document that will be created as the culmination of my doctorate studies.  First, I had to decide what program to use to create the mind map.

I started with Popplet which was suggested by someone who had done this assignment last year.  I had used it just a few weeks ago with a group of Grade 3 students so I had heard of it.  It is visually very appealing and easy to use.  It was easy to insert images which helped reduce the text-heavy appearance of some samples I had seen.  But two major problems:  one, it kept crashing and it would take FOREVER to log back in. Instead it just spun and spun and spun.  Someone suggested I try a different browser and that helped.  It gave me no end of troubles in Safari but worked fine in Chrome.  But secondly, you can't add hyperlinks.  This was a deal breaker for me.

So I tried downloaded the free 30 day trial to try Inspiration.  I had used Kidspiration with students about 15 years ago when I was a learning support teacher and had fond memories of this program.  Again it was user friendly - easy to create the mind map, easy to insert graphics and you can insert hyperlinks.  But, quite frankly, I thought it was ugly.  It looked old and dated.  I'm sure that had I taken even more time and played with it longer maybe I could have made it more visually appealing but Popplet had spoiled me.  Popplet created mind maps that  looked good automatically, so I knew there had to be something better out there.

On to iMindMaps and another free 30 day trial.  It has lots of options but frankly by this time I had used up an entire morning and I really just wanted to get going so I picked out a template I liked and got started.  It looks good, it's easy to use and you can add images, hyperlinks and notes quickly.  I'm sure you can do lots of other things with it as there seems to be an infinite number of buttons and drop down menus.  Some day when I have more time, I'll explore all of those but right now I just want to finish my assignment on time.

So I've finished the mind maps for Chapter 1 and 2 and I'm hoping to finish Chapter 3 soon. But now what?  My free 30 day trial runs out shortly and then what?  It won't let me save it as anything else so in 30 days I have to pay up or lose access to my work?  I can't print it out - it's too tiny.  I've tried zooming in on sections but it's still small and it would take a whole day to zoom, cut, paste, etc.   I appreciate that this task has helped me to think about my work differently and notice connections that I hadn't seen before.  But is there a way to create a more useable document than this finished product?  Those of you who use mind maps, how do you move on from a digital format?  Or do you?

Some of my colleagues in this same class are using other programs.  One is using Popplet and has had problems with freezing and lost work.  One is using Prezi, and another abandoned the idea of electronics after spending a day exploring different programs and is using coloured pencils and paper.  I think in the future I would probably use mind maps again to help organize my work but I'm still a linear sequential, list making girl at heart.

Chapter 1 & 2 done; Chapter 3 in progress

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Resources for World Down Syndrome Day

Today people across the world will be wearing their mismatched colourful socks to celebrate Rock Your Socks for World Down Syndrome Day.  Rock Your Socks is held on the 21st day of the 3rd month because the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome leads to Down Syndrome.  

So wear your brightest, craziest, mismatched socks today  and post your pictures on social media!!!! When someone asks "Why are you wearing those socks?" you'll have the perfect opening to tell them that March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day and that you are celebrating all the great things that people with Down Syndrome can do, as well as helping to advocate for inclusion and respect.

#worlddownsyndromeday #wdsd2017 #rockyoursocks

Children's Picture Books about Down Syndrome

World Down Syndrome Day

Happy Soul Project - Facebook

Chasing Hazel blog - who announced yesterday that they are starting a foundation located in Windsor/Essex County

Friday, 10 March 2017

Self-regulation and Procrastination

Inspired by my amazing colleagues, I decided to write a professional learning book based on a journal article I wrote last year and began the process with a book proposal to a publisher during Christmas Break.  This is part of my One Word Challenge - to stretch myself out of my comfort zone.

I submitted the proposal and the publisher was interested.  They requested a draft chapter by March 20.  I wrote the first draft by mid-February and sent it to two of my colleagues for their input. I respect both of them as educators and writers, and I knew they would give me the honest truth.  They sent me their suggestions and I got right to work on revisions.  Within a short time, I had revised everything except one section - about two paragraphs.

And that's when the procrastination started......

After a few days of diligently working away at revisions, I came to a screeching halt.  I moved my work down to the dining room table so I couldn't avoid seeing it all day, every day, but I kept avoiding those last two paragraphs.

Then I saw this on Twitter:

and I had an aha! moment.  How could I reframe my writing and more specifically my procrastination through a self-reg lens?  Why was I procrastinating?  It seemed to be causing stress but was it also a way of avoiding stress?

The last section I had to revise was about teacher self-efficacy.  One of my reviewers has just published a book on teacher self-efficacy.  So who am I to write about that when she's written a whole book?   I've read some articles and understand the theory behind it, but obviously she knows more than I do and I should probably just stop before I reveal my inferior knowledge to everyone.  I think there was a bit of imposter syndrome happening for me.

And secondly, once that section was done it would be time to submit this draft chapter to the publisher for peer review and committee consideration.  Maybe they'll say 'yes' and then I'll have to revise and revise again for this chapter PLUS I'll have to write the rest of the chapters.  Or, maybe they'll say 'no' and that will be so disappointing.  So by not finishing this draft chapter, I may have been trying to avoid the anxiety of clicking submit.

This self-reg lens helped me to understand why I was procrastinating. Instead of beating myself up for my lack of willpower and self-control, which I had been doing for days, I understood the reasons for the procrastination.  And once I did, I was able to finish the revisions in one night.

This morning, I mustered my courage and clicked send.  Draft chapter one is on it's way out into the publishing world for consideration and review, and hopefully, acceptance.  And best of all, I get my dining room table back!

I put the leaf in but still managed to cover the entire surface.
Luckily no one else was home this week.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Building Relationships and Connections with Students

Megan Valois' blog post about 'being a cheerleader' for your students really made me think about what this can look like for teachers in primary and kindergarten.   It also reminded me of similar situations and connections I've had with students in the past.

One year I had a grade 3 student who really enjoyed playing the 'bad guy' in a production of The Balloon Tree that we did for an assembly.  He loved it so much that he asked his parents if he could join a local children's drama group and got a small part in their production of 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.'  One day he came up to me during class and said, "Miss, I get two free tickets for my play and I want to give one to you because you are the one who put me in our class play and that's how I found out I really like acting.  Will you come?'    How could I say no to an invitation like that!  Just about made me cry!

At the time, I was commuting about 40 minutes to work each way, so on the Saturday of the play I drove back into the city and my daughter and I attended his performance. He was so excited that we were there and I was so excited to see him having so much fun.

Another time, a student asked me if I would come to her very first skating competition.  I said to have her mom or dad send me the information, and if I could be there I would come.  Her mom called me the next day, apologizing.  "You don't need to come.  I know you must be busy."  I told her I'd be happy to come as long as they were comfortable with me being there.  Once again, I drove my daughters into the city and we went to Stephanie's skating competition.  I still got to spend time with my kids, they got to meet one of my students, and Stephanie and her family were happy to see us.

And my own girls still remember Miss Dianne, their child care teacher, who invited all the children from the child care to attend her big church wedding.  There was a special section, right up at the very front, where all the kids and their families sat and after the wedding she took a huge group photo with all of them.

In addition to the importance of building relationships with our students, I think taking time to celebrate their achievements, to show an interest in the things that they are passionate about and to share our own passions helps to build relationships with families and with the community.  When we attend a child's award ceremony, or play, or game, we represent all teachers.  We remind everyone that teachers CARE about kids.  The next time someone is 'trash talking' teachers - telling everyone how easy we have it with our 9 am to 3 pm day and summers off - maybe they'll remember a teacher in a cold arena watching their child skate or cheering on the basketball team from the sidelines and they'll know that we care.

These are just a few examples from my own experience.  How do you build relationships and connections with your students, family and community?

Here are some resources about making connections with students:

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Children using Nature for Self-regulation in Urban Environments

Late last week I retweeted and commented on this photo from a kindergarten teacher.  It seemed to resonate with people as they retweeted, liked and shared it.  The original tweet showed a kindergarten student engaged in play with her shadow, trying out different poses on a beautiful sunny February day.

As I was walking down by the riverfront enjoying the unusually warm weather this weekend, I got to thinking about how much I enjoy using nature to help me stay calm.  Even though I live in the city on a very small lot with almost no yard, I can easily walk to a nearby park or head down to the riverfront to destress.

I enjoy reading other teachers' blogs where they talk about heading to the forests, streams and other natural areas near their schools with their students.  But as I walked along, with busy traffic on one side and green grass and the river on the other side, I wondered about our students in our highly urban schools with small playgrounds, often with lots of asphalt and very little green space.  How can we help these students, who are often living in stressful environments, to connect with nature and use nature to self-regulate?  

Certainly the student in the tweet above seems to be engaged in nature play even though there is no greenery in sight.

One of my favourite inner city nature lessons with kindergarten and primary students was to go outside and read "It Looked Like Spilt Milk" by Charles Shaw and then have the students find a comfy spot to lay down, look at the clouds in the sky and invite them to talk with someone nearby about what they saw.  This was an activity they could return to later, on their own or with a classmate,  and I found it was one way that students could find a way to engage in quiet solitary play even in a busy outdoor environment.

One blog I read listed a range of benefits to nature play including:

* Greater physical activity (4)
* Greater mental health and emotional regulation (4)
* Improvements in motor skills (4)
* Healthier blood pressure and cholesterol levels (5)
* Being more fit and lean (6)
* Have stronger immune systems (6)
* Have more active imaginations (6)
* Play better with other children (6)

Children who help in school gardens improve in scientific learning and have healthier eating habits! (4)  Just contacting nature (like seeing trees out your window) can reduce stress and lead to fewer illnesses. (2) (see references below)

How can we help students in highly urban schools connect with nature?  Here are some overhead photos of some of urban schools for your inspiration:

A former elementary school (now closed)

A newer downtown school