In my last post, I already mentioned my need to get back to my passions. The next logical step seemed to be to put down in writing what my passions actually are. I just finished reading “Lead Like a Pirate” by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf. If any book can take you back to your passions, this one can. An idea that stood out for me right at the beginning of the book was:
Never lose sight of who you are and what made you decide to become an educator.
This summed up exactly what had happened for me this past year…I had lost sight of why I became an educator in the first place.
One activity that I plan to do with my staff at the start up of the new school year is to ask all of them to really consider what they are passionate about and write it down with the hopes of reminding ourselves exactly why we do what we do. I felt it was important for me to do the same, so here they are:
Family and Friends– My father, who turned 83 last week, has had a huge influence on many things I am passionate about in my life. As we are both growing older, the need to spend time with family seems to become stronger. A year ago my youngest son graduated high school and will be officially moving out of our home this fall. I have come to realize the need to cherish the moments, the conversations, the texts and snap chats. One of my absolute favorite things to do is be all together sharing some good food and a few laughs. I make sure I take the time to refresh connections with friends and family and certainly enjoy the summer when I have time to do just that.
Education-I am so passionate about almost everything to do with education, especially if it involves innovative thinking and taking advantage of the technology we have available to us. For the first part of my teaching career, this was not the case. At risk of giving away my age, the internet did not even exist as it does today. I am still so amazed and motivated by the ease of collaboration and connections. I love the freedom my position as principal gives me to be in and out of classrooms watching learning and enjoying the people around me. I learn many new things each week from my network of fellow educators I follow and discuss ideas with. I enjoy sharing my love of reading with my students and listening to their interesting thoughts and ideas. I am energized by learning new things about teaching and leadership.
Animals and Nature– I am definitely a summer girl! I love the sunshine, warm breezes, beaches, and lakes. I am writing this post outside on my deck enjoying a relaxed cup of coffee. One might question my decision to always live on the Canadian prairies where the cold, windy winters can take your breath away. I have learned to appreciate every moment when the weather is warm and the wonder of the unique landscape that comes in the prairies. I am so grateful to live on an acreage and have the beauty of nature around me, often having to stop on my way to school for passing geese or deer.
Reading– Anyone who knows me knows how much I read. I never leave the house without a book I can drive the people around me crazy talking about the things I learn from books. My love of reading and learning goes straight back to my wonderful father who used to take the time to show me the true enjoyment I could get from a good book. We still enjoy talking about what we are reading and sharing ideas. One of my favorite things to do is read aloud to my students.
Physical Fitness– I have been active my entire life. When I was younger I would spend as much time outdoors as possible. I was always running, swinging, biking and playing outdoors, even in the winter. As an adult, I have learned to manage my stress through exercise. When I let my fitness schedule lax, I know full well the consequences of not having as much energy and not dealing with my stress in a positive way.
I have been thinking a lot lately about how teachers teach and how students learn. Perhaps it is because I am knee deep next year’s timetable and this causes me to reflect on what would be the best for all the learners in the building. I have to admit it frustrates me sometimes when we do not see learning as blended. We still organize our timetables into so many minutes for each subject and at times it ends up quite disjointed and not how I think learning should happen.
To me learning happens in many ways during our day and most certainly, not just while we are at school. True learning does not seem to happen in small chunks where we only think about one subject or idea at a time. To me learning is a bit more like doing a search on google. We start with an idea we need to know information about, but while we are researching we can be tempted to go off in many interesting directions, often giving us a different perspective on our topic than we originally intended.
Again, I have to reflect back to the learning in a kindergarten classroom. In Saskatchewan we promote the idea of play based learning for our early years students. Teachers will set up invitations in the form of interesting things or ideas based on a common theme for students to learn by explore and discover. If it all works as it should, the direction learning takes, stays flexible. It is based around student questions and interests. It goes in the direction that the students take it with their play.
For the last two years, I have been working with my students to perfect the “genius” in our Genius Hour. One hour per cycle where they can work on inquiry of their own choice. We work on presentation skills, research skills, and the importance of learning and collaborating about our ideas. Countless interesting projects have been presented during the time I have been doing this with my students. I know all learning cannot be totally open ended, but at the same time, I think learning should be flexible and blended.
In my ideal classroom situation students might not know what subject they were learning about. You might not hear questions such as, “Is it science next?” or “when to we have ELA?” Curricular outcomes would blend and the focus would be the learning, reflecting and growth.
We are the grade 7 class at Pleasantdale School in room 118. We are trying to raise awareness of health issues and promote healthy lifestyles to other people our age. We each researched a topic and made a podcast.
I had a chunk of time yesterday where I had the opportunity to do my favorite thing-walk around and visit classrooms. I like to see what the students are up to and it is so great to ask them about their learning and have them explain. There are so many good things going on in our building and as I stated in my last post, “Tooting Our Own Horn”, I want to do a better job of telling the story of those good things. I was able to spend some time in our grade 4 classroom watching a very simple social studies lesson.
The students were in transition when I entered the classroom, putting away their materials and grabbing laptops for the next activity. The class had been trying to find some information involving the history or stories behind some of the historical buildings in the City of Estevan, but there was not much information they could dig up, so they were concentrating their focus on the Court House.
What struck me was not the content of the lesson, but the level of engagement the classroom teacher had created in the lesson. It was like she took every small trick and used it.
1. The students were working in pairs that they were able to choose. We all know students are motivated by collaboration and each pair could sit together where they were comfortable working.
2. They were using technology in the form of laptops and the classroom teacher had put the research questions on the Smart Board and as they were finding answers, she was adding their information to her document.
3. She turned the activity into a bit of a race or competition to see which pair could find answers first.
4. She was able to scaffold the activity for those that needed it, gave encouragement and created a low risk learning environment.
5. She set them up for success by reminding them how to do a successful Google search, so they were not wasting time or feeling discouraged.
6. She constantly gave the students feedback as they were working together through the activity.
It was such a simple activity, but pulled off with the greatest level of student success. The teacher told me later, how excited the class had been when they found out some very interesting history about the Estevan Court House. Again, this ups the engagement for next time. I was so impressed by this young teacher who taught me a lesson in engagement.
I am already feeling that summer crunch where I am trying to hold on to those lazy 2 hour coffees in the morning while I read whatever I want, but for some reason when that calendar page turns to August that familiar feeling of needing to organize my school year comes back.
This year I have the opportunity to move into a principal’s position at the elementary school where I have worked for 3 years. I have long anticipated this moment and have spent many moments since accepting the position moving from excitement to panic. I have been lucky enough to work with and learn from many good administrators in my career and I am hoping that I can put some of those things into my practice while still giving it my personal flare.
One of my goals this summer was to increase my personal learning network. I am very passionate about technology and especially meeting the needs of our students through the use of technology in our schools. I am also interested in being able to walk my talk as much as I can. I am trying to become an active twitter participant. Until this summer I have stood on the cliff, afraid to jump off, just observing all of the collaboration and learning happening around me. I no longer want to observe, I want to participate. I now have diigo on my computer and love it, I have been trying to participate with my Facebook connections in a more meaningful way, I have been trying to make full use of my I-phone as an interactive, collaborative, organizational tool, rather than just a talking and texting machine and I am trying to jump into the twitter world.
I am hoping that through my PLN I will be able to continue to learn and gain ideas and support that will help my in my new position.
Interestingly enough as I was reading some of the comments written on these posts I found this quote, “If you always do what you’ve always done then you’ll always get what you’ve always got!” I couldn’t help by think that this would be a good place to start. If I can show my teachers that I am willing to learn new things and change the way I am doing things, than maybe I will be one step closer to supporting them in making the changes they need and desire.