Monday, March 25, 2019

It's the Little Things

Sometimes, it's the smallest things that stand out. I had to be out of my classroom today to fill in for the principal. This was a sudden occurence, for a sad reason, and it is the day after March Break. My plan was to spend the day reconnecting with my students, checking in, getting excited for the final stretch of this school year.  

When I am going to be out of my classroom, especially if it is unexpected, I always email my students with a plan of what the day will entail. I teach my homeroom for upwards of 3 hours per day, in a variety of different subject areas, so prepping for a substitute can be a daunting process. Emailing the students puts some of the onus on them to get things accomplished even when I'm not in the room. It cuts way down on, "But the substitute didn't tell us what we were supposed to do!" 

Although my students are growing up as "digital natives", they are not very diligent at checking their emails. I often will include a little challenge at the end, so that those who do read all the way through have a fun response to send to me (and a reward in Classcraft for such a response never goes amiss!) Last night, as I will not likely have time to check in with each of them today, my challenge was for them to send me a picture expressing how they feel about coming back to school after March Break. The two that I chose to include reflect the excitement I feel about our upcoming Passion Projects, our end of year Interdisciplinary Unit, and my normal excitement at reconnecting with my students after a break.

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Here are the pictures I received from five students in response:


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It's the little things that make a difference. Emailing to let my students know I will be out of the classroom is a tiny, easy thing - I copy and paste notes from the plans I make for my substitute. Letting them know I am excited to see them again costs me nothing, and the responses I get tell me so much (I'll be checking in with the student who sent "ok" and no picture to make sure things are really OK with them). Even though I'm not in my classroom today, I feel like I reconnected in a small way.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Nerd Alert

NERD ALERT : I love professional reading! I love learning new things, adding to my store of knowledge. I love reading things that bolster what I am already doing in my classroom. I love having conversations with colleagues about what I am reading and learning.

Our province is entering a phase of exploring Project Based Learning in a more directed, more intentional way than we have before. As a result, our principal purchased several books on the topic and I have been relishing the opportunity to read and learn and share.

All three of these books are excellent for anyone looking to go deeper in their understanding and practice of project based learning, and innovating in the classroom. The one this post is focusing on more specifically is by George Couros. In May, Mr Couros is coming to speak with all of the administrators in our region, and I am excited for our school to start looking at ways we can encourage and foster the growth of innovation and collaboration. A few key messages stood out when I read The Innovator's Mindset, and I am hopeful that those messages will be reinforced when my administrators see Mr Couros in person.

Four quotes in particular resonated with me, so I went ahead and "posterized" them :

All of these quotes deal with the reality that innovation takes TIME and SUPPORT. It's not something that can be achieved by teachers who are overwhelmed with new initiatives, who are asked to do something that is not modelled by their leaders, or who feel like they don't have time to connect with others.

I have been fortunate for the past 15 years in that I have always felt empowered by my administration to try out new things in my classroom. If you've read many of my other blog posts, you'll know that I often start things in my classroom with, "I haven't done this before, so let's try it together." I'm hoping that the intentional focus on project based learning that is reportedly coming our way will make space and time for an increase in collaborative innovation, creative research, and courageous risk-taking at my school.