Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow”.
- Mary Anne Radmacher
Flickr Creative Commons Photo by programwitch
There have been a LOT of posts about teacher burnout lately. I mean a LOT. It breaks my heart to read these heart-on-sleeve reflections written by people I admire, people who have inspired me daily since tentatively beginning my twitter journey three years ago.
Teaching is a HARD job. It is, contrary to common public opinion, most definitely NOT a 9 to 3:30 profession … WITH summers off. Evenings aren’t free and, true, often your OWN family takes a second seat.
This summer, I spent several days working on a program I use to share curriculum resources, (links, inspiring tid-bits, etc.), with my students and their families. And … then … the system was “upgraded”. All that hard work was gone … in a FLASH. Early in September, muddling through it in the evenings, after teaching all day, the “frustration” was MOUNTING. I will NEVER forget the moment when my youngest son said, “Mom, I like you WAY better when you’re NOT teaching.” Gulp.
I am 100% certain that I am working harder NOW than I did when I first STARTED teaching … 27 years ago. Somehow, it seems more complex. MUCH of it is self-imposed. I am a perfectionist.
While twitter has been a BLESSING in my life, both professionally AND personally, I am CONTINUALLY pushed. CONTINUALLY learning … for myself AND for my students. I’ve learned to “sip more slowly” from the proverbial “firehose” that twitter can sometimes be. There are a LOT of “should”s, tools I would like to explore, things I want to learn. It is SUCH an exciting time to be a learner … but it can ALSO be VERY hard with only SO many hours in a day.
New policies come in. The curriculum, HUGE as it is, changes. Students with special needs, some you’ve never heard of before, enter your room deserving of EVERYTHING you can give them. The HOURS of personal time spent READING, in order to meet the needs of these learners, of EVERY learner, in your daytime family … so that you can be the BEST you can BE for them. Meetings are frequent, committees and Professional Learning Communities are the norm. IPPs, (IEPs), take special attention and a life of their own. Supervision … an expected duty … trains your bladder in ways that no other profession is capable of.
It’s hard to live in the moment. To enjoy the immediacy of what is happening around you. Yes, if you’re wondering, I’ve read Echert Tolle … and STILL I fight to be “in the now”! Because … so often we’re thinking about where we’ve started and where we need to be. Goal setting, planning … sometimes, no … OFTEN, at 3 am. Some moments are better than others. Some DAYS are better than others. And, if the truth be known … some YEARS are better than others.
What keeps me going? My students, the relationships, and the magic of learning. No two days are EVER the same. I LOVE that I can be a Lead Learner in a classroom FULL of curious eight year olds. They keep me young and excited … even through most tough days. For me, this is ENOUGH … for now.
Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Digitalnative
I am striving for balance. Family time, work time, time for me. In teaching, this is a balancing act that challenges ALL of us. I am STILL learning to prioritize … after ALL this time.
I wish I had more answers. I cross my fingers for ALL those amazing teachers out there, struggling. As Angela Maiers would so powerfully tell you … YOU MATTER.
Have you ever sat pondering WHY a student who is a strong READER is NOT a strong writer? Competent, yes, but not “functioning” at the SAME level as their reading skills?
Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Mikael Wiman
I have. EVERY year, once the year end achievement results are shared with us. If truth be know, this is not a new phenomenon for me … nor for many of us. I have witnessed this gap, time and time again, over the 27 years I have taught.
So … I decided to do some research to see I could find some articles that would help to EXPLAIN the reasons for WHY writing proficiency often developed at a different rate than reading. I was SURPRISED at how LITTLE seemed to be out there.
Like a pit bull on a QUEST, I decided to put the question to my AMAZING Twitter PLN. It took a bit … but … I was rewarded with several inspiring conversations with people around the globe. That’s what I LOVE about my incredible colleagues on twitter!
It was not surprising, but it was also reassuring, to know that I was not the ONLY one looking for answers:
— Tanya Braybrook (@TanyaBraybrook) September 27, 2013
A variety of thoughts were shared:
It’s funny, because OFTEN children begin to “write” LONG before they begin to read. I experienced this with my OWN children. When Heidi began to talk about thinking about it from the perspective of writing computer code, producing, versus reading on your computer, consuming, the “differences” were becoming clearer. I wondered WHY I was finding SO little research on this common phenomenon.
Cristina Milos said something SO profound that, for me, she truly hit the nail on the head:
How true is that? Inspired, really. I am sure that MANY of us are able to enjoy and “read into” an artistic masterpiece. Painting one, on the other hand, is TRULY out of reach for MOST of us. It was through my inspiring twitter conversation with Cristina that I began to refine my search for documentation that would help to explain this gap and why it is COMMON.
If you are interested in reading MORE about this topic … and some of the reasons WHY writing develops differently than reading, here is some of the awesome reading I’VE been doing lately. Truly, if you’ve EVER wondered … these links are worth the time:
— Cristina Milos (@surreallyno) September 28, 2013
— Laurie Renton (@RentonL) September 28, 2013
It can take DECADES to become a proficient writer. The metacognition involved is FAR more complex than the skills required to become a proficient reader. Most of us NEVER become published authors … and THEY are in a league of their own! The analogy could be likened to becoming a concert pianist, or violinist. The difference between the amateur and the expert … THOUSANDS of hours of practice.
Personally, I believe the ability to write an INCREDIBLE piece of narrative writing comes from YEARS of LIVING … life experience … something that our eight year olds have YET to do. Can we MODEL? You bet. Can we create classrooms FULL of rich opportunities to write for a variety of reasons? ABSOLUTELY. Can we create SAFE and ACCEPTING learning environments where children and adults ALIKE feel secure in their ability to take risks? To be BRAVE? YOU bet.
My mission? To explore the possibilities of “lessening” this gap. Will it be through more research on meta-cognition? Likely! I am the LEAD learner in my classroom … and … I want the best for EACH of my students, no matter WHERE they are on the learning continuum. Wish me luck!
- Have you experienced this same gap?
- Have you found specific techniques which help to strengthen our young learners’ abilities to express themselves effectively through writing?
- Do you know of any research out there that will help me to FURTHER understand and explain WHY this gap is common?
Flickr Creative Commons Photo by jessicahtam
UNplugging, to recharge, seems counterintuitive in this “plugged in” world. “Have you seen my phone charger?” or “Better plug the computer back in … it’s down to 5% battery!” are common conversation threads heard in our home. It is RARE for me to be away from my computer … from twitter … from my amazing online PLN … for such an extended period of time. I didn’t think I “needed” this down time, but it is apparent that it was EXACTLY what I needed.
Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Quinn Dombrowski
We’ve been away for the past two weeks, my family and I. I am amazed by what we were able to fit in during those fourteen wondrous days.
Kayaking with my “youngest” – Vancouver Island Magic!
Sitting, surrounded by family, watching the sun set over the ocean in awe.
There is something rejuvenating about hanging out by the water. Actually, I don’t TRULY feel like I’ve had a holiday UNLESS I have spent time at the ocean. Don’t ask me how I ended up in Alberta, so FAR away from the ocean I love … life works in MYSTERIOUS ways! Walks on the beach with my Mom … around the neighbourhood … even a trip to Coombs … to see the goats on the roof! Family time. It doesn’t happen OFTEN enough. Once or twice a year … definitely NOT often enough.
There were MANY highlights on this trip. Making cards with my Mom. Searching the beach for special treasures to glue to these cards. And … a SURPRISE trip, through the Courtenay Museum, to hunt for 85 million year old fossils in the shale beds along the Browns River. A dream come true, for me!
Hunting for ammonite fossils on the Browns River on Vancouver Island.
A “mud ball” … tucked safely in the layers of shale … just WAITING to be discovered!
Prior to arriving at my parent’s house, my Dad had been doing some researching. He knew how much I enjoyed rock hounding and discovering various fossils on the beach. Actually, we share the same passion … something I didn’t realize quite to THIS degree! When he discovered this incredible tour and actual fossil digging opportunity, through the Courtenay Museum, he signed us all up immediately! And, what an AMAZING experience it was! Pat Trask, our paleontologist guide, was FANTASTIC! If you are in the Courtenay area … this is an experience that is worth its weight in gold.
Sitting in the dirt, with a chisel and small hammer, “sifting” through the layers of shale by the river was PURE heaven. I learned SO much through this process and loved every second of it. We managed to find ammonite, animal “trails”, small shrimp claws … how you would “recognize” these tiny fossils without expert support is beyond me! I had NO idea that you wouldn’t find the ammonites tucked nicely between the layers of shale, just ready to be “plucked out”. Instead … our expert guide, Pat, showed us how to locate the “mud balls” pictured above. The shale would just peel away and, with a little persistence and perspiration, you could eventually arrive at something “rounded” in the shale. Easy to see, once you know what you’re looking for! Working carefully to remove the surrounding shale … an entire mud ball would sometimes magically appear.
If you gently hammered on this mud ball, it would crack open … just like a KINDER surprise … sometimes with a tiny, or NOT so tiny in the case of ammonites, fossil hidden away inside. Not all mud balls produced an actual visible fossil. Some were formed around soft tissue animals, which would “dissolve” over time in it’s 85 million year old cocoon, leaving the mud ball behind as evidence of its existence.
A fossil “kinder surprise” for paleontologists!
I didn’t have this rock or fossil passion as a kid. It took teaching the Grade Three Science Curriculum to push me BEYOND gathering up “pretty” rocks … into a HUGE interest in fossils, rock formation, and actually SEARCHING for fossils. I guess it’s NEVER too late to teach an old dog new tricks! The BEST part, aside from spending some WONDERFUL time with my parents, my Dad is ALREADY passionately scoping the area for NEW places to explore NEXT summer! I CAN’T wait!
My Dad … safely on the ground … still searching!
My ONE regret … not being FAST enough with the camera as my Dad clung, spider-like, to a steep shale cliff and uncovered a RARE ammonite that even excited our GUIDE! I hope that image stays as clearly etched in my memory as the true magic of the day!
Yup. UNplugging was JUST what I needed!
“I have no country to fight for: my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world.”
~ Eugene V. Debs
Flickr Creative Commons Photo by martinak15
When we first began our blogging journey with eight year olds, two years ago, a HUGE amount of groundwork was laid prior to our very first post. Looking back, those first building blocks seem SO insurmountable … but … we’ve done it, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it! Learning WITH the world has proven to be a POWERFUL way to personalize and DEEPEN our curiosities.
Prior to beginning this “new” way of learning, we spent a great deal of time exploring other class blogs to see all the “possibilities” and to get a sense of our hopes for our new blog. You see, this was a pilot project – the very first classroom blog in our system. We knew that, if it was going to be a success, we needed to be VERY clear about what success would LOOK like!
As I write this post, I see this process much like the steps needed to build a strong, durable, long-lasting structure. There is the “planning stage” … drafting the vision out; it is an extensive AND intensive process that is necessary to ensure a successful project. Next, there’s the building stage … from the ground up.
The foundation, for us, included extensive thought around how we would keep these young students safe. Because this was a pilot project, we were responsible for drafting a permission form for parents so that they were very clear about the blog being available, online, for all the world to see. Some of the information in this consent form included:
Once all consent forms were completed and returned, it was time to begin the process of “getting our feet wet” as a class. This included activating background knowledge to see how many students knew what a blog was. It was no surprise, that first year, to see that only one or two students could explain what a blog was. This was because family members had personal blogs! Gathering this information, as a class, allowed some students to share their personal experiences as we moved toward the unknown.
Within the safety of a classroom setting, we began to explore a variety of educational blogs with our young learners. What did they notice? What did they like? What would they change? These first steps, laying a solid foundation together, proved to be valuable learning experiences. It was exciting to listen to their conversations as they explored, and heartening to hear their critiques and compliments as they surfed through a variety of classroom blogs.
We knew immediately, that our blog would NEED to include a “flag counter” and a revolver map … this was a HUGE hit with our learners. They LOVED the idea of collecting flags from around the world and SEEING who was checking our blog out on the revolver map. The visual nature of these two tools helped to foster greater curiosity about the world we all share.
Flickr Creative Commons Photo by John Spencer
Safety, both on AND off line, was ALWAYS at the forefront. Blogging with these students provided authentic discussions, lessons and experiences DAILY. What made these lessons AUTHENTIC was the fact that they were not isolated lessons … they were woven in and through our blogging journey each and EVERY time we engaged in learning online.
Early on in our connected learning, we lost ALL our flags. There was HUGE disappointment with students AND adults alike. When I say “lost”, I mean I had to disable the flag counter widget. I was heart broken … but … at the same time I KNEW that I could not have my eight year olds exposed to the “less than appropriate” advertising that would come up if they “clicked” on this widget to learn more about the countries that were visiting us. I actually DREADED having to go into the classroom on Monday morning to tell these excited students what I had done.
After a few tears, and an AMAZING conversation about WHY … we began to “problem solve” together. They fully understood the importance of safety and the responsibility we ALL shared for being safe and thoughtful bloggers … SUCH amazing eight year olds! In the end, I ended up paying for a yearly subscription to our amazing flag counter. It has been worth EVERY penny to continue our learning AND our safety!
Flickr Creative Commons Photo by eren
Introducing your students to learning WITH the world, by FLATTENING your classroom walls, requires on-going thoughtfulness about safety and citizenship. These issues have ALWAYS been a part of classroom life … but … now … it ALSO includes how to be safe and responsible while learning ONLINE. I truly believe that the YOUNGER we begin discussing these issues the more personally responsible decisions our children will make for themselves as they get older.
There are SO many wonderful sites available to support these conversations with our learners:
Digital Citizenship Development Guide (Alberta Education)
These are just a FEW of the amazing resources out there to support going global. What works best, though, is continual discussion, thoughtfulness and reinforcement of these concepts in and THROUGH your daily learning experiences.
ANY time we’re working with learners, there are opportunities for valuable mini lessons:
- first names only
- what personal information IS okay to share?
- how to respond respectfully to comments left behind on your blog
- how to LEAVE a respectful comment on ANOTHER blog
- using someone’s photos and ideas fairly, (creative commons attributions) … yes … even eight year olds understand this!
- how do you know whether to trust a site’s information or not
These are just a FEW of the possibilities for discussion that come up NATURALLY through your connected learning experiences. The goal is to help our learners develop an effective filter between their ears. We won’t always be with them. They WILL go online when adults aren’t around. These tools are NOT going away. We will CONTINUE to learn with the world … so … the SOONER we start with our children, the BETTER. After all … we want them to be SAFE, THOUGHTFUL global citizens … both on AND offline … and for GRANDMA to be PROUD!
“The most important thing an institution does is not to prepare a student for a career but for a life as a citizen.”
~ Frank Newman
Thank you , Lorraine Boulos at Making Shift Happen, for including me in your nominations for this completely unexpected award for my student blog, Global Grade 3 | Connecting & Learning Beyond Classroom Walls. WHAT fun! While I am unable to respond to this using the classroom blog, I am so grateful for this opportunity to make MORE connections! Instead, I will use my personal blogging space to nominate a few MORE for this fun award!
Liebster Nomination Rules:
1. Link back to the blog that nominated you.
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with less than 200 followers. (Although some of the ones I have included in this award have definitely got more than 200 followers … couldn’t help it … they’re awesome blogs!)
3. Answer the questions posted for you by the nominator.
4. Share 11 random facts about you.
5. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
6. Contact your nominees to inform them of their nomination.
I know that this award is for highlighting blogs with fewer than 200 followers, although with some blogs, I know they have many more than 200 followers. So … here are my nominations … in no particular order … they are blogs I have enjoyed since beginning this amazing learning journey on twitter:
1. Cristina: Moments, Snippets, Spirals (She always has me thinking … see further down for more!)
2. Lori: At the Principal’s Office (a new blog to me and a renomination … thanks to Lorraine! I love the idea of following another blogger in my neck of the woods!)
4. Ross: Ross Mannell An INSPIRED retired teacher who does SO much to enrich the learning of children, (and their teachers), around the world!
5. Greg: Educational Leadership in the 21st Century (Love his posts and love that he shares openly and honestly.)
My answers to Lorraine’s questions:
1. Why did you go into teaching?
Great question. There are so many reasons I went into teaching. I don’t really know, though, if it was ever really a choice … which sounds strange … but … I just knew, somehow, that this was what I needed to do.
2. What do you love most about your job?
The relationships. Hands down. I absolutely love working in a community school, where you have the opportunity to develop relationships with families, teach siblings, and watch your students grow as they progress through their years in your school. That, and the fact that I get to learn along WITH my students. Oh, and the fact that this is probably the GREATEST time to be a teacher … learning WITH the world WITH your students WITH a global audience! Honestly, I could go on and on!
3. How do you use technology in your class or school?
Technology is another tool … I use it as it fits with our needs … just as paper and pencil is a tool. The right tool for the job. What is different for me, these past two years, is that I have had the AMAZING opportunity to pilot a classroom blog … sharing our learning with the world. This has been a fabulous opportunity. Flattening the walls of the classroom has shown me the POWER of learning with a global audience. I have LOVED watching students new to blogging develop their voice, embrace writing for an authentic audience and grow in awareness of other perspectives, in empathy and as respectful global citizens.
4. How many students attend your school?
There are 700+ students at my school … the biggest I’ve ever worked in!
5. If you could change one thing about Education, what would it be?
That’s a tough question. There is SO much that is GOOD about education. A big one for me would probably be having the prescribed curriculum focus more around “big ideas”, as opposed to so many, (hundreds), of student learner outcomes in each of the curricular areas … so that you could go deeper into student curiosities more frequently … without feeling some sense of guilt about impending PATs. (Thank GOODNESS those are leaving us soon!)
6. What do you do after a bad day?
I don’t have a ton of these … but … my “go to” strategy is to have a long, relaxing bath … to wash the day away! That and go for a HUGE power walk! Luckily … I can count the number of baths I have “had” to take in the evening this year on ONE hand! That’s the sign of a GREAT year!
7. What is one of your proudest moments in Education?
I’ve got lots of “proud” moments … the one that sticks out most in my mind is an email I received a few years ago, from a student I’d taught in grade one. She wrote to tell me that she had become a teacher because of me. Wow. Blessed … AND … teaching for longer than it feels like!!! Where DOES the time go?
8. Whose blog are you always excited to read and why?
I have three main blogs that I enjoy reading:
George Couros The Principal of Change because he always makes me think. He’s an inspired Division Principal of Innovative Teaching in Edmonton … one of the first people I followed on twitter … and actually inspired me to begin my personal blog, although I don’t blog as much as I would like to.
9. What is one of your professional goals for next year?
I have so many goals … it’s hard to focus on just one! I think my biggest is trying to work in more of the thought provoking work of John Hattie in Visible Learning for Teachers and Ritchhart, Church and Morrison Making Thinking Visible.
10. What is your favourite inspirational quote for Education?
I have a BUNCH of them … but, this one comes up over and over again: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao-tzu
11. Why do you blog?
I blog with my students because of the power of connecting with the world … making our learning transparent … providing authentic reasons to write, deepening our understanding and personalizing meaning.
I blog for myself, not often enough, as a way of making meaning as well. I love writing and creating … I just wish I had more hours in the day to do it ALL!
Eleven Random Facts About Me:
1. My husband calls me a LERD … a learning nerd … lovingly, of course … but … there it is … and it’s true!
2. I have two boys … teenagers … who keep me on my toes!
3. I adore chocolate … especially milk chocolate chipits!
4. I just bought a new Mac and I’m LOVING IT! (Me too, Lorraine!)
5. I love to write.
6. Last night, my husband asked me what I was going to do today … I told him … I was going to work on some slides for a #globalclassroom presentation … and read. He asked if it was going to be a FUN book. I said YUP! He THEN asked … a fun NOVEL … or a fun TEXTBOOK?!? Yup … he knows me well … fun for me is OFTEN reading something like “Making Thinking Visible” … even in the summer!
7. I am an introvert … to some degree … and HATE public speaking! Funny, though … I am pretty animated in a classroom!!!
8. Twitter has provided me with the MOST amazing PLN and PD 24/7/365 … and I CAN’T believe that it took me SO long to FIND my twitter love!
9. I have a “thing” for sports cars and stick shifts … especially 1965 Mustangs!
10. My Grandmother was a HUGE influence on my life … I think of her daily … even though she has been gone for 10 years.
11. I can’t IMAGINE any career that is BETTER than being a teacher!
Eleven Questions for my Nominees, (because I had so much fun with Lorraine’s … why change them):
1. Why did you go into teaching?
2. What do you love most about your job?
3. How do you use technology in your class or school?
4. How many students attend your school?
5. If you could change one thing about Education, what would it be?
6. What do you do after a bad day?
7. What is one of your proudest moments in Education?
8. Whose blog are you always excited to read and why?
9. What is one of your professional goals for next year?
10. What is your favourite inspirational quote for Education?
11. Why do you blog?
“It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.”
~ Albert Einstein
What follows are my TRUE confessions as a “global classroom teacher”. Oops … did I say that? I meant “reflections”! Ahh … well … maybe this will be a BIT of BOTH!
I have JUST completed my SECOND year in a “flat classroom”. What does THAT mean, you ask? Well, for the past two years, I have been FORTUNATE enough to have been BLESSED with piloting a classroom blog. It came about innocently enough … as a way of sharing the connection we made, the year prior, with an NGO working in Peru. Along with my partner Tannis Emann, who was taking her Masters, we began to delve into some of the amazing classroom learning being shared through Twitter. Suddenly, it struck us … blogging would be a PERFECT way to share our Grade Three learning journey! True confession #1 … prior to that … I had NEVER given blogging a first OR second thought. Yup, you read that right … we were SHOCKED to discover that people had been blogging with their classrooms for YEARS before we tentatively began to wade into the water. I STILL can’t believe that it took me THIS long to discover the POWER of learning with a global audience once you have flattened your classroom walls.
True confession #2 … it’s not always easy. This is where the “frogs” that @iEARNUSA talks about come in! Often, you have to eat a LOT of frogs, as @iEARNUSA so aptly says! There will be problems … Skype connections won’t always work, technology will fail. Sometimes your PEOPLE connections aren’t as reliable as one would hope. These are all FANTASTIC learning opportunities for our students. I like to call it “grace under fire”! That’s not to minimize the frustrations this can create, because these issues can ALL cause angst. But, as Einstein so brilliantly stated, “It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” With persistence, patience, passion, perseverance AND occasional perspiration, the ENTIRE adventure is absolutely worth it. I will NEVER go back to teaching alone within four walls EVER again. There, I said it. I am a complete and TOTAL advocate for blogging with children. I firmly believe that the YOUNGER they start, the SMARTER they will be … responsible, aware, safe GLOBAL citizens with a CLEAR insight into what it means to be a MEANINGFUL member of the GLOBAL community.
After all, connecting and learning with a global audience provides both you AND your students with immediate experts in the field … it’s like a global PLN, (professional learning network), for your classroom. Who WOULDN’T want that? This global connection, whether it’s from comments left on your blog, or people you are Skyping with, can push the learning within your classroom deeper than you could have ever imagined.
True confession #3 … it’s OFTEN messy. Learning IS messy. When you pursue student questions, you connect with experts in the field, you learn … and … INEVITABLY … you walk away with MORE questions. Talk about personalized, meaningful and engaging learning! FURTHER pursing their questions and curiosities is where the passion, enthusiasm for learning, personalization for your students and deeper understanding comes in. It’s a WIN win situation. Again … who WOULDN’T want that?!?
True confession #4 … time will ALWAYS be an issue. For us, it was finding a balance between the prescribed curriculum mandated by our Province AND pursuing, in depth, our inquiries and global “focus”. From the beginning, it was ALSO important for us to model effective skills for replying to our readers … and … this commitment gained us some faithful and INSPIRING readers who OFTEN pushed our learning even DEEPER. You would be RIGHT if you recognized that THIS commitment ALSO took time. This was truly time WELL spent! Surprisingly, although there was amazing learning shared in each of the posts, even DEEPER learning frequently occurred within the comment section through our interactions with readers!
During these two years, my students and I have been TRULY blessed to interact with and learn from the BRILLIANT Ross Mannell. Although a retired teacher, this AMAZING man frequently leaves comments for children on their classroom blogs. When I say comments, this does NOT do them justice. As a matter of fact, Ross has a SPECIAL blog he writes to provide students with EXTENDED comments. IMAGINE my students’ SURPRISE at reading this extended comment … AND receiving a VERY treasured surprise in the mail … all the WAY from AUSTRALIA! Echidnas have nothing what so EVER to do with our curriculum. But, animals and life cycles sure do, and … you should have SEEN the fingers flying on our iPads, as students conducted FURTHER research on our new echidna! The excitement in discovering MORE about our new class pet, Spike, was palpable!
Although time will always be an issue … many, MANY skills can be woven in and THROUGH each and EVERY global classroom and blog post experience. For us, having a global audience … an AUTHENTIC audience … increased our skills AND our desire to write. It was THRILLING to see students begin to develop their voices … and slowly gain command of “reeling the reader in”! Although our blog has primarily focused on issues in Social Studies … Ross has helped us to delve even DEEPER into some of our SCIENCE and MATH curriculum. I am SURE that, because of his thoughtful and detailed replies to us, SOME of these bloggers may EVEN become GEOLOGISTS!
True confession #5 … it is SO worth it. If you haven’t tried blogging with your students … do! I have NEVER looked back. Instead … I look FORWARD, in GREAT anticipation of where this journey will lead us.
- what is one of the most POWERFUL lessons you’ve learned through blogging with your students?
- what are some of YOUR true confessions as a result of becoming a “global classroom teacher”?
- what advice would you give to someone THINKING about flattening the walls of their classroom?
This blog post has been cross-posted on The Global Classroom Project.
There is a WORLD of possibilities for EACH of us … reach for the STARS!
Photo from Global Grade 3s
I am struggling.
I know the teacher I want to be. I strive to be the kind of teacher I would want for my own children. I am a learner and I know I was born to teach. It is HUGE work but, oddly, I bounce into school each and every day, excited for my next adventures with my amazing Grade Threes. We learn a LOT from one another. I CAN’T imagine a MORE rewarding career.
I am a reader and I am always growing. Why am I struggling? I am torn. I am inspired by all that I read through my UNBELIEVABLE twitter PLN. I see ALL the amazing possibilities. There are just NEVER enough hours in the day to truly accomplish everything I would like to experience with my students.
At this point in the year, I know my learners pretty well. They are my “daytime family”. I know where they are as readers, as writers … how comfortable they are with math … but I know them BEYOND where they are “academically”. We share who WE are … what makes us tick, what EXCITES us, what scares us … we’ve developed trusting relationships.
Still, I’m struggling.
Within my classroom is a wide range of abilities and interests. I see them BEYOND their marks and “current functioning”. Some of us are strong mathematicians. It’s just the way we think. Some of us have the gift for writing and can express our written thoughts with ease. Some are readers … I mean AVID readers who LOVE it. And, some of us are incredibly artistic. Some of us are even lucky enough to have it ALL!
It’s report card time. We don’t all FIT into “reading at level O” at this point in the school year. Developmentally, we’re just NOT ready yet. Maybe reading won’t EVER be a strength … but … there are strengths in OTHER areas. Ugh. I HATE giving 2s. I want to BUILD learner confidence … I want to delve DEEPER into our curiosities … and passions. No matter HOW I weave all the student learner outcomes into our inquiries I ALWAYS have those Provincial Achievement Exams sitting at the back of my brain. But my heart says we’re NOT cookie cutter learners … NONE of us are.
At the end of the year, they’ll have to write a narrative story based on a picture prompt. They’ll probably do okay … most of them … but that writing won’t even BEGIN to compare to the amazing writing they do when they write for their “authentic” global audience on the classroom blog. Already I can hear their voices SHINE through into these pieces.
What’s MOST important? Relationships. Trust. Developing a safe and nurturing learning environment together where it’s GOOD to take risks with our learning.
I struggle with what I know in my heart. Helping students develop an understanding of who they are as learners … their strengths, passions, helping them to SEE that life long learning can be joyful and fulfilling … this is what I strive for … while trying to support their individual learner needs. They are, EACH of them, SO much more than a mark on a piece of paper.
How do I fit it ALL in?
I have a DREAM … I am REACHING for the stars … but … how do I fit it all in? Maybe I need LONGER teaching days … or FEWER student learner outcomes, (although I do see their value), or maybe each grade should last for TWO years … IMAGINE the possibilities with more TIME to fit it ALL in? I do!
- How do you fit it all in … and find a balance?
Flickr Creative Commons Photo Shared by Scott McLeod
One week in. Into WHAT, you ask? Why, #etmooc, of course! Officially, this amazing “connectivist” MOOC, (massive open online course), hasn’t even REALLY begun – it’s been an “orientation” week, of sorts. Gosh. Topic One doesn’t even begin until MONDAY! Man. If it HASN’T already begun … I can’t WAIT to see what the “official” topics and discussions unveil! ALREADY my head is SPINNING. It’s a GREAT spinning … but SPINNING nonetheless!
So far, I’ve had the opportunity to experience a Blackboard Collaborative ”Welcome and General Orientation”, an #etmooc chat (#etmchat), and ALMOST an HOUR long session with the amazing Sue Waters while she shared her extensive knowledge on BLOGGING! I say “almost” because something came up at school and I didn’t quite make it to the session! RATS! As if THIS wasn’t already inspiring enough … the Google+ community has become a tsunami of sharing, collaboration and support. Everyday, through people’s inspiring posts, I bookmark SEVERAL more tools I want to explore. I don’t know if it’s POSSIBLE, but I WORRY that Google Chrome is going to tell me I have EXCEEDED the CLOUD for BOOKMARK storage!
Being a LERD, I am just SO excited by the possibilities. I ALSO love that SO many of the amazing people I learn with and from through my TWITTER PLN are involved in this #etmooc. It is, on MANY levels, like many of us experience when we first begin our twitter journeys. A LOT like drinking from a “fire hose”. Learning to “filter” and focus on where you are at and what you need at this moment in time is the only way to keep your head ABOVE water … and to NOT become overwhelmed or, worse, give up.
This weekend, I can’t WAIT to explore the first of MANY tools I have already been exposed to through the Google+ community. FIRST up on my list is to play with a tool that Dennis Richards used to share his #etmooc introduction: xtranormal Talk about inspiring AND entertaining!
Flickr Creative Commons Photo Shared by Krissy Venosdale
That, and INTENTIONALLY leaving comments on people’s blogs to more actively express my appreciation for the learning! I feel SO blessed that @Courosa, while on sabbatical, has offered SUCH an amazing learning opportunity to the world, along with his incredible “conspirators“! If you haven’t already joined this amazing journey … what are you WAITING for?
January 7, 2012:
I am excited, excited, EXCITED! My FIRST #ETMOOC … from START to FINISH! Last year, I was fortunate enough to tag along with Tannis in some of her classes with Alec Couros while she did her Master’s online. Inspired is an understatement. Her Master’s is what started my TWITTER love and my introduction to the magic of Blackboard Collaborative. Since then, I have had the privilege of experiencing some of the MOST powerful PD with an INCREDIBLE PLN … 24/7 … if I want! I am FOREVER grateful to Tannis!
Photo by MrsDKrebs
I am excited for this new learning adventure and looking forward to expanding my PLN!
Call Me (Molly Maid, or Crazy, or Melancholy) Maybe
I threw a wish in the well,
Don’t ask me, I’ll never tell
I looked at you as it fell,
And now you’re in my way
I’d trade my soul for a maid
Maybe even a can of raid
I wasn’t looking for this
But now you’re in my way
Your boxes ever growin’
The basement’s over flowin’
Banged shins and pace is slowin’
Who is gonna sort you baby?
Hey, I just cleaned you
And, this is crazy,
But, here we go …
I’m fairly easily entertained. That MUST have been obvious as SOON as you read Carly Rae’s MODIFIED lyrics. Sorry Carly! The last two days have been spent organizing the basement. I hope there was a COLLECTIVE groan as people read that last sentence. Trust me … there were MANY groans as this purge was in progress. But, in the end, not only is there more SPACE … it provided me with some AMAZING time to reflect on the first 25 years of my teaching journey as well!
On my storage shelves were many, MANY “teacher” boxes. Hours and HOURS of collecting, creating, purchasing and saving. Essentially, an educator’s museum of a twenty-six year journey. For several years I taught Grade One and Two. Lovingly, I pulled boxes labelled with Japan, Bears, Dinosaurs, Penguins, Egypt, Medieval Life, etc., from the shelves … you get the picture. On hands and knees, each artifact was extracted from it’s container … inspected, remembered, then recycled. Books were sorted into the “donate to the Kindergarten teacher” box.
You see, I don’t teach that way anymore. I haven’t taught that way for a VERY long time. Still, there was melancholy attached to this process. Remembrances of magical moments shared with young learners … seeing them, in my mind’s eye, at their Celebrations of Learning, dressed as “Penguintology Scientists or Egyptology Experts” , or some other type of expert befitting our inquiries, sharing their expertise with their families.
I started to think, while I sorted, about how much I had ENJOYED those “less than techie” pop-ups … those research projects and inquiries that ended in AMAZING finalized hands-on presentations that the children and I LOVED to share with our families. It made me WONDER … WHY have I moved further away from an ARTSY expression of our learning discoveries?
Don’t get me wrong … we are curious, engaged, working hard and learning each and EVERY day. Somehow, though, technology seems to be taking over … not for the SAKE of technology … there are SO many valuable tools that are perfect for just about ANY job. But, as I sat there reminiscing and feeling, yes, a little melancholy, I began to do some powerful reflecting over ghosts of years gone by. There HAS to be a balance. I am the FIRST to admit that I LOVE technology and I would be LOST without it, (between you and I), I CLEARLY remember a day when I hand WROTE report cards. But, I MUST find a balance.
While I DON’T make New Year’s resolutions, because I strive to grow personally and professionally each and EVERY day, I have PROMISED myself that I will bring BACK the art of balance within my classroom … a balance between the use of technology and more opportunities to explore “tangible” ways to share our inquiries as well.
- How do you find a balance?
“Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe.”
― Susan Cain
A colleague recently talked with me about a new book she was reading. She had really enjoyed it and thought I might also like to read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Part way through this chat she looked at me with shock when I told her that I considered myself an “introvert”. Somehow, her response surprised me. Don’t get me wrong. I speak up during staff meetings. I eagerly share my ideas during team meetings. I am animated and “outgoing” with my students as we learn together each and every day. I am approachable and work hard to develop meaningful relationships with students, parents and colleagues. Needless to say, I raced right out and purchased Susan Cain’s book THAT night.
This book spoke to me on SO many levels. From personal experience, I could relate to many of the examples Cain shared within the pages of this book. I remember losing marks in school for a “lack of participation” and being terrified of “giving presentations”. As a matter of fact, I EVEN dropped a few COURSES while at university when I saw “oral projects” listed on the syllabus! Guess that’s IT for a Master’s Degree!
My husband lovingly laughs at me and finds it hard to believe because I don’t FEEL this way when I teach! “How can you say you don’t like presenting in front of adults … you’re in a CLASSROOM all day LONG … you CAN’T be afraid of public speaking!” I love the energy I feel in the classroom. I LOVE the interactions with my students and colleagues. But, I recharge when I come home. I like my “quiet down time”. It’s hard to explain. Like Susan’s quote above, it’s the air that I breathe.
Over the years I have given myself permission to express myself in the way I feel MOST comfortable – through writing. Somehow, ideas flow and I feel empowered when I write. Strangely, I even feel more “articulate” when I write. It used to bother me immensely that I couldn’t comfortably stand up and “present” professionally like, say, Sir Ken Robinson, for example! (Ya … I know … that’s setting the bar REALLY high! ) Reading Quiet helped to reinforce, for me, what I knew already intuitively.
Introverts and extroverts reside along a continuum. They appear to be “opposites” and yet there truly IS no black and white … just shades of gray. Some extroverts don’t like public speaking. Some introverts DO! Not all introverts are necessarily shy, either.
I think I’m a weird combination of deeply introverted and very daring. I can feel both those things working.
The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.
Susan Cain does a beautiful job of melding personal experiences with scientific research. While our society values the power of the extrovert, she makes a powerful case for the need to respect, honour and empower BOTH! This book is truly worth the read and the ensuing conversations it will provoke:
— Louise Givens (@GeeeLouise) December 29, 2012
@rentonl Made me see a different world- as an extrovert many ideas had never occurred to me helped in so many ways, educator and parent:)
— Verena Roberts (@verenanz) December 29, 2012
Like yin and yang, night and day, winter and summer – seemingly opposites … without one there isn’t the other … the world NEEDS extroverts AND introverts. The odds are you are either living with someone on the opposite side of the continuum or you WORK with a few!
I remember, clearly, receiving an email from my son’s Grade Four teacher. Although he is now 18, the experience is CLEARLY etched in my memory. He had worked for days on a presentation that he was to share that morning. His teacher emailed to say that he had “refused” to stand up and present his “poster”. I requested a phone call so that we could discuss the situation. Now I know that there is a FINE line between advocating for your child and “helicoptering” … but this was a situation my husband and I hoped to resolve by finding a compromise. You see, my oldest is a lot like I was. The teacher provided two options. He could present the next day or he could receive a zero on the presentation mark. We tried for a compromise. Could he present to his teacher alone? Could he choose two or three peers and present in a “safer” way, since he was shy? Nope. No options. Share with the large group or take the zero. A little “frustrated” with the lack of flexibility or sensitivity for personalizing the learning, we presented my son with his options. He chose the zero and we supported his choice. That day, I vowed to never put a student in my care in that situation EVER. (Maybe this is naive, since I teach Grade Three, but it works for me.)
Can you work to CHANGE certain aspects of your personality? ABSOLUTELY. Should you nurture your strengths and USE them to the best of your ability? Without a DOUBT. As educators AND parents, it is OUR responsibility to help our children and students FIND their strengths, NURTURE their GIFTS and EXPLORE who they are … as learners … as people who have individual gifts to share with the world. After all, we USUALLY find our niche!
This above all:
To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
- Do you see yourself as more introverted or extroverted?
- Have you had to work hard to strengthen an area of “discomfort” such as public speaking? How have you achieved this?
- How do you nurture your own child’s or students’ ”strengths”?
Flickr Photo by m-c
Yesterday was just ONE of those days where it ALL came together! Definitely NOT to be confused with the days that it DOESN’T … and … sadly … THOSE days exist TOO! For example, the day BEFORE our perfectly serendipitous day, we experienced a 100% FAILURE rate with our borax crystals! Don’t get me wrong. Experiencing failure is HEALTHY … it helps to develop character and, in a safe and caring environment, it supports the development of curiosity, resilience and perseverance! As one of LAST year’s young bloggers taught us: FAIL = First Attempt In Learning! What a HEALTHY way to LOOK at setbacks!
The morning after mixing our borax crystals, my Grade Threes and I BOUNCED into the classroom to check out our newly formed creations … only to be met with NOTHING! We’d done everything to specification. They looked at me, bewildered. I looked at THEM … bewildered. They asked WHY … MANY of them with quivering bottom lips. Now … I COULD have said, “Well, the borax may have been old … maybe we didn’t stir the solution well enough … maybe the ROOM wasn’t the right TEMPERATURE!” This list could have been extensive. Instead, I answered their WHYs with, “I don’t KNOW … what do YOU think? Let’s TALK about it!”
We sat, some of us quite downhearted, and what these students had to say was simply AMAZING for eight year old children. Maybe we didn’t put enough borax in. Maybe it was too LOUD in here and the vibrations in the ROOM caused the failure. Maybe the water was too hot … or too COLD. Maybe the JARS were dirty … although several students piped up quickly and said that MIGHT be the case for a FEW of the jars … but ALL of them? We THINK not! Together, we decided that we would try ANOTHER little experiment. We mixed up ONE more jar of borax solution … adding quite a bit more borax … just in CASE it had become “stale”. Some of us even went home to research just a LITTLE more!
Our TEST worked and we were greeted, the NEXT morning, by a GORGEOUS snowflake crystal. Maybe, since the borax was a year old, it HAD required more in order to saturate the solution! And THIS led us to our “perfect day”!
With MORE borax crystals to make, classroom blog comments to reply to and twenty MILLION other jobs to do … it didn’t LOOK like it was going to be one of those stellar days. Honestly, I didn’t know how I was going to “juggle” everything that needed to be accomplished!
Flickr Photo by Noticelj
That’s when it HIT me.
We’ve been working on our classroom blog for OVER a month now. This would be the PERFECT time to hand over the reigns to see what these awesome STUDENTS would do WITHOUT me guiding their responses to our readers. They’d had TONS of role modelling for crafting an awesome reply to our readers, and I decided that I would focus on helping a group of students with crystals. The rest of the class drafted a response to one of the comments left behind. It was a leap of faith … they hadn’t done it independently yet this year!
I had to bite my tongue as my little group of FIVE mixed their crystals … and I “listened in” on what was happening with the NINETEEN students in the blogging group! Yup. NINETEEN kids … working WITHOUT the teacher … compromising, collaborating, sharing, discussing. I wanted it to be COMPLETELY their comment … none of my interjections or “leading and supporting”. I REALLY wanted to see what THEY would do!
One young man was the recorder, on the laptop and the smartboard; he gathered student thoughts and recorded them. I could hear issues such as:
- okay, how do we START a reply?
- did we talk about her family’s “sentence”?
- how do we say it to “reel the reader in” and get them to come BACK to the blog?
- do you remember how Mrs. Renton makes that HAPPY face at the END of our comments … oh ya … it’s like THIS …
- how should we END the reply?
You will LAUGH at THIS … the comment left by the parent mentioned “LERD”, and these children discussed, as a group, what a LERD was!!! I couldn’t STOP myself from giggling … although quietly enough that it wouldn’t distract them! This is a group that is PROUD to shout their lerdiness from the ROOFTOPS!!! (Not all … but MANY profess to be LERDS!!!)
My tears were WELLING!!! And, if that wasn’t ENOUGH, even MORE magic happened!!!
When I came back to the group and they read their message, (FILLED with pride), the PERSONALIZED mini-lessons … authentic, immediate, and meaningful mini-lessons began:
- how to right click to check a misspelled word
- capitals for Mrs.
- leaving ONE space after a period (as opposed to none)
- when to use families vs family’s
- the differences between to, two, and too
Yup. This was TRULY a PROUD teacher moment! They had been internalizing EVERYTHING we had discussed as we crafted meaningful responses to our blog readers as a large group. They had worked through their struggles together. They had collaborated, supported one another, taught one another and risen to the challenge BEYOND my greatest hopes! JUST like the day before when we experienced the disappointing results of our experiment. They rose UP, pushed PAST … and … we ALL grew!
After all, you NEED the rain to appreciate the sun … without the rain there ARE no rainbows! Nope, I wouldn’t trade the struggles for perpetual smooth sailing. It is THROUGH these struggles that we learn and grow!
PS For those of you who are WONDERING … our SECOND attempt at borax crystals met with 98% success! We PERSEVERED and FINALLY achieved 100%. Phew!