The Start … But What Comes Next?

For many years now, I’ve ended theΒ “set-up for back-to-school week” with a video tour of the classroom. Sometimes I record this tour on my own, and sometimes I record it with my teaching partner. In the past few years, I’ve also started to share the thinking behind our set-up. If nothing else, this is a good reminder for me that every item out and every placement of furniture was done with intent. As always, I recorded a tour again this year, and even did so through shorter Instagram posts, so that we could share this video footage as we did the rest of our set-up.

When I posted these tours yesterday, I also had a look at many other educator classroom posts. I was inspired to send out this tweet this morning.

There’s something exciting about seeing theΒ new.Β The Twittersphere and Instagram are full of posts highlighting classrooms right now. Imagine though how these rooms will change as the children arrive.Β What impact will kids have on the environment?Β I’m hoping that this classroom sharing continues throughout the year, and even highlights the changes to the spaces based on students, interests, and needs. Think of how much we could learn from each other if we not only shared the evolution of the environments, but the thoughts behind these changes. This is going to be one of my goals for this year.Β Are you with me?


Reframing “New”: How Do You See Change Differently?

Have you ever read something before and thought, “This was written for me. It was meant to be that I read this now.”?Β I had this feeling earlier in the month when I stumbled upon a quote that my principal, Gerry, shared.

As I’ve blogged about before, this year, I’ve moved schools. This move is all kinds of awesome, but it’s also all kinds of scary. For the past three years, I’ve worked with the same teaching partner (Paula), and over this time, we’ve developed a great relationship. We don’t always see things in the same way —Β and often push each other’s thinkingΒ — but we’ve also developed a rhythm that works for us and for our kids. While we’ve both moved to the same school, we are not in the same classroom. We knew that this would likely happen though, and we still wanted to embrace this change.

Looking at this quote, I’m reminded of some of my great new opportunities. Last week, I met with my current teaching partner, Carey, and we began to talk school.

  • We finalized a class blog together.Β We spoke about how we would share it with parents. How might we both use it?
  • We discussed a flow of the day.Β What would our day look like? Which transitions are necessary? What ones could we eliminate? Why might we do so?
  • We explored how we would support student learning. What works for kids? What might not work? How can we change this?

We sat in Starbucks for close to three hours, and we talked A LOT. Β 

This was only the start of the talking that continued today. We had a classroom of materials to sort, to put out, to put away, and to purge, and most material decisions, led to questions.

  • Why do we need these? How will we use them? How will kids use them?
  • Do these items promote independent play? Teacher-directed play? Does this matter?
  • Do these items promote deeper thinking? Richer learning? Applications of learning? If not, what materials might?
  • How do these materials connect with the philosophy in the Kindergarten Program Document? If they don’t connect, what other ones might?
  • If children like these items, why do they like them? How did they use them before? How might a different schedule/flow of the day impact on their use of these materials?

After eight hours straight of sorting and purging, we still didn’t open any boxes, but we actually got a lot done. We also had wonderful conversations, that after a little sitting time and reflecting time, have led to streams of texts and more purging possibilities for tomorrow.Β 

I told Carey that I wanted to write this post because this experience from today reminded me that one of the opportunities in the “new,” is the chance to really share and reflect on our pedagogy. It forces us to exploreΒ the “why” that can sometimes be forgotten in the familiar. So thank you to Carey, who I know got comfortable with getting uncomfortable today, but has also helped me think through a lot as we build our team.Β Whether you are working alone, with the same partner, or with a new one, how are you working through these important questions:Β reconsidering both space and materials under the umbrella of your learners?Β Sometimes it’s only through change that we’re reminded of the need to question, to converse, and to embrace new realities.


What Can You Learn From A Newborn Photograph?

It’s amazing how social media can keep us connected. At the end of the school year, as I said many “goodbyes,” I connected with one of the moms in our class. She was pregnant and due at the end of the summer. I’ve now taught two of her kids and have definitely formed a connection with her family. As she was leaving, I said that I was excited to see pictures of her new baby. She promised to post some photographs. Fast forward to the end of August, and the baby and baby pictures arrived. Little did I know that her photographs would inspire this post.Β 

I must admit that babies terrify me. They’re absolutely adorable, but they always look so small and fragile. Holding them is scary, and their cries get to me every single time. Once they approach toddlerhood, I’m good, but with infants, I love seeing the photographs and videos but am reluctant to get too close. This mom, Mair, suprised me with her photographs. Numerous ones capture similar moments to the one below. (A special “thank you” to Mair for letting me share her name and photograph here.)

Now take a moment and look closely.Β What do you see?Β Maybe this picture, at first, looks similar to other baby pictures that you’ve seen. There is one significant difference though, and it was true in every single one of her pictures: her children are holding their sibling ALL ON THEIR OWN.Β There is no additional hand of support. This is even true for the photographs with just one “older child” only.

I can’t help but think about one of my favourite lines in the Kindergarten Program Document, about our view of the child as “competent and capable.” Now think for a moment about what Mair is communicating to her kids through her action of letting them hold their new baby sister in this way. And every single photograph shows these two older siblings handling this newborn with care, with slow movements, and with love.

As I head back to the classroom on Monday, I know that my teaching partner, Carey, and I will be discussing the choices we’re making in the room and how these choices align with our view of the child. Seeing what Mair did though, this also makes me wonder about home experiences.

  • Do you let your child use permanent markers? Adult scissors? Work the tape dispenser on his/her own?
  • Do you let your child help set the table? Empty the dishwasher?
  • Do you let your child use ceramic or glass cups? What about plates? How about knives?
  • Do you let your child clean up spills? Put out the garbage? Sort the recycling?
  • Do you let your child use real tools (a screwdriver, a hammer, etc.)?
  • Do you let your child move a chair? Climb on a chair?Β 

One Post That Shows How This Independence Is Supported In The Classroom

What are children allowed to do? What are they not allowed to do? How can both parents and educators support and encourage more independence in children? What, if anything, might be stopping you?Β When we look to include more Favourite Links on our class blog, I wonder if some of them can be around this very topic. Mair reminds us that at times, our actions can speak louder than our words. Her actions here definitely do.


Sharing Our Stories

Today was the last day of Camp Power. Back when we met for our first day of training in June, the principal overseeing the program, Mary Anne Gage, mentioned that one of her goals this year was to capture the stories of Camp Power. As an educator that’s very passionate about pedagogical documentation, I was intrigued by this goal of hers.Β Would this provide an opportunity for documenting both staff and student stories? What about parents?Β An idea began to form.

During the course of the camp program, I not only witnessed,Β but was also a part, of some incredible growth. In 15 days, not every moment of growth can be captured by a standardized assessment tool. A child may not move up in a DRA (reading assessment) score or jump a level in math.Β What growth might we observe? It was in the areas of risk-taking, perseverance, self-regulation, and attitude,Β where we saw the most growth.Β How do you capture this growth though?Β This question of mine led to an email request to our site staff, wondering if people would share their stories. The stories aren’t only those of educators though. The 15-minute video below provides a different measure of growth:Β short snippets of experiences that campers, parents, and educators all allowed me to share in this format.

I keep thinking about the #visiblelearning hashtag that Lisa Noble introduced me to a couple of years ago. This compilation of stories becomes part of this visible learning, but a wonderful conversation with principal Mark Degner, reminds me that the stories shouldn’t stop here.Β How might this summer’s learning impact on the upcoming school year?Β I’m excited to follow-up on the stories in the video to see what happens next.Β Looking at the year ahead, I’m also wondering about the professional learning that educators do at school. We often fill out forms to track our learning and growth.Β Could a similar video option allow for educator reflections in a different way? What other options could we use to collect stories from the field?Β Just as we differentiate for kids, I wonder if educators might also benefit from professional reflection options. I love how oral and written reflections combine here.Β Do stories play their own important role in data collection?Β Our Camp Power reflections make me think that they do.


A Lot More Good …

This morning, I started my day as I always do, reading Doug Peterson‘s blog post. Little did I know how this post would speak volumes for the rest of my day.

For the third summer in a row, I’m the site lead at Camp Power. As part of this experience, I get to work with incredible children, parents, families, and educators. Yesterday, one of these educators, Jessie Mullin, helped facilitate something amazing when one of her campers came in upset. He explained to Miss Mullin that somebody stole his bike and his mom’s bike. This led to an authentic writing experience.

Jessie also used this experience for a great lesson in social media. We hear many negative social media stories, and often see how it’s the bad experiences that tend to trend. Doug’s morning post includes this point. But in the midst of the bad, there is still good in this world!

The Hamilton Police not only saw Jessie’s tweet, but also responded to it. They wanted to do something for this camper and his mom, and this is what led to today’s terrific experience.

I am not one to be speechless, but witnessing this today, leaves me feeling that way. What a heart-warming story that speaks to …

  • the value of social media,
  • the power of the written word,
  • the kindness of people,
  • and the importance of community connections.Β 

Our camp uses Twitter to help document and share much of our daily learning. Not every family is on Twitter, nor is every educator. But it was actually this bike experience that had Jessie showing her campers, and even this child’s mother, how to use Twitter. This bike experience not only got her tweeting, but seeing the positive power of a tweet.

In a world full of problems, I think that we can all appreciate and celebrate the good in this world. This bike story is that “good.” Thanks to Jessie for helping a camper solve a problem through writing, and thanks to the Hamilton Police for partnering with us to make a family’s day.Β What are your feel good stories?Β I wonder if we share more of them, if the CN Tower trending will help us not just suspect the worst.Β Could we ever get to a point where “good news stories” start to exceed the bad?