Thoughts for the Year Ahead

As we gear up for the school year ahead, I find myself normally thinking about three  things.

  1. What book will I read for the opening assembly?
  2. What main message do our students and staff need to hear?
  3. What lunches can I make that my children will actually finish?!

I’ve got the  book. The Little Red Hen. The message if you haven’t read it yet is quite simple. If you want to make things work, then contribute and pitch in. An awesome message for school, home and life in general.

The  main message for students and  staff is a bit more complex. I know that any message for the whole school needs to be a shared vision, so with that  in mind, please be aware that my initial message is more of a challenge than necessarily a shared vision.

In trying to come up with a way to remember I formed the  simple anacronym of Come Greet the King. For our Catholic school, clearly, the King  is Christ. Of course the King could be adapted to any creator God you want, as I believe God would want  to be greeted with  the  four ideas detailed below.

Continue what you’re good at   – we should always play to our strengths.

Get involved    – the message of the  little red hen – but not just about helping out. Also, getting engaged in your learning  and school life.

Try something new  – new  experiences are what  brings us vigor and energy, so try something  new. (I still have the  guitar on my to do list as well and have recently been really trying to make a plant based diet (yes that  means partial vegan) happen. If you want to know what spurred me forward, have a read of Dr. Richard Oppenlander’s Comfortably Unaware

Kindness to all  so simple and yet how smooth would our schools and world be if people could just figure out how to show kindness. You don’t need to like everyone, but treating them with kindness is fairly simple.

To go back to the  start, I guess I have 1  and  2 covered. #3 will involve far, far more planning but hopefully in time….

Not sure where the summer flew, but hope it was a good one for all and best wishes for a school year filled with good health, engaging  experiences, new learning  and kindness to everyone.

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We’re Starting to Gear up for Year Two!

It’s onto year two planning for  Beyond the Classroom. I remain  convinced that this  is the way Education should go, and in the  utopian world of education, my goal would be to  find a way to make the whole  year one big Beyond the Classroom  experience. Unfortunately, until I purchase a school  bus, and get my bus driver licence, I’m likely out of luck for that plan! Note to  would  be entrepreneurs, while I’m not  sure  of the costs to  run a bus company, I will say that 90% of  our Beyond the  Classroom Budget goes to those yellow buses!

In lieu of starting my own  bus  company,  here are some plans for the year ahead.

  1. Each Beyond  the Classroom  experience will have a final  artifact PLUS  a one or  two page essay type summary – this will allow us to continually work on the main  areas we feel are important for students to learn.   essay rubric for final artifact
  2. At the  end of the essay, or on a separate piece of paper – students include – My WOW moment from this  experience was…. And here’s why. This will allow us to see what the highlight was for them, and encourage them to reflect on ways they are engaged in their learning.  Better for it to NOT be on padlet because this will allow for more individual ideas.
  3. Right from September, we want to do mini  lessons  on the main learning strategies/skills we want students to develop. We’ll  likely do one a week – eg.  Day 1 is intro of the  skill through  an exemplar from one  of us, as well as identifying what  makes the writing good.   Day 2 is working  on a sample demonstrating  the skill together   Day 3 is having  students  try on their  own (writing on demand)   Day 4 – moderated mark with the students   Day 5  – Discussion on how  to continue to  develop the  skill.

The different  mini lessons are

a. Fact vs Fact/Analysis    – e.g   Something as simple as     The Provincial Government spends 39 % of its budget (or 51.4 billion) on health care

Vs.   The Provincial Government spends 39% of its budget (or 51.4 billion) on health care. For those who complain that not enough money goes into health care, this stat would seem to put that into question. The largest part of the  Provincial  Budget goes  to healthcare. If we spend more on health care, then we need to take money away from somewhere else. It’s a tricky balancing  game.

b. Perspective

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/01/a-dogs-purpose-animal-abuse-gavin-polone-response

We could write a mini paragraph on the two sides.

c. Political  cartoons  – show some cartoons but have an analytical point by way of explanation.

d. Engagement in learning –  find wonders that  interest them.  The whole point of life long learning is to identify where your interests lie, and  then to learn more about them. Unfortunately, many students have trouble identifying these  interests, or to quote them … “Meh.”

e.  How to properly research – we found last year that if students  were researching how free ttc could improve traffic congestion, they would type that topic into google and if they weren’t able  to find an article specifically about that, they would give up. Rigor and perseverance in researching are essential.

f. How to find  primary sources – we made a real point of focusing on primary sources last year but again, too often, students  would give up if they didn’t find a primary source right  away. Many of the primary sources also didn’t reply back but that’s a whole other  issue.

The goal this year is to expand to two classes having the  Beyond the Classroom Experience (our Gr. 6/7 and 7/8 class). With that in mind, we are going to try to do the  initial mini lessons with both classes together.  Tricky thing is that we’re literally looking  at a solid month  of this for an hour  each  day. I think it’s worthwhile but we’re going to figure out with the two teachers involved if we can devote the time to it. And it could  definitely  be done separately. I just think it’s easier if we combine classes.

Other thing to decide on is the  schedule of experiences

At this point, it looks as follows

September (3rd week)   Zoo – both classes  final artifact to likely be photo essay

October –   Government – both  classes?   One day Queen’s Park and one day Nathan Phillips Square – one day meeting with local MPP  and City Councillor, one or two days at library for research

November –  Mansfield

Other  months dependent on which organizations commit.

Globe and Mail is in process  for  our Gr. 7/8 class– either Oct or Jan.  Focus on writing process around idea development and editing; deadline  pressure, ethics of advertising, changes in the newspaper industry over the years. Final artifact to hopefully be creation of a school newspaper including  advertising budget and circulation.

Pan Am Sports Centre in process – focus on the legacy of the Pan Am games; budgeting of sport; government involvement  in sport and physical fitness

Urban planning with Chief City Planner Jennifer Keesmat in process – focus  on steps necessary  to plan a successful city and community with  the final artifact hopefully being a 3d city creation.

Home Depot, Canadian Forces, MLSE, Apple/Google – waiting for  next  steps

We also have been fortunate to link up with the Deputy Minister of Education – Bruce Rodrigues. After seeing  our Beyond the  Classroom play in May that documented year one’s experiences, Mr.  Rodrigues promised to take a more in depth look at our work. True to his word, he has just done that. At a meeting in July, Mr.  Rodrigues let us know he is working on setting up three different Beyond the Classroom opportunities for us. Research Assistants to help us with our work, and a possible twining with a Reserve school are also in the works from his side.

While we can never be sure which  direction our program will take us (part of the beauty and unknown of inquiry based learning), we continue to be confident that it is making  a difference in the education and development of our students. All experiences are  based in curriculum with an emphasis on the language and math curriculum. In addition, the Catholic Graduate Expectations are being met through  explicit work and discussion in helping our students  become more Responsible Citizens; Effective Communicators; Creative, Reflective, and Holistic thinkers; and Life Long Learners.

To say that we’re excited with the potential is an understatement. Stay tuned in the months ahead, and welcome  to August.

The Life Long Learning Journey should never stop.

Summer’s out but as I often encourage our school  community to consider, learning  never stops.

As we ease into  July, I consider my learning  from this past year.

  • It’s tough for some to distinguish between field trips and experiential learning. To my mind, experiential learning needs  to be explicitly curriculum driven, include new learning that students identify, and  build in time for reflection on the  new learning  at the site.
  • If experiential education is really going  to succeed, the list  of  necessaries is  long, but the 4 biggest from our  experience this  past year are as follows:                                                                                                                                                                                       1.  Willingness to   think outside the  box  when  you plan. If it’s Beyond the  Classroom, then  surely Beyond  the Box would include creativity and innovative ways of reading  curriculum from math to language to other areas.                                                                                                                                                                                      . 2. Money to get places is definitely key. The cost of school buses this year nearly did us in. Would be so much  easier if we either had a school close to the subway, or if  I learned how to drive a school bus….summer learning?                                                                                                                                                                                                               3. Finding organizations willing  to commit requires email after email and even then it’s still a stretch. Getting a personal contact is the best way in but persistence, persistence and a bit more persistence, plus emails are definitely needed.                                                                                                                                                                           4. Time to collaborate with your teaching  partner  around assessment and next steps is key.  We struggled to find that time this year but any time we did, it was very valuable.

We’re excited about the plan for next year and have already contacted Home Depot, Toronto Pan  Am Centre ,  Forsythe Family farms, Tangerine  Bank,  Ministry of Transportation, George Brown Culinary arts program to name a few. In a perfect world and with a few more emails, hopefully August’s blog  will list our roster for  the  school year ahead.

For the educators out there, enjoy the downtime of summer mixed in of course with some more life long learning. After all if you’re going to go Beyond the Classroom then  learning  really has  no borders or boundaries!

We should ALL be Farmers!

School needs to go beyond the classroom. 7 words and my blog is done.

This is not meant to be a review of all 8 Beyond the Classroom experiences this year – that may still come in a subsequent blog. For now, I just want to say that as always my mind is bursting with inspiration and ideas owing  to the 3 days spent at a Beyond the Classroom experience at Development and Peace. To say it was potentially life changing for me is an understatement and as those who know me will say, I tend to be underwhelmed by most experiences in life. After 3 days at Development and Peace, I’m considering whether to become a farmer (not so good with planting  but I  want  to  learn!); leave teaching and apply for a job with Development and Peace (the drive downtown might  be  tricky but I AM a downtown  guy at heart!));  or simply change my ways of living to be more in tune with the world of 100 people (more explanation of that one down the line).

Luke Stocking is the Animator  for  Central Ontario  at  Development and Peace. We arranged a Beyond the Classroom experience with him to cover the issues of small farming, natural resources, sustainability, and how we use the earth to meet our needs and wants – all key big ideas in the Gr. 7 Geography curriculum. Luke lead us through activities that helped us understand the way climate change is impacting the world and how current agriculture practices are leading to the problem.

We learned among other things that 1% of the world controls 50% of the wealth and this lead us to develop an activity around IF the world was a 100 people.

Real Life Math If the World were a 100 people

We learned that the pace of climate change is increasing at an alarming rate:

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-noaa-data-show-2016-warmest-year-on-record-globally  (once you click on  the link, scroll down  to see the 49 second  video that is both informative and terrifying at the same  time.)

Rather than just be dismayed at the problems,  we formed our inquiry question  to serve as an umbrella for our students.

How can we be part of the solution rather than part of the problem as it pertains to the global world?

We weren’t sure if the question would be beyond the students scope. Instead, we have been thrilled by the level of engagement we’ve seen. Wonders have included “How can the government help small farmers?”  “What are ways we can change our food consumption to help reduce climate change”, “Do farmers realize the harm industrial farming  is  doing?” “What happens to the countries where we are taking  crops from – how does it impact their economies?” . Other thoughts on  the padlet pasted below including students engaging  with each other’s topics(I told you there was lots to read!) You can scroll through the whole padlet or just scroll through a few and keep reading  the rest of  the blog  below.

Made with Padlet

 

Final reflections  are  not  yet complete so you can come back and check the school website at the bottom of this blog in about a week if interested. And yes, sometimes the process is more important than the product.

Luke led us through an activity that had us create farming communities in groups. We were given crayons, paper and animal figures. Now what we didn’t know was the challenges that would come our way. These included natural weather conditions (a typhoon wiped out a third of our farms); overwhelming pressure to quit (need the government to make conditions for small farmers more attractive);  need for a loan to stay afloat and the astronomical interest charges that followed; involvement in unions to protect our farming rights while still facing corruption, rebellion, and even death.

farm

By the end of our three days, we so clearly had a sense for the challenge and importance of being a small farmer.

We were also given a greater sense of our place in the global world and for myself, I found myself thinking about how I can truly make a difference in my food consumption. I‘ve always sought to be eco friendly but now I find myself ready to commit to once a week shopping at a farmers’ market; paying more attention to supporting locally grown produce; and volunteering with Development and Peace.

We could have learned about farming and sustainability at school through videos and discussion, but we wouldn’t have had access to Luke’s expertise or to be immersed in the downtown core where we journaled, sketched outside, as well as attended 12:15 Mass on Day 2 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church.

 

Whoever is reading this I want to leave you with 2 thoughts:

  1. Education is meant to go Beyond the Classroom (and we need your help making it a reality).  We’re starting to plan for next year so if you have suggested locations  or contacts with any  of the  following  areas –  a farm,  Rogers or Bell Communications, any TV or Radio Station, Apple, City planner, Home Depot/Rona, or  a big Newspaper, please let  me  know.  All we  need from any organization  is the  willingness to have us with them for  4 days, and in those  four days, we literally need a 30 minute presentation each day on a topic we decide together that  is in their expertise  level and a space for approx. 25-35  students to  work.
  2. We need to move away from our little world and consider the Global World which is something organizations like Development and Peace so clearly do – IF you’re interested in any of this, I highly recommend you check out the webpage below which  will  tell  the story in  a  bit more detail  and with  more pictures!

https://www.tcdsb.org/schools/stsylvester/beyondtheclassroom/Pages/Development-and-Peace-Experience-8.aspx  

More to follow  in  the  weeks ahead on the final steps in the Beyond the Classroom program for  the 2016/2017. The educational journey this year has been nothing short of phenomenal and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

 

 

 

I need to get a full time job in Live Theatre!

Don’t get  me  wrong – I very much enjoy my job as a principal – the main source of satisfaction being working with students  through classroom teaching,  beyond the classroom  program, choir, roadrunners, etc….(I guess the  NON administrative stuff!). At the same time, as I’ve  said many times  before, there is  something so alive and so electric about live theatre. It constantly gives me pause for thought and inspiration for discussion. That’s exactly how I felt at the end of YPT’s Munschtime.

Full disclosure – I went into Munschtime not expecting much. After all, it  was a play for which we were taking  our JK-Gr.  2 students. How motivational or  inspirational  could it  be? Our Gr. 5/6 class was there  as well but that’s only because they were involved in the voice overs as part  of our Beyond  the Classroom work.  That was one of the many neat experiences from seeing  the  play. Hearing the  student  voice overs gave instant  connection which is always one of the drawing cards of any story. Another  connection came from having had the experience in the Beyond the Classroom program to see a rehearsal in action.  Getting to see the rehearsed  scene in polished  form was fantastic – and interesting to note that there  were not many changes from the  rehearsed to the final  with the exception of costuming and being off book for the script.

While  it  was the Beyond the Classroom experience that  gave an entry point for the play to me, it was as always, the story line,  acting, set and direction that  served as the  inspiration. Munschtime for those  who haven’t seen the play before, takes 5 Robert  Munsch stories  and adapts them  into mini scenes in  a  play centred  around a girl who does not want to go to sleep; so her grandparents  tell her 5 different stories. Each one  left me with a great big idea and thought on which to reflect.

Pigs – With apologies to the gifted designation in education, we  are  all  gifted  in our own  way and whether  that  comes from academic success, hands  on  learning,  or  people skills, intelligence can be found  in  many places and in many ways. Yeah that’s right, I’m pushing back for the sake of the “dumb pigs”!

A Promise is  a  promise  – When we live by inflexible rules and leave  no room  for  discussion, we compromise our ability to adapt. The tables get turned in this story in a very creative twist at the end –  I won’t spoil it. Go see the play! And yes, it remains true that living  up to our promises is a sign  of honour. In that world of  connections, I read a great  quote the other day by C.S. Lewis  “Integrity is  doing the  right  thing even when no one is watching.”    I think the Promise  is a  Promise  scene may have been my favourite mini  scene.  The power of the  acting, the voice  overs, suspension of  disbelief and raw emotion  all brought  the scene so alive.

Too much stuff – likely the funniest of the  5 scenes to me and a great dichotomy to the intensity of a Promise is a Promise. And even with the humour, a powerful message was woven throughout – simple acts of kindness to  others always leave an impact. The  final  scene in this vignette confirms  the earlier point. And while we  live in a world  where gratitude is often  not modeled, this scene  surely empowered that virtue.

Murmel,  Murmel  – This was the scene we  saw practised  while  at YPT for the Beyond the Classroom program and while not a lot changed from  rehearsal to final  production,  the addition of costuming, audio voice overs and props helped to polish the scene to perfection. The big idea left on me was that while  many of us are continually searching for meaning in life,  the  answer to what we need is often out there,  as the  truck driver finds at the end of this scene.

Love you forever –  for  those  familiar  with the story, yes it will cause you to shed a tear or two throughout. It was portrayed with humour and emotion (as any good drama scene does) and left me thinking as I often do  about the passage of time and overwhelming importance of the relationships we form with others.

The  combination of big ideas along with the power of music; innovative set; stellar acting based on energy, power of voice and character plausibility; creative  sound; and solid directing made Munschtime yet another exccellent YPT play, and of course lead  me to wonder how to get our students reflecting in the same way that I had. With  that in mind, a reflection  sheet was  developed to give students  the opportunity to provide feedback. A few samples are below:

ypt beyond the class feedback

Congrats YPT on another job well done. Sign of a good play is when you leave not just inspired, but inspired to return, and with that in mind, I think I just found an  experiential activity for my wife (and kids) on Mother’s Day!  Don’t  worry, I won’t ask my wife to fill out the reflection after the  play, but over dinner, some good conversation inspired by an excellent play is sure to follow!

Math for the Love of it

No I’m not  starting a conference to parallel Reading for the Love of it, but it’s not a bad idea…. I like Math. No I’m serious. While  I clearly enjoy reading and  writing, and while the majority of my teaching is definitely language based, I have always  considered  myself to be a strong math  student. My daughter  who  is  taking Gr.  9 math this semester is a  little concerned  by my “excitement” when we work on algebra  word problems together. Don’t  worry Chantelle, you’ll soon see how exciting it is.  And really that’s what it’s all about. Excitement  in learning. I get it. I get it. There are not many kids or adults who are going to stand  on a table and cheer when  they’re learning  their  timestables  or other basic numeracy facts. And  yet in that world of experiential learning, as soon as students see  that having the “basics” is what allows them  to use Math in their daily lives, I think  progress does follow.

To  go back  to equations, I even came  up with  one  to  consider for  this  blog: Language plus math multiplied by inquiry based learning and the big idea = ? Keep reading  on for  the  answer!

As a province, Ontario has placed a renewed focus on mathematics instruction. For those unfamiliar with the strategy, some of the highlights include ensuring an hour of math instruction each day, professional development for all educators and tips for parents around math instruction. All standard  stuff to my mind.

There is some key language in the strategy that jumped out to me:

“Through mathematical activities that are practical and relevant to their lives, students develop mathematical understanding, problem-solving skills, and related technological skills that they can apply in their daily lives, and eventually, in the workplace.”

Practical and relevant to their lives are key words to me in the above sentence. Equally important is the idea  that  math applies to their daily lives and eventually the workplace. Our students need to see how math truly does surround them every day and while I don’t want to invoke Jon Sciezka’s Math Curse because some one might shut me down saying “Keep math  positive!!!”, the point remains…. Math is everywhere we look, and the fact that a story was written about it also confirms my next point, and takes us back to my equation – Language and Math go hand in hand.

If we are to solve most math problems (especially at the JK-Gr. 8 level), it starts with understanding the question and more often than not, that’s language based. Teaching our students to read, and re read, and slowly focus on key words in any problem is the first step. And as we recently found out from doing inquiry based math with our Gr. 7/8  class, getting  students keyed in on finding  their own math  questions  is essential to that  life long learning process.

A key line in the Ministry’s parent guide to mathematics speaks of the need to communicate in mathematics. Specifically the guide highlights the need to  “Explain how we solved a problem and why we made a particular decision.”  As teachers have been telling students for years, explain and show your work. Giving an answer is not enough. Finding ways to explain your answer is critical and yes once again, therein lies the literacy connection.

So if the idea is to explain our mathematics and find practical and relevant ways to do this, how can an integrated language and math approach work best? Well that bring us to the last part of my equation – consider the big idea and inquiry based learning.

Inquiry based learning puts the onus on students to ask the questions that intrigue them and then to go out and find those answers. Below is a link showing how one Gr. 8 class started with their interests and developed their own math inquiry questions.

https://www.tcdsb.org/schools/stsylvester/inquiry/Pages/Real-Life-Math.aspx

And  yes this was a lesson  from two years ago. This  years real life experiential  math is in process. It’s interesting  to note that it’s been more of a struggle to get the students  enthused  this  year. In fact, when  we talked to  the students in  an open and honest way, many expressed a preference for the more traditional math  learning. While this was somewhat  disheartening, it also confirms a belief of mine – our minds have become attuned to being told what to do because it’s easier that way. Real thinking  takes work, and as a result, many prefer the simple worksheet as opposed to  the  real thinking.  Ask yourself though –  in  life, does progress come about simply? No. Are the ready answers always the best one? I think  not. We’ve taken a quote from Howard Thurman and encouraged the students to find passion in their learning and go with it because it’s such  a better way to spend your days at school engaged in what  you’re  learning,  or to quote Mr.  Thurman  “Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then  go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Hopefully there will be some good examples to show you in about a month. We’re not giving  up! Check our website if interested.

That goal of finding  genuine excitement in math  is so important. By immersing yourself in a topic, you can find mathematics in many different ways. Our Beyond the Classroom program has aimed to make experiential Math a key learning in each experience.

A few links are pasted below showing more

https://www.tcdsb.org/schools/stsylvester/beyondtheclassroom/Pages/Toronto-Zoo-Experience-1.aspx

Government Math Day 4

Both of the above examples confirm and support the ways that literacy education and mathematics education can go hand in hand.  And for those looking for the answer to my initial equation? Well let’s take one last look – Language plus math multiplied by inquiry based learning and the big idea = ?   I’ll leave it to you to fill in the blank as we know there is more than one answer to any question. To my mind though, it’s all about engaging our students in the learning process, and that in the end is a strategy we can all work towards achieving.

 

 

Never stop Learning!

“The  day you stop learning is the day you stop living.”  I may have used this quote (not  mine) before but based on recent experiences, it continues to hold very true for me.

Will break it down into 3 experiences

  1. Our recent Beyond the Classroom Nutrition program. It was a mini experience unlike some of our previous ones.  Only two full outside the classroom days. One was at Boston Pizza where we learned about the ins and outs of restaurant management.  Among the  highlights  of  our learning were learning about the budget (8-10% profit margin  is  the goal)  and  setting of  menu prices (the costs  of running  the restaurant work  into  the cost  of  all menu items).   Next  we spent  a day at  George Brown’s  Culinary arts and Hospitality  program. It was a phenomenal  day that included the chance to visit the classrooms used for  cooking and mixology. We were mesmerized by the pan  that  can cook up to  100 steaks  at once, and inspired by Dale’s discussion  of  his  role  as Hospitality Ambassador, as well  as by Chef  Hogan’s  journey from basketball  player to personal  chef  for  the Queen.

The culmination of our nutrition unit had the  class  design, budget, shop, and prepare  snacks  for  each class in the school.  Original plans were fairly straightforward and included items such as cream cheese bagels, pancakes and yogourt. After some Austin’s Butterfly work by the classroom teacher where she  pushed  the students to come up  with more exciting and fun creations, final products included fruit crepes, apple sail boats, and rainbow creations. While this was one  of our shorter Beyond the Classroom units,  it was also a chance  for the students to truly move up  on Bloom’s Taxonomy and create a final product – and a tasty one at  that!

We know there is more work to be done as we try and get some students to improve their skills of analytical thinking by reflecting and interacting with their new learnings  but our hope and plan is to continually model and show exemplars of quality work. For those so interested, feel free as always to visit our website to see some examples of student work.  https://www.tcdsb.org/schools/stsylvester/beyondtheclassroom/Pages/Nutrition-Experience-5.aspx  The goal as stated at the start of the blog  is to  keep learning alive and keep learning at the forefront.

  1. Experience #2 got  me thinking about the  power of the brain. I had a 36k training  run to do on the first Saturday of the March Break. As Saturday approached, I found myself getting increasingly agitated over the hideous forecast  – 15c with -22  windchill, and wind speeds of between 30-45 km/h. Sigh.  Not what I was hoping for on March 11. And then a funny thing happened.  There was a fresh coat of  snow on the ground when I started (another nail in my run plan) but  with the  brilliant sunshine  glistening off the snow, and music  plugged into my ears, I felt a  bounce  in my step and didn’t even feel or notice  the cold and wind. In fact, the start of my blog took shape in my head  during my first 8k.  My opening line was going to be  “forget exercise, just workout your brain instead.” My thought was that our mind can convince us of so many things  – positive AND negative. By focusing our mind on the positive, so much good  can happen. That was my thought from km 1 to maybe about 25. As for the last  11 k, sure I was holding on for dear life, but completion was the goal – so mission accomplished. Let’s see if this Friday’s 40k puts the power of the mind to the test.

 

  1. What’s left? Well the plan is now to find ways to spread the message on the value of the Beyond the Classroom Program. We are clearly on the back end of year one of the program and it’s been a year of trial and error, new learning, flexibility, more learning, reflections, and of  course LEARNING!

So here are some initial brainstorms between myself  and the classroom teacher.  If anyone is reading this and has thoughts to contribute, please send them my way.

  1. WHO do we want to  tell about  the Beyond the  Classroom program (other teachers, parents, school board, ministry, teachers’college, etc)  I know the students won’t  come up  with some of  these but we should tell them that  the idea is we want to spread the  word about  how this program  should be done in other schools

 2. HOW do we want to tell people (posters, radio  commercials, video ads, letters, skits).  We have the draft  1 of their letters to the Ministry, and I think that  should be our starting point. In true  Austin’s Butterfly method,  let’s  go over the letters and focus on a few things

 a. What do we really want people to know about the program?

b.How can we clearly and coherently explain why it should be replicated in other schools?

c.What is needed to allow the program to continue?

d.  An invitation to view our work

 Our goal should be EVERYONE  does a letter and then one other method – either poster, video/radio ad, skit.  Maybe we can also get some feedback on the video we used for literacy night and what we should do to improve it.

Another thing on our list is to plan and discuss where we see needs for improvements still.  If we go back to Bloom’s  taxonomy, where are they  at? I want to keep pushing them on the learning logs – great that you can include what you learned – more reflection, analysis and wonders needed. Positive sign – paragraphs are being used!

This is just a small  glimpse  of the constant communication between myself and the classroom teacher. The goal between us is the same one we have  for the students  and the same thoughts that started  this  blog –

  1. never stop learning
  2. keep exercising the brain.

And as my teaching partner Barb reiterates,

  1. “keep the kids really EXCITED about their learning! When they get, or are excited, they want to and WILL learn!”

Amazing where those three simple thoughts can take you. To those living the March Break life – enjoy the time …even if you’re not enjoying the weather. And  power to you if you find the time to get excited about learning something new – your brain will thank you  for it!