She Returns!

This September, I return to the classroom after taking a year away.

The decision to step away from the classroom was not an easy one.

Uncertain as to whether or not education was the right path for me, I took a risk, a leap of faith, stepping away to explore and learn about myself both personally and professionally. Wanting to try something a little different, I honed in on my recently completed Masters in Educational Leadership and Management, and took on a management role at the University of British Columbia. This was my crash course in organization management and systems thinking, 

The RISK was worth the REWARD. The lens to which I now bring to my educator life has completed SHIFTED, bringing a new appreciation and understanding for the administrators that support front line staff.  I walk away from my year contract with UBC, with a new set of skills, a new perspective, and stronger sense of self. I AM an EDUCATOR.

I have SET INTENTIONS for my return… 

This year I am committing to PRACTICE what I PREACH…both personally and professionally

I ask of my students to TAKE RISKS and be vulnerable in their daily practice, so I shall work to model this alongside them, taking risks in my practice and daily life.

I create an environment of NO STRESS, so I shall embrace change and adversity as the constant learning moments they are. With change comes opportunity and learning.

I encourage my student to BE BRAVE and to BELIEVE in themselves, so I shall remember to appreciate my own growth.

I mentor with hopes that my students will learn to better understand themselves and their emotions, therefore I re-enter the teaching world with a mindset of LIFE BALANCE, embracing professional challenges and growth, whilst honouring my personal passions.

I am riddled with excitement and nervousness.
Excited for the adventure ahead.
Appreciative of time I had away to learn and reflect.

 

 

 

 

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To Stream or not to Stream?

 

DISCLAIMER: Streaming and Integration both have value,  I only aim to offer a different perspective and begin a conversation about how best to meet the needs of all our students. Should we invest resources into streamed programs, as a way to more effectively target our intervention efforts?

There has been a constant be tug-a-war of opinions as to wether or not to stream students within the education system. This conversation tends to revolve around students that bring a specific, and most often, a challenging set of needs to the classroom environment. Although both streaming and integration of students comes with advantages and disadvantages, I have seen first hand the positive results of having a class tailored to target intervention toward a specific set of student needs. 

Why not stream?

There seems to be a stigma attached to the concept of streaming. People argue that streaming can be harmful to a students social well-being, as the child is ‘labeled’. People also see streaming as a form of exclusion, as students are seen as being separated, and isolated from their peer group.

As a teacher of a streamed grade 6/7 intensive literacy class I recognize that I have a bias toward having the option to stream. A program like intensive literacy offers a smaller class size where students receive regular 1 on 1, or small group support with an fully adapted/individualized program. Comments from students and parents, have indicated that the small, targeted class sizes has not only facilitated academic growth, but built confidence, and reignited a love of learning.

For students like mine, that bring a specific set of needs, a traditional 24 student classroom was not meeting their academic or the social/emotional needs – and this is not for lack of effort on the teachers part. The nature of our streamed class has allowed me, as the classroom teacher, target intervention, without removing students from the classroom community on a daily basis – instead, the intervention is embedded in whole class practice. Because my students all entered the program with similar struggles, they have grown to understand each others frustrations and stressors, and have been able support one another both academically, and emotionally.

I feel the general outlook on streaming needs to shift. It is time to remove the negative stigma, a stigma views streaming as potentially harmful to students. As a society we need to recognize, value, and accept diversity in learners and design a system that more effectively targets the needs of the students. Standardizing classrooms is not the answer.  Students are unique, as is their learning style, and set of needs. Classes need to mirror this diversity. Our system needs to offer a variety of options to better target and support intervention efforts & effectively meet the needs of our students.

What are your thoughts on streaming students to target intervention efforts?

When it Sticks…

Mindful Breathing

How do we know if it has stuck?

The driving force behind each decision made for our students is the hope that beyond a surface understanding, that students find value and meaning in what they are learning, and that the lessons learned nurture the whole child. The current shift in education, moving away from content specific learning, towards ‘big ideas’, is an intentional stepping stone that supports the development of life skills, and relevant, meaningful, and applicable learning opportunities that address individual student needs.

But, how do we know if what we are doing is sticking?

As some of you may know, a significant focus in my practice this year has been to better support my students in developing self awareness, self regulation strategies, and self advocacy. As the year has unfolded I have seen growth in my students, but there is always fear that this behaviour is contextually specific. Our classroom atmosphere facilitates the development of self regulations strategies; our living motto of ‘no stress’ is strong and present, we consistently reference and model strategies, encourage class discussions, brain breaks and fidget tables, and offer alternative environments and student choice.

Next year my students will be returning to their home schools, or will be moving on to high school. These environments may not facilitate self regulation in the same way.  Will my students take what they are learning and apply it in the REAL WORLD? Have they connected and found value in any of it?

Well, it is sticking…

My story…the scene unfolded as such…

My EA and myself were puttering away in the classroom over the lunch hour, and overhear one of ours students outside the classroom door, as his anger is escalating (This student in particular is one we have been working with to develop strategies to manage his anger). As I slowly walk towards the door to do a check in after hearing some colourful vocabulary spout out of this young boy’s mouth, I hear his fellow classmate say – well, slightly yell – “MINDFUL BREATHING, MINDFUL BREATHING”.

All went quiet outside.

As I stood, ear pressed against the door, hidden and uninvolved, I could sense the de-escalation. Moments later the bell rang, the students walk in, and the energy was calm.

I started laughing as my eyes watered with tears of pride and happiness.

It’s sticking. My kids flew solo, they practiced self regulation, they supported one another.

The social and emotional growth of my students this year has been profound in my eyes. Although they still struggle with their academics, they are becoming aware of who they are as a learner, and what they need to be successful. Our conversations have shifted away from individual awareness and success, toward developing a strong sense of collective success. Success of a class and community is rooted in understanding self and others, and supporting diversity.

I cannot wait to find out what else has stuck…

“Hey, No Stress” – Living Motto

This year I am teaching the grade 6/7 intensive literacy program. Each one of my kids struggles significantly with reading and writing, and the traditional classroom approach has thus far not worked for them.

Along with focusing a large portion of our time on literacy… my goals of the year focus on…

  1. Rebuilding confidence, by offering opportunity for students to feel successful everyday
  2. Developing strategies, with the students, to self regulate and self manage. Encouraging students to be independent thinkers, learners, and problem solvers 
  3. Reigniting a love for learning, which for most had been dampened by their daily struggles.

Each of my kids, much like yours, walked into class with their own story. But unlike other years, they were strangers not only to the classroom, but the school community as well. A huge piece of having a successful start to the year, was making them feel like this school, and this classroom was theirs.

I gave students the power and control to determine classroom arrangement and expectations, and I have slowly watched as the walls have come down. The guards they have built to survive the traditional world of academia are softening, as trust and community is being built.

A memorable moment…

During the first few days of school I consistently used phrases such as “no stress”, “take risks” and “be brave”,  to the extent that the students have now embraced these as their class mottos. These mottos have since been posted up on our class wall, and are referenced consistently.

Last week, I was about to begin a reading assessment with one of my students, when another boy walks by, pats the student on the shoulder and says “Hey, no stress!”… what a moment!

“No Stress” has become a living motto…

By creating an atmosphere of trust and openness, my students have begun to rediscover themselves as learners. I see the walls coming down, as their confidence grows, and I see students making gains in self regulatory practice. By balancing challenge and support, I can help build their capacity to be resilient, independent, and confident learners. I feel that my students have grown to trust me, to understand that everything I assign or ask of them is within their capability, and if they struggle, that it is okay, because we will find a way for them to be successful. 

On a daily basis, I look around and see students working in groups, students with ‘muting headphones’ on, or with a cup of tea, students curled up on beanbags reading, some working in small groups with our EA at the red table*, and others taking their 5 min brain breaks.

Each student is beginning to find ways to learn, that best suit their needs. They have grown to understand that each learner is unique, and learning is not a linear process. This is a huge step in developing self awareness and self regulatory practices – for students to acknowledge when they need support. Once this trust has been established, I can challenge/scaffold students to be more independent.

*Our class has 3 “collaboration tables” (big rectangle tables), each table corresponds with a colour; red, yellow, green. Depending on how students feel about what we are working on, they can move throughout the 3 tables, as a way to indicate to me how much support they would like.

Reignite the fire…

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If you are like me, and feeling as though you have lost yourself in the mess, there is no time like the present to start the search,  to rediscover who you are and reignite the fire within… 

I finished my first year of teacher walking the picket lines with my colleagues, experiencing first hand the influence of politics on the education system…

I has been hard not to feel lost in this mess, to be pulled down by the constant questioning and negative comments. It has been heart breaking watching as education, teachers, students, families and community members have been pulled through the ringer, as we all try to improve education..

Amidst all this chaos, I began a new stage of my own educational journey to complete my masters at Royal Roads University. Reflection is a huge piece of learning for me, as it is in my program, and during my stay in Victoria I was asked to complete visual reflections, taking steps to developing ourselves as reflective practitioners.

The reason why I share this with you now is, I was taking a moment to reflect on all that has happened, all that I have learned, and how I feel about the upcoming union vote, and I realized how disconnected with myself I have become. I have allowed anger, confusion, hurt and frustration to take over, but I am not that person.

It is time I rediscover who I am…

My hopes are that by sharing these two reflections (whether you watch them or not), that you take a moment begin the process of healing those wounds…to rediscover yourself & reignite your passions

My reflections…

1. Who Am I?…  

2.  As an Educator…

I know that many people are wounded by what has happened, take a moment, remember who you are and why you do what you do, and let that guide you…

 

 

 

“You WILL feel UNCOMFORTABLE…”

This post is long overdue…but here it is…

“You WILL feel UNCOMFORTABLE”

It may sound strange that the one statement I needed to hear, to settle my nerves as I began my residency stay at Royal Roads, was that I would feel UNCOMFORTABLE.

“Feeling uncomfortable means you are in a place to learn”

My Residency stay in a nutshell: two jam packed weeks, 12+ hour learning days, deep thinking and purposeful questioning, laughter and tears, extreme exhaustion, brain break adventures, and the start of amazing friendships.

From the moment we arrived, as a group of strangers we were thrown into a whirl wind of learning and collaborating. From ice breakers, and class discussions, to late night papers ands and group presentations, we explored the vast world of learning and leadership.

Class discussions fuelled the flame of my curiosity. My cohort being incredible diverse, offered unique experiences and perspectives broadening my view on leadership and learning…You learn more when you surround yourself with diversity…

Thus far this journey has forced me (in the most positive way) to reflect on who I am as a leader and as a learner, to better be in tune with who I am in order to support those around me.

I was challenged and I felt uncomfortable

Video Share: What it takes to be a Great Leader

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This is a wonderful video discussing some ideas about what it takes to be an effective Leader (Roselinde Torres: What it takes to be a great leader)

Video Link HERE

Some points that stood out for me:

1. ‘Shape your future, don’t just react to it’  – Don’t be a ‘head down leader’ but instead look around corners – anticipate change, and make a decision to change ones course of action in the present moment. I am still working my way though Stephen Coveys book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” — but this really links to Coveys idea of being proactive, not letting your environment control take control.

2. A reflecting point, what is my capacity to develop relationships with people different than myself? A more diverse network offers more solutions, alternative perspectives and new insight

3. Be Brave! Creativity, innovation & risk taking, “Great leaders dare to be different”. This reminds me of the video ‘Making a movement’ (TED talk by Derek Sivers) and the idea of a lone nut! If you haven’t watched this clip, it is a must.