Welcome! This blog is to provide inspiration to me in the things that I enjoy doing, including my profession as an educator. I hope that others may also share from my inspiration and be inspired in their own interests in life.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Love in the Classroom

The first school day of a new month, all my classes get new seating plans. They mostly get to choose their spots, but I get to VETO them if I don't like them.

This week, with a particularly chatty class, I selected the group to sit at, but not their seat. When it came to students that were absent and I said where they'd be sitting, there was some discussion about one student. I heard things like, "I don't want him near me," "Please put him somewhere else," etc. It killed me!

So, I spent the beginning of my math class with this class discussing how to treat others even if you do not like them. We talked about how you could feel if someone was not being nice to you even if they weren't doing it to your face. I told them about the risks of someone in that situation becoming depressed and how it doesn't benefit anyone. I told the students that they should try to see the good in all people and not just the negative.

Then I posed the question, "Do you think I like everyone in this class?" I could see people shaking their heads no, and a few said so. I exclaimed that I really did like every single student that was sitting in that room because I could see at least one good thing about each one of them. I then asked if they wanted to hear one nice thing about each one, and they got really excited. I went around the room and said one thing that I liked about each student, even the students that were absent.

It was weird, because they seemed more attentive afterwards, and I watched their facial expressions change. They appeared more relaxed. A couple days have passed now since this exercise took place. Students are still talking about it and are telling students that were absent about what I said. The young boy who was being left out seems more included and appears happier as well!

This was such a tremendous exercise for the students. Sure, I wasn't covering any math curriculum for the 15-20 minutes that this took in the class, but I think the long term effects of it are worth it. I plan to use this with my other classes as well.

Meaningful Teaching

I've always hated the Language Arts curriculum (in Alberta). It's so vague! Sure, it leaves lots of room for interpretation and teacher creativity, but I'm a math/science kind of person and really enjoy real, concrete learning objectives.

This year, as I am teaching grade 5 LA, I am again being creative in meeting my objectives.

General Outcome 1
Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to explore thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences.

This outcome alone has led to some fabulous, meaningful classroom discussions. The illustrative examples in the Program of Studies suggest all kinds of potentially meaningless activities to meet this objective. I have decided to have classroom discussion around material meaningful to my students. This is also based on the fact that my class loves to discuss!

By holding classroom discussions, the students must take turns talking, without interrupting another students' statement even if they really want to. They are also learning how to really listen to another person, even if you do not agree with them or think what they have to say is important or interesting. I believe these are skills that will set them up to be effective people in the work force, as well as in their personal lives.

Our topics so far have been based on issues that have come up in grade 5: controversy of makeup on girls and women; appropriate dating age; personal matters (minding your own business); differences; thankfulness, which ended up about women's rights.

At first I felt like I was wasting time a bit, but now I feel like I am actually teaching these children something meaningful and useful that they will use throughout their lives. They may not remember the discussion we have on the challenges the main character in our novel faces, but they will remember our meaningful discussions.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My qualities

Today at our staff meeting we wrote our name at the top of a fancy sheet of paper and then passed the paper randomly around the room to different people who then wrote one nice thing about the person who's paper they had. When we got our paper back it was full of really nice comments.

I don't know why I was surprised but I was quite surprised to see how sincere and true (when I thought about it) the comments were.

The first one was: Always gives 110% of herself every day. Wow! I know I try but for a coworker to realize that I do is huge for me. It makes me proud that I do put all I have into every day for the students I teach. I love my job and can't imagine giving any less than 100%. I'm honored that I come across this way!

Another one was: Has a great sense of humor! Isn't that a trait we always look for in a great friend, spouse, or colleague. I'm glad that I can laugh at all the funny and sometimes not funny things that happen in the course of a day. I also hope, and might even assume from this comment, that I might even make other people laugh too. I think humor is so important as a teacher. I laugh with my students daily and with my EA. It shows I'm human, and that I might even be a human you would want to have a relationship with.

Another comment: Loves the students. "Of course I love the students," I think, "Who doesn't?" Then I think that not everyone might show it. This is one thing that people thought of when they thought of me. I really hope my students also know that I love them. I do tell them that they are important to me and that I do love them. I'm kind of like their surrogate parent while I am in charge of them. I care very deeply for each of my students. In one reflection I made in my daily lesson plan, I wrote that I loved how each student in my class was different and I loved them for their differences and each for a different reason. Love is so important in everything you do and in all aspects of my life.

The other comments kind of overlapped: hardworking, supportive, fun, brave to try new technology things and a few others that I can't currently remember. This was just a tremendous exercise! I have to admit that I cried when I first got my paper back and read the first line. I did read the entire list as the meeting progressed and was so extremely touched by all the feedback.

I think that it would be great to do this activity every couple months as a morale booster. I know that I obviously needed it today based on my reaction to it, and that I could probably also use it in a couple months to remind me that I do a great job and that I am in teaching for all the right reasons!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Technology fail - A good thing?

Today was the first day of a course that I am teaching through VC to Educational Assistants. I had difficulties over the last week or so, as the Moodle site I had set up over the past month disappeared. As I worked with the tech department to try to find my site, I browsed many screen shots of Moodle sites until I found one that looked like mine. Today, as I was about to go teach, I realized that this was not my site, but just looked similar on the outside!

I went to teach anyways, and the bridge that all the sites dial into was acting up so we ended up having to cancel class. It was at this time that I noticed that the students in the room with me had a different textbook than I. By this time, I was ready to cry. After many hours prepping for this course and trying to be ready ahead of time, technology was not on my side and things seemed to be getting worse.

I spent some time looking at my new materials and realized that they are better than the old ones. I can feel the fire burning again, and have used that fuel to develop a new course outline and have prepared for the first lecture again!

Even though my Moodle site seems to be lost in space, it is all good! (Apparently it may have been written over!) I have better materials to add to it now, and this will save me time deleting the old ones! It's always nice when you can see the silver lining. I am super excited to start the course again next week! Fingers crossed on the bridge working!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Change is Good!

For the past 12 years I have in the field of Special Education in some capacity or another. After having a baby and returning from maternity leave, I lost my title and am now a regular grade 5 teacher. I spent quite a few months angry and upset about the change. I felt like I lost a piece of my identity. I kept asking myself and those closest to me whether I should continue on my path, or find a new path. Nobody really gave me any feedback about the path I should take, but I was told that I shouldn't be upset and to find the good in it.
As a new school year started, it was easy to find the good in it. I seen the new Inclusive Education coordinator trying to manage guardians of difficult students, planning programs, setting up the new school year, and meeting after school with teachers and parents. All of a sudden, it wasn't the worst thing in the world. I also spent quite some time developing the classes I was teaching and was really passionate about getting started. I had never had a homeroom class before and was excited to really get to know a group of children.
Our keynote speaker at our division start-up was Will Richardson. This man discussed technology in schools and how kids know so much more than we do in regards to technology, how learning has changed so much since we went to school, and consequently, how teaching needs to change as well.
That night I went home and joined twitter. (@AmyInspires) It took me an entire weekend to figure out what the heck people were saying in their tweets. That's when I realized how far behind I really was! Sure I had Facebook, but so do most of the 10 year olds I teach! So, later that week, after reading numerous tweets and blogs from other (more knowledgeable) teachers around the world, I decided to incorporate more technology into my classes. I set up a kidblog for my Language Arts class to act as a weekly newsletter for parents to read.
I have a SMARTBoard in my classroom, which I do not use to it's full potential, but will try some new things on it this year. It is mostly used as a projector from my computer. I am also teaching an FSL class through VC which is an interesting undertaking.
I used to blog, but then stopped as I got too busy with other things. So today, I deleted my old blog, and started a new one!
I figure that with a old year old, I'm going to have to stay more up to date with technology so that I can support him in his learning. He already likes a few apps on my Ipod touch!!
I have a few more ideas up my sleeve to try in the next week or two, and will update as I go.
To my fellow teachers, I hope you had as inspiring a week as I had!