Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

I have to admit... I've been very negligent in my duties to update the blog... as the school year picked up, the blog got dropped. I would love to say that my new year's resolution is to update on a more regular basis, but due to circumstances changing, as listed below, I can't say that is a resolution likely to be kept.

During the second last week of school before the Christmas break, I interviewed for a new position. Those of you who have been in contact with me may remember that I have been a second grade teacher in the mornings, and the rest of the day, I have been filling up my time with substitute teaching. This new position is another half time job, teaching French in the afternoon at my school. Thankfully, despite what I thought was the most dreadful interview of my entire life, I got the job, and I am now moving on to full time (or rather two half-time jobs - and having done two half time jobs before, I know this is an odd Mathematical case in which 0.5 + 0.5 does NOT equal 1.0!)

So, with this new addition to my schedule, I have several New Years Resolutions... most of which involve preparing to teach a subject that I've never taught before, and is in fact very different from anything I've taught before.

However, with that being said, as I've read the philosophy of Pre-Intensive and Intensive French (what I will be teaching to grade 4 and 5), I was reminded of the strategy I've been teaching my second graders... to make connections as they read! Likewise, I was making connections, and discovering that despite the fact that French instruction has changed since I was a student (from written/verb conjugation/vocabulary to oral communication/speaking in complete sentences) I can still draw on many of the same ways that I teach primary students English! There are several connections to be made... there is a strong emphasis on Oral, but also Writing and Reading... Each reading/writing activity requires pre- and post- activities, much like a guided reading lesson. My brain began to light up!

Suddenly, I remembered what a district administrator said in a walk through earlier this year. I mentioned to her that I was enjoying what I was doing, but that I was struggling trying to fit everything in, with the short amount of time that I had with my class. She said to try to make connections across the curriculum. I thought I knew what she meant, but now I get it. The light bulb went on!

So with this last week of vacation, I will be hard at work to make sure I am ready for a brand new set of classes, but I will be enjoying every minute of it, as I also reflect on how I might be able to make adjustments to my second grade class so that their learning is maximized as well! Wish me luck!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Reflections on Thankfulness

I realize that I haven't been that great at updating this blog now that school has started, and so it was great to see a tweet this afternoon about a Fall Blog Challenge, given by Melanie Holtsman. I hope that it will get the writing juices flowing.

Looking through the list of topics that were given for each week, I decided to switch things up a little, since today is Thanksgiving in Canada, I would like to be thankful today!

So, as a teacher, what am I thankful for? So many things! I am thankful that I can work in a school with a great, friendly and helpful staff. I am thankful that I can talk to any of the teachers I work with about problems I'm having in my classroom and get support.

I am thankful for every one of my students. What a privilege it is to have 19 second graders to fill your life with joy every morning, as you hope you do the same.

I am thankful that even when there's a bad day (and there are several) I know that tomorrow, we can turn it around.

I am thankful for a spectacular Teacher's Assistant in my classroom who does things before I even think to ask her, and keeps my room organized (even if the organization of the room just makes my desk make that much worse!)

I am thankful for parents. Even though some may be overbearing at times, I know they want the same thing that I want... what is best for their child.

So in conclusion, I am thankful that I am a teacher with so much to be thankful for. How about you?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Reflections on the Positive

It's been a whirlwind month! I've been so busy enjoying my class, that I've had very little time to really reflect on this blog. This week has been a week with several thoughts rolling around in my mind. Of course, many edu-bloggers are taking this week to address Oprah's two episodes on the Education system in the United States, along with the new movie Waiting for Superman. That was one idea, but I sometimes get tired of hearing about the whole debate. If you want to read some good blogs about that, I suggest you go here, or here.

Instead, I wanted to share something that's been going on in my classroom! As I mentioned in my last post, I have started a class blog. An important part of this blog has been a page devoted to a district-wide initiative called "Celebrate What's Right with the World". Every day, I post something that our class needs to celebrate. More often than not, it's something that a student did really well, though sometimes I add something that our whole class did well. It's even more special when another teacher passes on something to celebrate about our class!

So why am I finding this so important? It's completely changed my point of view! This year, I've moved up from first to second grade, and so I've taken some of my students from last year with me... several of them were quite challenging last year. But this year, I've noticed a huge difference! I believe part of it has definitely been that they have matured... but now, my outlook has changed completely!

I wouldn't say I ever was looking for people to do "bad" things, but looking specifically to catch someone doing something great is such a powerful way to change my outlook! In fact, at our "Meet the Teacher" night, while it was a poor turnout, the one parent I did meet was ecstatic about the website. Her daughter's father lives over an hour away, and this way, he is able to connect with his daughter's learning, even though they aren't able to see each other every day. And of course, mom was beside herself because her daughter had been celebrated that very day for finding tons of patterns!

So if you're struggling in your class, I ask you to look for the good things that you can celebrate. It sounds totally cheesy, but it works! Some days it will be harder than others, but you'll be blown away at the difference it makes.

Stay positive!

(Now I must go update the Celebrate page! It seems I've forgotten to update it!)

Note: After posting this, I realized I had completely neglected to give credit where credit is due! A teacher I worked with for a few months last year had this idea for her classroom blog last year, and I am just copying her great idea! Thanks Deb Hicks!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Reflections on Parent Communication

Last night, at the end of the first week of school, I had the pleasure of reading through my first homework assignment for the year. It was an assignment that I had read about on numerous websites, and from several different people. I decided this year, that I was going to have my parents all respond to the following prompt: "Tell me about your child in 1 000 000 words or less."

WOW! I was amazed with all the answers! Of course, I don't plan on going into the specifics of what I read, but there was such a wealth of information. I will admit that I anticipated a large amount of parent bragging about how wonderful their child was, and how they could do no wrong. Boy, was I ever wrong! While each parent did praise their child (and rightfully so!) They were each very honest about strengths and weaknesses. The biggest thing I was surprised about was that if I took the names off of the assignments, I think after four mornings with these students, I could figure out which assignment belonged to which student! While there was definitely information that was helpful to me, it was also great to see that the parents and I were both looking at each child and seeing the same thing!

My next step is something I hadn't originally planned. After reading each assignment last night, and grinning from ear to ear, I knew that I couldn't just hold on to these answers that were so beautifully written. This required a response. Over the next few weeks, I am looking forward to calling home and thanking each parent for completing the assignment. This assignment had me so excited to see what's coming as the year progresses!

Also, as an added blog bonus, feel free to check out our classroom website, something else I'm very excited about!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Reflections on the First Day

Wow... day one is over, and it flew by!

I have to say, I was really concerned, between parents finding out that their main teacher would only be there in the mornings, and some parents discovering their child had the same teacher as last year (though I hoped it wouldn't be a problem, it was still a question in my mind).

It was a great day! I decided to dive right into Math, and the very first thing we did was sort out some flyers that were to go home with students today. I gave piles to each table, and each student was responsible for counting out the right amount of flyers for each classroom, based on the numbers I had. But wait! What happens if new students arrived in some classes, after I had already done the count? We had better add two more, just in case!

But I bet some of these teachers won't realize how smart our grade two class really is, and they'll be worried we haven't counted correctly. How can we prove that we got the right count more easily? "Organize in groups of ten!" said one student! PERFECT! Exactly what I wanted!

So off they went, to put paper clips around groups of ten. Then we made a quick chart for how many packs we had for each classroom, and how many loose. Some students made the connection, while some had trouble... but they were all excited! It was authentic learning at its best! I look forward to doing more Math investigations like this as the year goes on.

If I was to improve this idea, I would spread the investigation out over several days... I felt rushed, as I wanted to make sure these flyers got out today, and while we made some great discoveries, it could have been so much better had I given it the time it deserved.

After a project like this, I really look forward to the rest of the year!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Reflections on Setting Up

You may have noticed I haven't blogged for a while. Mostly it's because I haven't been thinking too much about school. It's been an absolutely beautiful summer here, and I have been enjoying it so much! But now, it's time to get back to reality.

Today was the first day back for teachers in my school district, and we had a short informational meeting, followed by a chance to get started on setting up our classrooms. I am in a brand new classroom with a brand new grade level, and I was surprised about how excited I was to rearrange the room and make it "mine", but not only make it mine, but make it an environment that could somehow belong to my students' as well.

I decided after taking down the word wall that was up (I wanted to move it to a different spot) that instead of the usual word wall that can be purchased from a teacher supply store, I would have the students responsible for adding the words up as we go.

I'm still trying to make arrangements and figure out exactly what the school year will look like, as I am teaching in the mornings only, while three other teachers will be with my class.

Overall, though, excitement has taken over. A new batch of kids is coming (though some were mine last year), and it's a brand new start.