Friday, July 30, 2010

Reflections on Leadership

As part of Leadership Day 2010, based on Scott McLeod's Dangerously Irrelevant blog, I have decided to discuss leadership and technology, but I'd like to take a slightly different tack.

There are many things that I expect from the administration of my school, but I do not expect my principal to be a leader in technology. So what is administration's role in knowing and implementing technology into the school to improve learning? I see the administration as having a supporting role. I think that in many school buildings there are teachers who are resources. As my grandfather used to say, why have a dog and bark yourself?

I expect that when I have a brilliant idea as far as incorporating technology into my lessons, I can go to my administration and they will be 100% on board. I expect my administration to ask me the important questions. The "how" and "why" questions. I will not be insulted if my administration doesn't know why and how I would want to use technology in my lessons... rather, I should be excited that I get the chance to share the how and why. After all, if there's no answer to these questions, should we really be using the technology? If there IS an answer to these questions, shouldn't it be my job as a teacher to explain the answers to administration (as well as all other teaching staff that are interested)?

In essence, I don't expect my principal to get a Facebook account, tweet his life away, start a blog and start using Google apps. I simply want him to be open to some of the ideas other staff members might have with regards to technology.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reflections on Blogging

It seems weird that I would want to post about this. I've fallen into Twitter in the past two weeks, and it has revolutionized how I think about blogging and technology in general. There have been several people tweeting links to their blogs, or talking about what a teacher blog should look like.

I really wasn't sure that I wanted to blog, as I wasn't sure what I had to share. After jumping in, I realize that it's not so much that I have something to share, but that I have to keep track of all my ideas. I can't flesh these ideas out in my head, but in a blog, it becomes so much easier. And then I can easily go back, and see how those thoughts have been fleshed out.

My real inspiration came from reading a post on a blog by Shelly Blake-Plock, called Why Teachers Should Blog. I love how Shelly says that "to blog is to teach yourself what you think." This is an amazing definition, and it finally clicked why this blog was important to me.

If you're not blogging, because you think you have nothing to offer, blog away! It's not about what you have to offer others, it's what you have to offer yourself. (And I can guarantee that what you have to offer yourself will also be important to several others!)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reflections on Differentiation

It was with great excitement that I looked toward the #elemchat tonight on Differentiated Instruction. This past year has been a real journey in DI, as I taught a class with the widest ability range I had seen before. Looking back, I think my one success was Reading and Writing (especially Reading) as I implemented Daily Five and CAFE. It was a fun way to differentiate for each individual student, and it was easy!

So I was eager to share my excitement, but I was also looking at ways to make my Math work. Several people suggested Math Workshop, something which I tried for a while, but I just couldn't get it right. This year, I'm determined to give it another try and look at why it didn't work. I've got a month and a half to spend, how's that for a project? I have a few resources available to me on my District's portal, but I'm also interested to hear how anyone else made their Math workshop work. I know I want to incorporate some Math journal writing, as well as some problem solving. I would love to hear how your Math workshop works!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reflections on Collaboration

I had such a wonderful time in both edchats today (at noon, AND at 7 PM) but I wanted to reflect on the latter chat, mostly because it's fresher in my mind, and I love talking and thinking about collaboration!

I realize I didn't do much of an introduction in my first post, but I am a fairly new teacher. I spent nearly a year doing Resource and Methods (working with students on SEPs, our version of the IEP) in my first year, followed by a year working in a Behaviour Intervention program in two schools, and finally this past year I spent September - December teaching grade three at one school, before I got a position back at my original school teaching grade one.

My first two years of teaching, as a specialist who did a lot of push-in work with my students, I had a great opportunity to work closely with teachers who were more than happy to have an eager learner in their classroom who was also willing to work.

Apart from my short stint in grade three, I have always been at the same school, even doing student teaching, and I look forward to returning to this school to teach grade two in the mornings next year.

During my second year of teaching, our district jumped on the PLC model, and we began to collaborate. We were given time each week to collaborate on lesson ideas, or whatever was on the agenda, usually given by the principal. While this was not a terrible thing, as I shared in the chat, forced collaboration is far from the best type of collaboration.

I didn't see true collaboration until I left that school for a short stint. I was called on a Friday afternoon two weeks into the school year and asked if I was interested in teaching grade three until Christmas... starting Monday. Of course, the answer was yes, but my mind was going in circles. I was in my third year of teaching, and yet I had NO classroom experience other than my student teaching. I came in Saturday and Sunday to set up a classroom (it was pretty much completely empty)... I prepared a quick lesson plan, and hoped that I could figure out what I was doing pretty quickly!

Then I met her. My next door neighbour was also teaching grade three (also for the first time, she had previously done grade two and several years of literacy intervention). She was eager to help, and a friendship was formed very quickly. We both would search for resources in a school with very few resources for our grade level (this was the first year this school had an English grade three!) She would pop into my classroom at the end of the day, an I would pop into hers... the question would be "So what are you doing tomorrow?" But it was never done in an "I'm too lazy to do any planning myself" kind of way, it was always in the spirit of true collaboration. Taking an idea and making it our own. When the time came to move back to my new school, I was excited, but also worried about missing my collaborator!

When I got back to my old school to teach first grade, and it was just the same. We had our weekly meetings, but the best collaboration was done after school with the conversation that involved "What are you doing tomorrow?" I was able to learn SO much from this collaboration, and I feel it made me a much better teacher.

I remember coming in as a teacher and being worried about not knowing all the answers. I'm so glad I don't have to worry about doing it all on my own. Teaching isn't meant to be done with the door shut (unless there is someone drilling things into the wall, or some other loud ruckus that distracts everyone of course!)

So the question is, have I been really lucky to be able to collaborate in my school? Am I the norm, or the exception? Based on some of the edchat conversation, it would seem that I may be the exception. What are your experiences with collaboration? Is it just that people don't see these casual conversations as collaboration? Is my idea of collaboration mistaken? I just feel like collaboration is so easy, that I must be missing something!

(And despite my saying, tongue firmly in cheek, that I know it all in edchat, I will fully admit that I know very little, which makes collaboration so important to me!)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reflections on Project Based Learning

I had the pleasure of taking part in the first ever #elemchat on Twitter. I did say at one point that I simply couldn't fit my thoughts into 140 characters, so I decided to start a blog.

I came into the #elemchat with questions and anxiety, as I knew the topic would be PBL, or project based learning. I just wasn't sure what the term meant, and was a little worried that I would need to add one more thing onto my LONG list of things I want to do with my grade two class next year! As the chat started to pick up, I discovered that I have already decided my Math time will spend a lot of time in this PBL setup... I was just going to call it "Investigations".

In fact, I was so excited with this, because I attended a PD workshop yesterday with Cathy Fosnot from We recently received kits that are fully based on what she calls "Investigations." She started off the day by having all 150 attendees participate in an investigation involving counting in a brand new number system she calls X-mania (based on a base-6 system using letters.) As the hour went on, we discovered the place value system that was there... we figured out what number would follow AAC, and what number would follow A--. Then we discovered that A-- was A- groups of A-... That our snap cubes formed a square... we progressed through by making discoveries, all guided by our workshop leader, but they were OUR discoveries. We owned them. What a great way to demonstrate Project Based Learning!

I'm determined to add some of her Math investigations into my instruction over the coming year, and I'll let you know how it all works! I'm so pumped about this, it's almost a shame I have to wait until September!