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.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Reflections on Identity

Wow! I'm coming off an awesome weekend at the Reform Symposium, a free online conference that went all hours of the night. I missed very few sessions over the weekend, which led to me not getting much sleep. So it's over now, and it's past midnight here... why am I not sleeping? I had to rewatch a particular session, because I enjoyed it so much!

I've gushed about it on Twitter, and I even took the opportunity to rave about it at the conference closing ceremony. It was a session by George Couros from Stoneyplain, Alberta on a special day he held in his school last year, called "Identity Day". The idea of the day is to have each student present something that is meaningful to them, and their identity. All students from kindergarten to grade six had the chance to present "science fair style" to all other students in the school. Not only this, but all staff participated (custodians, administrative assistants, cafeteria workers, educational assistants, etc.) It was a great chance for students to connect with each other, as well as for students to connect with teachers and vice versa.

George shared several specific stories in his presentation, including a second grader who was competing national in BMX, who then had something to share with another teacher who loves XGames! He also spoke of a pair of First Nations girls that presented on their culture. Parents were invited to these presentations, and the parents of these two children were so happy to see the students' pride for their culture. Finally, the one that was most touching was related to how to build acceptance among students. One of his students, who has Tourettes Syndrome, shared about this with her peers/teachers. Sharing information about it (including teaching her principal a thing or two!) brought acceptance, and the student was able to bring about this acceptance completely on her own.

So, it's great to reflect on this, and think, "Wow, that George Couros is an amazing principal!" But I want to go deeper with this one. As soon as this blog is posted, I plan on forwarding the link to the archived session to the head of Guidance at my school district. I think George has a passion, and I have caught it... now I want to make sure others catch that passion. I also plan on introducing my principal to the idea of Identity Day, in the hopes that I can give it a try with the school, but at the very least, with my own class.

This is one of those sessions where I can't see anyone seeing this and not wanting to do something! So what are you going to do?

If you would like to see the session for yourself, there's a link to it in George's blog. I highly recommend you subscribe!