Archive for November 23, 2011

Back to the Book Study & Back to the Classroom

 

I love reading! Well…not ALL reading. I have been up to my eyeballs in report card reading and I have to be honest – it’s not my favourite reading. It is; however, one of the ways that I stay connected to some of the student learning at Greystone Centennial Middle School – although it is a very tiny snapshot of so much more that is going on inside of each classroom. I also find it helpful in learning more about individual students. I really do love seeing their growth over the year. I was particularly motivated to read report cards this year as the dream of creating our school division’s new curriculum based report card became a reality.  The new and improved report card format provides students and parents with important feedback that is more focused on thinking skills and processes from the curriculum and less on knowledge outcomes.

Teachers have provided excellent, descriptive feedback on their students’ strengths, areas for growth and have identified strategies for improvement.  The thorough detail that teachers are sharing does take a long time to read; however, it is so worth it when I learn about all of the ways our teachers are meeting the diverse learning needs of their students.

As positive as I am feeling about our new report cards, I was happy to have a much needed diversion today from all the reading I have been doing.  I took a time out to meet with the Book Study Group in order to continue our discussion of the book Making Thinking Visible.  We are now on Chapter 5 – Routines for Synthesizing and Organizing Ideas.

I listened to teachers share their classroom experiences in putting the thinking routines from the book into practice with their students. There are so many simple yet effective strategies provided in this book that will engage learners, help them to develop their thinking skills and provide teachers with excellent insight into how students are processing and connecting their learning. As I read the chapter over prior to our study group chat, I was overcome with this wave of envy for the teachers in the study group who had the opportunity to put what they were reading about into action in the classroom. I really wanted to be back in the classroom working alongside these awesome teachers in developing our students’ critical thinking and inquiry skills.

In fact, when one of the teachers requested that I provide them with classroom coverage so that they could visit each others’ classrooms in order to observe one another develop these thinking routines with their students – I jumped at the opportunity!  I have asked them to mention this to our staff at our upcoming PD Day so that any of our teachers who want to get in on learning from each other can do so.  Imagine…teachers wanting to watch each other in action in order to learn and grow together – how awesome is that?!  But it gets better (for me!) because their plan means I can take over their classes and practice some of these thinking strategies.  Back to the classroom for me – I love it!

Now…back to report card reading – I don’t love this quite as much.

~ Carolyn Cameron

Grateful for the Roadside Assistance

Professionally speaking, I hit the ditch this month.  Physically and emotionally exhausted, I counted the days down until Fall Break so that I could escape the sadness I was feeling and recharge the battery.  I was disappointed to discover that after I returned from several days away, I still didn’t have the passion for my work that keeps me engaged in leading and learning at Greystone Centennial Middle School.  Our school community has been through a most challenging month and I have been told to be patient with the grieving process – it’s unpredictable and it can hit you in waves.  While this may be true,  my head told me I needed to move forward and not dwell in the sadness and memories any more.  Why wasn’t my heart listening to my head?  I had so many great dreams and plans for this school year – but now I had hit the ditch…I was completely off course and spinning my wheels.

Roadside assistance came in the form of an articulate and wise (beyond her years – we joke that she is an 85 year old woman in a 26 year old body) first year teacher at Greystone – Melissa Kerby.  We met for Melissa’s scheduled Professional Growth Plan Meeting.  During this meeting, I naturally assumed that I would listen to Melissa share her learning goals for the year and I would provide her with suggestions and support for how she could meet her goals…right?…wrong!  Well, sort of wrong.  I did listen and make some suggestions; however, Melissa provided me with much more in this meeting than I could have ever hoped to provide to her.  I was the one doing the much needed learning.

I asked Melissa how she was able to make time, with all that she has going on as a first year teacher – working through a new report card process, dealing with the loss of a colleague and friend – to focus her energy on completing her Professional Growth Plan.  She shared that with all of the shock, sadness and lack of control that she felt following the death of our teacher, Jolene, focusing on her own professional growth – something she did have control over – was helping her get through this very tough time.  Setting goals for herself and directing her energy and determination towards meeting those goals is a way to move through the pain and sadness of everything that is outside of her control.  And besides, she said, it’s what Jolene would want me to do.

What an inspiring reminder for me.  Thank you, Melissa, for the roadside assistance.  I am back in the driver’s seat, with my hands on the steering wheel.  While I’m not yet traveling full speed ahead, I am on course and am feeling more in control of my future learning and growth.  Next stop…Book Study Group on Making Thinking Visible this Tuesday night.  Feels good to be back!

~ Carolyn Cameron

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