Archive for June 8, 2014

Taking Risks and Being Vulnerable = Greater Learning

photo-47

Melissa Woodward joined our Greystone School Community last year when she took over a teaching assignment part way through the year in order to provide French as a Second Language instruction to our students. This year, Melissa was originally hired to continue providing French instruction; however, when our student population continued to grow, in addition to providing FSL instruction, she eagerly took on the responsibility to teach a grade 8 homeroom – in the FOODS LAB!! It certainly was a challenging year with many new learning experiences for Melissa. Our school community is grateful to her for her dedication and commitment to meeting the needs of a very diverse group of learners this year.

Professional Growth Plan Reflection – 2013-14 ~ Melissa Woodward

 

This year has been a year of extreme professional learning and growing on my part.  Being that it was my first year teaching, sometimes every day felt like it was new. Every time I took risks in my class and tried something that I thought would be a valuable learning experience for my students I had no idea how it would go.  There were lessons that flopped and there were some that allowed my students to learn things that were beyond my expectations.  This year has taught me that taking risks and sometimes being vulnerable with my students allows for great relationships to be built and therefore allows for great learning experiences for the students.  

 

Something that I have taken great pride in is having my students informed about how they are doing in the different skills, on different assessments and throughout each term and as a whole.  I took the time to go over each individual Report card with each of my students every term, and told them that they had to read the comments page as well, not just the marks.  Some didn’t want to but I told them that they have to because they need to know where every single mark came from and why they got that.  I ended each conversation with “So if your parents ask you why you got__ in blank skill then you can tell them why right?”   The reason I think this was valuable is because it gave the kids ownership in the assessments they received.  

 

Another thing I did in my classes was encouraged my students to ask why. Why are we doing this? Why did I get that mark? I tell them all the time that I encourage them to question me on things like that because I always know why we are doing something, if I don’t then we shouldn’t be doing it. That is a valuable skill for them to have as adults so I model it to them, even if it means that I am sometimes more vulnerable to them.

 

My Professional growth goal this year was to become more organized to find balance between school and home.  Some weeks are better than others but I have definitely improved on my organization skills, on my ability to prioritize and my ability to set limits on how much time I spend on school work.  This job could go on forever without any breaks, but I need to also spend time with my family to remain healthy myself.  If I am not healthy and rested (at least sometime) I will not be able to be effective at teaching.  

 

I am grateful I had the opportunity to learn so much this year from my teaching team, students and everyone else that was helpful through the year.  Some days I thought I wouldn’t make it through my first year, teaching grade 8, but now that the end is almost here I think it was an amazing experience that has taught me so much.

 

The Power of Professional Learning and Communication

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 5.09.27 PM

Laura Robert has just finished her third year with us at Greystone Centennial Middle School. This year, Laura worked with our youngest students at Greystone in Learning Community 5. Laura brought so much to her students and her team this year – her caring, thoughtful nature, her desire to continuously learn and her commitment to collaboration with her colleagues. Laura also spear headed our school’s “We Care Team” sharing her desire to help our students make a difference in the lives of others outside of our school community.

Professional Growth Plan Reflection 2013-14 ~ Laura Robert

Communication Goal

At the start of the year I made a goal to develop effective communication with my students and their parents in order to ensure the establishment of positive relationships that would lay a foundation for their learning at Greystone. I wanted to especially focus on the aspects of collaboration and evidence. With so many avenues for communication available I found that I had to adjust my approach depending on the needs of the student or parent.

 

Many families responded that they appreciated the Remind 101 texting system, notes, letters, agendas, and emails that provided them with general updates throughout the year. Families actively utilized the availability of email to stay in touch, address concerns, or let me know about things my students were dealing with at home. I feel they appreciated how quickly I tried to respond, making myself available if they had a question or concern.

 

I was able to create a classroom blog that provided families with day to day activities, upcoming curriculum, concepts, or studies, and evidence of the students’ opportunities to learn in class. All of us in LC5 even started to push the envelope further and assist our students in creating their own school blogs where they could journal and reflect on their personal learning. Although I feel this form of communication has some of the greatest potential I do not feel it was as successful as I had originally hoped. After putting a lot of thought and effort into making this an informative tool very few families would make a point of visiting my blog, or their child’s blog on a regular basis. Without an invested audience my response was to spend more time on other ways  of communicating with students and parents. I have been planning strategies for improving my own consistency with the blog posting and develop ways to give families more incentive to connect through blogs (focusing on the evidence of learning-shown through their child’s blog posts) and by sending regular links and questions out through our blog for families to go over at home.

 

The comment based report cards given each term provides students and families with far more than just a vague generalization of their marks. Instead the report cards that we produce pinpoint specific skills within each discipline, and evaluate a student’s level of independent competency in each individual area. I tell my students and their families that the most valuable part of these report cards are the detailed comments. I felt confident that the comments I made for each of my students clearly identified their individual learning.  I connected the key words discussed within class (based on our poster “What are we learning today?”) to guide these observations and recommendations. Although these comments are simply a snapshot of the students’ learning, it was an opportunity to communicate with, initiate important conversations, and gain support from many parents who strived to work with me to assist their child in meeting these goals!

 

Effective communication was especially vital when working with my grade 5 teaching team. Although the idea of working with 6 other very independent and unique individuals (most of whom I had never met before this year) seemed quite daunting, it turned out to be a winning combination! Each day everyone brought everything they had to the table, and invested all of themselves into each other and “our kids.” The excitement of working in tangent with these accomplished teachers who were willing to put themselves on the line, learn something new, or take a risk help me grow as a teacher. We developed solutions for accomplishing tasks more efficiently, and utilizing the team time in our time table by dividing our group into two parts. Communication was especially important between these groups to ensure that consistency was not lost in this gap. Although it was a challenge we established multiple routes of connecting with each other including joint google docs., consistent emails, sharing of resources, and of course the very best…spending quality time face to face with each other. We all seemed to enjoy moments to connect, and would seek out opportunities to get to know each other on a professional and personal level. We appreciated each others differences, and encouraged each other when things were difficult. I believe this positive and trusting relationship among the teachers was often reflected in the culture developed within our pod. The consistency and support for each other provided our students with an understanding of expectations and clear boundaries. Joan, Ashley, Derek, April, Jessica, Luke, and I  went through a lot together this year, and working with them (along with others in the school) has made this year one of the best in my teaching career!

 

I believe that our students are set up for optimum success when there is close communication between families, teachers, educational assistants, administration, and others. In this way there is a community established that works with the student to foster a secure learning environment with plenty of opportunities the student can choose to embrace. I have learned a lot this year about developing individualized routes of communication and support that has established a strong foundation of trust in our school. I plan to continue to strengthen the relationships I have built with my teaching colleagues, my students and their families into the coming year!

Personal Professional Development Opportunity Highlights

This spring I was given the opportunity to attend the Innovate West conference in Calgary at the Connect Charter School. The most beneficial part of this conference was getting to interact with students from the Connect Charter school within their classrooms, and listening to them describe their learning process. It was very exciting to see how eloquently they spoke about their learning, and how they had developed critical thinking strategies. One of our sessions Jeff Couillard led a discussion about how to transform our ideas to opportunities within the classroom. Instead of just generating broad dreams for the future, he gave us planners that could organize our thoughts into tangible plans for implementation. Some of us who attended this session from Greystone have already started to use this guide to structure a program to promote cyber citizenship next year, which could be joined with our health curriculum. Another session I attended was called Pinning down the “unpindownable”: Assessing Creativity. Erin Quinn and Stephanie Bartlett led this collaborative demonstration of how to foster creative ideas, while still coming alongside students and facilitating an open discussion with them to help develop goals for improving their skills. Another notable session I attended was one led by Ryan Siemens and Jen Friske. They described their experience facilitating concept driven (rather than topic focused) curriculum in order to develop more internationally minded students. I felt challenged and inspired by the keynote speakers like Michelle Baldwin, Josh Hill, and Brad Ovenell-Carter…but even more so through conversations with other educators and my co-workers, whose drive to guide innovation and learning was electrifying!

 

Through our annual teachers convention I learned from a variety of well-versed speakers. One of these amazing speakers was Erin Gruwell (Achieving the Impossible: Become a Catalyst for Change), who teaches groups of students who have been pigeon-holed as “unteachable.” Even as a young teacher she was able to break through the tough exteriors of these inner city kids to help redirect their lives. The avenue they chose for escaping was “The Freedom Writers Diary.” This speaker brought me back to my first teaching job at Bosco Homes Academy working with high school students “at the end of the road.” I remembered the faces of my students who had been hurt by the world, and needed a way out. For a couple of these students writing and art had been their release. I also attended sessions like Shelagh Rogers’ who spoke on mental illness and creating healthier work spaces and Oliver Samonte who provided tools to teach students who spoke English as their second language. I attended the session led by Jesse McLean where he described the alternative classroom designs our school has been exploring, and even though I had seen many of our “softer” classrooms in action, it was very interesting to hear the responses from other interested teachers. One of the most amazing opportunities was listening to Eva Olsson describe her life as a Holocaust survivor in WWII. She spoke on how we each have the responsibility to pass on a legacy of caring, compassion and character to those we teach. She spoke on needing courage and determination to overcome prejudice attitudes. Through her whole talk the audience was enraptured, awestruck, by this tiny woman who had decided that she could no longer be silent about the pain she had suffered, and the message of resilience she was compelled to share. I felt overwhelmed and empowered at the same time, knowing I was truly blessed to learn from these amazing teachers!

 

I really appreciated the thought and purpose behind our Greystone Professional Development days this year as well! I felt that from the very first retreat kick off, there was a clear goal to develop and foster collaboration and camaraderie between teachers, teams, and administration at Greystone. The planning time we were given was extremely effective in establishing trust, and initiating some incredible ideas we could put to work in our classrooms. One of my favorite PD days at Greystone was when Rapid Fire Theatre group was brought in to work with the staff. This provided us with an opportunity to step out of our comfort zone, and recognize how this often feels to our students. I brought away from this experience a realization that a simple look, word, or even closed body language could put barriers up and discourage a student…or how the opposite could encourage them to take risks! This was the best year for PD because of the fitness and interaction nature of the lunches! The majority of our staff members participated in various unique activities from yoga, Tai Chi, Basketball, to even an enormous omnikin ball game. These are not just “fun” and “games,” but it is time for our staff to connect on a personal level, and develop a community of trust. Although all of us have different experiences and often different opinions, I believe that there is loyalty and respect among our staff that guides the dedicated work ethic within and sense of family within our school.

Putting Passion into the Learning

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 4.07.06 PM

Kathy Kennedy has been teaching at Greystone for the past nine years (minus a couple of maternity leaves along the way). I have had the privilege of working with Kathy even before we both came to Greystone. Over all of these years spent working together, I have watched her become an exceptional learner, leader and teacher. As a mom, she shares an important perspective that contributes to her deeper understanding of each learner in her classroom. She is a dynamic, thoughtful, FUNNY teacher and her students love her!

2013 – 2014 School Year Reflection

Wow!  What an incredible and challenging year it has been for me professionally and personally.  As the summer of 2013 ended, I came into this school year excited to get back and continue my learning and strengthen my teaching from the previous year.  I had learned so much about teaching and learning, from my oldest son and my students.  I couldn’t wait to continue to strive for putting passion into the learning (like we successfully did last year with our 9/11 Inquiry project).  Why?  My biggest fear is that one day my son will come home from school and tell me he hates it!  It is with this fear, I continue to challenge the “old school” methods of teaching/learning and consistently reflect on what I want to see for both of my sons in the future.  I want them to learn because they want too, not because they have too.

I started off the school year with the focus on building relationships with my students and their respective families; to create a classroom environment where every student was comfortable to make mistakes and learn from them, and to find something this year that would emotionally invest my students in their own learning.

After building the foundational routines and expectations needed and getting to know my students and their academic and social/emotional needs I became very frustrated.  Unfortunately, with the system we had in place, I knew I wasn’t meeting the needs or even building the relationships with the grade 7’s like I wish I could.  We had 5 grade seven classes, and it felt like we were herding them from class to class like cattle.  I was teaching two grade seven classes Language Arts and three grade seven classes Social Studies – there was no room / time for curriculum integration, team-teaching, deeper learning inquiry projects, etc… because of our schedule. The focus of our teaching became content vs. skills because the variety of learners I had in one room was so difficult to plan and prepare for.  For example, I had reading levels in one room that began at a grade two reading level all the way up to a grade nine reading level.  Choosing literature to study in my class became very challenging, as I knew for some it would be way above their level and for others not academically challenging enough. 

After much discussion with our staff (as I wasn’t the only one frustrated), we decided to make a very bold change – to group our students based on their learning styles and skills they need to develop in the areas of literacy and numeracy.  This would allow us to be more flexible and target the learning to the specific skills students needed to work on / develop.  We changed our schedule, and every teacher in grades 7,8, and 9 became a numeracy and literacy teacher.  It was from these changes that I have learned the following:

1)     How to collaborate!  Up until the changes, I really only had to collaborate with my teaching partner, Lynn.  We both are Humanities and very similar in our teaching practices… naturally it was easy!  As soon as the changes happened, I quickly learned that collaborating with 5 other teachers for our Numeracy, Literacy, and Social/Science inquiry was extremely difficult.  There just was never enough time, and we found our meetings full of conflict and frustration.  After Spring Break, things changed, and we started to learn to pull out and rely on each other’s strengths and use them to be productive within the time limits we had.

 

2)     Emotional investment from a student does not have to exclusively involve exciting content to learn.  Last year, I left the year thinking it did (due to our 9/11 project), but I have learned this year that most students will also become emotionally involved if they are feeling success!  An example of this is with my Math class.  Before the changes, there was a student in my homeroom who hated math.  Now, with going at a pace she needs, breaking it down for her understanding, etc… she comes each day to class and is emotionally involved in her learning.  How do I know this?  She comes to class with her homework consistently complete, puts up her hand to give an answer (something she never did before), and has also told me that she likes Math class now.   Her “buy in” is not because she loves fractions, including adding or subtracting them, it is because she is feeling success! (By the way, this is only one example of the many in my room).

 

3)     Feedback, Feedback, Feedback!  For a student to also become emotionally involved in their learning, they need the chance / time to fail and also take risks; they need to know clearly what the expectations are for any given task, and they also need to understand what the purpose is.  Through modelling, practicing and getting formative feedback quickly, I have learned that students’ quality of work increases dramatically.  For example, Lynn and I have spent, literally, 6 months working with our students to make strong connections to something they have read to a personal experience, another text, or the world.  We began by modelling it with our class (we did it with 3 different short stories), then we allowed them to practice it with a read aloud (which we provided teacher and peer feedback), and finally we have now had them practice on their own through two different novel studies.  Through both of these novel studies, we have also continued to give feedback, and have had many discussions within our classroom about how we can make them even better.  I am astounded by the quality of work and level of thinking our students are demonstrating… it is way higher than I ever imagined!  In previous years, I would never have spent so much time on one significant reading skill, but today I feel every moment was worth it for my students.  Feedback and the time to learn / build upon mistakes allowed our students to feel successful; therefore, they also become more emotionally involved in their learning.

 

4)     I love looping!  For a teacher who knows they are going to teach the same group for two years, the investment and time building relationships and expectations with students and families becomes much more worthwhile.  Not only that, but we also have the time to really focus on the skills our students need to be successful (vs. content), and be able to take the time (not rush) to build these skills so our students are better prepared for their academic futures.  I loved that as an LC 7 team, we have really spent the time “training our troops,” as it is going to make the beginning of next year flow more smoothly!

Although it has been a very challenging year (with all the changes, teaching multiple subjects not necessarily in my comfort zone, etc…) I have enjoyed looking back and reflecting on the positive learnings that have happened for me as a teacher versus the negative struggles we have gone through!  I am looking forward to continue learning next year, and hopefully continue to help with the push to change our approach to student learning and curriculum re-design!

Reflecting on The Courage to Teach

 

download

 

Raeann Richardson looped up to Grade 6 this year with her group of students from Grade 5 last year. In addition to learning new curriculum this year, Raeann also decided to take on an additional learning challenge by team teaching in a large open space in our Media Centre. Raeann and her teaching colleagues provided a highly engaging, caring and compassionate learning community in their shared space. Students amazed me with their dedication to learning, their self-direction and their collaborative way of learning together.

Professional Growth Plan Reflection 2013-14 ~ Raeann Richardson

I recently began reading “The Courage to Teach”, by Parker J. Palmer. This was a book given to me by my incredibly inspiring leader and mentor, Carolyn Cameron. When meeting with her throughout the school year, she had recommended I read this book as it corresponds with my way of reflection and thoughtfulness. So far, I have really enjoyed Palmer’s way of describing education. He says that it is at its best, not only when there is intellect, but when we involve an emotional and spiritual way of reflection to our practice. The question “Who is the self that teaches?” Palmer says to be the most pivotal question for the sake of learning. I cannot help but agree.

I believe ongoing learning can only occur first by a way of relationships. I remember hearing a lot of this idea when I first arrived to Greystone. I understood it to be true; however, after spending two connected years with my group of students and colleagues, I truly believe and live this statement every day. I believe a “good” teacher shows willingness for connectedness. “Good teachers… are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves”, was stated by Palmer. I have never agreed with something more. I see the importance of this idea each day as I stand in front of the class, as I interact with students on a variety of emotional levels, as I act as a role model, friend and teacher; I do my best to reflect in what is a healthy, stable, meaningful connection with my students. Only then, can the real learning happen. As we know, teachers are not only present to feed the curriculum into the brains of our growing population, we are here to foster skills which will help our students live happy, complete lives, in whatever path they may take. No longer do we live in a world where the path to University and a “happy”, ”successful” way of life is through memorizing arithmetic, and historical facts. Instead, people are increasingly becoming successful through a number of routes, all based on unique and diverse skills and characteristics.

I am so happy to work at a school where it is believed that each day our job as educators is to foster such skills as: critical thinking, comprehension, risk taking, collaboration, reflection, synthesizing, creating and communicating; as these are the real building blocks to lifelong learning and success. My colleagues and I have collaboratively built successful learning tasks for our students to engage in, where they have further developed these skills we hold as vital. I have watched my students grow immensely through my two years spent with them. They have amazed me in countless moments, where their skills have reached new levels, and their emotional security and enthusiasm is inspiring.

As a young, developing professional, I feel greatly motivated and enthralled in the complexities of this career. I am excited to be where I am, and look forward to the continued learning opportunities and challenges ahead. “The courage to teach is the courage to keep one’s heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able so that teacher and student and subject can be woven into the fabric of community that learning, and living, require.”

Lessons Learned from the Year

photo 2-11

Brad Arndt looped up with his students from grade 7 to teach them in grade 8 this year. Brad also decided to enter into a team teaching situation this year with a colleague. Together, these two teachers created a highly engaging, responsive and flexible Learning Community for our students. It is awesome to see Brad embracing different opportunities in his own practice in order to provide students with the best possible learning environment.

PGP Year End Reflections from 2013/14 ~ Brad Arndt

My professional growth is something I take very seriously. I feel professional growth is an important area of focus for a few reasons. One, I think being a great teacher means building strong, important relationships. Two, I understand that effective teachers engage students in deep meaningful learning and; three, I believe, most of all, that the best teachers turn students into engaged, ethical, empathic citizens. Indeed, these are no small feats! Therefore, reflecting on my professional growth is never an easy task for me.  I have a perfectionist streak and tend to be fairly critical of myself when I look back over the year.  However, for this reflection, I want to keep the ideas positive. I want to focus on the accomplishments of the year and what those accomplishments have taught me. I want to reflect on how my successes may have brought me just a little bit closer to being one of those teachers who has significant impacts on students long after they leave the walls of our building.   In order to do this effectively I have separated this reflection into three areas. First, I will discuss the things I felt went well for me this year.  Secondly, I want to focus on a few of the lessons I learned from those successes this year.  Finally, I want to touch on the things that helped me learn all of those valuable lessons.  In the end, I want to be able to make the learning experiences of the past year more engrained and concrete for myself.  

A Few of the Things That Went Well This Year

 

After thinking about the individual successes over the past ten months, I quickly realized that they fit into three categories.  The first success I want to touch on was the success I had with team teaching and collaboration.  Team teaching and collaboration with good teachers might be one of the best and most effective learning tools I have come across in my professional development; however,  it can also be a risky form of learning. When the idea of working in a team teaching environment was presented to me, I had a number of fears. You have to be comfortable with the idea of being exposed as a teacher. You have to know how to handle feedback (yes, both the good and the bad) and you certainly have to be compatible in teaching styles or you might be in for a very long year.  However, if you can get around those challenges, you will be in for a exceptionally rewarding year as a teacher.  The discussions I have had this year regarding best practices in teaching were not always easy, but they were always informative.  At times opinions can vary drastically, but we always managed to keep the personal and emotional feelings out of the conversations. We managed to keep the discussion and debates focused around ideas.  I can’t even count how many times the discussion ended without a clear understanding or resolution of conflicting ideas, only to go home, reflect and come back the next day with a clearer picture and understanding of each other’s point of view.  This debating, discussing and reflecting process is exceptionally informative and I really enjoy the challenging and stimulating team environment it creates.  Overall, I feel this is such a great learning experience that I would recommend that all teachers work in team teaching classrooms at some point in their careers.  There are also a number of other benefits to team teaching that add to the success of this experience.  The students really benefit because they have two adults providing perspectives, feedback, and differing teaching styles.  This maximizes the learning the students can achieve.  It also means the number and frequency of check-ins are significantly increased.  The workload is shared for so many of the day to day management and organizational tasks teachers face. Finally, there are the sanity breaks of getting to touch base with another adult throughout the day.  It’s refreshing after talking to thirteen year olds for the majority of the day to have another adult to talk to in your classroom most of the time.  Ultimately, team teaching is both highly efficient and an exceptionally powerful learning tool.

 

The second success I want to reflect on and share is the success I feel that I am having in my math classes.  Mathematics has been a significant part of my teaching assignments every year that I have taught. While my education background is primarily in the sciences, I am finding some really great and exciting growth in my numeracy classes.  This year I have tried various groupings in math classes, both early in the year and then again with our levelled numeracy groups for the second half of the year. During each of these different situations, I have noticed an increase in the level of student engagement and student growth in mathematics.  These benefits have come from a wide variety of students.  I have a group of eighth grade students who have a history of struggling in mathematics. They have started to have some success and a change in attitude towards learning math concepts.  I have a group of high achieving eighth grade math students who have responded to more challenging material with engaging and passionate discussions about how and why specific math ideas work or don’t work.  Many of these discussions allow for the students to see that there are often multiple ways to work through a math problem and therefore, they are developing a deeper understanding of the topics being covered. After seeing some of these successes, I have, of course, reflected on why I have been seeing these changes in the students’ attitudes towards mathematics.  After considerable reflection and discussions with other amazing math teachers I am starting to think that there are three reasons I am seeing this success in my math classes.  The first is something I have being working on from my very first year of teaching.  I have been trying to focus on delivering math ideas from multiple perspectives.  I have been focusing on the why and how the steps in a math process work, along with a heavy investment in modelling math concepts with visual and tactile representations of the step by step processes.  I really feel that this is giving the students multiple ways to access the concepts and to take their understanding of mathematics deeper.  Secondly, I have made a very conscious effort to provide helpful feedback and check-ins very regularly in math classes.  I am almost never at my desk during class these days. I am floating around the room having meaningful discussions with students.  Students are seeking these discussions not only with myself but are starting to turn to their peers to get help.  After teaching math for four years I am finding I have a strong grasp as to where students are likely to make errors when learning new concepts, and I am able to catch these mistakes early on or, in some cases, avoid them altogether by using well timed feedback and discussions. The third thing I have found that has been helping me find success in mathematics teaching is the attempt to make more of my lessons have a practical application, or be more authentic or real life.  This allows the students to become more engaged in the concepts.  These types of lessons take a fair bit of work but even just a few of these lessons make a difference to the students in my class.  I feel like, while I haven’t done as many of these types of lessons as I would like, I have been attempting to have at least one or two per topic studied.  Connecting the learning to something practical helps give the concept meaning for the students.  Even a small amount of this type of application makes a difference to students’ interest and engagement.  

 

The third success I want to highlight is the extra curricular and special events that I took part in with the students this year.  Some of my favourites include: Sun Run, Rabbit Hill Ski and Snowboard Club, Marmot Basin, Challenge Day, TWOS (Body Worlds exhibit), Skills Canada, Track and Field, and our LC 8 fundraisers for our year end Jasper trip.  All of these events are critical to building meaningful relationships with the students I teach.  These relationships transfer into the classroom and help the students develop Citizenship and Social Responsibility.  Furthermore, these events help students find a little more enjoyment in coming to school.  It is in these moments that I see the biggest smiles, the best attitudes, engaged excitement and even some really great learning.  These are the memories the students will think of when they remember the middle school years later in life and I am proud to be a part of so many of them.  I also love these experiences because it allows me to share my passions, and curiosities with the students. They see me getting “nerdy” about something and hopefully they see that it’s good to be yourself and it’s okay to be curious and interested in many different aspects of life. I like to think it is these types of activities that build the engaged, ethical, empathic citizens I talked about at the beginning of this reflection.  

A Brief Summary of the Lessons I Learned This Year

 

  1. The importance of relationships and collaboration for growth

  2. The importance of feedback for growth

  3. The importance of reflection for growth

If you take a quick look back at these three lessons that I have learned this year you  will quickly realize that all three apply to both professional growth and to student growth.  I have learned these things from the positive experiences I have had over the course of the year.  In the past, I may have focused on my shortcomings and what those have taught me. However, I really enjoyed the process of focusing on the positive a little more this time around. I feel like the lessons are as important to my growth, maybe even a little more important than the lessons I learned from focusing on the negatives.  

    4. The importance of focusing on the positive!

A Brief List of the Tools That Helped Me Learn These Lessons This Year

  • Team Collaborators  (LC 8 Team, GCMS Team, Design Team, and PSD70 Team).  

  • Really Great PD Opportunities (Google Summit, Convention, IDEAS Conference – especially the Ewan McIntosh workshop, wow)

Online PLC’s (Twitter, TED, Zite, Edutopia and Te@chthought)

Looping, Team Teaching and Inquiry

Copy of image_3

Jenna Wilkins is finishing the second year of her teaching career. She has been working with our Learning Community 8 students this year after teaching the same group of students last year in grade 7. Jenna’s non-stop energy and enthusiasm for learning with students and colleagues along with her commitment to “unlearning” traditional practices in order to engage her learners is inspiring!

Professional Growth Plan Reflection 2013-14 ~ Jenna Wilkins

I know this feeling probably only intensifies as you continue on in your teaching career, but, wow, I honestly CANNOT believe this year is over already! Sometimes you hear people talking about “time flying,” but this year I truly began to understand the feeling firsthand. As I sit and reflect about this year of learning, I cannot help but have a bit of nostalgia. Although I am still very early in my teaching career, I can definitely see how “time flies!” I am finding myself being able to look back on the amazing memories our Learning Community has created together that sometimes, in the business of daily life, you often forget to cherish. That is not to say this year has gone without its challenges, but as always, those challenges were learning opportunities and I have used these challenges to grow as both a teacher and a learner.

 

As I sit and reflect about my learning this year, one of the prominent and recurring themes that continues to shine through is my first experience of looping with students and the incredible relationships you form. Spending two years with students truly allows relationships to flourish and as our learning community comes to the end of our loop I can reflect firsthand on the benefits I have experienced. Beginning the year already knowing our students and having our students familiar with our teaching styles and expectations was something so positive. Our students came back to school with a peace of mind and readiness to learn because there was a comfortability and sense of community already established. I know looping is not a new concept at Greystone, but I am guessing my fellow teacher nerds who have experienced looping with students understand what a positive effect its has on student learning. Further, I have been able to grow with my students and see their progress as learners and as they develop into young adults, which has been by far one of the most positive experiences in the past two years.

 

Consequently, we had our students complete a Citizenship and Social Responsibility reflection and self assessment, since we are fast approaching that wonderful report card deadline, which we have had our students do faithfully since Report 1 of Grade 7; but this one was different. We had a meaningful discussion with our homerooms about the importance of reflecting on how each of them has changed, grown and developed into the young adults they are today and let me tell you, some of their responses had me grabbing for the tissues! I always knew relationships with students were important, but when you get that rare glimpse into a teenager’s life and truly see the connection you have established, it reminds you why you come to work everyday! A few glimpses into the mystical teenage brain:

 

“I think over the last two years I have tried harder on my academic work and started to care more about school and how it affects my future career. I have learned to care more about friends, family and teachers and to respect people and help them with their problems. I have become more independent and do more what I think is right than what others think is right.”

“I have improved a lot/drastically since Grade 7 and I am very proud of that because it is always better to improve than to get worse! I have made a couple of bad choices but I have learned from them. I feel like I have to be very responsible because we have to be good role models for the younger grades and encourage them to make good choices.”

 

“My best memory would probably be the first day of Grade 8 when we all just came back and had so many stories to share and hear about. It was amazing just coming back to the same people who you haven’t seen in so long.”

 

“The last two years of school been the best years of my life. I’ve had some teachers that are fun, but serious. The teachers have been caring and I feel like I have learned a lot and not just school subject, like math, but on how to be a better person even when having fun.”

 

“I have realized how much I have grown as a person and how compassionate, kind and helpful my teachers and peers have been. I have also noticed that I have been asking for help a lot more now, which will help me down the road.”

 

“This is by far my favorite and best class I have been in! I love this class, whenever I am in a bad mood they can change it. They are like my second family.”

 

“I value teamwork and I have learned that in group projects you can’t just have one person do all the work and everyone take credit. Before, I liked to take control of the group and do everything but now I’ve realized that everyone needs to contribute.”

 

“When I have gotten into trouble I have learned to be honest and tell the truth and I usually take responsibility for my actions when I have done something wrong.”

 

“I’m not really sure how to start, it’s been an amazing 2 years. I’ve noticed growth as a person and as a citizen, I’ve had 2 teachers who genuinely care about what’s best for me. I haven’t always been the easiest to work with because of my ego, I guess you could say, but I’m working on it.”

 

Next, as I reflect on our teaching assignment and new space as the year began, I am only beginning to realize how much team teaching has benefited my practice and the learning of my students. First and foremost a major shout out to my “work husband” Brad Arndt…a.k.a. B.A., Bradley, Shelly Cooper, Arndties or any of the wonderful nicknames we have accumulated throughout the year! All jokes aside, Brad has taught me so much this year and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work so closely with him over the past two years. I knew this year was going to be different, challenging and very exciting as we took a risk neither of us had embarked on before, but I am so happy we gave it a try! Team teaching with Brad really forced us to be transparent as educators but in turn allowed us to give and receive some of the most beneficial, yet informal, feedback to each other. Being open and flexible pushed us to be better teachers and learners. Watching Brad throughout the year reminded me to always stay present with your students, as it is always easy to get caught up in the day-to-day business of “school.” Brad always found time to just be with our kids and I found myself observing such positive interactions in our classroom community. Although it took some figuring out, Brad and I found a good balance of collaboration in our new space, drawing on each other’s strengths and expertise and always allowing the other to roll with an idea when necessary. Our collaboration was constant, consistent and always striving to do what is best for our learners. We were able to support each other to take risks and most importantly, value and celebrate each other for who we are as teachers, not being afraid to be ourselves. Pushing ourselves to be better teachers only benefits our students because we need to the best for them and we do that by continuing to learn in the presence of others. Obviously when it comes to change, I think it is only human to have some mixed feelings about our “work divorce” for next year, but I know I will always take with me the lessons I have learned from B.A.!

 

As I reflect on our journey of inquiry this year I cannot help but be drawn to two very different projects that somehow managed to achieve some very similar things. Both our Horrible Histories (Humanities) and Rube-Goldberg (Science) inquiries challenged our students to develop skills and push their learning above and beyond. We witnessed students deeply engaged in the process of inquiry; asking critical questions, providing feedback, using evidence to support their claims, showing determination and perseverance, infusing technology into the process and so much more. Although we had some success in inquiry this year I am looking forward to continue to build my knowledge of what effective inquiry-based learning looks like in the middle school classroom. In addition to several PD opportunities, I did some nerding out and read a couple of books about student engagement, critical questioning and inquiry-based learning. Next year I am hoping to continue to work with my team to always be thinking about how to intertwine inquiry-based techniques with what we already do at Greystone.

As always, I thank my lucky stars that I landed on this amazing little island we call Greystone. Each and every day I learn from my team and my students and I couldn’t begin to think of a more supportive and rewarding place to share my passion of teaching. Wilkins OUT! (That one is for you McLean!!!)

We Are All Learners

Luke English has been a wonderful addition to our Greystone School Community. He joined us from another school within Parkland School Division and brought experience and understanding of much of the important work already underway within our district in the area of technology and assessment. We are thrilled that Luke chose Greystone as the school where he wanted to continue his learning.

 

This year was a year of many changes for me. Although I taught the same grade as I had previously, many other factors could not have been more different. Most of my previous teaching experience came at a small school out west with a student population of around 100 students. This year at Greystone in Learning Community Five, our student population was over 150! In addition, our huge team of seven teachers, with five of us being new to the school, made for a bit of a crazy transition in September.

Something I learned early on this school year was that I need to be OK with saying “I don’t know.” In my previous years teaching, I thought the teacher needed to be the person with all of the answers. I thought that not knowing the answer to a student’s question was a sign of weakness. That was something I needed to let go of very early on in September. Being a new staff member at the school, while teaching students who were also brand new to the school, naturally led to many questions asked by the students where I simply had to respond with “I don’t know, but let’s find out.” This led to some teachable moments for me and my students where we were able to talk about the fact the no one has all of the answers, and that it’s OK not to know. I believe that these conversations helped my students to realize that we are all learners (teachers included) and do not have all of the answers, no matter what the subject.

One of the things I came into the year wanting to work on was having more inquiry-based learning. In past years, the times I have enjoyed the most are projects and units where students are asking questions and trying new things, experimenting, and always trying to take their learning further. These are the days where I leave the building feeling like, “yes, this is what teaching is all about. This is why I am a teacher.” Was I able to have more inquiry in the classroom this year? It’s hard to say, as it’s not an easy thing to measure. Do I FEEL like I had more inquiry in the classroom? Yes.

A project that really highlighted this for me was our grade five science fair. Our team decided to do an electricity-themed science fair following our unit on this subject. We thought that it would be a good way for our students to take what they had learned, apply it, and then take it further. The criteria was simple: Make a simple device that is powered by electricity. Students were able to use batteries, wires, motors, light bulbs, and anything else they thought would help them with their project. The ideas that came out of this were fantastic! It was so great to see our students coming up with their own “inventions” and then trying to make them work. There was plenty of frustration in many groups, as many students soon realized that their plans were going to be quite a challenge. It was awesome to watch groups persevere through these challenges, or adapt their ideas to more manageable projects. The collaboration between students was also great, as they were all open to helping each other, even those in other groups.

One group in particular that I really enjoyed watching was two students whose idea was to make a motorized crane. These girls struggled through the entire process and were constantly running into problems, but they never gave up. They demonstrated amazing persistence in trying many different ways to get their crane to work, and were able to get things finally working in the few minutes before the science fair.

Watching these students struggle and try so many different ideas was a great lesson for me. I find that in teaching, I am way too likely to try something once and then never again if it fails. There are times where I need to look at what went wrong, adapt the idea, and try again; just like I expect my students to do.

Here is a short reflection taken from one of the student’s blogs as well as a video of their project:

“Me and my partner Emily built a crane for the science fair. Me and Emily made it because it was different from every ones project. The most challenging part was when we couldn’t get the crane to pick something up. I learned that when you make the crane you have to make it pick something small and light up.”

 

 

        Another inquiry-based project that I really enjoyed this year was “Genius Hour”. Genius hour is an idea that has stemmed from Google allowing employees to spend up to 20% of their time at work, working on any pet-project they like. In our classroom, this translated to 10 Friday afternoons where students could work on any project they liked. The only criteria was that there had to be new learning involved, and they had to present their learning after 10 weeks. The variety in project choice was astounding, with everything from research on the Stone Age, to creating a video game. This was one my favorite times with my students because the level of engagement was so high. They were all so passionate about their projects and what they were learning. Every Friday afternoon I would look forward to hearing “hey, check this out Mr. English,” or “hey, did you know that….?”

                  Some reflective questions that came out of Genius Hour were: How can I make my classroom like this all of time? What can I do to help my students consistently be actively engaged in their learning? How can I meet curricular objectives while still tapping into student interests? Unfortunately, I don’t have all of the answers to these questions, but I do know that this is what I want to guide my own learning in the coming years.

Thank you students and staff for a wonderful first year at Greystone! I am looking forward to learning with all of you again next year.

Teachers Seeing Learning Through the Eyes of Students

photo 2-22

Derek Corse began his teaching career with us at Greystone this year. He first joined our School Community as an Educational Assistant, keen to get connected with a school where he would have the opportunity to demonstrate his dedication to making a difference in the lives of students. A teaching position in Learning Community 5 opened up part way through the year and Derek was the perfect fit. He will loop up with his students to grade 6 next year and we are excited to see him continue to grow and learn in his chosen profession.

Professional Growth Plan Reflection 2014 – Derek Corse

 

Relationship Building

 Coming to Greystone as an EA has given me multiple opportunities to collaborate with both the LC7 team and students.  I have experienced many different management, learning and teaching styles, which have translated into my own classroom.  My position as an EA brought many challenges, more specifically with one particular student.  This experience has opened my eyes with regards to behavior management, as I had the freedom to try different strategies.  Although I fell flat on my face many times, I was able to learn from my challenges, tweak as needed and implement stronger strategies.  Working with this one challenging student on a continuous basis, has also allowed me to experience the “Middle Years Alternative” program at Broxton Park School.  Working with the teacher and the EA’s has broadened my appreciation for children with severe behaviors.  During this time, I also had the opportunity to get to know and observe other classrooms.  During observations, I take notes and pictures of strategies/assignments, etc, which I use in my own practice.  For example, the “Daily 5” is a great tool that allows for little down time between subject changes, while allowing students to practice their reading comprehension and fluency skills.

 

Taking over LC5E has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.  This profession has truly solidified my purpose on this earth.  Collaborating with 7 amazing teachers has strengthened both my own practice and our practice as a learning community.  During planning, the document we use is the “Inquiry Planning Document”, which utilizes Greystone’s 6 pillars of synergy, creativity and citizenship.  This document also allows for a teacher reflection, which we will use to improve the particular project in the coming years; as well as in other projects.  One main goal our team will be working on next year includes communication across both teams.  We need to have consistent communication, which will be enhanced by continuing to use google docs, email and Joan (who is our liaison between both teams).

 

Students found it difficult to switch gears and learn my way of management, rules and organizational style.  Immediately, I included my students in the process.  We built a behavior contract together, I had their input on a seating plan and we simply had a conversation on expectations from both me and them.  First and foremost, my classroom is built on mutual respect.  In order to get to where my classroom is today, from February, I had to have extreme persistence, which I pride myself on.  I had to get the students to trust and believe in me.  I knew that I was going to have a challenging struggle, so I immediately developed close relationships with my students and parents, through consistent emails, questioning and journal entries (students telling me what they did on their weekend).  During summative assessments, once the students are finished, I have students either ask me a question to get to know me better, or I have them tell me something about them that I don’t know already (on the back of their assessment).  This allows me to get to know my students better and also allows for silence until everyone has finished.

 

On my desk, I have a sign that says “teach me”.  Multiple students have asked me why I have that on my desk, and I tell them that I want to learn from them as much as I want them to learn from me.

 

Developing relationships through coaching has been another fulfilling aspect of my career.  Coaching both basketball and badminton has allowed me to build stronger bonds with fellow teachers, as well as students across the entire Greystone population.  Working as a team, celebrating both our successes and failures together, show students that good sportsmanship is important in both a win and a loss, and learning from our losses.

 

Assessment: Formative, Summative and Continuous

After attending one of Greystone’s PD sessions, I took away one tool that another grade 5 teacher uses.  That is, having the learning intentions on the board, which is paired to the daily time table.  For example, if block 5 is Math, I would have “I can make 3 equivalent fractions using an example”.  Students appreciate the fact that their daily schedule is visible, but also that there is a clear relationship between the learning outcomes and the subject.

 

It is important for me to express to my students, that I don’t know everything.  For example, we were working on a social project, writing a letter from the perspective of an immigrant who settled in Canada.  During the research portion, a student asked me if we lived in the “Boreal Forrest”.  I used this opportunity and expressed that I didn’t know.  I then proceeded to state that we would look up the answer together and learn from each other.  I express to my students that I want them to take risks, even if they don’t know something.

 

Speaking more from a formative standpoint, I use entrance and exit slips before or after a lesson.  For example, if we are studying decimals and fractions, I will put a problem on the board (ie: 0.64), and ask students to write the same number in fraction form.  I will then collect each slip, using it as a guide as to what concepts I need to spend more time on.  Students are highly engaged with this tool, as they want to demonstrate that they get the concept.

 

Providing peer feedback will be a major focus in LC6.  I do believe that peer feedback provides the opportunity for students to realize where they have done well and indicates what they could improve on.  In order to set students up for successful feedback, we will be spending a lot of time going over exemplars of feedback, as well as developing exemplars together.  When providing feedback myself, I make sure that I’m providing it in a timely manner.  For example, we are editing our immigrant letters in social.  During this time, I try to get through 7 or 8 students in one period, editing their papers with them.  Instant editing allows for students to visualize their mistakes, rewrite with the corrections and repeat.

 

It is important for my students to be involved in the process of assessment, which results in us building rubrics together.  During our Afghanistan inquiry project, the LC5 teacher’s developed an exemplary and beginner rubric, then asked the students to help develop approaching and proficient.  Using the basis of the exemplary and beginner, students were highly engaged and had a sense of pride, as they were involved and ultimately were going to be responsible for their own learning.  With this state of mind and success, I will be developing every rubric with my students.

 

Blogging has become an integral part of the LC5 team, as well as the Greystone team as a whole.  Students were able to design the format of their blogs, which allowed for a high level of engagement.  I find that during blogging periods, behaviour issues are at its minimum.  Blogging allows for my students to instantly demonstrate their work, whether it be with peers, family or themselves.  Students are building their technology skills, while enhancing their feedback skills as well.  I have students either pose a question to a classmate, which is related to the subject we are learning, or I have students comment on previous posts.  Again, we will be working as a team in LC6, developing strategies on how to provide successful feedback.  Blogging allows students to push past surface thinking into a deeper level of thinking.  For example, in order to navigate through the dashboard, which is the control area of a blog, students need to play and make mistakes, while learning from them.  As a class, we go through the steps of posting a blog, but students take their learning further, enhancing their posts, adding different types of media and so on.

 

One major area of teaching that I will forever strive to improve on, is providing a wide range of teaching strategies in my day-to-day teaching repertoire.  Although technology and group collaboration is great, I want to push the envelope and create an environment where deep level thinking is occurring most of the time.  I want my students to feel comfortable speaking out loud and in front of the class.  If a student is not comfortable speaking in front of the class, I will set them up to feel safe.  I will stand with them, have a friend stand with them, or help deliver their project with them.  I believe that these skills will be highly beneficial both inside of school and for years to come.  I wish that I had more practice and more projects that allowed for public speaking when I was in school.  I also have students reflect on their work, field trips, presentations and assemblies.  I’m a reflective person by nature, whether it’s making notes on a math lesson, stating what went well or what I could have changed, or reflecting on my day as I drive home.  My students take the time to reflect, but use their reflections moving forward.  I tell my students that we are continuous learners and there is always a way to improve something.    An example of reflection I use during an assignment is, students reflect on 2 things they feel they did really well, and 1 where they could have improved on.  One strategy that I want to try next year is “simulated interviews”.  I don’t have it quite figured out yet, but I want my students to have a dialogue with each other, sharing and reflecting on work, while providing successful feedback; which will ultimately lead to the best final product they can achieve.  This is my perfect world scenario.  

 

Derek Corse as a Lifelong Learner

During my first year of education, I never really thought what a lifelong learner was.  I thought that each teacher had their own specialty and that’s it.  My first practicum opened the doors to lifelong learning for me, and I was hooked.  During my time at Greystone, I have attended our school wide PD sessions.  I completed Non-Intervention Crisis Training”, I completed a PD session on decimals and fractions, as well as started reading “Visible learning for teachers”, by John Hattie.  I’m always open to reading a good book, especially when it applies to my career, and will ultimately help my students.  One quote by John Hattie that resonates with me is, “It is teachers seeing learning through the eyes of students, and students seeing teaching as the key to their ongoing learning.” One recent example, which touches on my personal life, is my spouse and I, who will be travelling to Greece this summer.  I have shared this news to my class, but more importantly, I have shared the process I’m going through, doing as much research and learning as I can; before I even leave Canada.  I explain to my students that through PD sessions, reading books, researching other countries, etc, there is no limit to learning and no learning too limitless.

Learning Along With Them

ASH_6141-10j3jc5

Ashley Solomon joined us at Greystone this year from a teaching position in London, England. I met her first, via Skype, as we interviewed her while she was still teaching overseas. I was excited to meet her for the first time as the video feed cut out when we were talking on-line, so I really didn’t know what to expect when I finally got to see her in person. She certainly didn’t disappoint when she brought her energy and commitment to teaching inside the walls of Greystone. Ashley will be looping up to grade 6 with her current Learning Community 5 students and we can’t wait to see the creativity and passion for learning continue to unfold with her students.

Professional Growth Plan Reflection – Ash Solomon

Greystone Centennial Middle School, 2013 – 2014

As I think back on the year that has passed, I cannot help but think back to the first day I heard that I would be coming to Greystone. I knew instantly it would be a great experience for me as I was informed by Carolyn via email that I would be joining the team. Not only was it an email, but it included a smiley face and even some elusive exclamation marks. I told some of my old colleagues in my last school and they could not believe that a) the principal would email me directly or b) that they would use such enthusiasm in a job offer. From that moment I knew I was in for something special.

Coming into a new school is a scary proposition; however, I was lucky to instantly be greeted by my team who was made up of a lot of new faces to the school as well. Working collaboratively happened at my last school, but it came from the teachers wanting it with little support from above. Working in a school where it is supported top down has made it feel so easy to challenge my practice and others’ opinions as well as feel ok to have mine challenged. Having the opportunity to present on this subject at the Calgary Innovation West conference really opened my eyes to how lucky we are and the benefits of collaborative teaching. Firstly, I feel so supported by my team. This has been a great feeling and I do not have to “do it all” because we all help each other to push our practice. Secondly, it has helped with my work life balance since we create assessments, rubrics, even report card comment banks together. These were things I used to stay up tirelessly doing myself. Lastly and most importantly, it has been a good example for my students. Because I feel so confident in sharing and collaborating I feel more confident than ever doing this with my class and guiding them through the process.

This brings me to my successes this year. I looked at the question “Do I have a warm and caring classroom climate in which errors are welcome?”. This has been the piece that has been vital to 5C this year. We are a family and it truly feels that way. I have been more vulnerable this year in my teaching and allowing myself to highlight the areas I need work in, such as writing, and together as a class we learned together. I have been beyond proud with the writing and work ethic that has come out of my class as a result. Showing my students that falling down is ok has been good, but being able to pick them up and teach them one of the most important skills, resiliency, has been the most rewarding.

Technology has played a huge role in our class this year and I have loved playing more with the idea of sharing our learning beyond the walls of the building and even the country. Last week I had 5 visits from Germany alone, which was pretty neat. Teaching students to be technologically literate I believe is so important for their future. My class will be my age in 2030 (which makes me feel rather old), but that seems such a foreign time to me and I feel it is my duty to prepare them for this tech savy world. We have worked extensively on google docs and our blogs which has been so rewarding since the ease of sharing our learning has exponentially expanded.

I say our learning a lot in my classroom because I believe that is what it should be, me learning along with them. This has been my biggest lesson of this year. Letting go of some control and allowing us to do it together instead of me having to cram to figure it all out the night before. Modelling my learning experience along with my class has made them feel safe to make mistakes and to not be “perfect” as they like to say.

Next year I want to push my practice even further in a few areas. I have been thinking long and hard about collaborative teaching, and even if I do not have a physical space for this, I would like to work more with my colleagues in front of the students so they can see the process we all go through in collaboration and give my students more perspectives on teaching. I also want to work at creating a more plush classroom with more plants (yes more) and a rug or two and hopefully more couches. The reason for this is simple, the golden rule; do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. It is easy to forget how crummy the classroom seats are from our cushy plush desk chairs (why is that?), but I have spent enough time at the students tables this year to understand their pain. Lastly I want to push even farther in my use of technology to share our learning  beyond the classroom and to have others learning from beyond the classroom to be shared  within.

I truly cannot wait to see what next year has in store and I am so thankful to have 5C (now 6C!!!) back again. I hope I have pushed their learning as much as they have pushed mine.

Letting Students Lead the Way

Evernote Snapshot 20140318 095743

April Zakresky joined our Greystone School Community this year after moving to Spruce Grove from Grande Prairie where she had been teaching for several years. April has been an amazing addition to Learning Community 5 AND to our entire School Team. April demonstrates a keen interest in continuous learning and is dedicated to sharing her experience and expertise, especially in the area of Assessment for Learning, with colleagues.

Teacher Professional Growth Plan Reflection 2013-2014

April Zakresky

As I reflect upon the past year, I have realized my passion for teaching and for learning.  I have had the opportunity to work with an amazing team, staff and administration that encouraged me to grow professionally and personally.

The team goal in our professional growth plan was to maintain continuous and effective communication amongst all members of our team.  I believe this goal was met because of the personal relationships that were developed inside and outside of school. Everyone on the team recognized that we all have our strengths and that we access these strengths in order to support one another to do our very best teaching and collaboration.  Even in instances when communication seemed to have fallen apart, there was always someone to reflect and realize that refocus was needed among the group.  This consistent level of communication made collaboration times meaningful and useful.  Collaboration time was something I truly valued.  I am truly blessed to be working with and learning from such an amazing group of teachers.

My professional goal this year was to improve my knowledge and use of technology in the classroom to benefit my students, their families, and myself.  Until this year, I had made little strides in expanding my knowledge in technology, by using smart boards and designing basic websites.  This year, I was able to further my knowledge and abilities with technology to improve communication with parents and community members, and to use as a tool to demonstrate evidence of student learning.  My biggest accomplishment in this area was starting a blog for myself and my students that will be able to follow them through their educational career.

Exploration, knowledge, and implementation of inquiry based learning have brought me to a new understanding of the capabilities and skills that my students are able to demonstrate.  I truly see the meaning behind deep questioning and how this can guide student learning.  I read a professional resource this year (Make Just One Change) that helped me to use a particular questioning format to develop open and closed thinking questions that helped to guide the inquiry of my students.  This was an area of Assessment for Learning that I had worked to improve upon for the last few years. Additionally, to support this process, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop based on design learning.  It was very meaningful for me that we included the whole staff on this knowledge base. It affirmed that this process will be successful if I release the conventional need to guide all questioning and allow my students to lead the way.  I feel I have made positive strides this year at improving this skill for myself and for my students.

It was such a pleasure this year to share my knowledge of Assessment for Learning with the staff.  I was  pleased to see that teachers on my team and the staff were excited to work with learning intentions, criteria, and feedback in their classrooms. Being a part of Design Team this year, has motivated me to want to continue to be actively involved in school progression and in the promotion of being a continuous learner through professional development.  I am thrilled to see the focus of feedback being made a top priority in student learning and I am eager to further enhance my skills in this component of Assessment for Learning.

In my seventh year of being a teacher, I can finally say that I felt fully confident in my abilities as a teacher. The evaluations I received this year allowed me to reflect and become more aware of my capabilities. I felt purposeful in my planning and thought about the skills that I wanted my students to learn.  I felt that my management skills were positive and effective for getting my students on task and for transitions between subjects.  I felt that I helped to foster an environment for my students and myself in which, the students were willing to take risks, support each other, and take ownership for their learning.

The 2013-2014 school year was a year full of learning, teamwork, friendships, and success.  I am so proud to be a part of Greystone and can’t wait to see what our future has in store.

Skip to toolbar