Reflections on Student Ownership of Learning & Wellness – Derek Heale, LC7 Teacher

Thank you for sharing your learning from the year, Derek!


Team Goal
Are we ensuring student success by creating clear and purposeful learning intentions and shared success criteria?

At the beginning of the year one of the first things myself and my team did was sit down together and make our schedule. Some of us were thinking about how many hours we needed to teach certain subjects and who was going to teach what subject and when. Others were stressing the importance of being flexible and allowing the learning to happen and being able to change something later in the year if needed. All very valid points to take into consideration when building a schedule. We talked with Carolyn and Jesse and they both shared their opinions however, neither told us what we had to do. Instead they encouraged us to think what would be best for the kids and the learning. I loved this bottom/up approach. I realized at this time that Greystone encourages their teachers to take risks, try new things and through trial and error we will truly be able to make the best judgments and understand what is best for the kids, learning and our learning communities.
I wanted to set a goal for myself at the beginning of the year to ensure student success by creating clear and purposeful learning intentions and shared success criteria. This was an area both myself and my team wanted to grown in. I have always allowed my students to have a say in their learning to a certain extent. This year I wanted the learners in my class to take more ownership and have a clear understanding of what they were learning and how they were going to be assessed. With advice from my team and other staff throughout the year, I received a lot of great methods and ideas of how to best achieve this. By modeling expectations students will be able to understand what learning is intended to happen. Checking in at the beginning of the class and underlying important learning topics brought up in our previous class was also a great way to establish the intentions of learning. I would sometimes just talk about what we learned the previous day and why it was important and how we can apply this information to everyday life and then move on to the next concept. I find this review time sparks the conversation and allows them to think back on conversations we had and information learned in a previous day – it ties it together nicely and it sets the intentions for learning.
Another area I wanted to tackle this year was co-created criteria. I have done this in previous years of teaching but not to the extent I was able to do at Greystone. Utilizing my team, learning coaches, administration, and PD sessions I really came to the understanding about how IMPORTANT this is. If students are involved in the process of building the learning intentions the quality of work will, and has proven to drastically increase. Giving the students the ownership for building rubrics, setting criteria and discussing what exemplary looks like when compared to beginning is a beautiful thing. Let them put it in their OWN language – make the learning intentions clear, visible and understanding. Continuing to do this throughout the year has truly paid off. Not only does it allow students to see why what we are learning is important it makes the entire learning process very clear. Students know what the end product should look like because they established it.
Another way which we ensured the learning intentions were always very clear was by establishing feedback loops regularly where they would have guiding questions to focus on. It was a bit of a struggles establishing what a feedback loop between peers should look like. We modeled this and had many discussions in regards to what this type of feedback should look like and sound like. Eventually the students improved in this area. I strongly believe that by continuing to have peer feedback loops students were able to find areas for growth for their peers and themselves. They came to eventually truly value the opinions of their peers. I also enjoyed the time that I could give immediate feedback while conferencing with students whether it was individually or as a group. It was during these times I was able to check in with the learners in our homeroom and ensure they have a true understanding of what is being learned.
During my time at Greystone I have come to the conclusion that making learning intentions clear and understandable for students is a very important concept. To continue to constantly review what is being learned and why it is important is crucial to the learning. It has been so nice to have this set as personal growth to work on because it kept me accountable to ensure my students were “in the know”. However, I still have growth to make in this area and will continue to research other ideas that I could use to ensure this goal is being met regularly. I would like to keep this concept in mind next year while attending PD sessions and as I plan for lessons. I was surprised by the amount of self-dependence that was built by establishing clear learning intentions and shared successful criteria. Whether it was creating criteria for specific assignments or carrying an academic conversation on with their peers it was very rewarding to see what my students are capable of on their own, when given the chance to learn independently. It was also great to see these skills learned in everyday conversations and situations outside of the classroom.

Personal Goal

How can I maintain a work life and personal life balance?

Being in the profession that I have chosen for myself I struggle with this question. It is a question I find myself pondering every year (some more than others). How can I make more time for Derek?

I would like to think that I made some progress in regards to this goal this year. I will say this year in Greystone has been a learning year for me. I learned so much while working at here. I took risks and tried a lot of new things. Sometimes this did not always allow much time for myself. Along the way I picked up some very beneficial learning strategies that I will apply throughout my years of teaching.
I spent a lot of time this year coaching and helping with other extracurricular, this too was very important to me especially being new to Greystone. I wanted to have opportunities to get to know kids outside of the classroom and I genuinely like sports and staying active. This too, took up a lot of time outside of school, but I would not have done it any other way. I had a great time coaching and getting to know kids and their families outside of the school. It was great to see them achieve success whether it was in volleyball, Rabbit Hill or at the Vancouver Sun Run.
I did make it a goal to ensure I was spending time with my family and friends often this year. This was a huge reason I moved home from Vancouver. I do think I could improve in this area. I made sure to sign up for races this year and attend different sporting events or schedule times I would go to the mountains. I am glad I made more of an effort to do this throughout the year.
I think this goal is something that a lot of teachers struggle with. I would not say I fully achieved this goal this year and I am sure I can find other strategies to make sure I am taking care of myself more next year. I need to remember that although teaching is much more than a career to me, I still need to take time for myself and do things that make me happy with people I care about. Time and life is too short not to.

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