For starters, we didn't remember to bring my phone when we went to the Toronto Reference Library on Saturday.
That meant that I had no camera to capture the architectural marvels of this Toronto gem, or to take a picture of the boys, looking all swag in their matching vests and baseball caps, playing on their urban jungle gym. (They really enjoyed the TRL, by the way, and wanted to stay much longer and explore!)
It also meant no picture of the incredible photo op of a fellow with a parrot in the subway! No kidding, the bright blue and yellow bird perched atop his right shoulder, relentlessly squawking "hello" to any and all who would listen!
And finally, it meant we missed the alarm I had set to remind myself to pick up some rice crackers on the way home. Darn.
Then, on Sunday, Alex and I didn't end up going to church because I was buried under a stack of marking that I had been too exhausted to plow into on Friday night, and which I didn't get through on Saturday…
Our failure to make the one hour Sunday morning trek by public transit to our place of worship turned out to be a good thing, because as it happened, Simon didn't make it to his rock-climbing class.
Having confidently announced that he was ready to travel on his own, Simon had set out with Tatsy earlier that morning to take two buses to his rock-climbing class. Tats got him on the first of two buses, then biked up to the next transfer, where she ensured that he made it safely onto the second bus, before riding back home for about an hour until it was time to go pick Simon up again.
Just as she was about to leave to pick him up about 45 minutes later, the door open, and in walked a rather frazzled-looking Simon!
The perplexing fact that Alex and I were at home (we should have been long gone to church by then) mingled with his relief at having made it home before Tats left to come pick him up, poured out in his tone as he unraveled the yarn that had led him back from his class early and alone...
Having drifted off into a daydream, Simon had suddenly been startled into thinking that he may have missed his stop. He had then quickly gotten off the bus and had started to walk back in the direction of home, only to realize that in fact we had not missed the stop after all.
At this point, he claimed, he was no longer quite sure where rock-climbing class was, or how long it might take him to walk there. He also knew that the Queensway bus was very slow on Sundays, and he was very certain of where home was, so… He simply started walking home!
On route, he began his contingency planning… His biggest concern was getting home before Tatsy left to pick him up from class. He imagined the horror of her showing up at rock-climbing, only to be told that no Simon had arrived for class! He also assumed that Alex and I would be gone to church by then, therefore he had already planned in his mind to email us from his iPad, knowing that I could take charge from there, making any necessary phone calls, for example to the rock climbing place.
Simon's one quandary, he said, was what to do if he arrived home and mommy's phone was at home, indicating that I had forgotten to bring it with me (as had happened yesterday during our adventure to the Toronto reference library! ) How, then, would he get in touch with us, to let me know that he was alright?
He imagined the possibility of a police phone call and a full-blown search, and how freaked out everyone would be… And so he had decided that in such an instance, he would email dad once he got home, and if there was no response from his father, he would either walk or take the streetcar over there!
Needless to say, we were very impressed with his problem-solving, and congratulated Simon on ability to keep a cool head under pressure, while we snuggled with and comforted him.
After a short break and a hearty lunch, we decided to break with the "things we didn't do this weekend" theme, packed our bathing suits, and headed off to the new Regent Park aquatic complex. I'm afraid, though, that I do need to add one more thing to the list of what I didn't do this weekend, and that is finish all the marking I had planned to!
Some time ago I blogged about the integration of technology into today's classroom.
Access to technology is somewhat mixed at my school, with certain pockets of students having one or more personal, wifi-equipped devices, and still many others not having their own device to bring to school. (It's a situation I've attempted to rectify by procuring some funding for two "new" devices for student use in my classroom this year.)
In any case, I have tried to forge ahead, and use technology in new ways as an instructional tool, and especially to allow students to capture their mathematical thinking and use technology as an organizational device.
In addition to trying to orchestrate a few opportunities myself, I've also allowed any students who have their own devices to track progress and record their work during Math Centers time on their device.
For those who have taken me up on this, the results have been exciting to observe: For example, a student in one of my Grade 7 classes used her device to record all her centers work during our current Fractions unit.
When working with manipulatives, she takes photos. When she draws a diagram, she captures the screen shot and inserts it into a note.
All her notes are organized in a file folder called "Fractions Math Centers", the cover page of which provides an interview and contents page of sorts to all the work she's completed to date.
I am hopeful that in the future, more students even in higher socio-economically needy areas will have regular access to functional technology in order to more effectively record their work. The added benefits of photos, along with the possibility of audio notes, can really inspire some students to stay focused on their work as they are able to so readily see their progress, and can provide a concrete example for parents and teachers. Digitally recorded material -- if well organized -- tends to be less likely to get lost, too, so I would relish not having to chase around after various students at the end of each class as they depart my classroom, leaving a trail of paper quizzes, math notebooks and assorted loose papers behind them!
My ideal scenario would see a 1:1 student:device ratio. If students were able to create digital notebooks in this way, I would incorporate my learning skills self assessment and growth mindset reflection right into the device in some sort of online format.
One day... ONE DAY!
Is the Lego toy company racist? It would appear so, if the research conducted by two of my Grade 7 students has any merit.
For the culminating task in my recently completed Data Management unit, two students elected to survey 35 Lego sets from a variety of themes. Their results were shocking: Even if you removed the ubiquitous "yellow" skin tone data from the set, the peach faces on Lego people surveyed still outweighed the brown-toned faces by a scale of 10:1!!!
This is exactly the sort of rich thinking I was hoping for from this assignment. Although not every student took up the "go a step further" style challenge, this group sure did.
I told them they should use their data to write a letter to the company! :)
I had a parent attack me recently for placing too much emphasis on communication in the math classroom. "It's Math, not Language!" they argued, upset that their child was perceived by me to have been performing at a Level 3 on a recent quiz despite "getting all the answers right".
The parent pointed out that in the working world, employers would far prefer to hire someone who knows the math and can think over someone who communicates well, but doesn't really understand the math. (The research would suggest otherwise, but I could see I wasn't going to convert this parent, so I suggested that maybe it depended on the job, and that perhaps we'd just have to agree to disagree on that point, and then wisely held my tongue on the subject.)
They went on to challenge my assessment methods (I use triangulation of data based on observations, conversations and products), claiming that there were "no conversations in Grade 11 and 12".
Since I teach at the elementary level, that is the curriculum document I am familiar with. But my curiosity was peaked, so I decided to take a look at the secondary math curriculum.
I was not disappointed!
There, in the front matter of the Gade 11 and 12 document, was a whole section on the Mathematical Processes:
The front matter goes on , in the assessment section, to indicate that assessment must be varied in nature, and use a "variety of assessment tools" (page 23); a list of five possible inclusions is given; "test" is one of the items; it is last on said list.
Most fascinating to me was the section on evaluation, which states that while 70% of the final mark must be based on work gathered through the term,
Nowhere does it say that a paper and pencil task or "final test" is the only way of (or indeed the preferred method for) determining culminating understanding of a unit of math concepts.
Intrigued, I turned to the actual course expectations. Two of the three expectations listed in the first column of the first page of Grade 11 Functions began with "explain" (as did several more throughout the list. "Using a variety of strategies" was also liberally applied. (pages 45, 46)
Satisfied, I closed the high school curriculum document, and returned to the world of Grade 7 & 8 where I will continue to encourage and support my diverse range of students in communicating their mathematical thinking by teaching and assessing in a wide variety of ways.
While I am sad about not having a happier ending to the conversation with the afore-mentioned parent, I am relieved to confirm that what I am doing is not only prescribed by the elementary curriculum documents I am required to follow, but that the high school curriculum -- whether all secondary school teachers follow it or not -- in fact closely mirrors the pedagogy I am practising here in Grade 7 & 8.
Having been away from my classroom several days in recent weeks to attend to other educational opportunities I am invited to participate in and/or lead, I got to wondering what fraction of the time I'd been in my room lately vs. how often my go-to OT had been there.
This was a particularly relevant question to me because we are currently working on fractions, ratios, decimals and percents in math.
On the way home from Wallaceburg (near Chatham) the other day, I decided to construct a few fractions challenges relevant to the topic at hand. With the Math Timetable and "Ms. Teschow on the Road" sets of problems below, we were able to investigate and practise four of the seven criteria from our current math unit, and to do so on a current, relevant and real-life topic!
Inspired, I continued to develop a few more real-life fractions and percents problems, this time around the dilemma of my kids' summer camp program in Charlottetown, PEI, which offers a series of discounts depending on when you sign up and how how many kids you have. Next week, my Grade Seven students will practise three of our current success criteria as they explore the real life implications of percentage-based vs. fixed amount discounts.
I particularly enjoy doing this sort of math learning activity with my English Language Learners because it allows us to build schema and develop a host of language skills: My plan is to begin by showing them some photos of Prince Edward Island on the map of Canada, and of Charlottetown in particular, with the confederation ctr. If time permits, we'll make links to some of the historical buildings in their hometowns before we get down to the math of the matter!
Those who followed my flight blog for the three years it tool me to earn my pilot license know that I spend my summers on PEI, and that often my Saturday mornings out there are spent at a greasy spoon near YYG, where the local pilots meet for breakfast (and sometimes flying!!!) each week.
This past Sunday after church, Tats, Alex and I went to the Gay Pilots' Association brunch here in Toronto. It was a leetel different from the PEI event we are used to, hehe...
For starters, we were not the only women there!!! Secondly, we were not the only openly GAY people there!!! Thirdly, Tats was not the only commercial pilot there!!!
And there was live jazz music! And the food was edible!
My only complaint was that -- unlike many a Saturday on PEI -- we didn't get to go flying afterwards.
Alex had an excellent time, and asked afterwards, "Mommy, they're fun! When are we going to another Gay Pilot Breakfast?" No worries, kid, Dean's already got you signed up to work the booth at Pride this year, lol!
After taking in the magnificent sights and sounds from the third row of the Roy Thompson Hall, where we had gone to hear TorQ play with the TSO yesterday afternoon (including a rendition of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, complete with four strategically-placed bass drums!!), we stopped in for dinner and drinks at C'est What.
While we perused the menu, the boys became mesmerized with a game of 9-ball that was unfolding at one of the nearby billiard tables.
The players turned out to be a long-distance couple (she from Winnipeg, he from Halifax) who periodically met in Toronto to keep the flame alive. Eager to share their passion for pool, they took Simon and Alex under their wings, and taught them a few moves...
Noted Simon later that evening as we were getting ready to read the bed-time story, "Mom, playing pool is harder than it looks!"
I spent today at the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) building in downtown Toronto.
No, I was not getting written up in the blue pages!! I had been invited there to contribute to and hear ideas about an AQ course they are developing, on creating safe spaces for and teaching LGBTQ students. (It's the first Additional Qualifications course of its kind in the whole world, apparently!)
Tempted as I am to go off on a rampage about how I feel/felt about the OCT, and how that prejudice of mine was seriously challenged by today's extremely positive experience, or to write a long commentary about how incredible it felt to walk into a room filled with my professional colleagues where -- for once -- I was not in the minority, I will resist those temptations, and instead focus this blog post on perhaps the most life/career-altering part of the day for me: The introduction to "Open Space" facilitation format.
The idea behind Open Space Technology is simple: The space is open for a broad range of voices to be heard and captured. The participants become the technology.
This "unfacilitation" is profound in its effectiveness; although clearly a lot of preparation is put into the day, there is no agenda, and few guiding principles, other than the idea that we are to engage in three conversations if we want to, two before lunch, and one afterwards, and that there will be some closing circle activities at the end of the day.
Some folks were uncomfortable that we were not starting with introductions so that we'd know who was in the room, but the "facilitators" encouraged us to trust the format, as they didn't want roles and titles --which had purposely been left off of our name tags -- to drive our preconceptions of who people were and what they brought to the "table" (I put that word in brackets because in fact there weren't any. Tables, I mean. People sat at first in a large circle, and then moved to various spaces in the room and throughout the two floors of the building we were in.)
Basically, the day unfolded like this: We were given a theme about which to think and develop inquiry questions or subtopics which we wanted to explore further. Anyone with a particular theme in mind was invited to write the title of their topic on a large sheet of paper, and take a sticky note off the rooms assignment board, and stick it on their sign, and long with their name. The topic signs were then posted in a large "market place", so that other participants could see what different sessions, or conversations, were on offer, and choose to join one if they so wished.
Almost immediately, people started to collaborate: As they noticed similar themes being posted, they approached other "group leaders" to see about combining conversation groups. We also worked together to ensure that there was a rich variety of sessions spread out amongst the three time slots so that everyone would get to go to a topic of importance to them.
And then we were off!
I went to a session for a bit, and then left to "buzz in" to another session that had caught my eye earlier. Then I went off to facilitate a topic I had posted; we started with only two in the group, and then by then end of the 45 minutes, we had over 10. After lunch, I facilitated another topic. Ideas were captured by a scribe on chart paper which had been left around the rooms, and voice recorders were also available (apparently the OCT will transcribe as much as they can.)
The day ended with everyone coming back together into a large circle, and then we all introduced ourselves and our current roles, which somehow no longer seemed important, after we had had the chance to engage with so many different voices on an individual level!
When you've been teaching and facilitating workshops as long as I have, it becomes a rare day indeed when you stumble across a truly transformative format.
Don't get me wrong; While learning about various teaching strategies and topics in the workshops I attend, I often pick up new facilitation tips and tricks which I sometimes adopt and add to my own facilitation repertoire as a presenter. But it's frequently a case of a new twist on an old theme. Open Space Technology is a whole new theme!!!
I can't wait to try it out with a group of teachers this summer, and hopefully with a group of students, if I can find a willing co-host at my school. :-D
Undeterred by the frigid temperatures and high winds, our little group met for our annual picnic and Easter egg hunt by the lake. After Vinx serenaded us with his guitar, we ate lunch.
Then it was time to hide the chocolate and explain the rules of the game, following which kids young and old headed off for the egg hunt.
There was definitely some cheating going on as at least one hider was also hunting, and a parent was grabbing competitors so that his daughter could get more loot...
... but fun was had by all, and in the end, we did the Socialist move, and pooled all our candy to share with the group. (Well, almost all... except for some "adult chocolate" that I held back for those with more refined palettes, hehe.)
In addition to singing, eating, drinking mate, tea and coffee, and gorging oneself on chocolate, other activities included bird watching, rock climbing, geocaching and bag rolling: rolling around in the grass and goose poop and who knows what else all in sleeping bags (a quick trip to the laundromat on the way home ensured that none of the "nature" we had picked up along the way made it back into the apartment!!!)
Here's to another fabulous Easter picnic by the lake. And, as we say every year, let's hope next year's is warmer!
After writing for several teacher and multiple birth publications, including ETFO's Voice Magazine, Multiple Moments, and the Bulletwin, Vera turned her written attention to prolific blogging for some years, including BiB, "Learn to Fly with Vera!" and SMARTbansho . Homeschooling 4 was her travel blog in Argentina. She now spends more time on her Instagram (@schalgzeug_usw) than her blog (pictures are worth a thousand words?!) Contact Vera by clicking the photo above.
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