No doubt parents wonder what it is that teachers do on "PD" ("Professional Development") days when the children are not at school. In general, the content of days when students are not at school is dictated by
Ever done something super dumb, and totally obvious?!
Due to low ceilings and poor weather at at least two of our three intended airports yesterday, my girlfriend and I cancelled our planned dual cross-country flight, and went to get our upper ears pierced instead, you know, one of those funky cartilage piercings, on the helix? It was the perfect piercing for a hip, newly-30 gal and an older girlfriend going through mid-life crisis, ha!
We researched to make sure there were no major risks associated with such a piercing, and also that it would be okay to fly within 24 hours (we hoped to reschedule our our cross country the next day, weather permitting), i.e, that changes in pressure and altitude were okay. Allegedly, they were. So we found a reputable piercer in town, and went ahead and did a crazy little thing and got twin helix piercings!
We’re so cool!
It’s all good!
…. And then, and then. Reality. Hit. As we were soaking our respective ears in the recommended saline solution last night after doing our flight plan prep before bedtime, I wondered out loud, “what about our headsets”?
Ahhhh…. Such a simple question. So. Easily. Overlooked.
Despite the “piercing after-care” sheet’s suggestion to reduce or eliminate all stress in order to speed up the healing process, we spent the next 3 hours stressing out about a) how stupid we were not to have thought about such an obvious impediment/complication, and b) how we were going to deal with the repercussions – there was no way we could wear a thick, heavy, aviation headset pressing up against our newly-pierced ear cartilage; both the immediate physical pain and the subsequent possibility for infection would be mammoth!
Disappointed as I was the next morning to find that upper winds in the area of intended flight would cause us to once again post-pone our cross-country trip, I must confess I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to deal with the painful consequences of my stupid, ill-though-out choice just yet, lol!
I spent the day working from home (from a local coffee shop, mostly, actually), reading, researching and updating our Bansho blog as part of a TLLP project my colleague and I are involved in. I was amazed at how little I actually "got done" in that I did lots of thinking, but relatively little reading and writing.
I am reminded of my Grade 3 student, who announced to the class the other day after we had spent a quantity of time on independent writing at the end of which she only had two words written down,
"I was thinking!"
My own son, Simon, often engages in "thinking", being on his own, quietly, engaging in his thoughts. And a math professor friend of ours notes that a concept can take months or even years to solidify in ones mind before anything is ready to be shared in written form.
In the early stages of this research project, my colleague and I laughed with glee at the vast number of release days had been approved in our proposal, and now my laughter has turned ironic as I realise that "we'll never use all those days" is turning into "it's not nearly enough"!!!
It is "Adopt A School" time again at Indigo. Adopt A School runs from September 16th to October 6th this year. This year we have adopted Dixie Public School and I am hoping that you could help us out raising books for Dixie Public School. Below are two links you can use to "adopt" Dixie Public School. For every 50 adopters, Indigo will donate a book to Dixie Public School.
There is no cost to adopting the school, but you will be asked to enter your email address.
Or copy and paste this link below into your brower: http://adoptaschool.indigo.ca/eng/schools/187
As well as simply "adopting", you can purchase gift cards for Chapters, Coles or Indigo on the site, and for every $25.00 gift card purchased, indigo will donate 1 book to Dixie Public School.
If you decide to check out the website to "adopt" us, you need to click on where it asks if you want to donate a book. It then gives you three options. The icon on the far right is the free "adopt" the school section and you can sign up there.
Please feel free to pass the request along to everyone you know who loves kids and loves to read!
"I have so much to tell you", began one enthusiastic Learning Journal letter in my Grade 3 class this week; "I think we need to do more art", concluded another! A third wrote about a "poshint" she was brewing up at home (inspired, no doubt, by our "George's Marvelous Medicine" read-aloud this week).
The excitement of writing their uncensored thoughts, reflecting on their learning, asking questions, and anticipating a response became clear as a surprising hush fell over the students on Thursday afternoon, and they wrote vigorously for nearly 35 minutes without interruption. (I had hoped for may 12 minutes at best before intervention was required; it was a pleasant surprise indeed to see them so focused and self-motivated! Who would have thought?!)
Truly, there is nothing more insightful for a teacher than a letter written by her students.
What you intended to teach this week vs. what actually stood out for the kids becomes abundantly clear! So does the priority for each student, vs your own priorities as a teacher! Behold the example transcribed below:
We mentioned monotremes in passing, as one child brought a stuff platypus to school, and I wondered allowed if anyone new what the other monotreme was (an echidna, btw!) I once alluded to learning to fly an airplane, in passing, as part of a "choosing good-fit books" literacy lesson. And EQAO was not discussed at all! And yet, and yet... :-D
I think I will continue to engage in this exercise each week-to-10 days. In addition to providing an excellent opportunity for sustained reflection, thinking and writing, it also affords me an inimitable opportunity to peer inside the minds of my 20 learners, and structure the next week's lessons accordingly. Not to mention, most of the letters are just so darned funny and cute!
How does one get to reading when life is so full?
This summer, I was determined to read several professional books, and at least one "fun" book, as well as skim and scan a variety of resources. A major challenge was the necessity to read and review a considerable amount of resources for aviation, as I was trying to write the ground exam for my PPL. And yet, somehow, I managed to squeeze in most of what I wanted to do, thanks largely to the help of a creative friend, who decided to read aloud to me.
The first book I read was "The Elephant Keeper", a work of historical fiction set in England in the 1700s. I had picked it up the year before at the airport, and just never got around to reading it! Decent writing and a riveting -- for me at least -- plot kept me glued to this book for several nights out in PEI in July.
I was also keen to read the next installment of the Daily Five empire, "The Literacy Cafe", which I had heard much about, but again, had not had the time to attack properly. I finally started the introduction in August, and was hooked! Tatiana read me a chapter a day enroute home from PEI, and upon arriving in Toronto, I had a good sense of how it all works. (Future Literacy blog post coming soon!!!)
The third book was recommended and lent to me by my colleague, Dale Trinder. It was a hardcover by cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham, "Why Don't Students Like School". I was a little skeptical at first, as I often am of books about teaching written by non-teachers. (Sorry, professing at the university level is considerably different than teaching at the elementary level -- and I feel confident saying that, given that I myself have experience in both realms!)
This book was an excellent reminder of why I am so intrigued with how the brain works. It is critical for teachers to understand as much as they can about this organ. And, as Willingham points out, not to make generalizations. As my girlfriend read aloud to me in the car while my kids slept in the back seat, I had fond memories of poring over Jensen, Caine and Caine, and Carla Hannaford as a newer teacher. Willingham re-defined some of the principles I have organized my teaching around, causing me to reexamine some previously held beliefs, but he also reaffirmed for me the importance of contextual knowledge. Not every "truth" is self-evident when you teach at a school like the one where I currently hang my hat!
It was good to read a book which my colleague had also read, as it is allowing us to use a common schema as we make instructional decisions this year.
As my Grade Threes pointed out this week to me while we were setting up "Read to Self" in class, reading is FUN, it helps you to LEARN NEW THINGS, and it MAKES YOU A BETTER READER! Read every day, I tell you! Or at least, every summer! Even if it's only three small books.
Oh nebulous demand of administrators across Ontario! How, pray tell, do I turn my "long range plans" into a "curriculum map"? What is such a beast, this elusive curriculum map?!
The simplest way I can think to describe a curriculum map, is as a road map of sorts, which pulls together various themes and foci from all the different parts of the curriculum at the grade level one teaches, and which includes various other resources (for example, as in our case, SJBWM) mandated by one's board or administrator.
Rather than just a linear path indicating what you are doing and when, such as the one traditionally marked by the more common "Long Range Plans" of former times, the curriculum map is dynamic, bringing together a variety of themes under one or a few common umbrellas or "big ideas" that drive each term, or even a full year. The map defines boundaries and includes major landmarks, but leaves enough open space for the emergence of teachable moments and the development of smaller, "side roads" which invariably surface, depending on the specific group of learners in your classroom in a given year.
The latest incarnation of our own curriculum map is shown below as a word doc. Intended to be printed on two sheets of ledger sized paper, it is posted behind my desk, readily available for consultation as my colleague and I plan the specifics of each lesson or cluster of lessons.
Equally important are two documents we have been working on: A collection of Rich Mentor Texts, picture books from our own experience of what works with the themes outlined on our map, and recommended by the SJBWM resource. To this list we will add chapterbooks we read aloud (Sarah Plain and Tall, for example, and/or pretty much anything by Roald Dahl) and also assorted newspaper articles, heritage minutes, and other media resources. The second document is a compilation of math problems harvested from various sources, including the curriculum, Marion Small, and an assortment of other resources. This compilation is arranged by strand, in the order in which we plan to teach math this year, according to our curriculum map. It includes mainly open questions and parallel tasks, though some "warm up questions" are also included.
Please see also this page on my website.
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.
The views expressed on this blog are the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the perspectives of her family members or the position of her employer on the the issues she blogs about. These posts are intended to share resources, document family life, and encourage critical thought on a variety of subjects. They are not intended to cause harm to any individual or member of any group. By reading this blog and viewing this site, you agree to not hold Vera liable for any harm done by views expressed in this blog.