An Open Door

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Have you ever thought about what makes your class or school special? Ever wondered what makes the difference that makes the difference? These have been questions that I continue to look for and reflect on all of the time.

Today something sparked my thoughts even more. I was in a meeting today, with a bunch of staff, talking with our Superintendent about our wonderful school, when one of my colleagues made an interesting statement.

When I first came here I took a back seat to reflect on what makes this school special. Part of what I noticed was that everyone’s door was open….

She went on to further describe that having an open door showed her how open and comfortable we were with one another. I can go to anyone for help no matter what.

Now, I am slightly paraphrasing here but you get the understanding of this message. Even as I write this I am still struggling to find words to talk about my thoughts but I thought I would share some of these thoughts with you. You see, she hasn’t been the first person to mention that there is something special about Ray Lawson.   I have also noticed that things are different here but couldn’t figure out why. When my colleague made this statement it was a big aha for me. It never dawned on me how something as simple as an open door could help others see you were warm and there to help, it was something I just did.

 

As teachers, we want to create a culture where students are competent, curious, and capable. We also want to create a culture of love and understanding. But for that to happen it starts with us. The comment my colleague said, made me think about how I present myself to my colleagues and to my students/ parents. Do they see that what I am saying is put into practice? or do they see something different?

I never would have thought that something as small as an open door would make such a difference but it does. Here at Ray Lawson, we walk into each other’s classrooms all the time. No one ever bats an eyelash. We talk about best practices, we talk about students and we question our teaching, ALL THE TIME. Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 6.48.57 PM

In Peel, this is one of our beliefs but how do we put this into practice? What do you do in your classroom that allows students, parents and other teachers to see you as open, flexible and responsive to their needs?  Love to hear your thoughts.

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My Guest Post on Starr Sackstien’s Blog: A Grading Journey of Epic Proportions (Part 1)

Here is part one of my guest post on Starr Sackstein blog post. It is a post about my journey ongoing gradeless. Part one deals more with my beginnings and initial thoughts and part 2 will deal with my classroom and student samples. Hope you enjoy!

 

Jonathan So shares his experiences of going ‘gradeless’ and offers some insights into his process. Read on to see how he reflected and adjusted his learning to better help students reflect and grow as learners.

Source: Guest Post: A Grading Journey of Epic Proportions (Part 1)

Building Relationships

Building relationships are the single most important thing that we can do as educators!

This past weekend I spent my Sunday at the Edtechteam GAFE summit in London. At the summit, the closing keynote’s (Karen Goepen-Wee) message really stuck with me. You can watch it here.

Her whole message was about making our students Super Nova’s.

It’s funny when I first started teaching I am not too sure you would have heard me say this. When I first started teaching I probably would have said it is all about me as the teacher and not the students. To be honest I am glad that I am not that teacher anymore.

For the past two years, I have really been pondering the thought of what is education? What do I value as a teacher? What do I want my kids’ teachers to be?

This year I have been really affected by my daughter’s journey through school. It hasn’t been easy. She is only in Kindergarten and already she doesn’t really like school. Please tell me that you see something wrong with that? Reflecting on this has made me think about what is education? What is my job as a teacher? Now I know it is to teach but is that really the goal? Should this be my number one directive? Even if it is, what will help my students more?

I know that I just ran off a bunch of questions but this has been my thought process throughout the year. Now let’s add in what Karen said. What do we remember about the best teachers that we have ever had? Is it that they taught us to multiply? That they taught us how to read? No, it was that they took the time to make us human, to get to know who we were as kids. Throughout my school career, I can remember five teachers who had an impact on me. What do they have in common? They ignited a passion for me. They took the time to say that I was special, that I mattered, that I could do something. On a side not I also remember three educators for what they did to me that dramatized my confidence.

So what does this tell me? Kids remember the teacher that made them feel special, that made them feel that they could do anything in the world. This year it has been about igniting the passion in my students. To make them realize that they are in charge of their destiny (if you want to call it that).

I know that it is hard to be in absolutes all the time but I really think this is one of them. I have seen huge growth in my daughter because of the amazing teachers she has had this year. Those teachers are teaching her things but more importantly they are building a relationship with her so that she can learn things. If you don’t have that relationship she shuts right down. She won’t talk to you, she won’t participate and she won’t even smile. More behaviour comes out and a lot more distractions do too. She is only 6. I know with my classroom, I can easily defuse a problem because of those relationships. Students want to talk because they feel honoured and they feel safe. Without this environment, there is no learning and we know that without learning there is no teacher.

So I know that our year is almost done. I know that a lot of us feel stressed and run down but I want to challenge you to think about these relationships.  I’ll end with a couple of quotes from Jesse Lubinsky the morning keynote.

Is this what we want for our students? (Watch this video) Love to hear what you do to help build your relationships.

 

When little to no students are in your room

So recently due to a sporting event and low numbers I had a class of 10 kids. Traditionally I would normally just gone on with my lessons and let the others catch up later. However, lately I have been exploring what is a classroom.

Traditionally, the model for classroom has been rows of desks and children sitting in them. It is an industrial model that makes us the teacher in charge of imparting knowledge. However, our classrooms haven’t really changed much. I know we have moved to more student centered with grouped desks but the model we still follow has been to impart knowledge.

This has bothered me a lot because I think in todays world knowledge is being thrown at our kids so fast. I am also finding that many of my students seem to just be coming to school and really not thinking about the learning. This has really bothered me as I think it should all of us.

So having a very small class allowed me to do some more exploring. I decided to make my day a choose your own adventure model of learning. We have had a couple of projects on the go as well as some cool maker space things that we have in our classroom. I left the day up to the students and I decided to walk around and observe/ help with their learning. It was probably one of the best things that I have ever done. The kids didn’t even want to stop the learning, the bells went and they were still building robots, practising speeches and playing with circuit boards. I also saw learning for the sake of learning.

This got me thinking, why isn’t all class like this?

I know that we are hampered with the curriculum but are we?  
Is it possible to let all kids explore what they want and for us to assist with the learning? 
Is there benefit to have all kids learning the same thing at the same time? or should students do what they feel like? 

At this present time I have more questions then I have answers and I would love to here your comments and thoughts. I believe education needs to start changing and needs to look different then what we traditionally see it. How should it change?