Wrapping Up The Year

The end of the year is the perfect time to reflect and I’m certain that within our profession, I am not the only one who feels this way. Today being the last day of school, my mind is working overtime as I continue to unpack the year that has past and looking forward to the opportunity to rest and recharge over the summer.  For the last month, I’ve spent time in deep reflection, and starting tomorrow, I’m going to be focused on taking care of myself and making sure that I’m up for the challenge in September. In terms of reflection, I like to think back on the year and consider: what worked; what didn’t; how I’ve grown; what I’ve learned; and what I might like to change for the following year.  As I say goodbye to my current school, I’m looking forward to an incredible new opportunity at my next school. In this post, I’m sharing some of my thoughts going into the summer and looking forward.

Students, Students, Students

It’s what teaching is all about! How we support students; how we facilitate student learning; and how we learn with and from students. When students – and their families – are at the center of the work that I do, I feel a sense of purpose and reward. Over the last few years, let’s face it, it’s been challenging. This year, when the distractions came, I tried to focus on what was most important and what I could do. If there was something that I couldn’t do, I didn’t, without guilt. I worked as hard as I could for students and I’m content with what I was able to do. Also, I asked a lot of questions – why is this important? Who does this benefit? If it wasn’t of benefit to students, I kindly declined. It’s easy to get distracted by the myriad of things popping up on our plates. I’m grateful that this year forced me to focus on students and their learning and I plan on continuing come September.

Take Time to Recharge 

We all know that we can’t be good for others if we aren’t good ourselves.  As teachers, many of us are problem solvers and we jump in and are there to support and care for others.  This summer, please take time for yourself. This past year, I learned the value of saying no to “opportunities” and really taking the time to take care of myself. This summer will be the first in years that I will be completely focused on taking care of myself and recharging to make sure that I’m ready for a healthy September. What will you do? How will you take care of yourself this summer? What does recharging look like for you?

Hear or See Something? Disrupt Publically!

I’ve written extensively about my experiences as a Black student and teacher. Things that I saw, heard, and experienced are sadly, things that I see, hear, and experience in the present day, although there are decades in between. Many of us know the lingo to add to our bios or to say in interviews – diversity, inclusion, equity, disrupting, dismantling, etc. – and yet, I wonder how many of us know what they actually mean within the school setting. When you see something, how are you disrupting? This includes experiences between students but also between teachers and students and between teachers. Notice who enters or doesn’t enter certain spaces within the school building. Why is that? What does it say about school culture? How do we build better community within our schools? I can’t tell you the number of times that people have come up to me in private after something public has happened and apologized for the actions of another. It’s time to publicly disrupt or nothing will change for those most marginalized – students and teachers alike. 

The past few years have been challenging. This summer, please take time to rest and recharge. The year ahead will be another filled with challenges. Let’s do what we need in order to make sure that come September, students can be at the center of what we do. Also, once September arrives, when you hear or see something, please disrupt. Congratulations on completing another year in education. Wishing you a safe and restful summer & a great start to the new school year.

Reflecting on Identity Boxes

In my schedule this year, I had a number of periods where I was able to partner with teachers around the meaningful use of technology. During one of these Assistive Technology periods, one teacher brought up the idea of supporting students on creating Identity Boxes, loosely based on the idea of Joseph Cornell’s Box. The idea was to work with students intentionally on understanding the many facets of our identities and how they intersect, and from there, to create a digital version – similar to James Cornell’s – where students could share their learning about themselves, with one another and their families. 

This past month, I had the opportunity to work with students to start the process of bringing their boxes to life and it’s been a great experience to work with them on using technology as a form of communication. From learning to link Slides and the meaning of symbolism to inserting images and formatting text, it’s been an interesting journey with students as they take their content and try to make it visually appealing for their audience. For me, this experience has reinforced three things: understanding identity is important; use of tech should be taught; and children love sharing about who they are when they know you will listen. In this post, I share about these three things.

Understanding Identity Is Important

Everyone is navigating and figuring out who they are in an ever changing world. Children are no different. At a very young age, they are identifying and learning about the different “parts” that make up who they are. While some are obvious, there are also parts that may be hidden or are yet to be uncovered. I think it’s important to discuss aspects of identity with children from an early age. Through open conversations, experiencing supportive relationships and seeing other people with similar identities being valued, children are able to develop a positive sense of self. 

In years past, I’ve worked on different activities to help students understand the various facets to identity. Depending on the age and the group of students, this work can look very different. The way we might discuss identity with a kindergarten student would differ greatly from a grade 7 or 8 student. Not only that, it would also depend on the work that has been previously done within the classroom to build a community where these important conversations can be had, without causing further harm, particularly to students who are already marginalized.

It’s important for teachers themselves to understand identity and how their own identities impact the way in which they teach and interact with students. As such, I always suggest that teachers take the time to do some of their own learning first. judy mckeown has provided teachers with an excellent resource – Pause and Ponder Social Identity Self-Assessment – that teachers may wish to use for themselves. The questions are rich and call for much reflection on how we navigate the world inside and out of our profession. I don’t think that there is one specific way to teach or do identity work with children – there are a variety of approaches that could be effective – but at minimum, I think it’s important for us to start by understanding what it is and how it influences how we navigate the world. 

Use of Tech Should Be Taught

Children are incredible with tech! I remember when my nephew was 2 and the joy he had on his face when he was able to use his iPad to pull up “Baby Shark” on YouTube. I didn’t think it could happen with him not being able to spell the words baby and shark as of yet, but if you can sing or say, “Baby Shark”, an iPad can find it with ease. 

Armed with this knowledge, I think that many believe that if we just give children a device, they’ll figure it out. Most times they do, but I’ve noticed that in order for tech to be used meaningfully, there needs to be some support with the learning. I mentioned in a previous post that I had the opportunity to partner with another teacher this year around supporting students in developing their proficiency with Google Slides. It was a really great experience because students were able to learn some of the basics that supported their use of tech and allowed them to communicate more effectively. These are skills that not only help for a particular assignment but that can be transferred across multiple subject areas and are skills that can be used beyond the classroom. 

Over the years, I’ve seen many strange and interesting things. Centering a title or the line spaces on text are important skills that students need to be able to understand how to do easily.  I’ve seen some who are excited to hit the space bar until the cursor lands somewhere in the middle of the screen. I’ve also seen students hitting the enter button to be able to double space their text, only to realize that if they change the font, the spacing is all off. These might seem like little things, but they’re also easy to teach kids in mini lessons. 

For the project on Identity Boxes, I helped students: link slides; share their slides in preview mode; and in the creation of collages of their images. Simple things that I don’t think we should take for granted that students will somehow be able to know how to do. Going forward, I really want to be intentional about creating mini lessons for students that support them in being more proficient in effectively using the G Suite for Education Tools. 

Children Love Sharing About Who They Are When They Know You Will Listen

Sitting with some of these students, it was apparent that they were eager to share parts of themselves with me. As I sat, I heard stories of their countries of origin – what they missed and what they brought with them – and also heard students share about the languages they speak and love. Although these are students that I also teach French for one period a day, having them share their Identity Boxes was almost like getting to know them on an even deeper level and it was an opportunity to see them in a different light. I felt honoured that they would share parts of themselves with me, so freely and with such joy. This experience has me thinking about the need to further offer students the opportunity to bring their whole selves to school every day and not just on days where they present parts of who they are. 

Reflection has been an important part of my growth over the years. This post allowed me the opportunity to reflect on one assignment, however, I will be taking more time for reflection and really thinking about what I will carry into next year and what I might just leave behind.

World Oceans Day

Did you know that World Oceans Day is June 8th? Neither did I! That is until I read Rochelle Strauss’ new book, The Global Ocean. As a long-time fan of Rochelle’s other books – Tree of Life and One Well – I was overjoyed to hear that she was writing a new book and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. In this post, I write about my new learnings as I consider ways to use this book with students. 

The Global Ocean? I Thought There Were 5 Oceans!

Situated in different parts of the world, I always thought of oceans and their wildlife as being separate and unique, without thinking of the interconnectedness of the different bodies of water. Sure, I understood that one body of water flowed into the next but I compartmentalized them thinking of the Pacific Ocean in the west and the Atlantic Ocean in the east. Distinct and separate, mainly due to geography and/or climate. Page 7 of the book brought home the reality of a Global Ocean in sharing about the 1992 cargo ship that fell overboard, spilling nearly 28 000 animal bath toys into the ocean. Over the next 20 years, tracking the rubber ducks was an incredible real-time science experiment on how all of the ocean basins are connected. The results and hearing this blew my mind!

Plastics!

For years I’ve shared about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and had conversations with students about actions we can take to ensure that we aren’t contributing additional waste into our waterways. We’ve talked about plastic bags, straws and can holders and how they impact wildlife when they enter oceans. Years ago, we also had lots of conversations around products that contained microplastics that were used as exfoliants. I hadn’t realized that there are plastics found in many common human-made fabrics. What blew my mind when reading about plastics was the fact that “with every load [of laundry], as many as 17 million tiny plastic fibres get washed down the drain” (pg. 21). What?!?! I got out the calculator and further realized the impact of my actions and have made a commitment to change by being cautious about what I purchase. Tips are peppered throughout this incredible book but I have to say that pages 26 to 35 really offer some fantastic ways to bring about tangible change. 

Why Students?

Sections of this book share about the actions of young people who are making a difference. Individuals speaking out. Groups creating projects. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, children really are the most incredible people on the planet. When they learn of injustice or see something that needs to be made right, they are eager and get creative to bring about change. Much like the interconnectedness of the oceans, when students learn about how their individual actions can have a global impact, they get excited and want to do more.  Inherently, children like to know that their actions can change the world and add to the greater good. I love that this book makes learning approachable and I am seeing so many uses for it within the classroom. Students are eager to act. How might we support them in learning and in turn using this eagerness to bring about change in our world?

This is seriously an incredible book that I think every educator should read, for their own learning and also help students in understanding the importance of our actions on the environment. Students are open and ready to make changes that will result in a better world for everyone. Through incredible texts like these, there’s so much learning and inspiration that can happen, that will lead to much-needed action, and ultimately change. June 8th is World Oceans Day. What action will you take?

Virtual Museum – Visit and Reflection

Over the course of the pandemic, the importance of virtual options for greater accessibility has become more and more apparent. From meetings to field trips, the way in which we accessed the world changed for a while and I hope that as we look to the future, some of these changes become permanent options as they support a greater ability for more to participate. Although many are excited to be back to in-person field trips, many organizations are still offering virtual field trips. In this post, I’m sharing a resource that I created for students last year that you might find useful to use with students, where appropriate. 

The Why?

I love art. It’s no secret to any of the people who know me well. It’s taken me a long time to feel confident in creating and not equating how good I am – or perhaps not- at art with creativity. I think it’s the same for kids. Those who like art, often feel as though they are good at it and those who don’t like it, often feel as though they aren’t. We all have the potential to be creative and sometimes having the ability to explore different art forms, gives us the inspiration to do just that. 

Last year, I taught Art and I wanted students to have the opportunity to visit different galleries. Many were offering virtual tours of some of their exhibits which is great because it gave greater access to museums throughout the world. I tried to find different galleries that might have artifacts that may be of interest to my students and created this resource for them to have an opportunity to explore. Not only did I want them to explore, but I’m always interested in what catches their attention or pieces that they like so I thought it would be great for them to have the opportunity to reflect on their experience, an artifact, and/or museum. I also think that it’s important for them to notice and be able to communicate their thoughts or feelings about different forms of art. Hands down, many enjoyed the MET for kids because of the way in which it was presented – as a cartoon map – but there were also students who were interested in looking at sculptures. 

After hearing some of their feedback, I changed some of the reflection questions, added a few more places they could visit and also gave them a bit more room to write. I’m always grateful for students sharing their feedback with me as it helps me to be a better teacher. 

Considerations

As with all resources, please take time to review the slides and links prior to sharing this resource with students. I used this with my Grade 4/5 class and we had already built a strong classroom community where we could have conversations about the different types of art that were seen and discuss some of their cultural significance. We also had conversations prior about museums and how they “received” their collections and some of the difficulty in finding museums with online collections that weren’t sharing art that is solely eurocentric. 

Get Exploring!

Here’s the link to your own copy of the resource. Change it up. Make edits that might be better suited to the needs of your students. Google also has a wide variety of online collections from museums that you can use.  Just have fun exploring on your own or with students. Either way, I hope that you find something new that tickles your fancy. 

During the pandemic, I have fallen more and more in love with art. Consuming art. Creating art. Sharing art. I hope that as you and potentially your students explore art, you’ll have the opportunity to get creative and share what inspires you all. The last month of school is fast approaching. I do hope that you find this resource helpful and are able to use it.

Pandemic Stories in Children’s Literature

I’ve been reading books that seem to have a theme centred around the impacts of the pandemic. Children’s books and YA novels are often some of my favourite reads, whether or not I take them back to the classroom to read or study with students. In this post, I’ll share 2 books that I have recently read.

New From Here – Kelly Yang

If you have read any of my previous posts or follow me on Twitter, you know that I am a Kelly Yang fan, through and through. Her writing is real and vulnerable and I strongly believe that it’s because she writes from her own lived experiences. While I knew that I was in for a treat with New From Here, I didn’t think that I would find myself as emotional as I was while reading through the pages. 

Written from the perspective of ten-year-old Knox Wei-Evans, New From Here shares the impact of the pandemic in a real and vivid way. While not only trying to stay safe from the threat of Covid-19, we also get a real look at the anti-Asian hate experienced, not only by adults but young children. Although my heart ached for the characters in the book, seeing the bravery and advocacy of Knox, not only for himself and his family but also for his classmate, made me hopeful. I journeyed into this profession because I strongly believe that children are the very best humans on the planet. This book was a great reminder of just how great they really are. 

I’ve used other Kelly Yang books in my classroom to talk about themes of stereotypes and racism and would use this book in a similar way. Depending on the relationships we have built, it might also serve as an opportunity for students to share their experiences during the pandemic. Hate and discrimination in a variety of forms have been experienced by many people during this pandemic. Sharing and hearing each others’ stories is essential in learning just how deep the impact of this has been. From this learning, we have an opportunity for change, if as a collective, we choose. While there are many who seem eager to shed their masks and “return to normal”, for many, this isn’t a possibility nor a desire because the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t over and the pandemic of race, rages on.

Ain’t Burned All the Bright – Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin

This book came as a recommendation from a colleague – Casey MacDonald – and I’m so grateful! I listed both the name of the author and illustrator because this mixed-media work of art is just that, a work of art. 

Grounded in 2020, and beginning with the pandemic of race, Breath One reminds us of the protests that were happening in many parts of the world after the murder of George Floyd. While we saw black squares and written statements, this is a pandemic that has continued to rage on. While many were panic-stricken with the thought of something new potentially causing harm, long-term injury or death, this was an added layer to merely trying to exist for many communities. 

Breath Two delves more into the isolation of lockdown and the experience of relying on one another, within a family, to make it through. I know that during the lockdown it was challenging to compete for space to teach while others are working and still others, learning. The challenge was real and I wonder the impact this may have as we reflect back in a few years. 

Breath Three is a somewhat optimistic look at what is most important when it comes to breathing through both pandemics – Covid-19 & race. Although this text is grounded in 2020, it’s important to note that for many, not much has changed. We’ve moved on from performative statements and symbols and we’ve “opened up” and yet Black deaths are still captured on video and many still remain isolated at home because of the very real threat of Covid-19 to their lives. It’s interesting to sometimes sit and note for whom a “return to normal” is acceptable or wanted.

The imagery in this book is incredible. While the words are powerful, the combination of the two is what really makes this book a work of art. In a number of instances, I had to go back and it was as though I saw more with a second take. This might be a powerful book to support the teaching symbolism with secondary students for Visual Arts. I do love the explanation at the end of the collaboration and wonder if a similar project, perhaps about this subject or another might be an opportunity for cross-curricular learning. 

Two books, very different in style, and specific experiences of the characters and yet the themes of Covid and racism are seen throughout. As the world looks toward “reopening” what will change? What will remain the same? How might these stories help support us in searching for and creating better for and with those most marginalized? I so love how Children’s books and YA Novels can prompt us to consider how we might do better as a society.

Graduation – Perhaps Something New?

Graduation time is fast approaching! I know that it’s still early, but I’m certain that conversations are happening in schools and communities. Within the blink of an eye, we’ll be at the end of June and students will be leaving one school and heading off to new adventures. Let’s face it, the pandemic is still very much a real part of our lives. I fear that in a rush of excitement about “going back to normal”, we will miss an opportunity to do something new. While many will be looking forward to going back to “what we have always done”, I wonder what we have learned about equity of access from the last 2 years and how we might celebrate differently this year.

Equity of Access

Celebrating memorable moments with family and friends is exciting. Over the last 2 years, for many, our celebrations have looked different, whether with our friends or families and/or in school. We’ve learned that in-person celebrations are prohibitive for many, for a variety of reasons. We have made adjustments and have proven that when we consider the needs of the most marginalized, we come up with solutions that are effective for all. For this year’s graduation ceremonies, I hope that we keep this in mind. Whether due to disability or school not being a safe space, we really need to consider how we might make access more equitable. How do we ensure access to graduation celebrations for these students and their families? 

Think Outside the Box

I remember the big push a couple of years ago to “reimagine”. We were reimagining attendance and school entry and recess. All of which were great and timely, and I wonder how many of these practices have now gone to the wayside with the “reopening”? 

On a deeper scale, when it comes to issues impacting those most marginalized, I have yet to tangibly see what this reimagining actually means. Where are those conversations now?  Could we have them about graduation? Here are some questions that I have:

  • Could we start from scratch and design a ceremony that is inclusive to all and reflective of the members of our school communities? 
  • Do we have to have awards? Could they be changed in some way? Could students be involved in the selection of the awards if they must be given? Could students know ahead of time what the awards are all about so that they can have an opportunity to work towards them?
  • Speeches – Who are they for and why do they matter? 

I have to say that not much has changed during the life of my teaching career when it comes to graduations. I’ve been teaching for over a decade. Isn’t it time we think outside the box a little?

Celebration of Students

Graduation should be a time to celebrate students. Sometimes, there are other voices that seem to be louder in stating what the experience of students should be. I wonder if we asked students what they might like, what they would say? How might we gather student voice and have students share their input in a way that allows them to share authentically and freely their thoughts and ideas? We often expect students to disclose without creating the space or environment in order for that to be accomplished, without fear of how others may respond to those thoughts and ideas. How might we really center students and their needs during this year’s celebrations?

In conversations about graduation planning, please remember to include students and their families. They are the best at knowing what they have experienced over the last couple of years and may have key insights into making this celebration of the achievement of students, a success for all. Think outside the box as to what might and can be done. While I’m certain that school boards may share guidelines as to what they expect, there may be opportunities to highlight some specific considerations that should be made for your school community.

The Arts

Art is powerful. Whether through music, dance, drama, or visual arts, it has the ability to take us to other worlds, giving us a glimpse into the experiences of others. It also allows us to explore how we might share our experiences creatively through movement, sound and visuals. In this post, I’ll share a couple of upcoming virtual field trips you might be interested in participating in with students. 

The AGO Virtual School Programs

Students from kindergarten through grade 12 can experience the Art Gallery of Ontario’s collection through their virtual school programs. I’ve shared in the past that this was a hit for my students and this year, they’ve added something I haven’t seen before. On Fridays, there’s Artmaking 101! This is an opportunity for students – and yes, teachers – to try simple drawing techniques – inspired by the elements of design. It’s a practical way for students to engage with a work of art, discuss a particular element, and then have the chance to play around and/or practice. I love this idea! April is all about one of my favourite elements, colour.  Give it a try!

YOU Dance

Every year, The National Ballet of Canada provides students with the opportunity to learn with and from Apprentices and Ballet Teaching Artists. Prior to Covid, schools could register to have a Ballet Teaching Artist visit but now, with a virtual demonstration, more classrooms can have the opportunity to participate. Last year, I had students get up and move around, trying out some of the dance movements and it was a great opportunity for them to learn a new art form and to think about dance in a different way. The before and after questions certainly helped to create meaningful conversations around what the students would see and experience. This year’s performance is on Friday, May 20th, from 12:15 to 1:15 pm ET. There’s still time to sign up.

I know that Art has played an important part in my life. Music can bring about strong feelings of nostalgia and visual art is one tool that I use to help support my mental health and well-being. In what ways do the Arts impact your life? How might we consider this in our daily work with students? In what ways might we infuse more Art and in turn creativity? These are some questions that I am pondering.

Climate Change

Climate change is real and our students know it. In a very real way, they are seeing the impacts. Conversations are taking place in classrooms around the impact of our actions on the environment and students are stepping up, trying to effect change. This past weekend was Earth Hour and there were so many posts online of different commitments people were taking in hopes of tackling this very real problem. While there is no simple one act that we can take, if we all do something, we can hopefully slow its progression.

ETFO’s Climate Change Primer defines climate change as, “Extreme changes in weather patterns that are brought on by human activities such as the emission of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane) and land usage in the form of industrial agriculture”. The 2020 resource was developed to help members learn and consider how themes such as environmental racism, colonization and migration intersect with climate change. It’s a great resource for educators to learn and consider diverse perspectives, prior to engaging in conversations around climate change in the classroom. 

One theme from the Climate Change Primer was access to water, which got me thinking about the use of water in agriculture. In the past, I’ve shared infographics like this one on how much water it takes to produce different items. Students are always stunned when they realize just how much water it takes to make some of the everyday items we consume and/or use. Visuals are powerful tools to spark conversations and allow us and students to be better informed. With information, this helps us gain a deeper understanding that the items we have at our disposal, often come with a high cost to the environment. 

Excitingly, this year’s Minecraft Education Edition’s new challenge – Climate Futures: The Farm – allows students to explore the impact of agriculture on climate change. With a Teacher Guide and Powerpoint presentation, students can walk away from the experience having had discussions around the following key questions:

  1. Why is food production important to humanity?
  2. With a growing population in the world, how might agricultural practices impact the climate?
  3. What alternative ways are there to increase food production without further damage to the environment?
  4. Is there a link between deforestation, transport and agriculture? 
  5. What can we do individually, locally, nationally and globally to address the problem of mass farming and food production and its impact on the climate?

While I haven’t tried this activity with students yet this year, I know that last year’s Minecraft challenge around social justice sparked many meaningful conversations within the classroom and saw students making some commitments to action. If you give this year’s challenge a try, please let me know how it goes!

As I have stated before, climate change is real. In what ways might we inspire our students to learn and gain a deeper understanding of the actions they can take to bring about change?

So What’s Your Story?

Many moons ago I was gifted a wonderful book by a student and her family. Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls is a collection of stories about 100 extraordinary women, including beautiful illustrations from female artists. Over the years, the team at Rebel Girls has created other books. This month – being Black History Month –  I was excited to gift their book of 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic, to a friend. In my inscription, I shared that her story also needed to be added to the book. This got me thinking about the stories that we share – particularly during Black History Month – and how we as teachers, go about sharing these stories. Often, it’s a select few well-known people whose stories we feel are worthy of highlighting for one reason or another. Within our schools and communities, I wonder how many equally incredible stories are waiting to be heard? How might the stories that we as a community learn from each others’ experiences, ultimately make our school community even better? In this post, I’m sharing a few ideas that are buzzing around in my mind.

Create Your Own Anthology

Based on the stories within this book, creating a class or school anthology is the easiest idea that comes to mind, but is also one of the hardest. I think of the incredible stories that students, school staff and community members could share about their lives and experiences. There could also be a team of illustrators or the person who is sharing their story can create their own self-portrait. There’s so much power in seeing how one views themselves. The stories within the book are short and powerful. Examples can be shared to give writers an idea of how they might choose to share their stories. 

Seems easy enough, right? But what conditions do we have to cultivate in order for people to feel comfortable in sharing their stories? If students, staff and/or members of the community don’t feel as though they are a respected part of the school community, we may never know what story they may have to tell. Further, if by chance we are privy to any part of the story of another and decide to ask for a contribution, we might in fact be causing further trauma by asking for the story to be revealed. There’s a delicate balance when it comes to the telling of stories and I firmly believe that it starts with creating spaces where people feel seen, heard and valued. Without that, creating this sort of anthology will cause more harm than good. 

The 3 Prompt Podcast

Some time ago, I shared a post on podcasts for students. In the post, I shared ideas on how podcasts could be used within the classroom and since then, I’ve shared other posts on how we’ve incorporated them in both literacy and science activities. Most of what I shared has been about fictional stories but why not have a podcast dedicated to sharing the real stories of students, staff and members of the community? Rebel Girls has its very own podcast that might spark ideas for listeners too. 

One thing that I’ve learned is that podcasts don’t need to be long. They just need to share interesting information about a specific topic and listeners will be hooked.  In podcasts, I think that the interview questions are crucial and make them flow.  Students can take turns interviewing people who are willing to share their stories, coming up with 3 prompts to guide the conversation. Interviewing is an art. Years ago, I learned about the TED method of interviewing. I’ve used it in design to understand the story of the user and that’s really the goal of this type of interview – to understand the story of another, rather than to lead. In the TED method, we use 3 sentence starters to guide the interview.

The sentence starters are simple enough to tweak into meaningful prompts once you know a little about the person you are interviewing. Yet another reason why it’s so important to build a space where people feel seen, heard and valued. 

These are just a couple of ideas stemming from these incredible books. Perhaps start by considering where you are at with building classroom or school community. Do members of this community feel seen, heard, and valued? If not, take stock of what changes need to be made by listening to stakeholders and developing a plan of how to implement change.  If so, consider how you might like to share stories. Consider whose stories often get told and whose don’t. Consider why that might be. Have discussions on how you might create – whether through writing, art, a podcast or any other method. Stories are powerful and can be inspirational. When the time is right ask, “So what’s your story?”.

Notable Black People in Canada – A Breakout

Last summer I had the privilege of working with a school around meaningful uses of technology to spark creativity with students. It was an incredible half-day session where participants had the opportunity to play and get creative themselves, all while considering how the use of tech tools could further support students in learning and creativity. 

As you probably already know, I’m an avid user of G Suite For Education Tools. For years I’ve been using Slides, Forms and Sites to create breakout rooms for students as an interesting way to deliver content and to help further develop the skills of communication and collaboration. For our session, I created a Breakout on Notable Black people in Canada. As this is Black History Month, I thought I would take the opportunity to share it here with readers. 

This Breakout is a series of puzzles designed to help people to learn about the history, experiences, and contributions of a few notable Black people in Canada: The Maroons, William Hall, Hattie Melton, Molly Johnson, and Michaëlle Jean. I had a blast building this Breakout because it gave me an excuse – if you will – to learn more about the contributions of Black people, using tools that I was already familiar with. 

While I’m not sharing the answers to the breakout here, I encourage you to take some time to learn and answer the questions prior to sharing this breakout with your students, if you so choose. You know your students best and I think that it’s always great to have rich conversations both before and after deciding to jump into any new learning. Slide #2 has some great instructions to help guide you if you are not already familiar with breakouts. Do you have what it takes to breakout?