#16Days

November 25-December 10 is internationally known as the 16 days of activism to stand against and commit to ending gender-based violence. Black women and girls, FNMI women and girls, racialized women and girls, women and girls with disabilities and members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community are at high risk of gender-based violence. November 25 is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and December 10 is World Human Rights Day. Let’s amplify the voices of those who are subject to gender-based violence, listen, learn, and demand safety, inclusion and acceptance for all. Let’s begin these conversations in our classrooms. ETFO has provided some ideas here about how to get yourself and your students involved in the #16days of activism. 

The significance of the activism this year is greater than ever before due to the increasing amount of gender-based violence reported over the course of the pandemic. 

Gender-based violence facts 

Gender-based violence both directly and indirectly affects everyone. Victims of gender-based violence experience trauma that can be intergenerational in nature. To eradicate gender-based violence we must acknowledge it exists and victimizes people of all genders, races, abilities, sexualities, ages and classes in all geographic locations. We cannot advocate for feminism without intersectionality. 

What can we do?

  • Educate our students and community about gender-based violence from a trauma informed approach 
  • Educate even our youngest learners about the importance of consent and advocating for their own mental health and well-being
  • Listen and learn from experts, community organizations and survivors
  • Support local and global initiatives that commit to advocating for people of all genders and putting an end to gender based-violence 
  • Use our privilege as educators to advocate for change
  • Continue to model acceptance, inclusion and teach using an anti-oppressive framework

Not the Same Christmas

As November comes to an end and we begin to approach the holiday season, excitement fills the air. Students are excited to share their plans for the winter break, talk about the gifts they hope to receive, the people they get to visit and the positive memories of holidays past. Of course, we want to join our students in their excitement. Whether or not we share this holiday with our students, it is great to see such happiness, excitement and smiles. As many students continue to count down the days until the break begins, I reflect upon the different reasons students may not all be experiencing the ‘same Christmas’ or holiday season this year.

Not all students are celebrating Christmas

The Christmas holiday is one that is ‘in your face’ each time you visit a store, watch television or scroll through social media between the months of October and January. We must remain culturally responsive to the diversity in our classrooms, in our community and in our world. Even if each of the students in your classroom celebrate the holiday of Christmas, it is important to make students aware that this is not a holiday celebrated by all. 

Students may be worried about being away from school

Many students (and educators) are excited to have a much deserved two week break from the busy hustle and bustle of school. Many are excited to reconnect with family and friends they haven’t seen in a while as they look forward to the love and happiness that will fill their homes. Conversely, many students may feel worry, anxiety or fear in anticipation of the two weeks away from the teachers and school staff who love them, care for them and make them feel safe. 

Some students will receive gifts – some will not

Be mindful of the conversations that happen surrounding gifts and elaborate holiday feasts. Some students will receive gifts and will be excited to share about their warm family traditions, while other students’ families struggle to put food on the table. As we continue to endure a global pandemic, some families struggle to survive. Many families continue to undergo financial stress, poverty, or have difficulty accessing in demand community resources that have been depleted due to COVID-19. 

Here is how I approach holidays in my classroom:

  1. Classroom materials reflect people of all cultural backgrounds so that students can see themselves reflected in the classroom community.
  2. I offer students opportunities to participate in discussing holidays and celebrations that are special to their family. Families in my class this year were invited to share traditions, stories, songs, dances, etc. via a virtual visit to our classroom.
  3. While inviting students and families to share about their holidays and celebrations – I never put anyone on the spot to share simply because they celebrate a specific holiday.
  4. Holidays are not a theme day. Children don’t learn about a holiday by colouring a picture or completing a word search.
  5. I continue to learn from my students, their families, my colleagues and through my own research about holidays and celebrations, their significance, accompanied traditions and the history behind them. Approaching holidays from a learner lens allows me to ensure I am including quality resources in my classroom and integrating the discussion of holidays into lessons while respecting all cultures and students.

Which One Doesn’t Belong? (WODB)

Have you ever tried ‘ Which One Doesn’t Belong?’ (WODB) in your classroom?

WODB is a short, number talk used to get students thinking before beginning a daily lesson or math activity. Students are shown a picture like the example attached below (from mathbeforebed.com). Students take a close look at the picture and decide which object they think does not belong. After sharing their ideas, students are asked to explain their thinking to justify their answer. Here is why we love WODB in our Kindergarten class:

There are no wrong answers

This gives students the confidence to share their thoughts and encourages them to take risks in their learning. 

 

WODB shows students that there are multiple ways of solving problems 

I am finding that aside from building confidence in students’ attitudes towards math, this activity builds community. Students typically begin with a strong opinion on why their answer is correct, but begin to understand and uncover the varying perspectives of their peers. It is also a great activity to practice turn taking, active listening and showing kindness towards others with different ideas.

 

There are multiple entry points

This activity is inclusive and allows students to use their own mathematical language to describe which one they believe does not belong. Students can participate in this activity regardless of their understanding of specific math concepts. In Kindergarten, with students ranging in various stages of development – this activity gives myself and my DECE partner a window into their thinking.

 

WODB promotes mathematical thinking and the use of mathematical language 

When justifying their answer, students begin to use math words like bigger, smaller, shorter, taller, less, more and begin to use the names of shapes, numbers or symbols they are learning about. Students can activate their prior knowledge and apply their current knowledge while they work with educators to extend their knowledge. I often reframe what students are saying and repeat it back to them. For example, in the picture shown below a student may share that they think the “blue” one does not belong, “because it’s blue and the others are not” and I may say, “(student name) thinks that the blue rectangle piece does not belong”. 

 

WODB can be used in any grade level 

While I am currently enjoying this activity in Kindergarten, I think about all the ways this activity could be used with students of any age. As students learn new concepts, WODB could include pictures of fractions, decimals, equations and more. When students get comfortable engaging in WODB activities, they can even begin to create some of their own pictures to challenge their peers to think critically.

 

Which one do you think does not belong?

from https://mathbeforebed.com/

 

“Pink is a Girl Colour.”

If you teach young children, you may often hear their opinions about what is meant for ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ voiced on a daily basis:

 

“Pink is for girls” 

“Boys don’t wear pink”

 

Analyzing this through a feminist lens, this ideology and the socially constructed roles and responsibilities associated with gender are forced upon children from birth – and arguably even before birth. If you don’t believe me, think about the colour of blankets given to swaddle infants in hospitals. 

This is not just about pink. It’s about creating a learning space for students to be themselves, feel empowered and continuing to challenge injustices they encounter now and every day.

How can we challenge gender stereotypes in education?

  1. In a previous post, celebrating International Women’s Day – I stated that “You cannot have feminism without intersectionality”. In order for growth to occur, we must represent all people in our pedagogy -students who are part of the ​​2SLGBTQ+  community, students who are Black, FNMI students, students who belong to racialized and marginalized groups and students who have disabilities. Not only should students see themselves reflected, but their families, their friends, their neighbours, their community members, and other humans that walk this earth with them. We cannot dismantle one single stereotype without teaching from an ant-racist, anti-oppressive framework. 
  2. We can be mindful of the learning materials we use in our classrooms. From toys to textbooks, there are hidden messages about gender everywhere. One of my favourite (but really least favourite) examples to think about is kitchen centres for young children. Kitchen centres are wonderful learning spaces in Kindergarten classrooms and provide many opportunities for developing social and emotional skills, practicing math concepts and promoting oral language. Now, think about why many of these sets are pink? 
  3. We can include critical literacy and books that challenge social norms in our program on a regular basis.
  4. We can critically reflect on our own understandings of gender as a social construct, amplify the voices marginalized people and commit to continuous learning and growth by actively listening to our students needs. 

 

Pink is for everyone. 

 

 

Reminders to Myself

We have entered into more new territory this year as educators. In the 2019-2020 school year, we moved to emergency virtual learning. In the 2020-2021 school year, we navigated teaching in a pandemic. 

For the 2021-2022 school year, I like to call this new territory ‘still’ teaching in a pandemic. 

 

S    t   i   l    l.  Teaching in a pandemic. 

 

Our students feel this, their families feel this, and we feel this. 

Educators work hard every single day to create safe spaces for learning while supporting students mental health and well-being.

Students are exhausted. We are exhausted. We continue to listen and learn from students in order to be responsive, proactive and available to meet their needs.

If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly giving your students reminders.

Reminders to be brave, to take risks, to be kind. 

Reminders to be themselves, to take breaks, to breathe. 

Reminders that it is okay not to be okay, to feel sad, to cry. 

 

Are you giving these same reminders to yourself?

 

I decided to create a short, easy-to-remember list of reminders for myself. Here are my personal ‘words to live by’ for this school year: 

 

  1. I am enough. I often compare myself to others and feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. For me, this can feel like I am not doing enough to support my students, their families or involve myself in my school community. I will remind myself that I’m doing all that I can, with all that I have, and all that I know – I am on my own journey. 
  2. I deserve self-care. It is easy to spend each evening and weekend – working. I will remind myself it is okay to take breaks and enjoy the things I love (and that enjoying my weekend doesn’t mean I love my students any less). 
  3. I am human. I will make mistakes – and I will learn from them. I will allow myself to feel and give myself time to process strong emotions. 

 

You are enough, you deserve self-care and you are human.

 

What will you remind yourself of this year?

Play-Time: Virtual Style

As we are nearing the end of September, I begin to reflect on my first month as a virtual Kindergarten teacher. When creating our timetable for the school year, my teaching partner and I dedicated 30 minutes each day to unstructured, open play. 

During this 30 minute block, students share what they are playing with and discuss what they are building, creating or thinking. My teaching partner and I act as facilitators and extend learning by asking questions or helping students make connections between what they are playing (something that takes place naturally within classroom settings but takes some practice virtually). This practice seems unnatural at first, but with time the students are becoming more confident and excited to share. 

Here are the benefits of virtual play so far: 

  1. Play is universal and accessible for all of our learners regardless of ability
  2. Play is an opportunity for our English Language Learners to learn in a relevant and meaningful way while exploring the English language 
  3. Play is a great way for us as educators to get to know our learners, their interests and in what ways they like to learn 
  4. Virtual play gives our students the time and space to create relationships with educators and peers
  5. Play is an ‘easy to enter’ activity that gives students confidence in their own abilities and allows them to take safe risks while exploring new ideas, asking questions and challenging new theories 
  6. Including virtual play allows students to practice what they are learning while providing educators a window into their understandings
  7. Virtual play is fun and students look forward to it daily

As we continue to scaffold student learning and conversations during play, it is our hope that the play grows rich with language, ideas and creates connections between students virtually. 

It feels as though this virtual play time has similar (if not the same) benefits as play time held during in person learning. Here are some of the major differences and barriers that we have seen so far:

  1. Students do not all have the same materials
  2. Students are becoming comfortable engaging in dramatic play experiences with each other but cannot collaborate with learning materials or practice sharing toys
  3. Play happens all the time, every day. We are not often viewing students play experiences outdoors or in areas outside of their learning space. 
  4. Students take time to unmute themselves before sharing. For those learning this new skill, the task of unmuting in itself can derail the student’s thought process. Unmuting can take time away from a students ability to share their natural and initial thoughts, feelings and ideas (Next step: playing in a small group). 

Overall, play time has been a very special time in our virtual Kindergarten classroom. We will continue to evolve and listen to our students, as we navigate our way though challenges and grow as virtual play partners. 

Please note: ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that the daily, in-person model of instruction and support best meets the educational, developmental and social needs of students, provides the best experience for support, and is the most equitable learning model for all students.
ETFO’s expectation is that elementary virtual learning in any capacity, including through hybrid models of instruction, will end once the pandemic ends.

Summer 2021

June 30th, 2021

So begins the summer of 2021 for many.

If you’re anything like me, you are absolutely ready for a screen break.

Typically during the summer months, I would enjoy binging my favourite television shows – but not this summer. This summer is dedicated to closing my laptop, signing off and getting outside. I asked my students during the last week of school to tell me 10 things they wanted to do this summer that did not include technology. They had great wishes for their summers including walks with pets, hopes for camping trips (even in the backyard), plans to eat ice cream, discover new hobbies and try new sports.

With the realization that we are heading back into the unknown in the fall, I have been reflecting on ways in which to personally enjoy my own summer and take a much needed break to refresh. I remind myself that come September I cannot ‘give’ from an ’empty bucket’ – something I preach but need to actively practice. My students enjoyed brainstorming their wishes for the summer so much, that I decided to take on this task myself.

Here are 10 ways I hope to rest, relax and recharge during my summer 2021:

  1. Go on a camping trip
  2. Practice outdoor yoga
  3. Donate gently used clothes to charity
  4. Practice my new hobby (playing the guitar)
  5. Support local restaurants/markets and businesses
  6. Walk in National Parks
  7. Go on a road trip
  8.  Have a picnic
  9. Bake lots of tasty treats
  10. Read a good book

What are 10 things you wish to do this summer?

I am wishing a happy, healthy and safe summer to all. I look forward to learning alongside all of you again this fall!

 

All the best,

Melissa

Attendance Question

NOTE: ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that the daily, in-person model of instruction and support best meets the educational, developmental and social needs of students, provides the best experience for support, and is the most equitable learning model for all students. ETFO’s expectation is that elementary virtual learning in any capacity, including through hybrid models of instruction, will end once the pandemic ends.

What is a practice that you started during online learning that you’d like to continue during in person learning? My favourite is the “Attendance Question”. This daily question screen capture is from the Padlet I set up for my Grade 4 students during an LTO I had this school year.

Every morning, students logged onto our Google Meet and their first task was to answer the daily attendance question. We loved it! Here’s why:

  • Students loved expressing themselves and sharing short bits of information with me and their classmates
  • On Padlet, students are able to both ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on each others posts to ask questions, offer advice or celebrate each others ideas
  • As an educator I loved the check in – first of all I was comforted knowing students were present but mostly I loved it for social-emotional connections
  • Students looked forward to signing on and checking the attendance question and even directed each other towards it
  • It built a great sense of community within our online classroom

I plan to continue using Padlet for daily check-ins with students. Although this platform could be used to get students thinking about new topics within the curriculum, a daily thought provoking question is something that could be introduced in September and carried through until the end of the school year.

During in person learning, I love to embed community circle into each day in some capacity in order to give sharing space to students and work on social and emotional competencies. While learning remotely, the attendance question was used to support community circle. I want to continue this practice to support community circle during in person learning to give students who are hesitant or unable to share aloud a space to express themselves.

In the 2020-2021 school year, navigating technology and all it had to offer was overwhelming to say the least. As I reflect on the heavy use of technology that my students experienced – I remain open-minded towards carrying virtual practices that removed barriers for students into the classroom.

Advice from a 3rd Year OT

I’d like to start off by saying I am no expert but instead a teacher with a passion for connection in the classroom.

As this school year comes to a close, I reflect on the experiences I’ve had that continue to shape my practice. 

 

This year has been extremely challenging for all. As an Occasional teacher, I have found it incredibly difficult to connect with other Occasional teachers within school settings. I cherish the times I was able to connect with fellow OT’s, and the moments we shared talking through best practices, exchanging classroom management tips, and providing overall employee advice. 

Recently, I have had the opportunity to connect with some new Occasional teachers who are beginning their careers after recently graduating from the Faculty of Education. After sharing that I have been an OT for three years in two different school boards, it is without fail that I get asked the same question each time: What advice do you have to offer?

 

To those who may be wondering, here is my best summary of advice from a third year OT :

 

1. Connection over curriculum 

As you walk into any new classroom, always remember – you are walking into an extremely personal space. You are entering a community that has been established and continues to grow and change each day without you there. Being an OT is a great way to pick up practices that work for you and develop an understanding of practices that work for others. Being an OT is not a way to take control over this already existing system. To gain the respect of the students you must give respect to the students. This looks like greeting students at the door, asking them questions about their day, playing ‘get to know you’ games, taking brain breaks, offering help to students, and empathizing with students’ needs and challenges. Yes – classroom teachers will leave tasks and assignments for students, but the priority is always the students themselves. 

2. Kindness over ‘correctness’ 

As an elementary OT – you will almost daily hear “that’s not the way our teacher usually does ______”. This is not a personal attack, but coming from students who crave consistently and familiarity. My response to this is always “Things may be a little different today – and that is ok. I am going to do my best to learn all about your classroom and I am hoping you can help me”. Always choose kindness over being right. 

3. Ask questions – unapologetically 

Asking questions sounds easy enough until you feel like you’ve already asked your fair share. Anyone in a new job knows this feeling. The ‘oh no’ feeling you get when you have another question but you’ve already asked 3. I promise, it is okay not to know. No one expects you to go about your day seamlessly like a 10 year teacher. Ask questions to school staff and ask questions to the students. Here are some of the BEST questions to ask as an OT: 

For school staff

  • (Insert student name here) seems to be having a hard time today, what strategies can I use to support them?
  • What is the protocol for end of day/bus routines? 
  • Which students in the class would benefit from additional support today?

For students

  • What is your routine for (insert activity here)?
  • How can I support you today? How will I know when/if you need a break?

To all the new OT’s who are beginning their journey in September 2021 – you’ve got this.

Dear Students,

As an Occasional Teacher, I meet a lot of awesome students.

This school year, I have had the opportunity to teach in MANY schools (both virtually and in person) across two different school boards. I don’t get to wish each of those awesome students a farewell as this school year nears its last day. Some I may see in September, some I may see in the future as our paths align once again, and some I may never see again.

Here is what I would say to them all, if I could:

Dear students,

Thank you.

Thank you for making a school year filled with masks, shields and social distancing feel like community. Thank you for being your authentic selves and finding it within you to make jokes, be silly and have fun. Thank you for inspiring me to come to work every day, to keep learning, growing and wondering.

Thank you for showing me that connection is so powerful and that strong relationships have the potential to break through computer screens. Thank you for embodying resiliency, love, trust and understanding. It is you who have showed me that not knowing the answer is sometimes the most exciting avenue to take.

From you I have learned so much, but most importantly I have discovered that my learning will never stop. I used to view my experience as an occasional teacher as a means to an end. Upon beginning this journey in 2018, I thought being an OT was just something that had to be done. For me, this experience has been vital to beginning to develop my sense of identity as an educator. You have influenced me advocate for change within education, schools, communities and the world.

I wish you all the best as you continue your adventures.

Sincerely,

Miss Turnbull