thank you

It’s been a while since I’ve gushed, but as I was driving to school this week, I started thinking about ways I could show more gratitude for all of the good things that are happening in my professional life. This got me thinking about the staff at my school. In each aspect of the organization, there is much to be appreciated from our incredible office staff, caretakers, EAs, CYWs, DECEs, and admin. In that spirit, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Since this the core of readers of this blog are ETFO members, I will continue before the music plays me off and before being escorted off the stage. Here goes…

Thank you for putting in all the hours that make a difference in the
lives of learners before, during, and after school. 

Thank you for being the only smile that a child might see each day.
Thank you for being the hand that reaches out to a student who is feeling big feelings.
Thank you for being the one who comforts in times of uncertainty.
Thank you for being calm, considerate, and caring when things are not going well. 
Thank you for making sure that new kids feel welcome from the moment they
walk through your doorway. 

Thank you for teaching the basics.
Thank you for teaching the basics over and over again. 
Thank you for teaching the tough stuff.
Thank you for teaching the tough stuff over and over again.
Thank you for teaching morphemes, phonemes, and graphemes.

Thank you for providing accommodations regardless of identification(s) or not. 
Thank you for teaching number sense and problem solving,
and for teaching it over and over again. 
Thank you for extending due dates when needed,
and for allowing retests when things don’t go well the first time. 

Thank you for working hard over the summer to prepare for curriculum changes
even though you should be taking time to rest and recover from the prior year.

Thank you for teaching about truth before reconciliation. 
Thank you for ensuring that Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) are represented in your instructional resources.
Thank you for reading culturally relevant stories that allow all students to see themselves within them.

Thank you for creating safe and engaging classrooms where everyone feels seen.
Thank you for ensuring that students feel seen and know that they matter.
Thank you for seeing that every learner is 10 out of 10 at something, 
and for helping them discover and develop their unique talents. 
Thank you for hosting a GSA meeting and for displaying a “safe space” sticker. 
Thank you for running clubs and coaching teams. 
Thank you for spending recess after recess sitting in your classroom so students can catch up on their work.
Thank you for making accommodations that support the faith expressions of learners. 

Thank you for helping each other out by sharing resources. 
Thank you for answering questions and offering guidance to those who have recently entered our wonderful profession. 

There is always time for gratitude in this profession and this is my chance to show my appreciation if I haven’t mentioned it enough above. Thank you for all you do. Will

P.A. day

Psst. The ‘s’ in P.A. is silent. Well that would be how many outside of education might see these days when staff are at schools while students frolic and faff about with their families. Nothing could be further from that misconception. I wonder if there are any educators left who can recall a time in their careers when these days didn’t exist. A quick search on the interwebs revealed very little information beyond some government pages. After this week’s learning, my full brain was not willing to click on for more.

It was a P.A. day in my school board and, in the spirit of “P.A.” days past, come with their share of work for educators at all phases of their careers. On the day’s menu: attention to countless operational matters, safety videos, wellness/mental health videos, and new curriculum/instructional insights. As anyone who has participated in this day in prior years this year’s “P.A..” day learning lineup seemed much more robust.

At my school, we met in the morning to discuss students at risk, sign off on safety plans, watch important video reminders related to our professional duty and safety. There we were 50+ together, synchronizing our minds on all aspects on so many important pieces to the puzzle picture we call education.

Hours of learning/refreshing our minds plus some prep time later, we were then given a chance to work through some fresh thinking on literacy and math by division. This included some instructional approaches to the new language curriculum, as well as some time to browse board curated math resources. With all the boxes ticked, there was just enough time for some planning during an afternoon prep time which included giving some feedback on an assignment.

It was a full day. As I worked through the day a couple of questions came to mind;
1a. Was this enough time to really allow the flood of content to permeate my cerebral space?
1b. If not, when do I find time to let that happen?
2. What was it like at other schools? How much time was spent in self-directed/exploratory activities around the new approaches in language and math? Was it enough? If there are others like me, when do we find that time to continue with this learning? Is there a life/work imbalance expected then?
3. With so much of the content prescribed from the system level, are there other approaches to consider in order to deliver the mandated compliance pieces while maximizing new learning opportunities?

For many of us, it is impossible to forget the stark differentiation between losing a finger or a toe and loss of limb in the Workplace Injury module, and those dearly departed ladder safety videos. I still wipe the rungs of my ladder because of them, even at home. Even as much of this familiar and important content has evolved, I felt overstimulated and overwhelmed with all of the learning that was prescribed for this “P.A.” day. Was I the only one? Was it the pace?

In the weeks and months to come, there will be more learning added, and I will have to proceed with it at my own pace as a learner. In some cases, it might already mesh with my learning style as I discovered that the suggested strategies for math learning have finally caught up with my teaching style.

I am happy to try out and learn new things, but even when I go to the grocery store and load up for a week or two, I have never cooked everything that was brought home for just one meal. That shared, it will be a couple of weeks before what I started will truly be processed and completed even though we were given a day. I guess this “elephant will be eaten one bite at time” (adapted from Desmond Tutu).

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain

“Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain” by Zaretta Hammond (2015) explores the intersection of culturally responsive teaching practices and brain research. The book delves into how teachers can better engage and support students from diverse cultural backgrounds by understanding how the brain processes information and responds to different instructional methods. It addresses the critical need for educators to acknowledge and embrace students’ cultural identities and backgrounds while fostering optimal learning experiences in the classroom. This book offers valuable insights into how educators can effectively engage diverse learners and create inclusive learning environments.

Cultural Diversity and Educational Equity:
The book begins by highlighting the importance of cultural diversity in the classroom and its direct impact on educational equity. It discusses how students from various cultural backgrounds bring unique perspectives, experiences, and learning styles, which educators can leverage to enrich learning. Hammond emphasizes the significance of understanding the cultural influences that shape students’ cognitive development and the role of educators in acknowledging and respecting these influences.

Neuroscience and Learning:
In the following chapters, the book delves into neuroscience and its implications for teaching practices. Hammond presents research findings that shed light on how the brain processes information differently based on cultural background and experiences. By understanding these neural mechanisms, educators can tailor their instructional methods to match the diverse needs of students, thereby optimizing learning outcomes.

The Cultural Learning Framework:
Hammond introduces the Cultural Learning Framework, a practical and evidence-based model designed to guide educators in implementing culturally responsive teaching strategies. The framework provides insights into understanding cultural norms, community dynamics, and the impact of stereotype threat on student performance. It also emphasizes the role of the teacher as a cultural broker, fostering trust and building strong relationships with students and their families.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy in Practice:
The book explores various culturally responsive pedagogical practices educators can integrate into their classrooms. Examples include incorporating culturally relevant texts, integrating students’ cultural practices into the curriculum, and promoting collaborative learning to encourage cultural exchange among students. Hammond emphasizes the significance of teaching students metacognitive strategies to develop self-regulation and critical thinking skills. Hammond provides practical examples and case studies throughout the book to illustrate how culturally responsive teaching and brain-based strategies can be implemented in various educational settings. The author emphasizes teachers’ continuous growth and development in their journey toward becoming culturally responsive practitioners.

Implicit Bias and Stereotype Threat:
Addressing the prevalent issue of implicit bias and stereotype threat, Hammond highlights these factors’ negative impact on student’s academic performance and self-esteem. The book offers practical guidance on how educators can identify and mitigate their biases and create an inclusive and supportive learning environment that fosters student success.

Professional Development and Teacher Training:
The book underscores the need for ongoing professional development and teacher training to equip educators with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement culturally responsive teaching practices effectively. It advocates for school-wide efforts to promote culturally responsive education and create a collaborative and supportive learning community for teachers and students.

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond is an indispensable resource for educators and educational stakeholders seeking to create inclusive learning environments and improve academic outcomes for diverse student populations. By bridging the gap between neuroscience and culturally responsive teaching, Hammond offers practical and evidence-based strategies to nurture all students’ cognitive, emotional, and social development, regardless of their cultural backgrounds. Embracing cultural diversity in education empowers students and contributes to a more equitable and socially just society.

labour(s)

This post has nothing to do with trade unions other than for me to publicly reiterate how important they are in the fight against oppressive, racist, exploitative, and elitist status quo economic structures. The golden rule has nothing to do with who has the gold getting to make the rules. It’s about treating others with the dignity and respect regardless of station or social status. I’m writing about labour as a positive antithesis to any entitled money addled capitalist con-drones deign to read something on a site other than Truth or Rebel media not something that is maligned for seeking acknowledgement and fairness for professionalism and hard work. 

Now back to the regularly scheduled post already in progress. 

Labour is in interesting word. It has roots in Latin (labor)* and can be a noun, adjective, and or verb. Labour is a clear description of subject and action. In many ways, labour encapsulates everything we know as educators. Teachers, like labour are nouns and verbs. We are subject and predicate. WE are purpose and passion in perfect action. It must be the sunshine or the good vibes of April that have me reflecting like this because lately there has been so much good happening all around in education, and it is outshining everything else on the horizon.

Since September until now students have been participating in competitions ranging from robotics, chess, athletics, and skills(animation, construction, media arts – to name a few). To no one’s surprise they are coming back energized from their experiences – teachers too. It was as if the void of the past 3 years are truly being left behind now as we focus our labours on the present and future. With so many positives happening in schools I think it would do us all good to share more of the good news going on as a result of our collective labour(s). 

In my last post loves I share about all the good things going on in my school right now, and how we need to hear/see more of the positives happening in our profession rather than nonstop negative narratives from non-educators intended to devalue the work we do each day. This got me weighing what gets shared and how it get shared when it comes to all of the good news going on in classrooms. Is once a week per classroom enough? Is everything worth a post? I have to believe these decisions lie ultimately with the individual educator in accordance to privacy policies. What we have to avoid in one breath is making it performative and in the other feeling like we are not doing enough when we choose not to share.

I know that many schools and teachers use Twitter/Instagram accounts to various extents myself included. Typically, I have tried to post moments of levity from the classroom or positive support for fellow educators doing and contributing great things via #onted. When it comes to sharing, student work is the focus while they themselves are blurred in any images shared. I have found that the Prisma app  installed on my smartphone is far better than sticking emojis on all the faces.

When it comes to resources I am always open to sharing freely and give mad props to other educators doing the same. I especially love sharing any TED Ed lessons that I’ve created, and am happy to respond to educators looking for ideas. As you grow your PLN on social media, you will find lots of like minded and generous educators doing the same with their work.

Whether it is on ‘socials’ or shared with the amazing staff in your building, it becomes very clear that our dedication and labour on behalf of our learners is what we all need to see more of in our feeds. Our labour(s) are worth celebrating in and out of our classrooms. 

*The Latin etymology for labor is obscure: the noun may be related to the verb lābī (which has a long ā ) “to move smoothly, slide” (commonly with implication of downward movement). Lābī in its turn may be related to labāre (with a short a in the root syllable) “to be unsteady on one’s feet, falter, totter.” via dictionary.com 
“Middle English, from Anglo-French labur, from Latin labor; perhaps akin to Latin labare to totter, labi to slip” via merriam-webster.com

fine, everything is fine

I have a habit of saying, “fine” whenever asked how things are going. Whether it is symptomatic of a half century plus of social conditioning or simply learned ambivalence is still to be determined. It could be a combo of the two as well. I am a big fan of “fine”.

It has the insouciant distance and indifference that propels me past and through the issues of the day. After all, who wants to be a burden to others when so many are already maxed out with their own lives. Isn’t it the North American expectation to steadfastly power through the day with stoic determination. In many ways that’s what happens to people who stay in the safety of their silos. 

It is not beyond a single educator to utter this answer all the while knowing that behind the scenes, in our heads, or in full view of all to see that there is a lot of meaning to “fine”. It is a societal expectation that we respond “fine” because our polite programming provides the same answer each time even when it is not true. 

It’s not a lie if you believe it. – George Costanza

I love the quote above and it rings a little too true with this topic. Although it was intended for a different context in the show Seinfeld, it definitely applies when considering the mental health and well being of all who work in education. When will we have time to unpack the emotional baggage covered by “fine”? How do we get to a place of trust to provide the support that is necessary for us to listen as well as be heard? 

Breathe in, breathe out. I’m fine. You are fine. Everything is fine.  Thank you very much for asking and not burdening either of us with a truth that we verily have little time to acknowledge or attend to if it turned out to be false. Now, let’s get about our days. Sound familiar?

As a profession, there are few others to rival the frenetic paces that educators face over the entirety of a school year. Imagine each classroom along the lines of a corporate model where each grade occupies an important floor of a tall tower. On each of these floors there are numerous cubicles filled with team leaders and workers all charged with annually accumulating, accruing, and retaining the knowledge and the skills to find, climb, and remain on the next floor above them. 

With each September ‘new year’ comes the mysteries, highs, lows, and unexpected life events of a newly gathered group. Buckle up because it could be a bumpy ride. What surprises me, over most of my 14 years in education, is that the ride is nearly 3/4s finished before I realize where the heck I am. This explains the timing of this post in March with the realization that there is much work to be done. 

As if that collaboration and hard work to move on up wasn’t enough, the teams are dismantled, mixed, and reassembled to include other workers from their former floor, but now forming under different leaders just to keep it fresh. Despite the best efforts to make everything seem fine, I can’t help but wonder how students are doing too. The past 3 years have been anything but fine. Yet, as we move them from floor to floor, like the adults who lead them, they are already accepting that the only answer to give is “fine”. 

With all of the talk surrounding mental health and community wellness in schools, I am not fine with “fine” being the answer and am working hard to redefine the work I am doing around it. 

I’ll leave you with this.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of a meeting with student leaders from our school mental health collaborative.
This session revealed some extremely important truths that can light a path to somewhere good for students and teachers.
Here are my takeaways and echoed thoughts in (  ).

  1. Students are feeling the stress
    (Teachers are feeling the stress)
  2. Students want to do something about it
    (Teachers want to do something about it)
  3. Students are looking to work with educators to create and implement solutions
    (Teachers are looking to work with students to create and implement solutions)
  4. Students need teachers who can listen without feeling that they need to have any or all of the answers
    (Teachers need others who can listen without feeling that they need to have any or all of the answers)
  5. Students need teachers who will help lead programs that are relevant to their needs rather than those that have been prescribed from outside of the building.
    (Teachers need others who will help lead programs that are relevant to their needs  rather than those that have been prescribed from outside of the building.)

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comment box to keep the conversation going.  

fractures

an image of fractions made with a blend of colourful geometric shapes in the style of Picasso and Klimt via Dalle 2
Image – fractions made with a blend of colourful geometric shapes in the style of Picasso and Klimt via Dalle 2 prompts by author

Bumps, bruises, cuts, and scars dot my skin. They serve as little reminders of the life that has been lived on the outside. Whether visible to others or not, I cannot look at them without recalling most of the moments and misadventures that caused them. I see these marks as near misses and continue to add more to my collection whether it is in the kitchen, workshop, or enjoying time with others.

Call this post ‘fractures’?

In my half century plus adventure time, I have not broken many bones along the way. Other than most of my fingers, a couple of ribs (which made baseball and golfing really tough that year), and my nose back in grade 6 playing football on the school team, I have been very fortunate not to ever be fitted with an itchy or cumbersome cast – although there is still time.

My collection of near misses and minor breaks have taught me quite a bit. I have to take my physical existence seriously when it comes to my actions and inactions. Perhaps my injuries are the products of inattention on my part? Perhaps I let my guard down with what-could-possibly-go-wrong thinking? Perhaps I needed to pay closer attention going forward? Somehow I am sounding like my parents and teachers and it’s bringing me back to the purpose of this post – fractures.

There is not a single one among us who enters the classroom each day without fractures. You see, we have all endured down times, loss, failure, and disappointment at one point in our lives or another. Whether physiologically or psychologically, fractures come along with life’s other certainties such as death, taxes, and dishes(without apologies to Ben Franklin). What we make of our fractures is often where we find our strength and determination.

If a bone breaks, the body begins the healing process immediately. Once something goes snap, the cells organize themselves to start the repair process. Interestingly enough, it is not like your brain is the boss yelling at the workers to do their jobs or go faster. At this point it is along for the ride because the body already knows what to do. The brain just takes the credit. “My what a nice job we did healing that tibia over the past 6 weeks.” Despite attending to the remediating a reconstruction project, the body can still get about other daily cognitive business, but when someone’s mind or spirit becomes fractured, the body is often likely to deteriorate in the process until healing and restoration are complete. So why is this so hard?

Fractures in our personal and thought lives are never usually front and centre though. Adding to this mystique is the elusive nature of mental health in general. Our fractured spirits are not easily seen by untrained minds and are often interpreted as rude behaviour or that maybe you need a time out to gather your thoughts. This is also common in our students. It is also compounded because, many times, they are processing emotions that seem difficult to articulate due to confusion and fear of being judged, cast out, mocked, or all of the above.

The Ontario Grade 6 Health Curriculum gives us some solid teaching and learning points that I have really been trying to build into the life skillsets of students in and out of our class time. Interestingly enough, this teaching really meshes well with the book The Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels which happens to be my current personal read, but that’s a blog for a different site.

So often we are faced with situations that are followed by a barrage of feelings and much more often than not we find ourselves reacting rather than responding. As our lessons have progressed, students have learned to assess the situation, identify their emotions, and then use strategies for resolution. Yet, even with the skills we are implementing into our daily interactions, the struggle to be honest and free of fear about our fractures and feelings is really hard to reckon with one another. This goes for teachers just as much as students.

We need to step outside of our comfort zones which double as camouflaged cages of social media level perfection and problem free happiness. We need to normalize that life is messy at times and that things can be and become broken. If we take time to pick up the pieces and put them back together there is a chance that these fractures can be mended.

In many cases the silence is even more deafening when it comes to issues of mental health in the classroom. Judging by recent news reports in response to the provincial budget causes me to believe we are in for more and more fractured students slipping through the cracks in our schools.

Yes, we can acknowledge it, but more often than not we are still too fractured as a society to truly support each other when there is so much need already. The keys has been and will continue to be in the hands of educators. As we walk through the hallways and curate our classrooms, take time to help the fractured around you by making time to acknowledge them (yourself), listen (talk with someone), and help them (yourself) heal.

A sunset over the water.

Teaching to Transgress: Embracing Change

“If the effort to respect and honour the social reality and experiences of groups in this society who are nonwhite is to be reflected in a pedagogical process, then as teachers – on all levels – we must acknowledge that our styles of teaching may need to change” (Hooks, 1994, p.35).

For every teacher in the classroom, there is another teacher out there who inspired them.  As teachers, we often teach as we were taught. We develop our teaching identity and teaching practice based on the teachers we admired growing up or the styles of teaching we witnessed and liked during our time at Teachers College (whether local or international). Unfortunately, many of the teaching styles we emulate are not grounded or founded in anti-oppressive teaching practice since multicultural narratives and diversity of educational perspectives were not the bedrock of learning. This is no longer the case in education. Meaningful learning has been identified as being culturally relevant to learners and responsive in fostering a learning environment that reflects all learners in their diversity. Simply put, do the students see themselves reflected meaningfully in their learning?

“When I first entered the multicultural, multiethnic classroom setting, I was unprepared. I did not know how to cope effectively with so much “difference.” Despite progressive politics and my deep engagement with the feminist movement, I had never before been compelled to work within a truly diverse setting, and I lacked the necessary skills” (Hooks, 1994, p. 41).

To provide context, Bell Hooks was an author, a social activist, and an educator who examined how race, feminism, and class are used as systems of oppression and class domination. She began her career as an educator in 1976 and taught until she passed away in 2018. In her 42-year career as an educator, she emphasized the power that educating from a multi-cultural perspective (a multinarrative) brings to the learning environment.

How dynamic would our classrooms be if we created and fostered space for students to be their authentic selves? How much more engagement would there be if students engaged with learning, not just as something to do, but as a part of who they are?

“The exciting aspect of creating a classroom community where there is respect for individual voices is that there is infinitely more feedback because students do feel free to talk – and talk back” (Hooks, 1994, p. 45). Students see themselves in their learning and recognize that they are part of it.

To better understand how this can be fostered in your classroom, it is first important to understand what a multicultural classroom is. “From language barriers to social skills, behaviour to discipline, and classroom involvement to academic performance, multicultural education aims to provide equitable educational opportunities to all students” (CueMath, 2021). The teacher must be intentional about utilizing teaching styles and strategies that remove barriers and eliminate issues that students often face in trying to adopt a single narrative to teaching and learning.

“Regardless of social class, caste, gender, or creed, a multicultural classroom serves all students and nurtures young minds to learn together. It also seeks transparency and acceptance of all cultural identities in a class without bias or partiality” (CueMath, 2021). A teacher who fosters multiculturalism models acceptance of differences, encourages learning beyond a single narrative and always uplifts multiplicity in learning perspectives as they accentuate students’ diverse identities.

To learn more about how you can create an environment that ‘Teaches to Transgress” and embrace equality and diversity in our ever-changing classroom environments, read through these nine tips that have been provided by OISE Professor Ann Lopez and Richard Messina, Principal of OISE’s Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (JICS).

References

Craig, L. (2017, September 7). 9 ways to create an inclusive environment in a diverse classroom. University of Toronto Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Retrieved December 18, 2022, from https://www.oise.utoronto.ca/oise/About_OISE/Dealing_with_diversity_in_the_classroom.html

CueMath. (2021, January 21). Learn about multicultural education and ways to implement. Cuemath. Retrieved December 18, 2022, from https://www.cuemath.com/learn/multicultural-education/

Hooks, B. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York u.a: Routledge.

 

Computer Science Education Week

The beginning of December marked Computer Science Education Week. It was our chance to continue deepening our Computational Thinking skills with unplugged and online activities. The kindergarten students were learning to communicate an understanding of basic spatial relationships while students in grades 1 to 5 were learning to solve problems and create computational representations of mathematical situations using coding concepts and skills. 

Throughout the year, kindergarten students have been learning to communicate basic spatial relationships – on top, beside, to the left of, to the right of, ahead, etc.  They’re picking it up quickly and that helped us when we started working on our Lego Mazes. Students started by building their mazes on Lego Baseplates and then used the arrows to help move their minifigures from the start to the end of the maze. Some groups realized that there were different ways to make their way through. Having this practice proved helpful when they had the opportunity to try a couple of online activities – Code Monkey Junior and Beaver Achiever

The grade 1s and 2s were pretty curious about the Lego Mazes and tried their hand at using the arrows to move their way through the mazes that the kindergarten students created. It took some practice but in groups, they were able to get the job done. Next, using images on a grid, students were tasked with coding a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They had to consider the steps that are involved in creating the sandwich and then determine the sequence of events as they moved from one place to the next, gathering the materials and making their sandwich. This practice was also helpful for them for their online activities – Code Monkey Junior and Beaver Achiever

The grades 3, 4, and 5 students were all about solving problems in Minecraft using code.org and Minecraft for Education. Starting out in code.org gave students the opportunity to have some guided practice and when it came time to work in the Minecraft for Education space, those skills came in handy as students coded their way to escape the mysterious mansion. It was great to see students collaborating with each other and finding different ways of coding their way out of challenges. I found it particularly interesting that there were some students that were able to catch mistakes in the code of their peers even before running it. The opportunity to debug the code in Minecraft for Education was really great for some to see how changing small things could result in big changes overall. 

I’m still working on ways of helping students to explicitly understand computational skills – algorithmic thinking, abstraction, decomposition, generalizing and patterns, evaluation, and logic. While Computer Science Education Week only lasts one week in the year, we’re excited that the learning is ongoing and that the skills we are learning are transferable to other subject areas as we consider ways of solving problems.

We’re Building Again!

Lay a challenge before a creative and imaginative group of students and you get nothing but sheer enthusiasm and excitement to tackle that challenge. My school’s kindergarten and primary students, like Iggy Peck, are always up for a building challenge. After reading the book and realizing just how devastating a broken bridge could be, groups of students banded together using linking discs to solve the problem and created some incredible bridges. 

In groups of 3 or 4, students quickly got to work and realized that the task of creating a bridge that was long enough and sturdy enough, during a short period of time, would require all hands on deck. Although each group was given the same task, it was great to see that groups approached the build in different ways.  It was really nice to see groups of students working together and listening to one another about what they might choose to build. Some considered building a straight line, while others tried to create something that looked like a ladder that someone could walk across. For some members, linking the discs was hard and so they took a longer time to help with the build, all while having their teammates there to help them along. From one corner of the classroom, I heard a kinder say, “I’m doing it!” while their classmate replied, “Good job”. 

When it came time to test out their creations, some groups quickly realized that they needed all of their members to help carry their bridges over to the testing station. Along the way, many broke and members had to help each other piece their bridges back together again. At the testing area, some groups found that their bridges weren’t long enough and had to go back and add on. Other groups found that what they had built wasn’t sturdy enough, resulting in the bridges falling or sliding off of the chairs. They too went back to the drawing board and added discs for extra stability, and sometimes weight at the ends.

Part of what I love so much about my work in this role is that I have the opportunity to support students in failing forward. Many were not successful on their first try and it was refreshing to see that we’ve created a space where that’s ok and we can go back and try again. We’ve had a couple of periods each of building bridges and I don’t think they’re tired yet. I’m more excited about the bridges we are building with each other as we support one another in building our creativity.

kids these days – student version

What is the first song that comes to mind when you think of your students?

Is it Them Kids by Sam Roberts Band or Kids by MGMT? Solid tracks if so. However, after nearly three months in this grade six homeroom, the song that keeps playing the loudest in my head is The Kids are Alright by the Who. To be more precise, one line from the song’s chorus. La phrase juste.

“The kids are alright.” – gush warning pending in proceeding paragraphs

I am not going to dwell on the inner workings of the melody, harmony, and verses of this classic rock masterpiece, except to say that the Who provide a superbly sonic conduit to get me to the one line in the chorus that is the soundtrack to this year so far. I can’t explain it either, but I know that teachers young and old of my generation can join together in harmony knowing that the kids are alright and won’t get fooled again. Amen.

After 5 incredibly educational years as a SERT, Transitions, and FI Lang/Math teacher the return to a homeroom classroom has brought with it a breath of fresh air that I was not able to have while my role was trifurcated. I feel a bit selfish being able to teach in my own classroom all day long. It feels good to linger a little longer in a subject area when the magic is happening, safe in the knowledge that causing any changes to the daily schedule are not going to affect my colleagues.

I think that the universe agreed that the past 3 years of online, in person, and hy&r!d instruction helped me build up enough karma points this year? I would have also been good with unadulterated good fortune as an explanation, but I think there is more to it than that. I believe that it has to do with the kids these days who are walking through the door each day.

Bringers of joy

I am happy, inspired, and excited for what is going to happen each day. Sometimes it is the little things like the way they are suddenly able to pause for a moment of redirection without making it a big deal. Maybe it is when they all want to volunteer to do something and even when some don’t, they still accept their fair share of a task. Perhaps it is their willingness to share their thoughts

We have created ideal communities, solved school and global problems using design thinking models, done research/designed devices to support bees as a keystone species in great danger, discussed, read, and written about racism (anti-Black, AAPI, and anti-Indigenous) and identity, we have reviewed a lot of Math and have taken some extremely large bites out of fixed mindsets that were taking over Math learning, these growth mindset habits are happening in French class too.

Add in a lot of personal reading, writing, and constant creative opportunity time, the days are speeding by faster than I care to reckon. Each time I think I am raising the bar, my students are already figuring out how to launch themselves over and above it. It’s not perfect, but I think that’s what makes this year special. This class possesses something I haven’t seen in a while, a spirit of otherliness and collaboration that has allowed for some very positive partnerships leading to meaningful outcomes. It is their collective willingness to give their best, try out new approaches, and learn to see things through the eyes of others that makes me sing that chorus.

Do you know what makes me happiest about all of this? 

I get to do work with them tomorrow and the days after that all the way through June because the kids these days are alright.