started from the bottom

My students and I didn’t know a lot of things when we started this year.
We didn’t know that we’d be climbing literal, emotional, and metaphysical mountains.
How could we? I am sure that each of us experiences a similar version to this expedition too. 

There we were; 26 individuals together for the first time.
We set up base camp by creating a student centred learning space that valued community, kindness, encouragement, and hard work. We focused on sharing our strengths and areas where we wanted to improve our footing in order to ascend the mountain(s) we were preparing to summit. 

“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen.” – Rene Daumal

A cartoon man looks up towards the summit of a mountain
Image from Simpsons
S9 E201 5F16 first aired March 3, 1998

oxygen and sherpas please

Each year, we start at the bottom to get to where we are now; by the looks of the mountain still towering above us that is May and June, we have a lot more to climb. There may still be some distance to cover above, but I think it is a great time to look down to appreciate how far we’ve climbed. I think that this perspective will provide us some of the necessary extra strength/motivation to finish what we started in order to reach the top. 

My grade 6s and I are eight months into our ten month journey to the summit of Mt. Grade 6*. We have grown in stature, in perspectives, in strength, and in skills. We have lost our way on purpose and along with those sideways steps, and circuitous routes, we have also left behind some of our worries about participating and presenting by better knowing ourselves. We have camped on lush warm plateaus while gaining the confidence and capacity to go higher. 

We have built bridges over dangerous crevasses of fixed mindsets and self doubt too. We have shared resources and experiences. We have picked each other when there was a slip or slide backwards. We made sure our ropes, pitons, carabiners, and the rest of our gear is safe and strong. We packed enough provisions for everyone to make it to the top and back down again. We have accepted and carried our share of the load. 

We have laughed, discussed tough topics, dug deeply into equity and inclusion, tore up tests that didn’t go well, restarted lessons, disagreed, reviewed past lessons, re-reviewed past lessons, learned new concepts, reviewed new concepts, re-reviewed new concepts, shared life tips, played outside, and so much more. 

There have been moments when the distance between those at the top of the climb were setting up new base camps while others were still climbing. We learned to wait for each other; to make sure that everyone was accounted for on the trek. 

We started from the bottom and we can almost see the top. There is still a lot of climbing ahead, but what a view!

*not a real mountain

lost and found

I am not sure why the title of the thought stream to follow sprung forth to wrap this month, but I will roll with it just to see where it will flow.

We have had one heck of a March at the speed of learning. With 70% of the seeds of this instructional year plan already planted, it looks to be an exciting and busy 3 months of tending, nurturing, and harvesting ahead.

It’s Spring. It’s new years and reflection and remembrance for some. It’s resurrection time and Ramadan for others. It’s also the annual rebirth of nature and reflection that we have all been waiting since the first snows of winter blanketed our outdoor spaces.

lost and found

I have been thinking a lot about what is mine and what is not. I can pinpoint the most recent moment that precipitated the throughline of this piece too.

In our school caretaker’s work room there was a dolly full of about 8 large plastic bags and a number of boxes. Curious, I took a closer look and happened to see that the bags were full of clothes that had accumulated between the Winter to Spring breaks. 8 bags. This got me wondering about a couple of things beyond the obvious: How could a kid lose boots or a winter coat and not know they were missing?

Perhaps I have gotten used to this scene playing out over the past years in schools, and have become comfortable in knowing that the thrift shops in our community always benefit from receiving the goods. Hence why they were on the dolly ready to be delivered. However, a few thoughts still linger.

I started to wonder about how much we have to lose before we realize/recognize/know it’s gone? Is it too late once we do? Have you ever found something that had been lost and forgotten about? This seems to happen each time I organize my materials, especially for science, for a new unit and when I move classrooms/schools.

In those moments I am hit with multiple memories of past lessons and classes. These times have also come with my own version of a Marie Kondo intervention. Was this item useful? Did it bring my students knowledge and understanding? Does it bring me joy when I used it? Will it still be able to serve its purpose going forward?

Many times, the answers have been no, not really, and result in a new home in the recycling bin. This has been hard for me as I have horder tendencies when viewed through the educational lens. I am guilty of keeping things even when they no longer serve or survive their purpose. It has only been recently that I have worked through this challenge.

Happy to say that my own personal dolly loads have decreased as the years go on. To this day, I do not regret recycling or giving away any of my resources although I have retained some digital versions of a few on USB.

So what about losing someone?

Spring is also the time when many educators seek new schools, get surplused, or retire. I know this very well being on my 5th school in 15 years. The necessity/choice to make a move can be exhilarating, nervewracking or both. In each of my cases, it meant losing one community and then finding it again but in a new ecosystem.

Along the way, I have tried to maintain some connection with staff from each place, but it also comes with the need to accept that absence makes you irrelevant when you are not sharing the same spaces. The pandemic really amplified this fact as we used to be able to catch up at PD or larger conferences, but those opportunities/reunions have yet to return. Whenever it does happen though, reminds me of the positive experiences gained from those times together. Despite the distances, some strong friendships have remained regardless of the bricks we work within now. Even though there are few guarantees when making a move, the opportunity for growth will be there for you.

I guess my point here is that it is worth the effort to keep in touch even if it is only once a year. Yes it can be time consuming, but it can also be a breath of fresh air, like Spring, to hear from someone you used to work with when they reach out. I also know that it can be equally joyous not to hear from others. Thankfully that is not the majority of my experience, but I won’t speak for former colleagues.

Sometimes you have to get lost to get found and whether it is in reinventing your classroom approach, moving schools, or seeking out connections with past and present Spring offers us a perfect time to weigh what is important and not so important, what brings us joy and what can be appreciated when looking back.

I wish all of this for you whether you move, move on, or stay put for another year. May yours be the joy that fills those spaces.

Winterfest

Our school is an OPHEA certified school- which means, “Healthy Schools Certification gives your school the tools to promote and enhance the health and well-being of students, school staff, and the broader school community.” More information about being an OPHEA certified school can be found here

Last year, our focus was on physical activity and this year, our focus is on wellness. So, our OPHEA team (which consists of ten teachers and over 40 students) planned a day called “Winterfest”. This day ran during school hours and was planned completely by our OPHEA student leaders. They planned activities indoors and outdoors for the school- students in grades 1-6. The intermediate students ran each student or led a group around the school to each station. Stations included:

  • Bobsleigh: students on a mat guiding their way through a course of pylons
  • Biathlon: a fake skating activity where students have to bowl to hit some cones at the end
  • Hot chocolate: students enjoy some hot chocolate while a fake fireplace sparks in the background
  • Ring Toss: an outdoor activity 
  • Directed Drawing: a mindful activity indoors
  • Box Igloo Building: students compete to build an igloo against other students with boxes 
  • Cooperative games: students work with their classmates to reach a common goal (silent line up, octopus, parachute)
  • Spoon & Egg relay: students race again their classmates to not drop the ping pong ball off the spoon
  • Obstacle Course: students run through a ground ladder and around pylons to race to the finish 
  • Capture the flag: class vs. class style, two classes play a game of capturing the other teams flag 
  • Ball Hockey: students compete against their classmates to score goals outdoors in a Canadian favourite

These activities were 25 minutes long in length and were a combination of indoor/outdoor games. The day went off without a hitch as intermediate students received compliments all day long for their excellent leadership skills! Thankfully, it was 8 degrees so the weather was not a negative factor. We look forward to doing another wellness day similar to this in the Spring. Try it out with your school!

 

daring pt 2023

Saying goodbye to another year can stir up a lot of emotions. I found myself reflecting about a farewell post to share with you knowing it will be one more that brings me closer to the end of my time here on this platform.

This in itself is not yet a goodbye, as there are still 6 plus months of writing to come. It is, however, a great chance to look back and look forward from the precipice of one year’s end and towards a new year ahead. Maybe this is a function of age or some other memory related trope, but I will prattle on nevertheless.

As a result of this melancholic thinking I find myself asking, “what did I do in the past year that was daring as an educator, and what will I do in 2024 that will be daring as well”? I guess I need to consider what counts as daring because this can be construed as mere subjectivity if it does not mesh well with the minds of others as it is intended. Dare I go on? 

Daring can conjure up a lot of imaginary thinking from one to the next so before you conflate ‘daring’ with dangerous please read on.

Looking back on 2023

From an outsider’s point of view, 2023 couldn’t have been more normal considering the turmoil of the lockdown, online, and hybrid models we taught through in the years prior. The joy of not having to prepare and deliver lessons for two different grades of in-class and online learners while not having to worry so much about social distancing, masking, or illness was cause for much rejoicing. As 2023 started, it felt like we were really coming out of the pandemic and I was able to really focus on my students. 

This meant taking time to reimagine what learning needed to look like for students who experienced learning in a manner that had never been delivered to them before. Daring to go back to old(er) ways didn’t seem right with my students. They needed something else, and that came in the form of social emotional learning more than academics. 

So 2023 started off with more team oriented and collaborative projects that asked students to recapture their abilities to listen to one another to accomplish a goal with just as much importance as succeeding at learning the curriculum infused within it. My goal was to put the individual learner back into the spaces that were stolen from them by COVID19.

Admittedly, there was a lot of work to do when it came to assessment, but that in itself was also a chance to be a bit daring too. Before you dial 911, please remember that we were all given a new hand of cards to play with during the pandemic. What we knew beforehand was only going to serve as a starting point and not a return destination.

It was, to forgive the pun, like the beginning of new year. It was full of promise and without any mistakes in it. Assessment became a chance to have students see themselves reflected in how they wanted to show their learning. We took time to democratize rubrics and methods to demonstrate understanding. For us that meant fewer pencil and paper tests, more conversations and check-ins, more feedback, and many more chances to revisit learning. Instead of teaching, testing, and moving on we learned, lingered on what needed more time, unlearned, and relearned as often as needed.

Yes, we still managed to get the whole curriculum and it was a government mandated standardized testing year as well. 

I think that 2023 also allowed me to dare a little more boldly into my lessons when it came to social justice focused on BIPOC excellence and culturally responsive and relevant learning opportunities that went beyond the heroes and holidays. Instead of a single day or month, these conversations became part of our class logos, pathos, and ethos. Ultimately, it allowed my students to feel seen, heard, and empowered with greater understanding of one another which also led back to the social learning I set out to teach to start the year. 

Being able to work with my class to start 2023 carried over nicely from January to December even with my new, much quieter, cohort of students and I am seeing the fruits from taking those chances earlier in the year even though the delivery is definitely different for this group, the goal to teach to their social emotional needs first remained. 

On a personal level we sold our house, moved, and continue to unpack. In between all of that were 3 weeks of summer school teaching, and a quick trip to bury an uncle. Life did not skip a beat when it meted out the highs and lows of 2023. For all of them, I am thankful to be working in a wonderfully led and staffed school filled with caring and curious learners each daring to take the steps towards discovering and developing their talents.

My next post will look at how I might be daring in my classroom in 2024. I ask you all to consider that too and share your thoughts in the comments below.

wha’ppen

I used to listen to a lot of ska (two tone) music during my youth. It was time well spent. Hearing the steady rhythms and upbeat lyrics from the Specials, the Skatelites, and Madness always put me in the right headspace. Now, before you think I have overlooked another key group, look back at the title of this piece, and know that the cornerstone of my record collection was occupied by the English Beat.

Wha’ppen was just one of the many albums to frequently spin on my turntable. While listening, I would read about how this band formed and who played which instruments, arranged the melodies, and crafted the lyrics. I learned that wha’appen was patois for what’s happening? This was my first time hearing a different dialect of English, and it came with a sonic introduction to a whole bunch of new vocabulary too. I also learned that The English Beat formed as a response to a great deal of socio-political and musical upheaval happening in England and around the world at the time.* 

As a teenager, it was really cool to listen to music that wasn’t being played on the radio, and to listen to the collaborations of this group who did not outwardly resemble the lineups of most rock or punk bands that I had known before.

The English Beat looked and sounded differently than others. They incorporated ska, rock steady, roots, along with reggae and infused it all with thought provoking lyrics which were anchored by upbeat tunes and creative instrumentation. This music was unlike anything else I had heard before; with the exception of Peter Tosh or The Wailers.

So what does a memory lane visit about the English Beat have to do with helping teachers at all phases of their careers? Well, it’s about taking time to remember what motivates you. Regardless of who was blasting out of my speakers these artists provided a soundtrack to my life that lifted my thoughts and spirit at a time when I was making decisions that would impact the future.

40+ years later, these songs still bring me joy. It’s not that there haven’t been other musicians and genres to achieve similar revered status because there are dozens that comprise the soundtrack of this teacher’s life. So far. I also love sharing these songs with my students. 

In her P3 Podcast, Noa Daniel asks guests to pick 3 songs (nostalgia, identity, and pick me up) that best represent them. This project was actually inspired by a classroom project Noa shared with her students. Participants picked their songs and then had a chance to discuss them with Noa. I loved sharing my 3 songs with her. 

Music has this way of breaking down barriers and opening up our minds to experience the thoughts and melodies of others. Music is ageless, timeless, and boundless. I can’t think of a better medium or time to remind others that music allows us the chance to listen. And when we listen, we gain understanding, knowledge, and joy. We also gain a chance to process wha’appen each time we put on some tunes. 

Teachers experience a lot of sounds throughout their days in the classroom. Not all of them are soothing. Some sounds are downright dissonant, while still others are reflective of the emotions being felt in our classrooms. After a hectic month of report prep, instruction, and parent conferences, I am thankful to have so many tracks that help to steady my heart and mind from day to day. 

One more thing: I was thinking about walk-up songs. You know the upbeat samples that come on at sporting events when a particular player is introduced. I was wondering what your walk up song would be? What came to mind first might not even be your favourite song, as if anyone could pick just one. Even after much deliberation, I still struggle to decide, but the first song that came to mind was Sabotage by the Beastie Boys. I am sure that a completely different song will pop into my head next time. 

Please share your song in the comments below. Happy listening. 

*Nothing has changed but the day, month, and year on the upheaval front. Sigh.

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

sssh, our students are trying to tell us something

Chaotic, cacophonous, raucous, lively, spirited, loud, energetic, full of beans, demanding, and too loud are all words that have been used to describe my classes over the course of my career. I have also heard irreverent (not disrespectful), confrontational (willing to challenge the status quo), and demanding (using their voices when things ain’t right) too, but that has been mostly in a positive light. To be truthful I have really come to appreciate their ebullience and passion when it comes to occupying their learning spaces. After all, it’s theirs. We just get to work within it.

Until this year, there has been one word not heard describing my homeroom though – quiet. Perhaps it is because we are only 4 weeks into the new year or that this group is still trying to figure out their new teacher (good luck to them) or that I have been blessed with a room that is 80 percent filled with phlegmatic and introverted personality types. Needless to say, the silence has been a bit deafening because this group is q-u-i-e-t.

What’s that you ask? How can a group of 6th graders possibly be quiet? I know, right? Yet, here we are about to take off on a little thought flight.

This year has me thinking about the approaches I am taking with this clearly unique grouping of oddly quiet scholars. Will it last? Am I jinxing myself by the mere mention of their tranquil behaviour? Is this what teaching is going to look like going forward in the post pandemic era of constant connectivity? After all, this group was in grade 2, just learning to fly, when they were grounded for nearly 3 years. How come there seems to be fewer relentless participants than in years past?

Do I need to build more quiet, reflective, and self-directed time into my day? Could this finally be the group that will meditate with me? Do our discussions need to be in smaller groups so those reticent voices have a chance to be heard? How do I honour the A-types because every classroom needs them too?

I started browsing about and found a line that encapsulates what I am seeing right now.

“Behind silent people there is an incredible thinking machine working.” ~Tina Panossian

I know that my quieter learners are working hard. I know that they are figuring things out on the inside rather than where it can be seen. For whatever reasons they choose to work this way, I will do everything possible to make them feel safe, feel seen, and know they are intelligent.

Here’s what has worked so far; the use of no hands participation, peer to peer discussions, and small group conversations. Each of these have helped me ascertain the information necessary to know when we are in full flight to our desired destination or whether we have lost all engines and are bracing for a rough landing somewhere uncharted. Either way, we are on this journey together. Perhaps this group prefers to plug in the headphones and read rather than talk with the folx sitting in their row?

Yet, despite not having much turbulence I think that there is still a lot of work to come in order to chart the best course in navigating this unique group. The world needs introverts. The world needs deep thinkers. It is in these two truths that I get really excited thinking about what can happen if the right conditions get created to give them all flight. All I know now is that there is a chance to build something new into my instructional spaces that might be a benefit to every learner. 

I think an update post will be forthcoming in December. 

Thank you for reading and reflecting with me. Please keep the conversation going in the comments.
Will

10 years later…

It is officially my tenth September starting the school year. I am so excited to blog once again this year and share the experiences from my grade 7/8 classroom. As I reflect on the past ten years, there are many things I have learned. Things I have stopped doing, continued doing and started doing. I have reflected on almost all of these in the past on this blog and enjoy reading old posts to see how far I have come.

Most importantly, I enjoy remembering why I got into this profession. I thought I would share that as my first post this school year.

Why Teaching is the best job on earth

Teaching is the best job on earth because I get to inspire and help students each day. That is something that means a lot to me because when I was in school, nobody ever did that for me. I used to get spoken to as a student if I was doing something wrong, not something right, which made me upset. Now that I am a teacher, I can make a difference in many ways. One way I would like to make a difference is by helping students with their mental health.

Mental health is so important because if students do not feel safe and happy, they cannot learn, so those are both needed in order to start teaching. That being said, it is easier said than done. It is important to spend the first few weeks of school helping everyone get to know each other and finding out what interests each student has. Then, you can begin teaching the curriculum. Thankfully, my school board created a wellness activity set for teachers to use in their classroom. We have over 100+ activities that foster a community in our classrooms and are encouraged to do one daily for the first six weeks of school. I have seen my class enjoy these activities and start to create friendships with students who they had not met before. Here are some of the activities we enjoyed the first eight days of school:

  • sharing about their identity
  • finding things that have in common/unique things within their seating group
  • two truths and a lie
  • sharing goals for the year
  • finding an inspirational quote that is meaningful to them
  • sharing one interesting fact about themselves

Another element about teaching I enjoy is coaching. I enjoy coaching because you get to see your students outside of the classroom, which for many is their favourite spot in the school. Coaching gives me a way to connect with students who may not build that connection inside the classroom. I also have always loved sports, so I enjoy coaching now that I do not play on as many teams as when I was younger. 

The last thing I love the most about teaching is creating leadership opportunities.  I have had many opportunities to be a leader and plan events as a teacher, so it is my turn to teach students how to create these events and help me run them. That way when they are older they can run them on their own. I am most excited for school spirit days, music events, sport events, Prom Project and more for the 2023/2024 school year.

Even though I could go on and on, I thought I would sum up my three favourite things about teaching so I can always reflect on these when I have a challenging day. I hope each and every one of my students find something that they are passionate about one day just as I have found. Ten years later, still loving this job!

that kid

Created by DALL-E
a-class-photo-of-faceless-students-in-the-styles-of-Monet-Rembrandt-Kandinsky-and-Warhol prompt by author

I was thinking about that kid and I found myself getting emotional. 

You know the one. We all do. Whether the name(s) or face(s) you thought of are in your class this year or not. We all have one or two students who popped in there almost immediately. I am not going to sugar coat this either because it got emotional. When I think about that kid, my feelings range quite widely here. Anger, joy, sadness, peace, et al have all staked their claims in my amygdalae and other rose coloured spaces in my emotional thought centre.

My first “that kid” came when I was quite new to teaching. I probably owe them an apology for pushing too hard about their studies without considering how hard it must have been to be truly trying their best, but not meeting the expectations of which I was thoroughly* convinced were so clearly taught and put within reach. Like I mentioned above, an apology has been uttered on a couple of occasions for that learner into the universe. 

There are two other feelings that happens sometimes, relief and angst. Relief that you were able to make it through a year together and grow. Angst over what I missed or, straight up, got completely wrong. My most recent that kid reads like this: 

Is quiet – too quiet.
Sticks to the sidelines as if crazy glued there.
Struggles to start something, and struggles even more to finish.
Whether it is a transition, a sentence, or a math challenge mine has got me thinking about what I need to do differently next time because there will be a next time no matter how hard I work to learn the lessons from the past to use now and in the future.

As teachers, I’ve noticed that we tend to be pretty hard on ourselves much more often than we realize or care to admit. It’s who we are as reflective practitioners who seek to make things better for our learners. I have noticed that we fret far more about any flaws in our work even when there are few if any cracks in our foundations. We are constant works in progress alongside our students and we wear it on our sleeves when it doesn’t go well. 

Sometimes, that kid gifts you some victories too. You see, all that time spent investing in that kid can turn out to be a life enriching moment for you as an educator and even more so for that kid as a scholar. Since my first that kid nearly 15 years ago, I have marveled at hearing from students who are completing degrees at amazing schools and starting to write the next chapters of their lives. This week I ran into a student who will be doing just that.

To be honest, it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops with this particular that kid. If poor choices, bad behaviour, and work avoidance were credit courses, this learner would be top of the class. Fast forward 6 years and they are about to begin a very challenging degree program at a top university. That could have only happened with significant support, responsibility, accountability, and commitment. In other words, the exact opposite to where they were back then. So what turned this scholar around? How did the switch get flipped, and who did the flipping? I was certainly thrilled to receive such news knowing that there would be more good things to come as a result of them finding their stride as a student. Whoever helped this “that kid” turn over a new leaf has changed one young person’s life not for good, but for great. 

I am also aware that there are some who will never get to experience an about face like the that kid above, and I need to take ownership of that and work to improve going forward. Maybe my next that kid will not fall through the cracks through their education? I know that there is always room to improve what and how we do this job of ours. I know that teachers have countless conversations in order to find and fit the complex puzzle pieces we know as students together. I know that there is no single strategy or approach that will reach 100% of our students. What we need to remind ourselves is that we come pretty close to perfection, and we do it across a decade plus of siloed collaboration, between the panels, whether we realize it or not. 

When you think about it, each of our students could have as many as 50 teachers over their K to 12 careers. Of course homeroom teachers occupy the bulk of those first 10 years yet that still means there are countless points of influential interaction to be had between an entire cast of educators all working in concert to make sure each that kid gets and gives the best. 

This job asks us to accept and understand that we often will never know how the work we put in with our students will support them in the future. Closure is not a luxury many elementary teachers ever have once our students move onward and beyond our schools, but that should not bring us down because there is always that kid who takes the time, after several years have gone by, to reach out and connect again: to share how much they appreciated what was taught to them in and out of the classroom all those years ago. 

 

*On a random note: the word thoroughly breaks down into tho roughly. So now my idea of thorough will always be considerate of whether I was thorough or tho rough

Celebrations

Congratulations, you did it! We all made it through another year and are now on our much deserved summer vacation. This calls for a celebration! Yesterday at my school’s final PA day of the year, we were asked to reflect and share with our table-top the celebrations of the year. Things that have happened that we can positively reflect on. After everyone shared in the small groups, we were asked to share with our entire staff. It’s funny that with 10-12 different table groups, almost everyone shared the same general ideas. I am sure as you read this, hopefully you will also be able to share in the same celebrations. 

Reasons to celebrate the 2022-2023 school year:

  1. Student growth- the common idea amongst us all was that students grew from September to June. Not only with their reading, writing, etc. but their character developed. Behaviours settled down and students matured as the year went on. We were all able to identify a specific student that amazed us, specifically with their personal growth. I shared about a student who found it challenging to come to school last school year but thrived this year in a new classroom environment. Tears came to my eyes sharing about how proud I am of this student as his personal growth inspired me in so many ways.
  2. Writing- teachers shared about how their students could only write a few words at the beginning of the year but by the end, were writing stories by the end of a school day. I can also relate to this as I have so many students who doubled their writing samples by the end of June. 
  3. Reading- our school’s plan this year was small group guided instruction and we especially focused on this in our language classrooms. Many  of us noticed the impact this had on our students, focusing on phonics really allowed our students to grow as readers. Many of the primary  teachers worked with programs that helped their students read. They noticed large gains and were so excited to share the success that the reading specialist and these programs helped them to achieve. We are continuing with this goal next year and I look forward to starting small reading groups in September. My class especially amazed me with their reading abilities, decoding at grade level and making connections to what they read. 
  4. Making good memories- with the year having minimal disruptions, students had a hard time picking just one memory to share that was their favourite. Opportunities were available again for students to make memories and they were all so excited to share during the last few days of school. When my own students shared this was their favourite year of school, I was so happy to hear! I look forward to creating new memories in September. 
  5. Feeling like a family- something that I am personally celebrating is that feeling of togetherness that every educator hopes to achieve with their class. By the end of June, I can fully look back on the year and say we achieved it. With respect, random groupings, positive affirmations and weekly celebrations, I know that everyone felt that our class was a family. This feeling made the final bell especially hard to hear on the last day of school. However, I look forward to next year and hope to achieve that same feeling again. 

As we reflect on our successes from the year, they are probably some things we wish to “leave behind”. Whether it be a project, a mindset or a seating plan style that we didn’t quite like, it’s important that we don’t dwell on the negative, but look at the positives. I encourage you all to make a list of things that you want to celebrate from this year and think about it during your much deserved summer break. See you in September!