Construction Zones to Classrooms

The smell of honeysuckle and lilac, the sight of beautiful magnolia blossoms that sparkle and fade all too fast and the sound of robins greeting each sunrise with joyful chirps are all welcomed signs of spring.  One of the other sure signs of spring in the Forest City is the numerous construction projects which sat dormant during the winter but come alive as the snow melts and the days become longer.

Last week, as a result of one of these many construction projects, I dutifully followed the detour signs through a subdivision close to the Education Center.   Along with the make shift speed bumps, I noticed this sign “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here” on many of the front lawns.  I immediately slowed down and found myself taking extra care in checking my mirrors and blind spots.  I watched for unexpected distractions such as stray balls rolling onto the road as a result of a missed shot in a driveway hockey game or all too focused dandelion pickers unaware of their surroundings and any potential dangers.

I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if we took that same sentiment and transferred it to our schools.  What if on all of our schools signs we professed that we “Teach Like Our Own Kids Go Here”.

I recall a time when I overheard a teacher complain that at her daughter’s school no one was stepping up to coach one of the sports teams.  Yet that same staff member wasn’t volunteering any of her time at the school that she worked at to do any coaching.  I found it rather ironic.

When we think about the classroom environment that we want for our own children, do we do our best as eduImage result for school signcators to replicate that for our students?  Do we greet our students at the door every morning and let them know that we are so glad that they are here.

When there is an issue with another student, do we take the time to investigate and help problem solve the situation with care, kindness and fairness?

Do we provide choice in our tasks and honour and embrace student voice because we truly believe that our students have something worthwhile to say?  Do we take the time to read what our students are reading so that we can suggest that “just right” book and watch their faces light up because they know that we care enough to go the extra mile?

Image result for teacher reading a bookDo we provide our students with multiple (differentiated) ways to demonstrate their learning, because just like our own children are individuals (I often wonder how my own three children, who had the exact same environment as children have grown into such individuals with their own set of unique strengths) our students have their own backpack of strengths.

 

When assigning multiple tasks to be completed at home, do we as educators stop and contemplate the impact that our “homework” will have on our families.  How would we feel as a parent of a student in our class, managing night time routines which include assigned homework?

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate that many of my own children’s teachers where incredible and I’ve worked alongside of educators who “teach like their own children go here”.

But what If we ALL taught like our children were in our class, can you imagine the impact?

Come write with me…..

Fire

OK…. I’ll admit it and at this point, there is absolutely no use in trying to deny it.  My family and friends know it as do our neighbours at the cottage ~ as I frequently get chastised.  I love fire.  I love building fires, watching them grow. I love getting lost in the flames and the multi-coloured embers. I love the smell of campfires ~  Day or night, summer or winter. There is a true art to building a fire that will sustain. It takes precision and at times patience.  This past weekend, as we traveled North to our cottage, I read, “Breaking Free ~ from Myths about teaching and learning” by Allison Zmuda and within the pages, the author references this poem by Judy Brown

FIRE

What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.

So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.

A fire
grows
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

 

Once we arrived at the cottage, I started to unbury the pile of wood, tossed in a heap at the end of the
summer, as a result of a new wooden deck replacing an old, rotten one and build a fire that would not be subject to a nosy neighbour or a red indicator on the fire ban sign, and reflect on Brown’s poem and it’s connection to education and innovation.

As I built the triangular base in the firepit, I was conscious of ensuring that there was room for natural air flow. The small twigs, were nestled beneath the larger planks and the small amount of paper was gingerly crumbled to ensure that once the match was struck and contact was made, a flame would evolve.  A flame that would lead to another flame and so on, until enough flames would begin to encircle the wood and it would come to life with dancing flames.  But always ensuring there is enough space for the flames to dance and to demonstrate their brilliance.  Knowing that adding lots of planks of wood would only smother the fire and not allow it to grow and reach towards the sky.

As I reflect on the current state of education, I can’t help but wonder if we are leaving enough space or are we piling on the “wood”, plank by plank ~ hoping for a bonfire, but instead becoming frustrated with the bursts of flames that die down as fast as they ignite.

It is in those moments of air, when we stop, question and truly reflect on the moves that we’ve performed. It is during those moments when true change will occur.  That is the magic ~ that is the dance of the enduring flames.

And yet, there seems to be an unlimited number of strategies that one can try in order to improve student achievement.  And with the best of intentions, it seems as if everyone is trying to get through their grocery list of things to try as fast as possible ~ somehow thinking that more strategies (wood) will equal greater results (bigger bonfire).

Brown refers to the open spaces as the fuel; not the wood.

How will you fuel the fire of learning in your classroom, in your school, in your organization?  The answer might not be the next “greatest strategy that you find on Twitter or Pinterest!

Come write with me…

 

Starting from Scratch #IMMOOC

Don’t you just love it when seemingly unconnected events magically come together!  Yesterday I found myself starting my day taking part in #satchat, as the topic was “What do tomorrow’s classrooms look like today?”  ~ a timely topic as I’m currently in the process of purchasing furniture for a new elementary school that I’ll be the principal at this fall.  A task that is both exciting and daunting at the same time. This morning, I found my Twitter troll gravitating towards comments, images and articles focusing on school culture as I added #newschool for future reference.  Fast forward to later in the morning and as I was walking the dog around the block, I was reflecting on my need to blog before the end of the month.  Then as the morning progressed I found myself in a DM conversation with @gcouros booking him to come and share his talents with our Learning Support Services team this upcoming spring.  As the invitation went out to the team, one of our members, @pluggedportable shared that he was taking part in #IMMOOC.   Fast forward to tonight and another team member, @annettecann shared a post about the first blog post for the #IMMOOC ~ If you started a school from scratch, what would you see as necessary, and what would you take out from what we currently do.  A topic that is near and dear to both my heart and my head. A topic that has generated both a daily journal and a hashtag #newschool.  So tonight as I watch the Oscars, the stars are aligning (not the ones on the silver screen, but those in my Blogging universe) and I’m joining the #IMMOOC and completing my first post for the course.

My new school journey has already started with an intentionality in terms of sharing a “what if” vision with potential staff members. Bringing together a team of educators who are willing to let go of past practice which isn’t meeting the needs of today’s students.  Educators who are willing to embrace flexible seating, give up their standard metal teacher desk and imagine how a room lined with white boards can lead to student’s imagination.  Creating a culture where everyone feels welcomed, needed and appreciated.  A school where occasional teachers want to return to and parents are provided with an intentional role as partners in their child’s education.  Student voice won’t be an event, it will be a non negotiable, whether through student generated video announcements, math talks, daily opportunities for collaboration with peers and student led conferences. Students who get to direct their learning through Project Based Learning and passion projects.  A school culture where educators make their respect for the learners visible and audible.  A school culture where everyday students will know that they are loved, respected and challenged. Technology will play a role in terms of accelerating the strong pedagogy and ensuring that all students can access the curriculum through multiple entry points. Intentional and purposeful purchases.

In terms of rethinking past practices, I’m looking forward to challenging our new staff to revision and then build a meaningful model of what homework should/could look like.   I’m also wondering if as a staff we can come together and build our vision of what parent communication should/could look like.  Can we come to a common appreciation of the power of digital portfolios ~ both for ourselves as learners and for our students?  We know so much about assessment ~ let’s put it into practice.

In building a team of educators who are willing to go on this ride, building relationships will be key as we will undoubtedly have incredible successes and a few challenges along the way.  We have yet to find the “silver bullet” in terms of a perfect school culture, but being willing to try new and innovative ways to meet the needs of all of the members of our school community is a step in the right direction.  The gift of a new school is that we are not encumbered with tradition or stories of “we’ve always done it that way”.  The possibilities of a new school are endless.

Looking forward to reading the posts from others in #IMMOOC and their thoughts and views on starting a school from scratch.

Stepping Stones

“It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own.” —Katherine Patterson

During the past two weeks I’ve had the incredible pleasure of sharing a new dual language picture book, “Stepping Stones ~ A refugee family’s journey” with 8 different groups of students and in the coming weeks, I plan to share it with at least 6 more groups.  Stepping Stones is a beautifully crafted story, retold by Rama, a young girl whose life is changed forever as a result of war and turmoil in her home country. The accompanying artwork is a collection mosaics created by various shapes and colours of stones, pebbles and rocks. The artist still lives in Syria.

I asked our team of any interested ESL/ELD teachers to gather various groups of students and invite me for a visit.  As I arrived at the different schools, I had no idea to whom I’d be reading and I certainly had never anticipated the depth of the conversations, the individual reactions and most notably the intuitive and thought-provoking responses that were shared during each visit.

One Intermediate student shared that he recalled all too vividly watching his father walk to the local grocery store, only to return with no food and how his uncle was ordered to sail an overloaded raft to Germany and experience the despair as not everyone arrived safely.  His ESL teacher shared that he had been reluctant to talk about life in Syria until that day.  One never knows the power of a well-crafted text.

Many of the children shared their initial fear when they arrived in Canada, as the language was challenging and in their words, so quickly spoken.  Funny, that’s how I would describe Arabic. But to hear them now makes me very proud of the work that our Thames Valley educators have done in supporting these students as they learn not only English, but the confidence to share their ideas ~ even if the exact words have yet to be mastered.

In each of the schools, there were students who could read the Arabic version of the book as well. During some of my visits, we co-read the book.  There was a beautiful rhythm between our combined Arabic and English voices.  The students enjoyed corrected my pronunciation of Jedo (Grandfather) and eloquently expanded on the narrator’s feelings of leaving friends and pets in her home country as their journey started.

But of all of the reactions (and there have been many emotional ones) today’s was probably the most profound.  A grade 6 girl was so adamant about expressing her desire to return to Syria, in order to rebuild it.  Through hand gestures and limited English, she shared that as soon as it is safe, she wants to return to her homeland.

 

As proud as we should be about welcoming our newcomer families, showering them with clothes and household items and ensuring that their orientation to life in Canada is supported, we can never forget that these families are here as a result of war and turmoil. It was never their dream to be forced to leave their home country, to leave their life and in some cases cherished family members behind as they traveled to Canada. Just as we are proud of “our home and native land”, so are our Syrian families as they reminisce about their homeland.

 

These past few days I have been reminded of the power of quality texts and that when shared purposefully, allowing lots of time for students to share their reactions and engage in the story, doors can be opened and in some cases healing can begin.

Do you have a favourite book that you enjoy sharing with your students?

Come write with me…

 

 

 

115 Marbles

As we turn the page on the calendar to not only a new month, but a new year, one can’t help but be reminded of the passage of time. As the sayings go, “The older we get the faster time seems to tick away” and “My how time flies when you’re having a good time”.  We also know the anguish of being someplace that we’d rather not be and watching the hands tick slowly on the face of the analogue wall clock or the annoying checking and double checking of our iPhone ~ only to see the digital face remain the same.

It was embedded in the notion of the passage of time and making what time we have count that last week at church the pastor shared a story of a father who determined the number of Saturdays that he had left with his teenage daughter before she headed off to University and filled a jar of marbles. Each Saturday he would transfer a marble from one jar to the next, thus reminding him of the importance of making the most of the time he had left.

It was that story that prompted me to purchase my own two glass jars and fill one of them with 115 marbles.  Why 115 you may be asking???  Well, I have only 115 instructional days left in my current system position as a Learning Supervisor before I transition onto my adventure (principal of a new school in the Northwest end of London). I have truly enjoyed the opportunities that working at a system level have afforded me and I’m incredibly proud of the work that the teams, that I’ve been blessed to work with, have accomplished over the past four years.

So with my time now limited, I’ve committed to make the most of each day that is left in my current role. As the jar of blue and green marbles glistens in the sunlight on my shelf, they are the visual reminder of the decreasing number of days that I have left where my “voice” will be representative of the system.  My final task before I power down my laptop and switch off the lights each night is to physically move a single marble from one jar to the next and take a moment to reflect on the day.  Did I do my best? Have I honoured the voices within the portfolios that I represent?  Am I working purposefully towards building capacity and sustainability? Have I made the most of the day?

As the glass marbles pass from one jar to the next, the reality of my transition from one role to the next will become more and more apparent.

How do you mark the passage of time?

Come write with me…

#oneword17 ~ Imagine

A year ago, it was a song performed at church which inspired my #oneword16 ~ Unwritten.  In reflecting upon the year, it was indeed a well-chosen word.  It became a constant reminder to not let memorable moments go “unwritten”. It also became the mantra for our GENTLE Reception Center, the implementation book on such an undertaking had been “unwritten” ~ and it was through this work that we truly lived in a world of innovative, caring and compassionate practice.  As we close out 2016, I find myself on the verge of a new adventure that a year ago I could never have imagined writing about.

So, with my new adventure in mind, as well as celebrating and respecting the work of the past four years, I’ve selected the word IMAGINE as my #oneword17
Imagine a literacy conference with an inspirational keynote and powerful presentations by some of Thames Valley’s finest educators and LITCon was born ~ I can only imagine how incredible LitCon17 will be.

Imagine a K-12 Newcomer Reception Center, where all of the needs of newcomer students and their families are met and GENTLE was born ~ I can only imagine how what we learned from GENTLE will inform future decisions

Imagine a social media platform where Thames Valley administrators freely share the
ir thoughts, ideas and inspire each other to be better and @tvdsbopc was born ~ I can only imagine the power of this professional learning network as we continue to grow our “followership” in 2017.

As I begin to shift my focus to the opening a new school, my list of “imagines” builds on successes from the past and exciting possibilities for the future.

Imagine a school community where all students feel loved, respected and challenged by the staff.

Imagine a school community where new ideas are embraced, encouraged and expected.

Imagine a school community where parents know they were valued partners in their child’s education journey.

Imagine a school community that is so proud of their work that they open their doors to educators from other schools to learn alongside of others

Imagine a school community that embraces curiosity, collaboration and expects students to contribute to the world around them.

Imagine a school community where educators know they are valued for their diversity, their commitment to personal growth and their love of teaching.

Imagine a school community with a shared vision of creating a place of learning, unlike any other school.

As you look towards a new year, new experiences and new possibilities what will your #oneword be?

Come write with me….

I Am From

A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to be asked to come and share a bit of my blogging life, as a part of a Reluctant Writer professional learning series that Annette Gilbert was facilitating with Intermediate teachers. In preparation for the interview-style presentation, I took some time to reread, reflect and reminisce on my past posts.  In doing so, it came to my attention that I had 198 submissions under my belt. So, with last week’s “The True Meaning of Leadership”, this becomes my 200th post.

Upon entering the presentation space for the Reluctant Writers session, Annette was finishing an activity with her participants which had them using the “I am From” framework as they exercised their writing muscles and created their own poems. I was immediately impressed with the flood of shared memories that certain phrases evoked from the educators.

So, in honour of my 200th post, I decided to explore the same framework and embed it in the Spirit of Christmases past.

I am From

I am from a musty smelling box of red glass ornaments, with a concave center glittered with silver

From red paper fold out bells and green plastic holly candle holders

I am from a bungalow with multi-coloured lights adorning the roof line

And a cardboard Santa and Frosty framing the sides of the fireplace

I am from a tree lot selected fresh smelling pine

Whose needles became drowned in sliver tinsel

I am from a ceramic Christmas tree with small green lights and plastic mistletoe hung in the front hall

From Saddler and Taylor

I am from Boodle bags filled with trinkets and treasures adorned with decorations that still stand the test of time and playing Silent Night on a new electronic organ

From games of Euchre, Rummy, Hearts and Shanghai

I am from Christmas Eve drives home from my grandparents, counting the number of houses with lights

From bread sauce and ricotta filled cannolis

I am from Mary’s Boy Child

From Boney M

I am from the animated Frosty the Snowman and the Grinch and the stop action animated Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer ~ whose broadcast time was known weeks in advance and calendars were cleared to come together to enjoy the show and some popcorn.

I am from those moments of Christmases past, whose memories continue to warm my heart and remind me of the spirit of the holidays.

I would love to read your version of “I Am From”

Come write with me…

The True Meaning of Educational Leadership

nutcrackersThe tree is up and decorated, the Nutcracker army is on guard on the fireplace hearth (I think they multiplied in storage), the fridge is filled with a colourful and hopefully delicious variety of sweet treats and the first gifts have been lovingly wrapped with festive paper and matching bows and placed under the tree.  Today’s falling snow, glowing fireplace and Christmas music playing throughout the house finished the picture ~ we are officially in the midst of the Christmas season. Which means that most television stations are now offering a plethora of Christmas specials and movies and I’m loving watching old favourites and new renditions.

grinchWhether the main character is a furry Grinch whose “small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of *ten* Grinches, plus two!”, a sleep deprived miser named Scrooge or a lovable loser named Charlie Brown, whose attempt to find the perfect tree led to Linus’ King James version of scripture reading from Luke 2:8-14, the true meaning of Christmas is revealed just before the final credits begin to roll.

In each of those stories, the cast of characters were constantly looking for the true meaning of Christmas in presents, lights, sixpence and perfect trees and not where it truly lies ~ something that not only fictional characters find themselves doing.

I often wonder if we are guilty of that same misguided lens in the area of educational leadership. Do we solely measure the effectiveness of a school leader by the increase in test scores, like the number of presents under the tree?   Do we focus so much on the financial resources, like Ebenezer, that we forget about the human resources? Do we honour and celebrate the glitz and glamour, like the lights of the season, even though it may lack depth and true understanding?

This past Friday, a colleague took a group of students door to door to shovel driveways and sidewalks.  When I think about strong educational leadership moves that quickly rises to the top.  I’m not sure that their afternoon away from instruction was purposefully connected to improving math scores, but I have no doubt that the feelings those student received about being appreciated, will serve them well, beyond any standardized test.

andyorr

After you watch the video read some of the many comments from the Ingersoll community.

https://www.facebook.com/sentinelreview/videos/10154413120764335/

The true meaning of educational leadership can’t be neatly wrapped with a pretty bow, nor measured by the number of green vs red markers on a moderated task.  It needs to be an honouring of our past as we venture through the present and look towards the future.  And one never knows who will inform our leadership ~ we need to be open to the possibility of a trusted friend, with a figurative security blanket, being the best source of inspiration.

linus-christmas

What is your true meaning of educational leadership?

Come Write with me…

Awards and Rewards

And the winner is……everyone in London who has been on the receiving end of any of the numerous programs recognized last night at the 10th Annual Pillar Innovation Awards. One can’t help but be humbled by the amazing work of so many dedicated and caring individuals who take on the most challenging of situations in order the makes the lives of others better.  As someone who was born and raised right here in London Ontario, last night was a moment of pride in “my” city.  A city where diversity is celebrated and innovative practice is recognized as a way of ensuring that we continue to always look for better ways to make a difference.

As the ceremony transitioned from opening ceremonies and sponsor recognitions to highlighting the work of each finalist via the video clips that were created by Gotham Studios,  I watched with great anticipation as I had not seen the final version of our presentation. I worried that my words of recognition for the incredible team and the work that they did might be lost on the editing floor. But, alas, my fears were alleviated and the production company captured and created a product that our GENTLE Thames Valley team could be proud of.

As the name of the winner in our category was announced and our team made their way to the podium amidst a standing ovation, I paused at the bottom of the staircase and saw the pride in each members’ eyes as they joined me on stage to receive the recognition they so greatly deserved.  I was thankful that the selection of our program provided me with an opportunity to publicly acknowledge all of the contributing factors to the success of GENTLE.  From the inception of the concept by Denise and Melanie to the celebratory cake on our final day, there wasn’t a department within TVDSB that didn’t somehow impact the work.   We can ALL be proud of our response to the “almost 500” Syrian newcomer students who became a part of our Thames Valley family between January and April.

2016-11-24_2322As the music ushered us across the stage, we were whisked away by the photographer for a number of group shots and then a reporter wanted a few minutes for a news report, so I stepped out into the hall and answered a few questions.  After enjoying a chance encounter with the wife of a former colleague in the hallway, I slipped back into the reception hall and waited quietly at the side, as the next recipient gave his acceptance speech.

Then all of sudden I heard, “Mrs. Bruyns” and to my surprise a former student from Wilfrid Jury rushed up with his older brother and threw his arms around me. His brother shared that when he saw me on stage, he became determined that he would come and find me.  It was at that moment, that those tears of pride that had been so controlled all night, started to trickle down my cheeks.  For you see, this student was there as sponsored member of the Children’s Aid Society’s table and I remember all too well his younger years and the challenges and the struggles that this boy endured as a young child.  I was thrilled that he was safe and attending a new school.

When I had arrived at the Convention Center last night around 5:30pm, I had anticipated the possibility of the team receiving the AWARD and the recognition from Pillar, but in leaving the Convention Center 5 hours later, I had never anticipated the REWARD of having a former student recognize me and want to reconnect.

The ABCs of October

imagesWe’ve all experienced them before and interestingly enough, when I did some research, women are more prone to them…..  Earworms!  You know when a song gets stuck in your head and no matter what you do, it plays over and over again.  We’ll I’m currently in the middle of a classic (well it was a classic about 20 years ago) earworm. When my kids were young, we never went anywhere without a stack of tapes or later on CDs.  My kids loved Barney and Sesame Street, but their favourite was Sharon, Lois and Bram.  So the other day, out of the blue I started humming the Alphabet Song,  You know the one that starts, “A  ~ you’re adorable, B you’re so beautiful……”.  And here I am almost a week later and it’s still rambling around, never far from my lips.  So as I started to reflect on what to write this month, I took my “earworm” as a sign that I should use the alphabet for my platform.  So, here goes….

My October Alphabet.

A ~ This month, I attend the AGM for Teacher Mentors Abroad, an organization that I’ve been involved with for the past year and a half. Each year teams of educators from Ontario travel to the Dominican Republic to work with Dominican teachers and share strategies for collaborative learning environments. I had the opportunity to share reflections from our Santa Domingo team.  It was great to have our Director, Laura Elliott in the audience.  She has been a supporter of TMA for many years. I’m so proud of the work of this organization and I feel blessed to be a part of it.

B ~ Bulletin Boards, Baskets and Bosses Day ~ as a follow up to our LitCon16 ~ Igniting a Passion for Reading Conference, Jane Baird, one of our Literacy Learning Coordinators has taken the lead and created a number of exceptional bulletin2016-10-30_0740 board displays which highlight the conference and our Director’s Hot Reads selections. The team surprised me with a wonderful basket of goodies for Bosses Day including personalized socks for Hot Reads and a personalized “Come Write with Me” notebook and pen.

C ~ CEFR ~ The Common European Framework for Reference was the focus of an FSL Ministry session this month.  The learning was good ~ but being able to spend the day with Deb Smith, our FSL Learning Coordinator and Jen Moodie is always a pleasure.  Their passion for French is contagious

D ~ Duckworth.  On two separate occasions this month, Sylvia Duckworth ~ known for her eye-catching and meaningful sketch notes was in Thames Valley.  She was a featured speaker at LitCon 16 and an invited guest to a Saturday session hosted by Jen Aston, as she shared the initial work for her TLLP project.  One has to be “in the zone” when Sylvia presents, as she shares multiple technology applications in rapid fire motion

E ~Evaluation. This month I’ve had several opportunities to engage in concentrated discussions about evaluation and the importance of reporting, as we’re rewriting our Board’s Evaluation and Reporting policy. Great learning about negotiation and bringing differing opinions to a common understanding has been challenging and yet rewarding.

download-3F~ FreshGrade.  Our pilot project is certainly testing our “Pioneering” spirit.  I’m so thankful for our patient teachers as our IT department and the FreshGrade IT department work together to finalize uploads/downloads and inbetween loads.  Fingers crossed that teachers will be ready to use their apps this week.

G~ George Couros. Our Planning team invited George to spend a day with our Thames Valley Administrators. He did a wonderful job of inspiring the audience to explore social media and to expand our repertoire of technology practices as we model for our staff and students.

H~ Hot Reads.  One can’t listen to Steven Layne and not be inspired to celebrate and display what you are reading, as a strategy to turn kids onto reading.  As a result of LitCon16, not only are staff at the Ed Center displaying their Hot Reads, but schools throughout the Valley are getting into the spirit.

I~ iCon. As the month wrapped up, once again the Learning Technologies team hosted a Technology Conference ~iCon, iDiscover.  Over 500 educators came together on Saturday to learn with and from each other.  We hosted a session for 50 administrators ~ trying our hand at an EdCamp model.  Throughout the morning we were engaged in learning about Google Forms, Google Docs, Google Classroom, Twitter, Padlet, Bitmoji, Remind, Plickers and Google Slides.  I have great colleagues!

J ~ Journeys.  Although it’s been a couple of years since the Literacy team offered Journeys into Literacy as a professional learning series, this past week I was reminded about the power of the professional learning model that we first implemented at Journeys and how it has now morphed into various other portfolios and learning opportunities.

K~ Katina Pollock. This month we were invited to share the story of GENTLE at the Western Values and Leadership Conference.  At the end of the presentation, Dr.Katina Pollock, the Director, Western’s Centre for Education Leadership and Co-Director, Knowledge Network for Applied Education Research (KNAER)    came over to chat and she reminded me of the first time we met, as she was collecting data for her principal workload study and I was the principal at Wilfrid Jury.  She recalled my telling her about Twitter and the power of social media. At the time she wasn’t on Twitter. She was excited to share that now, Twitter is a natural extension of her work.

2016-10-30_0022L ~ Languages Team, LitCon16 and Layne.   The month started with our first, but definitely not last, Literacy Conference.  The team did an outstanding job, from finish to end of creating an event that continues (a month later) to impact the work of teachers in classes.  Steven Layne’s message will continue to have us cheer on others from the balcony.

M ~ Math ~ With both our board the province deeply embedded in a Renewed Math Strategy, the work of the Literacy team has become more important as we continue to model and remind others that our students need quality instruction, resources  and support in both Literacy and math.

N~ This month  my audiobook was The Nest, written by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.  A cleverly written account of the lives of 4 siblings as they come to terms with an inheritance which was once a given until a tragedy changes the trajectory of their receiving of the money.

O ~ Our Voices, Our Stories is a compilation of both newcomer student and parent voices, sharing their journey and transition to Canada.  The video is being released this fall and Jennifer Shields, our ESL TOSA had an opportunity to share components of it with some administrators at our OPC Symposium.  Heartwarming and poignant!

P ~ Plickers ~ This past month I had a couple of opportunities to share the power of collective “live” data through the use of cardboard symbols and a mobile app.  I’m excited to see other portfolios/administrators use them in a meaningful way with their teams.

Q ~ QIS.   For any Scrabble players, you’ll know this word and have probably used it on many occasions. One of my favourite “down time” activities is to play Words with Friends online. My mom and I always have at least one and sometimes up to 5 games going at once.  She has learned to use the chat feature as a means of “texting”.  My other regular opponent is a teacher from Fox, who just announced his retirement this week.   I wish him all the best.  May mean more time for Words with Friends….

R~ The Road to Ever After by Moira Young.  As the month of October comes to a clos2016-10-30_0027e, I decided to treat myself to some new books from Indigo.  Love that store!  One of next projects will be to share new releases with the system.  The Road to Ever After looks like a great read for ages 9-12.  I’ll let you know, once I finish it!

S~ Sarah Conrad and Summers’ Corners.  Each year, Carol Mailing, the surviving member of the Conrad family generously donates funds to support literacy in Elgin County.  This month we were thrilled that she was able to visit Summers’ Corners and see firsthand the impact of her funding. The students in Simon Golding’s LEARN class presented Carol with a powerful slide show and thanked her for the funding which made it possible for them to purchase iPads, computers, document camera, data projector and a significant amount of literacy materials and math tools.  They also took the opportunity to share their All About Me presentations.  One student, Fatimah (a recent addition to the class, from Syria) shared (with the help of another student) that she is most proud of her parents, because they were brave enough to come to Canada.  Well, there wasn’t a dry eye at that point.  I love my job!

T ~ Twitter.  This month our OPC Twitter account took off.  As the Social Media Director for OPC, my goal is to get all of our administrators embracing the power of using social media to leverage their leadership skills.  I’m so proud of my colleagues for sharing the exciting work that is happening in their schools and remembering to use   #tvdsbopc.

U ~ Underwater.  In a reply to an email from a colleague that I started my career teaching alongside of, I was reminded about a unit that we developed in our first year as teachers, while taking our Primary additional qualifications.  Our Underwater theme was complete with not only amazing activities and texts, but a theme song, Three Dog Night’s Jeremiah was a Bullfrog.

I think I have may have just discovered the cure for my Earworm….smile

V~ Volume Purchase Pricing. For those of you who manage a set of iPads, you’ll know the term VPP.  For me, this past month required a bit of learning curve as we transitioned our 60 ESL teacher iPads, our 33 Instructional Coach iPads and our 15 Language iPads to this management system.  Gotta love technology!

W~ WS Fox.  “Once a Flyer, always a Flyer” was a text that I received after I visited the school where I started my admin career.  The current amazing admin team were kind enough to invite me to join them on their PD Day this past Friday. I loved reconnecting with so many outstanding educators.  Walking the halls still felt like “home”.  The Fox tradition lives on!

X ~ eXcited, eXhausted, eXhilarated….. As I come to the end of the alphabet and my reflections from October, those three words seem to sum it up!

Y ~ Yvonne Lennards, was one of my hosts on Friday as we reviewed her caseload of English Language Learners at WS Fox.  As we went through her caseload, other teachers popped in to pick up Hallowe’en costumes, discuss transition gifts for new students and share strategies for ensuring their United Way donations would be significant.  That conversation reminded me that our teachers do so much more than just “teach”.

Z ~ Dr. Zed to be exact!  This past week, Catherine Zeisner, not only graduated with her doctoral degree, but she invited 20 Thames Valley administrators to come and spend an hour with her pre-service teachers. We each had the absolute pleasure of spending an hour with these young, excited, somewhat nervous, but very prepared teacher candidates to discuss classroom management and the importance of creating a safe, positive learning environment.   I love my job!

Well it worked, my earworm has been “tamed”!  I’ve transitioned from the Alphabet to Bullfrogs.download-1

If you were to capture your past month, what would your top 26 reflections be?

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