On Your Bookmarks, Get Set, Grow!

I love to read. I love books. Picture books, non fiction books, education books you name it. You’d probably be surprised to know that I haven’t always loved to read. I remember my first day of school in Grade 2. I was wearing my new purple suede lace-up shoes (you know the kind where the laces are so thin and slick that they untie easily and slip through the grommets). I wore my denim blouse that had pink and purple flowers embroidered along the collar. It had brown and beige buttons along the front. This shirt went well with my matching blue denim jeans that had the same embroidery on the pockets. My long hair was tied in a low ponytail, and my mom had just trimmed my bangs for back to school. As usual, they were somewhat crooked.

I remember it clearly. I was sitting at a round table (not too bad for that era) with a few people I knew from grade 1. My teacher had us reading aloud one by one. Already an assessment to see what we remembered from the previous year, I suppose. I was dreading my turn. I hear my name called, instantly feel the intense heat of that spotlight and start to sweat. My hands were so clammy I bet you could see my thumbprints from where I was holding the page (you know the paper that was thin but somewhat textured).

The sentence: “La maison est jaune.” (The house is yellow). Words I knew but didn’t remember. I speak softly, trying to decode maison. Mmmaaaaa-iiiiiii-zzzz-âne. Wrong. My teacher said, “Voyons Nycol, c’est un mot que tu connais! (Nycol, you should know this!!)”. Making me feel stupid. I did feel silly when I remembered that “on” made the sound “on like ourson”. I hated reading a loud in front of other people. That followed me well into high school.

School didn’t always come easy to me before I learned how to play the game. After I figured that out, I was a straight A student. Honour roll each term, bursaries through university.

As I was studying to become a teacher, my love for books grew. When I first stepped into our new school’s library learning commons, I was in awe. All new books waiting to be cracked open. Hoping to share their story. Aching to be chosen to be brought home, held and hugged.

There are so many books in our learning commons! All sorts of books. I like to check out what my students are taking out to see what interests them. One student chose a book of mazes. Not an information book, but literally a book with mazes, so many cool ones, waiting to be solved! It’s called Labyrinthes by Théo Guignard.

What I loved about this book was how it drew students in. One student was looking at one maze then all of a sudden they were a group of four on the floor. What I loved about this book is that students tried and tried again to get through these mazes. When they hit a wall or an obstacle, they moved backwards and retraced their steps to find another way, a solution to reach the final destination.

My students loved this book so much that when I saw it in the library I took it out for myself! I brought it home to see how my kids would tackle it. They are younger than the students I teach and I was wondering if they would give up before finding the way out. Not a chance. My four and six year old tackled these mazes until I had to say lights out and promise them they could continue tomorrow!

Seeing my students and own kids persevering through this book instantly made me think of what I wanted for them as learners. I want them to persevere through challenging activities. When they hit a wall or get stuck, I want them to try and find a solution and not wait to be rescued by a “helicopter”. I want them to know that failing is an important step in their learning process and is a way they’ll develop resiliency.

I want them to tackle their writing assignments with the same enthusiasm as they do when they get stuck in the maze. I want them to use the different strategies they’ve learned when they decode unfamiliar words. I want them to think critically and try again and again.

Seeing them this interested and engaged reminded me of a great little book I recently finished, Code Breaker by Brian Aspinall.

(Hello World :))

This easy read highlights practical examples on how to integrate computational thinking and coding across the curriculum in every classroom. Skills that are today effective in developing a growth mindset while taking risks, problem solving, tinkering and design, to demonstrate their learning in meaningful ways. Brian and countless other educators shine a light on how their students develop a mindset focused on finding solutions with the given feedback. Using coding and computational thinking has made their students engaged and empowered. Students are meeting continua outcomes without even knowing it!

In recent weeks, Annick Rauch, my colleague and best friend asked me if I wanted to collaborate on a growth mindset project. I didn’t even have to think twice before accepting. She is always full of worthwhile ideas. The beauty of it is that this year, we are both part of a Technology PLN with two other teachers in our district. This morning, we met to plan our growth mindset project while incorporating many other books from our school Learning Commons and use technology as a tool to share our learning and connect with other classrooms. Annick and I had great ideas and we can’t wait to tackle this project in April to Launch in May. Stay tuned for #MindsetMondaysLRSD. We can’t wait to stretch our students’ brains and have them take note of their personal growth.

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Our #CanConnectEd Treasure Chest

This blog post is co-written by best friends, Nycol Didcote and Annick Rauch after attending Connect 2017 in Niagara Falls.

At the beginning of the school year, we were searching for a conference to attend which would be worthwhile… so, we decided to ask for advice from someone who knows his way around conferences: George Couros. We had certain restrictions, and with those in mind, he suggested Connect 2017. After we both got approved to attend the conference, we started planning! Last Tuesday morning, we boarded our plane and off we went! Although the falls and attractions were truly breathtaking, and spending 6 days together was so recharging, what we appreciated more than most people will ever understand was being together, exploring and expanding our passions with so many other amazing educators. Here are the treasures that we found at Connect 2017:

  • Meeting educators who we’ve been following on Twitter and hearing them speak was powerful. We were actually quite giddy to connect face to face with Jennifer Casa-Todd, Tiffany Poirier, and Brian Aspinall. Although meeting these inspiring educators was nothing short of amazing, what was even more remarkable was how extremely, kind, welcoming, and down to earth they all were. What a touching experience.
    • Jennifer’s message regarding why, how, and when we should address digital citizenship in context really resonated with us. It is so important for students to become digital leaders from a young age so that their digital footprint is a positive one.

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    • Tiffany’s inspiring keynote focused on the importance of big questions as well as all types of questions asked within the classroom. We cannot find the answers to our questions without first knowing them. Allow questions to lead you and your students’ growth!
    • Brian’s passion exuded while he spoke of the importance of computational thinking. His numerous examples showcased how simple and effective integrating coding in all subject areas can be. Computer programming is a new way of communicating with an audience and is a new language that is essential and relevant in today’s world.
  • Attending Ignite Niagara allowed us to listen in on what other innovative educators are doing in their classrooms in a super casual and laid back setting. It was so energizing to be in the same room as so many passionate educators which proved to ignite many deep and worthwhile conversations. What a fantastic night: educators leading, learning, and laughing! In the words of Jonathan So, “Be with people who make you better”. It’s safe to say that we were definitely in good company!Ignite

Although we were attending a technology conference, we noticed that our greatest takeaways were all based on passion, people and relationships. After all, as Brian said, “Education is a Human System” and we believe that human connection is at the forefront of learning. Witnessing the passion that drives these speakers forward is contagious and directly impacts educators, which in turn impacts their students, and their colleagues.

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We’ll never know to which degree we’ve influenced and inspired our students. Our hope is that they will become leaders for positive change because we’ve connected with their hearts and allowed their minds to work on problems that are important to them. As Shiza Shahid said, “The power of education is the world’s greatest equalizer”. We must first understand inequalities and see room for improvement, as well as the potential in others by connecting with each other, in order to achieve this ideal.