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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I’m In Love With Your Knowledge

This blog post was co-written by Nycol Didcote and Annick Rauch, best friends who always support, push and encourage one another. We are so lucky to be working together again this September at École Sage Creek School, a new school opening up in the Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Last April, Annick and I headed to Connect 2017, Canada’s Learning & Technology Conference, in beautiful Niagara Falls. There, we met and connected with many amazing educators who were not only incredible leaders in education, but fundamentally incredible people, too. They all seemed to have an amazing work/life balance and also took time to have fun. One of these educators was Brian Aspinall. Shortly after leaving Niagara, I noticed he took vlogging to a new level with his “EDU Carpool Karaoke” which made my day. Remembering all the amazing and fun educators who took risks at the Niagara Ignite event, hosted by Fair Chance Learning, I decided to take a risk and give the EDU Karaoke a go myself. Shortly after, Annick was challenged and a few others jumped on the bandwagon. Brian later stepped up his game by introducing a golf-cart edition of edu karaoke-genius!

Then, one morning in May, I (Annick) was driving to work and Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You came on the radio, as it often does, but this time, with EDU Carpool Karaoke fresh in my mind, inspiration hit me. I couldn’t help but think how this amazingly catchy song would make a great EDU style song. Ideas were flowing, but I couldn’t pull off such a thing alone. A few quick texts later, Nycol was on board with yet another one of my crazy ideas, and we hit the ground running! Yes, it is now the end of August and we just finally finished up this project, but after we started in May, report card time hit, then we wrapped up the school year, packed our boxes, and we’ve both had busy summers. Although it took longer than we had hoped, we are here now, and hope you enjoy our creation!

A few notes before you watch:

  • We both love singing and know that we are not great singers (but we don’t care, it’s all about our message and having fun!!) You may want to turn your volume down juuusssst a tad! 😉
  • We are always talking about risk taking and modelling in education – this is what this video is all about. We put ourselves out there and this is something that we will be able to show our students as an example of a risk we took.
  • We know the importance of being a lifelong learner and the power that being a connected educator can have on our learning. This is how our song was born, placing the emphasis on thanking our amazing PLC and encouraging others to join and get connected.

So thank you to all those (past, present, and future) who shape us into who we are as teachers everyday. From our in person PLC to our online PLC, you are all amazing and we appreciate each and every one of you!

So, here it is, Brian! With this, we are one upping your Carpool Karaoke AND your golf-cart edition of edu karaoke!

Deep breath, here goes nothing…. 🙂

 

Build Their Character – Don’t Make Them Become One

It’s late and as usual, I give my social media accounts a glance before bed. This summer, while being at home with my kids who are 5, 3 and 1, (I won’t go by months, because I know how annoying that is for some people :P), I’ve been conscious about not being on my phone so much and to be present and engaged so that I catch those moments that slip by so easily when we are hiding behind screens. (Note that I am all for Social Media and that when the time comes, I will be teaching my kids how and when to use it appropriately so they understand the importance of having a positive digital footprint- Social LEADia  IS my next read, after all!! :).

Forgive me for rambling-I’m known to do so on occasion as my mind wonders and wanders!! As I was saying – as I was sitting in bed checking our school #SageCreekLRSD, I came across a Tweet from my principal wanting to know our thoughts on this picture. I had to get out of bed and blog about it, because 140 characters didn’t allow me to express my thoughts thoroughly. I’m also known to be a night owl so here I go….why not?!

Immediately- I agreed with Tom Loud‘s tweet. Since I joined the world of Twitter for the purpose of growing my PLN and learning from people who are passionate and driven, I find myself liking and retweeting many of his thoughts. When I read something that resonates with me, I like it and retweet it so I can reference it later. But then, my principal pushed my thinking by asking us to reflect on this statement. If it was an either or, I would definitely chose the later statement because as we know it, success can be defined in more ways than one and if I were to teach my students how to be successful based on my definition of the word, I would be unsuccessful in doing so. But in this case, I don’t believe it’s a one or none option. That, is the beauty of teaching, leading and learning.

I believe resiliency needs to be taught and modeled in classrooms and in homes- but being successful and what it means to be successful is a topic that deserves to be discussed with our students. I do agree it is crucial to teach them how to respond when they are not successful, but would also add that it is as important, if not more important to discuss how to respond when others aren’t succeeding. Do we stare, let them be, give them space? Do we offer help, ask them a question, notice their struggle? That whole collaboration piece can be and usually is the solution. Brian Aspinall said it himself – when we’re stuck and need ideas, we go to google. Responding to others’ needs and offering help (and asking for help) is empathy at its finest – which is a point I think we can all agree on –  that empathy is an ability we want our students and children to develop.

Earlier this week, I was watching one of Brian Aspinall‘s TEdx Talks on Education Reform. At one point, he explains the impact his Papa had on him growing up and how his teachings changed once he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Brian then shares with us how he still continued to learn from his Papa, even though he had Alzheimer’s, by watching him work. This man never gave up and was determined to find a solution to a given problem. He remained persistent even when the task became challenging. In a classroom setting, having explicit discussions are important, but we can’t forget that our students also learn from observation. They are always watching, feeling, and tuned-in, which is why it is so important we respond appropriately when we, as teachers, are not successful. What we choose to say and what we don’t say both give students a message. I believe the statement in this picture can and should be a message intended not only for kids themselves, but adults as well. This tweet also ties in well to Brian Aspinall‘s latest Golf Cart Vlog Reflection – How Do We Evaluate Failure?In his vlog, Brian mentions the importance of defining failure, the concept of embracing it, providing good feedback, and reevaluating evaluation.

In the picture shown at the top of the post, we talk about not being successful. My interpretation of these few words is synonymous to failure. Keep in mind though that I am one of those who believe failure is proof that we are trying. That failure gives us feedback into trying again but while changing a variable, tweaking, tinkering and reflecting to ultimately find a solution or to better ourselves. Failing is a way to move forward. To me failing is a reason to not give up and to persist in order to reach the objective we’ve set for our self. I am one of those fail-forward-type-thinking people. Failing is not black and white as long as we are learning from the moments when we are “not successful”. Attitude has so much to do with how we see failure and/or success for that matter.

To wrap it up, because I don’t like reading long blog posts myself – I think the best thing we can do for kids as teachers is to reflect on such statements and push our own thinking, especially in times where we are unsuccessful, which subsequently will have an impact on our students mindset and mindsight. As Brian puts it, and the saying on the picture suggests – “We need to shift our(their) thinking from failure is bad, to failure is good.”

I also want my students to create content and not just consume it. Consumption is playing the game of school. George Couros has mentioned this many times before including when he spoke to our staff in April. I don’t want my students playing the game of school because I played that game and like many of my PLN friends, even though I won each and every year, in the end I came out losing. I lost opportunities to think critically, to speak my own mind, to fail and take risks and embrace the process of learning. It’s only since becoming a teacher that I am catching up alongside my students. They say that as a parent, you want your child to have a better upbringing than you had yourself. The same is true for what I want for my students.

I want my students to be makers not fakers. Read John Spencer‘s post “Seven Things That Happen When Kids Embrace a Maker Mindset” here , to understand why making and creating is so important when developing students’ character. I want these qualities to last their lifetime – not just the duration of the school year. As my title suggests, I want my students to build their character while staying true to who they are….not become a character in an everyday play for ten months to “succeed”. This isn’t a play or a game. School is a big part of their everyday life. Make it matter.

My Motto Moving Forward

Coming back from our École Sage Creek School Staff Retreat yesterday, I had a lot running through my mind. Just like our two feeder schools are currently packed, so was our two day agenda. We had a lot to uncover (thank you Brian Aspinall for putting a whole new meaning to this word). Everything from updates, questions that lead to more questions, decisions, data and do’s and don’ts were discussed. Although we couldn’t finalize everything, there were meaningful connections made within the entire staff and we could truly feel our school’s vision come to life.

At one point in day two, magic happened. Everyone was sitting in a circle as we shared our expertise and passions with our crew. It was so incredible and empowering to be in a room, surrounded by passionate people who have such a broad range of talents, experience and expertise to share. I immediately imagined ourselves in the school and thought to myself – wow, not only are our students in great hands, but so are we as a team when it comes to onsite professional development. Each of our strengths are valued and all of our passions are welcome. This immediately made me think of a passage  from George CourosThe Innovator’s Mindset as to what we want for our students.

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Thank you Tara Martin, for starting BookSnaps. Here’s to my first one!

When we have voice and choice as to what and how we learn, we are resilient, risk-takers and invested. Everything becomes authentic and has a purpose. What more could we want for our students? Just like Brian Aspinall said at the Connect 2017 conference, “All children can achieve if given a fair chance in learning.” I agree wholeheartedly with this statement.

Although there are still many unknowns and that we still have many more discussions to have and decisions to make until we open this fall, one thing I am convinced of is that we all agree that we are here to do what is best for our students. In regards to my motto, what is best for our students is what is right. Will it be perfect, no, that’s an unattainable ideal. Will it be messy, absolutely. Will it be easy, not a chance.

The students who will be walking in their building next year are the reason why we’re here. As George Couros told us at our April 7th PD, “Don’t forget who you serve”. Their thoughts, interests and passions matter. They will leave at the end of grade 8 knowing that they have learned and put into practice all the skills they will ever need to be successful – whatever their definition of that word may be. They will feel confident, creative and connected. They will leave knowing they’ve left a mark on the school and have made an impact on their school community. They will leave with a sense of pride and most importantly, purpose. They matter. People matter. As Marc Poirier and Harry Bell mentioned, “It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.” So worth it! Change definitely is an opportunity to do something amazing!

As I close this post, I noticed I was mentioning some of my mentors who have influenced me and who have shaped me into who I am today as an educator and learner. People from all walks of life, who have different approaches and different passions. Each one of them has contributed to my growth and has pushed me to take risks. As we move forward as a team, I look forward to having at least 36 more mentors (and 600 or so students) to look up to and who will continuously push me to become a better version of myself. At École Sage Creek School, I believe our students will feel much of the same. Being inspired by many, while being allowed to stay true to themselves. ♥

Connect, Coding and Karaoke 

Last week’s experience of attending the Connect 2017 conference, was a powerful one. Meeting Brian Aspinall and going to Fair Chance Learning‘s Ignite Niagara Event was so inspiring. The passion and energy filled the room. I was already following Brian Aspinall on Twitter so seeing him and meeting him in person made me dig deeper into what he’s been doing especially in regards to computational thinking. This brought me to his Carpool Karaoke EDU Edition which encouraged me to make my own, because I too like to be silly and I personally feel that as a teacher, I sometimes take myself way too seriously. It’s far from perfect, unedited and definitely mediocre in comparison to Brian’s karaoke, but hey- I had fun with it. For the record –  Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody could not have come at a better time! It was NOT planned (obviously) because I had NO idea what the second song was, but lucky for me, most things I wing turn out alright! I couldn’t have planned that better myself if I could- and those who know me know that (most times) I’m a planner.

Here’s to my first official vlog post! Thanks Brian, for making me laugh, learn and live a little.  What other risks will I be taking this year?!