One resource to initiate engagement in multiple areas.

ondergedokenAs Christmas break ended and we returned to school, our class finished reading and working with the novel “Raven Quest”. Although this novel looked at over coming adversity, thinking over others and understanding aspects of writing such as setting and sequencing, there was only engagement from all of my students when I was reading the text (Story Time). I wanted a text that would engage my grade six students in multiple areas and in multiple ways – simply put I wanted do do something that was as inclusive as possible.

After some lengthy conversations with my colleagues that I would consider literacy Guru’s, i decided to choose “The Diary of Anne Frank”. There are variety of ideas, concepts and activities you could do in relation to the story. For the students in 6C we will be beginning with the following and hope to hear of some other great ideas which we may try.

To incorporate numeracy we will be looking at the two time lines that exist within the span of the story. The time line of Anne Frank and the time line of World War II. We are then going to examine how the two relate to each other and therefore determine how one timeline effected and influenced the other. This will then be combined with students looking, with their parents help at their parents time line and overlapping that with the events that occurred both nationally and internationally, which may have effected their lives.

In respect to citizenship and community, the students are going to examine the issues between Nazi Germany and the Jewish community and how the role of Nazi Germany effected surrounding communities and countries. This will also relate to Social Studies, looking through the lens of government, national identity and relationships. nazi_flag_581 - Copy

Although we are only in the first forty pages of the story, I am really looking forward to working through this story with my students. We have already had some great conversations about equality, integrity, social justice and right & responsibilities, but I am sure that this is just the tip of the ice berg.

If you have some ideas or have previously tried, please share I would love to make this an expereince my 6’s will never forget. Also please stayed tuned as we progress through the story and display our learning and our adventures.

Connecting pedagogy with dimensions of student diversity.

When looking at the Principal Quality Standards and seeing that one of the strands states that as an instructional leader the principal should be or be able to connect pedagogy with dimensions of student diversity actually made me giggle, a little. Removing all of the educational lingo, what does this mean? To me as the Educational/ Instructional Leader this mean that :

” How people are expected to go about learning may differ and does differ between students. In order to maximize learning opportunities, teachers must gain knowledge of the students needs and abilities as they are represented in their classrooms, then translate this knowledge into instructional practice”.  Villegas, (1991) relates this specifically to culture, however I believe that this pertains to all areas of student learning.

You may be asking why or what I found funny about this, and I suppose it relates directly to my own experiences as an educator. For the previous eleven years, I taught children in care, children that due to a multitude or reasons were either removed from their homes or chose to leave their homes for more consistency and security. Teaching and learning from those children, gave me an in-depth understanding of the different methods students learned, the different elements that need to be in place and even the different levels and speeds that students learn.

A memory that gave me an ah-ha moment comes to mind. One of my students consistently used to ask me if she could work on the floor. Thinking like a traditional teacher I said “No, because if you are out of your desk and on the floor the other kids would all want to be out of their desks and on the floor”, and trust me in this setting this could be problematic. The student didn’t get mad, but also didn’t complete alot of work being very distracted for the rest of the day. She asked the same questions for the next few days, always receiving the same answer. However on the Friday, the weather was nice and I informed the kids that for the last two periods of the day we would be working outside. This set off my student as she became angry, started yelling and eventually flipped over her desk resulting in her being sent to timeout. After she had calmed down, I began to process with her, asking her why she was so opposed to working outside. (This is where the light came on) the student revealed that she was scared to be outside, she was convinced that even being out where we were that someone would drive by and well shoot at us. This also revealed why she liked working on the floor . . . bullets traveled in her experience with more ease through windows that they did through walls. Being on the floor allowed her to decrease her anxiety about violence that could occur. Monday brought a new development in the class, my student was permitted to work on the floor, for notes, assignments and anything else that didn’t require her to be upright. Some of you may ask, well didn’t others want to be on the floor? The answer is, yes they did, but they thought of it as fun and when the novelty wore off they returned to their desks. Eventually, she did return to her desk, however it was when she felt that it was safe to do so.

In relation to my duties as an administrator and instructional leader, as one staff put it so well when she reflected about our conversations in relation to student planning or programming “The thing I appreciated about Shawn during our time together, was his ability to present the other side. He was always able to play the devil’s advocate to ensure that we covered all bases”. M.Dallinger

I am always the one to ask what have we done, what have we tried, why haven’t we tried this or would this work. I have had some interesting reactions in respect to some of my comments but as I stated previously, I learned a long time ago that different things work for different students and that we, as educators need to know the students and where they come from to determine what that is and looks like. Before I end this post I am reminded of a quote which I hope I get right, Education is not about teaching the curriculum it is about teaching the student.

What type of Relationship do you have with People.

A wonderful colleague and friend sent me this beautiful video. It is a touching video and although it can be applied to many contexts and situations it was not until recently that the true meaning and representation behind it hit me.

Like George Couros, Chris Wejr, Patrick Larkin and many other educators, I have written multiple posts on the importance of relationships in education. how education makes many of the elements of teaching and administration less complicated and easier to accomplish.

All to often we don’t think or realize the influence that we have on the lives of children, however through out the year our interactions and experiences with students determine whether our relationships with students and staff are either for a:

Season: Meaning that we will be part of a persons life for a short period of time, thus implying that our relationship will be on the less in-depth part of the spectrum.

Reason: Meaning that the relationship that is formed is to serve a specific purpose and that once that purpose in complete that most likely the relationship will dissolve.

Life Time: Well this should be obvious, these are the relationships that are most sought after and the most fulfilling.

I have found that the biggest thing about relationships is that they take work and that once we stop working at them the best of relationships can falter.

So, next time you are working with a student, making plans with a staff or simply meeting someone for coffee, keep in mind what type of relationship you want and act accordingly, but also know that it is the moments that take our breath away not the number of breaths we take that accurately represent our life.

Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth.

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Have you ever stood at the front of the class or in front of a group of colleagues diligently explaining a concept then feeling excited only later to find out that your message was not received.

Often when we reflect on what happened, our first presumption is that “they did not understand”. This is often followed by questioning ones clarity or that you did not explain it completely. We then proceed to thinking about the message and the language that we used and even the explanation and examples that were used.

We are often so engrossed in trying to think about how to get everyone to understand, that we miss what is actually causing the miscommunication.

PERCEPTION

The simple definition of perception is “the organization, identification and interpretation of sensory information.” Great, so what does this mean, this means that the information we hear, the materials we read and the visualizations we observe are influenced by our life experiences and our understandings.

If this is confusing, think about these two points. As educators we are given a curriculum that we use to guide and determine our teaching of a subject and a grade. As teachers we go through the curriculum and then determine how we are going to plan our year and what manner we are going to teach. This plan is based on a personal, individual understanding and interpretation of the curriculum, even though we all have the same curriculum.

Second, this is more of an experiment. Using blocks or tooth picks or other shaped blocks, give individuals directions, only verbally about how to create a shape. They can not ask you any questions, only follow yours. They also can not look at each others creations. Once this is complete, ask everyone to reveal their representation of your instructions. You will be fascinated at the differing understandings and interpretations.

We are guided and influenced by our perceptions of the sensory information that we experience. Therefore we need to be conscious that when we present information, ideas and concepts to those we are teaching, that their perceptions will effect their understanding. Now the question is how do we present what we want and ensure that although everyone has different perceptions, that everyone understands?

Do your words SAY what they should?

We use words everyday to communicate with people around us and those that we interact with digitally. Although I try to convey my message thoughtfully and clearly, I often hear from my students “I don’t understand”. Even though this can be frustrating and trying at times I understand the importance of it. The words that we choose to use effect our message.

This is best portrayed in the following video which was shared by @TheHomeworkDog on Twitter.

An cousin of mine shared a great comment with me after I shared the video with her:

Words/language define our society and culture. Words describe cultural codes about how things are and what is said indicate our views about the society we live in. By changing our words; the language used, only we can change the dominant ideology and make positive changes.

, and in my opinion her comment was dead-on in relation to the importance and power of words in creating positive change in the lives of people.

How do the words you use effect the people you share them with?