Building Powerful Self-Reflections

This is a follow up post to my portfolios in December, link here if you would like to read it first. I use FreshGrade for my student portfolios and self-reflection but this can be done on any platform - Yes, including pen and paper!

Self-Reflection Criteria and Sentence Stems

Our self-reflections this year have four parts: assessment, justification, strength, and goal.

I have given sentence stems for each part of the assessment, although if students write their own sentences without the stems that is great. I find the sentence stems are very helpful for students when starting self-reflections, then some students quickly moved away from them whereas some students are still using the prescriptively.

Assessment: "For this learning goal I am ________ (fully meeting/approaching/etc) expectations"
Justification: "You can see this in_______" OR "I know this because _________"
Strength: "I want you to notice _______" OR "I am proud of my ___________"
Goal: "Next time I will ______" OR "A goal for me to work on is_________"

Building the Practice of Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is the most powerful part of portfolios this year but it hasn't always been smooth. When we first started self-reflecting I had a few students who did an excellent job right away, many students who were going through the motions, and a few students who needed prompting just to include all four parts. As we moved through first term most students started to get into a rhythm with self-reflecting, but I found that sometimes being in a rhythm means there is less powerful thinking happening. I took a short break from posting to FreshGrade after winter holidays as I tried to wrap my head around making these reflections more powerful. I decided that we need to dive into looking at the practice of self-reflections as I teach other skills in the classroom.

You can access the Slide Deck I used here.

Step One: Review Expectations

Since it had been a while since our last self-reflection I made sure to start back at the basics.

Step Two: Use Student Examples

I went back through the portfolios and chose three student examples. I removed all evidence of student identification and fixed a few grammar/spelling errors so that students would be focused on the thinking and not the editing. For each student example, I read it out and had students partner talk to find the powerful thinking in each reflection. When using student examples I feel that it is important to focus on what is powerful and what they did well. None of these reflections are "perfect" but all three offered a piece to talk about that showed powerful thinking.

For student example one (blue), the students discussed how the goal was realistic and would show a practical way to exceed expectations. They also discussed how the reflection was complete and easy to understand.

For student example two (green), the students discussed how the strength showed a good understanding of meeting a goal (this strength wasn't a part of our criteria it was student directed). They also noticed how the student used the criteria to clearly support the assessment.

For student example three (yellow), the students thought there was really good language choice in the reflection and they noticed how the words came right out of our class criteria for the assignment. We also discussed how this student was able to pull out a lot of strengths in their work which shows they probably are exceeding expectations.

Co-Created Criteria for Self-Reflections

After we pulled out the powerful thinking from the student examples, we were ready to create our criteria for a powerful self-reflection. As always, student generated criteria is very important and places the ownership back on them. This slide only had the title on it and then I typed in the criteria as we went so that I could leave it displayed and later add it to our Google Classroom with the rest of our FreshGrade information.

In our criteria, I really loved the words that came out at the end: "creative, interesting, reflective, and thoughtful." This was the area that I noticed really pushed students into thinking differently, and hopefully more deeply, when writing their self-reflections.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Right after we finished generating criteria students had two learning goals to reflect on. The incidental piece, that was probably most helpful, was that each of these learning goals had evidence already posted. I had taken pictures and uploaded earlier in the day for the two learning goals. By eliminating the need to add an artifact first, students were really able to focus on their reflections. The self-reflections were a lot more meaningful then previous ones and it was a good reminder of the importance of being explicit in our teaching.

And For the Sake of Honesty in Blogging...

I spent 10 minutes resetting passwords and reminding students of their log in information. Many students did not finish their self-reflections that afternoon, even though they had plenty of time to do so. A few students still needed me to sit next to them and prompt them for each sentence.

It's not perfect but it's progress.

My Goals

As I continue down this portfolio/self-reflection road, I want to find a way to upload learning goals more spaced out so that we don't have reflection overload at the end of term. I also have strayed away from my initial intent of having students choose what to upload for each learning goal and become more prescriptive, especially in our Science/Social Studies which is more typically built around projects as artifacts of learning. I would like to find a balance where there is more student ownership but still the structure that is needed in grade 6.

As always it is a work in progress.

Please let me know in the comments how you use portfolios:
What works? What doesn't? What are your goals?



Disclaimer: DANCEPL3Y (pronounced "dance-play") is the leading dance based physical literacy program in the world.  Check out their website HERE. This post is not sponsored and all opinions are my own.

Don't you just love it when your pro d is fun, engaging and completely applicable to what you teach? At some point last year I resolved to no longer attend pro d sessions that were not directly related to my unique teaching position because, if I am honest, they are kind of a waste of my (very precious) time.  Back in September I carefully chose the (big) pro d experiences I wanted to engage in this year.  I attended the Super Conference in October (all dance based/Gabor Mate sessions) and I'll head to the Heart Mind Conference in February.  Initially I hadn't planned to add in a third conference/training this year, but when I learned about DANCEPL3Y at the Super Conference and heard rave reviews about the instructor training from my friend, Mia, I decided I had  to add in the DANCEPL3Y course as well. Last weekend I completed my DANCEPL3Y training and it was probably the best, most engaging extra professional development work I've ever done!

Rushing in late to my training because of course I hurt my neck the night before and had to hit up the chiropractor first thing Saturday morning.

My weekend of training was action packed; I learned ten choreographies in two days and I taught three pieces on the second day of training. I wish I had worn my heart rate monitor! I won't give away too much information about the training's structure and methodology as DANCEPL3Y is a professional and private company and I need to respect their integrity.  That said, I can confidently state that my learning was rich, engaging and incredibly valuable for my specific teaching assignment.  One of my favourite aspects of DANCEPL3Y's training (besides the fact that it is so much fun) is that all weekend long I found myself using a blend of visual, auditory and kinesthetic modalities when it came to learning and retaining all the information and choreography.  During my training I was constantly reading or writing choreography notes, listening to the music on my headphones and physically marking* the moves. The education academic nerd in me reveled in the fact that I was able to do my very best learning because my "classroom" was extremely accessible and accommodating to my personal learning style.  I was definitely in my element!

Headphones on and learning/marking choreography before teaching it to my classmates.

I finished my DANCEPL3Y weekend in a state of complete exhaustion, but I was simultaneously totally fueled by the fact that I got to try the amazing choreography with my students right away! In my experience, there is no better way to solidify one's learning than by putting it to use immediately - so that's exactly what I did.  On Tuesday I taught seven consecutive DANCEPL3Y classes to my students and it was beyond anything I'd experienced so far in my little dance/music studio.  I also wore my heart rate monitor this time around (1500 calories, gone!) In another post I'll go into more detail on the reactions from students after we participated in some epic DANCEPL3Y choreography, but let me leave it at this for now: there was singing (me, and kids), crying (me) and so much sweat (everyone).  My admin and our learning support teacher even came to observe the DANCEPL3Y magic and they were instantly hooked.

Yesterday I was invited to join DANCEPL3Y in Vancouver in early March for additional training to become one of Vancouver Island's instructors for DANCEPL3Y's "schools" program.  I am so honoured to grow and learn with this incredible group of dance based physical literacy super stars! Stay tuned for more information! In case you're wondering, yes, I do have the best job in the whole wide world.

*Notes: For any of those who aren't familiar with the term "marking", this is when a dancer walks through the movements in a piece of choreography, but doesn't do anything full out.  "Marking" a dance helps the mind/body connection when one is learning a new piece.

Teacher Traits to Bust

Lately we've been doing some reflection on the typical traits that come along with being fully immersed in the role of "teacher".  We are very aware that the world of working professionals (all professionals, not just educators) tends to glorify the concept of being busy constantly.  As go-getter educators we fall victim, to this trap as we both tend to pack our schedules full to the brim.  During the work week we both lead lunch time clubs and teams at our respective schools, we both either stay late at work, or bring work home to finish, and we both attend more professional development sessions in a school year than we are required to do.  We love our vocation; yet, we both often crave personal downtime and struggle to schedule that in.  I (Karley) can honestly admit that I sometimes feel a twinge of pride when I send off an email to a colleague at 10:45pm, thinking, "Ha - I did it.  I worked all day and I am still working!"

But what the heck!? Why do we do this to ourselves?

This year we vow to start chipping away at busting some of these typical teacher traits, such as glorifying the martyrs of education.  Here is what we have in mind:


This year I plan to start shedding the label of "teacher".  As a young athlete I found my identity in rhythmic gymnastics and very quickly became known as "the gymnast" in my extended family, peer group and hometown.  I held on to this label for way too many years; in fact, when I was a B. Ed university student I still identified with the gymnastics label even though I had retired from the sport five years earlier.  I remember consciously deciding in my mid 20s that it was time to let go of "being the gymnast".  It was hard for me to shed that label, which ultimately led me down a path of struggle and healing.  If I wasn't "the gymnast" anymore, what was I?  After University I quickly picked up a new label: "the teacher".  I wore this fresh new label so proudly, brandishing my teacher card at any store clerk who would provide the "teacher discount" for me.  As a new teacher I quite literally worked non-stop (and loved almost every single moment of it).  In fact, there are many posts in this blog's early archives where you can read my super keen, brand new teacher writing - hilarious! At this point in my life I wear many hats.  I am a wife, a mama, an educator, a friend, etc., but often the label I immediately attach to is still "the teacher".  I think it's time to work on dropping the label again and I'm curious about what might happen if I start to release my grip on this title I worked so hard for.  I'll keep you posted on my progress!


Oh all the things we need to change... I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Why is the overworked teacher a point of pride? Why do we constantly do more and more without getting rid of other things? It's not just about burnout, it's about choosing to have a balanced life. This past year I have been consumed by all things education with my Masters and teaching full time, and in many ways I've loved it! I love being more knowledgeable about current educational research and I love being connected with so many people in this profession. But I'm learning that you can keep all the great, fun parts of the job and find ways to do less work. Set times to go home and stick to them. Don't take work home on holidays and weekends, even if it means staying a little later on other days. There will always be times when we are extra busy - report cards being one of them. But why do we feel the need to overload ourselves during the rest of the year. A lot of this is not being done to us, whether we want to admit it or not it is often our choice to take on extra work. One of the things I want to start changing are leaving huge sub notes when I'm away. These often take me hours to write and prep just perfectly when really this is a qualified teacher who is capable of handling my classroom for a day. A note for math like "We are reviewing multiplication and division, do you have a game or activity?" has often led to creative new games and activities that I can add to my own repertoire. They are teachers and I need to start treating them like a professional, give them the notes about students (the ones that could probably be reused each time for most of the year) and the shape of the day.

When someone asks me how I am doing, I am no longer going to respond with "Busy." Busy is not a way of life that I want to embody anymore. I'm done with busy.


Soft Starts

Soft starts are a way of easing into the day (or week/term) at school. We had a soft start on our first day back. In our class that meant reading good books, practicing mindfulness, reconnecting with each other through circle, and having some fun. I believe in soft starts because that's what I need, a slow ease back into this whole school thing. Reflecting on my Monday, I realized how I was starting to apply the soft start to the rest of my life...

Our 2018 mindfulness journey started with this great book and, followed by some new book sharing inspired by a Cult of Pedagogy post.

Soft Start

At this point in my Masters/teaching/life journey I really just needed a soft start into 2018. I had a wonderful, quiet post-New Years week. I was able to sleep in, read, relax, exercise, and spend time with important people. Along with that I also got a good amount done on my thesis and did some food prep for the term.

More importantly than the things I did, however were the things I did not do.

  • I did not wake up early for a spin class
  • I did not go into school to prep and clean up
  • I did not spend hours planning lessons
  • I did not bounce around trying to see all of my friends at least 3 times
  • I did not force myself to run long distances
  • I did not worry about the time I went to bed
  • I did not clean every corner of my home

All of those things are things I normally would do on my time off. Most of those things aren't bad things to do, but my soft start this year involved a lot of just letting it go.

So I have had two long days at school this week doing the things I could have done over break. But so what? I feel more relaxed and happy at school and home then I have in a long time.


Along with my soft start to the new year I'm being gentle with myself and my intentions. My word for the year is "Fun" because I realized that the lack of fun in my life was becoming an issue. I needed to let myself let go more often.

Fun - Laugh more. Play more.

Along with this intention I have some other things that I would like to do this year as well, but in keeping with my soft start these are intentions and not goals.

I have made the choice to take an education leave one day per week until Spring Break to help with my work life balance. We could really use that extra day of pay right now but I need a soft start into this thesis writing and teaching term. Money can't buy that peace of mind.

This past year has really taken a toll on my physical health and I want to get back on top of my health and fitness. But instead of going about this in the "go hard at the gym every day and cut out all treats from my diet" approach I'm often inclined to take; I've set the intention to eat healthier and work out three times a week. Three times a week seems like a small goal for the typical me but this year I need this soft start. I need to welcome health and fitness back into my life in a gentle way.

We worked hard to get a lot of our boxes unpacked from moving in the fall, but there are still 3 or 4 sitting in the corner, as well as many pictures we want to hang. But I am loving my home and we will get to those when we feel like it. I want to come home from work, eat a good dinner, and spend time together instead. I want to get our place sorted out this year, but it doesn't need to be now. Soft start.

Those are just a few of the ways I've been giving myself a soft start to 2018, most importantly I'm just being more gentle with myself. I have accomplished so much in the past year but so much of it has been deep heart work that is only visible to me. That means I need to be gentle and caring with this heart of mine. It has been working and loving hard.

Soft starts mean that I need to continue to be gentle with myself.
And it means I need to allow myself to have more fun!

What are your intentions for 2018?

Have you had a soft start to your year?

Portfolios and Self-Reflection

This is my 3rd year using eportfolios in the classroom and my second year using them as a reporting system. I really feel that I'm starting to dial in what I want them to be and I've used a lot of other people's help and ideas to get to this point, particularly Hilary Braid-Skolski and Kelli Meredith from SD61, and Comox Valley School District.

My Portfolio Beliefs

Portfolios can be used in a variety of different ways so I just want to clearly state my intentions with portfolios. I use portfolios as a reflection tool for students and our self-reflection comments are the most important piece. My goal in using them is for students to build a better understanding of where they are at in their own learning and where they need to go (strengths and goals). Our portfolios are the presentation piece of our learning; we do a lot of practice with peer and teacher feedback before we post an example to our portfolios. All of our posts are tied to a curricular competency in an "I can" statement in student-friendly language. In our district we are using FreshGrade and although there are some areas where it still needs to be improved, overall it is a nice format that is simple for students to use.

My FreshGrade Bulletin Board

Portfolio Entries

Kelli and I created this sample entry after we had narrowed in on what we wanted our portfolios to look like (using Bart Simpson's name because we teach middle school - obviously!)

Each entry starts with the "I can" statement which is entered by the teacher. For my portfolios I usually write them as "Math: I can estimate reasonably" to make it easier for parents to find since one of the negatives of FreshGrade is that there is not sorting option for Parents or Students and it can be quite a lot to look at.

After the curricular competency, each entry needs to have a learning artifact (video, picture, document, etc.) and a student self-reflection. My job is to then go in and comment on each student's self-reflection which can be as simple as "I agree with your assessment here" or it can involve writing a goal to a student or asking them to come check in with me. This is also the space for parents to engage with the portfolio.

Self-Reflection Comments

This year, our self-reflections have to have four parts to them:

  1. Assessment of learning
  2. Evidence
  3. Strengths
  4. Goals

To start with I give students the language to use through sentence stems. From there, some students are able to write reflective comments that touch all four parts but are written less formally and some students stick to the sentence stems given.

"For this learning goal I am (Approaching/ Satisfactorily Meeting/Fully Meeting/Exceeding Expectations) because I (evidence to support assessment). I would like you to notice (strength in work). A goal for next time is (goal)."

It took about 6 weeks for students to get the hang of doing a full self-reflection every time we post to FreshGrade but now they need very few reminders.


Overall, I love using portfolios and would never go back to any other form of assessment. I believe using electronic portfolios streamlines the whole system, provides easy communication with parents, and it has made the student self-reflection piece more consistent and powerful.

I met with each of my students (yay for smaller class sizes!) before report cards this term and almost every single student knew where they were for letter grades even though I have not given a single "score" on anything. We are using purely anecdotal feedback from me and then self-assessment. It has been a very powerful switch for me and I am so happy that I've been able to play around with it to get it to this place.

At this time, I am happy with FreshGrade as the platform but I can see that there may be benefits to other platforms at the middle school level. I really like the idea of having a password protected blog or website for student reflection as it would give them a little more ownership over the space and you could use pages or tags to allow for subject sorting of portfolio entries.

Does your district use eportfolios?

How do you engage students in self-assessment practices?

Dance and Social Studies

Feel welcome to press PLAY and rock out to this awesome song while you read about grade 3/4 dance and social studies and how those two subjects make quite the delightful combination.

About six weeks ago Sean, the grade 3/4 teacher at my elementary school, told me he had friends coming to visit in late November.  These particular friends of Sean's used to lived in New York City.  Sean's friends wanted to see what the day to day life in grade 3/4 was like and thus, New York Day was born.

New York Day became the hype of Sean's grade 3/4 class and for five weeks every lesson we did in music and dance was in preparation for New York Day.  We talked about Broadway, listened to various songs from elementary school appropriate musicals and we made up a New York dance to Jay Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind", complete with subway seats (desk chairs) and newspapers/magazines for reading.  For the final touches leading up to New York Day I took on the Broadway musical poster portion of the New York City brochure Sean and I co-constructed six weeks earlier.  Sean's class and I talked at length about all things Broadway (tickets, seats, directors, musicians, dancers, costumes, etc.) and the students created their own Broadway musicals, ensuring that all the details for a typical Broadway show were included in their work.  See a few examples below:


After weeks of practice, New York Day finally arrived last Thursday! That morning on my way to my super early high school dance job the radio played "Empire State of Mind" (which I haven't heard for years before Sean and I dreamed up New York Day) and I felt a flurry of excitement for the coming day. Yes, even I was excited about New York Day!

We all got to meet Sean's New York City savvy friends and the students spent the entire day asking the former New Yorkers all kinds of questions about the Big Apple. Sean's class spent some time on Google Earth mapping out the best breakfast spots and other iconic sights, but I must admit, the best part for me was witnessing those eight and nine year old students rise to the occasion when they presented their New York Day dance to our principal, vice-principal and the esteemed New York City guests. Every single student was at their best and not one missed a beat or talked out during the performance (a struggle for many!) Seeing these kids perform made my (dance) teacher heart soar.

New York Day ended up being a rather important epiphany for me, but I'll talk more about that another time.  For now I will close with a generous THANKS to Sean, who had the initial idea and creativity behind this dance/social studies combination. I am totally looking forward to more cross curricular work with dance and music!

Classroom Tour: Music & Dance

Disclaimer: Wordpress tells me I originally drafted this post on September 7th, so in the spirit of being productive this evening I will add a few touches and updates and keep the rest as it originally was written.  Nothing like a classroom tour post one third of the way through the school year!

The bulletin board outside our teaching space.


Happy back to school season everyone! We hope your start to the 2017/2018 school year has been inspiring and exciting so far!

Like every educator we know, we've worked hard throughout our summer break to collect, prep and plan for this school year and we are excited to show off our work here on the blog.  I am particularly excited about my new position at my new school. I am still teaching dance, but I've added music to the repertoire as well! I have decided to leave middle school for a while and have put down some roots at an adorable, beautiful elementary school (K-5).

My teaching space is temporary for this year as we await a brand new portable, so a cozy, "homemade" dance studio has been created for me.  Our district facilities team did an amazing job putting up a temporary wall between the gym and the gym's stage, so my classroom is essentially a walled in stage, but it works for us! I have amazing, massive studio mirrors arriving soon, which will be the grande finishing touch.


The teaching space I created for my K-5 students.

Because I also teach music this year I've managed to store some smaller instruments in bins and on shelves.  In addition to instruments, I've been working on creating some music based manipulatives/games for us to use in our "smaller than usual" work space.

We will be using the smaller instruments this year because of storage struggles.  I'm excited to see how creative we can get with what we have!


Our class set of ribbons have been a hit in primary so far this year.
The Kindergarten students are slowly working on writing a shape/movement based book, complete with rhyming verses. This is the Lyrical Wall we have been keeping track of various rhyming words on; however, it just fell down last week (mid November) so I will have to make us a new one.



We haven't used this bin of lego/notation manipulatives yet, but we are just beginning our learning about music notes and their names/meanings, so I am sure this fun manipulative will make its first appearance soon! (This lego/notation idea is not my own. You can find the amazing Mrs. KIng, and American music teacher/blogger, and all her work HERE.)
I drew various music notes on plain labels and stuck them to the lego blocks.
This was my September music/dance mini library, but it has since grown quite a bit! I promise I will do a "book walk" on the blog of all the amazing text resources I've found in the last few months (hopefully I'll get to this before winter break!)

A few other amazing things we have in the studio to infuse our daily lessons and fun include:

  • a Party Rocker Max (complete with disco ball...the students LOVE it!)
  • a rolling cork/chalk board
  • mini chalk boards, markers and erasers
  • a parachute
  • a sensory music bin (I will do a whole post on music/dance based adaptations that are working for us...soon)
    Early in October I arrived to school to a closed studio door. I could hear some kind of construction going on inside, but after weeks of not having mirrors I had kind of grown used to teaching dance without them, so I didn't expect them to greet me when I opened the door. I did a legit happy dance when I walked in to see a facilities man installing the mirrors for me! My principal knew they were coming, but she kept it a surprise. What a lucky teacher I am!
    After five years of teaching I finally have a space to call "my own" in a school that I truly love. I am home in this place and SO happy about it!

    Stay turned for more posts coming up in the next few weeks about what we've been up to in this temporary-for-one-year music and dance studio space!

Victoria Summit Presentation: How Do We Learn?

This weekend I had the opportunity to present at the EdTechTeam Victoria Summit. I did my best to condense a month long inquiry project into an hour long session and now I'm attempting to condense further to a blog post that is a readable length. My slides can be found here:  Feel free to fire away some questions in the comments if you want more information on any part of this.

How Do We Learn? An Inquiry Approach

(This project is inspired by Dive Into Inquiry by Trevor MacKenzie, our book review can be found here.)

Although I've covered Growth Mindset each year with my classes and really brought this language into our classroom, my goal this year was to create an inquiry project we could use at the start of the year that dives into this question of "How do we learn?"

Why? I wanted a project that starts to introduce some of the expectations in the classroom but also builds relationship between myself and the students, as well as with each other. Three of the "rules" I set for myself in the classroom are: relationships first, keep my thoughts/plans student-centered, and make our work meaningful to students. With these in mind, I started to plan a unit that would fit with some of my beginning of the year goals. Additionally, this is a structured inquiry to start building our language and understanding around inquiry in our classroom.

Unit Goals

Overall - Mostly I want my students to realize that they already have skills that make them a learner and that those skills are going to be valued and celebrated in this classroom.

Classroom - I want us to have common language to discuss our learning with each other. I also want students to have the time to share and talk about our learning styles and needs as I believe it makes us more away and compassionate to our classmates.

Curricular (BC Curriculum) - This unit is packed with Core Competency lessons, as well curricular competencies in Science and goal setting. The BC Curriculum has the nervous system in Grade 6 science so learning how are brain work falls in with this.

Technology - I wanted to give my students the opportunity to practice skills such as colour fills, word art, adding images, text boxes, etc. in order to make a final presentation they are proud of. My hope is by allowing them to spend time to be creative with this in September, we won't have to spend as much time with this when we are doing projects where content needs to be the main focus.

Unit Overview:

Big Idea - When we understand how we learn, we become better learners

Essential Questions - How do we learn? How do our brains grow and change? Who am I as a learner?

Performance Task - To create a personal learner profile

Learning Plan:
Please see resources in the slides linked at the top.

  • Start with a read aloud picture book around Growth Mindset (e.g. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires)
  • Do a team building STEM project that requires problem solving and perseverance
  • Growth Mindset videos (e.g. Class Dojo)
  • Growth Mindset Lessons
  • Look into Multiple Intelligences, etc. and discuss pros/cons
  • Connect to self through exploration of First Peoples Principles of Learning
  • Co-Create Criteria for Learner Profile
  • Create Learner Profiles
  • Reflect on work (FreshGrade)

Learner Profile Template

My Example

I used my example as a way to share more about myself with my students. Growth Mindset doesn't have to be about school subjects - my example is about my shyness growing up and what I learned to do about it.

Student Reflection

I am planning a full post on my FreshGrade responses this year (co-created with Kelli Meredith) but here is a little preview with a student reflection on his Learner Profile.

"I believe that I am fully meeting expectations because I took the time in making this learner profile the best I could and took my prior knowledge of google docs and used that knowledge to the fullest :)

I think the thing I did best was the writing and sentences and made sure that the learning goal was realistic and achievable.

The thing I want to work on more is adding more descriptive words next time."

He was able to take some of the language directly out of our co-created criteria and apply it to his reflection - This is what we want, right?!

My Reflection

Through creating this presentation, I was able to deeply reflect on the pieces of this inquiry that were really successful and informative for my teaching. The space where students chose three words to describe themselves was very insightful for me in not only getting to know how students view themselves, but in the ways they value themselves. As with anything we do, there are definitely ways I would improve this unit next time. I really loved connecting with the First Peoples Principles of Learning and I feel that I have made adjustments to do this more deeply and with more reflection.

It feels like a blog post doesn't totally due justice to a project that was filled with so much heart and relationship building. As always, please connect if you have any questions!

Real "Self-Care"

As I was walking down the hall to put another load of laundry on this morning I was thinking about all of the things I could do today to make my week better. This is something that doesn't come naturally to me - I'm really good at making choices that will make my day better, or my hour better, or my minute better, but what will make my life better? And then Karley posted this article she found on "Self-Care" and what it really is. Read it. It's worth it.

My favourite line: "If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot to do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness."

This past year has been hard. Really hard.

I have given a lot of myself to others and not been the best at taking care of myself. Between teaching and Masters work I have been consumed by education. At home I have felt out of control with moving (twice!), and mental health issues, and not having enough time. There have been so many personal lessons I've learned this year (many too personal to share here) and I know that it all happens for a reason. But real self-care has continuously been my learning curve

Things I have learned about real self-care:

Sometimes self-care is making sure my kitchen is clean before I go to bed but it can also be not allowing myself to care about the unpacked moving boxes in the corner of the room.

Sometimes self-care is taking a day to relax but also making sure the laundry gets done.

Sometimes self-care is letting myself leave work early, but sometimes self-care is staying late to get things done so I can feel better the next day.

Sometimes self-care is saying no to the awesome Halloween party I have wanted to go to for three years because I know getting a good night's sleep is what I need.

Sometimes self-care is not caring that I don't have time for an hour workout and choosing a 20 minute walk over nothing at all.

Sometimes self-care is deciding not to buy something that I desperately want, because the stress of paying for it is not worth the desire to have it.

Sometimes self-care is choosing the salad when I actually want the nachos.

Sometimes self-care is turning off my favourite TV show and picking up a book.

Sometimes self-care is walking home from work.

Sometimes self-care is giving up caffeine because the pick-me-up is not worth the anxiety it causes me long term.

Sometimes self-care is simply saying no.

And more often then not, self-care is forgiving myself for not choosing real self-care AND doing things better the next time. (Because you can forgive yourself for something and still care about it).

Self-care is about learning more about myself and being in tune with my long-term needs and it is totally un-glamourous. This week I'm going to do better with this and be more realistic with my goals.

My three self-care goals this week:

  1. To workout three days
  2. To get up 20 minutes early
  3. To practice mindfulness/meditation 5 days

(Now that it's in writing I'll have to do it, right?)

When you come in here... (Classroom Tour)

Most bloggers post classroom tours in August or September but at Tale of Two Teachers we believe in keeping things realistic for our readers and I did not have my act together to post anything about my classroom before November... So here you go!

When you come in here... you feel welcome, loved and ready to learn. 

This was my one and only goal this year in setting up my room. I don’t use a theme. I don’t follow the “rules” about minimalism or colour or perfect organization. This was my only goal and although I’m still working out some kinks, a class environment is more than the space and I feel that I’m meeting my goal in many ways.

Tables for working and lots of space for our morning talking circles
Our Cozy Book Nook
Global Read Aloud board with postcards from other classes
First People's Principles of Learning and Reminders board
They aren't neat but they are full of learning!
Our organization board for FreshGrade portfolios - a work in progress
Our caricatures and symbol names from the first week - So much fun!
Our Learning Targets and Essential Questions
Growth Mindset Board - A classroom essential!

It's not perfect but it works!

I love my room, the giant space, tons of bulletin boards and beautiful windows. Our space is about being welcome and loved and about learning.

My bulletin boards aren’t straight, and it drives me crazy about 50% of the time. But we are using them for our learning and I don’t have time to fix them right now.

My book bins aren’t labeled and my categories are all messed up. But kids are reading like crazy and talking about the books they’ve read.

My tables are now in rows instead of groups. But we are focused during quiet work time and spend plenty of time up and moving with partners and working with partners/groups.

And that's our classroom!