Long time no chat!

Has anyone else’s start up been BANANAS this year? Everything is great but I feel like I’m just finally coming up for a breath… How is tomorrow November already?!

Since I haven’t written anything on here since June (thanks to Karley for checking in more regularly!), be prepared for what is probably the longest post I’ve written – updates, rants, and excitement all included. I’ll start with an update on life and teaching in general – bullet point style since it’s been so long!

  • The main ideas from one of my courses this July.

    In July I was away for the month working on my Master’s courses. The first course was one of the most positive, life affirming, job love filled experiences I’ve had and the second course had me thinking deeply about so many issues in Education. It was a lot of work and hard to be away from home but so, so worthwhile!

  • In August I had some vacation time, ran the SeaWheeze, did a little Masters work and a little teaching prep, set up my new classroom, attended some weddings, spent time with my family and friends
  • In September I started up my new classroom with a wonderful new group of students. It came with all the bumps of switching schools again but I have a beautiful, huge new classroom and a fun, energetic, hard-working group of grade sixers. September is the month for building class community and relationships. We also got possession of our new condo (our first time buying!) which was exciting, slightly terrifying, and crazy busy! We painted most of the living spaces in that first week so after school each day it was go time. After that we moved all of our stuff in from storage but stayed a little longer with my parents so we could take our time setting things up (such a gift!) And finally, my second to last Masters course started up and I got to see all those lovely friends and classmates that I had been missing for August.
  • In October, we officially moved into our place, had a family wedding, had our first house guests, and are starting to feel settled at home! At school, I have been working hard to establish a hard work culture in the classroom and we are really focusing in on our skills/competencies and our self-reflection of these skills. I also got to meet Susan Close of Smart Learning and watch her teaching in our school – it was an amazing opportunity and I have a lot of new tools to use in the classroom.

So what is November bringing?

Report Cards… Sigh! I had a minor panic yesterday over report cards and ended up feeling so frustrated with the system we are in. I know things are changing and we are sitting on the brink of a big shift in education but I feel so frustrated that I pour my work in September into developing a growth mindset with my students, and then in October we are focused on self-assessment and setting learning goals. We use positive language about where we are at, how much teacher help we currently need, and where we want to get to. I don’t assign numerical values to our work, students get descriptive feedback and peer feedback. We get second chances after feedback has been given. And then it’s time for a report card. I feel like I don’t have enough done and need to rush through the learning process. I have to assign a letter grade that is supposed to sum up this term, but first term is the beginnings of growth and learning and just getting used to middle school. It’s stressful for teachers, it takes away from developing learners to their potential, and it goes against what the research says about feedback. But now it’s November, so here we go.

FreshGrade… Along with the report card rant comes my excitement over our electronic portfolios this year! I am working with an awesome team of teachers to collaborate one what we want portfolios to look like and we have a good system going so far. This will be a blog post in itself at some point but I feel that we are really getting the portfolios dialed in this year – Learning Goals, Artifact, Self-Assessment, Direct Feedback.

Presentations… I’ve applied to present at the Google Summit Conference in Victoria this month. I’m VERY nervous already but definitely excited too! I’m going to be going through my first inquiry project of the school year – How do we learn? We dove into brain research, growth mindset, and the First Peoples’ Principles of Learning and then created “Learner Profiles” on Google Slides. I may regret writing about this here because my secret hope is that I have a very tiny group that shows up to my presentation since this is the first time I have done something like this.

French TPRS Unit #2… This isn’t specifically a November item but I am feeling so excited about the TPRS units my two colleagues and I have developed. I have never had students so engaged and speaking so much French before – and it’s only November! I wrote a bit about TPRS here. If you teach French or another second language and have the opportunity to go to a workshop on TPRS you have to go!

Masters Thesis… A few friends and I are having a “writing getaway” on Remembrance Day weekend to work on our theses projects. We found a beautiful little rental unit near some nature for writing breaks and I can’t wait to get a good crack on writing! I may have changed my thesis topic this summer even though I’d already written 2.5 chapters of it… Typical! I’ll write more about my topic once I wrap my head around it a little more.