I hope you will allow me to veer slightly from my usual format for this blog. This was an amazing, although exhausting week and I have learned a great deal. I feel a strong need to share with you some of my AHA moments this week, so while my comments may not seem to flow, it is the sheer wonder of impactful learning and huge pride in our school and its' community that is the common thread.
Every day something that a student does makes us smile, and very proud. As two examples - this week, a grade 3/4 student formed an environmental club to involve a group of students in taking care of our field, which he thought needed to be looked after better. He put up signs and, with his teacher's support, he invited them to join him at lunchtime. Way to go, Paul! A grade one child saw chairs had been knocked down in a hallway, and picked them all back up all by herself. Go Nadia! Our grade 5/6 students have been leaving for lunch by way of the grade 1/2 hallway so they can help get boots, coats and mittens on properly before our younger students go outside! Great leadership, Grade 5/6!
This week I was fortunate to have attended two very different meetings about math one right after the other on Monday afternoon/evening. The first was with a group of teachers, administrators and system leaders and focused on the importance of making math hands-on and accessible through the Learning Commons and Maker Space. This session was open to schools who have received an Education Matters grant to develop their Learning Commons. Our Learning Commons Committee was very well represented, as it is at all of these learning opportunities, with eight members of our teaching staff volunteering their personal time to attend. The excitement of learning new things was in the air all around us, and frequently our teachers were able to share how the activities and thinking shared was being used at our school. My AHA's came often during that session, including how much our teachers' understanding of math has grown and evolved over the past year. They spoke with a common language and eloquence about the importance of "LEARNING" (understanding) as opposed to "DOING" (repeating algorithms without knowing why they work) math.
My second was when I accompanied one of our parents who volunteered their personal time to be at a Parent Engagement session about Math later that same evening. Here I heard from many parents who shared their concerns about their children's understanding of math. This has become a huge topic of discussion over the past few years and I was fortunate to sit quietly and listen as they discussed their own understanding of what it means to be good at math, and what it will mean in the future. Among the caring and passionate parents I sat with was one who spoke about the importance of using the right language when we talk about math and number. In my own mind I was agreeing with her and thinking "Yup - we do that." when she completely blew me away! (I am somewhat paraphrasing here) "For instance - why do we say the year as 20-17? That is NOT a number. As a five year old I know what 20 is, and I know what 17 is. I know that 17 is less than 20. THEN you tell me that the number is REALLY 2 017!" She went on to bring up other instances, but I can tell you, my mind was stuck on 2017! All week I have been discovering instances of this in my everyday life! Thanks, Pauline- you taught me something very worth knowing!
If you haven't participated in the online Math survey for parents, please do! Click here - it's open until March 15 and your voice matters!
On Tuesday morning, we brought an incredibly dynamic, energetic and passionate author/illustrator to work with our Grade 1 - 6 students. (It is unfortunate that because of numbers, we couldn't include our Kindergarten students, but we were able to book them something different for another time.) Ruth is a small woman with a BIG personality that lit up the gym as she talked about the career she loves. She completely engaged everyone who heard her. She had teachers and students on the floor of the gym creating their own characters and learning just how easily they could change their mood, using a bit of torn paper. My AHA here was that through her passion, she engaged and empowered everyone in the room. The techniques she taught: using basic shapes to create your image, use torn paper to place over top of your work and change it, and DON'T ERASE! Mistakes are opportunities to see things differently.
On Wednesday, Mrs. Ramsay and I were lucky to be among a group of principals and assistant principals who were able to spend a few hours listening to George Couros. Couros is a former principal who is passionate about social media as a way to connect both educators and students. As you know we have been using Twitter for about a year and a half now, and it has not only allowed parents to see inside our classrooms, but it has also allowed teachers to see inside each others'. The impact of that has been profound. Teachers are aware of what is happening in other classes in a way that has never been possible before. The morning was filled with personal AHA's but one big one for me was when he said something that I very strongly believe. "Standing still is the same as moving backwards in our world." I have often heard that the world is going to change - or will be different, but what i believe is that it has already changed. If we teach the same way we were taught we are teaching for a world that no longer exists. We just can't do that to our students. They deserve more. They deserve better.
At this time of year in schools, administrators have a meeting with each of their staff members to see how the year is going, what they are learning and what they want to learn. Every year we try to make this a fun experience for everyone, so this year we turned our conference room into a coffee shop and had a chat over a cup of coffee. I had a big AHA during these conversations and while it really wasn't a big surprise, it is something that I hope you appreciate about our staff. All of the staff members that we spoke to spoke with eloquence and care about the children in this school. Most refer to them as "our kids". They work very hard every day to learn more and become better educators for "our kids". They respect our kids as people, not just as students in a row of desks in their classrooms. They admire, respect and care deeply for each other. My AHA was how very lucky I am to work in a school where this is the case, and how lucky your kids are to be learning here. I hope you feel that way, too.
This week our students participated in the first session of their second opportunity to learn something they were very curious about. The excitement of students, staff AND volunteers was evident! Afterwards, students and teachers were abuzz with stories and were anxious to share about their new learning and new friends. My AHA here was that this Friday morning practice, which has grown to become so important to our school community, is about more than children learning new skills. It is about empowering our students to advocate for their own learning, as well as learning something they are deeply curious about.
The last few weeks in grade 5/6 have been full of hot air! Well, maybe not quite HOT air, but air nonetheless! In Science, we have been exploring some of the properties of air, such as how it takes up space and exerts pressure. Through a variety of experiments, our thinking has been challenged as we have had to find ways to prove (or disprove) these properties. The students have also learned that if a variable is changed in an experiment, it can result in very different results. Make sure to ask a grade 5/6 student about the broken ruler and the popped ball, and what caused both to break!
Before the winter break, we had been spending time researching the geographic regions of Canada, and how things like climate, location, and resources affect the daily lives of the people who currently live there, and lived there in the past. The last few weeks have found the grade 5/6s wrapping up their presentations that demonstrated all of the information that they discovered during their research. They presented in so many different ways, such as puppet shows, skits and videos that used the green screen! Alongside the presentations, we have been learning about the Iroquois ways of life and the influence they had on Canadian history. With the help of one of our new tinkering stations in the Learning Commons, the students have been designing and creating their very own Wampum belts that include colours, shapes and images that represent their unique identities.
Through the last few weeks, our strategies of working with numbers have steadily been growing through the implementation of daily number talks! Every day, we learn new ways of solving equations from our classmates, including the teachers! Speaking of growing, the grade 5/6s used their knowledge of fractions and decimals to design a new garden for Mrs. R’s friend! We are waiting to hear back about which designs would work the best!
Make sure to stay tuned in your classrooms over the next few weeks, as the grade 5/6s are creating their very own “DHS HAWKS” newspaper! It will include articles and photos of recent events that have occurred in our school, such as our fantastic family movie night, Pink Shirt Day and our school wide activity day at Village Square! After learning all about and writing our very own news articles, we can’t wait to share our learning with the school!
Last week was so busy that everyone might not have had a chance to visit Mr. Hawken's Bernuda triangle or the math digit problem shared last week. Let's give it another go this week rather than going with a new one, but did you know that Friday is Pi Day? I wonder how many of our students can find out what that means?
PE FOCUS – Dance
Playground schedule - Division 1 on playground before school and at recess and Division 2 on the playground at lunch time. THIS POLICY KEEPS IT FAIR FOR EVERYONE. PLEASE USE THE PLAYGROUND ON YOUR DAY ONLY.
Remember to check out our school website - http://schools.cbe.ab.ca/b347