Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spain and Ireland

Since I was struggling with writing a blog on my ipad, I decided to use a new blog for my trip so you will find me here for the next month!  Here's a preview of San Sebastian where I will be based for one week after ten days on the El Camino French Way! 
Later we will be moving on to Dublin and a week in Bushmills near the Giant Causeway so that we can explore Northern Island and hopefully, Donegal...

And June is over....

Yes, we made it to a successful end of the year.  Monday we had a great field trip with the Grade Sevens downtown, taking the bus and Canada Line to Waterfront Station and then walking to Coal Harbour exploring Canada Place, the Convention Centre and the Olympic Torch and then having a celebratory lunch at the Spaghetti Factory and having a little free time in Gastown before heading back to school.  Our kids don't go downtown much so this was fun.  The grade sixes had a wonderful day helping in other classrooms and they all received rave reviews!

Tuesday I just tried to get most of the projects finished up-autobiographies, cards to favorite people leaving the school etc.  Wednesday after an early morning dental appointment when the principal took my class for their last music session and our last silent reading and response period I was going to attempt to have a last math lesson with the grade sevens as the grade sixes cleaned up their desks but  I kind of gave it up with the grade sevens and let them clean out their desks too before they went off the last period to prepare for the graduation assembly.  The grade sixes happily did their final chapter review after they left!
It's really nice at our school in that we have a special graduation assembly and the whole school attends.  Last year's was a little too long (more graduates, and kids that really wanted to perform) but everyone said this year's was perfect.  Two girls did an amazing slide show for one thing.  The four valedictorian speeches were perfect and to the point.  All my grade sevens had written speeches and Wednesday the class (we let the sixes vote too after some discussion) picked their two favorites-and I am glad they had to choose not me because most of them were wonderful to me.  Plus all that story telling practice has made the class at ease with public speaking.

It was an emotional afternoon with lots of proud parents snapping pictures!   I got a beautiful note that really summed up what is the best part about teaching.

And finally we got to Thursday, the last day with students.  We had another whole school assembly.  We only give awards to seventh graders so this assembly honours library monitors, peer helpers, Me to We club members, and Students Council.  Please note that due to job action we haven't had any extra-curricular sports or even club meetings since March break...  I had put together a slide show of the school year and that played as the kids came in and went out (works very nicely).  We also honoured our staff members who were leaving.

 The rest of my morning was spent reading one of my favorite stories and having the kids write nice things about everyone in the class.  I will put these lists together for them after I get back from holiday and e-mail them or they will pick them up.  I have put the story on a page for you on this blog.
I also let the grade sevens visit favorite places in the school and the grade sixes finally had a picture of them taken (they were feeling a bit neglected I think) and we put together autograph pages etc.

In the afternoon they got my fun award certificates for each person and we went to the nearby park with our grade one buddies-a perfect way to end a year... This has become Angela's and my annual tradition always serving watermelon!  

On our return they got their report cards and felt relieved I think and then it was like a rocket ready to burst but there were many many hugs for everyone.  It was a great ending to what was a great year despite job action and teachers' frustration with the government. As has been noted I really enjoyed this class and look forward to working with my sixth graders for another year with new students added in. 

Yesterday was our last official day but without students.  And I am kind of exhausted!  And now I am into trying to get ready for my big trip-leaving Monday morning.  I am going to switch blogs while I am gone.  You will find me here!  I am on another type of journey...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tying the bow on the package...

When my kids are writing reports, I often seem to be reminding them about writing a conclusion, typing the bow on the package... And with this class, this year, we are at that point of typing the bow on the package, wrapping up the year. 

It wasn't hard to know what my kids were going to say the highlight of the week was this week when they did their spelling tests.  Thursday we were off to Playland, Vancouver's amusement park.  I can't say it is my favorite place but I can assure you it is a favorite place of my students.  I have questioned why we should take them to a place they actually probably will go to on their own or with their family, but they have reminded me that they don't get to go with all their friends.  I have to say it is nice to be able to let these city kids have a day with a bit of freedom as well.  We were lucky and the weather was perfect and they all had a wonderful time.  My colleague and I actually got a chance to basically do nothing, a rare occurrence in our teaching lives. 

It was the last of the presentations this week.  The grade sevens did projects on Ancient India and the grade six students did individual city projects.  I had the grade sevens deliver them to the whole class as they were group projects so that we only had five projects to evaluate.  It was nice to see how my two students who came from the Philippines at the beginning of April were now very much a part of this. 

Because we were going to have 15 grade six projects presented I decided to let them use a station approach so that half presented while the other half "evaluated" and then we switched.  Each student has about five minutes or so to present and then we move to another station.  Thanks to the ipads we can actually do this in our own classroom.  Many of the kids had become very knowledgeable about "their" city and most of the class are now very confident doing prezis. 

The 13 grade sevens had lots to do (last weeks survival give them lots to do and you don't have to mark too carefully at this point) so I let them out of viewing the city presentations.  Since the computer lab was booked I let them work in the classroom next door that our Special Education Assistants use.  I was so busy trying to watch 15 projects that I didn't even check on them.  They assured me that they got lots done but I imagine there was  a fair amount of conversation. 

On their return one student told me that this was a really great last Friday afternoon and when I asked was it because they didn't have to put up with me, she was dismayed.  "No, it was just a really nice way to spend our last Friday afternoon at Trudeau..." I should mention that at lunch time there was also a pizza luncheon for all the kids as a thank you for being peer helpers and hall monitors so that may have added to the enjoyment.

Last year when I had a full grade seven I really realized how "emotional" a time this is for kids who have formed a tight bond in their small elementary school and are now leaving for large high schools and will no longer be all day with their friends and teachers in a place most of them have been since kindergarten.  I am also very happy to see how our  new students have now very much become part of the class and the school after only a couple of months in a new country.

I think I keep saying how important our schools are, something I don't think our government really understands.  For my students, in a multicultural school, almost all the children of immigrants, this is very much their real community centre. 

One project the students were doing Friday was making cards for our teacher-librarian and supervision aide who are retiring.  I am always touched by the memories the kids have and what is important to them. 

So next week we are going to finish tying the bow on the package as the roller coaster ride  finally ends.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June Madness

Yes, another week has ended and less than two to go.  I managed to witness the performance by my class of their story of Bear and Scorpion at the Vancouver International Storytelling Festival, write all my report cards, have balloon rockets take off, help with a retirement celebration, live through a Sports Day Carnival,  see the completion of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, go with a few students to the Human Eyes celebration on our Professional Day etc.  etc.

I may just be beyond words at this point.  I still have a zillion things to do before I cart my suitcase on to a plane heading to Spain on July 2nd.

This is a class I will never forget.  And honestly I do remember them all my classes,  but some more clearly than others!  Last year my class astounded me at times with their sheer brilliance and creativity.  But they weren't always easy.  This class isn't always easy either but they just have so much sheer joy in life and  such enthusiasm.  I was so proud of them when they told their story at the festival.  19 out of 28 showed up on a Saturday afternoon and filled in the gaps beautifully for those who were not present...

 I have definitely decided that I am retiring next year.  I better check what I wrote at this time last year!  I said I wasn't ready, I just checked, but this year I think I actually am or will be.  As I think I have noted before, I really regard these years back in the classroom after four years at the school board as a total bonus.  It's not like every minute is great and I still don't like writing report cards but I honestly have had a great learning experience here at Trudeau.  Next year my grade sixes will turn into seventh graders, and it is really nice to be able to keep going with them.

This time of the year you realize you aren't going to do everything you wanted to do, and you kind of yearn for the fresh notebooks of September.  But I look forward to giving these Grade Sevens in particular great memories to take with them.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

And It's June...

As noted before, the years just seem to go faster and faster.  It's hard to believe in less than a month I will be walking along the El Camino in Spain but in the meantime I have 28 report cards to write, a day at Playland to endure, witness my class telling a story as part of  the Vancouver International Storytelling Festival, a graduation ceremony to behold etc.  Sorry about that none too grammatically correct sentence!   I love to read stories and there are a zillion stories every day in my classroom.

Last week ended a bit more peacefully than the week before.  It was actually a very fun week.  Last Monday we trekked out to UBC to the Michael Smith Laboratories by public transportation.  Many thanks to my great friends, Val and Sandy, intrepid retired teachers who came along!  The class learned more about mimicry, got to extract their own DNA, and in groups wrote choose your own adventure stories with their own invented creatures, learning how real science comes into science fiction.  This week the kids are busily typing them up and turn them into real books!  This is a good exercise in working as groups!  What a great trip with these wonderful scientists,  and I look forward to being able to do another workshop there next year!

On Friday morning there was another Human Eye workshop.  The kids had a great time creating lanterns  and poster paper images of each other.  On to these this week they put some of the wishes and If you knew me students that the class had created.

That afternoon we had a great time doing Hoops for Heart and Jump Rope for Heart stations with our grade one reading buddies. 

This week that has just ended, we were back at Moberly Arts Centre on Monday for our final session working on our story for the Vancouver International Storytelling Festival.  I think we are all going to miss these sessions. It has been such a special experience.  The big day is today so that I hope that all goes really well.  We had a few classroom practices and the kids did a great job filling in if someone was missing (the common cold seems to have appeared...).  I also have to say what a special place Moberly Arts Centre is, and the herb garden is truly lovely. 

The grade sixes had a great deal of fun doing the unit on paper airplanes as part of their science curriculum.  The grade sevens are learning about plate tectonics.  The grade sevens are continuing on their Ancient India projects and have begun a unit in the library on future problem solving.  The grade sixes are back with me and have just begun the Cities of the World project, each picking a city to research and present to the class.

And of course, there is always Math-the grade sixes will actually finish the whole book and most of the class demonstrate a very good understanding.  We have come along way with Grade Seven math but I think I may have to do math every moment that I can and I don't think we will finish probability nor make it to circle graphs.  

Yesterday we had our final session of Human Eye.  The kids finished off their beautiful lanterns and life size models, as well as having an opportunity to reflect on what they had gained from the project as well as enjoy a couple of their favorite games.   I have to say a couple of times in the first session I had a bit of a panic that the material might be a little too much for my class, but it really turned out to be a great experience for us all.  Special thanks to Neelam!  And as noted before, this class is always up for anything and give everything 100 per cent enthusiasm. 

It's been a hard year with first basically no field trips because we couldn't collect money due to job action, and then field trips but  no extra-curricular activities, but the story telling project, Human Eye, and the Artist in Residence program  have been such a bonus for the class and me. 

The hardest thing in June is knowing there is so much to do and never quite enough time plus it's hard to keep the kids focused on school when the end is in sight.  And I really don't enjoy writing report cards but in three weeks I will be trekking through Spain with other challenges and lots of good memories of this school year.