Friday, August 24, 2012

Back in Vancouver and thinking about school again...

Well I have been back for a month and returning to this blog.   If you missed reading about my adventures in Spain and Ireland just hit this link.  Today I am using this blog post as a warm up because I am scheduled to write a blog post for the International Reading Association Teacher tips blog, and I need to think about what I want to write about. 

Having left right after school and going to Spain and Ireland for four weeks I have been quite removed from teaching, but I am aware that in less than two weeks  I will be back in my classroom teaching!  The last couple of weeks I have been busily trying to get my house sorted out and doing all those things that you don't get done (or more accurately I don't get done when I am teaching).  Needless to say I have been enjoying life in beautiful Vancouver as well.

I waited for a so so weather day to start to tackle sorting out my classroom as well but on the whole, the weather was a bit too warm and sunny to want to be here.  I say this is going to be my last year of teaching (not that anyone really seems to believe me) so that I think I should get an early start on the sorting. I came in for a few hours Monday and I am back again today.

When you go away right away for a month, it puts a great deal of space between you and the school year.   What tips could I give teacher?  Having taught so long one would think I would have a few but one thing about teaching you never stop learning but let's see...

1. You don't have to be a technology expert to get your students to use technology.  This is something I kept learning over and over again.  It helps I have an interest in technology but my students are often more technologically savvy than I am. This year we added ten ipads to the classroom mix and they often had to help me figure things out!
2.  Invite people into your classroom.  It was a crazy year with various forms of work to rule so that field trips were not easy but my class were involved in several projects with "experts' in other fields and that was great. They learned to tell stories, make storyboards, work with clay, and how to  think more deeply and speak more honestly.
3.  You need to give kids time to read and you want them to be swept away by reading.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the Kane Trilogy but I didn't seem to be enjoying the last one as much and then I realized it was because I wasn't really giving myself enough time to read.  I allowed myself time for the last section and I became absorbed again.
4.  Pressure makes you learn things quickly.  I wanted to do a blog for my trip but only wanted to bring my ipad.  By googling for the best way to do a blog on an ipad application I found and without too much difficulty I blogged away without a real keyboard.    I also wanted to keep copies of travel documents and found out how handy Evernote could be.  I learned that you don't need a scanner when you have an ipad with a handy camera!  I didn't bring books but read on ibooks.  When my battery died on my camera, I just used my ipad to take pictures.  And I could even send ecards with my Martha Stewart app. 
5.  Passion is everything in teaching and learning and it's all about making connections.  When I went to Newfoundland, my students learned about Newfoundland.  When I introduced my students to The Group of Seven in summer school, I had an urge to go visit the McMichael Museum when I went to Toronto that summer.  And my enjoyment of the Giant's Causeway was enhanced by having studied geology again in Grade Seven science.  And that trip to the Titantic Museum will probably evolve into some kind of unit.  Trips to Australia and Hawaii had me collecting artifacts later used in unit stations.  A trip to NASA helped me get more involved in the Grade Six extreme environment unit this year.  I know that a few of my students were reading about my trip through Spain and Ireland on my blog.
6.  Do the research!  It's the most fun when it involves real travel, but there are so many good web resources now!  I make sure I find good sites to lead my students to for their project work.
7.  And now projects!  Students love a project!  In fact, sometimes they don't even realize they are working when they are engaged in a project.  To make the project fun, you need to give them choices about what to research and how to present the research, but they need guidelines and opportunities to learn from their mistakes. 

Those are a few lessons I have learned along the way particularly in the last few years I have been back in the classroom with the sixth and seventh graders.   Now back to classroom sorting and writing that teaching tip blog.