Saturday, June 22, 2013

the last week of heavy duty teaching

I made it through the week!  My last real teaching week although I am not sure how much teaching there was but there was lots of learning I hope!  I know school isn't over but what with presentations for other classes in the library, our graduation assembly, two field trips, another school assembly, and a picnic with our buddies in grade one next week I knew this was my last real week of at least attempting to teach.

We started the week on the roof.  When my class
realized the teachers were having a barbecue on the roof the night of the intermediate musical, they wanted to go on the roof so that I promised them that one day we would read on the roof.  With reports of rain for most of the week, I decided if it was happening it had to happen Monday.  It was rather fun.  And they actually did read.  At the end of our 25 minutes, I did let them explore a bit and they couldn't resist kicking a ball found up there a bit, until our Special Ed Assistant and I pointed out that they were doing this above Ms. Pavao's room.  Then she ran up to tell us her room was shaking as if there was an earthquake.  Of course they had stopped by then!

We had our last session in the series, Coping with Life's Ups and Downs, put on by Lu and Tiffany from the B.C. Crisis Centre.  This has been such a good experience teaching the class and me how to be more mindful and giving strategies for dealing with stress.  This week took some deep breathing and using STOP (stop, take a breath, observe, and proceed).  In this session we learned not to jump back and forth between what we think is bad and good but try to notice what is happening and realizing what we might think is bad could actually be good etc.  Just observe...

That afternoon was really special as well.  We had Luella from Compassionate Eye came and brought her brother, Robert, the founder.  That was so exciting and I know the kids treasured their kind words.  Here is a little bit of the video clip.  And Sharon from Room to Read was there as well and gave us a copy of Room to Read founder's children's  book, Zak the Yak, the that we have now placed in our school library.  Here is a bit of the clip of Sharon's speech to the class.  The kids had a lot of fun planning and executing lemonade and freezie and bake sales.  Both these ladies had earlier given  presentations about their organizations and taught the kids some great strategies for fundraising that I know they will continue to use in the future.  I am also going to put a copy of Julia's review on the pages section of this blog...  So in addition to fundraising of our Me to We Club for Free the Children, this class raised just over 1800 dollars for the Vancouver Food Bank, the Downtown East Neighbourhood House, the Union Gospel Mission, the Nepal Library Foundation, Compassionate Eye, and Room to Read.  The lesson I learned from this was to try to put as much responsibility in the hands of the children as possible.  Then the ownership is theirs not mine.
visitors.  We had cheques to present to two of our favourite charities.

Letting go isn't easy for any of us, most of us.  And in our final projects I really did let go.  Each student was able to pick their final project.  I did ask them to try to show the habitudes we have been working on-self-awareness, imagination, creativity, perseverance, passion, and courage.  When I initially saw some of the titles, I almost backed up into making them do projects on Ancient Rome, but I thought-let's just go for it.  They were told to have them ready for Wednesday (my advice to them learned at the school board, is always have everything ready a day early in case of emergencies) but the presentations were Thursday.  Of course we ran out of time Thursday afternoon and had to finish them off Friday morning.

I have to say they were kind of wonderful.  We went from wolves to rap musicians to the Philippines 
natural wonder- an underground river, to Golden Retrievers, to How to Play the Guitar, to Dance, to Lemony Snickett to Finding Nemo to Vancouver's riots and the Olympics.  Needless to say the kids were totally engaged in the subjects they had chosen.  Each one got up to the front of the class and presented loudly and clearly about something deeply personal to them.  There were posters, models, dioramas, prezis and power points.  Students were given quizes and music and dance lessons.  We all felt as if we were being eaten by a grizzly bear.  We got to touch a real bow and arrows one student had made.  Students did research and then made the material their own.  I found out things I never knew-I mean did I know that the famous American architect and urban planner, David Hudson Burnham, has a park named after him in Baguia, a city he planned in the Philippines?  On Monday we will share them with other classes in the school.

Friday was a very special day.  Our staff and students had planned a beautiful assembly for our principal and myself as we are both retiring.  It was kind of a weird experience sitting in my empty classroom Friday morning for a bit, knowing they were practicing, and there was much going back and forth as my students put final touches on various projects with our teacher-librarian (not all I have yet seen). And I have to say it was magic, the perfect summation of my wonderful four years at this wonderful school.  There was the slide show I had put together for my retirement celebration and then the whole school sang a revised version of Cindi Lauper's True Colours for me, accompanied by several of my students on guitar and piano.  There was a prezi put together by some of my boys complete with a video illustrating that homework comes before basketball playing (as if?!).  There was a lovely speech and a presentation of a plant by two of the girls (the speech was also written by one who got shy about presenting) and I have many cards and posters from my class and different classes in the school.  This was followed by a different but similar presentation for Jim, who has been the school's beloved principal for seven years.  The second graders even took him on a trip to New York to see his favorite musical, Chorus Line.  Of course none of this could have happened without the work of our totally amazing staff.  One more thing to do in the midst of report card writing and end of the year finishing.

But the day wasn't over.  I had 28 valedictorian speeches to hear and two to be picked by the class to be read at our ceremony Monday (in the end there will be four).  In fact we had to stay until 3:15 to finish them and they weren't quite as entertaining as the presentations but they were wonderful.  Again it isn't easy to get up in front of your peers and say deeply personal things.  I had thought I might not have time to hear them all and thought of short listing but it's hard to evaluate a speech until you have heard it ,and I think it's important that the kids pick who they want to represent their class and everyone has an opportunity to speak.  I will post them all and make a book of them.

So it's a weekend that will include writing certificates and making up humorous awards for each person in the class and making final decisions on more serious awards.  I also will work on a final slideshow for the school's final assembly Thursday.  But it was a great week even if I didn't get the final science and French lessons in... Next week is really about cementing in those final memories for the kids and for me!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Time ticks away...the last weeks...

It seems as if last week was long ago when I write this on a Monday morning.  It was somehow calmer last week-perhaps, because the weather wasn't all that good.  We began the week with the third session of Mindfulness and although I still had a couple of who have difficulty settling down, it went well.  I honestly think these sessions are most helpful to the teacher.  I consciously told my class a couple of times that it was time to use STOP-Stop, take a breath, observe, and proceed.  I may have to do this a great deal the next few days.

The class put on the last lemonade sale-running out of freezies so profits weren't as great but $124 is still rather good for a day's work!  All in all my class made over 1800 dollars for various charities and foundations this year!  I think that is kind of incredible!  This afternoon they get to give cheques to Sharon from Room to Read and Luella from Compassionate Eye.  One secret to success I have learned is let the kids do the planning and basically stay out of the process as much as possible so that it is their project not yours.

Big excitement this week was that the Grade Sevens got to plan (with the help of our wonderful PE teacher) and run the Sports Day stations.  This was new for our school and I think all the teachers were very grateful!  Other than a couple of small problems it all went very well and the Grade Sevens had a great time as well!  My retiring principal and I got to (had to) lead the parade on to the field.  Our school really knows how to celebrate endings.  I think most kids love Sports Day far more than the teachers! Almost as soon as Sports Day ended we were all mainly all trying to get report cards written.

It was a strange feeling Friday as I put things together for this week, knowing there were many tasks I will never do again.  Usually this time of year, I am thinking how much better a job I am going to do next year, looking forward to that clean slate.  I can honestly say I feel as if I have made the right decision but it is still all a little strange.  What state will I be in September?  Well if I am lonely, I know that there is no end of volunteer work available right at my school!

This weekend I finished my last set of report cards and I can't say I will miss writing those.  And now it's on to the usual end of year tasks and preparing for the final real week of teaching.  I have a French unit to speed finish.  I want to at least touch on chemistry.  And there is one more math unit that we at least need to try to glance at.  And today I think it's the day that we are going to finally read on the roof!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Habitudes and Mindfulness and Painting with food colouring and more fundraising...

Time is slipping away or more accurately running away.  Three more weeks and this year will have ended and I will say good-bye to my last class!  Wow!  I am now into report card writing and I figure that unless I get busy this morning this post won't get written.

In June I think many of us just feel as if we are keeping a lid on a boiling pot especially if you teach Grade Seven and it's the senior class in your school.  They are very excited about going to high school but also in a bit of a state about saying good-bye to their beloved elementary schools and of course most importantly to their friends as even at 12 and 13 you know that things just don't stay the same (and that can be both good and bad).

For me, there is the realization that there are just things I won't get finished.  Once again chemistry just hasn't been taught yet, and we probably won't get to do their presentations on their collections in French.  We didn't really have time to do a proper job on Ancient Rome projects!  And I have lots I have to get done like valedictorian speeches and I would at least like to expose them to circle graphs!  But I don't feel too guilty because there is way too much curriculum and I think we have been doing a lot of learning that hopefully they will take with them to be successful in high school.

Our intermediate teachers' book club this year chose a book called Classroom Habitudes: Teaching
21st Century Habits and Attitudes by Angela Maiers.  We all liked the ideas but were having trouble teaching them as lessons in the classroom.  Language seemed a bit too difficult for our kids, and lessons too time consuming and really not "teacher ready".  I found the book a bit annoying as I had to download black line masters and had to get a little scanning app for my ipad to get links to other websites.  I felt as if it might have worked better as an e-book but it is not available in that format.  She made so many references to Seth Godin's Linchpin I had to go read that book as well (okay that's enjoyable and I have it as an e-book so that I can read it on my ipad when I feel like it)

But somehow I couldn't quite let this book go and decided to start trying to teach some of the lessons and at least get my class mindful of what habitudes are.  Okay, what are they you ask!  The idea is that to be successful in the 21st century you need the following habits and attitudes and they are imagination, courage, passion, curiosity, self-awareness, and adaptability.  Note I start doing this in May as we are finishing the book club.

Well I have to say it is turning out really well.  And I decided to let them do projects of their own choice for the end of the year and these projects have to demonstrate how they have used these "habitudes".  This could be interesting.  We began as she suggested by defining the habitudes and then I had the kids decide which one they thought they already had and which they needed to work on.  Many wanted to work on self-awareness so we started there.  They completed surveys on what and how they best learned etc. and then asked what they discovered.  Here is a link to some of these black line masters.  They loved how I recently learned when Pharman and Brandon had to help me with my new wireless speaker when I couldn't get it to work despite reading the instruction booklet but then after their help,  I was able to successfully operate it on my own.

This has also been going perfectly for the other project we are involved in currently, a series of four one hour workshops entitled, Coping with Life's Ups and Downs, given by two facilitators from the Crisis Centre.  I have to say my class sitting quietly in a circle for an hour at a time isn't the easiest for some of them but they all are really appreciative of the experience and are finding it very helpful.  They like trying to be mindful and practicing STOP (Stop, Take a Breath, Observe, Proceed) before reacting.  I am finding it useful as well.  Many teachers in my school have attended workshops on mindfulness but I hadn't so it has been interesting.  I look forward to seeing what we are doing this week.

On the fun side my class did still life portraits painting with water and food colouring.  They did this with Allison (teacher/librarian, resource teacher, and art teacher) and I was stunned by the beauty of their work.

And yes, we were back at fundraising (well I wasn't, they were).  They were selling lemonade and freezies Friday and some baked treats as well.  They are back in business Monday.  I am not sure about the nutritional content but I figure the money is going to a worthy cause.  They made about 245 dollars on Friday.  So now they have over 500 dollars to contribute to Room to Read Girls' Education fund.  I think they are selling for the Compassionate Eye Foundation today.

When the day started with pouring rain, when the freezies didn't stay frozen they had to use some
adaptability and creativity (back to habitudes).  And of course the project is fueled by their passion.  When they misplaced my classroom keys and I couldn't find them after school I tried to use STOP!  Oh well!

Well I must go back to writing report cards but just wanted to reflect a bit on the last couple of weeks.  I notice that learning and teaching work best with a little help!

It was our principal's retirement party on Friday and I thought I would share the beautiful card they made.  The hearts contain their favorite memories or what they have liked best about him. Most of them have known him since first grade and they adore him!