art and teaching


May 2015

Getting Involved

I’ve always been someone who believes that it is important for a teacher to get right in there with their students and participate in the activities as both a model, and to show the kids that we’re a community in this together.   I paint with them, I read with them, I run outside in Gym with them, and I get messy with them.   I’ve loved showing the kids we are a community, and that if they are to run a warm up lap, I should do the same.

Yesterday we were outside playing Lacrosse, and I joined a group to show them how to get ahead of the person cradling the ball and call for a pass.   In doing that, my foot managed to find a hole (dug up by young students) in the middle of our field.  I got caught, twisted my foot and went flying.   Needless to say, in a very embarrassing way.

My foot got swollen within seconds, and my students rushed over to see me rolling around in pain on the grass.   Some of them took action and immediately ran into the school to get our AP and some ice.   Seeing their worried faces, plus the adrenaline of the injury I hobbled back into my classroom where I elevated my foot and iced it hoping it was just a sprain.

My autistic student warmed my heart, he came over, hugged me and helped me ice it.   Such a compassionate kid.

Unfortunately my pain increased, and my foot looked like it had a baseball under the skin, so my principal felt it best to call me an Ambulance.   My husband met me at the hospital.   This was my first time in an Ambulance, or going to a hospital for anything, so I was very nervous.  My students had already made me cards and were worried about me, but I told them everything would be okay, it was just an injury.

At the hospital I got x-rays right away, but then had to wait four hours for a visit with the Doctor to get a cast.  I definitely broke my left ankle bone, the Doc said I was lucky it was low and wouldn’t need surgery.    They fixed me up with an air cast and crutches.. and sent me home.

The whole experience left me feeling both good and bad.

swollen at school cast at home

– All the amazing people in my life who are willing to inconvenience themselves to help me – my AP has been working her butt off to get my insurance and get me a rental car (I drive stick so can’t get to work), my co-teachers who have reached out offering rides, lesson plans, etc. and my students who have emailed me already to check in and tell me they miss me and hope I feel better.
– My husband, being there for me for everything..  I had a mini meltdown about being helpless, got depressed about ending the year this way, and got mad at him for driving too fast.   He is so patient to deal with my roller coaster.
– Resiliency, although this is the first time I’ve had an injury I already know I’ll be ok and that I will be back on my feet in no time with the support of my family, teaching staff, and friends

– I can’t get involved with all the great things going on in my classroom to the same extent that I did before.  No more running with my class, playing dodgeball.  I am sad I have to step back and be less involved for the last 4 weeks of school.  It makes me depressed.
– I can’t go to my gym anymore until I am healed, and I was starting to get into a good fitness routine.


With Spring comes a busy flurry of student activities.  I find that my calendar fills up way faster in April and May with in-school residencies, and other school-wide events.   We’ve been very busy learning about Democracy and the Election process in Social Studies – our students participated in Student Vote, and were almost bang on with the way the Election results actually were reported!   A testament to the research and critical thinking skills our students have developed.

In Science, we’ve been busy at work learning about Sky Science – the moon, sun, stars, planets, and space technology!   This unit is always a favourite amongst the kids, as they love the chance for inquiry, and deep exploration about the great big universe we live in!

My Grade 6s just finished their first Provincial Achievement Test in Writing.  They had to write a short story based on a picture prompt, as well as a newspaper article based on information they were given.   I’m not a supporter of standardized testing but want all my students to be successful in a system that I can’t singlehandedly change.   So we did some test prep, and we talked about ways to de-stress and take care of our mental health.   This group did very well based on my first glances, and they seemed calm and cool about the whole thing.

I managed to get a large piece of wood installed outside my classroom so our class debated and discussed a theme, and then sketched images based on that theme, and then democratically we voted on the top 3 designs.  I took those 3 and combined them to create a great mural for this year.   The best part about the wood is that we will be re-painting it over and over again so the art changes with our learning 🙂

Here are some photos of some of the going ons in our busy Room 14!

Painting our Train Mural - keep on moving!
Painting our Train Mural – keep on moving!
Drumming residency
Drumming residency
Student Vote day!
Student Vote day!
Paper Mache bowls for our Healthy Eating Unit in French and Health!
Paper Mache bowls for our Healthy Eating Unit in French and Health!

EdCamp Musings

Today I had the great opportunity to attend a PD away from my school, and join 400+ teachers from around Calgary (as well as some pre-service teachers) who want to discuss some of Education’s tough questions and movements.

EDCAMPYYC 2015 is about meeting with other like-minded professionals to create a learning network and discuss topics that we are passionate about.

Entering the new highschool up in Nose Hill; Robert Thirsk Highschool is beautiful.   It still had that new school smell, and was exceptionally laid out.  What a treat it must be to get to work there.   They had some beautiful living walls, and a lovely outdoor terrace for teachers to shmooze and have breakfast.

My first session was put on by Joe Bower who is an advocate for a shift away from grades and tests.  He facillitated an excellent discussion about the “whys” and the “hows” related to moving away from giving students tests and grades.  We discussed the difficulties, the roadblocks, and some of the successful ways teachers from K-12 were managing to provide formative feedback, collaborative reflections, and more.   Joe did an excellent job inspiring the crowd with his own personal anecdotes about dealing with parents and kids who are still “number obsessed”.   He explained that every number is subjective.

Some take aways from this discussion were:

– that we need to teach kids how to collaborate and share their learning.  Many know how to talk about their weekends, but when they have a school q. they raise their hand to ask the teacher.  Have to teach and train them to use each other as a community of learners

– instead of tests – look at objects, performances, and portfolios (digital or physical) – students always need to know the purpose and context of every task in order to be engaged.

– Success and Failure should not equate to Reward and Punishment, but INFORMATION!

– We need to give students a space where they can take risks, where a number doesn’t define them, where process is important, and reflecting on how they grew from the process.

Secondly, I went to a discussion about Outdoor Education, put on by Paul Kelba.   He shared some great links and a video about the importance about getting outside.  We discussed together the challenges and roadblocks to getting outside to be active and to do field work or field trips.   Many common roadblocks are the paperwork, costs, not enough volunteers, and resistance from teachers, or kids themselves.   We discussed ways to overcome some of these roadblocks such as going on walking trips (cost saving, and almost no paperwork now thanks to the CBE and their walking distance trip letter).   We talked about creating dialogue with parents to help stress the importance of doing field trips and the need for volunteers at your school and using student teachers/university students as volunteers.   Overall I was very inspired to get outside more, and take advantage of our beautiful city.

Some take aways

– the benefits of revisiting the same place multiple times in a year
– using GIS
– mapping and orienteering
– using art and science outcomes for any outdoor trip – journaling, reflection, field studies, etc.

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