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Back to School 2017!

After being off for over a year on maternity leave with my son I am gearing up to return back to the classroom! I decided I would accept the challenge of a new school and asked my former principal to release me from my old school. Fortunately I ended up at a school very close to my home, and with an admin team that I have already worked with and admire.

I am just starting now to dust off the cobwebs of being away from teaching and hope to get ready for the Fall with some back to school tips I have used in the past that have helped me feel more organized, ready, and calm 🙂

  1. Start going to bed at a decent hour and waking up early
    In the Summer this is easier said than done, however the few weeks before school starts it is so helpful to start getting your sleep cycles and body into the routine of going to bed at a reasonable hour and waking up early.
  2. Get the Planner ready and make a To Do List
    I am a major agenda/planner junkie, and sometimes have a few on the go. I have decided to try to consolidate into 1 planner for school / home so that my brain is less scattered this year. One of my favourite things to do to be ready for back to school is add in all the dates I have been given ahead of time (conferences, professional development days etc). I also go in and add birthdays, and other holidays so my planner at least is ready for work. Make a list of what is the most important stuff that needs to get done before the first week.19287279970_ca010938d4_k
  3. Create a warm, inviting space you’d want to learn in
    The summer is tough when looking on social media at some of the amazingly beautiful classrooms out there. The decor, the colour schemes, the organization – it can be almost overwhelming to see, especially when your own classroom has no theme, decor, or design whatsoever. My main goal with my classroom environment is to create a space I’d want to learn in. I do add some decor, and one time I did do some bulletin board borders, but mainly I try to set up the tables in nice arrangements, ensure I have some flexible seating, add some lights that aren’t fluorescent, and buy a bunch of easy to maintain plants to provide some greenery. (Look for my classroom tour soon)

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    My attempt at some “decor” in my space a couple of years ago
  4. Try New Things!
    Sometimes the social media space for teachers is overwhelming (see above) but most of the time it is super inspirational. Every new school year I find it helpful to pick 2-3 of my favourite things other teachers have done in their classrooms to try to emulate in my space. For example, I am going to attempt some whiteboard art this year – inspired by Mrs Ws Whiteboards and I am very excited to try to “Keep the Quote” in my classroom thanks to Miss 5th

Those are my top tips for back to school, I am so excited to be teaching again in the fall, and look forward to more connections, blog posts, and learning! I am so excited for Back to School this year I have joined up with a bunch of teacher bloggers for a sweet giveaway! Click below to enter to win a $50 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card, and a $15 Starbucks Gift Card – great way to start the school year.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Campus Calgary / Open Minds!

In December, our excited and ready-to-collaborate classroom packed up our art supplies, our Visual Journals and our open-minded attitudes and hopped a bus to 2 School for a week long exploration of the theme “Collaboration Within a Community.”

Spending a lot of time beforehand exploring this idea about how communities collaborate, we did a lot of pre-work by actually getting out into the community to collaborate.    Our class met up with the Brentwood Seniors Association for their monthly tea a couple of times to chat, and socialize with our community’s seniors.    This went far better than expected.  Students and seniors both enjoying the time to eat some snacks, and discuss life in the past, and the present.

Upon arriving at 2School we were in awe of the downtown community of Connaught and Beltline.   Students immediately noted differences from our area of Brentwood.   Most notably all the public art,  the buildings and architecture, and the busy hustle and bustle of downtown.

The week went by so quickly as we sketched old artifacts, explored how various organizations collaborate with their community such as Inn from the Cold and the Mustard Seed.  We explored how the Grace Presbyterian Church helps its community, and discussed ways we could collaborate more to help out our own community.   We worked with Education Matters to discuss how funding gets allocated to schools, discussing what is important for students in a school, and wants vs. needs for education.

We looked at how public spaces are excellent collaborative spaces – our favourite being Devonian Gardens – such a great place to meet, talk, work together, and collaborate!   We even got to bring joy to the employees at the CBE Carl Safran Centre by singing them some Christmas carols we had practiced – creating a happy community of adults and children.

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The McDougall Centre – where we got to see where Rachel Notley has an office
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The Chinook Arch was one of our favourite spots to reflect and sketch!

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

Good:
– 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

Bad:
– 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.

Creative Expression

Today I introduced a mini project to my class – how cruel of me immediately returning from Spring Break!   However it seemed to be just what everyone needed go kick off the week and jump back into the swing of things!    I gave them a checklist with success criteria and off they went.  Their task?  Depict the life cycle of a star.   Many chose to do average sized stars like our sun but also wanted to show what happens to larger stars – mostly I think for the challenge of visually depicting a black hole might bring!   (Hello negative space lesson).   So many students went the traditional poster, marker route which they love and I have no issue with.   Many however took time to look around my well-stocked classroom and came up with some unique ideas.

– cutting Styrofoam balls in half to glue down to cardboard
– chalk pastels on black paper (a beautiful way to make nebulas)
– one student pulled out the flour and found a non-cook play dough recipe so he could model the shapes of stars and nebula
– with the help of an Ed assistant, one of my autistic students made a large painting, found some round stamps to make stars, and then used black, blue and yellow paint to splatter and create a cool looking universe

Although it was loud and messy everyone was deep in their own work and ideas and created dialogue with each other to provide techniques or advice to each other..  It truly was a collaborative and creative work period.   Look forward to some more in progress shots and the final products!

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Look at what Stacie does with those heaps of Scholastic Book Order forms!

The Chapel

Teachers amaze me!  I particularly like it when they find ways of reusing items that would otherwise head for a landfill somewhere.  Scholastic Book Orders are very exciting for most students, but let’s be honest, there seems to be an excessive amount of paper that, monthly, appears in your boxes and spread all over your staff room tables.  True?

ScholasticThis week I happened to notice Stacie’s solution and re-purposing of the leftovers.  In the past, I’ve had students roll sheets of newspaper to use in the building of a whole number of three dimensional constructions and also as a base for papier mache building.  I’ve used newspaper in the construction of masks and helmets as well, but I’ve never thought to harvest the piles of book orders and create impressive sculpture with the resulting rolled pages.  Longer rolls can be made rolling corner to corner…shorter and stronger, directly across, edge…

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Visual Journals

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Learning about micro beads inspired many of my students to journal about it.   They got super creative using tape transfers, watercolour, and flaps.

Clay

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A final product

Being in an Elementary school we don’t have a kiln.   Thankfully the amazing art teacher at Tom Baines is super accommodating and allowed for the brief takeover of hers.  

My students spent two weeks working on their coil pots.  They Explored techniques I demonstrated and then off they went creating their mini masterpieces.   I was enthralled with how many of them quickly grasped the concept of scoring and slipping.   I loved seeing my ASD students become engaged in the physicality and textural elements of working with the clay.   One such student could have made coils for hours.    The other loved immersing her hands in the slip and then working with the clay.    Watching then work was mesmerizing.  Some students loved digging their nails in to create texture and some spent hours smoothing theirs so it looked “perfect”

I warned the students that some of their projects may not survive the kiln so they were extra meticulous in their treatment of their prized pots.    Fortunately only one cracked in half and the rest were perfect!

Things that went well: set up was great, I grouped desks and put mats on each desk surface which allowed for easy clean up.    I managed the excess clay using dollar store bins and each student put their project in plastic bags while they were a work in progress.   I asked students to bring in their own tools since I didn’t have any, and this would be our only time this year to work with clay.   This turned out very well, students brought toothbrushes, scrubbers, and other unique tools and shared with each other.   It was some beautiful collaboration whereby students showed others how they used the tool, and then others tried the technique.

Wishes for next time: I wish I turned the kiln experience into a classroom field trip or documented the process so students could witness the entirety of their projects. 

All the students kept their pots to use as pencil holders at their tables.   The pride and enjoyment that came from this project was so worth the mess and the time.     

Being Observed

I’ve had student teachers in my space this week, and will again next week to observe what teaching looks like, and what our school community is like.   It is rather interesting to see all the new, nervous, and excited first year students in my classroom, as I still recall what it was like for me not that long ago.

Having someone constantly there is a helpful reminder to be purposeful with everything, and I think more experienced teachers sometimes forget about WHY we are doing what we’re doing.   Having someone ask why constantly is a refreshing way to reflect on your own teaching practice.   This week has been very reflective, and for that I am grateful.

So this is the new year

It has been one month since the new school year started, and I have been severely neglecting this site.   It is so easy to be overcome with work, and time wasting on the internet, and marking, and planning, and feeling guilty about your teaching, and feeling exhausted every day.

I am finally on the right path to be in a groove with things.   It took a lot longer this year I think, but I don’t really know why.   I have less students, but a lot more needs.

Either way, we’ve started on this great drawing project to connect to French as well.   We learned about contours and did a contour drawing of an animal.   Inside the shape we created, we divided it up into 4-6 sections.    In each section we are drawing close up views of the animal using gray scale and value – a skill we spent a lot of time on.

I will post some photos of in-progress, and completed work soon!

Passion Projects!

For the last few weeks of school, my classroom was engaged in learning through Passion Projects!  I took inspiration from Genius Hour and other project-based ideas and had my students make a list of topics they loved.   They then had to narrow their topic and then turn their topic into a question/experiment/math problem!    

Some awesome examples:

– How many different outcomes of shish kebabs are there with 4 meats and 7 vegetable options?   The student then made some of these outcomes to share with his class

– How do I make the best chocolate pie? This student made 24 different “tarts” that explored various outcomes when you change one of the ingredients (amount of sugar, type of chocolate, amount of salt, cooking time etc)

– How do I make a video game?  The students used Scratch coding to make a basic game!

This has been an engaging and exciting way to end the year.  We have 3 days left.

reflections and new beginnings

 

I’ve had a tumblr education blog for years, but it was sort of becoming a place where I was mostly just reblogging other people’s ideas and not ever really writing or creating my own.  I was sort of stuck.   A weekend alone, and some quiet art and reflection has re-inspired me to start anew.

I’m in my third year of full time teaching, and although I deeply miss teaching art full time in a middle school, I’ve come to enjoy the freedom of having one class all day long.  This year I’ve had a 5/6 class and it has been so joyous and exciting.  We’ve created, we’ve drawn, we’ve built, and being able to spend more than one class period on something has made a world of difference.

My hopes for this new space will be to post images of my creations and my students’ creations as well.  I’ll hopefully talk about my teaching practice and my growth, as well as my struggles (because boy are there lots of those).   I’m off to bed now, but look forward to posting more in the near future.

 

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