CIVIX Democracy Bootcamp

I had the immense privilege to be selected to attend CIVIX’s Democracy Bootcamp this past Thursday and Friday.

If you aren’t familiar with CIVIX, they are a national registered charity that is dedicated to building the skills and habits of active and engaged citizens. They are trying to cultivate a strong and inclusive democracy where young people are ready, willing and able to participate. They do this by running many different events but Student Vote is their main one. Student Vote always occurs before the real Canadian elections. Students learn about the government, electoral process, political candidates and parties. By learning about these things, the students in turn learn about themselves by determining which party to vote for by lining up their beliefs to the parties. The students determine what is important to them, what they believe in and what they are willing to vote for. CIVIX mails schools and teachers who register everything they need to create this authentic learning experience for FREE. From the resources to help the learning take place, to the authentic voting booth, ballot boxes and ballots that their parents will use when they vote.

Voting booths and ballot box

My students casting their votes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democracy Bootcamp is a chance for teachers to learn more about the Student Vote program, and to learn from experts about politics, political strategies, ‘fake’ news and more. We learned from several experts in their field such as: @CraigSilverman@PeterD_Adams and .

It was such a wonderful opportunity to be spoiled and filled with new teaching ideas, amazing discussion, and a new found excitement for correcting ‘fake news.’

2 years ago I participated in Student Vote with my Tech Titians. My students chose a political party that they were interested in, learned about them and presented about the parties key beliefs to the rest of the class. By learning about all the different political parties beliefs, the class had to determine who they would vote for in the Student Vote election. They were thrilled to be able to cast a vote and I know that it led to further discussion about voting and democracy at home. I would highly recommend participating in Student Vote with your class or school.

 

Although I always vote, I’ve never been excited about politics but this Democracy Bootcamp changed my opinion of that. It provided me with a lot of information as well and resources to help me teach my students why politics is essential to know about. I’m excited to take all this new information back to my classroom and learn more with my students.

Here are some resources to help you with Student Vote:

Register here

YouTube Videos to help you teach Student Vote

Quiz on Issues in Elections to see which party your students beliefs link up with

5 Tips for Surviving your First Year Back as a Mom

In September 2017, I went back to work as a homeroom teacher and a full-time mom. This year has been so different from any other. Before kids, I would work a lot, plan educational events and edchats but now, I have a family to take care of. Someone who needs me to be there and be present. I’ve found out this year that balancing it all is tough. It is definitely been all about learning what is important to me and asking myself what do I want to spend my time and energy on.

Here are some tips that helped me survive my first year back:

1. Plan ahead

Being a mom and teacher, I feel like there are 50 balls in the air that you are trying to juggle. In order to do it all well, you need to plan. Planning ahead your teaching plans, knowing where you are going in the unit and planning the night before keeps you anxiety free when drama occurs.

My partner and I have a shared Google calendar where we both enter our work events and who needs to pick up or drop off the kiddo on specific dates. This really helps when trying to organize your time.

Planning ahead what is for dinner every night or making your lunch for the week on the weekend seems like a small thing but it saves so much time and thought after a busy workday. I find as well, if you preplan meals, you eat healthier and feel better.

2. Ask for Help

Asking for help from colleagues really helps. Ask for coverage if you have a support teacher if you need to write report cards or IEP’s. Ask for unit plans or report card comments for other teachers you trust. Teachers love to help each other but if you don’t ask, you don’t get help.

Asking your spouse for help also is important. If you need time to stay late at work or some time to yourself, ASK. It will help you feel calmer.

3.Self Care

We cannot take care of others when you are exhausted. Do something small for yourself every day. Some ideas that I enjoy are a big cup of coffee with a good book, a bubble bath, a run, or listening to upbeat music. All of these things help me feel better.

4. DO NOT reinvent the wheel

All teachers want to do their best every day but sometimes it is better to save yourself time and buy the lesson/unit. There is no shame in it. Check out TeachersPayTeachers for millions of resources!

5. Choose your Priorities

Did you know that it takes 3 years for a new mom to feel completely back to herself? I had no idea that it took that long! Pre-kids, I was so active in the education field. I actively learned, read professional development books and then blogged about it all. But since having a child, my priorities have changed. I am slowly getting back to feeling like myself again and with that, I want to step back into the educational world again and begin blogging more often. I’m starting by really focusing on what my priorities are and being really intentional about what I am working on. So right now, my priorities are taking care of myself, family, school, and blogging when I have time and/or inspiration.

I would love to hear more about how you guys survived being a parent and balancing your teaching career. Please let me know in the comments below!

New Year. New School. New Focus.

This year I’m teaching at a new school. I’m so excited for a fresh start. I’ve been really focusing on rethinking all my teaching practices and figuring out what is important to me this year.

This year I’m focusing on:

  • Student Conferences
  • Student Voice and Choice
  • Student Learning
  • Goals

Student Conferences:

I just bought my own Chromebook. I’m so excited to be able to work with my students and conference with them more. By spending more time with them conferences, I will be able to build better relationships with all my students and challenge them more.

Student Voice and Choice:

This year we are going to start with a blank slate. Literally. I have a blank classroom and I’m so excited to let my students have say about how they want to arrange and decorate the classroom. We are going to start the year with 7 key questions.

Thanks so much to George Couros, Stephanie Ranger and Leanne Stanton for some ideas to make my questions more impactful.

Student Learning:

Who actually really know how they learn and what they need to succeed? I’ve been in school or teaching for 31 years and I had no idea. I want to empower my students to learn about how they learn and learn about and use tools to help them be as successful as possible. Students will learn about what kinds of learners they are. This will be highly impact on how we set up our classroom this year so I have left our classroom as empty as possible so we can set up based on their learning styles and what they need.This will be something we will be working on throughout the year.

Goals:

Setting goals is so important for students to learn. We are going to focus on them a lot this year and learn in the first week how to create SMART goals. We are going to write and reflect on our goals once a week and I plan to discuss their goals with them when I conference with them as well. I think it is also important for teachers to share their personal and professional goals with them so students can see that we are all learners.

What are you focusing on this year? I would love to know. Let me know in the comments below.

Blue Sky School- The Change Education Needs

Last night I had the honour to attend the  Blue Sky School Action Team Meeting.

Blue Sky School: the Experimental Prototype School of Tomorrow is a not for profit, independent school opening in September 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  The educators behind Blue Sky School, Shauna Pollock and Karen Hill are rethinking education in its entirety and building their school from the ground up, literally. They are working on building a innovation centre and a completely new curriculum.

We did a really cool activity called Start, Stop, and Keep to help us rethink the current education system. What do you think the education system should START doing, STOP doing, and KEEP doing. Our table was a——- group of teachers, admin, parents, community partner and a government worker. By doing the activity on our own first and then sharing them with the group, it really became apparent the huge changes that need to be rethought and changed in education. Here is the picture of our ideas for Start, Stop and Keep.

We shared the key points from our tables with the whole group and the consensus was START
  • telling the truth: parents to teachers, teachers to parents…
  • collaborative, real world, problem solving teaching
  • teaching students life skills: cooking, taxes, budgeting

STOP

  • standardized testing
  • textbooks
  • curriculum checklists and struggling
  • grades
  • homework

KEEP

  • hands on learning
  • field trips and connecting with real work
  • caring and passionate teachers

This school sees all of these problems with the current education system, is addressing them, correcting them, and inspiring others to do them same. Education should be a community responsibility and Blue Sky Schools will be just that. They are encouraging community members and experts in their fields to connect and inspire their students to know that nothing is impossible. A future student created the schools tagline…

Blue Sky Schools where the sky isn’t the limit.

Education affects us all. We have all been to school, maybe you have children in school but we all know that education is essential for the future. Get Involved. Learn about Blue Sky School and partner up with them to show them that these educational change need to be made. Here is how you can help.

Critical Thinking in the Classroom

Something I really want to do better in my classroom is having respectful, thoughtful and passionate discussions about many varied topics. One way I want to do this is by having a Statement of the Week.

So each week you introduce a statement such as ‘Zoos are awesome’ or ‘Students should have to wear uniforms’ and based on the statement, your student have to go to one of the 4 corners. Each corner will be labeled with a piece of paper that says Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree. In their corners they will discuss with the other students in that corner why they feel that way about the topic. They will go back to their desks and circle their point of view and write why they feel that way.

Then for the week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday you read articles based on the statement with differing points of views. Each day your students will write down the name of the article and the key ideas in that article.

Friday, the students need to evaluate their initial viewpoint and then analyze their key learnings from each article. Then they need to choose a final viewpoint and defend why they are keeping the same point of view or why they changed it. Then they will have a discussion where they try to convince the other corners that their corners are right. Then they will have to fill in the sheet on their final verdict.

I have added a option of a pro and con list on the back so that if the students are stuck on their options, they can use that to decide which point of view is correct.

Click on either picture or here to get your own copy of the Statement of the week.

 

To find the best articles, use Newsela. Newsela is a site that has tons of articles on different subjects and can be sorted by age range and language. You can find an article about your statement and then choose Lexile levels to suit your students reading levels. This way you can differentiate easily but all your students will still be able to participate on the same statement.

 

21st Century Learning Skills

As I’m on Maternity Leave I’ve been reflecting about my teaching practice and how I can make it better. I really want to focus on and integrate in all my teaching is the 21st Century Learning Skills.

I’ve been reading about these essential skills but I wanted to figure out how we can, or already do use them in our classroom everyday. In order for me to really teach to these skills I wanted to really understand them.

I am going to introduce the topic of 21st Century Skills by having a discussion with my class about what they believe communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity are. What do they already know about these skills and how do they already use them in their everyday lives? How can we use these skills in a better way?

Below, I have made the graphic brainstorming the ways I can teach these skills or how we use these skills already.

I would love your feedback about this graphic. What am I missing?

Ottawa Teachers Professional Learning Community

As a teacher today in this fast paced, constantly changing world, it is really hard to keep up to date with all the different teaching tools, websites, and strategies.

We created Ottawa Teachers Professional Learning Community (OTPLC) for all different kinds of teachers to come together and learn about one new topic a month and have hands on time to play with the tools and chat with other teachers.

Our first get together is on February 16th, 2017 at Oh So Good in Westboro at 6pm. This is a very casual where you can connect with other teachers, grab a coffee and make sure to bring your device.

Occasional, contract, public, and student teachers are all welcome.

To know more about this, please check out the website at https://otplc.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

Occasional Teacher Trainings

At Edcamp Ottawa this past weekend, there was a session all about occasional teachers, the process and the struggles.  I remember being an occasional teacher (OT) for the OCDSB and was so frustrated with the wait to get my own classroom.

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During the session I talked about spending your time as an OT learning and getting ready for your future classroom and students.

Afterwards, I spoke to the two OT’s running the session, Jessica Davis and Courtney White. I told them I had the idea in the past of giving training sessions to OT’s who wanted to learn. We decided to put it into action.

We are sending around the below form to ask you what you want to learn about. We are hoping to put together a bunch of sessions that will help OT’s learn relevant information to help them in their future classrooms and with their future students. We are only collecting your email so we can email you when we figure out when these sessions will be.

Please fill out the form below and please share it with your OT friends!

An Open Letter to my students

To my amazing Tech Titans,

Our time together this year has come to a close. I was hoping to spend the year as your teacher but Baby Bowker came. Becoming a grade 6 teacher has truly been my dream for so long and becoming your teacher has been even better that I could have ever imagined. 

You have taught me so much throughout this year and I need to thank you. 

Thank you for being brave to share your true feelings with me and showing me how truly vunerable you are.  

Thank you for speaking the truth even when you could have gotten into trouble for it. 

Thank you for being your goofy, fun loving selves that don’t care what others think. 

Thank you for being protective of our classroom and me as I got more and more pregnant. 

I know that this year will be a year that I always look back on fondly and note it as the year of change for me as a teacher. 

You have showed me that teaching is fun, interactive, and a partnership with students. 

You have also shown me that students can be trusted in controlling their learning, on the Internet and grading themselves. 

I will continue to take leaps into the unknown since you have proved to me that students can do anything. 

I am so proud that we go to spend these 7 months together and I will miss you.

Love Always, 

Mrs Bowker

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