A Constant Evolution

Who am I? For the past 10 years the answer to that question has been an aspiring teacher, and a teacher. Becoming a teacher was all consuming for me. From talking courses to get into teachers college, to working jobs to pay for college, to supply teaching and so on. The process never seemed to end.

When I finally became a supply teacher I quickly realized that teaching was what I am meant to do but I still had to learn so much to become a teacher.

I dove into the world of blogging as a way to keep busy and keep focused on my dream of becoming the best teacher I could be. ClassroomCollective.tumblr.com was born as a way for me to collect and organize ideas and be current on teaching trends. This blog snowballed into Twitter, Edcamp Ottawa, Playdate Ottawa, ONedchat, and Think Tank. It also stemmed to creating my current blog ClassroomCollective.com so that I could have more interaction with my followers and force me to reflect on my teaching practices more.

Blogging throughout this time has truly been a huge blessing in my life. It has introduced me to amazing educators that have pushed me to be a better teacher than I could have ever imagined.

But then this happened…. 

And my whole world shifted. I was quite sick for my first trimester and could barely eat let only blog, tweet and participate in all my extracurriculars that I had been so active in. I felt a shift that I wasn’t expecting. From being so invested in the educational community to completely separating myself from it. I couldn’t focus on it at all. And to be honest, I felt a bit lost.  10 years of focusing on education to nothing was quite the shift.

Now, I’m 6.5 months pregnant and thrilled that our baby boy will be arriving in April 2016. 

I’m left wondering Who am I now?, Where do I fit in now?, What do I really want to spend my time on?, Is blogging and sharing really that important to me?, Do I continue to blog and share through another blog?, Do I combine my personal and professional Twitter accounts?
So many questions. Change is never easy but I have to say I have never been so excited.

New Years Resolutions

Normally when I reflect on the past year, I make new education resolutions for the next one. Since becoming pregnant I have noticed a huge switch from my education based focus to a focus on myself and my upcoming family.

Today I am 6 months pregnant. I am growing life inside of me and it is pretty incredible. I’ve decided to not push myself as I normally do for my resolutions this year. I’m going to focus on me and my family. Here are my 2016 New Year Resolutions.

  • Trust my intuition
  • Take care of myself and my family
  • Be kind to myself
  • Do things that make me happy: read, make crafts, draw, cook and bake
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Do not compare myself to others

Seems like a great start to a new year and a new member of our family.

Student’s viewpoint on Choice and Voice

This year I have been giving my students choice and voice in everything we do in the classroom. It was a huge, difficult and sometimes frustrating change for me but one that I see is so hugely beneficial.

Before the Christmas break, I asked my class

Being given Choice and Voice in the classroom means to me….”

I asked them to discuss how this impacted their learning and feelings on coming to school. This is the unedited feedback they gave me (I just removed their names).

“Having voice in my classroom is fairly new to me, since in the past few years all my teachers have been strict and only cared about what they said. In my opinion classes that are given choice learn more responsibility and function better. In class we are given the opportunity of helping to create our projects. It also feels like she cares more about us, and cares about our opinion. I definitely learn better when we are given choice, since Mrs. Bowker adjusts how we learn so it’s easy for everyone.”

“by giving a choice i think the teacher cares about us because all other teachers are mean and don’t give us a choice and we won’t be interested the only teachers that i think are giving kids a chance are ms.bowker and ms. h.I also think that i learn more by having a choice.”

“Having voice in Mrs.Bowker’s class is fair to me because all the teachers I have had before don’t care about the kids, there like “I teach these kids, and I get money.” but Mrs.Bowker cares and is way different. My other teachers don’t care about the kids, they care about themselves. But no, that’s not the case with Mrs.Bowker, she cares, but now and then she will get a little annoyed with us or we don’t agree and so on. But Mrs.Bowker is the best teacher I have ever had. Before As Well teachers did not ask for our opinions,”

“I feel important that i get to pick what i do not the teacher or and cuz in the years i’ve been in school teachers think that  all i have to do is tell them what to do except for ms bowker and ms h.”

“To me given choice is being equal.  In the past no teacher asked for my choice.  I want to say what’s in my mind and tell everyone, if I agree or disagree. Mrs. Bowker gives us choice and lets us say what we want, she teached us to be honest. Mrs. Bowker lets us be the teachers. To be given a voice I feel free. To be given a choice it is important because you get to learn how to be responsible. I wish you’re my teacher every year and giving our class “choice” and “voice” is the best choice ever! Thank you Mrs. Bowker.”

“knowing that someone cares about you and can help you grow as I person and help you get set for life challenges. having a voice is important too, it gives you power and responsibility. Choice is also important to me, because I feel free. I hope all teachers were like you Mrs. Bowker.”

“Being given choice in class means a lot to me . It means to have freedom and do whatever you want , Kids should have there own choice with what they are doing just like adults do . For me Mrs. Bowker is being fair with all the students . She trusts us with everything and she is always honest with us . I also like to choose to work with who and i like to pick the topic i want to do a project about.”

“I love the idea because I never had a teacher that does this and it’s very fun. I have a voice you have a voice we all have voices and we can use them that is why Mrs.Bowker has a very fun class.I love this year. I learn more this year because we have choice and it makes me want to learn more then before”

“I think I am learning way more and about school I think it is great and new I love going to school. Last year I DID not like going to school that much.”

“I think I work better when I choose what to work on. I like it better when I go to school better than going to school last year. That’s how choice affects me.”

Reading the students comments made me realize how much students need to be offered choice and voice in the classroom and in their learning. Having students that hated coming to school and now love coming to school has been a huge turn around for them and I’m so happy for them.

In my class, I rarely have to discipline the students. I’ve had to scold students for being too excited about the projects we are working on and going home and working on it all night long. But isn’t that what learning is supposed to feel like? Being so excited to work on a project that you can’t think of anything else? I’m so thrilled that my students are feeling safe, loved, cared for, excited and that they are important!

 

 

 

Uncomfortability leads to learning for all

Creating a class of student voice and choice has been extremely rewarding but an uncomfortable and learning process for me.  I’m a pretty new classroom teacher but still the idea that students should be quiet lingers in the back of my head.

Today I was introducing Biodiversity and my class would not stop talking. It took us forever to get through our ideas of what Biodiversity could mean. CRsjeNFUAAAtym-

Finally I got them to go back to their seats to calm down and then we talked. I told them how I was feeling and asked why they were talking so much. I told them that I assumed that it was because they were being disrespectful. Many students hands shot up and they told me that they were just really excited about the topic. I asked the class who else felt this way and they all raised their hands.

I realized that my class just really likes each other, is really excitable and needs time to talk to each other. I know now that I need to schedule in time to my teaching to give them moving and talking breaks but I didn’t even think to give them ‘turn and talk’ time.

Asking my students what they need has been a HUGE learning moment for me. Whenever we have these talks, they always come up with a solution and we are both learning about each other in the process.

I’m thrilled that they are so excited about our class and what we are learning about. I know that this year is a learning process for all of us and I’m so excited that we can communicate and trust each other.

Creating Class Blog with Student Voice

This year my goal is to have student voice and choice be the most important thing in my classroom. We started this by creating our class name. We brainstormed for longer than I had expected, a week and a half. I was waiting for a name so I could create a classroom blog and twitter account. We came up with some great names: Tech Titans, World Skypers, The Skypers Crew. We ended up voting and the winner was Tech Titans.

You can check out our blog (a work in progress) here, and follow us on twitter @techtitans4. We are still working on a logo for our twitter page so check on that later.

I decided instead of me going ahead and creating a blog, I would leave it blank and get students to see some examples of what class blogs can look like.

I created a Google Doc with classroom blogs that I find inspiring and shared it with my students.

Blogs to Check out:

Grade 1: http://.edublogs.org/

Grade 1/ 2: http://www.mslimscassidysclassrenmansroom.blogspot.ca/

Grade 1/ 2: https://mrsbowkersclass.edublogs.org/

Grade 3 /  4:http://epcotclass.blogspot.ca/

Grade 4/5: http://www.awesomegeniuses.blogspot.ca/

Grade 7:http://www.mrsripp.com

I gave each table a blog to check out first and then when they were done, they could move onto any blog they were interested in. I introduced Google Docs to my students and got them to make a list about what they want our blog to look like.

Here is our list:

  • Tweet Attachment thingy
  • pictures of field trips we had
  • Contact Us button
  • Comment Section
  • Calendar of special events
  • Timeline
  • Book Reports
  • Share the sites we use to learn.
  • add a background to make it look yum yum
  • Custom Font
  • Challenges for other classes
  • Filter to make us Fab!
  • A follow us button
  • Subscribe Button
  • Mascot
  • Events that people will want to see. not boring!
  • Presentations
  • Giveaways.
  • Contests/challenges
  • Artwork.
  • Plays.
  • secret missions
  • birthday parties
  • math models
  • science experiments
  • PJ day
  • track and field
  • tournaments/tryouts
  • videos of things we did in class
  • good information
  • different people can write about it
  • making robots and castles and then take a pic
  • explain what we did in the day
  • put our goals put labels of what we did
  • Questions!!
  • put good pictures of our work
  • write about people who visited our class
  • fun background on the blog
  • Everybody can write their own post ones at a time,like whats happening at school,what is their feeling today are they happy for example, whats their comments about todays experiment on Science.Taking pictures from important events.
  • you have to finish your work on time. you have to be polite. you have to know what you’re writing.  

A great list for our first look at classroom blogs. I’m so excited to work with these students this year!

 

Student Choice and Social Studies

If you read my blog you know I’m doing something different in my class this year. I’m giving my students choice in everything they do.

We have just completed our first social studies project together and I wanted to share the process and outcome.

In Grade 6 students about supposed to learn about Canada’s impact on the world. I decided to share a Canadian History timeline with them and let them choose a topic of their choice.

Some of the selected topics were

  • World War 1
  • How Ottawa became the Capital
  • Hockey in Canada
  • Schooling in the 1700-1800’s

Students worked in groups to create something to show the class.

The presentations were varied. We had mostly slideshows but also had posters, homemade videos, and models.

After their presentations were completed I gave the group a self assessment rubric and they went off and had time to self-reflect.

I met with the groups later that day or the next day and we compared their self-assessment rubric with the one I completed. We discussed the differences in the rubrics and the similarities. If there was a discrepancy, I let the students determine what grade they should have.

When all the presentations were discussed, we met as a class to talk about the project in general. I wanted to know what did they like, and what needed to be fixed.  

As you can see, the class loved being able to choose their own topic, assessment type and they got to work with peers of their choice. Next time we are going to add some immediate peer feedback. Right after students present, their peers will share one thing they really liked about the project and one thing they would like to see next time.

We also discussed how they could improve their own project next time.

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The experience giving my class choice in their learning has completely changed the way I look at teaching.   The students couldn’t wait everyday to work on this project and were highly focused during their group work. I love talking to my class to get feedback about how the projects are going and it will be something I continue to do for the rest of my teaching career.

Introducing Google Classroom

I knew the second that I was told that I would be teaching Grade 6 next year that I would be using Google Classroom with my students.

Google-Classroom-Logo1

I decided that in the first week of school I would introduce Classroom, get them to join our online Classroom and introduce a very simple but fun get to know you slideshow. First, I showed them my “All about me” Project and then showed them how to access theirs.

I made each student a template in which they could create their own “All about me” Project.

This is what it looks like in Classroom.

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I only showed my students how to write in the slides and add pictures. I was amazed that some students were so excited about this that they figured out how to change the text colour, insert gif’s, and change the theme of the slides.

A great first project using Classroom!

*NOTE: Even though it says 6 are not done, they just forgot to turn them in.

 

First Week of School Plans

The first week of school is the most important one in the whole year.

Design your own Classroom and our Class Theme:

I have written many times about reading “Passionate Learners” by Pernille Ripp and how it changed my teaching practice. This year since I’m teaching Grade 6 I really want to give my students voice and choice in all aspects of my classroom. It starts with setting up the classroom.

We will also be deciding what we want our class to be called, our portable called, and our theme song. After this has been decided we will create out classroom blog and twitter account based on our theme.

Asking Classroom Questions:

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Team Building Activities:

teambuilding

 

Character Calendar by Blair Turner:

Character and Digital Citizenship will be a HUGE focus in my classroom this year. I love these Character Calendars that Blair Turner made.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 1.43.11 PM

One Word Project and Goals:

We are going to be setting goals each week but in the first we are going to think of our goals and then decide on one word that we will focus on for the year. This is where I got the idea from.

 

2015 Classroom Reveal

I worked all week long to prepare my class to be ready. I’m so excited for a new year and to teach Grade 6. Here is the current setup of my class but I’m going to let the students have a say in it as well.  I’m so excited about the tables for collaboration, map for our wordly connections and the self assessment posters since we will be focusing on it highly this year.

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