Posts Tagged ‘education’

Co-planning makes Teachers Great

I’m always trying to be a better teacher. Always reworking my plans, reading new teaching material, and questioning what students really need to learn about.

As a newish mom, I was in a teaching slump. I was still trying my best and teaching well but knew there was better out there.

I decided to reach out to other teachers to help me teach better and I’m so lucky to have connected with 3 amazing teachers in 3 different subjects.

Luckily this year, a teacher who I knew at teacher’s college came to work at my school and teach the same grade as mine. We decided immediately to team up and plan a spiral math curriculum together.

Also my school is in it’s year to get a lot of new technology for its students. Luckily for us, that comes with training from our board’s technology coaches. They presented at our staff meeting and that sparked an idea. Why not ask one of the coaches to help me plan the way I want to. I’ve met with Louise several times now to plan Science units and luckily for me she is helping me plan using Overarching Inquiry.

I’m also working with another teacher and we are joining our classes together to work on a ‘Dream Journal’ with our students. The ‘Dream Journal’ is working on creating the life we want through reflecting, goals and learning from experts.

Co-planning is great for so many reasons.

1) Keeps you accountable

Teaching is a demanding, busy and draining job. We all have days where we want to take it easy and relax. By co-planning with a colleague you have to keep on track to keep up with the other teacher and class. Of course, if you are meeting your students where they are you are going to differ slightly but you’ll for the most part keep up the same pace.

2) Helps you problem solve

Don’t worry alone. You aren’t solving any problems all by yourself.

When you are co-planning you, of course, try your best to plan for all your students but nevertheless something comes up to throw you for a loop. If you’re planning together, you are going to check in on each other and ask each other questions about how that lesson worked or didn’t work. As a team, you can easily problem solve together and even reflect on how the unit went and makes notes for the next time you teach it.

3) Makes you happier

When planning with a colleague, you feel a sense of teamwork. We, as teachers sometimes feel really alone in our classrooms because it is just us with dozens of kids. We need to plan with other teachers so that we can feel supported. When we feel supported, we feel better and we do better.

4) Less stress

If you are making time each week to plan together, you are planning in advance. You know exactly what to do next and you can easily plan for that day or week. This makes you stress less as you know where you are headed, you know you have help, you know the big picture idea of what you are trying to cover so you know what you’re trying to accomplish and can easily adapt.

5) More willing to try new things

If you have a strong support system you feel more comfortable to take risks and try new things. This year for science my class and I learned about and tried out microbits. It was a new idea that I’ve never considered before and my students loved using them! And I loved learning with them too.

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!

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


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


  • 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.

Learning about Accountable Talk

Accountable Talk PD – November 10th, 2014

Our School’s Mission Statement for our SLP:
If we engage students in accountable talk and model the strategies then students will have better understanding.

What do we know about accountable talk?

  • oral communication
  • describes
  • ownership/accountable for learning
  • students talking to each other in class
  • explains and can answer questions
  • focusing on big ideas
  • script-I agree with ____ because___
  • I disagree with ____ because____

What do we wonder about accountable talk?

  • would love a guide to know how to implement it in our classrooms
  • a concrete definition to what accountable talk is
  • what is the past term for accountable talk

Lucy West Video on Accountable Talk:

  • need to learn how to listen to the teacher and other students
  • need to encourage students sharing with other students
  • need to repeat over and over again
  • need to SLOW DOWN in our teaching and focus on what students heard
  • always ask further questions when students answer questions
  • What does Revoice mean? Means rewording what a student said
  • ”student talking to learn”

Accountable Talk is….:

  • less teacher talk, more students explaining and teaching each other
  • students being respectful with a rich discussion
  • visible thinking
  • teacher is a guide to allow students to come to their own conclusions
  • articulation of students thinking
  • need to create a safe classroom so students feel safe to fail/make mistakes

Lucy West video-Barriers to Accountable Talk:

  • about the task

Why is Accountable Talk important:

  • need to clearly, concisely make your self be understood
  • clarifying thinking
  • discovery learning
  • drawing conclusions
  • inquiry learning
  • we want to communicate with others, we need to teach them to talk with a purpose

How can we make Accountable Talk work in our Classroom?
Need to create a safe classroom for accountable talk to happen

  • explicitly teach it and model it
  • mixed ability groupings
  • use talking stick/object so students can only talk when they have the object
  • visual reminder

Teacher Prompts:

  • I’ll restate/revoice what you just said. Listen to make sure I got it right.
  • ”How do you know it’s true?”
  • ”How are these things similar/different?”
  • “Can you repeat what he just said in your own words?”
  • “Can you tell me more about that?”
  • “Ok. Let me see if I understand.”

Student Prompts:

  • “How are they similar/different?”
  • “What I heard is….”
  • “So what you’re saying is…”
  • “I do think this because…”

Language Stems:

Accountable Talk Toolkit:

Missed Opportunity Meredith

Recently People Magazine has been promoting their sexiest man alive issue which has just come out.

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 9.42.25 AM

They decided to do something different this year though. They chose to do a section on sexy men at work. Nicholas Ferroni, a high school history teacher from Union, New Jersey was picked as the sexiest teacher alive.

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 9.43.37 AMI’m thrilled that a teacher was chosen to be highlighted and it’s a great chance to highlight the education field. My problem with this was Nicholas’ appearance on the Meredith Vieira show. Nicholas has 10 seconds to discuss what he is truly about and then they quickly go to a new segment playing a history game. This game is where Meredith says some history fact and it is linked it to a sexy man and Nicholas has to guess their name. To see the clip, click here. I was so frustrated by this segment and by Meredith. I know that Nicholas is working hard to raise awareness about LGBT youth, and questioning education policies. I know he could have spoken very eloquently about education and the changes that need to be made but wasn’t allowed more time from the show. Instead, Meredith uses Nicholas to play a game to win a dinner out for one of her audience members. What a waste of an amazing chance to discuss education with the public watching. My only hope is that people found Nicholas so good looking and kind that they google him and find some new information about education.

To see Nicholas talking about the need to teach LGBT history in school, check out the video below.

Setting our Classroom Up TOGETHER

I said on the 1st day of school that it is their classroom. Today I showed them. We created our classroom today. All the ideas were given and voted on by the students.

We first started with where we wanted to put the smartboard, then to desks. 

This is all the variations they came up for our desks.

Every student had a say and then we moved. It was loud, busy, and amazing. To see the before pics, check them out here. Here is the final outcome.

I really enjoyed this process. We had to problem solve through it which was really cool. I’m really proud of what they decided on.  What do you think?

This is going to be harder than I thought

Based on my summer reading ‘Passionate Learners’ by Pernille Ripp, I really want to give my students more choice.
I have been trying… I told them it is their classroom and to give suggestions about setting it up, classroom jobs, where they sit, where to hang their backpack, pencil sharpening, loud voices. All their suggestions aren’t really helpful. I know if takes time to build trust for brutal honesty but I’m not sure if they ‘know how to do school’ like Pernille talks about.

So far it really isn’t working. Today in Math, they were not listening and being silly. So I straight out asked ‘what is going on?’ They know that they are supposed to be sitting quietly and listening so they just told that back to me. I asked them ’ are you bored’ and an honest yes came out. I asked who was bored and most of my class raised their hand. A brutal honest truth which is exactly what I wanted.

Now what to do. I am going to talk about our ‘I can statements’ tomorrow and I’m going to let them decide how they are going to learn it. I am unsure of how this will go. I guess we will see.

What do your students want to learn about?

During the first week of school, I sat down with my students and asked them what they wanted to learn about. Together we made a list.

  • Becoming a Vet
  • Animals
  • Planes and Jets
  • Science
  • Volcanoes
  • Planets
  • Skylanders
  • Pokemon
  • Lego
  • Inside peoples Bodies

It was a shorter list than I thought it would be. Many kids just agreed with others about what they wanted to learn but maybe the honesty and trust isn’t there yet. I get it is a process.

Anyways, I spent part of my weekend on Ottawa Public Library reserving books that they are interested in. I currently have 129 books on hold. This means many trips to and from the library but it is SO worth it to have choice and my students excited about learning in my class. It is another way that I can show my students that they matter.

I’m hoping that as time goes on, the list of what they want to learn about gets bigger and bigger.

Reflecting on my new assessment practice and taking some advice

So before the year began I really wanted to improve my assessment practices. I wanted to have an easy and detailed way to track all my notes, thoughts, and my students goals.

I came up with this method:

I made a new spreadsheet or sheet as Google calls them for each of my students and a new tabs for each strand. I loved how organized it was and as I started using it this week I loved it even more.

BUT then, I began documenting all my students work and opening up different sheets and tabs for each of the students took forever.

So I’m adapting and following advice from Joel Frey, and Kimberly Pollishuke. Thanks guys for taking the time and commenting on my post!

I’m creating a form for me to use to make notes about my students progress and to conference with them and make new goals.

Here is what it looks like:

I’m excited to try it this way and hope it is easier and quicker to use!

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