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Showing posts from March, 2011

Dentists and teachers?

How is a great dentist like a great teacher? Here's the partial list that I created after I visited my dentist today.

They both have genuine smiles on their faces and greet you warmly.

They both make the patient or student feel comfortable. Today my dentist offered me a blanket while he was performing the procedure on my teeth.

They both explain what they're doing; the dentist describes the procedure as it's happening and the teacher coaches the student as she teaches.

They both use soft voices and answer any questions as carefully and completely, as possible.

They both make you want to stay.

Feeling relaxed

The writing topics I posted on Monday evoke too much raw emotion for me to address at the moment, especially right now when I'm feeling so relaxed. That's what being on vacation does for me, even a short one - I feel the tension draining from me with each passing day. I end up doing more of the things I like and that make me happy. I read more, write more, and spend more quality time with my family. I smile more and worry less. Let's face it: I have more time that's my own.

And, as Spring Break winds down I wonder how I can keep this feeling from fading come Monday. Is this the normal cycle of a teacher's life or can we create another cycle that balances school and family?

Do you have some tips for staying fresh when school resumes? Make sure you post them here.

Writing List

I sit in the living room, half listening to my husband, son, and oldest daughter making tiramisu. I stay out of the kitchen as that is not my strong suit. My son and daughter are learning from my husband while I write my Slice of Life for today. There are lots of things I could write about but instead I make a list for another day when I'm feeling less confused and more lucid than I am at the moment.

--Is your cup half empty or is it half full? Someone said that to me recently and I'm still not sure what the intent was or whether I should even worry about the intent or even if there was an intent. Nevertheless, it obviously bothers me because I'm still thinking about it more than a week later.

--My first day of Spring Break. It snowed off and on today. When the sun finally broke through the sky I thought that finally we could look forward to spring - not. It snowed one final time.

--My thoughts about where to go next in my career. I would love to spend more time w…

Canada Olympic Park - School Away from School (Post #3)

We walked the length
of the luge track
on our third day
at Canada Olympic Park (COP).
For nearly 1.6 km
we trudged, through soft,
pristine snow
covering the ice
below our feet.
I slid three times,
landing on my bum,
laughing joyously,
cushioned by the thick snow
that continues to fall
beckoned by hints of Spring.

Canada Olympic Park - School Away from School (Post #2)

In my last post I said that Canada Olympic Park (COP) was the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics. Actually, it was one venue of several where various Olympic competitions took place; one of the many things the children and I learned during our visit this week.

On our second day, we spent the morning revisiting the 7 Olympic Values (see Post #1) and trying to find connections to the 7 Sacred Teachings (love, respect, bravery, honesty, wisdom, humility, and truth). The two specialists from the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) used a Venn Diagram to help the children find connections between the two sets of values. They had to use their best thinking to identify similarities as much of this was new terminology for them, though not new concepts.

Next, our teachers for the day took us on a hike through deep snow to the Paskapoo Slopes,, which is also known as the Eastlands, of the COP. This used to be a site for a buffalo run long ago. We stopped to listen to …

Canada Olympic Park - School Away from School (Post #1)

Today was our first day at Canada Olympic Park (COP) Open Minds School. COP was the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. It is now a popular park in our city highlighting a variety of winter sports. Our class is fortunate to be able to spend this week there as a result of our successful grade level proposal that has other grade 2 classes attending a variety of Open Minds School, such as Nature School and Zoo School.

Although it was a snowy day we were able to explore exhibits on two floors of the Ski Tower and to take a short hike around the ski jump area. Our focus for the week is the seven Canadian Olympic values of excellence, respect, peace, personal growth, fairness, leadership, and fun. We will also connect these to the First Nations values of wisdom, respect, humility, sharing, harmony, beauty, strength, and spirituality. I am looking forward to a great rest of the week. I plan to blog a little bit every day about our experience this week. Below are two posts …

Student-Led Conferences

This week, my students prepared for student-led conferences. They reflected on their learning by identifying important knowledge in four distinct areas: reading, writing, math, and Spanish. Then, they wrote these self-assessments as "I know" statements. Some examples are: I know how to check for understanding; I know how to add and subtract; I know how to make connections when I'm reading; I know how to stay on topic. “How do you know you can do this?” I would ask them. “Why is this important to know?” “How does knowing how to do this help you as a reader (writer, math student, Spanish learner)?”

Next, my students had to find examples of work that clearly demonstrated this learning. If they couldn’t respond to my questions they would need to start this process over again. And, if their evidence didn’t match their learning they would need to go back to their work and search for examples that did. Finally, they had to edit their writing and organize their work …

Did I Tell You?

Did I tell you that it snowed yesterday?
I looked out the window and big, fat flakes were spinning and whirling in a frenzy.
I saw it all outside my classroom window.
And, then it stopped.
As suddenly as it started.
The water that had melted from the snow now turned to ice.

Did I tell you that I love you?
Or, did I forget to do that?
You would say it wasn't on my list of things to do.
I say, we all have lists.
Some of us are better than others at juggling them.
I think of you when we're not together.
Is that enough?

Did I tell you that I'm happy
When we spend time together?
I don't need much.
Just you.
You should know that by now.
Did I tell you that?

Student Slices

Dear Slice of Life,
I want to go to Mexico. When I was six years old I always forgot to ask my parents. When I get home I am probably gonna ask my parents. I hope I do. They're probably gonna say no but it's worth the risk if I do.
- Isaiah

I was making a Starfighter. I called it: Slave 195. It has five blow blasters, three green blasters, and three red blasters. It carries weapons. But these are not blasters. They are two swords, one spear, and a travek stick. It carries two Ninjas.
- Isaac

Today at recess I played rugby with Isaac, Dylan, Ethan, Karson, and Isaiah. It was fun but I got pushed around, but otherwise it was fun. - Gabriel

Yesterday I was playing outside and my underground snow fort fell on me because I accidently punched it and i was stuck for 30 minutes. And, when I came inside I almost froze to death.
- Boris

Once I was talking to my sister about my favorite song. I said baby (feet) and my brother said, "You're a firework!!!?&…

More Student Slices

Here are my students' slices for today.

I got two books. They are Bionicle books. They are a series. The first book is called: Adventures (1) Where the Adventures Begin...Mystery of Metru Nui. The second book is called: Bionicle Adventures (2) Where the Adventures Begin...Trial by Fire. - Isaac

When I was four I went to Mexico. It was fun. We went swimming at the pool. There was a pretend river attached right to it. And there was a bar of the swimming pool. - Dylan

On the weekend I played one of my X-Box games and I got 36,000 dollars. And, if I got 4,000,000 dollars you can buy a sky scraper. And, if I got 60,000 dollars I can buy a house and a store inside. - Boris

Dear Slice of Life,
Once in my life I have finished a chapter book in less than half a day. The book was called Ook and Gluk. It was a pretty funny book. I liked it when the author put up some signs and made funny jokes. And, I also liked the part where the two Kung-Fu people took out the two robots in…

Is it Spring?

I think spring may have finally arrived.
I look out the window of my classroom
and see the wind rustling the leaves
of an evergreen tree.
I can see flocks of birds flying low
in the sky.
I can't see any snow
from where I'm sitting,
but that's deceptive.
I know that once I leave the building
there will be hills here and there,
some of it melting and then turning
to ice overnight,
then melting again during the day.
I'm not counting on this weather staying its course, though.
I've seen too many springs here become winter again.
A drop in the temperature.
Take out the coat,
Spring just came for a short visit and has now gone away.


The time has come for me to step back and do some self-reflection.
I can't say more right now. That would defeat the purpose of being introspective, wouldn't it?
As always, what's important can be found in the unspoken word.
Meaning is in the empty spaces.
That's my slice today.

And More Student Slices

I am enjoying my student's slices so much that I have not written any of my own. I can really relate to Ruth's post the other day about being overwhelmed. Nothing else to say. Enjoy!

Last night I was eating dessert. I put my plate onto the counter and I was walking through the hallway to go upstairs. My mom and Abby and Annie said, "CAROLINE! Put away your cup." And, I said, "I'm not married to the cup." And, I started walking away and they called again, "CAROLINE! Put away your cup." I said, "I'm not married to the cup. But, OK. I will put it away." - Caroline

In two weeks I am going to Brandon. Last night I called my auntie Chrystal about going to Brandon. She lives in Brandon and she has a little girl. Her name is Emma. She is my cousin. She is 2 1/2. I was five years old when she was born. - Ethan

I have a brother who is very annoying. When I read to him, I'm done with him. He always starts talking in the…

More Student Slices

More student slices...

Today is my uncle Cole's birthday. He is turning sixteen years old. He is just learning how to drive. I can't wait 'cause he can drive me wherever I want. He can almost drive. When you are 16 you can drive. He can drive me to MacDonald's and Wendy's. I will command him. - Ethan

Yesterday it was my brother's birthday. He turned 19 and we celebrated his birthday at Nick's. - Boris

Yesterday Alexandra gave me a cut by accident. And, today I had a problem at recess: my best friends, Kaitlyn and Michelle, wouldn't let me plan with them. They wanted to play something and I wanted to play the other. And they said, "You can only play with us if you play this." - Taylor

In May I am having a party. I am inviting five boys and five girls. I am having a swimming party. - Alexandra

Today I am finishing my book about penguins. We are almost done. We just need to do the last page. Then, we need to color. Then, we are done.…

Student Slices

I received 12 positive responses from parents giving their children permission to publish their slices on my blog. So, here are a few of them!

In my family, I am the oldest kid. I have an annoying younger sister. The only time when she was not annoying is when she gave me the stuffed animal I liked from her. In my family I have my mom, my dad, and my younger sister. - Taylor

Once I went on vacation in the summer and my grandma was watching my cat. When we were at the hotel (motel) my mom got a call from my grandma that my cat ran away. But my mom and dad didn't tell me very fast. They waited till we got home instead of on vacation. My parents kept on saying that my cat was on vacation as well and she might not be home even when we pull in the driveway. When we got home my parents told me. I was so afraid because there are lots of coyotes in the night (that's a whole different story). Five days later we put up lost cat signs. A couple of days later we got a phone call…

A slice a day and we can't stay away!

It all started just as we were getting ready for reading and writing workshop. There was a soft knock at our door. More than 20 eager grade five students, our buddies, were lined up outside our classroom. I had forgotten that we had planned to get together to work on peace messages for our school yearbook.

Time to shift gears.

Forty-five minutes later my students and I sat down to slice for 12 minutes until the bell rang. I told the kids to take a minute or two to think about what they wanted to write - something that happened today, yesterday (teachers had a professional day and so the children didn't have school), or even on the weekend. We were interrupted twice before the 12 minutes were up and both times I had to step outside the room. Each time I returned the children were intently writing in their writer's notebooks. Even when I rang the chimes to signal the end of the writing time they didn't stop right away. Gotta love it!

Unfortunately, I didn'…

A moment in the life of a teacher

2:00 pm

I stood in the middle of my classroom and took a look around. I noticed a stack of baskets on top of a table where a now forgotten science experiment used to be. I moved the offending baskets out of the way but didn't put them to any good use; I'll leave that for another day.

I read individual writer's notebooks and smiled at an entry I had not previously seen. I made a mental note to talk to this student about what he had written.

I finalized a letter that I will send home tomorrow asking parents for permission to post their childrens' slices on line. It took me about a week to finalize this as I had to confer with several people regarding safety issues around the use of public internet sites. Fortunately, everyone was very supportive about helping me get this project off the ground.

I revised and sent an email about an upcoming PD Day at our school.

I ran off individual copies of small books that I will assemble, laminate, and add to our classroom lib…

Baking Muffins

Today is one of those beautiful rare days this winter, at least for Calgary - sunny, blue skies and not too cold. I spent most of yesterday and today working on report cards. My breaks have consisted of washing dishes; having meals; reading Losing Charlotte by Healther Clay, a new and notable book from my public library that is now seriously overdue; reading to my son; and messaging with my youngest daughter as she travels by plane from Charlotte to Boston.

My husband and 6 year-old son also took a break today to make chocolate muffins. That's them looking pleased as punch and having a blast! This picture reminds me of so many other times when my husband would bake or cook with our two daughters when they were little; they're now 23 and 19 and they still call their father for cooking advice. Now, it's my son's turn to be initiated into an entrenched family tradition. As my son said earlier while he ate the chicken soup my husband had prepared, "This is th…

Rewards and Punishments

I'm always surprised and disappointed when educators I respect support the use of rewards and punishments to control student behaviour.

Whenever I feel like my students are "misbehaving" or not behaving as expected or agreed, it's usually because I'm "misbehaving" or not behaving as expected or agreed. Sound odd? Perhaps, but think about this for a minute. When something goes wrong, i.e. not according to plan, it's usually because the kids have responded in unexpected ways to what I'm teaching or presenting to them. Unless I'm prepared to handle these contingencies I can lose focus of the lesson and the children. I find that the best way to deal with these "disruptions" isn't to control behaviour through carrots and sticks but rather to take a deep breath and think about what may be causing the problem. Often the cause has to do with one or more of the following: how I've presented the lesson (it's confusing, …

Writer's Block

Writer's block.
I've got it.
I don't know how many topics I've contemplated,
and started writing about,
and then stopped.
None of them seemed right.
Too trite.
Too contrite.
No substance.
I don't know what to write.
Keep writing something.
I tell my students the same thing.
It's hard to do but if I don't keep going
then I'll stop writing altogether
'cause sometimes it just seems too hard.
Developing a writing habit is like exercising.
Now, that I've started exercising for 10 minutes in the morning I can't stop.
(Now, that I've started blogging every day, I can't stop.
Don't want to stop.)
I know 10 minutes isn't a lot but it's something.
A place to start.
A place to keep moving from.
What do you know?
I've got a slice!

What counts in a thank you note?

In our grade 2 class, we have been writing letters, thank you notes, morning messages, and home-school journals since the beginning of the year. So, during our class meeting today I asked the children the following question: what counts in a thank you note?

This is the final list they came up with:

1 - Greeting (Dear _________)

2 - Farewell (Love, From, Sincerely, etc.)

3 - Saying thank you for whatever the person did for you

4 - Asking if there is something you can do for them in return

5 - Telling them what you're going to do for them

6 - Drawing a picture

Before starting our discussion I had not envisioned going beyond the first three ideas on this list. The fourth idea expresses a beautiful sentiment and was suggested by one of my quieter students, which prompted another child to contribute #5 above. I was ready to add this last idea to our list when a third child said that you may or may not ask (or tell) the person to whom you're writing the thank you note what you…

The Dead of Winter

We're still in the dead of winter here in Calgary; it was -36 degrees Celsius with the wind chill today.

It hasn't stopped snowing since mid-November.

The children have had more indoor recess this year than I'd care to think about.

Everyone's patience, including my own, is wearing thin.

It's report card time and parent conferences loom in the not too distant future.

The progress I've made with some of my students is looking precarious.

One step forward, two steps back.

It's time to revisit procedures we practiced in September.

It's time to redirect our attention to the growth of our classroom community.

It's time to regroup, set priorities, and move forward.

By writing this down I'm feeling better already.