I could relate a lot to this picture these last couples of days! Actually these last few weeks have been a whirl wind and I can not believe that it is almost November! Where did September and October go? I have had a great two months with my grade two students. They are such a creative and inquisitive group of students! I can relate to the picture above because I feel that I am that vehicle at the very back and moving along very slowly. I can see all of my goals and things that I want to achieve, but sometimes obstacles slowly start adding up…Now I feel the road looks more like this!
I am so happy that I am taking graduate classes and perusing my Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Many of the classes that I have taken so far have challenged me in a positive way! It has introduced me to different resources and ways of teaching that allows my students to be more interactive. My classroom is becoming even more student centered. My students get the opportunity to create projects, play, and use technology to enhance their learning of the curricular outcomes that need to be covered in grade two. Over the summer I took classes and attended the Early Learning Institute. It was the best decision that I have ever made! Those two classes confirmed my beliefs with Saskatchewan Play and Exploration Early Learning Program Guide that outlines the Four Principles of Early Learning:
- Children as Competent Learners
- Holistic Development and Learning
- Strong Positive Relationships
- Stimulating and Dynamic Environments
I believe that those four principles should be principles of learning and not just early learning principles. All students are competent learners! It is important to remember to focus on the different domains of development and not just the intellectual domain when they are in elementary school, middles years, and in high school. All students need to gain and have strong positive relationships while learning in an environment that is stimulating and dynamic! During the summer in the institute I continued to learn about the value of play and that it should be incorporated into early learning classrooms in the higher grades and not just in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten.
Play nourishes every aspect of children’s development-it forms the foundation of intellectual, social, physical, and emotional skills necessary for success in school and in life. (Canadian Council on Learning).
I also learned about the all the different types of play there are and learned to trust the process even more. I think sometimes in education the importance of the process gets lost at times because many people want to see the final product and what their students have learned. People get so worried about the end result or the final grade. I have found students learn more from the process compared to what the final project or product even can begin to represent. Having conversations and taking the time to sit back and observe your students is very important. The learning process needs to be documented in a variety of ways such as observations, conversations, photographs, students journaling or blogging about their journey. Then you can get a better picture of what students are capable of and what they know about the topic they are exploring or learning about. During the class we did a lot of process art and our art pieces that we created represented what the topics we were learning about in class. It was amazing to see everyone’s pieces and their projects throughout the class. My favourite part was listening to everyone share their pieces with the class. Then I was able to hear their process, what they learned, and what that piece truly represented. I liked that everyone was given the same instructions, but we all had creative choice and our imagination was not boxed by very small specific instructions. We were given very brief and broad details of what was expected. I liked that they were broad enough to given us freedom to create the pieces and projects that fit our style so we could share our journey and learning. Some people painted while others used a variety of different mediums. Many students wrote poems, songs, or journal entries! Last fall I also was lucky to get into the ECI831 Social Media class and was introduced to so many great ideas and ways I could incorporate technology into my classroom that allowed my students to learn and represent their learning in a variety of ways. I learned about student blogging, the maker movement, Google Documents, and digital story telling just to name a few. I have shaped my classroom pedagogy based around lots of the topics and concepts that I learned from both of those classes and experiences. I love teaching this way and those classes helped energize me to be creative with my teaching again!
So why do I feel that the obstacles are adding up?
First off I was very lucky to have the opportunity to go to Toronto to watch the Blue Jays. I work hard coaching and directing extra curricular activities to have those earn days off saved to use them when I need to take a few days off. I never worry about being out of my classroom because we have the best substitute teachers! All of the substitute teachers that I have had in my classroom work so hard to follow the plans that I leave, make connections with my students, and try to make sure routines continue for my class. I was lucky again to have another great substitute teacher to teach my class one day this week while I had to go the dentist because I broke my tooth. So why do I feel that I have to travel lately in so many different directions on the road? Even though we have fantastic substitute teachers many of them are not familiar with blogging and a lot of the other ways I use technology in my classroom. My students are independent enough to get the computers ready for Daily 5 math, but it is still early in the year to leave blogging with a substitute teacher. I also did not want to leave my digital citizenship lessons because being in a rural area many of the fabulous substitutes are retired teachers and many do not have a lot knowledge about digital citizenship, technology, or social media. Also when my students complete project learning my classroom can get a little messy from my students creating and it gets a little louder because of the excitement and awesome conversations. When my students are creating their projects I just help them with the hot glue or help them cut something out if the material is thick. But they have to tell me where to hot glue and draw the line on the material so I know where to cut. It is their project and vision and I am just the fascinator; however, not everyone can handle a bit of an organized mess, a louder classroom, or can let the students design the project even if it is more fantasy than reality. Lots of people want to lead and not just facilitate. When I am out of the classroom I feel like these projects have to go on hold because I do not want to make a substitute teacher uncomfortable in my classroom. I want everyone to have a day full of learning and feels successful including the substitute teacher. But, what do you do when you are away from the classroom? I find it hard to plan sometimes because my students do not complete worksheets everyday and it can be hard to explain a project to a substitute teacher over a sub plan and what the hands on learning in my classroom looks like.
Another obstacle is report cards as they are just around the corner. So that means more assessments need to be completed during this time of year. It is hard to assess students on their reading while observing hands on learning when the classroom tends to get louder with the excitement and the discussions. I know this first week in November will be busy with assessments so I might not get as much time to focus on my digital citizenship lessons or begin our new animal project, but soon I will soon be able to continue doing what I love best. Facilitating lessons and allowing my students to learn about the world and new topics through inquiry, conversations, books, technology, and hands on learning!
I am excited to get back onto that sunny road where students are creative, ask questions, make new discoveries, and carry on meaningful conversations!