Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reflections from 2010-2011 - What a school year!

Another school year wrapping up. Time flies. It really does. And whenever another school year comes to an end I make sure I leave time for reflection. Maybe that's cheesy and I'm sure many of you other school teachers out there think "I don't have time for that!" Well to be honest, I don't really either. As I sit here on my prep period when I should me marking, I'm writing a blog post instead. Procrastination is the spice of life. NOT!
Here it goes....
Least favorite part of the year:
My school year started optimistically. I was ready for what was ahead and was willing to face the ups and downs as they came. The school year started with our school being under review for closure, yeah that was a real nice way to start the year (sarcastic voice). We pushed ahead as we always do with our heads held high and continuing to provide our students with a top notch education :-) The process ended with the closure review being halted which was really nice for us (to say the least). You know, it is amazing really how much that review process affects the students. They put on brave faces like troopers but daily as a teacher I could see it affecting them as they worried about their futures hanging in the balance. I mean who wants to be dropped into a new school unless it is a choice of family, or situational such as moving. I know my students who live here wanted the school to stay open so they can graduate from the same school they have always attended, that possibly their parents graduated from, that their friends attend and/or graduated from. The stress of a review process weighed in on them and whether or not you believe it (because teens especially are quite good at hiding true emotion from adults), it took a toll. In my CPT course we did a project that I adapted from the Discovery Channel's Boom De Yada I Love The Whole World commercial. We created a Boom De Yada I Love Nokomis School video and the students put in their favorite parts about our school. Click the link and see the videos if you're interested! The kids took pride in creating the projects and promoting their school. Once the process of review was ended, you could almost see the weight lift off their shoulders and they became happy and started to laugh more again. Lovely, in my opinion.

Highlight:Culture Fair 
During the months of August - October our whole school worked towards projects for our Culture Fair. We hosted a Culture Fair at the end of October and students, parents, and people from the community were invited into the school to experience a variety of cultures. Our students, being split into homeroom groups (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-10 and 11-12), chose a different culture and researched about it then created a variety of resources to display in the room. My homeroom of 11/12's chose French culture and looked at a variety of aspects. We designed posters about food, traditions, attractions, people, customs, etc. and posted them throughout the room. We had students stay in the room to present their culture to people and each person walking around were given passport to go to the different classes to get stamped after they learned about it.
My students created a ceiling high model of the Eiffel Tower that went over the outside of the door to my classroom - it was huge and really well done! Also, my students created mock-trenches inside my classroom with the desks and covered them with cardboard to create the sense of being closed in - inside the trenches were photographs and information about WWI and tench warfare as well as videos playing on computers. We made croissants and chocolate mousse to give to patrons who visited our room and we had Parisian music playing in the background. We had one student dress up like a mime to meet the people at the door and the rest of us dressed up in the quintessential Paris garb - striped shirt, black pants, etc. It was a blast.
The other classrooms were as follows: K-2: African, 3-5: Japanese, 6-8: Aboriginal/First Nations, and 9-10: Indian. Each room had something creative, whether it be a tent with pillows to sit on in India, a mock-Jeep SUV in Africa, Japanese tea ceremony or Aboriginal stone arrangement circles. The night was a huge success and it will be something I will carry with my for my career. It took a lot, and I mean A LOT of work but it was totally worth it. The kids learned a lot and so did I. Hard work paid off.

Highlight: SMARTboard!
After the Culture Fair, life went along as usual, just coursework and learning as normal. There are always those times when school seems repetitive and sort of just a motion you go through, but then you have those days that stick with you forever and you're able to do exciting things in your classroom and get back to enjoying learning and teaching. That day came when I received my SMARTboard! Not like I don't incorporate technology into my daily teaching, assignments and projects - believe me I do. It just happened to get MORE exciting and innovative once I got my SMARTboard installed! I hope to have many more lessons created for my SMARTboard for the next school year. The kids just love it and enjoy that change in pace when I turn it on and plug it in - especially when they get up out of their seats and use it themselves!!

Highlight: Minute To Win It
Another exciting event was our SRC Minute to Win It afternoon. As a school spirit building activity, our SRC came together to create an afternoon filled with the TV game show Minute To Win It activities. There was the Elephant March, Hangover, Sticky Situation, Bobble Head, Face the Cookie, Noodling Around, Defying Gravity and Junk in the Trunk. Here are a few pics for you to see:

All in all, it was a wonderful year. Extra curricular, and additional enrichment activities are what make a school year fly by and we certainly had our share of them this year. The kids were great and we accomplished what needed to be done. Who could ask for more? Not I, not I. I love my job and love my school. Can't wait for next year!
I just wanted to say thanks for reading my blog and I appreciate you as an audience to bounce my ideas off of, to listen to my reflections and rants and basically for being that lovely group of people whom I likely haven't met but would love to get to know! Comment away and I will keep it coming!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Simulation Activity - Review and Reflection

I know many of you seemed interested, commented on and read my post about my simulation activity in History 10 and I wanted to post a bit of a reflection on the process, and share the results of during and after the activity.  

I mentioned that many students of mine don't really enjoy this kind of learning activity - some are strictly read and dictate in notes kind of kids, and some are just plain old hard to make happy, and it is difficult to engage or at least inspire kids to be enthusiastic about learning....well, this was definitely the case for me. I had a student who didn't really enjoy this topic and proceeded to distract, pester and be ultimately a big nuisance for everyone involved. Once the behavior issue was dealt with, things went smoothly.  Isn't that how it always goes - you plan forever on an activity and on the day of the event, someone has to make it tough on you. 

Anyway, we set up the desks and had the witness stand and bench where I was the judge and we had a few students playing the jury. Each side presented opening arguments, followed by calling on one witness at a time - each group had a total of 2 or 3 witnesses (one group was a bit larger). The students stood up and played the part - I must admit reflectively that I wish I could encourage students and have them actually act out the part which would've made this a lot more fun for everyone - but they did their task and read off the paper for their statement. Their opening statements were concerning their point of view of what the basic outline of the story was until the point where we were now (the trial). The jury and I heard some really convincing arguments in their speeches and couldn't wait to hear from the witnesses to give their evidence and testimonials of the events that affected them. The student moved into the witness box after swearing in and we were off. Of course because of time constraints and trying to deter from more behavioral issues, we did not engage in a cross-examination process (maybe next time I will but at this way was a lot faster). We did one witness from each side at a time, then had a different student present their closing arguments and reiterate the facts presented by their side. We worked for quite some time on how to develop a persuasive paragraph to convince jurors of your "correct" position. These were extremely well done and convincing. The jury and I were actually on the fence for a while about what swayed us more, the evidence or some of those awesome speeches! 

We went outside the classroom and deliberated for 3-5 minutes about the evidence presented by the witnesses, and the points of view of both parties. We discussed who did a more convincing job of each area and when we came back in the room we discussed this as a class, being sure to give credit where it was due. All students were able to participate and to me it seemed as though they all had an enjoyable learning experience. It was a lot of prep work to develop the information packages for each side - I wanted to make sure students were getting a fair amount for each side to work with and it was accurate to the time period and true events (thus why I did not let them Google everything themselves). All in all it was a success and I hope that you get an opportunity to try something like this in your classes because it is a worthwhile activity for students to engage in and it really involves a number of different skills such as reading, inferring, connecting, thinking critically and creatively, writing persuasively, organizing information and thoughts and presenting and sticking to an opinion with a courageous amount of believability. 

I hope you were able to take away something of value from this activity review and reflection, and that you will post some comments and share your own experiences in the classroom and/or your thoughts on my activity. I would love to hear from you!