Aboriginal Week

It is Aboriginal Week at Bear Creek Elementary this week.  There are a variety of guest speakers, storytellers, activities such as learning Slahal (traditional guessing game), making bannock, and other educational experiences focused on aboriginal culture planned throughout the week.

Bear Creek Elementary is situated on Katzie Territory and we are very fortunate to have  support for our school with regards to resources focusing on aboriginal culture, as well as staff who are experienced themselves, either personally or professionally, with aboriginal culture.    Two such staff members are Joanne Fischer and Len Pierre, who are full of knowledge and put together an amazing week of discovery for us all.

On Monday after the students had a chance to socialize, enjoy their centre time, and sharing we distributed their spelling lists.  The students are on an individualized spelling program, and have words that are applicable to their own individual learning needs. This week I also thought it was important to incorporate a variety of words that will become meaningful for them throughout this week – aboriginal terms.

After recess we viewed two amazing carvings completed by Clarence Mills as Len explained the process and the meaning behind them.

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Then, our class was fortunate to experience drumming & singing by the talented Mavis & Donovan, both also from Katzie Territory.

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Our class has more exciting experiences waiting for them to discover the rest of the week: Jingle Dress Dance by Victoria Vaillancourt, Storytelling by Robbie Bandura, and to view a variety of aboriginal displays.  Elders will be visiting Bear Creek Elementary as well wearing their traditional regalia to share about their community and background.  The week will end with a closing assembly and Hoop Dance Presentation.

This is a fabulous opportunity for students and staff to experience different aspects of a culture many of our students are already a part of.  I also feel that it is important to incorporate the many amazing aspects of aboriginal culture into our lessons and classrooms daily.  For my lessons there are a lot of tactile/hands-on activities, and regular opportunities to share thoughts and learning orally.

Happy National Aboriginal Day (Canada) on Friday, June 21.  Let’s keep the awareness going.

Home Again!

Although I have been in & out of the classroom over the past seven weeks, I have not taught a full lesson in at least three.  My partner and I had a student teacher with us and she has done a terrific job within the past seven weeks.  It has been an interesting process for me to watch how she has grown from the beginning of her practicum to the end.

This is the last week of her practicum and the first week I was teaching my beloved science again to our wonderful group of learners.  Boy did it feel good!  Not only do I love teaching the subject, I missed having that direct interaction with our group after all this time!

We did an experiment with “Feely Balloons” where the students were divided up into groups and were provided with 5 balloons with mystery substances inside.  They had to develop strategies by using 4 out of 5 of their senses (not taste!) to determine what was in the balloons.  It was amazing watching them as they went through the process and all the insights they shared with me and each other.  They also recorded their observations on a chart.20130604_105839 (480x640)

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Next, they were then given the actual substances in clear jars and matched up the jar with the balloon.20130604_112626 (480x640)

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Finally, it was the big reveal!  I cut open each of the balloons in front of the class with the students cheering when the contents were revealed.  Quite the excitement about rice in a balloon! But, I realized I felt a lot like my wonderful students. After my first science lesson with them after seven weeks,  it felt so good to be home. 🙂

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Living What We Teach

There has been a lot of changes for me as an educator this year – a lot of new exciting and positive  experiences, as well as a few frustrations I’ve had to deal with and overcome.  I read somewhere that it is not the experiences in life than defines you as a person, but how you reflect on those experiences.  I am a firm believer in exposing yourself to as much as you can in life to gain the knowledge and awareness that different experiences can provide.  By opening yourself up to unfamiliarity, whether that is through the different uses of technology, trying different foods than you are used to, travelling or participating in events to learn about different cultures or being willing to change and shake up your daily routines from time to time, you are allowing yourself to grow both as an educator and human being.

Ironically, I just read a blog post by Beverly Bunker this morning (@beverlybunker) titled Stepping Just Outside Our Comfort Zone.  In reference to being uncomfortable outside our element, she writes:

It’s the only way that we can be genuine

when we tell our students that risk taking

is a critical component of learning. 

Basically, if we encourage our students to take risks with their learning in class we should be modelling  that as educators to them as well.  Live what you teach!

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Flexibility has become my middle name.  I am a pretty open person as it is, but some unexpected changes do initially send a ripple through me of uncertainty and nervousness.  Next school year I will be delving into a whole new territory for myself as an educator – job sharing in a Kindergarten classroom.  I had an opportunity today, after getting the ok from my open-minded VP Tia Henriksen (@TiaHenriksen), to observe and assist my fabulous  soon-to-be partner in her Kindergarten room.  As I watched, I could see these little faces becoming more & more engaged.  With each poem, with each song sung, and with the drawings paired with their attempted written expression I was beginning to think I can do this. Watching my colleague was like watching a master at work – the difference between a good Kindergarten teacher and a great one was very apparent.  I can only hope I can come close to how she engages her students each and every day.  I will have to work on my singing voice in the shower that’s for sure, but change IS good…right?

Courage To Blog

Being new to blogging I guess I am feeling a lot of pressure to blog something worthwhile.  I admit, it’s of my own fabrication, as I also hear “share anything as long as you share!”.   Being in a job share where I teach 40% of the week (I taught full-time for 10 years prior) I am struggling a bit with finding the time to create lessons that are meaningful to my students, communicate with my partner, and to be there for my two amazing kids who are the reason I am in a job share partnership to begin with!  I feel I have created those meaningful lessons for my students.  When I open the door for them the day I am in one of the first things I hear from many of them is “it’s Science today! I love Science!”  I believe whole heartedly that science should be taught in a very hands-on manner.  All science lessons of mine involve hands-on learning and a lot of discussion – sometimes the discussions carry on a lot longer than I anticipate, which is great!!!  I feel if I left the day knowing my students were engaged and wanting to learn more I have done alright.  Then comes the blogging… I don’t know about the rest of you but I feel I lack GREATLY in this department!  I recently read a blog post by @birklearns “The Guilt From Blogging Less” and it hit home with me.  I teach with an amazing partner that does all kinds of new things in the classroom and still finds time to blog about it and here I am feeling guilty for not blogging more.  I feel completely inspired by so many people I have met in person and on Twitter.  I am determined to share more of what I do – it may not be on a grand scale like many blog posts I read (yikes!), but it will be something meaningful to my students, and to me. I encourage you to do the same! 🙂

Reflecting

I am no stranger to blogging. I’ve had my own personal blog for 5+ years, and have a classroom blog with my partner, but this is the first time I have created a professional blog. I have wanted to blog professionally for some time now, but it’s amazing how one wonders: what I have to say – is it important? With all the amazing blogs out there – is mine relevant? I have learned a lot from my job share partner (@teacherdiana1) and VP (@TiaHenriksen) about taking risks and putting yourself out there. I LOVE the idea of blogging, so why has it taken me so long to create a professional site? It is a complex thing with me – on one hand I love the comfort of security, and in the other I crave the excitement of what has not yet been explored.

I considered myself to be a very “with it” educator – I have always been open to new ideas and I foster positive relationships with both students and parents. Then I heard George Couros (@gcouros) speak at our school during a summer Professional Development Day. Gasp – I don’t have a Twitter account! I was not a stranger to social media, as well as writing my own personal blogs (until my second child was born) and I have been the webmaster for my son’s minor hockey team for the past 3 years. BUT I did not have a Twitter account. I have Facebook, so what’s the difference? Honestly, I could care less what Beyonce has to tweet! Then, as an educator, I got educated. Motivated by George at our summer Pro-D, and the encouragement of my amazing VP, Tia Henrikson, I created a Twitter account. I have not looked back since.

I recently saw a presentation by Bill Ferriter (@plususin) on Engaging the Digital Learner. Although I was bummed not to be able to be a part of the dinner series, I was THRILLED to be able to attend an after-work-session the day before. Bill completely inspired me. Not only is he an eloquent speaker, he is very in touch with 2013 learning. Bill challenged the way we teach – “kids want to learn, but we are a presentation driven space.” I have always been about hands-on learning, but now I have something that resonates with me. Bill spoke about KIVA, a means to give microloans to those in developing countries. I have been familiar with KIVA as my husband and I have been intrigued to contribute in the past. However, Bill opened up many other possibilities for me as an educator – why not incorporate KIVA into the classroom? There is a lot both George and Bill have left me with, as well as Tia. I feel very privileged to be a part of such an amazing group of educators – I feel completely motivated and inspired!