All good things must come to an end. I know what a cliche that saying is, but I am really sad about the end of this community. Don’t get me wrong- I am so excited for the wonderful people I have met this semester to get out into the schools and share their positive and enthusiastic spirit with students, however I am a little sad for me. This was my first ‘real’ university class and it was so much fun. Among the many tasks of being a PhD student (hopefully a candidate soon!), this was not a task- it was a refreshing reminder of how much I love being in the classroom and working with students. I really do miss working with youth, but I have found a renewed passion for working with adults. I have learned so much from everyone in this class and was reminded once again about the power of community building and its influence on student learning. Of course, as my first time teaching this class, there are many things I would like to change. I am not sure how I feel about having such a firm syllabus at the start of a class that I have never actually taught- I prefer more flexibility- but there will certainly be changes. I am grateful for the feedback from the class regarding the areas I need to work on in the future. Here are some of the key points:
To keep (refine):
– the literature circles. I had never tried this in a university setting and was pleasantly surprised with their success. Assigning roles was key to accountability, but I think I will implement a check-in self-assessment with regards to the readings mid-way and maybe a discussion about the importance of the roles, readings, questions, etc.
– the feedback to the lit. circles, reflections and individual conversations. I really tried to develop a conversation with each student through feedback. This is a lot of work, but it was worth it.
– keeping the class in circles and having students facilitate in community co-creator groupings. The ability to practice implementation was excellent.
– the refreshments being part of the process really helps us get through the long afternoon class. Folding this into community co-creator responsibilities is great and takes the pressure and cost off me.
– the readings and topics. There was a little too much on a similar theme (bullying). There are so many angles to safe/supportive classrooms- it will be good to branch out into counselling skills, social-emotional learning (SEL), structuring a safe classroom (environmental approach).
– add more direct links to content/lesson plans that use circles and/or community building activities.
– the final project directions and expectations. I have to still mull this one over, but it certainly would be better with exemplars and clearer expectations on the rubric. Now that I have some great exemplars, I like the idea of introducing mind-mapping, website development, digital storytelling. I want to introduce the project early and have it be something that is on-going so it isn’t left until the last minute. How can I get this embedded earlier into the classroom or make it an ongoing project? There are so many other assignments competing for their time/brain energy, but this project was worth a lot for my course and wasn’t always fully representative of the learning.
– further opportunities for other groups to work together & build different community connections. This is difficult with so few classes- but something to consider.
– include more student voice in the presentations. One of the best parts of the guest presentations was having students from Canterbury HS speak directly about their experiences. More opportunities like this would be beneficial. It is about students, after all.
– School visits- to watch circles in action or classroom community building opportunities. I need to make greater connections to the Ottawa area schools.
The class itself
Once again, the major circle work of the class was in the hands of a community co-creator group (a perfect ending!).
Opening Circle: Warm Fuzzies
– In their literature circles, students wrote special messages to one another (warm fuzzies) and compiled them in labelled paper bags for later reading. The focus of the fuzzies was on their individual contribution to the small group community.
Energizer: Trust falls
In our small community co-creator groups, we had one person stand in the middle, close their eyes, hold their body stiff and fall back into the arms of the community. They were then gently pushed from one side to the other and caught by their group. This is a huge step from our first encounter as a group with trust activities in week 2- where we tried to lean back on the webbing circle with our eyes closed.
Know thy impact!! Thanks to my learning with Visible Learning & Dr. John Hattie, I hold this motto close to my heart. I also saw this video by Humans of New York at the LCEEQ conference in February (Laval) with Ainsley Rose. I love it. We have so much to offer our future scholars.
Closing Circle: Community Connections and reflection
– After watching the video Love has no Boundaries we shared something we bring to our future class communities on small paper humans and formed a circle in the middle of our larger seated circle. It was a great way to end our class and mark our special connection. I am still hoping for a photo of this physical representation of our community.
Posted: March 27th, 2015 in Professional Development Training | No Comments »
I can’t believe we are so close to the end of this community. I will honestly really miss what we have built together, but am so excited that so many youth/students will be working with these fine folk. This past Monday’s class was focused around the leadership piece. The required reading/viewing:
Chapter 3 of The Restorative Practice Handbook
CBC BullyProof:Classroom Confidential with Mark Kelley
Once again, I feel very lucky to have such wonderful mentors in my life and Terry Kharyati, principal of Hadley & Philemon Wright HS, generously offered to join our class and share his experiences with the filming of the documentary and also his views on building safe/supportive learning environments. His no-holds barred approach was well received!
This week’s theme was around the arts, and music in particular. It was a perfect time in our group building to take some risks!
Opening Circle: Student-led
Creating SOUNDSCAPES: In 2 groups, we were given the responsibility to create a soundscape for the other. The 2 options were: a zoo experience and a busy New York street. With our eyes closed and listening to the soundscapes, these 2 places really came alive!
How creating a soundscape contributes to a safe, healthy, and supportive learning environment:
- This activity helps to build an environment of inclusivity because each student is able to contribute and participate, no matter their comfort or ability level
- This activity helps the class to become very grounded and rooted in their environment- by being aware of their surroundings students become cognizant of each other and the things that make them feel safe and comfortable (or unsafe or and uncomfortable)
- As future teachers, we need to be hyper aware of our environments in order to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments that include all students
- An essential part of a safe, healthy, and supportive learning environment includes listening to one another- to students, fellow staff, administration- and this activity promotes the importance of sound and attentive listening
This was our last one! They were short and sweet and focused around Mr. K’s documentary and also the leadership chapter. Many questions surfaced that were then addressed by our guest presenter. Here are some of the key comments/questions:
- Bully booth- the impact- students shared the feelings. If that was there all the time- would it have the same impact?
- The process of the bully proof- was there any restorative work- people hurt, etc? By keeping some students in the school are we hurting others?
- How can we reach students in denial- how do we create the dialogue?
- Resilience- we need to be talking about it in the schools-As teachers we need to use the proper vocab and can’t brush off what students tell us?
- What happened to the students after the documentary? Sharing bullying stories from past and how this plays out after- some empowerment but for others- did situation change or make some students more vulnerable?
- Personal relationships- if all teachers have relationships would this decrease the bullying..rather than putting it on other students?
- Role of families as support systems- provide parents with tips, support groups. Hard to overstep this line.
- How do we as professionals handle when students open up with difficult situations- when to point to guidance/outside sources?
- Do these documentaries rely too heavy on the actual incidents rather than issues underneath- shows empathy… focus on emotional responses- tears on camera/pain..good and media frenzy approach.
- Why are bullies those closest to us at one point in time? Fact of life to deal with it- cyberbullying’s reach– teenage antics vs bullying. Lack of support. Can you ever have too much support?
- Pink shirt day- falling short? Is this a forced initiative- promote idea behind it- support each other- symbolic gesture. Each student write a personal contract for shirt?
- Look for our own traits in students- impede ability to be objective- unbiased. Every student should have one adult connection.
- Effect of bullying on mental health- important to talk about this and have strategies- do this in every class. Arts/history and language…high suicide rates- mindfulness/relationship
- Music therapy- role of teacher as professional and when to share our stories and keep some of the limits- boundaries
- Second chances- students are growing and not fixed in who they are and how they learn.
- What did TK think of the documentary after it was aired?
- How do we get proper statistics on bullying?
- How does the system work against you as an administrator– the journey and handcuffs.
Energizer: Name & adjective with Who’s missing?
We did a quick circle go-round where we shared our name and a defining adjective. We then played a game that had us move around the class- one person blind in the middle of the circle. When the music stopped, they would have to name the 3 people who were removed from the class. This was so much harder than it looked and our 2 volunteers were INCREDIBLE!!
Mr. K shared a bunch of excellent resources and his own experience with building a safe and supportive learning environment. I will add his resources at a later date.
Closing circle: CAMP FIRE and sing-along.
Who knew?? It is quite startling to think that we have made it to this point as a class. If I had let people know that we would be doing a sing-along in a University classroom, I think I would have had a lot of resistance. But it was chosen by members of our community and brilliantly facilitated by students. We wrote down something we bring to our future classes as people (to build safe/supportive classrooms) on a popsicle stick and then added that to our ‘fake’ fire…metaphorically stoking it. We then did a communal sing along– guitars and fiddles and many musical instruments. So much fun and a wonderful experience that shows how far we came as a group.
Posted: March 12th, 2015 in Safe and Supportive Learning Environments | No Comments »
This Monday’s class was focused on cyberbullying and cyber safety. Although it feels as though we have been digging into the issue of bullying quite heavily for the past 3 weeks, the focus really was on the role of social media/internet on the bullying issue.
Cyber or electronic bullying: “broadly defined as bullying performed via electronic means such as mobile/cell phones or the internet”- (Olweus, 2012)
“Punishments may make us feel better or safer, but other options can yield actual results.”(Bauman)
Here are the resources that we assigned:
- Holladay, J. (2011). Cyberbullying. Education Digest: Essential Readings Condensed for Quick Review, 76(5), 4-9.
- Olweus, D. (2012). Cyberbullying: An overrated phenomenon?. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 9(5), 520-538.
Once again, I am amazed about the level of community that has been developed in this class- which speaks to the community building process that we are working on! I really love watching how engaged students are in their discussions and the level of questions that have been brought to the literature circles each week. I also am enjoying participating in the activities that are chosen by the community co-creator groups each week– it is a real joy to be in a facilitating position now.
Here are the activities:
Opening Circle: Norming & Animal selection
We needed to review circle norms this week as there has been an increase in side conversations (a symptom of comfort as a group?). I felt it really had an impact on the listening and circle go-round that focused on the question: If you were an animal, what would you be? This was such a fun question and the variety among the class and the reasons for the selection were so interesting. There is a lot of potential to expand on this question- to group animals, discuss differences and how that may play out in a collaborative setting, etc.
Literature Circles: cyberbullying
It is clear that students are getting to the point where they are comfortable debating with each other. Since this is such a short course (10 weeks) I decided I would assign groups early, do a lot of inclusion activities and keep the groups together throughout the course rather than make other groups. Of course, in a classroom I would alternate between different groupings and individual work- but we need to make choices.
Here are some of the key issues that were raised:
- What language do students use- NoHomophobes.com site- actionable option- power of words.
- How do we relate to students?- difference in social media and is this gender specific? Different formats?
- Should we ban cyberbullying? How do we police online? How is this possible?
- Is safety and security greater than freedom of speech?
- Is cyberbullying as detrimental as physical bullying?
- How can we teach parents to use social media properly (counter-intuitive)?
- Are parents accountable- cyberbullying and accessibility?
- Can we use restorative practices work online?- foundation in culture
- Need to make anti-bullying efforts related to students (not related to their actions)
- Digital tattoos vs right to be forgotten?
- Do teachers have the responsibility of monitoring cyber action outside the classroom?
- Who is bullied? Multiple means for same person?
- Is poor self-esteem a result rather than cause of bullying?
- How do we involve community (parents)?
- In what ways can we use technology to address the issue of cyberbullying and cyber safety?
Energizer: Balloon Activity
Each person has a balloon tied around their ankle and must walk around to pop someone else’s balloon by stomping on it. A variation could be that there are 4 teams (4 different coloured balloons) and once only one colour of balloons are left, that team wins. http://www.funretrospectives.com/the-balloon-battle/
Fishbowl Activity: Problem-Solving
I have discussed this in another post- see here. I really like the fishbowl for problem-solving or generating ideas/modelling group discussions. I am not sure i would use this for serious issues…. Know your class and it is all about relationships.
FISHBOWL- a great strategy to do decision making. While in a full circle, we had a participant share a concern to the group. There was a seat opposite the student where participants from the outside circle could jump in, sit and share a suggestion and then return to the outer circle. There are many variations- check out Student Fishbowl or Teaching Strategy
Closing Circle: Red/Yellow/Green- Traffic lights
I really liked this reflection! Students were each given 3 different colour circles and reflected on the question: How comfortable are you with dealing with bullying issues in our next practicum? We did a stand up and declare yourself (random times stand and share response). This allowed students to pass if they wanted and also to make a public declaration. There was a great variety to the answers and I can see this as very effective in the classroom setting.
Check for understanding- post on desks and have students move erasers to where they feel they are while working through problems; post by door and have students touch colour on way out
Self-regulation- identify where they are in emotion & strategies to improve
2 more weeks…..
Posted: March 5th, 2015 in Creating Healthy, Safe and Supportive Learning Environments | No Comments »
No easy themes this week!
We had an incredible opportunity to witness Megan Carty‘s (Cart Before the Horse Theatre) presentation of Joan McLeod’s Shape of a Girl. See our article in the University of Ottawa Gazette. The Shape of a Girl is a powerful one-woman show that was inspired by the Reena Virk story. Megan brought along 3 of her chorus members, all students at Canterbury High School and this brought an excellent dimension to the story- especially making for such an insightful talk-back session. It really reminded me how important it is to have students share their experiences with future educators- they provide such an important dimension.
Here is a great link to a Shape of a Girl unit plan for teachers working with this production from Theatre for Young People (Green Thumb theatre).
We had a lot to digest after this production in our literature circles and I, of course, through in another challenging theme- the role of race and homophobia in bullying. I can’t believe how it always feels like I just don’t have enough time in these classes. So much to unpack.
The readings that anchored the class were the following:
- MacLeod, J. (2002). The shape of a girl. Talonbooks.
- Byers, M. (2010). The Stuff of Legend: T/Selling the Story of Reena Virk. Canadian Ethnic Studies, 41(3), 27-48.
- Jiwani, Y. (1999). Erasing race: the story of Reena Virk. Canadian Woman Studies, 19(3), 178-184.
- Walton, G. (2004). Bullying and homophobia in Canadian schools: The politics of policies, programs, and educational leadership. Journal of gay & lesbian issues in education, 1(4), 23-36.
- “Homophobia: It’s getting better” (Mar. 3, 2012) The Economist.
- Supplemental Resources:
The class activities were the following:
Opening Circle- Student led
SPIDER WEB. Using the biggest ball of yarn I have ever seen, we made a circle outline and then tossed the ball across the circle after answering the question “Who did you connect/reconnect with over the long weekend?” It was a great way to check in with each other after 2 weeks with no class. It was really nice to see where people were at and the headspace we were in.
I like using this in class to embed content- vocabulary, story building, what do you remember about this unit, etc.
Inclusion Activity: 2 Truths and a Lie
One of my favourites. Each student comes up with 2 true statements and a lie and shares with the group (or small groups in our case). As a group we are to try to guess the ‘lie’. Once again, although it is important to reconnect as a large community- we also needed to take some time to reconnect in our small groups before we dove into these thorny issues.
Literature Circles: Week 4
It is so amazing to see people so engaged. I really wish I was able to jump into the conversations- and normally would in my classroom- but want to respect the discussion as I know I have a tendency to take over discussions. This happened in the feedback session as I really wanted to share my own opinions. This is probably where I am having the most difficulty in the facilitation role– how to balance my own input and highlighting of key issues. I find it so interesting to see the level of engagement in the small groups and how quickly I lose people when we start the class discussions. Working from the social-constructivist framework (or at least that is where my head is at during these comps exams) I know my goal is learning and I am struggling to see how I can enhance my delivery to have that conversation. I am certainly enjoying the use of the reflection journal as a main source.
Discussion around the themes
Many excellent points were raised in the lit circles- here are a few of the points:
- How can some of these difficult issues be brought into the curriculum/content- sexuality, gender, race, cultural norms?
- The power of language and the use of homophobic slurs- how can we address this as teachers?
- What is happening in the Catholic schools? How are they responding to Bill 13 and the new sex.ed curriculum?
- How do we handle parent complaints- topics addressed in class, school or curriculum?
- What if your beliefs do not match with your school culture?
- Should there be a law to make bullying illegal? What is the effectiveness? What does it teach?
- What is the role of the media in bullying?- thinking about the Reena Virk case
- How do we unpack bullying as a relationship problem and a social behaviour? How do we teach/model healthy social interactions?
- How do we teach beyond the binary- race, culture, sexuality, gender? What is the role of heteronormativity, etc?
- Is homophobia really getting better (see required reading)- are students really beyond this issue as they sometimes say or are we making assumptions?
Energizer- The Human Knot
This is such a fun activity, and we really did a great job of knotting that there was no getting out. This was a first for me. We suspect it was because we all crossed hands- but really there was no way of movement. Our group also had the difficulty of not talking. In the end, we had to surrender to defeat- but it certainly made us more comfortable in each others’ space. The debrief was around the issue of communication and the ‘knotty’ situation of bullying.
Closing Circle- Values we hold dear
We were asked to write 5 values that we hold dear in ourselves onto 5 cue cards. Once completed, we paired up and labelled ourselves A and B. From here, we made inside/outside circles and had to choose one value to discard (prioritizing). We would then share our rationale with our partner. Once done, the circles would move (different circles moved each time) We went through this process until we were left with one final quality that we held most dear. These words and the rationale for why this is important as an educator was shared in a final community circle. It was powerful to see these qualities and something to keep in mind as we travel through the school system as teachers. In the interest of full disclosure, I chose integrity…something I struggle to enact daily. Luckily, I have a lot of role models to keep me in line.
Until next time…off to continue my studies.
Posted: February 24th, 2015 in Creating Healthy, Safe and Supportive Learning Environments | No Comments »
“Where are we going? How are we going? Where to next?”
Instead of teaching my Monday class, I had an opportunity to join many of my colleagues from the Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) as we invaded Laval, Quebec. There was quite a number of us heading to the Visible Learning Plus Conference (Dr. John Hattie) hosted by the LCEEQ (Leadership Committee for English Education in Quebec). The description we were given was: “Visible Learningplus is a professional development program for teachers that explores how evidence can be used to create innovation in the learning environment. Their work is focused on John Hattie’s research and the principles of Visible Learning and visible teaching. This outstanding research involved millions of students and represents the largest ever evidence-based research into what actually works best in schools to improve learning…” I couldn’t wait.
I have had the privilege to attend (and even present at) a few of the LCEEQ’s earlier conferences- back when it was called IDC (Implementation Design Committee)- and have always been so impressed by the high quality of the presentations and the engagement of those in attendance. This year our numbers reached almost 1000- it felt a bit like being at a rock concert as I know I wasn’t the only one who was eager to see the ‘real’ John Hattie in action. It was an amazing experience and I loved how I was able to connect with a bunch of colleagues from various parts of my life (Accompaniment with Dr. Avril Aitken, English Language Arts Committee, Ministry initiatives, school board, mentors and teachers). After feeling a bit like a fish out of water in the PhD world, this felt a bit like coming home to so many friendly faces.
Our school board has been playing with Visible Learning for the past few years- in particular, the staff at D’Arcy McGee and Symmes JHS, under the direction of George Singfield and his team, have been doing some really interesting work. I have heard staff saying they are inspired by this initiative and excited about the work they are doing. They also are seeing results. Having once taught and been V-P at those schools, I was invited to join the school’s PD training on Visible Learning this year brilliantly facilitated by my mentor Ainsley Rose. It blew my mind. The potential impact is so incredible on student learning and this conference was a fabulous way for me to get a different perspective and dig a little deeper.
Dr. John Hattie delivered the key note presentation titled Visible Learning and the Science of How we Learn. He did not disappoint. I loved hearing about his vision and how he is thinking about education today. It can be summed up in the guiding principle of Visible Learning- when teachers see learning through the eyes of their students and students see themselves as their own teachers.
There were so many things that stood out for me, but I will target a few of the gems:
– Can we identify the excellence around us? This is really at the heart of visible learning- and developing assessment capable learners. It is about examining what we are doing well and building on it. The motto of the conference and Hattie’s work is “Know thy impact“- we need to really understand what we are doing as teachers and how this impacts student learning. We need to build trust and understand where excellence is. We need to ask impact questions:
- What does it mean to be good at _________?
- What is the magnitude of that impact?
- How pervasive is this impact? Is everyone getting it in the class????
– Kids come to school to watch teachers work. As Hattie points out, much (he says 45%- but I don’t know where that number comes from) of what we are teaching students, they already know. We need to move past surface learning to deep learning. This conference gave us many ways to engage in this area.
– The importance of student-teacher & peer-peer relationships for effective feedback. “The purpose of trust is to wallow in errors”. I believe so much in the affective domain- the relationships and trust; Hattie’s work really seems to reinforce this.
– The pit is not something to be afraid of- we need to encourage students to embrace feeling like they don’t know what to do and own the various learning strategies that will help them get out of the pit.
– Kids need to set expectations for themselves that exceed their expectations- and ours. We need to be clear about our learning intentions for EVERY lesson and use success criteria as a means for students to gauge their own learning. It is about helping students see themselves as their own teachers and knowing what to do when they don’t know what to do.
– The best teachers turn you onto their passion for the subject and see something in us that we didn’t see in ourselves. We have an enormous impact on students and can truly make a difference in their lives.
– Teacher observations– this is clearly an area of interest for me and Hattie is very critical of teacher evaluations and observations. He said a lot that I am still chewing on, but a couple of things stood out: 1) observations only highlight how you should teach like me- the focus is not on the learning. 2) accountability has a downside. We need to identify the excellence- this should be our focus.
– introduction of the SOLO taxonomy (Biggs & Collins, 1982) which stands for Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome and “is a means of classifying learning outcomes in terms of their complexity, enabling us to assess students’ work in terms of its quality not of how many bits of this and of that they got right.” Check out Biggs’s website on SOLO Taxonomy.
In terms of taxonomies, Hattie also gave a pretty damning account of Bloom’s (even the revised version!)…something that I will have to look into further.
At the start of his presentation, Hattie addressed and dismissed some of the criticism he has received. This is an area I want to look more into, but to my (novice) understanding, he has been questioned on the numbers & effect size work and for not delving into the impact on pupils of social factors such as home life and poverty. As Hattie points out, there has been a lot of misreading of his work and there is danger of an oversimplified view of the research leading used to push policy initiatives that are not in the best interest of students, teachers and communities. I also wonder about the theoretical framework that Hattie works from (and the research studies he uses) and how that may be a source of tension with some critics. I know there is no magic bullet and this isn’t the holy grail (as it has been called), but I find this has been a great place to start important professional discussions. I also am pretty impressed by what is happening in some of these schools- it may be time for a visit to New Zealand to Stonesfield School.
After the keynote, we had 4 break-out sessions delivered by excellent facilitators that gave us greater insight into some of the key areas of Visible Learning.
1) Instructional Strategies for Metacognition- Jenni Donohoo
“Increasing teachers’ own metacognitive awareness of their cognitive processes is an important first step in preparing them to increase student awareness” (Linda Baker, p.421 in the International Guide of Student Achievement)
2) Student Voice- Julie Smith–
“No one has a bigger stake in teaching effectiveness than students. Nor are there any better experts on how teaching is experienced by its intended beneficiaries. But only recently have many policymakers and practitioners come to recognize that-when asked th right questions, in the right ways-students can be an important source of information on the quality of teaching and the learning environment in individual classrooms”
3) Using Data to Make Learning Visible- Ainsley Rose
Teachers and leaders believe that their fundamental task is to evaluate the effect of their teaching on students’ learning and achievement. By seeking evidence to inform their teaching and practice, teachers and leaders are also asking, “Where am I going?” “How am I doing?” and “Where to next?”
4) Feedback That Makes Learning Visible- Peter DeWitt
“The art is to provide the right form of feedback at, or just above, the level where the student is working…”
Some other standouts for me:
– “When you put the child together first, the rest of the world follows”
– We are working in a DRIP state- Data-Rich, Information-Poor.
– It is not about the data, but the story (conversation) around the data
Finally, Ainsley Rose did the closer and, as usual, he was incredible. I felt inspired, I felt lucky to have chosen this profession and I felt like we were on the right path. We can make a difference; it is all about “Gentle pressure- persistently applied”.
This is where I am wallowing now and really liked Ainsley’s Questions to consider…
- How do you currently make the learning goals clear for your students?
- How do you now they are clear?
- What might you now do differently?
What Really Works in Special and Inclusive Education– David Mitchell
Flipped Leadership Doesn’t Mean Reinventing the Wheel– Peter M. DeWitt
The Hidden Lives of Learners– Graham Nuthall
Collaborative Inquiry for Educators: A Facilitator’s Guide to School Improvement– Jenni Donohoo
Habits of mind: Arthur L. Costa
Start with Why: Simon Sinek: Check out his website and TedTalk
Posted: February 13th, 2015 in Professional Development Training, Visible Learning | No Comments »
I am in my second week of a newly formed writing group. My supervisor (Dr. Ruth Kane) is incredible and has asked me to join a group of inspiring women to focus on our professional writing. This is a major area of weakness for me. It is not that I don’t enjoy writing; I just haven’t published much (yet!) outside of my professional life as an educator. There really is a big difference between academic writing and the type of writing I have been doing. This writing group is a great opportunity for me to focus more on the academic side and learn some of the tricks of the trade. It is also a great place for me to connect with recent PhD graduates and outstanding professors. Most of these women have also managed to balance this academic life with children and thus, serve as great role models.
The book that Dr. Kane has chosen to focus our work is Wendy Laura Belcher’s “Writing your Journal Article in 12 Weeks- A Guide to Academic Publishing Success”. Guiding me along this journey is the book “Learn to Write Badly” by Michael Billig (a required text for Dr. Richard Barwell’s course), which I found to be a great read that highlighted some of my concerns (frustrations) about academic writing.
We are currently working on Week 2- and this post will summarize what struck me from these 2 weeks.
Week 1: Designing Your Plan for Writing
This week really was about getting underneath your feelings about writing and in particular, academic writing. Some of the negative feelings from Belcher’s classes really spoke to me:
- I enjoy revising, but I hate getting that first draft down (for me it feels so permanent and somehow I am always hoping that it would be better- it just doesn’t sound as good as I thought it was in my head).
- I feel like procrastinating whenever I think of how much writing I have to do and how little I have done (I am a massive procrastinator- maybe it is because it delays my disappointment of seeing what I actually put in print- see above).
I also am really feeling the imposter syndrome in this academic world when it comes to academic writing. I want my writing to be useful to educators and, in general, I don’t see that happening with many published articles. This view is echoed by Billig in his discussion of academic language- “One thing has not altered: if students and their teachers try to use simple, clear language, rather than big specialized concepts and phrases, then they will risk appearing as if they were inadequate, untrained and, most importantly, as if they did not belong”(p.63). I want my writing to be clear and simple; I find the most impressive writers are those who convey complex ideas in ways that I can easily understand them. This is one of my goals and luckily I have some great models in this writing group. This will be a great process for me.
- Successful Academic Writers Write… “First and foremost, get writing!”- Samuel Eliot Morison. If we want to get better, we need to get writing. Makes sense…and Belcher encourages setting a plan for writing- daily. It is not about having long chunks of writing time; it is about consistent and daily writing that will help improve our writing and increase those positive feelings. By meeting as a writing group and making our writing social, we will have a better chance to be successful. We have committed to 1 hour of writing for 5 days a week and a meeting once a week as a group. In order to keep me on track, I will keep the following in mind when I feel crunched for time: “those likely to describe themselves as very ‘busy’ or very ‘stressed’ did not produce as much as those who were writing steadily. In other words, you are not too busy to write, you are busy because you do not write. Busy-ness is what you do to explain your not writing”(p.5).
- Persist despite rejection- I think of J.K. Rowling here and many others!
- Pursue your passion- write about what is meaningful to you…”Whatever your pump is, paint it”
- Selecting a text for revision- What have you already written? I am thinking of 2 texts- one that would be very meaningful to me and something that I have been wanting to work on for a long time. The other a research study that would need a lot of revising.
- Choose a writing site- my home office is perfect now that we have rearranged it to have me looking outside rather than at the wall- who knew that was all it would take to get me comfortable!
- Design a writing schedule- trickier- but I am committed to finding that one hour a day.
- Anticipate writing obstacles- these are excellent! A few stood out as most relevant to me- these were Number 5 “I’m going to make writing my number one goal in life” [demands for time and perfection encourage its avoidance], Number 7- “I have to read just one more book” [“Writers who learn to leave holes in manuscripts to be filled later master valuable skills in writing: they learn to proceed amid ambiguity and uncertainty” (Boice)] and Number 28 “I need big blocks of time to write, and my schedule doesn’t allow such blocks” [long stretches are elusive and “people who use only big blocks of time to write are less productive and more unhappy than those who write daily”].
- In the end, I don’t have the luxury of long blocks of time (family and comprehensive exam time!) so I am going to do what I can and remember- “feeling too much guilt is counterproductive”(p.41).
Week 2- Starting Your Article
- Types of academic articles are described as are the weight they each have on a hiring committee- very helpful for a graduate student. Unfortunately, the article I have chosen to pursue doesn’t seem to be among this list.
- Myths about publishable journal articles- what gets published and why. Once again, this is very helpful for a student.
- Ingredients of a good abstract- this is the assignment for the week and the book provides excellent tips and examples. Not only is developing the abstract an important first step for the writer as it focuses your energy to the topic and argument, but according to APA (1994) “a well-prepared abstract can be the most important paragraph in your article”(qtd. on p.54).
- Reread your paper & make a list of revision tasks- this is a big one for me. Not only will I have to cut down the article, I will have to add in newer information and change the narrative focus.
- Draft the abstract & then SHARE. This is where I am right now. I have to draft the abstract and then share it with my writing partner (coordinated by Dr. Kane). This is what makes writing social and will keep me honest (and on track time-wise).
- Read a model article- I have actually already done this and have targeted a journal where I would like to submit my work. I am working backwards from this model to craft my abstract.
- Revise the abstract- keeping my reviewer’s comments in mind.
OK- off to draft that abstract…no procrastination.
Posted: February 8th, 2015 in phd, Writing | No Comments »
The Tribes TLC mission:“to assure the healthy development of every child in the school community so that each has the knowledge, skills & resiliency to be successful in our rapidly changing world.”
This year I had the opportunity to facilitate with my colleague, Julia Horner, a Tribes TLC training at the Western Quebec School Board (WQSB). We first met in late November and again in late January. It was an incredibly energizing experience and I probably learned more than I shared. As a group, we were made up of mostly new teachers to the WQSB- but had a variety of teaching experience (first year to 25 years!). It is so powerful to have such different perspectives and experiences together in one spot. This post is an attempt to sum up some of what happened during these amazing days.
For more information on Tribes TLC, please go to their website: www.tribes.com
I am also very grateful to my supervisor/mentor Dr. Ruth Kane and colleague/mentor Dr. Linda Radford for asking me some challenging questions regarding this training and pointing me to Dragonfly consulting’s aboriginal perspective on tribes- www.dragonflycanada.ca – which definitely resonated with me as I engaged in the training.
It is important to note that the Tribes TLC training is clearly designed and has a strict implementation process. Fidelity to the process is critical and as certified trainers (TOT), we have agreed to follow the guidelines as we were taught. I certainly believe that there is room for an update (the articles & videos would be a great start), yet understand the process is based on research and that there needs to be a protocol to keep it the same as it spreads internationally. I know that there are real concerns about the fact that it is a program with financial ties. As well, although it never claims to ‘own’ the activities/strategies that are used- people can be heard often talking about ‘tribes’ activities and processes that have been around for a long time in the educational, outdoor ed, leadership and NGO world. That said, I am still a strong supporter of the process as it really does give some practical tools for teachers to help make their schools “safe, caring and motivational for all.” We have to start somewhere!
It was a wonderful 4 days with wonderful educators. I think we had the opportunity to make some great bonds that will stay with us throughout our careers. I also hope that we will be making a difference for our students and their classroom experiences. Isn’t what this what it is all about? In the end, I had a blast and was so happy that I agreed to do the training; I hope my colleagues felt the same. Here is a photo of our group (we are missing a few people!):
It was mentioned that it would be so much fun to all work together in a school- a school that would be made up of these qualities:
How great would that be?? At least we can take the first steps in our own classrooms.
I am also attaching the sheets of our strategies- unfortunately, we were unable to get a photo of the first 2 days of training with the page numbers…but I hope that this helps. Thanks everyone!!
As requested, here are a couple of the extras that we added to the training:
– The connection between restorative practices philosophy and the Tribes TLC process. Interesting- they have also made this connection. See the article on Tribes and Restorative Practice here.
– FISHBOWL- a great strategy to do decision making. While in a full circle, we had a participant share a concern to the group. There was a seat opposite the student where participants from the outside circle could jump in, sit and share a suggestion and then return to the outer circle. There are many variations- check out Student Fishbowl or Teaching Strategy
– Dr. Angela Duckworth and Grit- see the TEDtalk here. This led to an interesting discussion!
– To support the discussion around Brain Compatible Learning, we read sections from this book that I use with my own children often:
– On the final day, each group was asked to choose and lead an energizer- they were selected from the Energizer box and we had a lot of fun with all of them!
– We shared some of our favourite reading to get us thinking/talking. Here are some of the titles:
Posted: February 4th, 2015 in Professional Development Training, Tribes | No Comments »
Another great week- it is actually quite difficult to imagine that this community has only known each other for 5 weeks. The level of trust and sharing is remarkable- a testament to the students who have chosen this class, but also to some conscious decisions on how to build community among us. Trust the process…I do.
Before I get started on the recap, I have noticed how I keep returning in class to the fact that this is an elective course. As such, I suspect the students chose the class titled- creating healthy, safe and supportive learning environments- because they want to do this in their professional practice. We seem to share a similar philosophy and there is very little overt resistance to the ideas being thought through. I like that students are questioning the readings and the discussion points and thinking about the practical application of some of the ideas to build community. Would this be the case if it were a mandatory class? I wonder about the process and how much work it may take to develop this level of community if more resistance were present. This would definitely reflect a typical staff- a mix of different perspectives and approaches to discipline, community and curriculum. It would certainly be a challenge for the instructor and one that I think would be interesting to observe, reflect upon and learn from. That said, I wouldn’t change how things are this year- what a wonderful group of people that I get to work with and learn from every Monday. Here is what we did this week:
- Olweus, D. (2003). A profile of bullying at school. Educational leadership, 60(6), 12-17.
- Walton, G. (2011). Spinning our wheels: reconceptualizing bullying beyond behaviour-focused approaches. Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education, 32(1), 131-144.
- Olweus, D., & Limber, S. P. (2010). Bullying in school: Evaluation and dissemination of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 80(1), 124-134.
Learning Intention: Students will explore the work of Olweus..So that we can further build our understanding around anti-bullying programs.
Success Criteria: Literature circles- You will know you understand when you can discuss the successes and shortcomings of these programs.
Opening Circle: Something Good in Your World
Using my globe squishy ball, we did a circle go-round sharing something good in our lives. This is a great circle activity to remind students to focus on the positive in their lives- especially in times of tension/stress. I know that we are half-way through the term and likely work is starting to pile up. As such, it is important to remember what/who makes you happy and feel supported in times of struggle.
Circle Activity (student led): What is your ‘superhero’ word to combat bullying?
The co-community leaders did a great job focusing on what we bring to the classroom as teachers or ‘superheroes’ in order to address bullying. We were each given a coloured circle and were asked to write one word that would represent this superhero power to combat bullying. There were a variety of words shared and reasons behind that choice as we did our circle go-round- the group compiled all the words into this image:
Four Corners: Dove, Fox, Lion & Deer
In the 4 corners of our classroom, I posted the pictures of the above animals. I then asked students to think about the following questions- one at a time. They would go and stand by the animal that best represents them for the first question, share with those who chose the same animal and then choose a spokesperson to share their thoughts with the class. It is always so interesting to hear the different interpretations and reasons for selecting their animal. Of course, there is no ‘right’ animal and no ‘better’ choice. I find these activities continue to provide insight into how we may respond as a group to conflict in a classroom/home.
1. Which animal represents you best when you are in or around conflict at work/school?
2. Which animal represents you best when you are in or around conflict at home?
VARIATIONS: You can use any image such as scenery (mountains, river, meadow, ocean) or even words (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree). You can provide students with an opportunity to move once they have chosen their corner or update their reason for selecting this corner. Embedding content into the questions makes this strategy more powerful.
Here is one for Mathematics: OAME; History: Facing History; a description of the activity: Humber
Energizer: The Community Handshake
As a class, we were asked to take our relationship to another level and develop a class handshake. In pairs, we worked to develop a simple handshake that we could use when greeting one another outside the hall- building a sense of belonging to something unique. After the pairs had finished creating their handshake, we joined another pair and shared our handshakes. Then, as a group of 4, we had to select (or combine) one handshake to share with another quad. This went on until we selected one handshake to represent the class– in the end we did a bit of a combo- Let’s see who remembers it in 2 weeks’ time… wiggle, wiggle (snapping)/ hand slap, hand slap/ up high, down low/ and butterfly wings moving up to an ‘aaahhhh’ sound. Am I right?
This is one of my favourite activities to further build inclusion and influence. As a teacher, I always share my life map first and then ask students to spend some time putting down the key markers of their life. It is not about being artistic or creative- it is about sharing key events with your small community. Even if you write something on your map, you do not have to share it with the group. I find this is so powerful to provide further opportunity to learn a little more about what each group members bring to the community. I chose to do this at the half-way point because I felt we had developed our relationships enough to move deeper in our sharing. Here is my life map that I shared with the class- please excuse the crude drawings:
Literature Circles: Since this is the first time I have done this in an adult learning setting, I am very pleased with the level of thinking and discussion that is happening. It remains hard for me to stay out of the discussions, but I am enjoying reading the notes, the probing questions and the reflections on the process. It has become clear that students need more time in their lit. circles and we have added music playing in the background. The feedback is crucial to making this process meaningful to the class. The area I continue to struggle with is trying to balance taking up their group discussions and not having the time to open it up to full group discussion and/or my own response to the readings. Have to still iron this part out.
Closing Circle: Trust circle lap sit
We had an opportunity to do a simple trust game when Micheal Montgomery came to visit on week 2– This week, the group challenged us to move our trust into another level. We were to form a tight circle and sit down together- resting on each others’ laps. To move it into another level, we were asked to start moving around circle together. Here is a posting of another group doing this team-building activity: Trust circle sit
It was important that the group provided the opportunity for group members to pass on this activity and it was really great to see that we were able to accomplish it (it is a big class!) although only got a few steps in….
See you in 2 weeks…
Posted: February 4th, 2015 in Creating Healthy, Professional Development Training, Safe and Supportive Learning Environments | No Comments »
It is hard to believe that we are in week 4! On one hand, it feels like time is flying by (almost at the half-way mark!). On the other, it is hard to imagine that we were mostly strangers only 4 classes ago when you look at the community and the sharing that has been happening. Trust the process, indeed.
Today’s topic was about Bullying- examining the successes and challenges of various programs. We used the following articles as anchors this week:
- Swearer, S. M., Espelage, D. L., Vaillancourt, T., & Hymel, S. (2010). What can be done about school bullying? Linking research to educational practice. Educational Researcher, 39(1), 38-47.
- Guerra, N. G., Williamson, M.A., & Sadek, S. (2012). Youth perspectives on bullying in adolescence. The Prevention Researcher, 19(3), 14-16.
- Carrera, M. V., DePalma, R., &Lameiras, M. (2011). Toward a more comprehensive understanding of bullying in school settings. Educational Psychology Review, 23(4) 479-499.
- Walton, G. (2005). “Bullying widespread”: A critical analysis of research and public discourse on bullying. Journal of School Violence, 4(1), 91-118.
This was also week 2 of our students taking the reins as community co-creators (shout out to Kristin Reimer for these titles!). Once again, they were amazing & I will try to do their work justice below. Here is the run-down:
Learning Intention: Students will explore the question of bullying. So that we can frame our responses around the subject
Success Criteria: Literature circles- You will know you understand when you can highlight the key issues from the readings and state your own position/provide critique.
Opening Circle (student-run):
We started with slam-poetry To This Day Project. We were then asked if we wanted to share our own stories of a time when we were bullied. Although this was originally supposed to be an online survey, it turned into a circle sharing. I felt honoured to listen and share in this experience.
Put Yourself on the Line:
In response to our work last class, I wanted to address what was happening at Dalhousie (trying to get the right pronunciation in my head!) University in the Dentistry Faculty. I showed a short clip of the University President announcing the suspension of the 13 male students and the University’s use of restorative justice from the CBC. From here, I asked students to weigh on whether they thought the use of restorative justice was appropriate for this case by putting themselves on the line- literally standing along an imaginary line where one end represented ‘strongly agree’ and the other ‘strongly disagree’. Even though we had many students clumped around the middle range, there was some disparity.
From here, I did a Fold the Line, where one end snaked around until the strongly agree and strongly disagree were across from one another and each student along the line had an opposing partner. To clarify- this was not to be a debate. This was a discussion- a chance to hear another person’s opinion and reasoning. As such, I used the Paraphrase Passport strategy- student A (one side) would speak for a minute, then student B would paraphrase what they heard. Then roles would reverse. There was no chance to argue positions.
Once back in the circle we discussed the challenge of listening to someone’s position without jumping in, paraphrasing others’ positions and deeply listening (especially when it is very noisy). This is a great activity to share different opinions (you would eventually keep rotating down the line to get a multitude of positions) and learn to paraphrase/listen. It also can sometimes be enlightening to hear another person’s argument and see how that may impact your own position.
Many students shared that they didn’t hold a position as they did not have all the facts in this matter; something that doesn’t seem to be a problem for many commentators to various websites. I do respect the various positions that have been shared in the news and it is certainly a complicated, interesting & messy situation. I look forward to watching this unfold. For more information, check out:
Restorative Justice- Dalhousie University site
Emma Teitel: When restorative justice isn’t enough (Maclean’s)
The Avalon Sexual Assault Centre’s letter to the Dalhousie President
“Dalhousie Students condemn restorative practice in Facebook scandal” (Jan 6. CBC)
Literature Circle #2:
The topics of our lit. circles were the readings and from my facilitator stand-point- there was some excellent discussion going on. I find it quite amazing that I have absolutely nothing to do at this point- I am really not needed at all! The points shared by the groups were excellent and really cut to the heart of the readings and some of the issues raised around ‘bullying programs’ and the missing discussion on context- impact of social ecological considerations.
Energizer: Who is the leader?
Sitting in a circle, one participant is chosen to leave the room (or cover their eyes). A member of the circle is chosen to be the leader. They begin my making a movement/sound (clapping hands). All participants copy the movement. The object is for the person in the middle to figure out who is the leader. They have 3 guesses. [Amazingly- each centre person was able to spot the leader- not usual for this energizer!]
Guest Presenter: George Singfield, Principal of Symmes Junior High School & D’Arcy McGee High School (WQSB) School Website
George has been my mentor, administrator, colleague and friend (even drama troupe member!). He shared his personal experience and philosophy with regards to bullying with the class. In particular, he clarified the difference between pillar and program in terms of how a school deals with bullying. He also discussed his view on the various definitions of bullying and shared the various way he and his school are trying to build a culture of kindness, empathy, caring and respect. George shared the ways in which the students are engaged in the process and how, as a school, student voice is fundamental.
This video was created by students for the Not in My School – Pink Tuque launch. So powerful!
This book is on George’s reading list: Student Voice: The Instrument for Change by Russell J. Quaglia and Michael J. Corso.
Students were also introduced to the awesome polling tool that can be easily integrated into their classroom: www.poll everywhere.com
There were lots of questions, lots of stories and I was reminded, once again, about how lucky I have been to have had the chance to work in a school with George as my principal, with colleagues so dedicated and inspiring- and students that make Symmes and D’Arcy such fabulous schools.
Closing Circle: (student led)
In order to shift the energy to end on a more positive note, we had a student (a certified yoga instructor) lead us through a few breathing and stretching positions (nothing too strenuous!) and it is amazing what this can do to the mood. There are lots of great resources to help build mindfulness in the classroom (60 second breathing). We then enjoyed some up-beat music and formed inner/outer circles with blank papers taped to our backs and had the chance to write a compliment on the backs of 5 of our community members. I didn’t have a chance to read mine until I got home and set up my computer, and it was certainly nice to have a little blast of positivity in that particular moment. It was a great way to share some of the positive gifts we bring to our class community.
Looking forward to next week.
Posted: January 27th, 2015 in Creating Healthy, Instructional Intelligence, Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, Tribes | No Comments »
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” MLK
Another week passes and yet I wonder how it is that I can feel pressed for time in a 3 and 1/2 hour block (I am pretty sure this is not echoed by the students who find this an incredibly long day!). Clearly- I need to work on my timing.
Today’s class was the first of our now established structure. Each week, a different group is responsible for the opening & closing circle and our class energizer. This week, the group set a very high bar with their impressive selection, implementation and facilitation.
Like always, I want to begin with my learning intentions and success criteria:
Learning Intention: Students will explore the principles of Restorative Practice…So that we can build an understanding of the framework.
Success Criteria: Literature circles. You will know you understand when you can highlight the key elements and apply to various situations.
Opening Circle: Student-led – SNOWBALL activity.
Description: Each participant has 2 pieces of paper. They are asked a question- in this case, to write one word that describes you. Once finished, they crumple the ball into a tiny snowball and toss it into the bucket (at a target). Each student will then choose one of the ‘snowballs’ to share with the class. These were anonymous. The second question aimed to get a little more personal and we were asked to share something others may not know about us. Again, from the group of snowballs we would share what was written and could acknowledge our own paper by raising our hands if we wanted to. Powerful.
Milling to Music: Strategy
Description: While music plays, students meander (dance?) around a space until the music stops. They find a partner/triad and discuss a question (posted by the teacher). Once the time is up, they thank their partners and continue to circulate as the music plays. Once all questions have been discussed, the teacher can ask for key points from the discussion. This is a great way to get students thinking about the upcoming content of the lesson or review key points from the last lesson. I like to start my questions with something less personal and build on their responses. Today I used the following questions:
1. What do you need when you have been harmed?
2. What do you need when you have done the harm?
3. What do the parents of a child who has been harmed need?
4. What do the parents of the child who has done the harm need?
Literature Circles: Each member of our community has been assigned to a group and a task within their group for the lit. circles. Although our groups are 5 or 6, I am interested to see how this goes since I usually prefer groups of 4/5, but had more students than expected and no more extra days! The roles in the groups are facilitator (responsible for the process and the questions), resources (extra resources), note-taker, presenter (key points), reflection (about the process) and submission (to me).
Readings were based on Chapter 1 & 2 of “The Restorative Practice Handbook” (IIRP.edu)
The level of engagement was great. It is hard to refrain from eavesdropping- but I know my presence would change the dynamic. What was shared was also indicative of the level of conversation. It is a great way to have students discuss the required readings- I am hoping this way everyone can contribute their thoughts/opinions.
Energizer: Student-led. I like my neighbour
Students sit in a circle. There is one less chair than participant. The person without a chair has to stand in the centre of the circle and state, “I like my neighbour who…” and complete the sentence. The emphasis was on getting to know each other a bit better so it was about something they like to do (hobby, sport, etc). If you agree with the statement, you must leave your seat to find another (across the room is preferable). It is a great way for students to get comfortable, get back some energy, challenge personal space, and mix up a circle (who is sitting beside whom) to do a different activity.
Guest Presenter: Ellie Wilkinson (consultant)
My friend, colleague and mentor, Ellie Wilkinson graciously came into the class to share her journey with Restorative Practice. She shared her journey- her involvement with Peaceful Schools International, developing a peaceful schools initiative, and how she came to restorative practices. This is a philosophy or a framework for working with students/peers/family, etc that she comes to naturally, however, stressed that it is not only about the discipline aspect- but about authentic dialogue and proactive relationship building. Ellie reviewed some of the key elements of the readings such as the social discipline window, the restorative practice continuum and the compass of shame.
Ellie stressed the importance of relationships with students, how we need to move from the minds to the hearts of youth and shared her successes and challenges. Ellie’s work has truly made a difference in the school we worked in and it goes to show how one person really can make a difference in the lives of children/youth. She certainly made a difference in my life and I credit her with so much learning and inspiration.
For more detail on restorative practice- see my page on restorative practice (tabs above).
Closing Circle: student-led reflection in partners
Using paper plates with happy words on them, we each found a partner that had the same word- and shared our reflections based on 6 questions provided by the group. I found this a really great chance to dissect/pull out key elements of the lesson and presentation. I enjoyed sharing with my partner a lot. Of course, we ran short on time and the reflection time was cut down- but the group handled it with grace and expertise. Being unflappable and flexible are key attributes for any teacher. Well done!
Posted: January 21st, 2015 in Creating Healthy, Professional Development Training, Safe and Supportive Learning Environments | No Comments »