10 Sep 2015

Back to School 2015!

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Mandela quote

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I have no idea how ‘back to school’ always seems to sneak up on me.  This year we had an extra week of summer vacation with labour day coming so late in September- and still I was completely unprepared for the craziness of back to school for my kids and for me.  Luckily we have begun to fall into a bit of a routine…

This year, along with my continued phd studies (hello proposal & ethics!) I am fortunate enough to still be working with the WQSB as a part-time teacher leader supporting mentor-coaches and new teachers.  I will also be teaching one section (Intermediate/Senior) of the University of Ottawa’s teacher education course- Becoming a Teacher:  Inquiry into Practice.   I am very excited to be working as a team in the Urban cohort with inspiring educators and amazing schools.   In particular, I am thrilled to have spent 2 days of Orientation with the whole Urban Ed cohort (around 70 students).  I think we are off to a great start and I know I will learn so much from my colleagues and this new group of pre-service teachers.

Orientation Activities:

  1. Compass Points:  An Exercise in Understanding Preferences in Group Work

My colleagues brought this exercise back from their PD experience in Rhode Island at the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy.  After an introduction to the Urban Cohort, we had pre-service teachers move to the compass point (North/East/South/West) that most closely described their personal style (see directions).  This exercise is similar to the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory (I’m an ENFP) or the Colours personality assessment (I’m blue/orange).  What I found particularly interesting in this exercise was listening to the groups’ responses to the following questions:

  1. What are the strengths of your style? (4 adjectives)
  2. What are the limitations of your style? (4 adjectives)
  3. What style do you find most difficult to work with and why?
  4. What do people from other “directions” or styles need to know about you so you can work together effectively?

Once the response to question 4 was shared by each group, we had the pre-service teachers make new groups of 3 or 4 (trying to have a representative from each compass point if possible).  After briefly introducing themselves (inclusion activity), they were asked to complete the following activity:

2.  Build a Tower, Build a Team activity or the Marshmallow Challenge.

I have done many instant challenges (see and leadership games in the past, yet I have never seen this one in action.  It was a lot of fun to witness what the different groups came up with and how they worked together- knowing they all have different coordinates. As a team of educators, we felt this was an important place to start during orientation since in teacher ed. (and schools, classrooms, etc) there is a big emphasis on group work and cooperative learning.  That said, we all have different styles and the reality is that some of these styles might clash.  If it is important to build community in a cohort or classroom, then we need to find ways to work with and more importantly, value other styles.

Community Circle

Our final activity for the day was to divide into our small class sections and do a quick introductory community circle (name, subject and something about ourselves).  We ended our day with another go-round using the prompt I Wish…I Wonder…I Worry…  After a short time to reflect on these prompts, circle members shared as many or as few of these statements.

Orientation Day 2

We were lucky to be received at Rideau High School to spend the morning in an urban school.  Each year I am inspired by this visit.  This year we were treated to a powerful opening speech by Stephen Sliwa, Superintendent (OCDSB) of Instruction and Business & Learning Technologies.  I was thrilled to hear the emphasis he placed on relationships, caring and health/wellness in education.  Principal Geordie Walker also shared his vision of the importance of connecting with students and the role restorative practice and circles play in building community.  Of course, he is speaking my language so I was beyond thrilled.  We were also given a tour of the school by the administration and link leaders (see    It was so wonderful that the teachers and students opened their classrooms for us to see ‘learning in action’.  I always find the cultural learning lodge a special setting and look forward to learning even more about how to better support First Nations, Metis and Inuit students.  There are so many interesting things happening at Rideau High School (see @RideauSpeaks)…I definitely felt the pull to get back into the classroom and join these teachers and admin in their work to build a strong community as well as teach and learn in an urban school.  I can’t wait to hear what our pre-service teachers thought….








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