27 Mar 2015

Reflection on the final class

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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.

To improve:

– 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.


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