Good Math Resource for Parents

What a great week! You have great kids!

Dorling Kindersley Publishing

Last week while I was mindlessly roaming our local Costco store, I came across a book called “Help Your Kids With Math: A unique step-by-step visual guide”. I was curious so I started looking through it to see if it at all applied to grade 7. To my delight, all major outcomes, skills, and processes covered in our grade 7 curriculum can be found in this book, and with great visuals and descriptions!

This would be a great resource for those parents that enjoy helping their child with math, but have some difficulties remembering how to do grade 7 math! I encourage you to check this book out and see what you think. Right now at Costco it is $10.99. Regularly $22.00 at Chapters. I purchased a copy to have in my classroom.

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Subject to Change

Often at this time of year teachers focus on setting expectations, guidelines and procedures in their classrooms. Not to mention, iron out all the little administrative details that come with starting off a new year.

One administrative practice that is often done, is that of transition meetings. A meeting between the previous years teachers, and the student’s current or upcoming teachers. This meeting can take place in June, or in late August prior to the start of the year. This year however, I was not involved in one transition meeting. Let me tell you why I am excited about this fact.

This week I met my new students. 97 individual 12-14 year olds thrust together (with great care) into three very unique and special classroom communities with only one common factor, me.

Because I have had no transition meetings this year, I was able to meet these kids, and get a “real” first impression. I had no thoughts, prejudices, or assumptions leading into our first encounter.

This is more valuable to me than a meeting meant to warn me of upcoming problems, given by a fatigued teacher at the end of a hectic ten month school year.

I understand that certain information, such as IPPs, and other accommodations, must be passed on between colleagues. But I must say, I am so thankful that this year I am able to get to know my students for who they are, not what they were.

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The Big Day!

So here I go. 12 hrs from now I will be standing at my wedding, watching with anticipation as my beautiful bride walks towards me.
Wow, what a trip it has been to get here! 7 years and 8 months to be exact. Funny thing is, I always knew she would be the one. But life sometimes gets in the way of life, if that makes any sense. School, work, long distance. All these things postponed the inevitable. Nevertheless, here I am, or more specifically, here WE are.
WE. I like that.

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Help us grow our Arts Program at G.S. Lakie, VOTE NOW!

Good morning everyone! 

 G.S. Lakie is  up for a $25,000 from the Keg.  We are kindly asking for your support in becoming successful in acquiring this grant.  The grant will be used to support the technical conversion of the G.S. Lakie foyer/theatre to become a center for the arts for the community and summer arts education programming.

Please help us by:

 Visiting the following link:   http://www.thekegthanksamillion.com/en/phase2/projects/show/r/14

Register in the area provided, then confirm your registration and cast your vote for the G.S. Lakie Project

Other ways to help:

 

  • Share the link above on Twitter, Facebook, and with your email links and ask your network to cast a vote
  • Use each and every email account you own, and register multiple times and vote.  Each vote counts!

 

Thank you for your help.  We appreciate your support!

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The Threat of Summer

It is that time of year again, it has officially become spring. Our city has enjoyed its first 3 consecutive 20 degree days in almost 7 months. This is great for those of us who like to get outdoors to do walking, biking, golf, and most importantly barbequing. Yet this year, more specifically this spring, I have found almost no sense of relaxation or relief in the good weather. Alternatively, I have found this time to be the most stressful and tiring of any time all year. I can only explain this to be caused by the threat of summer.

Don’t get me wrong, I am excited about the great weather. I can’t help but feed off of the excitement of my students and colleagues alike. Perhaps, after the uncharacteristically long winter we have had, we feel that the good weather and sunny days are much more deserved. But if you’re like me, you know that May and June can be the busiest time of year.

Summer is great, I love it, but the threat of summer is realizing that before those first days of summer, there is still May and June. May and June seems to “fly” by. As a teacher, looking past these months to summer can be disastrous for your students, and yourself. Just think of all that happens in the next two months; exams, PAT’s, final assignments, track meets, field trips, and the list goes on.

We recently had a staff meeting where a calendar of events was presented for the staff (a common practice at staff meetings). But this time it was different. When looking through our calendar, I realized that there were only 3, yes 3, days in the next two months that there is not some type of activity, retreat, competition, field trip, exam, or more going on in our school.

Now as staff, we can choose to view this one of two ways. The first, is the “what are we doing?! This craziness needs to stop!” point of view, and I’m sure that a few people may subscribe to this. The second view, which I prefer to have, is the “Wow! How amazing is our school, staff, and building that we can provide so many enrichment opportunities for our students!”

Hold on! Just because this is what I think, doesn’t make the next two months any easier.

I teach math, science, and physical education. Three courses that I truly love teaching. In two of these classes, things are great and moving along as they should. However, in one of the three I am beginning to panic. We only have roughly 26 instructional days left, and I feel that I have a lot to cover. Through conversation with many of my colleagues, there seems to be a lot of people in the same situation. This has a tendency to lead to stress, and make everyone a little edgy.

Now, I know that I will get through the required curriculum before the end of the year. My worry is that the students may not be getting the “best” of me in the next two months. I enjoy leaving the learning to the students. By this I mean I prefer to guide the students through learner-directed activities, rather than teach through direct instruction. Yet over the next few crazy weeks, direct instruction it may be. In some situations, direct instruction is an effective way to present material, yet I can not help but feel a little guilty subjecting my students to this method for four more weeks.

I have spent more time in the last several days worrying about how to present material to my class than I have had in the last 3 years (only rivaled by my first year teaching!). I fear that this is beginning to show itself in my class. This morning as a group of students came into our room to visit prior to the bell going, one of them said to me “Mr. Hall, you look exhausted.” You know what, I am exhausted. I’m not tired in the sleepy sense, I am mentally drained. Part of me is battling to keep focused, while another part of me wants to say “give them what they need to know for the test and move on.” I don’t know if it’s just me, but how many of you battle with this at this time of year?

I can’t help but think about the other students in our school. I can see their excitement when I’m on supervision or in the halls. However, I can also see the same “tiredness” that was in my eyes this morning, in the eyes of their teachers. Is this effecting the quality of education that are we providing to these students in the next 4 weeks? I hope not.

At our school we practice the FISH Philosophy. For those unfamiliar with this philosophy, it is based on 4 main ideas: choose your attitude, making their day, be there, and play. I have decided that the only way to battle the threat of summer is to fully commit myself to this philosophy. I hope that in the next two months, I can choose my attitude, be there for my students, make the day of one of my colleagues, and make sure that I am not afraid to include play in my lessons in the next couple weeks. Only then will I begin to release the stresses of spring, and truly enjoy my last two months of the year.

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The power of your peers

We had several guest teachers in our school today. Every day substitute teachers enter our building as guests; witnesses to the work that we do, the kids we care about, and the amazing “stuff” that goes on in our building. I must say that these teachers are invaluable, and we could not do our jobs without them. It was one of these guest teachers that got me thinking today.

Today, as I was beginning my math class, a guest teacher entered our classroom, and took a seat in an empty desk at the back. For one reason or another, I wasn’t phased by this. I would think that in some cases, teachers may feel threatened by the presence of another teacher or colleague in their room, just watching them. “Why are they here?” “What do they want?” are most likely questions that would run through their minds. However, neither of these crept into my brain, perhaps because I was already zoned in on the 33 grade 7’s rushing into my class after their 5 minute break. Once the students got themselves started on the opening problem of the day, I was able to greet the teacher and thank them for coming in.

As the class progressed, something started to happen. The students were engaged (seemingly more than usual), the content was creating discussion, the students were properly using the manipulatives, and everything was running smoothly, way too smoothly. I have to admit, I was excited. To see the students battle through their misunderstandings, and eventually explain in their own words to me why they needed to ‘add the opposite’ when subtracting integers, was great! I would say today’s class was the best of the week, and I don’t think it was an accident.

I think it was because of the guest teacher.

I have to admit, something clicked in my brain when he walked in. It wasn’t a negative thought rather, it was a motivation, a motivation to be “a good teacher”. Personally, I don’t think that this is a terrible thing, the desire to be better because someone is watching. Is this not what I am trying to achieve when I have students create a project, assignment, or a contribution to the class blog? One thing I know about my students is that audience is key. So why to often do teachers feel pressured or intimidated when someone is watching them do their work? Do they feel as though they are being judged? I hope not, and more importantly, hope my students don’t feel this way when they are presenting something in front of me.

It has been brought up on our staff to have more time to get into each other’s classrooms. The desire is to observe, not to judge. There are many of exciting and amazing things happening in our building that I miss out on everyday. I would love to be able to experience those. However there are still those that reply to the suggestion with negative thoughts. I wonder what it is that makes these individuals uncomfortable.

As I reflect on today’s lesson, I believe when the teacher entered I wanted to perform better. I wanted him to see that I was a good teacher, but never once did I feel uncomfortable as though I was being judged. As a result, I feel as though I delivered, and was involved in a great learning experience. I do wonder one thing though, did the students notice? Was there a noticeable difference between today and any other day, or was today status quo, and I just was in a better mood?

I asked the teacher after for some feedback on today’s lesson, and not surprisingly he said that it went really well. Hopefully in the future I will have a chance to experience the type of situation I did today.

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I want to learn. I want to improve. I want to share. My first blog post.

My first post, where will it go from here?

When it comes to education, I am fairly new in my career, merely 4 years in. However, over the last four years I have realized one thing, I don’t know as much as I thought I did, and I don’t mean this sarcastically. I was one of those kids growing up that really didn’t like school. I felt like I had other interests that served me better. It wasn’t until I finished playing basketball and my first degree, that I realized how much I loved to learn. Just the idea that I could improve or get better in something each and everyday excited me.

Unfortunately, something has happened to me in the last year or so, I felt as though I was teaching, but not learning. Day after day was beginning to feel very familiar…I don’t like familiar. I was craving a chance to change, a chance to improve, a chance to excel in something that I loved to do. While I don’t doubt that this is the goal of many educators, sometimes it’s hard to see this passion in others. I began by seeking out colleagues that I felt were like-minded or effective in their profession, and like a leech, I latched on and began seeing what they were doing that made them “good teachers”. The answer was simple, learning. These teachers were committed to learning. Each of them spent time away from the classroom interacting with other educators, whether in person or online, in an attempt to improve their own practices, and as a result, their teaching. These teachers were committed to learning, lifelong learning. That appealed to me, so I began searching out avenues to improve, connect, and learn.

This blog is committed to my lifelong learning. My hope is that through blogging, reflection, and the feedback of others, I may improve my own learning and teaching practices, as well as help others in their like-minded goals.

Why the blog?

I recently attended a professional development session led by George Couros (@gcouros) on web 2.0 in education. George focused his presentation on the uses of web resources in education, most specifically, twitter and blogging. While I am familiar with both of these avenues, I attended the session not to understanding “what” these technologies were, rather I was seeking the “how” these technologies are used. How do I use twitter and blogging effectively in my classroom? How do I use twitter and blogging to optimize my professional development? George gave insight into the “how”, and as a result, I have decided to begin a professional blog. I have had class-based blogs before, but never to communicate with other educators. I have decided to create my own PLN.

I am now familiar with the acronym PLN. From what I understand, it stands for “Professional Learning Network”, or as I have seen in some cases, “Personal Learning Network”. I am still confused on the correct terms associated with PLN. If you know, please feel free to correct me. Regardless of the terminology, I now understand what a PLN is. A PLN is my way of connecting with hundreds, if not thousands of educators all over the world in an attempt to quench my thirst for learning and improvement, and most importantly, a way for me to create the most effective learning environment possible for my students.

I look forward to the journey ahead.

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