Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I. Hate. Paper.

Yes, a pretty bold statement, but one I think I need to get out.  Yesterday I experienced perhaps the most stressful hour of my math career.  I gave my grade 1/2 students a "paper test". That's right, just as you read, a paper test.  What an epic fail!

Let me back track for a minute. I am a part of a great opportunity within my school to work with a grade level team (me + 2 others, so not a huge team!) to do a student work study work with a focus on mathematics.  We met last week to discuss the vision and path we wanted to take and thus, created a pre-test for students to complete as a starting off point.

Fast-forward to yesterday. I feverishly worked through my lunch hour to prepare the small packages of manipulatives and paper test for each student and then gathered everyone up at the beginning of our usually exciting math class.  Students were excited asking what we were going to learn today until I calmed them down and started my explanation.  I started out with what we were going to be doing today was not going to be something that was going to be marked for their report card and that it was something that was very different than we are used to having.  I pulled out a package with the manipulatives and the paper and immediately there were hands in the air asking 1,000 questions.  I went over each question one by one and I could see some confidence in their eyes still, so there was hope in my heart too.  I was holding onto that hope because I knew that we had done each of the questions in isolation before, but never in this format.  I sent each student away with their package and almost instantaneously everyone's stress levels rose through the roof.  Because it was a pre-test for the work study, I could not give direct explanations as to what I was looking for in each question.  I read and re-read each question what felt like 100 times to try and ease their anxiety of having this paper in front of them. All of this brought be back to my EQAO days, minus the age of the kids.

With a quick glance at "the paper" and their faces when each child handed in their work, I knew I had just destroyed them.  They looked discouraged, defeated, confused and unmotivated.  This crushed me.  I also knew that they could answer each of those questions had I asked for a verbal response or been able to give them a marker and a piece of chart paper.  I felt deflated as a teacher.  What had I put my students through and how can I make it easier for them?

All of this to say, I hate paper.  My students are used to manipulating, drawing, collaborating and discussing their ideas and learning that when I put a piece of paper, better known as the "test" in front of them, they have no clue how to handle it.  I felt so frustrated with their outcomes and sad towards how they felt they did.  I shared these feelings with my principal and she reminded me that it's not a bad thing that they didn't know what to do and that there are some students that had I put the same paper in front of them would have eaten it right up and known exactly what to do because that's all they know.  All they know are worksheets.  All my students know is manipulating, discussing and collaborating.

Today we're going back to our manipulating and active learning.  There won't be another "paper" until the post-test comes up in a month from now.  Until then, I'll be making it up to my students with snap cube & pattern block free time!

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016: One Word Resolution

As many of you know and am assuming have found me via Twitter, I am a self-confessed Twitter addict.  I check several times a day and addmittingly have it open on the second tab on my school computer all day long.  Over the past week or so I have been seeing numerous posts about a one word resolution and how people are resolving to stick to this one word.  It got me thinking...what would be my word.

While studies show about only 8% of people stick with their new year's resolution, some years I have been in that 8% while many other years I have fallen out of it. (Check out this post here as a prime example!)  I am proud to say that I am nearly finished last year's resolution (was preempted due to being pregnant with #TeamOlivier), so I'm considering myself back in the 8%.  Back to this year though...thinking of one word that I could stick to being better at or changing throughout the year and all I could think of was ME.  My resolution is going to be all about ME.

It sounds selfish of sorts I'm sure, but this year I am going to start putting me first more often.  Ever since becoming a mother almost 3 years ago, I haven't been the number one person I worry about.  I moved farther down the list last year when #TeamOlivier was born and now I think I'm in a position to be number 1 again.  I watch as DH has been off with the little ones for almost 7 months now and how he has managed to still put his needs out there while the kids are still fed and played with, the house gets tidied and he manages to get out to do the things he loves.  I figure, why can't I?!

In many of my brain whirls over the last few days I've been thinking what I want to happen by focusing on me.  I want to get back into the pre-baby shape I was in (best shape of my life by the way!); I want to make time to go out with my friends on a regular basis (drinking wine in a trendy restaurant sans kids was amazing!); I want to go for a massage more often (that's why we have benefits right?!); I want to do things with my kids my DH thinks are silly or unimportant, but that will make me feel like a good parent.

All of this to say, I have started the first 3 days off well.  I have been able to workout everyday so far and have taken #TeamAmelie out just the two of us to play in the snow.  Although, I have been unable to put myself first in terms of just letting the kids play so I could get some school work done, I don't regret playing Mr. Potato Head or watching Finding Nemo with them.

Also as a part of my resolution, I want to find me time to do more writing.  There are always a 1000 +1 things swirling in my head, yet I don't get any of them out.  (Thought in my head right now: "Wow, you're ambitious...when per say are you finding all this time?!)

So, here's to 2016 and more of ME. If you had to have a one-word resolution what would it be? Why?

Sunshine & happiness, today & forever!

Stephanie :)

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Spirit of the Season

This year as I think I've mentioned I am at a different school in a very diverse neighbourhood.  I have been apprehensive at times about what is celebrated or recognized and to what extent.  This has been especially at the forefront this past month or so with Christmas.  One thing I knew I wanted to do was to have students write letters to Santa.  I knew I could pull my pedagogical hat on if I was approached as to why I had done this activity, but I knew the excitement with the end result was well worth it.

I found a template off canadapost.ca and got everything ready.  We read "The Jolly Christmas Postman" and modelled our letter writing to preparation.  We sat down as a class and wrote our letters, even adding in a drawing or two.  I had explained to the students that I would drop them in the mail that very afternoon right after school.  I was worried that they wouldn't arrive at the North Pole in time for them to be returned before the holiday break.  We had worked right until the deadline! EEEKKK!

Jump forward to December 15th... the magical envelope had arrived!!!  I was giddy with excitement as I brought the envelope up to our classroom.  I had to find the perfect time to give them the letters...not before a lesson but not too late so that I didn't have to rush them out the door.  There was no perfect time that day.  Amidst practicing for the holiday concert and trying to keep a lid on the excitement, I decided to forgo a new art project and pull out the magical envelope.  At first they didn't know who could be writing us letter, but then it clicked.  SANTA!!!





I made sure to hand out all the letters before letting them open them and had our iPad ready to video their reactions.  I am so glad I captured the moment because it was unbelievable. (I am still trying to figure out how to post the video!)



**Note: Keep in mind 95% of my class does not celebrate Christmas in the commercial or religious sense, so this was a first time experience for them.  This is what made it even more magical!

Needless to say, if they remember nothing from this year except that Santa wrote them back, it won't bother me!



Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and as my students would say Mele Kalikimaka!

Stephanie :)


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

One Act That Changed Everything

I haven't been online a whole lot since school started two and a half weeks ago, but I took some time tonight to try and catch up what was happening on Facebook.  I was checking my "notifications" when it said I had "memories" from past posts or updates I had made from years past. I usually read them and think nothing more about what I felt or was expressing, but tonight one stuck out to me...


On this day 8 years ago I made the decision that would change my life and my family life forever.  I had left the only "professional" job I had ever known, my safe spot, and what I thought at the time was my dream job with the Ottawa 67's.  I remember September 22nd, 2007 like it was yesterday.  I had gone into the office, and was going to bite the bullet.  I walked into the president's office and resigned...one week before the biggest night of the season, but I just had to leave.  I said that I was going to go back to school and see where that lead me.  Inside I was scared, afraid yet relieved.  My dream job was becoming work for me.  I had just recently gotten married and the life style of working for a sports franchise just wasn't what I could do for the rest of my life.  I had met some of the most amazing individuals and friends one could ever ask for. I was involved in so many incredible events that I felt there was nothing more to challenge me.  Going back to school was going to be the challenge I needed.

I registered at the University of Ottawa for the winter semester and started out on a career path that I never thought could be so rewarding.  Over the last 8 years I have met even more incredible people, experienced so many unbelievable opportunities and been challenged professionally and personally beyond my wildest imagination each and every day.

So thank you Facebook, for giving me the opportunity to reflect and be grateful for what the last 8 years has brought me.

Stephanie :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Reflection of The Last 12 hours

***REPOST from June 6th, 2015


I have had a little less than 12 hours to digest the most shocking, devastating news a teacher could ever receive.  Last night a student that would cheerfully attend my classes week after week without missing a beat died.  I am not here to recount last night's events, but to reflect on the last 12 hours and the emotions that have filtered through my brain and house.

As a staff at HLES I am going out on a strong and sturdy limb and saying that we as a staff and community are very close knit.  Our school welcomes just shy of 400 students and over 35 staff members each morning and while we do not all have the same teaching philosophy or styles one things for sure, we care for each and every one of the other members of our school.  Today was a devastating day in learning that one of our grade 8 students passed away.  It was a call that I never imagined receiving on a beautiful Saturday afternoon from one of my administrators.

A colleague had alerted us to an emergency that was unfolding in the school yard last night & wondered if any of us in the community had heard as to what happened, but when I saw the missed called on my cellphone today just after lunch from the school's phone number I knew.  I just knew it couldn't be good.  I looked at the phone for a few seconds and recited the school number in my head to make sure that was really the number I was looking at and then took the courage to listen to the message that was sent.  My heart was racing as I listened and paced up & down the hallway between the front door & my kitchen as I tried to return the call.  Voicemail…and the mailbox was full.  Next, send a text message.  My heart was sinking farther & farther trying to prepare myself for the news on the other end.

I could picture my colleague sitting in his office, trying to be strong & stoic for all of us that he was calling all the while trying to comprehend & understand what went wrong.  I tried to break the ice a little by remarking on the beautiful weather & that I really hoped I didn't need to hear from him today but it was inevitable.  I was crushed…I was in shock…I had so many questions that couldn't be answered…I wanted to help in someway but didn't know how.  We chatted for a few minutes, sharing only sparse & scripted lines that at this point are the only words that can be said.  The conversation ended with "go hug your children extra tight today & everyday".  I cried.  How can this be? How can such an artistic, dedicated, polite, quick whited member of our school community be gone? Why him? How? How come? What can I do to help?

I can only imagine if I have all these questions running through my head, what are his classmates, friends, family and other colleagues might be feeling or asking.

I have sat and questioned, I have researched, I have talked with my closest colleagues over the last 12 hours and we are all at a loss.  Monday is going to come and I will admit it is going to be THE TOUGHEST day I will have ever had as a teacher, but I will be going to school to be with my school community.  It is there that I think I belong.  It is there that I think I need to go and just sit or just listen.  It is there that I will remember this young man who had so many great talents and still wonder.

I have one week left on my maternity leave and I will spend every minute needed loving my 400 day-time children because I know he would be there loving us too if he could.

My God wrap him & his family & friends in love at this time of great need.

I am in shock.

Stephanie

Classroom Clean Out/Up

It's that time of the year again when we realize how much paper we have been hoarding for the last 10 months and what student all of a sudden has months worth of gym clothes stuffed into their locker.

As with the past years, our chief custodian is right on top of things and strips and waxes classroom floors the the days leading up to the end of the year, and again my classroom was done at the beginning of this week.  I find this extremely helpful in making me clean out my room before the final days and forcing the students to take their belongings home.  I am also able to set my classroom back up for the following year saving me time at the end of the summer. However, instead of resetting my classroom I am packing it up in boxes to move to a new school for next year.  I have been declared surplus at my current school due to declining enrolment.  It has been quite the process of applying and interviewing for positions and then landing a new challenge.

As I cleaned out cupboards and filing cabinets, I couldn't help but relate to this article by Elizabeth Moore I read recently about how teachers hoard supplies and resources "just in case".  It has made me really think before loading my boxes if I'm going to use such item or notebook and if not, pass it along.  It never ceases to amaze me how much stuff we actually collect and then typically go buy again because we can't find it in our cupboard or closet.

I am going to be starting fresh at a new school, therefore I will be attempting to only keep what I actually see myself using.  Although I am changing grades (dramatically) I will be selective as to what I "pack" into my cupboards.

Here's to clearer, more organized cupboards!

Sunshine & happiness today & forever!

Stephanie :)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

#TeamAmelie's Reading…sort of!

Just a quick post that I've been wanting to write but haven't had enough words to do a post, but too many to do in a Tweet!  When #TeamAmelie was born (and even before that) I was addimit that any gift she was going to receive from anyone it was to be a book.  I wanted her from a very young age to love looking at books, listening to stories and to be surrounded by literature.  And today I think it's paying off.

I was sitting in our loft this morning trying to balance #TeamOlivier in one hand and check my email in the other when behind me is a little voice reciting her current favourite book: Colours vs Shapes by Mike Boldt.  




We have read this book multiple times a day for the last couple of months and today #TeamAmelie was recounting her own version partially from memory and from looking at the pictures.  She was SOOOO proud of herself when she noticed that I had turned to listen to her.  She immediately wanted me to read her the story so that she could finish the sentences before I could and add in her own expressions.  She makes me laugh every. single. time. we read it.

What book gets read the most often in your house?

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.

Stephanie :)