All Learners: Passions

With great reflection after a professional development opportunity this past weekend, I am constantly left in awe on presenters’ confidence to share about their successes and passions. I was fortunate to travel to Whistler, B.C. to learn and focus on Language and Literacy in French Immersion. One on level, for me, professional development is  learning something from someone else’s success, trials and errors and current practices. One another level, professional development is a celebration of one’s ability to try something a bit different, or new and challenging that others have yet to delve into. On this level, it is also sharing one’s passions and proud discoveries -I love this level of pro-d! I enjoy listening to how and what other educators are trying in their classrooms and what they have learned. Attending pro-d events often leave me feeling inspired, buzzing and ready to try something new or shift my thinking about a topic.

I have to say, that I am a quite enthusiastic about attending  professional development opportunities. This usually looks like occupying my Saturdays and after school/week nights attending various sessions. I love the idea of celebrating each other and learning from one another, especially when it is right here, in our district.

In my classroom learning environment, we focus on celebrating each other’s successes and efforts. We highlight and often discuss our passions, things we do well, what we are learning to do, and different new things we are trying. We celebrate when a learner in our class has a success and we support, through reflection, when they feel that something did not go how they had planned or imagined. We set personal goals each morning through reflection and thoughts of how we can improve ourselves as learners and friends in our community. We follow our passions through inquiry-based learning; we form small student-interests groups and share our research and discoveries with each other.

We are practicing celebrating each other and ourselves in our classroom each day. We are focusing on improving ourselves in our classroom each day. We are highlighting our strengths and sharing knowledge each day. We are building up our confidence through celebrating and sharing. For five year-old children, focusing on and sharing about themselves comes naturally, for adults…. it does not come as easy. When (and why/how?) does this shift happen of feeling great about yourself and proud of your accomplishments, to feeling (and expressing) failure, or that we are not doing enough, or not good enough?

This being said, I do believe there is room for improvement in every situation and in every person, but I also believe that everyone is good at something and that we should feel proud in sharing our accomplishments, failures and successes.  

On our first staff professional development this year, we were prompted to introduce ourselves and share something we were good at. This activity was lengthy, and was like pulling teeth for most of us. We are not used to sharing what we are good at, especially when put on the spot in front of a group. I then did the exact same activity with my kindergarten class on the first full day of school, they were PASSIONATE, EXCITED and RESTLESS to share their passions and what they were good at.  

How can we keep this positive energy and powerful way of celebrating ourselves growing? How can we foster a community that celebrates their members for who they are, what they are doing, and how they are improving?

Starting in our classroom in November, we will be having a ‘Passion Share and Tell’, similar to a Show and Tell time, but more focused on the child sharing something they are passionate about or proud of. This might be in the form of a child bringing in a photograph of them doing something or learning how to do something, or perhaps them telling us orally about a proud moment or a challenging moment; this might look like them bringing in an object they have created, designed or built to share with their friends. Whatever their sharing looks like, we will be listening to them and providing constructive feedback and celebratory comments and questions to them.

We are also working on a grade 4 and 5 leadership group that will be blogging about our school’s projects, learning and successes. Our hopes are to find out about our school community’s passions and efforts by highlight various learners and groups of learners in our building. Celebrating each other’s trials and successes through blogging will be a great way to continue this idea of being passionate about each other and building up the individuals in our school.

With a buddy class, our learners will also be doing a 20-hour project. The children will be budding up with an older student and complete the challenge of learning how to do something new. This might be choosing to learn how to cook a steak, learning how to play an instrument, learning how to create a comic, learning how to play a new sport or game. The topic is up to them to choose, and then together we will support them through the research and trials journey of learning how to do their chosen task. We will work towards celebrating each partnership’s journey and highlighting their successes, trials, errors and discoveries.

With a continual focus on supporting, celebrating and sharing about our successes I hope to inspire learners to continue to possess this confidence and passion for the rest of their lives. 

How do you foster a community that celebrates one another? What do you do in your learning environment to follow student interest? How do you think we can continue to foster the confidence levels that five year old children possess and continue the same type of confidence to adulthood? 


Design Thinking in Education

What do you think: Does Design Thinking have a place in education today? 

Watch my vlog below to learn more about Design Thinking in education, and my personal opinion on it’s part in education today.

I say YES. Design Thinking allows me to picture learners working together to solve meaningful problems that are relevant. Design Thinking is comparable to an Inquiry-Based type approach, where learners are focusing on meaningful and authentic topics and in this case problems. They are working through the problem-solving process, which may be messy, but is an invaluable learning experience for everyone involved.

Visit Stanford Web’s document and implementation trials of Design Thinking in schools for ideas, inspiration and more information.
Stanford Web’s Design Thinking Document

Do you think Design Thinking has a place in education today? 


Our Kids

What do you hope for your child as a learner?
What would you like for your student/child to leave our ed system with?
What kind of person do you hope your child or student to be when they graduate high school? 

These questions were posed to me this summer during the UVIC Kindergarten Institute by Maureen Dockendorf. She asked us to think of our child, a special child to us, or a student and to try and answer the questions.

I swear when Maureen speaks and shares, she gets people cheering, clapping and laughing all talking about the same current education topics we share during staff meetings and professional development opportunities. Maureen has this power to make everyone in the room feel as if they are doing the best job, their best work and providing each child with what they personally need at that time. She raises spirits, inspires others and takes weight off shoulders.  Her audience is almost shouting ‘Amen!’ by the end of her presentation. 

This weekend, I was fortunate to attend EdCamp and listen to George Couros share at three different presentations.

George is also right up there as an inspiration leader, who is positive yet challenges you to think about your practices, decisions and options. He has this way about him that leaves you feeling inspired, sore from laughing and hopeful. By hopeful, I mean hopeful for education. Hopeful that change is all ready happening, and here is what we can do to be part of it. He has this positive twist on building up each other as strong leaders and viewing the positive in others by supporting and learning from them. I love this! 

Not only was I fortunate to hear George share, but I was also pleased to collaborate and share through the Ed Camp discussions with my colleagues from our local districts. The energy, dedication, and inspiration shared within our district is incredible. 

This all got me thinking back to Maureen’s questions. What do we really want our learners to leave our system with? So many discussions took place this weekend, but for me everything kept coming back to one common theme: PASSIONS. Throughout the weekend, the idea of ‘learners following their own passions to create deep, meaningful and engaging learning’ was reoccurring.  This is a huge focus for myself and I recognize how it is a focus for other educators. What I would like to know is: is this also a focus for the families of my learners in Kindergarten? 

Yesterday, I posted on my family learning blog with these types of questions. I am hoping to hear back from some families about their hopes/wishes/focuses for their children, our children.

What types of learners would you like to see after thirteen years in the public ed system? 

George shared this incredible video (please see video below), this speaks to the type of learner I would like to see.