Thursday, 23 April 2015

Are We the White Rabbit?

At the time I started this blog five months ago, ELKP was at the other end of the rabbit hole. It was an unfamiliar place, filled with Mad Hatters, unbirthdays, talking chess pieces and playing card roylaty. I wrote about this decision in my first post, Begin Again, and ultimately decided to name my blog Re-Visiting the Rabbit Hole as a result of how I was feeling at the time.

On my first day in the classroom I really was reminded of Alice and how she felt shortly after chasing the White Rabbit into Wonderland: overwhelmed, wondering where in the world she was and what to do next: Video Link 

This TubeChop clip taken from YouTube (Alice in Wonderland Part 1, 1985)

Unlike Alice, I did not have a white rabbit to chase and when I think back to those first few weeks, I was definitely in survival mode - but I had sipped the "drink me" potion and there was no turning back.

As the weeks went by, I started to think that there was not just one white rabbit in ELKP - there were many - fifteen in my classroom - and I chased them ( oh boy did I chase them) - all day long.  Not only did I have the help of my colleagues but also that of my ELKP advisors/coaches - my Cheshire cats - who question, sometimes annoy, but force me to grow (figuratively not literally like Alice) every time we meet. I think this conversation between the Cheshire Cat and Alice sums up the relationship I have with my ELKP coaches perfectly:
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" asked Alice 
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat. 
"I don't much care where ..." said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"... so long as I get somewhere," Alice added.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

As long as we are moving forward - pushing ourselves to learn - we are on the right path.

It was only when sitting down here now to write this blog - reflecting - that I realized that I may have had the conceit wrong all along. In the ELKP classroom maybe it is me - the teacher - who is the White Rabbit.  We spark our students curiosity and get them to chase us through the rabbit hole to a wonderful - nonsensical - place of learning. 

This metaphor may seem imperfect - the White Rabbit characteristically is anxiety-ridden, obsessed with time (especially being late), at times outright rude to Alice and clearly too concerned about serving the Queen in a timely manner. But is it?

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Ever Tried an Edcamp? #edcampham

A few great friends and colleagues of mine (@mrsturcotte and @mst) invited me to joint them to come to my first ever edcamp in Hamilton. I have always wanted to attend an event like this and I have been looking forward to it for some time.

If you have never been to an edcamp, sometimes referred to as an unconference, the premiss is that attendees both generate and participate in sessions on the day of the event. There are no presentations, no presenters, just people who are open and willing to learn from and with others.

It is quite amazing to witness rooms of educators sharing ideas, questions, challenges and ideas. The complete schedule of the day and shared notes taken by attendees are available in this Google doc:   Not being shy, I found myself jumping into discussions and being challenged to consider my opinions (both outwardly and internally). It was refreshing to be questioned, disagreed with and thanked for good discussion. 

Although an edcamp may not suit every learning style, I highly recommend that you try one out. Where else can you find a group of people discussing the challenges of inquiry in a school courtyard on a Saturday morning?

Picture courtesy of  @Dunlop_Sue:
The highlight of the day for me was meeting a high school student 
who, having seen reference to the edcamp on Twitter, asked the organizers if she could attend. Her polite assertiveness was inspiring to me (and I do not think that I was alone). She was courteous and complementary about our efforts to be there - to make education different - and to continue to grow towards a system that would work better. Student voice is so important - and she really made the day more meaningful with her honesty. 

Don't be surprised it there is an edcamp in Niagara within the next year - I've definitely caught the edcamp bug!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

#MakeSchoolDifferent Five Things We Need to Stop Pretending in Education

This afternoon, I came across @fryed's response to this blog challenge. It was not difficult for me to resist adding my own ideas to the mix - 

5 Things We Need To Stop Pretending in Education ...

(1) We need to stop pretending that mental health is really a priority whilst publicly funded support for children experiencing mental health crises is near impossible to access in a timely manner (either within or outside of school board environments - wait lists and red tape are often insurmountable). If mental health is truly a priority (and I believe it should be) funding should indicate that it is. There have been many gains in the past few years, but there is much more work to do.

(2) We need to stop pretending that assessment practices can really change effectively in Ontario until the summative report card is altered to highlight learning. This is especially true in the primary division where letter grades do nothing much more than create fixed mindsets in children for who being categorized and labeled seems a life-sentence. Something more inline with BC's checklist-based reports or a combination of checklists and comments just makes sense.

(3) We need to stop pretending that there is equity in the funding formula. Per student funding works only in theory. Every school board community is different as is each school within each board. Even the MOE has demonstrated they recognize the constraints with initiatives to bridge gaps like SaNB (Small and Northern Boards).

(4) To echo @fyed, we need to stop pretending that it is okay that the internet is not accessible to all. Hardware infrastructure is also essential. BYOD is a double-edged sword: it reduces the cost of hardware on boards and schools while increasing inequity within schools, boards and the province.

(5) We need to stop pretending that all curriculum expectations are made equal. Teachers are phenomenal in their abilities to multi-task, integrate and make time for the hundreds of curricular expectations they find themselves responsible for in a given year. We know that Early Literacy and early numeracy are essential for the future success of our students, yet as teachers we are expected to EVALUATE our youngest students by assigning a letter grade to areas like science, social studies, health and physical education. Exposure to all of these areas is important - but if the evaluation of these content areas is taking time away from helping students learn to read - aren't our priorities misplaced?

What are your thoughts on my list of five? Where do you feel we need to stop pretending in education ...?