Enough with the downtime, time for a challenge…

I’m very happy that the one week of holidays I allotted to myself this summerIMG_1647 happily stretched into one month. Proof of this is that on July 18th, I sat down on the couch, tea and book in hand, and realized that I actually felt relaxed. By early August, I had no idea what day of the week it was or what the date was. Sure, I had a dayplanner filled with camping, trips to the beach and other important summer to do’s, but I somehow managed to just blur the days into a succession of fun summer tasks without maintaining a schedule.

It was a great summer vacation, and now it’s time to transition back to reality. Looking back, I did manage to work while forgetting time. I actually did a great deal of reading and thinking to get ready for the challenging year ahead…

I read Ruth Culham’s  6+1 Traits of Writing and her more recent book, Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide for Middle School. The more I think about what I learned from these books, the more ridiculous it seems that anyone would just expect students to be able to write. There is so much to teach them about writing, just like anything else, and I’m excited to focus on writing in my role with the Connected Classroom project.

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I spent a fair bit of time thinking about the upcoming year of study to complete my Masters in Education at Simon Fraser University. Cindy, a teacher who just completed the same MEd a couple of weeks ago, recently posted about how fantastic her experience was. If I was excited before, she increased it tenfold with her post! The first weekend of classes is September 11/12, so once school starts, life is going to get interesting (I’ll try Cindy, really, I will, to keep you updated!). Anytime I feel panic about being a mom, a teacher, AND a grad student, I remind myself that this next year is all about positive stress and challenge and I stubbornly refuse to complain or think negatively about such a wonderful opportunity.

I also managed to spend time doing nothing this summer, and downtime always allows for undirected thinking. What I think about during that blissful downtime often surprises me and this summer was no exception. The main theme that ran through all my thinking this summer, whether I was  reflecting on returning to Intermediate teaching, or planning for the last year of my MEd (or tenting for a week, by myself, with two children, a dog and a 5:45 a.m. wake-up call for hockey camp!) was challenge. Challenge seemed to creep into all my thoughts. I realized I need challenge in my life; I actively seek it out. And I realized I’ve always been that way. I thought I was just an overachiever, but I think now I can define myself as one who actively seeks and needs and enjoys challenge in life.

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All that thinking about challenge left me with these questions – How do we teach that? How do we get students to enjoy challenge?  I’m hoping that theme finds a way to surface in both my Connected Classroom and my MEd research…

All photos by me. Challenge Motivator poster generated by Big Huge Labs.

From One Dream Job to Another…

For the past seven years, I’ve had one of the best jobs a teacher can ever hope to have. I have been teaching art and photography in a small town high school. The art room was well-equipped when I walked in seven years ago IMG_0135and over the years I have managed to steadily increase my supplies and my student numbers. Classroom management has been almost a non-issue as, I would guess, ~80% of behavioural issues disappear the second students walk in the door. My students loved art and enjoyed being in art class. It was a dream job – a thriving program, a room full of resources and a student body that genuinely liked me.

And I left that dream job this week, incredibly, to move on to something even more exciting…

Get Some Juice InStarting in September, I will be an Elementary Connected Classroom (ECC) teacher in a grade 4/5 classroom. It’s always been my goal, from my student teacher days, to teach grade five. I love working with students of all ages, but I particularly enjoy students at the grade five level;  developmentally they are thinking logically but, for the most part, they’re still children. The age of the students and reaching a career goal are, however, only part of what makes this a dream job.

From what I understand, the Connected Classroom project is a great example of  how to use technology to enhance student learning and facilitate teacher collaboration across a school district and between communities. In three separate communities, there is one ‘connected classroom’ equipped with video conferencing equipment, SMARTboards, and 1:1 netbooks for student use. Elluminate software and Moodle platforms are used for teaching and learning. A block of time is scheduled each day for the three classrooms to be connected and actual face-to-face meetings happen several times a year. Teachers collaborate as a team, using all this technology, to bring a group of students together for a shared learning experience unlike anything the district, if not the province or even the country, has ever offered before.

I did have moments of hesitation when I was deciding whether or not to accept the offer and take the job. I love teaching art and photography and my job at the high school has been wonderful. Once I realized IMG_0146that I won’t actually stop teaching art or photography, the hesitation faded away. Art is part of the curriculum I’m expected to teach and I can easily use digital photography to enhance all areas of the curriculum;  all the activities I love teaching can be adapted to fit a whole new group of students.

All the information I’m sharing here is my consolidation of various recent conversations and I know I have a lot to learn before I start in September. I haven’t even met face to face with most of the ECC team yet but I’m absolutely ecstatic to get started! It’s a great opportunity and a fantastic teaching job, not to mention how perfect this situation is for the last year of my Master’s research which I’ll also be starting in September…but that’s another post!

Imagery: Get Some Juice In by Mountainbread on Flickr.com and the other two photos by me.