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.


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.

4 thoughts on “Enough with the downtime, time for a challenge…

  1. I’m still smiling!

    For my minor radical two cents worth on how do we teach students to enjoy challenge – let go of your teacher power – hands of the knowledge and learning, guide, and let the students take control of the knowledge and their own learning. And abolish grades!

  2. Errin, glad to hear that your 1 week of holidays turned into a month 😀 As for getting students to enjoy challenge:
    – model it, which is I’m sure what *you* do without even thinking about it!
    – help students to understand that challenges are supposed to be, well, challenging. That means that failure is not only an option, it is very likely. If we acknowledge our failures and how we are learning from them, I think that helps students too. “Gee, I really thought that the new approach I took would work out, but yesterday’s lesson wasn’t very successful. Here’s what I learned from that and this is why we’re going to do things a little differently today”.
    – assign work that is challenging, but accessible to all of your students.
    When I worked in face-to-face setting I found that when I told my students–“This lab activity is challenging, so don’t worry if you don’t find what you’re looking for right away, and if you start to get a little frustrated that’s ok too. When you do find it, it is going to feel so cool!”–it really made a big difference.

    All the best with all of your challenges 🙂

  3. It sounds like it was a great summer! 6+1 compliments Reading Power nicely. Your students are lucky to have you. Happy teaching and learning.

  4. @Cindy – My former art students really owned the classroom, and I’ve been thinking about how to find the happy place for letting the kids have control in a gr. 4/5 setting. Thanks for the input…and I’m still smiling too!

    @Claire – I really like your 2nd and 3rd tips for bringing ‘challenge’ to the students. So much of our culture is about making things ‘easy’, but life is often the opposite. The more I think about this, the important challenge seems to be.

    @Ken – It was a great summer! Glad to hear I picked a resource that will work! That was one of my many questions I need to ask you before school starts!

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