I Wonder What I Wonder?

I’m a few weeks into the MEd routine now. The familiar life of me as an academic can be described in this way:

  • Read, whenever possible, and if necessary, make it possible to keep up421538389_ad19813ccb_z the self-imposed schedule,
  • Comment and scribble notes all over each article or chapter,
  • Find time to critically analyze the readings and my thoughts on the readings.  The dual accounting strategy Vicki showed has worked well, and I’d like to move that work into this space somehow.
  • Think about where I’m headed. The big picture. Why I’m doing this. The October 25th deadline for a draft proposal is fast approaching. All this reading is leading somewhere. So, I’m working in time to think, mainly because I’m able to afford that luxury at this point in the course and also because I know, from previous graduate coursework, the importance of taking the time to let ideas simmer and see where the wanderings of my mind take me.

167191996_48359529bd_zWhat will my inquiry look like? Or, as I jotted down the other day, I wonder what I wonder?

Hence time to post on possible inquiry topics. This is what I’m wondering about at this point:

  • Creativity. Big topic. Needs to be focused. I wonder about the creative process and how it’s connected to writing. I’ve learned a great deal about creating in the visual arts in recent years – how can I apply that learning to the writing process with intermediate students? How does that question fit into the unique learning environment that is the  Connected Classroom?
  • Collaboration in the field of education. Another big topic. Would probably focus this down to teaching collaboratively with other teachers over geographic space using video conferencing, desktop sharing software, Smartboards, and other technology in the Connected Classrooms. Or…
  • Students learning collaboratively in the moodle learning space. How does posting in a collaborative moodle forum on topics such as current events or online literature circles change the learning?
  • The writing process. Kind of connected to my first bullet above. Could narrow to questions around my teaching of writing in the Connected Classroom environment or to students’ development as writers using the Traits of Writing by Ruth Culham.
  • Student engagement and student/teacher rapport. Really where I thought I’d go with my inquiry from the start and it still surfaces in my head whenever I think about what I could do with the MEd.
  • Being a Connected Classroom teacher. Or, teaching in a ‘Flintstones vs. Jetsons’ teaching environment, as my predecessor called it! The Connected Classroom project is a pretty cool gig. The project even has the attention of the provincial Ministry of Education to the extent that  they’re going to be keeping a close watch on the ground-breaking ways in which the school district is using technology to enhance the learning experiences of the students. So many ways to turn what we’re doing into a question, such as…
  • How can I engage learners across the district through a camera and 70530914_d5e6dd0ef8_zlearners in my classroom at the same time?
  • How do I create/build/maintain student-teacher rapport across the district through a camera and learners in my classroom at the same time?
  • How do I plan lessons, create visuals, communicate content, and teach curricula through a camera and in my own classroom at the same time?

Many, many questions at this point! Too many…I’m only doing one MEd! I’ll probably have to save a few for the PhD I have planned after retirement…

Any comments? Questions about my questions? Which stood out? Which seem to be most ‘alive’? I’d love your feedback…!

Imagery from Flickr:  B is for Books by Jim is Write, Reading by ilmungo, and  Reading by Pensiero.

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.

sfu cropped

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.

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.