Connecting HS math dept. with Grade 2’s through twitter

The other day a casual twitter post from Mr. Orr a  HS math teacher at our feeder school got me thinking { what could our grade 2’s do with the a grade 9 problem ? }  The learning and feeling of accomplishment that followed was amazing.  The question was how many sticky notes would it take to cover a cabinet.  The tweet included a picture with the measurements of the cabinet in inches and a single sticky note.  The lesson was surface area and in grade 2 conversion from inches to CM.  The students had a brief discussion about the expectations and then went off with groups to solve the problem, the engagement was great and the different methods the kids used to solve the problem was diverse.  For those students that the task seemed to big Ms. Simpson was able to down size the tasks to finding the number of sticky notes to cover a side.  Some groups did not come close in their solution but through examination of their solution it was evident that they all understood the task and had a grasp of surface area.  This learning was very in the moment as Ms. Simpson did not have surface area on her day plan that day but was flexible as she saw an opportunity to try something different.  The key to teaching in an inquiry based learning environment is flexibility and a willingness to take a risk.  With several back and forth tweets between the gr. 2 students and the Mr. Orr they reviewed, re-thought and re-did the question until they felt they had it solved.  One group came up with a solution that was within 1 sticky in their solution the whole class was very pleased with their results and the school staff was amazed at all of the solutions.  However Mr. Orr pushed the thinking even more by asking why we had 1 more sticky note than the actual solution.  The kids were excited to go back and re-think again they came up with the concept that they had a slight error in their conversion from inches to CM and tweeted Mr. Orr. He responded and said that was a good thought however what about the handles and then sent them a video of them using sticky notes to cover the cabinet.  The kids are very excited to have solved a grade 9 math problem and now they claim they are the smartest grade 2’s especially in math.


1 groups solution

This confidence is what we need to work on especially in the area of math if kids believe that they can solve a complex problem their willingness to persevere will increase dramatically.  Connecting the class with a math specialist provides the opportunity for student and teacher learning.  This level of math expertise is much needed in the elementary panel.  Mr. Orr was able to provide an interactive lesson intended for his HS students and Ms. Simpson was able to adapt as needed for her students.  The ability to use social media to connect  students and teachers in a real and authentic manner is so powerful.

Just another thought and maybe another post;

We need to open the doors of the classroom and P.D. sessions to the whole community.  When we assume that we know what the audience need {staff/students} and who should be involved it often leaves us closed minded and caught in a cycle of limited impact when we look at the big picture.   The value of the lesson or P.D. will be reduced to only those within the room.  This is an example of opening those doors to impact students and teacher learning; it was great learning for our students and a great P.D. opportunity for not only for Ms. Simpson but also for many others.  I have shared this experience both in person and digitally numerous times.  Ms. Simpson has shared it through twitter with a world wide audience.  With each re-tweet the lesson grows and with each teacher who decides to try this or something similar we can impact the greatest number of students and their learning.

The Foundation of Student Centred Education is Common Sense

When I first started in administration I was given some great advice by a former SO; he said always base you decisions on the best interest of the kids and use your common sense.  As I examine the past 8 years I think that the thing that seems to be missing at times in Education is common sense.  I can find numerous example of how we complicate our lives and those of our students from data collection, data driven schools and fighting battles that don’t need to be fought.  I have made it a mission of mine this year to begin to question everything we/I do in education and I am asking my staff to do the same in hopes of bringing back the common sense.  A recent example of this is the question about the hat rule in school and asking why it exists, we have had several blog post recently from our school regarding this rule and the concept {see Mr. Aspinall’s blog}.  I am going to share my revelation about the hat rule and why I started to question the battle over kids wearing hats in school.  Last year my son in grade 12 told me a story of an experience he had at school.  He was standing at his locker first thing in the morning with his books in his arms a coffee in his mouth and a V.P. stopped and told him to give her his hat as he was not allowed to wear it in school, {am sure he had been warned many times}.  At which point he tipped his head and the hat landed in her hands.  As she was about to walk away he said to her Miss you can have my hat but I would be more concerned about the drug bust going on at the back of the building that I just witnessed when I drove in parking lot this morning.  Some may consider this disrespectful I chose to use it as a learning opportunity for myself; we must start to really listen to our students they have strong opinions and can help us lead our classrooms and schools.  Their priorities might be more applicable to a given situation than ours.  I am so proud of how the staff of IC has embraced the concept of student voice and choice and making decisions that are in the best interest of the kids.  An example being; we have recently decided to re-organize our classroom layout in our school and I know it sounds crazy to do it at this point in the year.  Let me first tell you that it was a staff suggestion that then was presented to the rest of the group who pondered it and thought about it and decided all though it would be an inconvenience for them it was in the best interest of the kids.  It really made sense and if it is a good idea why wait?  Common Sense “if it is good for kids let’s do it!”  The next step came so natural for them and thinks it is what I am most proud of; they went back to their kids and asked for their opinions and feedback.  They brainstormed possible issues and solutions and now everyone is busy preparing for the move. There is lots of excitement and talk of new opportunities.  I often find myself sitting and talking to other educators about decisions, conflicts and school directions; at times I am left wondering why they made that choice or what was the foundation for the decision? Then they seem surprised that the outcome of the decision was a disaster.  I can only imagine wondering what the kids would have to say regarding the situation.  If we take a moment to reflect and ask ourselves about “THE Why” I am confident the common sense will return to education and we can avoid many of the negative situations that schools and educators find themselves in.



Why not ask the kids

Why do we make things so complicated in education?  In my last 10 years I have attended and conducted numerous workshops, administration meetings and professional development opportunities with a focus on determining what kids urgent need is.  We analyse countless amounts of data, moderate assignments, talk about what kids need, develop short and long term goals;  develop plans to support learning, put these plans into action and then revisit them after a period of time to assess their value.  I am not saying there is no value in this process however we often miss the most obvious piece of data collection and that is to ask the kids what they think.  This applies to not only academic pursuits but also school wide initiatives {learning spaces, classroom design, school expectations and mission statements} to name a few.  This is a lesson I learned long ago but seemed to have forgot until recently.  Years ago I attended a student led conference for my own child when he was in grade 1 {he is now 20}  we were looking at his portfolio and I asked why he received a level 1 on a math activity on patterning and he said he did not know.  The teacher had over heard this conversation and she came over to explain the expectations, she said they had to create a visual pattern that had 2 attributes and repeated and he had not done this. He then said” but miss my pattern is 2 red triangles, 2 blue squares, 3 orange circles and then I did it again”.  What I realized is his pattern bent around the page like a snake and not left to right.  The look on the teachers face was that of slight embarrassment as she did not realize that he knew what a pattern was and could explain his thinking.  She missed the most crucial part of the assessment process {as many of us do in our desire to get the marking done} to ask the child to explain their thinking.  During a conversation with the teacher after; I explained how I did not see that pattern at first either but by asking my son we could see his thinking.  Sometime the simplest solution is the best; we should not assume that we know what is the WHY or WHAT is best for kids but rather lets start by asking them their thoughts or opinions and then combine that information with our data collection to build a plan.  During those reflective or check back moments of the process make sure to include the kids and together try to develop a deeper understanding of the next steps.


The Joy of the first snow

I just wanted to share a story with everyone about a young lady’s first snow.  She recently moved from a southern US state to our community and had never experienced snow.  She was amazed at what you could do with snow.  She caught it and watched the flake melt, made a snowball and I am sure tasted the flake as it landed on her.  It got me to thinking about student engagement, inquiry and authentic learning.  The passion to explore and learn is within every child we just have to find the things that in captivate and excite them like your first snow.  To quote Darrell from the show Storage Wars it is the “WOW” factor and it is what keeps them coming back.  This is not to say that everything we do can be the wow factor same as everyday it does not snow but we must make an effort to create those special days and events that will captivate kids.  The key is to look at it through the child’s eyes, often when we think of snow as adults we see it as an inconvenience, making for an early mornings shoveling and a long tough drive to work.  However kids look at as a chance to explore, create and have fun! Maybe we need to embrace the kid point of view, we can’t stop the snow so embrace it and enjoy.  Class maybe easier to do what is routine and safe but not nearly as much fun, take a risk and see if you can make it snow in your school!

Balancing Act

During a discussion on Twitter today I was drawn into a conversation by Mr. Aspinall regarding a talk about influencing change.  Valerie @syncsk8r post a question about the challenges of  balancing personal expectations and school expectations for students.  This struck with me about how many teachers feel held back in there desire to make change but for the fear of leadership they are reluctant or they do it quietly behind closed doors.  Waiting to get home to share their thoughts and ideas with their PLN on Twitter.  I have come to understand that change happens as we create a critical mass and convince others to join the environment will change and leadership of change may not start in the office.  I once had a piece of advice from a former SO that I carry with me everyday he said make sure every decision you make is in the best interest of kids and you will always be right.  To those making change happen quietly behind closed doors I ask you to open your doors and speak loudly your students and all students need your voice.  Take a risk and change the world one student at a time.  To those leaders worried about the “what if” I challenge you to also take a risk; allow your staff to make change; if you are unsure of the direction build your team and trust them, learn from them and grow with them, take risks and help kids to develop their love of learning.  George Couros asked at EdcampSWO would your kids come to your class on Saturday? I think that our students would take the leap of faith and yes they would come to school on Saturday because they know it would be worth the investment.  Finally Educational leaders take the opportunity to read George Couros blog post titled 8 Characteristics of the Innovative Leader it just might give you the courage to step out of your comfort zone and discover the great opportunities that are available to us!

Top of the ski jump

Having just spent the last 4 days meeting and talking to many educators at both EdcampSWO and Bit14 I found myself inspired to join the blogging world.  Writing this first post I find myself feeling like the child in the video George Couros shared at EdCamp wondering if I will survive the jump from the 40 meter hill!

My thoughts of the last 4 days are those of amazement about all of the great things being done by educators.  To see so many teachers give up their Saturday during report card season to meet and share was truly amazing.  Hearing all of the talk of changing the pedagogy and not about the device or technology helps to support the conversations at our school.  I was very pleased to have a large contingency of ICRPS teachers and others with ties to ICRPS attending EDcampSWO; together you are making a difference in the lives of kids.

My focus in this blog will be to look at my journey as an administrator and to share thoughts about how we can all make school a place where students come to school excited to learn and lead.  More to come!!!!