April will be another busy month for our community.
Thanks to our ever busy PAC, there will be another Movie Night on Thursday, April 12th at 6:00 p.m. for families. As well, they have organized a 'No Car' and a 'White Out' Day, one to support our environment and the other to support our Winnipeg Jets in their playoff run. This will take place on Tuesday, April 17th! Their Active Living Committee has also organized a Dodgeball Night for families on Thursday, April 26th at 6:00 P.M. We look forward to seeing you out at these events! They have also begun their annual Walk to School Wednesdays, which began today. Once again, their aim is to support physical well-being, while protecting our environment!
Our Grade 3/4 students will be organizing a toiletries drive from April 16th to 27th in support of Siloam Mission. Much like their sock drive for Socktober, they hope to collect many items, like shampoo, soaps, toothbrushes and toothpaste for this organization. We're hoping for another successful campaign for these students, as they integrate their sense of community with their learning in math.
Our Programming Clubs for Grades 6 to 8 and our Construction Club for Grade 2 students will continue this month during the lunch hours on even days of the cycle. As well, our Grade 6 students will be participating once again in the It's All About Me program through the St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation. They will also be attending sessions at Marion School as part of the LRSD Treaty Education initiative.
We are also looking forward to Seniors' Day on Thursday, April 26th, when we will welcome grandparents and family friends to spend some time in our classrooms with our students.
It's going to be another great month at MAG!
What an amazing summer this has been! I hope that your holidays were all that you wished they would be. And now, the school year is about to start up yet again for our community. I cannot believe how quickly this time has flown by. Over the past two weeks, our staff members have been working diligently to get everything in order before our new students arrive next week. Among our returning students, we will see some new faces as we have had a number of new students register at MAG over the summer. As it can be overwhelming to start somewhere new, please welcome these students to their new school when you see them. It will make the world of difference to them.
On that note, we are looking forward to the start-up of another amazing year! Enjoy your last long weekend! We'll see you next week!
We all have those days where we can't wait for the bell at the end of the day to ring. Fortunately, I can honestly say that I have had very few of those days over the course of my career, but I have to admit that the month of December was very challenging for me as I struggled to get over a lovely bout of pneumonia. One day just before the break when I was somewhat on my last leg, however, I had the privilege of chatting with one of my Grade 1 boys and thanks to his insight, this young man passed on one of those life lessons that I will very likely never forget. One particular morning, he seemed to be in such a great mood and as I remarked on that, I asked him what his secret was to having such a fabulous smile so early in the morning. His response was priceless! 'Madame', he said, 'You just need to open up your arms really wide, take in a really deep breath, and then let the whole world fill up your heart with the best kind of happy! You should try it right now!' Now, I can't really do justice to his mannerisms as he was sharing this message with me. Suffice it to say that he was rather emphatic with his gestures. And as emphatic as he was, his reasoning was priceless and he was so very right! Together, we opened up our arms REALLY, REALLY wide, and just as he promised, I took a deep breath and my heart was filled with the best kind of happy. Now that we are in the month of January, my health has resumed, my coursework is behind me and I am finding every reason to follow his very sage advice! Here's hoping that your 2017 brings you the same kind of joy that this young man was kind enough to pass on to me.
I have to say that I am in my own little corner of pedagogical heaven this month with all that is going on around me at MAG. A number of our teachers are currently participating in an online book club of sorts as they work their way through The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent & Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros. Educators from around the world have jumped in feet first to share, discuss, blog and expand their own learning and teaching practices. AND I AM LOVING IT!!!
The purpose behind this team approach is to encourage educators to empower their learners to wonder, to explore – and to become forward-thinking and innovative leaders. And if we want innovative students, we need to be innovative educators who strive to be our personal best (Couros, 2015). This book club supports educators from all corners of the world as they delve deeper into ways in which they can improve their practices and be those innovative and creative leaders.
Now, I have to admit that I am very fortunate to be working with a team of educators who give 110% of themselves when working with our students. And what is especially exciting is that they push themselves to become the best teachers possible. They collaborate to create relevant learning experiences, they support each other and they tap into the strength of their learning community. As I said, this is a pedagogical paradise.
Unfortunately, I don't have the time to be one of those active participants in this online book club as my own course load at the University of Manitoba has eaten away at all of my free time. But that doesn't stop me from learning and questioning my own practices as I read through some very interesting blogs, courtesy of the educators who participate in this learning journey with The Innovator's Mindset (#IMMOOC). For example, if you want some thought-provoking reads, check out Sheila Vick's blog at https://edventuresofateachermom.wordpress.com, or Annick Rauch's work at https://innovationin1stgrade.wordpress.com/. As a result of their blogs, other educators have been reflecting on their own practices and both have made some amazing connections with their colleagues.
At the same time, this has given them an opportunity to delve deeper into their own practices and they have been doing some amazing work! I have also witnessed the students' wonder as teachers begin implementing new practices in their classrooms to support students in developing their critical thinking skills. Student-led classrooms and project-based learning are just two of these new and innovative approaches. What is especially exciting is just how much the students are engaged in the classroom when the teachers take the time to really invest in this type of learning. This is so powerful!
The #IMMOOC initiative also gives our teachers an opportunity to push themselves outside their comfort zones to be innovative and try something that is new to them. Stéphanie Légaré did just that when she presented her first Simpleshow animated video on what this form of learning meant to her. (Check out 'How do I embody the characteristics of an innovator's mindset' at Vimeo.com.) I can't tell you how exciting it was for her to share her work with her colleagues at a staff meeting! Once again, if we want our students to be innovative, we need to be modeling these practices.
So as I head off for the long weekend and a series of papers, readings and assignments for my three courses, I count my blessings that I am surrounded by such extraordinary educators. What an amazing place to be!
I hope that you had a very relaxing and/or exciting summer. Based on stories that my students have been sharing with me this week, I would say that most enjoyed themselves. And now, I am looking forward to starting up a new school year with staff and students at MAG. On a personal level, I was busy over the summer holidays as I continued with my own learning. For six of the past eight weeks, I have been immersed in my studies at the University of Manitoba and have had the pleasure of working with many talented colleagues from across the province as well as visiting professors from Alberta and British Columbia. For the most part, our focus was on Creativity in Design Thinking and Communication as well as Sustainability.
To say that I was pushed to think outside the box during my first two weeks would be an understatement, as our teams collaborated to develop, design and construct life-sized juvenile elephants out of nothing more than cardboard, newspaper and masking tape. This process was a real eye-opener for me as we attempted to bring these 'majestic' creatures to life. Who knew that there were so many possible math formulas and angles that one could use to see a project of this caliber through to fruition?! Unfortunately, Elly (our elephant) had more of an angular look in a cat-cow yoga pose, but to be honest, I was thrilled with what we accomplished in such a short period of time. Had we actually had more time, as would be the case in a regular classroom, we would have been able to return to our prototypes and make creative adjustments to our elephant so that she actually had all the appropriate dimensions of a 7' mammal.
So, what did I learn from all this? Without question, the importance of innovation and experimentation in the learning process. The concept of design thinking allows for both collaboration and creativity with a great deal of experimentation mixed in so that students learn from their mistakes and are not afraid to fail! What a great way to learn!
With that in mind, I am looking forward to what this school year has in store for our learning community. Our staff will continue on their own personal learning journeys this year as they incorporate new approaches or strategies into their teaching practice that focus on the 6 Cs and 21st Century Learning. They, too, will undoubtedly experience some of that same out-of-the-box thinking or moments where they are being pushed out of their comfort zone. When this happens, as I'm sure it will, my hope is that their learning journey, and that of our students, will be nothing short of exciting, just as mine was earlier this summer.
Here's to a great year!
A number of our staff have embarked on a journey of Deeper Learning with colleagues throughout the school division as we continue our work with the 6 Cs. This involves looking at our own teaching practices so that we embed creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, citizenship, character and communication into our lesson plans, while integrating technology into our students' day-to-day lives. With this comes the importance of focusing on a growth mindset so that our students don't shy away from taking risks with their learning and aren't discouraged by the inevitability of failure at some point in their lives.
Our Grade One Team has been collaborating with other primary teachers most recently to develop a new Community unit. This team approach has seen our students out in our neighborhood, meeting business owners and learning about the different enterprises that are supporting our needs.There is no end to their questions when they encounter something new! It's awesome! Personally, I am overwhelmed by the generosity that these businesses and their staff have shown our students as well as their incredible patience with our 6- and 7-year olds.
As part of this unit, students have been creating their own mini-movies to teach their peers about the places that they have explored. I have enjoyed listening to their work as they develop their French vocabulary. They will follow this up with a 3-D representation of our community, including their homes and the businesses involved. I am looking forward to their collaborative approach to the design of this model!
As part of this Deeper Learning model, the teachers involved in this project will then go back to the drawing board to have their work moderated by their peers at another collaborative meeting with our divisional team. In this way, with feedback that they receive from colleagues outside the school, they will continue to develop and improve their ideas as they focus on supporting our students' creativity and critical thinking, while developing their own. With this approach, we are not only asking our students to take risks with their learning, but are doing the same as teachers. What better way to grow as a community, when both students and teachers are learning!
Have a great weekend!
It has been a few weeks since I posted my last message about our 6 Cs so I thought it was time to keep you up to date on this month's activities. During class discussions and our House Activities, we are focusing on Citizenship, the 4th in our series of the 6 Cs during the month of April. The focus of our upcoming activities will be how we can best demonstrate citizenship and why it is so very important to be engaged in issues that affect our local and global community. As part of our learning, teachers and students will be discussing what citizenship means to us and how we can continue being informed and involved.
With that in mind, I am sometimes asked when is a good time to start teaching our young people about their involvement in issues that impact our community and my response is always, 'The younger, the better!' Take for example an activity that took place in one of our primary classrooms. Recently, Mme Gosselin's Grade 1 class was doing an experiment to determine which of the materials used would act as the best insulator to keep ice frozen. When they discovered that aluminum foil did the best job, one student in the class transferred his understanding to a much larger scale. Sharing his thinking with his peers, he thought that we could use large pieces of aluminum foil to protect our icebergs and thereby slow down the process of global warming! Thanks to his creative and concerned line of thinking, Mme Gosselin adapted her lesson plan so that students could learn more about what they could do as engaged citizens to protect our earth.
As a result, following some brainstorming and discussions, they spent an afternoon doing their best to clean up our environment, picking up garbage that was littering our schoolyard and doing what they could to make this a better place. I also understand that our friend took his learning one step further and is ensuring that his family members don't use too much electricity at home, as it is our job to be responsible with the energy that we are consuming! Even in Grade 1, as Nate has demonstrated, it is never too early to become involved and make a difference!
To that end, as a community that demonstrates their giving nature for many…many…many worthwhile causes, my hope is that we continue to work as a team to develop our young people into these extraordinary citizens that they are becoming. Whether this means focusing on sustainable development and issues affecting our environment, on causes that support an end to poverty and inequality or creating awareness about the need for cures for any number of diseases that require funding, this community has repeatedly proven its commitment to being active and engaged citizens over the years. As such, I ask that you continue to have these discussions with your child, so that he or she sees the importance of what is happening not only at the school level but in our community as well. In doing so, we remain a team, and as a team, we will remain a vibrant and engaged community.
As we continue to delve into our work with the 6 C's, there is one 'C' that isn't recognized, but one that allows us to do what we do on a daily basis - Community. As a staff member who has also been linked to École Marie-Anne-Gaboury as a parent, with a connection that dates back 20 years, I know firsthand the impact that our community has had on this school. When my eldest daughter started her journey through the halls of what was once our building, the population was well under 200 students. At that time, a dedicated team of parents dove in to act as volunteers, provide fundraising support and plan activities that emphasized learning that took place in the classroom. Although smaller in size, we came out in droves to help out wherever necessary and it felt very much like family.
Jumping ahead 20 years, our population has more than doubled in size, yet this has not impacted in any way the sense of community that continues to be a major factor in MAG's success. Our Parent Advisory Committee is extraordinary in their dedication to our students and staff and never fail to amaze me. They have planned activities like our Movie Nights, Winterlude, Walk-to-School Wednesdays, Soccer Night, as well as upcoming events such as Dodgeball Night, Summer Grill and our annual Walk-a-thon. These activities have not only supported many initiatives financially, they have placed an emphasis on our well-being, so that even though we are far larger in numbers, we still maintain that sense of community and family.
At the same time, parents, grandparents and neighbors also act as volunteers on a daily basis and provide assistance to our staff with lessons and activities that require another pair of hands or a parent's presence. As well, our community ensures that we work together to support the many initiatives that are brought forward to allow us to give back to our neighbors, like Winnipeg Harvest. Recently, we not only surpassed our goal of filling 6 containers, we literally blew it out of the water, filling 13 containers in all with 1,604 food items. This is just another example of our community's extraordinary generosity and citizenship.
Personally, I consider myself extremely lucky to be a member of this community and recognize that without your support, our students and staff would not have the many incredible memories that they have created over the years, nor the success that they have experienced. So, in recognition of our 7th C, Community, un grand merci to all those who make this such a great place to be!
Following my last entry on creativity at École Marie-Anne-Gaboury, I am reminded of a story that a parent shared with me last week. Her son, a young boy in Grade One, was contemplating what my title should be as an administrator in the division. In his mind, as my previous partner, M. Poirier, was a Principal, I should be the Queencipal. Not only did his line of thinking make my day, I was also very impressed with his creativity! And so it is with tiara in hand that I move on to the next in our series of the 6 C's, character.
Throughout the month of February, staff and students have been focusing on the idea of character development as part of our House activities. According to Michael Fullan, character education focuses on 'honesty, self-regulation and responsibility, hard work, perseverance, empathy for contributing to the safety and benefit of others, self-confidence, personal health and well-being, and career and life skills' (January 2014). That's certainly a lot to think about, but for this particular installment of our blog, I will focus on the idea of perseverance and tenacity. Now, many students come to class with these traits already ingrained in their personalities. I see this regularly with students who may struggle with a certain concept, but who absolutely refuse to give up, choosing instead to work through the problem in order to find a solution. Others are not afraid to seek help when necessary, looking at the obstacle as a challenge rather than as an indicator of failure or weakness. There are others still who see life as one golden opportunity after another to learn and grow. These are the students who think outside the box and can be seen two-stepping down the hallway, overjoyed about an activity in which they just took part, whether the end result was a raving success or not. These students will be successful in life, simply because they understand and practice the benefits of perseverance and commitment to a goal, regardless of the challenges that they face.
For others, we need to continue to work together to strengthen their abilities in these areas. Why, you ask? Research is 'demonstrating that non-academic character skills such as grit, tenacity and perseverance have a strong relationship with an individual's capacity to overcome challenges and achieve long-term success' (Fullan & Langworthy, 2014). In my humble experience, it is these traits that lead our students to find success in their adult life and not necessarily their ability to maintain a 90% average.
Now, how are we supporting students in the development of these traits? None of this is possible in a classroom setting without first ensuring that the classroom teacher has developed a strong and caring relationship with the students where they are trusting of their environment. If students feel safe, they are more eager to take those risks that require perseverance and tenacity. Having been away from MAG for a number of years, one of the things that I noticed when I first came back was the level of commitment that our staff have to building those relationships with their students. I see students who are quick to give high-fives or hugs, they smile easily and are very engaged in their activities. This allows for a nurturing environment to support their self-confidence as learners and builds a very strong community.
Next, we are committed to developing those activities that connect learning to students' real lives and aspirations. It is so much easier to work through a problem when we are engaged in the activity and see the relevance to our own lives. Take, for example, our recent activities for Festival du Voyageur. Although I am sure that staff and students enjoyed a relaxing weekend following a whirlwind of these activities over the past few days, as our Fitbits were working on overtime, this did not stop staff members from planning, organizing and executing activities to which students could relate. During the week, students were engaged in the process, and were more than willing to work at finding solutions to problems, be it a craft or an outdoor activity. This, in turn, lead to occasions of demonstrated tenacity where teams of students had to cross the finish line on crudely-fashioned cross-country skis or despite being last in a race, not giving up as they hopped across the field in a potato sack. The ability to remain focused on the end goal and persevere despite the outcome, is a testament to their character.
Finally, providing 'highly effective feedback contributes to the development of essential skills needed for (our) students' ability to cope with hardships' (Fullan & Langworthy, 2014). If we can support students in their growth by focusing on the process and their strengths in this area with meaningful and constructive feedback, they will be much more apt to take risks with their learning, rather than giving up when the going gets too difficult. From personal experience, when a student sees this need to persevere as a strength of character, and not a weakness, they are more likely to accept this feedback in a positive light, seeing it not as a criticism of their weaknesses, but rather as a support of their strengths. Some of my greatest moments as a teacher have been to witness their self-confidence and pride when they finally understand an idea or find success, following a lot of hard work and tenacity on their part. It doesn't get much better than that!
So, to all our students... continue to work hard and persevere even when the going gets rough. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it!
Source: Fullan, M. & Langworthy, M. (2014). A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning, London: Pearson.
Can you believe this weather! I do not remember a time in January where I had to remove my mitts while out for a walk but I am loving every minute of it! Yesterday, I had the pleasure of supervising the lunch hour recess and was welcomed by many students to take part in a soccer scrimmage, a toboggan run and some fort-building. I have to admit that it has been a number of years since I had taken a ride on a toboggan of any sort, but amidst my screams as I bounced around the field on what was to become a rather bruised backside, I have to admit that I was smiling the entire time. Wherever I looked yesterday, our students were active and engaged in any number of games and building activities, and left to their own devices, were very creative in coming up with games to play. This observation brought me to my next train of thought, my own level of creativity as an adult and how much things have changed from my childhood. As we will be working on creativity as one of the 6 C's of learning during our House Activities, I wanted very much to believe that although I will never be Martha Stewart in my lifetime, I still have hope in finding that creative side to my personality.
Often, when we think of creativity, we reference artists, writers, and actors, people with an obvious skill set when it comes to developing something that is visually appealing. I am none of the above, and as my children will attest, I excel at stick people and can cut a mean oblong shape when attempting to copy a circle. I have not written anything of noteworthy value, my acting skills are suspect at best and to hear me sing would be a rather torturous affair, especially if you happen to be stranded in a car with me on a long trip. Again, ask my children! My lack of talent or skill in these areas does not mean that I am not creative. According to Sir Ken Robinson, there is hope for me, as he explains that creativity extends far beyond the arts, including the sciences, mathematics, technology, teaching, politics, cuisine and the list goes on (Robinson, April 22 2015). Robinson believes that creativity is not only 'about fresh thinking', innovation and imagination, but about 'having original ideas that have value' (Robinson, April 22 2015), ideas that are new to that person. All that said, creativity not only involves taking risks and thinking outside the box, it also involves critical thinking, as we decide whether what we are working on is worthwhile as well as an ability to refine our ideas when things aren't going according to plan. This takes practice, as we hone our skills in those areas that drive our passions.
As I think about what is happening at École Marie-Anne-Gaboury, I see creativity that is being fostered and developed every day. I think about a classroom teacher who regularly puts a new or unique twist on an assignment, so that our students are engaged and ready to learn. I think about the student who has thought outside the box to work through a math problem and is not only able to come up with the correct solution, but is able to explain the steps taken to get there, despite the fact that it doesn't follow the prescribed strategy in class. I think about the 6-year old child who comes up with a unique solution for creating a fort on school grounds, despite a lack of shovel or cutting tools. I think of the students who very creatively remain active during their recess break, transforming a very white landscape into a tiny village of misshaped forts and castles. In all cases, the players involved seem to have an appetite for discovery and a passion for whatever they are engaged in, whether they are adults or children in our learning community. I believe that this bodes well not only for me, as I continue to develop my own creativity in a community that is well on its way, but for our students and staff as well, as they continue to take risks with their learning. What an amazing place to be!
|No, this isn't actually my picture. I just haven't gotten around to updating this section. It's good to know that someone is reading every last word though. Thanks!