Lesley's Lessons and Learnings

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In Phys. Ed., my grade three class has been having a lot of fun learning and exploring Cooperative Games.  These included creating letters and shapes using all bodies together, playing Pip, Squeak and Wilbur, and Vegetable Soup, just to name a few favourites! At the beginning of the unit, I explained that for the next little while, all of our activities and new games will require one thing (other than body awareness, use of personal space, etc!)  Another hint was it began with a “C”!

It didn’t take them long to figure out that the big C word was Cooperation.  When prompted in a discussion, the students arrived at a definition for cooperation that included more than just “working together.”  They decided that cooperation could be defined as working together to achieve the same goal.  I was so pleased that they came up with this and realized that we all need to be moving in the same direction or working to achieve the same thing together.

I believe it’s important that adults need to cooperate and model for kids just what this looks like.  Take, for example, the partnership between home and school.  Kids need to know that parents and teachers are working together as a team to provide the best we can for the student to achieve success.  If they “see” this cooperation and link between home and school in action, of course, it will make a stronger impact.

The same can be said in a school building or team of educators.  I am so pleased with the leadership our school has as we all clearly understand the direction, goals, and vision of our school, along with the strategies and processes in how we’re going to get there.  It is valuable for all individual strengths to come together and work toward a goal set by a committee, staff, and entire learning community.

How do you define “cooperation”?

One more thing off of my Bucket List… Vacation in Hawaii!

We loved it so much that we want to go back again and take the kids next time!

My husband and I enjoyed a wonderful 8 day vacation to Maui, Hawaii over Spring Break. It was an amazing experience and we did many great things on the island. I really enjoy learning about the culture of new places we visit, seeing the sights, and enjoying some rest and relaxation, too. I’ve had quite a busy year with two busy little ones at home, even at a reduced FTE of 0.8, and was looking forward to a getaway to a beautiful place we’d never been before!

There are a few “RE’s” that I was reminded of while we were away. I believe it is really important to:

1. RELAX – For those who truly know me, I don’t “relax” very easily. I recognize this and am trying to work on it 🙂 Even while in Hawaii, we didn’t relax as much as we should have. We had a really busy trip with several excursions and busy days. Mental note = next time, more beach time and come home more relaxed!

2. RECONNECT – We’re busy. Everyone is busy. Trying to be the best at everything (mom, wife, teacher, friend) is difficult. Often, the connection we have with those we love can be put on the back burner. It was nice to spend time with just my wonderful husband and reconnect and talk, just the two of us.

3. REJUVENATE – One great by-product of taking time for oneself is rejuvenating. It is important to take some time, do things we love and enjoy, relax, and feel rested and re-inspired when we return.

4. REFOCUS – I believe that being able to do the above three (relax, reconnect, rejuvenate) allows us to refocus. Refocus energy into what is most important, know where our priorities are, do the best we can at everything we do, and enjoy doing it! I was ready to come home and despite a long red-eye flight home and a delay in connection flight, the best thing was coming home and holding our beautiful kids in my arms!! I have two passions in my life… my family and teaching kids. My goal? Do the very best I can at both.

While it was really hard to be away from the kids for so long (and yes, I shed some tears at least a few times!), we had some really great experiences. Some highlights of our great trip include:
– Humpback whale watching tour… breathtaking and simply amazing.
– Fleming Beach and playing in the ocean waves… so fun to laugh, play, and enjoy!
– Snorkeling at Molokini Crater… beautiful water, coral, fish, and turtle sightings!
– Road to Hana tour… long 11 hour day, but unbelievable scenery and learned a lot about culture and the island of Maui. Black sand beach, rainforest driving for 5 hours, stops along the way made it very memorable
– Sunset dinner cruise… great last night on Maui with my husband!
– Experiencing true Hawaiian culture at our first lu’au

Here is a link to some photos that we took (just a few of the 800+) that I took!

We are so thankful for our wonderful family members who took such great care of our kids while we were away. They loved having their own little holiday with their grandparents!! (Too bad they didn’t miss us at all!)

So… not that I’m exactly one to give “advice”, but my thoughts for today? Find time to Relax, Reconnect, Rejuvenate, and Refocus! It’s good for the body, mind, and soul 🙂

First off, I have to admit that I began this post two days ago and am just getting back to it after a crazy week at school and many hours spent writing report cards…

As a Mom, I teach my children, aged 18 months and 3 years, to share everyday.

As a teacher, I share experiences and learning activities with my students to engage them and help further them along in their learning. I share knowledge and skills of how to make children become better learners.

As a colleague, I share lessons, resources, ideas, strategies, and stories.

Sharing is everywhere! Being able to share knowledge and experiences with others is part of connecting with others and having a relationship with them. On Tuesday evening, I had the honour of co-presenting with my principal, George Couros, to a parent group of about 15 at our school.  George spoke about the need for teaching our students in the way that aligns with the way their world is right now.  Education looks very different today than it did when we were in school because the world has changed.  We live in a busy, technological society where people connect through a variety of media.  Social media is everywhere.  Our job is to teach kids about using being responsible online and good digital citizens and involving parents in the process as models of this at home.

I was thrilled to have even a small part in the presentation!  I spoke about some specific examples of what Connecting and Sharing looks like in my classroom.  I shared a bit of my story of deciding to jump right into new technologies with both feet and learning as much as I could.  I shared my belief in demonstrating to kids that I’m learning right along with them.  I shared some experiences in the past six months of the school year, including having a classroom blog, beginning a “Blogger of the Week” program, Skyping in with teachers and students to answer questions in a research project, the effect and excitement that comments on blog posts bring, and connecting with new third grade buddies in the United States!  Thanks to these incredible experiences, my students have learned a lot about our world and continue to learn in engaging, meaningful, and authentic ways!

I joined Twitter over Christmas break, just over two months ago and am now addicted.  I love it!  It has completely changed the way I look at Professional Development and the need for a network of teachers available outside of the walls of my school.  I love the continual sharing!  Sharing of anything and everything!  I was approached by a teacher in Alabama who was looking for a grade three class to connect with in Canada, as her third graders were learning about North America.  Since our initial Video Chat via GMail, we currently have a very active Edmodo group where my students are connecting with other children their own age and learning about another community, with similarities and differences to our own community.  All because of a connection.

Tuesday’s presentation was the second time we presented to a parent group.  Despite the anxiety and nerves that I felt every minute leading up to the moment when my slide was next, I had a great time.  Once I began talking, I just shared.  Shared what is happening in my classroom.  Shared what I love.  Shared the experiences and the results on the kids.  Sharing is engaging.  It’s exciting.  For everyone!

Since this week has been SO cold and today was no exception, we had indoor recesses again. Today, when I returned to the classroom after getting a refill of water from the staff room and grabbing papers from the photocopier, I saw some great messages on the whiteboard from a few students! Makes one feel loved and appreciated, that’s for sure! Thank you, Grade 3’s!!


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Photo Monkey

Never in my life have I considered myself to be very “tech-savvy”.  While I like to play around with different programs, I haven’t ventured outside of my comfort zone very often.  This has all changed this school year for me.  I talked in my first post on my new blog about taking risks and not being afraid of everything not being perfect.  I think I’ve come a long way since even the beginning of September and am very proud of continuing my learning in order to become a better teacher for my students.

I am very excited to be part of a new opportunity!  Through Twitter (yes, I’m completely addicted and a Twitter geek now since joining over Christmas break!) I was connected with a Lead Tech Teacher in Mobile, Alabama.  The 3rd grade teachers in her school were looking to connect with a teacher and class in Canada, as they study North America this semester.  I jumped right on board and offered our class to connect with them.  What a perfect opportunity for my grade three students to connect with third graders from Alabama!  We are going to video chat through GMail on Tuesday morning and learn more about a community that is different from ours in several aspects.  This will be great for our students to learn about and appreciate an American city far away from small town Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada!

After our initial chat on Tuesday morning, the students and teachers are going to communicate through Edmodo!  I have never used Edmodo before and decided that I had two options.  I could jump in and learn as we go on an exciting new adventure or shy away from anything new.  Of course, I decided to jump in.  We now have an Edmodo page set up and I’m excited to share it and teach it to my students as a means of communicating and remaining in contact with the third graders in Mobile, Alabama!

So, I’m jumping in with Edmodo.  I know it will excite and engage my students.  Learning that is authentic and personal (especially with other children their own age!) is good.  No, not good, it’s great!

Lori-Ann Muenzer.  Canada’s first Olympic Gold Medallist in Cycling.  Athens, Greece.  2004.  What a story!!

On our first day of Teachers’ Convention today, I attended Lori-Ann Muenzer‘s keynote speech entitled “Good To Gold! Achieving a Gold Medal Mind” where she spoke of the need to dream and how her dream took her to winning a gold medal in cycling in 2004.  She was a great speaker and told a great story of her journey of winning gold at 38 years of age.  She reminded us that dreams can begin small (like on her toddler-sized tricycle) but they all need to begin somewhere.  I enjoyed listening to her stories of competition and what it’s like to be a World Cup and Olympic athlete.  I am interested in purchasing and reading her book, “One Year, No Breaks” too.

A classy, humble, strong-willed, inspiring, and motivating woman.  Thank you, Lori-Ann.

I have always loved the quote (so much that it is under my high-school graduation picture in my Grade 12 yearbook!!): “No dreamer is ever too small.  No dream is ever too big.”  This quote is exactly what kept going through my mind throughout her speech.  The reminder that it all begins somewhere and when it gets tough, you need to work a bit harder or take a different approach, but don’t ever give up.

Now I can’t say that my dream is to be an Olympic athlete in any sport.  I’ll leave that to the true athletes of the world!  I do, however, want to continue running and possibly run a few more races this year.  Something for me.  Something I can work hard at to achieve.  For myself.  I’ve ran only one 10km race, maybe a few more 10km’s and then a half next?  Setting my sights high, just as Lori-Ann encouraged!

I like to believe I work hard.  I love my job and always try to put 110% forward.  Does it mean that I’m always successful in every lesson or every new endeavour?  Of course not, but I know it’s all about learning and continually striving to be better.  That’s what teaching is all about for me.  Learning right along with the kids with new technologies, new experiences, and learning from mistakes.  I dream to always do my best and help my students achieve success.  I also hope that all kids will find their dreams too and strive to reach them.

“Reach for the moon.  Even if you don’t make it, you’ll still land among the stars.”

What’s your dream?

Public speaker? Mmm, I’m not so sure. Would I like to be? Absolutely.

Tomorrow morning, I am honoured to have the opportunity to be a part of a presentation with my principal, George Couros, to a parent community.  George asked me to be a part of a presentation with a colleague and very close friend of mine, Corre Mahan.  The presentation is entitled Connecting and Sharing and focuses on the 21st century learner and how connecting and sharing within the classroom is empowering students and preparing them to be successful in the digital society that we live in. George will also be focusing on what parents can do to help support this learning within the classroom community.

I am excited to be a part of this and to have been offered this opportunity.  I am also nervous when I think about speaking in front of a group of parents.  I have often asked myself why I get nervous talking in front of groups of people.  “I talk all day with kids, why should it be hard with adults” right?!  Furthermore, I believe in the subject and am confident in what we are doing in the classroom, so why is it so hard on my nerves?

I think I’ve got it!  Yes, I may feel confident in what we’re discussing.  Yes, we have concrete examples of success with blogging within the classroom.  And yes, we have made connections around the world leading us to incredible experiences for the kids.  But it’s a challenge!  I should be nervous.  It’s a new audience.  If I wasn’t nervous, I might be worried.  It’s like the first day of a new school year.  I’m nervous every year and can’t sleep the night before the first day of school, but it’s a good nervous!  It’s an “excitement-nervous”!

So, tomorrow morning when I’m feeling those butterflies, I’m going to remind myself of why we are doing the things we’re doing in the classroom and share my successful experiences with my students using Web 2.0 tools.  I will try to show confidence in the subject and ultimately, my belief that this is good for kids.  That’s all I can do.

It’s a challenge and I can’t wait!


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