Monthly Archives: January 2014

Are We Teaching For The 21st Century Learner?

“Kids are born curious about the world. What adults primarily do in the presence of kids is unwittingly thwart the curiosity of children”
-Neil deGrasse Tyson

It is with a heavy heart that I answer this week’s blog question: Are our current schools/teachers/curriculum preparing students for the 21st century? I have to say that no, I do not believe we are. I do not mean to imply that there are no teachers and schools trying to teach for the 21st century, but I think as a whole, we are not preparing our students for the world they are inheriting.

I don’t say this flippantly or without any trace of hope. I see pockets of people who are trying to investigate and explore creative ways of thinking and learning. I see teachers taking steps out of their comfort zones to try new things, and do some inquiry based learning in their classroom. I do not, however, see the overall support for these teachers. There are those who are too afraid to try inquiry based/play based/design thinking in their classes, because they fear the “curriculum police” and the possible discipline for not teaching the Prescribed Learning Outcomes. There are many teachers out there who have their rooms crammed with students and are so busy putting out behaviour fires that are quite literally in survivor mode. These teachers are just trying to make it through day by day. There are teachers who do not know about these ways of teaching, and need to be given the support and encouragement to go to workshops, conferences, and do reading to support their further growth. I do not think these opportunities are being supported by our governments, locally or provincially. Professional development is becoming very tied to district goals, and is often given in a “talk down” formula.

I look at my own classroom with 21 Kindergarten and Grade 1 students. During the past month, several have come down with the flu, and I have had about 16 five and six year olds in my class. On those days, I was able to have conversations of meaning with these children. We had more room to explore, time to create and conversation flowed about our discoveries, not about self-regulation and behaviour.

Our very classroom and school buildings do not promote 21st century learning. Classrooms are often too small for the number of children, and are often too inclusive. Larger, open areas where students could meet comfortably with other older or younger children for collaboration, inquiry and community do not exist. Outdoor areas are concrete and so well groomed, that the opportunity to go out and experience nature is non-existent in many schools. Parents often see “play” as nothing more than children having fun. They do not see an exploration outdoors as a learning opportunity, and believe that school is for sitting at a desk memorizing facts. The paperwork to simply go into the community is often overwhelming, so teachers stay in their little, dark rooms and survive as best they can.

I feel the current curriculum also doesn’t support 21st century learning. The number of fact based outcomes and skills we are required to teach is often daunting, especially in a split grade. We are provided with information to present to students, but not a lot of experiences. I realize that our curriculum is moving towards more exploration and “big idea” learning, so I see hope in that. Our assessment tools, however, need to be overhauled to fit this new way of thinking. Letter grades and numbered systems do not seem to fit the 21st century learner. I read and hear about schools giving up the letter grades and trying new ways of reporting “achievement” and I look forward to seeing how that develops. Our younger learners are recorded as “minimally meeting, meeting, exceeding and approaching” expectations as their “grade”. I find this system demoralizing to my young students, who are sometimes only guilty of being born in December instead of September.

I am not trying to be all gloom and doom. I see glimmers of hope in my peers and in the discussions teachers are starting to have about change. I look forward to seeing what we can do with the new curriculum.

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My Answer: Yes! (I think…….)

Does Design Thinking Work in Education? Since this question was posted to the module this week, it has been spinning around in my brain. I feel so close to answering it in a positive way, but something is holding me back. I believe it can work, I believe it should work. I look around at my fellow play based instructors, and I feel we are close to using design thinking in our curricular planning, functional planning and some are sowing the seeds of design thinking in their students. Are we there yet? I don’t think so. Can it work? I am tempted to say yes.

 There are a lot of “buzzwords” out there these days and some of my favourites are: emergent curriculum, inquiry based learning, play based learning and yes, even Reggio Emilia. I would like you to understand that I am not an expert in any of these educational ways.  I am, however, looking at them and trying to understand and incorporate them in my classroom to better my students’ educational experience.  Just when I felt I was starting to have a less than tenuous hold on play based education, along comes the newest term, “design thinking”, which has knocked me slightly askew again. I am looking at these terms, and I wonder, “Aren’t these all using design thinking?”

 Australia’s Early Years Framework defines play based learning as “a context for learning through which children organise and make sense of their social worlds as they actively engage with people, objects and representations.” The very characteristics of play, and there are many, include being active, being process oriented and being self-motivating.  Play allows children to explore, identify, negotiate, take risks, and to find and create meaning.  (Barblett,L. 2010.Why Play-Based Learning? Every Child, 16, http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/nqsplp/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Why_play_based_learning.pdf)  

 The Full Day Kindergarten Program Guide discusses Inquiry Based learning, through almost identical language. “Through inquiry, children are engaged in activities that help them actively pose questions, investigate, solve problems and draw conclusions about the world around them.” The program guide describes how children are like researchers and do work that is meaningful to them as well as addressing questions that are relevant to them. (Full Day Kindergarten Program Guide. BC Ministry of Education)

I look at these educational pedagogies and I see many aspects of my understanding of Design Thinking. I see elements of DEEP in many primary classrooms. I know that, with my own students, we look at Discovery, we are working on Empathizing, we Explore and we Produce. We also look back at our problems and we investigate new ideas for solving them. When planning, many early years teachers look at the tenants of play and design their provocations and explorations with many aspects of Design Thinking. Whether it is exploring the magical properties of a simple magnet, investigating why our pumpkin sinks, or looking at the layout of our block center, we are using elements of this “Design Thinking” to further our understanding, and to solve our “little” community problems. We often discuss, revise our thinking and yes, we fail. But we are learning that to fail is not a bad thing, for it really means that it is our First Attempt In Learning.  

 Does Design Thinking work in Education? Perhaps after writing this, I am finally prepared to say, yes. Yes, it can.

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Well, I’m Not Ironman….

Let me explain: as I write this, I am listening to The Avengers Soundtrack. All I can think of, with the music blaring, is Tony Stark at the end of the first Ironman movie admitting that he WAS, in fact, Ironman.

Well, I’m not Ironman, but I am supposed to give a brief introduction about me. Everything I have written in my head and in draft form, sounds like I am doing a write up for a dating site, so here goes. I am known by many names: Miss Loeppky, Liane, @namesescapeme, teacher, Auntie and even, “hey you, you with the glasses”. I am turning 40 in a couple of months and that terrifies me. In my younger days, I was convinced I wouldn’t live to see 30, so everyday is a little miracle. I’ve survived type 1 diabetes for 34 years, and everyday I hope for a cure. I have been teaching for 17 years and I have spent the majority of it in one school. I’ve taught K-3, and was a teacher librarian for 3 years. I loved spending other people’s money on books.  I trained to be a professional opera singer and I play piano to express my emotion. I have all 3 video game systems and am determined to finish Legend of Zelda FINALLY. I am a passionate Trekkie, Whovian, Browncoat, Middle Earthian, and Lego fan. I wear my NERD shirt with pride and dream of attending ComicCon after I get my Masters.

The questions, “What do I want teach the world? Why? How are you going to do it?” flamed my procrastination for this assignment. I have NO clue what I want to teach the world. I honestly don’t feel qualified to teach the world anything. There are lots of things I want to teach pockets of people in the world, but as a whole, I just don’t know. The “pocket” things I want to teach? Well, they are:

  • Play is not a dirty word. It can be a dirty practice and it will get messy. It may even involve dirt at times.  It is applicable to all ages and I believe we need to involve our students in purposeful play. I learned from teachers who let me be creative and think outside of the box. They let me play with the blocks to understand multiplication and let us set up our school into the Jets and the Sharks for a musical theater experience. I am still working out how to be the facilitator of playful learning in my class.
  • Self Regulation should be a focus for Kindergarten, not reading, writing or math. I believe that the young people I work with are not coming into school with the skills to regulate themselves in order to learn. They may know their alphabets, but can’t try when something is hard and have no idea how to calm themselves when their emotions run high.
  • We need to bring nature back into our schools. It needs to be in our classrooms, and our playgrounds need to stop being sterilized of weeds and sticks. We need places for students to grow food and to investigate the world. Feeling the wind on your face and the grass under your feet is the most natural thing in the world and how many of us have the time or places to do that. Nature connects us to this planet. We need to encourage that.

As I stated above, I have no idea how to teach these things to people, much less to the whole world. I try to give presentations and involve myself in twitter chats focussing on Early Years, Environmental Education and I even tried to start a chat to gain more understanding about the Reggio Emilia approach. I don’t tend to blog about these topics, because I feel I am still a novice at them. There are people out there I read and listen to who are so much more knowledgeable than I. I try to share their wisdom while searching for my own. 

There you go. Not Ironman. Just Liane.

 

 

 

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Monday List: KinderBlog Challenge

Today’s blog challenge post is a list. Simple, right? Yep. List 5 things in my schoolbag. I had a chuckle when I realized what I actually had in there.

  1. School computer that I loathe.
  2. Winter file folder of work I need to do.
  3. Vitamin C lozenges.
  4. spare buttons that were found in the pockets of my school clothes
  5. A TARDIS and Dalek Salt and pepper shaker 🙂
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Day 4 and Day 5

Okay. Next challenge was Day 4: When I was kid, what did I want to be when I grow up and Day 5: If I could live in any time period, when would it be?

Well, when I was a kidlet, I loved my hairdresser and I wanted to be just like her. I cut my Barbie’s hair, my mom’s wigs and even my own. That eventually changed to wanting to be a Pediatrician or a lawyer. I wanted to be on Broadway, but my complete lack of dancing skills killed that dream. Now I preform in my class after school 🙂

There are so many times I would love to go and see. I think it is one of the reasons I love Doctor Who. The idea of being able to travel to different time periods is intriguing. I’d love to see post World War 2 North America. I love the fashion, the music, and it would be an interesting time to witness. I’d love to see the Wild West and the days of Laura Ingalls. I would LOVE to see Ancient Greece and actually see the Acropolis in it’s glory. I can’t pick one. There are too many periods I have studied and read about in my course work for me to pick just one! Of course, the lack of insulin makes living in any time other than this one, very difficult so I think I’ll stay here.

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Best Part of 2013

I’m behind on my #kinderblog challenge. I am trying to keep up, but man, it’s hard! So the Day 3 question was to share the “best thing of 2013”. There were a lot of great things, but I think the best moments of 2013 was Las Vegas.

A large group of folks went down to Las Vegas to celebrate a “recommitment” ceremony. Friends who have been married for a while decided to go down to Las Vegas and renew their vows in front of friends and Elvis. I’ve been to Vegas before a couple of times, and I love the city. I love the heat, the shopping, the fact that I can find clothes to buy that fit me and don’t make me look like I’m wearing a sack. I love the dining experiences, the energy and the fun. 

The 2013 trip, though, was a blast! Friends, fun, shopping, a little bit of gambling and a lot of enjoyment! But the biggest thing about Vegas was a realization for me. I have said it before on here, but Vegas this year made me happy. It made me the happiest I have felt for a long time. I’m usually happy, but Vegas made me feel accepted, loved, and I could not stop smiling when I came home. The people there didn’t make me feel like i was odd for being a geek, I didn’t feel like a plus sized person all the time, I just felt happy. It was awesome!

So there you go. My best time of 2013!

 

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Homework Completed! Finally!

I was given this homework assignment by 2 friends, Jodi Pulvers and Michelle Hiebert. Although I looked forward to doing it, but time once again got away from me. I shall be answering the questions from both of these lovely ladies.

So here is how it works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

Here are 11 random facts about me:

1) I did not want to be a teacher. My mom was one and I love her to death, but I didn’t want to be her.  It took me a while to realize I was my own person as a teacher.

2) I sang with the Vancouver Opera Association when I was a teenager. I am a proud soprano and I do miss singing in Italian and Latin some days and will often burst into Broadway tunes after school in my classroom.

3)  I have never had a boyfriend. It just never happened.

4) I have a secret desire to voice a cartoon character in a Disney film.

5) I am a proud Nerd/Geek/Whovian/Trekkie/Browncoat and more. I love Science Fantasy. I have memorized most of the lines of the Lord of the Rings movies and I want to learn to speak Elvish.

6) I love Scotland. When I was traveling there, we crossed into the Highlands, and I flet a sense of utter contentment that I have never felt before. I knew I was home.

7) I LOVE board games. Love.  I would love to play them more, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards either 🙂

8) I want to become proficient in archery. It is a goal I have had since high school when we took archery in gym. It was the first thing I excelled at in gym.

9) Lego is the first Christmas present I remember getting. The memory of that first Lego set is burned in my memory. It started a long relationship with the building blocks.

10) I believed in Santa till I was 13. I still kind of do. I believe in magic and fairies too 🙂

11) I have never made a meatloaf. Most people have by this time in their lives. I have not.

Jodi’s Questions:

1. If I could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? Scotland. I love the United Kingdom, their food, culture, tv, and they have systems of government that are like Canada.Their healthcare is comparable to ours, and I just love the idea of being in the Highlands.

2) What is my biggest regret? I have a few big regrets. My 2 biggest (yes, I’m using 2) are 1) not telling my dad that I loved him more when he was dying. He was my hero, and I miss him so much still 2)not going to a party to met the guy I was interested in. He asked me to go, and I flip flopped on it. I didn’t go and I have always wondered “what if”. I really liked Simon.

3) If I could change one thing about myself physically, what would it be?  I would change my weight. It has been a struggle my whole life and I have been told it could kill me. I am working on changing. it’s just taking me a long time. As a Diabetic, i feel this shold be easier, but it really isn’t.

4) What is my favourite colour and why? These are hard. Currently, my favourite colour is blue. Dark blue. TARDIS blue. Doctor Who is one of my favourite shows, and I want to see the blue TARDIS show up one day. Blue is colour of the medical officers on Star Trek, and Dr. Crusher and Dr. McCoy are two of my favs from the show.

5) Favourite food? Argh! These are hard. I love sushi. Probably sushi. Maybe Okanagan Peaches 🙂

6) What is my best childhood memory? Halloween night. Mom always made our costumes and we would drive in my dad’s rusty truck from farm to farm to trick or treat. There was an old radio show on CKNW and it was a bit creepy but fun! After mom and I would go through the candy and do an exchange for little raisin boxes and diet pop.

7) What is the weirdest animal you have held/touched? Sea cucumber!

8)What is the furthest place from home I have traveled? I think it’s pretty close between St. Petersburg, Russia and Kanazawa, Japan.

9) Most recent book I have read: Allegiant

10) What am I most proud of in my adult life? Probably that I have gone back to University. I hope to get my Master’s Degree from this!

11)What is 1 thing on my bucket list? I don’t have a bucket list. If I did, probably to go to Greece and Egypt. I studied Ancient Civilizations in uni, and I would like to see the places I studied!

Michelle’s Questions:

1)What is my favourite travel memory? Seeing Europe with my mom. I was 18, and I got to see more than half of Europe and Scotland, England and Wales. The whole trip was amazing and I can’t pull just one memory from it.

2) If I could travel anywhere in the world and money was no object, where would I go? See above: Greece and Egypt.

3) What is my favourite meal and why? Tough one. There are a lot of meals my mom has cooked that I love. Probably homemade ham, mashed potatoes and gravy. I love my mom’s cooking.

4) If I could have dinner with anyone living or dead, who would it be? My sentimental answer is my dad. I’d love to have him around again. Non-sentimental: Nathan Fillion. There are many other geeks I’d love to have dinner with: SImon Pegg, WIl and Anne Wheaton, David Tennant, but Nathan Fillion just seems to have such joy for life and I think we would have a fun dinner. Maybe build some Lego….

5) If I weren’t a teacher, what career would I pursue? Forensics or Cartoon voicing.

6) What is my favourite way to spend a day by myself? Read, read, game, game, sleep, read, game, sleep.

7) What is my favourite song? Chopin Nocturne in E minor, Op. 72 No. 1

8) What is my favourite book? I can’t answer that! Ummmmm….Harry Potter, maybe. I don’t know!

9) What is my favourite movie? Oh dear Lord. I can’t answer this either! Do trilogies count? Star Wars! Lord of the Rings!

10) What is the perfect night out for me? I am assuming this is as a single woman and going to answer this as a non-date night. Dinner with friends, maybe a movie out or in, board games and lots of laughing!

11) Who do I love to spend time with most of all? My mom and my niece.

Bloggers I’d love to know more about:

1. Mardelle Sauerborn

2. Amy Murray

3. Stacey Garrioch

4. Keith Rispin

5. Melody Watson

6. Jane O-Keeffe

7. Melva Herman

8. Sharon Hales

9. Tracey Thorne

10. Lorrie Burnham

11. Meg Sexton

Questions for you

  1. Who is your favourite Muppet and why?
  2. Where is your favourite place to eat out?
  3. What is your favourite holiday and why?
  4. What cartoon did you love to watch as a kid?
  5. If you could renovate one room in your house, without worrying about cost, which room would you do?
  6. Which period of history would you like to go and see in person?
  7. What is one thing you would change about your own past?
  8. What genre of film is your favourite to watch?
  9. John Stewart or Stephen Colbert?
  10. You win an all expenses paid holiday. Where would you go?
  11. What illness would you cure if you were able to?

Busy Hands

The second of the #kinderchat January blog posts is to share a goal I have for 2014. I try not to make resolutions anymore, as I tend to make lofty ones that are far too easy to break. A few years ago, I looked at my life and started to analyze where I need to repair things. My list was not long, but it did have challenges. I needed to focus on: fixing my finances, creating a living space that I could maintain order in, get into a more organized school space, become more confident about who I am, and finally, work on losing the excess weight I’ve been carrying since my dad’s passing 13 years ago. To date, I have achieved (in one way or another) all of those goals, but one.

Losing weight is a struggle for me; it always has been. I am an emotional eater. I find comfort in my lonely moments, stressful times, and joyful experiences by eating something delicious and not nutritious. I need to change. I need to find something to replace that emotional connection I have with the jar of peanut butter, block of cheese, box of Glosette raisins and more.

So my first goal for 2014, is NOT to lose weight. My goal is to find something new to do. I am looking around my house and searching my life to find things I can do to keep those hands of mine away from food when I am emotional. I’ve started a list already: iPad games, video games, playing piano, colour, build Lego. I know that people will tell me “go for a walk, do some exercise to relieve stress” but that is not what I consider a stress reliever. I’m not saying I will be a sloth. I plan to add some activity to my life, but first, FIRST, I have to work on my hands. I can’t have them reaching for food, so that, dear friends, is my first goal of 2014.

Okay, that and leaving school early, but that’s for another post……..

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2013 In Pictures

Here’s my “Wordless Wednesday” post from yesterday. My 2013 in review.

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Weeds are pretty too!

Weeds are pretty too!

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