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Christmas Moment

Every year I have this moment. I am currently experiencing it as I sit and write. It’s the feeling I LOVE about Christmas, that happy, excited, can’t stop smiling feeling because you know that Chrsitmas is almost here. That moment when you can relate to the Grinch because your heart feels like it is actually swelling with Christmas spirit. 

I will admit I am not a huge fan of the Christmas season. I see it as such a stressful, commercialized time of year and I rail against those who decorate in November. Next year I will try to look at you differently if you are one of those people. Maybe you get this feeling earlier than I do, and I need to respect that. You see, Christmas will always bring some tears as I remember my dad and the fun he and I would have every holiday season. Lighting up the house together, picking out our family tree together, watching Muppet Chirstmas Carol together, the Christmas Fireside record that we both loved, wrapping all of the gifts from him since his left arm never recovered from his stroke. It does get easier though; I am no longer gutted as deeply as when he first passed. For those of you who are experiencing their first season without a loved one, I understand, and 15 years later, I can tell you it does get easier, but it never goes away.

Despite all of this, every year around the Winter Solstice, the Christmas spirit hits. Maybe it’s because the tree is up, maybe it’s the look of the house, perhaps it’s the marathon Christmas viewing of old favourites. I don’t know. But I’m glad the feeling is here. I was worried that it wouldn’t arrive this year since my family is doing very different things this year. I’ll miss tracking Santa (yes, I still do that with no children in the house), and it feels a little strange to have the presents wrapped and under the decorated tree (it usually doesn’t happen till Christmas Eve).  If you haven’t found your twice the size heart feeling yet, I hope it comes to you. If you are having a hard time this year, know that there are people out there thinking of you.

To all of you, I wish you a Happy Christmas!

Endings

I recently watched “Inside Out” after many people encouraged me to watch it. I get why. It’s a good movie and I am currently understanding those mixed blue and golden memory orbs at the end of the film. Things are ending  for me, and while I am incredibly happy and excited to be so close to the finish line of the Masters, I am also being hit with waves of sadness.

I have grown so much as a teacher in the past 2 years of this program. I have the confidence to do what I believe is developmentally appropriate with my students, and I now have a binder or two of research to pull on if I need to defend my theory of play, play, and more play with my young charges. While I am still not a huge “let’s go for a hike” person in my off time, I am more than willing to put on the rain suit (yes, I DID get a “muddy buddy”) and wellies and tramp outdoors with my students where we all get wet in the rain, dirty from the mud and somehow come in with huge smiles on our faces from exploring the great outdoors. Although I am tired of citing Dewey, I am embracing his ideas thanks to a summer course where my eyes were opened, and I think Loris Malaguzzi was brilliant. I have learned how to do SO MUCH with google (mail, slides, docs, hangouts, and more), and I am insanely proud of my website. (Really, I have started showing it to complete strangers!!)

I have met some bright, hilarious, talented, and geeky people on this journey. Our ‘off the cuff” meetings have me laughing so hard I can’t breath. They have let me vent over the frustrations of figuring out my topic and question, and they have supported me every time I have though of giving up. Some of them even understand my obscure references to Star Trek, Middle Earth, and the TARDIS. I even got to use my limited Kilingon knowledge. These people are the best, and I hope they know that.

I am excited to present tomorrow, I will be thrilled to finally submit the polished paper, and I rejoice over the opportunities given to me during my four months off to finish this and to work on myself. It has been a gift to get my health on the right track while spending copious amounts of time in front of the screen.

But still, I feel like crying. I will miss meeting with these brilliant people. I will miss the shared joy, frustrations, and laughter we have had. I keep forgetting that I am not returning to the students I left behind; the class that helped me change so much. I get nervous thinking about my return. I may have mentioned that I don’t like change, so I am struggling with the idea that I won’t have to write any more papers, do anymore research, and yes, I will miss having access to the books at the UVic library.

If you and I chat over the next few weeks, and you see me get weepy, I need you to know I am okay. I’m just adjusting to the new me. See, I have learned through this that I am stronger than I ever thought, smarter than I really believed, a better teacher than I realized, and that, although I may whine and complain, I am happy about the choices I am making. I have more to make. I’m not sure where my path is heading, but I can face it.

I am reminded of the Doctor (as I so often am) as I finish up this part of my life:

                        We all change, when you think about it, we’re all different                                 people; all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good,                                 you’ve gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the                               people that you used to be. (Moffat, 2013)

 

 

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Panic

I haven’t written here for a while. I have been focusing my writing talents on my Literature Review (almost done!) and my healthy living blog site. But today, I experienced this panic that just swelled up and took me over. As I am aware of my own worrywart mind, I hoped that writing this out would help the panic to abate and leave me with a sense of peace. We’ll see.

I’m not returning to school with children and friends on Tuesday September 8. This year, it is not due to a strike, but to personal choice. For those who don’t know, I am fortunate to be in a district that offers a paid education leave. I am taking 4 months away from the classroom to finish this Masters degree without my energy being split in 4 different directions. I know, deep down, that is the right thing to do. I know the exhaustion of September in Kindergarten, and I know that my health will be better for the leave. I really do understand that.

But……

Someone else is in my classroom. She is awesome and lovely and will be fantastic. But someone else is setting up a space that has been mine for the past 3 years. I want her to feel at home there, and to feel like it is hers, but I am not good at giving up control.

I see the posts people are putting up and I love seeing the classrooms all ready for kids to excitedly come into. Clean, shining rooms, with fantastic furniture arrangements, teacher desks being removed (Yay!), books readied, playdough being made.

I’m jealous. I miss it. I miss the rush of knowing that a whole new group of kids is coming in to see the space I have tried to make welcoming and warm. I miss chatting with my school friends about our summers, and how we are hoping for the best this year. I miss looking around that room and thinking of what potential it holds for this new group of munchkins that I have never met. I may even miss the panicked night before sleep.

I’m going to be there for part of the first day because I just cannot stay away from my littles from last year on their first day of Grade 1. I want to see how they have grown and hear their tales of adventures. But I’m going out of town for the rest of the week. I thought it would be for the best, so that I am not sitting in my house trying to focus on my project, but really wondering how they are doing. I am leaving so that I don’t go in everyday just to see how it’s going. I’m hoping that it will help. I hope.

People may think it odd, but there will be tears for me this September. I realize that my role as teacher and member of this wonderful school is really such a large part of who I am. I’m afraid that I may be a little lost this fall, without the school family there to help ground me.

So, yes, my anxiety is high, my panic is there as we creep closer to the first day. But, four months will go fast, right?

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Muddy Buddy

Today when I walked into my classroom, I noticed a large Home Depot box. I was a little confused, as I didn’t remember ordering anything from the home renovation place, so imagine my surprise when I found out our Muddy Buddies were inside!

For those of you unaware of what a Muddy Buddy is, imagine a waterproof onesie with one zipper from the left kneecap to the neck. It has Velcro adjustments for the cuffs and the ankles. When this outfit is on and done up with boots, the little person inside can go outdoors and run, jump, splash, roll, dig and basically be in nature without worrying about getting wet, dirty or scuffed. Some people may wonder why I wanted these so badly for my kindergarten classroom. Easy answer: 20 kids with wet clothing all needing to change or call home. The Muddy Buddy lets us go and get dirty without worrying and being uncomfortable.

Muddy Buddy

The kids all tried one on and were given one for their hooks. After lunch, it was time to take them out for a trial run. People may not realize this, but part of Kindergarten is learning simply how to dress oneself. The first 15 minutes for Muddy Buddy time was simply figuring out where ones legs go, how to zip up an industrial strength zipper, and what to do with the Velcro. This lesson will need to be repeated many times before we all know how to get into the suit, but once they are in it, we are ready to roll (literally).

We started off out outdoor exploration today by finding our tulips and daffodils that we planted back in October. Unbelievably enough, they are coming up. The observations included:

  • I planted mine over here and there is nothing there. Why not?
  • Look at how there is one stem here and 3 over here.
  • This one has paper peeling off it.
  • Why isn’t the pumpkin we planted growing?
  • It looks like a water plant.

There was so much comparative language going on over height, number, and even colour of the sprouts. I only pray that we do not get a sudden freeze and kill all of them.

Is it Spring?

Is it Spring?

We ventured down to the lower field where we do most of our explorations, and today I had set the intention of our outside time. Our big question: What can you do in the Muddy Buddy?

Interestingly, there was actually quite a difference in their behaviour today. The kids seemed more willing to take some chances and weren’t as concerned when they toppled over, climbed a tree or were wrestling with a friend. Some ELL boys who have never attempted a tree climb decided to give it a go today, and ended up discovering a “dragon cave” in one of the big evergreens. It developed into a game of “Don’t Wake the Dragon”. Some of my girls were finding large rocks that reminded them of eggs, and started to create nest like hollows in the dirt where they could hatch the eggs. They were sitting in the dirt and leaning on the trees without concern. My little G stumbled at one point. He picked himself up, brushed himself off and claimed, “I’m okay. The Muddy Buddy is tough and it doesn’t hurt.” Another little one told me that falling doesn’t hurt as much in a Muddy Buddy. Who knew these articles of clothing had such power?

Exploring

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Finally we all lay down in the damp grass, and gazed at the clouds to discuss what we saw. I think they were hungry, as I heard “Cupcakes! Cotton candy! Ice Cream! Marshmallows! A donut! Bacon!” Yes, bacon. It was an experience to remember and treasure.

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Figuring It Out

My great intention of being on track this semester has been seriously derailed with the my current status of “the walking germ”. However, I seem to be on the road to recovery and can once again look at a computer screen without pain. So here I go, my first blog post for the new semester.

I had a very difficult time looking through the course syllabus for EDCI 569 because it offered so many choices that were appealing and challenging. I will admit, the amount of blogging had me extremely concerned for my already lacking FItBit numbers, but thankfully our illustrious professor alleviated my concerns. The idea of a “Personal Learning Inquiry” as a final project had me incredibley intrigued, confused and frustrated. There are so many things I want to learn and try, but I know how limited my time is as I am already starting down the path to better physical and emotional health (see my other blog) and am in year 2 of rethinking my teaching styles to a more open, facilitation role based on the ideas of Reggio Emilia, Hawkins and Dewey. Trying to fit in another learning path seemed time consuming and, yes, a lot stressful. I toyed with using one of those aforementioned learning journeys, trying to teach myself Klingon or Elvish (Yes, I really do want to learn those one day) and even thought I might try to conquer my piano nemesis: the Mozart Piano Sonatas.

A wonderful friend and classmate mentioned, in a chat, that she was enrolling in a MOOC. MOOCs scare me. The idea of online open learning with people I have never met worried me. I know, I’m in an online course with people I have never met (Except of course the Three Amigos), but to me tiegrad is different. It’s a safe enclosed group of people. I “knew” some of them from their online interactions. A MOOC just seems so…unknown and scary. Well, the Doctor says, “Fear is a superpower. Fear can make you faster and cleverer and stronger” (Doctor Who, Series 8, Listen), so I decided to look for a MOOC to join.

Minecraft for Educators is the MOOC through Canvas Network that I decided to join. I admit, I feel a little lost already as this is my first MOOC and my Minecraft experience is limited. I thought of a way I can incorporate the game into my “Nature Integration” project and I need to learn the ins and outs. I am really hoping this will address my learning needs. I will keep you posted and will most likely be looking to the Minecraft experts in this course for some help.

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If They Build It, They Will Learn

Media project-DONE! I experimented with Stop Motion for this one, and I can safely say that I am sick of Lego and plasticine right now. I hope you enjoy my attempt!

Editing note: I was so tired of technical issues when I posted this, I wrote the wrong title!!

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Imagining The Future…. (Of Learning Environments)

It is an interesting thing to try and look to the future. I often do it in terms of my personal life, and to some degree, my professional life. I haven’t given much thought to what education as a whole will look though. After watching Sugata Mitra’s TED talk though, I began to wonder.

To me, change is not happening fast enough in education. It isn’t for lack of trying. Our buildings, technology, playgrounds, politics and curriculum need an overhaul. People tell me to be patient, but that is not one of my best qualities. This assignment, however, is not for me to lament the present and the past, but to look to the future. I need to warn you that I am looking at this through the lens of an elementary school teacher, but I believe what I envision for my future students is applicable to all grade levels. Mr. Mitra comments, “we don’t even know what the jobs of the future are going to look like. We know that people will work from wherever they want, whenever they want, in whatever way they want.”(2013) He later asks, “Could it be that we don’t need to go to school at all?” (2013) Well, as someone who would like to keep her job, my answer is yes, we need to go to school. But what could that school look like? I had some fun last night, dreaming up a classroom I would love to have. This morning, I am looking at it, and I want to start over again. I wish I could spend time sketching and doodling out my dream learning space, but reality calls.  The image I sketched last night is here:

Image

What will future learning environments look like? Physically, I envision large spaces. There won’t be rows or clumps of desks, but tables, rugs and carpets for students to gather and collaborate at. Dr. Tony Wagner (2012) mentions collaboration “across networks and leading by influence” as one of his 7 skills that students will need in 21st century learning.  A learning environment where there is room to do this will be important for, as Dr. Wagner says, “Innovation is a team sport.” (2012)  I dream of a future learning environment where there are green spaces. Ideally, I would love for the students in my school to traverse through a garden path on their way in and out of the building. I see seating and digging spaces where children can get into nature and see how the natural world works and explore how it could exist in harmony with us.  Future “physical” learning environments, I believe, should have classrooms with loose parts, art supplies, music instruments, building materials, quiet corners, yoga mats, nooks and so much more. I don’t see a lot of textbooks, but print materials and online reading in my future environment.  I envision spaces with large windows where natural light can be used instead of the horrid fluorescent. I imagine fairy lights and lamps to provide different sources of lighting which can be controlled by the learners, and not by the district. I envision each classroom with access to technology, whether it is a class set of iPads or laptops in their classroom, not one set of 15 to be shared by 200 or more students.

I imagine learning environments in the future to be open.  I am not sure how this will work, I have thought about it quite a bit, as I continue to struggle with the “giving up of control”.  I imagine learners being asked the question, “What is your plan today?” when they walk in the room, but I am honestly not sure how that idea fits with curriculum objectives and societal expectations. Perhaps it is the age level I work with, but if I allow them to explore on their own, will they learn to read and write? I don’t know. I’m honestly too scared to try it and find out.  I suppose my future learning environment would allow me, the facilitator of learning, freedom to fail and to explore with my learners. I know we are heading toward a “curriculum of big ideas” (Mitra, 2013) in our province, but there are so many questions I still have. I see the “new” curriculum and love the ideas, but I also see the way that districts and governments wish to “control” the teachers, and I don’t see how it all meshes.  I suppose my learning environment of the future also contains employers and management who support the changes and the people implementing them.

                      Image

References:

Mitra, S. (2013, February). Build a School In The Cloud [TED]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_build_a_school_in_the_cloud/transcript

Wagner, T. (2012, May 31). Play, Passion, Purpose [TEDx]. Retrieved from http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxNYED-April-28-2012-Tony-Wag

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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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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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