Opportunity of a lifetime!!

So, here we are again. Trying to keep with my goal of trying to share weekly with you all, but this week I am at a lose, a lose of when and where to begin, not because I have nothing to share but more so how to share the amazing opportunity now in front of me!

This Tuesday, we traveled to Brantford to the Sanderson Center and if you are a twitter follower of mine you already know, but part of the amazing experience provide by Write to Give for the staff and students involved also entailed a draw for one Write to Give Teacher Ambassador to travel along side them in August of 2018 to Kenya, Africa. Suffice to say my name was drawn, now four days later I have been trying to fully absorb this incredible opportunity to bring it into a full perspective, but to no avail I am not sure I can absorb it, and given an entire year to gather myself, prepare and imagine what this experience can bring, not just for myself (as incredible as I can imagine, and have been losing some wake-less nights over) what I can bring to you all; my colleagues (face to face and digital twitter PLN friends), friends, family and most of all the students.

I am incredibly humbled and one could say numb as of now still trying to fully gather the emotional, life altering shift that this opportunity will hold for me! My life has always been directed and navigated towards supporting those less fortunate, more so those whom are physically and mentally challenged in some form shape or another; whether it be deaf, blind, wheelchair bound, physical impairment, mental / cognitive struggles…..the list goes on! Until now I never really thought of those less fortunate as those living outside OUR immediate surroundings such as those in third world countries. Now, as I reflect upon this week and being a thorough believer in all hard work pays off and life never throws you challenges that you cannot handle nor better yourself in some form or fashion, I have now been giving an opportunity to expand my horizon and experiences to date into something outside my comfort and ‘known’ world.

I cannot help but think in some manner that the world has a plan (as I have always believed, being an educated person makes it hard at times to be faith based and firm in that notion but, the simplistic notion that ‘everything happens for a reason’ comes in motion now). I may be wrong, but if so the world will somehow, someway alter my shift in reality and perspective to put in back on the correct direction and course, but this incredible opportunity will open my eyes and shift my life experiences in ways I cannot imagine!  I think that is why I cannot and have yet to fully absorb this in its entirety!

A friend of mine told me ‘Make your mark, make it in stone so it will be forever embedded in time’. So, that always sat with me and up to this point  I thought (am still do that my ‘mark’ is with MY kids and my students within my profession), but a small part of me considers that may be something that will shift my pedagogy, paradigm and understanding of all things will occur within this experience coming in August of 2018. Write to Give is a ‘known’ to many, and we ‘know’ of it through our experiences writing books for those in Kenya, but…..do we fully understand IT in its actual entirety? I think not, I think its much larger and being humbled and incredibly honored to explore what this really is I feel it would be, will be life altering!

The trip itself seems incredible, without sharing some of the details that was shared briefly I think back on an experience I had with my wife in Honduras almost seven years ago prior to our first child arriving. We walked into a marketplace off of our cruise ship and were greeted by three children from Honduras, they toured us through their village and even took us to their homes, school and brought us back to civilization afterwards changed people! With dirt floor homes, schools that were open aired without windows and the basic needs of clean water it was eye opening and enlightening as it was my first – first hand experience seeing and feeling what life is like in a third world culture for mankind. Talk about an awe inspiring, life altering event in my lifetime to date!

As mentioned I am struggling with absorbing this opportunity; but if I can relate its possibility to anything it could be this event in time. I am sure it will be so much more as well, but I reflect back upon why, as in why me?!!? I have heard for many, its well deserved, we hoped it was going to be you but being who I am I think its much larger then a right and or deserved notion, I think its somewhat meant to be as I can share this experience with everyone, anyone similar in fashion to the Canadian Icon; Chris Hadfield in his experience in Space and time on the International Space Station. Now I am no Hadfield, but I am someone whom enjoys sharing with others and learning along side others and reflecting also!

So, looking ahead over a year from now I foresee an adventure of a lifetime for us all, an opportunity to experience life in a new perspective in which none of us know nor understand!

A safari seems sweet and amazing but I am more so looking forward to seeing the school build by Teacher Aide and Write to Give; to see the community and the impact this foundation has made within this small piece within the world. Even more so, The ‘Mark’ the actual footprint made in time, in the history of events for these people in Kenya, Africa. The experience at the schools, with the staff, students and community and cultural shock is what I am anxiously anticipating!

I cannot help but think there is a reason I was sitting within that seat at the Sanderson Center, choose to do the program this year as opposed to last when I first heard about it and while sitting with friends, parents, colleagues and my students rejoiced when my name was called. At first I was somewhat disappointed it is not this August for this adventure of a lifetime, but upon reflection I think a year it perfect….I can and will challenge myself to learn and absorb the African Culture from afar in self directed learning, attempt to learn basic Swahili and gather more and more insight into the foundations at work. So, when it comes my time, when I step upon African soil overseas I am ready, willing and able to fully absorb and take the experience in its entirety fully and completely as I know that within my ‘belief system’ and understanding in life that ‘All things happen for a reason’ and the stars are aligning in some form or fashion for me, that this moment, this opportunity could be the one thing that allows me to gain insight into what my ‘mark’ in time will, could be, could bring forth etc…

So, in keeping with reflecting in mind; I will be exploring and sharing once a month what I have learned and gathered prior to leaving Canada on this journey of a lifetime. If you have anything to share, moments in time and experiences of Africa I would love to hear about them, absorb them and gather more and more insight! Please share with me, others and the world as we can and will have an opportunity to learn from one another and to gain a new perspective of life of those within other parts of the world.

Thanks, and check in often to see, hear more!


Write to Give and so much more!!

So, sitting during my prep today looking ahead to the week and tomorrow’s BIG Write to Give Celebration Day!

This was my first of what will be many, many more experiences with Write to Give! Such a wonderful program and concept to support, help others in need, but what I am most appreciative of is the flipped side of things that people may or may not typically think about, OUR students writing these awesome books!

I look at my kids whom struggled to formulate meaningful stories with coherent begging, middle and endings of stories let alone peaks, valleys and little problems and solutions within their own writing. But the entire Write to Give process supported and helped my students understanding the meaning and depth within writing…..

So, picture this you are team / classroom 2 or even lets say 3. You are highly anticipating seeing what was done so you can write you piece of this book to be published (being published is something extraordinary itself let alone the process and program). Upon receiving the pre-written material you are thinking writing for someone in need will be so awesome and meaningful, but then you get the pre-written material and go ‘Oh boy….now what?’ as what was written is good,….but not what you would have thought was coming, but you have to work with it, you cannot stray away from the pre-written path otherwise the entire book loses depth and commitment.

So, taking what others wrote, we dive into things, dissecting what was written, the plot, characters and setting (basic items) then go more into depth and look at the character development process, what was written provides some insight in how you (writing your section now) have to continue to develop the plot and these characters journeys within the story. Yikes, scary as we found (thanks goodness Carey and Amy asked for more helpers and on our third book we mastered the process of dissection and creation).

My kids found  that within OUR part in the writing process we could pre-mold what would become of the rest of the story whether being the 2nd, 3rd and yes even the 4th class writing. Based on how we utilized pre-written material the kids really jumped into development within the characters themselves. What I enjoyed most was watching them debate and change / alter things to ensure certain characters ‘changed’ during other classes written parts! So rich debate and so much depth without fully understanding nor comprehending what they had done in its entirety until today!

Today we recieved our books in the mail. Today we celebrated and read our books, and the outcome was spectacular! Not the final product (although the books themselves were incredible and super happy the outcome) what I am talking about was my students seeing the final product of their 1/5 th piece of the pie….their conversations and predictions / assumptions and alterations to help / support the other classes in their written pieces came out today when we read our final products!

Students seen the depth and art within their work, so many weeks ago….my favourite piece was that many asked to start a new written project and story! Wow, talk about empowering kids behind the scene eh!?!?

What kid asks to do work!??! For me this was the pinnacle of the the entire experience! The empowerment that this process provided for my kids….I am thoroughly looking forward to their creative writing in the upcoming weeks and see the debate / conversations between people during this writing process! For me as an educator this Write to Give experience is SO MUCH MORE then supporting and helping others….the whole program is awesome for all students involved and even the teacher’s as they too have to work within a team of five!

Sign me up next year, not only for the program but sign me up to be a team leader again! Such a fanastic program!! An incredible journey and empowering movement for all involved!!

Thanks Write to Give, Amy and Carey!! Loved being involved this year!!

Speaking on behalf of my empowered students, from an inspired educator….thanks for all you do for others….and so much more!!

Grandparents Day at Hagersville Elementary

This past Friday was our Annual Grandparents Day at Hagersville Elementary!

Such a fantastic event that pulls in over 200 + Grandparents, some travelling over 11 hours to partake in an AM event for their Grandchildren. Hats off to you all for coming and making the travel for your amazing kids! After meeting many of my ‘New Grandparents’ for the first time and seeing ‘Former Grandparents’ again I can see why the kids are so awesome at our school!!

So, we are required to open our classrooms to Grandparents an piloting a fantastic 21 century primary classroom at Hagersville Elementary I decided to share the 21 century tools, programs and ‘toys’ as the kids say sometimes!

Grandparents played the piano on fruit and a make-shift game simular to operation using @makeymakey, viewed and used Snip, Smartboards, Green Screen Doink, Onenote (learning tools), learned, explored and built using Minecraft, while exploring mathematical concepts of multiplication and fractions, scratchjr coding their learning during their hour visit! Suffice to say; they we flabbergasted with the ‘NEW’ way of learning in the 21 century! I thoroughly loved the conversations and photos of amazed faces upon the grandparents!!

To hear about one room schools and chalk boards was something MY own students couldn’t believe, simular in fashion that our Grandparents could not believe their eyes Friday! To think and reflect it has only been 40-50 years tops that they are outside of education and to see the differences is extremely satifying as professional trying to push the limits! Personally I think in 40-50 years what will the kids / teachers be using to learning in the future! Mind is blown just thinking of the limitless possibilities for ALL types of learners!!

My highlight was sharing my room, my students with my Oma (well….I adopted her as MY Oma, and she will be the first to say ‘This IS my Grandson’) Oma is the most kind and loving person I have ever met! She only see’s the good in everyone and to share this event with her was something I will thoroughly treasure always! I cannot wait to pick her brain and chat this Sunday during Family Dinner about her thoughts and feelings of the morning!

Upon welcoming the Grandparents and identifying MY Oma I had tears and had to take a moment to compose myself as I myself was so proud to include her and showcase the room and most of all the students! As always Oma took to an individual whom is a great kids, just….lets say ‘challenging’ at times! His Grandparent could not make it, so she acted as HIS Grandparent…..slightly jelous but incredibly blown away as always with her genuine love for all I watched in amazement while he shared his learning / story with Mr. Archer this year! She mentioned that he absolutely loves school because of the technology integration and when Oma imply something she means it, which made that moment even more meaningful as this individual and I ‘battle’ daily!!

So, I guess I must be on the right track if I am reaching and helping this guy then anything is possible and as Oma says ‘The glass can always be half full, its ONLY in the eyes of the beholder that holds the truth behind the scenes’

And with that, I will leave you with that to ponder about your work, students and effort this year! Lets finish the last two months off strong this year Grand Erie!!

Canconnect 2017 Reflections

So, its been a week and a bit since Niagara Fall’s annual Canconnect Conference 2017; and after taking some time to digest, review, digest and review some more I have yet to get through all of the amazing insights, technology and learning during four fantastic, energetic days of incredible learning!!

I do feel the need to mention one of MY personal highlights was hanging out with Fair Chance Learning’; Brian Aspinall @mraspinall, during the event! Brian is someone I thoroughly look up to and follow religiously on Twitter as he is outrageously funny, engaging and someone challenging and pushing limits of all educators to dive into the technological universe to give ALL students as ‘Fair Chance in Learning’ . I would love to share Brian’s current challenge of Carpool Edu Karaoke; https://twitter.com/ArcherJoe/status/861307811237683201 this is my post, but you will get the picture by seeing this chaos of this posting on twitter; suffice to say I need not to sing again, although it was fun!!

So, Canconnect started with an amazing, yet powerful Keynote by Shiza Shahid @Shiza, followed by Kyle Kitchen @thekylekitchen, rocking it with ‘The Experience of 3’. Lisa Floyd @lisaannefloyd (make sure to include that ‘e’ otherwise you may end up elsewhere) also rocked an awesome workshop on Computational Thinking; Through Coding and Digital Making. Mr. Bow-tie himself; Johnathon So @MrSoClassroom had a great workshop on Gradeless Classrooms too! @GEDSB’s own Jeff Dumoulin @JeffDumoulin hosted ‘Capturing Student Thinking as well! From Maker Spaces, Blended Learning, Mobile Classrooms and Interactive Innovative Learning Experiences the first full day was exceptional! One of the other highlights of the day was the Market Place (as always hosting various companies and some innovative ‘start-up alley’ groups and teams too!

Day two kicked off with Tiffany Poirier @TiffanyPoirier ‘Finding YOUR Question’ and sharing her ibook; inquiryninja.com/connect called ‘Finding Your Questions’. Dispite being ready to pop with child, Tiffany was fantastic to inspire Inquiry Driven Teachers!! I was incredibly excited to be at Jennifer Casa Todds @Jcasatodd keynote; ‘Shift to Postive’ as I share her incredible passion to utilize twitter and the digital world to explore the universal real world problems and connect students globally with everyone around the globe! I also met the ‘AstroJediChef’; Regalado Vasquez https://twitter.com/ArcherJoe/status/858501651241607168 @mrvasquesteach and experienced an insightful sing song on stage from this innovative educator! Such an amazing guy too, I mean who else inspires people to eat crickets https://twitter.com/ArcherJoe/status/857599935721721856 thanks again for the treats dude! Looking forward to connecting soon! The day also included; Coding, ScratchJr, Onenote, Critical Thinking and much more workshops, to top things off; ‘Beyond the Hour of Code’ with Brian Aspinall…..what a finish to another awesome day Thursday!

But wait….Thursday night I was invite to attend and present at Fair Chance Learning Ignite Event! So awesome, what an experience to partake with so many inspirational icons in education https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/fcl-igniting-niagara-falls-tickets-32696508136# take a peak at this list of amazing educators! The conversations were amazing, insightful and so much fun! Spending time connecting with Twitter Buddies was the highlight; while sharing the event with MY former Nipissing Teaching Student; Nick Reynolds @Teach_Canada – another rockstar in the making!! (Recorded the Event). So awesome to meet Jen, Kaylyn @MsD_QOH, Lee @TROISMARTIN, Steven @stevenpfloyd and so many more inspirational teachers! Fair Chance Learning Martha @marthajez and Dustin @DustinJez provided all speakers with a fantastic gift as well; can we say @Micro:bits everyone!! Yahoo, thanks so much Fair Chance Learning @FCLEdu

This evening I also met someone who put on an amazing keynote Friday to end the conference for myself; Robert Dunlop @dunlop3339 whom is working diligently on an awesome book that will be HUGH when a publisher picks him up! Talking with Rob was awesome as he thoroughly promoted his good buddy Lee Martin @TROISMARTIN and his passion for overcoming odds and achieving happiness in our educational profession! So, awesome to meet Rob!!

I was and am so caught up in all the transformation thinkers and educators I almost forgot to mention I won the 2017 Classroom Educator Innovator Award!! http://www.canconnected.com/2017-innovator-award-winners/ such an honor to be nominated let alone win! This was a HUGH day, and so so so grateful to experience this incredible day!!

Friday morning started off with a bang; well more of a digital insight into the world of Artificial Intelligence with Dr. Kelly Calhoun Williams! Lisa Floyd rocked another workshop on Micro:bits which I scored yet another awesome device to bring back to my classroom!! Yahoo thanks Lisa and my old D’Youville Teaching Friend Ryan Matthews @tvdsbmatthews as mentioned before Robert Dunlop finished my conference with ‘Motivation and Happiness in Education’ a keynote to send you off inspired and thoroughly motivated to transform your professional philosophy and pedagogy.

I had a very quite ride home back to Port Dover reflecting on the Conference that once again did not disappoint but motivate me to become so much more then I am! I am hoping to become enough of an inspiring educator to have the honor to present at next years Canconnect as my Twitter PLN colleagues and friends during the 2017 conference!!

On my desk I have placed my Canconnect 2017 Classroom Innovator Trophy; not to shamelessly promote myself but more of a constant reminder to innovated, inspire and take all the incredible learning from the conference and share with my Grand Erie and Hagersville Elementary School Colleagues, but most of all my kids (yes, I say my students are MY kids, I put everything into teaching them therefore they are mine for the year).

Canconnect once again provided me with yet another years worth of inspiring resources and projects to explore in the upcoming school year as I take on a new learning adventure in grade 5/6 with Janice Hughes @JaniceGEDSB (Hagersville Elementary’s AWESOME Principal), look out people you thought Mr. A was trouble this year, next year will be even crazier!!

Thanks again to the leaders, innovators speaking during the conference and a HUGH shout out to the organizers of another incredible event!! Cannot wait till 2018!!