Becoming a student in your own classroom…

I was browsing Twitter, as usual one evening when I cam across a Twitter PLN Friend; Nycol Didcote Blog posting http://bit.ly/2ta9q2Y on ‘The Year I Allowed Myself to be a Student in my OWN Classroom’…this got me thinking and pondering a little as I love reflecting and thinking of how to always improve and grow as an educator!

So, the past week I have been thinking lots about this year! We have taken many risks and exploring some tough, new, innovative things that are not the norm. I have never tried these things out myself and I alongside the students took a role that I myself was uncomfortable with and unaware of as well. The outcomes were; in one word……incredible!

This year more then ever, simular to my friend Nycol; I let my students dive into things and take the lead! With my kindergarten inquiry-based learning background I created provocations and when my students interests peaked, soared and exploded we dove in utilizing collaborative means through Microsoft O365 tools, apps and programs, coding for computational thinking and teaching ‘Resiliency’ in my students, Epic Reading within the App to promote a love and passion for the written word which; ‘Then it Happened….’ (yes a slight plug for a friend Michael Wade), the written aspects of reading exploded and by using Office Lens, OneNote Immersive Reading and Voice to Text tools we supported IEP students with Differentiated Means of creating and co-creating some wonderful stories!

I found by becoming less authoritative and instructional as an educator and more passive and constructionist in nature my students took a lead and soared, not only within one area of study but expanded their learning to other areas such as the Epic reading to the ‘And then it happened’ stories for writing! By becoming a co-learner aka student within my classroom we took simple things, concepts and curriculum content and blew them into large, insightful, real world applicable learning opportunities!

We attempted Write to Give (which by the way is incredibly amazing and everyone should try this out next year!! please see http://writetogive.com/ for more details) which began with simple writing components while teaming up with five other classrooms on a given topic. What we found together was that by formulating / planning and implementing a story ‘plan’ we could ultimately effect the rest of the story with our given 150 words within the introduction, of climax within a story! The students and I seen the value of pre-planning stories and figured out character development helped create the quality and depth within a story to make it much more meaningful for a given audience; which also was another lesson we dived into; writing for an audience due to the simple 150 written piece for OUR Write to Give TEAM. The students written work grew immensely within a week due to this simple yet complex assignment and task we decided to jointly attempt. My favourite part of the whole process was our reflection after the assignment and the kids thoughts and feelings and ‘Next Time I would…..’

AS Nycol mentioned by becoming that student my personal pedagogy and understanding of my role as a teacher transformed and became much more explor-a-tive and adventurous in nature! By putting myself out there and showing that attempting and trying new things shouldn’t be feared, shunned or tried we are a team in @Archers3s became powerful together! I to simular to Nycol wanted to Micro-manage everything (which is exhausting), but letting go and co-learning along side my TEAM this year we networked, collaborated, explored things in incredible detail utilizing Skype, Twitter and various O365 tools such as Sway and Mix to co-collaborate on topics of study around the world with people overseas, within Canada and even the International Space Station with Astro Peggy and Thomas Paquest while trying to understand growth in plants in soil within the grade 3 science curriculum!

Our depth and understanding was remarkable, the students began all inquiries hitting Microsoft Educator Community https://education.microsoft.com/ to see whom they could connect with on Skype for Virtual Field Trips / Guest Speakers who are experts in a given field of study and even going through my Twitter Handle http://@ArcherJoe to network within MY PLN. These connections within my Twitter Handle brought forth a conversation of integrating and implementing a classroom Twitter Handle where kids could connect within a safe environment with the world. So, http://@Archers3s was created; within this we investigated and explored the 21 Century Competencies http://bit.ly/2ta8ITA (Found here), many discussions on digital citizenship and cyber bullying and internet safety! We then networked with http://www.granderie.ca PR Man; Shawn McKillop and he provided a few awesome Skype Guest Talks for the students on these given topics. We also talked to various employers about them exploring potential employee’s Facebook / Instagram / Snapchat and Twitter pages to gain more insight into that person. This then lead to a HUGE inquiry on ‘Personal Branding’ what this means, safety and promoting yourself appropriately!

The outcome again of a simple thing grew to something spectacular! I now know and MY students now understand that their digital footprints can have dramatic effects on the future; their concept of themselves changed, and their personal behaviors altered to becoming remarkable ‘change makers’ fantastic citizens and much more creative, caring and empathetic, cooperative people! They became more resilient and there self-confidence and self-esteem grew immensely this year! I seen many people walk in frightened to the bitter end of failing, but now WE all embrace and anxiously look forward to those aforementioned failures, as they are now launching points for learning something awesome about ourselves and the topic being investigated! I myself have changed my own resume alongside my students to include my Twitter handle and Facebook page to showcase my personal brand! I loved doing this alongside my students as they to decided they wanted a twitter handle to showcase themselves as I am doing now!

I laugh when I read Nycol’s blog posting as she dived into books that I read throughout the year as well; George Couros’; Innovators Mindset, Dave Burgess’; Teach Like a Pirate and so many more! I think we are somewhat like-minded in nature and similar to Nycol I was inspired by these Educational Guru’s (as she mentioned in her blog), they have become my ‘Village’ as Nycol mentions as well! By connecting and networking with innovative, forward thinking like-minded individuals you become empowered, your students become empowered and the learning within the confines of your classroom become limitless and remarkable! I had students coming to school sick this year because they didn’t want to miss anything. I even had a few pull up the garbage can beside their desk to make it through the day so they too, alongside myself could explore, invent and create something remarkable from what we were exploring that day!

I find it funny that Nycol felt the same way that while learning and exploring we lose track of the realization that we are working and earning money! This job (which I always thought was remarkable from the get-go) became something so much more! It became me, and my students a journey we took together and I am sure most people always get to the end of the year and always say I will miss my students, but I will miss OUR TEAM; Archers3s; this team took me to new heights, level of understanding, new pedagogical discoveries and a new wave practice! I was told this year by a Superintendent that I had an Mindset that was unnatural, innovative and forward thinking! I loved those words, but upon more reflection it IS and WAS because of the TEAM I was with this year, it was that of becoming a co-learning and student within my own classroom that I became the person I am today. I didn’t become great, we all became great….but looking ahead I am losing my TEAM, not just as they move to a new grade level, but I am moving to a new school…so this final week will be hard, incredibly hard for me as I lose my network and team that I grew with this year!

We leaned and learned from one another this year, they from me and I through them hand in hand we did it altogether, just as Nycol did with her ‘Village’ now I walk away knowing / hoping that they will continue to share and help next years teacher as they did with I this year, and I too walk into a new school; Lakewood Elementary with the same mindset; that jointly together with my ‘New Team’ we will create a better tomorrow starting within the classroom as we did this year!

Everyone needs a village as Nycol says, and within the village we all support and help one another! My village was Archers3s and the #MIEExpert Canadian Team and the Microsoft Educator Community this year….next year a new adventure to explore and expand the horizon with! Everyone needs a village and I too similar to Nycol am incredibly grateful, charmed and honored to have shared this 2016 – 2017 school year with my remarkable TEAM and humbled by their commitment and mindset to co-learn, co-collaborate and co-grow as individuals from!

I will miss you all Archers3s!! So much more then you can ever imagine because all 16 of you brought me into the 21 century as an educator; as I now seen, learned and partook in the incredible power of becoming one with the students! The outcome was remarkable and something I will strive for with every group walking into my classroom in the future as I share my uncanny, brilliant adventure I had with you all this year!

Do not be surprised if your ears are burning often next year kids; as I will be bragging about you all!

Life Changes and New Experiences…

Sometimes we come to points in life where we have to evaluate things; how does this effect the family, my job the people around me and whatnot and sometimes life throws you curve balls that are mean to throw you for a loop….the questions always come back to why? Why did this occur, what did that happen, what is the meaning of it? So many questions, so many unknowns….

Life has a funny way of doing this from time to time. Sometimes a change is good, others a change is challenging and sometimes not so good. WE have to embrace these changes in life, we have to take them on full force with everything we got and see them for what they really are….a new adventure, a new experience to learn something else, possibly even part of a bigger plan for some unknown reason this was ‘just meant to happen’ at this particular time and place.

My theory, has always been that ‘Everything in life happens for a reason’ answers and question can only be determined within the process of the experience….sometimes its choice to change, sometimes change happens without a choice, either way we have to embrace and face it! I am trying to keep this posting somewhat ‘discrete’ as it helps me absorb things writing things down. In this case the choice was mine; but something since hearing I have been digesting and I thoroughly believed I would be much happier then I am today….and it’s not that I am not happy, I think its because I am going to be leaving something that I love, people I thoroughly enjoy being around and spending time working and learning from and with.

I always try to put my heart and soul into everything; and sometimes in times like this it comes back to bite me in the behind…in a good way though! The effort and work is a testament of how hard and difficult this new transition will be for me, going to a new experience will be fantastic and great for my family and has always been a goal of mine (more of this in another post) but for now ‘discrete’ is the word…my wife mentioned something that really hit home for me and that I am extremely thankful for….I have time left to enjoy those around me, to spend time ‘transitioning’ not only for me but for them as well….my experiences have always lead me to great adventures and awesome times; I really try to make the most of everything! Not only for me, but those around me too…I know the change will be hard for me, but I always wonder; ‘If I am ever gone….for whatever reason….how will those around me feel?’

A great friend of mine is retiring this year; and Norma is leaving a living legacy behind. Living because her impact and work resonates within all those she worked with and shared her knowledge and experiences with. I know this as I am one of those people! I wonder if I will leave that mark, if my ‘legacy or mark’ will be felt in this manner as well? Does that sounds weird? I am not saying that to be big headed or anything like that….I mention this as its something I always wonder….the saying goes; ‘If a former student see’s you walking on the other side of the street, would they come running over to say hi?’ – I want to be that teacher that has many of those moments…..and its the effort and hard work that will get these….so I guess within a short time I will be finding this out….I will be finding out how I did, if I will be enjoying those ‘moments’ on the street, maybe its a text picture from a parent in the future and or a phone call even sharing fantastic news!

When I was younger I worked with an amazing family; both parents were teachers and one a principal at the time of their passing in a sudden disaster. It was all a blur and so emotional but I recall the community coming together, parents, students and everyone whom they ever met….it was unreal! The power and opportunity educators have is incredible and actually unreal in my opinion! We have a career that can be so empowering yet so traumatic at the same time, what will you embrace and make of it?

I know I choose empowering not only for myself but for those walking within the school doors, my classroom door and within the halls I walk into yearly!

Looking forward to a change but will miss everything about my current ‘experience’!!