Top 5 Defining Moments; What has defined my career?!?

A PLN friend on twitter; Johnathan So aka Mr. Bowtie tagged me in a great reflection piece entitled ‘Top 5 defining moments; whats has defined my career’, in this he reflected on his moments; one of which was with his daughter Izzy starting school….so the following is my top 5 defining moments….(at least as I see them at this point in time….tomorrow could be another day – as it should be).

These are in no particular order just as they filtered through my memories…

  1. Opening my classroom to partnerships; now for me partnerships began as face to face partners within the classroom. Some of my most notables are my classroom Mommies (My first gigs classroom Educational Assistants; Linda and Kathy), these ladies ensured I was well taken care of (ate my lunch, took my breaks, laughed and learned to love my job, the kids and the new profession I just walked into), I thoroughly believe these two incredible ladies began my partnership / teamwork understanding / mindset and know how into what it is now! They among another EA; Starr were invincible, powerful and the best of partners!! They all taught me one thing… need to laugh and laugh often! To this day anyone teamed up and partnered with me I am sure would say one thing; he loves to have fun and laugh often! Thank you ladies for teaching me this! Once I walked into kindergarten I had two amazing Early Childhood Education partners in Kim and Krista; again two incredibly hardworking, lovely ladies whom made my practise and the students classroom experience that much more powerful, stimulating and fun as well! I cannot say enough about these two!! Partnerships are not only hired hands; I see my High School Co-op Students / Mohawk College DECE Students / University Teaching Students / NTIP Mentee’s (Natalie, Athena Tiffany, Nicholas, Christina, Presley, Joseph, Cheri and so many more). Twitter / Skype / and digital PLN partnership are so powerful too! All these partnerships have made me whom I am today; someone who loves mentoring and instilling a love and passion for this incredible profession we work in. We alongside our partners can make an impact that will last a lifetime, set memories that will never be forgotten, instill a love for life long learning in all that walk through the doors! These partnerships for me will never be forgotten, names will always be close to heart as they all inspired and change who I am and how I do things today! Take the leap people….make that partnership key as I did….I know consider all these amazing people colleagues and teammates that still inspire me today….align yourself with incredible people and they will bring value to your practise in times when needed!
  2. That ‘Person’ at work who believes in your crazy antics, ways and methods; for me this ‘Person’ is really two people; Dennis (hired me on my first contract) and Janice. This sounds funny but these two are very similar in nature! They know what they want to see, they push you to go the distance and stand behind you on your journey. They also are great at bringing your head back down from the clouds and ensuring your feet stay planted on the ground too. I always say that the body within the office can impact things within a school, as well as your practise as well. I had a really ‘bad’ experience too, and I went to a very dark and depressing place…but with some guidance I choose to leave a school, community, staff and students I loved, and it worked out incredibly well for me! So, while applying to job be aware of what you are getting into, know what you have to do and understand your place and consider if this IS the place for you! I am moving to a new school this year, in my hometown, where I went to school, where I did my High School, College and University Placements, where my own children go, but the body within the office is someone I trust, someone that will believe and inspire everyone within the building….I know this is the right place for me at this time at Lakewood Elementary! I will miss Hagersville Elementary; my home for the last 4 years!
  3. The Choice to become ‘Uncomfortable’; this one sounds funny, so let me try to explain this. I was taught rote learning, worksheets, read and summarize, drill and kill patterns and remembering and recalling dates, details, sets in solving long division; when I got outside this traditional teaching method and got uncomfortable and really ‘let go’ my experience and practise with inquiry driven student lead learning soared. I grew more as a person, changed my questioning techniques, conferences, guided which eventually turned to becoming a learning within the journey with each student as well. When I got uncomfortable I started learning more about what was being taught in the classroom, I was a students within my classroom alongside the kids, I became one with them. When this occurred I seen ‘more’ I actually seen why kids were still struggling with wanting to learn, and as any teacher does I adjusted, flipped and changed my ways….the outcome is what I design, how I work alongside kids, partners and colleagues now. When I walk into a situation my first thought is how do I become uncomfortable; because within this IS the growth in learning! I am constantly told my practise is incredibly progressive, totally outrageous and out there in good ways, but not the norm….my response is always ‘Great, I learn more from the kids then they do from me!’ So get ‘Uncomfortable’ people take leap of faith and try crazy, outrageous and becoming a big kid….its so much fun, doesn’t even feel like work and this is the true power of uncomfortably; changing from being a job to becoming something you thoroughly look forward to everyday!
  4. Getting into the Microsoft Educator Community; now let me start with this….yes we are a Microsoft Board, yes we use O365 all the time, but it is not the be all end all! I love Microsoft products, in fact my Surface Pro 4 is unbelievable!! By far the best computer I have ever had, highly recommend it too people! Working and learning within the MEC I learned so much about accessibility, and differentiation and how behaviour / classroom management could be eliminated with simple DI and mind blowing leveling programs that even the playing field for all! Within this journey I learned that there is NOT one answer for all, not one name but IF you explore everything Apple, Android, Microsoft, Samsung etc….there are so many possibilities we can find something that works for all! My journey took me into the Microsoft Innovative Educator Pathway route two years ago, which lead to the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Microsoft Innovative Expert Trainer, Microsoft Surface Pro Expert last year and just recently a Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow! Yes I love my Microsoft!! I learned to develop those partnerships through Skype, O365 tools and that distance is no longer problems or issues as collaboration and teamwork can be done despite time zones, distance! Through my Microsoft Connections I learned about Remind 101 (communication tool for home school connections) and became and Remind Ambassador, I learned about Write to Give (Incredible Learning adventure – please see other blog postings) and became a Teacher Ambassador and will be venturing with Write to Give to Africa next August to meet the staff, students and schools in Africa. Microsoft brought me to the incredible team at Fair Chance Learning; Martha and Dustin are amazing people! Lia; whom after meeting her at this years E2 in Toronto feels like one of my previously mentioned EA Mommies….through email and twitter I feel as if I know her for my whole life and that first face to face meeting and hug was something that set a tone and inspired me to continue working on my partnerships on twitter even though they are overseas! Because as Kaylyn Dorland (another inspiring amazing twitter friend and Ignite speaker partner) has seen on her trip this year in Spain; she actually connected and met with a few of her twitter friends during her trip. I met Brian, Lisa and Derek through FCL whom inspire and push me everyday! I love Brian’s crazy ways with anything and everything he does and Lisa’s fantastic video’s of her children trying new innovations and her inspiring coding demo’s and Derek’s passion and energy in his practise! Microsoft has started an incredible journey that I hope is long from being over!! I thoroughly look forward to all things Microsoft everyday!
  5. My children; now I know Johnathon did this one as well, but I have to totally agree with him! I was a different person, a different teacher prior to kids. I was also a different person and teacher prior to my three amazing kids; Xander (6 yrs), Callie and Abbie (4 yrs my Twins) started school. Xander really struggled and I truly finally seen the ‘other side of the coin’. When parents come to us and state their case, their concerns for their child, I honestly thought I knew what they were talking about….but during my first conference with Xander’s kindergarten teacher (whom was also my highschool co-op and college placement supervisor) I stopped dead in a middle of my parental concerns for my child, totally lost my train of thought and finally seen / understood past, current and future parents perspectives….it was this moment when I was given insight into truly understanding parents! I remember my wife and that teacher being concerned I had a stroke or something…but it was a flash of reality! I have tried to explain this to others, but honestly I do not believe nor think anyone without a child (even without a child IN school) can see and understand this! Not that I am promoting having kids, although I would consider them my greatest achievement in life to date and they challenge and drive me nuts everyday but I love them so much that I wouldn’t change a thing! Xander and my girls are all totally different people, yes my identical twins (whom even have identical teeth…or so I was recently told by the dentist after x-rays) are different…each child is unique, incredible and come with different backgrounds, experiences yet they also come armed with ammo! Just like Johnathon’s daughter Izzy and my son Xander their ‘ammo’ can spark such powerful learning, we as teachers need to see what their arsenal, bag of tricks is and bring it out for all to see! I just had a flashback on a blog posting on ‘My Friend Gabby’ this past year….that was a moment I will never forget…all it took from me was acceptance! All kids are gifts! I thoroughly believe everything happens for a reason and its a comforting notion in hard times, but also uplifting to know at the same time as teachers! Each child is unique and there with you for a reason….find that reason, build rapport and get to know your kids…..when I learned this I took my rapport building to new heights and levels. The best feeling is the last day of school each year as tears run down your face because you love each child and will miss them so much, but the best part….know they will be awesome because of the time you had together!

OK, so there we go, all done, but when thinking and reflecting on this I know tomorrow this list could / should possibly be different! On so it should, having a growth mindset and forward thinking movement the future should always bring forth learning for you, everyday holds something new, every experience and moment can teach you something….grab it, embrace it and learn from it!! Until tomorrow…….

Summer Innovation with Fair Chance Learning!

Well, here we are again; reflecting upon a trip that was inspiring, innovating and also very emotional for me too!

Being an Avid Twitter Follower of the remarkable, inspiring and incredible work Fair Chance Learning does not only for teacher support, students learning but also provide opportunities for ALL types of learners, people and situations as seen in today’s posts with Children’s Wish Ontario! I had seen a few weeks back the awesome learning environment / situation / experience they provided for Peel Students, I decided to reach out and inquire about the possibility of bring some kids from Grand Erie District School Board.

Martha (Director of Professional Services); responded back to me with an eager yes! Anyone who knows, witnessed or been part of a Martha Jez workshop would understanding this; ‘Eager Yes’…she is an incredible speaker, innovator and empowering leader in our field!! So, with this I would love to share our awesome-sauce (as current International Space Station Astronaut; Jack Fischer would say) adventure with Fair Chance Learning and Microsoft Canada!

So, I; myself am walking into a new school at Lakewood Elementary, new grade level (5/6) with new students whom I wanted to bring along to instill a passion of innovation from the best; Martha @marthajez and Dustin Jez @DustinJez, Derek Tangredi @dtangredi. Being tied closely to my former school (my home away from home) I also wanted to include them as well; so three students from Hagersville Elementary, our wonderful principal; Janice Hughes and her two boys came along as well. Alongside Janice (principal), a step father of one of my students this year came along (whom is a special education teacher consultant) and myself (classroom teacher) we had a lot of bases covered within Grand Erie @GEDSB with a small contingent. A highlight personally for me was that Fair Chance and Microsoft allowed my son; Xander (6 years old) to tag along as well with his little buddy.

After a little side work organizing we were all set and pumped for the big day! Carpooling and navigating through some intense traffic we arrived at our destination at Microsoft Head Office in Mississauga. On most trips this traffic would instill a sense of a strong desire for some coffee, however walking into a place of innovation, empowerment and invigorating passion to inspire, infuse and instill a growth mindset; coffee was not on my mind at all…..however, the washroom was!

Upon walking into the front doors you feel as if you were walking into a nerd/geek dream. A side note; my wife calls my trips and workshops ‘geekfest’ when doing anything related to technology and or computers, but I am totally fine with this! I could rock the Big Bang Show alongside the geek squad!

Martha met us; shook hands with each student, parent and introduced herself and welcomed them all with open arms into the world of Microsoft! After a hug for myself (yes, we geeks tend to do that when inspiring young minds is in hand for the day) we went upstairs where we seen the ‘brain trust’, the storage of anything and everything digital within the Microsoft World. Being an avid fan of the new series Salvation; I felt we were walking into Darius’ realm of innovation and meeting ‘Tess’ (his virtual brain working alongside everyone as an Artificial Intelligence being). We were brought into a room where the energetic, creative Derek Tangredi was to meet us (I would have been incredibly pumped; but Derek and I touched based the evening before via twitter, so I knew he would be there – If anyone gets a chance you have to sit with Derek sometime……talk about an empowering person to get behind and model your practice from!!). I also finally, officially met Michelle Valtas (Director of Marketing and Communication for FCL) Karen Truyens (One of Microsoft’s Leading Ladies) and my Buddy Alex from a TweetMeet I hosted a couple days before!

Karen welcomed us to Microsoft Head Office and partook in the days events with us; provided us with some awesome OneNote Avenger Capes for the students and us big kids as well, and as incredible as these were this was far from a highlight from the day! The highlight was watching pure eagerness turn into a desire, invigoration a passion to explore all the cool tech on the table in front from the kids! We had Makey Makey, Sphero’s, Windows Computers and today’s big exploration…..the new Micro:bit!! (Insert crazy fun music now!!)

With Derek at the helm leading the micro:bit education we began coding our initials; an easy simple starting point for anyone getting started! A few of my former troops programmed; when A/B both touched the LED’s lit up writing ‘My brothers feet smell’ and ‘My sisters are crazy’ (simple yet a step another step in the learning process of scratch / block coding). After some laughs and frowns from brothers and sisters within the room it was time to get funky!

Derek lead a lesson in creation of some awesome activities that could be used for physical education / DPA through coding and programming the kids coded programs that ran hula hoop counters, egg catching games and even limbo! Watching the kids learn the basics of code and the immediate application into a fun game right afterwards was awesome! Soooooo much fun playing the games with the kids….but the conversations were the best! I heard ‘I cannot believe I made that into a game’ and ‘coding can do this!?!’, ‘Mr. Archer I am going to miss this next year’ (former students), ‘Mr. Archer we have to do lots of this stuff this year (new students) and ‘Dad this is the stuff we do at home, but sooooooo much better’ (From my goofball; Xander).

Some of the key highlights was watching parents, my former principal and also the teacher consultant desire to dive in and try (all of which walked away purchasing a micro:bit by the way – so you know they were inspired!!), explore and ask so many deep and amazing questions that connected to curriculum content, clubs, activities, Camp 21’s and from one parent ‘I just love the smile on my kids faces when they are inspired like this’. One word comes to mind; empowering!!

On a more personal note; watching my son interact and learn from Dustin and Derek (two idols of mine in education was incredible to see). Xander is a really, really busy kid! He does not sit long nor attend to anything he is NOT into, however he was glued to each and every word these two said and time they spent with him. Something that does not happen often with Xander, yet another reason these two guys inspire and are models from my practice!!

We also had the opportunity to finally meet the Jez clan! The power couple; Martha and Dustin brought along their kids and a friend and seeing them pure enjoyment with the tech in them just drove home for me the incredible power we all have on and for our kids! In a place so far from home in a totally new environment it felt homey and very family oriented! Microsoft Canada; Karen Truyens and Fair Chance Learning not only spoiled us with an incredible day of innovation but also what seemed to become of rather larger new family of passionate people with a desire and eagerness for innovation!

To top things off we were even spoiled with lunch from Microsoft! If you talk to any parent; those dreaded brown bags lunches are dreadful (insert ‘oh crap’ September is around the corner on those lunches are coming back). We sat in the cafe; along with the buildings employee’s and even these people welcomed us with open arms and conversations too!

This little summer adventure just instilled so much more passion and desire to continue my learning journey with Microsoft and Fair Chance Learning in my own professional practice! Being an innovator as the aforementioned professionals within this blog takes hard work and commitment to be the best and explore, fail, adapt, change, fail some more and more and more and then you get it! But, then something new comes along and the process begins again, to be an innovator you have to get ‘uncomfortable’ as my friend Derek says! Growth is found in uncomfortable situations that are not the nor… innovating for you kids, students, parents and families people and most of all give anyone and everyone a ‘Fair Chance in Learning’ and explore accessibility, coding and differentiated means of delivering and accessing material using Microsoft’s O365 tools!!

The possibilities are endless….develop a PLN on Twitter otherwise opportunities such as this would not happen….twitter is my adaptation into innovation and global teaching, let it by your guide and voice as well!


Fall of 2017 is fast approaching!!

Well here we are in August, on the downward side of summer holidays and school is fast approaching again!

Looking ahead I am not entirely sure what the future will hold in the new school, with a new grade level, new students, families, colleagues and whatnot but what I do know is that it will be a new adventure! I always say change is good; therefore this move will be a nice change of pace and location for me, as my own students will be at Lakewood, which will make life before and after school a wee bit easier for my family!!

As for my new students; I am looking forward to an older crowd! Last year we touched on many new and innovative things in grade three, but I found we started to top off around April where and when I could not take kids much further into the digital world, as things began to become a little too far abstract and difficult. So, as with any problem and issue; I reassessed and regrouped and thought why not lets give an older group a whirl and see how far and where I can take them!

So, looking ahead this year one of the things I am very excited about is the sheer independence and depth I can take kids on through a new means of acquiring learning; project based student inquiry driven assignments and tasks. Very individualized and hands on more so for the students and less so for me. So a bit of a flip for most people; myself I will have to adapt tracking, conferencing, documentation and consolidation methods. Be more insightful and creative with my ideas and suggestions for students to add more depth into their projects, consider teaching students the ability to connect and collaborate into a new realm of twitter, skype and blogs within the safe confines of the classroom as well. I want to instill the passion I have for collaboration, networking and learning alongside people digitally and globally!

Some of the projects we will be jointly exploring during student driven 20% time; thanks A.J Juliani and John Spencer (Empower Book – Fantastic Read by the way!! Highly recommend it) will be; Write to Give writing and publishing a book for students in Kenya, Africa (where I will be travelling next August – thanks Write to Give!!), Koen Timmers; Global Climate Action Project in October (very excited to partake alongside over 250 other classes throughout the globe and 59 other Countries), Working with Micro:Bits and @dkiang ibook ‘Making with Micro:bit’ and actual Micro:bits (I will be requesting parents to purchase) first time ever exploring this but have worked through the 14 week Intro to Computer Science Coarse during the summer with my own three kids and they loved the Project Based Learning / Maker Projects!! Super excited to work with these great little coding machines and continue learning from Team (Fantastic Group of very knowledgeable people); Lead by the energetic tandem of Martha and Dustin Jez; the dynamic dual behind the Company! This team provides so much; please take a peak at their site for lots of awesome stuff; also online purchasing of Makey Makey and Micro:Bit Kits too!!

Something I am going to continue rolling with and amp up even more so this coming year will be the depth of Coding and amazing tech to lead and use with Coding such as; Makey Makey, Micro:bits, Ozobots, mBots, Dash and Dots (can now borrow from Public Libraries), Vex Lego Kits, Sphero / Ollies (purchased two this summer from Kijiji) and so much more! Endless possibilities and links throughout the entire curriculum!

Another thing I am getting right into this year is Maker Spaces! I am going to work on a ‘Maker Mentality’ type program within my classroom, which will be the driving force behind all project based learning throughout the year! I have acquired many, many resources and will be requesting items from home, community partners and much more! Super excited to partner with Norfolk Public Library for 3D Printing to add more depth to my Maker Mentality / Mindset within the classroom…..possibilities are endless this year!! Super excited to take what Nicholas Provenzano (‘Your Starter Guide to Maker Spaces’) and John Spencer / A.J. Juliani’ Empower Book taught me about Maker Mindset and Spaces!! Two incredible reads if interested in Maker Spaces!!

A side note; Norfolk Public Libraries (I also know Brant as well) are implementing and trying to support schools with STEM learning, so please be sure to connect and touch base with them before school to see what they can support and offer to classrooms too!

Super Excited to also implement and include my former Nipissing Teaching Students STEM Club OneNote Binder within my weekly schedule! We will be exploring their numerous STEM activities and lessons weekly to link students to curriculum in meaningful / fun and exciting ways!!

STEM is excited but armed with the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and the amazing Surface Dial I am going to add the ‘A’ to STEM and make lots of ‘STEAM’ going the distance and adding Art into programming within STEM! Look out Archer’s 5/6s this year are going to be ‘STEAMING HOT”!!

Looking forward to connecting with new colleagues, teaching / grade partners at Lakewood, developing new connections within the community (which should not be too hard seeing as I live in Port Dover already and work as a Volunteer Fire Fighter and have numerous connections already). Also excited to continue working alongside Nipissing University taking on Teaching Students; hopefully would love to continue with High School Co-op Students, and for sure will be continuing with Indispire Native Support for the fourth year!!

This will be the first year I will be remote from my amazing A-Team comprised of some dynamic teachers (Krista King, Nick Reynolds, Presley Sibbick, Joseph Bishop, Christina Demeter) distance will be troublesome yet just a small hurdle to work around!

Looking ahead; things look super exciting and bright!