My First Try iMovie/Youtube (Stations of the Cross)

As I mentioned yesterday, today our school had our annual Holy Thursday retreat. As part of that retreat, I had my students create models of the Stations of the Cross. They did a great job and I am very proud of their efforts. When the students had finished, I took photos of the models and used iMovie to create a video out of them. This is my first try at creating an iMovie video and I really liked how easy it was to use. It was a lot of drag and drop and it did a lot of the work of making the video look good on its own. I then uploaded the video to Youtube. This was my first try at that as well.

Below is the link to the movie. I would love any feedback in how I could make it better. Keep in mind that I am looking for feedback for the video producer, not the artists. Thanks.

Click here for the video.

Why I Love Working in a Catholic School

Tomorrow our school celebrates Holy Thursday by having a whole day retreat where we take our students through a series of prayers and activities designed to get them more prepared to celebrate Easter, the most important day of the year. This retreat is an important day on our school calendar and one that I have come to appreciate more and more as time goes by. 

This day is a clear illustration of why I love working at a Catholic School. It means that our faith life and our academic lives don’t have to be separate. Growing up I went to a public school.  I would even say I went to a good public school. I finished my schooling with a strong academic background that allowed me to succeed both in University and later in my life. I always felt, however, a disconnect between my internal faith and the way I felt I could live that faith when I went to school. That disconnect disappeared when I started working in a Catholic School. I love that I can have conversations with my students where we can talk about morality and decision making in light of a shared faith.  

I have read a lot lately where people are trying to paint independent schools as places of wealthy elititism. This just has not been my lived experience. I am not saying that there are no independent schools that do not take on an air of elitism, but I would be willing to wager that the public schools in those neighbourhoods take on those same attitudes. In my experience, most of the parents that send their kids to Catholic schools do so because they want the values and beliefs that they hold at home to be mirrored by the schools that their kids go to. Most parents that send their kids to Catholic schools want to be closer partners in their children’s school. The Catholic schools that I have worked at (there have been four of them) are not filled with the rich elite. They are filled with families that make sacrifices to send their kids to that school. 

I have been very fortunate to work at the schools that I have. I have been surrounded by excellent teaching and non-teaching staffs and supportive parent and parish communities. I look forward to telling you more about my experiences moving forward. 

Get Out Of Their Way And Let Them Learn

I never cease to be amazed at kids’ capacity to learn when they are motivated. In particular, I amazed with how much kids can learn on their own. I think that sometimes that us adults get in their way far more than we think we are or we should. I think, if given the chance, kids will learn far more than we give them credit for. 

This past therm in Science I did something that I had never done before. Our unit of study was human body systems, so I spent a day talking about the things that the kids already knew and laid out the things that the kids were supposed to know at the end. The students then needed to come up with a plan that laid out how they could learn what they were supposed to learn and how they would present their learning at the end. From that point forward I let them go. My role was more one of a facilitator than a dispenser of knowledge. I gave them some structure for their data collection and laid out deadlines for pieces of the project, but other than that I moved around the classroom giving advice to some, checking the work of others, and fixing technical issues of others. At the end the students presented their learning to the group. I also did a short interview with each kid to see how much they had retained. It was awesome. I was amazed with the depth of understanding of the material that most kids had. 

Why don’t teachers (myself included) not do more of this? There are two reasons that I can think of. First, this kind of learning is chaotic and messy. I think that most of us have a difficult time giving in to and embracing a less than structured learning environment. The second is control. I think that most teachers are control freaks one way or another. It is difficult for us to hand over that control to anyone else. 

So, what can we do? I think we need to give up that sense of control that we cling so dearly to. We need to better embrace a little bit of chaos. First and foremost we need to get out of kids’ ways and let them learn. 

Change For The Sake Of Change

i think that often in schools we deliberately make a decision not to just make chang s just for the sake of change. We don’t want to rock the boat and we know that the process of change can can be difficult, both for ourselves and the people around us. I do feel, however, there is something to be said for change for the sake of change. 

This school year I switched to fifth grade after years in grade seven. There was no reason for it other than the fact I felt like I needed a change. It turns out that the move has been a great thing for me. It shook me up a little bit and forced me to do things differently. It allowed me to challenge myself. 

We do this regularly in small ways in our classrooms. Today my students moved their desks around in the classroom. Was there any reason for this other than to give the students a change of scenery? Nope. Change for the sake of change. 

A teacher that I greatly admire had been teaching fifth grade for a long time. One thing I admired about her was that every year she chose one area of her program to look at and change. She had a good program that she was  happy with but she was constantly changing and trying to grow. I know that this is not exactly change for the sake of change but it was constant change and growth. 

In the immortal words of Chuck Salina (or whoever he borrowed the phrase from), “Better green and growing than ripe and rotten”. 

Quality Pro-D: Does it count?

First, a disclaimer. This is not going to be a politically slanted post. The reason I put the “Does it Count” in the title is that three things have got me thinking about teacher professional development today. The first is provincial government’s decision to have more oversight of teacher Pro-D. I am not going to comment on how I feel about that decision right now, but it did get me thinking about what sorts of things that the government thinks would “count” as pro-d. 

Some of the other things that got me thinking about professional development are things I can safely group together. Over Spring break, when parusing Twitter I came across the idea of coffeeEDU. ( coffeeEDU.org ). The idea is that teachers get together over coffee to discuss ideas and practice. That was followed a couple of days later by being invited to an Ignite Night in North Vancouver. For those of you who don’t know, an Ignite Night is an opportunity for teachers to meet at a restaurant and listen to other teachers present ideas that they are excited or passionate about. It was the last Ignite Night that I attended that inspired me to write this blog. The final item in this group of events that got me thinking about Pro-d was a conversation I had with Joy (since I have mentioned her I am sure to have more people view this post). She was talking about ways that our SEAs could find ways to collaborate and share ideas with each other. The thing that all of these things have in common is both their informal nature and how valuable they can be to teachers in growing their professional practice. 

The final thing that got me thinking about Pro-d happened today. This weekend there is a Google Apps For Education Summit happening inVancouver that I wanted to attend but couldn’t. I was, however, able to learn from this conference by following Jodie Sussex and other attendees on Twitter as they attend the conference over the course of the day. Over the past year or so I have come to admire Jodie for the way she has embraced Twitter as a way to grow professionally and to share her learning with others. 

I am not sure where the future of teacher professional development in B.C. is headed in the future, but what I do know is that theses opportunities for teachers to share their expertise and ideas with others is very important and effective Pro-d. 

Don’t Be Who You Aren’t 

Over  the past few weeks, my wife and I have been eating a very restrictive diet. While for the most part this hasn’t been too difficult for me, it has given us the opportunity to try a whole bunch of new foods. Most of it I have enjoyed. The other day, however, we really went out on a limb. We decided to try “Mac and Chreese”. Notice that I didn’t say “Mac and Cheese”. Now I am not exactly sure what Chreese is, but what I can tell you is that is isn’t good. 

  

Later that night I decided to double down and try some non-dairy cheese like shreds on some tortilla chips. While it was better than the Chreese, it still wasn’t good. 

  

The lesson I took from this? The reminder for me was to not try to not to be who you are not. If you are not cheese, don’t try to be cheese. As a teacher and as a person, it is important to know who you are and to be that. It is important to be self aware enough to not be who you aren’t. It is obvious to the people around you when you are not true to yourself. The flip of this is to be who you are. Again, it is obvious to the people around when you are authentic and act true to your real self.