Tag Archives: school

Disrupting the Classroom Norm

You know that feeling that you want to write about your first week of school to document it and yet you don’t want to do it. But I have to tell myself over and over that there is only one first week of school for the year. This first week of school is very special because this year, I have my own class, my very own class as a permanent teacher!

Now, does that make it more valid to be worth writing about?

A few weeks before the new school year started, Twitter has been overflowing with back-to-school ideas. Three of them I picked in particular to get me started: Play-Doh activity found in Teach Like A Pirate book by Dave Burgess, Youcubed.org videos by Dr. Jo Boaler, and 5 Questions to Ask Your Students by George Couros.

Here’s my learning at the end of the week.

Using Play-Doh on the first day of school lessened the anxiety of students. It made the atmosphere more relaxed. Grade 4-5 students were surprised to see a Play-Doh on a plate waiting for them. A new student actually wrote about it on her “Highlights of the Week.”

It’s interesting to see some students struggled in deciding what to make to represent themselves while other exactly knew what to do. This activity gave me an opportunity to learn about them right away.

With Dr. Jo Boaler and her students sharing their love for math in a video for students to watch, how can this be not worth a try? I had the youcubed.org posters printed off and laminated. Another poster from Ikea coincide with the idea of making mistakes. Only after 4 days of school, I hear my students saying that math is not about speed. It’s more about depth. They are more open to making mistakes and keep on trying which was visible when they did the Stack-A-Red-Cup Challenge. So far, we worked on 3 word problems from the University of Waterloo. Then, topped it up with a card game on place value which they truly enjoyed.

The classroom norm, we asked the students about classroom expectations during the first week of school. With George Couros’ list, we asked them about the qualities they look for in a teacher, their passion, their question for the year, their strengths and what success looks like to them. I took the risk and gave them this questionnaire and am so glad I did. It gave me an insight of who they are beyond the classroom. I’m going to put them in a chart and see what’s common and what’s different.

I also want to open that window for parents and guardians to get a peek of our learning beginning the first week. On Friday, students came home with the Parent Invite to connect to our class through Seesaw. Out of 24, 10 are already connected. They can listen, watch or see what’s taking place which can be a good starting point of conversation at home. When they ask their child, “How’s school?” The one word response “good” won’t be enough.

Highlights of Our Week
Trust. A Safe Place. Respect. Like any human being, we would like to be around people that we trust. We would like to be in a place where we feel safe and individual differences are respected. This is the kind of environment that we try to build at the beginning of a new school year. For four days that they’ve been coming to school with smiles on their faces, I know we are on our way. It will take time for some but we will get there!

This is a new journey for me. I’m opening myself to take more risks to better myself in the classroom, make mistakes and learn with my students, collaborate more, share what I know and learn much more with and from other educators.

Lastly, a question I’d like to ask you, “How’s your first week of school?”




It’s How We Make Them Feel

It’s been such a long time that I haven’t written anything here. This experience made me decide to put my thoughts in writing.
I started reading Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, a few days ago and love the simplicity of words, the concrete examples, but most of all, the thinking-outside-the box. The title speaks for itself!

As I am writing this, I am only on page 38. Consider me a slow reader, but I would like to stop every now and then. Reflect on what I just read that resonates a lot. Do something else or take my dog for a walk to the park.

On page 21, as he continues to talk about building RAPPORT with students, “…working to create a safe and supportive environment where students feel valued, I earn their trust…,” reminds me of a student that was placed in my class two months before the school year ended. Moving from one place to another, from one school to another, meeting new friends and building relationships, and then, off again.

Two months! Yes. Was I worried about this student catching up with the curriculum? No. I was worried more about how we can make this young soul “feel at home” in a new environment. It’s not only me but how the other students in the class and the rest of the school community can work together giving him the assurance that he came to a safe place and nurturing environment where he is valued. From Day 1, all hands on deck.

Came the last day of school. The bell rung at the end of the day. Someone was sobbing. All the students were around and trying to comfort him. I came and asked him why he’s crying. He replies, “I don’t want school to end.”

It moved me. I was lost for words for a few seconds and didn’t expect to hear that from him. I hugged him and talked about all the wonderful things that he can do over the summer as I walked him towards the classroom door. After that, I had to turn my back, walk a few steps away and take some deep breaths because I was in tears too.

Whether it’s the beginning of the school year or the end, it’s how we make them feel. He wasn’t with us for very long but it’s unmistakable that the whole school community touched his heart!

Without us knowing, we are touching those young hearts. That is the rewarding part of this profession. What is yours?




A slice of ice storm for the Slice of Life Story Challenge: Day 24.

Spring has sprung! But schools are closed today because of an Ice Storm. We all love to be at school but it wouldn’t hurt to have an extra day before the Easter long weekend.

I can’t help but share the excitement in the Twitterverse.

Times like this, I need to follow our School Board‘s tweet. Its sense of humour is contagious and it’s just right to share it with the #sol16 community.

Live. Love. Smile.