It’s Their Education. Not Mine.

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 Zippo photo credit: liber via photopin cc

As the months have ticked by and my students have slowly grown into the big shoes that Grade 4 holds I have noticed something interesting happening in my classroom. My students absolutely love teaching each other. Now I know this is nothing new but we are currently experiencing a major shift in my room.

It all started earlier this year when one of my students came to me asking when we would be studying the Canadian government. You see, he had heard via the grapevine that it was something that Grade four’s always learned and he couldn’t wait to get started. I let him know that we would be exploring the government in January – February and thought that’s where the matter would end. Well, I was wrong. Almost on a weekly basis after that I was asked when we would be starting and why we couldn’t start sooner. Clearly I had a Canadian government aficionado on my hands.

One day as I was peppered with more questions about what we would be studying I had an idea: would he want to kick off our unit with a presentation? I posed the suggestion to him and he jumped on board but before he started he had two questions for me: 1) What should he do his presentation on? 2) What were we ‘supposed’ to  cover? I pulled out my curriculum document and said: “You have free rein on what you want to present on and here are the topics we are ‘supposed’ to cover. He asked if he could add in extra topics: the privy council, how supreme court judges are nominated and the history of the various positions within parliament. Sure, why not? If it interested him I said and it is within the big topic he could go for it! With a route to follow and a spark of inspiration off he went ready to do his research!

The weeks ticked by and I watched him diligently research and tinker with his presentation. Every now and then I was asked if I could look over his work and perhaps give him another look at the curriculum document. As things starting winding down to winter break I let him know it would be time to present in January once we got back from our break. I could see the excitement and nervousness building. I too was excited to see how this would all pan out.

When the day arrived and as he walked up to the front of the room we both took a deep breath. As he worked through is presentation, I was blown away. The depth and level of research was incredible. Best of all, he spoke at the level of his peers and in terms they would understand. (He even had a full bibliography. Something I had worked hard on with them earlier this year. Yay!) As he wrapped up his peers cheered and clapped. They asked insightful and thoughtful questions. This was the best kick off I could have asked for.

Gov

Fast forward a few weeks and another member of my class approached me. He was wondering when we would be studying rocks and minerals and, if he could do the same as his classmate and kick off our unit for us. Cue a repeat of the same process: careful preparation, curriculum consultation and another presentation that blew me us of the water.

Rocks

These two presentations have sparked something in my students. They now know that if they would like to teach each other something they are most welcome to. Since then we have had more presentations on rocks and minerals, birthstones,  star formation, sea life and one of the most in-depth video game analysis I’ve seen. And, just because they can and know how, a group of boys are building a website all about rocks and minerals.

Sea life

Now as I sit thinking about the events of the first few months I have begun to realize something. Yes, I have incredible students. And yes they love learning. But like every single student in our classrooms it is their education and not ours. This is their schooling experience and the learning journey of their lives. They deserve to explore their curiosity and follow their interests. With the right tools, freedoms, guidance and empowerment they are the most incredible resource in our room. They can teach each other anything and with me as their guide, I can help make it happen.

 

A Year in Review a Look Back and a Gaze Forward

I originally started this post in late December but left for a trip and didn’t have time to finish it up before leaving. Instead of abandoning it I thought it might be nice to finish it up and set some goals for the new year!

20100224 Horsehead and Flame Nebula
c.c.20100224 Horsehead and Flame Nebula

So it is getting close to that time of year when you look back and see what you have been up to for the past 12 months. It is a time to think about where you have improved, where you need to improve and what you would like to achieve in the next year.

In no particular order and by no means exhaustive I present to you a look back at my 2011:

  • I have started to understand the passion for teaching that so many teachers have spoken about. Getting excited about teaching is a great feeling!
  • Confirmed my belief that the best learning takes place in a positive classroom environment and learning community.
  • I realized that I am responsible for my professional development and that I shouldn’t wait for anyone to give me the answers but I should look into and researched them myself.
  • Started to read educational blogs and learned from other professional.
  • I entered the world of blogging and found that it helps me articulate my views and ideas in ways I never thought possible.
  • Delved into technology to get over my fear and found that the possibilities are endless when it comes to technology and education.
  • Integrated technology into my teaching when possible and appropriate!
  • I’ve learnt how to listen to the needs of the students in my classroom.
  • Partnered and met with educators whom I have a great respect for, to collaborate and share ideas with.
  • Built two silly but fantastic Trash-o-saurus sculptures with kids ranging in ages from 5 -9 years old. One in the classroom as a teacher and one at a community centre I now know that kids love ESD!
  • Fallen in love with the fact that in the early years I get to teach everything!!
  • Figured out that I really can teach all those subjects I was nervous about teaching.
  • I joined the world of Twitter and realized it isn’t just a medium for to share what you just ate but rather is fertile ground for deep conversations with other educational professionals.
  • Twitter is amazing for sharing resources!
  • Travelled throughout Manitoba educating young and old alike about road safety related topics. (Score a third summer in a row working for MPI)
  • Marvelled at the beautiful province I live in and the people who live here.
  • Travelled to far off places, only to come back and be glad to call Manitoba home.
  • Most of all in 2011 I grew to become a better teacher!

Having been so busy in 2011 looking back it really feels like a blast from the past but as the new year has started and I begin think about what I would like to achieve this year, I can’t help but look back at what I learned and build upon it.

The year is barely 5 days old so here goes, in 2012 I hope to:

  • Keep growing as an educator both in the classroom and outside as a professional.
  • Keep blogging, reading blogs, engaging in the twitter community and reading professionally.
  • Find answers to the questions I have about assessment, differentiation, digital literacy and the mountain of others I have!
  • Foster the friendships and professional relationships I have built through my two years in my B.Ed
  • Continue to travel and bringing the world into my classroom.
  • Continue to integrate ESD into my teaching and spark a passion for environmentalism in my students hearts.
  • Use technology to strengthen my practice.
  • Work on the subjects that I am weak in and grow my teaching repertoire.
  • Somehow figure out how to bring in astrophotography into a lesson or two. (Sounds a bit dorky, but I have been wanting to do it since a fist year astronomy course! Amazing stuff!)

The Cone Nebula/ To nefeloma Konos, Photo by David Malin

C.C. The Cone Nebula/ To nefeloma Konos, Photo by David Malin