That Thing I Used To Do #IMMOOC Week 3

As I was writing the title for this blog post, Taylor Swift’s new song, “Look What You Made Me Do” started running through my head. Her song is about shaming some celebrities for their misbehaviour and wrongdoing. Although my closest friends and colleagues have not dissed me publicly, the colleagues that I worked with at the beginning of my career did contribute to some teaching practices that I regret.

Well, no one made me do anything, except for myself.

This week’s blog challenge: What is one thing that you used to do in education that you no longer do or believe in? Why the change? I could probably write a novel about all the things that I no longer do because I know better. I don’t think there is a teacher out there who could say they haven’t changed anything in their teaching practice. If there is, in George’s words, “You will have become obsolete.”

When reflecting on this prompt, the first things that came to the forefront of my mind were craftivities and theme teaching.Pinterest became really big in my second year of teaching. With the Pinterest craze, came the craftivity craze. I hate to admit that I got sucked into all of the cute little crafts that went along with our writing. The school culture at the school I worked at at the time was very much about show and creating beautiful bulletin boards in the hallway. The craftivites went hand-in-hand with the themes I was centering my Language Arts program around and made for great displays. Each time a new season or celebration would come along, I would put out the matching picture books, put up a display on my door, and plan my lessons around a picture book and writing prompt to match the theme. This cycle would be on a continuous loop for the school year. It was like having the most annoying song ever stuck on repeat.

I never thought, “What if so-and-so doesn’t like Halloween, or winter, or camping?”. The list could go on and on. I was the sole director of the content, with no student voice or choice being given. I seem to recall that my students were engaged, but were they really? Would they have been more interested if they were given choice through inquiry based learning? Where was the deeper learning?

Reflecting back, how many hours did my students spend cutting out the pieces for each craftivity? How many hours did I spend at the photocopier? How much money did I spend on cardstock and coloured paper to make each one look even cuter? I think the sales people at Michaels knew me by name at that point in my career! Too bad I couldn’t go back and have my future self tell me that the learning is more important than how the product looks. Craftivities weren’t sparking my students’ learning, they just developed their fine motor skills.

I’d like to apologize to all my former students and wish I could go back in time to teach you again using the knowledge I now have.

I am now a fully recovered craftivity-aholic. In fact, I just told a colleague to not worry about craftivities, they aren’t worth the time you put in. All of us make mistakes in teaching, but what’s important is to recognize them and make changes to make the experiences in our classrooms the best for our students.


Me a Leader – What??

Before the IMMOOC experience many of my colleagues have told me that I am leader. Even my principal has given leadership roles at my school – Technology Coach, Division I Literacy Lead, and Mentor Teacher. My internal response to them was this:

I always think all the things I do are just part of my job as a teacher and who I am as a person. I am always willing to share, welcome others into my classroom, and talk about all the exciting things that I am doing with my learners.

During the Week 5 Live session, Shelly Burgess and Beth Houf brought up the idea that anyone, in any position, could be a leader. After this statement was made, I started to think that, maybe, I am leader in my school and district.

This newfound perspective of myself made me do a little informal research and reflection. The word leader is defined as a person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country. Nope – I’m not this kind of leader. I associate this type of leader with someone in an administration role or Superintendent. So what kind of leader am I then?

The word leader comes from the word lead, which can be used as a noun or a verb. In total, there are twelve different meanings of the word lead. After reading the following definition, I have decided this could fit with how I view myself as a leader.

lead – to show (someone or something) the way to a destination by going in front of or beside them

In my leadership role, I don’t command a group, rather I show someone the way by modelling innovation. I take time to work alongside my colleagues and push them to try things that are new and better. George talks about how savvy leaders are constantly re-inventing. I know I am always reflecting on how to improve my practice and never teaching the same lesson twice, always re-working and innovating to make it better.

Through my informal research, I gathered that a leader is someone who inspires others to such a degree that others would go above and beyond, not because you have to, but because you want to. Leaders encourage, guide, coach, empower, and respect. They are role models who excel, risk takers, and innovators. I’m too humble to say that I have these qualities, but I will say that I strive to be a person who exemplifies them.

Great leaders work together and push one another to do new and better things for our learners. I love talking about the Innovator’s Mindset with my colleagues. We have our own impromptu #georgetalks throughout the day. My one colleague sent me a quote from the book that has become one of my favourites:

“We only get better when we find those who truly elevate us. Look for mentors who will push you to come up with better and brighter ideas and be that person for your followers. Leaders are meant to unleash talent by bringing their people’s strengths to life, not ignoring them.”

She ended the text with a simple: Thanks! 😊👍

After receiving the message, I finally saw myself as a leader.

Sunset chaser.png


Taking a Risk With Student Surveys #IMMOCC Week 2

At the end of Chapter 3 in The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros asks you to consider, “What risk might you take to change learning experiences?”. After hearing both George and Pernille Ripp speak at my Teacher’s Convention in February, I have been toying with the idea of asking my students what they don’t like about our classroom. I have often asked my students what they like about our classroom, but never have had the guts to ask them what they don’t like, because I find criticism hard to take, even from a group of Grade 2 students.

Well, after this week’s readings and YouTube live session, I finally figured I need to take the risk of surveying my students about what they don’t like in order for me to reflect on what is not working and what needs to be changed.

I was unsure of the kind of response I would get from a group of seven and eight year olds. I had my students write what they liked on one side of a card and a ‘yuck’, or what they don’t like, on the other. I asked them to not put their name on the card, but five or six of my students ran up to me to share their cards. The kids who ran up to me with their cards wrote things like this:

Things They Like
‘Yuck’ Things

I decided that these cards weren’t helpful in my reflection process, but it’s always nice to know my students like their teacher and that they wouldn’t change anything! A few did tell me that they didn’t like home time as they wanted to stay at school since they like learning so much.

I did receive some cards that were able to give me some more feedback on what’s working and not working.

Things They Like
‘Yuck’ Things

I can see that my students do enjoy choice in activities like Daily 5 and they enjoy blogging so a wider audience can be a part of their writing. From the responses of what a few of my students are not enjoying, I can see that I need to innovate on how we practice our spelling words and do word study. Even though this was done anonymously, I do know who wrote Writer’s Workshop, so I know that I need to work with him on developing a passion for writing. I am going to need to reflect over the next few weeks on how to help this student to learn to love writing, considering I already offer choice in what they can write about and each student works at their own pace. Any suggestions on how to innovate in writing and word study would be greatly appreciated!

This morning I was a bit nervous to read what my students would tell me, but now that I’ve asked them once, I think it would be easier to hear criticism when I do this again. I also think the more students were asked these kinds of questions, the more focused and helpful their responses would become.