Learning Commons – Our Next Steps…

September 25, 2013

Keeler School has taken the early steps and has created and implemented a Learning Commons space and philosophy. Being high-needs and high-poverty, one of the early issues for our staff was being able to see a school with similar demographics to ours engaged in this type of work to create worthwhile learning opportunities for our students. Now that our staff is one year into this, we would like to be able to use Keeler School to share our learning, and help it to be successful at other schools.

We see the next right steps for Keeler School in evolving and developing our Learning Commons philosophy and implementation to improve student learning as:

  • Educational Philosophy – Continuing to develop, support and implement an experimental and inquiry-based philosophy based on the Teacher Effectiveness Rubric and Framework (http://www.cea-ace.ca/publication/what-did-you-do-school-today-teaching-effectiveness-framework-and-rubric) from the Canadian Education Association.
  • Collaboration – Establishing both educator and student collaborative opportunities through the use of educational technology for “CREATING” (rather than “consuming”) and utilization of the space as a collaborative place for engaging in deep, real world work. We would like to increase student access to resources for the creation of artifacts to engage them in their learning, especially focusing on the artifacts as a learning process rather than final product.
  • Focus on Learning – We would like to make the Learning Commons the “Hub” of learning at Keeler School. We would like to examine ways to make sure that if a parent steps into the Learning Commons, they are immediately struck by the learning that takes place at Keeler School as a whole. It needs to be a dynamic work that changes over time to reflect the actual work, rather than artifacts that sit in there for years. How we do this, either through digital tools, student artifacts, photographs, artists-in-residence, or other possibilities, is a question we would like to pursue this year.
  • Independent Access to Resources – Increasing student ability to independently access resources (both physical and digital), and even allowing our kindergarten and grade one students to learn how to sign out their own books. We have an amazing library assistant who is wholeheartedly supportive of this process and sees her role as supporting children in literacy and loving reading, rather than being a “gatekeeper” for the resources.
  • The Space – Creating spaces that are student-centered and adaptable to be able to meet the needs of individual students, groups, classrooms, teachers, community groups, parent, as well as our staff as a whole. We would like to look at finding the right resources, whether it is furniture, curricular learning materials, math and science manipulatives, art media, or other materials, to make this area comfortable and responsive to the needs of our school community and the many agencies and programs that use Keeler School on a regular basis, thereby creating a true “Community School.”
  • A Bigger Audience – Developing the ability to be able to showcase student learning to a much greater audience rather than “just their teacher.” This will be done utilizing digital technologies, Keeler websites such as our Keeler School home page (http://schools.cbe.ab.ca/b318/) and school Facebook page to update parents (https://www.facebook.com/keelerschool), physical spaces in the Learning Commons itself, as well as the Keeler School Weebly site (http://keelercommons.weebly.com). Our experience has shown that opening up the audience for students enables them to engage in work at a completely different level than if the work is only done within the classroom and for the classroom.
  • Sharing Our Learning Out – Sharing our learning, lessons learned, mistakes, and successes with other schools undertaking this work and within the system at large, as well as with the world beyond Keeler School. Digital technologies such as Weebly, our school website, our classroom websites (http://schools.cbe.ab.ca/b318/showcase.htm), this Blog (https://unravelingnewfrontiers.wordpress.com), and our student work and projects. Hopefully others and ourselves can use these to showcase the change that has started to take place…

It will be a fun journey! Here is to Year 2!

As always, work hard, learn tons!
D


Keeping Educators in a Positive Frame of Mind

September 11, 2013

Amazingly, at Keeler School we are almost done being back into school for 5 weeks now, as we are on a modified calandar. I am going to cheat a bit today, and share some ideas that came from an article in Educational Leadership from June 2013 called “Seven Super Strategies for Success Over Stress” by Jack Singer. The Headings are his, the blurbs are mine. The Link to the article is below:
http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/jun13/vol70/num09/Seven-Super-Strategies-for-Success-Over-Stress.aspx

How do we help ourselves to be successful and happy, when we work at an extremely challenging place with some wonderfully challenging students? Here are some ideas on how to set ourselves up in a positive frame of mind.

1. Take charge of your internal dialogue…

Our mind and perspective controls everything we do. No, that one student is not out to drive you crazy… Honest! Our work is to figure out the WHY behind the behaviors and help them to build on their strengths. By looking at students and other people as having strengths, we are already choosing to look at things in a positive light. Our self talk will determine how we react in those difficult moments… Tell yourself that “You can do it!” (and imagine me saying that to you in a crazy voice…)

2. Develop psychological hardiness…

We know resilience is something we try to help our students develop, but we need to make sure we help ourselves as well. Singer identifies three areas, commitment, control, and challenge.

Commitment is about making goals and looking at why we are educators in the big picture. I know we have all chosen to do this work because we know we can be “that” teacher who helps out “that” student…

Control is that piece that we need to maintain when things get a little bit crazy! Even at their craziest, we control how we react…

Challenge involves looking at opportunities rather than obstacles. I think we all love our work because there is no binder we can pull off the bookshelf that will tell us how to support the growth of a child with difficulties. Looking at things as positive challenges versus negative will assist us in going on the right track.

3.Practice your breathing…

Really, it does work! Take time to breath…

4. Release endorphins into your body…

Part of being healthy at school means being healthy outside of school. I love reading and painting and biking and being with my family. Even laughing helps you to release endorphins. Guess that gives me leave to continue being silly around here the odd time…

5. Random acts of kindness…

I have been striving to do a random act of kindness each day. Today , Due to the help of the CLVC, I was able to help a student who had his bike stolen yesterday. Pretty nice feeling when you’re able to accomplish something big like that, but even giving a big smile to a student might be just what they and what you need as well…

6. Identify why you are grateful…

With my kids at night we have been identifying one thing that makes you feel grateful. We have been doing it for about four weeks and it is amazing how much it has improved all of our outlooks. In the article, Singer suggests developing a gratefulness diary. I don’t know if that would work for me, but identifying why I am grateful definitely does…

7. Spend the bulk of your time with positive people…

I love this one! The staff at our school are so phenomenally positive, that even when I’m having the worst day I know that someone is there to inspire hope, trust, and optimism. If asked how he was doing, the ex-principal who was at Keeler school when I did my student teaching here always replied “Fantastic!”

Work hard, learn tons!
D


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