Today might be the day…

I saw this quote on Twitter today and it struck a chord with me…

When I have connected with former students years later, they always remind me of things that happened when I was their teacher/administrator. Most of these things have nothing to do with the Math that I taught them. It was the things that happened that were funny or were out of the ordinary. Some of the memories happened outside of the classroom…during student council activities or on the basketball court. It was the relationships that I had with these kids that was memorable. Sometimes, it was just simply lending an ear or spending some time helping with a tough concept in another course. Sometimes, it was just being a goof…which I am quite good at. For some, it was giving them food when they were hungry. For others, it was time spent playing guitar or sports together.

What are you doing to give your kids an awesome experience?

 

What does it mean to be Principled? (reflection)

Each week at our school, we have a homeroom challenge. It started off in September as a trivia question and evolved into identifying songs which were played over the intercom. Each homeroom class was challenged to submit an answer and the homeroom challenge trophy was awarded. In October, each week had a dress up component…wearing pink, Canadian pride, sports jerseys, etc. Some of these challenges were introduced through our school Twitter feed…as a way of getting our school community to start looking at Twitter as a way to receive important information.

As a result, students and staff are looking to Twitter for the homeroom challenge.

In November, we turned our challenge up a notch:

I sent this out via email:

Hello Everyone,

Here is this week’s challenge:

As a homeroom, you must read this blog post and, together with your class, submit a reply (right on the blog site). We will acknowledge a homeroom in PYP and one in MYP to as the “winners”.

To leave a reply, scroll to the bottom of the post and enter it in that space…you may need to submit an email address. Remember, this reply is public on the internet and can be seen by anyone in the world. If you want to include a picture or other media, you will have to provide the link. Please remember digital citizenship and FOIPP.

Please remember to sign your reply with the name of your homeroom (eg. 7A, 3B, etc.)

Derek

Then, followed up with this…

The reason that we originally chose this kind of challenge was to expose our staff and students to a blog site and get them to see how easy it is to post a reply. Also, we wanted our students to talk about what it meant to be principled.

We chose two “winners” for the challenge but that is not the important part. What is important is that we used collaboration to create a page which does a great job of explaining the IB Learner Profile attribute of “principled”. Our school community has provided examples which will be easy for other students to relate to because THEY WERE CREATED BY KIDS…with the help of their teachers. We were all blown away with the quality of the replies that we got on the blog post.

This challenge has reinforced a few things for me:

  • Great things happen as a result of collaboration.
  • The replies submitted by each class on the blog page are a by-product of a rich conversation which happened in that room around the attribute of Principled.
  • Kids need teachers to guide them in the areas of citizenship and digital citizenship.
  • Blogging is a powerful way to share information and have a “conversation”. Since replies were posted in a public forum…they were extremely well crafted.
  • It doesn’t matter if you are the “winner” as long as you learn and grow as a result of an activity/challenge.
  • Our school is awesome!

 

#EdcampYEG this Saturday

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Hey Everyone,

I would like to invite you to the Edcamp Edmonton conference which is this Saturday (October 18) at Lillian Osborne High School. I have been on the organizing committee for this “unconference” since the inaugural edition in 2011.

What is an edcamp?

Edcamp is a form of unconference designed specifically for teachers and their needs.

What makes Edcamp an unconference? Unlike traditional conferences which have schedules set months in advance by the people running the conference, Edcamp has an agenda that’s created by the participants at the start of the event. Instead of one person standing in front of the room talking for an hour, people are encouraged to have discussions and hands-on sessions. Sponsors don’t have their own special sessions or tables, all of the space and time are reserved for the things the people there want to talk about. People could pay hundreds of dollars to attend another conference, or they could go to Edcamp for free.

Built on principles of connected and participatory learning, Edcamp strives to bring teachers together to talk about the things that matter most to them: their interests, passions, and questions. Teachers who attend Edcamp can choose to lead sessions on those things that matter, with an expectation that the people in the room will work together to build understanding by sharing their own knowledge and questions.

Edcamps are:

  • free
  • non-commercial and conducted with a vendor-free presence
  • hosted by any organization interested in furthering the Edcamp mission
  • made up of sessions that are determined on the day of the event
  • events where anyone who attends can be a presenter
  • reliant on the “law of two feet” that encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs

To register or to get more info, go to http://edcampedmonton.org/

or check us out on twitter https://twitter.com/edcampyeg

Best PD ever! Hope to see many of you there…sorry for the short notice. Even if you can only come for a few hours…you will be glad that you did.

If you cannot attend in person, you can follow the #edcampYEG hashtag.

Derek

 

Sources

http://edcamp.org/what-is-edcamp/

Why Should You Use Remind?

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I discovered Remind over 3 years ago through a fellow educator on Twitter. I tried Remind (at that time it was called Remind 101) and I was immediately impressed with the potential of this tool. I was teaching a class at the time and I had my kids test it for me. It was a great way to remind kids about upcoming exams and assignments and also remind them to bring certain materials to class. Kids today seem to always have their phones with them and text messaging is their number one way to communicate. I have tried many ways of getting information to students (daily announcements, emails, visual announcement (monitors in hallways), etc.) and I have determined that Remind is the BEST way for teachers to send announcements to their school communities.

As a high school administrator and technology leader, I shared the tool with my staff (and at district technology PD sessions) and the feedback that I received was amazingly positive.

As we get back to school, here is a list of reasons why you should use Remind:

1.       It is easy for students and parents (not to mention teachers) to sign up for a class. Just post or project the info for your class. It takes literally seconds for a teacher to create a class…and it takes even less time for students and parents to sign up. Once a student texts the information below, they are asked to send their name and that is the last time that they can write a text response to any of the teacher generated messages.

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2.       Remind is great to remind kids about tests, assignments or anything else. I just finished sending a message to my Technology class…”Please remember to bring cameras to school for tomorrow’s class”.

3.       Remind works great for clubs and teams or any other groups that do not meet regularly. I used it for a Cross Country Running team that I was coaching and it was extremely valuable…it also prevented some major frost bite. I could send out messages like, “It looks like snow for the race tomorrow…make sure you dress WARM!” When we are at a XC meet and my athletes are separated, I can use the Remind app on my iPhone to let them know where to meet.

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4.       Teachers can send messages using Remind and they do not share (or have access to) any personal information. No phone numbers are recorded. Teachers get a list of the members of their class based on what the student types in when they sign up.

5.       Remind can be used from your desktop or by using the app on your phone.

6.       Remind does not let you play favorites…when you send out a message it goes to EVERYONE who is signed up. Our Provincial Teachers’ Association reminds us that having personal text conversations with students is not a good idea.

7.       There are a few new features that are quite useful. Now, teachers can send attachments or record voice notes and send those out. Messages can also be scheduled…want to remind kids about a lunch time meeting? Write the message and schedule it to be sent out right before the lunch time bell.

8.       Remind keeps a history of every message that was sent by a teacher. From this archived list, a teacher can choose to tweet the message or send it again. When you are working with teenagers…they may need more than one reminder…as you are aware. Also new is a feature which allows students to “vote” on a message using the following icons:

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I can see this being extremely useful for teachers. Send out a message to your Basketball team like, “Are you available for a tournament on November 8? Check mark for yes, X for no”

I would recommend that you try Remind for your student/parent groups. There is no better way to send out timely information.

I was so impressed by Remind that I dedicated one of the sections in my iTunes U course (https://itunesu.itunes.apple.com/audit/COH9A39P2C ) to it.

FrontRow – I applaud your customer service!

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At school this week, our junior high French teacher was complaining that the brand new FrontRow Juno FM system which was installed in his classroom over the summer was not functioning correctly. The sound system is a necessary part of French class as it clarifies and amplifies the teacher’s voice so that he is easily understood by the students. On this particular unit, the microphones would not charge when they were plugged into the tower. As our school’s tech coach, I felt compelled to help with this situation. I spent a little bit of time online and I found the manual for the system. There were some troubleshooting tips in there but none of them seemed to solve my problem. I discovered that when I used a phone charger plugged into AC that the microphones would charge so I knew the problem had to be something with the tower. I phoned a former colleague at another school who has been using these systems for a few years…he had not experienced this problem before.

So…what now?

Here’s what I came up with:

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It wasn’t too long before I received this:

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I was impressed by FrontRow reaching out to me and including their Help department in the message. I sent back a message thanking them for their quick reply. Later on in the day, I had the following “conversation”:

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Now that is what I call customer service! Quick and simple, but most importantly, effective. Now I know how to solve our problem and I didn’t have to sit on hold for an eternity. Great products are backed by great customer service.

Kudos to you, FrontRow!

 

 

 

Student Discipline

I wrote a quick post a little while back about a sign that I saw while I was on holidays this past summer.  Since I posted that, I have done a great amount of reflecting with respect to discipline procedures and my personal practice of disciplining students.  To me, the sign that I took a photo of nails down some ground rules for people to remember when dealing with others.  I have been contacted by many teachers who loved the sign and wanted to incorporate it into their classroom rules.

As an employee of Edmonton Catholic Schools, I am committed to the mission, vision, and core values of ECSD.  I will use the core values to guide my reflection:

Dignity and Respect – It is important to remember that when kids get in trouble at school that I must do what I can to maintain their dignity.  I must remember that it is the behaviour that I am punishing, not the student.  I try to treat students as if they were my own children and I realize that getting in trouble and breaking the rules is all part of learning.  Consequences which are given must not be degrading to the student.  An easy rule of thumb is, “If this was my own child, how would I feel about the consequence?”

I will not belittle a child or speak down to him/her.  I find that I get better results when I speak kindly to students and parents.  I read a book a few years ago called Verbal Judo that I must get a copy of…it gives many tips for keeping control of interactions with others.  If the conversation gets heated (as it often does) it is probably better to postpone the meeting until all participants have “cooled off”.  My former principal always used to say, “No one is going to die if we make the decision tomorrow”.  I had a situation once where I suspended a student until his father could speak in a civil manner.  It is important not to raise your voice when dealing with discipline.  The only thing that you are showing when you raise your voice is that you have lost control.

Honesty – Tell it like it is.  Students, teachers and especially parents want to hear the truth.  It is important to be diplomatic…there is always a nice way to say things.  An important technique for me is to think before I speak…this has definitely been a challenge throughout my career.  Tell parents the whole story, from beginning to end and allow them to ask questions.

If you make a mistake…be honest about it.  We are all entitled to make mistakes from time to time.  Don’t make too many mistakes or you will lose some major credibility.  I dealt with a situation at my last school in which I had accused the wrong student of an offense.  I even went as far as to call the parent to the school.  By the time the parent arrived, I had discovered my error and I had to admit that I had wrongly accused the student.  Thankfully, the parent was relieved and saw the humour in the situation.  As I type this I am thinking back to when I used to officiate basketball.  You mess up a call every now and then but if you mess up more than one call in a game, the crowd will start to heckle you.

Loyalty – I need to be loyal to community in which I work.  This include the students, staff, and families which make up this school community.  I must also be loyal to the mission and vision of the school district, as well as to the code of conduct of the Alberta Teachers Association (of which I am a member…yes, even as an administrator).  I find that if I am ever having a dilemna, I ask myself the question, “What is best for the student?”  Our school (and our district) have the best interests of students at the heart of our mission.

Fairness – Consequences have to be fair and must be warranted by the behaviour.  In other words, the punishment must fit the crime.  For example, if a student breaks a window, the student must pay for the window.  If he (his family) cannot afford to pay for the damage, I think that community service would be an appropriate consequence.  I had a student do some painting in lieu of paying for a broken window.  I used $10 per hour as the pay rate.  The student broke a $150 window so he painted for 15 hours.

Personal & Communal Growth – To me, this is the most important part.  This is when the learning happens!  What has the student learned as a result of a consequence?  I am thinking back to an incident last year in which a student was using uncomplimentary language directed at a teacher during a student/teacher hockey game.  One of the teachers who was on the ice at the time approached me to say, “We need to ban that kid from playing hockey for the rest of the year”.  To this my response (after thinking for a moment was, “I appreciate that what [this student] did was wrong, but if we ban him, how does he show that he has learned something?”  The consequence, in this case, was a three day out of school suspension and a one month suspension from playing hockey (hockey games were once per week).  The student was able to show that he had learned something.

A very important note….once a student serves a consequence for a certain behaviour, I believe that we should forgive and move forward!  This is part of the Communal Growth piece.  As a school community, we learn and grow as a result of everything that we do.  Relationships are the key to dealing with discipline efficiently and effectively.

If you have anything to add, please comment.