October 20, 2012

Engaging Imagination Conference: A huge success!

We just finished hosting a successful conference on imagination in my school district which we called: Engaging Imagination: Hearts, Minds and Learning

I was part of the organizing committee which included 7 members. This was a very exhausting, but also tremendously rewarding experience. Initially we thought that we might get only about 40 people; however we were pleasantly "blown-away" at the interest we received, and we started to contemplate closing the registration as we ended up with over 160 participants and approximately 20 presenters. As I spoke to another teacher at the break she said, "I believe we have reached critical mass," when we were talking about the idea of understanding what it truly means to be a 21st century teacher and how we can best reach and equip our students for this day and age. The answer of course is not just by putting technology in their hands, but by engaging students' imaginations!

I was involved in many aspects of the preparation for the day, such as stuffing envelopes, getting extra chairs from the nearby middle school, making signage for rooms, setting up tables and chairs the night before (thanks also to my colleagues for their help), and figuring out where all the cars were going to park in the morning. More importantly though, I was extremely fortunate to co-present for 2 sessions on the Whole School Project with Dr. Kieran Egan. 

Here are a few "slides" from my presentation on our school's project about the River which we have titled: "Respecting Our River, Embracing Our Space". I think it will explain what our project is about.

I was so thankful for all the kind comments that we received from the participants who attended the conference. Would I do it again? Yes, but maybe I'll rest a little before that. I also presented my own workshop later in the day on how to use imagination to bring laughter and fun into the curriculum by engaging students bodies and emotions with concepts. Look for that in my next post:)

October 13, 2012

Educational Progress & Politics - an oxymoron?

September is the craziest month in schools. We are getting to know our new students, parents and some fresh teacher faces. And then there are the meetings, meetings, meetings. I am trying to rise above the fog and regain my composure. 

I don't particularly see myself as a political person; yet I become so passionately involved in resisting the way that new Ministry of Education policies, practices and funds are disseminated, even when I tell myself not to. It is a slow filter, at a snail's pace to be honest, from the BC Government, through school board officials, to school board staff, to Administrators, and then to Teachers and Student Services Staff via a maze of endless meetings. Too many barriers to progress in my opinion! What confuses me is that "we" at the bottom are supposed to have some kind of say in this? It doesn't feel that way most of the time.

So let me rephrase something, although I don't see myself as politically-minded, I have this internal fire that burns and causes me to act and resist when "politics" impede and paralyze our ability on the ground level to adequately and quickly deliver the services that are needed for our most vulnerable learners. I guess in voicing my opinion I am, as a result, political in nature; it's just that I am not very good at wasting time, stalling, being vague, being indecisive, or ignoring what the people most affected by those decisions are saying they need and want. These seem to be the qualities of a great politician. Yes I make plenty of mistakes - don't even get me started; but I would rather try something, tweak it, learn from it and move forward. A car can't get anywhere when we are pressing the gas and the brake at the same time. Is there even fuel in this thing!? Let's get this thing out of park and start moving down the road! That's probably why I wouldn't make a very good politician, I'm not patient enough (and I might crash the car)! 

Teachers and school staffs face enormous pressures at the beginning of the school year, and it's extremely frustrating at times; however recently I was so kindly reminded about WHY I teach. I work with two amazing kindergarten teachers across the hall (I teach grade 4 and 5 students). We have "Buddy" times together. We were so amazed at how the students were working together and showing caring, respect, and enthusiasm. I heard my students saying things like, "Great job!", "Look at that beautiful drawing!", "See what my buddy cut out!" to their little buddies. And their faces were full of smiles and laughter. I was reminded that I teach because I get to see kids come alive, learn new things, and mature through the relationships that surround them. I also need those moments with other teachers to focus on what is really important. 

Another important moment happened for me just within the last couple of weeks. I was very honoured to receive a letter from the Prime Minister of Canada, Steven Harper. It was an announcement that I had won the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence. Kind of ironic that the top politician in the land was giving me an award (look at my blog title and this post). But to be honest, it didn't really come from him; it came from a nurturing and dedicated group of Teachers, Special Ed. Assistants, school staff, parents, and students that I work with every day. I too, recognize how I am supported and encouraged to do more, this is what keeps me going. I do receive that award with thankfulness, recognition is something we all deserve, and I share it proudly with all my colleagues who have taught me so much!

I know that I can be highly opinionated, which doesn't make me always right - just louder than other people at times; but I know that despite my own inadequacies and lack of political tact, it is my heart and passion for teaching that comes through, that is my hope at least. Thank you to all of you whom I have had the privilege of working with, for nominating me for the Prime Minister's Award, for sharing ideas...and thank you for listening too!