A Year in Review: 2016

Well, here it is. As 2016 winds down and 2017 is gearing up and getting ready to go, this is an excellent opportunity to sit back and reflect on a very busy 2016. 

When I think about my professional goals and development I can only think of one word that can describe it: change. For as long as I can remember I can’t think of a year I didn’t embrace some sort of change, to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself to become a better person and an educator. 2016 definitely was a year where I was always outside of my comfort zone. 

Little bit of invasion games to develop some fundamental movement skills

At the beginning of 2016 I was teaching KG2-G1 Physical Education. This was quite the adventure in my career as I have never taught lower elementary before!! It was at this time where I was sinking my teeth into the the Primary Years Program (PYP) philosophy and the Personal Social and Physical Education (PSPE) curriculum behind the IB program. One area I was struggling with was applying the PYP and PSPE curricular approaches into my unit planning. Through my exploration of the curriculum I had a light bulb moment, “why was this not always a part of my planning framework?!” Before the concepts behind the PSPE were always part of my teaching practice but it was the hidden curriculum, implied outcomes that were never stated by any set curriculum. This lightbulb moment definitely changed the way which I would approach my unit and lesson planning and the program development task I would face later this year. More on that later…

So thank you KG2s and Grade 1s for all the hugs (usually accompanied with a running headbut to the hips or groin if I didn’t catch them in time), teaching me that I am no match for a swarm of small children who want to tickle you to the ground, and that there is always inspiration for growth every day. 

Another change I wanted to see was in my implementation of technology in my teaching practice. Before I was pretty tech savvy with implementing tech where I can but I knew there is a better way. For the 2016-2017 school year I set the goal to go completely paperless; no hand outs, no physical notes, no handwritten tests. Obviously there had to be premeditated thought into this and if the students I had didn’t already go through a laptop must have on their school supply list, I definitely would not have made this transition. So I took a leap of faith and I can sum up this experience in a short statement: FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!!!

Using platforms like google classroom and taking the time to stumble through its integration has definitely changed the learning environment in the classroom. Before I thought my classes were collaborative, but now the student-collaboration is through the roof. The sharing and peer work is happening almost naturally without any input or direction from me! It’s almost kind of scary in a awesome way!

I’ve also noticed my efficiency in my assessment practice has definitely increased. It’s easy to check in on student learning and do formative checks now that all their work is housed in one place and not a scattered binder. Parent conferences are now a breeze as we all can go through the students work and have quality discussions on their learning journey and the implication of assessment as learning is now a real life event and easily  applied to the daily learning regiment because parents are now an active part of the assessment process! Providing specific feedback to students is simple by adding comments directly to their assignments highlighting the areas that are awesome or that need improvement. Overall it has just made my life easier!!

But with any change, there are growing pains. When planning to transition to a paperless classroom I tried to anticipate these changes. I thoughts that wifi connectivity or access to a device would be an issue but I was wrong! Turns out that this transition rattled a few professional cages. Some colleagues I work with were not to open to my transition and it made for some great dialog in staff meetings and in the hallway. Sometimes we forget how personal the teaching profession is and that other professionals become apprehensive when they feel that their practice is being questioned or feel judged. I found these opportunities to navigate these feelings around my transition quite engaging and enjoyable. Definitely had to pull out some Learning Coach strategies for these learning opportunities and watching the reception of my tech strategy change over the first semester was awesome. Hopefully this could start a change within the school, who knows what could happen!

The final change I wanted to make this year was getting connected in the international teaching realm. This is a whole new professional world and at first I found it strangely isolated considering how easy it is to jump on a plane and go to a new place or to shoot someone an email. But it’s the face to face time and conversations that I missed! Luckily I had the opportunity to be part of the ConnectedPE community and started to actually use twitter!! I quickly realized that I wasn’t alone and there were many conversations to be had through #pechat and other conversations happening on twitter! Sure, you’re limited to 140 characters but the conversations that have been had and the sharing available is amazing!! I highly recommend taking a look at the ConnectedPE community where you will find some webinars put on by some of the best professionals out there. I’m still not too sure how I ended up on there!!

Well, there it is folks. My first official blog post! Hopefully you have found it useful and a bit entertaining. If you have any questions about the planning framework, integration of “paperless classroom” or the ConnectedPE community please feel free to contact me via email or twitter.

Have a great Christmas and an amazing start to 2017!

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