Well, it’s that time of year again! The end of an another school year filled with excitement, growth, challenge and of course reflection. We all do it in the final days of operation and wonder “where did the year go?” and start planning out our summer adventures.
But before I go on my first summer adventure as a new papa, let’s sit down and take a look at the successes and growth that this year offered!
Every year I always take a look at where I want to end the year off at. For example, my focus for this year was to become efficient at all the “other stuff” like communication with staff/parents, planning and creating lessons so that I can focus on why I truly love teaching: face time with the students. I wanted to avoid at all costs sitting in my office during breaks and after school working on the other stuff and not making the students at the school feel welcome and letting them know that there is someone who wants to see them every day. Sometimes I think we forget that is why we got into teaching in the first place! To accomplish this I had to get a few things in place/challenges to overcome/curve balls thrown…
I spoke in my midyear reflection about going paperless and embracing the Google machine and all the bells and whistles that came with it. As I began to use products like Chrome, Google classroom, google docs, google forms, calendar and many other applications and add-ons it allowed me to provide a sense of connection to my students in a virtual sense. This was a great way to start with effective and student-centered communication as it made it easier for me to contact students and vice versa. In a world of instant messenger and chatting apps, this was something that the students responded very well to. They had the ability to have their lessons at the fingertips on their smartphone or they could collaborate on a concept and learn with their peers reinforcing the power of collaboration and peer teaching. The uses that Google presents to the teachers and students are so vast it is difficult to keep up with all the positives that came by using them!
With anything, there are also negatives. This also made it too easy to contact me and to separate my professional life from my personal life (I know, it’s hard to distinguish the two as an educator!). I often found that work could easily influence my personal life which would go against my strict rule of “no work at home”. Throughout the year I had to develop different systems and procedures for students that would eliminate the need for them to email or post at 1:30 am about their assignment. One strategy that worked well was having students identify the urgency of the situation. Many of you have seen the Eisenhower Box where we are asked to label a situation as based on its urgency or importance.
Here is the example that I used with the students. When I had the conversation of necessity vs waste and how many of the students get instantly stuck in the area of waste because they are misidentifying their priorities. Some very powerful conversations were had with students and this had a lasting effect on students prioritizing their work.
CHANGING A CULTURE
When I set this goal, I knew that it wasn’t going to be a simple “one and done” situation. If you have ever taught internationally, you know that it is a completely different experience than teaching in a school that has been around forever with staff that helped place the first brick of the foundations that the school runs off of. With international teaching, it is a very fluent dynamic which offers a variety of different experiences and resources but I found that it lacked a sense of solid culture that was preventative and encourages wellness within its students. It is very easy to focus on academic content and consistency when there is a fluid movement of staff, and the students figured this out quite easily.
Throughout the year I had various successes and a few set backs when trying to establish a community of wellness within the the grade 9 students at the school. One tool I used was our homeroom program for our grade 9 students. I used many different activities (monthly homeroom challenges and wellness activity assemblies which focused on simply just playing and working as a community) but found that it did not have the effects that I was hoping for. Often students were hesitant because they were not held accountable. I remember one conversation I had with a student and they described how easy it was for a student to not do their work or participate in a community activity at our FIRST WELLNESS ASSEMBLY!! This conversation resonated with me throughout the year as it pointed to a larger issue, a lack of accountability because we lack empowerment to engage and hold students accountable. It was clear that you need a team of champions to demonstrate a passion that students can learn from and this changed the direction I was heading for the remainder of the year.
If you work in education you know how busy it is! So how could I have the homeroom team become part of the process without putting more of a burden on them? This year we have been working with Russle Quaglia and one resource we walked away with was a framework for building school community with a positive student voice. This framework is structured to be delivered easily, with limited prep and fits our needs perfectly. With a few additional ideas around activity and mindfulness added in by me I started to see a small progressive change towards this sense of community that we were lacking. This gives me a solid foundation to work off of moving forward next year!!
Next year I have the opportunity to continue the great work I started building and creating a school culture with our awesome administrative and GLC team. We still have a long road ahead in terms of improving and getting our culture where it needs to be, but all of use are in it to ensure our students are successful! I am super excited about the policies and programs we have constructed for the 2017-2018 school year that will promote the development of respectful, mindful, balanced and community focused student body. There will be more on that as it rolls out!
I hope that everyone has a relaxing and empowering summer break! We have all deserved it!