Rediscover the Joy

Why did you become a teacher?

When I think back to my decision (too many years ago to count), it comes down to the students. Being surrounded by students each day is exhilarating. I love the honesty with which they live. I love witnessing their aha moments. I love their spontaneous exclamations of delight.

But let’s face it. The last few years have been tough. The pressures and pivots due to COVID and the expectations placed upon teachers quickly cause fatigue and can easily overwhelm us.

This year I challenge you to rediscover the joy of teaching. Close your door to the chaos and reignite your reason for choosing this profession in the first place.

Which moments in your classroom do you treasure the most? How will you ensure these moments outweigh the challenges?

“Find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Spread Some Love – a repost…

I have never reposted a blog entry before. And yet, with the province declaring a State of Public Health Emergency yesterday, this post feels timely again…

Over the last few weeks, I have heard many health care professionals–doctors, nurses, paramedics, personal care workers, and others–share their frustration and exasperation with the current COVID situation. Rightly so. In the midst of this fourth wave, they are feeling demoralized and disheartened as they are stretched beyond their limits. All in a preventable situation.

We cannot ease their burdens, but we can let them know they are appreciated. This week, I’m going to write messages of thanks and send them to a handful of health care workers for all they do, day in and day out.

Will you join me? Will your students?

Perhaps the students in your class (or even better, your whole school) will write letters, draw pictures, or create cards of thanks.

Imagine the recipients, reading the messages and pausing for a moment to smile. Imagine the feelings of hope when they see recognition of their hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. Imagine the moment they notice the sincerity and care with which your students wrote their messages.

We can’t change their realities, but perhaps we can provide a much needed lift. I’d love to drown out the negative voices with our positive ones.

But I can’t do it alone…

If you are willing to participate, add your grade level, the number of students in your class, and perhaps where you plan to send your letters or cards. Let’s spread some love and appreciation! Are you in?

Stand Tall

Those of us who were teaching twenty years ago, remember the day with our students. It’s difficult to forget.

On September 11, 2001, I was teaching grade 6. By the time my students arrived at school, both twin towers had been hit. Many of my students came into class knowing something had happened. And yet others arrived completely unaware. There was a strange buzz in the air, one I’d never want replicated.

I threw out my lesson plans that morning. Instead we talked. I remember feeling vulnerable, unsure of what and how much to say to my students. I remember the difficult conversations and the challenging (and often unanswerable) questions. I remember the sombre tone of the day, knowing our world had changed, and not yet knowing the gravity of those changes.

On that day it was difficult to find much light. It was truly a day of darkness.

In the upcoming days and weeks, the world learned more about the events that transpired. The more we learned, the more questions we had. But also, small moments of light–stories of strength, compassion, and heroics–emerged.

As teachers, we have an incredible opportunity to journey with our students in difficult moments as well as celebratory ones. We don’t know what each day will bring, but we stand before our students nonetheless.

Resolute, determined, hopeful. Each and every day.

Spread Some Love

Over the last few weeks, I have heard many health care professionals–doctors, nurses, paramedics, personal care workers, and others–share their frustration and exasperation with the current COVID situation. Rightly so. In the midst of this fourth wave, they are feeling demoralized and disheartened as they are stretched beyond their limits. All in a preventable situation.

We cannot ease their burdens, but we can let them know they are appreciated. This week, I’m going to write messages of thanks and send them to a handful of health care workers for all they do, day in and day out.

Will you join me? Will your students?

Perhaps the students in your class (or even better, your whole school) will write letters, draw pictures, or create cards of thanks.

Imagine the recipients, reading the messages and pausing for a moment to smile. Imagine the feelings of hope when they see recognition of their hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. Imagine the moment they notice the sincerity and care with which your students wrote their messages.

We can’t change their realities, but perhaps we can provide a much needed lift. I’d love to drown out the negative voices with our positive ones.

But I can’t do it alone…

If you are willing to participate, add your grade level, the number of students in your class, and perhaps where you plan to send your letters or cards. Let’s spread some love and appreciation! Are you in?

Writing to Survive

As the school year approaches, I’m sure you’ve considered how you will incorporate writing into your classroom. We know there are many curricular objectives about the teaching of writing.

But this year in particular, keep in mind how writing can support our students’ mental health.

Anne Frank once said, “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” More recently, Suleika Jaouad who battled leukemia with a 35% chance of survival has said, “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that writing saved me.” Why not discuss these quotes with your students? Help them understand a side of writing they may not have considered: an emotional release, reflecting on life experiences, thinking on the page…

How will you facilitate this writing in your classroom? Journal writing, freewriting… a little of both. However you do it, be intentional. Dive into the conversation with students. Allow this function of writing to be visible in your classroom.

Those of you who know my story, know that when I was a young student, writing saved me, too. Don’t underestimate its power…

School Dreams… New Beginnings

It’s that time of year again… have your school dreams started?

Why do we have school dreams anyway? I believe it’s because we care: our subconscious selves working through those nerves and preparing to give our best. Thinking through all sorts of things: what the safety protocols will look like… what to say on the first day of school… how to set the tone for the year… what the students will be like… how to prepare our classroom spaces for optimal learning…

There are children and parents who feel nervous and anxious as the new school year approaches, too. Children who hope to feel safe and welcome in their class environment. Parents uncertain of whether in-person learning is the best option these days. Children with low self-confidence, intimidated by the whole idea of school. Parents who hope their children will have teachers who see their potential rather than the problems.

Along with the nerves of the new school year, come new school clothes, new school supplies, and new beginnings, too.

Trust the magic of new beginnings… thrive in these exciting times!

Against the Current

Have you ever heard this saying? “You’re more likely to be aware of the current if you’re swimming against it.”

I’ve been thinking about this concept within our classrooms. For some students, skills and understanding come easily. For others though, schooling–and all it encompasses–is a challenge. These students must feel like they’re swimming against the current: every moment requiring effort, and sometimes, it may even be a struggle to stay afloat.

When you plan your lessons, do you take these students into account? What scaffolds are in place within your classroom? Do you provide your students with a life preserver of sorts, something to support them in what must feel like a never-ending struggle?

As this school year begins, consider… who are the students swimming against the current (and why)? Are there students with anxiety? Students with language delays? Students who struggle to access the words on the page? What will the life preservers look like for each of these students?

Life Preserver Pin | Club Penguin Wiki | Fandom

Remember, “Fair isn’t everyone getting the same thing. Fair is everyone getting what they need in order to be successful.” Rick Riordan

More food for thought… once those life preservers are in place, how can we help our students learn to use the current to their advantage?

Classroom Libraries

As you prepare for the upcoming school year, take some time to go through your classroom library with a critical eye. Our classroom libraries should entice students to read. Does yours?

Consider your library from your students’ perspectives:

  • Is it visual appealing, well-organized, and inviting?
  • Is it limited to one genre or does it have an adequate range?
  • Can you find the poetry, the picture books, the novels, the graphic novels, the non-fiction, and the magazines–no matter your grade level? Where are the gaps?
  • Are the books within your library truly diverse? Can all of your students’ see themselves represented?
  • How much of the library have you read? Can you easily talk to your students about the books within your library?

Classroom libraries can bridge the gap for students who don’t have access to books. They can broaden our students’ experiences and foster a sense of empathy as they read about the plights of others. They can help our students explore and confirm their identities and their places in the world.

Classroom libraries, just like the books within, have the potential to change lives. What will you do this year to intensify the impact of your classroom library?

You May Be the One

Over the last week, a few events have converged: I’ve watched snippets of the Olympics, I’ve been planning a session for an upcoming Mental Health Academy, and I’ve overheard my neighbour interact with his children.

You might not think these have much in common. However, they have all reminded me how important it is for children to have at least one significant adult in their lives: someone they can trust; someone who honours their individuality and supports their physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing; someone who stands by them as they make decisions and mistakes; ultimately, a stable, positive role model.

Josh Shipp has phrased it this way: “Every child is one caring adult away from being a success story.” Some children are fortunate to have many significant, caring adults in their lives. Others are forced to look outside their homes: a teacher or coach, for example.

These kids certainly don’t come up and ask us to be that significant, caring adult in their lives and yet most often we know which are craving a relationship such as this. They might be the ones acting out, making decisions that draw attention–any kind of attention–towards them. Or, they might be the ones that withdraw, attempting to make themselves invisible in our presence.

Have you considered that you may be the one? Is there a student, a player, or a neighbour child in your life who needs you?

A Summer Challenge

The school year is always incredibly busy. So… this summer I challenge you to read books that your students would read: whatever their age. Sift through those books on your classroom shelves, visit the library or bookstore, and make a point of reading a handful of books that your students would read.

Consider (at least) one from each category:

  • picture book
  • chapter book or novel
  • graphic novel
  • non-fiction
  • biography

Simply read and enjoy. Or, even better, consider which would make effective read-alouds and/or mentor texts. What could these books be used to teach within your classroom?

  • Did the author use effective dialogue?
  • Were you hooked by the story beginning… if so, why?
  • Did you notice interesting word choice, a creative use of sentence types, compelling rhythm or repetition?
  • Was the organization effective?
  • How did the pictures and words work together to create an effect?

Okay… get to it! What’s on your reading list?