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Principal Mark Rinaldi-Ross and I have engaged with our staff during the instructional rounds process this season. Seen here Mark is on the floor observing. He is an amazing leader. Also involved is the impressive staff of Parkview under the leadership of Dave Simone. Our three schools partnered to build trust and cultivate our respective cultures of learning.

Observing. I profess this art is in limited supply in our classrooms today. The kind of observation I speak of is non-judgmental. It is exercised with what I call “interested neutrality.” It must be practised….. and critiqued. The best way is inside the protective environment that protocols can offer. When I say protective I simply mean controlled. Skilled facilitators lead teams of learners through the layered processes of instructional rounds.

I do not believe that observing is limited because our well meaning professional teachers do not want to observe as a value judgment. I suggest that they have not been coached how to, their efforts to do so have not been honoured or they have been too busy “covering” curriculum by virtue of their’s or their leader’s expectations. These obstacles are common derailers of becoming learning leaders.

Engaging with our staff in instructional rounds (IR) involved:
-visits to classrooms to observe student learning
-recording observations
-grouping and naming observation clusters
-dialoging through the process
-addressing strengths and next steps in alignment with school visions and plans

By partnering with our teachers and further with fellow schools through the IR process we, as leaders, address and overcome all three obstacles. The nature of IR reduces the threat of judgment as the focus is on how the students learn together by documenting what they say and do in descriptive ways. Feedback is delivered and teachers listen carefully for patterns, inconsistencies and celebrations. There is no intent to find fault or offer advice. Key here is that only the teachers being visited have the innate knowledge of the learning that has been happening in the room. Visitors simply offer descriptive observations.

The team is coming to Eastwood in two Mondays. We are excited to hear our partners observations. I am so pleased to be part of my school team and the greater team of three schools. I trust my learning stance and interest to sit on the floor and observe student learning will continue to support my teachers as lead learners.

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Our mentor text on Instructional Rounds.

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Friday’s I have decided to encourage others to engage in the reflective practise of blogging followed by my sharing of their work here at The Principaled Life.  Today I am honoured to include teacher voice on my blog.  That of Jodie Nardone.  Mrs. Nardone teaches and learns at Eastwood Public School.  She works with ELL students and students that access the Special Education Resource Room.  Mrs. Nardone has used class blogs for some time.  She is an active Ontario Educator on Twitter.  Most recently I challenged her to use her blog as a reflective practise tool.  The result of our Skype calls is the rejuvenation of her professional blog.  She shared this initial story with me as she most recently chaperoned her students, along with her teaching partner Mrs. Silvestri, to the Windsor Mission.  This trip was the result of her students digging deep to truly understand the need and process that our most vulnerable citizens go through for the basic necessities of life.  Enjoy.

Mission Inquiry by:  Jodie Nardone

I am pretty confident with the why and the what about Inquiry. I’ve been struggling a bit with the how, particularly how it looks in my SERR (Special Education Resource Room) classroom. Until recently, and quite by accident.

In keeping with the spirit of the season and at the same time respecting the many cultures in our building, my teaching partner @SilvestriESL and I decided to decorate our school Christmas tree.  It sat bare, save for a few strings of lights, at the main entrance of the school.  We would decorate it with mittens and scarves to donate to people in need in our inner-city.  We would call it the “Tree of Warmth”.  It became a provocation for inquiry.  Each day more items were added to the tree by the kind staff and students of our school.  My students began to ask questions.  Questions about why we are collecting these items.  Questions about what we were going to do with all of the items the students and staff had collected. This prompted us to do some research and watch some videos. Together we decided it would be a good idea to deliver the donations as a class to the local Downtown Mission and get a first hand look at the impact their kindness has on our own community.

Tree of Warmth

We packed up all the items that had been collected, hopped in the cars and headed to the Downtown Mission where they welcomed us with warmth (despite the fact that their furnace had broken that morning).

The Windsor Mission

The Students were given a tour of the building by MaryJo, the Community Outreach Coordinator, with an explanation of what happens there. When asked at the start of the tour what was special about Eastwood school, in typical Eastwood fashion, students responded with answers like “because at Eastwood we are kind”, and “people there are respectful to others”.  Our visit to the Downtown Mission has since inspired our class to do more and thus began individual student inquiries.  The students learned that the food items needed most are proteins like tuna and peanut butter as well as boxes of cereal.  They brought that data back to the school and used it to create what they called a ‘7 Day Cereal Challenge’.   They were on their own ‘mission’.  With minimal direction from teachers they researched more information about the Mission on their iPads, prepared a presentation to share with all classes in the school, designed and hung posters, wrote and read announcements, and created videos using iMovie on the iPad to advertise their challenge.   Students who are not easily motivated were engaged and students who ‘don’t write’ suddenly had a purpose.   Ali was inspired. He wrote, practised and delivered morning announcements to motivate his student colleagues to take part in the challenge.  Each morning they are collecting, tallying and graphing the total donations coming in.  This is just the beginning for us.  Our intent was to collect and donate hats and mittens to the Mission.  It sparked more.  While not a traditional inquiry, it certainly lead me to understand how student ownership of the learning increases engagement and the moral purpose of education.  Where will my students go next with investigations around poverty in Canada?

Please listen to MaryJo describe the Foodbank and the personal care room.MaryJo in the Food Bank

 Please consider following Jodie this #FollowFriday at @iteachELL .  Her newest Blogging venture can be followed and read at mrsnardone.wordpress.com

@iteachELL

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