Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking back at 2011

Today is the last day of 2011. Tomorrow we change over our calendars again and start another new year. This past year has been filled with many challenges and opportunities and I know that 2012 will be as well. In 2011 I finished my first full year of having my own classroom. It was the first time I taught only in French for the whole year as well. Now that we're preparing to switch over to English in a month I can see some of the advantages and disadvantages of both keeping the same class and switching with another teacher. I found February to be a very stressful. While I had taught my new homeroom class in the afternoons for a short amount of time during the first half of the year, I didn't know them as well and it was very much like starting over again with them. It was basically like having September all over again, except it was in February when my energy level wasn't as high because I hadn't had the summer break before it. But at the same time, I didn't have to do much to my classroom and I got to re-teach a lot of the lessons I had already taught to the other class.

This year I keep my class the whole year so I won't have that feeling of September in February, but I do have a lot of work that I'll have to do in my classroom to get it changed over. I have to replace my word wall, change my sound wall into my CAFE wall and, biggest challenge of all, I'll need to bring in my English classroom library and sort it and store it in the classroom and figure out what to do with my French library. But I'm looking forward to seeing how my students are when we do the English curriculum.

Also this year I worked with two different principals, both wonderful and supportive to work with. I've been very blessed to be able to work with such wonderful colleagues, and now to have Mrs. W work with me in my classroom has been an amazing help. This was also the first year where I stayed in the same school, the same classroom even. I'm very luck to be able to do that this early in my career, especially give then current job shortages. I am very grateful to have a job and grateful that I am able to speak French which enabled me to get a job when there are so few out there.

In my personal life this year has also had some ups and downs. My husband and I went to far too many funerals this year for friends and family members who passed away this year, three of whom were taken from us far too early. We also have had friends give birth and become pregnant. I'm looking forward to having another niece or nephew who is due to arrive in March and I recently found out that another friend is expecting her second child.

I joined a new writing group this year and got in to a musical. I wrote a lot and read a lot. I enjoyed supporting my husband's band while they played in lots of great places like the ECMA's, Harvest Jazz and Blues and Music New Brunswick. I had a great time filming their shows and sharing them on YouTube. I'm so excited about their upcoming shows and their new CD that's in the works.

Yes, this year has had a lot of ups and downs. I look forward to all the joys and challenges that 2012 will bring.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Goals for 2012

In a few days it will be the start of 2012. It's amazing how much faster time goes as you get older. I have a few goals that I would like to make for this coming year based on what I think would make me feel better about myself. After all, that is the point of making goals, isn't it? The main reason for my goals is to reduce my stress. I've been sick more often this year than last, I ended up taking four days off in December alone, and I think that's because I haven't been taking as good care of myself and I've been more stressed than usual. I can't diminish the amount of stressors in my life but I can change how I deal with them.

1. Exercise - So many studies are showing how crucial exercise is to your general well being. It reduces stress, helps you sleep, increases endorphins, lots of good reasons to start exercising more. My goal is to use my Wii Active at least three times per week and as well as walking, skiing, biking, doing some sort of other exercise through the week.

2. Meal Planning - I used to make up a meal plan for myself for the week and I got out of the habit of it. I want to get back into the habit of doing it every week. This will help me save time when I come home and try to decide what to make. I also want to try out one new recipe every week to get myself back into cooking new foods and trying new things.

3. Writing - I have been using to write, but I haven't been using it consistently everyday this month. I want to write every day using that website as well as doing "real" writing. I would like to write a new story every month, send of at least one story per season to try to get published as well as editing my novel. My goal for my novel is to have edited the whole thing by the end of the year and workshopped most of  it by the end of the year.

4. School - I have so many goals for school that it's hard to write them all down. For measurable goals I want to make a conscious effort to leave school by 4:30, 5:00 at the latest each night. I want to make an effort to work more efficiently. I want to have my students do the school announcements every week. I want to spend 10 minutes every day organizing my files and throwing things I don't need away.  I want to participate in a twitter PLN chat (#elemchat, #edchat, #claved, #5thChat or #D5chat) once every week or two.

5. Home - I want to spend a few hours a week organizing and decluttering my office and getting my files moved from my old computer to my new one. I want to finish some of those unfinished sewing projects I have lying around.

Those are some of my goals for this year. What are your goals or resolutions for 2012?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Counting my blessings

I just got back from my Christmas in Cape Breton and I've been thinking of all kinds of things I should write about on my blog. I opened it up and realized I hadn't posted in a month. I'm going to try to post more often this coming year.

In a later post I will write about what has been going on in my classroom, why I was out sick for almost a week and what is coming up in 2012. But for now I'd like to write something a little more personal.

While I was away, I was thinking about just how lucky I am to have grown up in the family that I have and to be surrounded by so much love. I think that Christmas with my family is just about the best thing ever. Growing up, I thought that everyone had Christmases just like mine and I was confused when people would complain about going to see their families or when they wouldn't be excited about big family get togethers. Now that I'm older and I've seen some examples of families that are not like mine I can understand where they're coming from, and I feel grateful that I am so lucky.

My husband and I left on Saturday, Christmas Eve, because we had school right up until Friday, Christmas Eve Eve, and drove for 6 hours to get to my aunt's house in Cape Breton. This is my husband's least favourite part, the drive. I don't mind it that much. Growing up it was about 4-5 hours and we did it several times a year. This year we grabbed some CD's and took turns choosing which one to listen to.

Christmas Eve was spent at my aunt's. Normally we go to my aunt and uncle's down the road but they weren't there this year because my cousin has a baby. Instead we hosted, had some snacky foods, played a game of wizard, then some of my aunts and uncles and cousin's showed up. We spent the whole night in the kitchen eating, drinking and playing a game called "Violence" which in some other circles is called celebrities. When everyone left, my parents, my aunt, my husband and I opened our stockings and exchanged gifts. For the last few years we have cut back on presents. We mostly donate to charity and give things to each other in our stockings. We started opening our presents on Christmas Eve some time when I was a teenager. I, who was always the keeper of traditions, fought against it for a long time but now I enjoy it. The main reason for this is that we host Christmas dinner and Christmas morning is too busy with cooking the turkey and vegetables.

Christmas day we had 15 people for dinner. My brother, his wife and their 2 year old son came up. I was so happy that they were there this year. It was my nephew's first Cape Breton Christmas and he provided most of the entertainment for the day. We do crackers, we wear the hats in the crackers, we sing karaoke, play more silly games, and of course eat way too much.

Boxing Day we relaxed all morning and too the dogs for a snowy walk on the golf course and then headed up to Glace Bay to my aunt and uncle's house. Another feast plus a game of Apples to Apples. Lots of laughter and catching up. My mom has 5 brothers and one sister. All of her brothers have at least 2 children and one family has 5 children. I have lots of cousins and most of them are around my age. There isn't one person in my family that I don't get along with. We laughed so hard we cried several times over the weekend.

I'm so lucky to have grown up and to continue to have a loving, supportive family that is so close. We've known tough times but have become stronger for it. Many of my relatives are teachers or are retired teachers.

In some ways, I feel like my experiences have not prepared me for helping my students with what they are going through. I haven't live through a life that resembles theirs. I haven't had to deal with divorce or poverty or racism or violence or abuse or neglect. I've had some difficulties in my life, but nothing major. But I think in another way, my safe, secure life has made it easier for me to help them. I was taught to be empathetic and caring by empathetic and caring people. I was shown how to love and be respectful by people modeling these things in my life. I hope that I can give even a small portion of that love and respect to my students.

I hope that everyone is having a wonderful holiday.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Not just treading water anymore

I haven’t had much chance to write lately. With report cards going out last week and parent teacher interviews and I got sick at the beginning of last week and NaNoWriMo going on and life in general just got away from me. I felt bogged down and to be very honest I was starting to lose hope about how well this year was going to go. I felt like I was just treading water and not getting anywhere. I always knew this year was going to be a challenge and I knew that I was up for it but of course I was worried at the same time.

Stress is an awful thing to deal with. And despite the absolutely amazing support I’ve been getting, from my principal, from my co-workers, and my husband, I was starting to feel the effects of being stressed. It’s not just school, there are other factors causing stress of course, life is like that. Even though things were getting better I was finding myself less able to cope. It would take me longer to wind down at home and it was affecting my digestive system.

Luckily, things are looking up. As I said, my principal is amazing. I’ve been lucky to work for a few great principals and they all have their different qualities that make them great. This year my principal is very hands on and involved. She’s in my classroom about once a day checking up on how things are going, taking kids out to talk about various things with them, she has been a wonderful resource and sounding board for me and I know that she wants these kids to succeed and she wants her teachers to be happy.

I’ve been reading quite a few blogs written by teachers in the States and it does make me realize how lucky we are in Canada that our Education system has not yet degraded that far. I know that my teaching situation this year is not unique and in comparison to some situations I’ve read about, it’s not that bad. My main struggle is that I have twenty-five grade five students in my class, a few with behaviour issues and possible undiagnosed learning challenges. I have three possibly soon to be four students on IBSP’s, four others who are on modified programs and I don’t have an EA with me, it’s just me. Again, I realize this is not a unique situation and lots of people get by teaching classes like this on their own and I could have done this on my own it was just very difficult.

And so my principal got me Mrs. W. She’s not an EA, she’s a teacher who didn’t get a position this year. She was back to supply teaching and was volunteering in another class. She’s been hired on to work with me every morning until at least March Break and I couldn’t be happier. This was her third week with me and the change in our classroom environment has been wonderful. It was slow to start of but my goodness, having another set of eyes, another voice in the classroom has been amazingly helpful. Now there are two of us reinforcing the classroom expectations. Now I can keep teaching while she pulls a child aside to remind them of what they need to be doing. Now we can separate the class into two groups to help focus on their needs when they’re trying to work independently. 

Luckily, her teaching style and her way of interacting with students is similar to mine. I think if we had very different styles this arrangement wouldn’t work so well but right now it’s working just great.

The other big change that happened, also because of my principal pushing to have things improve, is that my classroom has been completely re-arranged. As I showed in earlier posts, my classroom is a fairly small rectangular room and my SMART board was on one of the narrow walls. This made arranging the seating plan difficult because the students at the back of the room were very far away from me when I was up at the board. While I was teaching something that didn’t require the SMART Board I would circulate as much as possible, but I found the whole room felt crowded, even after taking out two big tables and my reading corner carpet. And I'm not sure why the font changed on this one paragraph when I added in pictures.

My principal looked into having my SMART board moved to one of the long walls and it happened the end of last week. Wednesday afternoon these two guys showed up and asked me where I wanted it moved to. I was not expecting it to happen so soon so I was caught off guard. I think I put it a little too far off to one side which also restricts my seating plan. And now I’m writing on a chalk board instead of a white board but that’s okay.

I find we have so much more room this way. It’s easier to get to the students who need help and I have fewer bruises on my hips from bumping into tables and desks all day.

I’m hoping that with these two big changes along with some other smaller changes, that we can create the supportive learning environment that my students need to help them learn as much as they can this year.

Oh, and on the French front, there was one comment that happened on Thursday that I have to share. We were having a serious discussion about why it’s important to be learning French, especially in New Brunswick. A few of my students were expressing a negative attitude towards French and so I knew it was an important discussion to have. I shared with them that my husband is looking for work right now and that he’s finding it hard because most jobs that he wants require French and he was only in Immersion for a few years so his French level isn’t high enough.
“He could come here and learn with us!” shouts out one of my girls.
They’re so sweet.
My husband thought that was hilarious.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tables and Desks

Please excuse my absence from my blog. Life has been busy lately. I have another post coming explaining why in part but for now I have another post about today.

We had a meeting today about our new school. Our school and another in the area are going to be closed next year and our new school is currently being built. We will be combining the two school staffs and students and to ease this transition, we have meetings occasionally with both staffs to talk about what we would like to see at our new school and what we would like our culture to be like and to get to know each other.
I’m fortunate enough to have worked at both schools, though the other one I only worked there for about two months and then supply taught a bit after, but I know most of the teachers there.
One of the things we were asked to discuss today was what we would like to have in our classrooms. We came up with a list of things like having a tall stool, a small table near the SMART board for our laptops, having a guided reading table and a reading area with something on the floor. These were all things we easily agreed on in our grade level groups.
Then we started talking about desks versus tables for the students. I had never even thought about this idea before. I just assumed we would be getting standard desks and that would be that because that’s what every classroom has in the upper grades that I’ve seen. But the other Intensive French teacher said that she would like tables. She explained that she didn’t have her students put much in their desks anyway and they always end up being a mess. The students tend to play with things in their desks and they end up being more of a distraction than necessary.
I agreed with all of her points and felt that I too would prefer tables over desks. I’ve always had my students store most of their stuff in places other than their desks and I find that their desks end up just being cluttered and full of things that they don’t need. So why have desks? Wouldn’t it be easier to have the students store things elsewhere? And also, this could help them prepare for middle school where they will not have desks of their own. They will need to carry their stuff from room to room and won’t be able to keep supplies in their desks. For that matter, I question the necessity of having desks with storage space in middle and high school. What’s the point? All it does in encourage them to put things in there like notes for students in other classes and other distractions.
Together we thought of a system where we would have tables with different responsibilities for bringing over the table’s basket of supplies. Especially in Intensive French where we do so much oral and group work together, there isn’t a lot of need of supplies. We barely have any duotangs or scribblers and no text books. So what is the use of having a desk to store things? But the other grade 5 teacher, who teaches French Immersion was not convinced. She wants desks with storage space in them in her classroom. At first we thought this would be fine, that we could customize our spaces. 
But it turns out that they want our wings to be be uniform. And when I thought about it a little more I realized that although I’m setting up this classroom for me and for what I would like to have to teach, I also have to think of the teachers who will have my classroom after me. After all, it’s not likely that I will stay in the same classroom for the rest of my career. And even if I did, the new school is going to outlast my career. So I have to think about what the teachers after me would want to have in their classroom as well. And that’s a difficult thing to do. We’ve been told that we can’t change our minds once our furniture is ordered. We don’t have enough money for that. So if we decide now that we want tables and then we find out that it was a horrible mistake then we just have to live with it. Both of us are new teachers. We’ve never worked with tables before in older grades. We just have this idea that it would work better but we don’t know in practice. 
So I’m asking you, my more experienced PLN, what do you think would work better? If you could have any kind of furniture in your room, in your ideal classroom, what would it be, knowing that you have to get the whole wing to agree and that future teachers will be living with your choices? And other than student work spaces, what would your ideal classroom contain? Would you prefer a round table for conferencing or a ‘c’ shaped table? Would you prefer to have a water fountain in the room or in the hallway? If you could design your classroom to look however you wanted, where would you put the board? Your desk? Would you even have those things in there at all?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

French video resource

It's been a while since I last posted. I've been very busy, like all teachers, getting into classroom routines, marking work, getting to know my students better and all those little day to day tasks that pile up. I've been thinking of a few topics I would like to write about but I need to find a costume for our school's Halloween Howls tomorrow night and I need to get to bed so this is a quick post today.

I am very fortunate to work in a school district where YouTube is available for us to use and even encouraged though they prefer us to take the video, save it and show it without worrying about ads or other videos being shown that are inappropriate. My solution to that is that I set my laptop/SMART Board to extend so I can queue up the video on my laptop where the students can't see it, then slide it over to the SMART Board where they can. That or I go to a channel where I trust the content.

My favourite YouTube channel is La chaine de Mme Duckworth, created by a Core French teacher in Toronto. She has about 1500 videos on there, some are silent videos, some are songs, some are tv shows. Not all are appropriate for all ages, but with any video, it's best practice to watch it first before you show it.

Some day I would like to start my own YouTube channel for songs and videos I use in my classroom. Do you have a favourite resource for videos that you use?

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011

Today is October 11 and October is nearly half way done. What does that mean? It means that National Novel Writing Month is just a few weeks away. That's pretty scary and exciting.

For the past three years I've participated (and finished) NaNoWriMo, a crazy idea started over 10 years ago by a bunch of college students who wanted to see if they could write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Crazy idea. But they did it and the idea grew and grew to the amazing worldwide phenomenon it is today.

My first year I wrote a novel called "Getting Centred". It ended up being several stories about these interconnected characters all woven together. It stated out okay but ended up kind of a mess. The second year was the best. I wrote a children's novel called "And the Tower Came Tumbling Down" with a little help and inspiration from the classes I was supply teaching for. I still enjoy reading this novel and am working on editing it with my writing group, but more about that later. Last year, since it was my first time with a full time teaching job during NaNo, I decided to do something "easier" and write a memoir piece about teaching. I managed to get my 50,000 words written but I didn't enjoy doing it as much. I love the unknown about writing fiction. I found with memoir, though I do like writing it from time to time, that there was no surprize. There was no trying to think of what was going to happen next or my characters telling me what they wanted to do because what I was writing had already happened. So I think I'm mainly going to stick to fiction this year.

Generally, October is my out-lining month. I do not write by the seat of my pants for NaNo. I outline, chapter by chapter what I would like to have happen and then I write it. But this year I've been very busy with school and focused on my new class, I haven't had a lot of time to think about what I would like to write this year.

Part of the problem is that with my new writing group I've ventured into thinking about becoming more serious about my writing. They've been helping me edit my children's novel and while reading it over again and again I've decided I still like it and I think it could be worthy of being published one day. That's kind of a frightening thought for me but also exciting. Up until now, writing has just been a hobby, but then I think, why not? Why couldn't I get published? I started looking into how authors get published. I read up on query letters and websites where they critique query letters. One thing that struck me is that it seems like in order to get a novel looked at, you need to have other works published. I've never been published, not in a literary magazine, not as part of a contest, not even on the internet, other than little bits of writing I used to post back in the Geocities days.

So it looks like if I want my novel to be taken seriously, I should first try to get some other stories published, problem being, I don't write many short stories. Even as a child I had trouble with keeping my ideas small enough to fit into anything smaller than a novella. I have written some short stories though and I know I'm capable of doing it.

This brings me back to my NaNo idea for this year. What I will try to do is write 50,000 words worth of short stories. I will try to out-line some ideas for the stories in October and then, hopefully, I'll have enough short stories when I'm done that some will be worth editing and sending off to different contests and magazines. I'm excited by this idea. I could be biting off way more than I can chew but the whole idea of NaNo is to push myself to do something I love to do.

Here's to another crazy November!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tickets please

After blogging about it, talking it over with our M&R teacher and doing a lot of thinking I have gone back to using positive participation tickets in my class. We had a big discussion about it on Friday and, after being out sick on Monday, I started using them for the first time today. While the system isn't totally fleshed out yet, basically this is how it works:

A student speaks French, gets settled quickly, helps someone out, goes above and beyond what is asked of them, I give them a ticket. These tickets can be redeemed for privileges, things like; indoor recess with a group of friends, time in the gym, Smart board games, Lego and so forth. The idea with the "rewards" is that they were mostly group rewards, not just for an individual.

What I haven't worked out yet is the "value" of each of these rewards. I suppose I need to come up with some sort of price list or something so that the students know how many tickets they need to save up. Now I know from video game theory that the most effective reward systems start of with small, easy to achieve goals and then over time make the goals harder and more time consuming. But rather than increase the value of the rewards (with some sort of strange inflation?) I think as time goes on I will make tickets harder to get, so for example whereas now, if a student attempts to speak French, even by repeating what I'm saying back to me, I give them a ticket. In time I will only give out tickets for full sentences or spontaneous French.

The other advantage of this system over last year's is that, rather than constantly having to get new tickets, I'll be able to re-use the same tickets over and over again until they fall apart.

Today's introduction to the tickets went pretty well. As I expected, almost all bought into the system instantly. I saw hands go up from students I hadn't heard from without specifically calling on them before. And yes, this is extrinsic instead of intrinsic motivation, but you know what? It was a happier, more peaceful classroom this morning when we were doing our French work. And hopefully I can gradually pull the program back as they become more confident in their abilities and eventually they will buy into the real reason that we're doing all this learning - to better themselves.

Any hints or tips on how to make this program even better?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Going back to carrots

I'm thinking of going back to positive participation tickets. Instead of giving my students actual things in the draws though, I'll try for less tangible prizes, like having a group in for indoor recess, or taking a small group to the gym or getting first choice of responsibilities.

My reasoning? Well I've been trying for the past three and a half weeks to get my students motivated, not only to learn French, but to be respectful and supportive in our classroom. I'm trying to create a classroom environment that is conducive to learning and at times I'm struggling. I feel bad for the students in our class who are trying very hard and I would like to reward their struggles with more than just words. I feel like I shouldn't have to. I feel like they are doing what they are supposed to and they should feel wonderful about themselves because of it, because they're meeting their learning goals that we set, but I'm also starting to feel like it isn't enough.

I'm also finding that quite a few of my students are hesitant to try, hesitant to make a mistake. I hope this is not because of anything I've done. I model that I make mistakes all the time and have to fix them "Madam a fait une erreur!" I exclaim and fix it, or look up a word I don't know on Google Translate. But learning a second language is tough and it's put them out of their comfort zone for sure. I get that. I've been there. After all, French is my second language and I didn't learn it until I was 12.

So my idea is to start off using the tickets and then gradually use them less and less frequently in hopes that the external motivator will help build some positive habits that will become internal motivators. Am I foolish in thinking this? Am I opening up a can of worms that I won't be able to close or am I doing the right thing here? Really looking for some advice on this one.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

School in Norway

A few days ago, someone posted a video on Facebook or Google+ about what Kindergarten in like in Norway. It's a documentary done by BBC Scotland comparing how much outside time students get in Norway as well as some other differences in what children are expected to do. Here's the video:

I was amazed at some of the things they show in the video. For example, that they spend one day a week outside. How wonderful is that? I love that they have a culture that is more interested in wearing clothing that is appropriate for the weather than "looking cool". One of my favourite quotes from this video is
"There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing"
It's so true and I wish more people had that philosophy in Canada as well. Instead, we get students coming to school in shorts when it's way too cold for shorts.

I also enjoyed hearing their laid-back attitude towards students getting hurt. I certainly don't want my students to get hurt, but I also dislike the fear that if something happens to a child and they hurt themselves then we are totally at fault and there could be a lawsuit or whatever. I find that our obsession with keeping children safe also prohibits them from a great number of learning experiences. Imagine being able to take a Kindergarten class to a farm and interact that much with the animals! Or teaching little children how to safely use knives!

It's a very different culture and one I wish we could see a little more of in Canada and North America.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Read to Self trials

I haven't been keeping up with my blogging this past week. I had a feeling I would slow down a bit in September. Things are so busy. Last weekend's Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival was amazing and a well needed break. My husband's band had an amazing show and placed second in the competition. Thanks to everyone who voted and came to the show. I'm so proud of them.

At school, my class is progressing. We're starting to develop some good habits and routines. Some days they seem to require more reminders of those routines than others. There French skills are progressing as well. It amazes me, watching them figure out what I'm saying, what they need to say, learning the sounds and the grammar of a new language. It's been a few years since I started French Immersion, 15 years now actually, and I have a vague recollection of how frustrating it was at first. But despite their frustration, most are catching on to the daily phrases and routines that we do in French and are getting more accustomed to me speaking in French.

As I mention in my First week with students post, I'm integrating some parts of the Daily 5 program into my Intensive French classroom. In February I'll be implementing the whole program. For now we're focusing on read to self. We did an I-chart of what that looks like, we talked about the three ways to read a book and we have a chart on the board for a visual representation of our stamina progress. More so than any other year, I'm finding their stamina is erratic. Some days they are able to read for 14-15 minutes, other days they only have stamina for 2 or 3 minutes, or can't get settled at all. I am noticing a general trend of more time as we go along, but we have setbacks still. Today their stamina was 2 minutes.

I had one student today who did not want to read at all. This student had been having a difficult week and was being obstinate. I tried having other students encourage this student to try and reminders of the three ways to read a French book but to no avail. And I do believe strongly that when we're building up our class stamina, it has to be the whole class.

Does anyone have any tips for how I can help this child? It wasn't just this one issue today. I tried speaking one on one a few times, and have attempted to contact home to see if there's something else going on but haven't been able to reach anyone yet. How do you deal with students who refuse to buy in to this?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

OT: Please Vote

School is coming along. Each day I'm getting to know my students better and we are coming to an understanding of our expectations and how to show respect to each other. It's slow going at times but I have so much support from the other teachers and principal and vice principal. They are awesome. I'll write more about this continuing journey another day.

But tonight I have a different story. My husband is in a band called the Jaclyn Reinhart Band. They are an amazing group of musicians who work so hard an practice in our basement once a week. I have seen them grow and develop as a group and I love all of them. My husband plays bass guitar for the band. They're an amazing group of people that are almost like another family. 

Every Fall there's a music festival, the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Fredericton. It's a pretty big deal for us. Fredericton is relatively small but once a year we attract people from all over the world to play music here. It is an amazing time. They have a competition called the Galaxie Rising Star competition, taking bands from New Brunswick to compete. There are three main parts to the competition, the on-line voting, going on now, the showcase show tomorrow (3-6pm in the Barracks Tent for anyone in the Fredericton area) where there will be 
judges as well as text voting at the show.

Even if you live far away, if you could spare a minute to vote, I would be very happy. All you need to do is go to this address sign-up with an e-mail address (they don't need your name or anything, just your e-mail address to confirm you're only voting once per address) and then vote. Jaclyn Reinhart Band is the only band in the competition with women in it, and they're amazing musicians. 

If you'd like to check out their music first, my youtube channel is where I post the videos I take of some of their shows. 

This one is one of my new favourites,

Please vote. Voting is done at 12PM Atlantic time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Moving from carrot and stick motivation

Even before I became a full-time teacher, I struggled with the idea of how to motivate students. While in university we looked at various methods and discussed how students who are intrinsically motivated (motivated to do something because they know it will benefit them) work better and have a more meaningful education than those who are extrinsically motivated (those motivated by either fear of consequences or because they will get something else if they do well).

Extrinsic motivation is often called  using "Carrot and Stick" motivators. So you tell a student that if they do this thing you want them to do, they will get a candy (carrot) but if they don't do it, they will get a detention (stick). In some way it is nearly impossible to get away from using carrots and sticks. After all, if a student does well they get a high mark, if they don't do well, they fail. I suppose the amount of importance you give to those marks can change whether or not they become motivators. I myself as a student was highly motivated by marks and by praise.

In a previous post over the summer, I thought about Video game style motivation where I talked about using goals to help motivate my students. This is something I have started doing a little this past week, having the students express their learning goals in writing.

But I also spoke about my positive participation tickets. So far I have not resumed this practice and I would like to refrain from using it this year for several reasons. One is it's a carrot. It motivates students to something I want because they will get something from it. I found it difficult last year to see the students become greedy about the prizes last year and it also took up a lot of time and money to get the prizes. The positive participation tickets came from a system developed for the intensive french program. Most intensive french teachers use them or a variation to motivate their students to speak French. I'm concerned that if I don't use the system that when my teaching is observed, my choice to not use this system will be questioned and I'll be told to start using it again.

My other concern is what to use instead. Last year I tried to go without my tickets with one of my grade 5 classes. After a few days of not getting any hands I started in with the tickets and suddenly the hands went up. I also randomly call on students using a random name selector. But so far this year I haven't seen participation from a lot of my students. What motivators have you used in your classroom that work for you?

Friday, September 9, 2011

First week with students

It seems like only yesterday I wrote about the night before the first day of school, and here it is, the end of the first week. It went by so very fast. There were some big challenges this week as well as some big wonderful moments. I'd love to list off all of the highlights but to be honest, there is just too much to talk about so I'll give a few of the big ones.

First off, my classroom does seem crowded with 25 students in it. It's amazing to think that there are classes with more students than that in other schools. In our school that's a very large class. I have three students who are new to our school. All three are lovely and are starting to make connections with their classmates and with me. I'm so happy to see that they're starting to put their hands up during discussion and letting their voices be heard.

We spent much of this week talking about and practicing our classroom and school expectations. I've had to remind the class a few times that, because there are so many of them, that the expectations for independent work and being mindful of others is much greater. I'm the only adult in the room and getting around to all 25 of them to help them just isn't possible. I make an effort to get around as much as I can though. The discussions and practices of routines is helping. The first day was more of a struggle. After that, as we worked through what needed to be done, our days have improved greatly.

One of our big routines that the students love is read to self. I took the idea from The Daily 5. We build up our stamina for silent reading. So rather than saying we're going to read for 20 minutes, I get everyone settled and then I start the timer. Once I see that they're no longer focused, I stop the timer and we graph how we do throughout the month. I let them sit where they want. As you can see from this picture, there are a few in the closet, one at a desk and one lying on the desktops. A few chose to lie down on the desks the first day, then they discovered it was uncomfortable and so the novelty of that has worn off.

On the first day, we managed 5 seconds after three tries. I think they were just too excited about being back and were having trouble focusing on anything. But we worked on putting the books in the right places and being gentle with them and finding spots, what silent reading should look and sound like, all of those good routines that they were able to show again the rest of the week. On Wednesday they read for 3 minutes. Now keep in mind that these are students who do not have very strong reading skills in French yet. So even though they are in grade 5, their ability to read in French at this point is at about a Kindergarten or Pre-K level. This is more about having the experience of looking at the books, reading the pictures, making some connections between the words and the pictures and some of the "mots d'amis" the words that are almost identical or the same in French and English. So 3 minutes on the second day was wonderful.

The third day they got 11 minutes. I was so proud of them I nearly cried. You could have heard a pin drop in the classroom. They were focused. All I could hear was pages turning. Occasionally, someone would whisper quietly to a neighbour. Then I would hear the neighbour quietly ask the whisperer to be quiet. It was beautiful.  Today they were tired and having trouble focusing again, but we did get 9 solid minutes in. I'm so proud of their progress.

This weekend I will try to write more about my new endeavors to get away from the carrot and stick methods of teaching. It's very challenging and deserves its own post.

This is off-topic for my blog, but I am so excited about it that I feel the need to share. My husband's band is in a competition called the Galaxie Rising Star. It's a showcase of artists from New Brunswick and takes place during our big music festival next week, the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival that happens each September. Former winners of this contest have gone on to do amazing things. My husband plays bass in the Jaclyn Reinhart Band and, even though I'm biased, I really do think they are amazing and talented. If you're in Fredericton, they are playing on Friday, September 16th in the Barracks Tent. It's a free show starting at 3pm and if they win they get to play on Saturday night.

But even if you're not in Fredericton, if you could please vote for them in the on-line competition they would be so grateful. all you need to do is go to Galaxie Rising Star, sign up (they just need your e-mail to make sure you only vote once), check out the six bands and then vote for the Jaclyn Reinhart Band. They're doing well in the competition but would love to get some more votes. Their website has a lot of videos that I've shot for them at different shows that they've done as well.

I hope everyone has a lovely and relaxing weekend.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Twas the night before the first day of school...

... and all through the town,
Not a teacher was idle,
Neither uptown nor down.

The supplies were all nestled
All snug in their places,
Awaiting new children
With bright smiling faces.

Bulletin boards were hung
In the hallways with care,
In hopes that some visitors
Soon would be there.

And I in my pj's
My cat on my lap,
Spent a few more hours working
Before my brain could nap.

My challenge to you... finish this poem! I'd like to work more on it but I have a dozen more things on my to do list before I can try to go to bed.

Happy first day of school tomorrow!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Almost nearly ready

I'm nearly ready.

I'm almost nearly ready.

To be fair, I'm never going to be completely ready. But I can get as close as possible. I spent another full day at school yesterday. I finished a few little projects and did a lot of tidying. I hope that if I spend just another hour or two in there this weekend, plus I need to buy a few little things, then I'll be finished in terms of my classroom. I also have some other things that I can do at home.

One of my big projects for Friday was my name-tags for the desks. I laminated my name-tags and stuck magnets on the back. This way, if I put the desks in groups I can move the name-tags around easily and there's no messiness on the desks. I did the same thing with my responsibilities.
But unfortunately, the adhesive on the magnets didn't work well. I came in my classroom in the morning to see most of the tags on the floor and the magnets still up on the wall. One of my colleagues suggested using a glue gun. I glue gunned them all on and then set up my seating chart.

That worked pretty well, but there were still some that let go so I ended up putting packing tape across the back of them. But I'm happy with the way they look now. It's hard to see from the pictures, but the tags are mostly blue with some stars and a guitar. I use a lot of music in my classroom so I thought they were fitting.

My schedule's all set up now and my responsibilities list is up though I won't be using all of them on the first day. One thing I forgot is that I haven't done their names to go next to their job. Rather than go through all the bother with the magnets and packing tape and glue guns etc. I'm hoping to go and get magnets that I can write on and just write their names or get them to write their names and decorate them if I can find what I'm thinking of. I don't look forward to shopping this weekend but it has to be done.

 My other big project that I did yesterday was putting up words around my room. Last year we were given these nice big poster of classroom object words but I didn't get around to using them. So this year I've put them up around the room, but not just to identify objects. They're mounted on velcro. My plan is to leave them up for a few weeks, call attention to them, have students use them in games like I Spy, but then take them down and have the students try to put them back up in the correct spot.

This is the display outside my classroom. Same idea as what I did last year but with more students it's a bigger arc. I just found out I have a new student though so I'm going to have to try to fit her in somewhere.
I like making rainbows, even when I'm just organizing my duotangs. I was looking at all kinds of beautiful classroom pictures where teachers have specific themes and I was a little jealous that I didn't have a theme. Then I decided my unofficial theme is rainbows.
So when I set up my scribblers and duotangs and folders for the Intensive French block, this is how I set them up. I was also feeling very tired and a little silly when I did this.

Just a few more things to do and my classroom with be all ready. Three more days and then I'll have my students.

Welcome back students - bienvenue mes élèves

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First week back

We're two days in to the school year. I'm feeling a little nervous, a little hurried, a little over-whelmed and a little grateful.

It's so nice to be back with my colleagues. I've missed them over the summer and I'm happy to be able to see them again. Unfortunately, my next door neighbour moved one door down, leaving an empty class between us so I'm all alone on my part of the wing, a little isolated from everyone else, but it's a short hallway so it's not hard to go visit. There are only four teachers in our wing now.

We've spent a few hours the last two days in meetings and workshops on various topics. Yesterday was about common language and common practice for working in teams. Today it was reading records, beliefs and practices when it comes to discipline and some basic "how does our school work" discussion. Very useful and informative stuff. It's hard to sit that long though. Another reminder that I need to get my students up and moving because they must find it hard to sit so long as well.

In our non-meeting time, I've continued my classroom preparation. It's looking better. Yesterday I heard I had two new students. I was very concerned about fitting those two extra desks into my already crowded room. At the end of the day I took this picture:

I'll admit, I didn't go home in the best of moods. I'm not sure why those two extra desks made me feel so much more nervous but for some reason they did. 24 sounded like a lot; 26 sounded impossible. But today I was feeling much better about it. I know that with a large class, routine is crucial. I know that I need to give lots of responsibilities to my students to help the class run smoothly and I know that we can all write our class vision statement, values, rules, and make them meaningful so that 26, while a little crowded, is not chaotic and learning will still happen.

Today I found out I have one or two fewer students. But I feel like even if my numbers go back up, I'll be okay. 

What made me feel even better today was we worked out our schedule for the 3-5 wing. Last year the schedule was a nightmare. We had to juggle me teaching my homeroom, and three other classes of French. We had to make it work around the gym and music schedule, we bargained, bartered and begged to switch other times around to somehow come up with a schedule where we were all getting approximately what we needed. It took us 7 hours of meetings and in the end, the result was so complex that even by the end of the year I was not always sure whose class was where. 

One of the other teachers, when I brought up doing our schedules, was not at all happy and I don't blame him. I swore to him that it would be easier this year. It had to be. Nothing could be more complicated than last year's. And it wasn't. About an hour of easy talks and simple fixes, I have the most lovely schedule I could ask for. Whereas last year's, my students' schedule and my teacher schedule looked nothing alike, this year's the difference is very minor, only that when they are in math with another teacher, I am teaching pre-intensive French to one of two classes. And when they have music or gym, I have a prep. I get to take them to library. My Intensive French block is unbroken and beautiful all morning.

It could still change, but for now, it is golden and perfect.

My classroom time I spent today on my French library. Almost all of the English books are out of my classroom now. I'm storing them next door until February. Last year I had a hard time keeping my French book boxes organized. I sorted them by category and labeled the boxes but the students didn't always put the books back in the right boxes. You all know the drill. Then on Fridays when we cleaned the classroom I would assign a few students to organize the library. But they didn't always know which books went in which box and in the end, I would do most of the organizing.

So this year, each book box has a number, and all the books in the box have the same number on the front cover. So for example, this is box number 14 - Robert Munsch books. I also have an 'F' in the corner for fiction and all the Robert Munsch books have a 14 on their cover.

 This book box has hockey books, both fiction and non-fiction, hence the F & NF in the corner.
This is the end result - at least so far. I finished 25 of the boxes today and I'll hopefully finish the rest tomorrow or the next day. 

That's how my first two days went. One week from today I will have had my first day back with students! So much to be done before then but I know I'll get what I need to have done finished. How are your days back going? Are you focusing on one specific area you want to improve for this year? How do you get yourself organized and ready?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Free for all Friday

This is the last Blog hoppin' post for the week. The subject for today was to post a printable freebie. This was a little difficult as last year I only taught French so all of my printables were French. And as this website is English I don't know how useful my French stuff would be. So I have one printable that could be used in any language.

I used this puzzle piece black-line to do a project on pass-times with my students. They wrote what their favourite thing to do was in a full sentence and then drew it. I told them they had to colour every inch of their puzzle piece.

The end result looked something like this: 
But it looked better once the rest of the students finished. Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of the final product for some reason, probably because it was the end of the year. Anyway, you could use the pieces for just about anything. They could be used for a great first of the year art piece where they draw about themselves and then show how they all fit together to make up their class.

It's been a great week! Thanks for all the ideas.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I spent quite a bit of time in my classroom this afternoon after buying my school supplies this morning. (Note: buying duotangs for a whole class is mind boggling!) But I did decide to go with duotangs over binders for this year. I'm expecting 24 students so with about 10 subjects each that works out to 250 duotangs! It was insanity. I went to buy some last night for 0.10 cents each. That was great but they didn't have many colours, mostly just this odd navy blue/grey colour, and when I got to the check out (with about 150 of them) the poor girl had to count and scan them all!

I met up with a few other teachers from my school this morning. We bought our supplies (more duotang craziness), went out for lunch together and then headed back to school.

My classroom is... I'm not sure what to do about it. I worked for about two and a half hours this afternoon. First, I dumped all the supplies I bought. There are a few more bags than that off to the side as well.

Then I set up the desks. I have a small classroom, very small to fit 24 students comfortably. I decided on rows for the first little while. I'm not sure how many other groupings I'll be able to fit in there. I also had to give up my beautiful big table at the back. There wasn't enough room for it. I'm sad to see it go but it was that or have the kids way more crowded. So this is what my classroom looks like now.

My library is still a mess. After I got my desks sorted out, I talked to our new principal and asked if I could store my English books in the empty classroom next door. She agreed and so I spent a long while boxing up books and carting them next door. I still haven't sorted them. They came from the other grade 5 classroom. Some of them are sorted already but there are a lot of books that are just random. There are still two bookshelves worth of English books in the classroom. Some I'll store in my classroom and some I'll store next door. Plus there are all the ones I have stored at home from my class the year before. February will be a very busy month.

When I got home and washed my hands, the soap suds were black. Classroom preparation is dirty work. I also started a new to-do list. I don't want to be going in to school on the weekends and next week is full of meetings so I need to get as much as possible tomorrow. It's a long list. It's a daunting list. It's a list I'm afraid I won't be able to get done.

I'm trying to prioritize and tell myself that I'll get to the important things and the rest will fall into place. But everything seems important and everything seems to take much longer than I think it should.

I'm excited about school starting up. I'm excited about trying new things and meeting my new students and guiding them and the satisfaction that comes when you know that you've made a difference. I'm excited about working with my wonderful colleagues and getting to know my new principal and new parents. I'm excited about sorting through the new supplies I bought and handing out new beautiful pencils and paper.

But I'm also scared and nervous. What if I'm not ready? What if everything isn't perfect on that first day?

When I need some inspiration, I head on over to twitter and my PLN (professional learning network). I have connected with many educators on twitter and they always inspire me when I need it. Someone in my PLN is starting school tomorrow. He wrote this post To be a teacher about his first day of school. His post touched me and the video he posted brought me to tears. To be a teacher is a very heavy burden and also a great joy. This post put the important things into perspective. If my classroom isn't perfectly organized but I still show my students that I care then I'm still doing my job correctly.

Three for Thursday

The topic for today was three favourites - three specific favourites.

Favourite Font:

It’s pretty boring but my favourite font is Comic Sans MS because it is easy for students to read. Capital ‘I’ looks like an I and lower case ‘a’ looks the way we teach students to print. When not using Comic Sans I tend to use whatever is default, Times New Roman or Arial generally.

Favourite Blog:

My favourite blog is but my favourite teaching blog is probably because he is one of the reasons I decided to start having a class blog in the first place.

Favourite on-line resource:

Well I'm going to cheat a little with this one and say that TWITTER is my favourite resource. Any time I need something or just want some inspiration, I hop on there for about an hour.

Look for a post about my classroom preparations soon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where it All Goes Down Wednesday

This is my third post for the Teacher Week at Blog hoppin'.

Today's post is about showing off our classrooms. Mine isn't finished. At all. It's frightening how much I have left to do actually. I went in today again for another couple of hours and got three bulletin boards covered with the fabric I bought yesterday. I was excited to have more fabric covered walls. Our school is being closed either next year or the year after and then we're getting a lovely new school after that. But in the meantime, they aren't painting or upgrading our current building at all so I'm trying to make do with what I have. So this is what I came in to last week.

The janitor was dealing with my floors so I couldn't do much but measure for my fabric and come back another day. Today I went in again as I said and my floors are done so it looked more like this.

Better, but as you can see, I still have a lot of furniture to move around. I didn't get around to that today. Instead I focused on putting up fabric. This was the first one I tackled. The wall is cork board that's been painted over a few times and is so full of holes it's hard to have anything stay up there. This is where I keep my calendar and calendar related words which I'll put up tomorrow. Next to it I have my one chalk board in my room. Last year I covered it with a red plastic sheet, the kind you use as table clothes. It worked well. It was thin enough that it was easy to use as a magnetic board for my schedule and responsibilities board. But the plastic got picked at and marked up easily so I took it down at the end of the year. I don't like the look of the chalk board, so I covered it with some more fabric I found - 75% off sale at Fabricville = win!

I think this is a very nice colour. I'm planning on covering behind the world map and bookcase in the same green as behind the calendar.

This is one of my bulletin boards outside my classroom. This fabric is so lovely. The colour doesn't show up well here. In real life it's darker but has a nice shine. It was a little stretchy too so it was very easy to use.

Here are some other shots of my classroom. That's my teacher corner though my desk isn't back over there yet. I also have a filing cabinet that goes over there. I love my SMART board. I also have numbers around my clock to help the students tell time using an analog clock. Over on the left you can see my birthday chart.

This is the other front corner of my classroom. So much stuff that I have to sort through and store. I'm also going to cover that wall, possibly in blue, I haven't decided yet, because that wall is like the one under the calendar. It looks pretty terrible.

So that's my room so far. It's not finished at all, but it's mine and I love it :)

Teacher Talk Tuesday

Here's my second blog hoppin'  post for the week. Today's topic is giving advice to new teachers. I will qualify that as giving advice to teachers who are in their first year of teaching because I am still a new teacher. So here's my little bits of advice.

1. Don't take on too much at once. It's very tempting when you first start teaching to join all the committees, to start all the extra-curricular activities, and to implement every good idea you've ever heard. It's not possible. You still have to teach full time and have a life outside of the classroom. Focus on a few key things that are very important to you and don't be afraid to cut things out if you feel you're getting overwhelmed.

2. Ask for advice and help from other teachers but reserve the right to ignore it if what they say doesn't fit with how you want to teach. Listen respectfully to what they have to say, use it if it's a good idea, store it away for later if you don't want to do it.

3. Have fun! Teaching can be a very joyful career. We are so lucky to be surrounded be children who look up to us and we can get in there and play from time to time. If you enjoy what you do, share that joy. Your students will pick up on that enthusiasm.

4. Try not to get bogged down by the negative things other people say. Whether it's about a student or a new program or the weather, some teachers (and people in general) just vent all that negativity to whoever will listen. As teachers we sometimes have more than enough emotional strain in our lives and don't need any extra. Let it be like water off a ducks back rather than taking on that negativity.

5. Be your own advocate. This goes even more so for substitute teachers who are trying to get full time teaching jobs. Don't be afraid to let administrators know how wonderful you are and what you are willing to do, what extra special things you bring to education. You are special and you are caring and you are amazing at many things. I know this because you are a teacher and only special, caring and amazing people are called to be teachers.

Have a wonderful first year!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet the Teacher Monday

This is something I found over at Blog hoppin' a website that links up teacher blogs. This week they're doing a teacher week with different topics each day of the week. Today's topic is "meet the teacher" so here's a little about me.

Tell us a little something about you...
My name is Jeannie Chiasson (Mme Chiasson or just Madame to my students). I teach Grade 5 Intensive French in New Brunswick, Canada. I've been married for just over a year and we have three cats. I started this blog about a year ago after a technology PD. It started off as a classroom blog but has developed into a teacher blog. I love to read. I'm a compulsive reader, especially since I got an e-reader in June. An endless supply of books at my fingertips is a dangerous thing. I have one week of summer vacation left before it's back to school and then another week after that before my students return!

How long have you been teaching?
Starting in January of 2007 I was a substitute teacher for three years, mostly in elementary. Then in December 2009 I got my first long term contract teaching Intensive French in grade 5. Last year was my first full year of teaching, again at grade 5 Intensive French, but this time I was also teaching grade 4 Pre-Intensive French. This will be my third year of teaching full time.

You might not know...
I'm also an aspiring writer. I've written a few novels and short stories. Over the summer months I've been working on a novel I wrote two years ago for NaNoWriMo geared towards late elementary children. I haven't been published yet but I would like to get published one day, possibly soon.

Also, French is not my first language. I grew up speaking English and didn't go into French Immersion until grade 7. I stuck with it all through school but decided to take German in University instead of French. But I did theatre in French and English through my BA degree and managed to get my French level up high enough to teach. I love languages and I'm proud of my Acadian heritage. 

What are you looking most forward to this school year?
I'm looking forward to teaching 3 classes instead of 4. My schedule last year was very hectic and I'm hopeful that my schedule this year will be a bit more sane. I'm also very excited that I will be teaching in the same school, in the same classroom and even some of the same students I taught last year! And for sure I'm excited about working with the same wonderful staff. I am so blessed with having such amazing co-workers though there will be a few changes to our little family. In February, instead of switching classes like last year, I will get to keep my students and teach them in English for half the year. I enjoy teaching the grade 5 curriculum and am very happy to be able to keep the same group the whole year.

What do you need to improve?
So much. I'm a new teacher and every day is a huge learning experience for me. I would like to work on my organization this year, both of my materials and my time. I would like to work harder not longer so that I can keep a good balance in my life. I would like to improve my classroom management techniques. 

What teaching supplies can you *not* live without?

I can't live without my SMART Board and internet. We had a few days when it went down and oh boy did I find that hard. Also makes planning lessons for supply teachers difficult.

My planning binder. Even if I totally change my plan mid-stride I need it there and ready for me in-case my brain falls off the train.

Positive Participation tickets. I've tried teaching without them. I won't go back.

My laptop. By far the most useful tool in my classroom. I am so grateful that our province provides one for every teacher. 

So that's me. If you're interested in participating in this teacher week over at Blog Hoppin' click this link below and join in.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

School Supplies - binders or duotangs?

This year, our whole school has decided to buy our school supplies and ask parents for money instead of supplies. This has a number of advantages. I'm looking forward to knowing that all my students will have good quality supplies, there won't be any jealousy over who has the better stuff because it will all be the same, and I will be sure that all my students will have the supplies they need right from day one.

There are some disadvantages as well of course. For example, right now I am expecting 24 students in my class but I know this can change. I want to make sure I have enough for all of my students without exceeding my budget. For some supplies like pencils and paper, that's not very hard. But for larger items that I would like to last all year it can be a bit difficult.

I've been working on my shopping list after taking stock of the supplies I already have, and I'm debating whether I would like my students to use binders or duotangs. Now I understand that duotangs is a word that seems exclusive to Canada, so for those outside the country, they are folders with three metal fasteners to hold work. They look like this.

I like using them. They can make organization by subject fairly easy. But at the same time they can be a pain in the behind. Students are sometimes very hard on them. They put in papers upside-down, backwards or don't attach them in properly at all. They take up a lot of space and sometimes take up a lot of time. One advantage of them over binders is that it is easier to take home a class set of duotangs over binders and it's easier for students to take home one duotang if there is homework in one subject.

That all being said, I'm leaning towards trying out binders this year with tabs for each subject, at least once I switch over to the English half of the year. For  the first 5 months while I teach French, they'll only need one duotang and one scribbler and one folder. A binder would be unnecessarily large for the amount I would have them use it. But once we switch over I think it would be useful. Part of my reasoning is that my grade 5's will be moving on to middle school next year and I think it would be good for them to get used to keeping a binder organized. I also think that it would be easier to go out and buy 25 binders instead of going out and buying 250 or more duotangs.

Which system do you prefer? Have you tried both? Any other systems that you think would work better?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Parenting Advice Applied to Teaching

A friend of mine who is a relatively new parent posted this article today called Teaching Through Love Instead of Fear by Pam Leo. While this article mainly is talking to parents I think it applies equally to teachers. It is something that I try to be very conscious of in my teaching. I want to model the respect that I would like to see from my students. At times it's hard to model that level of respect but I feel that it is important.

As stated in the article:

"One of the big issues in schools today is "bullying." Parents and teachers struggle daily with how to stop this behavior. Without realizing it, adults teach bullying behavior to children by modeling it when they use the threat of their physical size or power to make children do things."

How can we expect our students to behave the way we would like to, with respect and kindness towards each other, if we do not show them how? It is a sad fact that some students do not see that kind of modelling at home. We as teachers are the ones who have step into that role, become the role-models that our students need. 

Getting our students to do what we want them to do out of fear can be, sometimes, an easier or quicker way, especially with younger grades. Leo states "The power of fear is easy and quick but short-lived." but that "The power of love requires more work and takes longer but children never outgrow its influence." With the older grades, even my students at grade 5, gaining obedience through fear doesn't always work as well. Building real relationships with students, showing that we care about their feelings and dignity goes much further and is much more long lasting. Telling a student "I understand that you would rather talk to your friends right now, but we have to think about the rights of the other students to learn right now." can help to build that relationship more than sending a student out or keeping them in for detention.

I am not perfect in this by all means but it is something I strive for and something I hope all teachers strive for as well.