Friday, 31 August 2012

New Year, New Ideas!

This blog post has taken me all summer to write and complete. Well, actually summer has past and now we're back in school - Back to the grind!

Yee-Haa! We're back in school, and after the amazing way I finished the last school year off, my excitement has continued into this new 2012-2013 school year and I'm keen to get things rolling. We have so many changes this year in our building and I'm hoping they're all going to help us (as a staff) continue to focus on being better educators.

Some of the changes we have experienced are:

Change in Demographics

At the end of last year we lost the students from a community that was being fed into our school. They now have their own community school at another site. We now only have the students from our own community in our building. This will affect us in a couple of different ways: (1) We now only have approximately 230 students after having around 450 in previous years. Having a smaller school will allow us to develop different relationships with our students. (2) being that we only have kids from our local community, we will be able to be a community school in the true sense of the word. We will hopefully really be able to connect with our students and their respective families at a deeper and closer level.

Increase in Admin Personnel

With the loss of students our school would have been almost half vacant. To solve this problem, our school board moved the area office into the empty side of the building. This means we have our Area Director, AISI Teaching Specialists, Curriculum Specialists as well as a Student Learning Team (psychologists, speech therapist and other specialists). Wow! So many more adults around. With around 45 extra people, this will add another dynamic to our staffroom, our hallways, our parking lot etc etc. What an amazing opportunity to have all these wonderful educators and learning specialists so close to us. We will be able to celebrate learning and share ideas on a regular basis. It will be great to be able to connect with so many different people with so many different expertise.

Change of Staff

At the end of the last school year. We obviously had a lot of people leave our staff. We had teachers that retired, teachers that needed a a change, and teachers that kindly chose to surplus themselves. We have been fortunate enough to keep an amazing group of educators and gain a couple of new ones. It will be very cool to get to know everyone at a more personal and closer level as well as work and collaborate with each other more easily.

We also lost most of our School Assistants from last year and now have only have 3 as opposed to 8-10. This will be a challenge for us as teachers as we will not be able to rely on extra help in the classroom as much as we have in the past. We have been lucky enough to retain our two Educational Assistants who work with our most challenged learners. They will be busy ladies this year. :)

My New Challenges and Goals for 2012-2013

This year I do not have the title of Learning Leader attached to my resume. With the drop in numbers, we lost the allocated budget for that title. However, I am lucky enough to have kept my non-classroom based position of working in our learning commons (library). I want to take this position to another level this year by accessing some of my new found resources and knowledge gained from colleagues and other professionals around the world (Thanks Twitter!). Although I write these goals down now, I'm sure they will change and be altered as the year continues. I will come back and revisit them on a regular basis. My work portfolio will always be treated as a working document. It will be edited and tweaked to suit.

140 Character PD

Two of the finest connected educators have inspired me about the power of being connected through Twitter (@gcouros and @courosa). They travel the globe promoting change in education and the power of collaboration with colleagues from all around the world.

My goal this year is to spread the word in my building, and beyond, about the power of twitter and the amazing PD teachers can gain from 140 characters.

The Learning Commons

One of my main focuses in the last three years has been working towards changing our school library to a 21st century library. A learning commons where students work to their strengths, a place to go to find information from books and from the Internet, a space to work in to create and build knowledge in way that is meaningful to themselves, a place for learners to express their understanding in many different ways and forms.

After two years of experimenting in our learning commons, we are ready to step it up a notch and try as many different things as we can. With our smaller staff we can almost all be a part of the learning commons team. We can continue to build this amazing learning space to suit our students as best we can.

I will continue to find new people to connect with around our district (and of course around the world) to help get feedback about things we do. We love to share what we do in our learning commons and we will be searching for others who want to share their projects as well.

Two of my main sources of inspiration have been Erin Hansen (@HansenEP) and Mike Mackenzie (@Mik_enzie). Erin was one of the people who inspired me to begin this journey. She has been supportive and encouraging throughout. I appreciate her support and look forward to continuing the conversation. Mike works at a school a few blocks from me and has just begun the learning commons journey in his building. We have begun to work closely together to share ideas and try new things. Mike's enthusiasm with his school's new learning commons has inspired me to rekindle our own journey - Thank you both! I look forward to sharing ideas getting feedback from you both.

Mobile Learning

At the end of last year we got 30 new iPads. We begun to learn about the power of mobile learning and how they will benefit our students. This year I hope to gain a deeper understanding of how to manage them successfully in our building.  Through twitter and it's plethora of iPad resources we will share what we do with these amazing devices. For an insight into what we have begun to explore, check out our Mobile Learning Website.  

Inquiry Based Learning & Project Based Learning

Half way through last year our area was involved with in PD series of workshops aimed at all Area III based learning leaders. The series focused on the different aspects of disciplined based inquiry.

My focus for the upcoming year is to continue to develop a strong sense of understanding of inquiry through the 8 disciplines. I mentioned these in an earlier post at the end of my #30 Day Challenge. I'm hoping to connect with the AISI Learning Leaders in our building to reflect with as well as other learning leaders from within Area III.

Round Up

This year will bring some exciting new challenges and I can't wait to encounter them. I have never been so excited as a teacher to get going with the new year. This new found enthusiasm is due to the connections I have made over the past year. Thank you all! We really are in the best profession!

I plan to post a reflection after a few days in with the students. I will of course give some 140 character anecdotes along the way :) - Follow me at @stevewclark.