Surviving Teaching Year 2!

WE MADE IT!

The end of June is here, and its safe to say that we survived teaching for this school year! WHOOP!

June is always a bittersweet month for teachers; teacher burnout is evident, the days seems more like years, fun times are had, the rewards of all your hard work with the students pay off and sadly (or sometimes happily) you say good bye to your batch of students. I always feel like I am on board an emotional roller coaster in June- I want them to leave, I want them to stay, I feel like I have failed, I feel like I made a difference, I hope I did enough, I hope they leave my classroom better, I know they left my classroom better, I wonder what next year’s students will be like, I wonder if I taught everything they needed... its quite the ride.

As i’m sitting here in my empty classroom, with the bulletin boards down and the chaos for 8th grade tucked away (for now), I think about the students that made this classroom theirs. All the memories and adventures and risks that were experienced this year and it makes me SO proud. I often write a lot about how being a teacher is hard but rewarding, and I think that in moments where time seems to stop, like the one I am in right now, its clear that all the struggle and crazy and stress that happens in the profession of teaching is so absolutely worth it.

IMG_5220.jpgI’m going to miss these beauties!

Recently, I was interviewed by the Teachers on Fire podcast and in the interview Teachers on Fire host, Tim Cavey, asked me what the hardest part of being a teacher is and how I get through those hard times. It was a hard one for me to answer because the truth is, there are hard things everyday, but the greatness over shadows those hard times.

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My answer to him was this, that no matter what anyone says teaching is a hard job but the hardest days are when we don’t believe in each other or we don’t believe in ourselves as teachers. So, the way I get through those hard moments is taking them as learning moments, periods of growth, funny stories and moving forward. My challenge in these last few years as a new teachers was to focus on the amazing and spectacular things that were going to come with this journey, and it has made the experience beautiful.

Surviving Teaching was the inspiration for that positivity. For those days when it is hard to see the good, for the moments that are so amazing that I want to share with the world, for the stories that need to be told beyond the walls of my classroom.

As I close the chapter of my second year as a teacher, I thank you guys for following my journey, learning from my experiences, and joining in the joy.

Have a fantastic summer!

Cheers!

Miss Rylance 

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Caution… Teacher Burnout Ahead!

In June, being a teacher is hard…

Is it just me or is everyone else feeling like they’re done. These last few weeks for me have been hard.

I have really been struggling this week with finding motivation, positivity, encouragement, happiness in my teaching. When I started out teaching (now 2 years ago WHOOP) lots of people warned me not to take on too much, to slow down, to only take on what I could handle because of the infamous burnout that new teachers experience, or even all teachers.

The last few years I have ignored their advice… and now I’m burnt out. Truly.

I think it took me about a week to really understand what I was going through because it’s so out of character for me. But the exhaustion, lack of motivation, waking up everyday like I just need to get through the day is so draining. And I am definitely experiencing it.

The end of the year comes with so many positive moments, and on days like I had this week when my patients was thin, my students had ‘ one of those days’, when the printer jammed and the staff meeting went over, remembering those positive moments is what’s key.

Being a teacher is so hard.

I’m going to be honest, being a middle school teacher is the best, most rewarding job and I LOVE being these kids teacher. But man, I literally just feel like I am running after kids like a chicken and they are 3 steps ahead of me.

You’re probably reading this thinking
“man this is depressing, I wonder why anyone would want to be a teacher”
and I am kind of thinking the same thing… BUT here are some amazing things that I am going to try and do to turn this burnout into a final push!

  1. Find one positive at the end of every day, or every week!Take a moment, write it down, keep it in a special place for those hard moments.

     

  2. Turn those stressful activities into trophy’s of success!We had our grade 8 farewell celebrations, although it was a ton of work and was a stressful weekend, some amazing moments came out of it!B72C662E-3A99-4814-BFF0-B3732F19221E.JPG
  3. Remember why you started!For me, it started with wanting to make a difference and having a meaningful life with lasting impacts… in those hard moments, I need to remember that.

     

  4. Find some external motivation (TED talks and twitter inspiration are great!)one of my favorites:
    https://ed.ted.com/featured/oM5nk8RvTED

For all of you who are struggling for the final push with me, remember…

“It’s better to burnout than fade out”

Burnout means that you are pushing yourself to be your very best.

Have a great week!

Miss Rylance

Culture in Second Language Learning

The last few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of culture for my Ukrainian as a second language students. In all of the fun, I really reflected as a teacher of the importance of pairing cultural awareness and elements in second language learning.

I think among many second language teachers this concept is debated.

Is it really worth the time to teach students cultural elements over language structure and components? OR is it simply the worth of second language classes to teach primarily language?

I am on the side of- yes, not only is it worth it… but it is crucial.

Based on my experience, pairing cultural elements with second language acquisition is  the key to student motivation in second language learning. If students feel like they are a part of the larger picture and understand the life that people who embody that language have, they are more likely to WANT to use the language, invest in their own learning AND continue in language programs in higher grades.

Throughout the year, I use cultural holidays and religious events to embed cultural components into language curriculum, but this month I did a few extra things to make my students proud to be second language learners…pride is SO important.

  1. We hosted a Ukrainian Day on Ukraine’s Vyshyvanka Day (Ukrainian Shirt Day)

    Here are some of the awesome things that my students organized:

    -Blue and Yellow face paint (Ukraine’s flag colors) for all students.
    -Name Tags of translated names for all students.
    -Ukrainian Folk music over the intercom
    -Perogy and Ukrainian Kubasa Sausage sale at lunch. (Where all proceeds went to support Ukrainian war effort)
    -Kolomayka Dance (Circle Dance) in the gym at lunch hour
    -Ukrainian Photo booth with Props

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    All of these things were great initiatives to get students involved in promoting culture and pride for their second language learning. Many students said that they would have liked to do it more than once this year, but the important thing was that it instilled a sense of pride and accountability for their second language learning.

  2.  In their language classes, cultural elements are embedded. With my grade 8 class, we learned Ukrainian vocabulary in relation to food. We then were able to go into the home economics room and cook 2 recipes using the Ukrainian vocabulary we learned.

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    All the students love eating and cooking to it was a great success for engagement.

    Within my grade 7 class, we learned about cool facts about Ukraine. They could choose what ever topic they wanted and then they made a 2 minute vlog video about their findings.

    Just like Canadian culture, we looked at a series of vloggers that exist in Ukraine and listened to their take on different current topics happening in their lives. The students loved it because they all have their favorite ‘YouTubers’ that they follow.

    They were so excited and invested to use language to create their own vlog- it was awesome.

  3. Edmonton (our city) hosted its first ever Ukrainian festival (UFest) this past weekend because of the large community that exists here. Many of my students attended with their families and were in the festivities.

    I decided to volunteer for the event to prove our involvement in the community outside of our classroom. I believe it is so important to extend the knowledge that I am trying to instill in my students to the rest of the community.

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    The festival was a HUGE success and it was great for many of my students to see me active in the community able to support culture.

The reality is that language is culturally acquired skill. The importance of second language students understanding the culture that their language comes from and the way that people live using that language is crucial. Otherwise, there is limited engagement as the the ‘why’ it is important to continue to invest in learning.

If you’re a second language teacher, I challenge you to take on some cultural elements in your classroom! Try it out and see how it goes!

Cheers,

Miss Rylance 

 

Blogging in your Classroom!

I think the power of digital literacy is MASSIVE for our students. Our world is moving to a place where digital portfolios, websites, and blogs are becoming prominent features of information sharing, business, and the job market.

In my classroom, I felt that equipping my students with background of how to create a blog and how to navigate their way through using digital media was crucial for preparing them for their futures.

I believe that by the time they are ready to depart into the working world, the ability to create digital portfolios and represent themselves online will be very important. SO I decided that every student in my class needed a blog.

I started with an online platform for classrooms called Edu Blogs. It is an awesome way for teachers to control what students are posting online, while still giving them the freedom for creativity.
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With this platform, each student can create their own blog while getting posts pre-approved by me (their teacher) and they can read each others work for student encouragement and support.

The first phase of this project was developing the blog and giving them a series of quick writes to create a series of their first blog posts. This was an amazing way to get students writing, reflecting and creating online.

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Students loved it. They had ownership of their own work, they were creative and they were using literacy skills that they were excited about.

Part 2 of this project was forming a Lit Circle around their blog.

For those of you who are not familiar, Lit Circles are small groups of students who gather together to discuss a piece of literature in depth. The discussion is guided by students’ response to what they have read. Literature circles provide a way for students to engage in critical thinking and reflection as they read, discuss, and respond to books. Collaboration is at the heart of this approach.

My idea, was to give students a book tasting with different genres and books associated with each genre so that each student would be reading a book they were interested in. This was a great way to collaborate with my librarian and get students interested in what they were reading.

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We transformed the library into a little restaurant and students recorded the books they wanted to read on a little menu card.

It was great!

I then had students choose the book they wanted and section it into 4 parts.

Having each student read a different book was a challenge in figuring our how we would all finish at the same time. The 4 parts of the book turned into their 4 weekly reading goals. At the end of each of the 4 weeks, students had to get to the end of their part.

They then created a new tab in the blogs to record their progress with the book they were reading.

At the end of each week I am posting a series of questions they need to answer in regards to their books. This will be a way for them to reflect, analyse, and write about the literature they are reading while keeping current with their blogs and using technology in the classroom.

I am SUPER excited about this cool project.

Let me know if you have ever done a lit circle in your class!

Miss Rylance

Student Leadership

Often, when I tell people I teach grade 8 they often give me a reaction like “oh good luck” or “yikes, how do you do it” or my favorite “well I wouldn’t want your job“… and my reaction is usually “I love mine, my kids are great“.

The reality is that students who are around the ages of 11-14 have a bad stigma attached to them in our world (for some weird reason). I have been thinking about why these brilliant and creative minds in my classroom are seen in our society somehow as threatening or juvenile, and I know that definitely our adolescent years are the times that we make mistakes, fail, try again and they are most likely going to experience those things, but why they are so feared is beyond me.

I was also thinking the last little while how as a society we could put more responsibility on our youth  to be the centers of change and come out as the heroic people I know them to be. If you look in the United States right now, youth are leading the charge to change gun violence laws… brilliant!

How can we as teachers continue to foster this type of movement and create students who are willing to take the plunge?

My solution… Student Leadership

I’m not talking necessarily about a leadership team (which is also awesome and essential), I am talking about individual responsibility and accountability on each student beyond academics to be an inner leader.

I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about creating a class mission statement for your classroom, which is essentially a set of principals that you build your class off of. By implementing this, I have seen a big change in my grade 8’s taking ownership of their actions.

Although we are still trying to figure out how to instill student accountability into every student here are 2 awesome things that have helped so far.

  1. Create a school APP.

    I got this idea from an awesome conference I attended when a high school, in a rural community in our province talked about their successes with a school APP and unifying their student body. When I saw their presentation, I thought… we can totally do this.

    So what did I do…. I googled ‘how to build an APP’ and created our own school APP. It has been awesome! All social media accounts are linked, student announcements, bulletins, updates… and it is an awesome way to make students accountable AND create positive school spirit.
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    If your school doesn’t have an APP… its needed. 

  2. Student led assembly’s (ENTIRE student ran)

    We felt that our students needed a greater voice and representation within out walls. Instead of religious celebrations or sports based pep rally’s, we needed a way for EVERY student to be represented.

    We gave them the task of creating their own assembly and then stepped back and waited to see what they created.

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    And it was brilliant!

    Giving students the voice and choice to represent what they choose in an assembly is a great initiative.

 

These two things are not difficult to achieve within a school, and perhaps you have a few of your own. BUT student leadership is necessary to success.

Have a great week!

Miss Rylance

Living with Intention

These last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. Spring break brought a much needed pause in the insanity and busyness of being a new teacher.

Spring break gave me the greatest gift of all… a new FIANCE! And I am over the moon to share that I will now be making the remarkable shift from Miss to Mrs! The day that he asked me to be his wife was the best day of my life, met with joy and so much excitement for our future… a journey I can’t wait for.

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The weeks coming back, and most teachers know were difficult. The shift to the last chunk of the year. The push of trying to motivate students past the spring break brain while still trying to see the silver lining.

Although it was difficult, lots of awesome things happened. 

  1. Awesome Japanese Cultural Field Trip for social studies!
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  2. Cooking using second language vocab in Ukrainian!
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  3. Sharing my knowledge about cultural links to language acquisition at a community networking event!

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All of these things make my heart so happy in thinking about the growth my students are experiencing.

However, tragedy also stuck our community. On April 6, 2018 a terrible accident involving the Humboldt Bronco Hockey Team happened leaving 16 dead and 12 injured. This accident sent ripples through our country, our community, and my family.

Being in Canada, it is easy to identify with these boys and this tragedy. Everyone either plays hockey, has a child who plays hockey, or knows someone who plays hockey. Most people have experienced long bus trips across the prairies. People know the dedication, determination and passion that these players had and the incredible future they had in front of them. All of these elements break the hearts of Canadians. For the players, coaches, trainers, announcers, first responders, families, friends… for everyone.

For my family, it struck a chord deeper. My brothers grew up playing competitive hockey and as my Dad puts it ‘ there is one degree of separation between everyone in the hockey world’. We knew these boys. My sister loved one of these boys. My brother played in the same league as these boys. The reality of loss has been draped over my family.

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It has been so hard. 

In all of this. I have been trying to determine why. I have been trying to understand how good could come out of this situation.

But then this happened. 

A country standing behind a team. Behind players. Behind Canadian boys. Uniting together regardless of belief, religion, background, values… with one vision it was understood that with intention we were one.

AND my students become my beacon of hope.

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I took this as motivation to find the why.

I believe that it is integral that we live life with intention every day. I am not talking about goals or dreams (which are also important). I am talking about the little things. 

  • Taking time to answer a phone call from a loved one when you really ‘don’t have time’.
  • Exchanging a smile with the person making your coffee in the morning.
  • Telling the people you love how much they mean to you.
  • Doing things daily that make you happy.
  • Doing the things that scare you.
  • Sweating, and rewarding your body with exercise.
  • Eating the cheese pizza even if it isn’t good for you.
  • Take the trip.
  • Spend the money.
  • Stress less.
  • Be late.
  • Slow down.
  • Live with intention everyday.

My heart breaks for everyone suffering from this loss, and I pray for you, the people who we lost and all the people who are still fighting for their lives.

But as our Country moved forward, and pick up the pieces… I challenge you to find your daily intention.

#HumboldtStrong

Miss Rylance

Feeling Lucky

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

My sisters and I had the chance to visit Ireland for the first time last year and since that moment my love for Irish culture, traditions, and appreciation of life has grown so much.
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My favorite part of being in Ireland was learning about their pride and experiencing the brilliance of their culture and this week I was excited to bring that culture into my classroom.

Each year, I remind my students of the greatness that St. Patrick ushered into Ireland and how we can learn from his perseverance and persistence he encompassed in working to free the Irish of oppression; however, this year I took it a step further in my class. I took a moment for gratitude.

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I find that sometimes it is important to stop for a moment and ask ‘why am I lucky’, ‘what am I grateful for’, and in the spirit of the Irish and those lucky charms that were floating in the air I tasked my students with an awesome St. Patrick’s Day Escape Room.

It was my first time facilitating an escape room for my students and I loved it and so did they. They used QR codes and their technology at each task, were engaged, working together, learning about their faith and St. Patrick and building critical thinking skills- it was awesome!

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Shout out to ‘Oh the Humanities’ for this awesome find!

I also took a minute and asked students to reflect on what they feel lucky to have! It was perfect for a quick reflection, building empathy, and a writing task to start class.

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Here is a link to my teachers pay teachers account for your FREE download of this awesome resource. 

Of course, after the students reflected on their luck, they were rewarded with the leprechaun cookie. This piece of gratitude from me was to remind them that I am lucky because I have them. My students are truly my lucky charms and they remind me of that daily.

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PS. Check out my awesome St. Patty’s outfit!

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Have a Lucky St. Patty’s Day!

Miss Rylance

Here’s to all the Women!

Potentially the thing I am most passionate about is strong, committed, graceful women in the past, present and future. The women that have gotten us here, the women who are working to be amazing today, and my amazing students who are going to grow into those amazing women.

As March began, I was so excited to usher in International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. Not only to shine light on influential women in the world and in history in my classroom and with my students, but also to celebrate the amazing women and mentors in my life today.

In my classroom, I often take time to make my students aware of AMAZING women who have shaped history, taking the extra moment to give them information and build awareness. BUT I love that this month gives us an excuse to celebrate the weakening gender gap and cheer on the greatness that has become.

Some things I did in my classroom this week to promote Women’s History:

1. I partnered my grade 8 class with a grade 6 class and together we created a wall mural to celebrate women in history (which will be displayed out of my classroom)
If you want your own… check it out on Teachers Pay Teachers!

2. Since we are doing poetry in English, I got students to write a bio poem about a a woman who in their opinion has shaped history positively.

For those who aren’t familiar with a bio poem check it out!

3. Daily quote of the days/ Morning Music selections were all by women

It is so important for all of my students to understand all facets of history and our world and I challenge you this month to take the extra little bit to make sure they know the significant women who are a part of the story.

This week, I want to dedicate my post to all the incredible women and mentors in my life. I want to say THANK YOU to all the women who continually inspire, push and support me. You guys all know who you are, but truly from the bottom of my heart thank you. You are all my ‘why’ every day.

To my students, thank you for continuing to find in you the motivation to do amazing things. I can’t wait to see what you do with the amazing abilities you have. 

I recognize that it is because we support each other that greatness is possible and I feel honored to be chosen in your tribe.

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To all women out there, lets support each other.

Cheers,

Miss Rylance 

 

Random Acts of Kindness

This week, I was blown away with the amount of kindness, positivity and love my students embodied.

I often talk to my students about the importance of being kind to others in hopes of trying to mold them into good people. I do my best to open their eyes to difference and how to appreciate it in others. I try and build empathy in them to understand that everyone has different struggles and they may not always look the same as yours. BUT most importantly, I try and prove to them that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and that will look different in everyone.

This week, it was even more important to point those things out to my students.

As random acts of kindness week was among them, I challenged them to reconnect with empathy towards others, acceptance, and how they showed leadership and kindness to one another. There were so many school wide initiatives that my students participated in that promoted kindness and anti- bullying.

These included:

  1. Pink Shirt Day: a nation wide initiative that stands up to bullies and get students to wear pink in solidarity with those trying to combat bullies.

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  2. A pledge kindness wall: our school’s foyer was decorated with paper that required students to pledge kindness by signing their name along with a hand print and give someone an awesome shout out.

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  3. Kindness Family Feud: the student council as our school put on a school wide family feud where questions regarding how someone could show kindness were incorporated.

    This included: how can you be kind to others, how can you show kindness to yourself, how can you show kindness in your community (just to name a few). There was a students team and a teachers team and this friendly competition really got all the students engaged and thinking about how they could show kindness.

    IMG_1537.JPGI was lucky enough to be on the teachers team, and the awesome costumes really showed our team spirit!

Some of my favorite things that happened this week were in the walls of my classroom.

At the beginning of the week I challenged my students to do 2 things that would promote kindness, love and positivity. They did not have to do either activity, they could do one, or both but I encouraged them to at least try one.

The two they could choose from was either to:

a) They had to take a sticky note and write one thing that they were going to do this week for kindness. This was a pledge to themselves that they could keep safe on the back of their phones, in their binders, in their lockers or any place that would remind them. AND I did not have to see it, so it was only a pledge to themselves. 

b) Write a card to a teacher, or person in their life that has made an impactful difference and write them a heart felt message. 

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I was so blown away with what my students came up with and how EVERYONE at least chose one of the two options to do. It made my heart sing with joy that they wanted to embody the ‘kindness’ spirit.

Throughout the week, I was even more honored that many students in my class and in other classes chose to write heartfelt messages to me. I felt so blessed and honored that they felt the desire to let me know that they appreciated me and it truly filled my bucket with joy.

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My random act of kindness was to give back to my students.

I don’t think often enough that they are thanked and told how wonderful they all are and how much I appreciate every one of them. I decided to take my own advice and write each of them a personal heart felt message of why I thought they were so wonderful. Along with the little note was a ring pop, because they truly are my little gems (corny but awesome… I think;)

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This act reminded me how important it is to create those extra little experiences for our students and how those small gestures go a long way. I think that it proved to my students how much I really care, and although I hope that how much I value them is in the level of lessons I plan and deliver to them, it is the extra little bit that truly makes is special.

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If you have not done a little something for your students lately, I challenge you to do something this week. It doesn’t have to be large, but reminding them how special they are is truly important in the process of relationship building.

I hope you received a random act of awesome this week.

Mental health is such an important element of what happens everyday, and although we embed it in everything we do, having a week dedicated to its importance is crucial.

Cheers,

Miss Rylance 

 

Creating a Class Mission Statement

As the half way point of our year approaches I think it is important as teachers we have a refocus time for our students.

Recently, I attended a Leader in Me Symposium where they discussed the value of having students using key habits and principals in the classroom in order to have an organized and driven life outside the classroom.

One of the suggestions that came out of the symposium was to create a class mission statement. Now, I had heard of class mission statements before; however, I had never implemented one in my classroom. The more I heard about the value of having all students on the same page and driving towards the same common goal, the more I wanted to implement it myself. Especially because I knew my students needed a ‘mid point reminder’ and extra push to get them to the end of the year.

This week the first class I did with my students was a mission statement creation. I took 2 blocks out of my day to dedicate to goal setting as a class- and it turned out AWESOME.

Here are some steps I took to help my class create a team mission statement.

  1. As a class we brainstormed what a mission is. I asked the students questions like: “what comes to mind when you hear the word mission”, “who does mission remind you of”, “who that you know has been on a mission”. I loved the words and discussion that came out of those prompts.

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    Essentially the students came out with 2 separate streams. The first were qualities of a mission which included words like ambition, goals, danger, risk, success, motivation. And the second was people who they know who have missions like 007, mission impossible, batman, inspector gadget.

    Then we talked about how all those individuals encompassed the qualities that were necessary to carry on a mission and I told the students that we needed a mission of our own to be our own 8R 007.

  2. Then, in their groups I gave them large paper and 4 questions that they needed to answer as a class.

    -Who are we?
    -Why are we here?
    -What do we want to accomplish?
    -How will we make this happen?

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    As a class I gave them 5 minutes to answer each question in their groups. It was so incredible to see the team work and answers they came up with!

  3. After that, I posted all the papers on the board, we went through each question and found the similarities that the groups came up with.
  4. The groups then went back into collaboration mode and I challenged each group to come up with 4 words that described the answers that we found as a class. The 4 words had to describe the 4 most important things that they felt needed to be a part of our mission.
  5. Then I took all the words that the groups came up with and created a word cloud. This was now the new mission of 8R. I posted it on the wall in my classroom for everyone to see everyday, as a reminder of what is important for our class.

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I loved this activity because it brought my class together to refocus on the goals for the rest of the year. It also reminded them of their purpose in grade 8 and both what they wanted to accomplish individually and together.

If you have not created a mission for you classroom or school, I highly recommend doing it. It is a simple reminder to students where we are moving as a class and what they are expected to contribute in and outside of the classroom.

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If you have any other strategies for mission statement let me know!

Cheers,

Miss Rylance