Practicing Life Long Learning

This year I set out on possibly my craziest journey yet- balancing being a full time teacher AND starting a Masters of Education degree! Although it has been a wild balancing act of tying to maintain my sanity, my excitement in the classroom, and an array of assignments- I have absolutely loved every second!

I think the challenge for teachers is always to keep growing and improving themselves when we are tasked with so many different challenges in our professions. I believe that when we take time to fill our own buckets and replenish the knowledge bank in our own hearts and minds then we can arrive so much more ready for our kids. I think especially as teachers, we must push ourselves to keep learning and growing in many elements of ourselves, just as we expect of our students.

Honestly though, I know what you might be thinking; “ya right life long learning, I cant even keep up…”. Don’t worry I get it.

In my first year of teaching, I felt like the life long learning thing was too much. I was sent to so many professional development days, was challenged to read so many books, went back to University in January of my first year… it was a lot. And I can tell you that there definitely is a time and place in our lives where we are prepared to accept new things.

The solution that I have come to learn is that it is not necessarily about a TON  of different things at once that challenge us to grow to keep learning. But at times, is just little things that could be little pushes to grow in our lives. Some examples could be; reading a book over a few months, listening to a podcast once a week, setting daily reflection time. Life long learning is sometimes small meaningful steps not large leaps.

Throughout this first semester of my Masters Degree, it has definitely been one of the large steps for me. This semester has been a ‘TSN turning point’ in my life. Meaning that it has directed some change in me (just as a turning point could in a sports game) to propel an outcome that may have been different if I had not gone down this path. The people that I have met, the questions that have been asked of me, the reflecting I have done, the assignments I have been challenged to complete- have all truly been a game changers.

I know I still have a long journey ahead of me, but for now I am feeling grateful for the gift that this degree have given me (so far). I am eager for the next chapter and I am also motivated to continue smaller life long learning pieces into my life.

I hope you take some time for your own personal growth.

Cheers,

Miss Rylance

Your Guide to Establishing a Classroom Routine

One of the biggest things that I find an asset to the success of my day to day ‘teacher life’ is the routine and structure that I have established with my students in my classroom. Although there is a ton of flexibility in terms of the dynamic instruction of my lessons, some simple things have helped my class run smoothly. I also have found this to be a saving grace for classroom management and the establishment of strong student relationships.

Short, Quick, Simple. My formula to effective classroom routines. Check out my tips below!

  1. Have something for students to come into class every morning expecting. For me, this includes a Quote of the Day, and Today’s Plan for each lesson. Both of these are slightly time consuming as I switch my quotes daily and switch my plan per class; however, it is something I know they appreciate.

    At times, the inspirational quote may be the one thing that the student needs at that moment and the plan outlining the lesson is perfect for those students who have issues with transitions or need more prompting. Both of these short, quick, simple things are very meaningful in establishing what my students can expect entering my classroom.

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  2. ‘Do Now’ activities. At the beginning of each one of my classes, students come in knowing that they are expected to sit down and ‘do’ something immediately. In my English classes, this looks like 10 minutes of silent reading at the beginning of each class, in my Ukrainian class this looks like a question on the board they are expected to answer. Regardless, students come in knowing their brain is working from the start.

    This works well when I need an extra few minutes to transition between classes and also helps my students know the expectation and work expected when they come in.

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  3. Every Friday I change things up a bit. Throughout the week students know that we will be working through material striving for our summative assessment. But at the end of each week I do a ‘current events’ Friday and a Library period for them to have some ‘chill’ reading time.

    Both of these things are items students look forward to during the week, but also give me a chance to hit different outcomes that may not be included in my unit plan.

    I use an awesome video to start my current events lesson from www.cnn.com/studentnews and then get students to work in groups to look up local, national and international headlines. This gets students familiar with reading the news and collaborating with each other to come up with education explanations of world events.

I hope these 3 tips can assist you in establishing your classroom routines. Let me know any of your tips and tricks, I would love to hear!

Cheers,

Miss Rylance 

 

Authentic Learning

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Authentic learning is an instructional approach that allows students to explore, discuss, and meaningfully construct concepts and relationships in contexts that involve real-world problems and projects that are relevant to the learner.”

Great… so what does this mean and how can I make this work as a first year teacher figuring out how to survive? Well I have a few things that I have done in the last few months that have helped gain this authenticity in my classroom.

Is it easy, yes.

Is is time consuming, yes.

Is it worth it, YES! 

The lesson to learn out of this post, if your students are engaged and the content is meaningful, ball is in your court for some awesome learning. Here are a few simple things I have started to incorporate to make this authenticity a reality for my students.

  1. Field Trips.

I decided at the beginning of the year I was going to bring as many people in, and take my kids as many places as possible to make their learning a relevant journey and ultimately a reality. My BIGGEST pet peeve is when students ask  “why are we learning this” or “I am never going to need to know this” **insert whiny voice**. At which point I have historically done a few things: wanted to throw something/ rage quit, loose sleep over how I can engage students in their learning, and or cried. All of which options are not good options, but are mostly inevitable in experiencing the joys of junior high students.

A way that I have found works in helping with student engagement and authentic learning is by creating monthly field trips or small excursions that give students something to look forward to and may drive your lesson planning, units or assessments.

I realize this is not always feasible but if you can make it work… DO IT!

I took my students to the public library close to our school and it was an awesome way to incorporate so many outcomes in their English classes and bring the community into their learning. The great things about this type of field trip is that libraries most likely have teen or children programming that love to have classes to work with and its free! This field trip went so well that we are now able to schedule bi-monthly visits where students will be using the library for different tasks… its great!

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Tip: center a research project, or book reading around these trips it gives direction for you and the librarians. 

I also took my students on a ‘Ukrainian Day’ field trip around our city. Now these type of field trips definitely require more work but are still (in my opinion) crucial to authentic learning. Since I teach Ukrainian, the second language engagement in the culture segment of the second language learning fits as a crucial part of the student understanding why we use the language and how to use it. I took advantage of the whole day and went to Ukrainian Holdomor monuments in our down town, a Ukrainian Church, a store that sells Ukrainian goods where they could use the language to interact with the store owners, and an immigration museum exhibit which tied into our unit of study. It was a whirlwind day… but it rocked and students LOVED it.

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Some tips: Pair up with other classes if possible, that way you are splitting the planning work, and you are able to have another teacher there with you. Take the day to do any many things as possible! If we only went to the museum students would not have found it as authentic. Use your devices (phones, iPads, tablets etc.) to take photos or the whole day to be used for projects later on!

        2. Worldwide Learning: Pen Pal Schools

Traveling and experiencing new culture and traditions is something I value as a teacher. Bringing this worldly understanding to my classroom was something I decided in University was a ‘thing’ that was going to happen in my students’ learning.

Once again I was faced with the HOW. In second language learning this seemed easier. You are learning about a different culture and way of life as you are learning the language and how to use this. As an English and Social Studies teacher I knew that it would be easy for my students to learn about the cultures but I wanted them to be able to gain empathy towards it in an authentic way. THEN I found Pen Pal Schools.

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It is an online platform that connects over 100,000 students in 168 countries to learn together. PenPals ages 9 and up collaborate through high-quality online courses to discover other cultures and learn about global challenges while practicing essential reading and writing skills. Weekly lessons are going to be completed at any time from any device the students have. This was life changing for my grade 8 students.

It was easy to set up and made the current events and history classes I was teaching them about so much more of a reality in my classroom. If you are able to implement something like this… do it!

3. Tap into your Community, Parents and other Staff!

I decided that in order for my students to be invested in their learning, they need a support team to not only make their learning authentic but ensure that they know they are not alone in the journey.

Tip: It takes a village. 

In figuring out how that was going to happen I tapped into a school resource we have called the keys program. Keys is To Empowering Youth to Succeed (KEYS) operates with the understanding that Wellness is for everyone and is essentially a mental health project for our district. As an attempt to understand global and societal awareness, I worked with the keys program to create an ‘Amazing Strengths’ challenge around our school (an Amazing Race challenge essentially). This challenge involved different members of the community in the form of police officers, staff around our school, and their parents where they had to complete different challenges in order to complete the race.This could easily be organized with a school councilor or just on your own as well.

The race went great because we had so much support and organization for students to be successful. Students were put into different teams based on their strengths found in the Character Surveys  and were able to shine in different challenges.

Having so many outlets of support makes a HUGE difference and allows for those more authentic activities.

I hope I helped a little, I know its a lot but I feel like I have 50 tabs of information open in my brain…;) Let me know your tips and tricks of authentic learning! Help a sista out!

Cheers,

Miss Rylance