Work On Your Game

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by clappstar

This past March, I said goodbye to my basketball team for the offseason, having exit meetings with each player before they headed out for their exams and then their summer. I told them that every off-season of college basketball they have, the should make it their goal to add one more skill to their arsenal. Whether it was a new post move, a higher vertical jump, a new attack from the perimeter, they need to add one more tool to make themselves into a more complete player. I explained that if they play four seasons, and have three summers away from the team, they should be able to add 3 new aspects to their game and be the best player they can be in their fourth year.

There is no reason that this philosophy can’t work in our teaching careers either. If we teach for 25 years, that’s 24 summers to develop 24 tools to make us better educators. For me, this summer I plan to learn about video capture and editing, using my computer, iPad, iPhone and video camera. Our school wants to look at making the learning in our building more public, to share what is going on at Greystone with our parents, colleagues and our community. That is one tool I can definitely make good use of and will sharpen my game as an educator.

What part of your teaching game are you going to work on this summer? What weapon will be added to your educational arsenal? How are you going to come back stronger and model for your students the ideas of lifelong learning, goal setting and self improvement? Please share them with me, your summer improvement plans may inspire others to follow your lead!

The Little Things

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by asenat29

Wednesday, two days left after today, one with students, one without, and then summer would be here. I didn’t have much in the tank today, our One-Month old daughter had not slept well, and while I am not much help at night, I didn’t sleep well either. I worked at my list of “to-do’s”, hopeful I could knock off a few more and get closer to completing the list in time, and thought it would be a pretty uneventful day. Just before lunch, we had our year end assembly planned, and while I had a couple jobs, I wasn’t heavily involved.

As the assembly came to a close, one of our teachers gave the Grade 9 class a heartfelt speech sending them on their way to high school, and it came time for a tradition that the school had long practiced. The Grade 9 students exited the gym through a gauntlet made of the Grade 5 students receiving a high five from each one as they traveled through the gauntlet. The Grade 9 students had done the same thing at our year opening assembly for the Grade 5 students, welcoming them to our school. A small, maybe even simple gesture, but it made the whole event so much more special.

It stuck with me all day, those Grade 9 students, often careful not to show their emotion in fear it might not be deemed cool, and how they beamed as they high-fived every one of the little Grade 5’s through the gauntlet. It made me think about just how much of an impact one little gesture could have on an event like our assembly. I started to reflect on other small things our school does that have a huge impact on the building and everyone in it.

The way the school uses student helpers to handle almost all of the book sign-outs in the library and selling snacks in the school store, empowering students to handle responsibilities that used to only be handled by adults. The way the equipment room in the gym is left open and often equipment is available in the gym, because there is a trust there that the students will wait until the PE class gets underway before they help themselves to the volleyballs.  The GENUINE way the staff support each other, work together, have fun together, laugh and cry together, and educate young people together, modelling for the students what positive collaboration can look like.

Our school has a reputation for outstanding work in the areas of inquiry, critical thinking,  and assessment. We have a forward thinking Principal, who never rests on her laurels and constantly wants to push our school forward. Greystone Centennial Middle School has won awards and presented at conferences all over the world. It was these reasons, I believed, that made the school a great place. These definitely are the pillars that our school is built on, but there are a lot of schools out there trying to push the envelope and practice progressive educational strategies. What sets our school apart is the way it makes you feel, and that comes from the daily interactions of everyone inside our walls between staff, students, parents and community members. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to join this staff and I hope I can start to add to this amazing culture in some small way myself.

I think when we sit down to plan our school years, to prepare for the return of staff and students, we often think about what program to run or strategy to implement to improve our school culture. The more time I spend at Greystone, the more I think the right strategy is to remember the little things every day and make every interaction count. Define your culture and then live it, in every encounter you have with anyone who walks through your doors. Instead of focusing on what big idea is out there, we should focus on the little things, because they can turn your school into the place everyone wants to be.