Today’s the second last day of school, and it’s my second last day at Ancaster Meadow. I’m not the only person leaving the school this year, and starting yesterday, the “goodbye emails” began. I wanted to write my own, but I just couldn’t do it. Maybe the Queen of the Internet would write a “goodbye card” instead, but then I couldn’t find a pen, so I decided against that idea. 🙂
And that’s when I decided that for me, a blog post would be the best way to say, “goodbye.” Blogging is what I do. It’s how I share what I think and feel. It’s how I reflect. And it’s how I connect with others — through the follow-up comments and the tweets.
Today, I blog to say “goodbye” to a staff that I’ve worked with for as many as nine years. Today, I also blog to say, “thanks.”
I’ve made many friends and formed many connections here at Ancaster Meadow, and I will miss this great school community! Thank you all, in each of your own ways, for making me a better teacher! I hope that next year brings many incredible changes and challenges for each of you. I know that I’m excited about what lies ahead … even if I’m a little scared and sad as well! 🙂
Here’s to a wonderful summer and a great new school year!
Today was our Volunteer Breakfast, and for me, it was the last Volunteer Breakfast that I’ll help organize as a teacher at Ancaster Meadow School. As I sat back this morning and listened to conversations around the room, I thought about how lucky I was to connect with so many amazing parents over my nine years at the school.
Here’s to the parents that take work home to help prepare classroom materials.
Here’s to the parents that come in to read and write with the students each week.
Here’s to the parents that count lunch money and organize lunch forms.
Here’s to the parents that photocopy and sort materials to go home to students.
Here’s to the parents that work one-on-one with students.
Here’s to the parents that work in small groups with students.
Here’s to the parents that organize fundraisers.
Here’s to the parents that help coordinate special school events.
Here’s to the parent that emails me at 7:30 at night and offers to come over to the school and help me pack (this parent deserves a special thank you).
And here’s to the parents that might not be able to volunteer, but still spend hours supporting their child at home each morning and/or each night. You read together. You write together. You work through math problems together. You collaborate. You debate. You struggle, and you succeed. You are, and will always be, your child’s first teacher!
I will never forget my Methods Professor in the Faculty of Education. She told the class these words that have stayed with me over the years: “Parents give us the best that they have.” Thank you for all of the extras that you do at home and at school to not just support your “best” (your child), but to support all of the “bests” out there. I’m fortunate to work and learn with all of you!
Over my 13 years in education, I’ve taught many students with autism, and I’m incredibly passionate about working with students with special needs. I’ve definitely written more social stories than I can count, and sometimes I’m amazed by the number of them that just naturally go through my head. I’ve learned over the years that students with autism often struggle with changes in routine, they like structure, they need visuals, and they sometimes have various sensory needs. I’ve worked with the Autism Team, Learning Resource Teachers, and Educational Assistants (EA’s) to meet all of these needs in the classroom, and maybe that’s why today, I recognized these needs in myself.
At the end of the year, I’m moving schools and grades, and as classes are moving around the school, I’m feeling an increased need to get packed up and organized for the move. With the help of my vice principal, I organized a packing challenge for today, and students worked with me to maximize space in the boxes and pack up the classroom.
Other Volume Challenge For Today
As the students were working together to pack, I couldn’t help but stare across the room. There were boxes everywhere. Bins were tipped out on the floor as students sorted materials. Surfaces were covered with paper, pencils, construction paper, and tape. Students from other classes were coming to deliver supplies for next year and pick up supplies to bring to the new Grade 5 classroom. And as I looked at the mess and realized the changes that were happening, I was totally overwhelmed! That was when I sent out this tweet …
The truth is, I don’t have autism, but I needed a social story.
I was overwhelmed with the change.
I was overwhelmed with the mess.
I was overwhelmed with the visuals.
I didn’t know what to do or what to say.
I was ready to cry.
And at that moment in time, I gained a new appreciation for my students with autism and their needs. I also realized how the strategies that we use for students with autism can benefit so many other students (and adults) as well.
When I left the classroom at lunch today, I happened to stop in at the principal’s office, and I shared how I was feeling. As my eyes filled up with tears, I watched what Paul did:
He let me talk.
He remained calm.
His tone was even.
He asked what he could do to help, but he also reminded me that everything would be okay. Maybe without even realizing it, he gave me the start of a social story.
In just a few minutes, I was feeling better. After lunch, I even managed to get my amazing students and EA’s to help me organize the classroom and contain the chaos. I feel like I can breathe again!
Today reminded me of the impact that change can have on all learners (young and old), and the importance of remembering and addressing all of these needs — especially at a time of year when there might be the most change of all. How do you prepare for change? How do you support your learners when changes occur? I’d welcome any insight on this, as I’m sure that the coming days will have me working through many changes.
Tonight was Grade 8 Graduation. Tonight, my first group of Senior Kindergarten students at Ancaster Meadow graduated from elementary school. I’ve taught for 13 years, and this is the first time that I’ve ever been at a school long enough to see my Kindergarten students graduate. Coupled with the fact that this is my last year at Ancaster Meadow, I was feeling pretty nostalgic tonight. There were many times this evening that I found myself choking back tears, and while I didn’t break down, tonight was the closest I’ve gotten.
After a wonderful graduation ceremony, a group of staff members went out for dinner. As the evening wore on, I got a chance to sit back and listen to some very funny stories, and it made me realize that in the midst of emotional times, a little laughter is good. And so tonight, I’m going to share with you one of the stories I remember from my very first year at Ancaster Meadow School. It’s a story that to this day makes me laugh, and I hope that it will give you a chuckle as well.
When I taught Kindergarten, The Popcorn Song was very popular, and I was forever thinking of new and exciting ways to help the students learn the popcorn words. I used to fill containers with popcorn kernels and hide the words in them. Students would do different activities with the words that they found. In the Kindergarten classroom, I had a cupboard full of neatly stacked containers that all contained popcorn kernels. One day, I opened the cupboard, and I noticed that one of the containers was slightly tipped. This really bothered me. I reached up to fix the container, but it was on the top shelf and it was the top one in a stack of four, and I’m short and could barely reach it. I decided to hold onto the shelf to help steady myself as I grabbed the container, and in doing so, I knocked the shelf, and all of the containers went flying to the floor. Thousands of popcorn kernels flew all over me and all over the floor! This would be bad enough as it was, but it just so happened that one of the kernels flew into my ear. Are you kidding me?! I tried everything to dig it out, but I couldn’t get it to come out. Eventually, I had to go to the office and tell the principal about my dilemma. Through fits of giggles, I managed to explain what happened, and I had to book a doctor’s appointment to get the kernel out (you can imagine my embarrassment in telling the doctor what happened 🙂 ). Things got even worse though because the doctor struggled with getting the kernel out, and thought that I might need surgery. Eventually she managed to flush it out! In the meantime, the principal had to help me fill out an “accident report,” in which she wrote that she would help teach me about “popcorn safety” as a follow-up plan. I’ve never laughed so hard in my entire life!
In the midst of graduations, goodbyes, moving, and classroom clean-ups, I hope that we can all take the time to share an amusing story. You may not have the “popcorn kernel in the ear” problem, but I hope that you can tell another great anecdote instead. Smile big and laugh lots: here’s to a great end to a wonderful school year!
This year, I was excited to have my students involved in the Teapot Box Project again. Based on the Grade 5 math expectations, my plan was to have the students create a net (using a pizza box) of a prism or a pyramid that would represent the teapot box packaging. After designing the images for the outside of the box, we would get people to vote for their favourite one, and then that group could enlarge its net to make the real package for the teapot box. With a Board focus on proportional reasoning, our vice principal‘s suggestion of this approach made a lot of sense. This was the perfect plan — except for one problem: it didn’t work as planned!
Due to some unexpected events happening the same week as our teapot box creations, the art designs for the boxes took a lot longer than expected. While all groups made the mini-nets, we then started moving past geometry in Math, and the student interest in going back, waned. I kept on waiting for the “perfect time” to do the vote and construct the large box, but that perfect time never happened. And then I started to realize that the year was quickly coming to an end, people were expecting the teapot, and I had nothing to send out. That’s when I kind of cheated. With the help of my students, I took all of the little nets and put them with the teapot into one of the big, extra teapot boxes that my students created last year.
One Of These Teapot Boxes
Then with the help of Melvinaand Edna, two amazing educators that I know from Twitter, I tracked down the class in Australia that expected our teapot box, and I was ready to mail it out. My thoughts were that this project did not go as planned, but I managed to salvage things somewhat, and the teapot journey could continue. That is until real world math got in the way …
Today, I took the box to the post office to mail out. I figured that it would be expensive (it’s going from Canada to Australia), but Jocelyn‘s school is currently on Break, so there’s no rush in getting it there. As I waited at the post office desk to find out the cost of the package, I saw the employee measuring the length, width, and height of the box. Then her eyes bulged out of her head, and her words were, “Oh my goodness!” These are not words that I want to hear when waiting to pay. 🙂 She then proceeded to tell me that I only had three mailing options because of the height of the box, and the options ranged from $97-$200. Are you kidding me?!
Since there was nobody else in line, the post office employee started to play around with the measurement options to show me what the difference in a couple of centimetres would mean. Right now, the box is 25 cm high, but if I can make it 20 cm or less in height, then the cost of mailing will come down to $27. The weight of the box is light, so it’s just a matter of the dimensions. I couldn’t have planned a better real world problem that would let students explore volume, while allowing them to reuse materials (the current teapot box), and saving me a small fortune. 🙂
Thanks to our vice principal, Kristi, I already have a packing volume challenge ready for Tuesday, and now I have one more challenge — this teapot box one — for students to work on together. Yay to real world math and the excitement of new possibilities!
First Volume Challenge For Tuesday
What are some of your real world math stories? I’d love to hear about how you’ve used these opportunities to develop student learning (whether in the classroom with your kids or at home with your own children). As I was reminded of today, math is truly everywhere!