Our Board‘s tagline is, “Curiosity. Creativity. Possibility.” I love this! I think it says a lot about what the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board values in both staff and students. If ever there was a time that we need to embrace these three words, I think it’s now.
Safety protocols for our Board allow for physical distancing. Caretakers and educators have been working hard to keep at least a metre of distance between students, and two metres if possible. I know that we’ve all seen photographs, like the one that Doug Peterson shared recently on his blog, of student desks in rows right up to the chalkboard or SMART Board.
There are limited ways to avoid this set-up. I know that when I first did a walkthrough in our building, I thought, “Are we just going to be going back to teaching methods of the past?” I have to wonder though if we could reframe our concerns over layout, and instead, see this layout as a possible way to follow individual student curiosities/interests. I keep thinking back to this book on design thinking, and the role that it might play in the classroom.
Kids might not be able to connect in person to engage in this type of learning, but maybe they can connect virtually. And that’s what leads me to the second word …
This year, we’re all going to need to be creative within our confines. I keep returning to this favourite vlog of mine by Susan Hopkins. Maybe this will be the year that we learn how to “scale the condo wall”: not just us, but our students. As Doug Peterson shared in his Friday blog post, my teaching partner, Paula, and I have been using our new class documentation blog to document our set-up this year.
Already this year has required us to use all of our creative problem solving options, and then some, as we work through classroom set-up and programming. Parents, educators, and administrators from around the world can see our problem solving in action. They see our successes, but they also see our many failures. From the comments we’ve received on Instagram posts, it’s clear that our school community appreciates the creativity, even as we continue to make changes. I wonder if by sharing our process, we can also help inspire some creative problem solving in our students and families throughout the year.
Lisa Noble talks a lot about visible learning, and I think that there’s something to be said for putting yourself out there, even when you need to keep going back to the drawing board. I appreciated this Twitter talk with our vice principal yesterday. There’s value for adults and kids in “staying creative.”
I think it’s through creativity, that we get to our last word …
There’s no doubt about it that this year will certainly begin by looking WAY different than it did in the past. Our hope is that as our families and kids look around our classroom and see the rows of desks and tables, they will also see possibilities …
- for independent play,
- for problem solving,
- for creative space options,
- for personalized learning,
- for the development of spatial awareness skills,
- for coding (as just walking to the bathroom is going to be like one big low-tech block coding puzzle),
- for Self-Reg,
- for home/school connections,
- and for joy!
I’m not going to pretend that back-to-school time has been all sunshine and roses. I’ve had my mini-meltdowns (and not so mini ones), and then Paula and I have tried again. I keep thinking back to one of my favourite children’s books: The Most Magnificent Thing.
We might keep going back to the drawing board, but in the end, my hope/belief is that we’ll have the same success as this little girl did. Imagine if our students and families see us working through the creative problem solving process to still find a little wonderful in the end. What might this mean for them, and for the possibilities this school year? Every time that I lose a little bit of my positive outlook on the year ahead, I keep coming back to this tweet that I saw recently.
I’m looking forward to a much-needed bit of awesome! What about you?
I do totally appreciate this post. I’m prepping individual bins for my kids, and thinking, what goes in these? Does every kiddo get the same thing for patterning activities, or do I mix it up? How do I do some kind of collaborative work? How do we share ideas? I needed your post today, to remind me of a lot of things, and especially that failure has to be part of this year’s process. I’m also trying really, really hard to be brave. Reading this helped.
Thanks Lisa! It’s so interesting, as we teach completely different grades, and yet, I think that Paula and I discussed many of these same activities. We didn’t want to provide the same items to each child, but we weren’t sure how to determine what to provide. This is what led to the creation of this survey: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ShareFormPage.aspx?id=aq_-er6xg0ypdMQ6iyFWNKH0zO96CuBAmrqaqtaVsApUME9XSTFJMTVNS1hBMkFNWE9ZSlpLNFg2Mi4u&sharetoken=9JgPwjgc2Ir2qDwMmpX6. We’re going to try and use the responses to help us pick some initial material options for each child. We want the kids to be involved in some of the selection process, but we also know the logistics at having every child wait for a turn. We’re trying to decide how much is too much, and how we can support self-selection of items from a distance. We’re still hoping to have daily class meeting times to share ideas and discuss provocations, but from their individual spots. We had to look at four students that might find it harder to see, and how we could provide a second spot to them (with a second chair or mat) for these group meeting times. Songs used to be HUGE for transitional times, and we found ourselves searching out chants the other day, as they’re allowed (I’m not a huge fan of chants, but we found some that we love). Even the smallest things seem to involve complex decision making, and there is just SO MUCH to think about. I cannot tell you the hundreds of things we’ve tried, the variation in instructions (sometimes even over the course of the day), and how protocols seem to shift depending on suggestions shared (I think more based on the fact that these suggestions highlight additional possible problems). Failure is huge right now, and I have no doubt that we’ll be experiencing more when kids actually come to school. I have to wonder though if they see our problem solving process in action, if this might inspire some risk-taking/trying and failing of their own. This has all been a learning process! Wishing you all the best as you continue to navigate this complex time! I’m always here for you if you’re looking for a sounding board.
Thanks so much, Aviva. I have been thinking A LOT about my check-in times. Normally, we would toss a ball to each other, and that’s not going to work….but check in is sooooo important. I want to do a Jam or no Jam music activity at entry, and I think I have an idea for that to help with attendance that may work. I found a photo of my first day 4 years ago, and I have to post it, because there was so much movement and laughter going on, and it is really driving me to think about how I find pathways to that joy. Thanks for continuing to jumpstart my thinking.
Oh Lisa! I would love to see the photograph. I need to check for if/when you do post it. I think that there are ways to capture this joy, but definitely in new ways than we’ve done before. Certainly from a distance. I hope that you share your evolving thinking about your plans. Maybe they’ll even inspire Paula and I as we contemplate group times/meeting times in our classroom.