A Need To “Pause,” But Wait …

This year, I decided to get involved with our Board’s N.T.I.P. Mentorship Program. It’s been many years since I’ve been involved, and I thought that this would be an exciting new leadership opportunity for me. On Thursday, we met for our first session as mentors. I was really excited when I heard that Kristin Roy would be joining us to give us some training around the Seven Norms of Collaboration. While I’ve heard of these norms before and discussed them at some staff meetings in the past, my learning around these norms is still new. I was eager to dig into them more. We focused on two norms: paraphrasing and pausing. As I tweeted during the session, I had some initial thoughts on both of these norms, and I’ve contemplated them even more since Thursday. 

Since returning to school at the end of the day on Thursday, I’ve found Kristin’s voice running through my head. At the end of her presentation, all of the mentors thought of ways that we could practice these norms before meeting with the new teachers in the next couple of weeks. I had a few different thoughts on how I could practice, but one was definitely in the classroom.

My teaching partner, Paula, and I have had many recent conversations around “wait time,” and I definitely see the connection between this and “pausing.” Since we record so many videos in the classroom, listening back to the recordings after school each day, gives us an opportunity to reflect on wait time. I happened to think even more about this on Thursday, as Paula also shared with me some videos that she took while I was away. Since I wasn’t there to hear the discussions at the time, I listened even more carefully to them, and even reflected on them in my Instagram posts. 

When I returned to the school Thursday afternoon, I took a few minutes to talk to Paula before our staff meeting. Most of our talk was around “wait time.” We both struggle with the same thing: we know that wait time is valuable for kids, but how do we give students the additional time that they need in a busy Kindergarten classroom where time can be at a premium? 

I wondered about the idea of walking away. If we gave the student a prompt such as, “What sounds do you hear?,” and then moved away to work with another child, would that first student start to problem solve independently? I don’t know. I think of a couple of children that keep coming up again to ask for help, or want to know that each sound is correct before moving on. I wonder about that child who waits until you’re there to even attempt the task, and then waits for reassurance before moving on. How much wait time do you give the child? How do you know when a student actually needs more help versus needs more time? Sometimes I’ve seen success with working through a problem together first, building confidence, and then being able to provide the wait time for independence. But is one problem enough? If the child looks for support do you give it or do you wait? I want to be kind and empathetic, but I also don’t want to solve problems for children that they can solve on their own. 

On Friday, I really pushed myself to wait when working with a child on some reading and writing. In many ways, it worked, although at times I wonder if I still gave her more support than she needed. Did I say sounds again when she could have been prompted to repeat them? 

As I mentioned after school to Paula, there was a lot that I put off as I sat here to work with this child. Was my time spent with her valuable? Yes. Did it help her build some confidence in her skills? Yes. But is it always possible to put some other things off, and what might be some possible drawbacks in doing so? I’m trying to weigh the pros and cons here, while figuring out what’s necessary, what’s reasonable, and how reality might compare to the research. How do you make “wait time” a feasible reality in your classroom or home, and how might children respond to having this extra time? I can’t help but think of a conversation that I had yesterday with my principal minutes before the nutrition break bell rang for returning to class. He ended up pausing when I most definitely should have, but the pressure of the bell, changed things for me. I certainly have work left to do on “pausing,” but if nothing else, Thursday’s training has made me far more aware of this. Thanks for taking up an important spot in my head, Kristin Roy!


A Taste Of Leadership

Now that Camp Power has come to an end, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking around leadership. One of the things that this camp allows me to do is to develop my leadership skills. As one of the site leads, I get to support instructors with program planning and implementation, as well as coordinate professional development opportunities to continue to extend this learning throughout the three-week camp program. This position excites me. It makes me think and act in different ways. It helps me see the value in a good question, the need for a positive school culture, and the importance of building community. 

I love watching the growth of children and staff (myself included) throughout the 15 day program, and thinking about everything that was needed to make this happen. But one thing that I appreciate the most about this site lead opportunity is that it gives individuals in a teaching role, the chance to lead. 

I remember a meeting that I was invited to a number of months before the summer program began. Representatives from different local school boards that are involved in the Summer Learning Program came to this meeting. As we went around the table to introduce ourselves, people identified their School Board role. I met many principals and consultants, but I was the only teacher around this table. This is often when I default to the line, “I just teach Kindergarten.” I wonder why I feel the need to include the word, “just.” Is everyone else a better leader because they are one all year round? 

Here’s the truth. I love my job as a Kindergarten teacher. I want to be in the classroom. 

  • Working with children excites me.
  • I may not countdown the number of days until school ends, but I do countdown the number of days until it begins.
  • Our kids make me laugh.
  • I have the best teaching partner in the world, who constantly gets me thinking differently, trying new things, and considering other approaches to better support kids. 
  • Watching children master difficult concepts, learn new skills, and change their attitude towards learning, thrills me. 
  • The classroom is one of the places where I’m happiest!

This doesn’t mean that I want to give up my summer leadership opportunity for an instructor position. Being a site lead comes with its own challenges, its own successes, and its own joy. I’m thrilled that the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board allows a teacher to be a leader in this way, and still go back to the classroom every September. Maybe one day, I’ll want to extend my formal leadership beyond the summer months, but for now, I couldn’t be happier to be heading back to teaching … and with some new thoughts and skills that I have learned this summerHow do different schools and Boards support leadership interests among classroom teachers? I wonder if there are other educators out there like me, who love the classroom environment, while also enjoying a taste of leadership.


Could A “Sneaky Approach” To Professional Development Actually Be Best?

My summer camp position is a really interesting one. You can find me …

  • stuffing hamburgers and hot dogs;
  • signing for food orders;
  • setting up tech equipment in the gym;
  • completing and uploading the daily slideshows;
  • sitting down with a child in the hallway, in the library, or in the classroom, who may just need some extra time or additional support;
  • documenting learning around the school;
  • planning for PD sessions;
  • and/or working with instructors and kids.

In different ways and for different reasons, I love each and every one of these jobs … despite a few texture and scent issues. 🙂

That said, without a doubt, my time spent in the classroom continues to be my favourite! I had a very special — and unexpected — moment today thanks to this time. And surprisingly, this moment didn’t happen in the classroom, but instead, at our after camp PD session. 

We meet twice a week after camp for professional development, and today, we were discussing documentation. As part of this session, I asked every instructor to bring along a piece of documentation to discuss. The goal was to look closely at this documentation, talk about the child, and try to determine some possible next steps together.

As I listened in on these conversations today, a couple of people spoke about things that they’ve tried in the classroom. Here’s what surprised me.

  • One instructor mentioned using an alphabet chart with one of the campers, after she saw me introduce this strategy to him. She said that this child was starting to use it independently, and now she’s using the chart with another camper.
  • Another instructor mentioned that she saw what I did with the alphabet chart — and this would have been through Twitter — and she decided to try it with one of her campers. It worked!

The amazing thing about both of these points is that in neither case did I actually directly talk to the instructors about this strategy. By going into the classroom and working with kids alongside the instructors, they were able to see this strategy in action. They were able to see and hear how children responded, and then figure out, what might work for them. Also, by using social media and sharing what I did in different classrooms, other instructors were able to implement similar approaches that might work for their campers. I think about what Lisa Noble has said before about visual learning, and the value in educators, consultants, and administrators, sharing their thinking and learning visibly. 

I’m not an expert here. For 10 months of the year, I happily get to live and breathe the classroom experience, and it’s this experience that I bring into my Camp Power role. I can’t help but think about the some staff members that I’ve worked with in a school setting over the years, including,

  • curriculum consultants,
  • Early Years consultants,
  • instructional coaches,
  • learning resource teachers,
  • and reading specialist teachers,

and how I’ve often hoped to have these individuals pull out students or provide me with PD in-services. Maybe there was something better — something more — that I could have looked for instead. What if we worked together in the classroom to support students? Could the best professional development happen when we actually work alongside each other? I can’t help but think about how we use documentation in the classroom for kids, and the benefits of observing children closely, and using these observations to plan next steps. Maybe when we work in the same space, together, educators do the same thing, and figure out new approaches and how to use them based on what they see and hear. Might a “sneaky approach” to professional development actually be the most effective one?


Is It Time For All Of Us To Stand Up?

I’m scared. Writing this post is a scary one for me. It’s not because I don’t have strong opinions because I really do, but because I know just how public these opinions are when they’re shared in this platform. This afternoon, I saw a tweet from Andrew Campbell, which really made me stop and think, and serves as the basis for this blog post. 

Andrew’s tweet inspired a lot of conversation, including a few tweets of my own.

Read from the bottom, up.

Ever since reading the news that Ontario will be going back to the 1998 Sex-Ed Curriculum (which is actually the Growth and Development component of the Health Curriculum), I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. I teach Kindergarten. Technically, this news will not change how I deliver any of my program come September, but as educators, we’re part of a team, and for many educators on this team, this news is going to make a big difference for them.

I can’t help but think about some of our youngest learners. A couple of years ago, I captured this conversation around the beading table one day. While I realize that there’s a lot of background noise and it’s hard to hear everything, what you can hear are a few children discussing their brothers. Their brothers who like pink. These two girls talk with others about how it’s okay for boys and girls to like pink. Way past my recording time, the children continued to discuss other colours, and how people can like any colour that they want. 

They moved beyond colours though to topics including,

  • dressing up,
  • being princesses,
  • playing with dolls, 
  • and wearing make-up.

These four- and five-year-olds are confident that these are practices that we can support for boys and girls, and “it doesn’t matter as long as this is what they like.” (Thank goodness for some documentation, which allowed me to look back at this conversation even two years later.

I then start to think about other conversations that I’ve heard or been a part of in my last three years in Full-Day Kindergarten.

  • There’s the discussion around “asking for a hug” before giving one.
  • There are the times that children spoke about the body parts on the doll before giving the doll a bath. 
  • There are the numerous conversations around peeing, pooping, and everything in betweenNothing intrigues young children more than bodily functions.
  • There are the kissing discussions, which happened frequently this year thanks to these kissing heads. We did have a further discussion on if both parties were happy with being kissed.
  • There are also the pregnancy conversations … especially those around worms this past school year. 

I share all of these stories because even our youngest learners are coming to school with some different experiences and background knowledge than the students that came before them. From my stories, you can see the start of conversations around gender, identity, consent, and body parts. What’s going to happen when we remove a Health Curriculum, which addresses where these children are already going and need to go next?

I can’t help but think back now to a conversation that I had recently with another educator. I made the comment, “I think that this is what’s best for kids, but …”. When I said, but, this other person replied, “As soon as we know that it’s what’s best for kids, there is no but. We are in the business of supporting kids. Every. Single. Time.” He’s right … and it’s for this very reason that I’m choosing to be scared, but also to press publish. I need to do what’s best for kids, and that means supporting a curriculum document, which aligns with what students are experiencing in their lives today. Creative educators will come up with different ways to professionally address these needs, and ensure that all children are heard and supported. But we need more than just creative educators. Are we all willing to speak up on behalf of kids? I think that change starts with our collective voices being heard.


Are There Times When Even Adults Choose Not To Comply For The Sake Of Self-Reg?

While most of my professional blogging happens here, I also enjoy sharing monthly blog posts on The MEHRIT Centre’s blog. Back in March, I was inspired to blog there after an experience in our music class. I have music as one of my prep periods, but due to a lack of additional rooms, the music teacher comes into the classroom to run her program. Music happens at the end of the day twice a week, and I usually use this time to sit over at the eating table and upload documentation. On this particular day, I noticed three children that chose to remove themselves from the program. Music is usually quite loud and exciting, and while the students love the regular songs and dances, sometimes it’s too much for a few of them. Sitting out, watching, listening, quietly clapping along, and even reading and writing instead, seemed to be calming options for these children. While I loved, and appreciated, that our music teacher realized what these students needed and respected their decisions, I wondered if not complying would always be seen as a self-regulated choice. There is quite a discussion in the comments on this blog post, and it’s one of these very comments that inspired my post today.

Cheryl, the commenter, shared a concern that I think is quite a common one.

Both Stephanie and I replied, explaining how these kinds of choices at such a young age may not necessarily impact on adulthood. 

While I stand by what I shared here, an experience from the other day has me wondering if there’s even more to add to this discussion. On Thursday, we had the opportunity to have Groove EDGEucation come and visit our school. While Groove worked with classes all day long, after school, the dance instructor worked with the staff. We all got to “groove,” just as the kids did. I’m not going to lie: this was a very dysregulating experience for me. Even though I said aloud the comment that everyone else made, “I can’t get it wrong,” I still felt as though I could get it wrong. I’m not a confident dancer.

  • I find it a challenge to keep with the beat.
  • I was afraid that I wouldn’t know all of the moves.
  • I worry about everyone looking at me. 
  • And the stress is just compounded by being so close to everyone else.

In the classroom, with kids, I can happily dance and have fun with music, but it’s different in a room full of colleagues. I tried though.

  • I kept near the back of the room. 
  • I stayed near my teaching partner, Paula, who knew that this was a challenge for me and was incredibly supportive. Talk about an awesome co-regulator!
  • I made some jokes and shared some laughs. This always makes me feel better.
  • And I tried to give myself a little space … I think this helped me breathe!

But then we got to the part of the dance where we have to “swing our partners.” Ahh!! First of all, the directional component to this worries me. This is something that I really could “get wrong!” Then there’s the fact that swinging around in circles makes me feel dizzy. I worked at it. I swung around with two partners … and didn’t hit anybody or anything. Then though, I moved to the sidelines. 

  • I took a drink of water.
  • I watched from the corner.
  • I still shared a few laughs with friends.

Like the kids in our class though, I opted out, and just like them, this was the self-regulated choice for me. As adults, we actually opt out all the time.

  • We send text messages and emails in meetings.
  • We step out of the room to make phone calls.
  • We sit in the lunch room, but read a device, write a note, or even look at a book.

This opting out may not look the same as it did in our Kindergarten class, but it’s still a way of self-regulating, giving ourselves a break, and doing what we really do need to do for us. Now some may argue that these are “rude choices,” and maybe at times, they are. But is this something that we also might need to re-frameFor when many of us choose to make these decisions, we do so — whether intentionally or not — to find the calm that we need to tackle our next big challenge or to exist happily within the space where we’re at. 

I’d like to think that I’m a “functional adult” because of some of these very choices, and on Thursday, I think a bit of my own opting out was exactly what I needed to do. What about you? Even as this fabulous TEDx Talk implies, the look of self-regulation may vary as we grow up. Maybe not complying is still a good option at times, but just in a different way than our four- and five-year-olds chose to do so. Are there times when, even as an adult, you also choose “not to comply” for the sake of Self-Reg? I guess the troublemaker in me continues to exist.