Monday, April 13, 2015

My Marvelous Mentee

Saturday, April 11 was the last day of my Mentor AQ class. It was a wonderful, learning-filled four months. The agenda for the last two classes consisted of presentations for the Co-Learning with Mentor Collaborative Inquiry projects. I was especially proud of my project because one of my mentees made a special appearance via Skype to give her perspective to the class and share her insights, the only mentee to do so.

Salma & me

Mentee takes centre stage to share her learning
Salma is a wonderful mentee and talented teacher. At the risk of embarrassing her, I wanted to announce to the world (or at least my blog readers) why she is so marvelous and what I learned from working with her.

1) Salma is eager to learn and not afraid to ask questions.

Salma is an LTO (long term occasional teacher). She is the teacher-librarian at a local school. Being a teacher-librarian is not an easy job, especially for new-ish teachers. Salma has a lot of prior experience (with other LTOs and teaching in private schools) but had never taken on this particular role before. She sought to learn as much as possible so she could do the best job for her school, staff, and students. She attended many after-school workshops. Thanks to her awesome vice-principal, we connected early in her LTO contract and she never pretended to be a know-it-all. She wondered, she pondered, and she sought answers. Salma's enthusiasm got me excited, and led me to try something I had never attempted before at my school (i.e. having my students act as "book talk experts" for her students and to have both groups connect using phone, Skype, and Google Docs).

2) Salma collaborates and perseveres.

Salma is the perfect person to have on a team. She is such a hard worker and is also so inviting to work alongside. She recommended some great books for me that I had not heard of before (like Inquiring Minds Learn to Read and Write by Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Peggy Jo Wilhelm and Erika Boas). We problem-solved together, made decisions together and conducted our action research together. It was pretty hectic trying to schedule virtual meetings between our students, but Salma would not give up, even though it must have been very frustrating to try and establish contact and have constant interruptions. Her determination encouraged me not to give up, even when the questions my students were asking were not up to par with my expectations.

3) Salma is modest and generous with her time and talents.

Salma has done some pretty incredible things, projects that I never could have imagined when I was a new teacher-librarian. During the Progress Report interview evening, Salma set up a parent workshop for introducing useful tools from the Virtual Library. She ran Read Aloud Tutorials for grandparents and encouraged the use of dual language books and first languages used at home. She organized a local training session for our area teacher-librarians on the new library circulation system. When I rave about her successes, she downplays it. As we prepared for this presentation for my course, she spent a lot of her own time reflecting and sharing answers to the questions, and tinkering with the technology to ensure it worked on Saturday. Since Skype and Google Docs were two of the items we used for inter-school communication, we only thought it suitable to use the same tools when we shared. It wasn't easy. I couldn't hear her on Skype from home, and she allowed me to come over to her house, late on Thursday evening, to video tape our conversation as a back-up plan in case Skype failed. It worked well in the end, but we had a fantastic visit and she even used her artistic skills to apply a henna design to my hand!

Henna art, Thursday evening, prior to flaking

Henna art, Friday afternoon, after dried parts removed

I am really disappointed that Salma won't be able to finish out the school year in her library - the regular teacher-librarian returns at the end of May. I am also really disappointed that she does not yet have a permanent position. Salma is an excellent teacher, not just a teacher-librarian. With less than a month to go, Salma is still doing interesting and educational projects with her students. We are arranging time for our students to meet in person and conduct a "Chat Blitz" to ensure as many students at her school qualify to vote in the Forest of Reading Awards. They'll be attending the local Silver Birch Quiz Bowl competition as well as the Ontario Library Association Festival of Trees. One of my few consolations is the discovery that Salma lives quite close to me, and that in addition to a great mentee, I've gained a wonderful friend that I can be vulnerable and honest with, and can have conversations about professional practice that will benefit both of us. Thank you Salma, for being a wonderful mentee and education partner. I could not have walked this journey without you. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Big Risk in the Restaurant Business!

We did it! My five primary division media classes launched their one-day-only restaurants! Even though I'm sure our sales took a hit in some markets from having five restaurants in a two-week period, the learning we accumulated during that time, and the powerful follow-up conversations we'll have in the near future made it worth it. Here's a summary of each restaurant, with some photos and some key reflections.

Day 1
Monday, March 23, 2015
Sugar Shark (Dessert Restaurant)
Room 117 (Grade 1)


Yes, it was so busy that I didn't even get a chance to take photos! The parent volunteers (Christine & Jovie & Candy) were absolutely wonderful. They baked cookies with small teams of children prior to our grand opening, while a small team worked with me to set up the dine-in area.

Our big goal was to try and replicate an authentic dining experience in a restaurant as close as possible. The first element we had to discard, after this experience, was the dining-in area. We were only able to seat 10 in the area the children chose for their location and it took us an hour to set up, and although it was adorable to hear our hostess check her map and tell customers "I'm sorry but we're full. Can I put you on the waiting list? Or would you like take-out?", it caused a lot of backlog.

The classroom teacher joined us to help the cashiers, thank goodness! The students were engaged and helpful, especially some of our waiters, who played their roles well. Unfortunately, this restaurant made the smallest profit. I'm planning to do some integrated math/media classes to examine why we made such a small amount. I suspect it had to do with all our expenses, from the uniforms to the cookie ingredients. We still have ice cream left over, so we plan on re-opening Sugar Shark to try and increase our sales.

Day 2
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Ms. Singh's Super Good Food (Hamburger Restaurant)
Room 115 (Grade 2)

Adults managing the boiling pots and deep fryer

Waiters making a delivery

Many orders on their way!

Hurrying with a late order

Can something be a disaster and a roaring success simultaneously? We reduced the number of items we sold (another lesson learned from Sugar Shark) to just three, but our next biggest lesson we learned from this restaurant was to insist on pre-orders. It was chaos! I was worried because we had fewer parent volunteers - actually, none, or more accurately, none until one got conscripted when he showed up to have lunch with his daughter. I had to collect my husband (and our deep fryer) from home at recess and drive back to school to ensure I had some help. My staff was WONDERFUL. They saw me faltering and many of them gave up their recesses and prep times to help me cook food, organize orders, supervise children, and so much more. Even though we suddenly had an influx of adult help, we were overwhelmed with the amount of orders. We vowed NO FRIES in the future, because we could not keep up with the demand. In fact, we ran out of food and one of our amazing ECEs had to run to the grocery store to buy more hot dogs, buns, and french fries. We also learned it was important to prepare as many of the meals in advance as was possible and  identify who was going home for lunch and who was staying. Some poor students did not get served their lunches until after 1:00 p.m.! My poor husband had an absolutely miserable time - he stood glued to the deep fryer for three hours straight (10:45-1:45) while the children pestered him with questions about when the fries would be ready. We made a huge profit, but our customer satisfaction was at an all-time low: one of the waiters reported hearing a fellow student mutter that this was Ms. Singh's Super BAD Food. Still, it was a huge learning experience and the other restaurants benefited from the lessons learned here.

Day 3
Friday, March 27, 2015
Merry Chickendy (Chicken Restaurant)
Room 112 (Grade 2)

Taking orders using class-created codes

Preparing the chicken burgers

Washing the dishes after closing time

Vacuuming the floor is part of restaurant work too! 

What a difference a couple of days makes! We took pre-orders for Friday's restaurant on Wednesday, so we knew exactly how many chicken burgers and chicken nuggets to buy. We replaced fries with pre-made potato chips, a simpler option. We also made some other changes based on the hectic time prior. Even though students had assigned jobs (e.g. waiters, cooks), we insisted that everyone help with delivery, one plate at a time- that way, no one sat around and did nothing for extended periods of time. We also moved our headquarters to the library, on the main floor, instead of the staff room on the second floor. Even though the library now smells of cooking oil (because we cooked nuggets in the deep fryer and chicken burgers in the oven upstairs and transported them), it reduced travel time significantly. We had two moms come to help (Diana and Mrs. I) and they were great. We were actually finished distributing all the food by 12:15 p.m., which in a way was a shame because the grown sister, sister's boyfriend and mother of one of the students came by to visit the restaurant and we were already done! We did not make as much money as on Day 2, but customer satisfaction was high. Several students came up to me to say how tasty the chicken burgers were and one raved "I'd give Merry Chickeny and 4 1/2 out of 5 star rating" (which has tempted me to teach how to write restaurant reviews to the junior division children).

Day 4
Monday, March 30, 2015
Pizza Power (Pizza Restaurant)
Room 116 (Grade 1-2)

Ingredients ready for our student chefs

Parent helpers busy organizing orders

Cheese or pepperoni?

Delivering an order


Spectacular failures can be quite inspirational. The classroom teacher in Room 116 became very involved with this project, especially after seeing me wild-eyed and frantic the week before. I didn't want to inconvenience any of the class teachers, who had no say in the participation of their students; in fact, I tried to arrange a double-period prep for them so they'd get some benefit (as well as the profit). However, this teacher gave up her double prep to help arrange this. She bought the ingredients, coordinated the parent volunteers (M's mom, M's dad, N's mom and T's mom) and had everything ready for the children. Everyone was involved with making food and delivering it; we did not stress individual jobs. We highlighted the names of the children going home for lunch and had those orders delivered well before the 11:30 a.m. start of lunch. What could have been a major flub was averted by some students with excellent memories: when we got word that the kindergarten students had no pizzas, one of our waiters / delivery personnel reported that the kindergarten teachers had asked them to lock the deliveries in her room on her desk. Sure enough, there they were and the kindergarteners ate on time. The class teacher calculated perfectly and had just enough food to give some to her hard workers. The pizza restaurant made the second largest profit margin - they sold less, but the cost of supplies was lower than the burger joint.

Day 5
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Mr. Royalty (fancy pasta restaurant)
Room 114 (Grade 3)


Is there such a thing as "restaurant fatigue"? Our pasta restaurant has the second lowest amount of sales and profit. I realized how much of an impact seeing the other classes more often had on promotion and sales. (I only see the Grade 3s twice a week, for library and media. I see the Grade 1s and 2s for library, media, and two periods of dance/drama, which in the weeks leading up to the restaurant launch, I switched to extra media classes.) There were fewer posters and no announcements on the PA for Mr. Royalty. We still took pre-orders at recess the day before, but there was a much smaller crowd. Thank goodness we were able to persuade the students that their original idea of an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant might be too costly! I was secretly grateful for a small amount of customers, as it was only me and the classroom teacher (who knew a lot more about cooking spaghetti than I did) as the adult supervisors for most of the time. D's grandmother came near the end, with beef patties for the staff and the offer to manage the student dishwashers. (I took photos but haven't uploaded them to my computer yet.) We also learned from all five restaurants that it was crucial to have letters sent home to the parents of our youngest children, alerting them to the menu options and prices. This was hard to do, as the students were calculating the prices so close to the day of the restaurants. Some intrepid early primary teachers made their own letters, or asked classes (like Pizza Power) to make letters to go home. One kindergarten teacher even translated the note into Chinese so more of our parents could read it. We also needed to be more sensitive when buying ingredients - like advertising if our chicken was halaal or checking for gluten alternatives. All the parent volunteers were so supportive and kept saying things like "Next year, you'll know exactly what to do". I had to alert them that this would probably be the only year for our restaurants. We did learn a lot, but I like creating original major projects, like last year's super hero costumes, and the media marketing tie-ins to movies from the year before.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Reaching across Religions

This week marks the beginning of "Holy Week", a special time of year for Christians that includes Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I have two stories to share that prove to me that we need to overcome our shyness and actually talk about religion and other identity issues in public schools with others, in respectful ways that help promote understanding.

1) Lenten Sacrifices

I am a Roman Catholic Christian, and a common practice during Lent (the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday) is for Catholics to fast and abstain. Here's a link that explains the purpose behind the practice. For Lent this year, my entire family decided to forego eating out. My husband chose to drink only water and I gave up drinking tea. This paragraph from http://www.catholic.org/clife/lent/faq.php, explains the rationale and why it is flawed for some:

Giving something up

For most older Catholics, the first thought that Lent brings to mind is giving something up. In my childhood, the standard was to give up candy, a discipline that found suitable reward in the baskets of sugary treats we received on Easter. Some of us even added to the Easter surplus by saving candy all through Lent, stockpiling what we would have eaten had we not promised to give it up.
Some years ago a friend of mine told me that he had urged his children to move beyond giving up candy to giving up some habit of sin that marked their lives. About halfway through Lent he asked the children how they were doing with their Lenten promise. One of his young sons had promised to give up fighting with his brothers and sisters during Lent. When his father asked him how it was going, the boy replied, "I'm doing pretty good, Dad—but boy, I can't wait until Easter!"
That response indicates that this boy had only partly understood the purpose of Lenten "giving up." Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. That always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life in Christ.

Although we do plan on resuming our visits to restaurants and drinking our favourite beverages after Easter, it is not for a temporary, self-inflicted punishment, but as a reminder that we have many crutches in our lives and it is more important to turn to a better support system when we need energizing or rewards. When I feel tired, I usually reach for my cup of Red Rose or Tetley filled with six spoons of sugar; during Lent, I had to turn to prayer or reflection instead of the physical pick-me-up.

This is a difficult thing to understand, especially if you don't practice the faith. Many of my wonderful colleagues have made many suggestions to help me "get around" my Lenten restrictions. "Drink coffee" / "Let me buy it for you, and then it won't count" / "What about green tea?" All of the recommendations were given out of kindness, and it was challenging for me to find the right words to explain why I couldn't or wouldn't take them up on their offers of "help". At least I tried.

2) Food Restrictions

I'll be writing about my experiences with our big Primary Division Media Projects (the real-life Restaurants) extensively in a separate post, but I had to mention one specific incident here. I tried very hard not to inconvenience any of our teachers during the preparation of these restaurants, but I did have to borrow the "business owners" (a.k.a. the individual classes responsible for their restaurants) for a double-period just before lunch to prepare the food. I offered the time as extra prep for the teachers involved, but all of them felt the need to offer their services during the actual lunch hour. I appreciated the assistance, especially because running a restaurant is super-busy and chaotic! On the afternoon after our second restaurant opened, the Grade 2 teacher spoke to me. She was very apologetic, because she said she felt very useless. I reassured her that having her supervise was good enough, but she was still uncomfortable about her level of participation during the "lunch rush". She explained to me that she was in the middle of celebrating the Hindu festival of Navratri. She told me that during the nine-day observation, she is not supposed to touch meat and she was unable to help the students organize the hamburgers and hot dogs. I felt very bad for putting her in such an awkward position, and I asked her to write down the name of this celebration so I could understand better. When I looked it up at home, I learned that there are many restrictions as part of the celebration related to Navratri. I'm glad that she felt comfortable enough with me to explain this, but I felt disappointed that this kind of conversation is the exception rather than the norm. What if some people considered her actions during the restaurant to be about laziness rather than religious devotion?

Actions Needed

In my Mentor AQ course, students received a copy of the Equity Continuum: Action for Critical Transformation in Schools and Classrooms. In the introduction, it says "The work of creating more equitable experiences and success is complex. However, to move forward, we must have conversations regarding the work of this Equity Continuum. We must look at issues that challenge us; ask difficult questions; and allow for divergent opinions to create a better environment for those students whom the current system has failed" (page 7).  We don't have an Equity Committee at our school - the members that used to sit on it have moved on to other schools. Maybe it's time for that committee to be revived, even though I feel I am too new with this kind of work to be effective. Still, we need to nurture the climate of the school so that people - teachers, students, or visitors - can openly talk about their life experiences so that others can understand, and change their practices.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Save the elementary TLs in TCDSB

I don't usually do "political posts". My blog focuses on my teaching practices as a teacher-librarian. However, there are some teacher librarians, in the very board my own children attend, who might lose their position due to budget cuts. 

People are speaking up and speaking out about the importance of teacher-librarians in elementary schools. Anita Brooks-Kirkland wrote a fabulous post about the problem in TCDSB and beyond. When Doug Peterson, shared Anita's post in his weekly "This Week in Ontario Edublogs", he wrote an eloquent testimony to the power of elementary school library staff - and he's not a teacher-librarian. News reports say that the board wants to ensure that "we cut everything that we can possibly cut so that we don't have to hurt the classroom" but my fear is that the trustees won't see the school library, the biggest classroom in the school for all students, as an actual classroom. 

I can't keep quiet. I must speak up. After all, we are talking about the school board where my own children attend. I sent the trustee this letter and I'm replicating it here (taking out the name of the specific schools my children attend). 

Hello Mr. Tanuan,

My name is Diana Maliszewski. My son goes to XXXXXXXX, a school in your ward, and my daughter is a recent XXXXXXXX graduate who now attends YYYYYYYY. I know that the TCDSB is trying to balance its budget but I'm concerned that one of the solutions being considered is to eliminate the 45 teacher-librarians in the elementary panel and replace them with library technicians. 

Let me be very open and transparent with you - I myself work as a teacher-librarian, albeit in the public board. The system in TCDSB that decided which schools received teacher-librarians and which received library technicians was already flawed even before this current debate. My children never had a teacher-librarian. In fact, they were only able to borrow one book a week, because their school didn't (and still doesn't) have an electronic circulation system - they still use a paper card system like I did when I was a child in the 1970s and 1980s. My email to you isn't about the library space, but the people that run and grow that space to help student minds grow and blossom. 

You are probably thinking that there isn't much difference between a teacher-librarian and library technician, but there is. Just because my own children did not have the opportunity to have a teacher-librarian working with them does not mean that I want the TCDSB schools fortunate enough to have a teacher-librarian to lose them. This information may help clarify things. (To quote my source - and teacher-librarians instruct their students how to cite sources to avoid plagiarism and research ethically - I must let you know that I found this information at https://www.accessola.org/web/Documents/OLA/issues/2015/OLALetterTCDSB.pdf )

While both positions are integral to the success of the school library program, the Teacher Librarian has the following impacts on student success: 
• Schools with professionally-trained school library staff have reading achievement scores that are approximately 5.5 percentile points higher than average in Grade 6 EQAO results. 
• Schools without trained library staff tend to have lower achievement on grade 3 and 6 EQAO reading tests, both in terms of average achievement and attaining level 3 or higher.(1) 
• The Elementary Teacher Librarian provides the fundamental information and digital literacy skills to bridge student learning in high school. 

Teacher Librarians: 
• Support implementation of new curriculum and teaching strategies. 
• Are a central and collaborative resource for the school. They co-plan, co-teach, and co-assess with teaching partners. 
• Are the literacy partner and technology leader in the school. 
• Have the expertise to evaluate and select resources that engage students as readers and helps students develop a love of reading. 
• Are the technology mentor and coach for staff and students. 
• Provide equitable access to technology. 
• Provide equitable access to authoritative digital and print resources to support inquiry-based learning.

Please speak up for the students by questioning or preventing the loss of elementary teacher-librarians. We are blessed to have teacher-librarians in our TCDSB secondary schools, but without prior teaching or exposure to a teacher-librarian, this leaves our high school teacher librarians with a huge burden to try and help all their students "catch up". Let's not have our TCDSB students lagging behind those in other boards due to this particular cut.

Sincerely,

Diana Maliszewski
parent
XXXXXXXX CSAC member

Monday, March 16, 2015

Hoza for March Break

On the day before March Break, our school had a presentation by Derek and Amadou from Hoza! Hoza, we were told, is an African word used often during dance performances around Burkino Faso, meaning to stop, start, or change. (I tried to research this to learn exactly what African language uses the word "hoza", but the Internet was not helpful and rather rude when I investigated.) The theme of Hoza's presentation was "Growing Canada". According to their website, www.hoza.ca, in this program:
Students explore why diversity and inclusion are important values to Canada.  Participatory music, story and multi-media provide an engaging examination of: Canada’s role in the world, the Seven Teachings of the Anishinaabe people, and the important role that we each play in a Growing Canada.
 I hope that the excellent message of embracing diversity and embodying humility and teamwork did not go over the heads of the young listeners. I realize that they might have been more enchanted with the chance to play drums or vote on the staff dance competition than they were to internalize some lessons, especially with the vacation looming.




Hoza's message unintentionally fit with my March Break plans. I need to ...

Hoza - Stop!

I need to stop worrying about my upcoming TPA in early April, the final assignments for my Mentor AQ course, or the massive culminating tasks facing me and my primary division media students during the last days of March which have me both excited and terrified (the grand opening of our restaurants!) I'll have time during the week off to finalize plans, but fretting about how well events will proceed isn't important to this process.

Hoza - Start!

I need to start some projects, like the school yearbook and some award nomination packages. My to-do list for the week's holiday is rather large and I should start attacking them with vigor so that I feel like I have accomplished something.

Hoza - Change!

Yes, my to-do list needs addressing, but I've got to change this hectic pace, and slow things down. January to March is usually the "dead time" of year, but not in 2015. I have to change what projects I accept and change my attitude so that the cynic lies low and the optimist with the growth mindset takes centre stage. I've got to spend quality time with my husband and kids, and I think March Break will be a good time to change.


Monday, March 9, 2015

"Penny", Many and When (EEEE!)

Last Thursday, (March 5, 2015), our TLLP team in TDSB working on the "Digging into Minecraft with Inquiry" project hosted a half-day of learning with a crew of educators. It was a wonderful opportunity to dig deeper with a smaller group of committed individuals. Many of the presentations the GamingEdus team typically conduct are for much larger audiences and are more introductory in nature. I don't want to "steal the thunder" of my incredible colleague Denise, who plans on writing her own reflection on the day on the GamingEdus website but I wanted to offer my own discoveries based on my reflections. The rhyming title of this post ties in with three of my realizations.



Penny

The group of invited guests have all heard about Minecraft before, but even with this background knowledge, everyone was at different levels of comfort and understanding. As one teacher said, after listening to a few of us babble to each other excitedly about PvP and mods and servers, "I'm the Penny in the group." (It's a Big Bang Theory reference, so I'm told.) It was a funny reminder that we need to make sure that we don't get too caught up in our world-specific terms that we lose anyone. After that joke, I tried hard to make sure that, in our exuberance, we did not forget to check for understanding in the group. We defined SAMR, clarified the difference between Survival Mode and Creative Mode, and spent some time reviewing concepts such as Gamification and Games Based Learning. When the team first discussed the agenda for the day, we were tempted to delete the GBL/gamification debate, but I'm glad we didn't, because it helped our participants to comprehend our philosophy. It's not as clear-cut a distinction in the minds of others as it may be in our own.

Many

We had a diverse group of people represented at the table, including some centrally assigned educators from the ICT, Assistive Technology, and Professional Learning Departments in our board. We have participants who have been using Minecraft in their classroom for two years, and some who haven't launched it yet at their school site. This diversity makes us stronger. I really appreciated having different voices and different points of view present, because they elevated our discussion and provided insights that furthered our learning. Our SAMR discussion was deeper and more complex because of the expertise in the room, not just as educators but as parents and players.

When (Eeeeee!)

When we first made our TLLP plans, we thought we'd have some sort of Learning Marketplace / Carousel / Fair where the teachers (or the students) would share their Minecraft-related activities and practices. Thankfully we were flexible enough to listen to our participants, who said that they'd prefer to meet with this core group again in a few months to share their process and progress. It's a lot less pressure this way instead of presenting, having a "final product" or performing for a large audience. Yes, this means that some teachers keen on attending an introductory workshop in TDSB will have to wait, but it means that some of the funds we had earmarked to release TDSB teachers to attend a Minecraft Marketplace will instead be used to release both the protegee and mentor of their choice for half-day co-planning, co-teaching, and technical trouble-shooting. One of our participants also suggested that we could explore alternatives to a face-to-face exhibition, such as creating videos or writing articles for the GamingEdus website, which will last longer and reach more people beyond our board. This relaxing of the time constraints (somewhat) is a big detour from the original plans, which may affect the plans we have with our Hamilton Wentworth District School Board cohort. However, the learning of our teachers (and their students) should take precedent over the plans we hatched months ago without their input.


Big thanks to Liam, Denise, Julie, Moses, Renee, David, Brendan, Paul, Sylvie, Agnieska, Lisa, Anne Marie, Fred and anyone else I may have accidentally missed. I look forward to co-learning with you over the next few months!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Teaching Is Teaching

This year, my husband and I are the coordinators for our parish's Marriage Preparation course. This means that we handle all the administrative duties associated with the classes as well as organizing teaching responsibilities and resources. We have many new mentor couples working with us, a new pastor, and actually a new course. (After much reflection and conversation with our priest and the other experienced facilitators still on the team, we significantly revised the structure and content of the classes we offer at our church, to better match what is taught throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto and to better serve our participants.) This has been a bit nerve-wracking for us - we were bringing in so many changes for the very first time and we prayed that everything would go relatively smoothly. However, as James and I planned for the upcoming class we'd be leading (on Intimacy), I realized that teaching is teaching, regardless of the age of the students.

1) You have to prepare.

I know some teachers say they no longer write lesson plans once they've graduated from teachers' college. I still do. For my school-age students, I review my long range plans and what I taught previously, and decide what I need to cover, how I will cover it most effectively, and what materials I'll need to make it happen. The same is true for the Marriage Prep course and the engaged couples enrolled. I read the background material we were given when we took our Marriage Preparation Facilitators' course, consider the main ideas, the best strategies for conveying the information, and ready the handouts and activities.

2) You have to make it interactive and engaging.

One of the biggest changes we made to the Marriage Prep course was to involve the participants more. The previous course was good but involved a lot of lecturing and lengthy Power Point presentations. It was very "sit n' git". Now, there are a lot more tasks that the couples are asked to do together and a lot more time is allotted for guided discussion between them. I aim for this sort of chunking in my full-time job as a teacher. I try hard not to talk for more than ten minutes before asking students to say or do something.

3) You aren't the only one with responsibilities, but flexibility is key.

When the engaged couples registered for the course and on the first night, we provided them with a syllabus outlining the course dates, times, topics and conduct expectations. This is part of what we wrote:
To successfully complete the Marriage Preparation Course, participating couples must:
·         Attend all six sessions together (make up sessions are needed for missed classes – contact one of the facilitators to arrange)
·         Pay course fees prior to the first day of class
·         Demonstrate active involvement, attentive listening, and respectful conduct
The course facilitators wish to make this an educational and enjoyable experience for all so we will:
·         Attend sessions together and offer make-up classes for those who cannot attend
·         Begin promptly, end on time, and provide lessons, resources and snacks (except on the last night = potluck buffet!) to nurture participants physically, mentally, and spiritually
·         Demonstrate active involvement, attentive listening, and respectful conduct
We deliberately tried to make the teacher norms match the student norms. In the past, it was pretty lenient about punctuality and absences - attendees could miss a session without penalty. However, we realized that every session had important content that we didn't want them to miss. Offering make-up classes was a new extra layer of work, but it was worth it. This is similar to my regular students. We want them to show up, ready to learn. We realize that external circumstances might make it difficult, but it's our job to help students catch up on misunderstood concepts and missed lessons so that there are no holes in their understanding.

4) You try your best but there's always room for improvement.

When I reflect after school on how the day went, or when I reflect with my husband or the team on how that evening's class went, there are always portions that I'd love to re-do. The very first night of the 2015 Marriage Prep course, James and I forgot to bring pencils! Thankfully the parish office had a few we were able to borrow. Whether or not we were the ones to lead the session, I always notice something that could have been done differently - the pacing, the phrasing of directions, the activities assigned, the specific questions used with the small groups during the book talks, etc. This is the same for my lessons with my students.

There are a few differences between teaching 4- and 5-year olds media literacy and teaching adults about sexuality and spirituality (less formal evaluations and fewer worries about classroom management, for example), but many of the essential portions are the same. I hope that the engaged couples AND my students learn a lot while they are with us.