Monday, July 6, 2015

LMM15 or LMMSS: Small but mighty - super staff

It's July, which means it's time for summer school reflections!

This year, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, might be the best of times and worst of times.

The worst part (and I'm nervous about writing about it so publicly because I don't want to call attention to the situation) is that our actual enrollment is lower than our projected enrollment. Students registered but didn't show up. This is a problem because we may have to amalgamate classes and lose teachers. This would be disappointing for many reasons.

1) I love my class and we've already bonded.

I only have eleven students in my class, when I should have eighteen. My students are absolutely delightful. They are open to trying new things, creative, and enthusiastic. After only thirty minutes of together time on the first day, I had them choose topics for our get-to-know-you game, "Cross the Floor", and someone decided to make this statement: "Cross the floor if you like summer school." To my relief and surprise, everyone crossed the floor! We've clicked after less than a week together. Separating this group, or closing a class and importing a large number of students in mid-stream might be disruptive and change the dynamics. Six of the nine students decided on Friday to demonstrate their memory and collaboration skills by recalling (and pronouncing correctly) the names of everyone in the class - how many of the students in a regular class know even half the names of their peers, especially after just three days?

Teaching each other how to track work completion on a chart (data management)

2) We've got great plans that can become possible with small numbers.

Our STEM theme for the Grade 3s this month is "Explore Sea, Sky and Cyberspace with Webkinz". The students are going to be busy with the Engineering Design Process and keeping three classes of Grade 3s will mean that more individual attention can be paid to students who need extra support. Because our student population isn't purely remedial, we have a nice mix of students at different abilities and levels, and they can work together to meet their own goals. For instance, my students have already taken our first project (make a bed for your Webkinz) and tweaked it to match their own interests (e.g. beds with drawers underneath, or beds on working wheels). When a visitor from the board's Continuing Education Department came to visit on Friday, she was bombarded with students who were eager to show her what they've made and the virtual money they've earned in-game.

Shopping at the virtual store on Webkinz (number sense & numeration)

3) The time goes fast. I'd miss them if our time was shortened and there's uncertainty in the air.

I'm often amazed at how much we can accomplish in just four weeks. We've heard that, unlike "regular school" where the teacher with the lowest seniority, it might be the teacher with the smallest class that has to go. Unfortunately, it is our primary division with the tiniest groups. My husband likes to joke that doing summer school "keeps me out of trouble". It is great professional learning for me, and I have to admit that I teach "better" at this time. The possibility of reorganization has me stalling before doing certain activities, like our annual class photo. It's hard to live with that potential uncertainty, as this blog post of mine from last September showed.

Our "Creation Quadrant" building area (measurement)

4) I don't want to use any of our fantastic staff members. 

This year's summer school staff is incredible. We have ten teachers that are enthusiastic, collaborative, creative ... sound like any group you've heard about before? They resemble our students! This group of educators is extra special. This year ...

a) Many others have adopted and modified the summer school hashtag #lmmss (Lucy Maud Montgomery Summer School) and turned to Twitter to share the learning going on in their classrooms - one of my colleagues plans to join Twitter for the first time to be a part of the action.

b) In addition to scheduling Treat Day, teams have organized after-school staff exercise programs, outfit coordination, and fixing the school's somewhat-neglected desktop computer lab.

c) Teachers are planning and sharing more than ever. I spent the planning day wrapping presents with my grade team partners, Kiefer and Gary, and brainstorming ways to integrate math as part of the unwrapping task. Mr. James and Mr. Fitzpatrick are generous in offering their virtual and physical resources, from printer passwords to paper cups and math activities.

Usually I'm not a proponent for status quo, but I hope they keep team #lmmss the same this year. The following sample tweets (the last, written by a student) demonstrates the amount of camraderie and learning happening in the halls.

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