Monday, June 26, 2017

What do they all have in common?

I tried to find a unifying thread to connect all the incredible events and activities that happened this past week. See if you notice any trends!

Monday, June 19, 2017 = So You Think You Can Dance

This annual event showcases the best dance groups from every junior and intermediate class and features "celebrity judges". This year we had some of the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy (Gamora, Rocket, and Groot).

Tuesday, June 20, 2017 = Volunteer Tea

I know I just posted nine photos of cupcakes - but they were gorgeous, and made by a talented baker who is also a parent at our school! (Email me if you'd like her contact information to hire her for your dessert needs.) Our annual recognition event salutes the great helpers who devote their time and energy to our school trips and other tasks.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 = Cultural Games Day

To coincide with National Aboriginal Day, the Student Council organized a day of outdoor fun that introduced us to different kinds of recreation from around the world.

Thursday, June 22 and Friday, June 23, 2017
Yearbook Distribution, Maker Festival Decorations, Fan Letters, and Graduation Rehearsal

Our yearbooks arrived from Picaboo, to everyone's delight and I spent quite a bit of time ensuring that everyone that ordered their keepsake received it. While making corrections to report cards, I realized that my media students never responded to the "fan mail" they received after sharing their "What Is Media" videos on YouTube, so classes collaboratively wrote replies to send out this week. Grade 8 graduation is Monday June 26, 2017 so we had to rehearse for the big day. We were also really excited to get huge balloons, corn starch, and other neat supplies to help Andrew Duff and his team from Maker Festival create decorations that will adorn the atrium of the Toronto Reference Library for the big extravaganza on July 8-9.

Saturday, June 24, 2017 = Mrs. Morgan's Retirement Party (Part One)

Aileen Morgan, a fixture of Agnes Macphail Public School, will be retiring at the end of this school year.

Aileen's departure signifies the end of an era. When I first came to my school, we had someone retire every single year five Junes in a row. Aileen was the last of that group of tight-knit educators - but she was also more. Mrs. Morgan would claim that she didn't understand the new technology that came into our building, yet if you peeked in her classroom, she was integrating use of her interactive white board with her students - and she was one of the first primary division teachers to get her own Twitter account. She was the staff member with the most seniority, but her energy and passion didn't indicate a person in the twilight years of their career, but someone much younger. (I think the students still believe I'm older than Mrs. Morgan.) I was really startled when I first heard her refer to a student as "my favourite" - until I realized that this was a rotating role and the "student of the day" held this title. When I occasionally meet young adults who had Mrs. Morgan as a teacher, they often reflect back fondly on their time with her and mention some of the hallmarks of her tenure, such as her penchant for knitting, teaching kids how to sew plastic canvas (which fits well nowadays with our focus on mental health, self-regulation, and well-being because it is such a calming activity), and her enthusiasm for folk dancing and teaching about pioneers. Here are a few photos from her last division-wide trip she organized to the Pickering Pioneer Village and final Pizza Lunch.

Mrs. Morgan (left) with parent Mrs. Ibanez (who made her retirement cake)
Final pizza lunch - and Room 117 held it outside!

Mrs. Morgan will be recognized at our school by the students and the wider community on Wednesday, June 28. We had a staff celebration on the weekend.

So how are all these activities connected?

1) All of them are celebratory. We are celebrating excellence in dance education, in community service, in diversity within Canada, in our accomplishments this past school year, and in a teacher's 25 years of work in the classroom.

2) None of these tasks are meant to be time-wasters. As my old blog title for this post used to say, we aren't trying to run out the clock - we're running out of time! There's so much to do and only a few days left!

3) All of these events are specific to my school, its culture and traditions.

4) Learning is still a part of these activities.

Happy final days of the school year to all who are still in their buildings, and happy start of summer vacation to all who are done for 2016-17! 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Fashion Show Phenomenon!

On Thursday, June 15, 2017, my school hosted a fashion show. The students were extremely excited about participating in and/or witnessing the event. I had a host of different emotions churning inside, both positive and negative. In the end, it turned out quite well.

Here are some of the tweets, with photos, from our official school account.

 When I reflect on these events after the fact, I often come away with several "ahas".
This time, I think there were more "hmmms" than "eureka" moments. That's not a bad thing - it just means that there's a lot to process and digest.

1) How much rehearsal is enough?

I used my library and media time with the youngest students to practice the walking route and "pose points", but for the older classes, we only tried it a couple of times in the library. We only had one official, everyone-together rehearsal in the gym, at 11:00 a.m. the day of the shows. Was this sufficient? The fashion show definitely was not as polished as our winter or spring concerts are, but is that a requirement for public events? I'm on the fence about this - practicing in the actual space where it is scheduled to take place means less anxiety for students but removing students from class to spend most of the time waiting for their thirty seconds of speaking or strutting time may not be the best use of the little time we have left.

2) Was the lack of an evening performance helpful or a hindrance?

Using the school in the evening requires obtaining a permit and a lot more supervision. After consulting with my administrator, we decided to keep it simple and offer two shows during the day - at noon and at 4:00 p.m. - with the hope that adults who wanted to attend would be able to make arrangements for one or both of these times. Did this arrangement provide enough flexibility for parents and family members? We set up 120 chairs and most of them were filled at both shows, but I didn't make an official count and students were permitted to come watch over the lunch hour, which may have skewed the numbers. I just hope we didn't unintentionally exclude parents with shift work that were unable to manoeuver their schedules to make it. The parents that were able to come enjoyed the show. Here's a short video of one student. (His mom posted it publicly, so I feel comfortable re-sharing it here.)
3) How much did we defy stereotypes? How much did we enforce stereotypes?

Frequent readers of the blog will remember this post - - in which the students and I tried to discuss the implied messages we receive about who can and cannot be a model. I hoped the students would realize and internalize that you don't have to be a tall, thin, white female to be a model. We didn't have the time or capability to have every student model their projects, so in the interest of student voice and choice, each class voted (anonymously using the Senteo Clickers) their top 5 recommendations for class representation in the fashion show. Even though there were some outfits that I thought were worthy to be included in the show, I refrained from interfering in that way and respected what decisions the students made. The classes also voted on who should be the MCs - we had auditions when there were more interested students than available spots. I think I need to do a follow-up lesson to take a hard look at some of our choices. Why? Because as I look at the list of the models, there are more girls than boys. In two of the classes, 100% of the models were female. Why is this? Is it because the outfits made by the girls in these classes were of better quality than the boys? Or is it because despite our discussions, we/they still subconsciously believe that modeling clothes is a female occupation?

4) How much help is required to run such an event?

My goal was to make this a "no-stress" event for my fellow teachers. This is a hectic time of year and I didn't want them to be pressured into doing extra work that would take them away from the important tasks they still have to do with only 2.5 weeks of school left. No "volun-told" duties for this event, no sir! This was to be a student-led, student-focused time. I was so grateful and pleased that so many of the staff members attended one or both of the shows to support their students. What I quickly realized was that, in spite of my intentions to handle it by myself with student workers, I couldn't do it on my own without other adults. Some folks agreed beforehand to help supervise but not everyone was able to follow through on their original commitment. I really appreciated Renee Keberer, Thess Isidro, and especially Wing Chee Lee (our music and ESL teacher) who sacrificed her prep time and lunch time to help me supervise students in the gym and hall during the chaos that was the one and only rehearsal. (Wing Chee, I hope you found the token of appreciation in your classroom!) I also have to thank Moyah Walker from Burrows Hall Junior P.S., who brought five of her students up to our school to showcase some of their amazing clothing-related projects done during her STEM-focused time with them. I'm sorry that none of the Value Village managers were able to attend the event, but I'll be sending them a copy of the program and some photo highlights.

Like my other major projects, I do not plan on repeating this same assignment, but I was very pleased with the learning it provided me and my students.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Make (friends) at MakerFestival and O(ften) L(ove) A(ssociates) at OLA

MakerFestival is coming, MakerFestival is coming!

Actually, a lot of events are coming up, and I'm really happy to be involved with teams of people who organize things behind the scenes. Let me tell you about a few of them.

1) MakerEdTO

These are just a few of the members of this volunteer crew of educators from various school boards and private schools around the GTA. United by a passion for making in education, they use their spare time to organize a free conference for anyone involved in education to attend. This is the second year it's happened, and I'm delighted to report that after just a single week, tickets are completely sold out! (We had to issue tickets - space is limited and we didn't want to break any fire code regulations!) As you can see by the time stamps on the two group shots (we also had a meeting in between at Sandra's house but we didn't take photos), plans don't come together overnight! Thank you David, Tim, Teresa, Ray, Sharon, Shaun, Mark, Dan, Sandra, Arianna, and all the other names I'm missing.

2) MakerFestival

As I begin to end some volunteer commitments, I choose to start some new ones. This year, I joined the core team behind MakerFestival. It's amazing! I went last year (as well as in 2014) and loved it so much as a regular volunteer that I wanted to do more. I am overwhelmed by the size of the event (15 000 participants) and the size of the hearts of those who devote so much time to making it happen. This is a diverse group of people - and that's good for me. There's nothing wrong with being friends with teachers or librarians (as point #3 will show) but it's healthy to make new acquaintances with people in different fields. In the group we have physicists, event coordinators, and people in between jobs and with jobs that defy description. Nathan and I are the new Volunteer Coordinators (Nathan would say he works under me but my philosophy as part of "Minion Management" is that we are all volunteers!). I love the energy of these people and I am so excited about what we've got planned for the two day extravaganza on July 8-9, 2017 at the Toronto Reference Library. I can't give spoilers, but I wish I was free this upcoming Thursday when members of the core team will be experimenting with prototypes for a cool themed spectacle. I'm still learning the ropes but the people who have done this before are so welcoming, patient, and friendly. Special shout-outs to Jen, Aedan, Eric, Ceda, Simon, Tarik, Jounghwa, Josh, Andrew, Sophie, Mel, Varsha, and especially to Nathan - his enthusiasm is contagious and he is a devoted and dedicated organizer who keeps me going.

3) Ontario School Library Association 

June 10, 2017 OSLA Council photo

June 11, 2016 OSLA Council photo
What would make you give up a beautiful Saturday to spend most of the day in a windowless room working? The answer for me, since 2006, is the people that are part of the Ontario School Library Association Council.

Remember how I said it's important to get together with people different from you? Well, it's also important to meet with like-minded folk. All of us work in school libraries but for different boards and organizations. We enjoy each others' company so much that we spent time in between meetings (the Friday Together For Learning revision team meeting and the Saturday OSLA Council meeting) having dinner together. I salute, Melissa, Kelly, Kate, Jennifer, Darren, Alanna, Johanna, Lisa, Maureen, Joel, and the wonderful OLA staff like Shelagh and Michelle (and the magazine layout gurus like Annesha and Lauren) who make our work a joy to complete - and make it look prettier and professional too! Some of us are moving on - I can't say who because this person doesn't have permission from administration to reveal their departure from their school and board for fantastic new educational adventures - and I'll miss working with this person. I get another teacher-librarian socialization opportunity this coming Thursday with the TDSB TL "Canapes and Conversations" event, which will be delightful.

I've heard it said that it can be challenging to make friends when you are an adult. My solution to this dilemma is simple - volunteer! You'll meet marvelous people and do good things at the same time.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Today is a good day to try something new

I don't wear makeup - not because I'm a natural beauty, although that's what my husband tells me, but because I never learned how. My mom, bless her heart, blinks rapidly when anything goes near her eye, so applying anything like eye shadow, mascara, or eye liner was nearly impossible for her. My daughter was complaining about being mistaken for a boy by strangers, so we decided that one possible solution was to try wearing makeup, and that meant learning to wear makeup. On the weekend, we headed to Sephora at the mall to get a tutorial. Romina was our makeup artist / coach and she was wonderful! We decided to go very simple and discover the wonders of eye liner. Romina explained the two main types (pencil and liquid). She answered our questions, showed us how to apply it, and provided tips on how to put it on. She used a different tool and technique on my daughter than she did with me, because we are two very different people (with 30 years between us). Romina even let me try to finish one of my eyes myself, providing feedback as I made the attempt. Here's the results.

Fresh eyes, courtesy of Sephora!

A selfie of me wearing (gasp) eyeliner!
After returning from our adventure, a new one awaited me on my computer. My good friend Lisa Noble tagged me online and encouraged me to add to this fun Flipgrid, singing a song for a Feel Good compilation. Flipgrid is an easy way to crowd source short videos for a topic. Would you do karaoke for the world to see? It helps that a) I used to sing at weddings and funerals, and b) in university, my friends and I would spend many an evening at our favourite pub singing karaoke. (My signature song back then was "These Boots are Made for Walking".) I'm not sure if I know how to embed it in my blog, but here's the link (and the initial tweet mentioning the link) below.

What do these two events have to do with education? It's all in my blog post title - today can be a great day to try something new. Now that (hopefully) all the curriculum requirements have been covered, evaluated and reported, we still have a few weeks left with our students. Instead of playing DVDs for them to watch, why not try some activities that you've heard about but never had the time or inclination to try before? On last week's #tdsbEd chat, Arianne Lambert and Larissa Aradj led a session on green screen technology. I've done green screen before, but it's always educational participating in this Twitter chat so I jumped in  and learned something new - how to do green screen with Google Suite tools! Here's my sample attempt.

It can be scary, or anxiety-provoking, or nerve-wracking, but think about what might be possible. At my school, we are going to try running a fashion show (on June 15) to honour some of the outfits created by our Grade 1-5 learners during the second term of media studies. This is a new endeavour for all of us (although I modelled briefly when I used to participate in baton twirling competitions) and I'm excited to try this (and wearing makeup semi-regularly!)