This year has been terribly busy, so far, with the many hats that I wear. Before I knew it, September and nearly all of October slipped away without so much as a single blog post from me. But, looking at the number of projects that I have on the go, it isn’t much of a surprise that my personal contributions to the Commons have been put on the back burner.
Here is what I have been up to since the school year started:
My first experiences teaching outside of the FSL classroom have been rewarding and positively enriching to my well-being. Who would have guessed that my initial decision to teach in the intermediate French classroom would lead me to teaching (and loving!) Grade 3 Literacy? Mobility is one of the hallmarks of a career in Education. Just as our learning branches out, allowing us to think laterally, our skills and practices can diversify, carrying us to new and exciting places. The first time I set foot in a classroom, in the fall of 2005 in a village school in the South of France, I thought I had everything figured out. My students at Beverly Central teach me every morning that my journey in learning, just like theirs, is destined to change and grow if I am willing.
Every morning at Beverly Central, my students post on Twitter. This was no natural instinct at work during this important blended era of communication. In part, I wanted the students to build stamina in writing, the very same way we try to accomplish this in reading. Focusing on pre-writing — in other words, providing the inspiration, and letting the students do the rest – has greatly reduced anxiety in preparing open responses to media texts of all sorts. The class is gradually building a more heightened awareness of the many texts that they encounter in their lives, just around every corner, and that these texts have purposes that are tied tightly to their construction.
In order to facilitate the transition from writing on paper to posting online, my students Tweeted on paper for a month. They wrote on cut-out blue birds, sparked by a variety of prompts. The result: they can’t get enough of it! They want to express themselves faster than I can even manage the mechanics of having every student type 140 characters in the post box. We have a newly set-up publishing station that I am phasing in to use, complete with document camera for written and illustrated work, third-party software for posting on the commons (we have yet to use it), posting to Twitter, and to follow our favourite members of the Twitterverse. And they ask me all the time to tell them more about Jared and Aviva and the other teachers we are starting to follow, and they are ecstatic when someone retweets one of their posts. Building a solid foundation that built purpose and method in to their media literacy schemas is paying off.
My afternoons at Balaclava have been very exciting. First, I love doing kindergarten prep-coverage. This is my chance to interact with and get to know students at that young, impressionable age when mutual trust and respect can be built with such ease, and I love that this bond remains as the students grow and mature. Plus, I just love to sing and dance and do all the fun things we used to do at that age. I have a weakness for playing with Lego, for walking like different animals, and for singing songs with the kids at the top of our lungs!
Finishing my afternoon with two amazing Grade 4 French classes really makes my day. They never cease to amaze me! After less than 2 months, every student can count in to the hundreds, and most can count up to a million — no exaggeration! They respond to fully French instruction, and speak fluently with a vocabulary that is expanding at a staggering pace. For every grammar expectation of the Grade 4 curriculum, they are picking up on structures and concepts that stretch in to much later grades, and use them without fear or inaccuracy. Incredible!
I have started a Master’s degree at McMaster University in Communications Management, through the DeGroote School of Business and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Relations. The emphasis is, as the two colleges imply, on public relations for use in business, but I — along with 24 of the most brilliant communications experts I have ever met – am being taken on a journey that is designed to train me for a future that depends on human interaction. The workload is heavy, but the rewards of the readings, lectures and assignments are like nothing I have ever experienced. Public relations strategies are, in my opinion, the future of how complex organizations will need to plan and assess their structures and processes in order to achieve balance.
Only time will tell! This has only been part of the story. I am still dabbling in hardware and software development, freelancing between work and school, building strange and wonderful contraptions, and of course reading my usual (at best estimate) 100,000 words a day. I hope to find the time to pull out some of my experiments with technology that are becoming relevant today, more so than they were a few years ago. Back when the earth was old, last decade, I used to use my iPad instead of a smartboard, and before that my TabletPC, got students hooked on eBooks, used all sorts of discarded electronics to make classroom audio systems, buzzers, blinkers, mashed together websites and video and other tech that is now surfacing in classrooms. Should have thought about blogging it back then! SO, I’m looking forward to sharing what I have to offer in this domain in the very near future.