Posts tagged sharing
Gratitude for your PLN
Do you have a professional learning network (PLN)?

When you are planning a lesson, thinking about pedagogy, or learning about something new, do you have a group of people you turn to for guidance and support?

It used to be the people who worked in our teaching offices or schools that we would rely on the most.  Today, access to social media gives us a much deeper pool of colleagues to draw ideas from. If you have an idea for a lesson, chances are there is someone else online who has done something similar and can help.

So while The Shift has lots of people we rely on in person to bounce ideas off of, we also have a much wider PLN online that we can draw inspiration from.

After June 4th and the #LoveMyHaltonSchool event, it would appear that this is true for many of us!  Just how big is the PNL of teachers in Halton? How far does it reach?

Surprisingly, pretty far!  There were almost 400 different twitter accounts active on Monday tweeting about why they love working in Halton.  All together, they created 1,569 tweets that were seen by 162,000 people! Our messages of love were view over two million times.  That’s a huge Professional Learning Network!

Importantly, it benefits our own wellness as educators to express gratitude for the things we love.  There is shown to be strong links in positive psychology research between gratitude and improved mental health and happiness.  There are even apps that are used to journal and track gratitude on a daily basis! (of course there is...there is an app for everything)  So it is important in our working lives to take stock of our Halton schools, staff, students and community.  Expressing our appreciation for these things can only make our day to day work easier. So thank YOU Shifters for brightening everyone’s day, and taking the time to share why you #LoveMyHaltonSchool.

Cycling Back to the Beginning
It’s the last week before the holiday break.  When I teach grade nine math my goal is to always wrap up the teaching of curriculum before the break.  I do this for two reasons.  First, so that we can spend two weeks engaging in review activities to help prepare for the final exam, which in this case is the EQAO.  The second reason is so that we can play around with a final performance task that is a bit more open than usual.

I had no idea if this plan would hold up now that our grade nine course team was trying a blend of project based learning.  When I step back and think about what our team has accomplished over these four months, I’m pretty pleased.  We started the semester with a question that was very loosely defined, “Can we teach Grade Nine Math using projects?”.  We took a risk and dove in.

After playing with Barbie Bungee, Dandy Candies and some intentionally frustrating algebra problems we decided on our next focus:  We wanted to use ratios to help drive home with the class the need for more formal algebra.

A respectable ratio
We started with an activity that asks students “What is the ideal Mullet Ratio?”  This is an activity that I first saw via Jon Orr on twitter but I’ve come to learn has travelled to us from Matt Vaudrey in California.  In this activity students are asked to determine what is the ideal length of “party” to “business” in a mullet.  It’s silly, students laugh, then they start debating, and then they calculate to justify if their opinions are correct.  The two days we spent on this activity were hilarious.

Of course, we needed a suitable project to go along with ratios.  We know from past experience that there are often challenging ratio problems on the Grade 9 EQAO.  The team wanted to spend time working on different ratio problems in order to set our students up for success in January.  We decided on introducing the class to Nana’s Chocolate Milk, another three act task by Dan Meyer.

We adapted things slightly to allow for students to complete a formal project.  We asked our students to find their favourite recipe and then intentionally mess it up. They then had to “fix” their recipe and prove to us that they ingredients were still in the same ratio.  We even asked them to think back on their work with linear relationships and create some graphs and equations for their recipe.

Bacon is ALWAYS the denominator

This one impressed me
After the students finished with “Nana’s Favourite Recipe” we realized that we needed to dive into the Analytic Geometry strands of the curriculum.  We spent a good two weeks doing some formal instruction with our classes as this is probably the most formal component of the course.  At the end of the two weeks we challenged our classes to create their own drawing in Desmos to show off what they have learned.  We asked for drawings with 8 different lines, since that’s all our classes knew how to do with equations.  We were surprised by the level of depth our students went to.  One boy in my class asked me how to draw curved lines.  When I wouldn’t tell him, he didn’t give up, rather he did some research on his own and then shared his knowledge with the class.  

We have spent the past week trying up any loose ends or curriculum expectations that we did not quite cover.  For the final two days before the break we will ask our students to play with cup stacking, running a project that is heavily influenced by Alex Overwijk and his Thinking Classroom.  By the end of the week students will have created models of different cup stacking strategies, analysed them and extrapolated from their data.

That's some good cup stacking!

What came out of our experiment has been an unintentionally spiralled course.  Algebra and abstraction skills became what we dialed down on but we didn’t spend all that much time on the details.  Our students felt the need for the mathematics, asking for more efficient ways to do things.  When we presented the cup stacking activity to them they were already searching for ways to create equations and models.  

There were many days where the students led the class, posing interesting questions and then answering them.  The teachers became facilitators of great discussions, parachuting in on different groups when they needed assistance or a push to go a bit deeper with their learning.  Some days were great, other days were disasters.  On the bad days, the team would go back to the drawing board, talking about what we could do better in order to help students uncover the curriculum.  We tried something new and learned a lot in the process.  I can’t wait to do it again next semester.
No, I'm Not Listening
Students say the best things when they think I’m not listening.  It’s pretty funny actually, if not more than a little frustrating.  Students can be having excellent conversations about mathematics but as soon as I come over to listen they get just a little bit self-conscious and the conversation ends.

I’ve gotten really good at listening from far away.

We’ve been dabbling in project based learning with our grade nine academic classes this semester.  After our first project, we introduced our students to Dandy Candies.  This activity has been around for awhile.  I first was introduced to it at the 2015 OAME conference when Dan Meyer ran it with a packed room.  Since then, I’ve used this activity on and off with my classes, but never as a project.

The premise is pretty simple, show students the video of a preset number of small cubes assembling into packages (prisms) of various dimensions.  Then ask them some questions about what they’ve seen.

“What do you notice?”
“What do you wonder?”

As the person responsible for steering the conversation, I try my best to guide them to the questions I really want them to ask.  Except this time my thunder was stolen!  Apparently, after doing only one previous project, at least one student in the room was wise to my plan.

“I bet Mr. Mitchell wants us to figure out which arrangement uses the least wrapping paper”, said one student.  The entire classroom kind of gasped and went quiet.  Then there was an explosion of conversation at each table group.  This is a win.  Here I thought I’d have to trick my class into asking the right questions.  Somehow, they did it for me.

We spent a week playing with Math Cubes, calculating surface area and preparing a final report on which arrangement of 48 and 128 cube sized candies would need the least wrapping paper or in math speak, had the least surface area.  Then we spent the following week diving deeper into Surface Area and Volume calculations.  Students showed us their understanding in different ways.  It was fun!

It has now been 7 weeks of project based learning and curriculum wise, the grade nine team was all over the map, covering linear relations and geometry without having developed some of the other tools that would make solving these problems easier.  This was on purpose, we were creating a need in our students for them to ask us for better tools.

Up to this point, I haven’t once mentioned the word algebra to my class.  But it was time to introduce them to some more formal methods of problem solving.  Todd Malarczuk provided us with a simple mini project to drive home the need for algebra.

Students were presented with some pictorial representations of different algebraic equations.  You’ve probably seen these puzzles floating around your Facebook feed.  You may have even witnessed some of the arguments that they create.  Well, it wasn’t surprising that the same thing happened with our students, arguments everywhere!  Yet as I roamed around the room observing how the students were working, listening but not listening, I heard some comments that convinced me this was working.

“Drawing apples in my notes isn’t very easy.”
“If a bushel of bananas is four, do we need to know what one banana equals?”
“I wish there was an easier way to do this”

We had created a need in our students for something more efficient.  They wanted to know how to calculate what a coconut equaled, without us having to convince them that they needed algebra.  It was difficult, but by giving students the time to struggle; to try and fail and learn, we had created a community where risk taking was valued.  It wasn’t taboo to ask questions about the math we were learning or wonder about where we were headed.  Students owned their own learning, without us having to tell them that the learning was important.
Asking Questions
“What do you want to learn?”
“How do you want to show me what you’ve learned?”

These are the questions we hear being asked on our visit to Aldershot High School.  We are sitting in Sarah Spencer's’ Grade Nine Applied Science class.  The students have just returned from a scavenger hunt in a nearby ravine and  they’ve been asked to record some of the things they’ve noticed on the blackboard.  From here, the teacher hands out the Overall Expectations for the course and ask the students to pay attention specifically to the Biology portion of the document.  

This is the student's introduction to the Biology unit of the class, and it isn’t going the way we would usually expect.  Rather than the teacher guiding the students from topic to topic, the students are being allowed to find their own path.  Each student is identifying their own interests from the Biology curriculum and, presumably, their paths will diverge from here.

But we won’t get to find out, because thanks to Kerry Sagar, we are getting a whirlwind tour of the Aldershot Campus.  Over the course of two afternoons we were parachuted into an Art, Math, ELL, Auto Shop, Phys Ed, and SHSM classroom.  We also were able to spend a bit of our time visiting a Grade 8 class, mostly because we got lost while roaming the halls.

We were struck by the variety of questions being asked in all classes, but more than that, we enjoyed discovering the WHY behind the questions.  From “What kind of business do you want to run?” and “What are some ways you can find out specific information about a car?” to “Do you think you can get your heart rate up to 80 BPM?”, we heard lots of questions.  We popped into Ms. Di Giantomasso’s Grade 8 classroom and witnessed students leading the questioning in a group activity.  There was also evidence of students being asked about how they were feeling about their learning.  That sort of check in reminding students that their voice matters.

Visiting Martyn Olenick’s art classroom, we caught the middle of students interpreting a painting by Anishinaabe artist Bruce K. Beardy.  Using the lens of Artist as Global Citizen, students were dissecting areas of the artwork in order to pull out the meaning of the painting, which in this case related to Ethical Standard of Respect.  It was fun to see Olenick’s gentle, purposeful questioning at play here, letting students drive the conversation, with Olenick asking just the right questions to drive the learning deeper.

No questions were more purposeful than the ones we heard when we visited Lindsay Potts’ ELL classroom.  The class started with Lindsay asking each student what they did on their weekend.  She engaged each student in conversation and let other students join in with questions.  On the surface, this just looked like an exercise in community building.  However, looking deeper, Lindsay was diving into her curriculum.  By engaging her students in conversation about their interests, she was also targeting communication areas in the curriculum, in the most natural and empathetic way: connecting with students, relating curriculum to students, and letting students drive the conversation (and thus the learning).  

Zipping into the CanFit Pro Sports and Fitness SHSM, held at the Fitness Firm gym around the corner from Aldershot, we felt like we walked onto the set of a movie.  In this program, led by teacher Cara Greenslade, students were not only getting high school credits, they were getting their CanFit accreditation, as well as a bevy of other accreditations, including Yoga and Nutrition.  The young adults in this program were so eloquent and passionate about their learning we had to pinch ourselves a few times just remind ourselves this was real life.  Students leading the learning, quite literally, with microphone picking out their instructions for burpees, mountain climbers and stretches.  The level of confidence and empowerment in these students was palpable, in the third week of school, no less!  We asked the students WHY they seem to be so empowered and they all pointed to the strong sense of community they felt with their teacher and each other.  We couldn’t help but wonder, how can we replicate this level of student empowerment in other classrooms?
Our focus since the beginning of the school year has been on community building.  Our visit to Aldershot High School has reinforced our belief that taking the time to build community within our schools only makes delivering curriculum easier.  Not only that, by being purposeful when building community, we will empower our students to lead their own learning.  Empowered students who feel safe in their own community are much more likely to take risks and reflect on their own learning.   

The Power of Social Networks

Yesterday was a great day.  Matt and I spent much of our time simply watching the #LoveMyHaltonSchool tweets roll in.  We laughed, we liked, we retweeted, we saw things that were happening in other schools and we talked about how to bring that greatness to our building.

And this is why we think sharing our best practices is so important.  We both work in a great school, with supportive colleagues and students.  But we can’t continue to improve as teachers if we only look within our building for inspiration.  We have to broaden our horizons by looking outwards.  Yesterday, everyone who participated by tweeting opened a window into their classroom or school.

Watching the tweets were fun, but we couldn’t help but wonder about the reach of the hashtag.  Was a small group of teachers just tweeting at each other?  Were we making an impact online or were we all just yelling into the void?

Well of course, there is an app for that.  We found a free hashtag tracker and the story it told was impressive.  By the end of the day 212 users had used the hashtag and sent almost 700 tweets.  At peak times, we were sending 115 tweets per hour...breaking that down a bit, that’s almost two tweets per minute.  Pretty impressive, but that’s not the best part.

Ask yourself, how many unique individuals do you think saw the #LoveMyHaltonSchool tweets yesterday?  Think of a number.

Was it over 100,000?  Because that is what happened.  Over 100,000 unique individuals saw tweets yesterday about why teaching and learning in Halton is amazing.  We think that, in and of itself, is pretty rad.


Reasons why we #LoveMyHaltonSchool
There are lots of reasons.

But today, we don't want to list our reasons for why we #LoveMyHaltonSchool.  We'd rather highlight someone else's reason.

Melissa Hickey is an English Teacher at Aldershot High School.  She tried something new this semester that allowed her students to explore their own strengths.  Here are her thoughts:

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away…

Grade 12 College English students at Aldershot High School were given an assignment: Write an original horror story, then turn that story into an original short horror film.  Students were assigned the task of creating an original short story based on common horror tropes and elements that were covered in class.  Students created script versions of their stories, and storyboards to refer to when the actual filming took place.  It was not only an exercise in creativity, but also in collaboration and innovation, as the grade 12 students were expected to problem solve the details like location, props, costumes, make-up and sound-effects/music scores to make the ideal films.  

But we didn’t stop there.

The next phase of this project was to bring their original short films to the big screen.  

We are fortunate to have a theatre like so close by, as they were more than willing to work with the films the students created and show them on the big screen at their movie theatre.  Students completed their movies, and the files were converted to play at the theatre.  On April 27, the Grade 12 College English class from Aldershot high school got to walk the red carpet and attend the premieres of their own films.  Students got to see the actual products that they created.  They were able to literally see themselves reflected in their learning opportunities, and in the end result of their class assignments.

Thando D. one of the students in the grade 12 College English class, said that he thoroughly enjoyed the assignment, and added that “it was cool to learn how to actually make a movie, and then see my original story come to life on the big screen.  I was the writer, the director and the lead actor in my own production.  That’s cool.”


Students really got the chance to explore their strengths and work together to create the final project.  For those who preferred not to be onscreen, they had the opportunity to focus on make up, hair, and set design.  Everyone had the chance to contribute to their films.  

This was truly an experience to remember, and an innovative project that will continue to evolve with every new class.

~Melissa Hickey

We have the opportunity to explore new ideas with our classes. And that's our #1 reason for why we #LoveMyHaltonSchool!
Call to Action #2 - Twitter Challenge
On June 1st, the Halton District School Board wants to celebrate some of the great things that happen in our schools and community.  The medium for this celebration?  Twitter and the hashtag #LoveMyHaltonSchool.  If you are reading this and are already using twitter, we think that is great!  If you haven’t had a chance to try out twitter yet, or are reluctant to jump into the world of social media, allow us a moment to try to convince you to join the conversation.

We want you to create your own professional twitter account.  We also want you to know that it is ok to sign up for twitter and never tweet a thing.  Being passive in an online community is a great way to be introduced to the ins and outs of the community…and what a community it is!  There are so many educators using twitter, and their practice is enhanced by the sharing that goes on in this space.

So here is our next Call to Action
  • If you use twitter, send out a tweet on June 1st identifying something you’d like to celebrate about your school.  Use the hashtag #LoveMyHaltonSchool
  • If you don’t use twitter, consider signing up!  Then send a short message into the void, introduce yourself, jump into the deep end!
  • Follow some Halton teachers who are already on Twitter to widen your network.  You’ll probably find lots to follow if you search for the #LoveMyHaltonSchool hashtag during the day.

Maybe we should slow might be wondering what the heck a hashtag is anyway?

“Hashtags are keywords that categorize what you’re tweeting about. For instance, you might use “#edtech” at the end of a tweet about how your students use tablets. You can also search Twitter for a hashtag that you’re interested in. This will bring up tweets from other users who have tweeted about that topic.”

Still interested?  Here is a short breakdown of some things you might want to know about tweeting.

Are you an educator, inside or outside of Halton, that uses twitter professionally?  We’d love to connect with you, why not post your twitter handle in the comments!
Want to know even MORE???

twitter handle @
This is your Twitter name. You want this to be both memorable and easy to remember. Sure, you can use your first and last name, but there are a lot of Jane Smith’s out there. If your name is taken, use something that identifies you. Ours are, for example, @DFJH_Mitchell and @MrColemanArt Some of our friends include @pjdavison and @Mrs_Newcombe. Short, spelled correctly, and identifiable is key.
A 140-character public message.
News Feed
twitter home
The home button gets you to your news feed. This is a constantly updated list of everyone you choose to follow. Occasionally you might see promoted tweets too (meaning someone paid Twitter to get seen).
twitter #hashtag
The pound sign before text means that the text can be searched. This is really useful. If you want to find everyone talking about innovative things in Halton you throw the hashtag on the front, and you can find any tweet that someone put #HDSBInnovates in. They can also be used for humor. #MitchellRocks #TwitterIsCool
DM (Direct Message)
All tweets are public and can be seen by anyone at any time unless you use a direct message. A DM means that the conversation is only between you and the other person (or people) in your message.
RT (Retweet)
twitter retweet
Anyone can repost your tweet, which is similar to quoting you. Your name is still attached, but everyone who follows the re-poster can now see your tweet too. This is usually done as a form of agreement or flattery.
Hit the heart when you want to say you like a tweet, or agree with it.
Quote Tweet
twitter quote
Quote was formerly a MT, or Mention. You can attach an original tweet to yours and add your own commentary.
twitter notifications
When someone mentions your handle, or retweets what you wrote, you will get a notification. You can choose if you get text alerts, emails, or phone notifications in your settings.

What Can You Do With This?
I hate end of period bells.  #Observe’em observation day and the Most Likely To Succeed film gave me a lot to think about how the school day can be structured.  I don’t know if we can get rid of them entirely, but I’ve been working on playing with a timetable that offers some flexibility, as well as some opportunities to go deeper and longer in a class period.  What are your thoughts on this one? Pros? Cons?  Would love to hear your ideas and feedback!

FullSizeRender (2).jpg
En Masse Collaborative Mural Project
We had the opportunity to witness an amazing project last week, and rather than write about it ourselves, we have asked the lead teacher on the project, Jordie Burton to share.  Here is what he had to say:

We laughed about our day over homemade burgers and a potato salad recipe perfected by Oma. We had just finished the second full day in a blitz of a four day project to complete nearly 700 sq ft of mural. I was eating dinner with three “En Masse pour les Masses” artists visiting for the week from Montreal, who happened to be crashing at my house. The halfway point was a perfect evening to have a dinner with the three artists and three of the teachers from our school involved in the Norton Community Park Mural project.  We could debrief the project, plan for the next two days and further develop conversations that we had pulled threads on all day while painting. Our mural project was already successful, as our community was working together.
Brainstorming on the theme of the mural: Community

Here is a little background on this project, which has been grounded in connecting community. In the summer of 2015, I was introduced to the idea of “En Masse” from Katie Green, one of the project's directors. En Masse is a mural collective that focuses on creating a platform for professional artists to work alongside community groups to create unified works of art. We had our sights on a huge blank wall outdoors in the park across the street from our school.  Over the past year and a half we have developed relationships with the City of Burlington, tapped into the Burlington Community Matching Fund, generated student interest, community support from students, teachers and parents, worked cross-curricularly to enable students to participate and create the materials and panels for the project, and just this past week, organized about 80 people to flow through an art room and create an astounding work of art. This journey has been a wonderful learning experience to recognize how wonderful community support can be for a project.

The process was truly collaborative, with students, teachers, and professional artists working alongside each other
This project is about empowering individuals to act as a collective. The finished product will be awesome, but truly, the magic in this was the creation. The students came to life on this project in a refined, mature and inspiring way. On day one, En Masse led a brainstorming session around the concept of community. When it was time to start getting drawings onto the panels the advice from Katie was, “If things aren’t going well on your drawing, just walk away from it. Someone else will see the potential in what you started and take it in a new direction.” We were given permission to fail. The funny thing about this suggestion is that perhaps no one walked away from a painting. Instead, students, teachers and artists spoke with each other, planned collaboratively and sought and gave constant feedback. My class had a chance today to look at the finished painting and critique it. We highlighted some really strong areas, and also noticed some areas that were perhaps underdeveloped. Through conversation the students agreed that the bits they didn’t like really didn’t matter because the project as a whole was so strong. Further, the whole project would only be complete with each of those contributions. This was a light bulb moment. Each and every contribution on the mural lent to the overall success.
Student boldly painting the first few strokes on the wall
The classroom during the 4 days of painting was the greatest creative atmosphere I have ever experienced. Two groups of students were on in-school field trips for two days each. This meant that each group would spend two full consecutive days in the class.

The students had equal ownership of the space. As the group settled in for the day, a much more natural ebb and flow of breaks, bathroom, and really hard work was apparent. Students were given autonomy to control their actions through the day, and most had to be pulled off the wall and told to rest now and again. Very quickly into the project the traditional roles of the classroom faded away. The students, teachers and artists worked beside one another, painting, working images off one another's, discussing the artwork and just having great discussions over the constant soundtrack of the art room. There was no longer a teacher in control of the class. There was a group of people working together to explore ideas, take creative risks and support each other’s process. I was very proud to be a teacher in a room that didn’t need a teacher.
Katie Green and Lee Lai from En Masse collaborating with students on their ideas
I loved working on the project for 2 whole days. And for me, I was in there the whole week really. I loved getting super into a project and being able to really put my head into it. We spend so much time as teachers flipping our brains into something different constantly. Every bell, every question, every class, every meeting - all different. It was rewarding mentally and physically to engage more whole heartedly into a task/class. It was exhausting, but in such a good way.

Being free from the bell was amazing. The approaching bell is the biggest buzz kill to any good project. In an art room, you can expect that of your 75 minutes, 10 are for setup, 10 are for clean up and it takes about 20 minutes to really get your head into a project. That leaves 30-45 minutes if you are lucky to actually work on a project. The stress relief from not worrying about the bell was truly palpable in the room. It felt like we were doing something wrong, but so, so right. One of the common factors each day of the project was that the last bell of the school day always snuck up on the group with a surprise. Many students chose to ignore that one as well. Many of the students on the project started the day at 8:30 and worked until 4:30.

“I really liked working on the project for two entire days because we were really able to get into the zone. We didn't have to worry about getting to different classes and working in different subject areas. I was solely focused on art for hours at a time and it was great.” ~Student

In the zone! As a teacher, I always strive to have an engaging classroom. I want a class where kids want to be there, want to be working, want to challenge themselves. This mural project engaged the students. Similar to what Jamie Mitchell mentioned about his time with Second City, everyone was too busy, and too “in the zone” to check their phones all day.

It really was a three week project completed in 2 days, which was amazing. One of the greatest parts was the brainstorm - create- feedback - create etc…it allowed a deep exploration of the iterative process. Because we had the space and time, there was an immediacy to the process that really sparked the class to life. Being able to develop ideas and immediately deliver them is really fantastic and only really doable when you have the extended time like this. Further, once an idea was out, there was a freedom and expectation to leave it behind and move onto the next. Allowing the iterative process to happen naturally and more quickly. As the mural developed and space became more precious, the process demanded that each new piece fit with a neighbour’s, respond to an image, be inspired by another action. Many of these things happen in our class through projects already, but being able to FEEL the project this way was a new experience.

Working with outside, professional working artists is hugely inspiring. It was great to see the students respond so well to having other artists do some work but also become peers with them. By getting feedback and having conversations, the students developed relationships alongside these artists that I believe allowed them to see themselves in a different light. The students had wonderful feedback about the experience. Here are some direct quotations from students reflecting on the experience.

“I believe the best part of the process was designing and planning ideas with the collaboration of peers and teachers. This helped many students develop interesting artwork, and 2 full days of fun:)”

“The most fun was the final stage of painting the mural because it was amazing and gratifying to see it all coming together. Seeing all of the hard work that people had put in come together in something that looked professional and all around beautiful was a great experience.”

“Amazing! Loved it and I totally got in the zone and got to know the people working around me more because I got to spend the whole day with them!!”

“I loved painting on the actual large panels... And being able to hear constructive criticism from professional artists:)”

In my own observations I think the students really enjoyed being brought up to the same level as the artists as well. There are many parts of the finished project that you would not be able to differentiate the professional work from the student. Being given the opportunity to rise up to the occasion allowed the students to really rise.

Artist Spirits are high after two days of painting

As an art teacher I loved having the chance to talk shop with contemporary artists. A big part of our teaching practice involves staying current with the art world and this was a wonderful opportunity to connect with that world. It also was a great platform to make art as well. For all the same reasons the students enjoyed working with the artists, I believe the teachers did too. The flip side of this, I am told by the En Masse crew, is that some teachers have not had as a good of a time. They explained that sometimes the classroom teacher has a really hard time letting go of control of the project and students. The guest artist in this case almost becomes a threat. I can relate that sometimes it isn’t easy seeing someone take a different approach in your room, but to me, this project is so successful because it allows the teacher to step back and the students to jump forward.

As for the bigger picture - what would happen if the regular semester looked like this? I would love to find out.
Here are some Ideas I think are worth exploring:
  • Having more flexible class times and student autonomy, as well as more large collaborative projects that demanded students develop skills related to conflict resolution and idea sharing
  • Projects that allowed for on the spot iteration; seeing what works and building onto it.
  • Projects that give you real permission to fail knowing that because of the efforts of others the work can still be successful.
  • More projects that connect the school community to the geographical community and the artistic community.
~Jordie Burton

So Shifters, what do you think? What would you do to explore some of these ideas in your class? What have you found success with already?
April PD with Visual Art
During the April subject-specific PD Day , the Arts teachers had the opportunity to watch “Most Likely To Succeed”, which I previously wrote about here.  This documentary film really resonates with Arts teachers, as it aligns with ideals of project based learning so prevalent in Arts courses.  Next up, a video presentation and discussion on equity in the Halton Board, as well as a presentation and discussion on bolstering the numbers of students taking Arts courses in Halton.

So after absorbing a lot of information over the course of the day, the last session, the visual art teachers tried a different method of processing and discussing the topics of the day by doing what they do best: drawing!  The question posed was “what are the ideal outcomes of art education”?  Some of the answers were resilience, collaboration skills, grit, student driven learning, and confident students.  Really, that list of outcomes are desired in any class. However, the art class is particularly well suited to build those soft skills in students. Art Teachers are faced with two pronged questions: how can we advocate to students and parents, to share how we are building those soft skills in our classes. As well, how can we make sure we are achieving those ideal outcomes in our classes? Big questions for a Friday afternoon!

Have a look at what the secondary visual art teachers were playing with: