Each year, teachers work with our Head of School to co-create a Professional Growth Plan (PGP) and participate in a two Teacher-Led Evaluation meetings (one in the Winter and one in the Spring). For my Winter meeting, I had shared a blog post outlining the research I had done on personalized learning and what I thought it may look and feel like in a Grade 2 classroom. My plan was to launch a personalized Math unit in April & May and then share all of the successes/failures/reflections via this blog post for my Spring Teacher-Led Evaluation meeting. However, the Covid-19 school closure threw a wrench into those plans.
While this year’s Spring Teacher-Led Evaluation meeting is not exactly what I had originally planned for, I am still preparing this blog post to reflect on the entirety of my professional year. Taking a look back in my rear view mirror, I’m going to reflect and highlight some things I have done this school year and my next steps.
At the start of my year, I realized the best way to set myself up for success was to create long range plans. In the past, I had only created short range plans (typically planning the units that I was teaching per term), so I was feeling overwhelmed getting started. That was when I decided to meet with my colleague, Chelsea Cleveland, for some guidance on creating a long-range plan for Math. From there, I created my long range plans for Science and Social Studies. My year was set up for success – and a success it was! While I still have so much to learn and areas of growth, as I reflect on my school year – my first year flying solo in the classroom – I am proud.
In October, we launched the Global Read Aloud in my classroom. With that, I opened the door to all sorts of Global Connections. You can read one of my earlier posts about my experiences as we started connecting with other classes from the GRA and created our own class twitter accounts. As a class, we were also briefly connected with penpals in Vietnam. Unfortunately, after just a couple letter exchanges, their school closed due to Covid-19. On my own time throughout the year, I found ways to connect globally with many Grade 2 teachers. I started to participate in a weekly twitter chat (#2ndchat), which led to me being a guest host, which eventually led to me being part of the regular #2ndchat hosting team. Connecting with educators through twitter chats has been extremely rewarding for me. While I have a wonderful PLN in my own school faculty, it is so fantastic to be able to engage in Grade 2 specific conversations with so many educators from many different places. While every week’s chat brought new ideas and inspiration, one of the greatest highlights from this year was connecting with Michelle Kosieniak to brainstorm a green screen project idea for Grade 2.
As I started to get settled in my PGP for this year, I decided to engage in an online Math Additional Qualifications Course for Teachers through Queen’s University. My focus on Math for my PGP had a lot to do with it being the area where I felt I needed to grow the most. Upon completion of the course, I was feeling much more comfortable with the Ontario Math Curriculum. My main takeaways from my course were integrating the 7 Expectation Processes into all of my learning experiences and creating open learning goals. In my Winter Teacher-Led Evaluation meeting, I had mentioned that something I need to work on is finding a way to share out some of my self-directed PD takeaways with the OJCS faculty. This is still something I need to work on – hold that thought – I am revisiting this later in my blog post. A week after I finished my Math course, I participated in another online Additional Qualifications Course through Queen’s University. I chose to do my Special Education Part 2 course mainly because it is an area of personal interest, but also because I do work in a school with many exceptional learners. I really enjoyed the course and learning more about developing IEPs and transition plans based on learner profiles. I can see these skills playing a large role in the way I fill out my End of Year Student Profiles for the Grade 3 teacher.
Continuing on with my reflection of this year, it is important to mention that I started blogging. My very first post briefly explains how and why I ended up diving into blogging. Thinking back on this school year – I don’t know if I really did “dive in” – I would say I dabbled in the wading pool… To date, I have published 14 posts on my professional blog (this post will be 15). That’s 15 more posts than I had last year, but I know I can do take it to the next level. I am ready to exit the wading pool and maybe head towards the deep end? Again, hold that thought – I am revisiting this later in my blog post. While I dabbled in blogging on my professional blog, my Grade 2 class started to learn about blogging through the Edublog’s Student Blogging Challenge last fall. You can read our blog posts from the eight week long challenge on our Grade 2 Class Blog. Student Blogging didn’t stop there! We had four Student Bloggers in our Grade 2 class this year. In a previous blog post, I explain how each of these student’s came me to with an idea they wanted to share online and how I walked them through the blogging process. I hope to continue developing student blogging skills next year and eventually launch student blogfolios in the Primary grades (as my plan to do that this year was interrupted by our school closure).
The student blogging challenge opened my eyes to many of the skills that students in Grade 2 could be and should be learning. With that, I decided to create my own Computer Lab Curriculum. I developed a set of skills to teach my students in our weekly computer lab visits (i.e. how to login to the desktop computers, how to open Google Chrome and login in order to access e-mails and Drive, how to send an email, how to create a Google Doc and share with your teacher, etc.). When the school closed and we moved online, I was so grateful that my students had already begun developing the previously mentioned skills in our school’s computer lab. It made the transition to distance learning much easier and it allowed me to create simple tutorial videos using tools that they had already started to become familiar with (i.e. Hangouts, Google Drive, Docs). Through distance learning we have continued our weekly computer lab lessons. I have moved away from my original Computer Lab Curriculum to adapt for the needs of our distance learning program (i.e. teaching the students to create shared folders where they submit their work).
I am very aware of the length of this blog post… So for that reason, I just going to quickly highlight a few more experiences from this year before I move on to my next steps;
- Through my Math PGP, I was able to spend a full day at another Private School in Ottawa. I sat in on a Grade 2 class, Grade 3 class, Grade 4 class, and met with a Grade 7 teacher. It was a great experience to be able to see how other teachers in the city are approaching Math and observe lessons from teachers who have been teaching for many years.
- While I was not able to implement my PGP Personalized Math Unit as I had previously hoped (with co-created learning goals, 1-on-1 check ins, etc.), I have been using Khan Academy and Happy Numbers to create personalized Math tracks for my students through distance learning.
- I have done some student driven projects in Science (on animals) and Social Studies (on foods from around the world) and I am looking forward to launching a completely interest based project through a distance learning model (..more information on that coming soon..)
- I got into a groove with my levelled guided reading groups. At first, I was lacking confidence, but once I got started, I felt much more comfortable having a reading routine for our Language Arts Literacy blocks.
- Of course, the absolute highlight of Distance Learning (and quite possibly of my entire school year), having one of our favourite authors Angela Dominguez visit our virtual classroom for a Q&A session.
So where do I go from here? As someone who considers herself a life-long learner, I could probably go on for 2,000 more words about all of my next steps and ideas for continuing my growth as an educator.
Instead, I will start to create my bullet list of next steps:
- Continue my work with Personalized Learning and implement it into my classroom next year the way I had envisioned it for this Spring
- Continue my own self-directed PD to support areas where that I would like to develop more (this includes learning more about Structured Word Inquiry and completing the Reading Part 2 online course)
- Finding more opportunities to integrate Judaics with General Studies, like we did during our Distance Learning Stella Diaz Novel Study
- Find ways to build strong relationships with my new students and their parents, as this will be the first time in 3 years that I have a new class
- Continue to work with my colleague, Julie Bennett, and look to her for guidance on creating more opportunities for global connections, as her PGP this year was focused on that
- Blog about these sorts of things more frequently so my end of year reflection is not 2,000 words long.
Earlier in my post, I mentioned that I still need to work on finding a way to share out some of my PD takeaways with the OJCS faculty. Distance learning has always opened my eyes to some of my strengths with technology that I can be (should be?) sharing more with the OJCS faculty (whether it’s helping teachers create their own tutorials, teaching faculty members how to use programs like Flipgrid or Google Jamboard, or sharing my computer lab curriculum with the primary teachers). I am often sharing these things with my “Twitter friends” from #2ndchat, but how can I find ways to share this with my OJCS colleagues? Is our Faculty Info Hub the best way? Should I be hosting lunch ‘n learns? Should I be sharing my professional blog with my colleagues more that just posting it to my twitter account?
I also mentioned that I have been dabbling in the wading pool of blogging this year. Next year I look forward to going into the deep end by participating in the Student Blogging Challenge again, launching Student Blogfolios (hopefully earlier in the school year… which could lead to the possibility of student-led conferences), and participating in some professional development to bring my blogging to the next level. Last week, I had the privilege of getting a sneak peek into my colleague Melissa Thompson‘s PGP in order to provide feedback. She is in the process of developing a blogging course for teachers at our school. While many of the modules include skills that I already have (i.e. creating a new post, new page, adding media, hyperlinking, customizing, etc.), one specific module caught my eye – Amplifying Your Blog. This includes lessons on hot topic blogging and sparking discussions. Sign me up!
Now, if you have made it to the bottom of this novel – I mean blog post – thank you for sticking with me! I encourage you to leave a comment sharing your thoughts or any ideas you think I could be adding to my next steps.