This was one of my most productive teachers’ conventions in my career. I left feeling ready to take on the next few weeks leading up to spring break. I had the opportunity to see some amazing speakers and reconnect with many of my colleagues from other schools. Most excitingly, I had the opportunity to reflect on some of the great things happening in my class.
I always enjoy seeing A.J.’s name show up on a PD schedule. As a huge fan of his books Launch and Empower (written with John Spencer), I excitedly put his 2 sessions in my schedule. Engagement has been my “Why” this year. When he shared one of my favourite quotes of “Every child deserves to own their learning” early in the session I knew I was in the right place. This was then topped by asking us how we label kids and how they label themselves.
Things have changed a lot for our students. In Grade 5, my students don’t know about the Pre-Netflix era. They don’t know about having to avoid dysentery, having to seek out information/media/entertainment. As A.J. pointed out, teaching is a changing profession as well. The context of our work has changed but now how students learn.
What stuck out to me is that that Attention is our biggest battle. One thing we forget as teachers is that “Engaging students also engages teachers”. A.J. brought up that kids know the difference between Real and Fake. This means we can’t make them care about things unless our engagement and excitement is real. They will not buy in to things if they know we aren’t excited. I know that I can move from compliance to engagement fairly easily with things that students get excited about but I need to get to empowerment through choice and ownership. Part of this comes from reminding myself it’s okay to take on that “Facilitator” role more often. (I talk about this in my Autobiographical Statement)
A.J. Juliani is working on a new book about Empathy. He asked us “What if kids had the chance to demonstrate empathy every day? This leads to empowerment, ownership and deeper learning. This had me thinking about community based learning and I have a ton of ideas for next year but also a few for this year to start getting our students to empathize through design thinking and working with other grades in our school.
In his second session, we did a design sprint activity with the UN 2030 global goals. It was really great and I’m excited to try this with my students soon. He talked about what asking our kids “What does the world need to know? What are you going to about it?”. I designed a few tasks in my summer project with the school board that I am really excited to try with the kids that really focus on those questions. I also really want to try the CityX project with my kids and relate it to our community.
The most impactful statement for me was that as teachers we do not need to be the best in the world but be the best for the world (for our kids).
If you don’t know who Anthony is, you need to go watch this video on his site before you even get started. He reminded me immediately of how important it is to choose our words carefully and see past the walls students put up and really see them for who they are. He mentioned 2 main factors of success:
1. Class size – Who can you have equity and support everyone if you have so many kids you can’t reasonably know what everyone needs at that time?
2. A students perception that the teacher likes him/her/them.
How do you show students that you care? There are many ways and you can google them or wait for the post I will eventually finish in my drafts about this topic. The hard thing is that our hardest students to love (I call them my cacti) are the ones who are calling out for us to listen to them and notice them for who they are underneath the prickles and thorns protecting them.
He played the “Cheers” theme song for us. and made us really think about the lyrics. These stood out to me in particular “Sometimes you want to go/ Where everybody knows your name/ And they’re always glad you came”. I think back to how often I showed up to school as a student and really just wanted someone to say “So glad you’re here” or “We missed you while you were away”. I don’t think anyone can hear those kinds of things enough.
I walked out of his session really thinking about how important it is to model what it is I want from my students but also how important it is for them to be aware of just how important they are to me. (Side note: My brain is on overdrive tonight thinking about how to make school the place kids want to be).
If you don’t know Gerry (not Gary) Brooks, please do yourself a favour and go watch all his videos he posts on Facebook (and other social medias). If I was American, I’d definitely want to teach at his school because he made me feel empowered. I left feeling okay about the things I struggle with (challenging moments with kids, relating to our families, and getting along with coworkers). I am guilty for not taking any notes during his keynote and breakout session. I was so engaged in how he made me feel as a teacher and how powerful his words are that I completely forgot I was holding a notebook (twice). I did tweet one quote that really stuck with me.
“Your number one job is to get to know your kids”Gerry Brooks – “Personal Climate and Culture” GETCA2020
I am still grappling with the impact of this quote on me so I may update this late. (Though given the amount of draft posts I have, I’ll be honest and admit there’s a good chance that may never happen).
He talked a lot about positivity, relationship and connection with students, staff and families. I really feel like more than ever this is the key to the teaching profession. Kids aren’t going to care how fancy my lessons are when all they want to know is that they are safe.
Dr. Jody Carrington
If you don’t know Jody Carrington, please go buy her book, follow her on Instagram, join her Sunday Night lives, and do whatever she tells you to do. GAME CHANGER. The conversations I have with my students and their families has changed completely since listening to her audiobook most recently. (Sidenote: I’m pretty sure I should sell her book for her because I tell everyone I meet to read it at least 3 or 4 times and usually end up buying to for people because I think the need to read it ).
This session started with an over capacity room and me sneaking in enough chairs for people I knew to sit in a makeshift row so we didn’t get kicked out. Yes, it was that important that I and the people I was with saw her on a Friday morning. I am going to start with this image of a quote that has stuck with me since the first time I heard Jody speak.
Relationships are key in being successful in education and connection is everything. Working with the “cacti” is hard but the work we do as educators is so important for our students, particularly in today’s political climate. As Jody put it, if we fight together, the [insert political figure here]s of the word become irrelevant. As educators, we matter; our relationships with students matter.
The quality and nature of the relationships you have with your students has a larger effect on their results than socio-economic status, professional development, or reading programsJohn Hattie, 2009
You can’t teach students until you have a connection with them. The literacies and the numeracies can’t happen until they feel safe and trust you. I can think of several students that this rings true for. The students that may have never completed a math test but they showed up each day craving the safety of school. It takes a village to support our students.
Jody talked about emotional disregulation in the classroom. It made me think of how many times I’ve been kicked, hit, screamed at, had something thrown at me, or told to go to hell. I remember crying a lot when I was a new teacher wondering what I did to make those kids hate me but I refused to give up. As I gained experience my stubbornness increased and I would make sure those kids knew I wasn’t going anywhere. Jody posted the following quote that really got me thinking.
Somebody’s got to be crazy about that kid. That’s number 1.Urie Bronfenbrenner
First, last, and always.
Everyone wants a personal cheerleader. Someone who makes you feel important. Jody talked about the Light Up – where you pull out all the energy and excitement and the biggest smile. When we talk about how people make us feel, when you’re feeling down, you need someone to make you feel good. This relates so much to Anthony McLean’s story about how his principal made him feel as a student. I want to be that person for my students. I want them to know how awesome I think they are.
Walking out of this session reminded me just how important it is to be there for students and really focus in on the relationship I have with them and their families. As hard as it is to love on those cacti, I want to be there for them and maybe one day that love and care will give them what they need, even if I don’t see the results on the surface.
GETCA2020 was all about relationships, engagement and empowerment. Learning cannot happen in a bubble. It isn’t about the numeracy and literacy. The outcomes really don’t matter in the long run. If a students feel safe, has choice, and wants to be there/wants to learn, they can to amazing things. There is nothing more powerful in learning than feeling like you belong where you are and you have a say in what is happening. This leads me to thinking about how education and school affected me as a students. I am working on writing a really important post about my experiences as a students and how I got to teaching because it has taken a long time for me to really understand how I got where I am now. GETCA has encouraged me to dig deeper into understanding how the environment we’re in and our experiences impacts us not only on a daily basis but also in our actions and reactions. If I had to sum up my learning during these two days, it would be how we feel inside makes the greatest influence on how we experience things.