I don’t know what happens once the week gets to Wednesday but I seem to run out of time to blog Wednesday and Thursday. Those seem to be my busy nights as I’m trying to take dance classes a couple nights a week for my own physical and mental health. My weekly highland dance classes are my opportunity to relax as we were working with peace quotes at various points throughout the week I came across a Michael Jordan quote that reminded me of what dance means to me where he says basketball I would put dance, “The game of basketball has been everything to me. My place of refuge, place I’ve always gone where I needed comfort and peace. It’s been the site of intense pain and the most intense feelings of joy and satisfaction. It’s a relationship that has evolved over time, given me the greatest respect and love for the game.” – Michael Jordan, where he says game I would say art. My dance lessons are my time to decompress and relax. I always feel at peace and happy after a class no matter how hard my teacher pushed me that day , and she likes to push me, I know that it’s what makes me better and I appreciate the time and effort that Shannon is putting into me to make me a better dancer, she is a teacher that I have been observing because of the way in which she structures her classes having students with many levels in one class and always is able to give each of us the time, attention, corrections and positive reinforcement that we need even when we come to her like I did as adult beginners. In one of my classes she has students over a 20 year age span and from every level of competitive highland dancing and still makes the class fun, engaging, and level appropriate for all.
This week we have been working on a presentation for the school’s Remembrance Day Assembly to be held next Wednesday, I have been greatly enjoying participating in and helping with my class’s presentation. I have been working with a very sweet group of girls to do the dance portion of the presentation. I am hesitant to call it a performance in this instance because to me a performance is about the performer and has a less sombre tone then a Remembrance Day Assembly as we will be sharing out vision of peace with the rest of the school and it is about the vision and communicating the idea not about glorifying the performers. While saying that I am very proud of the hard work all of the students have put into the presentation, from the dancers to speakers and the students doing frozen tableaux, every student in the class has a part in this and helped to create and show our class vision of peace.
At the beginning of the week each student was given a quote about peace and in their table groups they were asked to figure out what the quotes had in common, both to reinforce the topic of peace that we have spent a fair amount of time talking about and to get them looking at theme. Source for peace quotes: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_peace.html , I printed Pages 1-6 from the peace section off the internet. Before giving the quotes to the students I went through them and cut them out making sure to remove any quotes that reference a specific religion or god, as well as content that may be above the students reading level and level of understanding at this time. Wednesday we spent some time between recess and lunch revisiting some of the quotes we had discussed earlier in the week. As the week has progressed the students have begun sorting them into categorises that they determined themselves, the categories are “ Peace Within Yourself” , “ Peace Between People”, “ Peace Between Countries” and “ Other Thoughts of Peace” . While the quotes were not easy and often took some “pondering” the students were all able to connect to and understand the peace quotes, often working with ones whose nature wasn’t as obvious with other students, prompting some great discussions between the students and between myself and the students about the nature of the quote and its meaning as well as about what peace means to each individual. The students have continued to add quotes to the wall throughout the week and can often be seen reading them to themselves and others. I like exposing students to examples and thoughts from the real world for them to look at and connect with, instead of creating generic sentences myself; to me the thoughts in the quotes were more genuine than anything I could have come up with. I feel that students should be exposed to as much “real world” material as is age and subject appropriate. At the engaging the digital learning series one of the speakers discussed breaking down the 4 walls of the classroom and connecting to the real world, this really spoke to me because one day my students will have to function in the real world and they should know how to interact with it and all of the vast sources of information that are available to them beyond what I can give them in the classroom.
On Wednesday and Thursday we had parent teacher interviews and they were much less “scary” then I thought they would be. For the most part my SA runs parent teacher interviews as a conversation about the child and a mutual sharing of information and asking questions, helping her to gain insight into the child and the parent to understand what is going on at school. I like the approach of holding the conferences as a conversation and letting the parent lead when possible while still sharing the information that needed to be shared about each student. While we are due to time constraints unable to see every parent we saw about 80% of the student’s parents / guardians. The conversational approach wasn’t the best approach for every child’s situation , some there was a language barrier and we were working through an interpreter to share information about the child and others there was urgent or important information that will greatly affect the child’s academic and social development, my SA adapted her manner of speaking and the way in which she handled the conferences to fit the situation and the English language abilities of the parents as well as the importance of the matter being discussed. The more urgently she felt something needed to be examined the more forceful she was on the topic.
On Thursday we had a guest speaker who will be joining the class for a total of 10 sessions over the course of the next few months to work on restorative justice. My SA uses this as part of the anti bullying program in her classroom and says that it has a track record of working well with this age group. A very experienced leader who is a district teacher from the school board office came into the classroom first thing Thursday morning and had all of us myself included sitting in a large circle, the desks were moved to the sides of the room leaving rooms in the center for all of us to fit in a single circle. I personally like the use of circles because as was pointed out during the restorative justice session we can see everyone equally and make eye contact when they are speaking as well no one is placed in a hierarchy every spot in a circle is equal, I also find circles inclusive as you can always move everyone around slightly to make sure everyone has a spot expanding the circle to include more people and shrinking it allows for people to draw closer together and form a more intimate group. I’ve also noticed that this seems to be the most natural formation of people in social situations we seem to form circles of various sizes in natural conversation changing the size of the circle to include new people and shrinking it as people leave the conversation. I think that this may be one reason that rectangular tables to me seem to be the worst to have conversations around, you can’t see everyone and end up talking to the people beside and directly across from you but not the whole table. I liked that the students were all sitting together and working as a large class. This week’s session focused on getting to know each other, we shared something that the others might not know about you mine was that I’d rather be outside than inside as well as playing a person bingo game and “ big wind blows” a game that works similar to never have I ever.
Friday was just as jam packed as the rest of the week, the highlight was finishing and sharing the students Inuit plays, as part of their unit on aboriginal culture the students researched legends from different Inuit groups each group chose a ledged that they wanted to share and turned them into 3-5 minute plays to share with the class. I really enjoyed viewing these as the students truly brought the stories to life and embraced the tradition of storytelling in the way that they shared the legends with the class.
I really enjoy how there is never a dull moment in Division 4 , there is a fabulous energy in the classroom the students are engaged and happy to be there, they work collaboratively and support each other. I am excited to be able to spend this school year with them, the more I get to know them and my SA the more I feel like this is the right placement for me. I feel at home in the classroom and have connected with my SA and students. I am going to miss being with them every day and sharing in their daily learning and adventures.