Sunday, 29 June 2014

Visiting Rwanda


Last month I returned from Rwanda after two full weeks spent soaking up the incredible and life changing experiences with its beautiful people. I had the privilege of visiting a number of different schools and working with children so eager to participate in simple craft activities.

I worked with children so eager to use every day educational items like scissors. They snipped with purpose and determination. Such simple things brought pure delight. It is hard to believe that in this day and age, these every day items are not in every classroom around the world. 

It is hard to describe the feeling of watching children as old as ten and eleven so intent on a task that I would otherwise not even think about. The determination on their faces struck me, so engaged and precise in the most simple of activities. Each so focused, with their pursed lips, their steady gaze and careful snipping. The wonder of childhood opened up and filled the four walls of an empty classroom. A simple task became something entirely different. Triumph was palatable, evident in the beaming smiles and shining eyes. 


I stood there in that place and felt the weight of my role. 
The significance of it pressed me, 
reminding me why I chose this livelihood, 
why I love doing what I do. 
It brought me fresh perspective. 

There is something truly beautiful about opening up a world of possibilities to little people. 
Watching them achieve something that they didn't think they could do. 
Every day I have the opportunity to inspire learning about life and the world at large, 
to take children on a journey of discovery. 
This is a privilege.

As teachers we open up possibilities to young people every day. 
It is easy in the every day normality of life to forget the power in this. 
I was grateful to be reminded that what I do should not be taken for granted, 
that what I have to bring can't really be measured this year or next. 
The reality of teaching is something much deeper, 
it is an intangible impartation that can neither be measured 
or even known for years to come. 

Yes, results and data often and do measure progress and outcomes week by week, 
but the true measure of success is layered deep in the heart and soul.
It is buried deep within these little people and built slowly year after year. 
We teach facts and fiction, recite numbers, write stories 
and learn a hundred and one things each and every year. 

But there is so much learning that can never really be measured. 

Rwanda reminded me of that. 
How can we measure the wonder of childhood? 
Or the delight in simple tasks or the building of self esteem from one day to the next? 
What about feelings of success or a renewed belief in oneself? 
How can you measure any of that? 

As I stood there that day, I was reminded that sometimes our smallest successes will be the most important lessons we ever learn. 

Sometimes the smallest things actually turn out to be the biggest things.


Monday, 26 May 2014

Learning through doing


Whenever I can, I try to use concrete materials to introduce Mathematical concepts. Data and graphing is a great opportunity for providing hands on learning experiences. Children love the opportunity to work alongside each other and work through challenging concepts or problems. It is important for students to work out problems by doing and being actively engaged in the experience. They then need to articulate their learning by discussing how they have arrived at particular solutions to complex problems and scenarios, thus forging strong neural pathways and ensuring the development of sound mathematical understanding and reasoning.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Unlikely Hero - Finding the hero within!

     Image Source


This May, we will discover the hero within.

We will learn that there is a hero in each of us.
We will realize, that we all have a part to play.
We will find out how to be that hero.

This May, there are hero’s rising!

~//~

An unlikely hero is someone who does not fit the mold of how a hero should look or how a hero should sound, yet is a hero nonetheless because they are willing-to-be-a-hero! They are willing to embrace need, respond compassionately and act purposefully.

They are optimistic, seek challenge, find solutions, see the best, speak hope, bring change and deliver justice.


An everyday hero is unassuming. They do not draw attention to themselves; instead they look for opportunity to bring change to their world.

     Image source

I want my students to learn, that an unlikely hero is buried deep inside each of us. I want them to know that … to know that every person, whether old or young, tall or small has a hero residing within, just waiting to rise. I want my students to know that despite difficulties, heartbreak or pain, they can do something, and should do something to ‘Be the Change’. More than anything, I want them to know, that they have what it takes to BE that change!

This May, we will be reading stories about the most unlikely of hero’s. We will explore the life and heart of a hero. My students will learn that there is a hero waiting to rise within them! We will write stories of unlikely hero’s, delving deep into our imagination, pushing past the limits of impossibilities.

This May, my students will embark upon a hero’s quest, a journey into their own hearts, and discover that courage and bravery are fought on the battle lines of our ordinary, everyday experiences.


Saturday, 29 March 2014

Teaching Grade Four

A new year and a new grade ... Well we are nearly at the end of the first term and what a term it has been. Grade four has been a fabulous new experience and I so love their zest for learning - fast and furious! They are exuberant learners with a passion to know everything. So loving this age and how focused they are on doing their best and soaking up every morsel of information that comes their way.

What I know about Grade Four students,
- They are fun
- giggle, a lot
- love reading chapter books
- find maths challenging
- love collecting things
- scream at silly things
- are learning to negotiate differences
- take toilet breaks often
- forget things, regularly
- make excuses
- are learning to become independent learners
- are fascinated with living things
- enjoy reading to each other
- have messy desks
- seek your approval
- like to tell you random stuff
- love attention
- and the list goes on

In saying all this, I realise I have a big year ahead of me, really big. But I am so up for this. I think it will be my best year yet. Good times ahead.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Creating Positive Learning Environments


Good thoughts are powerful and creative, having physical and emotional implications on our heart, soul, spirit and body. For children it is vital that we get this right, at home, school and the world at large. It is critical that the early years of education are affirming and that we provide positive opportunities for optimal personal growth not only academically, but also emotionally. 

Negative words are destructive, criticism ugly, gossip deadly. 

Negative experiences will always cause us to pause and rethink how we will approach the next learning curve. If these painful and hurtful experiences are systematically and relentlessly aversive then we learn to pull back. We shrink back from life and stop moving forward. Negative thinking is quickly and deeply entrenched, stunting personal growth and momentum. Learning ceases when the emotional and social aspects of a child are out of alignment. Children fail to thrive when they are consumed with fitting in to their peer group. The need to belong and feel accepted is a powerful and driving force for all of humanity. Negative words shape personal beliefs about ourselves and become our internal dialogue ... Am I good enough, smart enough, funny enough?

Negative thoughts are extremely difficult to dislodge, particularly when a child has begun to reinforce this thought with daily negative self talk. I am more aware of this than ever before. Realigning thinking and changing the atmosphere of the classroom is a daily objective of mine. Do I get this right all the time?, No ... in a perfect world my classroom would function like a dream, however, we deal with real people with real problems and sometimes what happens at home spills over into the classroom. Children arrive a little out of sorts, they arrive late, too early, some rushed to school in a world wind of morning expectations. Sometimes the timetable is tight, I rush head long right into the next learning task or activity, missing red flags. I mistake disappointment as defiance. I've moved on before I realise. I backtrack, change tack and shift my focus. Sometimes, the academic schedule has to wait while thinking is realigned and the atmosphere recharged. Words of hope are offered, kind words fill small spaces around tender hearts. I have an ideal of what a positive classroom should look like most of the time. I aim for that every day.

At some point we all face these lethal forces - self doubt, unkind words and hurtful criticism to name just a few. Learning to deal with these the negative elements of life to emerge confident, sure and more hopeful is critical for academic advancement. In order to build and grow a positive internal framework, positive experiences need to be continual, successive and accumulative. How students bounce back from these experiences is important. Resiliency is key to continued growth as a hopeful, optimistic and determined human being. We must ensure that the early years of childhood have more positive experiences than negative ones, that our classrooms are safe havens for personal and academic growth, that we take time to listen, notice and validate the people in our care. As students choose to bounce back from hurtful experiences they need life giving and affirming words of praise and encouragement, the building blocks of self esteem and personal affirmation. They need to be praised for being forgiving, kind and determined individuals. Positive reinforcement is like honey, sweet and healing. It is health to the soul. If we saturate our classrooms with words of hope, purpose and kindness then the children who walk out of our rooms walk with their heads a little higher, their hearts a little wider.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Dear Students

As we come to the end of the year, I wish all my darling students the very best for the journey ahead. I have loved this year and feel very privileged to have been your teacher this year. We have come so far! I wish you all the best. Looking forward to hearing your stories in the years ahead. xx


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Time is flying by much too fast!

I wrote this a few weeks ago ... I always feel a little poignant at the end of the year. After a year of investing every day into the lives of our little people it is with a certain amount of sadness that we prepare to say goodbye to the little treasures we have had for the year. It never seems to get any easier ... goodbyes are always hard. The end of the year always makes me reflective, 'How could I do things differently?', 'What worked?', 'What didn't work?' ... and I always hope that I do this, (in the words of Albert Einstein), 'It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.'