Celebrating ‘Official School Status’ & My Leaving Ceremony

Nyota Ing’arayo became an official school and today we celebrated. There was pilau, singing, dancing, smiling, and definite laughing going on at the school amongst teachers, staff, volunteers and especially the students. With Nyota becoming a school, the Students of Standard 8 are able to sit their Kenyan Certified Primary Education (KCPE) exam wearing uniforms representing their school. Now it’s official and Nyota is moving on from it’s child care centre days to a government recognized school. Continue reading

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Volunteering Abroad as Professional Development for Teachers

Having done a teaching practicum in China, being a teacher in Canada, and now having volunteered in a Standard 3 classroom here in Kenya, one thing is clear: teaching abroad is a worthwhile opportunity for professional development.

In a grade one classroom in Xi'an, China where I taught in 2011

In a grade one classroom in Xi’an, China where I taught in 2011

The obvious aspect of professional development that comes with teaching overseas is adapting to your new environment. No electricity, limited resources, and bright eager students. At times I wondered how easy it would be if I had a document reader or an interactive whiteboard, but instead you have a few textbooks, a blackboard, chalk (sometimes), and an always disappearing eraser which is actually a small plush kitten. You realize quickly that without technology or even an adequate number of textbooks you can still be an effective teacher and find ways to reach your students in the best way you can. Continue reading

Exploring the Complexities of Kenya/Canada Comparisons with ‘The Giving Tree’

My group reading session today had my girls looking at, ‘The Giving Tree‘ by Shel Silverstein. Before reading the book we did a pre-reading activity that asked the question: “If you could ask a tree to give you anything you wanted, … Continue reading

What am I doing here?

“Why on earth did I sign up for two months here? What am I even doing?
I shouldn’t be here!”

Dread, a bit of panic, and an overwhelming amount of doubt was there to greet me when I was driving to the project site from the airport in Mombasa.

I always thought it was cliché when they say,  ”you’ll never know what poverty is until you see it in person, face to face.”  But they are entirely right. To see it that close. To see it seem endless with every street, every corner, every sea of garbage you see a child and animal picking through, every crowded market, every person you see lying in the streets, every shack that you would never want to call home, every burning pile of rubbish, every repugnant smell that wafts into your nose, every broken down building, every child wandering alone, and the excessive amounts of people living in conditions that you would avoid even walking through will overwhelm you and help you understand exactly what poverty is.

It will make you too aware of your own fortune. Of how well off you are. To be coming into this entirely different world with the culture and history you carry with you. To hate where you’re from and want to forget that you even came here. To feel ashamed of the good hand you were dealt in life.  To want to hide away and not be here ‘to help.’ Which now, as you’re driving though it – seem so minuscule, conceited and ridiculous. Selfishly taking an ‘experience’ away from this place. And what are you really giving back? Nothing can ever be enough so you should just turn back now. Continue reading

Goodbye Canada, Nimefurahi Kukuona Kenya

Photo Credit: GVI, David Petts

Photo Credit: GVI, David Petts

Tomorrow I will be flying off to Mombasa, Kenya to spend my summer teaching through Global Vision International. I am hoping to update my blog when I can or the end of August will see a flooding of postings from when I get back! So there may or may not be a hiatus of postings, that I will know as it happens. But for now I shall say “Goodbye” to Canada and “Nice to Meet You” to my new home for the next 60 days in Kenya!

To see an overview of the work I will be doing with GVI just follow the link! 🙂

http://www.gvi.co.uk/programs/volunteer-orphanage-kenya

 

 

As LiD comes to a close this year, I look forward to the “depth” of next year!

As Learning in Depth comes to a close in many schools in Delta this year, I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen next year. I’m so excited to see these students finally start to get into the “depth” part of Learning in Depth.

We’ve seen these kids just start to scratch the surface of what learning in depth intends. Students have been answering the Who, What, Where, and When type questions with posters and power points of facts that relate to their topic’s main idea. But now, with this foundation just starting, I’m hoping to see students start asking the How and Why questions that I feel is the basis of all inquiry. Here’s where I’m hoping to see some interesting stuff!

This is why I would urge those schools that are choosing to change topics – not to! It defeats the purpose of depth! A year may seem like a long time and there are worries that students are going to hit walls and become stuck but please, let them! They need to hit bottom and work their way out of it. The struggle will be good for them. And you’ll be so happy to have let them struggle because the development of their knowledge tools, their thinking and questioning will benefit!

We’re just at the beginning stages of the LiD process and we should really see where this type of learning could lead. I’m still excited and I’m even excited to talk to students about what it means to be stumped on something you’re an ‘expert’ on. I’m also excited to hear from those who have been working on this project for an entire year but still don’t know a whole lot about their topic.

Maybe this will jumpstart those students into trying harder and taking it more seriously. Maybe it will be a little overwhelming feeling like you don’t know anything about something you’ve spent a whole year learning. But theres an awesome quote I love about this “I don’t know much about it.. I only started learning about it decades ago” 

So please! Keep the same topics and encourage deeper learning, deeper questioning, and something a little deeper than poster making! Have I mentioned depth and deep learning enough in this post?

When Teachers Blog/Tweet it Shows Students They Care

I’ve been preparing myself for my Volunteer trip to Kenya where I’ll be teaching in Children’s Centres in Mombasa for 6 weeks. To do this I’ve been doing the pre-departure course work from Global Vision International on Teaching English as a Foreign Language and I’ve picked up a few resource books myself. One in particular, “The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide,” seemed appropriate not only for my trip but for my own career at home as ELL students are numerous in the schools that I have worked at.

The authors of this book, Larry Ferlazzo and Katie Hull Sypnieski, start off this guide by outlining the three R’s that make up a positive and effective learning environment. Relationships, Resources and Routines. What I failed to notice, and what these authors pointed out to me, was that blogging is an easy and effective way to show students you care about them inside and outside the classroom.

“In today’s world, many teachers already blog and write about their teaching experiences. However, they may not take the extra step of sharing this writing with their students. This can be powerful on a number of levels, but in terms of relationship building, it shows students that the teacher things of them outside of the classroom.”

They are so right. Whenever students would ask me about Twitter I would usually say, “Yes I have Twitter and even a blog, feel free to follow me but I tweet and write about education/teacher stuff – you might not be interested.” But, students should see you on Twitter and your blog posts because it shows students how methodological you are in how, what, where and why you teach and how you learn. 

I did have students come up to me one day and say they found me on Twitter and that I tweeted a picture of my water bottle from class (students put a post it note on it reminding me to drink more water and not just coffee).  I explained to them how happy that post it made me, because even within our short two weeks together we had a community started where we took care of each other and got to know each other. I thought it was wonderful.

I now realize that this twitter-verse and blog-overse is not just for me to develop and network with other teaching professionals. But is also a way to show how connected we are with our students and that we are very focused on doing our very best to provide our students with classrooms we feel they deserve. 

“Taking a few minutes to write about the class (whether it is a simple reflection on how a lesson went, how a student demonstrated an exceptional insight, or sharing a few success and challenges from the week) and then sharing this writing with the class can increase trust and respect between the teacher and the students.”

So I’m urging teachers! Please, if you don’t have time to blog – because yes, it does become something of another job on its own, please tweet! Share your thoughts, your learning moments, things that inspire you and ways to change our classrooms for the better! Use hashtags to join the conversation!

There’s a great twitter cheat sheet to help you out found here: http://www.learningunlimitedllc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Twitter-Cheat-Sheet-Tool-4-Learning-Unlimited-by-Kimberly-Tyson.pdf As well, some Districts have their own hashtags that are very helpful to guide the conversation to be specifically about their Schools. For Delta: #sd37 #deltaschools #deltalearns. Non district hashtags but helpful ones for my purposes: #inqBC #LiD #LiDinaction #BClearns

Here’s a reminder though, Hashtags are only as effective if they are being used! They can be great promotional tools for an upcoming school wide event, a district initiative, or if theres a topic you want to really learn/chat about with other professionals about. This is why some districts, like Surrey, can be so connected on Twitter because they seem to have agreed upon hashtags for their district that they use: #sd36learn #surreylearns #sd36 #edcamp36

So, If you can’t blog, tweet! Even 150 characters can go a long way to show that you are connected, learning, and caring about your students and your school. Adding a hashtag in between those 150 characters will help your thoughts be found and connected with in a much more efficient way too!

“Celebration of Inquiry” a Showcase of Delta’s Inquiry Progress

Delta School District had their “Celebration of Inquiry” Day today where Schools could set up examples of how their inquiry questions/projects worked in their schools. This was a way to share ideas, examples, some good food and great conversations. As … Continue reading