new year, new goals

Well, hello again! Sorry for my extended absence from this little slice of the internet. I hope these few snapshots help to explain my neglect of my blog.

That’s right! The highlight of my summer was traveling to Egypt and Jordan and taking in a TON of ancient history! Egypt has been an obsession of mine since I was a little girl, so it was a surreal experience to cross off the #1 item on my bucket list. If this was a travel blog, believe me, you wouldn’t hear the end of it – haha!

After a fantastic summer (that FLEW by!), I am feeling ready and excited to begin my third year of teaching and to be back in Hudson Bay. I am extra eager to get started, as I have a new role in half of my job this year: I am still teaching my absolute passion (Pre-K) in the mornings, and get to teach one of our homerooms of Grade 1 in the afternoons!

I am really looking forward to using play-based and place-based education in both of my roles this year and continuing to explore authentic early learning with my students in Pre-K and Grade 1, as well as furthering my knowledge of Early Childhood Education in general through the start of my online Masters program through UBC! It is gearing up to be a busy, but fulfilling, year full of growth and learning!

My new teaching strategy interests of Place-Based Education and Walking Curriculum came from 2 professional reads that I explored this summer. Both of these were quick and easy reads, with lots of detailed examples of how schools around North America have implemented Place-Based learning and a great collection of ideas for curriculum-linked walks. I would recommend either of these books to educators looking to involve their students more meaningfully with their natural surroundings and communities outside the walls of the school.

“Walking Curriculum: Evoking Wonder and Developing Sense of Place (K-12)” by Gillian Judson

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“Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities ” by David Sobel

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In a nutshell, I can’t wait to see where this year takes me on my learning journey as an early years teacher! I hope you will continue to follow along on my escapades. I’ll leave you with some snaps of my classroom set up, which is also fresh and new this year! More pictures of the students actually exploring the space are coming soon – promise!

Until then,

-KKF

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a sprinkle of fairy dust

DISCLAIMER: This post is lengthy and focuses specifically on Early Childhood Education topics. It includes my personal reflections on different PD topics that I have explored as part of a conference. If this does not interest/apply to you, please feel free to find some of my more general education posts – no hard feelings 🙂

fairy dust

I think this may be one of the fastest back-to-back posts I’ve done on my blog. I stumbled across Fairy Dust Teaching somewhere on social media (I can’t remember if I first followed her on Facebook or Twitter), and I was constantly inspired by the many posts she had about Early Childhood Education.

When I saw that Fairy Dust Teaching had an online, Winter Conference, where videos with presenters were posted for participants to engage with in their own time (PD in your pyjamas, if you will), I was instantly intrigued. I decided to sign up for the conference, with intentions of watching the videos over the February break. Well, in the true whirlwind fashion of a teacher’s life, I didn’t get to the PD over the break, but decided to put away some time today to start watching through the videos. Boy, am I glad I did!

Please enjoy some of my thoughts, musings, and reflections on some of the sessions. I would love if you had any comments to leave in response to any of the topics in this post.

Session #1: LOOSE PARTS TO PROMOTE STEAM 

If there is such a thing as a celebrity in the ECE world, these ladies are it! Loose parts has become a HUGE buzzword in the early years, and I’m sure that most Pre-K/K educators have seen or looked at one of these books in their travels. Miriam Beloglovsky and Lisa Daly, who wrote the Loose Parts books 1, 2, and 3, were giving an interview-style presentation on how loose parts can promote STEAM education.

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After some wonderful PD this summer, I decided to incorporate a permanent loose parts centre in my own classroom this school year. While this centre has changed locations periodically and the objects found there have been swapped out several times, I have seen consistent play and exploration happening with my students at this centre/with the materials found there. Most often, students will be exploring Encapsulating/Enveloping (putting objects into another container or carrier to transport around –> think putting objects into a purse, box, crate, etc.) and Mixing (putting a variety of loose parts in a large container to mix together –> think creating soups and potions).

The biggest takeaway from this session for me was the role of the educator to relinquish control and the urge to direct the play or jump in to assist (something that I am still working on in my own practice each day). As an organized person, it is often difficult for me to let students create a mess. The part I have to remind myself, though, is that I cannot restrain my students to play in the way that I, an adult, think is appropriate. This session made me reflect on how my actions truly showcase my view of children and their learning. Do I genuinely believe that students are capable, confident, creative if I shut down their play or immediately swoop in to help them? I will definitely be focusing on allowing students the freedom to experiment, problem solve, and get messy when I head back to my classroom!

The other great phrase that was used in this session was “look for the verb, not the noun,” or really pay attention to what big concept or topic the child is interested in exploring, rather than being caught up in the object they’re playing with.

The example that was given was a student playing with purple gems on a lazy susan and spinning them around and around and around. The teacher thought that the student was interested in the colour purple, rather than realizing that their true interest was motion and rotation.

This was a big “Aha!” for me, as, just the other day in my classroom, one of my students had taken all of the loose parts into our upstairs “fort” area and dumped them out on the floor (Hello, alarm bells going off! Mess! Mess! Mess! Must clean!). When I approached, I immediately asked her to clean up, and sort the objects back out into their respective containers. Now, I feel quite guilty about my reaction, and I wish I would have taken a few moments to simply observe what the student was doing with the items to truly understand the intentions of her play and what direction it may have been going – such a missed opportunity to understand this child’s learning better. This is a great reminder for me to step back, watch, and think about what a child is doing before I step in in the future.

The final thing the presenters discussed that I want to incorporate into my classroom is swapping out commercialized, closed-ended objects in the classroom for loose parts that can be transformed into anything the mind can imagine. Lisa discussed how all of the play, plastic food has been exchanged for loose parts such as beads, gems, stones, etc. and dress up clothes have been swapped out for scarves, sashes, and fabrics. I would like to start slowly switching out some of these items and see what the students’ reactions will be (I actually don’t think they will mind at all, as they already use many of our loose parts to make stews and soups and pretend they are foods).

I think this photo sums this idea up quite nicely:

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Session #2: THE THIRD TEACHER: REFLECTIVE PRACTICE

This session, a powerpoint collection of wonderful photos, quotes, and key points by Rosalba Bortolotti, discussed the importance of the third teacher.

For anyone unfamiliar, the third teacher is a widely known practice in ECE, with the 3 main teachers in an early years program being as follows: the teacher, other children/classmates, and the environment. The classroom space, in and of itself, can be a teacher to the children in the classroom, by inspiring learning and collaboration.

Having studied Reggio Emilia approach in-depth throughout my university career, I am quite familiar with this idea of the environment being a key component of early years learning. The environment should be flexible, responsive, with frequent modifications that are created by adults and children together.

If you are familiar with my Instagram or Twitter accounts, you’ll often see new furniture configurations and learning opportunities I have set up in my space. I often reference the joy that these new transformations bring me, and discuss how much I enjoy changing up my room or the materials offered within it in order to respond to student interests and spark new learning. It is such a pleasure to know that part of my job to plan for and facilitate learning in Pre-K is to simply design an environment that inspires play and exploration.

This presentation was a re-affirmation that my environment has many of the criteria for a quality early learning program. However, as a reflective practitioner, there are always improvements to be made and questions to consider. Some of the questions I came out of this presentation with are:

-What messages is my environment sending to others (parents, staff, etc.)? What thoughts do they have about the quality of education and care that are given to their child in my classroom?

-What enhancements can I make to my outdoor learning space so that it more efficiently addresses student learning and exploration? (In the fall, our outdoor learning space had a large valley filled in and three large, dead trees torn out, and is now filled with gravel/dirt that is not aesthetically pleasing. I am looking to beautify this space so it can be used more meaningfully in the future)

-What are the main purchases or additions I can make to the classroom to make it more aesthetically pleasing and calming? (I would like to add more soft lighting in our classroom, such as lamps – although finding a place to plug in in our classroom is a struggle)

-How can I involve children more in the changes/transformations that occur in the classroom? How can I bring them into this process and give them responsibility and control?

Overall, this session gave me many ideas and questions to consider further in order to make my third teacher as effective as it can be for my students. It also left me with an itch to get into my classroom and switch some things up again. I love my ever-changing classroom. ❤

Session #3: Natural Learning 

The third (and final) session I will be posting about today (as there are still 7 more sessions for me to watch) was put on by Suzanne Axelsson, an early childhood educator in Sweden. She discussed all of the benefits of including nature experiences for early learners, as well as what components need to be present in order to be most effective. Suzanne was absolutely astounding to listen to, and I recommend you check  her out on some of her social media handles below (maybe you’re even interested in joining in on her annual event, International Fairy Tea Party, happening in September).

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The 7 components for her Natural Learning program were:

  • Wonder
  • Joy
  • Curiosity
  • Risk
  • Time
  • Collaboration/Interaction
  • Reflection

Her presentation included a wealth of knowledge, photographs of joyful learning moments captured, and a ton of stories from her experiences.

A few standout moments for me:

  • How social emotional skills of responsibility, self-regulation, comfort-giving, and collaboration were implicitly taught and infused throughout her practice. Suzanne told many stories of how her students showed empathy, compassion, and teamwork in their outdoor adventures. She also explained how she built some of these skills bit by bit through daily interactions and modelling. It was fascinating to see how these little people became caring and involved members of their learning community. This sense of belonging is something I strive for in my own practice.
  • How “risk” involves more than just the physical risk of getting hurt. Suzanne explained that there is an element of  “social risk” (someone being mean to you or hurting your feelings) as well. I see this as very relevant to some of the learners we have in our classrooms today, who may struggle with this type of risk more than any other, especially with the rise of mental health struggles such as anxiety, depression, and trauma (which, yes, unfortunately, begin showing up in early childhood for some). It was a perspective that I have never heard of before, but will definitely consider if I see a child who is reluctant or struggling to engage with others – perhaps they are avoiding social risk. This also involves me, as an educator, explicitly teaching and modelling what to do in these social situations if someone DOES hurt your feelings.
  • The idea of children doing the reflecting. Reflection is so prevalent in education, that it often becomes used to the point of being comical (i.e., “as a teacher, I reflect on my lesson and then reflect on my reflection – an inception of reflections”). While it is true that teachers must be reflective in their practice, I often forget to include students in this critical process. If we are to give students responsibility and ownership of their learning, they, too, have to be involved in the reflective process. Suzanne touched briefly on how documentation, such as photographs, can be a vehicle for this reflection. This is something that I am interested in exploring more in my own practice in the future.

Well, I think that is enough for today. Thank you for coming along with me as I delved into some PD topics of interest in regards to ECE.

What professional or personal goals have you set for yourself this school year?

What buzz worthy topics are you exploring in your own practice?

How do you like to engage in professional development?

 

Until next time,

-KKF

fossils of play

A quick little jot about some exciting happenings in my teaching life (which, let’s face it, is a large chunk of my life most days – haha!):

1.I have officially applied to take my Masters degree in Early Childhood Education (online, through the University of British Columbia). Thank you to all of my wonderful mentors and supporters who were my references! I will ensure to keep you updated as soon as I hear back if I have been accepted. I am so excited to be taking this next step in my educational journey.

2. I have been sharing lots of our amazing adventures in Pre-K on Twitter (@kfidelack) and Instagram (@kfidelack). Please feel free to check out what we are doing in our classroom! Unfortunately, this means my blog has suffered some neglect, but each of these social media and technology outlets serves a different purpose. My blog is for more general educational musings, whereas specific stories and learning with students have been posted on my other spaces.

3. I just updated my blog’s header image for the first time since its inception over 5 years ago! This photograph was a behind-the-scenes learning moment that, while I did not see happening live, I stumbled across after-the-fact.

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I love these “remnants of play,” or the little signs that the tiny hands in my classroom have left behind after play. I feel like an archeologist or anthropologist reflecting on what these snippets of a play experience could mean and what possible directions the play could have been taking.

These numbers were haphazardly thrown into this otherwise empty sensory bin in a jumble. It was a joy for me to realize that one of my little learners had, unbeknownst to me, come along, and thoughtfully organized the numbers for me to find later. It still remains a mystery to me who left this fossil of play (did I just coin a new term?!) for me to find, but I do have some ideas as to who was responsible… I think there is some beauty in the mystery, though, don’t you? Regardless, it made a beautiful cover photo for my blog and encapsulates so much of what my pedagogy as a Pre-K teacher stands for – the capability of a child, independence, the wonder and magic of play and learning… (plus the fact that some of the numbers show common reversals is so stinkin’ cute!)

4. I have officially made it through 1.5 years as a teacher! My mom asked me the other day, “Which year have you enjoyed more so far of teaching, your first or second?” It was an interesting question that really got me thinking… In many ways, I can see how the years can blur together and become mixed up. But at the same time, I feel that each of my years of teaching so far (all 1.5 of them – haha) have been unique and offered their own victories and challenges.

>My first year was a whirlwind of new experiences – everything was fresh and exciting, as I not only settled into my new career, but also a new school, community, and lifestyle. I was coming straight out of university, and many of my ideas about what teaching would be like were either affirmed, or evolved with real-life experience.

>>My second year has seemed much more relaxed in many ways. I have been through much of the curriculum once and have started to settle into my own personal teaching style. I am getting to experience everything for a second time. I have become familiar and at-home in the school and community, which have both welcomed me with open, friendly arms. Needless to say, this year has had its own unique struggles and challenges. And, I truly think that sometimes I feel like I know what I am doing even less than the first time around, but I like to think that that is a result of me constantly wanting to learn and refine my practice. Reflection and growth, baby!

I am interested to see where the rest of this school year takes me. Wouldn’t it be a nice little tradition if I continue having mid-year reflections each school year to compare how the year has gone in comparison to those in the past? (Now to actually try and follow through with it). My own little digital journal and scrapbook. 🙂

 

How has your school year been going so far? What is unique about the successes and struggles? 

How many years do you have under your belt? Are there any that stand out more than others? Why?

 

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time,

-KKF

student passion = teacher passion

It is already dangerously near my weeknight bedtime (which I have been trying to faithfully follow this year with much success so far!), so I am going to try and make this one quick, but still jam-packed with the good stuff. 🙂

  1. I’ve been known to beat myself up over not posting more often on my blog. I’ve also been known to state outright (on this very blog) that I would like to post more regularly and often. One day a few weeks ago, when I was feeling guilty over not posting, I realized that this bad habit needs to stop. And by “bad habit,” I mean feeling guilty, not neglecting to post on a regular timeline. I love my blog because it is a place to share my passions, and if that means only posting when the mood strikes and I have something important or interesting to share, that’s great! There is no point churning out irrelevant posts on a set schedule. So, my promise is no longer to post once every two weeks, or once a month, or once every (insert measure of time here), but rather to post once I get an idea that I am excited to share with all of you. 🙂
  2. Upon returning to my blog after a summer of hiatus (I’m trying not to feel guilty.. haha), I realized that my last post in June perfectly connects to my main topic tonight. In summary, I talked about trying to bring passion into my prep subjects I teach in the afternoon by building relationships with students and taking time to get to know them amidst the somewhat controlled chaos that is “teaching out of a cart” (although the cart, in my case, is merely metaphorical, and not literal).
  3. And now on to my main topic (thanks for sticking with me through the preamble)… It must be the gloomy, rainy weather (heads up, I’m going to be honest and vulnerable here), because I came home tonight feeling deflated. After an amazing ECE conference this summer, I am feeling more passionate and willing to try new things in the Pre-K half of my job than ever! However, my prep subjects were getting me down. I became a teacher because it is my passion, my vocation, my calling and I couldn’t shake the feeling that teaching prep subjects, jumping from classroom to classroom, and  attempting to build meaningful relationships (and expectations) with 100+ kids was an overwhelmingly insurmountable task that did not bring me that passion. I couldn’t help jump on the pity train and count off the reasons why my prep subjects were the source of all my problems. After some wallowing, though, I started to ask myself what I could do to help bring my passion into these subjects… and I came up with a plan.
  4. I love Pre-K so much because it is the optimal learning environment: each student is consumed in learning that is MEANINGFUL and FUN for them. There is no teacher at the front of the room, droning on, telling students what to learn or how they will learn it. Students are co-creating knowledge and determining the direction that the learning will take. Now, if only I could bring that kind of learning environment into my upper elementary classes… Oh wait, I can! (and wouldn’t you know it, by some stroke of fate, “developing more student-driven teaching practices” is my Professional Development Goal this year).
  5. So, I think, starting next week, I will be scrapping MY plans and have a serious discussion with students about them taking charge of learning that they are interested in. Think Genius Hour meets emergent curriculum meets inquiry project? Gulp. If it sounds scary to you, it’s even more scary (albeit exciting!) to me – as a meticulous planner and ‘thrives off of organization’ type. But, if it gets the students excited about learning, then it gets me excited about teaching them helping them discover curriculum for themselves.
  6. In closing, I want to acknowledge that my younger sister is currently going into her pre-internship year the U of R (my alma mater <3). Seeing how excited she is, and thinking back to when I was just a pre-intern, is what pushes me to continue growing and finding passion in my practice. I would hate to disappoint pre-intern Kara by griping about my job (which, really does rock).

 

What brings you passion in your teaching?

How do you make learning meaningful for students?

Have you done inquiry/emergent curriculum/Genius Hour with your students? Tell me about it!

 

Well, my teaching tribe, wish me luck!

-KKF

 

 

week 1

Today marked my fourth day of internship! Take a look at what I’ve been up to thus far!

Day 1

My co-op and I arrived at the school early to get a start on bulletin boards. I whipped up the one below fairly quickly once I got the hang of it (it helped that my co-op had all of the materials ready to go – can’t take all of the credit haha). We also had a meeting with the entire school staff to go over the teacher ‘handbook.’ It was a bit overwhelming at first with all of the new faces and information. I think I’ve got everyone down now, though! It helped that there was a staff BBQ at the principal’s house that evening to continue to put faces to names (and the delicious food was an added bonus).

A classic welcome back to school bulletin board, complete with a play on words.

A classic welcome back to school bulletin board, complete with a play on words.

Day 2 

It was off to Rosetown (the Sun West School Division’s central point and location of the division office) bright and early for iLearn – the division Professional Development day. Car pooling was a great way to get to know some of the staff better. I attended some great sessions geared towards Kindergarten and ECE, the first being Project Approach in the ECE Classroom and Phonological Awareness. Both inspired me to try some new things in K these next four months – my list of internship goals is rapidly growing, so I will attempt to squeeze as much in as I can!

Day 3 

Off to Rosetown for Teachers’ Convention – Day 1! We had an engaging keynote from a Hoop Dancer that I really enjoyed. I also attended an STF 101 session and a collaborative session on teaching gymnastics to elementary students.

Day 4

Today was our final drive to Rosetown for the second day of convention. Brain Breaks was a very informative and useful session that provided a wealth of ideas to get students moving. Next, I attended a session on Work/Life Balance, which should prove useful as I head into a busy semester of student teaching! New to convention this year was an afternoon of Ed Camp, where teachers can suggest sessions they would like to facilitate on topics of their choosing. I went to the Kindergarten session, wherein we chatted about EYE assessments (which I will get to see first-hand this semester) and new report card procedure changes (K will be switching to numbered report card scores this year).

My final session of the day was a last minute choice, but extremely worthwhile. It focused on the app Seesaw, which is an interface for the creation of digital portfolios. My co-op and I were both instantly impressed and wowed, and I am excited to say that we set up both of our Kindergarten classes on Seesaw on the drive home! I have not learned a new educational technology in a while, so I am excited to have a ‘project’ that my co-op and I can learn together with the students. I will make a post soon solely on Seesaw and its features.

This week has been jam-packed and (not surprisingly) tiring! While it has been great getting to know staff in my school and division, I have found this week a test of my patience, as I really just want to meet all of my new students and dive into teaching! The students start on Tuesday, so my wait is not much longer.

I’ll be sure to post again soon about my first days with the students and my Seesaw experience.

-KKF

i am a question mark

Today, my classmates and I went on a tour through the Mackenzie Art Gallery’s newest exhibition, Moving Forward Never Forgetting (which was phenomenal and I highly recommend everyone go check out). During some hands-on experience of making art, we were each asked to “draw a symbol that represents you in this moment.” Instantly, I decided upon a question mark, and it seemed very fitting.

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This year (and semester) has been a time of great learning and growing for me. But it seems the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. When I was in high school, a teacher whose classroom I volunteered in told me, “You could walk into a classroom tomorrow and be a teacher.” And I thought, “Yeah, I could!” Now that I am three years into my degree, I think, “No! I am not ready! I could go to school for three more years and not be ready!” It just goes to show you how complex a job teaching truly is, and that having your B.Ed. only begins to prepare you for being an educator; you do so much more learning when you actually ARE a teacher.

So while I may still have so many questions and things I want to learn (especially with my three week block coming up – countdown is at 11 days!), I am in one of the best professions to continue to be a lifelong learner alongside my students.

Until next time,

-KKF

blast from the past

I was clicking through my blog today and found myself wishing I had something to write about. Then, this little tidbit just happened to fall into my lap. And here I am, in my glory, blogging. Happy to be back!

My sister is in her Grade 12 year and is hoping to also come to the University of Regina to take Elementary Education (she has good taste, don’t you think?). She is starting to think about university applications and has asked me for some guidance through the process, as I have actually experienced this before (albeit a few years ago – wow, they flew by!).

These events in her life got me thinking back to when I applied into the Faculty of Education and the application I submitted. I distinctly remember there being a section of the application that was more of an essay style and I answered the question of what qualities a good teacher possessed. A quick search into the archives of my computer’s documents unearthed this… (please excuse my Grade 12 self’s omission of the Oxford comma – cringe!)

What makes a good teacher: what are the skills, traits and characteristics possessed by a good teacher and why these?

The traits that one must possess in order to be a good teacher seem rather obvious, don’t they? Ask a Grade one student and they can easily tell you that teachers need to be patient, kind and helpful. Even though they are young, that student would be 100% right. Everyone knows that teachers require organization, creativity and a love for kids. However, instead of these more obvious characteristics, I will go over some less often thought of attributes.

Teachers need to be adaptable. Every student has their own way of learning and if a teacher is open to trying new techniques, they can ensure they are meeting every student’s needs. Not only do teachers need to be flexible regarding their lessons, they have to be able to fill different roles. Depending on the situation, a teacher may have to play the part of a friend, disciplinarian, nurse, referee, janitor or entertainer. A good teacher is not just a teacher. 

Kids need their learning environments to not only be educational, but also creative and fun. This is why teachers need to be a child at heart. Besides allowing them to relate to their students, it is the key to being able to keep up with the nonstop activity of an elementary classroom. An energetic and ambitious teacher has the ability to inspire a classroom full of students to have a lifelong positive attitude towards education. 

Teachers must have appreciation of ‘the little things.’ To most people, a crayon drawing isn’t anything spectacular, but in the eyes of a teacher, it shows potential and imagination. Teachers praise students every little step of the way. The joy of a moment when a student finally grasps a new concept is unlike any other.

 Perhaps the quality I admire most, however, is the genuine passion that teachers have for not only their craft, but also for the students that they are involved with every day. The teachers that stand out most in my mind are those who truly care about their students. This is the kind of teacher that I strive to be one day.

I have learned so much during my time at the University of Regina, and I often forget exactly what I thought it meant to be a  teacher at the beginning of my degree. This little peek into my pre-university opinions of education are quite a little treat! If I had to rewrite this essay today, I’m sure it would include some education jargon and qualities like equitable, inclusive, and accepting of diversity. But the merit of what I wrote 3 years ago (THREE?!?! THREE!!!) cannot be overlooked, either. I still think it is true that good teachers should be adaptable (to student learning styles and abilities – differentiation, differentiation, differentiation! See what I mean about education jargon?), children at heart, appreciative of little things, and passionate.

As I continue to transform into a professional (especially during my pre-internship year), I think it is still important to keep in mind what students think about educators. As a student who had a dream of being a teacher, this is what I thought was vital to success. So what do you think students will be thinking about when they are sizing you up as a teacher? Certainly not your ability to hit all of the curriculum’s indicators! They will be happy to know that you appreciate their work and can get down on their level and just have fun. Something to keep in mind 🙂

-KKF