medicine wheel patterns = huge hit

Updates: I just finished my 8th week with the students. I currently teach from the beginning of the morning until recess (9-10:20), put out invitations for centre time (11:10-11:40), cover Book Look/Word of the Day and Math (12:45-1:45 ish) and do end of the day/library routines (2:45-3:30). Next week, I pick up Phys Ed (1:45-2:30) and the week after, I start my 3 week block of full time teaching.

Here are some of the highlights from my week:

Treaty Ed = loving it!

My Treaty Ed infused lessons have been my absolute favourite so far in my internship (which makes me even more excited to attend the Treaty Ed Camp in Regina on November 7th – check out the event and register here). Both of my lessons (on Promises and the Medicine Wheel) turned out to be not only my best lessons content-wise but the students also loved them! This week, we learned about the Medicine Wheel and its four quadrants. We then placed the four elements, four seasons, and four stages of life into the correct quadrant. Then we made a Medicine Wheel with our bodies (and some coloured sweaters) and stood up/sat down as our quadrant’s season, colour, stage of life, or element was said. This lesson was so cool and the students were so engaged and into it – they really soaked up the Medicine Wheel quadrants and teachings!

We learned that the four quadrants can stand for the four seasons, the four elements, and the four stages of life (among other things!).

We learned that the four quadrants can stand for the four seasons, the four elements, and the four stages of life (among other things!).

We made a Medicine Wheel with our classmates! When I called one quadrant's colour, season, element, or stage of life, they stood up! This made a pattern.

We made a Medicine Wheel with our classmates! When I called one quadrant’s colour, season, element, or stage of life, they stood up! This made a pattern.

Phys Ed = such a struggle for me

Next week, I pick up Phys Ed full time and, if I am being completely honest, this is definitely a worry for me. I find Phys Ed to be the hardest subject area to manage (and unlike the older grades, we have it slotted in every single day – which is great for this age group but difficult for me). I know lots of teachers just see Phys Ed as ‘filler’ time and they don’t really look at the curriculum, but this is a goal of mine. I will be doing the manipulative skills unit on sending and receiving, and am excited, but nervous. I think this will definitely be a growth area for my 3 week block and I hope to have my cooperating teacher in during this time to observe me and offer tips for success. The redeeming thing about Phys Ed, however, is that the kids love this time of the day no matter what we do, so at least they will be excited and engaged (sometimes they are just a little bit TOO excited).

EYE testing = time off of teaching

I have finished up the daunting task of EYE tests this week – hooray! The scores are ready to input. Doing this testing gave me some time off of teaching the whole class and to spend one-on-one time with students. However, I found that it definitely made my day feel longer. I really do love being in the classroom with the whole group dynamic of a classroom. I understand that one-on-one testing is part of a teacher’s job description, but I wouldn’t say that it is my favourite. It seems so much more drawn out and stilted than the fast pace of classroom goings-on.

Disruptive students = I want to help, but don’t know what to do

Last week, I was feeling strong and on top of the world, teaching wise. This week felt like much more of a struggle. I think it is partially because I am picking up classes and noticing how much harder it is to handle the students for an entire day, rather than one hour. Also, I hope that this is because my pedagogy has improved and I am, thus, harder on myself and more critical/expect more.

I am feeling especially frustrated at the end of the day with one group of students, as one in particular ends up sitting apart from the class during some portions of the day since he cannot participate in group instruction at the Story Corner without disrupting the learning of others. I discussed this with my coop teacher, and she reassured me that this is an acceptable action for this student (she does this herself), as he is not learning when he is disruptive, and neither are his classmates around him, so it is just better to remove him from the group. However, this really goes against my teaching philosophy and I feel that I should be doing more to help this student be successful during group instructional time. I am additionally frustrated for my students who are doing what is asked and are wanting and ready to learn but can’t because I have to spend so much energy disciplining and attempting to manage this little learner. To attempt to aid this problem, I have brainstormed a list of possible solutions and strategies to help this student be more successful in the coming weeks – fingers crossed!

Outdoor Explorations = chaotic, but meaningful, learning

Also this week, I did another Treaty Ed/Math lesson where students went outside to gather natural materials to make patterns with. I was so nervous to take my students outside (as we had a sub that day, and she encouraged me to take the students out on my own); at first, I did head counts about every 30 seconds to make sure no one would wander off. I was thoroughly impressed by my students, though. It turns out I had nothing to worry about. They were excited and eager to gather materials. We ended up collecting rocks, sticks, leaves, pinecones, and a few too many ladybugs got into the mix as well. Here are some pictures of my little nature explorers:

Rocks were a popular (and heavy) natural item.

Rocks were a popular (and heavy) natural item.

Picking some grass and green plants growing near the fence.

Picking some grass and green plants growing near the fence.

Getting dressed and undressed to go outside didn't take nearly as long as I originally thought!

Getting dressed and undressed to go outside didn’t take nearly as long as I originally thought!

Making patterns

Making patterns

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Some students liked their nature patterns so much, they asked to take them home in their Ziploc bags. I was thrilled. We also briefly touched on the HCK outcome in Treaty Ed by talking about how we use natural items to suit our needs and how First Nations people thank nature whenever they take something (ex. by leaving tobacco, a special plant, behind). I asked the class how we could possibly say “Thank You” to nature for letting us take some of its items for our use, and one student suggested we leave behind something of ours that is very special to us – how sweet! We ended up just whispering “Thank You” as we picked something up that we liked. I definitely could have gone deeper into this part of the lesson, but students were already afternoon-antsy and wanting to get outside, so we skimmed over this portion of the lesson more than I would have liked. Hopefully we can touch on this again in the future.

Faculty Advisor visits = participation rather than observation

My faculty advisor came for her second visit this week, which went well I am happy to say! I was especially tickled when she asked to participate in my lesson rather than sitting at the back of the room, disengaged and taking notes. I think that this is such a benefit for her, as so much of the learning in Kindergarten is happening through playing and exploring, not just lecture and teacher instruction. It makes me feel like I am doing a good job of making an engaging classroom when she wants to participate in the lesson alongside the students – which is what Kindergarten is really all about!

Week 8, I am both relieved and saddened that you are over. Here’s to an even better Week #9!

-KKF

Oh, P.S., we also painted lady bug rocks this week (which was a fun, yet super hectic experience for me to manage!). They turned out very cute and were part of an emergent curriculum/inquiry project we did after students found lady bugs outside and were fascinated. Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 7.31.37 PM

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earning my spots as a future educator: my journey through ECS 210

For this digital storytelling assignment, I decided to take a children’s book approach, with myself being played by the lovely leopard Leerder in the story. I created the pages of my story on a website called StoryBird, took screenshots of the pages on my computer, and added audio voice overs and music to the images in iMovie. I am a huge fan of YouTube, and this is my first original video on my channel. I hope you enjoy coming along on my journey with me!

building my PLN

PLN

This post is Assignment 2 – Part 3 for ECS 210

Besides being about the many types of curriculum and the implementation of anti-oppressive teaching strategies, ECS 210 focused a lot on the construction of both a positive online identity and a Professional Learning Network (or PLN) through both Twitter and a blog.

While I did have both of these outlets set up in a professional context before this class, I find that my skills with these technological tools, my interactions with others through these mediums, and my realization of the responsibility I have to communicate with my colleagues and followers has grown tremendously over the course of the last few months.

This post is going to highlight some of the experiences and knowledge that I have gained throughout this journey of professionalism.

Just a few stats to start off (these were recorded from January 13-March 17):

Since ECS 210 started, I have:

  • followed 91 new people on Twitter and gained 68 new followers
  • tweeted 177 times (66 of which were either about ECS 210, an interaction with a classmate, or a retweet/response to post from a classmate)
  • used the hashtag #ECS210 27 times
  • followed 29 new blogs on WordPress and gained 23 new followers on my blog
  • gotten 25 new comments on my blog posts and commented on others’ blogs

This just goes to show you how much your PLN can grow in such a small amount of time!

The following section is comprised of screenshots of some of my most memorable interactions with others in the past few months…

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Here (above) is a comment that I wrote on thinkbannedthoughts‘ blog in response to an article that connected to my Inquiry Project (also an assignment for this class). The response I got is below; I was very excited to have challenged someone else’s thinking to the point that they even did some research to back up their opinion. To me, that is the goal of blog comments – to create a reciprocal atmosphere of critical thinking.

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Below, a post by TerryTutors ended up relating to a classmate’s tweet about supporting grieving students in our classrooms (an event that, unfortunately, is a part of life but something we often fail to think about). I ended up being able to give that classmate (@CassHanley) a resource that answered her query, which felt really good. It was also fascinating to see how many links I was finding between my Twitter and WordPress accounts.

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skitch_iphoto.export.skitch

And here is another example of a WordPress referral that I made  to another classmate (@ItsJ02) via Twitter… I am still constantly in awe of how many useful resources and intriguing people that can be utilized by educators. It is very comforting to know that if you are ever having trouble, asking questions, or planning lessons, there is probably something out there that can help you achieve what you want.

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One of the interactions I was most excited about – and most proud of – was with Alec Couros, the resident technological and social media guru in the Faculty of Education. I noticed that I had many new followers after being mentioned in a few of his tweets via our ‘Twitter-sation.’

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(To any Education-related Twitter users out there, I highly recommend that you follow @courosa, as he is an expert and always tweets great stuff!) To have my blog and Twitter profiles (which I refined as a result of this class) complimented by someone who is very well versed in that respect was such an amazing feeling. Life lesson learned: if you go to a PD event, follow the presenter’s advice, because you never know how it may help you down the road. It also pays a huge compliment to them that you listened to their tips and actually applied them to your practice.

Most of all, I really enjoyed having a course hashtag to constantly be checking for new resources, food for thought, and inspiration. I predict (and hope, for future Education students’ benefit) that all Education classes will have Twitter hashtags in the future. It is such an easy and interactive way to connect with your classmates, especially when you have such a big lecture and only get to know a small portion of your classmates personally in the smaller seminars. You can end up making a professional relationship with someone who you may never get the chance to see in person. Eriko (this is her blog and her Twitter address is linked later on) and I interacted back and forth many times throughout this course, on both Twitter and WordPress.  It is very rewarding to have certain ‘critical friends’ that you know are going to read your posts and give honest, constructive feedback (and you do the same for them).

The following is a final example of how one tweet of mine allowed me to connect with several other ECS 210  students (@karidavis8, @karae_danielle, and @CloeAllard) through #ECS210.

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(Here is a link to the quiz we are referring to, if you are curious)

During my blogging this semester, I have become more aware of giving due credit to anyone that I mention (hence the links that are sprinkled all throughout this post), and there is really no excuse not to link to someone else’s blog or Twitter when WordPress makes it so easy (and strangely fun – just me?) to embed links into your text.  My post ‘improving professional communication‘ (February 24th) was inspired by a tweet from a fellow classmate (@parker3e), and I made sure to let her know through Twitter that I had mentioned her in my post, as well as adding links for my readers to follow her in my actual post. I did the same with my post ‘news awareness, gender equity, and music’s influence – oh my!‘ (March 2nd), but this time I was referring readers to the social media outlets of my instructor (@jmachnaik).

In regards to my previous posts (the two mentioned and linked above) about professional goals, I have been following up! I’ve been trying extra hard to truly listen when someone else is speaking and take in what they are saying. After they are finished, I give myself time to think and respond thoughtfully. Also, I have been checking my news apps fairly often (I am being kept on the edge of my seat with both the happenings in Ukraine/Russia and the missing Malaysian airplane). I currently have five news apps on my phone:

  • CNN
  • NewsFlash
  • Newsify
  • Globe News
  • News360

So far, I’m using CNN most often, and I really like that it shows breaking news updates on my lock screen, but doesn’t clog up the corner of the app icon with notifications.

Two assignments in this class also pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to experiment with two new online tools – StoryBird and Wikispaces. Though it was a bit frustrating at times when my inexperience meant not knowing how to accomplish a task, I actually really enjoyed both of these sites! They have become two more resources to add to my technological repertoire and I would highly recommend them to all educators.

A final warm, fuzzy moment for me was when my blog was pointed out during my seminar and my instructor had me teach other classmates how to add Widgets to their blogs. It was lovely to know that viewers appreciated my blog and thought that I had something to offer. I know that some of my peers have had a hard time getting used to tweeting and blogging and, although I cannot personally understand their struggles because I love tweeting and blogging so much, I try my best to share tips that may help them dive into technology as a means of presenting themselves as a professional online and enjoy it as much as I do.

In closing, I now have so many more ‘tools in my educational toolbox,’ in the form of colleagues, resources, and knowledge. My growing professional identity and engagement with others’ content has created numerous learning experiences and moments of critical personal reflection over the past few months. My learning as a result of ECS 210 has encouraged me to keep experimenting with new technology that can be used in the classroom and my own professional practice, periodically revise my professional goals,  and continue challenging my ideas regarding education so that I can grow into a critical and reflective educator.

 

someone explain this to me

standardized testRegarding the issue of standardized testing, I am honestly confused. Obviously at some point in the past, someone thought it was a brilliant idea. But in light of the countless real-life horror stories and studies about standardized testing that prove their detriment to students, I am unsure of how anyone who advocates for standardized testing is still around and can actually validate their side of the argument (though I’d be interested in hearing some substantiation of that position).

Personally, I see no benefits to this method of testing, and I am fairly certain that almost all educators and those well-versed on the matter would agree. So why are standardized tests even still being debated as a viable option for finding out how students are doing in school?

Standardized tests throw equity, individualization, differentiation, multiple intelligences, anti-oppressive education, creativity, multicultural learning, and critical thinking (so basically all of the educational foundations that I have learned in my program so far) out the window in exchange for an identical test (written by people who have most likely never met the students who will be taking it) that is handed out to vastly unique students with very different needs, which tests them on arguably irrelevant information that is to be memorized and regurgitated.

In regards to using standardized tests as a measure of accountability for teachers, I also see this as a huge failure. This is completely defeating the purpose of the teaching profession. Teachers should not be accountable for drilling information into their students’ heads, but rather on how well they feed their students’ minds and curiosities, and foster a joy of lifelong learning (which standardized testing does NOT do). Forcing teachers to cover material that is not of their choosing, only because their students will be evaluated on it later seems very backwards and is completely against my beliefs. We should never teach something simply for the sake of evaluating how well students retained the information, but to actually grant students with a useful life skill. Also, the misconception that all learned knowledge can or should be tested is also extremely flawed. In this day and age, only assessing through tests has no excuse, when so many other methods of evaluation exist and are more equitable.

I would also argue that the type of students that standardized tests seek to create (mindless memorizers that only focus on the facts, not why they actually matter) have less worth as members of society than engaged, socially responsible, creative, critical thinkers. When heading into the workforce or interacting with those around you, your value cannot be encapsulated on mere paper. We are human beings, not bubbles on a page. We are people, made up of personalities and experiences, memories and emotions. And by enforcing standardized testing, we are taking away that personal, deeply intimate, human connection aspect from the learning process and our students. Students should not be treated as numbers on a page; they are living beings with limitless potential, and I think THAT is how they should be treated.

In summary, from a future teacher’s perspective, I truly don’t see how standardized tests can still be viewed as a just method of assessing students, an efficient use of highly trained teachers’ time, or a fulfillment of educational goals as a whole.

-KKF

 

a hard pill to swallow

You know you are an Education student when the things you learn in your classes trickle into your everyday life and, no matter how hard you try, you cannot stop critically viewing the world in a different way than before. Talking about differentiated instruction and meeting all students’ needs, no matter how diverse, definitely played a big part in how I reacted today.

Since I am a firm believer in learning from my mistakes, I thought I would share this half-failure, half-success story with all of you. Honesty is modesty.

Today, I headed into my In-School Mentoring like I do every week. It was just another day, getting to spend an hour with an energetic, happy-go-lucky, easy going Grade 5 student. Contrary to my plans, though, things went a bit awry.

In true teacher fashion, I usually prepare a list of activities that will fill more than the allotted 60 minutes, just in case. Usually, my mentee likes to draw, so I decided that we could do pointillism pictures (and felt confident that that would take up a fair amount of time, as they are a fairly time-consuming medium).

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My mentee had no complaints about this, and we set to work on our creations. About five minutes in, however (when all I had managed to draw was a line of waves across my page), my mentee was finished an entire picture, as his personal spin on pointillism was not to cover the entire page with close-fitting dots (like in the picture above), but to make a more spread-out style. I began to feel slightly uneasy at this point, as I thought that these pictures would take at least half an hour or so. I asked my mentee to create another pointillism picture, and challenged him to try a more detailed drawing this time. This was clearly not interesting him, though, so I ended up suggesting a different, impromptu activity: 3D hand drawings.

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I hoped that this would be more interesting for my mentee, but it was to no avail. As soon as my mentee made a small error in his drawing, he completely closed himself off and wouldn’t say a word (which I had NEVER seen him do before – he is the most talkative, ambitious, fun loving kid). This is when I really started to panic. I knew that I would have to think on my feet and change my plans FAST to turn this session around. We ended up spending the rest of the hour (which was another gruelling 30 minutes of me grasping at straws to keep my mentee entertained and responsive) playing a table game with cereal box goals and crumpled up paper balls/pucks. Thankfully, he kicked my butt in this activity, which really helped to boost his spirits and re-energize him, and I think that we ended on a good note.

I can’t help but feeling that I let him down in the first half of our time together, though. I was perfectly content to do my pointillism and 3D hand drawings, and was secretly hoping my mentee would enjoy these activities too and spend enough time on them so that I could finish my drawings. I’m glad that I realized things were going off the rails when I did, and that I averted a crisis that would have been more difficult to fix had I waited a bit longer, but I can’t help feel disheartened, as I have never seen that response from him before.

This truly was a great learning experience for me, though. As teachers, it is our job to identify which methods are working for our students, which methods aren’t working, and ways that we can adapt things so that they DO work. It is scary for me (a meticulous planner and organizer) to have to improvise and utilize my ‘quick thinking’ skills, but it is also fulfilling to succeed at something so far out of my comfort zone.

I do also realize that, as a teacher, every day students may come into your classroom in a bad mood or mindset because of something that happened at home that morning or on the playground with their peers. There are a lot of outside factors we cannot control, so we simply have to do our best to make things as smooth and bearable as possible. At the end of the day, we can’t beat ourselves up over what went wrong; we have to realize what went right and plan a way for things to be improved for next time.

An optimist through and through, I am choosing to congratulate myself for handling the situation the best way I knew how and finding a way to lift my mentee’s spirits. While potential failure for a perfectionist like me is a hard pill to swallow, the side effect is a realization that education isn’t about being perfect, but working hard to become the best teacher possible and viewing each mistake as an opportunity to learn.

technique doesn’t make a teacher

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This is the image that many people will automatically think of when they hear ‘teacher.’ But is standing at the front of the classroom, lesson plan in hand really capturing the breadth and depth of the teaching profession?

This week, I read an article (I included the link at bottom of this post) by Parker J. Palmer titled “The Heart of a Teacher.” Although this piece had many memorable messages, the one phrase that I connected most with was:

“good teaching cannot be reduced to technique”

As my peers and I are now approaching the end of our second year (and therefore, the halfway point in completing our degree), I feel that there is a slowly rising panic inside of many of us because we have not had very much explicit instruction or practice regarding how to lesson plan or actually teach a class.

This quote really made me rethink the imminent importance of learning these things. You can have the best lesson plan in the world, but will it truly matter or make a difference if you don’t know how to incorporate social justice and anti-oppressive practices into your teaching practice? Are you actually fulfilling your job as an educator by merely planning activities for children to learn from if they are never relevant to students’ lives and real world issues?

So, to my fellow future teachers: take a deep breath and realize the merit of the strong foundation being built for us. We are challenging and reshaping our personal beliefs and ideas about teaching; we are understanding the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion in our practice; we are questioning the constructed ideas of students, teachers, classrooms, and schools that our experiences as students have created and perpetuated.

When we came into this program, perhaps we viewed lesson planning and organization of learning experiences as the sole duty of a teacher, but I think now we all realize that our future careers are much more complex than we may have originally believed. Rather than worrying about when we are going to learn the ins and outs of managing our own classrooms, focus on what’s important about what we are learning right now and what we have already learned in the program. I think that a teacher who is in tune with their inner values has already mastered a large portion of being a successful educator. All the rest will come with experience (which, don’t worry, we will get A LOT of in our next two years as pre-interns and interns).

For now, just enjoy the journey – and don’t forget to look back at how far you’ve already come.

-KKF

http://www.couragerenewal.org/parker/writings/heart-of-a-teacher

news awareness, gender equity, and music’s influence – oh my!

Over the past few days, a few things have come to the attention that I thought would be worthy of sharing with all of you:

News Awareness This one is a personal development target for myself. I have never been one who turns on the the news on TV to catch up with national and global happenings, mostly because I find the news to be very disheartening, monotonous, and skewed in its representation of different perspectives. However, I have realized recently that, as a teacher, I have a responsibility to keep up with important current events that my students may have been hearing about and have questions about that we can address as a class. As of now, if a student came up to me and asked, “Teacher, what’s happening in Ukraine?” I would have no way to answer them. That is not what I want for my future classroom. So I have perused the App Store on my phone and downloaded a handful of news apps that I am trying out in order to spark myself to get with the times and avoid future embarrassment over my obliviousness to recent news stories. I’ll let you know which ones I have found most helpful after I have given them all a fair shot!

Gender Equity In my ECS 210 class, groups of us are doing Inquiry Projects on a topic of our choice, and mine is “Gender Equity.” My instructor (check out her blog and Twitter account!) lent our group a couple of textbooks to pull ideas from, and I found one particularly insightful: “Rethinking Early Childhood Education” (by Rethinking Schools, Ed. Pelo, 2008).

Image (this is what the book looks like)

Here are just a few of the points that I gleaned from my short time reading:

  • Science kits in toy stores had NO female figures (girls or women) on the boxes –> What does this say about our society’s beliefs about girls’ interests and capabilities?
  • The word ‘tomboy’ makes a girl into a boy, simply because she doesn’t act in a stereotypically associated ‘girly’ way –> just because of her actions, she can no longer retain her identity as a girl? Is it, then, abnormal for girls to be ‘tomboys’? And what could be a possible alternative for this word ‘tomboy’? I’d argue that she is a girl just as much as her female classmate dressing up as a princess, wouldn’t you?
  • Game Boys have a similar effect –> Does this mean girls can’t play with them? Do you think a video game console today would be named something similar that rejects one gender? Is this just an innocent mistake, or does it have deeper repercussions?
  • The children’s story “The Three Little Pigs” creates a hierarchy of living spaces. Houses made of straw or sticks are significantly symbolized as ‘less than’ those of bricks, when people in other countries live in these types of ‘lesser’ homes. –> Yes, this one isn’t related to gender, but I found myself so taken aback that I just had to include it. It makes me wonder what other, hidden messages we are portraying to children in classic fairy tales and fables…
  • Something that I realized as a result of this lens of gender… There have been types of Lego that are specifically advertised towards girls because they have pink and purple pieces and all the sorts of things that little girls will (presumably) like. Aren’t these blatantly ‘girly’ toys just perpetuating these stereotypes, though? Why can’t girls play with normal Lego? This is creating the idea that girls can’t use boys’ toys and must have their own, separate, girly-fied versions. I see no reason for boys to have superhero dolls to nurture or girls to have frilly Lego to build princess castles with. I don’t think we need to change the nature of the toy in order to try and market it towards a certain audience.

girl lego

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music’s Profound Influence While listening to an “Epic Film Scores” playlist on my Songza app (which I HIGHLY recommend that everyone download!), I could easily recognize which movies certain tunes came from – sometimes within just a few bars. As a huge lover and advocate of music, I enjoyed this simple reinforcement of how easily music sticks with us and embeds itself into our memories – often infused with a deep, emotional connection. This is the driving force behind my firm belief in using music daily in my future classroom – if a song I sing in a Grade 1 class can be recognized fifteen years later when my students are in high school because of something they learned from it, or the way it made them feel, then I am definitely doing my job right. Music is such a powerful force, why not harness it for learning?

Thanks for reading! Until next time,

-KKF