Tag Archives: Learning

Reflections with my Grade 10 students

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In May when I received my classes for the 2014-2015 school year, my heart sunk a little because I was assigned a Grade 10 ELA class and I had been spoiled with Grade 12’s and 11’s for the past few years.

It had been a couple of years since I had Grade 10s, and as I recalled, they were challenging.  My 17 years of teaching had taught me that Grade 10s were often irreverent, lazy, and more concerned with their social game-playing than learning.

Yet, being the emotional creature that I am, I have always connected well with these woebegone, ruckus-rising creatures that emerge in the classes of Grade 10.  So, I pulled up my big girl pants and prepared for the roller-coaster of Grade 10s.

Alas, these 10’s have become the most beautiful class as a collective that I’ve ever taught in all my 17 years.  I always fall in love with my students and my classes, but this group was the heart of teaching for me.  It was like playing with puppies, everyday: I’d hold the stick of learning and their eager tails would wag and they’d bark in delight with every task and skill we’d learn.  Yes, they were easily excitable, but always respectful to me, to the learning, to the environment, to each other, and to themselves.  They were a beautiful class that brought out the excellence in learning for all of us.  They created the world of Ubuntu that I’ve so sought to build in my classes.

On days when they were away on field trip and my day would gain a prep, I would miss their energy.  Each student – just like all students I have the privilege to love and teach – is extremely special, but what made them unforgettable and life transformative for me was who they were as we came together.  We became a family.  It doesn’t seem right that our semester came to a close and that our family doesn’t get to come together daily.

I miss them dearly.  But I treasure the love they continue to sprinkle through our halls and I feel honoured for their continued visits and hugs.   They embody my motto of LAUGH, LOVE, LEARN and I will hold the hope that fate will bring us all together again in the next two years of their journey.

Recreating this world – this Ubuntu – is a practice that I hope to explore, start anew, and resurrect with my Grade 12 students this coming semester.  Having 3 groups of ELA 30-1 Diploma courses is a challenge, but I feel the ties of Ubuntu beginning to knit us together.  May our journey this semester be as magical as the journey I had with the 10s.

The following quotes I gathered from their final blog posts about being a reader, writer, and learner: http://hunniblog10.edublogs.org/

“…my journey as a learner, reader, and writer this year has particularly allowed me to understand the importance of consistency and hard work. … Through this growth, I have also realized my passion for learning, reading, and writing through which I am able to grow in knowledge and wisdom about myself and the world around me.” Carolin – Grade 10

“Ms. Hunnisett has helped me find my voice when it comes to writing, and taught me the importance of reading, … She’s taught me that even the simplest pieces have deeper meaning and many stories of their own to tell. Words can’t describe how much she has changed my way of thinking, because of her my perception of life has become so much more positive…” – Roshni – Grade 10

“The first day of L.A, I had no idea who was in my class and I was forced to choose a spot to sit. Thankfully, as the week progressed, three amazing individuals that I had the privilege to be friends with, showed up and we were all able to create a dynamic group of fun. Sitting in my group of four for the very last time was definitely a difficult thing to do but when I observed the faces of the three people around me, I realized that without them I definitely would not have progressed as an individual and I would still be a very reserved student. As we slowly began to grow in that classroom, it became terrifying, but knowing that you would always have a shoulder to lean on if it got too overwhelming, really softened the blow of growing up. Hand in hand, we got to face these challenges together and I am very thankful for that.” Sidra – Grade 10

“Being part of our amazing class has really pushed me to strive to achieve for more and help those around me. … Looking back over this semester, I wish that it had lasted longer, so that we could all stay together, but unfortunately it has come to an end. … we have all learnt something and improved both our reading and learning habits in one way or another. I will always remember the fun ‘adventures’ we had in our class.” – Madhav – Grade 10

“Within these blogs a community of writers was created, a community who supported and built off of one another’s passion. Within the hour and a half classes we made a community of learning and knowledge, but as well created memories. Within the teachings of Ms. Hunnisett, we created a class into a family. I believe that each and every individual was a piece of our classes identity, if we took away anyone we wouldn’t be the class we are today.” – Alisha – Grade 10

“…keeping a journal that we wrote in the beginning of the class was something that largely assisted in my growth, sparking certain ideas or concepts that I did use afterward in the semester. Writing blogs was another thing that at first seemed unnecessary, however I slowly came to 607baeabf469bb70e831540be8c1f72erealize how they were indeed inspiring me and helping me to improve my writing.” Ishmeet – Grade 10

“I sincerely hope to grow as a learner, reader and writer through the years that follow, but above all I yearn the desire of having Mrs. Hunnisett as a teacher again. I have profoundly learned this year from writing essays to performing plays; boosting my inner esteem and allowing me to paint that picture that lay beyond the window. Obviously, that painting will become more vibrant in the years to come, but for that I must read more and write more to escape my inner emotions so I can paint that picture in a poetic manner.” – Mah Noor – Grade 10

“As a reader, this year I feel that I have definitely improved a lot. As of this year, I have read approximately six to seven books in the few months of this course. Therefore, I read approximately one book a month. I feel that this is evidently better than what I have read last year, when I barely spared enough time for myself to read. This year, I was also able to learn that it is very important for a person to continue reading so that they can always have a chance to improve their writing. The more a person reads, the better their writing gets.” – Suchismita – Grade 10

“I’ve always been a fairly opinionated person, wanting to have people listen to what I have to say and actually understand and pay attention, something that can be hard as a teenager. When writing, now I can see that it’s a good way to do just that. The blogging has influenced that significantly as well … It allowed me to try something new and it acted as a good outlet for me to write how I desired to with a clear purpose of simply expressing my feelings on certain subjects. … I feel as though I’ve matured as a writer and even though I still don’t necessarily like doing it because of the hassle, I most certainly have grown to appreciate the art of writing.” – Paula – Grade 10

“One of the most important things that I’ve achieved from this class is wanting to read. I hated reading. but last year when I read Of Mice and MenI thought of reading more, but throughout the year I never actually got to find another book that I enjoyed. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite novels and that was my ” Aha” for wanting to read more which is a goal for 2015 for me.”  Gavin – Grade 10

“By the end of this semester not only did I gain confidence in my writing skills but I gained reassurance knowing that my voice was finally being heard, recognized, appreciated and related to. …coming to grade ten where reading was expected was a shock, but one that I welcomed as a challenge. …As a learner so far this year I have gained more self-confidence that success is possible for me and that I can contribute to the learning community because my opinion is valued and realistic.” Cayleigh – Grade 10

“I love writing personal, and I love reading personal pieces. You see a whole new side of that person that you didn’t see before, and maybe you can even connect with them because of that experience. Writing personal pieces can be hard because you’re showing vulnerability to an extent, and I guess that’s why I admire personal writing so much because you see that rawness in another person and I appreciate when someone shows vulnerability or rawness. … I knew this classroom would be a place of happiness, love and care. I grew closer to people who I thought I wouldn’t even have a relationship with, and I’ve created many new friendships because of this class. ” Daania – Grade 10

“I have never felt so proud of myself while doing a specific course.  I have learned so much in this short time about poems , short stories, and so much more. I have learned about how people can transform a catastrophe into something so beautiful in words.” Asna – Grade 10

 

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A Year to Create, Explore, and Expand

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explore-dream-discover-mark-twain-picture-quote

My title owes complete homage to an inspirational blog post that stirred my imagination at 10:30am on New Year’s Day – a post that instantly spun my world and gave clarity of purpose to my new year – my 2014!  This post is a must read: 50 Ways to Find Inspiration: Create, Explore, Expand at Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives.  inspiration-create-explore-26868877

I guess my whole life’s mantra has been to “Create, Explore, and Expand” as there is a wind in my spirit that craves to be in the world, to experience and learn in awe from the stories of its people and its places. This blog post and list reminds me to live mindfully and engaged while fanning the embers of my inspiration, my curiosity, and my creativity! For 2014 I will do everything on this list; most I do every year at some point, but I like the challenge of doing so with intention and love doing so while adventuring abroad in Argentina.

The blog begins with this quotation: “If we look at the world with a love of life, the world will reveal its beauty to us.” ~Daisaku Ikeda.  The list in the blog categorizes sources of inspiration in nature, on the web, in possibilities, in people, and in yourself.  Here are a few favourites in each category:

  • In Nature: Take a camera outside and photograph everything that looks beautiful to you.
  • On the Web: Watch a TED video to learn about inspiring ideas.
  • In Possibilities: Try something you’ve always assumed you can’t do but secretly wanted to try.
  • In People: Spend time with children and see the world through their eyes.
  • In Yourself: Try something new and revel in the sensation of stretching beyond your comfort zone.
Costanera

Costanera in Santa Fe, Argentina

I am contemplative of all possibilities as my journeying of the horizon nears.  This February brings a respite as our lil’ family of four moves to live, for nearly six months, in Santa Fe, Argentina.  This journey allows me and my family so many opportunities to find inspirations to create, explore, and expand – to mindfully live a life of opportunity, dreams, and learning.

My husband – Cristian (who is from Santa Fe) –  is on sabbatical from teaching math at the University of Calgary, so his journey will be about researching, writing his papers, working at the University in Santa Fe alongside his professors and peers, and joyously being with his extended family and friends.  He both revels in the joy of us living near family and learning spanish, but he also worries about all the issues of safety and finances that come with such an endeavour.  Yet, he shares my enthusiasm for this change of pace and the opportunities that abound.  He is my soulmate!

My children, Luca(10) and Tulia(9), are so excited for our journey to begin.  They just get it!  DSCN5380They are willing enthusiasts of this opportunity – a spirited energy that is a constant source of inspiration.  They look forward to being with their Argentina family, living in constant warmth with a pool, the giant slide in the park (tee hee – their favourite memory – kids!), but most of all they are so excited to get to go to school at Nivel Primario – Universidad Nacional del Litoral and learn Spanish – it offers a half day of classes in English and a half day of classes in Spanish! I, too, will be an eager student to learn the romantic language of Spanish beyond my fragmented Spanglish – so this will be a co-journey where they will likely be teaching me!   They are so brave and filled with curiosity – this, too, inspires me to live without fear!  At that age I would have been paralyzed by fear to have my parents send me to a foreign school in another language, fear of being “foreign”, fear of failing.  Obviously, those fears have subsided in my adult self – so I admire their youthful positivity and energy.  The purpose of life is to live itOf course, they are not jumping into the unknown – they’ve been to Argentina many times, they LOVE our family there, and they have visited the school they get to attend. They are also excited to become bloggers – reporting their adventures and learning to their classmates in Calgary, their friends, and their family – plus they are excited to become “travel writers” as children with a – hopefully – world wide audience.  Luca’s writing will be found at Write Away Luca , and Tulia’s reporting (she likes the idea of being a reporter) will be found at Write Away Tulia.  We got them set up in the fall and I worked with them for a first post, but we’ll engage with this as we begin our journey.

imagination_by_archannFor the romantic side in me, my journey is filled with so much hope, reflection, and exploration.  Blogging will be the central axis for most of my goals and purposes.  I am so enthusiastic to do the blogging with my children, and even my husband is interested.  We will be a family of bloggers whereby I’ll be using a “hub and spoke” approach that interlinks all our blogs via Edublogs (the same platform I use for class blogs and powered by WordPress), and keeps me in control (for safety) of my children’s blogging.   For my “travel writing” experience of living as a Canadian ex-pat in the centre of Argentina, I’ll keep a separate blog from thehunni blog – it is called Write Away Hunni .  0703_writing_cogThis is the blog space where my life experiences will be ruminating, rummaging, and reflecting on all the wonders, curiosities, and challenges of living abroad in a foreign space and culture.  I LOVE travel and Argentina – I am compelled to capture and share it this time with an audience.

The teacher side in me is compelled to delve into digital citizenship and educational technology with my own children – to really learn about all the possibilities of blogging from an elementary to high school perspective (see the side bar to explore my high school class blogs in the Blogroll).  So, I guess you can say this is self-declared  Action Research project for me.  My children are happy to be my lil’ guinea pigs (or so I keep reminding them)!

blogging journey

Further to this personal writing journey, I will be looking at achieving professional writing too.  First of all, this blog – thehunni: Blogging Beside My Students – will be a continuous space where I’ll write as a learner, a teacher, a professional.  I plan to continue to read and learn from my PLN (personal learning network) and to reflect on this learning so that when I return to my classes in the fall of 2014 I’m refreshed, refocused, revised, and relevant.  Secondly, I’m apprehensively excited to look at publishing the work I’ve done pioneering class blogs to improve and empower student voices as writers. travel-quotes-12908-hd-wallpapers I’m hopeful to at least look at article writing, but ambitiously, I am hopeful to write a book on the topic.  The work my students and I have engaged in has been inspiring!  This past year when I presented at the NCTE conference in Boston I was so inspired by the collegiality and support I received from like-minded educators.  I hope to follow-up with professional writings and hopefully will be offered an opportunity to present again at NCTE 2014.  I would love to explore the possibilities of being a professional teacher writer/consultant.  Who knows?

So, my bustling life continues just in a far more adventurous and personally reflective way.  I am so grateful for this opportunity to re-engage with my personal interests and passions.  My days in Argentina will rarely be lazy-hazy, although there will be plenty of opportunities pool-side and beach-bound for that too!  length and width of lifeI will get healthy again with yoga and daily walks, I will learn Spanish because I want to build stronger conversational relationships with my amazing family there, I will explore and experience all that Santa Fe and Argentina can offer me, I will capture the beauty of that world through photos and writings, I will read – voraciously, I will cook to nourish my inner foodie-wanna-be, I will inhale the opportunities to live in a foreign country, I will play with my children and family, I will become the writer I dream of being – even if it is merely enjoyed by my family and friends,  and I will use the list of 50 Ways from Buddha Wisdom to help me find inspiration so that I can mindfully create, explore, and expand myself!  Here’s to 2014!  Happy New Year!

Setting the Stage for Learning

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I’m an aesthetic kind of person.  Setting really matters to me! Theories about what works best in classroom design and structure, to optimize student engagement, has been an obsession of mine.  I have worked so hard to create an ambiance and space of learning, peace and calm – a home.

My newly organized bookshelf

Our school practices a common classroom management program from K-12- CHAMPS, ACHIEVE (champs at the Secondary level), STOIC (all acronyms from the same origin of Sprick’s work); Structure is the first consideration in the STOIC model, and Structure is the first aspect I consider for the kids to enter the class.  Structure means many things, but the one that I attune to is all the structural aspects of my room in terms of sight, sound, smell, and feel – I love “Setting the Stage” for learning.

It must be the same appeal I feel when guests are coming to my home; my students are honoured guests for their 90 minutes – guests whom I want to feel they are “at home” in our space.

How do I Set the Stage?  Here’s a list of things I try to do:

  • The walls are a seafoam green colour, which is bright yet homey (not chosen by me, but intuitively our facilities boys did well with this choice)
  • I was good at having music playing – must get back to that on Monday (lost that touch)
  • The desks are arranged based on activity – rows (uh oh – testing), amphitheatre, partners, study groups, etc…
  • Aromatherapy – I love using my diffuser with oils to calm, focus, or energize depending on the kind of day it is –  (i.e. casual days are lavender kind of days).
  • The front of the room is like a talk show set – two cushioned comfy chairs with table in-between and the Smartboard behind.
  • Bookshelves line all corners filled with books.
  • Lamps around the room for softer lighting with natural light spilling into the room and maybe one row of overheads light on in the room – I never use full overhead lights (they induce headaches)

    baffles

    baffles (Photo credit: Martin Deutsch)

  • Art and poster and words surround the space for inspiration
  • Acoustic Baffles – my room was a music room and we managed to keep the baffles that absorb sound = beautifully peaceful!
  • And, yes, carpet!  I am a teacher not to complain of my carpet – it affects sound too!

So, in June last year when it was announced that I’d need to clear my room for floor tiles to be put in – I had a panic attack not only because I was far too exhausted to pack up, not only because this would have been my 7th pack up in 8 years, but because I don’t want flooring tiles!!!

Carpet has become a h uge factor in my efforts to “Set the Stage”.  Here are three of the strongest factors for me:

The Flying Carpet by Viktor Vasnetsov (1880). ...

The Flying Carpet by Viktor Vasnetsov (1880). Oil, canvas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1.  It provides a sound buffer from scraping desks and reverberating sound, which help students to stay focused and on-task.
  2. It creates a “home-like” atmosphere.  This is a huge psychological benefit for student learning.
  3. The students in my room (me with the artsy-fartsy background) often work on the floor for group work, journal writing, and SSR reading.  I give them that choice and many use it daily.  It is really important for kids to be able to establish their comfort, when possible, for thinking and creating.

Please see these articles to support what I am saying regarding “atmosphere” as being a key to learning.

http://profcamp.tripod.com/ClassroomDesign/IdealClass.html

http://www.carpet-health.org/pdf/GA_Dissertation02.pdf

Please know that I “get” the ease and cleanliness of tile – my whole house is laminate, even our bedrooms.  And true, my house is echoy, but we’re generally quiet people.  But through my years of experience in carpeted and non-carpeted spaces, I believe that 30 kids in one room get much higher success in their learning when the environment supports them, not works against them.