Month: September 2016

Shifting the Classroom

Shifting the Classroom

The Creature in the Classroom

It appeared inside our classroom

at a quarter after ten,

it gobbled up the blackboard,

three erasers and a pen.

It gobbled teacher’s apple

and it bopped her with the core.

“How dare you!” she responded.

“You must leave us . . . there’s the door.”

The Creature didn’t listen but described an arabesque as it gobbled all her pencils, seven notebooks and her desk.

Teacher stated very calmly, “Sir! You simply cannot stay,

I’ll report you to the principal

unless you go away!”

But the thing continued eating,

it ate paper, swallowed ink,

as it gobbled up our homework

I believe I saw it wink.

Teacher finally lost her temper.

“OUT!” she shouted at the creature.

The creature hopped beside her

and GLOPP . . . it gobbled teacher.

When I think about how much education has been transformed in the last decade,  I find this poem a bit ironic and have to wonder if the poet knew what was in store for  today’s classroom when he wrote that. Did he know how technology would “gobble” up paper and ink–even to some extent the teacher?
 However, there’s no doubt that our classrooms have become more student-orientated rather than teacher-centered. And I was reminded lately  during an IB webinar, Creating Inspiring Places, that our classrooms need to be designed for learning rather than merely being decorated. With that in mind, I loved this infographic that I snagged from the presentation.


While looking at this, I asked myself what do I do well and what do I need to work on more this year in my own classroom? I’m feeling lucky that I have a long holiday week nearing the corner so I can sit down and take this all in more so. And what can I share with teachers? What would inspire their learning spaces?-What needs to be “gobbled up” in our school so that our “creatures” get the best education that they deserve? Hmm…

What about you?–What do you think needs to be “gobbled up” in your classroom?

Push back or Pull up?

Push back or Pull up?

Several years ago I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book,Outliers, during a long layover in Las Vegas. (Yes, I’m so geeky that I choose books over slot machines). This was the 1st time I was exposed to the 10,000 hour rule, which actually comes from the work of Anders Ericsson, who is considered the expert on peak performance. He details how someone moves from accepting to be “good enough” to reaching extraordinary results through deliberate practice. Working at the boundary of our comfort zone isteacher-inquiry-group one of the most important aspects of shifting from goodness to GREATNESS.

So as I was reflecting on this information, I began to think about the structure that I’d like to see for the collaborative learning groups for my staff’s professional development–how I can cultivate this deliberate practice in our PD on developing the writer skills and attitudes in our learners. So I’ve been trying to find a way to connect the dots between Arthur Costa’s ideas on reflective practice and Ericcson’s idea of deliberate practice.  During this rainy holiday week I decided that I would create a collaborative guide for teachers  that would help move them in a direction that sponsored reflection on their comfort zones during these sessions. This is my first iteration with this effort so I’m looking forward to feedback and I’m really excited to get started. I’m hopeful that teachers will “pull up” each other with thoughtful discussion and deep reflection that promotes another level of sophistication and effectiveness in developing their craft, rather than giving me “push back” on how teachers’ self-directed inquiry doesn’t work.

I feel a bit anxious and vulnerable, but I trust that the teachers’ inner desire to be awesome, coupled with my charisma, will overcome any barriers and they will be open to peer coaching and collaborative planning.


Life is Play

Life is Play

It really wasn’t until I had my own child that I deeply understood the quote from Fred Rogers, “Play is often talked about as if it was a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

 As I have watched not only my own child grow, but also the immense amount of growth that goes on with my students, it becomes more obvious to me the need to honor that Life is Play for the young.

Students construct such deep meaning of their world by finding ways to relate to it through enriching their understanding of:

  • Relationships: through shared experience and connection with others.
  • Environment: awareness of beauty and the ability to create their own private world of imagination and thinking.
  • Systems: understanding how the world works in their lives and in the lives of others.
  • Decision making: determining what is important to them and for others; making choices that develop their self-esteem.

As I step back into the Early Years this year, I wonder how as a teacher I may guide play better through provocations, asking questions and expanding their thinking. Not only do I wish for them to practice foundational numeracy and literacy skills, but I want to engage and challenge them so that they can create and build deeper conceptual understandings and open up their view of the world.


I look forward to the year ahead, and the wonderful complexity of how young children develop their ideas through imagination and creative action. This is the joy of my “work”-to be the observer and provocateur of children involved in play, as play is now my life’s work as well.



Collaborative Learning Teams

Collaborative Learning Teams

I love the beginning of the year–there’s so much possibility, a lot of blank space on this white sheet of paper which I have titled 2016-2017 School Year.  I’ve decided that something that I really want to work on improving at our school is the quality of in-house professional development. I’ve decided to start a mind-map of what would be the essential qualities of PD

pd journal note

One of the challenges I’ve faced in the past with in-house professional development  is that we’ve lacked vision and purpose for it, so when we decided to do PLC’s (Professional Learning Communities), it lacked the interest and enthusiasm for self-directed and collective learning; many of our staff believe that the only way to learn is to attend a workshop or have a presenter “teach” us, as if learning is something that happens to us and not as a result of our own engagement. Coupled with the fact that there was a lack of understanding in admin of how to structure a PLC and manage it, it was not surprising that staff rebuffed at the idea of it. Bad PD is almost worse than no PD, because if negative expectations become the norm then the openness to collaborative learning is highly diminished.
The fact that I was beginning to see these attitudes emerging meant that I needed to roll up my sleeves and get to learning more about professional development so I could influence our leadership team in ways in which we could improve it.
Although I love blogs, I turned to several books to get more in-depth understanding of how to improve professional development : Models of Professional DevelopmentLeading Professional Learning: Tools to Connect and Empower Teachers Better Conversations, and Learning By Doing.  (A lot of summer reading, I know.)
Something that I loved from the work on PLCs from Richard Dufour and Robert Eaker was this idea of cultivating a culture in  “educators [creating] an environment that fosters mutual cooperation, emotional support, and personal growth as they work together to achieve what they cannot accomplish alone”. The goal of PLCs  is to take an interest in learning and turn it into a commitment to improvement in that area. So, the professional learning community that Dufour and Eaker envision has six characteristics:
• Shared mission, vision, and values
Collective inquiry
• Collaborative teams
• Action orientation and experimentation
• Continuous improvement
• Results orientation
I also appreciate Sharon Hord’s elaboration on PLCs to include an emphasis on reflective dialogue as a vehicle for collective learning. When I was reading about this, it seemed to mirror some of the power of peer-coaching data that is shown to improve implementation. I thought about Jim Knight’s coaching conversations and how asking better questions can develop those dialogues. It seemed to me that I could connect some dots and come up with a dynamic approach to in-house professional development, which includes a lot of the elements of a PLC, peer-coaching and expanding our notion of best practice.
Since we’ve been reviewing our data on writing, I thought it would be easier for us to rally around a common goal: improving student writing.  Also, I wanted to provide better resources since my staff’s professional research skills were weak; thus I am introducing a book study. Furthermore, I want to differentiate upper and lower primary school’s objectives and put them into collaborative learning teams (my re-branding of the PLC). The lower grades (Early Years to Grade 1) are developing attitudes to writing and an awareness of the writing life. I found some amazing books from Matt Glover and Katie Wood that help teachers modify the elements of the writer’s workshop for younger ones and shape their perception of themselves as authors through a deep dive into illustrative study. In the grades in which writing skills are being consolidated (Grades 2-5), they can look at the 6 Traits +1 of Writing as a model to develop habits of student self-reflection of their work and look to mentor texts as a means to develop their craft.
In order to combine some of the elements of effective professional development for our small school, I want to include these elements in the learning teams:
  1. Create a mission statement for their learning teams.
  2. Create a personal goal that is linked to their appraisal.
  3. Regular discussion of their reading.
  4. Share student work samples, rubrics and other assessments.
  5. Non-critical dialogue from a learning partner (peer-coach)
  6. Demonstrations of their teaching by learning partner (monthly observation)
  7. Planning and reflection of those plans.
  8. Mid-year checkpoint, in which the learning team shares what has been working and not working for them.
  9. End of year presentation, which includes looking at MAP data and reflection on our goals.
  10. Celebration for the work and effort that they made.

I know that this is my first time that I will be given autonomy for PD and I’m excited by the trust and freedom of my new principal. We have an early release day on Wednesdays which is allocated time for this effort. Of course since I am trying to combine several aspects of effective professional development, I am a bit anxious with this experimentation but I know that overall I have staff who will be open and willing to try something different. I will definitely update later about our progress.


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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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