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This is the life I chose!

chaning the world

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher.  As a child I played school, I created tests and assignments for my “students” and marked them.  All the girls made 100% and the boys failed! In my childhood, I believed teachers gave tests/assignments and marked them, what an easy job they have:)  As a teacher I know that is not true.  Teachers do not work a 9 to 3 job with week-ends, Christmas, Easters and Summer off.  Teachers are by nature workaholics, our job is never done.  We are always learning, improving, changing to meet the needs of our ever changing classrooms.  What would I change?  Nothing!  This is the life I chose.

Teacher workload is a hot topic these days.  What is our job, are we over worked, are we doing too much and what can be taken off our plates?  When I think of my job what would I change?  Again, I would say nothing.  I love my job and I work hard.  This is not a job, it is a calling, it’s my passion.  My role is to do what is best for my students and my staff.  Our students come to us with challenging behaviours, learning needs, emotional needs we do not always understand and the list goes on.  If I take the time in the beginning to truly understand each of my students needs, abilities and interests I am better able to crack the puzzle to make them successful; that is my fuel to keep going.  That feeling when you make a difference in a child’s life, there is no explaining it.  It is what I signed up for and agreed to be for my students and staff.  I must support their needs.  This is the life I chose!

It is far too easy to dwell in the negativity.  “It is too hard.” “Do you know what “Billy” did today?”  “Nobody finished the homework.”  “Parents do not support us.”  “There are too many needs, too much paperwork.”  Report cards, parent meeting, PTIs, we must differentiate for our students…. and I could continue forever.  We have a professional obligation to educate the students that have been in-trusted to our care.  To work to the best of our abilities to give our students and staff what they need to support their learning. We need to move pass the negative talk and all the pitfalls of our job and focus on the positive and the reasons we became teachers in the first place.  Change will not happen because we complain, it will happen with the action of supporting each other.  This is the life I chose!

What’s my story?  I have to say that this year has been the most positive year of my career.  I have a fearless leader that works hard to push you to be the best you can been.  Corny I know, but true.  She has high expectations for herself, her staff and her students.  She walks the talk.  I work with a staff who are professional and will stop at nothing to advocate and work for/with their students to make them the best they can be.  As a staff we do not give up.  Our staff is working hard to collaborate and support each other needs.   They all work hard and I know that at times they feel overworked/overwhelmed but you do not hear that rumbling in our staffroom or hallways.  They talk about the successes and ask for help when they are struggling.  There is a difference between complaining about our classrooms and realizing what we are struggling with and asking for help or advice. We can not do this job alone, it is necessary to work and collaborate with each other in order to improve.  These are troubling times but also exciting times in education.  And remember this is the life I chose!

I have also looked at what I do during the day/evening and what I can eliminate to reduce my own workload. I used to spend hours decorating my classroom, creating things to make it appealing and beautiful.  Was that the best use of my time?  Or would my time be better spend creating lessons and assignments that consider the needs of my students?  I used to have students answering question after question and then spend my time marking into wee hours of the night, just to wake up the next day to do it all over again.  I now create lessons/assignments/projects that give my students the opportunity to showcase their learning or I do quick check-ins to see if they are understanding. These small changes have greatly reduced my marking and my workload. I have moved away from the photocopier, the eater of time, and create projects and assignments that are engaging.  Behaviour issues have reduced greatly.   Google docs has become my best friend, giving me the opportunity to go almost paperless and share assignments with my students.  Some will even continue to work on assignments at home without being asked to! I no longer spend time looking for assignments for missing students, it is all in their google docs.  I could spend time caught up with the I don’t know how or I can learn the new technologies which has reduced my workload!  I am a life long learner, this is the life I chose!

Does that mean that I never feel overwhelmed or overworked?  No.  And my family does suffer during certain times of the year when I put in late nights and long hours, but it is not all the time.  My family also benefits during Christmas Break when we can have 2 weeks of uninterrupted quality time.  One week at Spring break where we have time to go on ski vacations and then there is the summer! We all long for our summer break, it is our time to rejuvenate and become mentally prepared for the following school year. I can make up for the time I missed with my family to make real memories without the pressures of everyday work life.  I do spend time learning, creating and preparing for the new school year but with no pressure. This is the life I chose and it makes me happy, my family proud and it is exhilarating!  I would not change this life, I will promise to continue to grow, learn and improve my craft.  This is the life I chose!!!

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Technology engaging and empowering our students!

technology

I have always loved to learn new technology and utilize it to engage my students.  This can be exciting and frustrating all at the same time.  It is important in education for us to take risks and be okay to fail.  I have always encourage teachers to take risks so I am compelled to follow my own advice.

I am not sure when it happened but I became the “techie” at St. Kateri.  I am the one they go to when the technology does not work.  I love to help and feel accomplished when I figure out the issue but when I can not; the feeling of frustration sets in.  The key it not to give up and remain positive. It is my duty to support my teacher in their classrooms so I must keep moving and solving the issues.

Four years ago I was given the opportunity to embark on a journey of one to one iPad initiative.  It was  an opportunity that fell into my lap and I ran with it.  It was exciting and frustrating all at the same time.  Hours were spent researching apps that would help my students be creators and innovators or apps that would assist struggling students.  Students who were unable to write were finding success and felt good about themselves.  Students who were bored with traditional education found a way to showcase their strengths and creativity. It gave new life and love of learning to our classroom. Students are demanding ownership of their learning and our teaching role has changed!  I embrace this change and I am excited to see my students achievements.

The key to putting technology into students hands is to ensure that they understand digital citizenship; with the privilege of having the technology, brings great responsibility. The second issue it that an iPad or computer can easily become a fancy worksheet.  Worksheets are not engaging and my husband, Andrew reminded me the other day, “Worksheets do not grow dendrites Lee!” My goal for putting technology in our students hands is to have them develop their critical thinking, feed their creativity, and create innovators who guide their own learning.  The technology is not what engages the students it is how we empower them with technology that does.

This year has brought new challenges in technology.  Changes have been made with the way we are pushing apps to our school iPads.  To say that it has been frustrating is an understatement.  I see the vision and understand the reasons behind the change.  I actually believe in the changes and I know that in the end it will save us time but today it is costing me hours and hours of my time.  What option do I have, give up and go back to the old way of teaching?  No way, if you know me at all you know that I am too stubborn to give up.  It has been a curse and a gift my whole life:)

The technology does not always work the way it should, it is slow and I am learning as I go.  Teachers are frustrated and I can’t seem to get to them fast enough.  We will persevere and be better for it as we support each other. I have our tech guys on speed dial and I can not say enough about the support and guidance they have given me.  Clint and Neil are patient and understanding and without them we would not be able to implement technology into our classrooms.  I continually ask Neil if he ever gets angry and I believe that he does not! Both are there to support and guide me to deepen my own understanding of technology.

My goal for technology this year is to have all our iPads up and running for all our teacher, hopefully by the end of this week:)  I must develop my skills to confidently trouble shoot any issues that may arise with the technology in our building if we are to be successful. (Hopefully making less calls to support.) My dream is that that our students become digitally aware and responsible, using the technology to deepen their learning which will grow dendrites! Lastly, that our teachers embrace the gift that we have been given and use it to empower their students.

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What is my end game?

Psalm 145:8

The LORD is gracious and full of compassion; slow to anger and of great mercy.

I have been encouraged for a long time to write a blog post.  I have enjoyed reading my colleagues blogs, it gives me an insight into what they are thinking.  I believe in reflecting on my practice but those who know me best know that I am a verbal processor.  The more passionate I am, the louder I become.  It is difficult to be loud on a blog but here goes!

Shelley nominated me for a blog challenge.  Blog every day for thirty days. I took the challenge but have not made one entry, until today!  I have had lots of ideas swimming in my head but was unsure what I wanted my message to be.  Day one, what are your goals for this school year? Lots!  How can I narrow it down to a simple vision that I can stand by and why can’t everyone just see what I see!

I find myself frustrated when things I think are obvious and others do not see it. I have been preaching for years that we need to build relationships with kids!  I believe that with every bit of my being.  Kids need to know that we accept them for who they are and love them anyway.  It is what we all want, right?

I love a challenge, those students who challenge me back are the reason that I go to work everyday.  The “difficult” child that causes all the issues in the classroom are among my favourites. My goal is always to see them grow and improve.(and to get them out of my office! lol) Those who work closes to me will often here me say, when the complaints come, “you will not believe what he did today … “  I know but I love him and he is one of my favourites, or he makes me laugh so I had to bite my lip.  It comes easy to me, and I really do enjoy those challenging kids. The key is seeing the good in them and building on that.

But what’s the point, to what end?, what is my purpose?, am I really making a difference?  I was affirmed this week that I was making a difference, even if it was with only one student. I was meeting with Shelley and a group of students came in to share notes on the virtue of the month, Compassion. They gave both of us letters about how we show Compassion.

One in particular really struck a cord and brought a tear to my eye. It was written on a torn piece of paper and folded up and he did not want to make eye contact.  You know he has an image to uphold!  He WAS the boy in your class that is always in trouble.  His mission in life was to make all who cross him pay.  He had a  sense of justice, an eye for an eye.

When I first came to St. Kateri he took up permit residence in my office.  We had many arguments as to why he was justified for hitting someone or saying something mean to someone.  How dare I ask him to apologize for his behaviour?  He had an image to uphold and I was not going to change him.  He told me so many times.  The key I am not giving up on you!  I care too much. Oh and you are one of my favourites!  Which I told him often.

These kids in our classes, I know we can all think of ones that are similar, become easy scape goats.  They are always doing something that is appalling and mean.  I know that I have been accused of being too soft on these types of kids.  But what is our end game?  To grow and improve them, all of them!  What I do is very simple, I listen, even when they are wrong!  And a lot of the time they are wrong but sometimes they are not.  That is when you really gain their trust and they begin to realize you will fight for them; you actually care. 

I remember one day in particular when he was rude to a teacher.  He had no choice, he needed to apologize.  He decided to dig his heals in, as he did many times before. And we started one of our many debates. He had tons of reasons as to why he does not need to apologize. She was rude to him, he had good reason for being rude, she wouldn’t listen to him and the battle continued.  In the end he apologized, not because he meant it but because I asked.  It was not heartfelt, or really that meaningful but he did it.  I took it as success.  Little by little I could seem the walls breaking down.  I heard his name less and less.  By the end of my second year at St. Kateri he was rarely in my office. I had won!  But did I make a difference?  Did he realize that I really did care about him and wanted what was best for him. Or was he getting better at not getting caught:)

I was affirmed this week with a crumpled up note that he was embarrassed to give me.  And it said: ” Mrs Boylan you show compassion by giving second chances.”  Truth be told I gave him a hundred chances! But he got it.  He knew that I cared and wanted what was best for him.  I will always listen to his side of the story. He is still the same mischievous boy with a few rough edges smoothed over.

He still visits me in my office but not because he is in trouble; he there to tease me, asks for help or just for a visit. I will treasure this note forever, it is why we do what we do!   What is my goal for this school year?  That we accept each and every student for who they are, grow them to be the best version of themselves and take the time to listen to them; you never know what you might learn that will change your path.

I will end with words Shelley wrote to me at the end of last year: “You have affirmed my belief in the power of relationships and that students come first, everyday!” I love how you are with kids, Shelley and your passion for this job, we are a great team.   Thank-you for seeing the best of me and looking past the rough edges!

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