Friday, November 27, 2009

Thinking of Jan

It's hard to keep up with the blog.  Today I have to speak of  by the death of my good friend, Jan Wells. Jan, after living and working in England and Toronto, was a faculty associate at SFU, and then a teacher, mainly at McKechnie in Vancouver, and then a consultant for Sunrise and Primary Consultant for the whole school district until five years ago when positions were cut and she took a position at Simon Fraser University.  Shortly after that she was diagnosed with bone cancer.  She broke all odds and lived far longer and productively than anyone could imagine.  Her love of travel and writing and reading and working with children and their teachers, as well as artistic pursuits and gardening and enjoying the outdoors continued.  No one lived life more fully.  She died Monday peacefully of pneumonia. 

To quote a Vancouver teacher, "Jan was an amazing person and a wonderful mentor...and I am a better teacher because of her for so many reasons. She changed my vision forever, and I am forever grateful for that."

All her friends and those whose lives she touched feel a deep sense of loss yet a sense of deep privilege for having  had Jan in our lives.  Our hearts go out to her wonderful husband, Jerry; her beloved son, William; and to her sisters, brother and mom in England. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

War and Peace, digital story telling and not going to Philadelpia...

    Hmm... I haven't written for awhile.  My only excuse it has been busy and this weekend I attempted to begin the report card marathon.  Trying to manipulate the new Silhouette program with my Mac gave me a migraine headache.  My report cards will be being done in Word.
   At school we took the bus and Canada line downtown to the  beautiful downtown main branch of the Vancouver library system  a couple of weeks ago where we had a great time learning research skills and exploring the library and of course the food kiosks!  Some of my students had so many books I have no idea how they managed carrying them all.  They are all on work on  War and Peace newspapers so were stocking up.  You have to know that grade six and seven students love projects especially if they get to choose partners with whom to work.  Note these partnerships sometimes don't work out but the element of choice is very important to them.  I give the option to work alone or with one or two partners.  They just know the expectations increase if there are more people in your group.  This is the first such project I have let them to do this this year.  Fortunately I have done War and Peace newspaper  projects before, and work samples from previously classes really help them generate ideas as do wonderful picture books and other resources.

Last Tuesday at our Remembrance Day Assembly they performed the beautiful poem, Voices by Sonia Sones about 911 from 911: The Book of Help.   I love this poem and my students loved it as well.  Apparently one of the grade ones went home and told his mom about 911 so I guess it made an impact.  Magical things seem to sometimes happen to me and by chance a few years ago I met Sonya Sones at an International Reading Association conference so that I was able to tell her how much her poem had meant to my students and to me.

Another fun project has been doing digital story telling with Lisa through Moberly Arts Centre.  Film maker Lisa taught my students a bit about photography and story telling and them let them take pictures which are now posted on a the neat Canada Code site created by the National Film Board.  Part two was this Monday.  Groups learned how to create slide shows on a theme, using pictures, words and music.  These workshops are being held all over Canada as part of the Canada Code project  in collaboration with the Vancouver Olympic Committee.  For more information on projects and involvement check out Cultural School Olympiad activities.  This is part of my "if you can't beat 'em make the best of it" attitude.

It's been difficult working in teaching math lately.  I am also transitioning into new texts.  Our current grade seven one is only 15 years old and doesn't match the curriculum so soon I am hoping the have new ones.   I have to say I am getting so much smarter teaching grade seven science!  It's a learning journey for us all learning (and for me, relearning) about ecosystems-currently food chains and webs.  It's also pretty exciting finally having a real text book after the years when I had to  teach science without one! 

The grade sixes are staging a bake sale Friday to donate money to UNICEF.  I am missing going to the NCTE in Philadelphia (too far I decided for too short a time) but you can see there is never a dull moment in our  classroom.  Photos are by a couple of my students.