I started teaching in the High Performance Athlete program at John McCrae SS in Ottawa four years ago. The group of students who are graduating this year were just starting out in grade 9 that same year. I didn’t get to meet them until they were in grade 10 and fortunately for me many of them kept coming back for more every year. Almost every student that is currently in my grade 12 class has had at least 2 classes with me, some have even taken up to 5 and one student has topped out at 5 classes plus 1 as my peer teacher. Some might argue that this is not healthy and sometimes I think we are more like family than teacher / student (which has its pros and cons). Don’t get me wrong, all of the students that I have taught over the years hold a special place in my heart, but this group of students have played a huge role in my unlearning journey and have been champs about it. On our last podcast the students and I discussed the evolution of the classroom over the past three years and it was really cool hearing their thoughts on how it has all gone. Before, during and after all the courses my students voiced their opinions on how we did things and then we worked together and changed stuff for the next semester or year.
This is what they have endured over the last three years….
In grade 10 history we started out with a combination of traditional school and choice. We sort of started to use Twitter and we tried out passion projects. The class was inspired by the Independent Project. They still listened to me lecture, wrote essays, tests, created powerpoints and prezi’s…..but that was still not enough (at least in my mind). We then moved to the inquiry method of teaching. At the beginning of each unit we would learn the material. For example we would spend the first week – week and half learning about the first ¼ of the 20th century in Canada. They would do online activities, watch movies fill in charts to make sure we covered the different parts of the curriculum and listen to me lecture. After that, they could research anything that related to the unit as long as they hit certain checkpoints in their research. There were guidelines that dictated what and how they could research but in the end they could display their learning however they wanted to. We started to use Twitter more often for research purposes. They were expected to ask questions to professionals to help with their research so that they could get real up to date information from professionals in their field of study. This was good but I kept reading and following other educators out there and looking at the skills that they would require for our world today. I came across a list of Essential Life Skills that a school in the UK was using and decided to make that they focus of our classroom. We would use the course curriculum as a vessel to work on the Essential Life Skills. Little did I know that our board had created something very similar called Exit Outcomes which have become the focus now. So we continued the inquiry process but added a few guidelines and took some away. Now students were expected to find an issue in our community, world, their lives – pretty much anywhere and they were to become aware and advocate for that issue. They were expected to research according to their curriculum and create awareness, solutions and campaign. We did this for a while and it was very successful, but by the time they got to grade 12 or their 3rd – 5th course with me it was time for more change. So we continued with the inquiry but tried out a new project where we connected with community members and tried to solve real problems for them. We invited a Social Media expert into the classroom and continued to learn how to use Twitter in a professional manner, this past year they were expected to tweet daily, ask questions to experts, find hashtags to tweet info at, tweet at others who were fighting for the same cause, start movements and chronicle their learning. We continued with Genius Hour (we made it into Genius Week) and learned new skills. And finally we left the structured inquiry process – I would say they had mastered it or were bored of it and decided that it was time for a new challenge…… this lead us to the free-for-all that became our World Issues class this past semester. Students were exposed to curriculum at the beginning of the course for about 3 weeks and then they were expected to have 5 projects on the go at all times. The difference between the inquiry and any other class was that they were left to figure out (with the support of me) what they projects were……this was an interesting semester. Lots of highs and lots of lows.
It has been a journey and I could not have done it without these students. I am super proud and excited to see them embark on the next chapter in their lives, but am super sad to see them leave. So from the bottom of my heart I thank each and everyone of you. Congrats, Good Luck and THANK YOU 🙂
Meagan – thank you for powering through and not giving up, even when you wanted to. Thank you for sharing your experiences with others and promoting dogs in school. Thank you for showing up early and helping make the GLP day a great one. Thank you for letting me know when you were having a bad day, that means so much for you to share that and let me in:) You are awesome!!
Emily- thank you for being so positive and making a huge impact in people’s lives. Thank you for jumping into to the madness that is my classroom and helping raise awareness for the LBGQT community, your passion is amazing and I can’t wait to see where that takes you.
Graham – Thank you for your honesty, your humour and your outside of the box thinking. It has been a pleasure and an honour to watch you grow and work with a personality similar to my own. We are two peas in a pod.
Lauren – Thank you for your positivity and hard work. Your contribution to the WHS breakfast program will not be forgotten. Thanks for supporting JD when he was new to my class….LOL
Kyle – Thank you for your quiet but important contribution to the class. Thank you for jumping into Genius Hour with your painting. You are super talented! Keep doing those cannonballs.
Danny – oh Danny….thank you for being honest and trying to work on some of your flaws. It has been an honour to work with you and watch you grow. I will never forget your presentation on The Wealthy Barber and for taking the initiative to get people from class to the retirement home. You are good and you are smart – so go out and show everyone that!
Raeleigh – Thank you for taking six classes with me in three years. It is going to be wired not seeing you every day. You have been an integral part of this unlearning process, thank you for giving your input and being a great listener. You don’t need any hand holding any more!
Will A – Thank you for being the one that I could count on in that grade 10 class!! Thanks for taking the leap and trying out coding as your passion project. Thanks for connecting us with your Dad who has been an amazing resource throughout the years.
Dylan – Thank you for going to the beat of your own drum. While there were times when I wanted to strangle you I applaud you in your ability to embrace your own style of learning. I look forward to seeing what you accomplish over the years. Maybe you will finally be able to get Elon Musk to our classroom??
Paul – Thank you for your lighthearted ways and your charm. Your personality lights up a room and can save the day or drive me crazy!! It has been a pleasure having you in 5 of my classes even though you spent a year in Kingston!!
Willem – Thank you for your honesty in the way that you approach school. You have been a huge part of what and how we have approached things in our classroom. Thank you for being so polite and considerate of the people around you…well maybe not “the boys”, but everyone else!
Mitch – Thank you for your quiet yet insightful views about how we did school. Thanks for putting up with Paul for 4 entire classes. I am pretty sure pop it for prevention is going to go viral soon!
Serron – Thank you for being a part of my class in grade 10 and again in grade 12. It meant the world to me and your friends that you were unofficially a part of our grade 11 class last year as well. Thank you for your humour (most of the time), and your honesty about school. Good luck wherever life takes you 🙂
Owen – Thank you for all of your honesty and input in shaping this classroom. You have been a huge supporter and have given such important constructive criticism over the last three years. Good luck in postsecondary, I can’t wait to hear all about your van and how you traveled North America.
Mac – Thank you for your hard work and dedication to the class. It was amazing to watch you during Genius Hour last year when you had the drive to learn as many card tricks as possible. I hope you take that drive with you in life and continue to find what you are passionate about. I will have to say I won’t miss the discussions about bodily functions….
Mollie – Thank you so much for all your hard work, leadership and brainstorming in my class and as my peer teacher. You have played a huge role in how this class has worked and I couldn’t have done this without all of your feedback and support.
Morgan – Thank you for being in my grade 10 history class. Your hard work in my class did not go unnoticed. We have missed you this past year. I won’t ever forget our amazing trip to the War Museum and Difenbunker!!
Matthew – Thank you for being such a positive person all the time. Your smile lights up the room each and every day. Thank you for finding the things that you are passionate about and going with it. I will never forget your scrapbook that you made in grade 10 as well as your love of sports stats.
Brayden – Thank you for taking a risk and joining our class this past year. Thank you for being open minded and trying out a new way of learning. You may have been uncomfortable at times but I am super proud of you for getting out of your comfort zone.
Cameron – Thank you for taking a risk and putting yourself out there. Thank you for coming into class each day for two years and enlightening me with everything that you read. Thank you for inspiring me to start this blog. You have made me a better teacher.
Dana – Thank you for your quirky personality and willingness to put yourself out there. Thank you for focusing on an issue that is taboo and getting a message out there that is so important. Hopefully you Graham and Cam will come back for some brainstorming sessions with my new classes next year!
Anastasia – Thank you for being honest and jumping into this new way of learning this year. Thank you for being so engaged in discussions and debates. Thank you for taking a risk and joining us on the podcast – that was your place to shine!!
Katherine & Fiona – I am not sure why but you two seem to have come as a package. I couldn’t have been more lucky to have had you two land in my classes this year. Your openness and enthusiasm for the way we have done things year has been so refreshing. You came in and embraced it right from the get go and have been huge advocates for a change in education. Fiona….find that book it needs to be published!!
Clay – Thank you for your jumping in and doing all kinds of things that you hadn’t done before. It has been a pleasure watching you break out of your comfort zone and engage in so many different activities this semester. You have truly embodied taking risks and putting yourself out there and I truly appreciate that.
Mia – Thank you for your entrepreneurial spirit. It was a pleasure having you in the class last year and to see you work so well outside of the box. I can’t wait to hear about all the amazing adventures you have. Don’t ever stop singing, you have the voice of an angel 🙂
Brady – Thank you for your honesty and feedback on the way school is and the way were doing things. I appreciate your open dialogue and I look forward to seeing what you accomplish after HS.
Katrina – It has been so weird not having you in my classes this year. Thank you for your hard work and contributions to so many worthy causes over the three classes that you took with me. I will never forget the selfie video and your work on homelessness last year.
Hannah – Thank you for your keen interest in helping others especially animals. I know you have had a tough go the last little while and I appreciate your hard work and perseverance in this course and the previous courses. I will never forget how excited you get once you get an idea, it was always fun to watch the light bulb go off!
Odessa – Thank you for your sweet smile and willingness to try out this new way of learning. I know it was a struggle in the beginning but I am so happy that you were able to lead us in some mindfulness and for sharing this with your classmates.
Anika – Thank you for taking as many courses with me as possible…even if you were in Florida, or Slovenia or Serbia or wherever you were. Thank you for staying on top of things and jumping right back in as soon as you were home. I love your tenacity after you have returned to get back into things in full force.
Hunter – Thank you for sharing your passion for mental health and getting your message out there last year. Your message was important and really hit home with many people. Thank you for being a great role model for younger girls in showing them that just because you are girl doesn’t mean you can’t play LAX with the boys.
Brooke – Thank you for your honesty and perseverance throughout last year. Your ability to stay on top of things and keep a smile on your face was and is amazing. Thanks for the chats in Ms Rusch’s room, I will miss those!!
Justin – Thank you for buckling down when needed. While it is hard to separate yourself from the boys all the time I am impressed with your ability to hunker down when necessary. Thank you for diving in this semester and raising money and awareness for the Parkdale Food Centre. You have set the bar high for those who will follow and for that I thank you.
Nicole and Thomas – Thank you for being my first group of HPA students and the true Guinea Pigs. Those first couple of years went by so quickly but I will never forget the two of you and how you jumped in with this new way of learning. Thank you Nicole for enlightening us about health and exercise – I am hope you still create that bike we talked about. And Thomas thank you for all of your enlightening and passion filled talks about mental health the school system – those will never be forgotten.
Congrats, Good Luck and Thank You from the bottom of my heart!
Mrs C 🙂