Monday, 1 September 2014

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 1: My Goals

A principal who I really admire and who had a huge impact on my summer through his #SummerLS challenge and EduAllStars podcast (but I've yet to meet in person), Todd Nesloney, tweeted out a link to a 30-day blogging challenge. Despite the fact that I have an alphabetical list of at least 30 posts I'd like to write, I feel like this would be a good way to keep me on track. Plus, once I write one post, I'm always inspired to write another.

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge for Teachers

Day 1:
Write your goals for the school year. Be as specific or abstract as you'd like to be.

I'm going to have to be specific. I have a LOT of goals and have spent a lot of time this summer reflecting on what they are. For ease of organizing my thoughts, I've split them into sections: Values in my Grade 3/4 Classroom (goals for my students and I); Professional Goals (things I'm going to work on as a teacher)

Values in my Grade 3/4 Classroom - EPCOT

Be Brave
Overall, my goal for the school year (for myself and my students) is "Be Brave". Day 1 in the classroom (tomorrow!), that will be our only expectation. As we form as a team, my students and I will work together to co-create roles, responsibilities and expectations.

Last year, my grade 5/6 Rainbow Eggheads and I lived by the recipe for success: ADD EGGS. Initially, I created this recipe, but my students completely bought into it and owned it. They could reflect effectively on their choices, the choices of others and how to improve by using the language in ADD EGGS.

Last summer, I wrote a list of qualities I want to help develop in my students, qualities I'd like them to leave my classroom understanding and practicing every day. I came up with ADD EGGS - accountability, dynamism, drive, engagement, grateful, generous and supportive.
The Rainbow Eggheads lived these values last year. They could rhyme of the acronym easily and came up with "The Rainbow Rule" ("Be an ADD EGG, not a BAD EGG" - they even decided what BAD stood for)! In their end of year Ignite presentations, most of them referred to ADD EGGS and what a difference it made to their learning.

After lots of reflection (and discussion with my trusted colleague, Tiiu), I've decided to KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly) and share ADD EGGS with my incoming class. However, there is one quality that is missing from ADD EGGS, so this year, the acronym is changed to "I ADD EGGS" (I've added innovation to fit with another big class goal this year).

Imagineering and Blue Sky Thinking
Throughout my life, I've been inspired by Walt Disney, and lately, I've been reading a lot about his life, his innovations and his legacy. I can't help but think about how well his philosophies and his message tie into my dream classroom and teaching methods.

This year, my students and I will use Walt Disney (the person, not the brand) as a model. The way he, among other things: listened to all ideas while seeking the best way to do things; looked towards the future; learned from and embraced the past; told stories; thought about creating memorable and educational experiences; questioned everything and was open to change, will be essential to the way I think about teaching this year.

I will encourage my students to embrace Blue Sky Thinking by thinking big, following their dreams and believing in themselves.

We will think of ourselves as Imagineers as we use imagination to engineer our learning.

Because of my interest in all things Disney, I am inspired by Walt's vision for EPCOT (an experimental city, that, after his death, was repurposed as a theme park - my favourite as a child!). It breaks my heart that his vision never saw the light of day, but, learning from his passion and purpose, I thought about what I think a classroom should be.

I think a classroom should be a place where everyone can try new things, share successes with others and embrace change. Teachers should be futurists as we are preparing our students for a future we can't possibly predict. With that in mind, I've called my new class blog and twitter account EPCOTclass. In this case, EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype CLASSROOM of Tomorrow. The name and vision will help to keep me on track with all of the ideas, values and dreams listed above.

Goals for my BEd Students

Bringing Language to Life for Life
I'm thrilled (and nervous!) to be teaching my first BEd class (Language Instruction in the Primary and Junior Years) this term. I have outlined goals for my students and I as "Big Ideas" in our week 1 slideshow. What I am really aiming to do is ignite (or kindle!) a passion for teaching (Language in particular) in the pre-service teachers who I will have the pleasure of working with.

I've subtitled my course "Bringing Language to Life for Life" and look forward to working with the students in class, on Twitter and through blogs to do exactly that, bring Language to life.

I want my students to leave my class better prepared for and more confident to teach Language to students of all ages. Because of that goal, I have worked very hard to create a comprehensive course and ensure that all assignments are authentic and applicable to the classroom.

Professional Goals

Balance and Wellness
This year, our admin is committed to helping staff find balance in our lives and ensure our wellness. I'm excited to see what this looks like.

Over the summer, I've tried to work on balance, something that has always been a challenge for me. In order to really understand what it looks like, I've created a list of my roles and set goals for the amount of time to spend on each during a day. Since late July, I've been tracking those. It's been enlightening for me to see how my goals align with what I actually do. Also, I see that I only have 24 hours in a day and have to set priorities, one of which is myself as a worthwhile human being. I'm going to work hard to remember that during the year. I will make it a priority to do happy-making things. I'll even work hard to make sure that some of those have nothing to do with my job!

Ongoing Feedback Communicated to Students and Families
In the survey I shared with Room 209 families last year, parents told me to learn to say no (they recognized that I tried to do too much!) and that they'd like to get more ongoing feedback about their children.

Tiiu and I created an Annual Learning Plan for students, which will be a working document that is shared with students and families (an individual one for each student) and developed throughout the year. The link I shared is absolutely a work in progress and I am planning to meet with each family early in the year to set goals and make plans.

Developing my PLN
People call it different things, but I think of my PLN as my Professional Learning Network and I am lucky to include lots of people I know in real life and online in it. I love to collaborate with other educators to bring interesting experiences into my classroom. I will continue to do this through twitter chats, planning and collaborating via Skype and the Google Drive.

An element I am adding this year is to work with inspirational, passionate educators in formal and informal settings. I have started an Educational Think Tank (with Amy Bowker) and the Comment Consortium. Because of getting to work regularly with amazing people, I know will continue to be challenged and pushed me.

Sharing My Learning
I'll be presenting at some upcoming conferences this fall and love to share what I have learned and what I am passionate about with other educators.

By committing to the Comment Consortium and this 30-day blogging challenge, I will regularly share my process with others. More importantly though, I will actually be creating instead of just consuming and I will really take the time to reflect on my practice.

Alternative Education
I teach at an alternative public school and we operate based on a series of tenets that make us different from other sites. A group of us met regularly last year and discussed our school philosophy to celebrate our successes and build upon them for the future.

The idea for Tree Families was born from this collaboration. Each staff member and student in the school will be placed in a "Family" represented by an Ontario tree for their entire time at our school. Families will meet regularly to work together on character education, anti-bullying initiatives and develop skills. We are starting Tree Families next week and I look forward to seeing how they help to build a real sense of ownership and community in our school.

Overall Goal

You Matter
After listening to and reading Angela Maiers this summer, i am thinking in terms of her movement, "You Matter". All of my other goals can be boiled down into this one. Each of us is a genius and it is our duty to share that genius with the world.

By reframing my thinking and remembering that I am significant, I can meet my professional (and personal goals) and let go of issues in a non-judgemental way, using them to move forward and make life better for myself and others. To remind all my students that they matter and help them find their passions and "follow their heartbreaks", I can help them achieve their goals.

It's a good thing this prompt encouraged me to be as specific as I like! As always, I had a lot to say!

Thanks to those of you who got all the way to the end of the post.

What are your goals for this school year? How are you committed to meeting them? What small and large actions are you taking to achieve them?


  1. Good lord you are a tough act to follow! I am just trying to formulate my goals- you've made yours freaking poetic!

  2. Shauna, I'm amazed by all of your goals, and how well thought out they are too. As Trish said, they really are almost "poetic." How do you manage so many different goals? I've always been one to set a couple of goals at a time and then move on from there, and I wonder how you ensure that you meet so many goals on your list.

    As for my goals, I'd like to look at how to make math more "real world" and meaningful in Grade 1, and how to use integrative thinking skills to increase student thinking. I'd also like to explore different ways to use inquiry and the tenets of the FDK philosophy in a Grade 1 classroom: balancing student interests and curriculum expectations, while meeting the various needs of my students. I will definitely have to blog about these goals in the coming weeks. Thanks for the inspiration!


  3. Hi Aviva,

    Thanks for the comment. I think the basic answer for managing so many different goals is that I have a REALLY busy brain! These are all things I've been thinking on for a long time and I'm sure if you wrote all your goals down, you'd see you have just as big a list!

    As a teacher, I feel like I'm always juggling many different things and thinking about my goals this way has really helped me to understand what my vision is for the year and I hope by looking back on it, I will keep myself on track. I think it's so important that our actions match our values and writing this post helped me outline mine.

    I think the tenets of the FDK program are so valuable in all classrooms and I look forward to seeing how you incorporate them in grade 1.


    1. Thanks Shauna! I never really thought of it this way, but I can see what you're saying. I guess that I like to think of a couple of big goals, but know that there are smaller ones hidden in there too (or even additional goals that I never articulated, but are there too).

      I hope that you'll continue to blog throughout the year on how things go with your goals. It's this continual reflection that I always think is so valuable.


  4. Shauna you are an inspiration! Your goals are really outstanding and there are so many things that I adore. I love your Think Tank idea within your board (Ottawa is not that far of a drive from Niagara right?). What triggered such an amazing idea?
    Your "Blue Sky Thinking" is so real, raw and honest.

    I would really like to hear more about your Tree Families. Do all the families placed in the family tree group meet together? Do these meeting occur after school? How many families per tree? Oh I am just bursting with curiosity!

    1. Hi Maria,

      The Think Tank has been an idea that's been in my head for sometime. On this blog, there is a tab about it. Ottawa ISN'T that far from Niagara! Come join us anytime! Make it a long weekend!

      The Tree Families are really exciting. I'll write a targeted post soon. For now, here are some quick answers to your questions:
      There are 17 families, each one has at least 2 staff (including office staff, support staff, custodial staff and teaching staff) and students from all grades (there are about 20-25 students in each family).
      Tree Families will meet every Wednesday morning during instructional time. We will have read-alouds, discussions, "Family Meetings" to discuss themes of the month, full school "Sharings" (our way of doing assemblies) and "Workshops" (Families will rotate through workshops run by teachers in their choice of topics).

      I'm excited for Tree Families to get started next week. I'll certainly keep you posted!

  5. Hi Shauna,
    I agree with previous commenters that your goals are an inspiration to the rest of us. Although my tendency is to think more big picture goals, like Aviva, I would benefit from being much more specific. I tried to participate in Todd's challenge and did a little bit but moving to a new house kind of pushed everything else to the back burner this summer. I wish I had known about the 30 day challenge. Nevertheless, I am going to try to catch up or blog on those topics that are pertinent for me. The goals prompt is definitely pertinent and your post has inspired me to try to articulate my goals for this year in as specific a way as possible. You are a very thoughtful writer and thinker. Kudos to you!

    1. Hi Elisa,

      Thanks for your comments, I really appreciate the feedback. Feel free to join the 30-day challenge! Get started today, do the last half with us and then do the first half in October!

  6. Ah! I intended to start a few days ago but that didn't happen! I will try to start this weekend. Now that BTSN is done and I'm into the rhythm, more or less, of my new assignment, then maybe I can refocus my energy on writing.

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  8. IMAGINEERS! I love, love, love it (and may have to borrow it)! I also like the concept of your EPCOTclassroom. I would love to hear how your tree families work out! In my former school, we had school families (tribes) and we met once in a while for lunch and for our Fall and Spring events (to help foster community) but never during teaching time or for "educational" purposes. What a great idea!
    I must say that I find your vision and your passion inspiring. I truly enjoy learning from you and playing along side you. I would love to attend any workshops that you are presenting at! (Please be sure to share the details!) The pre-service teachers that you will be educating and inspiring this year could not be more fortunate.

    1. Hi Sue,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. So far, the Tree Families are awesome! At least for me, they are. I'm in love with how my big and little Red Piners are sitting together, sharing ideas and supporting one another. I think the consistency of meeting once weekly will really build a solid community. Already, other staff have said how wonderful it is to have students from around the school know and recognize them as part of their Tree Families.

      Please use Imagineers and EPCOTclass - I got the ideas from Walt Disney, so I have NO ownership over them, but would love to see them spread!

      In terms of workshops, I'm presenting next weekend at a Global Ed one for Ottawa U and the following weekend at GAFE. After that, I have nothing lined up except as an attendee to EdCamp!

      I feel pretty fortunate to work alongside amazing people like you and my BEd students. So much inspiration, passion, interest and SO many thoughtful, thought-provoking questions!