Sunday, 21 September 2014

30-Day Blogging Challenge: Day 21: Octopuses, Travelling, Disney, Puppets and Tech

Day 21: Do you have any hobbies/interests that you bring into your classroom teaching? Explain.

I'm into a lot of things. Most of them make their way into my classroom in one way or another. I can't really turn off my teacher brain, so even when I'm doing something that is happy-making for me, I'm thinking about how it can make things more engaging, innovative or educational for my students.

Octopuses: I have a lot of interesting octopus stories and facts because I'm fascinated by the eight-legged wonders. My students get used to hearing about octopuses and know, from the first day, that I'm in love with them (although, this year, it was slightly less apparent for them - usually I wear my custom-made octopus necklace on the first day. After a request to wear it on the last day last year, I broke it while dancing. I have to get it repaired so the Gladiator Snails can see it!). Over the years, I have collected (and been thoughtfully gifted) a number of octopuses that are displayed on a shelf in the room.

Tech: I love playing with new tech tools and toys and bring them into my classroom for my students to figure out along with me. I've learned about blogging, Sifteo tiles, iPads, Skype, Chromebooks, Sphero and MaKey MaKey with my students. Things that I can't get my hands on (like outrageously pricey Google Glass, drones and 3D printers), I share with my students through videos, articles and imaginative discussions.

Disney: This one has been more closeted in the past, but has come proudly to the forefront this year. Walt Disney has always been a hero and an inspiration for me and it's only in the past year that it became totally obvious how wonderfully his philosophies fit into mine in the classroom. Our EPCOTclass is modelled on Walt Disney's ideals of dreaming big, storytelling, creating magic, authentic collaboration and bravely going against the expected.
Once a student at the school where I currently teach, I signed out a lot of books from our school library, in the old fashioned way - on library cards in the back of books. A student last year discovered my name written in the back of a Walt Disney biography she signed out. I did a lot of projects on Walt as a kid.
(I am not totally blind to issues of corporate greed and sexism inherent in much of the Disney brand - but my students and I explored some of that in the past. Last year, my grade 5s wrote "Un-Disney Stories", by taking the narrow, sexist messages from Disney films and re-writing them for a modern audience, changing role models to appeal to all different kinds of kids!)

Puppets: I've always loved the idea popularized in "The Velveteen Rabbit", "Winnie the Pooh", "Toy Story" and other tales of stuffed animals coming to life on their own - especially while unwatched. Puppets give me the ability to make that happen in a tiny way (stop motion could make it happen, too...hmmm...future project?). I think Jim Henson's Muppets are so incredibly gorgeous, enchanting and alive that when I found "The Muppet Workshop" at FAO Schwarz in NYC, I nearly lost my mind. I created Norman several years ago and he lives in my classroom (he doesn't know Math, so we consider all the things he can't do and we try to teach him). Last year, Norman got a friend, a beautiful purple monster named Hedwig. She's shy about reading, but loves when students sit with her to read and learns from their efforts and confidence. Norman and Hedwig have become cherished (and hilarious) classmates.

Travelling: I LOVE to travel. I love sharing with my students about the way my perceptions of myself, my culture and the world change through my adventures. Getting to relive amazing journey by sharing stories with my students has been a gift.

Since my first year of teaching, I have gotten to know my students at the beginning of the year through "Pieces of Flair". We each bring in items that represent us as people and display them in our classroom, making it ours. This post is basically a list of (some of) my flair!

(NOTE: Yes, "pieces of flair" is an Office Space reference. Well done, friend. I often say that a good percentage of what I do in the classroom is to entertain myself. Flair is one example.)

It's wonderful to be able to share my passions with my students and learn about theirs. If teaching is all about relationships (which, honestly, it is), then building relationships with whole people (not just who they are in the context of a classroom) is crucial to reaching all students.


  1. I love that you have so many passions that you bring into your classroom. It shows your students that it's ok to be excited about something. It's ok to be different.

    1. If by different, you mean "nerdy" and "weird", then you've hit it on the head, Amy!