Flexible Seating, Part 1

Towards the end of August every year, one might think that I’ve become an IKEA superfan. Or in some cases, a furniture hoarder. That’s because I start slow-cruising past curbside piles of discarded furniture and knick knacks, peeking into friends’ and relatives garages, and scouring Saturday morning garage sales for cast offs. All this, in the name of flexible seating, or as we call it in my French Immersion classroom, “l’aménagement flexible.”

In trying to implement flexible seating in my classroom I’ve learned that a good pile of milk crates makes for great storage, an office chair with a wonky wheel can easily be repaired and is much appreciated by a 10-year old, and that most IKEA storage lives forever and can be cleaned up to look new with the help of a Magic Eraser and some elbow grease. There is usually a hefty purchase of new items from IKEA too, with a sprinkle of Value Village for flavour.

Some of my favourite items so far are the towel racks and plant hangers that I repurposed for pencil/material storage, and the 6 nearly brand new rolling chairs that I picked up from a non-profit organization that was closing its office – my summer habit of trolling Kijiji’s “near me” ads really paid off that day!

With students constantly moving around the room, working in the hallways, visiting the library learning commons or the resource room, it was a challenge to find a way to store materials so that they were accessible, portable, and clutter-free. In the end, I settled on this combination of towel bars and hanging cups, which I believe are meant to be plant pots, but their true draw was that they were on sale for 49¢ and available in a neutral colour! One caveat – don’t be fooled by the suction cups on the cinder block. They don’t work, and I knew that from the get-go. I just liked them because the bars were white and would blend in well. I also wanted to avoid making holes in the wall, as that is a big no-no. To make them stick, I roughed up the back of the plastic pad from the suction cups with some sand paper and then used construction adhesive to attach it to the wall. Shhhh. Don’t tell… I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to do that either.

I’ve had this system in place for 3 years now, and it’s working great. To start the year, I provide everyone with two pencils, a pen, a highlighter, an eraser, a pair of scissors, and a ruler. I’m pretty strict about not letting kids bring extra items to avoid the cups becoming over-full of things that likely won’t be used. For the first month or so, to keep everyone accountable for the items, I do a challenge: if the whole class has all of their items at the end of the week, I give them a bonus item (usually a pencil sharpener, page flags, a fun eraser, a “fancy” pencil.) The kids love it, and they learn quickly not to lose their materials! They’re also very helpful in keep their classmates accountable so that they don’t leave things around the room. This makes cleanup fast and efficient. After September, they’re usually in a good habit of caring for things and I can move away from the incentives. Students also know that any item that runs out can be brought to me and exchanged for a replacement, however lost or broken items are their responsibility to replace.

flexible seating schooledbypayne Allenby 8

flexible seating schooledbypayne Allenby 12

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Back to school 2018-19!

After a summer of rest and relaxation I’m eager to get back to the classroom and hopefully start using my blog in earnest. I’ve had a couple of false starts here, but I’ve got a few ideas for posts in mind, and I’ll be working them up in the next week or two. Some things to come are:

  • a look at flexible seating in my classroom
  • some thoughts on the difference between contrived collegiality and true collaboration among colleagues
  • trying out a #fliphunt using Flipgrid with my students

Wishing everyone a great first week back at school!

have a good week

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Some thoughts on self-directed professional learning, part II

The ways that teachers engage in self-directed professional learning are myriad, and sometimes I think it can be a bit overwhelming to try and narrow one’s focus, particularly for those who, like me, suffer from a severe case of FOMO.  I find myself wanting to do everything and learn everything! Of course, I know it’s impossible, but I’m still left with that nagging feeling that there’s so much more to know and learn. So what’s a girl to do? For me, committing to learning something new goes beyond simply attending a one-off workshop or webinar. I want to access related networks and information, implement and reflect on my professional learning with a community of educators.

In the last month alone I’ve been active in chats with my Twitter PLN, interacting with teachers throughout the province using TeachOntario to discuss various platforms for creating student e-portfolios, participating in an online book club about the book, Creating Thinking Classrooms. I’ve also been taking part in ed. tech webinars offered as part of the OTF Connects series through the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and considering the professional learning and leadership implications for the integration of technology and 21st-century skills in education. Last week I also attended an evening session about design thinking in education offered by Future Design School.

At a glance, this looks like a dizzying list of separate pursuits. I feel a bit overwhelmed myself, looking at it all laid out on screen. I have to admire my colleague Joe Romano for his focused approach to self-directed professional learning.

In reflecting on my learning, however, I’ve realized that it’s not quite as scattered as it may seem. I think what I’m really after is to establish a better understanding of, and strategies for, providing students with opportunities for deep learning.  So with a clearly identified focus, I’m going to attempt to be more judicious in handing out “yesses”, try to quell my FOMO and stay the course with this topic as a guide for my learning moving forward.

As a next step, I’ll be looking at some of Michael Fullan’s work on new pedagogies for deep learning because I think it will provide me with some of the overarching conceptual knowledge that I’m looking for:


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Some thoughts about self-directed professional learning

First off, I have to say that the irony of completing of this “first” post on the subject of self-directed professional learning, exactly one year after promising myself that I would begin to reflect in writing as part of my own self-directed professional learning is absolutely not lost on me. Alas, here we are. Well into 2016, and I’m back with a renewed commitment to myself and my own learning.

This school year, many of the teachers who I work with have reported that they’ve sought more opportunities than usual to focus their professional learning on self-directed pursuits. While work action and contract negotiations have contributed to fewer PD sessions offered by school boards, I’m not convinced that can be cited as the sole reason for the uptick in preference for self-directed professional learning. Much has been written on current trends in teacher professional learning, but I especially like how EdSurge has visually represented it.

I’ve been hearing a lot of feedback from colleagues that they are finding engaging in self-directed professional learning and expanding their own networks to be particularly helpful in answering their questions and transforming their classroom practice to meet student needs as well as their own learning goals – more so than system-PD ever has. So what does this mean for me? I too wax poetic about the learning and satisfaction I get from so-called new-age, networked professional learning, so am I talking myself out of my own job as a professional learning leader in my district?

I’ve been trying to digest it and think about how system- or Ministry PD fits into the equation. How do self-directed and system-led PD come together to form a professional learning picture that works for teachers?

More to come as I think on and explore this subject…

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