Sunday, September 24, 2017

Getting into the Swing of Things

I'm holding to my resolutions. The first two weeks were a bit rocky in terms of good self-care, I'll admit. But we're now two weeks into the fall term, and it would seem that I'm getting better at not allowing lesson prep to fill all available free time. I've hung this print over my desk at home just to keep myself on track.

This weekend, because I corralled my lesson planning and sourcing of materials into a smaller time slot than I would normally, I was able to devote more of my weekend to restorative and fun activities by myself and with my partner. It also REALLY helps that my agency has negotiated us some PBLA prep days throughout the term. Friday I was able to spend the entire day--minus an hour lunch break--in an empty school building marking rubrics and organizing myself for another term of PBLA implementation.

Saturday I took myself to an artisan's fair, visited two of the artists on the Open Studios tour, puttered around the yard, and read for pleasure. Saturday evening I made time for a movie with my sweetheart. In the morning, he was pleased that I made time for a late and leisurely breakfast at a spot where service is slow and the food worth the wait. He was even more impressed when I let him come over Sunday, which usually would stress me out. Because I was letting done be better than perfect,  I even agreed to our making dinner from scratch and watching another movie.

This feels good.

I like having a life.

As for PBLA with the seniors, I've decided to make that a completely client-centred and client-driven operation. They will decide how often to collect an artifact and what they want marked. They will collaborate with me on creation of assessment tools, on decisions around criteria.

The needs assessment revealed that they want to focus more on Canadian history, culture, and law. They also want to get to know this city better, especially the important landmarks. We already have two field trips planned for October.

Each school term brings something that renews my enthusiasm for teaching. This term I have at least three new sources of inspiration. The first is a building full of new faces! I have new colleagues who will be bringing their fresh ideas to our next department meeting. Secondly, I have a literacy class made up of students with higher speaking and listening skills than any group I've taught before. They are a lot of fun! Thirdly, there's some new technology entering my sphere that I'm having fun with: an Instagram account for sharing with my PLN, Flipgrid for giving me and the students a new way to assess their listening and speaking, and the gift that keeps on giving--knowing how to use Google Drawing and Google Slides (thanks to Tony Vincent) and Google Forms (thanks to Jen Artan). I'm finding that Google Drawing is now my go-to platform for a one-page worksheet while Google Slides works for multi-page booklets, such as the literacy class' LEA stories. I prefer it to Word for many reasons, but the main one is ease of use and ease of editing. When I place a picture on the page, it stays there. When I create three columns of text under my BINGO grid, they stay put. I never have to scream at Google Drawing. After Jen Artan showed us via a webinar (available for viewing as a webcast on how to use Google Forms, I immediately tried it out as a way to tally the seniors' votes regarding themes and also types of activities they prefer so that we could all get a clear visual representation of the results.

These new tools are absolutely making my job easier and less time consuming. Maybe I will have time for another printmaking class, after all!

How about you? Have you mastered the fine art of work-life balance? Are you good at self-care?


  1. Hi Kelly,

    Your blog has helped me survive the chaos of PBLA. TDSB union meeting to sort out the problems that PBLA is causing. This is nothing short of a nightmare. Who thought up this disaster?


    1. Sleepless,
      I'm glad that this blog has helped. I know that there are those who like PBLA. And I know that the pushers won't stop saying things like, "It's not perfect, but..." and telling us that it's up to us to make it better with our feedback. But right now there is a crisis taking place before our very eyes that we can see if we care enough to stop and look around. Good teachers are leaving or going to the supply list to avoid the very stressful responsibility of PBLA with 50 students. I have a spy at a nearby provincially funded school whose reports tell me that some teachers are ready to snap or have already made that trip round the bend.
      Let's agree to take good care of ourselves as this all plays out. --K

  2. Hullo,Sleepless,
    Unprofessional. That's how one teacher described what we look like to students as we twist and turn to do our best to comply with the (insane) requirements of the PortfolioBasedLearningAssessment unique-to-Canada experiment. We know it is bogus. We know it makes no sense, is illogical, not intelligent. The "Lead Trainers" know it. They know it is being made up as we go along. Everyone is doing something different. Everything about it is amateur. The premise ("standardization") is absurd. The academic underlinning are unsound; the research supporting this was low quality (see the video of Prof Norm Friesen's presentation to TEAM
    The "in house" research conducted on the first group in Manitoba was unscientific (understatement) and the CIC commissioned research (90 teachers in Ottawa region) was,to the best of my knowledge not anonymous!!! The implementation is draconian and heavy handed, plodding and destructive.
    But governments often don't wait for proven results from research......
    What astounds me is the wilful disregard of feedback from many many sources for the past nearly three years. You would think that the policy analysts, education managers, information officers, integration civil servants etc would want to be on the right side of history!!!Teachers have been blamed for the shortcomings: "anxious teachers", "struggling teachers", "bad teachers". But it is the process that is fatally flawed - not us teachers who have given years of intelligent, thoughtful, caring, professional service and are still using our knowledge, experience, critical faculties to say "Stop this insanity."
    As another commenter on this blog wrote"PBLA"PortfolioBasedLearningAssessment experiment) "hurts everyone." Admin, Leads, Instructors - and (I am adding) most reprehensibly the learners, newcomers to Canada, caught up in this weird exleriment in Training at Scale (a whole country
    Where does that leave us guinea pigs? (BTW -the Lead who says "It will take two more years to get used to" is just as much a guinea pig as you and I.) I think if we have the perspective that this that this IS the biggest government error in the history of the ESL industry there is some comfort in knowing that truth will out. And I have become convinced that as this is a political issue, not an educational one, the only remedy, as others have said, is political...(unless you want to wait two years to "get used to it" :-)
    Talk to your MPs and MPPs.
    And tell your unions to ask their executives for advice as to how union members can take political action. Thst is what I intend to do.


    Read "emma mentioned a project in Belgium where learners had been given the freedom to design and negotiate their own course, but which had actually had very negative results and which would tend to underline the fact that learners, just like all the rest of us, find it difficult to cope with complete freedom and seek guidance. After all, the thinking goes, “I am paying to do a course so I expect some expertise for my money!”

    "Jemma, in fact, explained that much of here course is not ‘up for negotiation’ but one part that can be is the portfolio which counts for 25% of the final exam. scaffolding learner autonomythe level of task negotiation or topic choice etc. is much more realistic and ultimately rewarding both for the learners and the teachers. Learners, who are provided with clear guidelines, within an existing framework, are, in fact, often very happy to ‘take responsibility’ for certain aspects of their learning, and teachers are able to help them taking on increasingly the role of facilitators of learning rather than providers. "

    PBLA is a huge bungle of misguided ideas. Maybe Norm Friesen can be hired to work it out or help it be scrapped.

    Sleepless but Hopeful


Thank you for participating in this forum. Anonymous commenting is available, but is not intended to shield those taking pot shots at those of us challenging PBLA. If you are here to do that, please use your name.