Kristin Ziemke - Burley School, Chicago
|Ms. Ziemke's students are using the iPad to draw an image to match the poem they just heard
Long before I knew of Kristin (Ms. Ziemke) I knew of Kristin's school, Burley. They have an extensive amount of technology in their school and were one of the first (that I knew about) teaching 1:1 with iPads in grade one. I was pretty eager to get into Burley School.
|An inquiry project hanging from strings across the classroom.
Even before I walked into her classroom I knew things were going to be different. In British Columbia we can have no more than 24 students in a grade one to three class. Kristin has 32 or 33 students in her class. Yup, 32 or 33! In my mind that's just CRAZY!
|Sharing writing with the class.
I clearly remember having discussions with her on twitter on how she can possibly meet their individual needs. What I didn't realize at the time though was that they do something interesting at Burley. For the first half of the day 1/3 of her class, and 1/3 of the other grade one class go and work with another teacher. Kristin doesn't even see these students until lunch. The teacher that takes 1/3 of her class and a 1/3 of the other grade one teacher's class does the same thing with the two grade two classes after lunch. From where I come from all I can think about is why don't they just make two grade one classes, a grade one/two class, and two grade two classes. But then I realized that ALL the classes at her school have very large class sizes and from what I'm gathering this temporary small class is only at the grade one and two levels. Everyone else just has extremely large class sizes all the time.
|Inquiry project, anchor chart, and class specialists are hanging from the strings in Ms. Ziemke's Classroom
|A finished special family project sent home nightly where each student adds a button to this sweatshirt.
Technology is seamlessly embedded into her teaching but her focus is very clearly on student learning and not technology. It made me smile.
Kristen Wideen - Eastwood School, Windsor, Ontario
Later that same week I had the pleasure to be in Kristen Wideen's classroom at Eastwood School. Like with Kristin Z, Kristen W and I have had many hours of conversation over teaching and learning both on line, and over the telephone. Our classes have done collaborative projects together too so to say that I was excited to spend time in her class with her students was a given.
Kristen's teaching environment is quite different from mine as well. She works in an open concept school with very few doors and even fewer walls. In her area of the school there are three classes in a large open area. While each class has it's own home corner, a lot of what is taught is taught together. You can't hide behind your classroom door because there are no classroom doors. Collaboration is a requirement to work at this school.
Kristen and her teaching partners have one iPad cart to share between the three classes although they are housed with Kristen. It was interesting to see the differences between being 1:1 in Ms. Z's room, and having 1:1 access in Mrs. W's room. A few times during the day specific iPads needed to be tracked down from another home base to continue with lessons. There is a whole other blog post to be written between having 1:1 access, and being truly 1:1 with technology.
Kristen's students were very independent. I loved seeing how her two "Flat Stanley" ambassador's took off around the school to capture images which they later blogged about. I love how many different projects her students were involved with, and how easily they took to them. I love how she had a student so eager to blog about his new puppies (kittens?) and how she recognized his strong desire to write and let him continue to do that instead of the task that the rest of the class was working on. It was all about the learner, each and every learner as unique individuals. That's what teaching should be about.
|Flashlight reading to Fin.
Kristen's students work through literacy and numeracy rotations that allow their individual needs to be met. It also frees her up to meet 1:1 with her students. I liked that too.
|I loved this anchor chart in Kristen W's class.
But while visiting I also noticed many differences that were obvious from my one day in each classroom. Some of the differences are because of our different education mandates, whether at the government or school level. These included but were not limited to student support services, length of school day, amount of "prep" time, and amount of breaks in the day. I was surprised to find out that at Eastwood the students have two 40 min nutrition breaks (half time spent eating half time spent in free play outside), while at Burley there was only a lunch break. Both Kristin and Kristen have far more non instructional planning/collaborative time during the week which makes my 100 mins a week seem almost pathetic. No wonder I spend so much time after school getting my work done. School leadership also plays a huge role in how a school runs, and how quickly it can change (for the better or for the worse) with a change in leadership.
I'm not sure what the ideal school would look like for me, but seeing so many different ones does have my head spinning around this topic. I am thankful I took this opportunity to spend time in these wonderful teachers' classrooms and I look forward to learning and sharing more with the in the future. And the coolest thing of all? Kristen and Kristin are also part of the Apple Distinguished Educator Class of 2013 so we'll all be together in Austin this July. Exciting times a head for certain. Oh and did I mention, later this month I'm spending a day in Kathy Cassidy's class! Crazy right? And so exciting.