A Little Work From Home

If things were normal, yesterday would have been the first day back at school after the March Break but instead we are all practicing social distancing and staying at home. In the morning, I logged into my work email and responded to the ones I had waiting for me from the parents. Reading the email from my principal, the message I got from it was to be patient. I then decided to work on binding the inquiry my class had worked on and completed before the break.

While working, I listened to the second digital book I have borrowed from the library. I chose a book that was immediately available: Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich. I have previously read and enjoyed some of her stories so knew that this one would pleasantly pass the time while doing a mind-numbing task. I am loving the story so far – and laughing out loud at some of the antics the characters get up to (as well as what they say!).

This morning I woke up to an email once again reminding us to be patient as the school board works on the guidelines for distance learning: they want to consider the implications of not all families having access to technology; and the fact that many parents are expected to work at their own job. Today I will begin to figure out my planning and think of ways in which parents can implement what I had planned for the rest of the school year.

Today I begin my second day of working from home while my own children learn from home. The experience is going to be challenging in the small space we have but we are up for it.

Are you working from home?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

School Closures in Ontario

Yesterday evening I was made aware of breaking news: that the schools in Ontario would be shut down for two weeks after March Break to help fight the spread of COVID-19. I was shocked to learn of this decision as there had been no lead-up at all to the decision.

Today is the last day of school before March Break – our week off school before the final stretch of the academic year. I am sure parents are currently scrambling to find daycare for their kids due to the extra two weeks they will be at home. My hope is that companies will not punish parents who need to stay at home. It would be unfair if parents were forced to take leave, or lose a paycheck.

The caretaking staff at the schools are going to take this time to sanitise the environment in addition to the cleanup they usually do doing the Break. I am hoping that the closure doesn’t extend past two weeks – and that they will work. I do not really want to spend more time away from my students.

Has the advent of the COVID-19 virus affected you in any way?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

An Unexpected Response

During the past week, my students have been playing with tangrams – I have given them the opportunity to copy patterns and images that I have printed out on numerous cards. They love moving the shapes to create different things and spent the 20 minutes set aside for the task actively engaged in in the activity. At the end of last week, I gave them the opportunity to create their own images which they did so with confidence.

Yesterday was the chance for them to show me what they could do. Using a pair of scissors, they cut out the tangrams, placed the shapes to create an image, and then glued the pieces onto a new sheet of paper. Thereafter, they coloured in their image and, using the sentence up on the board as a guide, they wrote down what they had created.

The response of one student made me smile: “J’ai construit Mme Kook-Chun qui fait le Zumba avec les tangrams.” (I made Madame Kook-chun who is doing Zumba with the tangrams).

I smiled for so many reasons: she knows my love of Zumba, she placed the pieces accurately, and her inserted phrase was written perfectly! This is a response that I will definitely be keeping a copy of. 😀

What has made you smile this week?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

(This post was inspired by Trent’s Weekly Smile, a challenge which focuses on sharing all things positive.)

In Solidarity at Queen’s Park

On Friday 21 February, all four teacher unions in Ontario united and walked out of classrooms – that is a total of 200 000 members – to show solidarity. The members working in my locale were asked to go and picket at Queen’s Park for one shift. The day dawned with blue skies and crisp air. It was chilly – but not as cold as it had been for previous walkouts.

When I arrived at Queen’s Park, the crowds were already gathering and by 10:15am people filled the closed off streets around the park. The flags of the four unions waved above the heads of educators fighting for the right of a decent public education programme.

I was proud to be standing with the others (it was reported to be over 30 000 bodies at Queen’s Park – including some parents with their children). Children in the province have a right to a decent education without having to pay for it and I was proud to be their voice at the rally.

We walked the route at a slow pace with each turn taking about half an hour. At the end of the day when I arrived home, my feet were aching (winter boots are not made for walking!) but I was satisfied with making a stand.

The teachers of our union, ETFO, have now entered phase 6 of the strike action. No walkouts have been planned but some physical and online picketing are to occur within the next two weeks. Time will tell whether these efforts will make a difference.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Beginning Structures

Yesterday in class, we began my favourite unit of the year. I enjoy teaching structures as the children have the opportunity to build with a variety of materials – and enjoy it. Even all the girls get into it – though some of them tell me they are not good at it. It saddens me to hear a 7 year old already inhibited by the social expectation that girls are not good at building and at math.

Yesterday I gave my students the opportunity to build with blocks and lego. The classroom was buzzing with activity as the children tried to build what was in their mind. I love seeing their creativity. The structures that they build also give me an idea of where they are in understanding three dimensions.

I spent the day stepping over lego and blocks but I did not mind. Learning was at work – even in their attempts to draw what they had created.

The children in my classroom were exploring and learning today. I am sure that they went home and told their parents they played with lego the whole day but hopefully, by now, the parents will understand that the day was more than just play.

What structures did you build yesterday?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

An Electrifying Experience

Yesterday, on 12 February 2020, the elementary teachers of Ontario walked out of their classroom for the fifth time this academic school year to protest the changes proposed to public education by the current conservative government. Elementary teachers are protesting the proposed cuts to special education, the increase in class sizes, and the wish to change the current kindergarten model. In addition, teachers want the government to address the issue of the violence in the classroom which is on the increase.

Yesterday, I joined the picket line at the Royal York Hotel where the Minister of Education was to speak to the Canadian Club. When I reached the venue, I was stunned at the number of people already at the site. Teachers had already begun picketing outside the hotel, and the vibe in the area was electrifying. Once all my colleagues had arrived, we joined the demonstration happening in front of the hotel.

As we marched, we chanted and made some noise with our tambourines, shakers and cow bells. There were a number of leaders at different points of the line that lead us in the chants that kept us going. The feeling of solidarity I felt energised me and gave me the zeal to continue for the next three hours.

I was happy to see that we were being noticed. The TV cameras were there: the protest was live streamed and seen in the media – unlike so many other protests that had been ignored. Our local communities had seen us, but not the larger. Yesterday, we were noticed. Yesterday, we made our voices heard.

The police presence was strong – though we did not create any problems. After all, teachers are a group of people who are used to following both the rules and the dictum “safety first”! Ours was a peaceful protest despite there being so many people in one space.

Yesterday was the most electrifying experience that I have had on the picket line. That energy has charged me and will help to keep me going on with the fight. Today, I walk into my classroom and work with the children for whom I am protesting.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Two Walkouts in a Row

Despite the cold temperatures this past week, the teachers working in Ontario, Canada participated in walkouts to protest against the cuts to public education that the current government is proposing. On Thursday, the walkout was province-wide and included the 83 000 teachers that work for school boards across Ontario. Teachers bundled up and made their way to their designated picketing site.

My school was instructed to meet outside the constituency offices of Vincent Ke. We milled around on the sidewalk outside for a while but the cold drove us to walking. We spent the time walking up and down a section of Sheppard Avenue East. Not only did the walking warm us a little, but it also helped to pass away the time of our three hour shift.

When my shift had ended, I walked another 15 minutes to the subway station to get home. While on the train, I could feel the tingling in my toes as they slowly started to warm up. Getting off the train was difficult and, during the walk home, I constantly thought of the warm drink and meal I would be having. Once home, it took me the rest of the afternoon to warm up.

Yesterday it was our turn to take part in the rotating walkout action. My colleagues and I joined up in front of our school and walked the short bit to Yonge street. We had received permission to picket on the main street so that we could get more exposure – our school is in a small side street that is quiet during the day.

As we were standing on the corner, we were covered in snow. However, the group did not let the cold get them down – the music teacher had brought with her a speaker and prepared playlist which encouraged us to move to the music. We were also shown a lot of support from the community. The coffee and sweet treats given to us by parents were welcomed – the hot coffee arriving at an opportune time as it warmed my frozen fingers.

As of this morning, we have heard no notification that the government is going back at the bargaining table and more walkouts are planned for next week. I would rather be in my classroom teaching my students – but this issue is too important.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Walking the Picket Line

Yesterday my colleagues and I participated in the fourth phase of our ongoing strike by withdrawing full services. The day dawned with the frigid temperatures of -18c but we were determined to stand up for what we believe is important.

Our bodies constantly moving to keep warm, we gathered together in front of the school where we teach. The school is not at full capacity, so the group was small. However, we cheered one another on as our bodies got used to being out in the extreme cold. As someone mentioned, it was a little like yard duty – but for an extended period of time.

I am proud to be working as a teacher for our school board. I know that we have an important job to do – a job that some in our society do not appreciate. However, the parents at our school are very supportive and understanding. They realise that the reason we are standing up to the government and the cuts they want to enforce is for the good of their children, our students.

A few parents brought their children over to show them that yesterday was not just a day away from school; these parents had explained to the children what it is we are fighting for. Two of our students yesterday morning walked the picket line with us to experience strike action. Definitely a learning moment.

It is not often that we were able to catch the sunlight and stand in its warmth. Our neighbourhood has been changing over the last few years as condos are sprouting up in its streets. We became sun seekers, searching for any spot in which to stand. Sunlight was rare, though, and we walked up and down a section of the street to keep ourselves warm (especially our feet!).

We are hoping that the government ministers see the light (did you see what I did there Becky 😀 ) – but we do not have any hope that they will. Today the secondary schools are going on their third walkout and, thankfully, the temperatures have risen by 15c. Hopefully the next time we walk out of our classrooms for the strike action, it won’t be so cold.

Have you walked the picket line?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This post is linked to Becky’s Square Challenge.)

A Visit by the Classroom Elf

This week Jean-Jean, the classroom’s Elf on the Shelf, made an appearance. As per tradition, I read the story about the elf to the children on Monday and some children in the class shared stories about the elves that are visiting their home.

Each morning I place the elf in a different place, often linked to what the children are currently doing in class. I remind the children that they are not to touch the elf as he will lose his magic and return to the North Pole. Those children who have an elf at home already know about this admonition.

As always, there are children who don’t believe – which is okay. However, there were some children this year who decided to touch the elf in order to test whether he was magic or not. So Jean-Jean was put away much to the dismay of some of the children. Hopefully the class, as a whole, will learn the lesson to follow the instruction given and not spoil the experience for others.

Do you have an Elf on the Shelf who visits your home or work space?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

A Word Collector

I was so happy when I saw that The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds had been translated in French which meant that I could use it in my classroom. I love the story about a little boy who enjoys words so much that he collects them. Eventually he makes sentences with his collection; and when his collection gets too big, he shares the words with everyone.

This week I read the story to my grade 1 and 2 students and afterwards I opened a centre at which they browsed through some books and found words to record in a notebook. My plan is that at the end of every week, my students will take the notebook home in order to practice reading and writing the words they have collected.

The children love the activity – especially as they are able to write using colorful gel pens. This is one task that they will all complete with joy!

This week I am grateful for authors and illustrators who create stories that inspire my lessons and centre tasks. It always makes me smile to see the children enjoying both the stories and the activities.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

(This post is part of my Gratitude Challenge and is linked to Trent’s Weekly Smile, a challenge which focuses on sharing all things positive.)