Summer Plans

It’s summer! 9 weeks may seem like a long time, but between weddings, trips, and prepping for next year, I already know that these two months are going to fly by. In order to make the most of it, here’s what I’m putting into motion:

Setting a weekly focus

I have been following ANGELA WATSON‘s blog for a while and she wrote a post not too long ago called 6 SIMPLE STEPS TO THE BEST SUMMER EVER. I’ve followed her advice to create an end of summer vision and to assign a focus for each week. My three main goals are to (1) have my long range plans completed and an intro postcard/letter sent out to my students; (2) have a morning routine in place to maximize my day and ensure I have time for devos; and (3) have meal plans created for September. This week, my focus is on getting to know my curriculum expectations. I’ve taught all these subjects before, but I’m really hoping to do something a little different this year that allows for more authentic, integrated learning.

Explore something different every day

It’s easy for routine to become monotony when you have a toddler. So, we’ve committed to trying or visiting something different every day. Living in Kingston and in this part of Ontario, there is tons at our fingertips that we haven’t even scratched the surface of. We’re starting local, but we will definitely branch out as the summer goes on and as we venture to other parts of Ontario and North America. So far, we’ve visited a BERRY FARM, taken Andy to his first splash pad, and attended STORIES IN THE PARK. Tomorrow we are heading to the MUSEUM OF HEALTH CARE.

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30 day fitness challenge

This last endeavour is three-fold. One, I have not been going to the gym nearly enough, and my diet has been subpar. Plus, throwing out my shoulder when I wiped out while cycling has been a disincentive to any sort of physical activity. Two, we are heading to Bermuda at the end of August. Three, I am teaching 4 classes of phys. ed. next year. In summary, plenty of reasons to get into shape.

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Some links

It’s already August (what!), and the heat has all but swallowed me whole. It makes me really wish there was a giant Slip ‘n Slide down Princess. Um, this should totally happen.

Also, when we were in NYC last week, we went to this deceptively large Italian market called Eataly, and I really want to go on one of their tours. Maybe when Andy is older he will enjoy this.

I didn’t get a chance to go to Brooklyn on this past trip, but a friend and I are going to take part in the Sketchbook Project. I attempted a year or two ago, but alas never actually finished my sketchbook. Accountability for the win this time!!

Teaching Well

For quite some time now, I’ve been following Maureen Devlin’s blog. She’s an educator from Massachussetts (going on 30 years of teaching next year!) who posts often and challenges me to really act on what I value in education. I have had the privilege of actually connecting with her on twitter, and I know she will continue to push me (and so many others) to become a better educator.

I recently discovered her Summer Study site, and though I am not teaching in the state of Massachussetts, the pillars of their Education department still resonate with me. I plan to work my way through the 33 elements of teaching excellence and post my thoughts here.

As Maureen always says…Onward.

Cycling on the K&P Trail

I’ve written about my adventures on the K&P Trail before, seeing as how it’s one of my favourite places to cycle. But yesterday, I managed to venture further than I’ve ever been! I travelled to the very end of the K&P trail, to where it meets the Cataraqui trail. That’s roughly 20 km from the trailhead in Kingston. From there, a short jaunt west would get me to Harrowsmith. Or, if I preferred, a slightly longer jaunt east would get me to Sydenham. I’ve outlined my ride from Kingston to Orser Road in a previous post, but I thought I’d add a few notes on the stretch north of Orser to where it intersects with the Cataraqui Trail. The KFL&A Trail Map shows me that the trail actually winds north past Harrowsmith and ends at Hartington, but I have yet to travel there.

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So in the map you’ll see that long stretch between Unity and Orser, which is roughly 5 km. The maintained portion of the trail used to end here, at Orser Road. However, as of two summers ago (I think), the northern stretch of the trail has been upgraded for easy access to the Cataraqui trail. In general, they’ve been putting some money into the trail. Within the last two years, they’ve also put interpretive signs and large trail maps along the stretch of the trail. The picture below was taken from the Gorway group website – the people responsible for making the signs.

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The kilometre north of Orser Road to Murton Road was tough for me – not because it was steep, but because the gravel was really uneven and bumpy. You pass through a field of hydro towers, but there’s not much else to look at in this short section. From Murton Road, it’s about 2.5 km to Scanlan Road and another 2.5 km or so to get to the crossing. This stretch is windy and quite scenic, with rock cuts and lots of wildlife. I saw 4 turtles (or maybe three…that last one I saw on the way back, and it may have been the same turtle) as well as frogs, birds, and other small creatures.

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There is a bit of a grade heading up towards Scanlan Road, and though it is long, it isn’t too strenuous. Past Scanlan you cross a bridge that goes over Millhaven Creek. Next time, I’ll make sure to take more pictures. This time around, I just wanted to power through and make it. When you finally arrive at the intersection, you are met with some signposts, and another trail map.

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I was pretty tired by this time (it’s the furthest I’ve ever biked!), so instead of heading into Harrowsmith, I turned back and pedalled towards Kingston. It was a slower ride (heading there I averaged 20 km/hour, but on the way back I was 1 or 2 km/h slower. Instead of going around the vista at Bur Brook, I sped down the street, hitting my max speed at 60 km/h. Kelvin was playing a softball game at Cloverdale, so I cycled there to watch a bit of the game. The hill on McIvor almost did me in (my legs were very tired by then) and ironically enough, Kelvin drove past me just as I was struggling up it.

In summary, I was very happy about this ride, and am excited to see where else this trail can take me. I’m hoping to explore more of the Cataraqui trail one day, and I’ll make sure to record more of my thoughts here. Anyways, it’s Canada Day, and strawberries are waiting to be picked at Fruition :)

Year End Surveys

Tomorrow is the last day of school. It is surreal to think that I will have made it through my first year as a home room teacher. It’s been a truly rewarding experience, and I’ve been blessed to have had such wonderful students and a wonderful team around me to work with.

The end of the year is always a time of reflection (more so than any other time…though of course reflection should happen frequently). In order to hear what my students thought of the year, I had them fill your some surveys as to what they enjoyed about the year, what I did as a teacher that was effective or not effective, how I could better help them. I really appreciated that my kids were candid with me, and I intend to take all of those comments to help me frame the next year that I have with them.

These were some of the things that came up repeatedly:

the good
– organization
– neat classroom
– teaching a variety of strategies to solve problems in math
– pushing and challenging students
– the real game (a pathways planning tool/simulation where students were assigned a profile and learned real life skills including budgeting)

for improvement
– pacing – I move too quickly and students can’t keep up, especially in math
– more one-on-one support
– assessment – my students want clearer expectations, and more feedback, more often; they also want overall grades (whereas right now I provide rubrics and assign marks in each category)
– consistency of assignments and making sure students have enough time to work on them
– making the probability unit count

That gives me lots to think about, and also shows me that I need to be more creative in the way I plan and deliver my lessons. Lots to think about and do over the summer but I am very excited!

Parrott’s Bay Conservation Area

More outdoor time this weekend! We didn’t venture too far this time around – headed along Bath Road/Hwy 33 past Amherstview. We ended up at the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority’s newest conservation area, Parrott’s Bay, for a leisurely stroll around a surprisingly large wetland. Our exploration was much less intense than last week. In fact, I wore boat shoes and jeans (in retrospect, it was way too hot for them). Still, some absolutely beautiful encounters with nature.

The conservation area was small enough for us to do a loop within about an hour (click here for trail map). From the parking lot on Hwy 33, we headed first to the lookout. It was a fairly short jaunt to a cute little gazebo overlooking the entire wetland.

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We backtracked to where Trail 1 and 2 split, and headed north along Trail 2. The trails for the most part are well marked, but I would still suggest keeping a map with you (or a photo of it on your device). We continued on Trail 3 towards the bridge and were pleasantly surprised with what a nice walk it was. At the bridge, you get a view of the wetland to one side and Taylor Kidd on the other.

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The best part of the trail came directly after this bridge, when we headed into what seemed like a fairly mature forest with very tall trees and a high canopy. It reminded us of being in the forests in BC!

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We marvelled at the fact that we were still in Ontario and ventured on along Trail 4, then Trail 5. This place has an undisturbed quality to it, and perhaps doesn’t get as many visitors as some of the CRCA’s other properties. Most of the trails were in wooded areas, though a few sections wound through clearings. The boardwalk that is supposed to connect Trails 5 and 6 didn’t seem to exist, and the path was a little damp there, but it was nothing compared to the mud that we had trampled through last week. The trail eventually led us out to Bayview Drive, linking us up with Hwy 33. Despite having cars whizzing by us and only a shoulder to walk on, we found ourselves enamoured by the beautiful houses on the other side of the street. We made it back safely to our car, and headed on home.

Quite different from the conservation areas we frequent in Kingston, Parrott’s Bay is definitely a place we will be returning to. Next time, we might park at the lot along Taylor Kidd and explore some of the trails we didn’t get to on the north side of the conservation area. Either way, it’s a beautiful place.

One last picture for the post – pristine views of the lake on one of the most scenic drives around town.

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A Taste of Summer

With report cards finished, and assignments all marked, I am starting to get a glimpse of what my summer might be like. I’m looking forward to lazy mornings, leisurely bike rides, and also some intense spurts of learning. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and I’ve often questioned why I do it at all, but I was reminded lately that it serves as a good place to flesh out my own thoughts, and to share them with those who care to listen. I am leaning towards some tweaking in the near future, or at least some streamlining as to what this blog really is all about. Everybody likes a little order.

Speaking of order, I’ve utilized a large white board and some empty wall space to help focus my time a little more.

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