Sunday, 14 October 2012

My Fab5

Fab5 is a conference for teachers in their first five years of teacher, as well as pre-service teachers, like myself. It is put on by the Manitoba Teachers Society in both Winnipeg and Brandon. The conference spans three days.
Kirsten, Jennifer and I with Mitch.
After registration there was a light supper provided and some mingling. I talked with some friends I knew were coming and got to know some Ed students I hadn't had the privilege of meeting before.
The highlight of the night was keynote speaker, Mitch Dorge. He is the drummer for the Crash Test Dummies and loves to share the lessons he's learned with others. His energy, enthusiasm and silliness are contagious. The clapping, shouting, knee-slapping, feather-beating, rubber-chicken-abusing, and ninja-screaming band he turned all of us into is ample evidence of that.
Through his activities, stories and an amazing drum demonstration Mitch urged us:

  • To know the unique energy  we have and bring 100% of it to everything we do.
  • To realize that everything we say and do affects people - the intended and the unknown.
  • That we have something to learn from everyone, regardless of how MUCH they know.
It was a great way to get started and a message worth remembering.
Afterward, there was a mingling time and I got to speak with some MTS Staff Officers and meet Mitch himself. He posed for some pictures and took time to get to know everyone who spoke with him.

I had two sessions Continue the Adventure of Laughter with Mark Essay and Resiliency with Audrey Siemens.
It's obvious why Mark does a session on laughter: he is hilarious! He used stories, actions, wacky voices and was incredibly engaging. He shared that laughter is relaxing and world-wide, comes from interaction, and is contagious. He gave a lot of practical tidbits and strategies, but two things especially stood out for me.

  1. If I want enthusiasm and engagement in my class it is MY responsibility to maintain and sustain it.
  2. That if we are subjected to limitations we learn not to exceed them and will continue that way even when the limitations are removed (or weren't real in the first place). We need to provide a classroom where the lid is off and show kids that it is safe to jump as high as they want.

In the second morning session Audrey shared wisdom from teachers she works with and her own on how to stay resilient as new teachers. We came up with a group definition of what resiliency means. I thought the metaphor of individuals as jugglers was very apt. We juggle a series of balls: work, family, health, friends and integrity. All are made of glass, which may shatter if not kept aloft, except for work. Work is a rubber ball. We also received a stress apple in this session and it is a great, tactile reminder of the juggler metaphor.

My two afternoon sessions were Classroom Management with Blake Stephens and Teaching Aboriginal Topics with Wade Houle.
Blake has spent many years working with children with behavioural difficulties and shared his experience with us. He stressed building relationships, rationally detaching and active listening. I appreciated his story about helping students avoid trouble instead of getting them into trouble. He used some very memorable metaphors, like carrying around a bucket of sand and equality is banning glasses. He stressed the importance of using positive language: "You can go outside when..." v. "You can't go outside until...", and that I can't stop doing what I enjoy just because I'm busy. Blake's insights are going make my future classroom a better place.
Wade used his session to share, share, share. He gave us over 30 lesson plans and activities, with exemplars and explanations. To have things that have been successfully used in class is invaluable. One particular activity, the tic-tac-toe, stands out for me. It had nine assignments in a grid. The students had to choose 3 of them to do and they must all be in a winning tic-tac-toe line. It's a fun way to provide choice, but Wade used it even more effectively. Each row was an assignment geared to a different learning style. Visual learners could go along the top row. Students without a strong preference could choose a column and do three different types of assignment. So, now the instrument of choice becomes an instrument of differentiation as well. I love it!

The final day's sessions focused on showcasing MTS Special Area Groups of Educators: specialized associations within MTS that provide resources and development for members. I chose to go to A Window to the World: Blogging in the Classroom with Leslie Dent Scarcello & Erin Malkoske of ManACE, and Creating an Environment of Mathematical Literacy by Tricia Licorish of MAMT.
Leslie and Erin shared how they started blogging personally and with their classrooms. Their rationale is that blogging:

  • Increases engagement
  • Gives an authentic, worldwide audience
  • Makes connections
  • Is a way to pay it forward
  • Enables discussion about digital citizenship
They gave a quick tutorial on how to set up a blog on blogger and shared important considerations, like setting criteria for posts and comments, and adminstration and parental permission for posting online.
They showed a few of the blogs that inspired them and on one of them there was something amazing! An assignment to guess a fictional character by the apps on his/her fictional iPhone and then create an iPhone, apps and personalized case, for a character that has been studied during the year. It's engaging (I want to do it right now) and to be successful you really have to get inside the character's head and then make inferences.
Tricia's session was practical and hands on. She shared websites that she has found very helpful and activities for all streams. We were able to wander and try out the activities ourselves, to see how they work and to fix them in our memories. We each left with a CD full of Math resources and built an infinity card with rules for adding, subtracting, multiplying and diving integers. I'm so thankful for sessions like these. I feel like these activities and lessons shared with me are building a foundation for my career. The more I have to draw on for planning, the more I will be able to focus on effective teaching when I am in my first classroom.

For the PD sessions alone this conference is well worth the cost; however, it was much more than that. Two breakfasts, a lunch with dessert, light supper, snacks, drinks, wine and cheese are included. You get a free text book, time to network with colleagues, presenters and MTS staff. There are also extra prize draws. I almost won one, but the wrong Tyler was called.
I'm very glad I went and plan on attending for the next 5 years as well! Fab5 is fabulous!


  1. Love the review Tyler! I used the picture with Mitch in my review as well :) I am sad I never got my free textbook this year but learned so much anyways that it was still well worth it! I think, if our divisions allow, we should all try to go each year so we can catch up with one another :)

    1. I think that is a great idea. I'm committed to attending for the next five years. Jennifer picked up a text book for you before we left. So, you'll get it eventually :)

    2. Did she!? What a sweetheart! That makes me so excited. PS I don't have my phone because I am at the school until 5 but I am looking at the BYTE presenter application. Can you tweet me and we can brainstorm presentation stuff?