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Amanda Merriman Self-Reflection

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Amanda Merriman

on 21 March 2014

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Transcript of Amanda Merriman Self-Reflection

Contextual variables
My classroom is a mosaic of contextual variables, each made unique by every student who walks through the door. Some of these differences include socio-economic, language, religious/cultural, parental involvement, personal interests and experiences. As a teacher I have to fold together these differences to create a level foundation to teach upon. Sometimes it means adapting for certain student's weaknesses and other times it means embracing their strengths. Being aware of these variables helps me to empathize with my students circumstances and provide necessary support including; extra help at lunch, teaching organizational and study skills, keeping in communication with parents, or even referring students to a councilor, club, or other group that may be able to provide individualized care. I also feel it is important that as a member of this community that I know more about the local contextual variables and can even draw local examples into my teaching. For example, in studying structures and forces in science 7 we looked at the architecture and esthetics of the St. Vital Parish. I think it is important to apply what we learn to the real world around us and using our community also helps students to feel pride and belonging not matter what differences they may have.
See my architecture project here http://mmemerriman.blogspot.ca/2013/03/architecture.html
Alberta Education System
Program of Studies
The Program of Studies is the backbone of what and how we teach. It is a specific guide that outlines the content of what we teach and the skills we want to instil into our students.
We are currently part of the curriculum redesign prototyping and I am looking forward to sharing my ideas and using the strategies outlined. It will be a positive change focused more on competencies and nurturing our students to become engaged thinkers, ethical citizens, and inspiring an entrepreneurial spirit.
Alberta Education System
's structure is one based on support for educators and staff, parents, and students in order to provide a holistic education that, not only builds a strong foundation of knowledge, but also inspires future generations of leaders and entrepreneurs. The '
Guide to Education
' is a resources provided that clearly outlines "the objectives and underlying principles of the
School Act
and contains key requirements and other information for the implementation of education programming and the operation of school" -
Guide to Education
As an educator we must be prepared to teach just about anything. My degree is Secondary Education with a major in Biology and a minor in Social Studies. I have also studied marine biology, wildlife and outdoor education, technology, French, and Spanish. As a French immersion teacher I have been more fortunate in job availability but due to smaller enrollment I have often taught split classes and up to 6 core and 3 options in one year. I mainly teach 7-9 science and math in French but have also taught some of those subjects in English as well as ELA, Spanish and French as a Second Language, Health, and Electro-technology/Robotics. I have also substitute taught at all levels and appreciate how these experiences allow me to make many inter-curricular connections.

See more about me and my online portfolio here

Science is everywhere and constantly changing and challenging what we think we know. I love sharing my excitement of the unknown with my students. I would love to run a junior high science department with a strong focus on teaching the scientific method and lab assignments as well as real-world applications with focus on STEM education. I presented two sessions at the ATA Science Council Conference this year and found it inspiring and as the possibilities as infinite as our universe.

See more here http://mmemerriman.blogspot.ca/p/atasc.html

I am working towards integrating space innovations like the ISS, technology, life in orbit, Canadian robotics and astronauts into my lessons. I am Skyping with Canadian Astronaut, Jeremy Hansen in April and hopefully one day sending one of my student's microgravity lab ideas up to the International Space Station's Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.
Chris Hadfield performing an experiment designed by students. One day my kids will do this too!
Type of Learner
I am a visual and tactile learner. As such my lessons are very visual with a lot of colour, photographs, and logical charts or diagrams. In math I like to use manipulatives as well as real-world examples to make the ideas more concrete. In my science and math classes I have my students build their own study guides so that they have something more focused and tangible to study. I take the time to teach them meta-cognition and how to study and remember things using their guides, mnemonic devices, colour, and self-assessments. I find that in combination with writing key ideas in our guides, practicing questions and presenting or summarizing information that hopefully I am able to reach all learning types. This kind of differentiation is important to help all learners but also to challenge my abilities as an educator.
See more at http://merriman.shawwebspace.ca/pages/view/lesson_plans_and_activities/

Also see my blog at
I plan for my instruction by following a few simple steps for each unit or chapter of study. In math an science the textbooks are fairly well made and a good guide for my planning and lessons. I do find that I have to adapt for French immersion learners as sometimes the wording is quite advanced.
1. Comb through the Program of Studies vigorously.
2. Make notes in the text to the corresponding outcomes so that everything is well covered.
3. Add to these notes ideas for lessons (labs, demonstrations, manipulatives, technology, media, assessments etc.) Many of my lesson ideas are found, recorded and organize on
4. Consult with my professional leaning community of peers for lesson ideas, unit timing, and equipment use.
5. Reflect on the dynamics of the group and individualized needs of my students and formulate the necessary adaptations.
5. Write out lessons and objectives in my plan book for the entire unit and upload important dates in my class calendars so students and parents are connected

6. Make notes for next year for what worked and what did not as well as other ideas to incorporate.
In French immersion we do not often have students with special needs as most Anglophones with difficulties will tend to focus on English language learning. With that being said I find that most of my Anglophone students require their own special adaptations. Many of the resources in French (text, worksheets, assessments, videos, etc) use quite advanced French language and context. We often have to work on vocabulary, comprehension, and paraphrasing items in our own words.
Even though there are less kids with special needs there are some kids that just don't learn the same way most kids do. I have a few students who I currently modify their assessments and class work so it is in a simpler language with less variables or sometimes I can provide choice in how they do their work. I will also always look over their work before they submit it to make sure they understood what was asked.

I have had a few kids over the years with special needs. "Trent" was one of my grade 8 students when I taught in Westaskiwin. He has cerebral palsy and is limited in mobility and is also non-verbal. His EA took amazing care of him but most times he would be sitting in the class watching the rest of the kids and not very engaged or involved. So I decided to make a Trent bucket. I would assemble objects for him to touch and look at that were related to our science topics. For the light unit I made a bucket with a flashlight, mirror, magnifying glass, colour wheel and more. Although he couldn't tell me what he thought he would laugh and smile when he came to class and his EA said he loved science!
Relationships + Positive Learning Environment
As an educator we spend almost as much time with some students as they do at home. We are "
in loco parentis
" and have a huge responsibility to each child and their families. It is very important to develop a relationship of respect, kindness, and support without losing your professional boundaries. I find the kids I bond with the most are the ones who either need it the most or share common interests. When I share pieces of my life with my students like books, music, movies, activities, hobbies, and family I am creating a foundation for communication, support, and familiarity. I want my students to respect my authority and follow the rules we establish together at the beginning of the year. On the other hand I want them to be comfortable to come to me for help or support.
I am a HUGE Chris Hadfield fan and it has become a tradition to apply any concept we learn to the International Space Station. The kids respectfully tease me about it and it has created a fun and positive class climate. My passion for space and my own personal hero has become infectious to these kids!
See more here http://mmemerriman.blogspot.ca/search/label/ChrisHadfield
Another example is one particular student who was very defiant and made each class a challenge. I went to one of the school basket ball games and noticed he was very good and listened well to his coach. The next day I told him that he had done well during the game and even played a song his team plays during warm up. He was very proud of his accomplishment and seemed to have gained more respect for me as a person and as his teacher. I try to learn a little bit about each student I teach and ask them questions about their lives. When I am positive and interested in them their behavior reflects it an it creates a positive relationship.
Behaviour and routines
Behaviour and classroom management is one of the biggest challenges of being a teacher. I find that the best defense is a good offense. If a student, at any level, is engaged in an activity they are less likely to be disruptive. Many of my activities involve following steps, reading instructions, using lab equipment or manipulatives and even peer-tutoring. If I give notes I make sure the students have a document to follow along with and fill-in-the-blanks as well as many diagrams, photos, and video clips to keep attention and provide differentiated instruction.
I also think it is important for students to be a part of the rule-making process so that they take ownership for their behavior and work. In September we come up with a list of classroom responsibilities and routines as well as simple rules to follow with logical consequences. This also includes classroom routines and weekly or daily jobs for each student. If I want to keep my class clean, lockers organized, and students on task it helps to have a routine and to be diligent in reminding them what to do.
There are many other techniques I used, from assigned seating to proximity, natural consequences, to communication home. Parents know their kids best and often have great ideas for dealing with their child. I find if I work with parents, administration and other teachers together we can solve just about anything
Another great behavior technology I have used is Class Dojo.

There are a lot of things that come to mind when I think of the word
; being fair, just, admirable, and an expert in your field. I also think showing respect means listening, being empathetic, and valuing the opinion and teachings of my others.
As teacher's students should show us respect but we also have to earn it in order to maintain a professional relationship and so that our students will value our lessons and follow our rules.
As much as the above is true, I think it goes beyond that. I think we model how to be good citizens, how to work hard and love what we do, and how to treat other people. We also have to show respect to our students and appreciate the diversity and unique ideas they have to share. They do not deserve any less respect than what we expect them to show us simply because they are younger.
I establish mutual respect with my students by modeling it. I listen to their opinions, consider their points of view, and value their input.

Kids love lab stations at any age and are engaged in learning!
See the entire lab here
Instructional Strategies
I use a wide variety of instructional strategies to be able to differentiate for a variety of learners, illustrate examples, and actively involve kids in their learning. Here are just a few that I use the most often:
Cooperative learning (peer teaching, group lab assignments and projects, etc.)
Direct instruction (Power Point, Notebook, Google Documents)
Group dialogue (higher order questioning, discussion, etc.)
Advanced organizers
Think, pair, share
Exit slips
Foldables and review assignments
Building review packages or unit summaries
Centers (science labs and math)
Mini dry-erase boards in math for instant feedback
Virtual instruction, virtual labs, online resources and other instructional technologies.
See an example here http://mmemerriman.blogspot.ca/2013/03/les-machines-simples.html

Amanda Merriman
Self -Reflection Based on the TQS
What works?
I find that kids need to learn HOW to learn and study. In math the Foldables are a one page summary of the chapter. I have them fill a duotang with the year's foldables and corrected quizzes to that they have something tangible to study for midterms and finals.

I have them make review books (duotangs) in science for each unit with copies of our notes and diagrams that they are to highlight and keep organized. I also have them include corrected quizzes, review questions, and sometimes a practice test. I have had kids graduate high school and tell me that they used these summarizing techniques throughout their education and have been flourishing academically.

I find that many of the simple strategies like Think/Pair/Share and exit slips are quick ways to keep students engaged and assess their understanding. I also have them use mini dry-erase boards in math an have them write their answers and hold them up for me to see. I keep my eye on kids who are struggling and give them extra help during practice time.
Lab Centers
I also have had great success with unit lab centers in science. Near the end of the unit I will have a lab day where they circulate around 8-10 stations that demonstrate specific concepts and scientific skills.

Heat and Temperature Lab

Light and Optics Lab
Strategies to Explore
I am always looking for new ways to teach. One area I would like to learn more about it math manipulatives. I use them as often as I can but would like to learn more. I find right now I am limited to what I can figure out on my own, the text book guides, and what I can find online. I would love to participate in a PD session that explains using manipulatives in more detail.

Another area I would like to learn more about is a variety of writing, reading, grammar, and novel study strategies. I have only been teaching ELA 7 for two years and wish I was more proficient in case I am to teach it again in the future.
I consider myself a technologically advanced educator. I use technology often for instruction, group work, research, and virtual labs an field trips. I have even presented about #EdTec at the ATA Science Council Conference. See here

The one thing I think is important is that technology is used as a tool and a method of learning but that it isn't the main focus or only method used. Like anything in life it is about balance.

Here are just a few examples of the technology I like to use and links to examples

Drive - docs, presentations, forms, and spreadsheets
Photos - sharing and editing
Calendar - keeping kids and parents up-to-date See
Email - Open communication with parents and student
My Innovation Fund was accepted and I was able to supply each homeroom computer with a web camera. See abut the proposal and application here
Skype in the classroom
Wolf Haven, North Caroline Aquariums, a middle school from Iowa, and soon with CSA Astronaut Jeremy Hansen!!
See more here
Google Hangouts for Education
presentations, notes, and demonstrations
document camera for displaying the text, documents, and lab demonstrations
- I have a blog I use to post pictures for students and parents, share news and interesting finds, and create outlines for lessons and virtual labs. See here
Student presentations and projects
Virtual labs and demonstrations
- ClassDojo, apps for education, and more
Technology for my professional use
Technology is a great tool for professional development and collaboration. Here are just a few examples that work best for me:
- An amazing place to find new ideas and keep it all organized.

- chat with other teachers and expand my PLC
Apps for educators

- A variety of groups I follow for new ideas and if I need help in a particular area of study. I belong to several communities; BGRS, Google Hangouts in Education, ISS15, Middle School Science, Mathematics, EPSB EdTec, and more!
Google Docs
- Creating assignments, forms, and spreadsheets for a variety of lessons.
Social Media
- Keeping connected on current events, modern scientific advancements, and my community.
Twitter -
Instagram -
Google+ -
LinkedIn -

My understanding of assessment:
- Ongoing assessment of work, projects, and anecdotal observations in order to determine student progress. Formative and diagnostic assessments.
- Student self-assessment, setting individual goals and activities that let students figure out their own strengths, weaknesses and needs.
- Assessment that helps us measure and record a student's achievement. Summative assessments.

Assessment has informed my practice by providing feedback of student achievement and understanding so that I know which areas to review, problems or "red flags" a student may be facing or if a student has achieved the outcomes presented in class.

assessments I use are test and quizzes, presentations, unit review booklets (summaries) and paragraphs with clear scoring rubrics. Some
assessments I use include dry-erase boards, exit slips, questioning, text book questions, thumbs up or thumbs down, mini-quizzes, worksheets, anecdotal observations, and student self-assessment.
Individual dry-erase boards for math or multiple choice questions in other subjects let me know in the moment who knows what. It is a great tool to figure out who needs extra attention and support.
I make an effort to maintain regular communication with my students and their parents as well as co-workers and administration. My communication style is professional, empathetic, helpful, and easy-going.

I consistently check my email and make sure to either call or email parents within minutes or at least the day of any incident, good or bad. I have also created a blog and have permission to post photos of activities I do with my class in order for kids to review concepts and for parents to feel connected to our classroom. Parents ask their kids "What did you do in school today?" and often the reply is "nothing." There is always something new happening in our school and in Mme. Merriman's Classroom
I have received a lot of positive feed back from parents and am very proud of my blog.

My communication style facilitates student learning because I make sure to keep them, and their families, posted on current events, classroom activities, and important dates. I provide study skills and resources, both online and in my classroom. I make myself available to students whenever they are in need and even provide "Midi avec Merriman" every day 3 where I encourage kids to mark late work, get extra help, organize their lockers and binders or catch up on their reading or Mathletics. I encourage my students daily to make the best of the time we spend together and to ask for help or check for understanding. Sometimes kids are reluctant to ask for help so I constantly offering it to them.

My communication style with colleagues is supportive, encouraging, and collaborative. I am always available to listen and either try to help solve an issue or just empathize. I use email, Google Hangouts, and face-to-face interactions to keep in contact with my colleagues. I am a HUGE fan of collaboration and co-operative teaching so I make sure to make my skills and resources available known to my peers and help out when I can. Specifically I plan my science 7 units with MJ Buzack so that we can share lab and project ideas and coordinate using equipment. I collaborate with many other teachers as part of my own Professional Learning Community and love being able to learn something new just about every day.
Examples of tec I use and a few new ideas I want to explore!
I think the best resource we have at our disposal as educators is each other. As I've said I am big on co-operative teaching, peer mentoring, and collaborating with my PLC. When I was a new teacher I was overwhelmed with all the planning and creating materials from nothing. Luckily our science department head took me under her wing and, even though she only taught in English, I still found the support and ideas invaluable. Now as an experienced teacher I share my resources and expertise all the time in order to pay-it-forward. I also like that I can depend on my administration for support if I am stumped or need support in solving a problem. They always have something I may not have considered that has helped me out.
I also find an infinite amount of information and resources through our library and online. I love using Pinterest and Google Communities to find new ideas, share my own, and put questions out there for like-minded people to give me a new perspective on. I use Twitter to learn about new innovations and also to connect with various local and international people. Through Twitter I was able to connect with the Canadian Space Agency and then at the ATA Science Council Conference I was able to meet their PR coordinator, Magalie Renaud and Canadian Astronaut, Jeremy Hansen. As I said previously Jeremy will be Skyping live with my classes in April! What an amazing resource the CSA has turned out to be!
I find that parents and members of our community are also very valuable. Finding people with personal interests or involvement in a variety of activities and organizations means having local and applicable resources. For example, Inside Education had come to my class to give presentations on Energy and the environment and I have also enjoyed many of their free teacher PD sessions. I have had parents join us on field trips, send me websites and ideas that we are learning about, and in the past even come as guest speakers.
Inside Education took us teachers up in helicopter to see the pipelines! They also came to my class for a presentation and provided posters and energy/petroleum studies kits!
So much to offer teachers for free! http://www.insideeducation.ca/
Quality of our school
It takes a village to raise a child and a committed and generous staff to make a school more than just a place to learn. We provide knowledge, physical activity, emotional and educational support, and a sense of pride in our school community. Here is how I contribute to the many aspects that make this school whole:
I am devoted to my job and my students and spend a lot of time making sure each lesson is valuable
I provide extra opportunities for learning like help at lunch and after school or posing higher order questions to inspire kids to research and learn something new just for the sake of learning.
I share my expertise and resources with other teachers and lean on them for support when I need it
I participate in many of the social and family events held at our school like Family Movie Night, the Halloween Family Dance, and I am on the committee to plan our end of the year celebration.
I was part of the planning committee for our winter Carnaval de Quebec and loved bringing students, the community, parents, and educators all together in the spirit of French-Canadian culture.
I am part of the social committee for staff and help to organize staff events.
Student Extra Curricular
I am a very competitive person and I like to win. Every time our school is issued a challenge I make sure everyone is involved and that as a class we all have a lot of fun together. It takes a lot of work, often outside of class time, but it is worth it. For example we won the "Family Day Unplugged challenge for our school.
I am on the Terry Fox Run committee and love creating a special day for kids to run for a good cause and enjoy being outside together as a school community.
In the past I have coached the cross country running team and hope to be able to do it again this coming year.
I also have take my grade 9s to Quebec three times in my career and am also hoping to collaborate with all the Beaumont junior high schools for future trips.
I have been toying with the idea to start a few science-related clubs. Either a robotics group, environment group to make our school more eco-friendly, or a space group to apply as part of the ISS SSEP -
See http://ssep.ncesse.org/

Cross Country Running w EQEJHS
Carnaval de Québec!
See more here
Professional Development
There is no end to learning. No matter how much I study and learn I can always learn something new. I take my professional development very seriously and embrace every opportunity available. Please see this link for more details of my PD from previous years. http://merriman.shawwebspace.ca/pages/view/professional_development_/
My most recent PD has been focused on science and STEM education. This year alone I have attended many useful sessions.
ATA Science Council Conference where I presented two sessions. One was about technology in science education and the other was about quick and easy science demonstrations and resources found on Pinterest. This link has all of the details.
I attended some very interesting session at the NCTCA including a tour of the Telus World of Science!
I planned our PD day for the ECES science teachers to clean out, organize, and re-supply the science lab room. During this day we came up with lists of labs we would like to try and equipment we need.
Because of my Innovation Fund being accepted I was able to provide a webcamera for each homeroom and gave a PD session at one of our staff meetings on using it as well as Skype and Google Hangouts. Please see here
Previous PD
2012 ACPI (l'Association Canadienne des professeurs d'immersion) conference for teaching French Immersion.
Level II Smartboard training (I am certified to teach other teachers about how to use Smartboards)
We made a customized PD weekend with the Vancouver Aquarium where we learnt about marine and water sciences and how to apply it in our classroom and have been piloting a program to Skype with the aquarium.
Inside Education's sessions "Careers in Environmental Technologies Education Program" as well as a weekend at the "Foothills Energy Program" in Rocky Mountain House. (See a video of our helicopter ride HERE).
I have attended the ATA Science Council conferences three timesand have enjoyed hearing David Suzuki, Jeremy Hansen and Jane Goodall speak.
We use a lot of PD time to collaborate with other teacher's in the same subject area and I have even connected with teachers in other districts to share French Immersion resources.
Other conferences and PD opportunities I have bee to include: Alberta New Teacher's Convention, attending and chairing at the ATA Teacher's Conventions, Differentiated Instruction, Winning Strategies for Struggling Students and Video conferencing
Details, copies of certificates and photos available here http://merriman.shawwebspace.ca/pages/view/professional_development_/
How has my PD impacted Student Learning
I wholeheartedly believe in STEM education is the wave of the future and will provide the next generations of entrepreneurs, scientists, and innovators. I spend a lot of my time doing PD for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. (Truthfully not so much the engineering part!).
Learning about the latest inventions, newest discoveries, and best methods of instruction have made me a better teacher. I can discuss technical questions with my class and together we can explore a whole new frontier. We can research how to grow plants in the winter and make our own labs with variables and well through-out observations.
My first year teaching science 9 was the first year the new curriculum was being tested. When we got to the space unit my honours science 9 class would ask me so many mind-boggling questions that finally I just emailed NASA. Not only did they email back but they also sent me teacher resources, posters, and spectrograph building kits. EPIC!! I loved the challenge and my student's learning, comprehension, and assessments reflected our passion and curiosity for science!
More recently I have been in contact with the Canadian Space Agency, Inside Education, Science Is, and so many other supporters of modern education.
One of my earlier PD's included attending a presentation about the Earthbox project that showed the success of the program at our school. It was amazing to grow a garden in our classroom and teach kids how to nurture plants and even make soup and salad from scratch. See more about it here http://merriman.shawwebspace.ca/pages/view/earthbox/
Other STEM ideas I discovered through PD
What is STEM Education?
My vision as my purpose of teaching....

From the depths of my heart I truly love teaching and was born to do this. I once heard David Suzuki give a lecture at the ATA Science Council and he talked about the "spark" that we had as children that inspire us to love science, nature, or anything important to us today. Mine was spending my summers with my dad hiking, camping, fishing and then dissecting the entrails to see what treasures were inside. It may seem gross to some but to me it was fascinating and inspired my path in science that was nurtured by my teachers and the joy for learning they brought to school. I want to be the one that teaches a unit that sparks the curiosity and love of learning that guides them on a path to something meaningful and important.

I realize that most of my presentation and examples have been science focused but really this passion is applicable to any assignment. I have taught math just as long as I have science and I love showing kids how to take the obscure and make it decipherable. I love teaching French and Spanish as a second language and helping kids learn a skill that could be useful in future employment, travels, and more. I have taught a variety of technology classes and concepts woven into core classes and am always impressed by what the students can teach me.

Regardless of what I teach I love spending my days making "sparks" in young minds. Not every day is inspired and magical and there are times when it can be overwhelming but that is when I have a look around me and find something new that will blow their minds! Like this for example -empirical proof of the Big Bang - This is the quintessential discovery of our generation!
Thank you - Merci
Thank you very much for taking the time to read everything I have spent so much time putting together to show a glimpse into my world of teaching. I appreciate the opportunity.
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