Thanks; signing off for now…

Here we are with Annie behind us on the screen!

Hello Folks at Home,

Here is one final post to cap off my infrequent posts this year.  Lots here.

The question that titles this blog and that has to some extent guided us all year is “Who in the World Am I?”  While I don’t think we have an answer (and didn’t expect to) I do think we have done some work to see the world, and ourselves in it, and to think about who we are.  What I know is that I have been very, very lucky to get to this bunch in this configuration at this age.  Hooray for Grade 4 and 5!  Thank you for trusting to me this wonderful bunch of people.

I must express in this public space my gratitude to the sunny and magical Sarah Hogan, our venerable EA.  Her work to support Kalifah was amazing (and often highly aerobic), but she supported the whole class in many ways, not least me with her wisdom and insight.  We are lucky to have her!

You will likely know that I’m slated for a 5/6 next year.  Allowing that Everything Can Change over the summer, this will certainly mean I’ll have some of these kids again next year.  Hopefully that reality should it occur will not be too tramatic for them in September.

Last week, we spent some time reflecting and remembering.  Two questions–“What did we do?” and “Where did we go?”–are represented in the next picture.  As for “What did we learn?”  I suppose the report cards have something to say about that…  But what I most hope we have learned–and what several students identified a couple of week ago after our Early Civilization projects–is how to learn.  How to ask questions.  How to follow pathways of inquiry.  How to make connections.  How to use resources.  How to find new questions.  How to find help.  How to collaborate in our learning.  How to celebrate and learn  from misunderstandings.  And a sense that the learning journey doesn’t have an end (the journey being the point!).  If your child grew in this way this year, and feels more confident and capable in driving their own learning, then I am delighted.


Independent Orthography Projects

To this end, I have one more project to share.  To round off the year, I asked students to choose a word they would like to investigate–any word.  It was a chance to flex our orthography muscles that we’ve been building all year.

As usual, most jumped in with enthusiasm.  The variety of words was delicious–from the everyday to the relatively rare:  zoom and aquamarine; dog and preposterous;  divide and ghastlypencil and cynical; alone and illumination…and so on.  The reasons for their choices were their own.  The pathways their inquiry took were unpredictable and full of surprises.  (For me also, as always).

For instance, when Irene announced she was going to look at the word pencil, someone called out, “Like penicillin!”  We were all pretty dismissive of that possibility.  But it turns out they do share a root, related to the Latin for “paint brush” (because the mold that makes penicillin looks like paintbrushes under a microscope).  And that pen–which we assumed would  be related to pencil due their similar function and spelling–is not related at all!  (It also comes from Latin but is from the word for feather–get it?).

Eric’s investigation of the wonderful word preposterous revealed it to be a kind of Latin joke word–meaning “before-after”, and one, it seems, that has no base!  It is made solely of affixes!   This led him to also discover that there are three distinct post homographs in English.  And, in looking at the word posthumous discovered that human comes from the word for “Earth”.

Lettuce” is related to galaxy, Kylah?  Yes, because of its “milky” juices.  (If that made you say,”Huh?” check out what the root of galaxy means, and then look up lactose!).

Lenore, wondering about the gh in ghastly, discovered that in Old English it had only a g, but that the h was added because of the spelling of ghost.  This reminded her of an earlier investigation she’d done about the spelling of island where a long-ago misunderstanding gave us a spelling oddity.

Isla looked into the word illuminate, and discovered the word luminary–meaning “someone who shines”.  (Which later made me think about how we will call an expert or pioneer in a field a “leading light”.  These are not coincidences).

And so on!

Does any of this matter?  Well, I think so.  Again, a big part is the “learning to learn.”  Additionally, I believe that continually realizing that “words have stories” helps us all to have faith that there are reasons behind our spellings, and digging in like this exposes us to new vocabulary.  I wonder how long it will be before Isla encounters the new word luminary?

And finally–or perhaps most importantly–we learn about relationships between words that help us understand them better.  A big discovery for me–that I could hardly believe I’d never noticed before–was that divide is the base of individual!  Of course!  Knowing that deepened our grasp of what the latter word means, and will always help me spell it correctly.  If I asked a student to “sound out” individual I can see many pitfalls.  But knowing that divide is the base (and understanding the “connector vowel” element also found in use + u + al) makes it much simpler to discern the structure.

Mostly, it’s cool to know cool stuff.


Checking in with Annie

Most of you will know that our dear friend Annie has been going through a tough time, medically, and has been at Sick Kids’ Hospital in Toronto for more than a month now.  We tried to stay in touch with her during that time, through video conferences and a software called “Padlet”.  Here’s a link to a Padlet that she sent to us, giving us a sense of how she’s doing.

I was lucky enough to get to have a little visit with Annie last Saturday, the 29th, as my partner and I had to be in Toronto.  It was so great to see her, such a sunny kid!  What a time she and her family have had, their lives turned upside down!  She’s getting great care, and is going to be fine–the road to diagnosis and getting her liver functioning is just a slow one.  In the meantime, they believe at this point she’ll be in the hospital for another month or so.

Sick Kids is an amazing place, but even with all they do the days can be long.  If you would like to send a letter or postcard to Annie, I can promise you it will be welcome!  Here is the address

Annie Mastorakos

c/o Sick Kids Hospital

Unit 6B

555 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M5G 1X8

End of Year Pictures from Melissa

Thanks one more time to Melissa Hudson for being our unofficial official photographer this year.  Here’s a link to a bunch more photos from our last weeks in Google Drive.