Saturday, 13 October 2012

Fab Five 2012 Conference

MTS Fab 5 Conference, Fab Five
Winnipeg Conference Poster: Our conference dates were different!
This week I spent Thursday evening and all of Friday at The Fab 5 conference put on by the Manitoba Teachers' Society. This conference is designed for teachers in their first five years of teaching (including student teachers) and it is one that I attended last year as well! The sessions cover everything from general classroom management information and curriculum specifics to personal management and special area groups.

     By far one of the best parts about this conference is the attendants, presenters and organizers! I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to network with so many teachers who have just started teaching and can share their experiences with those of us who will be going through the interview process in a few short months. I choose 4 amazing sessions put the keynote and plenary sessions.

- Mitch Dorge 
Mitch Dorge motivational speaker
Myself, Mitch, & 2 other student teachers, Jen & Jasmine!
Have you ever been to a Professional Development session with an attendance of about 60 people and expected to have a Keynote address by someone who has travelled the world? The answer is probably, yes. Well what about someone who has travelled the world, hung out with Adam Sandler, won a Juno, had a platinum and double-platinum record, been nominated for two Grammy's and played Saturday Night Live? These are only some of the amazing accomplishments of our Keynote speaker, Mitch Dorge, who is the drummer of the Crash Test Dummies.

Mitch Dorge, motiviational speaker, professional development
Yes this would be me getting into my "sumo stance!"
Mitch spent the better part of an hour and a half getting us to step out of our comfort zones by getting us to engage in what I can only describe as a ninja warrior musical. (It is one of the those experiences where you definitely "had to be there" to accurately understand what it was like.) In admits our goofy antics and his personal stories, he shared his message about finding what your niche is and putting 100% of your energy into what makes you, you. It is important to reflect on what energy you are putting out into the world because everything you put out there affects someone else, even if its not the intended person. For example, if one of your students see you treating someone positively, they will pick up on that and it will affect them too, even if you weren't necessarily interacting with that student.

- Mark Essay
     Mark is a teacher of almost 20 years and as soon as he started his session I knew I immediately liked him. Why? He used strategies similar to WBT strategies to format his session and I was immediately engaged and enthusiastic (even though it was 8:30 in the morning)! He would speak for about a few minutes and then have us discuss the information with the person sitting beside us, he would then have us mirror his gestures and repeat the information verbally with him. This totally reminded me of the 5-step lesson plan, teach-ok, and mirror strategies of WBT so I felt very "in my element". 

     He spoke of the importance of having relevant teaching materials and strategies so that students can see the point in what they are doing. He also spoke about having an open mind all the time, but especially at conferences like this, because you may have days when you have used EVERY single strategy you know and they still don't work! If you have an open mind you may remember that teacher tip you heard at a conference and, even if it is nothing like what you are used to, you can pull it out and try something new. Sometimes the pure shock of you acting so different will put the class back on track! 
 - Kirsten Dozenko
     Kirsten is a very passionate individual and I really enjoyed her session. Mind you, I had met her the night before and we quickly find out that not only did we have the same name but we also had the same teachables! So that may have biased me :) Her session was an open discussion about how we can make our schools safe and inclusive for all students, regardless of the factors that may make up their identity. We started up with a good activating strategy where we brainstormed what society and school was like when we were 12, what it is like now and what it will be like in 12 years. We discussed what has changed and stayed the same which I found very interesting because there were teachers who were 12 years old in the 70s, 80s, 90s and in the 2000s. 
Kirsten introduced us to the "It Gets Better" project by Dan Savage and we all agreed that although we can understand the message that they were trying to get across it is a horrible message to tell students that they need to wait until AFTER school until it gets better. School should be a safe and supportive environment where students should feel that they are safe to be themselves. We also looked at some amazing resources, including children's books, and discussed how might school be different if students saw inclusive material like that represented all the way from K-12. If you are interested in learning more about the topic, Ally Week is actually next week (October 15-19) and here are some great resources that Kirsten shared with us.
- Glsen: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
- Think Before You Speak. Don't say "That's so Gay."
- Rainbow Resource Centre
- Egale: Canada Human Rights Trust

 - Bill Rumley
     This was an extremely emotional session for everyone involved as we listened to the stories of an Attendance Officer who has worked over 30 years assisting teachers who are working with troubled youth. To be honest, I didn't even know that Manitoba had Attendance Officers (previously referred to as Truancy Officers) so I found the session even more eye-opening. Bill centred his entire presentation on stories of specific students he worked with and how, more often that not, the family and school had given up on the student and he was left to pick up the pieces. He shared the amazing story about how one specific young man was continually kicked out of school and as soon as Bill would bring him back, the school would kick him out again because they had given up on him and saw no potential in the student. After a number of years, Bill ended up being able to get the student into another school where, thanks to the help of a supportive teacher, he graduated from high school as the valedictorian!

     Now I am one of those people who when I see someone cry, I cry as well and Bill is extremely passionate about what he does. Needless to say, every time Bill got emotional, myself and many other people began to get emotional as well. He stressed that we don't have to be the one to solve every single problem that comes our way, but we do need to acknowledge that person as an individual and listen to their situation. We can not be that person who labels a student as a "problem" and  doesn't take the time to see them as a person: what they like, what their strengths are, what their home life is, etc. Every student has the potential to do amazing things and we have the opportunity to assist them in reaching that goal. Here is a poem that Bill shared with us before our session wrapped up, I thought it was pretty powerful.

 The Touch of a Master's Hand
Myra Brooks Welch
'Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.
"What am I bid, good people", he cried,
"Who starts the bidding for me?"
"One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?"
"Two dollars, who makes it three?"
"Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,"
But, No,
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings. 
The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said "What now am I bid for this old violin?"
As he held it aloft with its' bow.
"One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?"
"Two thousand, Who makes it three?"
"Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone", said he.
The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
"We just don't understand."
"What changed its' worth?"
Swift came the reply.
"The Touch of the Masters Hand."
And many a man with life out of tune
All battered with bourbon and gin
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.
But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters' Hand.
 - Trish Griffin & Andrea Oversby
     Trish and Andrea are from the Teacher Action Cohert and I really wanted to take this session because although I have grown up having EAs in my classrooms and have even had EAs when I have student taught, I didn't really know what their exact role was. I think it is even more important to learn as much as I can because, with me being so young, it is very likely that most EAs will have been in the school much longer than I have and I wanted to be clear on the separate roles and responsibilities of teachers vs. EAs. If you are reading this and wondering the same thing, here is a quick breakdown:
educational assistants
Manitoba Teachers' Society. (2004). Teachers & Educational Assistants: Roles & Responsibilities. The Manitoba Teachers' Society: Winnipeg. pg 11-12.
      We were also able to go through many specific case studies that were pulled from actual Manitoba schools were there was conflict between teachers and the EAs they worked with. I found it really helpful to go over these because we were able to dissect the situation and determine what was the responsibility of the EA, what was the responsibility of the teacher, what was the responsibility of the resource teacher and what would be the responsibility of the administration. After going through all of this I feel much better about creating positive work relationships between myself and any EAs I may get to work with in the future. For more information check out the Educational Assistants in Manitoba Schools document.

- Wade Houle 
      This was perhaps one of the most practical sessions I visited and I am so thankful I made sure that I got it to work within my schedule! Wade is actually a teacher at the high school just 20 minutes away from our house so that was really neat! He shared over 30 lesson plans, assignments, projects and rubrics that he uses with his Native Studies, History and English classes. As a beginning teacher this package is like finding treasure! Wade included the actual assignments he gives out to students, his notes for them, questions for novel studies, the background information we might need.... EVERYTHING! The really helpful thing was that he also brought actual examples of completed assignments from his class so we could see how the finished project would turn out.

     I can't wait to use some of his ideas in my own classroom and, with him being right down the road, I know that I can easily ask him questions and get clarification if I need!

Overall I had a BLAST at Fab Five 2012. I am so glad I made time to attend and I can't wait to use some of the ideas during my student teaching placement that starts..... MONDAY! (It came up soooo fast!)

I'm sending out a BIG thanks to all of the presenters and organizers for this event, you all did an amazing job :)

using twitter in education
We stopped for a photo-op to showcase those of us who are using Twitter! So proud that we are all from the same university!! :)


  1. Great post, Kirsten - sounds like a great conference that MTS puts on. Love the final photo (hurray for BU)!

    1. Thanks Mr. Nantais! It really was a great conference, I learned so much and I can't wait to take that info back to the classroom. Yes, the BU students (current and former) definitely dominated the twitter presence at the conference :)


Thank you for commenting!