|The banner my students made to wave at our peers as they arrived! Students from all three classes signed it at lunch.|
Back in October, the Smarties invited us to their school for the day. We spent that day running around a local pumpkin patch, finding perfect pumpkins and then enjoying a wagon ride and apples fresh from the orchards! We had a great time at the Smarties' school and were sad to leave at the end of the day. That First Gathering is always interesting because it's a time for students to meet face to face, often for the first time. Some have a few friends already as our communities are not too far apart and sports and other activities do bring kids together outside of school. It is interesting to see the interactions that occur as the students do come together as one large group for the first time.
The Second Gathering, always held at the Rec Center in my community, is a fun-filled day too! Students enjoy the pool, have lunch together and then go skating together in the afternoon before boarding the bus to head home. The neat thing about the Second Gathering is that the group has been connected and learning together via the video conferencing lessons, the moodle and in other ways for ~5 months and the peer-to-peer and student-teacher interactions are very different from those at the First Gathering. It is clear that learning relationships are developing and students interact much more between the three classes at the Second Gathering. They are also more trusting of the three teachers and it's wonderful to talk with my two colleagues and all the students face to face! I recognize the voices before the faces and do my best to attach names to as many students as I can so that I can continue to deepen that student-teacher learning relationship for the remainder of the year. While I try as hard as I can to attach names to faces at the First Gathering too, they never seem to stick as well as they do after half the year teaching and learning in our unique environment!
The other wonderful thing about the Gathering was that we had another great turnout of parents and other family members! First off, it was very helpful to have a dozen extra pairs of hands to tie on 80 pairs of skates!! Aside from practicalities though, it's great to bring families into the ECC. I was so happy to meet the grandmother of a student from Lytton and it was wonderful for the parents of my students to be able to meet Mrs. Sayenchuk for the first time. The connecting of not only the students and staff, but also the parents, of the three communities is powerful and wonderful to see in person.
It was a great day and an important reminder of the reality of what we do in our Connected Classrooms each day. We are building a learning community. We do need the face to face to make it work, but the way we are teaching each day is building that community too.