Sunday, 26 February 2017

Kindergarten Communication of Learning: A KCOL Reflection



So it has been a couple of weeks (longer for some) since the Kindergarten Communication of Learning (KCOL) storm. Now that things have subsided a little bit, I thought I would take some time to look back at what just happened...

From what I have seen online through various social media platforms, and from conversations with colleagues, I gather that the general feel can be summed up by the following options:

a) this was the worst few weeks of my life and I am considering quitting Kindergarten
b) this was a lot of work but I think I can make it better for next time
c) it wasn't so bad, I thought it would be worse

(I'm not sure who the option c people are... but if you are an option c person please share your magical KCOL wisdom in the comment section below!)

Anyway.

If I had to choose, I would say that I was definitely experiencing the first 2 options at different times. Since I had read the front matter of the Kindergarten Program 2016 (HERE) and I had read the Growing Success Kindergarten Addendum (HERE) I felt at times that I had a pretty good handle on the reports... but at other times I felt defeated.


Key Learning


The Growing Success Kindergarten Addendum p. 14


This isn't the first time I am writing about the KCOL, if you remember (or perhaps you missed it) I wrote a Six Part Series breaking down The Kindergarten Program 2016. In Part 2 (HERE) I spent a large portion of the post discussing the new format and some important things to keep in mind about the process we were all embarking on.

I ended off the post with some considerations that I will remind everyone of now:


Some considerations
  • yes the boxes look huge and daunting but you are writing in prose (paragraphs) so it fills up quickly
  • Since there is a lot of cross over in the four frames it will be easier to fill a box than you think. In the past, if you had a child who didn’t do very much traditional writing, then their language box would be pretty small. In this new format, art is a form of expression and is included in the Literacy and Math box. Trust me, you will find when it comes time to reporting that you will have plenty to say
  • Quality over quantity - If you have said everything you need to say and the box is not completely full, THAT IS OK. It is better to have some white space and an expert comment than to fill the box up with filler that detracts from the learning that you are describing.
  • When you are documenting in the classroom, if you structure your notes in the format of key learning, growth and next steps… you will save yourself SO MUCH TIME when it comes to reporting. Work smarter, not harder.
  • Work together with other kindergarten teams in your building. Remember, we are all new to this… so discuss and learn from each other!

Having a pretty strong foundation for the KCOL is something that I found to be very helpful. When it came time for reporting I was armed with all of the research and documents that I had prepared with. I kept these considerations in the back of my mind as a way to remind myself that it wasn't going to be super terrible.   

I had spent months tweaking my documentation style and trying many different formats for taking notes (sometimes I used an organizer, sometimes I just used lined paper, sometimes I used Seesaw) all to help myself be better prepared for when it came time to write them.


One of my many formats for taking notes. This one was an organizer that I found to be really helpful, I like to think of it as a paper version of Seesaw. I got the template from Sandra Rosekat's blog Sparks and Gems HERE


I will admit that changing my documentation format was really hard to do and made it a little confusing when I actually sat down to write them because I had notes in many different places.

My key learning for my documentation process is this:

1) I was taking too many notes. I had written down a whole bunch of stuff that didn't matter and that I couldn't use. Old habits die hard, I guess.

2) I was taking way too many pictures. The writing that accompanies the pictures is more important than the actual picture. Plus, I have pictures of things that don't really matter and that I couldn't use. For example, do we really need to take pictures of the same play doh creation every time? Just because a child asks us to take a picture... should we really? But that is for another post.


I have way too many pictures like this... when I shouldn't.


3) The considerations that I had written and all of the preparation were good to keep me on track but I at times let myself get overwhelmed with the pressure that I was putting on myself. I needed to just relax and write about what I knew... the children.



Growth in Learning



The Growing Success Kindergarten Addendum p. 14


How did it go, you ask? What was my experience?

It wasn't sunshine and rainbows that's for sure. 

I had lofty goals during the Winter Break to get the reports started... my plan was to have half of them finished so that I could spend January finishing the remainders and then I would have time to go back and tweak them if anything had changed since finishing writing them. 

That didn't happen.


This was how I spent my Winter Break. Clearly not working on the KCOL's like I had planned.

Then my plan B lofty goals were to give myself a timeline to work with, so that I would write 2 reports each evening so that I could then finish with a week to spare.

That didn't happen.

Basically, I made a terrible life decision and gave myself 2 weeks to write them. Luckily for me, I work well under pressure and I don't mind writing (I actually enjoy it, hence the blog) so that helped a little. Plus I had 2 weekends that I could work with, so that was a life saver.

Now for the writing part. 


My desk looked like this, or something similar to it, for about a month as I tried to start writing the reports. Each time giving up and leaving it for the next day... until I was just about out of time.


I found it incredibly difficult to start (that's why my plans had fallen apart). I knew what I wanted to say, I just couldn't get it out of my head.  I had built these KCOLs up in my mind by that point, to be a huge task. I was worried about a lot of things that really didn't matter. The biggest thing that I was worried about was making them perfect.

I wanted the parents in my class to be able to read them and say, "Yes! Wow! She knows my child perfectly. I am so amazed by how far they have come. I can't wait for the next one!"

I also put a lot of pressure on myself because I have had a lot of people ask me for help with the reports. Meaning that they were seeing me as a knowledge holder, rather than a co-learner. I guess that is my own fault because I like to share my understandings and my learning. But that doesn't mean I am an expert. 

A few comments were made to me that sounded something like this, "I can't wait to see yours. You probably have yours all done and it was easy! I don't want to show you mine because they won't be as good as yours." 

These kinds of comments made me die a little inside, because for starters... I hadn't written anything yet. Second, it wasn't easy for me and the pressure of making it seem easy was really hard.

Since I had built up this pressure in my mind, starting to write them was like pulling teeth. My first report... no lie... took me 3 hours to write. I found myself falling back on old report card habits.  I was trying to fit some aspects of the old reports into the new reports.

For example, I chose a few overall expectations that I thought were pretty general for each frame for the basis of my comment. My plan was to then start writing about the child and that the comments would evolve from there so that they would all be different because each child is different. I had good intentions. 


Belonging and Contributing Overall Expectations, TKP 2016, p. 125


So, I chose OE 1 (it's about communicating in a variety of ways for a variety of purposes in a variety of contexts) for the Belonging and Contributing frame. Each child's comment had additional overall expectations that were covered but I did cover that OE 1 for all of them. At the end, each child had a totally different comment, but I did start writing all of them based on the same overall expectation. 

It was an evolving process.

This method took forever. I found it helpful because I had somewhere to start, but I ended up writing each comment twice... sometimes 3-4 times because I had gotten trapped in the old style of reporting. As I said, old habits die hard.

Going forward, I need to let the old style go completely. The idea of choosing a few expectations to write about for each child, while helpful as a time saver in theory, was a massive time waster because I had to go back and change them or I had to write entirely new comments because they were wrong (and by wrong I mean they were starting to sound like old style reports).  I need to focus in on the Key Learning (regardless of what overall expectation it is) and write about that. 

We don't have to write about every expectation so we don't have to divide them up by term to make sure we write about all of them. We need to move away from this thinking and focus on what the child is showing us at that moment. 

“What is the most significant learning demonstrated by this child at this time?” (Growing Success K Addendum 2016, p. 11)

Once I had started to realize that I was not working smarter... (remember those considerations I posted? I guess this round of reports was a classic case of 'Do as I say, not as I do') I changed what I was doing. I started to focus in on what the child had demonstrated rather than following the expectations that I had chosen and my reports started to go much faster. By the end I was spitting them out in about an hour, give or take. Way less than my initial 3 hours. 

I also found it easier to write about one child from start to finish. I know that a lot of people wrote them by frame but when I tried this I found that it was easier to accidentally use the same example in different frames (yay cross over!) and that I was getting really confused. It was easier for me to write about one child, start to finish. 



Next Steps



The Growing Success Kindergarten Addendum p. 14


Shannon will continue to be encouraged to...

Whoa, wait.

 ...


Now that the reports are done, I find myself trying to prepare better for the next set in June. One of my colleagues joked that we should really start writing them now because it was such an undertaking... but maybe she isn't far off the mark. 

Ok so not actually writing them yet, but maybe we should be thinking about preparing better for the next round.

The most common things I have heard are that they took way too long (the average I'd say is probably about 60 hours (so approximately 2 hours per report if not more, depending on how quickly you write) and that the documentation that you took wasn't useful (meaning that you didn't change your style or that you didn't change enough). 

So here are my thoughts for next time,

1) The Time Issue - I had the same problems with the time issue. Like I said, my first one took 3 hours. The bulk of them took about 2 hours to write and a handful at the end took 1 hour depending on the child. Preaching to the choir my friends. For the next round I really need to try a lot harder to stick with the new reporting model. I have to stop trying to fit the old square style into the new round style. It just doesn't work. I heard that a lot of people had tried something similar... some even created new comment banks. This isn't the way that they are intended to be. I am not sure how you can tell an individualised story that celebrates a child's achievements when you are using the same format for each child. I tried but it didn't work for me and ended up making it a lot harder than it needed to be.

2) Better documentation - I really need to use Seesaw more. I stopped using Seesaw because I was taking so many pictures and it became a daunting task to upload everything... plus I was doing our classroom Twitter account. I was finding that I was spending a couple of hours after school inputting things because I wasn't working smarter. Before you ask, our classroom Twitter account is a private account where I have all but 2 families signed on. Our Seesaw is strictly for documentation and it is not shared with parents. Now I am being much more mindful of what I am taking pictures of and why I am taking pictures.  Suddenly I have a lot less duplicates when neither key learning nor growth are being demonstrated.

3) Getting started - I need to start way earlier. Leaving it all to do in 2 weeks was the worst decision. In that 2 weeks I became over tired, over stressed, over worked, edge of burn out and edge of tears at times. How quickly we can fall off the deep end when we don't take care of ourselves...

4) Pressure - the pressure is all in my head. After all of that... no they weren't perfect, but yes, parents were happy and they understood the message and the point that I was trying to convey. No they weren't easy to write, but yes it was worth writing them. No I am not an expert, but yes I am moving in the right direction. Writing these reports has exposed weaknesses in my practice that I can grow from. But they have also exposed the areas that are working well.



Going Forward



The KCOL isn't perfect. There are a lot of things that people would like to see changed.. like doing away with the 4 different boxes. If the learning in our programs crosses over each area, if we are to tell a story... then perhaps it makes more sense to have one box to write in where we can write about each frame in a more connected way? 

And if we are supposed to be engaging in Pedagogical Documentation (see my part 2 post for more on that HERE) then perhaps having interviews and reporting timelines that match the older grades isn't the best... perhaps we should be sitting with parents are reading the KCOL together and looking at the documentation together... rather than sending them home in an envelope and more than likely never discussing the reports with most of them?

Anyway. 

What did you do to make your writing experience easier? What strategies and solutions can you offer that helped to make your KCOL experience less scary?

Let's use this space to share our experiences so that we can find solutions. Yes, ragging on the KCOL makes us all feel better, but it doesn't solve anything. 

Let's work together to make suggestions for next time.



Let's talk,


Shannon