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Halyna Sakowsky-McEvoy


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"I had two reasons for creating my term calendars," recalled Halyna Sakowsky-McEvoy. "I noticed how easy it was to get off track from the planned curriculum (and then constantly trying to catch up), and I also was frustrated by a lack of clear parent-teacher-student communication. Before the calendars, parents werent sure what was going on, and tended to believe their children when they said they had no homework or that theyd finished it at school. I knew parents had to get the information at the start of the school year, and that they needed more than just an overview of the curriculum; they wanted specifics."

Sakowsky-McEvoy, a Grade 1-8 Ukrainian-language instructor at Josyf Cardinal Slipyj School in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada, includes in her term calendars as much planned information about her classes as possible. She begins with blank pages that display the dates for the months of September through June. First, she enters all holidays, professional activity days, conference days, and due dates for report cards. Next, she maps out tests, projects, book reports, special activities, and day-by-day class work.

Students staple copies of the entire term calendar into the front inside cover of their notebooks for easy reference. Parents are asked to sign the calendar. "The signature tells me that the parents have seen the calendar, read and reviewed it, and know what is coming down the road," explained Sakowsky-McEvoy. "That gives them a sense of the workload and provides an opportunity for them to organize their time more effectively with respect to the children's extracurricular activities. Each student and parent also receives a sheet of paper containing additional information about our routines, including notebooks, readers, and more."

The calendar helps students like Danylo know when to submit projects -- such as this 3-D historical model. [Photo provided by Halyna Sakowsky-McEvoy]

Students who have encountered her classes before often request a course calendar, Sakowsky-McEvoy reports. They are especially curious about what they will be doing, when they will review, how many tests there will be, and when these tests are scheduled.

"One of the things I do after handing out and stapling the term calendars into their notebooks is let students look at the calendar for a few minutes," said Sakowsky-McEvoy. "Then I go through it and explain a little about what they see and highlight the important dates. I give the calendars out the first week of school. Do they give the students a sense of ownership or control? I hope so!"

Parents like the calendar system because they never have to wonder what is being done in class, and they can be available to assist their children when projects are due. "My students' parents realize that disruptions to the program are part of school life," McEvoy told Education World. "Sometimes I need to postpone or cancel a unit or test, but they have told me that they would rather see that than not have the calendar. Some parents have said that they get after their kids when they find them slacking off. At the very least, the calendar gives parents the option to involve themselves in their children's work."

The calendar proved to be particularly useful one afternoon when an irate parent approached Sakowsky-McEvoy regarding the "lack of work" going on in her classroom. Her son had convinced her that the course had a light workload, and no homework! Sakowsky-McEvoy reached for the term calendar and showed the parent all the assignments that were planned, the tests that had already been given, and the classroom and homework assignments that had been completed. The astounded parent apologized and requested a copy of the calendar, which Sakowsky-McEvoy gladly shared. That was the moment when she recognized that the calendar could be a resource not only for her, but for her students and their parents as well.

"One of the most obvious ways I know that parents appreciate the calendars is that when a child misplaces a notebook or loses it, the parent often requests not just a new notebook but a new copy of the calendar," observed Sakowsky-McEvoy. "Some ask for an extra copy to put on the fridge or in the child's bedroom."

Halyna Sakowsky-McEvoy (right), shown here with her vice-principal, says a class calendar gives administrators a picture of whats being taught. [Photo provided by Halyna Sakowsky-McEvoy]
Sakowsky-McEvoy offered several tips for teachers who want to give a course calendar a try.
  • Be prepared to invest some initial time for setup, but in the future, you might use the previous year's calendar as a starting point.
  • Mark the current calendar with tips for the next time around: "delete," too hard," "too dull," "not enough time," and so on.
  • If you prefer, begin by distributing calendars month by month rather than by term.
  • Have an idea of what you would like to cover or need to cover in your program, and then break it down into months, weeks, and days.
  • Try using a calendar yourself before you share it with students and parents.
  • Don't hesitate to change, delay, or cancel something you have planned. Just have students write in the new information.
  • Be honest with students and tell them that this is something you want to try to help everyone keep better track of class work.

"Each summer when I start to plan my calendar for the upcoming year, I know that the extra time will make my life easier during the school year," Sakowsky-McEvoy said. "It helps with parents and students at conference time. It helps new students who are enrolled later in the year. It gives the administration clear information about what is being taught in the program, and it keeps the lines of communication active between parents and teacher."

If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to FeaturedTeacher@educationworld.com.

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World

11/06/2006



 

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