Day 31 (of 186) gotta read to lead 

Day 31 (of 186) gotta read to lead

Got a friend who passionately stands by this statement. Educational leaders need to read to see what is happening in education to understand why it is happening.  This week I encountered a couple articles that touch on topics that are important to me, and I thought it good to share:
Anxiety/Mental Wellness

On anxiety – a kqed article about getting kids to school – something I believe passionately on as seen in my “rant on anxiety”
It’s important to understand that while it is important to have learners at school, it’s not always easy!

I have been focusing more and more on quality over quantity in numeracy including dedicating a weekly session on Recreational Mathematics. This editorial article makes me feel we are heading in a direction where Math may start to be a more common “favourite subject”

An article I’m not sure I agree with but know I need to know more (esp about what was needed to be learned) and as a librarian I LOVE paper text but….

Not an easy read but a blog that led to a great #weirded chat

Always good to read some things that push you into uncomfortable realms if you’re going to be a leader!

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Day 30 (of 186) when the lights go down in the classroom

Day 30 (of 186) when the lights go down in the classroom


With all due respect to Journey: we had a power failure today at school – and it reminded me of an earlier time when the power went out and the class I was working with didn’t even notice because they were on laptops and the battery backup kept our server running too… the desktops did not have a battery backup (and of course I took in another class for a ‘buddy tech project’ aka scratch) and we had to break down into whiteboard games (pictionary always good!)


So….in the mindset of doing my blogs a tad different….a redone song:



When the lights go down in the classroom

And the rain sleets down on the ground

Do we want to be there in my lab?

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh


So you said, you’re techy

Well my student I’m techy too

And I want to get back to the learnin’ throughout the school

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh



Its sad ohh there’s been open blocks

Cause out on the internet on our desktops

Comes without great apps

Oh, oh, oh, nah, nah, oh, oh

When the power goes down in the school

and the hail keeps us indoors

Do we want to stay in the lab, oh oh?

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh


When the power goes down in the school

What else can we do as a group

Well we be here learnin’ together as a class

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

Mmm, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh



The dictionary may have gotten a tad intense at time, but the good news is that will still be there tomorrow!

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Day 29 (of 186) give them an out

Day 27 (of 186) give them an out

What you don’t learn in teacher training (from A Classroom of One by @theweirdteacher Doug Robertson) that resonates with me today: give them an out. Do not escalate. You will read it. (You will agree with it in theory). But you won’t really know what I mean by that until you’re in it.



Because it’s easy to “not fully understand what is being said” because communicating when frustrated is complicated.


And looking someone in the eyes is very difficult (and for some, culturally insensitive) so do they really “need” to – it can be a way to lose dignity. This is why we need “outs” – a way to “save face” and be ready to reset for the next success (or failure….whatever).



So here’s where it gets complex: learning can take place when in zone of frustration – this is one of the edges of the better understood ‘zone of proximal development’. But it isn’t consistent and it’s not like a lot of words (aka lecture) will be successful….yet modelling and using a guided, gradual release of responsibility can be successful. Give them the words….actions…thinkings to find a way ‘out of a bad situation’ and into one where growth can occur…but with ‘help’ … the added complication: you can’t also be frustrated:



When kids escalate, adults gotta be ‘low’ = this is a reminder I often give myself and many of my family use: when ‘they’ go up (in intensity, anger, language, hostility) we gotta get low (calm, quiet, passive).   This is one of the toughest parts when helping students find an “out” – being mindful of modelling and helping learners identify ways to get themselves out of a bad situation and into a positive one (and keeping that inside-voice/thought….inside!)



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Day 28 (of 186) Book Review – A Classroom of One by @theweirdteacher

Day 28 (of 186) Book Review – A Classroom of One by @theweirdteacher



I think it’s fair to say that whether you are applying to enter a teacher-training program or entering “another” decade of the craft, reflection on why we do what we do as educators is important. I have enjoyed reading “I’m the Weird Teacher” by Doug Robertson to know that what I do in my classroom is not an isolated occurrence – and I have enjoyed even more when Doug tweets what is going on in his classroom….particularly when he is raising another student teacher (or teacher candidate in my part of the world). He is a passionate educator and doing what’s right for his class has always come through in his writings, and I hope to one day pop into his “Classroom of One” – where the role of student teacher is morphed into a mentorship relationship.



I can see this book having value for anyone undertaking a Mentor/Student Teacher relationship, but even for veteran educators (like me) I found the reflections shared very valuable – both in terms of Doug’s experiences as well as the sharings he took from his #PLN. I also think this will be valuable for my niece who is currently applying into education programs and I would LOVE for those same education schools to give it a look over to see what authentically happens within those teaching-classrooms.



Doug emphasizes the importance of reflection, both via personal reflection but also with ongoing conversations (and questions) each day. He also talks about the importance of building a trusting relationship, so that successes can be celebrated and moments-of-sucking don’t repeat themselves (they’ll still happen, just in very different ways – hopefully – if you ain’t failin’ you ain’t tryin’).



He eloquently vents on what university programs are not doing a good job of (tech) and shares how nobody experience will be exactly like anyones else (and highlighting some of the good parts about being on the best coast of the continent!).



I am being mindful to not give spoilers in this review, because it is an easy read – not that it’s a quick read because it will make you think about your practice – nodding with Doug some of times, but not all of the time (I don’t like my mounted projector – I want it on a cart so my classroom can be a 360 degree learning experience!) because every classroom will be different because of the personalities within it  – and that does not just mean the personality of the teacher because if nothing else, Doug does a great job showing that classrooms are never made up of “one” person – and as isolating as our profession can be at times, we need to be aware that a classroom is more of a mosaic than a single snapshot.



Whether you are hoping to have (or be) a student teacher, or a veteran teacher, go and get a copy of this book – it will make you think, reflect and get better with each page you turn!





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Day 27 (of 186) a whistle by any other name…. a reminder about noises 

Day 27 (of 186)  a whistle by any other name…. a reminder about noises 

I picked up my son – and he was at the truck door sooner than I expected. His teacher has been enabling him (in a good way) by letting him escape one of his greatest anxiety triggers: the bell an announcements. 

The school bell is an anachronism that many have relied upon to start days and break apart learning – whether they were ready or needing a break or not.  For my son, the high treble (and lack of bass) is hard to handle. And he knows it is close to the end of the day because his brain will start to twitch. It’s a reason why I try to encourage reducing the number of bells during a day – and why I loved my school that cancelled recess (as a formal time…… teachers took their kids out when a break was needed – sometimes that was 15 minutes after attendance and once it was 15 minutes before lunch!) 

My sons sensitivity has also influenced my choices of sound effects both in the classroom and gym. I like to have music going while making it clear where “quiet spaces” can be found. In the gym I find that music helps counteract the echo that is far too common to hear-ear-ear. 

It’s also why I use the whistle rarely – and I have a neat 3D printed one! But as the grinch said (And I concur) the noise noise noise!
Sure, there are times when everyone needs to stop – and that’s about the only time I use it – not because there is a chance it can tunes out but because I recognize enough anxiety within my learners that I don’t need to add one more. 

My encouragement: give your room a listen:

Sometimes what is loud to you won’t be loud to me (and having tinnitus I can guarantee what is quiet to you is going to still have noise to me – that’s why I love my AirPods!) 
What might be a mild irritant to you (bells…) might be the bane of someone’s existence – I know my son is aways happier when he is able to be walking out the door when the afternoon announcement and bell will go off…. so a big thank you to his teacher(s) and Principal/Vice Principal for enabling this – because noise matters (and I’ll continue to keep my whistle in my pocket)!

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Day 26 (of 186) #IMMOOC post – I used to, now I….

Day 26 (of 186) #IMMOOC post – I used to, now I….


This blog prompt from the ongoing #IMMOOC resonates with me a great deal….in large part because I have opened doors that I can’t close, such as:



How I view and work with mental wellness challenges such as Anxiety – this has evolved more since my own son was diagnosed with this as well:



Not putting checkmarks or %s or Xs etc on student work; when I shifted to descriptive feedback (and started in math!!) it opened doors on intrinsically motivated formative assessment that led me directly into using eportfolios to communicate student learning – rather than reporting on task completion via report cards.



Focusing more on “free play” during gym time; there is still some direct instruction during some themes (ie volleyball) but when I started to move to more ‘free time’ I saw kids moving more and being more active….but it’s not always easy:



Recently I’ve been focusing more on quality rather than quantity when it comes to math tasks – including a ‘reversing’ of time as a ‘motivator’ for math: today I gave a diagnostic assignment with many questions on it, but a finite amount of time for them until it ‘went away’ – emphasizing that I don’t care about how many questions they complete, but which ones they pick to answer (and which ones they identify as ‘complicated’) in the time we have until recess…..and instead of using recess as a threat (taking it away), recess becomes their “release” – and the activity shifts to be more of a challenge than a lot of questions that ‘have’ to be answered’.




I’ve also shifted how I ask questions – specifically I will start prompting questions for our SOLE (Self Organized Learning Environment) friday activity earlier in the week. “Homework” becomes the brain thinking, connecting and synthesizing the topic over a number of days rather than a short pre-think and “go”!



What I really appreciate about two key “twitter-originated-pro-d” activities I am doing is how they are making me reflect with a bit more focus, on how I have evolved as an educator – so if you are enjoying this seasons #IMMOOC and how it is making you think about why and how you do what you do, give some consideration to checking out A Classroom of One by @theweirdteacher (focused on his work with student teacher/teacher candidates) a book that has me asking some questions about what/why I am doing what I’m doing in my classroom this year…..and what we might be aiming to do different(iated)ly next!

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Day 25 (of 186) staff meeting share about ‘progress with a student’

Day 25 (of 186) staff meeting share about ‘progress with a student’



It’s hard to predict with any certainty how any intervention will work with a student (I reluctantly sometimes say ‘affect/effect a student, but really it’s not just one-thing working….it’s more complex than that).   Today I shared at our monthly staff meeting about an intervention we are using with an ODD (Oppositional Defiance with some rage issues) : rewarding positive reactions with Tech Tickets [He is highly motivated by ‘free time’ on desktop computers], so I am supporting the CEAs (Education Assistants) in our school to reward him with 10 minutes of time whenever he wants (even if I’m leading  a discussion) to go next door to the lab and de-stress (or even escape from an unwanted activity – just don’t let him know that I know what he’s doing)


Our goals:

  • to help him identify when he needs a break (and then to reduce the frequency and length of those breaks)
  • to give him positive feedback whenever and wherever possible (he needs this – so if this were a numerical list, it would be number one)
  • to have him enjoy school and learning (oops – this is number one – ignore my earlier brackets)


But I won’t give him a tech ticket.



Even though he still is ‘reluctant’ to complete anything on paper (easier to make a mess of the paper and destroy something that might not be ‘perfect’) we have plans for that – and this week he has been speaking his math and I was able to highlight his thinking around one of our Problems of the Week that are displayed in the main entrance.



I will provide ongoing positive support and provide a variety of strategies to add to his toolbox. So no tickets from me.



Even though he doesn’t ‘like’ music (he loves music, just not music classes) – I asked him to try 5 minutes and then I’d come in and get him….he ended up liking the activity so I waited….and when he finally asked for a break (and if he could bring a friend) we debriefed and he felt like it had been 10 minutes so that was a good amount of time….he was surprised to learn it was 40 minutes….neat things can happen when you’re actively engaged in learning! We want more of this!!



I won’t provide tech tickets because I want him to learn that he can trust me and will ask for breaks when he needs (not just wants) them….and learn (during some of our many project based learning opportunities) that it’s okay to get frustrated…just not stay frustrated – which is why I want him to earn the tickets and use them without worrying about me questioning or delaying him.



Because it’s all about trust and relationships and being curious about things that go beyond “carrot & stick” – if it were easy, you’d dangle a reward and things would change right then and there!


And as I was typing this, @kwiens62 had a great sketch that just felt right about this:



Meet learners where they are, not where you want them to be! Be curious! Try things (honestly, I’m surprised the tech tickets are working as well as they are – I expect some ups and downs along the way – but at least we are on a journey! and that is what I was proud to share about this learner at todays staff meeting!)


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