Summer of Learning 2017 – reading, writing and math (?) for summer fun

Summer of Learning 2017 – reading, writing and math (?) for summer fun

I’ve seen it frequently as summer approaches: read for fun. Sign out extra library books. Get a library card. Summer reading programs.
Write stories. Journal about what you did for the summer? Create a play!
Math? Whew – free for a couple months – but gosh darn it, we always seem to have students “lose” math skills over the summer…especially because memorization drills (flash cards) stop….

“Rest is Rust”
“If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”
So….we need to find ways (and language) to encourage math as something that can be done “because it’s beautiful” (or something like that as one of my math influencers Trevor Calkins has said)

and when people say we need to get “back to basics – the way ‘we’ learned as kids” I always like asking what made math their favourite subject as a child…….not so many say they ‘liked’ math – yes there are outliers, but more like myself and others “fell back in love with math” later….when it was fun….and beautiful. “Fun” needs to be more than memorizing as many numbers in Pi as you can (thought there is a joy in that for some!) and it isn’t just doing logarithm worksheets/workbooks because
“Drill to Kill” (the love of the subject)

Play games and talk about the math involved (patterns, adding subtracting multiplying and dividing, geometry etc)

card games

computer games


But it’s why I love following math geeks like @alicekeeler f’r instance:
And why I did some rethinking thanks to a throwaway line from Dr Who to design some Recreational Mathematics

Because I’ve had some great math students…except during test time…..and I’m less and less sure how much that matters. And I have a son who won’t fill in worksheets because of the repetition – and when we asked why he didn’t do a 9×2 questions and he responded that he did….and pointed to 3×6 and said it’s all about 3s…..I couldn’t argue that he didn’t know what he was talking about….

Math. It should be fun. It should be differentiated. It should be beautiful. But in the same way that not everyone reads or writes the same as we adapt around interests and build on successes…..why don’t we scaffold similarly in math? Tuesday doing odd questions and Wednesday even questions is no longer in vogue…..and when I’ve seen math done “different” than workbook for all and “fun for some” it’s been amazing to see the mindset shift….and for many, math becoming a “favourite subject” (until they move to a more traditional class approach)….

So start exploring how to keep kids doing math over the summer wrrks without focusing on flash cards and worksheets….emphasize the “Recreational” part that can be done with math… deep into Pi can you remember….and why do those numbers enable Pi to be….Pi?

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Summer of Learning 2017 – Thinking about quitting isn’t quitting

Hearing an interview with Robert O’Neil about SEAL training, he admitted to thinking about quitting. Every day. But it’s not the same as quitting. The advice he got was “don’t quit now. It’s all emotions. Just quit tomorrow.”

It paralleled my reading of Howard Sterns autobiography (and he was interviewing O’Neil) when he was fired from

WNBC for “creative differences” and his agent came in with champagne to celebrate the change and opportunities that would come next.

It also reminded me of going through 2-a-day training camps for football at UBC where there would be those times….moments really (usually connected to “extra conditioning” and some “chewing out”) that would lead to those moments where ‘quitting’ seemed like a great idea……but slowing Dow the thinking/deciding process to allow TIME to have an impact (and usually lead to a better – non-emotional/impulsive response). 

So, as professional change is at the forefront of my mind, it’s a reassuring reminder that change does not equal quitting; and being mindful of the decisions being considered have many layers (like an onion – Shrek). And sometimes it leads to opportunities that wouldn’t be available if you were complacent and not looking for them and considering that sometimes the word “quit” doesn’t mean what you may think it does!

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Summer of Learning 2017 – interviews

Summer of Learning 2017 – interviews



There are more interviews going on this summer than ever before (at least in our province). The readjustments coming out of the Supreme Court ruling on BC Schools has led to a great range of positions – in classrooms and specialty positions and PVPs.


Not sure if it was coincidence or serendipity that Mindshift had an article come out on questions for future ready educators:


I like these types of questions because they align positively with my own view of the future of education (collaboratively personalizing the learning journey). But there are still some root questions that base almost any interview….and need to:


  1. who are you – this isn’t just about you liking to climb rocks and drink interesting beverages….it’s about who you are in this realm that is more than just a job – who are you as an educator? there is no right/wrong answer. As the overarching theme I keep seeing in the interviewing process continues to be: are you the right fit at the right time for the right position <– I am self aware that I can do the job, but even I ask myself if I am the right person at the right time for the position being talked about.
  2. why? this ranges from why this job to why teaching to why now? Again, no right answer – and sometimes honesty helps….I’ve been told “it’s a job to get me a contract in the greater district” and I’ve been told “I’ve wanted to be in this school since I was a student”. This has led me to hire people who had just gone on maternity leave, because they were the right fit….when they were able to return.
  3. what? I want to know what you have done as well as what you want to do …… next. Some will want to focus on doing a great job in the classroom, some will want to reach beyond the classroom walls (and some beyond the school  boundaries). During the interview I hope to get to know what the pathway of the educator is going to be (and sometimes this has led to me phoning a colleague because of a connection that was made)
  4. how? how the educator works is extremely personal. You can’t be the teacher who inspired you, you can only be yourself. But I like to try to understand how an educator thinks and how they want to act. This can be the trickiest because the traditional interview is a very artificial way of measuring this….


If anything this traditional method is almost too artificial. I have been lucky enough to be able to bring teacher-candidates into the classroom as a TOC to see how they fit with the class and the school…..but this is a rarity. But I’ve also read that frequently a decision for “fit” is made within the first few minutes. I’m also hyperaware of how nerve-wracking interviews can be (and in the case in BC right now, many veteran teachers are now getting ready for their first interviews in many years because of the opportunities to move around their district – or move to another district).


So….my reminders:


breathe. take some time. use wait time – it works in the classroom and can work in the interview setting to ensure that you are about to answer the question in the best way possible.


be ready. think about the key themes of education and why you wanted (and still want) to be an educator who makes a difference.


prepare. think about some responses to common questions (and when answering behavioural questions, remember to have an answer that has a personal connection AND share what the resolution was based on what you did) that can be found either by a google search, or links from my earlier blog on interviews:

that are:

Qs with As:
Qs with some opinions:

Big list of Qs:



My bias: I like giving (and getting!) questions in advance – My own work with self regulation means that I know I want to get thoughtful responses to my questions, not just speedy answers (same approach I take with times tables and spelling) though I also sprinkle in some ‘surprise’ questions as well….but usually talking about answers provided to the questions provided the day before take me into deeper understanding of who the educator is that we are talking with.


Interviews aren’t easy. Lots of over-thinking happens. Comparisons occur. Finding the right fit is not a perfect science. But it’s always good to be aware that the anxiousness to do the ‘right hire’ is felt on all sides of the room!

and for fun(?)

Image result for teacher interview comic



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Day 185 (of 185) the end.  If I learned anything from comics, is it ever The End?

Day 185 (of 185) the end. If I learned anything from comics, is it ever The End?

We made it. 
It’s over. 
All comments I heard while helping grads sign-in to the arena hosting their ceremony. Happy that “the end” of learning/the year arrived. 
But even when we said “goodbye” go superman (in many comic issues, most famously against doomsday, but also in battles with Mr Myxplyx and others) but he always returned…..
And even popular cartoonists endured beyond their original creations. Bloom County became Outland became Opus became Bloom County. Doonesbury has been cancelled and re-issued as often as Howard Stern (with similar statements from one editor as to why it was on the way out and another why they were celebrating the start of a new partnership). 

I’ve seen Robins die (batman) only to return….actually that can be said about many characters. So, much like “the end of June” it’s not really an “end of learning” just a distraction to interrupt the traditional calendar schedule.  But even television has changed the way they have viewed “seasons” – perhaps it’s time for a closer look by educators to see some different approaches to a “school calendar” (sounds like a Summer of Learning topic!)

So, two of my favourite cartoonists (modern philosophers) and how they approached “an end”

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Day 184 (of 185) some CBT reminders as summer looms

Day 184 (of 185) some CBT reminders as summer looms

It’s important to remember some of the key benefits to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Some of the easiest are:

Listening to your body cues

Seeing the body cues of others

Coping Step Plan

In brief:
It’s important to listen to your body as it will let you know how you are feeling, even if your brain doesn’t want to acknowledge it. This can range from sweat (when not working out), to the need to go to the bathroom……even though you just went, to physical affects such as hand/leg cramps and beyond. Some of the main ones can be identified via a BC Friends for Life (a free cat program targeted at grade 4/5 students) Parents worksheet:

And the nice part is when you become aware of those cues, it becomes easier to “read” how others may be feeling. So that when someone yawns, it may not be because of boredom but a stressed reaction. Laughing at an accident because the body and brain doesn’t necessarily know how to react when it sees someone get hurt or be in stress. And when you can see how others are reacting, it becomes easier to be mindful in how you react and respond – giving time and slowing things down being particularly successful strategies. 

And then coming up with a Coping Step Plan – breaking something down into smaller parts so that each step is achievable in order to be successful. And it’s not the same for everyone – my daughters hate asking clerks/wait staff/etc for help (whether if it’s for a different sized dress or even ketchup for fries) while my “anxiety” son has no problems asking….
But it can be helpful to take small steps:

It’s important to be mindful that you can’t always be sure how others are feeling (Google “technolandy & fine fine fine” or: for more) but being mindful that sometimes you need to look mindfully in order to accurately sense what might be going on below the initial impression – especially at stressful times of year such as the end of a school year. 

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Day 183 (of 185) on graduations

Day 183 (of 185) on graduations
Is the ‘graduation’ of students from one site to another a celebration? For all? For some? 

I recall my own June Graduation from k-12 as “not a big deal” because I still had more years ahead of me at university – but for some of my peers, celebration was in order as they were the first to complete k-12 / it was a big deal worth celebrating…..

Yet ironically (perhaps) when students finish k-12, the ‘celebration’ seems to be more about the number of “years served” and being at “the end” than reflecting on what was Learned. Is it about ‘getting out’? Is it about how much growth has occurred? Successes along the way? Is it about finding ways to reward students – do the rewards/awards have criteria that has been clearly communicated (AFL) so the students know what they need to do?

With a shift away from letter grades……is “finals week” likewise facing a transition? Will students only attend until the last day if there are marks associated with them being there? Or are there “days away” to “prepare” for the year-end celebration events? Or are there ‘interesting learning opportunities’ that can keep students engaged even if their ‘final marks’ have already been sent to the office?

Traditional transitions are complex. They are meant as celebrations yet are symbolic of ending one thing (that is known) and going “somewhere else” (and oh, the places you’ll go…..sometimes can be scary). And how many “graduations” are right? Just grade 12? Kindergarten? At the end of grade 5, again at grade 8 or 9 (middle school) again between junior and senior secondaries? They can be sources of stress and anxiety – both about the event on its own let alone worries about if enough courses have been passed in order to walk across the stage. 

As my own children creep closer to graduation, the more I’ve been thinking about what their K-12 experience has been about….and what the status of a “traditional graduation process” should look like and ‘be about’ as schools and schooling continues to evolve!

As a conversation went recently: this is indeed a very exciting time to be in education! 

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Day 182 (of 185) gotta read to lead – inspired by #bcedchat

Day 182 (of 185) gotta read to lead – inspired by #bcedchat
Last nights #bcedchat (Sundays 7pm pst) had a focus on summer reading. And there are many choices – and many ways to do the reading. I’ve sorted some of the “favourites” or “eagerly anticipated” and “gotta reads” into the groupings of books and blogs (including tweeters in this group) because while books are inspiring and powerful tools, a blog can be both more current and timely and faster & cheaper to access!

I’m currently re-reading the works of @drtonywagner including Creating Innovators and Global Achievement Gap. And preparing to read non-educator books about Starbucks and Nike (#westcoastbias)
Some suggestions from our bcedchat on Sunday night (7pm if you want to join us!) 


Some of the key blogs that have been mentioned (and I look forward to reading) and there are many more!l that I also enjoy reading!! (And please suggest more!)
I’ll probably embarsssingly add more to this list as I go “how could I forget……” on a regular basis. 

But read, lead, and get ready to…..create!

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