Day 102 (of 186) worst case scenarios – what would you do (thinking of Aaron Feis and tearing up at a post from @pernilleripp )

Day 102 (of 186) worst case scenarios – what would you do (thinking of Aaron Feis and tearing up at a post from @pernilleripp )

Another school shooting occurred. And while in Florida, it brings back a flood of memories of these “worst case scenarios” – from the ones on everybody minds in Columbine (US) and Taber (Canada) to the ones that keep people in the US bringing up gun control legislation (too long of a list to name) – as many as 18 so far in 2018) which made me pause when I read a tweet by one of my faves: @pernilleripp

I’d like to say that I’ve never had that thought – but I also know that we do “lockdown” drills and think about defensive locations for protecting ourselves – our custodian even needed to put this practice into action when someone broke through our doors late one night – she too had a plan and a couple of ways to call 911 for assistance…..thankfully everything turned out okay. But we shouldn’t have to be having this plans or these thoughts. (and no – we should not be arming teachers – one gun is one too many in school situations). I hate that educators like Pernille have to take the time to consider these options/alternatives of “what if…” especially since these events occur even in countries with stricter gun control measures (albeit the US has many more of these tragedies….)

But even in Canada we talk about safety (and our learnings from Taber have been very positive): is it better to huddle students together – or does that just make for easier targets? Lights off, blinds closed and doors locked. Not answering the door even if there is a tiny voice on the outside asking to be let in?? I admit that for practice my scenarios tend to focus more on what is more likely to cause a lock-down: animal danger

Do we talk about this at home? I know we do in our household – even about other issues such as suicide and why (as recently happened) tragedies happen and how we can support others and also support ourselves.

And then there are those that act without thinking in order to protect others. My heart goes out the family of Aaron Feis – whose name should be shared more than the person who pulled the trigger. The most noble act of protection looking out for his learning community.

I’ve dealt with enough deaths in school – but none have been maliciously targeted. How could you even practice being ready for an event such as this? Even though statistically we are living in the most peaceful time in human history – it is tough to admit VTRA (Violence and Threat Risk Assessment) is a necessity – just in case. And because sometimes educators do need to think about the unthinkable. I wonder if I could do what Aaron Feis did. I hope I never have to find out…..

Schools need to be places where students feel safe….where they are safe. Where all learning community members are safe. Events like


Virginia Tech.

Sandy Hook.


San Bernardino.


Las Vegas.


These names/events make each day of learning more fearful….makes me wonder: if we are indeed living in the most peaceful time in human history – why are we becoming more fearful? Is it that stories in Florida can feel as “close to home” as if it occurred just down the highway because of the variety of coverage – from news to social media….

Which is great that we can be so interconnected…but when tragedies happen….


So a reminder: Days will get better. They always do – but it’s okay to be angry and sad right now. Grief is healthy. Denial is a first step. Then anger. And anger may stay for awhile. But it leads to some bargaining and depression so do make connections with Counsellor’s and doctors – don’t make choices in isolation on how to self-medicate because these can often be poor choices long term. Talk. Cry. Recognize your emotions. That will (eventually) lead to acceptance. But today is not that day.

Best wishes to the Parkland Learning Community – our hearts and thoughts are with you!

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Day 101 (of 186) Valentines Day – great theme opportunity

Day 101 (of 186) Valentines Day – great theme opportunity

Just what is needed in the middle of the February Blahs. A holiday focused on overpriced flowers cards and candy 🍭 🍬 can’t forget the candy!

But….. good disruption opportunity too!

A valentine maker space area

So that not everything being given to parents comes from the store…..

But also an opportunity to paint our Olympic medals (of course there is glitter!) and not have everybody in the same place at once (while also reminding everyone we have some self regulation stations available for breaks)

These “special days” can be very stressful – much like the anxiety Charlie Brown feels in his Valentine special – will I get any valentines…..what do I give to the person I really like without making it too obvious (I still recall being called out for that in grade 6…) …. so many things to have angst about! So more and more I try to mindfully de-stress the day.

Lots of time to do our art projects – even extra time in the afternoon when we have a movie connected to our science study on space (I’m not a fan of movies in the classroom, but when we were discussing options for the day, this one was really popular so I said we would give it a try – hoping I’d be wrong and kids wouldn’t get bored in 5 minutes after the opening scene….but then again our room has board games and building spaces and that valentine craft zone “open” ao nobody has to sit down and stay quiet. Well, quieter maybe…..but my belief is that in school, movies require too passive an audience….in an environment where creativity is promoted over consumption… while a “movie” sounds like a good idea – it rarely is – though for the 3-5 that can use a movie as a positive distraction (an exploding sun prompted one boy to come up to ask and what the speed of light was (in metres because that is more precise than when we round it to 300 000 km/second) to “figure something out”.

So… my LRT said when I shared my “movie flopped as expected story” with her – at least one kid made a great connection! Because the others were doing good as well – but were more interested in making than just receiving entertainment. And as a collective we learned that at school an afternoon sitting back and not doing anything sounds good, but being active and doing something is better! So back to the outdoors for our Olympic afternoons: bobsled and biathlon are coming up – better than any video!

Happy ❤️ day!!

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Day 100 (of 186) the olympics as summarize assessment (yet still formative for what’s next)

Day 100 (of 186) the olympics as summarize assessment (yet still formative for what’s next)

Our class has been having fun with the Winter Olympics. We’ve looked at stories from the past (Jamaican bobsled team, Eddie the Eagle Edwards) that show coming in first is not always “the” goal for everyone. Sometimes the journey is better than the destination!

Olympians model perseverance and grit. Failing but not letting false starts end their doing —> 2018 has the cross country skier who fell down during the mass start but still came in first after an amazing comeback:

It helps show that “fails” don’t mean the learning or doing stops – means you gotta retool and re-aim your focus (and adapt your coping steps plan).

It’s also about trying something new – like curling “mixed doubles” event- one that had a bit of criticism in the Canadian press:

Because sometimes embracing something new is uncomfortable? But I know that watching the mixed doubles has me tempted to unretire my broom and slider! As while the criticism that they didn’t practice as a duo much before the event, those curlers have been working on their draw wait and sweeping skills (why we sent 3rds and not skips!) for decades – and it was just a transference of skills – kinda like how many NCAA football players end up playing with different rules in the CFL.

We have also been able to put some Design Thinking to action with an Olympic theme by designing our own Olympic medals

Hmmm wonder if we’ll be able to design the next demonstration sport… our version of the biathlon that uses snowballs instead of guns! (We are doing “Olympic afternoons” cross country skiing…luging (crazy carpets) and other events as we can find a way to adopt them to school – hockey tournament next week)

And we can learn that just because someone is expected to win a gold….you still need to run the event! And just because an alpine skier wipes out, we can still be pretty sure that they could finish the race….just not today…

And stories like 17 year olds winning golds are always fascinating (Chloe Kim)- but so are the returns by veterans like White (though there may be some personal scandals he has to deal with as well – and the ongoing theme of how do personal and professional works blend….

The Olympics are the time where new sports find new fans (love all the slope style events) and sometimes they can become an earworm that you can’t get enough of….at least for a fortnight…

But a chance for kids to be inspired – to see athletes come from the tiniest of towns (like -Alert Bay BC) and being able to compete with the best of the best….

And sometimes be frustrated because during training you may have had a ski jump of 110 metres but because of wind and knees moving a fraction of a second early you only got 95 for “the test”. Yet also knowing that just because you didn’t earn a medal…there’s another Olympics four years from now….

And the mishmash of formative and summative assessments continue. Skaters can land a triple axle, but maybe not when the pressure is on….that time. So with learners, if we know they can subtract but when demanded to do it as part of the test, if they make a mistake….does that confirm they don’t know how to do it? Sometimes summarize assessments don’t tell the whole story…..which reiterated why I prefer descriptive feedback loops that show the whole process – and yet sometimes “the event” is where the unlikeliest of underdogs shine brightest!

Looking forward to seeing what stories stick with us after 2018!

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Day 99 (of 186) how personalized “academic growth” can be…

Day 99 (of 186) how personalized “academic growth” can be…

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Day 98 (of 186) thanks @casas_jimmy for writing #Culturalize a great book about learning community culture

Day 98 (of 186) thanks @casas_jimmy for writing #Culturalize a great book about learning community culture

Sure a lot of leadership in education is about relationships relationships and relationships….but how you act and interact with those relationships helps bilious/maintain/change a culture. And cultures can become toxic. They can be ….. fine. Occasionally dynamic – but no matter what we should be focus on on shifting the culture of our school to be even more positive. Because as good as schools can be – there is always room for growth – and someone who doesn’t feel that the school they are in is “theirs”.

So….what has Jimmy synthesized….?

My notes and connections:

4 Core Principles of Positive School Culture

Champion for all students – everyone has a story…

Expect Excellence of everyone – don’t make excuses; maintain standards

Carry the banner for their school – make your school the best place to be at

Be a merchant of hope – every child deserves the opportunity to be a part of something great

Do students experience the 3 Cs:

are they Connected?

do they feel Capable?

do they have Confidence?

Great reminders for treating students ‘fairly’:

1. Seek to understand why the student won’t do the work (there is reason why things are happening as they are – nobody wants to be a failure!)

2. Maintain ongoing communication with the parents whose children are struggling. (as I say – a “fail” should never be a surprise)

3. Recognize it’s okay to ask for help. Sometimes talking to a student isn’t enough. (we focus on ‘team’ for a reason – take advantage of the skillsets & relationships of others that may benefit the student)

4. Ask clarifying questions – the why behind the whyne….!

5. Don’t immediately fix the problem…are your rescuing or supporting….?

and when making the tough decision to not ‘fix’ the situation then you need to ARM yourself

Acknowledge (culture of trust)

Rectify (supportive, but not every problem is yours to fix)

Move on (know when something is beyond your control)

What not to do/say/think:

“There isn’t time”

“It’s not my job”

“Dealing with challenges isn’t worth the potential negative response”

“When students behave poorly or fail to do the work, they don’t deserve my time or attention”

Try to never have a student asking “Why won’t he or she just listen to me?”

Is your culture strengths-based or a can’t-do culture (rules focused on Don’t Do’s)

Culture BUILDING reminders:

Recognize what’s going well (personal: class I’m working with is doing so much better on working together and transitions than the start of the year – confirmed by sporadic visitors to the classroom)

Change student behaviour by Changing Adult Behaviour (personal: I believe kids do what they see; if they see ‘us’ choosing to be kind or rigid….they learn that)

Reach out and Call Someone (share stories – especially good days! Helps reinforce to the family that you care and are there to help the student through good and bad times)

Key Question: Do you give up on students? And yes – saying a student needs to go to another school/program/alternate setting can be ‘giving up’ if there is not a plan for re-entry/partial days/connections)

In creating your school culture – are you an “awfulizer” or “awesomizer” – your attitude & mindset matter!

Love this mindset too: Gotta close the opportunity gap before we can begin closing the achievement gap for kids.

Are “all” kids ready to learn when you are ready to teach?

As a merchant of hope, know backgrounds – experiences may or may not excuse student behaviours but it can definitely explain it….

What is the discipline approach? If you did X then your punishment is Y?

Or personalized….. so that the student understands the consequence and knows the culture of the school still cares about them…

What to do?

1. Bring your best to work every day

2. Give two minutes of your time to one student and one staff member every day

3. Be empathic

4. Value the mistakes of others

5. Model forgiveness

6. Understand you will not always see immediate results when working with kids

7. Have high standards for all kids every day

8. Address inappropriate behaviour

9. Don’t be negative

10. Take time to smile/laugh and encourage others to have fun

Every. Day.

Power of reflection – some thinkings to reflect on:

Doubt is a part of being an educator (I often say that educating is a career where you can feel invincible one moment and incompetent 5 minutes later….and repeat)

See your wounds and pain as a symbol of strength courage and teachable moments (what do you learn as we model resiliency – what do you learn about yourself through tough times?)

Keep going. No matter what keep going. (it is easy to want to stop – or slow down – but gotta keep looking forward and moving to where you are aiming)

Do you meet with your students?
What do they love?
If they were ‘boss’, what would they change? Why….?

and I’m being more mindful of @casas_jimmy recommendations for Home Visit Mentor Programs – reaching out to the homes and families of students to connect with the learners. Especially with many of our parents not necessarily having great school experiences themselves, coming into a school can be very challenging – as I say with mental wellness (anxiety) sometimes nothing is more difficult to walk through than an open door….

And I really like the idea of connecting with the families of the staff as well. I always like saying good things when I meet with family member face to face, but phoning their parents…..that might be a neat activity.

Some great shares of what might’ve been good to know when starting the job:

Focus on the experiences – the relationships are better remembered than the test scores

Take time to invest in yourself as much as others – don’t be afraid to have some personal time or personal learning

Stay connected – with mentors, former co-workers, expand your #PLN

Don’t jus tell them; show them – the importance of walking the talk

Don’t depend on the same teacher and leaders – spread leadership capacity throughout the learning community

Don’t let the process become the product when trying to influence change – find consensus and build from there – but build…don’t just get stuck in a democratic or autocratic process

Stop putting so much emphasis on trying to be successful – focus on what you are doing by being significant in the lives of others

Differentiation matters – for staff as well as students – not everyone is at the same place of readiness or experience – don’t expect everyone to grow at the same rate/speed regardless of their age or education experiences.

If you want to improve your relationship with others, try changing the manner in which you have those conversations. – managing difficulties requires you to manage yourself first. When others get agitated/escalated, staying calm becomes even more important.

Focus on skill sets rather than knowledge when hiring staff – bring in people with skills you need and want!

There are two ways to get in the last word – apologize and accept an apology – discipline is most effective when there is a way to make things right

Take responsibility for my own professional growth– stay focused on what you want to learn and why you are unwilling to learn some things (windows – ugh! )

Believe my words and actions can inspire others – create and be part of a culture of hope and faith that things will get better.


• Model behaviours you want to see repeated. (Want to see kindness, model kindness – want to see abrupt behaviours……)

• Cherish the conversations – don’t dwell on the problem

• Look past the workload – if you add something, what are you no longer doing?

• Gather energy from those you interact with

• Foster a sense of pride everywhere in and out of the building

• Don’t allow others to opt out of doing

• Take time to think and then follow up with action – and be mindful that not doing something is also seen as an action

• Don’t wait for others to change – we (I) are promoting personalized learning journeys for a reason!

• Keep learning from others – expand your real and virtual #PLN

• Find the right balance in “what if’s”

• Inspire people and their ideas

We cannot find ourselves accepting the status quo as the standard to meet and stay at.

Be the change you wish to see in the world!

My overall thought condenses to:

Make the culture of the school “ours” where every student and every staff feels it is “their” school! Because we are working on learning together…..!

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Day 97 (of 186) Global School Play Day #gspd2018

Day 97 (of 186) Global School Play Day #gspd2018

Unstructured Play. Seems so easy yet somehow it’s increasingly rare.

The kids who used to ride their bikes across town and play in parks until the street lights go on are at risk for a phone call being made to the police or Ministry of Children. In BC the Ministry of Children and families has even come down on siblings riding a public bus to and from school And don’t want kids playing out of sight of adult supervision -potentially not even on a front or backyard unless an adult is watching. Which makes me wonder about the kids who currently walk to and from schools and bus stops without an ever present adult….(and until you are 16 if in Ontario!). Often we say kids don’t act like kids used to- and he blame is often right back at us….who organize play dates instead of letting kids roam. Not wanting kids to play with each other until the parents meet. Using organized activities like club sports dance and martial arts – which can all help with mindful self-regulation but also help model and program kids that they will be directed with what to do.

So in a world that is safer than any time in history, more children have less choice than ever before (and to me one of many links to an increase in anxiety) other than my joke – kids can d anything they want after school….as long as it’s soccer or karate. This can help when it’s choosing an outfit for school – and can be good to limit how busy families get in evenings – and why I don’t do homework: we work hard at school – be a kid at home. Even if you’re a teenager. Those years go by way too fast.

I’ve collected a lot of writings and thinkings over the years – but especially after talking asynchronously with Scott Bedley @scotteach – who along with his brother has expanded into podcasting and promoting the concept of a Global School Play Day – a day of “permission” to let those who want to give “freedom” a try have some justification.

And as much as the day plan seems bare….it’s more like a duck on a pond – what you see looks relatively easy and “fun” but what you can’t see is the legs paddling like crazy – making sure everyone is safe and engaged – though I also encourage “boredom” too – nothing I get more jealous of than people saying they’re bored – the brain does great things during this time!

And “play” isn’t always easy. Experts (yes – there are experts at this) say that “deep play” doesn’t occur until after 45 minutes and only when/if the kids don’t know when the end of the session is. And the first 15 minutes are crazy.

Minutes 15-30 are often when creativity does its first kick in and more collaboration occurs.

Somewhere between 30 and 40 is when frustration happens and you as the adult will consider “winding things down” – but don’t. Because after 40-45 minutes the creativity gets its second wind and authentic play kicks in! And it is neat to see! My collection of articles and blogs on this:

This learning is why I include a “free choice” (sometimes a limited free choice) in my gym blocks. Gets everyone moving – always red cheeks and water breaks and when I’ve had my checklist of learning outcomes I regularly see every skill being practiced by someone at some point. And it gets the brain thinking different too (which is why I always try to get a gym block first thing every morning!)

I have been inspired by the work and learning PD educational leaders like the Bedley Brothers. It’s been nice to have an “excuse” to look at how students use their “soft skills” aka the core competencies when they are not directed to. I’ve been able to see students use a variety of communication strategies while thinking critically and creatively. Without worksheets. Without artificial scenarios. And (1) social responsibility, (2) personal awareness & responsibility along with (3) personal awareness and responsibility also come out loud and clear when discussing “what’s fair” and who’s “cheating” and taking turns and seeing what students do when they don’t know what to do……(class rule: do something!)

I honestly expected some to hit a “boredom” moment so I could tease them and say how lucky they were…but we didn’t. And overall most of the students felt the day went by quite quickly. And some even said it was the best day at at school! And unanimously it was hoped that this Global School Play Day would not be the only one for the year – but I know I’m ready for a nap!!

Thank you to the @bedleybros for this brainchild and to everyone else who was willing to spend a day….an hour….a block letting students Play!

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Day 96 (of 186) seasons of ch-ch-ch-change…..? different is good. Differentiation is greater. 

Day 96 (of 186) Seasons of ch-ch-ch-change…..? Different is good. Differentiation is greater.


So….Blockbuster is no longer selling CDs

and the american newspaper may be dying….still/more??



and I had a chat with a student during our recess supervision walk about how he needs bluetooth headphones in order to hear from his iPhone since Apple changed and killed the 3.5mm jack (as they had previously led to the end of “floppy” disks and CD/DVD drives previously)



and of course some people are freaking out – especially since other stores are also getting out of the CD market (yet ironically I can find vinyl in these and other places that don’t sell CDs….) but there must be a reason why these changes are happening – if these stores were making profits they would continue – much as in education we look to see if student are progressing with what we do or….we change things up….right? And newspapers are losing out to more personalized forms of media – instead of having ‘a’ reporter, there are a variety of points of views that can look at a story….and very personalized approaches – not one-size-fits-all media but “what I want/need when I need it” – I could say I have fond memories of getting the morning newspaper when I was a kid – but because of the press run to get the provincial newspaper to us via the morning train, I never got the scores for my @Mariners until the next day (tv stations never told me the scores I wanted either) so I was often 36-48 hours behind!



so we gotta admit – sometimes the good ole’ days…..weren’t…..too many don’t have great memories of schooling (when asked about why math is being taught different I love asking if math was their favourite subject in school – not nearly enough have said yes – I believe my number is “1”)



it also tied in with the (finally) release of the apple home speaker system – the homepod – – which is great….as long as you have an apple music account (which I do since with teenagers it is SO much more affordable that Columbia Record House and A&B Sound were when I was growing up!) sometimes what is new is better…..even though its different…..but when we can personalize it (right speaker with right playlist…)



yesterday I blogged about a @gcouros tweet about personalized learning ….. and I’ve been thinking even more that this may be ‘the disruption’ that eduction has been looking for (unlike blockbuster not looking at netflix and Sam Goody not looking at apple music)



and I know ‘personalized learning” and UDL also make people nervous. But there are good reasons to personalize. At @starbucks I like the menus cool lime refresher but I ❤️ it made with lemonade!


different is good. Differentiation is greater.

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