Day 128 (of 186) regarding music with thanks to @speedcontrolmus

Day 128 (of 186) regarding music (weird – for some reason my original version has disappeared into the aether – so I’m doing my best to repeat what I first composed)



I love music. I have music going in my classroom for most of the day (Disney Channel on satellite radio – all ‘clean’ versions of the current hits! But I’m also aware that “music” isn’t for everyone……so I also create “quiet zones” ….. and am also aware of some adaptions needed for special events….


and today we had a special guest in school: Speed Control a band from the Yukon who take schools on journeys through the history of Canadian Music. It was great – had some classics (including Bryan Adams Summer of ’69) and it was LOUD – as any rock band should be, but especially one that had a former music teacher and former kindergarten teacher leading the rock anthems!


So….as my son has taught me, for those that struggle with anything different in the day to start with, and especially if it’s an assembly that changes the day, and even MORE especially if it is loud….have some adaptions.  One of my kiddos asked to sit by the door in case he needed to ‘escape’ (a strategy my son uses more than he should) and I was happy to see teachers finding some noise cancelling headphones for others so that they could let the music make their bodies move – because you can’t just sit quietly at a rock performance!!

And as an added bonus, the band stayed at the school for the day to work with students to create a song for the school. It was interesting to see who ‘really wanted’ to take part and who ‘really wanted’ absolutely NOTHING to do with creating and possibly (gasp!) performing before a live audience!



As an inspiration it also led our class to do our outdoor 30 for 30 challenge (outside for 30 minutes for 30 days) with a musical twist: finding a way to make music in the woods attached to our school. Private performances can definitely be an advantage for some.



In a district that I can proudly say does a great job with music – putting instrument in the hands of kids early in elementary school through our prep times and allowing students to take part in a variety of bands throughout the years – jazz combos, concert ensembles, even solos (last year we had an amazing violinist and a pianist who ended up being accepted by Julliard). My girls have benefitted with my oldest playing trombone for the past number of years (even getting some solos along the way) and my youngest playing trumpet – so she wouldn’t have to follow in her siblings footsteps.  Whereas my son has evaded some of the traditional methods of music but has enjoyed finding a range of parody songs (mostly about pokemon) and even exploring what Garageband can allow him to create.  But with his anxiety, the best use of music in his world has been finding some calming music via youtube that helps him fall asleep – because music isn’t always ‘just’ about getting up and moving – a calming tool can also be invaluable.




I appreciate it so much when music makes an impact on the lives of our children. Its inspired us to create music videos attached to their own personal songs and create some coping step plans (from the amazing CBT focused Friends For Life program) with some inspiring music (kinda like the 80s film montages – best seen in Rocky IV)




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Day 127 (of 186) #humboldtstrong the power of sports connections

Day 127 (of 186) #humboldtstrong the power of sports connections

First thing this morning one of my students asked if I had heard about the tragic bus accident that impacted the Humboldt community. And of course I had – it was and is talked about at home and I’m sure at many schools. But the ripples of such an accident cannot be understated.

In a time before social media, the school I was a student had was hosting a basketball tournament. One team did not make it. A bus accident on an icy road impacted that community in a way that is almost unthinkable – to lose so many young student athletes is something that lasts for decades (became good friends with someone from that community in university and indeed he confirmed how difficult it was on the community).

But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t let our kids on buses – as one of my students indicated “hope my mom never makes me go on a bus!” but every day there are teams on buses going on journeys from community to community. We can’t live in fear – and as I explained to her – every time I drive I know I need to be aware of not only what I am doing but what others are doing around me…even when players who are part of the humbolt team were once at her house when a team member was there as a billet. The boy who lived with her family wasn’t on the bus -but he easily could have….

So many “could have been on the bus” – and for the families who had to wait so long to find out the fate of their loved ones….the pain is horrendous, I’ve had too many “death at school” events for my liking, but I can only empathize when such a large loss has occurred – so from afar, we will wear green today. (The Monday after the tragedy) and wear hockey jerseys and shirts on Thursday to indicate that no matter where we are, we are thinking of them because it could easily have been our children or our students or our friends whose life was cut too short.

Buses will continue to roll

Teams will continue to play

Parents will continue to worry

The pain will fade….from the outside in…..but memories will continue – and best wishes will be sent to Humboldt for its loss but also recognizing when sports tragedies occur, athletes come from a variety of towns and a variety of provinces so this is truly a tragedy that impacts families from around the country – and so many more that are going to worry that it could have easily been the team that their (my) child could have been on.

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Day 126 (of 186) new kid arriving!

Day 126 (of 186) new kid arriving!

Always a fun “post break” event: a family moves and new children entering schools….

I’ve always joked that “nature abhors a vacuum, so when a family moves away, new ones always fill the gap! And I’m always reminded of the Jack Prelutsky poem:

In no small part because we never know what emotional backpacks learners are bringing with them and how will they interact with a learning community that has been spending most of the year figuring out how to best work with each other!

And I k know many educators want/hope for a day or two to get things ready – but I’m always able to be ready for adjustments with a free choice seating plan (until I have to move people closer to me) and with project based learning there is very little worry about “overlapping units” based on what the ‘new kid’ may have learned at their previous school versus what we are exploring now. “I already learned this” changes to “I already have schema – I can be a leader” (kind of my point about reading and re-reading novels – there shouldn’t be “you can’t read ____ until grade ___” – rereading is a skill and strategies that “good readers do” and modelling and reinforcing this can be a positive experience to extend literature thinking!

And being an anxiety-friendly environment we will work hard as a class to ensure the first few days are good and that she can find her place on our learning community….

Looking forward to starting a week with a new addition – just wish I did t have an inquiry session for the morning of the first day. But it is nice that I can be there to say “welcome” and then be back at lunch for the afternoon. (Don’t want the new student to imprint on the wrong teacher!!)

The best part of having a new student join our class? Makes me re-explain (esp to myself) about why we are doing what we do!

Important to always reflect on what we are doing and great to have a chance to re-explain in case anybody else missed the “why” earlier but were nervous to ask!

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Day 125 (of 186) when the eyes have it [do you see what I did there?]

Day 125 (of 186) when the eyes have it [do you see what I did there?]

I’ve had glasses for a long time. I even teased my parents on the way home by saying “there’s trees out there?” – a comment I did t know until decades later made my parents feel guilty. I have heard them all – with my favourite being from my sister (who was very young at the time) wondering if my dreams were blurry or if I needed glasses on at night to dream in focus.

I also know that proper vision made my days of learning much clearer…

It’s also why I pay attention to my students when they squint or complain of headaches during the day (unless there was another reason) and had to follow my own advice and go in for another eye test – my contacts are fine but I’m noticing reading small print being difficult – especially if it’s darkish – a signal that multi-focus lenses would be in my future – but as my eye doctor said: you’re already there!

So – it’s a good reminder that because “windows are the mirrors to the soul” – don’t be afraid to get them checked out – there is a lot of health issues that can actually be seen by an optometrist- eyes hold no secrets!

And even though the doctor indicated I could wait for new lenses – I still remember the difference between no glasses and actual lenses so I am all for seeing the difference between old lenses and new ones – hmmmm maybe I can jazz it up with steampunk reading glasses with my contacts….!

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Day 124 (of 186) lunch….eat first or play first…. (a delicious debate)

Day 124 (of 186) lunch….eat first or play first…. (a delicious debate)


I honestly enjoy the discussions about recess breaks….. especially the ones about lunch with the usual topic – do we eat first or play first?….a right vs right debate –> and these are the ones that are fun!


I have been at schools that had each schedule – go out and play and then come in and eat (because then if students are slow eaters, they can continue to eat while work starts rather than eating during the ‘outside play time’).  Eat first and then play so that either: the eating time does not cut into learning time OR after a lot of learning get some nutrition and then exercise to be ready for an afternoon of learning.



Honestly, I’m okay with either as long as it works for the learners…..but then I’m also a guy who “got rid of recess” because that was good for learners too. Admittedly we got rid of a “bell dictated” recess and instead encouraged teachers to take their students (with their CEA) for recess breaks “as needed”…..even when one teacher took her class out for a break before I completed my first round outside looking to welcome any late arrivals to school – I looked quizzically at her and she stated: they needed to move….now. And they did. Another teacher was taking his class out about 20 minutes before the lunch bell (we had to have a bell because we had a food program so we did need a unified time for this break) and when I looked at him quizzically, he shared that the class worked really hard and didn’t need a break….until now….and they really needed a break even though it was right before their lunch time recess break…..and again, it worked for them.  So I’ve been very supportive of mindsets and “schedules” that can react and respond to the needs of the learners – and why I’ve used the “Finnish Schedule” of 45 minutes of work with a 15 minute “free break” – and with my class that struggles with transitions….these extra transitions…..they work for the learners.



So there are many arguments for lunch time rules. And many of the arguments are good ones. It’s nice to know that whichever decision you make is a good one….and if it’s not working, well….rules are always changeable! Which is partly why I liked that the idea of changing the rules of when we eat and when we play came right after our spring break – a natural break from school and opportunity to re-establish “new rules” so that we can accommodate our cross country running program – run first and fill the belly after.


My bias: I like getting outside first and then coming in to eat. It tends to be good “encouragement” to have students come in even when the game they are playing is very enticing….


….but also it allows those that need “more time to eat” exactly that….more time – eat while we do our guided reading centres. Not a big deal (as long as we keep our hands clean!) and if students need time to eat….and it’s nice to have discussions about something that can “work” either way – these are fun decisions to decide (but still be mindful that this topic may have some very passionate advocates who believe it is a serious matter….each opinion matters!) ….and is it fair to point out (again) that Canada remains the only G8 country to NOT have a meal program for students….again, both pros and cons to learners having this option:



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Day 123 (of 186) finally getting to ready Grading Smarter Not Harder by @myrondueck

Day 123 (of 186) finally getting to ready Grading Smarter Not Harder by @myrondueck

Spring is a time for renewal (and apparently bonus snow this year!) and I finally had a chance to read Myron Duecks Grading Smarter Not Harder and attempting to do more sketch notes while reading. I like that the book is an easy read, but with some good FAQs and examples to make the brain think and synthesize why we do what we do in learning, Definitely influenced by Ken O’Connors 15 fixes but not as ‘confrontational’ a read – but a good read if you are thinking that what you are doing (testing regularly, using homework and being frustrated) needs a re-look. Change isn’t always easy, but this is a read that can help a teacher start down the road of personalized learning! I’ll definitely be sharing it with some teachers I know who are looking for some guidance that is supportive and not overwhelming! Looking forward to Myron’s next book to see where he has continued to journey!

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Spring Break – getting ready for #ReadyPlayerOne by @erniecline

If you don’t want to read: Short story – I’ve played a lot of the video games mentioned in Ready Player One – and I found links to those games:



As I get ready to do a video parody singing ‘Where Are You Springtime?’ (instead of Christmas) I am getting excited for the movie adaption of Ernie Clines book “Ready Player One” – and a tad surprised it took me as long as it did to discover it a year or so ago! I am aware that Spielberg will put his own twist on ‘the book’ – and many people hoping for a text-to-screen treatment will be disappointed – but the preview highlights the DeLorean and the Iron Giant – and the text is awesomely full of 80s easter eggs!



But right now it is raining. With a mix of snow. Onto the overloaded snowfield that is our yard – still – way too late in the year for our neck of the woods. Not quite cabin fever, but needing an outlet in between reading books (and writing a secret project) I decided to match the games that Ernest Cline put into his book and the ones that I recalled from my own gamified youth – I freely admit that the Apple IIe my dad brought home helped my academics (previously I had to do way to many rewrites due to ‘messiness’ – even though I won a blue ribbon at a fall fair for penmanship, it was not possible for me to duplicate it on a regular basis – but my typing was just as nice and neat as anybody elses – and that helped me (and my teachers) focus on the content rather than the neatness (and transferring the ‘legibility learning outcome’ from messiness to grammar).



So I made a page in support for my virtual assignments page – but games not necessarily as connected to the academic learning outcomes as opposed to the other ones I typically add to the list (for math, reading, spelling, ADST, etc). These games do some teaching though! My Arcade Games page is new and has some fun links while we wait for spring….and wait for #ReadyPlayerOne to be released!


Some of the learnings include:


  • that there are extra lives to be won when you are successful and going on to a more challenging area
  • that there is a reset button when things are not going as well
  • sometimes ”levelling up” just means things come at you faster and faster (kinda like life)
  • that collaboration is not the same as group work (just because you could share game cartridges did not mean everyone could play at the same time) but…
  • teamwork is necessary (need to share what you learned or else you’ll never get out of the first room in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
  • patience is necessary (gotta take turns and be nice!)
  • Multi-task or perish – be aware of the surroundings -both virtual and in real life – factors in the room you are playing in can impact your game….much like playing your game while someone is calling your name can impact your life….
  • rigor is important – and sometimes perseverance is necessary to be successful….whether your objective is just to finish the game or finish with the highest score possible King of Kong  and so many more too:
  • forward/strategic thinking is important – if you eat all the power pellets in PacMan right away…..the game becomes a tad more difficult (and if you know the patterns of the ghosts….things can be easier – especially if you discover the “rest spot”
  • believe it or not – video games are social….even though there can be hours ‘alone in the basement’ – thats not always the full story. Gamers share strategies (thats how the first easter egg in Adventure was learned about – not a well kept secret….if you know who to talk to) and games in this millennium are even more social – with ‘playthroughs’ able to be found on youtube to help people through difficult sections (and darn near impossible ones on Mario Maker!)
  • creative thinking and mental work – there is no ‘one’ way to solve or finish a game – and sometimes ‘mindlessly’ going through a familiar game can help the brain do some ‘other thinking’ in the background (that multi-tasking mentioned earlier) and sometimes playing video games is indeed a mental workout!
  • Risk Taking is needed – knowing that when you face a Boss (or Mike Tyson at the end of Punch-Up) that defeat is far more likely than victory ….and until recently,  very rarely was there an option to ‘save’ where you are and restart at that point


Its not just me – others are sharing skills you can learn by embracing the video game world….


Video Games can be part of a school experience. And I’ll support the ‘no shooting games involving guns’ rule in the computer lab….because there are many more games out there that push the brain and even encourage rigor…..and goal setting (my son hopes to finish new games within 48 hours – depending on how big the game playing universe is – like the latest Zelda game…..very different from the first one! Because that’s the other lesson we should learn – games improve and get better over the years….so should classrooms and teachings….don’t get stuck on ‘level one’ – look for ways to Level UP!!


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