Day 22 (of 187) modelling phone use in class

Day 22 (of 187) modelling phone use in class


I do not have a problem with phones in the classroom. And I admit that not everybody is as comfortable as I am and I will support “the rules in the classroom” , but I will always prefer adults modelling appropriate “mobile device usage” because we know that kids do what they see.


So when talking face to face, I try to use “active listening skills” which means I’m not looking at my phone….for the most part….


….because I appreciate the jobs the device can do:


  • asynchronous communication: the ability to send a message is very helpful – and as principal I appreciate getting a text letting me know if something is going on – both positive or negative. It is often much easier than trying to find me…. and much more discreet of a way to send a message or a “heads up” than making a call.
  • documenting learning: I had a student ask me if I had my phone with me, because she has learned that I like coming in and getting photos and videos of learning occurring to add to our “month in review” video – and she had something she wanted me to add in….
  • eportfolios: the nice part with mobile devices is how it can help document (and provide descriptive feedback) student learning – right away. Not a week after a task was complete, but much more immediately. And the feedback does not always have to be written down – we have a powerful tool that fits in the palm of our hands, and we can video a discussion, use an audio recording to focus on feedback, photograph a note/notes that were taken, and document works as they are “in progress” until they are “complete”
  • quick lookups: sometimes there is something on the tip of your tongue and you need to look it up to confirm something. It doesn’t need to wait until the next day, it can happen in real time. Thats powerful.
  • Distractions – sometimes we all need a distraction, especially after a tense moment. That may include music….social media (I tweet better than I yapp) or even a youtube share.
  • tools – it used to be said (in math) you need to know it because you won’t always have a calculator with you….but the device can be a calculator (and I get upset when my own kids were told they couldn’t use their phone and its calculator app and they expected me to purchase another device that had great limitations. grrrr. Heck, now my iPhone can even act as a ruler! Pretty soon Im sure Ill be able to access a protractor….maybe even a compass (not a N/S/E/W one – already got that…!)


Will kids push boundaries? Absolutely! One youngster showed me how he could spell hello on his calculator (but we don’t talk about banning calculators as distractions) and I know he will soon discover many “other words” he will be able to spell out… But during one of our IEP planning meetings when a child was struggling communicating via his agenda between home and school, I asked if he had a phone (mom said yes…a little sheepishly, but a yes is a yes) and I casually “suggested” why doesn’t he take a photo and bring it home…or even better, take the photo and text it to mom so she sees it even before she gets home. Written output issue solved!


Will adults push boundaries? Absolutely! I know parents have checked facebook and social media during class time. I also know that sometimes those are the best ways to communicate to parents and homes.  And they are modelling how to appropriately use the device – not doing 1:1 time. Not while teaching. But sometimes while the room is calm and in a “work zone” it can be good to check and see what parents need after-school plans changed.



BUT – if the teacher says “no devices” I also expect them to model that. And I know many are more comfortable with that….but as I remind them, texting me may get my attention faster than trying to find where I am…but if kids can’t use mobile devices in the classroom, the teachers device should also be locked away. Otherwise you are hoping “Do as I say, not as I do” will actually work….even though we know….kids do what they see…!



Use the most powerful tool for differentiation and communication that has ever been able to have impacted the education system!

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Day 21 (of 187) the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat ….. as in sports so in classes?

Day 21 (of 187) the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat ….. as in sports so in classes?


Today we finished off our IEP meetings with parents. Focusing on some more personalized learning journeys for our learners….also on the first of major league baseballs national league wild card game which had me make some weird connections….


Firstly, in a game driven by statistics (which helped create the whole fantasy-sports industry) after 162 games….there were two ties – in two different divisions the first place and wild card teams had the same record. (This only further makes me distrust %s as the end all and be all because so often numbers aren’t enough). 


So – they needed tiebreakers. But the loser wasn’t done…they had to get ready to play again tonight.  Because the wild card game is a “best of one” series. The ultimate in summative assessment with a redo…..that’s right, even in real life there are chances to try again.  



But even then, there are winners and losers – and for very happy ending there are an equal number of heartbreaks. And if you think its just a game – you’ve never lived the experience. And in school – we want every student to feel like a winner each and every day….but we know that there are many struggles our students undergo each day that sometimes “being a learner” is not the most important thing… and these meetings are needed to ensure that we can figure out what the most important thing for the learner and the family actually is (and so often it is not “academic excellence”).



And having been on various sides of the table during these meetings I sometimes worry how everyone feels – are they feeling like they hit a walkoff home run in extra innings or watched a final strike fly by and wonder what would’ve happened if you swung….. sometimes we get to focus on successes, but we are always planning for what’s next… these meetings are not about winning and losing in the traditional sense – there is not just “one” pathway to be successful….and indeed it takes a team around the individual to help accomplish that “win” …..



And is a “win” the ultimate goal or is “being there” sometimes enough? Because I know some want school to be like a World Series victory – a lot of work with a fantastic result….but at the same time, while 32 teams start, there can only be one winner. And in a class some can find “simply being in the classroom” to be an amazing accomplishment. 


Because “winning” isn’t the same to everyone. And individual success is not always tied to team accomplishments. Both in sports and in the school. 


To an outsider, it can look like “just a game” (and yes, there is a “game of school” that can be played) but when you’re “in the game” whether on the field or on the classroom, only you know the fight that happens every day – and while some days are great….


sometimes the visiting team wins….    (this time!)

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Day 20 (of 187) Black Zone

Day 20 (of 187) Black Zone

It’s interesting how some takeaways during IEP meetings resonate in unusual ways. IEPs are Individual Education Plans that are reviewed yearly to set some specific goals for our learners with unique challenges – from vision impairment to “gifted” – which can sometimes come across as a learning disability – and all points in between…and even outside the lines! It’s also why I love @tweetsomemoore and her relentless pursuit for inclusion. Because everyone has unique challenges. Everyone deserves their own IEP.

But it is great sharing stories. And growths. Successes and …. delays …. as the pieces to puzzles start connecting – even if it’s not in the way first imagined.

But one takeaway stuck with me. It was around the Zones of Regulation – a book that helps create an alignment in ways to talk about how the brain & body is feeling and how decisions are being made.

Green Zone is optimal. Basic needs are met. Ready to learn and do

Yellow Zone is a bit off. Might have a need unmet or some anxiety or….

Blue Zone is also a bit off, but usually due to tired or sick or…

Red Zone is when you have “flipped your lid” and your emotional part of the brain is in charge – and decisions usually are based on fight/flight/freeze responses

But today we talked about “another zone” that a student pointed out: the Black Zone. Those times “beyond” ‘out of control’. Those times which go beyond the usual understanding of empathy. Where the zones all overlap and become murky. Dark. Black. Hard to put into words.

And black/dark is scary – it represents an unknown – or pushes us into thinking…unconventionally- such as being proactive about talking about suicide. It’s about going into the “untalkable” and knowing that it may remain untalkable because the words are complex.

I like it when interesting concepts get brought up…..gonna wrap my head around this “additional zone” some more…

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Day 19 (of 187) fall wellness – my prethink for Sunday Sept 30 #bcedchat at 7pm pst

Day 19 (of 187) fall wellness – my prethink for Sunday Sept 30 #bcedchat at 7pm pst

Balance. Educators talk about it a lot. How do we keep ourselves “well” while still being fully present to our learning community…..

I have always promoted and encouraged the power of asynchronous work. I don’t believe that the number of hours you spend in a school correlates to any effectiveness of learning. Especially in Fall when we are introduced to a new batch of viruses (it feels even more so when you change schools!)!

Some schools even have informal “challenges” where I’ve heard one teacher chide another because of how early they left (and it was way past the dinner hour). Some feel they gave to come in every day….even on the weekend…. and I’m not saying I don’t work in evenings or weekends, but I do promote the benefits of asynchronous work.

I get to work early in the morning (relative to the bell). It gives me a chance to walk the property and make sure there aren’t any surprises. It also means by the afternoon I can be tired….or done….for a bit.

My Apple Watch helps me monitor how many steps and energy I use. I’ve been pretty good on the 10000 steps goal, but recently inconsistent on the 30 minutes of focused exercise. And yes, I like how tech keeps reminding me of what I want/need to do.

But I see “balance” as being like a teeter totter. I know that there are times the “work” has to come before the “wellness” – I also know that’s why my cold is going into its second week….

Being in a new community, I’m also curious to see how my “fall wellness” program changes – most of my career has been in places with “snowy winters” but that doesn’t seem to be the trend for my new school and community on the pacific. I hope it means easier nightly walks with my son. With my daughters soccer league going into winter and beyond make me assume that the “year” may allow more consistent physical movement which I know benefits my mental wellness.

Fall wellness: finding balance between work and home; outside and tech; physical and mental. After all, if it was easy – we would be chatting about it on Sept 30 at #bcedchat at 7pm!

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Day 18 (of 187) as I prepare to wear an orange shirt

Day 18 (of 187) as I prepare to wear an orange shirt

History is hard. It’s somewhat easier to look back and go “what were they thinking”? In Canada, a black mark on our history is the Residential School System and especially how our indigenous families were impacted.

As one of the boys I was talking with asked, “isn’t it like the boarding school system” — likely imagining the scenes of happy kids going off to Hogwarts! But the truth was greatly different – it wasn’t a choice as it was for families in England. The schools were not close so that meant there weren’t any opportunities for families to have visits (and family members in the school couldn’t acknowledge their relationships….they weren’t brothers/sisters/cousins….they were students….and the learning was in English, not the language they grew up learning. Confusion…frustration…anger….

And the stories get dark.

And I’m embarrassed because I grew up on a community with friends whose families survived this experience…..but their were high costs to survival….and many of us had no idea. No idea that our friends parents did not have much of a chance to learn from their parents….so there were “lost generations” – expeciting people to be parents when they didn’t have parents of their own….that’s very complex. I should not have had to wait until university to learn about Residential Schools. It should not have taken until my last year in university for the last one to be closed…

Phyllis’s story …. it’s a tough one …

But her sharing has made a profound impact on many people. And we are choosing to wear orange (this week I am wearing orange all week long) to celebrate her willingness to share her story. So we can learn from our history and make sure this never happens again.

I am an inclusionist which means I welcome all members of our learning community to our school because we have a responsibility to do better. There are legitimate reasons for many of our parents to distrust and fear school. We need to assure our families that admitting and acknowledging the truth helps us get to reconciliation – and that is why September 30 (and Friday the 28) is a great time to wear orange….so nobody has to be treated as Phyllis….and so many others were….for being a kid….a daughter….a student….a mother….for being a canadian(?).

Let’s all wear an orange shirt as a way to thank Phyllis for sharing her story and hope that we learn from the past to do better. And treat every learner with dignity. Always.

It’s one thing to wear an orange shirt. But it’s what we do that matters more.

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Day 17 (of 187) the next “trend”

Day 17 (of 187) the next “trend”

I don’t mind saying that often I can see things in education before they become “trends”. And more importantly, the distractions that won’t/don’t last….

However, when I started my list of things I’ve done (small list: efolios, mental wellness, tech as mobile differentiator), it felt awkward. Because I know I didn’t do things in isolation. There is always a team both in real time and asynchronous. And when I was making a list….well….I didn’t like how it felt like a list of brags.

So instead, for now, I’m just going to do a tease for what I think is “next” as we further personalize learning journeys.

And at first it seems scary….


Imagine. Every. Student. Has. An.

IEP…..(Individual Education Plan)

A) because they kinda do already and

B) if it’s good for our most vulnerable learners… should be good for all (I’ll reference where I steal this mindset from when you see me face to face….!)

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Day 16 (of 187) #toughtuesday – why I dislike long weekends

Day 16 (of 187) #toughtuesday – why I dislike long weekends

This last weekend had two professional learning days: Friday was what we on the west coast call a Pro-D day (professional development) while Monday was a Curriculum Implementation Day as we make some final adjustments to BCs “new” curriculum –

And sure there are some that appreciate the “long weekend” during the school startup month. I just know that for many of our learners, that time away is “too long”.

For our learners who need consistency, long weekends are hard. The rhythm of the school week starts to feel right and then they get bonus time in their preferred environment: “not school”. And much like NASA, re-entry can be complex.

It’s hard being away from home. It’s hard getting re-used to the crowds and bells, sounds and smells, and the predictable unpredictability that is “school”.

It’s why I try to be around the school as much as possible (and still wonder why when you do a reminder about something, that something is always central on some kids minds and they have to do it – in today’s case “building bases” – which is fine – “using parts from other bases” – which is not well received.

It’s why I appreciate the visual schedules in some (soon to be: all?) classrooms so that when students get de-regulated, we can use a photo of the schedule in order to help re-connect a learner with “where they need to be” – even though we are all very aware that may not be where they want to be.

It’s also why I set up some “Buddha Boards” in my office

And prepared to blend proactivity: popping around rooms – but not going in because my presence may prompt some to suddenly need an escape and visit to the principals office….blended with reactivity with my phone on and close to me so that I could respond to any emergency texts.

Of course I had some expected visitors come to work with me and as I suspected, had some new students show up on my radar.

Sigh. Tuesday’s after a long weekend always mean that my “gotta do” pile gets a little taller because there are always some higher priorities to connect with – such as helping a girl get her bike home because while riding on the weekend was fun and getting to and from school was easy (and no hills!!) the reality after the day after a long weekend suddenly made the regular route scary and dangerous. No judgements. I get it that one days success does not always transfer to the next day. That’s what we work on the next day!

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