Using the “Why Not”Principle

Students have consistently asked me how to form a simple construct for assessing a method of experimentation be the experiment about academic work, or events that take place beyond the classroom.  While no one has any exact or foolproof “method” for assessing if any action is truly “safe,” the “why not” principle offers a legitimate way to self reflect before taking action– note: in emergency actions, this principle also will mean trusting one’s gut, as the more one indulges in self reflection, the stronger the “gut reaction” will be to help one recognize adverse situation when they materialize.

This method was both taught and demonstrated to me way back in my own childhood- it meant simply asking oneself, “why not” then pausing to write down or mentally list the reasons that something might be a “bad idea.”  And if one came up with more than two listings in the negative column- then don’t do it- especially if it might potentially hurt others.  Today this might even qualify as my “life lessons on empathy” since we are reworking so much that many an “old school” educator used to consider “compulsory knowledge,” the type that was expressed beginning in pre-school and reiterated throughout one’s academic career.

The “why not” principle also is often faster than listing all the “whys.” Plus students have shared that it is less ambiguous- less likely to be contorted by selfish pursuits. Give it a try- “why not?”




Through the Wardrobe

With Thanks

Funny how we interpret things; in a music video Bowie is shown stepping into a large wardrobe, and for many I already read they view it as his coffin- I saw it as the Wardrobe in the CS Lewis story, with all the magic awaiting on the other side- he is of British origin and for so many that story is a beloved one, and one that also has religious overtones. When I read the CS Lewis books as a child, I hadn’t felt any religious overtones, because to me it was a fantasy tale, and I accepted it as such. But that is the magic in the writer; the ability to allow for the story to become real even with the fantastic set of characters, and to also be giving us a set of morals and metaphors and guidelines for growing. When one reads about the children removed from London and other dangerous areas during war time, and recognizes that the kids in the real London of the real world also were sent away we uncover a depth about “war time” different from simply reading statistics. We can begin then to imagine Lucy burrowing into the warmth of an old fur coat, wrapping herself in its texture, and wishing she could be, together with the other children, a bigger player in the troubles affecting the real world; and so the fantasy begins. And it is not only in story that children do save the day; this happens each and every day for each and every adult blessed with a second generation around. Yes on the literal sense of children inheriting the world, but more deeply than that, for their very presence becomes a reminder of life itself.

I choose to hope that such a great artist was thinking of the future, his future, as holding a special parallel universe in which the child in him would be able to continue to create, to participate and to learn, sharing through love to help bring a positive force of peace.

and we still have the music…

to listen and find out more about David Bowie you may follow the official twitter accounts…


For 2016: Schooling and Positively Purposeful

One activity a day please –that is to FOCUS on;




Gesture stretch move repose

Actions to allow learning to settle

As an actual person from the 70s (1970s) I do recall the wave of books and fringe groups discussing TMR and meditation along with green tea and incense burning- but I was more into other things. Today in looking at Curriculum and asking why and where school wide learning balances The Arts and Phys Ed with core Academic subjects, and questions about exam preparation, student worries ( anxiety is too much a buzzword to truly apply to all students ) and what simple additions could have lasting effect on a schools atmosphere, two things continuously surface. Basic nutrition for all, and peaceful meditative practice.


Settle isn’t a bad word, in fact it is a word with multiple meanings- we despairingly suggest one shouldn’t settle for something that doesn’t automatically appear to be the perfect fit, yet we applaud those people who appear to be “settled” as in having found some stability from which to grow. And now that winter storms may soon engulf a city in snow, little is more pleasant than to look outside and see a streetscape where after the wind and blowing pellets, the snow has actually settled. Consider then how we discuss the feeling of ideas swirling around and refer to this as a “brainstorm.” And how one field of thought exhorts: create mind maps, another, put it in a list, and ever others, just begin and let the writing flow. But still there will be the students who can’t begin, some who can’t sit still, others who appear glued to their seats but whose pencils rarely make a mark on a page, and between these extremes are the students who simply need to understand what the term calm actually means. Enter “YOGA.”


In 2016 YOGA is not “fringe” but decidedly mainstream. And the beauty of it is that it is portable; certainly trained professional teachers will manage classes and here a person may learn exact techniques and increase, level by level, until able to move the body into near magical poses; however back to basics when it comes to a school wide system, and the goal of simply encouraging students to “be.” And doesn’t each of us benefit from having the ability to allow for inner calm even when under stressful situations? So let’s start with the youngest students and increase the practice throughout the grades and remove any discomfort in allowing students to “zone out” for a brief period – active daydreaming if you will, instead of just pushing the call for “makers,” let’s recall that thinking requires quiet time, too.


And as we as Educators continue to push for “Healthy Schools” let’s nourish the body too! If full time lunch programs are not doable in a district could healthful snack breaks fit into the budget? Having participated where schools offered something as simple as a ½ orange or ½ banana to students twice a day and recognized that the break also allowed for light conversation, then valued the renewed vigor when students tackled coursework, can vouch that sometimes even the simplest of gestures have lasting benefits. Makers and doers, thinkers and tinkerers, schools owe it to their staff and students to create and encourage learning awareness; one of the better ways is to help increase school wide non-analytical action. The reflections can occur during the relaxed periods; instead of being imposed upon students may begin to find reflection a natural occurrence. And then, when asked to consider various options, recognize that in addition to brainstorming, allowing ideas to settle is worthwhile too.

The Acrostic Team

Simple holiday messages:

Even the youngest students enjoy creating acrostic poems

Here is a sample of a simple one made using a not so simple concept-

The idea of a team suggests people working together supporting a common goal; and in sports this might mean an actual set of players; note how we borrow from the sports analogy when referring to people in other fields.

goal: in sports may have two posts and a net, a finish line, or a time to beat

players:  again in sports, the Captain (now borrowing from the military) and the crew – think rowing together

and in an Academic system, with all our variety of schools, “team” is not limited to inter or intra mural games, and the Baseball, Football, Basketball players.

Team may refer to the teaching and support staff and principals, to the students as a full body, to classrooms operating relatively independently, and to the parent body at a campus, often working behind the scenes on PTA activities that are meant to fund raise and promote the school and its options.

Now to the students – what do they think the letters in the word “team” might stand for?

as promised, a sample:


T raining, Teaching, Trusting, Testing, and Transferring

E xcellent, Equitable, Exemplify, and Explain

A lways, Actually, Atmosphere, and Attitude!

M astery, Magic, Magnitude, Merciful, and Magnificent

                  AH: now that’s my Dream team!

                          Learning TOgether







Holidays? PBL can begin

New sign for a class on Financial Literacy:

Never sign a contract you can’t read!

too often the students assigned to “basic programs” such as “life skills” or “family studies” may also be the students labelled “applied” and then instead of having skills enhanced are given such simple math as to make participating in class at best humdrum, at worst – simply skipped.

All students have an amazing ability to pursue in depth subjects they find relevant and “discover” for themselves how to actually “apply” the new knowledge.  When movies and stories abound on how not so long ago, the famous were not always “rich”; in fact many movie stars, musical artists, and entertainers were locked into contracts with studios, managers, and performance halls- contracts which allowed the artist to express talent, but which did not give the multi million dollar estates we in 2015 believe to be “automatic” as a result of fame.  Early sports stars too may have spent more time literally sleeping on the bus, than enjoying a fancy hotel room.

Have found many a student surprised to discover just how recent the big mega salaries actually are! Best with a project like this is to leave it open ended, encouraging students to gather material to present to their peers, demonstrating when and where and how financial literacy might have allowed the image of “starving artist” to be replaced with, if not “multi-millionaire” then at least respectability.  I have included sports stars because indeed Sports are entertainment-also the question of unionized sports players, whereby a team may show solidarity; are they able to find examples of this happening? The internet becomes a great resource as do the bibliography sections of a library.  When keeping a topic broad and encouraging the students to find the research first before settling on their topic, students are also acquiring basic Academic skills, understanding that they are beginning from curiousity- better than simply stating to the class, begin with a question, for as they begin with the application of curiousity, researching, they will uncover the questions for their theme.  And surprise their teachers not only with how much they have learnt, but also with how much they are able to share.

Disclaimer: personal pet peeve, when students are dismissed due to a system applied label, then further diminished by only being given unchallenging assignments.

Whichever winter holiday you are celebrating, wishing you and your loved ones a healthy, positive and laughter filled season; Enjoy.









What do you do if your nature and training says “leader” but your personality says “don’t control?” You become an Educator. You lead, encourage, exemplify, and demonstrate how to bring out the best in others, without controlling them.

Teachers don’t just make things happen, they allow people to change and grow!  Format, question, draft and resolution, names for activities, but what is going on inside, the curiousity, ambition, challenges and achievements are personal; students own them and proceed forward with each iteration, constantly refining themselves and reminding us as Educators how very essential it is to make room for the surprise responses, the non-conventional answers, the real thinking to progress.






Doable; writing to express

When we teach writing skills and encourage students to blog, we also need to encourage them to try different writing styles and at times not only read but also write simply for the “fun of it.”

And as is often mentioned teachers are encouraged to model writing “off the cuff”-

This one is titled:  DOABLE

Modern multitasking: put vegetables in the oven on slow roast –suggestions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, eggplant …turn to 375 degrees as slow roasting brings out best flavour; apply hair colour; clean bathroom while waiting for hair colour to settle= food roasting will not only provide later nourishment but lovely smells; clean washroom = spa like feel when showering to remove hair colouring and refresh, and if have in suite laundry- well, then, do that too! Total time two hours from start to finish- now enjoy the roasted vegetables and walk out the door knowing home is clean and fresh upon return.

Note: buy fresh vegetables in advance and if laundry not in- suite, then while doing laundry after shower, clear emails, post correspondence, and plan week-blogging,  banking, bills, and invoicing time too!

Super woman; could even get in a pedicure and yoga meditation while waiting for nails to dry…Multitasking works!

Extra bonus points: find the literary devices inserted