Category Archives: writing

Ta dah duh! and almost done:

RECYCLING: School  term almost complete-

Yup- some lessons were better received than others; some assemblies produced more active participation on part of the student body, some after school events had nearly full turnout and others simply fizzled- what were the secret recipes which made for the better showings and ought to be replicated in some fashion next year and which events though dynamic were actually situation specific and must remain so? Each classroom teacher is actively reviewing the term, and admidst the minor chaos which end of a school year inevitably brings, the final reviews, those marks! and the promotions, is the very real organizing and reflecting not only about the students but always too about one’s own teching experience.  Many will discover they didn’t take any time off throughout the year and will determine to save some focused lessons for the on call supply teacher to be shared next academic year! For in the hustle and bustle that is a school most educators simply “keep on going” knowing that there is a purpose to the summer- to catch up, refocus, read, review, and indeed- unwind!

“the merry month of May” went by quickly this year, and as it nears completion so does another school year.  June may hold the expected exams but for many classes and educators the refections and clean ups have begun.  Here is hoping the chatter in the various lunchrooms, staff and student alike, is filled with that wonderful bittersweet tone of excitement for the upcoming months tinged with recognition that the year is being well spent , friendships made, and learning indeed took place.  Best regards!









Seriously, dig deeper to find “success”

TEASING; and why there is a huge difference between children learning word play and playing with words, and actual taunting. Taunting doesn’t work in business relationships, either. The carrot before the donkey is an awful image because it reduces a human to the level of a beast of burden- a donkey- an animal traditionally used to conjure up the image of a “foolish beast”. Another word for a donkey- an “ass”-and to be “a donkey’s ass”- is an extreme insult.

To taunt is to hold out a promise and constantly withdraw it-think of children and adults at play. Sometimes parents will use bribery to encourage a certain form of behaviour; the award must then be received if the change in behaviour is to take effect. Otherwise, the game is not a game at all- it is an exercise in power, and simply proof of the power of one party over another. In this day and age where words like “collaboration” are a little too loosely spread about, what needs to be made clear, be it in business or personal life, is that teasing creates resentment, not community. Why then do we allow for, nay, even encourage between adults, behaviour which would be criticized in a kindergarten classroom?

Word play sample: “Pete and Repeat (or spell it Repete and then it is a visual homonym) were walking along the bridge; Pete fell off- who was left?” Answer: “Repeat” = child asking question gets to repeat it – ad infinitum – laughter will ensue for a brief moment- but if it continues…the word play has become mean play.

 In life doing the same task again and again, and here we get to paraphrase Einstein, becomes a ridiculous exercise- punishing rather than building someone up.

Yes, as tutor, I will have older students proof their work, recopying it until they are satisfied that it says what they wished to express- but this is not a futile exercise, it is an exercise meant to have students become owners of their thoughts, and willing to share these opinions in the public forum which they participate in- a school.

If as a community we are going to build up the youth in our care, we want them to feel confident to share their opinions, to express ideas, and to recognize when a piece of writing is making a point, to think about the points other authors are expressing, and to not be afraid to show that they too can communicate. Our corrections must address the separate areas of content and grammar and structure, while bearing in mind, that our students have experienced different lives from ours, and may read into a piece something separate, special to their understanding; which is why we must teach go to the text, find where you feel this idea is being developed, and do not be afraid to stand out from the crowd.

If I am going to share with students an image with a carrot in it, then this one seems more appropriate:

As Teachers we are entrusted with all the reasons for digging to find that success.

A shift into “Learning” (September)

A Shift image for Disruptive learning

But why is this disruptive? It used to be the “taken for granted!”-

I wrote that question with trepidation, I know that suggesting info- graphics are less powerful than they have been given credit for is almost educational blasphemy. I like the picture; I only wish that as educators we could see these images for the categories they have always been: core curriculum in a k-12 school*. Once again I am tempted to change a portion and suggest that it read – if we teachers are going to pay attention to it – “Are you ready to notice what may be going on in your room?” And if yes, then the poster is referring to us, calling educators “learners” – reminding us, that we too are learning in the room; we had better pay attention…

*it is story telling/ newspaper articles/ headlines/ humour/ organization skills (list making only 1 of many ways to organize) math, drama, motor skills, social media, science etc. etc…

Changing it up!

A blog worth sharing- and spaces that may in reality be in class rooms- with a caveat: chairs, desks, tables, technology, indoor /outdoor- what really must be in the room? IDEAS, and an energy for sharing ideas, learning ideas (from and with the students) and the sense of safety and respect that doesn’t come from tables, chairs, or technology, but is absorbed and passed on person to person, when learners, regardless of age and background feel that they too, can be a part of the inquiry process.

Having said that, this set of downloadable and free cards offered through the The Third Teacher website* makes a great reminder to us how we may play within the learning environment, changing it up a bit depending on varying student needs, and also encourage students to enjoy moving around their (our) learning stations.

The saying that “Change is as good as a rest” (variously attributed, but Churchill seems most popular) is easily debated – regardless- students quickly tend to flock to the same seating patterns, same spaces even when unassigned- a quick way to add a bit of extra challenge then would be to have them redesign the classroom every quarter- not merely empty and clean desks but make their own democratic suggestions about what could be a productive way of grouping (or ungrouping) desks etc. I know that movement around and through a space is essential not merely for fire drills, but also for the sense of belonging and ownership that results when one is able to touch and explore.
What do you think?

Academics for all subjects

A reading is thinking poster

With science / math write-ups we also READ

Begin with prediction: = hypothesis

Visualize: what object are needed for (this)experiment? What amounts?

Connect: get all objects ready in one place / choose one set for the controlled object, the other objects will act upon – with experiments, the idea is to challenge yourself- (safely) and see what happens if…you are asking questions while trying the experiment

the write up tells others what happened
Instead of “clues from the text” the “evidence” is the section in a science write-up known as results- here you have a chance to decide what may not have worked. For example; if you were trying to change a liquid to a solid and doing a simple experiment with water- changing liquid water to solid ice, and the ice didn’t freeze- why not? Was the cold space not cold enough? Perhaps in class you created a mini refrigerator (tin foil and packaging and cardboard box…) and this did not stay cold- what could be done differently next time- where could something be changed?

Science constantly builds upon earlier experiments. When we try something at home or in class, we are practicing to see if a method “works”.

Take cooking for example: you are given a brand new toaster- you like toast nicely browned- first time you plug it in at set the number to 8 out of 10- Oh oh- too crisp- try again, 6? Just right. But wait, now put a bagel instead of another piece from that original loaf of bread. The texture is different and so might be the toasting time.

When scientists speak of the control object, they are saying one object stays the same, while another object changes. In the above case, the toaster stayed the same, while the bread products were changed.

New slice of bread- a piece of Challah- Oh oh- turning temperature down to 4- why? Why might it burn faster? What ingredients were in the Challah slice that are different from the regular piece of white bread, and different from the bagel? We do science experiments all the time, without realizing and labeling them as experiments or science!

In academics, we are asked to share what we are thinking in a write-up. This write-up may be answering questions on a teacher prepared worksheet- it may be drawing a picture of what we just did, it may be going online, and sharing over the internet by using a blog, a wiki, or a tweet  The write-up means one thing, regardless of how and where it is placed- communicating so another may understand; much of the time in school, students often ask- “will this be on the test?” – their point- shall I memorize the “fact” to be able to retell it? In less formal, ongoing assessments, the test begins with the student, and is a part of the student’s inquiry to understand more. A student encouraged from the start to share his/her understanding of what took place, is a student being encouraged to “do” academics- it need not be an either or situation wherein a student is labeled non-academic if we remember that academics simply refers to recognizing bits of theory behind a form of practice. And it is “easy” to share nowadays how recognizing both theory and practice may improve performance. Take Usain Bolt- who isn’t impressed by the lightening speed of this man? And if students are shown how there became a science to his athletic training, science is removed from an esoteric activity and placed smack in the centre of life skills; like being able to tie one’s shoes even if wearing slip-ons with Velcro, it is good to know how to do something, good to be able to feel a purpose behind a set of skills, good to take part in learning. We teachers, parents, adults, want and NEED the next generation curious, active, communicative, and participatory. For not only “science” but humanity will then continue to move forward.

Stepping off my soap-box to wish all a productive and learning filled year!

Changing of the Guard: new classes, new teachers

Changing of the guard-

Imagine how proud they each must have felt when earning the position of being a Buckingham palace guard! And how tiresome the job must become when someone’s unruly child, in an effort to get attention, stands in front of a guard and deliberately sticks out a tongue, or makes other “funny faces’ to try and dispel the outward “calm- and- in- control” image that the guards know they must maintain, and that, to their credit, the guards do.

Now imagine an employee in a work situation, and a set of senior “bosses” behaving just like those unruly children, and attempting, day after day, to break through the calm of the more junior worker. As parents we would or should reach out to our children and teach them that teasing is wrong, hurtful, and a form of bullying. And if in the position of the junior worker? Then life gets extremely complicated. To maintain that air of calm requires the internal discipline of the Buckingham guard, but to move forward in a healthful manner may require developing a distance that is impossible in what may turn into an intolerable post. First year teachers beginning at schools and eager to share their excitement need also to recognize that each school maintains a particular type of culture – all those wonderful ideas may not get displayed in one single term- breathe, adopt a bit of the stance of the palace guards to deflect the children’s and perhaps their parents’ and even long term staff members’ quizzical at best, nasty at worst, behaviours, and remember – like the Palace guards, YOU earned this posting; the children desire to learn, and your desire to share the learning will get all of you through the year.
Best wishes.

on a limb…

It is everywhere! The statement that ” the only way to do a good job is to love what you do”.  UM- not necessarily, and not really what we need to be proclaiming on classroom walls- as students rarely love drills- rarely love rewrites, rarely love the extra practice that must be undertaken to improve in any form of craft- or academic work.

How could we change it up then? This has been a constant desire of mine- to create a learning environment where all students receive the respect and opportunity to grow regardless of how much “hard work” both the educator and the student must apply before changes appear evident- and hard work isn’t always fun, nor is it always something one loves to do.

When we constantly toss about ideals that suggest “Passion” is all that is needed the craft behind the making may get lost in the dream that suggested “love is all you need”.  I love the Beatles and all that they stood for, but would hazard a guess that not one of them really meant the statement literally.  We need to get back to the core sense of practice, refining a skill and /or set of skills that will become, if not actually automatic, as close to automatic that an individual may muster and be able to call upon these skills as needed.

I cook, and when asked the secret ingredient have been known to answer “love” so indeed we all employ the suggestion that adding CARE will make a difference.  And I am for caring classrooms everywhere- but not to the detriment of students being giving only the promise of learning without the practical tools.  To truly empower students we need to offer guidelines; students whether in a regular or a flipped classroom, whether home-schooled or one of 50 in a classroom, benefit when the rules are clearly laid out, when the rubric is explained, and when the student is shown how to do something.

Practice may not make “perfect” but it will promote understanding; if the reasoning behind the practice is questioned, then dear teachers, do please have an explanation ready.  Or depending on the age group of your students, think about sharing something that will spark discussion regarding why some types of practical actions do not always appear to be on target but indeed get the results- a classic film comes to mind- the original Karate Kid– hard to forget “wash on, wash off” as a muscle builder…

Sports and the Arts both offer a form of apprenticeship during which time participants improve their practice under the guidance of “master coaches”.  The two words were juxtaposed on purpose, for mastery is what in the end produces that amazing result- the one that moves beyond rote and adapts or is applied to a specific situation, creating grace in action, be it a line on a page, a puck spinning towards a goal, or a new computer application.  We all improve through practice if and when the areas where improvement is suggested are clearly defined, and clearly demonstrated with /through examples where these practical changes made a difference to the finished product.

It is about product in addition to process, and if/when we forget this we short change a student.  Students are very self aware, and to be up lifted do not need simple pats on the back; they too want to recognize results and be proud of their own accomplishments.  When a student is able to say “I worked hard on this and believe it says what I wanted it to say” the student is taking ownership of his/her learning- isn’t that really what as teachers we wish to produce?