A little “Grit” goes a long way

20180519_081131.jpgA little over a year ago I started to run. I have always liked running but saw myself as a sprinter never a long distance runner. In fact, last year I barely could do 5km in 1 hour. I would wheeze, cough and walk half the distance. As the year progressed I got myself to 10km in 1 hour and felt very proud of my accomplishments. I had a lot of friends tell me hey your ready for a 1/2 marathon and I would just laugh in their face. “Me, do a half? Yeah, right!” Well as of May 19th I can no longer say that! In fact, I sort of crushed that comment by completing my first half marathon in 1 hour and 38mins.

But this post really isn’t about the running but more about what I learned that day. At the 15km mark, my hamstring started to tighten and my brain started to say “STOP”. I was physically done but part of me just said no keep going and so I did. It was a grind but I was determined to finish and finish I did. It reminded me of what I tell my students, a little disequilibrium goes a long way. When we are in that moment of frustration and exasperation we learn so much more about ourselves. The problem is I think we as adults have forgotten what it is like to be in those moments. Now I am not implying we don’t have our moments but I think they are a lot less than when we were children.

As an adult, we have had many experiences that formulate the sum of our learning and decisions but for a child, they have a lot less. I think we often forget what it is like to be frustrated and therefore we jump right in. I am also sure there is some brain science behind adults fully form logic versus kids but all in all we have to remember what it is like to be a kid. To wonder, to explore, to question and to make mistakes. The problem we have as adults is we forgot what struggle is like and so have a hard time relating to our students making those mistakes. Running this half has reminded me how important struggle is and just how important it is to let me own students and children struggle.

So as we head into next year I encourage you to think about “Grit” and how are you purposefully planning this in your classroom. Any ideas please share.

Also if you want to share, some of your most recent struggles? Love to hear them.


Stem Labs Alpha Kit Review

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So while researching STEM ideas and products for the classroom, I came across a company called Stem Labs. They are a company that sells small robotics kits that link coding and robotics together. Students will have the opportunity to play with various sensors and components to make autonomous creations.

It is an interesting product and not really a new idea as we have products like this on the market. However, what I do like about STEM labs alpha kits is the flexibility to interact with various components and pretty much build or think of amazing ideas. In addition to the various parts, each part can be connected to lego which helps with the structural building piece. Another great part of their product is all of the teacher lessons that go with the product.  These lessons are linked at the moment to United Kingdoms curriculum plan but I hope they will be soon linked to Canadian content. That being said with some decent teacher thinking you can make the relationships to the science materials.

A really cool lesson we tried was the probability lesson.

What I really enjoyed about the product is the flexibility it has to fit most if not all of our science curriculums here in Ontario. In addition, the kids picked it up really easy and even my 8 years old built a car and coded it to move. They are simple pieces that can be moved, manipulated and used in many parts of your curriculum.

They have various size kits and for $1000 can easily order a nice set for your classroom to use.

So if you are thinking about adding to your Makerspaces or need some more STEM ideas take a look at SAM labs.

Webinar for more info: https://youtu.be/lZf6OvgGydE


A balance I think is something that we find hard as teachers. For most of us, if not all, teaching is not just a career but a huge passion. It is something that we put more than 100% (yes I know there isn’t really more than 100%, but bear with me on this). Yet, balance is needed.

This year I have been on a journey of a sort to keep that balance in my life. The funny thing is I am not too sure if my journey was planned or if it sort of found me but none the less it has been quite a thoughtful idea. This year has been a struggle I am not going to lie. It has been a lot of ups and downs. I started the year in a rough place, with a lot of negative energy around me and inside. I write this because I want others to know that this does happen. I write this because we all have those moments but the important part is recognizing this and moving forward. Having balance find me has been one of the greatest parts of this journey. Reflecting on what makes me feel better has been great.

Unfortunately, part of that balance has been reducing my time on social media and blogging, which a part of me regrets. I know many find blogging to be therapeutic and I am glad for that but for me writing brings a lot of stress and anxiety. It has never been a strength of mine but I did it because it has helped me improve and articulate my thoughts in a different platform. instead, I have turned more to being with my kids and more physical exercise. Running has become a passion of mind and a way to unwind and reflect on my day. In fact, I would have never thought of myself as a runner. It was something I did once in my life but never long distances and now I may be a little obsessed.

We all have hidden passions and balance comes in many forms and may look differently for others. I know many of you may feel resting is the greatest form of balance but really balance is doing things that fill your bucket and replenishing your soul.  As a teacher, we lose connections sometimes to who we are as people. We tend to define ourselves by being a teacher but we are so much more. Don’t get me wrong I love being a teacher but there are years were sometimes a break is needed.  What do you do to find that balance? I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

As the year comes to an end and we head into a downtime for ourselves remember to find time for yourself, replenish your soul and set a balance for yourself the following year. You are more and #youmatter

Rethinking discipline and classroom management

I don’t know about you but I was raised with the philosophy of spare the rod spoil the child. I’m pretty sure i’m not the only one. This philosophy shaped how I was raised, how I worked in my classroom and how I ultimately started parenting. But then came that proverbial moment when my 1st born was old enough to misbehave and everything I thought I knew had to be reevaluated.

Now please don’t get me wrong I am not saying how I grew up was wrong but since having children I have done a lot of rethinking about what discipline and management is.

I’ve talked about our struggles with my oldest before she is not the easiest child to work with but she has talk me so much in the process. So I thought i’d share some thoughts here:

1) learning about self reg.

Before learning about self reg I saw my childs tantrums just as that tantrums. I saw acting out as acting out. Even in the classroom I was why are they doing this don’t they know better. Now, it is easier to see those moments as a cry for help. Kids (K-12) act out for a reason. They are trying to communicate to the best of their ablities that they have been wronged or are stress. It isn’t on purpose, it isn’t to make your life miserable they just need help. Now is how they are doing it correct…not really but that is after discussion.

Self reg has also taught me that there really isn’t any reason to talk rationally to a child under stress until they are calm and centered. Their brain just cannot process the information. So step one is to identify they are stressed, step two calm, step 3 then talk. It is here in this talk you can discuss actions and discipline but not until they are back to rational thinking. Step 4 is figuring out stressors before they happen.

2. Punishment/discipline and anything else you want to lump in here

I was spanked as a kid. I was spanked often as a kid. I was spanked hard as a kid. I dont say this as a badge or a confirmation that it works but as a I know that it really doesnt work. Oh I did stop the behaviour but more out of I didn’t want to brake a spoon over my butt again. I’m sure that we all can relate to this story. But you see this is all I knew so what happens as a parent is this is what we revert too. It is in our tool box but it just doesn’t work to our desired outcomes. Personally, I have found that it continues the behaviour until a) you are so frustrated with the child you loose your marbles or b) the kid runs away and hates you forever. There is a c but that is a behaviour only stops because they dont want to be hit again. In all three cases the desire outcome of punishment isn’t really met.

We punish because we don’t want our children to repeat the behaviour, right? We want them to learn? But how is the above doing that?

Now please dont get me wrong there should be consequences for bad decisions.

What I have found is once a child is able to center and think again it is easier to talk and discuss the actions. My daughter has consequences. At first it felt like this wasn’t going to work but it has. Now she has less blow ups and actually understands why she is having them. She gets the reason why discipline needs to happen.

3) if a child doesn’t want to change nothing will change them

This has been the hardest part for me to learn. When I first started teaching I said I’m the boss and kids will lisyen to me. I was strict, I laid the law down amd guess what I still do but a lot different. My kids don’t follow the rules cause I said thou shalt they follow it because they have been involved and want to. Kids want to be in class because they feel a part of it. This has been the key to my management lately. My kids still know where the line is but they made it.

Now how does this come back to school. Today I saw next to a tardy list if a child gets 15 lates they are removed from all extra curriculars and teams. Now again I get discipline and why that statement is needed but then again i question this why is the child late? Does this take into consideration of home? Maybe they hate your class? Maybe they dont like you? These are all questions to think about before a punishment can be handed down. We also have to think about one other thing. Often our school clubs, teams, free choice periods are the only thing keeping our kids in school. They are one thing they look forward too, so in taking them away what are we doing to that child?

These are just some random thoughts but for me I understand that classroom management is needed…I know kids and adults need to understand right from wrong but we also need to consider the child and ultimately the reason for the negative behaviour. Lets focus less on the behaviour and more on the reasons and ultimately stopping it from happening.

Balance, what is that?

As you all know a teachers life is always busy. There is never a dull moment from planning, marking, researching and just plain teaching, our jobs are always on the go. This of course doesn’t even include our own personal lives which I will admit often is put on hold for our professional lives. I mean even as I write this blog I am walking laps around a track.

Lately, I have found it very hard to keep up. I try to balance everything but you always seem to drop something or get too stressed out to do anything else.

In fact, I feel guilty that I’m not on twitter as much or even writing 2 posts a month. I know I shouldn’t but you cannot help but feel the guilt.

This not only goes for us as teachers but out own students too. Students as well need to think of balance. Life is not about grades and homework but about enjoyment.

I write this post not to say hey I’m struggling or poor me but to say how do people find the time to balance it all? I wonder what strategies people have to balance their professional lives with their personal?

I am also writing this to leave some sort of affirmation that if you are struggling you are not alone. And that it is okay. I know that maybe weird coming from the guy now on lap 15 and writing a post but I think part it finding balance is to let go of the feeling we need to do everything.

So as I leave this post I would love to hear people’s strategies. I will also leave this statement: I will do my best to find the balance to be in the moment and most of all enjoy life.

An Open Door


Have you ever thought about what makes your class or school special? Ever wondered what makes the difference that makes the difference? These have been questions that I continue to look for and reflect on all of the time.

Today something sparked my thoughts even more. I was in a meeting today, with a bunch of staff, talking with our Superintendent about our wonderful school, when one of my colleagues made an interesting statement.

When I first came here I took a back seat to reflect on what makes this school special. Part of what I noticed was that everyone’s door was open….

She went on to further describe that having an open door showed her how open and comfortable we were with one another. I can go to anyone for help no matter what.

Now, I am slightly paraphrasing here but you get the understanding of this message. Even as I write this I am still struggling to find words to talk about my thoughts but I thought I would share some of these thoughts with you. You see, she hasn’t been the first person to mention that there is something special about Ray Lawson.   I have also noticed that things are different here but couldn’t figure out why. When my colleague made this statement it was a big aha for me. It never dawned on me how something as simple as an open door could help others see you were warm and there to help, it was something I just did.


As teachers, we want to create a culture where students are competent, curious, and capable. We also want to create a culture of love and understanding. But for that to happen it starts with us. The comment my colleague said, made me think about how I present myself to my colleagues and to my students/ parents. Do they see that what I am saying is put into practice? or do they see something different?

I never would have thought that something as small as an open door would make such a difference but it does. Here at Ray Lawson, we walk into each other’s classrooms all the time. No one ever bats an eyelash. We talk about best practices, we talk about students and we question our teaching, ALL THE TIME. Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 6.48.57 PM

In Peel, this is one of our beliefs but how do we put this into practice? What do you do in your classroom that allows students, parents and other teachers to see you as open, flexible and responsive to their needs?  Love to hear your thoughts.

Relationships Matter…I cannot stress this enough

The last couple of weeks I have been struggling with being a parent and a teacher. There has been many things lately that I haven’t agreed with but I have tried to stay calm and understand. It has been hard to sit back and find the right words to describe what I wish would be happening more in our profession. Then this tweet came across my feed today and it allowed me to center my thoughts that I have been struggling to communicate.

I want this quote to sit for a minute.


I know when I first started teaching I often neglected this very important piece. I often felt that I knew my students or that I was allowing them to be a part of the learning but the more I reflect the more I think I could have done more. Stuart’s work on self reg has been revolutionary for me. Reading his book was a breath of fresh air. The greatest take away I had was:

There is no thing/ concept as a Bad Child

I now firmly believe this but it is one of the toughest things that we have to realize as an educator. If you have been reading my blogs for the past I have often talked about the importance of relationships. I also have talked a lot about Stuart’s work and my daughter Izzy.

The latest update in Izzy’s school saga is that she has been formally tested and diagnosed with an LD, and ADHD. Now this wasn’t new information for me and my wife but it explains a lot of the problems that we have been seeing. The problem is Izzy is often misinterpreted. Izzy is not an easy child to get a long with. She is often difficult and stubborn. She has melt downs and high, high anxiety around school. These problems hinder her progress and have unfortunately labeled her as one of the problem children. However, there is a reason for her behaviour and she doesn’t do these things on purpose.

Izzy finds school hard, she finds learning hard and when she finds it hard she breaks down or is in a high stress situation. Like adults high stress causes her to be in a flight or fight mode, which in turn causes her to have behaviours.

For the past two years she has had two great educators who have taken the time to learn and honour Izzy as a person. They laughed at her quirkiness and joined in her loves. When she was stressed or struggled they often saw them even before Izzy did and was able to redirect and help her through them.

Now this relationship building takes time and I know oh so well that time is a very precious thing. As educators we often struggle with meeting all of the curriculum that we have to cover. There is so many things that we have to do that is not in the scope of teaching that we a lot of times forget about the most simplistic thing.

Teaching is not about teaching but about building

Our students know that we care. They pick up on our vibes, our stresses and our comments. This is for both the good and the bad.

Like most, if not all students, my daughter thrives on teachers who take a moment to see her for who she is. When you take the time to understand why she behaves the way she does, she actually has less bad behaviour and focuses more on the good. However, when she knows you think she is a problem then she tends to lean towards that. Students are pretty much the same. Relationships are needed and the time spent on them is time well spent.

When you take the time to honour students voices, who they are and what they like, they give it back to you. So I encourage you learn the stories of your students, understand who they are as individuals, recognize that they all of potential to do amazing things. I know that we all came into teaching to do just that but I think some times we loose site of it and get bogged down in all of the politics or curriculum.

If you spend the time building relationships I promise you will not be let down. My daughter is an amazing little girl, who I know has difficulties and causes a lot of stress in the classroom. But when she knows she is loved, she will do anything for you. I’ll end with this quote from Peel’s Modern Learner.

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