My Guest Post on Starr Sackstien’s Blog : A Grading Journey of Epic Proportions (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of the series for Starr’s blog. Hope you enjoy

Going ‘gradeless’ hasn’t really meant that I have no grades but that I am rethinking what it means to learn in school. Our kids are ready for change and need that change. The more we have them a part of the learning, the better. Read how Jonathan So has shifted his classroom.

Source: Guest Post: A Grading Journey of Epic Proportions (Part 2)


My Guest Post on Starr Sackstien’s Blog: A Grading Journey of Epic Proportions (Part 1)

Here is part one of my guest post on Starr Sackstein blog post. It is a post about my journey ongoing gradeless. Part one deals more with my beginnings and initial thoughts and part 2 will deal with my classroom and student samples. Hope you enjoy!


Jonathan So shares his experiences of going ‘gradeless’ and offers some insights into his process. Read on to see how he reflected and adjusted his learning to better help students reflect and grow as learners.

Source: Guest Post: A Grading Journey of Epic Proportions (Part 1)

Banning…removing…or is there something else better


Picture from

It has been a very interesting couple of months. I have been reading about banning cell phones in the classroom and now we are talking about fidget toys. Banning things is not a new concept. Whenever some new craze seems to come along there always seems to be problems associated with it. Whether it was Pokemon cards, bottle flipping or even be blades, it just seems that age old argument of I cannot stop it so I will just ban it comes up. But is this the best thing!


To me it isn’t about should they be in the classroom or not. I mean there are logical arguments on both sides to me it is more about unilateral decisions that we seem to make in education. I mean I get it, as teachers we are in charge, right? but is being that authoritative presence the best for our students? How do you respond to someone or something telling you this is the way it should be? (Does losing our sick days ring a bell :))

Has banning anything ever worked? or has it just created more conflict to deal with down the road? So the question shouldn’t be one side or the other but is there a better answer?

For me there is. I seem to be talking a lot about this but ever since Izzy being in school my eyes have been open to classroom management. When I first started teaching I was very much, thou shalt do what I say! I was the boss, I was in charge and I took a hard line.  I still do for most safety and important matters but now I try another approach.

Dr. Ross Green Talks in his books about collaborative problem-solving.  This is basically, talking to your kids about how you would solve the problem and therefore the next time it occurs you can avoid it. In his books, he often questions what is the point of punishment? For me, it is to not have that behaviour occur in the first place. Dr. Green would agree with me. So if this is the desired effect of punishment then why wouldn’t we involve the students who are directly affected by that punishment.

Classroom management seems to always be a struggle for our classrooms. We seem to have harder students every year. But I’ll tell you this, there is always a reason for those behaviours. There isn’t one student that I would say is a bad kid. They don’t wake up in the morning and say, “ummm….how will I make my teachers life a living hell?”  No, there is a cause and effect for their behaviour. The problem is we as educators often don’t take the time to understand what that reason is or we often pre-think what that reason is.

Last month, I asked my students what has made the difference in their change of behaviour. They told me, “You listen!”

This has been a very powerful statement for me. I asked them what they meant by “You listen” they told me you honour our thoughts and opinions. You don’t care if it’s a pencil that we are fighting over or a real fight you listen. This has stuck with me as I ponder these debates over banning or unilaterally deciding things for our students.

Our students deserve a lot more from us. They are not just some people who come to our class but have their own personalities and opinions. We need to think more about what affects them and how it affects them in order for them to understand why we want them to do things. It isn’t that we are giving up our authority (for whatever that is) or that we are giving up control but in fact, we are building relationships and a community.

The more we involve our students in the decision making the more they feel a part of our community. The more they are a part of our community and the less classroom management we will have.

Now, collaborative problem solving is not a magic bullet. It takes work and time but what I know is that banning doesn’t work. Now, I know why we often resort to banning. We are often stressed and bothered by these small things in our classroom but banning will not help the situation. In fact, it can often cause more problems.

So as we head into our week, I hope that we can think about who our kids are and why they behave the way they do. Stop and listen to them and they will surprise you.

Do we really mean,”You matter?”

I wat to preface this post with that I know I know that the majority of teachers became teachers because we love children and want what is best for them. In that regard I have no doubt. 

In fact, when I first started teach thus is why I did. I loved working with kids and helping them learn. However, having my own children has led me down an interesting path of learning and reflecting. Most of my recent posts have been a long the lines of community, listening and wondering how do we retain our children in school.

Today I just happen to be in a school and as I look around I see the wonderful signs we all post about everyone matters, your not alone, we are a community, character is everything, etc. And yet I also see posted in the office the late policy.

5 lates and it is a call home, 10 latest you have a detention and 15 you are suspended. Now I am the first to advocate that all students need to be in school and that school is very important to your future success but I do wonder this. When we make these policies are we really worried about the child or more about the funding that goes with them.

If we truly care about the student, why are we suspending them instead of figuring out why they are late? 

As Shanker says, there is always a reason for behaviour. There us no bad children.

 Every child has a story even in Highschool.  I understand that we are trying to teach them the harsh reality of work that if they do not show up they will be fired but there has to be a better way then a suspension? What is that teaching them?

I recently posted a post about listening to students. I have learned so much from them this year. The fact that they could distinguish truly listening and being put off was amazing. They know when someone cares about them. 

If we really mean the signs we put up in our schools then I think we have to rethink our policies. Is there a better way? How do we build trust, understanding and help students be in school?

Love to hear your thoughts.

You’ve got a Friend in Me….

So this post has been sitting in my drafts for a bit now but having just come back from Connect it reminded me to 1 finish this post and 2 what this post meant.

I hope it doesn’t seem to disjunct as I blend two great events that spurred on these thoughts but here we go.

During connect I was lucky enough to be apart of Fair Chance Learning Igniting Niagara Falls. It was a great night if meeting people and building relationships. As I sat there listening to everyone talk I was reminded of how all our talks seemed to focus on the importance of relationships. 

During my Ignite I talked about the power of listening but I included this slide. It was advice that my grade 6 class last year gave for the new year. It was the first card that in loved he most:

Be with people who make you a better person.

A couple of weeks ago i was again lucky enough to be a part of Ontario GAFE summit where I was a part of an amazing group of educators doing a funny demo slam for the amazing Sylvia Duckworth.

It was a lot of fun to meet new people like Jen Giffen and reacquaint myself with amazing friends (Sylvia and Kim). However, what the best part was that it reminded me about friendship. Yes friendship.

I have some really great people in my PLN and I am blessed to have a growing PLN and great friends because of it.  I know it is funny but I do feel like my PLN are friends, especiall my Power PLN (stealing Peter Cameron’s reference there). For those that don’t know Peter’s phrase, he calls those that are closely connected his POWER PLN.

For many of us we would consider friends people who are close to us. When I was a kid it would be the ten friends that lived on my block. However, I think with social media our worlds are ever expanding. Those same ten friends, who to be honest, may not really have been your friends, have now moved out to the world around us.  To me the people that I watch and interact with everyday are my friends. I have invested time into watching their classrooms and for me that is a powerful connection. It becomes even better when you meet people face to face.

I’ll share one more example, the week before the summit I was blessed to a part of an great discussion with an amazing group of educators who I, for the most part, have never met in real life. The funny part was the conversation was exactly around this very topic, among other things. We started the conversation with the fact you have these followers and how do you connect with everyone. The thing is you can’t. You cannot have the time to talk to each and everyone every single day but at the same time I still feel like that I have a connection with everyone.

Now you may wonder why I think this but to be honest I feel like I have a connection with each person. I’m an extravert at heart and I love each interaction I have on my social media platforms. I feel like when I watch what people share I get a glimpse of who they are. I get a piece of their life and I absolutely love this.

Meeting my PLN thsee past few weeks just reminded me that I have made some really great connections. Connections with people that I would never have met if it wasn’t for being connected. Because of my PLN I am able to go to conferences and build even deeper connections with people that I would never have done.

There have been a lot of talk and reflections after connect but all of them seem to keep coming back to those relationships. And the more I am in teaching the more I see how teaching at its heart is about those connections. As a profession we are a giant tribe of people but at our heart we are areal the same.

I encourage you to think about your relationships. When you get a chance do you cultivate it?  How do you stay connected and build relationships? 

Sorry for the length of this post and I hope it makes sense but in the end I just want to sat THANK YOU to all of my PLN, those I see on a regular basis and even those I connect through my feed. I love learning from you and no think you are all amazing. I hope to meet every one of you someday but if I don’t, know that you have a friend always in me.