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.



Is Cell phone Banning equivalent to Book burning?


So this post has been sitting in my drafts for quite some time. To be honest I have no idea why this is such a hot topic but recently it seems to have resurfaced as a huge issue in education. It is not really a post that says, though shalt use cell phones but I do just want you to consider the implications of outright banning of anything.

When I heard this debate resurface I immediately, I thought back to stories of when burning/ censoring books from the general populace. Have we started that process again but with cell phones?

For me, the cell phone is one of the greatest tools that I have ever seen as an educator. For me, it has the power to connect information so that students can use it for their studies. For example, how many of us remember these?


I remember having a set of them in my living room and every other year we would get a new one as information was updated. These were quickly replaced with CD ROM’s and then eventually the internet. Still when I was a child information wasn’t always there for me. In fact, these were often the only thing that I wasn’t allowed to take out of the library. This was how we used information. This was were information was kept.

I personally think that the role of school has changed. School use to be a repository of knowledge but now knowledge is at our children’s fingertips. When they don’t know something they just go search it up. I mean I still remember my daughter at the age of 5 wanting to know how to build a firetruck in Minecraft. What did she do? Found a youtube video and built it. This was at the age of 5. These are our children and we need to rethink how they are accessing information.

I was at a dinner party with some great educators and this thought came up too. We discussed that as teachers when we didn’t know something we would often search for information and do the research on the topic but now for the first time our students are looking in the same places as we are.

By having a cell phone ready to use, allows students to access more information when they want it. Additionally, it also has a built-in calculator, its communication device, and has solid education apps. It is also a camera, a recorder, and a note taker. There is more computing power in a phone than our first computer as a child. The possibilities are endless.

I understand the argument that students will only use them for social media, taking inappropriate pictures of teachers or some other naughty thing but guess what they are already doing that. Why not teach our students how to harness the power that is in their hands properly versus just banning and telling them no.

My last argument is has blocking anything ever worked as a successful strategy? I know as a parent we say no to our children but we should be explaining why we don’t block or take away cause that just causes them to want it more. Students will always find a way to access the information they want. We need to teach them how to use it properly for good.

I know this is a hot topic but I would love to hear your thoughts.

The power of listening 

We recently had a community circle with my students. Reports just went home and my principal commented on how much my students have grown up. I too have notice this difference from last year to this year so I decided to ask them, what has been the difference that has made the difference.

At first they gave some stock answers:

1) we grew up

2) we knew you had high standards. I laugh at this one but it is true.

But then one of the students said it was the community circles. I prompted further and asked, ” but didn’t you have them last year?”

They affirmed my thoughts and said yes but this year you listen.

Listen? I asked. Yes you let us talk and then let us say how we should solve the problem. You let us share and you just sit there and listen. 

It’s struck me for a couple of reasons. The first is I often feel I talk too much but also was that really it? Was this really the difference?

I know we all listen to our students but how often do we really listen?

Let me try it a different way. As many of you know I write about my daughter a lot. She has made me a better person and a teacher because of the struggles that she goes through.  I have been reading a lot about parenting and about self regulation. The number one thing that I hear is, all kids just want to be understood and listened too. In fact, I think that most people want that. However, that is not a easy feat. Many of times the battles that I do have with my daughter is because I don’t listen and I jump right to my opinion or my interpretation of what I think happened.

Students are no different. They want to be listened too but how often do we fake listen. 

Please don’t get me wrong. I think as teachers we all do an amazing job and are stetched so thin but I am writing this more as a reminder to myself to take time to listen. Students say the most wonderful things and when they know you care about them, they care about you.

The purpose of teaching is….

Go! Fill in the blank: The purpose of teaching is _______________.

I know we all have our own opinions about what education is, in fact I hope to see some of your thoughts in the comment section. For me teaching is meeting each and everyone where they are at that present moment in time. It is about modelling and growing a future generation to care, love and be creative.  That being said I often question what teaching is because I wonder if everyone thinks the way I do (which by the way I know they do not and that is a good thing) So I ask you, my readers, What is the point of teaching? What is its purpose? How do we know we are meeting that purpose?

I may have blogged about this before but recent presentations have made me think about these questions.

In past research I came across this statement:

The purpose of teaching is to help students learn…~Cathy Fosnot

Now I think we would all agree with this statement. In fact, I would hope that no teacher would disagree. However, this was not what got me thinking. It was the last part of the sentence that really made me ponder.

..however, without learning there is no teaching. ~Cathy Fosnot

When I first read this statement I said to myself is she implying that if my students do not learn then I am not teaching? And to be honest, yes she was. I have always said teaching is an art form. I know that everyone thinks that they can teach but good teachers know how to make people learn. It is the learning that makes teaching rich and important and not everyone does this.


So let me turn this over to you, what do you think teaching is? How do you know you are doing it?


Organizing Against Islamophobia & the US Travel Ban

This is an amazing piece that needs to be addressed. It is the reason why I try to put Social Justice at the forefront of my teaching. The funny thing is its never the kids I need to talk to but their parents. Please have a read and stand up for human rights. All of then.

Heart of a Teacher

anti_trump_protest___gallery-2 Protestors march along Yonge Street Saturday, February 4 as part of a national day of action opposing hatred against Muslims.

I attended an event organized by my community, Parkdale’s Legal Services at the local library. The event focused on addressing Islamophobia in Canada, the province, and the community, as well as the impact of the travel ban on refugees and immigrants.
The event could have used more Muslim voices on the panel. There was only one Muslim woman on it, and her story was great to hear. I appreciated the fact that an attendee called this out. The organizers claim they tried to reach out to Muslims community members, and the local Imam, but they weren’t available.
One of the important things in organizing, whether it’s a movement, events, conferences, etc, is that you have a diverse representation of voices, but most importantly, the voices of those who you’re trying…

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Numberless Word Problems

So I first heard this while I was a guest on Derek Rhodenizer‘s Podcast. during the podcast he mentioned this idea about Numberless Word Problems, you can read about them here.  The idea is basically, to guide and scaffold students through the structure of problems by making them ask and rethinking questions.

Now this was my first attempt but I am going to attempt to share my thinking.

My goal was to get students to think about division. My students have already had practice at division but struggle to use their facts and thinking in a word problem. They just don’t seem to understand what to do or be flexible in their thinking. This is why I thought numberless problems would be amazing idea to try.

As the students came into the classroom I had this picture showing up on the screen.



Right away I had kids oohing and awing. One of the kids shouted out that is Niagara Falls! I figured I picked a good picture.

I then asked them What questions do you have? Do you wonder about anything?

This brought on an onslaught of questions:

  1. How much money did it take to build this?
  2. Why did someone want to build it?
  3. What is the diameter of this?
  4. What is the circumference?
  5. If you could divide the wheel into parts, how many parts could you divide it into?
  6. What is the environmental impact of the Ferris wheel on the neighbouring area? (they just came from science)
  7. what is the total cost to ride?
  8. How much money have they made since it opened?
  9. What is the distance between the mountain and the wheel?
  10. How many Mammoths tall is this? (Loved that question cause it was what I was going for)

I then told them a little more information: The Ferris Wheel is 175ft Tall ( I know I am Canadian but I needed the numbers to match Grade 5. They do 3 digits by 1 digit division so I couldn’t use 53m).

I then asked them does this change any of your questions or do you have any new ones?

Again this brought on an onslaught of hands.

  1. How many humans equal 175?
  2. How many V(student name) would be 175ft?
  3. How much more can the wheel expand till it reaches its maximum tipping point?
  4. Who would want to build a 175 ft Ferris wheel?
  5. If _(insert object)___ is (blank feet), how many of them fit inside 175ft?

I then added: The Ferris Wheel is 175ft tall and the Mammoth still looks kind of small.

Once again (I think you see the pattern) I asked what changes in your questions.

This time they all focused on the Mammoth and came up with two questions:

  1. How tall is the Mammoth?
  2. How many are needed to reach 175ft tall?

Which prompted me to ask them the real question:

The Niagara Falls Ferris Wheel is 175ft tall. The Mammoth’s look pretty small next to it. In fact, the Wheel is 9 times larger than the Mammoth. How tall would the Mammoth be?

What I really like about this approach is that it allowed my highly ELL (English as a Second Language) group to begin to understand how word problems are constructed. It also had them wondering about mathematics and seeing the world through a whole new lens. I am currently reading Jo Boaler’s book “Mathematical Mindsets.”  In the book, she mentions that many of our “math” problems stem from our children seeing math as a set of rules and the right answer. They don’t see the beauty in mathematics. Doing these “numberless” word problems allows the students to wonder, and think about mathematics. I know this post doesn’t do the justice and thinking that Brian has in his posts but I will post more as I go through them. If you have any advice or suggests please let me know or if you have any more ideas I would also love to hear from you.