Tag: Canada

What Would They Say?

Have you ever thought what the students of your school would say about their experience there 20 years after? No? Maybe you should….

In an ironic twist of events, I found myself back in my hometown of London, Ontario this week. I hadn’t been back in close to 15 years and with some free time today, I decided to go visit my elementary school where I journeyed through grades 4-8.

As I pulled up the driveway, memories came flooding in of busy cars, parents dropping off kids, the harsh winter bolt from the car to the building; but more importantly I felt a deep sense of pride and a peace that I haven’t felt in years. Just seeing the building itself grounded me in a feeling of comfort and home and I wondered how many other former students felt this way and how many of my own will fill the same about their current experiences.

I walked up to the front doors and as fate would have it, there stood a man hoping to gain access to register his kids for the school year. He had just moved to Canada and was looking for a school for his children. As I explained to him that schools aren’t open for another few weeks, he soon realized that not only was I now a teacher but that I was a graduate coming back to just to see my old school. It was just the opportune moment for him to ask ” What was it like here? Is it a good school?”

Now this is where my mind started racing and the memories of my incredible teachers – Patricia Leschied, Jennifer Day, James Hull and John Arnett- came flooding in. Teachers who taught me perseverance, excellence, quality and showed me that I could be anything that I put my mind to. I spoke to how much fun I had learning here, to the close friendships and bonds I made (some to this very day), to being pushed to my limits due to high expectations, to care and understanding of my new culture and the turmoils of growing up, to new experiences scaffolded not for safety but for growth and mostly for the feeling of community and belonging. This school and these educators grew us into the people we are today – educators, police officers, engineers, doctors, politicians, environmentalists and librarians (from those I am still in contact with). There is no more powerful a sentiment than the legacy an educator leaves behind and that didn’t go unnoticed by this man nor myself.

As he thanked me and walked back to his vehicle, I stood there in awe wondering if my teachers knew this impact? If I as an educator truly understood the impact I leave on these children everyday. Will they be coming back to our school like I did today and praise the growth we fostered in them, the love we poured into their hearts and the strength we gave them to be who they are? I no longer say, I sure hope so…..I now say that is my goal and the legacy I want to leave for all of the students that I have the privilege of guiding along their life journey.


Delving Into Dewey – A Book Club

John Dewey By Eva Watson-Schütze (1867-1935) [Public domain]
John Dewey
By Eva Watson-Schütze (1867-1935) [Public domain]
I’m reading a textbook for fun! No…really…I am; and whats more is that five other educators: Michelle Cordy, Sharon Moskovitz, Dina Moati, Deborah McCallum and Shelly Vohra are reading and discussing it with me. What amazes me most about our John Dewey’s Educational Philosophy in International Perspective book club is that this is not a required read. We are dedicated and passionate educators who live across Canada coming together to learn, connect and better ourselves and our practice out of intrinsic motivation.

I’ve always loved reading books with depth and content; Stories and ideas that can transport me and shift my perspectives. I need to be able to connect what I’m reading to relevant experiences in my life in order to find enjoyment in it. This is something new I have learned about why I enjoy reading and why certain texts at different times in my life appealed to me more. I am finding now, five years into my profession, a better love and appreciation for the ‘educational’ texts I was told I had to read during both of my university careers. At the time, they were unattached to any real teaching experiences and therefore reading them then meant I was to memorize for the future, whereas reading them now allows me to connect, reflect and apply to my practice.

For those unfamiliar with the work of John Dewey, he was truly ahead of his time in regards to educational reform. His philosophies and publications are by no means considered easy reading, but they are of such high importance and relevance to the current changes occurring in education today, that I was drawn into reading more and more.

Our book club has been meeting bi-weekly using Google Hangout and sharing parts of the assigned chapters that have spoken to us and to our practice. We have engaged in discussions as to how Dewey’s philosophies still resonate today and how poignant some of his work has been. We are currently on Chapter 5, and I wanted to share some of the learning from the text that has struck a chord with me below:

“What else can matter to us, other than how our lives feel from the inside? We want to do certain things and not just have the experience of doing them.”  – Robert Nozick  This to me is about that intrinsic feeling we get when we are truly engaged in constructing and creating something that will have an impact on the world and the lives of others. It’s not about just simulating life experiences in the classroom for students, but about actually doing these things in the here and now. I must have read this over more than I can count, because this is an area that I want to grow my practice in. I want the learning in our classroom to have an impact beyond our walls and beyond simulations of the world, but to transcend and become an active part of it.

“Coming to know others who are different from ourselves draws us out; we are educated. This is because only those different from ourselves have the vocabulary, grammar, and style we need. Those who are most like us can only tell familiar stories.” – Jim Garrison How often is it that we surround ourselves with others of differing opinions, views and life experiences? Not very often because it can be uncomfortable. Yet, this is where learning and education can occur and only if we are open to it and only if we are open to realizing our own deficiencies and needs.

“We only experience ourselves within a community, and we only create ourselves within a community. The kind of self which is formed through action which is faithful to relations with others will be a fuller and broader self than one which is cultivated in isolation from or in opposition to the purposes and needs of others. Playing lovingly with others is profoundly more creative than playing alone or playing only to win the war.” – Jim Garrison, Hans Joas Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration! Dewey spoke of self-creation and democracy and how these can be formed through active communities of individuals uniting for the betterment of all. We benefit and grow when our ideas, thoughts and actions are combined to create things we may have never even imagined on our own.

“The lack of imagination binds us to the conditions to which we were born. A failure of imagination chains us to the false choices dictated to us by our culture. It is the greatest possible slavery, for we experience our lives as free even as we choose among values dictated to us by others. It is by a sense of possibilities opening before us that we become aware of constructions that hem us in and of burdens that oppress.” – John Dewey and Jim Garrison Our roles as educators is to open doors of learning and experiences for our students. It’s to broaden their horizons, their goals and their worlds beyond that which they see or live in everyday. The possibilities are everywhere and it comes down to how and if we are harnessing them and the power we have to change our culture which binds us to our current states. Are we building the foundations for students imagine the ‘different’ or the ‘possibility’?

“Cornel West on Prophetic Pragmatism: The mark of the prophet is to speak the truth in love with courage-come what may. Given the fate of prophets, what often comes is humiliation, rejection, and even death. Prophets are not old men with beards; they are anyone who will speak the needed value in destitute times. I want to suggest that educators may become prophets and that frequently good educators must.”-  Cornel West and Jim Garrison Why is it that some educators feel like lone wolves or an island onto itself? How do they fuel themselves and keep going in what they truly believe to be in the best interests of their students? It’s not an easy task to pave the path to change, but we need to continue to share and speak to the learning that is happening in our schools.

I have learned more than I had ever thought I would when I first said yes to this book club, and all that I have read continues to permeate in my mind daily. It has caused me to shift my perspectives on many items and apply a different lens when self-reflecting on my own practice. There are eight more essays and chapters left in our John Dewey reflection group. I am looking forward to our next meeting so that I can learn and share with my fellow educators and adapt my thoughts from their understandings.


Classroom Learning – September 10, 2014

Working hard on their paper blogs.
Working hard on their paper blogs.

Students have been learning how to write an effective blog post to reflect, connect and share their learning with the world.  We started this activity yesterday by brainstorming ideas on how we can represent ourselves. Students came up with many ideas as to who they are and what they would like to share while also focusing on Digital Citizenship and ensuring that whatever information they share is safe, appropriate and representative of themselves. We have started with paper blogs and will be discussing how to provide feedback through commenting on Friday by reading one another’s blogs and leaving comments via sticky notes. Once students have shown growth and confidence, they will begin to create their own personal online blog.

As we continue our journey into seamless technology integration, students have begun to use their PSD70 logins on their own and school-provided devices. This is the time where they are learning how to use the tools that will be applied in our classroom. Today, students had the opportunity to explore Google Maps in Social Studies to gain perspective on our location while also gaining insight into how the program works as it will play a large role in our classroom learning.

Students exploring the world through Google Maps.
Students exploring the world through Google Maps.
Students working in exploration groups.
Students working in exploration groups.
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Google Maps exploration groups.

Flexibility Leads To Authentic Learning

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Double checking the continents!

“The best things in life are the things we don’t and ultimately can’t plan for.”

I find this to be especially true for the learning in our classroom and yet as an educator, planning is something that almost becomes an innate sixth sense. As I grow in my teaching, I have learned that the key to having a learning environment that is authentic, purposeful and connected to the real world, an educator must be flexible. Plans are great for back-up, but for me, they can never replace experiences which may suddenly arise that could enhance the learning in our room.

Real life is happening when we are in the classroom and as educators we can either ignore this fact or embrace it and welcome the events of the world into our room. With everything we learn, I try and find connections to our lives and invite my students to find and create those connections as well.

This year, we have been learning about world geography with a curriculum focus on India, Peru, Tunisia and the Ukraine. Our school is located in a tiny rural hamlet, and so for my students to really grasp just how large our world truly is, we have been researching and learning about as many cultures and countries as we can and tying them back to our lives. We’ve connected with classrooms in a wide variety of countries, had guest speakers Skype with us, tried foods from around the world and are becoming global citizens.

Imagining the world and its vastness can be a very difficult concept to grasp. I also know that some of my students still struggle with trying to fully understand this and so when I saw today that Google was pulling off an ingenious April Fools Day joke that could actually help my students search the world, I jumped at the opportunity to have some fun! The Google Maps Pokemon Challenge asks the world to find 150 hidden Pokemon characters all around the world using Google Maps.

Students divided themselves into groups, each with a self-created role (country researcher, landmark researcher, typer, Pokemon catcher), with one iPad and one laptop per group. We created a Google Spreadsheet called @Gr34bears’ Pokemon Challenge and each group logged in to record what Pokemon they found and where in the world they found it.

What transpired next was just incredible to watch! The learning and connections we have been involved in from the start of the year came out and I heard them working together saying phrases like:

  • “They must have hidden them in capital cities! What is the capital of the Ukraine? Kiev! What is the capital of Peru? Lima!”
  • “I remember that in India there was a huge palace! Oh the Taj Mahal….look up the Taj Mahal!”
  • “The biggest city I know is Edmonton. Do you think they came to Canada? Let’s see if they are near us!”
  • “What country has the most people? They would definitely hide them there but we need to find out its biggest city too.”
  • ” San Jose, California… my favourite hockey team is the San Jose Sharks….where is that? How close is it to me?”
  • ” Let’s remember the Olympics …what country and city were they held in again? Sochi, Russa!”
  • ” Google is in the United States, so they must have put more there. What is their most popular city? New York! I know the Statue of Liberty!”
  • “I did my research on Australia. I wonder if they placed some in Australia? Let’s go look!”
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Atlas, iPad and laptop on the go!

They were collectively using iPads, laptops, world maps and atlas’ and making connection after connection. I didn’t even have the heart to tell them we had to stop as it was lunch time. They had already located 73 of 150 Pokemon but they had looked at almost every country across all of the continents and had no intention of stopping. We were also watching the hashtags #GoogleMapsPokemonChallenge and #GottaCatchThemAll on Twitter and they knew so many people around the world were also searching and discovering new places with them.

As I reflect tonight, I am so thankful for opportunities like this. They allow me to witness first hand just how incredible my students are and just how much they have learned and continue to learn every day. The “plans” we had for that period couldn’t even come close to this experience and what they learned and showed me.

I continue to strive to bring the best of the world to my students and if that means being flexible enough to change, switch, or toss those plans out altogether for the sake of true learning, then that is what shall happen.


Sunshine Blog

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I saw the Sunshine Blog posts floating around on Twitter a few weeks ago and I truly enjoyed reading and learning about other educators’ lives. I believe it is very important for us to share who we are outside of our roles as often as we can. I find that I share a lot about who I am with my students and it has only strengthened our bond in the classroom. With that being said, I was very excited to find myself a nominee this week and so without further ado… here is my Sunshine Blog post:

Here is how it works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

My Nominating Blogger

My nominating blogger is the incredible Megan Valois. We “met” while moderating #cdnedchat a few months ago and have quickly become close friends. Megan is dedicated, passionate and fiercely smart. I am honoured to know her and have the pleasure of having thought-provoking discussions with her every week. We also share a love for German Shepherds…which only made our friendship just that much stronger!

11 Random Facts About Me

1. My two loves are my 10 year old cat Finnigan and my 8 month old German Shepherd/Border Collie Grayson. They are my absolute everything.

2. I’m an extrovert. I draw my energy from crowds and people. I light up when I’m in the city surrounded by people, noise and activity.

3. I’m a runner.

4. I love food in all forms and believe it is best had with others.

5. Prior to teaching, I was Corporate and Internal Communications Manager for Chrysler Canada. I had the privilege of organizing auto shows, communicating with national and international media and facilitating employee communication and events.

6. I’m an eternal optimist. I believe in the good in everything and everyone …always.

7. Coffee is a necessity.

8. My educational background is in journalism & media studies. My BA in Communications provided me with an incredible foundation for life.

9. I’m a city-girl through and through but I currently live in the country.

10. My favourite band is City & Colour. I’ve seen them twice in concert and will be seeing them again in May.

11. I’m at my happiest when the sun is shining and the weather is warm. Preferably above 30°C.

11 Questions For Me

1. What’s your favourite thing about blogging or tweeting? 

I believe writing has the ability to reach and connect people on many levels. It has always been an outlet for my thoughts for as long as I can remember. I began my career in journalism to have the joy of writing every day for an audience.  Blogging encompasses all of this for me.

2. Favourite hobby?

Anything involving movement: running, hiking, walking. I won’t pass up a quiet movie night though!

3. Favourite movie of all time? 

I always revert to three when asked this question. They each hold a special place in my heart for completely different reasons. The Sound Of Music, Oliver!, and August Rush.

4. Favourite place you have traveled?

Travel is a big passion of mine. I love exploring new places, having adventures and creating memories. I don’t know that I can just choose one: Beirut, Lebanon, New York City, USA  and the idyllic towns of Fussen, Germany and Mondsee, Austria would be high on my list.

5. Favourite Twitter chat?

This was easy. Canada’s Ed Chat of course! #cdnedchat It’s on Monday nights at 8pm EST.

6. Favourite educational website – person or product?

One website both my students and I really enjoy is called The Kid Should See This. Its a random compilation of videos, photos and other amazing life captures.

7. If you had a superpower, what would it be? 

Teleportation. I miss my family so to be able to instantly be home and back would be perfect.

8. Favourite book you’ve read in 2013? 

The one that has resonated the most with me in 2013 has to be the one I read with my students for the Global Read Aloud : Out Of My Mind. It moved me to tears at almost every moment and I like books that evoke emotion.

9. Why teaching?

Teaching is my calling. It found me.

10. Proudest moment?

Persevering through the hard times and growing through adversity.

11. Funniest thing you ever said in front of a group of students/educators?

According to my students,  I say funny things all the time, but I just can’t remember them. However I do recall a time where we’ve had the most laughs (at my expense of course) at school; it deals with insects. I cannot even breathe if there is a spider, moth, bee….or anything of the sort around me and my students know this. When teaching grade two once, we had a special guest bee keeper come to school with her bees to share. At one point in the presentation, she proceeded to walk towards me with a bee and I was trying my best to not make a scene so I ended up crawling backwards up stairs, tripped and landed flat on my back. We all couldn’t stop laughing and this made it into my student’s “most memorable event in grade two” booklet.

11 Bloggers I’m Nominating

1. Zoe Bettess

2. Christine Quong

3. Laurel Beaton

4. Kelli Holden

5. Summer Len Diamond

6. Vivian

7. Mary Bertram

8. Sean Beaton

9. Cindy Kilpatrick

10. Will Gourley

11. Jennifer Collette

11 Questions For The Nominees

1. Why teaching?

2. Who or what is your  greatest inspiration?

3. What is one new thing you have tried this year?

4. What would your ideal day look like?

5. Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

6. If you could live anywhere in the world other than where you currently live, where would it be?

7.  What is something you are looking forward to in 2014?

8.  Are you an early bird or a night owl?

9.  What is your favourite band or music artist?

10. Why Twitter?

11. Mac or PC? Android or iPhone?