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Sarah’s Back-To-School Story

Sarah’s Back-To-School Story

As school starts for most tomorrow, I felt inspired to share my back to school story – from what a first day of school felt like for me as a student in elementary and high school. Especially, since I haven’t “officially” lived a Back-To-School as a teacher yet, I am dedicating this to my last September as a student. 

It’s 6:30AM. Your alarm goes off.

“Ugh, I forgot what getting up early felt like…”

You get out of bed and put on your outfit you laid out the night before. You brush your teeth and skip breakfast because you already have a pit in your stomach. You’re excited and a little nervous.

On the first day of school, the air outside feels different. This bus pulls up to your place and you step on to see the new friends on your bus route this year. You patiently wait to see the trajectory your bus will take.

Maybe you are the first on, maybe you are the last, but you finally arrive to school sporting your brand new 1st day of school outfit. The school feels fresh and new; the floors are waxed and the hallways are cleaned. Everyone is tanned and you have already started to recount your exciting summer to your friends and teachers you haven’t seen in 2 months.

You set up you fresh, new and still clean locker all while high-fiving and hugging your friends as they pass by.

Teachers have changed; new ones have arrived and old ones have left.

This is it… back to school. Only 195 more days left, but who’s counting?


You can also listen to this story on my podcast:

Thank you, VoicEd.

Thank you, VoicEd.

These past two months, I have had the absolute honour of being the Community Manager of and VoicEd Radio. This unexpected internship, working with the one and only @Stephen_Hurley, has transformed my summer into a summer of learning, growing and connecting.

Reflecting on this experience has allowed me to realize the leaps and bounds I’ve taken in this short period of time. I have exponentially grown my PLN. I have cultivated my curiosity. I have raised my awareness on tons of hot new EDU topics. I have had the opportunity to influence, connect and share with other educators, whom I may not have otherwise connected with out of this context. And, I have began to think differently… Working for and with VoicEd has obliged me to think differently and out of the box. I have also begun to think more creatively and critically. I’ve gained confidence in my ideas and thoughts and I am no longer apprehensive to share them.

Furthermore, VoicEd has favoured my growth, not only as a Teacher Candidate, but also as a person, as a colleague and as a future mentor for my peers and my students. As a Teacher Candidate, I strongly believe that it is imperative to have a mentor/ role model in this critical time of learning. Every member of my Power PLN, (too many to name them all, but here’s a few) Stephen, Rola, Jen, Derek, Noa, Carol, Chris, Brad, have welcomed my questions with open arms and have brought me to new heights in my learning. I’ve refined relationships and have also created new ones. These educators have allowed me to create a growth mindset, where risks are encouraged, fails & mistakes are learning opportunities and collaboration is key.

Folks, this space is inspiring. It all started as an idea from catalyst: Stephen Hurley, with the helping hands of other educators like Derek Rhodenizer and Rolland Chidiac. I got involved on a limb early on in February, thanks to plugs from Derek’s podcast: Beyond the Staffroom. Since then, being an avid blogger, podcaster and your Community Manager I sometimes ask myself, where I would be if it wasn’t for VoicEd? It is a welcoming space that offers unlimited educational topics, open and thoughtful conversations, 21st century philosophies, mindful and supportive educators and shared resources. This community empowers you to share your thoughts and receive insightful feedback from passionate educators like yourself! In all of this, I was able to see how educators work together in harmony for the greater good of their students.

Did you know? VoicEd & VoicEdRadio connects educators, not only from Canada, but from around the world. Meaning, Canadian educators get educational perspectives from outside of Canada. This has opened my eyes to what is happening outside of my hometown, my province, my country and even my continent! It is incredible to see the similarities and differences in Education going on all around the world.

In the end, with VoicEd, you become a part of something bigger. It is a family of amazing human beings that support you and lift you up. The end of August doesn’t mean goodbye, gosh no! Instead, it is a turning a new leaf.


How can you be like Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson in your classroom?

How can you be like Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson in your classroom?


Being the Disney enthusiast I am, I recently watched Cars 3 in theatres. Going in with no expectations, I was pretty impressed. However, this isn’t a movie review. This is a reflection post about the movie and how it relates to education. Be advised… reading any further will spoil the end of the movie for you!

You all know the infamous Lightning McQueen. In the third movie, Lightning McQueen is up against all odds. He has to train hard to beat all the new car models he faces on the track. To do that, he is given a trainer, Cruise. Cruise always dreamt of being on the track, but due to circumstances she is now working for a training company. She mentors McQueen throughout the movie until he decides to go back to his roots. His journey back to what he knows allows him and Cruise to learn about one another’s past and push each other to be their best. Lighting McQueen sees the potential in Cruise. During his training and during the first race of his “last season”, he tags Cruise into the race. Thanks to Lightning McQueen’s mentorship and crew chief instincts, she gets the checkered flag!

At the end of the movie, we learn that Lightning McQueen believed in Cruise and saw something in her that she did not see in herself. Doc Hudson, Lightning McQueen’s mentor also believed in him when he doubted himself.

This lesson is something I think is soo important as an educator. I related this lesson to the teacher who sees the potential in their students. (Especially to those students who need it the most.) As a student, having that ONE teacher who believed in you, in essential to your journey and growth. These teachers are like Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson because they take the time to see the potential in their students. They look beyond the surface and find the real capabilities. They mentor, encourage and motivate students to do things they never thought they could achieve. They reassure in the times of doubt and inspire them to see the good that lies within themselves. After doing this, they accomplish great things and continue to push themselves. I always think: “You never know how something you say will impact someone’s life”. Supportive words and gestures can help a student find that extra drive inside of them. So, next time you want to give up on a student, think about what would have happened to Lightning McQueen if Doc Hudson hadn’t believed in him, or Lightning McQueen doing the same for Cruise.

As a Teacher Candidate, having people in my circle and PLN who push me to do things I never thought I could do is paramount to my personal and professional being. I am grateful when I think about the people around me who believe in me, support me and give me the extra little push when I need it. Sometimes I wonder if I would be where I am now if it weren’t for them. I strongly believe that Teacher Candidates need more mentors like Doc and Lightning McQueen to allow them to grow, pick them up when they are down and believe in them when they don’t always believe in themselves.

What Teachers TRULY do During The Summer – As Told by Students & Teachers

What Teachers TRULY do During The Summer – As Told by Students & Teachers

It is the age-old joke that teachers only work for 9-10 months out of the year… Teachers, you hear this every year. The joke rolls around in June and you gracefully laugh it off. (Yes we know, that it may look or seem as though we get two months off to sit around the pool with a cool drink and a pink umbrella, but things are not always as they appear.) In reality, the life outside the classroom is an opportunity to catch up on PD, family time, certainly prepare for Septembre and so much more!

As a Teacher Candidate, I thought I would dive deeper into the topic. So, I asked myself: why not hear from real teachers to break the stereotype and understand what they TRULY do during their 2 month break! So, I did some research and asked over a dozen educators to tell me what is it REALLY like to be a teacher during the summer?

But first, I was interested to see what our little learners believe their teachers were doing during their 2 month break. I got a good chuckle when asking elementary school students what they thought their teachers would be up to this summer… And, to my surprise, some students believe that teachers work really hard!

K, a Grade 1 student, believes that we “talk to different teachers” and that we “watch TV and practice being teachers”.

C from Grade 1 believes that “they get prepared for the kids, they get ready to do stuff with the kids and buy new toys [for Friday Fun]”.

And, I, also a Grade 1 student, thinks that we “probably write down who is going to be in their class next year”.

Whereas, other students think their teachers spend more time relaxing than working over the summer…

E from Gr 2 believes that her teacher “… just sits around and goes places in the summer so she can have fun with her family”.

H from Grade 1 said: “They go in the hot tub and then go to a different country to have their vacation”.

My favourite testimonial is from S in Grade 1 who believes that teachers “do the calendar when we’re not here” and keep it up to date.

Our students may be right, but to fully understand the reality of teachers during the summer we need to hear from the teachers themselves. I’ve learnt from Derek Rhodenizer that all good deep dives begin with a proper introduction. This one is provided to you by the great, Noa Daniels (@noasbobs), take it away Noa:

“The summers off feature of teaching is an often discussed and, sometimes, misunderstood part of our overall professional experience by those looking. Besides the essential break from an intense and all consuming but perpetually motivating job, summer is more than a time to regroup. It is a time reflect, to plan ahead, to grow, to get ideas for poetry lessons from the sounds of nature, to see parts of the world to bring into Social Studies, History or Geography lessons, to think about the Math abounds, to inquire about and read where I want to grow professionally or am just curious and want to explore. To play with EdTech tools and consider how to improve my practice.  Summer is also a great time to build a BOB.”

Thanks Noa! Now that you have all these great ideas in mind, let’s depict what summertime TRULY is for educators:

SUMMER IS … time to pursue other passions

Some educators, like Jen Giffen (@VirtualGiff) are writers and will be “doing some writing for my district, finishing a pile of books (education related and non) from my bedside table”.

Not to mention she will be “Representing Canada at the Google Innovator Academy in Washington DC and presenting at the Eastern Ontario Google Summit”! Congrats Jen!

As for Laura Wheeler (@wheeler_laura) in Ottawa, she works “through July and then have August to fill my boots with camping, cottaging, and horseback riding!”

SUMMER IS … an opportunity to take on new projects (personal and professional) 

I am inspired by Chris J. Cluff’s (@chrisjcluff) summer mantra: “I’ll be losing the teacher in order to find me.” 

“This summer will be about saying YES to things that I have benched for some time now. I want to finally get some time back into relearning guitar. I am purchasing a longboard [skateboard]. I have signed up for a certification course in Meditation and Mindfulness. I want to leap out of summer, empty … and then a new adventure awaits in September…

Yes, teachers can skateboard too!

Catherine Tang (@EduScribblings) will be growing ideas and vegetables in her backyard in Kingston this summer! She says that: “My brain doesn’t shut off in the summer. If anything, it revs up as I process and prep for the next year. It’s my time to get my hands dirty and try things that I may want to introduce my students to. This summer I’m working on building my own Tiny House model and learning how to grow vegetables!

This is such a great idea Catherine, can’t wait to hear about your new projects 🙂

SUMMER IS … basically a continuation of the school year 

Derek Rhodenizer (@DerekRhodenizer) works hard for students and staff at his school in Ottawa as the Director of Academics. He also dedicates his summer to the success of the upcoming school year! 

As an admin, my summer involves a lot of getting ready for the next academic year, but I always make sure to take some time to recharge, get out in nature, reflect and get ready for the next year!

This is how I imagine Derek working this summer…

Un autre membre de la direction, Loir Fraser (@FrasloJ) de l’École secondaire catholique Le Relais, est passionnée par l’éducation. Elle est une vraie apprenante à vie! Cet été, elle met la gestion de côté et se concentre sur la pédagogie, la collaboration et l’innovation. 

Entre les camps d’été, les cours d’été, le ménage d’été et les lectures d’été, je planifie des rencontres de travail avec mes collègues et élèves, je discute d’approche pédagogique innovante avec mes pairs et je me donne une semaine complète où je ne mets pas les pieds dans l’école. L’école, c’est la vie! On ne cesse jamais d’apprendre. C’est que l’apprentissage occupe toute la place l’été et que la gestion est repoussée!

OCSB Teacher and University of Ottawa professor, Jennifer King (@JenniferNKing ) is dedicating her summer to teaching TEACHERS! She believes that “Teaching never ends! For the month of July, I teach teachers tech AQ courses from the comfort of my deck! #alwayslearning #alwaysteaching” It’s the best of both worlds!


Another educator who rocks my world is Rolland Chidiac (@rchids). 🇨🇦 Classroom Teacher, Rolland believes that “Most people think I have two months off and doing nothing”. If you think that, you are wong! Rolland’s summer can be divided into 3 larger ideas: REFLECTING, THINKING & PLANNING 

  • reflecting on the school year that just happened (what went well and what didn’t go so well)
  • thinking about the students I will be working with in September
  • planning learning cycles that will meet their needs but be flexible enough to meet their interests as well

SUMMER IS … time to learn, grow and better yourself

Rola Tibshirani (@rolat), teacher with the Ottawa Catholic School Board is a role model for professional development and betterment of self. Take notes folks…

She speaks for most teachers when she says that teachers are:

Spending time reading books and reflecting on how best it applies in their classrooms. Teachers catch up to online professional learning and connecting with other educators. Summer is a reflective time, productive time at an individual pace with lots of curation of innovative ideas to try with their new learners. Summer time is a training time to look forward to the next year!”Mind you my summer is more exciting than the school year learning for learning

D’autre part, dans le sud de l’Ontario, nouveau conseiller pédagogique en technopédagogie, Stéphane Girouard (@s_girouard) se prépare pour le monde de la technologie! 

“L’été pour moi est un temps de réflexion et de développement professionnel selon mes intérêts. Mes deux objectifs principaux sont d’apprendre davantage le fonctionnement d’outils technologique, notamment le Raspberry Pi et l’Arduino, et à m’avancer dans ma certification Google. Même si nous méritons bien notre temps de repos, l’été nous donne l’occasion d’objectiver et faire un développement professionnel sur mesure.”

SUMMER IS … time to be a Humanitarian

Two educators I know very well are dedicating some of their time and effort to people who need it most this summer. Elles sont des modèles accessibles et francophones qui illuminent un chemin vers un monde de bonté, de serviabilité et de respect.

En août, Stéphanie Quesnel (@StephQuesnel), direction adjointe à , dit qu’elle “voyagerai en Haïti, où j’aurai la chance d’offrir des ateliers à des enseignants là-bas!

D’autre part, Hélène Cormier (@malcommode72) est présentement en voyage humanitaire en République Dominicaine. Avant sont départ elle m’a expliqué: “Je pars pendant 2 semaines pour continuer un travail humanitaire que j’ai commencé dans le cadre du projet de mon école. Je vais avoir l’occasion de mettre en valeur “Vivir para sevir, servir para vivir”, vivre pour servir et servir pour vivre.” 

Bravo à vous! Je vous lève mon chapeau, mesdames.

SUMMER IS … time to do what YOU want!

Watch out, all the way up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, educator Peter Cameron (@cherandpete) has found an alliteration to represent his summer: 


Woah… Peter, you’re a genius. Why didn’t I think of that?


You’ve made it to the end! Congratulations!

I hope now that you have a better understanding of what teachers TRULY do during the summer. All in all, don’t underestimate the power of teachers. We are life longer learners who don’t often takes breaks. However, we do know how to find balance. As much as we love the break, we always look forward to being back in our school with our students… there is no better place to be. 

My heart is so full; my experience as an EA

My heart is so full; my experience as an EA

Today, my heart is so full. I knew this day had to come, it is so bittersweet.

For some, it is a regular Wednesday in June, but for me, it was my last day working as an Educational Assistant at St-Anne Catholic School in Cornwall, ON.

In late April, the opportunity to take on a weekly morning position as an EA kind of fell into my hands. Despite having ever entered or even heard of the school, I didn’t hesitate to accept the position and started the first week of May. “This was going to be a new adventure” I thought to myself. I had yet to be an EA at an elementary school, how exciting! My schedule varied day by day, however, I was spending most of my day supporting students in JK/SK to Gr 3.

I have to admit, the first couple weeks blew me out of the water…

Is this what it is really like to teach in elementary school?” I asked myself, “Man, oh man… Glad I’m getting qualified to teach upper years students“. However, once I got into the swing of things, started connecting with students and staff, my entire perception changed. And this is why:

  • I began getting mentored by teachers who seen the potential, drive and willingness to help in me. These teachers gave me the space and freedom in their classroom to take on challenging students and try new strategies. They never underestimated me because I was an EA or a pre-service teacher. They believed in me and helped me grow as an educator. They answered my silly and naive questions, but we all started there right? They were extremely welcoming and never judged me, this made me feel extremely more comfortable in my position.


  • I felt supported in all of my roles at St. Anne’s whether it was when replacing a teacher, scribing or simply taking students out for body breaks. I was guided through each task whether it was how to properly pronounce a geometric shape in English when I was pronouncing it in French (Bilingual Person Problems) or how to properly scribe for a student during the EQAO province tests.


  • Students began to recognize me, get to know me, ask me questions, spend recess with me, give me stickers, wish me good morning, wanting to work with me and within two weeks I started feeling a sense of belonging, a sense that I was making a difference and having a positive impact on students. Although I was simply an EA, I got to see, even if it was small, progress and improvements; this meant the world to me.


  • St. Anne’s school has opened my eyes, mind and heart to teaching in elementary. Elementary is so lively, exciting and busy. Yes, there are a lot of little things to manage, but students are fun, and when managed properly can be a new adventure into learning every day! I can’t wait to get qualified for Junior.

It is incredible to see what a real school is, what a real classroom looks and feels like and what a real teachers goes through day by day. It has opened my eyes on the profession more than my placement. This experience has given me more drive than ever to continue into Education. It has kept the fire burning deep inside of me and has allowed me to dream BIG!

Isn’t it amazing walking into a school every morning, where students and staff are smiling, greeting you good morning, laughing and are genuinely happy? I am so grateful to have experienced that for 9 weeks! I have never felt such a strong connection to a school community, where staff is supportive, students are respectful and eager to learn. Of course, not everyone is perfect and fits in that box, but the vibe of this school is unlike anything I have seen before. Teachers and administration are progressive thinkers who embrace a growth mindset in their classroom. That is why my heart is so full.

As a teacher candidate, any experience is good experience. Any opportunity to learn and grow is an opportunity you should take. I encourage pre-service teachers to say “YES” to more things. You never know what you will get out of it. I sometimes think about who I would be if I would not have taken this position at St. Anne’s. I have a whole new perspective about teaching and who I want to be as a future teacher… I have been inspired by real teachers who believed in me and who will have impacted my future students.

Thank you St. Anne Catholic School.

Les aventures en Sketchnote d’une future enseignante

Les aventures en Sketchnote d’une future enseignante

À la suite d’un atelier avec Marie-Andrée Ouimet au Sommet EdTechTeam à Lachine, QC en mai 2016, j’ai rapidement pris intérêt au sketchnote dans le monde de l’éducation. Immédiatement, j’ai vu la valeur et la richesse de cette stratégie pédagogique et j’avais hâte de le faire découvrir à d’autres gens. Étant amateure en matière de sketchnote et après l’avoir utilisé dans mon stage avec une classe de 5e année, j’avais envie de présenter moi-même mon premier atelier de sketchnote. Grâce à une opportunité de Derek Rhodenizer et des conseils de Marie-Andrée Ouimet et de Jen Giffen, j’ai conçu ma propre présentation et j’étais prête à prendre un risque.

Ma première session a eu lieu à l’Académie Westboro (Ottawa, ON) et mes cobayes, les élèves soucieux de la de la classe de 4e année à Mme Andréanne. Ces élèves, stylos en mains et complètement nouveaux au concept de sketchnote, étaient prêts à apprendre!

​Après une courte discussion au sujet de «Qu’est-ce que le sketchnote?», les élèves ont rapidement deviné que c’était le mélange de mots et d’images afin de transmettre une idée ou un concept. Lors d’une conversation précédente, Marie-Andrée m’avait mentionné que le message et les idées sont plus importants que la beauté et l’art. J’ai donc annoncé que «Vous ne devez pas être des artistes pour produire un sketchnote». À ce moment-là, j’ai senti que les élèves étaient plus ouverts et prêts à faire leur premier sketchnote.

Les élèves sont devenus encore plus confiants une fois que j’ai simplifié la création d’images à l’aide de simples formes (le point, la ligne, le cercle, le carré et le triangle). Sur leur papier brouillon, ils ont créé des objets de la vie quotidienne, des maisons, des voitures, des étoiles, etc. C’était comme si je leur avais demandé de griffonner intentionnellement – quel soulagement!

Après avoir présenté, modelé et pratiqué  des éléments visuels variés (par exemple, des lettres, des icônes, des bannières, des lignes et des flèches), les élèves étaient prêts à relever le défi! «Maintenant, je vous invite à créer un sketchnote qui vous représente. Soyez créatifs et utilisez les techniques ainsi que les styles que nous venons tout juste de pratiquer!» En peu de temps, les feuilles se remplissaient d’images créatives et d’idées géniales! Les crayons, les stylos, les Sharpies et les marqueurs étaient au rendez-vous!

Avec très peu d’aide, les élèves ont créé, à leur propre rythme, un sketchnote qui les représentait. Leurs feuilles étaient décorées de sports, de repas, d’emoticônes, d’équipes sportives, de passe-temps, de personnes importantes, etc. C’était extraordinaire de voir la diversité visuelle et le raisonnement associé à la sélection d’images et de regroupements.

Après avoir pris une photo individuelle avec leur sketchnote, les élèves ont participé à une courte discussion au sujet de « Comment le sketchnote pourrait être utile en salle de classe ». Pour la révision, pour résumer des idées, pour présenter un sujet ou pour mieux expliquer un concept… les élèves ne manquaient pas d’idées! La classe a même planifié une future activité pédagogique impliquant la création d’un sketchnote suite à la présentation de la Grèce antique en études sociales!

En conclusion, ce fut une expérience très agréable, autant pour moi que pour les élèves de Mme Andréanne. Les élèves de l’Académie Westboro ont surpassé mes attentes! Bravo!

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