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Top 5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Teacher

Top 5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Teacher

Teaching is a career derived from passion, creativity and empathy. However, it is probably THE most misunderstood career as well! Here is a list I’ve compiled of the top 5 things you should never say to a teacher. Ever.

  1. “Tests are a good way to see if the teacher is doing their job right”.

No no and no. Tests are the necessary evil we must face every year. Not only do they not measure a teacher’s ability to teach, but it doesn’t always measure a student’s level of understanding. One bad day = one not so good test. That test doesn’t equate to the countless raised hands and answered questions during any other day or lesson. For this reason, many teachers don’t place all of the importance on tests; what students produce elsewhere is just as important.

  1. “Maybe you should try doing more fun activities in your classroom”.

Yes- activities are a great way to learn, however not everything we do can be turned into an activity. Sometimes independent work is needed, or a writing assignment in a journal. That doesn’t mean that we don’t try to make it fun!

  1. “It’s great that you finish your day early”.

May I introduce you to lesson plans? How about correcting exams and homework? We definitely don’t wake up in the morning and randomly decide what we’re going to teach that day. We spend nights, days and weeks planning just exactly what we’re going to teach. Most of the time, it doesn’t go as planned, which means we need to re-plan and regroup. Not once have I went home after practicum and a day of teaching and said “wow, I have nothing to do today”.

  1. “I could so be a kindergarten teacher. It’s like babysitting”.

Far from it. A lot of teaching goes on in a kindergarten class. This is where we get students ready for school; we set the tone, give them a good base to start from and teach them the basics that they will need to use from here on out. Kindergarten teaching is not easy, and it is absolutely not babysitting. I have infinite respect for kindergarten teachers- especially when in a class of 30 students!

  1. The famous, “Teaching is so easy. You get summers off!”

Apart from the fact that some of summer is usually spent planning for next year, teaching is not easy. Yes, it is rewarding and yes, we don’t only have 2 weeks vacation, but we are in charge of something very important. Someone important in my life  pointed out that I are going to mold young minds, and he’s right. We mold young minds. We teach them things they will remember for the rest of their lives. We spend 7 hours a day with children to teach them about so many different subjects. Not only that, but we teach them life lessons as well. We are in charge of their learning, and that isn’t easy. Knowing that you need to help them learn and succeed is gratifying, but can be stressful as well.

Cheers to current teachers, past teachers and future teachers. May we continue to persevere, inspire and succeed in shaping the education of today and tomorrow; and cheers to our well deserved summer vacation.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Author, Legendary Music Of All Times. (Aug 2, 2017). 
Magical Mystery Tour [Video file].

And, with that, we’re off on a magical tour of some of the great things written this past while by Ontario Edubloggers.


Technically, it’s not a blog yet.  The blogging area is ready to receive posts.  Instead, this sounds like a marvelous project from my two favourite internet-connected Jacs.


The project is outlined at the site, composed of five stages.  It’s going to be interesting to track the growth and I hope that lots gets posted to that blog page.

Top 5 Defining Moments; What has defined my career?!?

The top 5 defining moments meme continues with this post from Joe Archer.  He identifies five of his own along with very well described details.

A couple of moments he identifies:

  • Opening my classroom to partnerships
  • Getting into the Microsoft Educator Community

You’ll have to visit his post to read the rest.

Make sure that you follow the hashtag #5bestEd and read Jonathan’s original post here where he’s collecting links to the posts he finds.

Finding your Tribe

Ann Marie Luce continues her description of her new position in Beijing.  With this post, she describes a number of highs and lows.  One of the lows could be expected when plunked into a new society, new language, new school, new colleagues, and the remembrances of a community back home.  It must seem so far away now.

I realized just how much support I had from so many AMAZING colleagues. I miss the phone calls on the morning commutes or rides home where we discussed and working through thousands of problems. I miss the sharing of ideas and support. I miss our Community of Schools meetings where we worked on professional learning together and shared common challenges and successes. I miss the laughter, sarcasm and opportunity to just be myself 100% of the time. I miss celebrating personal and professional milestones of my staff. I miss my colleagues that pushed my thinking and forced me to grow and learn from the uncomfortable. I miss the leadership of a superintendent where I really and truly felt I could be 100% honest and transparent. In short I miss my tribe.

There’s so much to miss.

As I read the post, I realized that there are those who didn’t have to travel those big distances to miss the types of connections that they once had.  There are teachers who are in new schools, new administrators, and new coaches and they all have their own time curve for building that new tribe.

Setting the Tone for Learning

How many can remember the advice given to new teachers for the new school year?

Don’t smile until at least the second week of school

Peter Cameron takes a run at “old school” versus “new school” for approaches to the new year.

I can totally see his vision of “old school” and I’ll bet that you can too.  It’s how we were indoctrinated at the first of the school year, for so many years.

Peter offers a different technique that he uses for his classroom.  It’s a nice comparison between the old and the new.  The similarity?


Teacher Brand Ambassadors: Where Do We Go From Here?

The New York Times recently ran an article about how some well known names in the teaching business have become figureheads for commercial entities.

That was enough to get Andrew Campbell busy at the keyboard.  A great insight and advice appears near the top of his post.


It’s hard not to disagree with the points in Andrew’s post.  The Times article, of course, reflects on the US situation which is considerably different than Ontario’s.  In Ontario, typically big product decisions are made centrally but you do see edupreneurs (my nomination for worst edtech term, Andrew) who will take it and fly and become fan people for it.

By coincidence, I ran into this article – 50 Of The Best Education Accounts On Twitter.  I felt kind of good recognizing so many of the names on there.  I felt kind of badly when I didn’t associate them with any great educational initiative but with a particular product(s) instead.  Is this what “best” has become?

Checking out a few of the Twitter profiles indicate that many have aligned themselves with a particular product rather than something more important – like teaching.  Unfortunately, I don’t see a rush to change them happening anytime soon.

Andrew goes on to offer three suggestions that people would be wise to consider.

What do you think?  Doable?

Transform your Makerspace & Support Your Team Through QR Code Scanning

I remember a few years ago sitting at edCampQuinte and when it came time to sign up for sessions to lead, I chose to talk about QR Codes.  They were young and new at the time.

But we came to the conclusion that they would be the perfect tool to assist students in self-direction and to relieve teachers with the burden of answering the same question over and over again.

Derek Tangredi goes over the top with the concept.  Read how he uses QR Codes to enhance the experience for students while generating time for himself to act as the facilitator and troubleshooter.  He’s created this video to really explain things.

Author, Derek Tangredi. (Sep 9, 2017). 
How to Turn Slide Decks into QR Codes [Video file].

He’s super pumped.  What better recommendation?

A Simple Prompt with Big Impact

With the new school year, it’s time to consider new things.

Brenda Sherry takes us on a trip to think about shifting.  Who hasn’t talked about it?  Who hasn’t thought about it?  Who hasn’t hoped that their efforts have caused others to shift?

She boils it down to a simple protocol.


Don’t just stop at reading Brenda’s blog post – follow the links she provides to the research.  You’ll be glad you did.

How’s that for a magical mystery tour around the province?  and beyond.  Please take a moment and read the entire posts and enjoy their thoughts.  While you’re at it, make sure that you follow these folks on Twitter.  @jaccalder@jacbalen@archerjoe@turnmeluce@cherandpete@acampbell99@dtangred@brendasherry

If you’re an Ontario blogger and aren’t in my collectionplease consider adding your URL.  There’s a form available at this site for just this purpose.

Every Wednesday morning at 9:15 on voicEd Radio, Stephen Hurley and I talk about some of the great posts that appear from Ontario Edubloggers.  The shows are also archived and you can revisit them here.

@VirtualGiff Live and In-Person

@VirtualGiff Live and In-Person

When Jen Giffen signed us up for a slot on what would become a 15 hour VoicEd-Radiothon, I was nervously excited. I was going to be interviewing @virtualgiff for her P3 in the most non-virtual way possible: intimately situated in her house, face-to-face, and live on the radio.  Although we are live on the weekly #ONedmentorsshow, this was my first go at a live Personal Playlist Podcast. Once the intro music began, however, my nerves faded, and I fully engaged in introducing this accomplished and energetic guest.

Jen Giffen is a Digital Literacy Resource Teacher at the York Region District School Board. She is a Google for Education Certified Innovator, and a Flipgrid Ambassador. She is also a sketchnoter who will be presenting on this important tool at YRDSB’s upcoming QUEST2017 conference. Jen is the co-coordinator of the upcoming EdTechCamp2017 with Kim Pollishuke, where I am among the presenters on October 14, 2017. Jen Giffen, the mother of three boys ages 7 and under, is an EdTech leader and a cheerleader.

Jen found the preparation of her playlist particularly challenging. Her #OneSong, if asked, would be U2’s With or Without You, but choosing her 3 Personal Playlist songs was a bit more difficult . She was at a cottage with a few friends celebrating someone’s milestone birthday and began discussing the song selections for her playlist. Even though a lot of possible choices arose and some good discussion with this celebratory crew ensued, she went with her gut and returned to her 3 initial song choices. While anyone’s playlist can change over time, the #P3 is a snapshot in time enhanced through whatever narrative the individuals chose to share.
When Jen introduced her nostalgic song, she expressed that it is one that surprises her. It comes in rare moments that bring an emotional weight that always really hits her. This song reminds her of her parents and how wonderful they are. She spoke about being the only child. Her joke is that, “My parents stopped at perfection.” The artist wrote this song for the woman who became his wife. He once said,  “Suddenly, I’m hypersensitive to how beautiful everything is. All of these things filled up my senses, and when I said this to myself unbidden images came one after the other. All of the pictures merged and I was left with Annie. That song was the embodiment of the love I felt at that time.” This song fills Jen with love. It’s about her parent’s love and the love she has for her parents and her whole family. She took us all the way back to when she was eight and called this a song that, “Brings out emotion in me like no other.” Here is Annie’s Song by John Denver.
As Jen began telling the story of her identity song, I couldn’t wait to cue it up. It was partially because of the movie soundtrack that it came from and partially because it is such a great tune. It was actually the first song from her wedding for which she almost fired the DJ for questioning her choice for their first dance. “I love the energy of the song, I love the passion…” As a nostalgic song, it’s nice to, “…reminisce about the days of old,” but as a song that reflects who she is, this song shows that Jen likes the familiar and needs time to adapt to change.  “I have really deep roots,” said our guest when talking how this song relates to her life. When a lot is coming at her, she needs a touchstone like this song to feel grounded and get comfortable.  This song, for which I joyfully tweeted the scene from the film Risky Business, is a really energetic song and one that really gets “you out on the floor”. Here’s Old Time Rock n Roll by Bob Seger. Stephen Hurley, our producer (and so much more), was busy dancing while the song played and almost forgot to fade it out.
The third song in the Personal Playlist Podcast framework has a lot of room for interpretation. The category is an anthem or theme song, and it is most often explained as a motivational/inspirational pick-me-up song. This last song in Jen’s P3 comes under all of those definitions. She referred to it as an anthem for anyone working through something or trying to persevere through something. Jen first heard this song when watching The Ellen Show with Calysta Bevier. If you haven’t seen this episode, get a tissue. She associated in with many different kinds of battles such as fighting cancer or living with mental illness. Jen also referred to her sketchnote of her inner critic, which is a reflection of a quiet but intense battle we often fight with ourselves.

She refers to a line from the song and adds, “The wrecking balls inside my brains really speak to me about how hard we are on ourselves.“ We had enough time to play the song in its entirety for all those who needing an anthem for determination. It is song that always builds her up. Here is Fight Song from Rachel Platten.
It was a pleasure interviewing Jen and enjoying her lovely backyard afterward. I look forward to continue learning from her through what she posts on her feed and her great insights on Thursdays nights.

Source: Noa Daniel

Six Questions About Family Engagement

Six Questions About Family Engagement

Six Questions about Family Engagement

As a new school year begins, I find myself reflecting on the challenges we face building family engagement into our education landscape. I’ve written about the benefits and ideas on implementing it in our schools. When I work with staff and parents, I see the same practices being used year after year. Is it a misunderstanding or a matter of choosing comfort over efficacy?

Keeping in mind the words of Dr. Steve Constantino, who urges schools to see families as a “foundational core component …to greater student learning…”, here are six things to remember about family engagement.

1. What is family engagement?
Learning happens through-out one’s life. It occurs in all the places we live, work and play. Recognizing
this, family engagement in education looks to build partnerships between home and school. Meaningful and
effective engagement encourages family commitment to, and participation in, their children’s learning and
growth. (from: Family, School and Community National Working Group)

2. Why should families and schools be partners in learning?

Did you know that children spend only 12% of their life in school? After the 33% they spend asleep,we’re
left with 55% of their lives spent outside the classroom. When we don’t take advantage of this time, we are
losing the opportunity to reinforce learning.
Dr. Karen Mapp asks teachers two questions: 1. What were your class learning goals last
year? 2. When families were invited into the your classroom or the school, was it in connection with those
learning goals? Research has proven over and over again that when families engage with the school to support
learning goals, students do better.
Listening, learning, and sharing builds trust, respect and engagement. Dr. Debbie Pushor
encourages educators to use parent knowledge to facilitate a better understanding of the student. Asking
“What can you tell me about your son/daughter that would help me?” is one of the first questions parents
should be asked. The information will help you make better, more effective connections with your students.

3. Is it contact or engagement?
Engagement is intentional. It is linked to learning. It lasts over a period of time. Contact is spontaneous,
usually linked to a specific need and happens in isolation. Many of the activities schools identify as
engagement are actually contact – bake sales, music nights,Curriculum Evenings. They help meet a need
identified by the school and they occur when and how the school decides.

To shift contact towards engagement, teachers must ask themselves if their plans are (1) relational, (2)
linked to learning, or (3) building the capabilities of their families to support learning in the home.
Focusing your efforts on these three criteria will help guide your work.

4. How do I begin?
Events such as music nights and curriculum evenings are still beneficial. They help to build relationships
between families and school staff. That is where family engagement must begin – relationships. For it is
through sharing ourselves that we learn to trust and respect those with whom we work.
a. Begin the year by introducing yourself to your families – by phone, letter/email, or in person. Make your
first connection a positive one. (This is especially important for those families with children who may be
challenging) It says that you care and will be working with them to ensure a successful year for their child.
b. If relationships are the path to engagement, communication is the vehicle. Survey your parents to
determine the best way to reach them. Be sure to let them know how – and when – to contact you. Today there
are many ways to connect home and school. Whatever method you use, be sure that it is two-way. When
information only flows in one direction it is a monologue. Striving for a dialogue is far more beneficial.
Finally, input from home should inform your work going forward. This builds respect for what each
brings to the table.
c. Engaging with families means seeing them as partners. You might begin that journey at your Curriculum
Night which Dr. Mapp suggests can be a time to share information and learning goals with families. Ask for
insights into their child. Set up your classroom with activity stations where family and child can
participate in games that reinforce some of the learning skills you’ll be teaching that year. Information on
resources that parents might access at home tells families that you see them as partners – and encourages
them to feel good in that role. Needless to say, continue to share learning ideas, activities and growth
information through-out the year.

5. What will families need from me?

We’ve looked at the aspects of family engagement that are both relational, and linked to learning. That
leaves capacity building. All teachers are given professional development opportunities through-out each
school year. Families never get training and yet we expect them to understand what is happening in our
classrooms and why. This is unfair. Recent surveys have told us that parents want to know three things: what
their child is learning this year; how are they achieving on their own and in relation to others; and,
how the family can support that learning at home. What can you do to answer these needs?
a. Share your learning goals with families. As the year progresses, share data on their child’s
progress, from the many ways you evaluate learning. And let it be known that you value ideas,
feedback, and information from your home partners.
b. Provide families with activities and resources for building skills at home.These can include
questions to ask at dinner; ideas on how to read with their child; links to online resources. For
high school students, help families to be the “coach” by providing guidelines on course
expectations; advising how you assess and evaluate students; giving ideas for supporting good
study habits.
c. For newcomer families, help them to understand our education system and their place in it.
Recognize that the system in which they were educated could have been very different and assure
them that their partnership is invaluable.

6. What will I need?
Initially, you may not get support from your peers or administration. Don’t let that deter you. When others
observe the benefits enjoyed by your students – and yourself – they will be asking for hints. In the
meantime, slow and steady. You won’t be able to do everything at once. Just keep the goal of meaningful
family engagement in sight.

Knowledge does not always equal understanding and the latter comes with training. Ask your Principal or Board
about training workshops. As well, there are great resources online. I’ve mentioned four of my favourite
researchers here. Their work is crucial to understanding and advancing family engagement in our schools.

All families can engage in their children’s learning, regardless of racial/ethnic, economic or educational background. Dr. Janet Goodall advises that parents will act according to how they perceive their roles – and how they are perceived by the school. It is the job of those of us in education to ensure that all families are valued, capable partners in the learning of their children.

Diary of a Student Teacher

Diary of a Student Teacher

Most of my blogs are informative and educational, however I decided to write something a little more personal this time.

I’m from Montreal, and I’ve officially decided to make Ottawa my forever home. The main reason for doing this was because I believe the education system here is organized, prepares young students well for future educational experiences, and schools here truly care about the well-being of students. I want to be part of a system that puts education as a priority on its list.

This past summer, I had time to reflect on my teacher candidate experiences from last year, and think about how I want to change for the better; how I can be helpful in this great system. Here is a list of my unanswered questions:

  1. How can I be even more organized than I already am? (And I really am at about 150% on the organization scale)
  2. How can I be better at classroom management? What are the skills I need to use here, and why has no one told me what they are yet?
  3. How can I find my place in the teaching world; how can I be seen as a teacher, and not just as a student teacher?
  4. Where will I get a job afterwards? How can I stand out from the crowd to get that job afterwards?
  5. Why do I keep buying school supplies I don’t need?

I spent most of my time worrying about the things I could have done as a teacher candidate; the things I should have done differently, or the things I didn’t do, but should have. After each day at my placement school, I would question myself: “Should I have said this instead?” “Was I prepared enough?” I was also spending my time worrying about the upcoming practicum placement, worried about things that hadn’t even happened yet.

“Will the students like me?”

“Will they take me seriously?”

Will I be a good teacher?”

The truth is, nobody will ever be the perfect teacher. There will always be good days, and bad days. On the bad days, you may even question if you made the right career choice. On the bad days, your schedule may not go as planned. On the bad days, you forgot to use the strategies you learned about last week. On the bad days, you get home and think about all the “should have’s”.

   However, for every bad day, there will be a good day. On the good day, your schedule will go as planned. On the good day, you will remember to use that classroom management strategy you read about yesterday. On the good day, you remember why you became a teacher. Even on those bad days, you should never forget why you became a teacher.

   I challenge myself, and others who face similar anxieties about the upcoming practicum, to remember why you are here. We are here because we chose to be part of a system that will help shape the lives of students. We are here because we chose to be part of that students’ life. We are here because we chose to educate those students, and prepare them for challenges they may face. As a teacher candidate, a supply teacher, or a full time teacher, we are never done learning. We are continuously acquiring new knowledge; we are learning new methods, new techniques, new everything.

      So maybe I should try answering my own questions now:

  1. I cannot possibly be more organized. I need to believe that I can do it, because I can.
  2. Ask teachers, educators, even Google; the more I connect with others and ask for their help and opinions, the more strategies I will learn about. I need to be courageous in the classroom, and use those techniques. It’s only the beginning.
  3. I already am part of the teaching world. As far as being seen as a teacher, and not a student teacher- guess what? I am a student teacher. There’s nothing wrong with that. Take this time to learn, and figure out what kind of teacher I am.
  4. I’m already doing so many great things for my future. I will stand out because I put effort into my future.
  5. Because I just love new pencils, okay?


I encourage us to make connections, friendships, and partnerships. Learn from others, teach others, and educate the world.

A Good Case of Stripes

A Good Case of Stripes

When people are true to themselves, they are found to be happier and better-adjusted. This is, of course, as true for students as it is for anyone.
Building Outside the Blocks benefits teachers and students. When I first started creating these projects, I was trying to pack more learning into the school experience and build outside of learning blocks: periods of time and units. There is so much value in how these projects help teachers assess students for learning and give them clear next steps to build skills, autonomy and community, as well as many other residual effects. What I also see, which may be the most enduring value, is that BOBs help students learn about themselves and take pride in who they are. Building Outside the Blocks projects can build many things, and there is a lot of evidence that a sense of self is one of them.

David Shannon writes wonderful books, and one of my all-time favourites is his A Bad Case of Stripes. I have purposed this read-out in many different teaching contexts. The gist of the story is that the protagonist, Camilla Cream, loves lima beans, but she denies them to herself because she worries so much about what others may think of her. This manifests into a series of physical ailments, but neither the reader nor Camilla know that being true to oneself is the ultimate message. As the story unfolds, Camilla’s parents seek a variety of experts’ advice, yet the best advice comes from an innocuous old woman who diagnoses the ailment as a bad case of stripes. Her remedy is to feed Camilla what she has been denying herself the entire time: lima beans. As soon as Camilla gives into this, she is immediately cured. If Camilla had tapped into her truest self, she may have come up with the solution on her own.

Today, so many children are struggling with so much. In a classroom scenario, most students are icebergs. Most of the time, a teacher gets to see only a small portion of the totality of their students’ true selves. If students had ways to tap into who they are, their interests and their lives as a component of a school assignment, we could be teaching them more than learning skills and content. We could be teaching them about themselves, which is an essential ingredient for deep learning. 
Three years ago, my then MYP (Middle Years Program) coordinator asked me to make a video about the PS Series that I use in Grade 7 Language and Literature. She intended to share it with the International Baccalaureate Open Doors, a collection of classroom practice videos. While that option closed before the video was ready, editing the video taught me a lot about the power of these projects.
Several of my students were taken into the classroom next door and asked about the PS2, a Personal Soundtrack. The process of considering which songs to select for their nostalgia, identity and theme songs was really about connecting with their truest selves. One of the students candidly remarked, “They weren’t questions I didn’t know how to answer, it was just about me.” This project is where the The Personal Playlist Podcast originated. This project, like all Building Outside the Blocks projects, has a personalized component. Through the video, the students showed me that BOBs are avenues for a personal inquiry.
I was privileged to be asked to consult on a “social network powered by women”, called Women’s Work? Institute. Originally, the founders wanted me to help workshop leaders develop their presentations to be both informative and engaging. It was the question mark that compelled me to investigate this opportunity further and, while gearing up for our first meeting, they checked out my website. The group parked their original plans for me and, instead, asked me to create a workshop for women that used the BOB approach.
I asked myself a lot of questions including, “What can I offer women through my projects?” The answer helped me  develop the What Lights You Up? workshop because the questions my projects raise are things that ignite the workshop participants to ask themselves questions that aren’t directly about their needs or desires, but they help with the personal inquiry. It’s a moratorium to pontificate questions that drive entire projects for my students for women whom I’ve never met. I don’t have to know them because the questions that may be answered throughout the evening come from them. They can answer and share what they choose. It is up to them to make or take from it what they want, and it has already shown to be extremely empowering for the participants. Now, that is what I do for a living. I find ways to help light and build people up.

BOBs spark amazing things in learners. Each project connects to a different part of the individual and provides new ways for students to highlight elements that reflect who they are and what interests them. Being able to tap into yourself through a school project becomes an invitation for students to show up as themselves and share what they choose with their safe and cohesive class community that is built through the sharing portion of the approach. What learners end up conveying allows everyone in the room to really get to know and respect each others’ similarities and unique differences. 
If teachers give students a chance to be themselves at school and see themselves through assignments, they can develop their sense of self. By questioning, articulating and reflecting on these pieces of themselves, students can develop self awareness and maybe even improve their self esteem. Knowing who you are is a journey of discovery. Wouldn’t it be great if school experiences could help put you on your map?
BOBs help students share and celebrate their stripes. If Camilla Cream had seen herself as a lover of lima beans, she wouldn’t have gotten so sick. If she was given the chance to explore her interests, make choices and be her truest self, she may have avoided all of the problems that she experienced. When Camilla bit into those lima beans, she was instantly cured. The old woman responded, “I knew the real you was in there somewhere." Teachers have the power to help make that kind of difference.

Source: Noa Daniel