New Ideas and Connections

This year has certainly been full of unknowns.  We are working with an expired contract.  Reorganization happens with my board late in September.  Just as I successfully created a smooth flow and eager learning with my students, my assignment was jostled around.  As a teacher, I’m flexible with changes. As a human I struggle with change.

As my grade 7/8 class finished handing in their Cell and Ecosystem models, I was moved to a different teaching assignment.  The Cell and Ecosystem unit was completed after students learned how to complete timelines, flow charts and word webs.  These graphic organizers were used as the research component for building their models.

Barrie Bennett has conducted some thorough research about different types of graphic organizers and written the resource, “Graphic Organizers”.  This is a useful tool to help students develop their research skills and present their understanding in an organized in depth way. Many of my science ideas were gathered from teachers at ETFO’s Summer Academy and NSTA annual presentations.  Some of the resources I gathered and continue to draw my instructional ideas from, are designed and written by ETFO teachers. “Take a Closer Look, A Media Literacy Resource” and “The Power of Story” are both excellent resources with lessons which can be easily adapted for todays quickly changing world.


I am now using my mental health and wellness skills and knowledge to provide support in other areas of the school population. One of the wonderful resources I am using is the fiction story, “Blue Gold” by Elizabeth Stewart. This story brings many areas of social justice to the forefront.  While introducing curriculum content of Language Arts and Health, research and discussions are easier when students can connect to life stories of youth from around the world.

To compliment this with local stories, I have introduced, “Speaking the Truth. A Journey of Reconciliation”. While I am becoming educated around indigenous issues I have found myself reflecting and relating to many important issues. Monique Gray Smith presents a fantastic tool for these learning purposes. The joy of teaching for me is also learning and adapting my lessons in an engaging way.


September 2019

We are Educators, Professional leaders. I will walk with pride into this new school year ready to embrace all that we will accomplish.

This year I have begun with a plan to organize the classes I have and subjects I teach to ensure I have as much cross curricular overlap as possible.  My assignment has changed again as it does almost every year for the past 15 years.  I will be responsible for Grade 5/6 Language Arts, Science and Health as well as Grade 7/8 Language Arts, Science and Health.  I have taught Science many years and know this curriculum in depth. Health, is a topic which I will tread on lightly and openly.

I spend a third of my day in a Self contained classroom too.  I preform best with a visual of the overall year.  I have chosen to create an Excel document with the various subjects and the learning goals. I am also using “Planning for Student Learning” templates. I have adapted these for my particular needs and find them organized in a helpful, at a glance chart.

I often say don’t use your summer or time off for planning but my practice is different. I must balance my down time with chunks of planning, life responsibilities and self care. I have found some amazing programs which can compliment the school population and promote Healthy living. “Best Buddies”  is a program I am introducing to our school this year. It looks like a great way to provide social interaction with all.

Here’s to all the work you did to welcome everyone this school year.

Social Advocate through Children’s Story

While many are marching to show the Ford Government our thoughts about the budget cuts, I am reflecting on how we can safely ride out this storm. As a Social Advocate for equal rights and positive outcomes for our children and this world, I am with my sisters and brothers at Queens Park today in spirit and via social media. I find myself planning ways to help the education team and students get through this next tumultuous time while supporting each other and focusing on self care. #ETFOstrong

This week I was privileged to be part of an audience engaged by the “beautiful” and talented writer, Helaine Becker.

She presented to our school community to Grades 4-8 and then to Grades K-4.  I always enjoy an inspiring hero and artist who can inform and bring all those social justice issues that I am passionate about to the forefront with the power of words and books.

I am a woman science and mathematics teacher. This book excites me. It encompasses so many issues that I am passionate about.  “Counting on Katherine” tells the story of Katherine Johnson and the societal blocks she faced through her life.  She faced racism and sexism at every turn yet never stopped believing in herself. This story brings the truth to us about how she improved the world. She is one of the many previously unknown hero’s of my time.


During the very “beautiful” and talented Helaine’s presentation, I found myself and the school population, captivated with her presentation. She spoke of so many subjects which excite me. These topics open opportunities and possibilities for the many I educate. Helaine spoke of how she wrote about feminism, racism and suppression. She included topics of mathematics, science, space, and the “power of the pen”. She introduced the dream of writing to many during her amazing and dynamic presentation of her children’s books.

Thank you, Helaine for introducing me to another hero. I will now share Katherine Johnson’s story with many for years to come.

Support each other

This is a much needed time for everyone.  The sunlight is increasing. The snow is melting. The temperatures are increasing.  What a time to celebrate?

During this much needed break our government has decided to make announcements of change.  This is quite the political tacticDistraction from what they want us to know. Politicians have become good at using others to create distractions so we don’t see what they are trying to distract us from.

Many events world wide surround us with violence and hate.  These political announcements contribute to the negative feelings of change when times are uncertain.  This makes for troubling times for many.

As educated, caring people stand together and support each other.  Acknowledge the trying times and stand up to the hate. As I walk through my daily life, I make a point to be extra kind. I smile. I pay it forward. I do what I can without using all my resources.  The ripple effect then begins to grow.

During this time of change and political play, stand strong while supporting each other in all areas of this world. We can make a difference.  There is a great history of strife to be where we are today.  We have many strides to make towards a healthy supportive world. These times of political play cause negative energies.  We can stand together to defend all of our rights. Support each other in every way that you are capable. Take time for self care and ask others for help when needed to stay the course.

“We are not equal until everyone is equal.”


Create Success in Intermediate Math through Play….

“What are you doing in Math today?” the VP inquires of my grade 5,6,7 and 8 students.

“We’re playing games.”

“You’re playing games?”

“Yes, we always play in math.”

The assessments gathered from these classes provide me insight of where everyone is in their learning. My experience with assessments are that individual conversations to understand the thinking process provides the most valuable information. The range of each of my classes is from a low elementary level to a low secondary level.  This is quite a span. As a school we have been, “Landscaping” these students using; Fosnots– Landscape of Learning. This provides an great snapshot of where your learners are on a continuum. Our board has developed some very specific assessment questions for all grade levels which include strategic numbers to help determine the strategies individuals use.

How do I managed this?

It took me a while with the continuous disruptions to the daily routine. The way, I have adopted my assessment sessions this year is similar to how a reading group would be managed.  Provide the lesson, give the class expectations, then work with a small group on a rotating basis. The entire class already understands the rules and class expectations which have been familiar routines followed to date.

Now what?

I find creating a growth mindset is most important. This is developed through creating a comfort zone for all, including the teacher. Each year I am challenged to ensure my learners grow and develop forward on the continuum. I use a variety of resources such as Sherry Parrish’s-Number Talks This is a great beginning to each class.

I resource Dr. Small’s-Big Ideas for different activities to compliment the concept of study.

Presently I am using, From Patterns to Algebra, by Dr. Beatty and Dr. Bruce

Play, yes these resources include play which I implement on a regular basis.  The students enjoy learning with and from each other while I guide them. During my classes, Play creates a class dynamic for success.

December Celebrations

Why does it bother me that just one faith is represented in some areas? After, “Googling” -“Holidays in December”.  I now understand. Open your minds and hearts to all in this diverse country that we live. These are just a few of the Celebrations in December…according to “Google

Bodhi Day 

Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, experienced enlightenment (Bodhi). According to tradition, Siddhartha had recently forsaken years of extreme ascetic practices and resolved to sit under a peepal tree and simply meditate until he found the root of suffering, and how to liberate oneself from it.

Boxing Day

Some sources say that Boxing Day became a holiday because servants traditionally worked Christmas Day, but had the following day off, since their employers gave them a gift following their service. Another says that church alms boxes, where people donated money and items for the less fortunate, were opened and distributed the day after Christmas creating a new December holiday. Today, many people have Boxing Day off, where it is celebrated, and the growing post-Christmas sales have marked it as a major shopping day.


This Christian holiday in December has many similarities to St. Nicholas Day, as far as December holidays around the world go, but it has very different roots. Christmas takes place on December 25th and celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, whom Christians believe is the son of God.

Eid  and Eid Al-Adha. 

Celebrated at the end of Ramadan (a month of fasting during daylight hours), and Muslims usually give zakat (charity) on the occasion which begins after the new moon sighting for the beginning of the month of Shawal

The Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe

A popular Catholic feast that celebrates the belief that a man encountered the Virgin Mary, Mexico’s patron saint, in Mexico City on December 9 and 12, 1531.


A special day times eight, this Jewish holiday also known as the Festival of Lights, is one of many December holidays around the world and is celebrated for eight nights and days.


This young holiday in December is less religious and more ideological, and strives to reconnect individuals with their African culture. Created in 1966 by Mualana Kareng, a professor of African studies, activist, and author, Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st. Derived from the Swahili word meaning “first fruits of the harvest,” each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to a principal that Kareng believed represented the best within communities. These principles are unity, self determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

Omisoka (Japanese)

Typical activities that are done on Omisoka, or New Year’s Eve, include visiting temples or shrines, countdown parties, and catching Kohaku Uta Gassen, a famous music program show, on television.

St. Lucia’s Day

Another festival of lights, celebrated in Sweden, Norway  and the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland on December 13 in honour of St Lucia. One of the earliest Christian martyrs,  St. Lucia was killed by the Romans in 304 CE because of her religious beliefs.

St. Nicholas Day

On the anniversary of St. Nicholas’ death on December 6th 343 A.D., this holiday pays tribute to a man who spent most of his life helping those in need.

The Yule (Pegan)

This season is full of magic, much of it focusing on rebirth and renewal, as the sun makes its way back to the earth. Focus on this time of new beginnings with your magical workings.


Robotics and Coding in Action

Reflections and Observations from Robotics/Coding classes…

While currently working for several days on coding plus Lego robotics in three math classes: two grade 5/6s and one grade 7/8 class, I had the most interesting experience on a recent Friday.

An assumption, as the technology leader and I were planning out the lessons and build, was that many students would get a lot of satisfaction from building the robots, before coding them. So we had the whole first day where they built the Express Bot and then dismantled them so the next group could build. It was ok… but still some bickering, and such.

The next day was completely focused on learning how to code the robots.

It was like turning a switch on. The focus, engagement and successes were amazing. Not a single behavioural issues. The one class has math every day during the final hour of school. Half the time it is a challenge to manage this class. Many of the students are identified and probably more will be in the future. These students achieved as much as the other classes, and more. They were totally immersed in their tasks and goals. They were super excited to share with each other, help each other, share with the teachers and principal. They did not want to go home when the bell rang. We were basically speechless at the end of that class, due to the changes we had seen.

Other teachers were walking by to look on in amazement as the class exhibited the kind of learning skills and focused behaviour that was not usually observed. The students were collaborating and creating their own projects. Natural differentiation was created when working with these groups, especially as it was not guided instruction. Activities like this fill me with joy to see the success of many.  Today’s students,  tomorrows technology experts.

Coding for all 

This has become an annual event across the nations.  In Canada, 200,000 technology jobs will not be filled in the year 2020. Hour of Code is a great way to teach about some of the opportunities available to students. December 3 – 7 is also known as Computer Science Education Week and Canada Learning Code Week. I will have students participate in a variety of activities relating to these coding activities.  This is a way to introduce and enrich the learning of students from all grades.


Hackergals Hackathon

Hackathon has also become an annual event. December 12th schools from across Canada will participate in an event which they have been learning and practicing for this past few months. Hackergals vision is to empower young girls across Canada to explore the possibilities in coding. Women are under represented in technology and this event strives to expose many girls to computer science in the classroom.


First Lego League(FLL)- is another activity that students eagerly participate in.  It does have an extra cost unlike the Hourofcode and Hackergals which are both free.  FLL is an event that instills many skills and abilities to all who participate.  It is a team building, code learning, exciting journey for all who participate.  Lego League has many different avenues for all grade levels.  December is the competition time where students will participate in a Qualifying Tournament to determine who will move to the next level of play. Involvement of the community provides much success for may teams.


I have enrolled teams in all three of these events.  These individuals grow in many ways and often take leadership roles in next steps.  I encourage anyone who has the support of staff and community to become actively involved in any of these activities.


We have been trained to watch for concerns of a child’s well being. This didn’t include cyber information. As a responsible teacher I’m drawing the attention of students to current events. During this time of sharing, my students have become more relaxed and open about their after school activities which include gaming for many.

When a child discloses information about their safety we are obligated to report this to children’s services. Write down the facts, call and make a statement, fairly straight forward.

When a child shares information about interactions in Gaming, what do you do? I make a judgement based on what the information is, then I write down the facts are that were shared, then what? I’m really not sure where we go from here. I call the family and have a conversation? I chat with the principal? I provide the student with avenues of help, help lines, internet safety….

This is a new world which effects all of our students. Access to our vulnerable young students is wide open on the internet especially with group gaming and social media. Education is a form of protection. When a child is doing something their family may not agree with, they are reluctant to share concerns and can easily become victims of online abuse. How do we help? Keep open communication lines with students and their family. We all want our children to be safe.

Mindful Pause, with or without Technology?

Everywhere I turn I see the effects of our technologically advanced world. Gains have been made in medical research, communication abilities, and advancements toward an easier life?
Some of the effects on individuals are now coming to light. Many people are connected to the internet 24/7. This is causing sleep disturbances, eye issues, addiction behaviours, and other physical ailments.

As a previous mental health professional I look at my present vocation in Education with that type of lens. I have practiced and taught Mindful strategies for many years now. I see the benefits of technology in the curriculum. I also observe the negative effects. I have noticed some educators looking for a researched solution to help calm, focus and ground their students. Some are now turning to all the apps, and internet connections to provide a quick and easily guided mindful activity. I think this may be counter productive to being present and in the moment. We are seeing the effects of this new age world and the fast pace it is changing. As educators we are up to date with the many changes or apprised to avenues in which to guide our charges.

When I guide a group through a mindful experience I eliminate as much technology or other electrical sources as possible. I then guide students into focusing on being present in their own body and mind through the use of many verbal scripts vocalized in a relaxed, quiet voice. These moments of taking a pause are valuable. We live in a busy, stressful society where a pause can assist in a healthy balance to our daily lives.


Mindfulness Meditation: Guided Practices