Mentoring Moments: Time Management 101 for the New Year….

This New Year, I wanted to encourage you to manage your time, your busy time, your spare time and alone time. I can’t think of a better time to blog about this topic than now as we make new years resolutions for the up coming year ahead.

I can honestly say that if you organize your time well as a teacher, you will be able to have work during work hours and build your family and friendship lives separately and explore life the way you would like…

As a mentor or mentee at any given moment in your teaching career, time management skills will help you accomplish everything you want and not burn out in your profession. Remember it’s a career and you need to explore the learning opportunities, balance life and enjoy the moments as we teach daily. So, here are my thoughts. Please feel free to share yours…

Strategies that have worked for me!

  • Using a calendar that is user friendly
  • Goal setting weekly
  • Timed To Do List with daily, weekly and monthly goals

Plan with a Backwards Design in mind

  • Plan the ending of your lesson first.
  • Then plan your teaching goals.
  • Then plan the steps that will take you to the goal.
  • Consider student input in how you plan things out.
  • Set those learning goals for your students and lesson.

Maslow vs. Vygotsky vs. Bloom

  • Put the needs of the students first, with high expectations on what you expect them to do.
  • Remember all students have to feel like the belong to make significant contributions.
  • Let students guide the lesson pace and ideas.
  • Make the space so that you can advocate for your students.
  • Remember “RELATIONSHIPS” are the key.
  • Inquiry with gradual release of responsibility has been my secret to being successful.

It is always important to draw connections between Maslow’s basic needs to ensure they are met and Vygotsky’s learning expectations as we develop skills for students.

Photo credit: for the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs graphic.

Photo credit: for the  Blooms Taxonomy graphic.


Photo credit: for the Vygotsky’s philosophy graphic for Inquiry based learning.

We build amazing lesson expectations so that we can guide discussions and lead students to think with higher order thinking skills when approaching problems. We encourage students to look at situations that they face with a problem solving mentality in order to develop their comprehension skills, and resilience.

Reflection: What were your New Year’s resolutions as an educator? Write them down with timelines. SMART goal them. That’s my goal for you as a reader of my blog!

Yours in Education,


First Days of School Through a Wellness Lens

The long awaited return to the classroom has finally come! After being outside of the classroom since March 2020, I was able to go back to the physical classroom this September 8th. I was so happy to be able to set up my room and await the arrival of students. Teaching online was challenging and did not allow me to have the face-to-face connections that are much needed in a classroom. I am so happy that schools are open and that my position is no longer online. This year, I am teaching grades 7 & 8. I hope to still be teaching the same class come October, but with re-organization, things could change. 

Preparing for the first day was challenging as it had been 14 months since I had taught in person. Luckily, our school board prepared activities for us entitled “Reimagining Wellness”, where teachers are asked to teach 90 minutes a day from the wellness activity choice boards. The choice boards have a variety of activities within one of these three categories: Community and Team Building, Physical Activation and Social Emotional Skill Development. Teachers select one activity from each of these categories to introduce each day (thirty minutes per activity). My students seem to enjoy the activities and have enjoyed getting to know each other without feeling pressured to jump into all the curriculum activities. I am thankful for these resources as it has always been important to start a class off with these types of activities, especially after many students have been away for 14 months as well.

Additionally, it has been great to get to know students such as finding out their preferred pronouns and to try to get back into the swing of things. Our school board is looking to start voluntary extracurriculars soon and my class has already begun planning for the Terry Fox Assembly. Myself and my students are looking forward to these leadership opportunities as we have been without them for much longer than the COVID shutdown. As long as we can stay safe and get back to doing the things at school that we love, the extra things make the day that much better. 

As October draws closer, teachers in our board find out if any students are leaving to go online/returning from online. Our school could undergo a massive re-organization and we are all hoping things will stay the same as many students have now had the chance to bond due to these wellness activities. However, after teaching online last year, I have gotten better at dealing with change and learning how to overcome challenges. So if my assignment changes, I will be able to accept that with a positive attitude. 

I hope all teachers and students had a great first two weeks and that everyone is happy to be back. I know that all students are definitely glad to be back in the physical classroom where they can continue to make connections and learn in the way we were always meant to learn. 

Community Immunity!

COVID-19 has turned everyone into a first-year teacher.  It doesn’t matter how many years of experience you might have, because this year is unlike any other that we have ever experienced.  All of us are re-imagining new ways to connect with students, whether you are learning together on-line or in-person.  It is a very humbling experience to be starting from scratch.

I have chosen to teach in-person because I crave community and collaboration.  The weeks leading up the first day of school were frustrating and stressful.  Everyone was scared and nervous as we struggled to create new routines and protocols.  As soon as the students arrived, I began to relax.  There is still so much that is unknown and unpredictable, but I know how to play and learn with children.

Here are some of my insights from the first few weeks of teaching Grade 2.

Sign Language:

Wearing masks makes it very difficult to communicate clearly.  We cannot read each other’s lips or facial expressions, and it is hard to hear each other.  For those of us who are teaching outside, our voices are struggling to project.  I grew up with a father who was deaf-blind.  As a child, I learned about barriers, disability justice, and how to communicate with my hands.

I worked with my students to develop simple signs that we can use to help us communicate.  We have symbols for: turning up the volume, sharing the same idea, making connections, asking to use the washroom or get a drink of water, and letting someone know we are smiling underneath.  I made a short video, which I shared with my families after the first day of school.  Send me an email if you would like me to share it with you.

I also bought myself a voice amplifier, which helps everyone to listen, and makes me feel like a rock star!

Drama and Play:

Drama is a powerful way to teach and create community.  I have been using role-playing and charades to practice and reinforce new routines, and problem-solve different scenarios.  I believe in the possibilities of play, and I am holding space for us to play together.  After months of isolation and loss, we all need to connect and have fun!

Every morning, after pre-screening and sharing our connection to land, we play a few cooperative games.  We have been learning each other’s names by clapping out syllables, using gestures or wordplay, such as “Very Velvet”.  We ask questions and “Step into the Circle”.  We change places with someone else “When the Big Wind Blows….” and we try to guess who is leading the action in “Follow the Leader”.

My teacher friend, Peyton Leung, shared this link of Socially Distant Outdoor Games for Kindergarten-Grade 8.  Check it out!  Also, here are some Drama Games that will work on-line and in-person.

Outdoor Learning:

All the educators at our school are trying to spend as much time outside as possible.  We know that learning outdoors is safer, and we are transforming our pedagogy by teaching and learning outdoors.  There are many challenges to overcome, including city traffic and construction noise, carrying the materials you need everywhere you go, the lack of shelter and easy access to washrooms, etc.  We are embracing the “big ideas” of change and adaptation and using our imagination to co-create new possibilities for education.

Kindergarten-Grade 6 students have been exploring measurement and mapping, as we connect with the different areas of our school yard.  Inside our “portable desks” are materials we can use for documenting our learning.  We are all learning how to keep our knapsacks organized and take responsibility for the extra masks and layers, hand sanitizer, “sit-upons” and school supplies.

This year, we will be deepening our understanding of land education and collaborating with Doug Anderson, who is one of the co-authors of Natural Curiosity 2nd edition: The Importance of Indigenous Perspectives in Children’s Environmental Inquiry.  We will explore a pedagogy of relationships, and honour land as first teacher.

There are extensive resources that connect Outdoor Learning to the Ontario Curriculum.  These Kindergarten-Grade 8 activities were created by the Peel District School Board Field Centre Instructors.  Please share other resources that are supporting you to do this work.

School year start up

A new school year has begun again and I am once again teaching grade eight, in my opinion, the most exciting and enriching grade I have taught so far.

The first few weeks have been incredible because of the honest conversations we had week one about how great their year can be if they make it that way. We talked about fun trips, ideas and awards that go on during their grade eight year. We talked about what the ideal classroom looks like, sounds like and smells like (ha!) so we made some ideas on how we can achieve those goals. The students have done an amazing job so far on adhering to all of the goals they set out for our own classroom.

A few things have been making this start up so incredible:

  1. There are many student leaders in the classroom who have helped to set the tone for all of the other students in the room. They model positive behaviours and shut down negative ones. There is little to no times where I have interjected to tell them what I expect because another student has already done that for me.
  2. I have already received the help during breaks and afterschool of about 9 or 10 students with teams that go on at our school. These leadership activities have made them stand out in the classroom as well as the extra responsibility has made them thoroughly enjoy each day. That feeling that they are making a difference in their school shows everyday in their mood and behaviours. I am hoping even more students will be interested in these opportunities as only ten of the 26 have stepped up so far. I have awarded these students with small circular stickers that they put on their desk organizers. At the end of the year, we will see who has volunteered the most and those students will be eligible for a token of appreciation (not sure what that will look like yet). It will also help the staff with selecting grade eight awards because they will see who has given up so much of their time for our school community.
  3.  I have offered students homework to complete every night which will help them prepare for grade nine. 19 out of the 26 students have taken this homework and completed it each night. I have three ESL students who I am working on preparing appropriate homework for them so then it will be 22 out of 26. We take up this homework each morning and new homework is given out every night before they go home. The fact that it is optional makes students actively take the initiative to better themselves and their after school time. I am so proud of these students as I mentioned it will help them get ready for grade nine and the few students who took that opportunity last year had the highest marks in the school (they won the principal’s award). It is great hearing groups of students want to hang out after school to work on homework. It is definitely a good after school option for them.
  4. I also have offered students level four or above and beyond opportunities that go with each task we have completed as a class. Seeing those 10-12 students select that option is awesome as they are actively selecting to do better and to challenge themselves each day. I remember being in school not knowing the difference between all of the levels and not knowing how my teacher came up with my mark. I make sure all of my students know how they can excel to the highest level possible.


I think all of these things working together have made it impossible for the students in my room to have a negative experience or to make the day negative for someone else. It is incredible to see such focus and leadership day to day and it makes me so proud of my class. I was away last week at a junior baseball tournament (coached by two of my students) and my supply left only this note, “Your class rocks!” This would not have been possible last year as I must have missed many of these steps in the school year start up. I am really hoping the year will continue in this positive manner.

Having faith in your students and challenging them daily is the best way to go 🙂

School year start up

Well we are already four weeks in and hopefully it has been a great start of the school year for everyone. I am now teaching a grade eight class, teaching math, science, history/geography, language, art and drama. I was overwhelmed at first thinking about all of the subjects I would be responsible for but I have such an amazing grade team so I am truly thankful for all of their support and activities that have been shared.

September is an important month to get to know your students for not only their likes and dislikes but just honestly, do they enjoy school? Every student has their ideas of teachers, rules, subjects, reading, the list goes on and on. Just listening to them talk to other students during class teaches you so much about their interests and about how they have been affected by various things in their past school years. By grade eight students either LOVE or HATE being in a school. I am now faced with the task of continuing to develop that love or trying hard to turn around the hate.

I have been looking at new apps, reading exciting activities for my class to try, looking at fun trips, trying to think of new clubs/teams and I am hoping that I will engage some students who have been disinterested in the past. It is definitely a year long task to try to engage and involve all students so I hope to continue on that journey each day.

On a personal note, as teachers we often feel many emotions at the end of each day. There are questions we ask ourselves and things we always wonder. The one I have been asking myself a lot lately is, “Did I get to everyone?” I feel that is the hardest thing to go home with at the end of each day. That is why I am trying this year to make a few notes on who to go to first the next day and then actually following up on those plans. I am fortunate to finish early at the end of my school day so I can finish all my school work around 3:30/4:00 pm. That gives me roughly six hours of “me” time! That time is so important for our mental health and it is something I am also hoping to focus on this year. Shopping. stair climbing, doing the laundry, making a fun dinner, watching an episode of my favourite show…just a few examples of things I can do each night to stay positive and enjoy each day to the fullest.

I am hoping to talk to my students tomorrow about how to use our after school time wisely to better ourselves and to really add to our day. Our day isn’t over after school and we should really do our best to enjoy the time we have to keep ourselves positive and to make the most of our day.

These are just a few things I have thought about as summer ended and our school year begins. These four works have not been the easiest as being permanent now full time in a very different setting has made me think differently but I am staying positive and really reflecting on the good at the end of each day and looking forward to working on new things the next day.

I am looking forward to posting every few weeks about exciting ideas that occur in my class as well as all the ways I am staying positive and making the most of each day!


Building Connections with Students

Be Authentic

The video of a teacher giving each of his students a “just for them” handshake each morning upon entry has gone viral.  His efforts to connect with students have been applauded.  I think that this is a wonderful way to create a bond between teacher and student; for THAT guy.  I know that this is not “my thing”.  If I were to choose to try this at the beginning of a new school year, it would not be genuine and it just wouldn’t feel right.  I’ve also often wonder what happens when a parent wants a word in the morning, or someone forgot their backpack on the bus, or there is a class trip leaving 5 minutes after the bell.  There are many ideas for connecting with students online, but you need to do what is genuine for you.  Otherwise, you won’t sustain it and the students see right through it.


During the first few weeks of school I try to stay in my classroom while the kids eat lunch.  I will often eat my lunch at the same time as my students so that I can have the other half of lunch to relax, visit with colleagues or do some preparation.  I choose to do this for the first couple of weeks to make sure that the routines for lunch time are established and students understand my expectations around cleanliness, behaviour and technology use during lunch.  There are often different teachers on lunch duty, so it is helpful for them if the regular classroom teacher is in the room until they become acquainted with the students. When I take the time and effort to do this at the beginning of the year I find that there are less issues throughout the school year at lunch time.

Circle Chat

No matter what grade level, I have always started of my day chatting with kids.  In a circle format the students can share something, check in, ask a question or some days they pass (I will personally check in later to make sure everything is ok).  Sometimes we have topics, sometimes we have to discuss class updates but no matter what, we’ve connected in some way.  Yes, it takes instructional time.  Sometimes it takes up a LOT of time.  But, in my experience, it builds relationships with your students and saves time in the long run.

Front End Load Communication

Parents’ concern for the well being of their children seems to be at its highest point at the beginning of the school year.  It may be a new school, a new teacher, academic concerns from previous years or peer group concerns.  Taking the time to communicate during the first week of the school year by phone, note or at least a personal email in addition to class updates on websites or newsletters home will pay off during the rest of the school year.  The more you assure families that you are accessible and concerned about their child, the more supportive they will be if an issue arises.  Find the good in each student and make sure that you communicate it to families.  For the students that have academic or behaviour concerns, meet with families face to face as soon as possible.  Do not leave it until report card time.  I often start those conversations by asking them to voice their concerns, as well as asking their goals and hopes for their child for the school year.  Those positive and proactive attempts at communication at the beginning of the school year will go a long way with families and ultimately will benefit the student.

Take Your Job Seriously; Don’t Take Yourself Seriously.

About 10 years ago I picked up a pair of absolutely crazy novelty sunglasses.  No matter the weather, I wore them in the morning when I picked the students up at their bus lines and I wore them when I walked them out to their buses in the afternoon.  There were always comments from the students (and sometimes parents) and it was often a conversation starter when I could see that kids needed to be checked in on first thing in the morning or at the end of the day.  I began to get crazy sunglasses as gifts.  I now have about 60 pairs and wear different ones depending on my mood.  My staff humoured me and each wore a pair in the staff photo for the yearbook.  This might be something that you try in your classroom, I’m happy to share, but make sure it is something that suits you.

I remember being told by a colleague at the beginning of my career that you shouldn’t smile at your students during the first few weeks or even until Christmas.  I didn’t follow that advice, because it wasn’t genuine and authentic for me.  The way I see it, if you aren’t smiling at the beginning of the year, you can pretty much be guaranteed that you won’t be smiling at the end of the year!  Students feed off of the mood of the teacher.  Ultimately, the teacher makes the weather in the classroom.  There are days when I have to apply the “fake it until you make it” strategy and I smile until I really feel like smiling.  I also highly recommend a morning music mix for the way to work.  Put together 5 or 6 songs (or more depending on the length of your commute) that really motivate you, make you bouncy and make you smile.  On the days where I know I’m tense, in a mood or haven’t slept well I put this on during my drive and usually by the end I’m singing along and feeling better.  Then, I slide on those crazy sunglasses and I’m in tip-top teacher mode ready to greet every student with their name and a smile.  I may not have individual handshakes ready to go but after 23 years…I still start the year off smiling.



Helping parents transition to school

Hi everyone. My name is Tammy Axt and I am a music teacher in the Peel District School Board.

On the third day of school, which happened to be the first day for our kindergarten students, I went to do my duty at 8:05. I opened the door and observed as our students entered the building. I heard the usual friendly chorus of: “Good morning Mrs. Axt!” as our lovely students entered the building, ready for the third day of school. The door I stand beside is used by our older students in grades 3, 4 and 5 to enter the building. Most of them have been at our school for 5 or 6 years and have contributed to the wonderful climate at my school. They bring their friendly nature, upbeat attitude and are just a pleasure to greet every morning.

This morning there was one addition to the number of students coming in the door and going upstairs to start their days. There was one parent quietly wiping her face as she watched down the hall as her only child started his very first day of kindergarten. In a quiet moment, I spoke with the parent about our school and the very special place that it was. I spoke with her at length about the amazing things that are going to happen for her son this year, including all the friends he was going to make, all the learning he would do, and all the growth he was going to experience.  I also spoke with her about the beautiful and amazing children that come to our school. I told her how kind and helpful they are.

After I reassured her, I stopped and encouraged her to tell me about her son and how she was feeling. She told me through tears that this was the first day that she would be away from her child. This was her only child and today she was feeling like the time is going by so fast. That first day of school is a difficult one for many parents as I see them anxiously saying goodbye to the most important person in their lives and literally trusting a virtual stranger with their child’s emotional, physical and intellectual wellbeing.

This experience was a reminder for me that in the hustle and bustle of the school year to not get hung up on the lessons or the colour of your bulletin board, but instead remember what parents have just done. They have entrusted you with their most valued person in their world. They have trusted that you will care for them, help them and teach them all they need to learn this year. That is one important task facing us all this year.

The parent waiting beside me watched as her child cried for a few minutes and then hung up his backpack and joined the kids in line. He was even smiling in the next minute or two. She turned to me and very excitedly stated, “He is smiling, he is smiling!” She wiped her tears and I reassured her that she could do this. Finally, I gave this mom a confident affirmation that everything would be great, and a high five, and she was on her way.

Ultimately, this parent captured what most of our parents want for their children in our care. They want to know that they are smiling and that they are happy at school. They want to know that their wellbeing is looked after. If that is what we achieve for all our students, we will all have had a successful year! Good luck to everyone over the next nine months. I hope you have a great year.



It’s like September all over again


Have you ever walked into a classroom and did a double take? Trying to gather your bearings, did it feel as if you’d been in that exact same spot and the very same moment before? I know it’s happened to me and wonder if other educators feel this way?

Returning to the classroom in September can be like this. The faces are different, maybe even the school, but there are connective currents running through time and space that signal you’ve been there before. I am reminded of a hall of fame quote by Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

This September, I started at my 4th school in 9 years. I could not be more thrilled joining a new family of learners and educators. Of course, I miss my old schools, but as I’ve written before, we have to move on to grow in our professional practice. This year was no exception, even after 3 amazing years at my former school.

Unsurprisingly, since the first bell on Day 1, things have been occurring at the speed of learning. Meeting my students/families, observing them interact, and watching them navigate our classroom for the first time. I’m never sure who is more anxious on the first day, parents, students or me?

To this teacher, the first week of school is like a three-way collision between energy, ideas, and awkwardness. I love walking into a new building and asking students to help me learn directions and routines. On more than one occasion, a student will ask, “Aren’t you supposed to know this?” I reply, “Maybe, but it’s more fun to ask. I’m new.”

What I’ve seen over my  first 9 Septembers

After 9 first days of school, some things have not changed. September is a time when everyone is (re)acquiring their routines and rhythms. Everyone is trying to put their best foot forward – almost. Depending on their Summer, the most reticent learners and educators might still require an extra week or 2 to get up to speed. We need to avoid the rush to establish out of reach expectations. There have been a couple of years where I struggled to find my groove. I have found that the first few weeks are like a contract negotiation. Everyone is trying to get what they want out of the deal, and it takes time to hammer them out.

Each year I enter our, not my, classroom with complete trust that students are there to be awesome. Empowering them and presuming best intentions have always been great places to launch an important year together. Bringing students into the conversation and decision-making process, from the start, allows for long-term success based on understanding and mutual respect.

This happens in our classroom in a number of ways across a number of days.  Students are asked to take chances, make mistakes, and be unafraid to fail. It asks us all to become comfortable with discomfort, feeling safe when vulnerable, and knowing everyone is respected and valued. If a space for this has not been created in my classroom, then there will be a risk of starting off on the wrong foot. Taking the time to create a consistent and caring class culture will ensure a cohesive committed community for the whole year.

What I did over the Summer

As a kid, it seemed that every start of the year writing assignment was a retelling of my summer. This was usually followed up with a presentation in front of the class. I am not sure whether this was an act of sadism or masochism for the teachers who assigned the task, and then had to listen as each one was shared. All I remember is that the act of recalling my summers and the subsequent in-class attention were boring for me too.

As I enter the classroom, I vowed to change this. I have asked students to share what they’ve regretted about their Summer, or what they would do over and change. We hold off on presentating” in favour of peer sharing where volunteers are asked to read a few highlights that stand out after reading their classmates’ work. I’ve found that using 6 Words Stories as a great introduction exercise.

This year I had students write their own and then write one for their seat partner. *

Build flexibility into your planning

Beware of over planning. Yes, some planning must be done. Preparation is important, but a measured approach is best. Over planning  has been, and continues to be a mistake I make. However, when plans go uncompleted or go off course, I am not going to count it as a loss. There needs to be time built into our work for the second and third questions. Sometimes students have more questions than we have answers. Yes, it takes away time from your plans, but the relationship building established through it will become invaluable going forward. Give yourself permission to go off script. The students will appreciate the spontaneity.


As part of classroom routines and noise management, I have heard classics from, “Hands on top. That means stop.” to “Un, deux, trois, les yeux sur moi.” These work well with JK/SK and primary classes, but tend to aggravate the more sophisticated learners in the Junior Panel.

I use a number of noise makers, ranging from a wood block shaped like a pig, a rain stick, and a guira Each is strategically placed about the room to access as needed. They are used to draw students back from their independent or team work. I also have a spot in the class where I will wait for students to come back to hear further instruction or feedback.

Another ‘attention-getter’ to consider is something shared by Paul Solarz called “Give me 5!” I love the power this places in students hands along with the responsibility to be relevant and engaging as they capture the room to share their ideas.

Having a wide variety of tools in the kit have allowed each of my 9 first days of school to begin memorably and effectively. Of course there are bumps and tweaks to be made along the way, but that ads to the joy of the job. As each year brings us a unique set of lives to discover, equip, and watch flourish.

Thank you for reading this post. I look forward to sharing with you again this year. If you have any questions about the resources or strategies shared please message me below.

*Which 6 words would you use to share your story? Feel free to share in the comments section.

Something’s Old, Something’s New

I am at a new school this year and so I am once again learning new routines of the collective culture of the school community as well as the various cultures of the individual students. We have a big crop of Junior Kindergarten students and a handful of Seniors. So far, it is rolling merrily along. Yes, some little ones have had tears, especially a few of the ESL students whose separation anxiety is immense, and a few 3 year olds who are understandably confused about just how long they will be away from their families, but all in all, I think our crews are really coming together in a very happy way.

Last year, in the French Immersion senior kindergarten program at my previous school, the students alternated between a day of English with my colleague and a day of French with me. We were the ones who switched classrooms while the students remained in the familiar setting of their own classroom. We felt that the transition each day was far easier for us than for a whole group of 5 year olds, especially since the classrooms were down the hall from each other. It may have been easier on the students, but there were many times I was in room 3 and something key to the lesson I was teaching was down the hall in room 2…I have a hard time keeping track of my stuff as it is without constantly being on the move! Nonetheless, it worked rather well and it certainly cut down on the organization of the students’ belongings.

This year, in a different setting, my English colleague is right across the hall from me – in 2 giant steps I can knock on her door. Like last year, we, too, alternate a day of French Immersion with a day of English. We have named our two groups of students after trees – birch and maple – and on the bulletin board between our doors (we are at the end of a hallway) there are 2 arrows – one pointing to my room and the other pointing to hers. We switch the pictures of the trees each day so that students and their families know which classroom to go to, should they arrive late and miss our entry from the school yard.

I love having my own classroom again. I am able to concentrate on the one language in the signage and messages I post, and I am able to use all of the (limited) wall space for a French word wall, student work and our inquiry board (“Mur des merveilles”). Also, any resources in the room are mine or the school’s to be used for the French Immersion classroom. Perhaps the biggest improvement is the fact that I don’t lose stuff (as easily…). While there are the many positives, there is still the fact that the students can find such daily transitions very confusing – “Is my hat in this classroom or the other one?”, however we anticipate that that will improve as time goes by and the routine becomes more fluid.

At my previous school, only the teachers moved each day while the ECEs stayed with the students. This year, our principal has set up our program so that the teacher and ECE stay together while the students switch classrooms each day. His belief is that the ECE/teacher team is the most important relationship, and can only properly develop when both individuals are working side-by-side each day. I am very lucky in that I have a great relationship with my ECE – we have similar philosophies regarding every aspect of the program and we share a respect for each other’s knowledge and experience. I know it is not always the case and have heard of some extremely challenging relationships in the kinder program that would understandably make for a difficult year, but I can see myself learning a great deal working with my new teaching partner.

One thing we are still trying to hammer out is regular planning time involving all the kinder colleagues; teachers together, ECEs together, teacher and ECE together, and finally, both teachers and ECEs together. Not an easy thing to coordinate, but an important one. At the moment, we do what we can and we actually make it work, catching a few moments to chat, or grabbing opportunities to stay a little longer after school from time to time. The close proximity of the classrooms helps considerably, as well as the fact that, although the activities, projects and teaching style may be unique to each educator, we still work within the framework of the curriculum. There is always room for improvement, of course, and I expect that things will change down the road as the need arises, but at the moment, I feel as if it has been a pretty smooth start to the year.

Photo of Tammy Axt

Getting Started With Music

Hi everyone! My name is Tammy Axt (formerly Tammy Gallant) and I am a music teacher for students in grade 3, 4 and 5 in the Peel District School Board. This is my fifth year as a music teacher and I hope to be able to assist those new to the planning time role in schools across Ontario. My school is a suburban school about 30 minutes outside of Toronto with a very high ELL population. In addition to music, I also have planning time coverage in a contained Autism Spectrum Disorder class.

At the end of June last year, one of my students was very surprised to learn that my family lives in PEI. I realized when she mentioned that fact, that I don’t talk or mention things about myself very often. We are so busy in my music class creating or practicing that I rarely share things that happen in my life. So I decided this year to start off by doing a music activity where both the students and I share a little about ourselves.

To share the things I did during my summer, I created a “Prezi”. Prezi is a great online program for preparing presentations that are a little bit more exciting than PowerPoint. I made slides about learning to ride a motorcycle, getting married and hanging out with my nephews. All the things that I love and that made my summer so great. You can see the Prezi I created at While completing the prezi, I made sure to include things that I did that could have clear and obvious sound effects.

After I presented the Prezi to my students, I gave them an opportunity to talk with an elbow partner about some sound effects that go with some of the activities that I did over the summer. I encouraged the partnerships to make the sound effects with their body or their mouth. I showed the Prezi again and we added all sorts of crazy sound effects to the slides.

After hearing about my summer, the students chose one thing they did over the summer and created a sound effect that went along with their activity. Listening to all of their sharing, it gave me some really great insights into my student’s lives. Some of them come from BIG noisy families, some had great tragedy over the summer and some of them love sports. All of this information will help me in planning our upcoming lessons and helping them all be successful this year!