…and in this corner

….weighing in at the size of that giant elephant in each of your classrooms.

Yup, with a sense of timing so impeccably ironic, that it is only achievable by elected officials, we are once again face to face with maskless learners and colleagues.

Oh the freedom!

This all despite numbers related COVID19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths) increasing across the province. Despite a strategic throttling of information from the current government and an ineptly duplicitous media incapable of calling out the “horse hockey” being shovelled at an unwitting public who is either happily oblivious learning how to live with COVID19 or now scrambling to avoid a negative patient outcome for someone in their life who is immuno-compromised.

Another struggle took centre stage the moment the masks were allowed to come off in Ontario. We are once again facing government sanctioned chaos when it comes to public health policy and education in our province and there are signs of  trouble in nearly every public school. #Onted via Twitter reveals numerous schools with growing numbers of COVID19 cases and exposures among their youngest learners. That means more absences (students and staff), more missed learning opportunities, and more uncertainty in schools/homes.

To no one’s surprise who has actually taught in a school over the past 2 years, students, teachers, and support staff  once again find themselves at greater risk of being exposed to COVID19 now that masking has become optional in public schools.*

Thankfully, at the school where I teach, the number of students and staff still choosing to mask up each day remains around 90%. Odd though how that figure corresponds to another public health statistic at 90%. Hint, it rhymes with vaccination rate. Hmm? Yet, that is not the case inside of many other schools and has the potential to be problematic on a number of fronts. I’ve seen this movie before and as I recall, it ain’t a comedy.

The removal of required masking, limited cohorting, mandatory hand sanitizing protocols, and social distancing have not provided me with the peace of mind that the return of such “freedoms” pretends to promise. So what is can a health conscious public educator do while they are now placed on the frontlines of learning to live with germ warfare?

Psst. Running away and hiding are not options.

The safest moves are to continue limiting our own exposure to potential infections by keeping our distance, masking at all times, sanitizing, and limiting our social interactions. Overcoming a global pandemic entering its 6th wave is going to take a little more time. We have gone through so much and have learned an equal amount about ourselves and others.

I can sense that students are still concerned about this too. I have noticed them still sanitizing their hands and trying to maintain their distances with students who have chosen to go maskless in class. Thankfully, I have not observed any social shunning as of yet which makes me hopeful that this will be the case in the general public when ideologies collide as legislated social expectations are gone. It is in this spirit of care and respect that I encourage you all to stay safe and strong as you continue to serve and shine in your classrooms.

* I was going to make a snappy comment about how private schools did not have  to remove their mask mandates while all public schools were ordered to do so, but I could not think of a good way to phrase it without the use of profanity.

learn unlearn relearn teach…

To continue: learn some more, unlearn even more than you did before, teach even better, and then repeat.

I am not sure whether it is possible to enjoy anything more in my professional life than teaching – other than learning. Insert witticism here asking why then are students not jumping out of their seats when they are probably being taught something new everyday? I can see it now if it happened; a level of shock on the faces of teachers at what might be considered too disruptive, but oh the joy. All jesting aside, I believe it is within all of us to express and foster this type of joy in everything we do related to life at school.

Imagine if students bristled with excitement at each opportunity to learn something new rather than some of the blank stares and foreboding filled faces that silently shared that work was the only thing on their minds instead of the profound potential that can occur as new neural pathways are paved? What if that happened at a staff meeting? Maybe I am asking too much for that previous line?

Nevertheless, I still like learning new things – preferably by choice rather than prescribed. Not only does new knowledge strengthen my understandings and scalable skillsets, but being a learner helps me see teaching through a different lens from the seat of a student. For me, this is where the excitement happens along with a healthy dose of discomfort too.

Perhaps teaching and learning are simply sides of the same coin? Maybe it’s solely my intuition as an educator/lead learner taking over because nothing brings me more happiness and relief to finally arrive at another of life’s learning destinations only to realize it was merely a stop to refuel along the way.

What some might perceive as a bumpy ride filled with uncertainty and uncertainty is not a fact I wish to conceal from you. Agreed, it has taken some time to arrive at a reasonable level of comfort with this discomfort.  However, I have also realized that it was in each of those moments when I gained the most in perspective and understanding in my roles in the classroom.

Before that happened though, there were some demons to slay. Finances, fatigue, and giving up a bit of family time on occasion. Once these three things were balanced, I was able to focus on some really important AQ courses that I would highly encourage all teachers to add to their transcripts. My top pick is below.

Spec Ed Pt 1 has to be your goto first AQ.* When I took this course, I was working in a French Immersion school where the IEPs were usually for gifted students. Accommodations were for depth and breadth, but the learning about Growth Plans, ISTs, IEPs, IPRCs etc. was invaluable to support my students in the classroom. Since then, student needs in FI or significantly more complex and the role of SERT which was more geared towards supporting students back into the English stream is now focused on shaping the learning spaces to fit the students where they are within their French Immersion experience.

Spec Ed Pt 1 also came with some excellent classroom strategies that are thankfully still in my toolkit over a decade later. Of course once you have SpEd Pt 1, you might as well complete the set with Pt 2 and your Specialist. Don’t fear being forced into the role of SERT just because you have these qualifications. Think of them as gifts of knowledge for you to support every student that steps into your classroom throughout your career.

I vowed to refuse the job if ever asked to be a SERT fearing I would be placed in a space where I would not be able to survive, and then all of that changed 5 years ago – an offer I could not refuse. Stepping into the unknown discomfort zone that is the SERT role has been nothing short of transformational and invaluable to my practice in and out of the classroom. Working with students, peers, families, and system folx has been extremely rewarding even though pretty much clueless for the better part of my first two years. Thankfully, a mentor teacher and supportive admin were there to help me decode the work.

I guess this brings me back to the title of this post learn unlearn relearn teach.

I knew there was more to learn after my B Ed was completed and I entered the classroom. I unlearned some sticky habits and thoughts about student abilities and behaviour from my own schema and schooling by relearning from the experiences and wisdom of others, and now continue to apply new knowledge to my teaching.

That’s it for now, I have to go unlearn something to make room for more lessons ahead.

Next month look for a companion post about AQs and other cool goings-on at ETFO entitled ‘all good things on Isabella’.

*Did you know that ETFO is offering AQs for Special Education this Summer? Click the link to learn more.

Do you Read ‘Teacher Books’ in Your Spare Time?

Teaching is a career ripe for interesting stories from a variety of viewpoints. There is of course, the humour of working with children who sometimes say and do whatever comes to mind. There is the heartwarming nature of kids who have grown up to credit the influence their educators had on their careers and lives. And inevitably, there is the frustration of a career in a system that is plagued by various public opinion and continuing challenges such as lack of funding, etc. Here are 3 books I enjoy by current and former individuals who have dabbled in education and put their experiences to paper:

A Teacher in the Wild, by Devin Siebold:
Stand up comedian and former Florida teacher Devin Siebold financed a picture book on Kickstarter based on ideas he had about how students react to running into teachers outside of class in a ‘natural setting’ like the mall. His trademark humour from his stand up matches with hilarious illustrations from Izzy B that will make adults and kids smile imagining how the encounters look from each POV.

32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny, by Phillip Done:
This memoir combines vignettes on teaching that will have educators nodding and laughing in agreement. I picked up this book at a second hand store and have recommended it to many of my friends. Be prepared to be entertained by essays comparing entering school compared to an airplane, the hazards of using a laminator with ties, and trying to make the perfect Open House presentation.

I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had, by Tony Danza:
Yes, “Who’s the Boss” actor Tony Danza did a brief stint teaching high school English (he got a teaching credential before his career took off) as part of a show for A & E. Although one must be cautious of how ‘reality television’ is filmed, the book is an expansion of the reflection of an ‘outsider’ in a system based on Tony Danza’s memory of being a high school student years earlier. The thesis is simple: if more individuals were able to see education from the perspective of the staff, they would see that it is a lot more difficult and that often when we are young we don’t always appreciate what others do for us.

The common thread that all of these books have is that there is a fine line between laughing at experiences that are not easy and being relieved at relating that it may happen to everyone. Whether you read books from teachers for entertainment or reflection, there are many voices to relate to on a variety of school experiences.

Connecting Students with a Local Author

Sometimes teaching even after close to 20 years can yield new literary experiences. A few months ago, I attended a convention and came across the usual spread of artists selling their books. However, I was definitely ‘drawn’ to a short novel series by a teacher who lived about an hour away. Inspired by the popularity of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants in his class, he had written a set of books about two friends who loved pulling ‘mostly’ harmless pranks in their school and neighbours. You can learn more at https://itchygooneybooks.com.

I purchased an autographed copy of the latest and as predicted, they connected with the humour and doodles. At the end we decided to contact the author Mark Gunning by email listed on his website after exploring it. Despite him not being as highly prolific as R.L. Stine or Dav Pilkey, I prepared the students for a reply being slow in coming, if at all. However, I was so pleased to find out that Mr. Gunning offered to answer our questions LIVE via a Google Meet before our spring break.

The students were kept surprised and their only negative comment was that they couldn’t do the meeting in person, but in this age, they are accustomed to adjusting their expectations with technology. Mr. Gunning was able to offer some valuable insight into how to become an author and how to put your own spin on popular ideas. In addition, he was pleased at the activities we were able to create using his series to integrate with other subjects such as Art, Music, and Science.

Local authors often rely on word of mouth to build an audience and in this case, young fans and educators are paramount in assisting with selling books. Here are some suggestions on how to choose someone from your local area:
*check your local library for lists of books and check if there are virtual school visits. Many librarians are still connecting virtually to reach broad audiences and you may be able to coordinate a Q and A with other schools simultaneously.
*connect with the author as a staff member via social media yourself to keep everything safe and control communication. Most authors include a few platforms to follow nowadays.
*check for the books on other formats for accessibility. Some school libraries may have rules on vendor purchasing, and the local library may not always have copies. However, you may be able to get copies of ebooks (in this case, the first book is free in Mark Gunning’s I Told You So series as a Kindle download, which only requires a parent to have an Amazon account).

Mark Gunning said he got the ball rolling on his writing career after another author visited his school. Perhaps a budding author will credit an interest with writing as a career after a meaningful connection to guide them on their literary journey.

if you are not learning…

Fill in the blank.
As an educator there is always something to______________:

  • do
  • feel
  • learn
  • repeat
  • unlearn
  • lean into
  • chase after
  • reflect upon
  • run away from
  • learn more from
  • do better next time
  • experience differently

Each of the above resonate with me as a reflective practioner/teacher and as I look back, my thoughts keep returning to whether I see myself learning alongside my students or not?

It isn’t the first time I’ve tossed this thought around. Believing I was on the verge of an intellectual breakthrough to explain it all, this time I wrote, “If you are not learning, then you are not teaching” in an earlier draft of this post. A rhetorical call to action if you will.

Knowing that there is nothing new under the sun (Proverbs), I wanted to check if this brilliant quote was mine or would it be attributed to someone else unbeknownst to me? Enter American economist Vernon L Smith*. Well it was fun while it lasted, but that did not take away from the quote’s truth in my mind. If I wasn’t learning then I was not teaching. So I asked myself,
“Self?”
“Yes.”
“Are you learning?”
“Yup.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ll get back to you.”

It is within this meditative metacognitive space where I frequently find myself dwelling this year. Maybe it’s because the season we’re enduring makes things seem bleak. Or maybe the extended time indoors during global pandemic allows time to make some sense out of things that exist within and beyond our control. Cue the next quote from Smith.

“I believe that all learning is ultimately a form of self-education. That formal schooling is simply a way of introducing you to how to learn. And I think, at some point in my own education, I realized that the most important thing I was learning was that I was learning to learn. It became a lifelong endeavor.”  Vernon L. Smith

After ruminating on this quote, I started wondering whether the conditions created in my class each day genuinely allowed learning to learn to occur? Was it possible to continue being “the guide on the side”(Garfield Gini-Newman) or did I need to model learning how to learn more for them? Were the resources I was curating and creating providing a rigourous, but not spirit crushing challenge or was I underestimating their abilities as learners? Did my students have time to develop their own curiosities rather than those prescribed in the curriculum, and if so were they inspired and empowered to do so?

I wish there was an absolutely definite yes here, but it is not that simple. At least not yet.

Here’s the tricky part, I think that this is happening in some ways in my classroom, but now find myself with a new challenge to learn how to really know it. Suddenly, I feel that some of the pressure around this has been removed. Maybe the reflection had to happen in order to organize my perspective here? As the lead learner in the classroom there is always more to learn. As the guide on the side, I can always “bend, blend, or break” (David Eagleman)  what we are learning to help students go further than in days before.

Like most classrooms, what worked before is not guaranteed to work again or like it did. This in itself  has been an incredible thing to learn. Perhaps acceptance is a more apt term? How often do teachers find themselves holding on to something that worked in the past, but is not working now yet hoping it will miraculously work again in the future? Teachers need to accept that everything we do is done at the speed of education. Whether a day lags on the tarmac waiting for takeoff or jets off at the speed of sound each can lead us to discover and develop some profoundly creative skills if we approach it as pilots and not as passengers.

One final thought.

Remember earlier when I asked myself “are you learning?” I asked again. This time the reply came back as, “As I learn so will I teach.” Thank you for reading. Feel free to share this post and to leave a comment to continue the conversation.

*There is comfort in the knowledge that the quote above is attributed to a Nobel Prize winning thinker because before checking, I thought the words above were mined straight out of my mind. Needless to say, I am happy to share a common thought in esteemed company. Searching out the source of the quote also allowed me to discover some of Smith’s other vast body of work in economics.

what i could’t learn in teacher’s college

12 months in a faculty of education prepared me for a lot of things, but not everything. How could it? Pedagogy, planning, pragmatism, and patience were all part of a very practical preparation and positive preview of what was to come for me as an educator .

Yet, even with rigorous academic, practicum, and professional development poured into the program, a paucity existed due to the finite amount of time for the program to cover the vast scope and variables that are the job. In defence of faculties, it would take several years to cover them and even then, only partially. Perhaps not being prepared for every eventuality was a good thing for me as a teacher because it allowed me to find solutions that did not have their origins in a textbook, but rather ones which were created for each specific moment and context?

I think that there has to be room included in formation of teaching candidates that focuses on situational problem solving. This is where life experience(s) can help out. As a teacher candidate in my forties, I found it interesting to compare worldviews and perspectives, with colleagues who were half my age. It was the times over coffee and in between lectures where some ageless bonds were formed that continue to this day. I also learned that wisdom was ageless as my younger peers so often shared when it came to our discussions about educators having to teach far beyond the curriculum in order to support their students. By beyond, I mean that we had to navigate how we were going to bring humanity into the classroom too.

Outside of lesson planning, curriculum, philosophy of education, and the Education Act there was a lot to cover. I really appreciated the time spent in equity and special education training where we were given numerous real life situations from the classroom to consider and receive coaching on how to best respond. Some of this was really helpful because I at least had a set of tools, but even then there was room for so much more in the kit.

I especially liked the book Beyond Heroes and Holidays and highly recommend giving it a read as a way of sparking staff conversations around racism and equity or as a supportive guide to deeper personal growth. And then came the day when I realized I needed more than that.

Although the seeds were planted in teacher’s college, they did not break through until I was in the classroom where I had to confront a student using racist slurs.

I can still almost feel the time slow down as the blood rushed through my body when it happened. Did I really just hear a student say that? I am pretty sure that my surprise and disappointment were visceral. This was an eye opener for me because that moment did not come with a lesson. Once again, experience became the teacher. What was surprising in that situation was how emotional it all felt. I struggled to process my own responses.

I know that I learned a lot from that event, but knew that my rosy perceptions of innocent school aged children now included a few storm clouds. Hearing from experienced mentor educators added to my comfort and discomfort level all the while building up confidence in the aftermath. It was here where my own experiences and beliefs were transformed into actionable responses rather than reactions in a moment. #learnbeyondthetextbook

Recent news of teachers experiencing anti-Semitic hate perpetuated by students in elementary/middle schools reminds us all that even though we are prepared for some things, we are not prepared for all, especially when it comes to hatred, assault, bigotry or racism. After events like these, it is crucial to have a trusted person to speak with about them. This could be a mentor teacher or administrator who can help process what happened and debrief with you. They can also be there to support you as you overcome. No educator should go through it by themselves

For teachers looking to find or become a mentor, check out the Mentoree website. After years of waiting, I recently joined myself.

I really believe that there are two key elements that need to accompany a B.Ed degree – mentorship and life experience. The absence of one or both will send new teachers out for many challenging days ahead filled with many tests, but few lessons beforehand. And maybe that’s how it is meant to be. A journey of discovery, cutting your path through new spaces. Solving problems as they happen while gathering the tools, surviving the experiences, and keep trying to move forward.

It is so important that educators, regardless of experience, connect with each other whether formally or informally. The days of teachers needing to feel like siloed lone wolves solving every problem that comes their way or its failure thinking are gone. They may or may not be in your building, but there are caring educators willing to offer support, lend an ear, or give advice when asked. Feel free to reach out anytime.

Possible future blog post content below

Since I recommended getting a copy of Beyond Heroes and Holidays, here seems like a good place to suggest some other important must reads for anti-racist educators;

  1. We Want to Do More than Survive – by Bettina L Love
  2. All our Relations – by Tanya Talaga
  3. The Skin We’re In – by Desmond Cole
  4. Black in School – by Habiba Cooper Diallo
  5. Biased – by Jennifer Eberhardt
  6. Caste – by Isabel Wilkerson
  7. 21 Things  You May Not Know About the Indian Act – by Bob Joseph

Feel free to share some of the texts that have pushed you beyond your comfort zones in the comments below. I am always open for book recommendations.

The Power of a Card

Over many years, I have had students give cards over the various special events of the year. Like Hallmark, the busiest time I am opening things are the winter holidays and the end of the year, but sometimes they will produce cute decorated cards for Valentine’s Day and my birthday.

Sometimes the cards are store bought with a ready to go printed message and the student’s name hastily printed. Other times, I get a plethora of stickers and adorable personal messages on construction paper where the parent has sometimes helped with spelling. And occasionally I will get the card purchased from the store, but the student has made extra effort to find something I will like or pertains to my job, like superheroes or the Nutcracker ballet.

But every so often, you will get the special “comes out of nowhere” card where both parent and child combine talents. Last week, I was struggling with the planning of returning online students, continuing to be called out to cover classes short of supply teachers, and the ever evolving political news of the past two years. When I got to my first period French class, my mood significantly improved when one of the students who was transferring to another school surprised me a day before he was to leave with a small but powerful card.

His mother, who works at the local library, helped him make a printed design that said Merci. Although we have students leave during the middle of the year frequently, not having the students every day as a homeroom teacher usually means a quick goodbye passing in the hall.  I was touched that they worked together to make sure I received a beautiful card in person.

I am not sure how long it took, but the fact that the parent and child took the time to put something together meant so much to me personally on a gloomy day. While the rest of the day didn’t go perfect, I felt that I was able to cope with the challenges a lot better knowing this family understood the effort we made over the years to this young man.

Over the years many students have taken their time during nutrition break or asked to stay in for ‘work’ only to produce a ‘surprise’ card using colourful paper and supplies from the school.  Though not expected from all students, or in the same ways, it is the display of character traits that makes me so happy as an educator to see the development of the kindness these students will take with them throughout their many years after they leave the school.


Supporting Student Transition from Elementary to Secondary

If you have ever taught grade eight, you are currently a grade eight teacher or you have a child (or had a child) in grade eight then you might appreciate how exciting and stressful this time of the year can be for so many grade eight students as they prepare to transition from elementary to secondary school. As a former intermediate classroom teacher and a guidance counsellor who has worked with many grade eight students, I can certainly say that the process of choosing a high school, applying for a specialized program of study and/or completing course selections for grade nine can be a bag of mixed emotions for students, depending on the level of knowledge and support students have at school and at home. Regardless of the grade students are in, teachers can create opportunities for students to develop strategies and skills that can support them in their transition process. Even though students might feel overwhelmed and isolated at times, they are never alone in the process. They also need to know that our support is non-judgmental, though intentional at times especially for the most vulnerable students, and that our intention is to empower students to make choices about their own life and their own future pathways. 

 

Stress and Anxiety

There is no doubt that the transition from elementary to secondary school can be stressful for many students, especially during the current pandemic when more students are isolated and social support for their transition may not be readily available. Adults and students alike are all experiencing an increased level of stress and anxiety in these uncertain times. For the most part, adults have developed strategies to manage their anxiety, however young children are, more so than ever, depending on the adults in their lives to support them throughout this journey. So, how do we as educators monitor their emotional wellbeing and offer sustainable support?

Here are some suggestions that might be of value to you, regardless of your work circumstances or guidance model in your area:

  1. Get to know your students, whether they are in kindergarten or up to grade eight, and understand their emotional strengths and needs. Pinpoint which parts of the situation students are experiencing that you as an educator have the power to change or influence for the better, and then offer your support accordingly.
  2. Communicate regularly with families/caregivers about their role in supporting student achievement and well-being, as they are the ultimate decision maker in this process
  3. Chances are, you cannot do this alone, so get support to support students. Talk to colleagues, your admin and other school-based support personnel. Keep in mind the best interest of the individual student, the nature of the situation for the student and your Board’s policies around confidentiality. 
  4. Be socially and culturally sensitive to each student’s situation and lived experiences. Above all, be intentional in supporting (without dictating or pigeonhole) vulnerable students, marginalized students and racialized students and ensure they have equitable access to programs and services
  5. Support students in a specialized program or with an Individual Education Plan in having a successful transition
  6. Show care and empathy, and offer assistance to students who might need social/emotional support that best meets their needs

 

Your support to students is crucial now more than ever. Students of all ages and abilities continue to navigate through the pandemic, as well as managing other social and family challenges, and intermediate students also have to adjust to a new destreaming program in grade nine. Some students may find this time of year overwhelming and might need to develop strategies to self-advocate for themselves to ensure all their needs are met. There are many ways to embed self-advocacy in your assessment Of learning and assessment As learning to support student achievement and well-being. With a strong sense of self, students are more likely to see themselves as owners of their own destiny and can independently advocate for themselves. I see this as a gradual release of responsibility and an opportunity to empower students to take charge of their learning and their own future. 

 

Here is a Self-Advocacy Toolkit that was shared with me that could be of some support to you in your classroom (regardless of the grade you teach). This Self-Advocacy Toolkit is intended to be completed by each student. Teachers may wish to facilitate this as part of their instructional day. 

Self-Advocacy Toolkit: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1yCD8KViE7-B_NfB1fEkb2Uvsj74H0qcZ_6oka-b3WwE/edit?usp=sharing

 

Ultimately, when it comes to transition and course selections, students and families/caregivers make the final decision about their destination and pathways. We will offer support and guidance to ensure success and a seamless transition from elementary into secondary, and this support can begin as early as kindergarten. When we work together, support each other and respect each other’s choices, even when our perspectives are different, we enable individuals to self-actualize and reach their full potential.

Process Over Product

Have you ever used cars to make works of art?

No matter how old you are – it’s awesome.

In our Virtual Kindergarten class this year, my DECE partner and I have been trying to incorporate as many creative, open-ended and hands on experiences as possible.

One of our favourite ways to offer these experiences is through process art. 

Process art, by definition, emphasizes and appreciates the process of creating art or manipulating art materials rather than placing value on the final or finished product.

Process art invites students to get messy, get creative and make mistakes. The experience of engaging with materials like paint, is sensory and exploratory. There is so much learning taking place while students are creating an understanding of cause and effect relationships, engaging multiple senses and applying their problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Process art provides students with the opportunity to be successful. There are no examples, there are no rigid expectations of the final product and there are no limits. The learning that begins with process art activities has the potential to grow and blossom into the experimentation of other theories, ideas and challenges. Process art is personalized, developmentally appropriate and inclusive. It’s a provocation that students can enter at their unique stage of development and can be transformed to meet individual needs. In regard to The Kindergarten Program (2016), process art aligns with a wholistic pedagogy in the Early Years. As students explore concepts of math, test theories of science, respond to literacy experiences, practice patience, persevere and gain confidence in their own abilities – they are playing, collaborating and falling in love with learning.

Upside down drawing? Absolutely!

The invaluable learning that occurs when students feel free to express themselves has inspired us to integrate the “process over product” approach into experiences outside of the arts. 

Our most recent attempt was the exploration of composing and decomposing numbers through a game of cup bowling. Students brought 6 cups to their screen and placed them upside down in a triangle formation. Then, they rolled a ball to bowl for their cups. We had many conversations of how much/how many, using words like less and more to describe our game play. Some of the students even discovered that the cups were 3D shapes, and put a ball on top of their cup to create “ice cream cones”. We continue to look for ways to imbed this process focused and play-based learning into our daily routine.

Do you invite older students to explore “process over product” activities?

In what ways does emphasizing “process over product” influence your students and their learning and understanding?

Please note: ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that the daily, in-person model of instruction and support best meets the educational, developmental and social needs of students, provides the best experience for support, and is the most equitable learning model for all students.

ETFO’s expectation is that elementary virtual learning in any capacity, including through hybrid models of instruction, will end once the pandemic ends.

sometimes nothing is all you have and all you need

There is an expression that goes, “Experience is a terrible teacher, because it forces you to take the test before the lesson.” I share it with others when unexpected things occur. I share it with myself too – a lot. In my mind it seems like it’s constantly happening because each day there are tests for which I have not had any lessons. Well, not all of the lessons. I guess you could say that I knew about some of the lessons although they had not been assigned to me yet.

From the moment when that first bell rings until dismissal and every moment in between we are being tested. Sometimes I think it would be easier to calculate the probable moves on a chess board than to deal with the unplanned and unexpected aspects occuring at the speed of education right now. Maybe the ability to leave something unresolved is becoming another one of my superpowers.

As I mentioned in my last post “no cape required” teachers are growing and showing their super powers everyday on the job despite never really being equipped with the lessons to do so from teacher’s college? Considering how most faculty programs are set up over 16 months to 2 years the extra time seems like a good way to add extra opportunities for practicum experiences as well. With so many variables in this profession, the more lessons that can be shared beforehand the better. Instead the past two + years have done nothing but offer added experiences, and as always sans lessons. If anything, teaching during COVID has certainly improved my improvisational abilities.

Improvising solutions is often like walking through a dense forest without a path to walk along. Like any new path, it takes a while to cut a clear and safe route without a map or guide. You are hoping that tools that you are carrying are going to be able to do the job. After teachers leave the safety of their faculties of education, myself included and regardless of age, are quick to realize that we needed more than theoretical pedagogy and two or three practicum placements in our backpacks. #bepreparedforanything

I wouldn’t call it lack of real world learning opportunities, but perhaps lack of exposure to as many as possible in a guided setting. This could be a function of the academic worlds in which we did battle before becoming educators. As I recall, it was survival of the academically fittest with little other criteria necessary. Who better than the best and brightest to teach the next generation to be better and brighter? Unfortunately, there is often little to reflect the intangible skills and emotional IQ that do not show up on a university transcript. There is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, but I challenge that the emphasis on one criterion for admission is narrowminded and outdated for  granting entrance to something as important as a faculty of education. #wearemuchmorethanourmarks

My acceptance into a teacher’s college came as a surprise. Especially because of my lacklustre transcript. I still have the rejection letters from a few schools, and I understand how hard it is to get into a faculty of education and that decisions need to be made that will yield the greatest academic outcomes. #thefunwasjustbeginning #byfuntheymeantwork

Fortunately, there was one faculty willing to take a chance on me and chose to look beyond my marks and weigh 4 decades of life experiences in youth mentorship, business, and broadcasting as well. For whatever reasons, the one school, which shall remain nameless as to not make the rest feel bad for missing out on me, chose to look at my work beyond the classroom as a metric of my potential to be an educator and I am happy to meet more candidates in the profession who are of a certain age as myself who have worked in other careers/spaces and bring that wisdom to their classrooms too. They saw something in me that I did not, and worked to help me discover it too. #seewhatothersseeinyou

I will leave it here, but offer a few final thoughts to tie this post off, or completely fray it for another day. Educators need someone to believe in them – themselves. They need to know they do not have to have all of the answers all of the time. Educators need to accept that no amount of training teaches them how to do everything in this job until they are on the job. Our incredible abilities to adapt to the unplanned, unexpected, and unpredicatable is uncanny. We need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable at times. Each of us brings something unique and incredible to the communities in which we teach and our students are the better because of it. Finally, we need to show the same amount of grace to ourselves that we are constantly showing others.

Thank you for reading. Stay strong. Stay safe.

PS – not one mention about hybrid learning was made in this post until now.
PSS – DM me if you want to know which school it was.

BTW #hybridhurtskids and please keep reading there’s a disclaimer to follow

Please note: ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that the daily, in-person model of instruction and support best meets the educational, developmental and social needs of students, provides the best experience for support, and is the most equitable learning model for all students.

ETFO’s expectation is that elementary virtual learning in any capacity, including through hybrid models of instruction, will end once the pandemic ends.