The Power of “Thank You”

“Thank you”

2 simple words that mean so much. Especially when they are followed by a reason for giving thanks. 

As an educator of young children, I don’t teach for the “thank you”. I teach for the students, their progress, their laughs, their smiles, and that feeling of sharing a joy for learning. 

However, when I do get those genuine, ‘from the bottom of my heart’ “thank you” ’s, they often bring me to tears. Thank you can feel so reassuring, so comforting and can be a springboard that launches deep and powerful connections. 

An amazing colleague of mine, who is many years into their career, suggested I keep a journal of these kind words of thanks from parents and families. Initially, I thought this seemed silly. Why would I keep these notes and emails? What purpose would this serve me? But, I tried it anyways. Why not? If I didn’t find this practice helpful I could stop at any point and not tell a single soul I had ever done it. 

Fast forward to the present moment, where various letters, cards and printed emails from families live in the binder I stash at the back of my filing cabinet. I spread the word of this practice, as not a way to brag or boast but to share with you the feelings it has brought me.  

First of all, it brings me joy. What better reason to do anything? Why not document these joyful moments in celebration of student success.

Secondly, I find comfort revisiting these “thank you” ‘s when I feel tired, overwhelmed or broken down. It is easy for me to fixate on a lesson that didn’t go well, or the things that I could be doing differently; therefore doing them better. Flipping through this binder of positive thoughts allows me to reframe my mindset and reflect critically on my practice while being kind to myself.

Lastly, the powerful feelings that these “thank you” ‘s bring me are inspiring. I want to pass this feeling on to my colleagues, my students and their families who show up and work hard every day. I am mindful each day to share my genuine “thank you” ‘s out loud.

What is the most powerful “thank you” that you’ve ever received?

What is the most powerful “thank you” that you’ve ever given?

Occasional Teaching Online (part 2 of 3): My Challenges

I will never forget my first supply day for virtual learning. Even though I am early into my teaching career, I believe this experience has changed the way I will reflect on my teaching practice for years to come – dare I say forever?

As I logged onto my first Google Meet with no idea who was greeting me on the other side, so many things raced through my mind and my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. Nerves. Excitement. Fear. 

In my last post I reflected on my realization of the power of connection and children’s drive for relationships. As I continue to venture on with positivity and optimism, I cannot ignore the raw emotions I have felt, the challenges I have faced and the questions I have unanswered. 


“I don’t know”. 


In my personal and professional life this year, “I don’t know” has been part of my daily conversations with colleagues, friends and family. Last year, saying this out loud would have felt like admitting defeat, accepting failure even. As the uncertainty and the unknown continues, we are being forced to live in a world of “I don’t know”. The challenge is constantly turning the “don’t know” into “let’s try” with a smile on our faces. Of course we want to support our students, their families, and our communities. Of course we want to embrace change, challenge, and even failure. But, the reality is, we are navigating this new path in which there are no correct answers, there is no manual, and there are no instructions.  

Openly admitting what I don’t know feels uncomfortable and scary. But discomfort is required for growth and change. I share my challenges with you as a means of connection. Maybe you don’t know either – and that is okay. Additionally, admitting the unknown provides opportunities to gain insight from those who may know, those who have ideas and those who can say “I have been there, and I know how hard it can be”. 

As an OT I have felt it challenging at times to engage with students who are not turning on their microphone or camera, for whatever reason. I want to get to know them but am also mindful how vulnerable they may feel turning on their video to chat with a complete stranger. How are you supporting student engagement and providing a safe space for all? 

How are you supporting students with special needs, learning challenges and students who are working with limited resources? I once taught in a class where one of the students did not have paper or pencils. 

How are you supporting students through technical difficulties or navigating new online platforms? I have been doing a lot of screen sharing. I often share my own screen and/or ask students to share their screen if they are comfortable. I am finding this method to be extremely time consuming. Although sometimes necessary, it can also be very distracting. When students share their screen, it puts the issue they are having on display for the whole group to see. This can be helpful if someone knows how to solve the problem, or harmful under certain circumstances and can intensify feelings of helplessness for some students. 


*Holds breath* 

No correct answers.

No manual. 

No instructions. 



There is beauty in this.

It may be hidden or the view may be obstructed right now. But it is there. Together with our students and our colleagues, we are the creators, we are the inventors, we are the pioneers.

Occasional Teaching Online (part 1 of 3): My Realization

Full Remote Learning or FRL for short. 

A concept that I had never even imagined myself being a part of in the position of the teacher. Remote learning for post-secondary students was something I was familiar with. In fact, I was learning myself remotely as a Master of Professional Education student, but how would this be possible with children?

I applaud any and all people who have dedicated themselves to ensuring Ontario’s students are safe, engaged and happy during this extremely challenging school year. Educators have put in countless hours and ongoing efforts to reimagine their classrooms (whether they are virtual or face-to-face) all while keeping student’s needs at the forefront of their priorities. This pandemic has forced us all to stop and think and required us to view the world through a lens in which we never have before. Each person with their own perspectives, hardships, wins and realizations. Each person has their own narrative, each educator has a different experience. Personally, my emotions are running higher this year as I feel more nervous, uneasy, confused and overwhelmed than I ever have before. 


“The realization that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning” – Albert Camus


I am constantly reflecting on my teaching practice and how I can adapt to new changes, learn from them, grow with them and ‘realize’ from them.

In early October, I picked up my first supply call for FRL. I had no idea what to expect. How would I enter this classroom community and have a positive impact on these students? How do I ensure students are provided with chances for sharing? Collaboration? How do I ensure a safe space for students to take chances, ask questions and make mistakes in the era of ‘muting’ your microphones?

The resilience of children never ceases to amaze me. Here we are as educators feeling unsure, uncomfortable even, as students join in as though they have done this 100 times in the past. Teaching and learning online has reminded me to never underestimate the power of connection. Just a few days ago, I was teaching in an FRL grade 5 classroom where a new student had joined the class that same day. Before our scheduled ‘recess’ time, one of the students in the class asked me if he and the new student could remain online with me for a couple of minutes so he could introduce himself. When the rest of the class had left the Google Meet and the three of us remained, he said “Hey! Do you wanna be my friend?” and the conversation blossomed from there. 




It was at this moment I had a realization. It became apparent to me that we cannot stop children’s will to connect, drive for relationships and the innocence in their hearts. Nothing will stop this. Not removing them from the physical school building, not the transition to learning online, not wearing a mask, not social distancing, not a pandemic. Nothing.

The cold coffee song

 AKA – A parody on a familiar melody dedicated to teachers who finished as strong, after a tough year, if not stronger than the cold beverages in their cups.

Pt 1 (sung to the chorus of Escape, The Pina Colada Song by Rupert Holmes)

Yes I like drinking cold coffee!
And ignoring my chronic back pain.

I am out of the classroom,
At home by pandemic and fate

It’s really hard to be teaching,
sharing through cold blue screens.

It’s become easy to breakdown,
seeing students struggling each day.

Yup, it’s been rough one folx. We have come so far together and we all know that the journey is just beginning. When we look back to the start of the year in September 2019, no one would have believed that we would only be voting on a contract now. No one would have believed  that we would fund our sub-cost-of-living raises by standing up for our rights on the picket lines for 6 days. And no one would have believed that we would not see our students in real life this year past March Break. Judging by what has transpired already, I am pretty sure that the future will be equally unbelievable.

Without a doubt, we’ve shared many highs and lows in our profession over the past 10 months. We have stood together. We have found ways to make a terrible situation nearly tolerable. We have worked from home in makeshift offices at the peril of our own physical detriment. We are all grieving the loss of milestones (graduations, trips, community, playdays, track, and farewells) for the classes of 2020. Yet, we still came up with innovative ways to honour them.

We have parented through a pandemic, and cared for our parents too. We have watched vulnerable communities further separated from opportunities. We witnessed the inequity that exists in presumptions around access and “emergency distance learning.” In all of this we have maintained the dignity and duty of care everyday. On occasion, we even remembered to look after ourselves.

And even though direction from the elected only spilled out like water from a kinked hose, we knew what to do because we knew our students. So when the messages changed it didn’t matter that they came out at the end of the day on a Friday after hours or at all. In the end, teachers knew how to do right by their students. This even meant going on treasure hunts to find marks to fill report cards using a very vague map to cover a number of broad areas.

For my liking, I would love to have scrapped the focus on any marks for this term, and worked within a pass/not yet model.

Pt 2 (sung to the chorus of Escape, The Pina Colada Song by Rupert Holmes)

I am not into health spas.
I won’t ride on busses or Go Trains.

I am not into incomplete reporting
though the data sets must be gained.

I don’t like marking work til midnight
or going without sunlight for days.

I have been teaching from my basement,
and there’s no chance of escape.

The deeds are done and we can look back on them knowing that each teacher poured their heart and soul into their artistry as educators. Like any good gallery, the masterpieces ranged in complexity and beauty regardless of the eyes of the beholder. I’ll leave you with the last chorus to sing however you’d like.

At the heart of education,
We’ll stop at nothing to create,

To make the best of bad situations,
and challenges so hard to relate.

Can’t wait until we’re back in the classroom,
To learn, laugh, and say remember when?

It’s the year that no one planned for,
and hope will never happen again.

Thank you for all of your support over the past year. Wishing you a safe and relaxing summer. Celebrating you all with a cup of something cool and refreshing after I finish this cold cup of coffee.


Foresight is 2020. Hindsight is 2019

At noon EST today December 31st, 364.5 days of 2019 have ticked off of the clock.
That’s 524 880 minutes that have not be banked for another time. It’s also means that we have been present for the 8 748 hours of inter/intrapersonal interactions that have happened. As I type, at my kitchen table, Spotify plays, my coffee grows cold, and the clock ticks incessantly towards a self imposed midday deadline to complete my last piece of 2019 for Heart and Art.

2019 was a year

If you look back on each moment of the past year, how do you feel?
Are you glad it’s almost over? December 31st is rife with reflection and anticipation for many. Although I am usually a procrastinator, I have been thinking about all things 2019 long before today.

As an educator, I think it comes with the job. We are prone to reflection as part of our professional and personal practice. There are few times throughout the days, weeks, and months at school when I, or my colleagues are not processing something that has occured by design or happenstance.

2019 was no exception as my role of SERT/Transitions/Guidance and Drama/Dance/Health/Music/English/Math teacher evolved. So many simultaneous experiences, happening in classrooms around the world/province/city/board/school to navigate, mitigate, orchestrate, and educate. As Wendy Howes shares, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

Year ends, for some, are like trying to navigate through a maze full of mirrors and finally finding the one mirrored corner that shows you the way out after 364.5 days. For others, it seems that they find their way without a wrong turn, and get back in line to do it all over again. Most of us are probably somewhere in between for the sake of this analogy.

I know there were times that I felt lost in 2019.
There were also times where it felt like I was leading the way.
Did you take time to enjoy any of the special moments that have happened? I can imagine a range of feelings flooding in here. Based on my own year in education, I have wandered the house of mirrors making wrong turns and retracing my steps looking for the way out. The experience has left me with a profound understanding that I cannot do my job as an educator in a silo. What I quickly realized was that I was not walking through the maze alone and that others were helping to guide the way. Admitting this has allowed me to break a few figurative mirrors in the “funhouse”.

Having a personal and professional support network is crucial to teachers at every time of their careers. Being able to turn to someone within my circle of trust has been transformative in my approach to education. This includes connecting with the #ONTED family of educators and to an incredible global cohort via Twitter and TED Ed.

Although, there have been many incredible mentors along the way, it has taken me nearly 10 years in the classroom to realize that I cannot do this job well on my own. If you are a new teacher, I encourage you to do it now. Seek out those who inspire you, who challenge your thinking. Seek out educators who think differently than you do. Borrow/liberate/bandit ideas and good practices. Reinvent yourself every year and in turn inspire, challenge, and encourage others. The time is now.

2020 is almost here

We are counting down the final 1440 minutes until midnight.

Tomorrow gifts us with a fresh 365.
365 days to…insert limitless possibilities here, there, and everywhere else.

Cheers to 2019 and an even better 2020.

A word or three about 2015

Last day to come clean. Tomorrow is January 1, 2016 – New Year’s Day on the Gregorian Calendar for those keeping score at home. It’s also a Leap Year too, so I wrote a lesson about it. With 365 days in the books and a great year ahead, I wanted to share a few words that have kept me hopping in 2015;

Resilience Patience Silence

Silence – In 2015, I worked really hard to step aside and listen. I learnt to listen to all of the voices in the room, not just the most frequent and loudest ones. By being silent more students were empowered to find and have their voices heard.

Silence took on another form in the classroom again in 2015. It meant that students had time to consolidate new ideas into enduring understandings in a calm and stress free environment. In 2015 we took time to be still and allow our minds to catch up from the daily bombardment of outside stimuli. We learnt about Mindfulness and how it can help in the classroom.

Patience – Patience is not a cliche, but a call to inaction at its purest. When I felt the most vulnerable in my practice as a teacher this word held me on the rails. I’ll admit, that there were times when it felt like that my life as an educator was only a penny left on the tracks away from a train wreck. At times when anxieties rose the word patience steadied me when I wasn’t feeling it that day.

Patience also guided my class room management style. Students need time, they need understanding, and they need someone in their corner while they work things out. Patience is like counting to 10. It can be the difference between a hasty [over]reaction or a thoughtful response. Patience is the lens by which we all need to see that things are not always as they appear.

Resilience – In 2015 the word resilience has worked its way to the top on a lot of lists as the 4th R in education. In my estimation, resilience is, and always will supersede the other Rs because it transcends the classroom.  We must allow students to ideate, learn, iterate, fail, succeed and repeat.

If all we are doing is programming students with the software from a curriculum, and never allowing them to test their own operating systems and hardware, then we are missing the chance to develop lifelong problem solving skills. Resilience is what makes first attempts in learning bigger than the FAIL acronym, by being the launch pad for lifelong learning.

Learning must be relevant to their lives, not ours. We cannot expect students to care about something totally antiquated and irrelevant to their world and future. Our role as knowledge mediums and intellectual fire starters is to kindle a spark of curiosity in students to become constant learners. Resilience can be developed by equipping and evolving real life problem solving skills now. My students are expected to do this everyday. As our class motto asks, “What are the real life problems you are solving today?”

So as the hours tick towards another new year I look back with appreciation on a great year of learning and look forward to another year ahead. May silence, patience, and resilience be part of your classroom in 2016. I know they will be part of mine.

Happy New Year.