Archive of ‘PD’ category

Learning about Student Voice

I was so blessed to be able to attend the Spring Leadership Conference on April 17th run by the OCDSB. This was my first leadership conference so I wasn’t sure what to expect.


Jennifer Adams, the boards Director of Education introduced the day. She reinforced that this conference and our board should be focusing on 4 key priority areas: Well being, Engagement, Leadership, Learning. This conference definitely exceeded at all 4 of these priorities. 

We were allowed to choose different sessions that we wanted to go learn about. I chose to attend the session about Student Voice.


This session was lead by students from Nepean High School. They have helped host two student conferences organized by the OCDSB to promote student voice in our students. To see some tweets from these conferences, follow #findyourvoice15

Some of my key learning points:

  • many different kinds of student voice
  • need to active listening, more student to student discussions
  • asking students what they want
  • technology gives those that are quiet a voice
  • Need critical thinking in schools
  • experiences not books
  • teachers shouldn’t be the end result for projects. Should have a real world demand
  • Give the kids the curriculum guidelines, build their own rubric


The teacher behind these students learning is Jon Tenthorey who teaches CORE at Nepean High School. He believes in risk free play time and time to fail and learn from it. He creates situations to push kids beyond what they think they can do, mentally and physically. He take students downtown and gives them ten dollars but limits the students saying that they cannot just give the money to someone. This way he gets his students to find out people’s stories and to learn and care for them. To learn more about his teachings, check out

Amazing Things Do Happen

Last November 8th, I organized and attended Edcamp Ottawa. The highlight of my day that Chris Webb and James Petersen drove from Montreal to be there.


After an amazing day of learning from them, we went out for a drink to chat and catch up. They both encouraged me to apply to become a Google Education Trainer. I sort of laughed it off, thinking that there was no way that I would ever be able to get there. They pushed and offered to help me out if they could.

I decided to try to make my application but after reviewing it, I realized that I didn’t much training experience. I decided to wait, start training in my school and then apply later on.

I reached out to my school and noticed that staff was interested in learning about Google Apps for Education. So I set up a weekly time and a schedule we would cover. I covered Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Forms, Chrome Browser-Add Ons and Extensions, and Twitter.

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Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 8.05.07 PMMy staff seemed very positive about the trainings and learned a lot.

After the trainings were done, I restarted my Google Education Trainer Case Study Application.

This week I found out that I had been selected to become a Google Trainer. I’m so excited for opportunities to come! Amazing things do happen with support from amazing people like James, Chris, and Jeffrey Humphries!

To see Other Posts on a Similar Subject:

My 1st Time Teaching Teachers

Starting the Google Trainer Process

My Experience Becoming a Google Educator and some tips


Rethinking Letter Grades

The debate on grading is going strong in the education realm. Throwing out Grades or #TTOG is a very popular topic on twitter. Check it out here.

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I received ” Rethinking Letter Grades: A Five-Step Approach for Aligning Letter Grades to Learning Standards” by Caren Cameron and Kathleen Gregory in the mail and I was so excited to start reading.

I assumed that this book would be about why letter grades are outdated and further the debate to not have letter grading. It definitely does discuss these negative aspects but it addresses the point that letter grading is what we as teachers have to do. The book gives us theFive-Step Process which helps us choose these grade in a more structured and transparent way.

IMG_5882The Five-Step Process of grading that this book discusses really goes beyond and above. It gets you to choose 3-5 big-ideas, make a statement about what you need to see from students to receive a specific mark for that big idea and shows you how to link student conversations, student products and teacher observations to each big idea to show their learning.

My Key Learnings in this book:

  • Teachers need to trust their professional judgement more.
  • We need to be collecting multiple sources of information ie: different products, teacher observations, and conversations with the student
  • Make learning objectives clear to students and parents
  • Grading and planning should be done together with teachers that are teaching the same grade and subjects

Things NOT to do with grades:

  • Stop docking marks for being late
  • Only assess one product of work the student has completed. It doesn’t give you a sense of what they actually know.
  • Participation and effort are hard to measure and should never be placed in with marks.

I definitely recommend this book to read and discuss with your colleagues. I’m excited to implement this grading process into my classroom next year! Please let mw know what you think in the comments. If you would like to buy this book, click the link here.

*Discloser – I received this book for free from the publishers but as always my opinions are my own. 

Making Thinking Visible in my Primary Classroom

I just finished running a book club called #bowkerbooks this winter. The participants signed up for the book club and voted for the book they wanted to read. The selection that was  chosen was “Making Thinking Visible” by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, Karin Morrison. 

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During this weekly chat, we would discuss a chapter with predetermined questions based on that chapter. I kept on thinking that my class, a very active grade 1/2 class wouldn’t be able to do these routines. I had tried asking my class  “Can you tell me more about that?,” a strategy to get students to further elaborate on what they said.

This week, after the book club had ended, I decided to try a new routine ‘See, Think, Wonder.’ When my students came in from 1st recess I had a picture up on the screen. You need to know that my students usually talk over each other and can only sit for 10 minutes at a time listening, but this time was different.

Mona_LisaI honestly couldn’t believe the thoughtful questions that my students asked. I was blown away by their questions. To hear the audio of this, click here.

The next day, I decided to try it again. I put up a picture of “The Scream.”


At first I thought I shouldn’t have picked this painting since my students came in saying it was scary and creepy. But the discussion we had was amazing. They had great thoughtful questions again and really made connections. They even took the picture and inferred that he was lost. We also got into a debate whether it was a boy or girl. To listen to the audio, click here.

I googled the painting and showed them a map of Oslo, where that painting is. Then they were curious about where the ‘Mona Lisa’ was so we googled that. I showed them the Louvre and they thought the pyramid was so cool. Then we took a virtual tour of the Louvre.

This was my first experience with this class of real inquiry learning. For over an hour my class sat still, listened and asked thoughtful questions.

I’m going to do this a lot more often!



Dr Alex Russell discussing Child Anxiety

On one Friday in February every year, teachers in Ottawa always have a Federation Professional Development day. This year it was held at the beautiful Shaw Center in Downtown Ottawa.


Dr Alex Russell was the Keynote Speaker; a clinical psychologist, speaker and author who lives in Toronto, ON. He focuses on children’s emotional development and talked to us about Child Anxiety.

He says Anxiety is like fear, except it is always anticipatory. It is fear with planning.

Anxiety is not all bad but teachers and parents need to make sure that the child is developing adaptive anxiety. We need to make sure that our child or student is becoming responsible for their own life and are feeling adaptively anxious for their own success. For example: If you teach Grade 6 and a parent calls screaming at you, the teacher, because Tim failed his test, we need to make sure that Tim is concerned and upset that he failed the test, not just his parent. If Tim is not concerned or adaptively anxious about it then he will not try to make it right and improve his grades. This will affect his future going forward as well. We need to teach our students and children that learning isn’t only about the grades or about pleasing our parents but pleasing ourselves.

As parents and teachers we need to let our children and students fail. Kids need to learn that doing bad things cause bad things to happen to them.  We need to let them try and fail in reality. It is a hard lesson to learn but one that they need to become anxious for themselves to turn it around and work hard to succeed. If we as parents take care of it for them, they will never learn.


Teachers, of course we want to communicate with parents what is happening in class and how their son or daughter is doing but we really want to make sure that the student is responsible for their own success. We want parents on the side of their child’s education, not in charge of it. Children need to build their own responsibility, problem solving, and ownership of their learning.

Parents feel on the hook for their child’s behavior. When the child makes a mistake, parents feel like the world sees them as a bad parent. Parents need to trust their children to learn the tough lessons.

We need our parents during their child’s life to gradually release responsibility onto the child. When a child is baby, 100% of the care relies on the parents. When they are in Kindergarten, the parents still have most responsibility (98%) but the child can have some too (2%). When the child turns 18 years old, an adult, they should have 100% of their own responsibility. So throughout their life, the parent and teacher should continue to give the student more and more responsibility.

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Teachers: If you have a difficult parent who is upset at you for their child’s mark. You need to realize that the parent is feeling anxious about their kid. We as teachers need to work on getting parents anxiety go down so the child’s responsibility and anxiety increases. When addressing an upset parent or calling home about a grade, make sure to talk about the whole child and have some stories ready to tell so the parent knows that you know their child and puts them at ease. Then, with the parent, discuss a plan that you have to help the student.



It’s not a competition

Becoming Connected

Blogging and being in Twitter has changed my life and my teaching. By connecting with other amazing educators I am continually inspired. I can’t help but feel like I’m not doing enough. I see educators travelling around the world presenting, creating global projects, writing books, tweeting all the time and I wonder how I can compete with that?

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I can’t. It isn’t possible. I need to focus on my own journey. I’ve only really been teaching for 2 years and in that time, I believe I’ve gone beyond and above.

We all have our own journey. We all travel at our own pace. If I keep focusing on making a difference, I will get there.

Week 2: Cold Thaw Collaboration Challenge

I am participating in the Cold Thaw Collaboration Challenge being put on by the wonderful Maria Verwey. For week 2 we have been asked what we are reading, what our professional goals are for this year and our one word for 2015.


Right now I’m reading ‘Making Thinking Visible’ which is my book club book. 047091551x

This upcoming Wednesday we are reading and discussing Chapter 2. Last week we discussed Chapter 1 and I was blown away by the amazing discussion we had. You can still participate and sign up here.

I’m also reading ‘What Great Teachers do Differently’ by Todd Whitaker.


Right now I have a lot of professional goals. I became a Google Educator in the summer and I’m working on becoming a Google Trainer this year.

Since it is my first year being a contract and permanent teacher, I’ve been focused on learning about how a school really works. I joined the School Learning Plan Committee (SLP), the Lead Team, and am hoping to be on our Technology Team.

I’m also focused on continuing to provide great PD opportunities. I am hoping to do that through a Summer Conference I’m hoping to help plan, my #bowkerbook club that is happening right now and maybe in the summer months, applying to present at a ETFO Summer Academy workshop and another Edcamp Ottawa next fall. I am also hoping to continue with Ontario’s Edchat (@Onedchat) and make it more popular.

In my classroom I also want to focus more on learning rather than marks and continuing to try to collaborate and do cool projects even though it seems to not be working out this year.

My One Word: 

My one word is Care. I wrote a post about it here.


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