For some people finding the right combination of flavours to throw together to create delicious dish is exhilarating. Both my daughter and my husband can watch the Food Channel for hours on end, “Ooooohing and Ahhhhing” over the mystical methods of the chefs as they combine a little bit of this and a little bit of that and Voila, create an instant masterpiece.  On the rare occasion that I stop and feign interest in their shows, I hear a little voice in the back of my head saying, “I’m sure that President’s Choice makes something very similar and the only skill set that I’d need is to know how to set the oven to the right temperature”.


There are others who know the right combination when it comes to interior design. They know which colours, which fabrics and which textures, when tastefully intertwined make a house look like a home.  My mom is one of those people.  Her eye for colour is second to none and each home that she has decorated (including mine) receives rave reviews.  I’m the one in line at the Home Depot with the entire can of paint in my hand trying to match it with something that looks right and then sweetly asking one of my kids to return it, when I get home and find out that it doesn’t look right at all.

So admittedly, I do not get excited about food combinations or colour combinations, but what does excite me is when I find a resource that combines big ideas in education and does it in a way that makes it all seem so possible.  That is masterful for me!

This week, I’ve been voraciously reading professional resources as I begin my journey to a new career, Learning Supervisor with Program Services ~ Languages Portfolio.  Of the dwindling pile, the one book that has resonated with me the most is Michael Fullan’s Stratosphere ~ Integrating Technology, Pedagogy and Change Knowledge.  I’ve been following Fullan for some time now and it was rare for him to include any reference to Information Technologies in his writings. So you can imagine my surprise and excitement, as he challenges his readers to find ways to incorporate BYOD into an engaging school environment and to employ those teachers who are further along the technology continuum to mentor and support their colleagues.  His references to the work of Apple and Google provide a contemporary component to the book and give us, in education, something to aspire to. Fullan has always been a strong proponent of Change and good solid pedagogy and this book continues in that vein.   All the technology in the world is not going to help us improve, unless teachers are empowering students to go out and apply what they’ve learned to real life problems ~ problems that they want solved.


Combinations….. What resource have you read lately that cohesively combined meaningful Big Ideas?


Come write with me…..

When the teacher becomes the student

IMG_0594This past week I had the opportunity to experience first-hand the feeling of being completely out of my element and going from a knowledge base of zero to a level of competence.  In a moment of weakness (probably when I was knee-deep in reading report cards), when my husband asked if I’d be willing to join him in a four day sailing course in Traverse City Michigan, I agreed.

Prior to departure for our trip, two text books arrived in the mail.  I glanced at them, but avoided cracking the spines.  It soon became apparent that I should have been better prepared before our first sail.  As we set off out of the marina, our instructor, Dan (the experienced sailor) asked each of us why we were taking the course.  My co-learners were quick to share their abundant sailing knowledge.  By this point, my anxiety about the next four days was on the increase.  As our instructor starting spinning his tails (each one embedded with sailing terminology) I found myself listening intently as I had a great deal of learning to do and only a few days to do it in.  Certification for this sailing course entailed not one, but two written tests as well as “on the water” testing.  The vocabulary was foreign. I was catching the odd phrase and found myself creating hand gestures and pneumonics to remember how an engine worked and when/how to hoist the mainsail in a variety of weather conditions.  

As I spent all day on the water and all night studying, it hit me that this is how many of our ESL students must feel as they enter a classroom for the first time ~ understanding a few key words and trying to make sense of the content vocabulary.

By the end of the four days, I had successfully passed both of the written tests as well as the “on water” tests.

Upon reflection, I dissected what had led to my success.  I have to give significant credit to the instructor. Not only did he masterfully entertain us with stories, which each had a purpose and a connection to the learning, he was very patient and encouraging.   Although I’m sure there were moments when he would have rather been the helmsman, he allowed me to take the wheel and experience the thrill and challenge of keeping the boat on an even keel.

My experience reinforced what we already know about the connection between strong instruction and learning:

Stories help, a lot!

Demonstrate faith and confidence in your students

Experiential learning is by far the most effective

And of course….

It’s never too late to learn a new skill!   




Student Voice

Throughout the past year, the Wilfrid Jury school community embraced the notion of “Student Voice” and offered their students a variety of opportunities to showcase and celebrate the power of involving students in school-based decisions.


Early in the school year, our school was selected to partner with the City of London in the Real Voice Project ~ A neighbourhood action project dedicated to connecting youth and making a difference in London.  A group of our grade 8 students worked with community partners, including students from Banting to produce a video and share it at the year end celebration in June.

 In January, when we held our second Wilfrid Jury Community Forum, we invited about 20 of our students to attend and share their opinions and suggestions as we continue to work to enhance the amazing things happening at Jury.

 In February, we were one of three elementary schools asked to take part in the Secondary School Student Voice Conference at the Hellenic Center. Our group, “Ready To Be Heard” was so excited about the potential of student voice at the elementary level, that they came back to school and held their own Student Voice conference for their grade 7 and 8 classmates. With the feedback from the conference they were able to create short term and long term action plans, wherein students will have more involvement in school-level decisions.

 In June, we invited Dan and Mary-Lou Smoke, along with Ashley Sisco, our Thames Valley First Nations Education Advisor to assist us with a Student Voice session with about 15 of our First Nations students. The session provided both the school and the Board with some effective feedback as to how we can better support First Nations students at the elementary level.

 For the past two years, our Grade 8 students have designed and painted a four panel mural, along with the assistance of Tara Nurse, an artist, as their parting gift to the school. The murals hang proudly in the school library. The theme of the poster is something which captures the final year for our students. This year, they decided that they would combine two themes ~ Student Voice and Technology. It was an incredible way to embody the success of Student Voice for our 2012-2013 school year.  


Two Birds… One Audible Stone

On more than one occasion, I’ve shared that I begin each day by reading Seth Godin’s Blog.  The topics are so well written that they appeal to a wide range of readers.  Even though the posts are not necessarily about education, I find many connections to the world of leadership and learning.  One of his most recent ones, Can An Audiobook Change Your Life?  planted the seed for this blog.  

About 6 years ago, a friend at the time lent me a copy of “The Life of Pi” on CD.  It was one of those “must read” books that everyone else seemed to know about.  So each morning, I would strap my CD player to my waist and begin my morning walk.  I became so intrigued with the book that on many days I would walk at night too.  I can vividly recall listening to the final chapter as I sat on my back deck, not wanting to turn it off but my legs were aching from so much walking I couldn’t take another step.  The power of the audiobook had hit me. 


I then turned to Gladwell’s,  The Outliers and Blink, as my walking CDs . In my mind I was killing two birds with one stone ~ fitness and fascinating facts. 

During the summer that I was taking my SOQP course, we needed to read a rather lengthy book on Emotional Intelligence.  In an effort to be more efficient with my time, I purchased the audiobook and listened to it as I drove back and forth for my course.  Again, killing two birds with one stone ~ driving and digesting  information.

In an effort to broaden my audiobook palate, I started to listen to novels and then whole series.  Some of my favourites are David Baldacci’s The Camel Club Series and James Patterson’s, The Women’s Murder Club. I can’t tell you exactly how many novels that I’ve listened to in the last 6 years, but I can still vividly recall so many of the characters, the intertwining plots and the unpredictable endings.   Again killing two birds with one stone ~ expanding my tastes and enjoyment

camel club

In the last 6 years, I’ve traded my bulky CD player for an iPod Shuffle,   listened to, more than I can recall, audiobooks  and I’m now downloading both professional and personal books directly to my iPhone.  I rarely turn on the car radio and find myself purposefully taking the long way home, just to listen to the final words in a chapter.    I couldn’t agree more with Seth when he challenges his readers to “just try it”.

Are you an audiobook listener?  Do you have any great recommendations?

 Come write with me…….