Thank You!

Day 31

images Well I made it ~ one post a day for the month of May.  Thirty one posts in total, with a range of topics, each one  somehow connected to a daily event, a thought or a  memorable encounter. A few days ago I shared the  unintended outcomes of this writing journey in the form  of a Top Ten List, but for my final post, I wanted to share  evidence of the intended outcomes.  As many of you know, I have been blogging for over 5 years and like most of us who have hit the Publish button, we never know if anyone is actually taking the time to read what we’ve shared and if they do, what do they think about it. Has it resonated with them?  Will it have an impact on their practice? So as a part of this “Once a day” challenge I have been tracking evidence of “readership”.  Our friends in the Research and Assessment department will be thrilled.  The collection and analysis of data usually leads to a reflection on one’s practice and if necessary, a change in one’s mode of operation.

As I reflect on the data that I’ve collected, the first thing that resonates with me is the fact that without each and every person on the following lists, my blogs and the time spent blogging would have seemed less than effective.  I’m hoping that everyone who sees their name reflected knows how incredibly thankful I am for their participation in this challenge.   Whether it was a Twitter Favourite, a Retweet or a Reply in the form of a comment; a Facebook comment or “like” or a comment on my actual blog site, each and every written connection provided me with enough feedback and confidence to keep writing. This experience has solidified my thinking that writing is indeed a social learning experience and that when we offer our students the opportunity to write we need to create the conditions whereby the audience is more extensive than just the teacher.  We also need to ensure that our students learn to incorporate emotion, contrast and controversy into their writing, so that others feel compelled to respond. But beyond the connection to the classroom, we as educators need to also embrace the power in writing and respond to each other, as an extension of our personal and professional learning.

I initially thought that my thinking would be pushed by the challenge of writing on a daily basis; little did I know that it was through the thought provoking comments that my “blog following buddies” selflessly shared that the true depth of learning would occur.  And for that, I send my sincere appreciation!


Thanks to the following educators and authors who commented directly on my blog.  Some of them even commented more than once:

Dawn Telfer, Carla Matos, Rick Pardo, Sue Dunlop, Joe Sheik, Rose Walton, Marsha Kelly, Cliff Kraeker
Doug Peterson, Dan Pontefract, Annette Gilbert, Catherine Zeisner

The following Twitter Followers Retweeted with a comment.  Some of them commented on a regular and even a daily basis.

Sarah Sanders, Robyn Turgeon ,Michelle Koop  ,Jen Aston ,Annette Gilbert ,Sharon Marshall,
Dawn Telfer, Sue Dunlop, Johanne St. Croix, Doug Peterson ,Ron Baker, Tammy Aiello, Marsha Kelly
Carrie McEachren, Chris Gunter, David Fife ,Ryan Matthews ,Maureen Murphy, Heidi Solway
Joe Sheik, Sabrina Tyrer ,Melissa Tuttle ,Madame Vint, Matt Tenney, Erin Mutch, Keith Tomasek
David Carruthers, Michelle Cordy

There was an extensive number of retweets and favourites. Thanks to all who felt that certain posts were worthy enough to recognize.

Thanks to the following Facebook Friends who used that social media platform to send a comment or two.


Denise Taylor Edwards, Scott Hughes, Dawn Ruddick, Donna Clark.

There were numerous likes on Facebook, including my own family, who up until now were not overly connected to my writing!

My self imposed daily writing challenge may have come to an end, but like all of those experiences which feed our souls and our minds, I doubt that I will return to my only once a month writing habit. I would imagine that I’ll find myself sharing, reflecting and hopefully inspiring others to share via my blog on a weekly basis at the absolute minimum.

Thanks so much for coming and writing with me….

From Obstacles to Opportunities

Day 30

2015-05-30_1003 From Obstacles to Opportunities is not a new or earth  shattering notion and it’s one that I’ve written about in  the past, but this morning during my morning Twitter  scroll, I came upon this graphic retweeted by Justin  Tarte (courtesy of and it provided an  effective visual as an anchor for a few of my musings  from the past couple of days.



As a result of current labour unrest, elementary teachers will no longer be administering the Provincial EQAO test to our students in grade 3 and grade 6.  Many of our schools (especially our OFIP and low performing schools) have had an intensive support system wrapped around them this year. They were anticipating an increase in their results as a tangible measurement of how hard they have worked.


I’m wondering if in the absence of a Provincial test, which is only administered to grade 3 and grade 6 students, schools take this opportunity to create a more school based measurement of their success. Is there a way for them to measure how teachers feel about the change in their practice?  Is there something that, as a school, they create to measure students’ attitudes towards learning? In some instances, educators felt that EQAO did not adequately measure what they felt was important. Now is their opportunity to personalize it to meet the needs of their individual school community. Schools know what is important to them and they can control how they will measure that success. That’s where their focus should be.


As a result of high profile media story about dress codes, secondary administrators are more leery than ever about social media and therefore a session that I facilitated on Friday, with TVSSAC, needed to be responsive (in the moment) to their assumptions.


Whenever we are provided with the opportunity to take our “canned presentation” and modify it to meet the needs of the group, we grow as presenters and educators.  But in this particular instance, I had not anticipated the opportunity to stress the importance of populating social media with as much positive press as possible, so that when the outside world “Googles” your name or your school’s name, they will see the school shows, the Track and Field results, educators winning awards, outstanding examples of student and educator work before they see the negative press about exposed undergarments.  Friday was an opportunity to jump on my soapbox and share that school administrators can control the positives that they share on social media and they can share those things that matter to them and their school community.  That’s where their focus should be.



As a result of the recent Provincial and Board focus on mathematics, not many of our elementary schools have a literacy goal and schools need to ensure that their professional learning is in alignment with their goal.


The new landscape within our board has provided us with the opportunity to modify, refine and evolve our practice. No longer are we in a position to have to worry about turning school teams away. Our new goal is to create professional learning series where all schools will see value in the learning regardless of their school goal.  We are extending the learning beyond reading and writing.  This new world has also created opportunities for the literacy team to more purposefully work within other portfolios. We all know that “Literacy Matters” and that without the ability to read and write students will not be successful in any other subject areas, but we are now provided with more opportunities to articulate that and when those opportunities present themselves, we can have a stronger impact. We can control how responsive we will be to learning needs of the system and embrace how our learners are changing as they incorporate the world of mathematics  and we know that literacy matters, so that is where our focus will continue to be.


What recent obstacles have you turned into opportunities?

Come write with me….

Tangled Trails

Day 29

Like_Vines_We_Intertwined_by_OMGrawr123 Last night was one of those perfect nights for a hike on  the trail. Following the previous night’s rain, everything  was lush, green and alive.  As I meandered along the  pathway I couldn’t help but notice how, in a world  untouched by man, many of the plants have already  become intertwined with each other.  The off shoots of  the grapevine vines were wrapping themselves around the small trunks of maple trees, spider webs were formed between the branches of small elm trees and ground cover ivy was using the stalks of stronger plants to hoist itself to greater heights, closer to the sunlight.

I marveled at nature’s interconnectedness as plants used the location, height, texture of others to strengthen themselves. The sight was such a juxtaposition to the manicured gardens that I passed on my way to the trails.


As I continued to walk and reflect on my day, I couldn’t  help but wonder if we, as a system of educators should  be taking a lesson from nature.  How often do we reach  out and rely on the talents, expertise and advice of  others?  Do we model ourselves after a natural  environment where the overall landscape is intertwined  or are we more like a well-groomed garden with individual plants surviving on their own?

What are the barriers (either self-imposed or imposed by the system) to thriving in an environment where we truly believe that we are stronger by being purposefully connected to each other?

Come write with me….

Top Ten List

Day 28

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There have been many unintended outcomes of my “One  a day in the month of May” blog challenge and in  recognition of David Letterman’s recent exit from late  night TV, it seems appropriate to share them via a top ten list.


So here goes…

As a result of blogging once a day for the month of May:

Number 10 ~ I have gained a number of new followers on Twitter. Not that building my number of followers is important, but as soon as someone follows me, I check them out and if they seem interesting, I follow them back.  I’ve expanded the scope  my “following list”.

Number 9 ~A new member of our Learning Support Services team takes the time each morning to comment. I’m learning about her as an educator and what is relevant and important to her work.

Number 8 ~ I have gained an extreme respect for my colleagues who have taken the time to comment to various posts. So many of our educators effectively reflect on their practice.   I wish more of them wrote on a regular basis. I would love to learn more from them.

Number 7 ~ Following a conversation with our Director about a process we are using for reflection and forward planning for our team, I was able to send her two links to posts in which I highlighted the book that I used. She loved the posts and the book and is now going to buy it and use a similar process with the senior team.

Number 6 ~We now have a number of “new to blogging educators” within Thames Valley. I hope that they find it beneficial to their practice and continue to challenge themselves to post.

Number 5 ~ I have had conversations with other educators who have experienced similar challenges to the ones which I’ve chosen to highlight and they thanked me for my honesty. This is a great motivator for continuing to share.

Number 4 ~ Each day starts with a positive retweet, comment or favourite.

Number 3 ~ My family is now reading my posts and offering suggestions for future topics. Friends, not in education, are reading my posts and drawing connections to their lines of work.

Number 2 ~ I was able to meet my goal of posting once a day. I wish I had the same commitment to exercising once a day….smile!

And the number one unintended outcome of blogging once a day is….

 There is a now a running joke that if anything profound is shared at the board office then it is fair game for tomorrow’s post!

A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has been along for the ride!

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From Silence to a Storm

Day 27

storm The house is quiet, with the only sound being the  clicking of my fingernails on the keyboard on my laptop.  There is no extraneous noise from the television, as the  full bloom of the ever growing maple tree has impacted  the satellite signal. As I begin my evening ritual of  scrolling through my Twitter feed and Facebook pages,  the silence is suddenly broken by a loud crash of thunder and the room lights up with a streak of lightning ~ a much needed spring shower is upon us.   As if purposefully planned (or one of those serendipitous moments)  I come across a reference to Susan Cain’s Quiet, “Everyone shines, given the right lighting”.  Yesterday in our Cognitive Coaching session, we were also reminded that “the person we don’t hear is the person we need to hear from” from the same book.  As someone who, at times, can be the quietest at the table, I begin to wonder if we appreciate those quiet voices and if not, how can we get better at it.

Within each team, there is invariably members whose voice we rarely hear in a public forum. I often wonder if we dismiss them and their ideas without ensuring that we are providing various platforms for them to feel secure enough to share.  This year in our work, we included back channeling opportunities for participants to use to share their insights, thoughts and ideas. To be honest, we did not receive significant input.  So, it’s back to the drawing board to explore other platforms.

As I reflect on other teams that I have had the pleasure of working with, I have learned how important it is to respect those members who may not initially share and who need wait time.  Once that structure is build it to dialogues and discussions, the end result is always much richer.

When we explore our school communities, what strategies do we have in place for our “quiet” students, staff and parents?  As a school principal, one of the ways that we used to gather input from our broader community, was to hold a Community Forum.  Our invited guests were treated to a meal, some highlights about the school and then we put them to work and asked them a variety of questions.  In hindsight, I’m wondering how that opportunity could have been extended to community members who would have been reluctant to share in such a setting.

What supports do we have in place for staff members who may be reluctant to share at staff meetings or at network meetings?

And most importantly, how do we support our “quiet” students?

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Come write with me….






When the Conversation Ends, the Thinking Begins

Day 26

download (2)Yesterday I had the opportunity to join my colleagues in a Cognitive Coaching session, effectively facilitated by Penny Ballagh and Denise Overall. I will admit that I arrived at the session rather skeptical about the potential impact that it would have, as I’ve been quite heavily involved in various facilitation opportunities aimed at supporting colleagues with their “Problem of Practice”. The first sentence in my journal was, “I’m craving something to push my thinking”. It became evident, quite early on, that these educators  were about to engage me and indeed push my thinking for the rest of the day.  As I look back through my journal, my notes are filled with the names of “must read” books, highlighted in yellow, boxed in phrases which I will undoubtedly be including in future posts or professional exchanges with others and various arrows and other markings used to note strong connections to past, present or future work with our Languages team and Instructional Coaches.

Some of the most noteworthy phrases included:

When coaching you are “tapping into someone’s cognitive universe”

As a cognitive coach, you are ” a mediator of thinking and your role is to send them out smarter than when they walked in”

The heart of coaching is to “light up what they can’t see on their own in order to see the dark corners”

“If we are too busy to reflect, we are too busy to grow”

and my favourite….. WAIT and SEE = Why Am I Talking and Stop Explaining Everything!


The added bonus to this session also included well situated facilitation activities such as the “Assumption Card Stack and Shuffle”, “Appointment clock” “Discuss and Teach”, “Gum and Chew” and “Community Circle”.  With each passing activity, a greater sense of safety and trust was created with the group and hence the dialogue was richer. I can’t wait to share some of these with the Languages team.

When it came time to practice our coaching skills, I was thrilled that my partner was truly thankful for my attentive listening, followed by some well placed questions which will hopefully assist her as she embarks on a portfolio changing proposal.  She has asked that I check-in and see how her new venture is going ~ something that I will definitely do!

Although the formal conversations ended at 4 pm, the thinking continued on into the night, with a reflective email exchange with our Director and some sharing about the day via Twitter direct message with a colleague.

Yesterday was one of those unexpected learning treats!  I started the day craving a professional challenge and ended the day with my appetite more than satisfied!

When was the last time you were pleasantly surprised at a professional learning session?

Come write with me….







The Gift of Feedback

Day 25

key As we embark on our final month of this school year, I can’t help but wonder how we can  engage our students and our broader school community, with whom we’ve been with for the  past nine months, in a process of providing us with feedback in order to assist us in reflecting on  our practice. As effective educators, we know the power of feedback and take every  opportunity to provide our students with as many informative next steps as possible.  Don’t we  owe it to ourselves to also be on the receiving end of such a gift?

If the intent is to improve our practice and ultimately the learning environment for future classes, what questions should we ask?   What information is going to make the greatest impact? How should we ensure that students and their parents feel safe providing authentic, honest answers?

How powerful would it be for administrators to model that same mindset when it comes to seeking and then acting upon constructive feedback received from their staff and broader school community?  What information from a staff would help an administrator to enhance their leadership skills as they continue in the role. Once again, creating the conditions for safe sharing of information is imperative.

In the interest of transparency and authenticity, if I’ve challenged others to seek feedback, then my next step is to develop some thought provoking questions for my system staff.   Look for an update in a future post.

What are the challenges to seeking feedback?

Come write with me…

Marshmallow Musings

Day 24


This past weekend, we enjoyed the first of many cottage fires which always include the  mandatory marshmallow roasting. My daughter has taken the art of roasting marshmallows  and elevated to a party for one’s taste buds.  A few years ago she stumbled upon the idea to  insert a Rolo caramel in the middle before roasting and the result was decadent.  This year, her  latest idea was to roast the marshmallow just until you can remove the caramelized outer shell  and then fill that shell with Caramel sauce and/or your favourite liqueur.  If there is a level beyond decadent, this taste sensation certainly meets it and then some.

As I became lost in the flames of the fire, I started to reflect on my most recent (and definitely more healthy) encounter with marshmallows and how the debrief of that activity caused me to question my thinking about experts and the time they use in planning.

A few weeks ago, as a “Minds On” activity for our Innovation forum, we were placed in teams of four and provided with  18 minutes, 18  pieces of dry spaghetti,  30 cm of string, 300 cm of tape and a marshmallow, with the task of building the tallest structure which would support the marshmallow.  As has happened time and again with this task, groups built a variety of structures and creatively used the string and the tape to support the desired height.  A few groups decided to support a small piece of the marshmallow as opposed to the whole thing ~ the rules did not specify how much needed to be supported.


This task was highlighted in a TedTalk video where Tom Wujec shared with the audience that  the group of participants who were able to build the highest structures were children in  kindergarten because of how they embarked on the task.  The children dove right in; no  preplanning, so scale drawings, no prototypes.  They would try something and if it worked they continue to add to it, if not they would start again.  The data shared outlined how “educated adults” were not able to reach record breaking heights because they spent too much time in the planning phase and not enough time in the actual “doing” phase.

The information from this study is in direct opposition to the work of Katz in Intentional Interruption where he states that experts are faster than everyone else in everything except the planning phase. Experts spend more time planning than others.  We use the importance of planning as the basis for our work and had school teams spend a great deal of time crafting their inquiry before diving into the other components of their collaborative inquiry.

I’m not sure if the marshmallow activity is enough to have us change our work, but like all contrasting information, it certainly has given me cause to stop and reflect.  Maybe one of Kaitlyn’s caramel filled roasted marshmallow treats will bring some clarity.

In our current age of information, there is a greater opportunity for contrasting information to come your way.  What do you use as your filter?

Come write with me…

Blooming Innovation

Day 23

IMG_2677 Spring brings images of rebirth as fall embedded daffodil and tulip bulbs emerge from the once  frozen ground and decorate gardens with yellow, red and orange.  The green thumbed  gardeners get giddy with excitement as they prepare the soil and plot the plunking of plants  into purposefully chosen places.  Their vision of how the colours, shapes and sizes of each  intentionally selected plant will bloom throughout the coming seasons is perfectly timed, as if  orchestrated by a symphony conductor.  Visions of Fantasia just popped in my mind.  Like  many others, I have my favourite spring blooms, all of which come and go much too quickly, but none so quickly as the magnolia tree.  It was just a few days ago when I captured this tree, on my way into the education center, with my phone. Today as I left, the tree looked very different as the blooms have made way for the thick, lush leaves which will shortly provide shade.  It must be “spring fever” which led me to stop and capture this quote as I scrolled through Facebook today.

Innovation and best practices can be sown throughout an organization ~ but only when they fall on fertile ground.


As an organization we have been exploring innovation as a means to promote engagement among all of our learners.  What intrigues me about this quote is that the importance of best practice is also noted. At times I wonder if in our quest to embrace the latest, most innovative strategy, we forget, like those plants that need to be firmly secured in healthy soil, that any strategy needs to be grounded in good solid, evidence based pedagogy.

The second part of the quote reflects the concept that the culture that is created is paramount to any successful implementation. What makes the ground fertile in an organization?  I wonder, if like those dedicated gardeners who spend time preparing their soil, how much time we spend preparing and feeding our “soil”?  Do we encourage discourse?  Do we embrace idea germination at all levels of the organization? Do we celebrate failures as first attempts at learning?

When scrolling through quotes, what draws you to stop and reflect?

Come write with me…..

Be Brave

Day 22

Be Brave….

images (3)This morning on the way into work I was in the mood for a little Sara Bareilles and so I listened to “Brave” a couple of times. My favourite line is,“I wonder what would happen If you say what you wanna say and let’s the words fall out?” which seems to fit well with my current blogging treadmill.  Over the past three weeks I have been uncensored as I share my thoughts, interactions and reflections in an effort to encourage others to do the same. I purposefully end each post with a question and an invitation to “Come write with me”.  I’ve been pleased with the comments on Facebook, Twitter and within the actual blog.  I’ve also been thrilled with those who have engaged in conversations with me about specific posts which resonated with them. I encourage comments because I am genuinely curious about what others think and their experiences.  I continue to learn so much from others.

We tend to throw around the phrase that “words have power”, but they only gain power and strength if, when effectively strung together, they create the conditions for others to think, to learn or to act.


Malala Yousafzai is one of the Brave Ones who did let  her words fall out and the result was life changing, not  only for her but for every life that has been impacted  because she would not be silenced. In an effort to silence  her, by shooting her while she was traveling home on a  school bus, the Taliban accomplished the exact opposite.

In her own words, “out of the silence came thousands of voices”.

My hope is that your words are not “kept on the inside, with no sunlight, because sometimes the shadow wins”.   If we want change, we need to be brave enough to share, to engage in conversation and face our fears.

What are you brave enough to share with others who deserve the gift of your thoughts?

Come write with me…..