Stepping Stones

“It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own.” —Katherine Patterson

During the past two weeks I’ve had the incredible pleasure of sharing a new dual language picture book, “Stepping Stones ~ A refugee family’s journey” with 8 different groups of students and in the coming weeks, I plan to share it with at least 6 more groups.  Stepping Stones is a beautifully crafted story, retold by Rama, a young girl whose life is changed forever as a result of war and turmoil in her home country. The accompanying artwork is a collection mosaics created by various shapes and colours of stones, pebbles and rocks. The artist still lives in Syria.

I asked our team of any interested ESL/ELD teachers to gather various groups of students and invite me for a visit.  As I arrived at the different schools, I had no idea to whom I’d be reading and I certainly had never anticipated the depth of the conversations, the individual reactions and most notably the intuitive and thought-provoking responses that were shared during each visit.

One Intermediate student shared that he recalled all too vividly watching his father walk to the local grocery store, only to return with no food and how his uncle was ordered to sail an overloaded raft to Germany and experience the despair as not everyone arrived safely.  His ESL teacher shared that he had been reluctant to talk about life in Syria until that day.  One never knows the power of a well-crafted text.

Many of the children shared their initial fear when they arrived in Canada, as the language was challenging and in their words, so quickly spoken.  Funny, that’s how I would describe Arabic. But to hear them now makes me very proud of the work that our Thames Valley educators have done in supporting these students as they learn not only English, but the confidence to share their ideas ~ even if the exact words have yet to be mastered.

In each of the schools, there were students who could read the Arabic version of the book as well. During some of my visits, we co-read the book.  There was a beautiful rhythm between our combined Arabic and English voices.  The students enjoyed corrected my pronunciation of Jedo (Grandfather) and eloquently expanded on the narrator’s feelings of leaving friends and pets in her home country as their journey started.

But of all of the reactions (and there have been many emotional ones) today’s was probably the most profound.  A grade 6 girl was so adamant about expressing her desire to return to Syria, in order to rebuild it.  Through hand gestures and limited English, she shared that as soon as it is safe, she wants to return to her homeland.


As proud as we should be about welcoming our newcomer families, showering them with clothes and household items and ensuring that their orientation to life in Canada is supported, we can never forget that these families are here as a result of war and turmoil. It was never their dream to be forced to leave their home country, to leave their life and in some cases cherished family members behind as they traveled to Canada. Just as we are proud of “our home and native land”, so are our Syrian families as they reminisce about their homeland.


These past few days I have been reminded of the power of quality texts and that when shared purposefully, allowing lots of time for students to share their reactions and engage in the story, doors can be opened and in some cases healing can begin.

Do you have a favourite book that you enjoy sharing with your students?

Come write with me…




115 Marbles

As we turn the page on the calendar to not only a new month, but a new year, one can’t help but be reminded of the passage of time. As the sayings go, “The older we get the faster time seems to tick away” and “My how time flies when you’re having a good time”.  We also know the anguish of being someplace that we’d rather not be and watching the hands tick slowly on the face of the analogue wall clock or the annoying checking and double checking of our iPhone ~ only to see the digital face remain the same.

It was embedded in the notion of the passage of time and making what time we have count that last week at church the pastor shared a story of a father who determined the number of Saturdays that he had left with his teenage daughter before she headed off to University and filled a jar of marbles. Each Saturday he would transfer a marble from one jar to the next, thus reminding him of the importance of making the most of the time he had left.

It was that story that prompted me to purchase my own two glass jars and fill one of them with 115 marbles.  Why 115 you may be asking???  Well, I have only 115 instructional days left in my current system position as a Learning Supervisor before I transition onto my adventure (principal of a new school in the Northwest end of London). I have truly enjoyed the opportunities that working at a system level have afforded me and I’m incredibly proud of the work that the teams, that I’ve been blessed to work with, have accomplished over the past four years.

So with my time now limited, I’ve committed to make the most of each day that is left in my current role. As the jar of blue and green marbles glistens in the sunlight on my shelf, they are the visual reminder of the decreasing number of days that I have left where my “voice” will be representative of the system.  My final task before I power down my laptop and switch off the lights each night is to physically move a single marble from one jar to the next and take a moment to reflect on the day.  Did I do my best? Have I honoured the voices within the portfolios that I represent?  Am I working purposefully towards building capacity and sustainability? Have I made the most of the day?

As the glass marbles pass from one jar to the next, the reality of my transition from one role to the next will become more and more apparent.

How do you mark the passage of time?

Come write with me…

#oneword17 ~ Imagine

A year ago, it was a song performed at church which inspired my #oneword16 ~ Unwritten.  In reflecting upon the year, it was indeed a well-chosen word.  It became a constant reminder to not let memorable moments go “unwritten”. It also became the mantra for our GENTLE Reception Center, the implementation book on such an undertaking had been “unwritten” ~ and it was through this work that we truly lived in a world of innovative, caring and compassionate practice.  As we close out 2016, I find myself on the verge of a new adventure that a year ago I could never have imagined writing about.

So, with my new adventure in mind, as well as celebrating and respecting the work of the past four years, I’ve selected the word IMAGINE as my #oneword17
Imagine a literacy conference with an inspirational keynote and powerful presentations by some of Thames Valley’s finest educators and LITCon was born ~ I can only imagine how incredible LitCon17 will be.

Imagine a K-12 Newcomer Reception Center, where all of the needs of newcomer students and their families are met and GENTLE was born ~ I can only imagine how what we learned from GENTLE will inform future decisions

Imagine a social media platform where Thames Valley administrators freely share the
ir thoughts, ideas and inspire each other to be better and @tvdsbopc was born ~ I can only imagine the power of this professional learning network as we continue to grow our “followership” in 2017.

As I begin to shift my focus to the opening a new school, my list of “imagines” builds on successes from the past and exciting possibilities for the future.

Imagine a school community where all students feel loved, respected and challenged by the staff.

Imagine a school community where new ideas are embraced, encouraged and expected.

Imagine a school community where parents know they were valued partners in their child’s education journey.

Imagine a school community that is so proud of their work that they open their doors to educators from other schools to learn alongside of others

Imagine a school community that embraces curiosity, collaboration and expects students to contribute to the world around them.

Imagine a school community where educators know they are valued for their diversity, their commitment to personal growth and their love of teaching.

Imagine a school community with a shared vision of creating a place of learning, unlike any other school.

As you look towards a new year, new experiences and new possibilities what will your #oneword be?

Come write with me….