No WIFI…. No Worries

As many educators know, a professional learning day in September is a gift! Historically we would lament about having professional learning days in the spring, reflecting that by that time in the year, we’ve lost the opportunity to make a difference for this year’s cohort of learners (both staff and students).

This school year, we’ve been fortunate to have not one, but two professional learning days in the month of September.

Our most recent PD Day was scheduled for this past Friday.  As has been the trend recently, the focus of our school-based learning day is determined at a Ministry level, developed at the system level with the intention of delivery at the school level.  Although I understand and appreciate the hierarchy of this method, the instructional leader in me laments the days of autonomy where we could gather school-based evidence and then determine how best to support our school communities on these rare and precious full days of learning.

Kudos to the TVDSB system level teams who worked tirelessly to create informative slides and activities based on the Ministry mandates which, due to current COVID protocols, were to be presented virtually via TEAMS.

This year, as a result of our student population growth and the uniqueness of our school site, we’ve welcomed another administrator to our team. Each our Vice Principals were excited to take the lead on this day of learning, to strengthen their facilitation skills and connect more deeply with staff.  Especially with the topic of Anti-Racism and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, creating a safe and trusting environment is paramount to going beyond the words and having staff reflect on their biases, their assumptions and subsequently their practice.

Throughout the week, as a team we discussed their presentations, they gathered their resources, created breakout groups, and were set for Friday morning.

As Friday started, text messages about WIFI started to circulate.  There had been an accident at our Central office on Thursday, which had impacted our main server. There was a back up plan to use the Guest WIFI, but as we drew closer to 8:30 am, we received the message that WIFI was not yet stable enough to have the entire system using it.

We quickly came together as a team to pivot and to create a different day of learning.  Serendipitously earlier in the week we had received a wonderful gift from our Safe Schools and Equity team ~ a staff set of Zaretta Hammond’s book, “Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain.”   As the boxes caught my eye, we wondered, “What would it look like if started our book study today?”.  Our original plan was to use the book throughout the year, at staff meetings, as time would permit ~ knowing full well that engaging in this type of heavy/emotional/vulnerable thinking after a full day of teaching would be a stretch.

We knew we had to follow the COVID protocols of no more than 5 educators in a small space and no more than 10 in a larger space.

Without internet or the ability for consistent messaging as a preamble, we knew that we had to select chapters that staff could dive into without having the opportunity for any formal introduction from us.

By 9:00 am, with a copy of the text and some pre-packaged snacks, small teams were dispersed throughout the school.  We provided them with 1 hour to read the chapter and then to create a visual representation of their thinking.  As an admin team we flowed from room to room to engage in conversations which ranged from, “We do this really well” to “Ah, I’m going to incorporate that into my daily routines” to “That makes so much more sense now”.

When the hour was up, staff (in their small groups) rotated from location to location to see what their colleagues had completed and to engage in even deeper conversations.  As I’ve shared on multiple times, this staff continues to raise the bar on their own level of professionalism and each time a challenge is provided, they exceed our expectations.  This activity was no exception.  From personal connections to detailed explanations to actual visual representations, we were so thrilled with how they embraced both the creation and the subsequent dialogue component of this activity.






As the day continued and inconsistent WIFI extended, the theme of Know Your Learner was now embedded in our work from the morning as we transitioned into the afternoon.  Staff continued to work in their grade level teams discussing assessments, planning, and most importantly specific students.

Staff were excited to share their own personal resources on the topic and throughout the day,

there was a resounding thankfulness for the opportunity to talk, face to face with

colleagues about a topic that is relevant, important, and so meaningful.

This past year there’s been lots of memes and disparaging comments about “pivoting” in education. I even had a community member comment on social media, wondering if my middle name was Pivot…LOL.

But as an admin team, when we finally had a change to connect at the end of the day on Friday, we unanimously agreed that this pivot was priceless!

In the past year have you had any pivots that you’d deem as priceless?
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Back to the Beginning

This morning as I proudly donned my new SAC Crew T-shirt, it dawned on me that I was about to begin my 34th year as an educator with TVDSB and our 5th year as the Sir Arthur Currie School Community.   With all honesty, I’ll share that I was nervous about this morning.  With all of last week’s registrations and the multiple requests to change learning models, I was certain that the class lists that we finally generated on Friday afternoon were already “old news”.   We also knew that with our significant increase in population, we were about to welcome close to 900 students and their families and the morning drop off was going to be a challenge ~ to say the least.

And yet, the day began with a beautiful sunrise and no rain in site. My morning drive was accentuated with fun upbeat sounds of the ‘70s and our Currie Crew looked fabulous in our matching t-shirts.

There was a positive, fun buzz in the building as staff arrived early to get a parking spot….lol and to put the final touches on their classroom environments.

As families started to arrive at 8:30 am, long lines formed at each grade level table and staff started to greet families, distribute name tags and direct students to their home room educators.  Students were so happy to see each other and their educators.  As we approached 9:20 am, classes started to make their way inside and the first day of learning happened.   Excitement ensued throughout the day (not to mention a nasty bee sting) and by 4:00 pm, bus #7 safely pulled out of the parking and the day was done.

But not for me ~ by 4:25 pm, I was pulling into the Althouse College parking lot and making my way to room 1052 to meet my group of MTM students.   As we started with our introductions (yes, with photos…smile) I shared that exactly 36 years ago, I too was experiencing my very first day as a teacher candidate at Althouse College.  As I looked into the faces of these young, excited and somewhat nervous individuals, I couldn’t help but think, “Oh my goodness, if they only knew the amazing path that they are about to begin to embark upon!”   36 years ago, I would never have imagined that I’d be facilitating a class at Althouse 🙂

My hope is that these teacher candidates get the opportunity to work with a team like the SAC Crew ~ a team of educators who rise to any challenge, who put their students’ needs before their own and at the end of the day (even a day like today) are still buzzing with energy and smiles.

I’m excited to see what year 34, day 2 brings.

How was your first day?

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