From Cupcakes to Cash to Change Agents

One of the many unique pathways of our journey this year has been the Board of Trustees’ decision to pause any new registrations at our school ~ as a short-term solution to slow down the excessive growth. With a population of close to 1000 students, we were closing in on a record 200% capacity and our facility was at its maximum number of portables ~ 17 in total. The long-term plan, to build another school, is still in its infancy and scheduled to be completed within 42-48 months. Although registrations have been paused at our location, our wonderful Northwest London community continues to welcome new families with school-aged children. Currently any new families are now bussed to Knollwood Public School. A school that is nestled in a lovely subdivision located in the eastern quadrant of the London, with a catchment area that includes some government assisted housing.

When the Trustee motion passed in November of 2021, our community, who advocated strongly for families to stay together ~ knowing that the flipside of that advocacy would mean that any new families would not be attending Sir Arthur Currie, made a commitment to do their best to embrace our “sister school”. They realized that their new neighbours would be attending Knollwood, a school which may not have the same level of family involvement or the same access to financial support that we are so blessed to have at Sir Arthur Currie.

So, our School Council and Home & School under the leadership of our Fundraising Chair, Carla, became determined to find a way to support our neighbours and their school community. The Home and School became the logical choice for the fundraising piece as it is more streamline than navigating school board accounts/CashOnline/school-based budget lines within the guidelines for School Councils.

Hence the idea of a Cake raffle, just prior to the Mother’s Day weekend was proposed and approved. The excitement grew as masterful creations were donated and our students excitedly purchased tickets with the anticipation of taking home something sweet to celebrate a special person.  We had close to 40 donations.

When all was said and done, the Home and School raised close to $2000, which financially brought them to the finish line of their multi-year goal of a school sign as well as meeting their target of $500 to support the breakfast program at Knollwood. As a school we were very intentional in sharing with our students that the money they were donating towards the cake raffle was going to go to another school ~ a school that needed our help. I am so proud of our community and their deep desire to make a difference in the lives of children (not just their own children, but the children in their broader community).

Today we had the pleasure of delivering the cheque to Brenda Williams, the amazing, gentle, and compassionate principal of Knollwood. She has been there for 4 years and is about to transition to a much larger school in the west end. I could tell that although she is excited for the change, she is heartbroken to leave a community that has indeed imprinted itself on her heart. She will forever take the lessons from Knollwood to her next school community.

Listening to her and Carla talk about the breakfast program and the need to nurture their community as they strengthen their Council and Home & School Association was both enlightening and refreshing. These two women, who just met each today, share a common philosophy of giving what you can, even if you do not have enough for yourself.

As we drove home, Carla was so passionate about our next project to support our sister school.  I cannot wait to be a part of her next passion project.

At times we find ourselves so inwardly focused on our own school community, we forget that at the end of the day, we are all a part of a larger community. The strength of the larger TVDSB community can only be truly measured when all school communities feel responsible for each other.

We share mentor texts and stories about social justice with our students. We talk about the value of helping our neighbours. But unless we put actions to those words, our students will never genuinely understand what it means to be an agent of change.

One of the cakes at the cake raffle was a butterfly. Today that butterfly metaphorically took flight in the hearts and minds of two incredible women who instinctively understand and appreciate the power of bringing communities together, that teaching our children to give rather than receive is paramount to good citizenship and that the possibilities of more passion projects to support others are limitless.

Has your school community reached out to support another school community?

Come write with me….

An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse

Confession Time ~ I have never seen The Godfather or any of the sequels.  I was never a Marlon Brando fan, and the storyline has yet to appeal to me. I am wondering if maybe I didn’t want to watch a movie where at some point in the script it called for a horse’s head to be left in a bed as a symbol of “meaning business”.  I have certainly enjoyed the work of the other actors; Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert Di Niro, and James Caan ~ but not enough to draw me to this movie.

I do, of course, know a bit about the story line and have enjoyed many of the cinematic and cultural references in other movies.  Such as when Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) is trying to convince Kathleen (Meg Ryan) to fight to save her independent bookstore from big bad box store ~ Fox Books in You’ve Got Mail.  I love her reaction, “What is it with men and The Godfather?” And of course, throughout popular culture there have been several occasions for actors to recite the ever recognizable, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”

So, it was with some trepidation, that I landed on the Paramount + limited series, “The Offer”, which tells the story of the making of The Godfather.  I was immediately drawn in the world of the early 70’s from the humble home of the writer Mario Puzo to the lush mansions and landscapes of Hollywood.  The story is told from the lens of the producer Al Ruddy (Canadian born) and chronicles the setbacks and successes of making a mafia film in New York City.  Interestingly enough, Ruddy is still alive. So, unlike some mockumentaries, his perspective (or at least how he remembers things) is authentic ~ although I would imagine it is sprinkled with creative license similar to the spices sprinkled on the Italian food which serves as a predominant theme throughout both the filming and the final product.  From the Mafia Bosses to the Studio Bosses to the Mayor New York to the most recognizable entertainer of the era, the underbelly of the system and the connective tissue of who owes who, who is sleeping with whom and who owns who is brilliantly reflected.

The personal and professional sacrifices of many of the main characters, leave the viewer on the edge of their seats at the end of each episode.  I also love how the women are depicted.  It is evident that Ruddy, although misguided and egocentric, at times, knows the power of a true partnership.

With three more episodes to go, I am excited to learn more about this journey from best selling book to box office blockbuster.

And yes, I am now going to find some uninterrupted time to watch The Godfather.  Although, I cannot promise that I will watch all three installments.

In knowing that time is a precious commodity, how do you decide what to watch, read, listen to?  Whose recommendations are most credible?  Do you find value in knowing the backstory of the artist, the author or the actor?

Come write with me….

A Stitch in Time…

I am not sure if others can relate, but I tend to look at the world differently on weekends than I do during the constant busyness of the weekdays. If I must run errands after a long day at work, I find my patience is rarely at its maximum capacity ~ some might say, I am downright impatient.  I look for the shortest line in the grocery store or zip through the self check-out to expediate my shopping spree. I take the most direct route home, pull into the driveway, and then finally relax.

Today, which brings the gift of being day 1 of a 3-day weekend, I found myself leisurely venturing to the south end of the city to pick up a couple of Canadian flags for the school. The cost to send them via Fed-Ex almost matched the cost of the flags themselves (and contrary to popular belief school boards, like any other organization, do their best to be fiscally responsible) so, I decided to pick them up myself and save the cost of delivery. If the need for the flags had been immediate, I would have asked my son, who lives in that end of the city to pick them up ~ but alas, I embraced today’s drive.

I arrived at about 9:50 am, forgetting that the Flag Shop did not open until 10:00 am. It was a sunny morning, so 10 minutes of waiting in the sunshine was not a bother at all. At 9:55 am, the store owner arrived and unlocked the front door ~ following directly behind him was another early morning customer. My initial intent was to spend merely minutes in the story by showing the purchase order number, picking up the flags and continuing on my way. But the inquisitive woman who entered first peppered the store owner with a series of questions. Although not eavesdropping, within a small store, it is hard to not hear the intense conversation. The store owner was so patient, so kind and so knowledgeable. As I waited, viewing the various flags and flag related products, I found myself going back to a childhood memory of when I spent time at my aunt and uncle’s cottage in Grand Bend. Each morning, like clockwork, my Uncle Bill would raise the Canadian flag up the large flagpole that was on the edge of their property, overlooking Lake Huron. I remember loving those mornings when I was the one selected to hold the flag as he connected the grommets and then watch in awe as it billowed in the wind ~ flying proudly with each tug of the ropes. At sunset, each night, the routine was reversed. He taught me how to fold it, so that it never touched the ground. I took those teachings into my youth as a Brownie and Girl Guide as we learned about the importance of acknowledging and recognizing the significant of flags.

As the owner finished his conversation with the first customer, I found myself smiling as he said, “One day I’m going to get a chair and place it on that side of the cash register.”  He then proceeded to say, “Are you sitting down? The cost is $299”. She smiled and finished her purchase.

With the same thoughtful customer service that he had provided her, he turned to me and said, “Now, how can I help make your day brighter? What a wonderful entry point into a conversation. This passionate store owner could teach a course in Customer Service 101.  I wonder who we can rephrase our morning greetings in a school setting.

As we proceeded with our interaction, he methodically found the order and produced two brand new Canadian flags. As I was waiting, I noticed Friendship pins which intertwine the Canadian flag with the flag of another country. I could not help but wonder if that would make a wonderful gift for our Dominican Mentors when we head down there in July. So, I ordered 25.

In my closing remarks, I mentioned that one of these new flags will be raised first thing on Tuesday morning as our current one (as a result of the constant high winds at our school) was tattered. Without missing a beat, the owner, shared that for $12.00 he could repair the frayed one. There was another exchange about the school board and fiscal responsibility and we both had a good laugh. As I gathered my package and started to make my way towards the door, he declared, “A stitch in time….” to which I replied, “Will save you a dime.”  I had heard the phrase before but  could not actually remember the exact wording. It was not until I got home and researched it (remember what I shared at the beginning of the month about my writing taking me down rabbit holes) that I was reminded that the actual phrase is, “A stitch in time saves you nine” which refers to getting tasks completed in a timely manner.

Today was a great reminder that getting tasks completed in a timely manner, sometimes means you might miss out on those extra “nine”.  I rarely use this platform for promotion, but today is an exception.  I highly recommend The Flag Shop on Exeter ~ not only for the products but for the experience of spending time with owner.

When have you experienced exceptional customer service?

Come write with me…

Dare to Dream

As another busy day drew to a close, with my belongings slung over my shoulder, I made my way through the front doors of the school as the evening sunlight immediately warmed my face. For a brief moment, I closed my eyes and drew in a deep, cleansing breath.  Suddenly, a neighbour’s car slowly approached their driveway with their windows down and sunroof open; blaring from their sound system was, Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and I could not help but think, “How perfect.”

We had just finished our Kindergarten Open House and welcomed incoming students and their families. For the past two years, COVID restrictions had forced us to shift these invitations to a virtual format, which although provided some information could never compare to an actual visit to the school. For many of our families, this was their first time in the school, and they were wide-eyed and so enthusiastic as they made their way to the Family Center/Childcare table, visited our Speech and Language Pathologist, and met members of our School Council.

This year’s Kindergarten team decided to structure the Open House tour based on the Four Frames of the Kindergarten Communication of Learning Document. Each stop along the tour represented examples of Belonging and Contributing, Self-Regulation and Well-Being, Demonstrating Literacy and Mathematics Behaviours, and Problem Solving and Innovating.

Incoming students and their family members had the opportunity to identify their name and then colour it for their book bag for next year, as they wandered through the LLC. In the classrooms, families had the opportunity to see early literacy and numeracy activities and complete them with their children. Students were encouraged to print their name on one side of a wooden circle and families printed a wish for their child on the other side. The laughter and interaction were amazing to witness. In the hallway we had our “Newest Coyote” photo booth set up, so families could capture this visit. It also served as an effective way for the Kindergarten team to capture pictures and associated names as we look towards class placement meetings this week.

The other parts of the tour included a snack and an opportunity to create a coyote headband. As the weather beautifully cooperated families were able to visit the Forest of Learning and see how programming in that location supports Problem Solving and Innovating. I had to giggle when I overhead an older sibling share, “Now Charlotte, when you hear Mrs. M. blow the whistle, you need to get to the front of the forest as fast as you can and line up along this fence.”  Oh, the joys of having older siblings who have already experienced the fantastic Kindergarten program share their favourite memories.

This year, the sibling piece will be integral and one that we will explore deeply to ensure the best possible transition for our students, as the only ones who will be welcomed to our program will be younger siblings of current students. With the Board of Trustee motion last fall, which addressed our over significant crowding by transporting any new families to Knollwood, we have the pleasure of knowing all our incoming K1’s families. That was very evident tonight as older siblings proudly took the lead on the tour and, with great smiles, introduced their younger siblings to our team members. As our school is going into its sixth year, for many of these wee ones, we recall when they were first born. We watched them graduate from parents’ arms, to strollers, to toddling on the tarmac and now ready to take on their first year of school.

Following our raffle draws, we invited our newest Coyotes to join our Kindergarten team for a group photo. We ended the Open House with a cheer for the class of 2022-2023. I hope that tonight’s picture will somehow be safely stored and then shared in June 2031, as this group of amazing children enter the gym once again, but this time as Grade 8 graduates.

Oh, to be able to get inside the minds of these newest Coyotes. They have heard stories from their siblings, their parents are now pros, as they have been through this routine at least once before and so many of them seem already to start school. We even had some tears as children did not want to leave last night.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

May we create a school experience for them where the skies are blue (sometimes that shade of blue may vary) and we foster such confidence that they dare to dream big dreams!

What is most important as we welcome our newest students?

Come write with me….

Act 3 ~ The Ripple Effect

Just after nine, on the day after the Switch, a very confident grade 2 student marched into our welcome center (main office) and handed me a handmade envelope.   She proudly stated, “I want to be principal for a day” and Miss Carla ~ one of our amazing Student support “angels” ~ said that I needed to write you a letter.  I immediately opened the envelope, which exposed a very neatly, well constructed persuasive letter.  I had to giggle when, within the body of the letter, she assured me that the morning announcement about late busses and checking the hallway before finally completing attendance would continue to be completed during her time in the position. For those of us navigating school buses, we know too well that, not unlike the rest of the employee groups that we support (teachers, EAs, ECEs, Noon Hour supervisors and custodians) there is a shortage of bus drivers.  Each morning, after we check TVARRIS for staff absences, we check the BP Delay App to figure out which busses will be late and which students will be with us until after 4 pm each night as the drivers complete 2 runs.   I think in the last 5 months, we have managed to have only a handful of evenings when all buses were there at 3:30 pm to take our student home. But I digress…. lol

As I read her assurance about the announcement, I thought, “It’s really Ms. Cleaver ~ our attendance secretary’s job that she wants.”   The author went on to assure me that she is very smart, because she knows that 100 divided by 100 = 1 and that outdoor routines about sunscreen and warm clothing would be addressed, as needed.  But it was her final closing sentence that hooked me.  “I know if an 8th grader can be principal, so can I”.    Such confidence, such passion, and such drive!  My wish for her is that she never loses those attributes.

As we are in the throws of EQAO assessments, I could not help but think, “Man oh man, here is a level 4 persuasive letter and this wee one is only in grade 2.  I am so excited to see what her future holds.   This is an example of when students have an authentic reason for communicating their rationale, they meet/exceed the criteria.

Needless to say, we’re definitely going to create the opportunity for her to use the PA system and make one of those morning announcements about the bus late/attendance/hallway checks.

As the day proceeded, in each class that I visited, I was peppered with questions about the Switch.  Students were interested in how Kareem was selected if they could “apply” and how I did on my math test.  In one class, I shared that I got 92% and I was disappointed that I used the wrong formula on one question.  One astute, reflective grade six student piped up and said, “Mrs. Bruyns, we learn from our mistakes. I bet next time you will remember to use the right formula”.

My heart sings when I hear students, without prompting and with absolutely no agenda, share those lessons that we have been teaching them.  Again ~ an authenticity at its very best!

The day ended with a voice message from a wonderful colleague who called and requested to speak with Principal Kareem.

I popped up to excuse him from class and shared that he had a call!  As we made our way to my office, we chatted about the math test (he had to complete his during first nutrition break). I loved hearing his thinking as he worked through some of the questions, and we compared our strategies for tackling them. Another reminder about the importance of educators completing the assignments, the tests, the activities prior to giving them to students.  Think about the rich conversations/feedback/assessment gems that would emerge during those chats.

When we arrived at my office, we used Teams and reached out to Principal Purvis via video call and the two of them chatted about an issue with two students.  Principal Purvis wanted his input.  Kareem methodically asked good questions before sharing his direction.  The two of them went on to talk about Kareem’s future aspirations.   We both smiled, as he shared that he is thinking about going into Real Estate.  Thanks to Principal Purvis for taking the time to reach out and add to the authenticity of Kareem’s day as principal.  Just one of the reasons that I adore and respect him!

What started out as an incidental conversation 3 years ago has led to an amazing ripple effect.  It has created connections, inspired new dreams, and reinforced pedagogical strategies in the most authentic way.

Thanks to all my readers who have shared in this “Principal for a Day” three act narrative!  Your encouragement has given me the strength and confidence to continue my Post a Day for the Month of May goal.

Would love to hear some authentic writing opportunities that you have provided for students.

Come write with me….

Day 18 ~ Act 2 ~ Student for a Day!

Act 2

Yesterday I crafted and shared Act 1 which represented the background story to “Principal for a Day”. Act 2 shifts the action from the office to the classroom. While Kareem took on my role and responsibilities as the principal, the other half of the promise was that I would take on his role as a grade 8 student. Step one was to ensure that the teacher, Sarah Moore was onboard with having me sit in on her class for the first half of the day. Knowing how excited Kareem was about this opportunity, she was all in! Adding to the flavour of this tale, one needs to appreciate that Sarah is a former student of mine. In the late 90s, she was member of my grade 5 class at M.B. McEachren. We have often reflected on how our paths have intersected. Daily, I get to watch in pure pride as she continues to evolve as a masterful educator.

Back to the story…

Just as Kareem learned about his day, I needed to ensure that I knew what was expected of me. Much to my chagrin, I discovered that I was starting my day by writing a math test focusing on metric conversions, surface area and volume. I will confess I spent time studying last night. I did not want to embarrass myself…smile. Years later I am still wondering when I will ever use deca/decimeters as a unit of measurement.  But I digress. Next on my list of things to do ~ figure out appropriate attire and find a backpack, knowing that showing up with my laptop bag was not going to cut it. As the first bell of the morning echoed in the halls, I slung my backpack on my shoulder and headed outside to join my grade eight peers. I was actually nervous that I would be standing there alone. A feeling that may be all too familiar for students. But our wonderful students came to my rescue. “Are you ready for the math test, Mrs. Bruyns? Do you have any questions?”  I admitted that I was worried about recalling the order for the metric conversions. They were quick to share the pneumonic, “King Henry Died by Drinking Chocolate Milk.”   As I made my way up the stairs, they were kind enough to show me where to sit and to help me secure a calculator. I listened intently as Sarah went through the test questions. I love that the first question was, “How are you feeling? How did you prepare?”   Then for the next hour I diligently went through each question, ensuring that I included each necessary step and the correct units. As other students finished before me and submitted their test to the teacher, I could once again feel some anxiety creeping in. I cannot help but wonder if that is a normal reaction for a number of students and how can we alleviate those emotions. As I completed my test and submitted it, I was able to take out a book and sit there quietly and read. Oh, my goodness ~ to read a book for pleasure in the light of day!!! Once the math tests were all submitted it was on to Literacy. A soft entry point of “This or That” which included justification for a selection of visuals, was a perfect primer for tackling a persuasive thesis. It did not take long for me to break my silence and engage in conversation with the group of students surrounding me. That depth of conversation was an authentic reminder about the importance of providing students with talk time to enrich and enhance their eventual writing. Their reflections and rationale were so well developed and passionate, for a moment it felt as if I was having a conversation with adult peers and not student “peers”.  I was actually disappointed when the bell rang, and it was time to head outside for the first nutrition break.  As we made our way to the yard, there was lots of chatter about the test. I found myself wondering how I did and when I would get my results. Once again, I found myself reflecting on current assessment practices and the importance of timely feedback to students. Sarah, being an effective and responsive educator, had the tests marked by the end of the day. I was thrilled with my 92%. I had used the incorrect formula within one of the questions, so I knew exactly what to do, to correct it.

By the middle of the day, Kareem and I shifted back to our traditional roles as I had some PDT and parent meetings to attend.

Although today’s “Freaky Friday” switch was initiated and implemented to grant a student’s long-awaited wish, it became clear that it was I who was given a true gift today. To be able to experience school through the eyes of a student provides us with insights and reflections that cannot be garnered any other way.

My wish for each educator who is reading this post is to find a way to gain an authentic lens into what it looks like, feels like to be a student in their class. Then share your reflections!

Come write with me….

Principal for a Day

Let me set the stage:

Act 1 ~ One day, three years ago, when Kareem was in grade 5, he engaged me in a conversation about wanting to be “Principal For a Day”. He was intrigued with the role and wanted to be in charge. He talked about promoting his favourite teacher and extending outdoor nutrition break times for himself and his peers. My response was, “As soon as you are as tall as me, you can be Principal for a Day.”  Throughout the next 2 years, we revisited that conversation numerous times and each exchange included new predictions about the role of the principal and how I spend my days. He was always so respectful, polite, and playful. To this day, I remember when he joined us in 2017, the year we opened. His family had been traveling overseas and they arrived the second week of school. I recall accompanying him and his mom to the door of his classroom. He seemed apprehensive and a bit nervous, but by the end of the day, when I checked in, he had already made some friends and was looking forward to day two. Throughout his time at our school, he was always the first to volunteer to help when needed, he is the type of learner who always acknowledges adults when he sees them in the hallway, on the stairs or on the yard. He is quick to share what he is doing in class as I pop in for a visit. He is one of those students whose absence next year will be significantly felt.

Fast forward to September 2021. Within weeks of being back to school, Kareem found me on the yard, stood back-to-back and low and behold he had considerably sprouted in height. Now, standing at 6 feet tall, he had indeed met the criteria of being as tall (or in this case, taller) as me and therefore I needed to make good on my promise.

Well, today was the day. Yesterday we met and reviewed what our respective mornings were going to look like. You see, the other half of the deal was that I would be a grade 8 student ~ we were switching roles! When I shared what today was going to look like, his former grade 5 teacher found me in the hall and remembered that initial exchange 3 years ago.

Here was his schedule:

8:30 ~ meet with the leadership team to ensure that all assignments were covered
8:45 ~ roam and say hi to staff/students on yard
8:55 ~ be ready to greet primary students at the top of the South Stairwell
9:00 – 9:45 ~ visit classes, collect artefacts for display case
9:45 ~ Read Aloud with K class
10:15 ~ ELITE (Early Literacy Intervention  Team Effort) reading group ~ 3 grade one students
10:40 – 11:40 on the yard for all three outdoor breaks.

At noon, we needed to switch back to our regular roles as he needed to help with Track and Field, and I needed to attend some PDT meetings.

My schedule:

8:45 am ~ wait outside with the grade 8s until the bell rang at 9:00
9:00 ~ Math test (Surface area, volume, metric conversions)
10 ~ Literacy class ~ Persuasive paragraph with the prompt, “Should Sam be granted full custody of Lucy?” based on the movie, “Sam, I am”.
10:40 ~ on the yard with the students, as a student


The staff were amazing and embraced him as a team member. He was provided with a walkie-talkie and used it to send positive messages to the staff and to find a student on the yard who needed to make his way to the office for a pick-up. He was escorted to the staff room where he got a coffee (not sure he really consumed it ~ when I got back to my office, there was water in his mug). He used the PA system to share that it was going to be an outdoor nutrition break and for students to use, “Care, Caution, Common Sense and Kindness” while on the yard. He was provided with some e-purchasing paper copies which he checked to ensure that there were appropriate consumables listed. He did a beautiful job with the Read Aloud ~ we had talked about some strategies to use, and he took those strategies and personalized them. My ELITE group loved spending time with him. I understand that a number of staff inquired about raises, days off, crazy purchases and he handled all of them with professionalism and a sense of humour.

When we debriefed at the end of the day, I inquired as to what he enjoyed the most. With enthusiasm and passion, hands down it was the Read Aloud. He talked about how surprised he was with their responses and how good they were at predicting the morale of the story.

He was also pleasantly surprised that during nutrition break, although he went looking for it, there were no issues on the yard. “Everyone was playing so nicely.”  In classic Kareem style, he did not let the day end without revisiting his desire to promote his favourite teacher ~ who just happened to be the same Grade 5 teacher who inspired him 3 years ago.

Our days are crazy busy. It is easy to lose ourselves in endless emails. As I craft this blog, I know that I have a number of emails to get to before calling it day. It is easy to lose ourselves in planning. I know that timetables are weighing heavy on my mind. It is easy to lose ourselves in reports. I know that HR is awaiting a report for a former educator. It is easy to lose ourselves in meetings. I know how necessary they are to support student learning.

Today was a tangible reminder to find ourselves in what is most important ~ relationships with our students, creating memories and following through on promises.

Stay tuned for Act 2….

Debate Debacle

Like many Ontarians I tuned into tonight’s Provincial Leaders’ debate to gain a deeper understanding of the various Party’s platforms to make an informed decision as I venture to the polls on June 2nd.   I will begin by sharing my admiration and respect for the moderators, Steve Paikin and Althia Raj, who worked tirelessly to maintain a level of decorum and respect as the candidates did their best to push the boundaries of the specified time limits, dodge and weave their way around the questions and verbally attack each other with colourful accusations.  As the candidates took to the microphone, their responses fluctuated from boastful recounts of past accomplishments to unrealistic promises of future plans. They accused each other of a multitude of indiscretions, including but not limited to broken election promises, increased taxes, cuts to education and extensive wait lists for mental health supports.   Each time one of the candidates took to the microphone, I wanted to hear a clear, well-developed plan for the future of this province as we make our way out of a pandemic certainly as a citizen, but even more predominantly as an educator.  As education is a provincial responsibility, it is one of these four individuals who will be leading the decisions that will impact our most vulnerable precious resources ~ our students. Education was significantly impacted during the pandemic, as was every other facet of our day to day lives. The current government needed to make decisions based on information that was in constant flux.  Did they make unpopular decisions? They sure did! But in their defence, none of the other parties have had to lead a Province through a pandemic.   The Liberal’s promise of reducing all class sizes to 20 and bringing back grade 13 may sound good to a voter who is at arm’s length from today’s education challenges, but the reality is with so many schools already over capacity, I am not sure it could ever become a reality.  If I take our school as an example ~ with 1000 students that would mean 50 classes in a school with 23 classrooms.  We already have 17 portables on our playground.  So, if the Liberal promise came into effect that would bring us to 10 more portables on site.  There is not even a remote possibility that this could ever be entertained.   As far as bring back Grade 13, with our current mode of operation, any student can return for a “victory” lap and take credits within a fifth year.  I am not sure of the rationale for mandating Grade 13.

After 90 minutes of listening, I can honestly say that I am nowhere closer to making an informed decision which will impact my vote on June 2.  I did however appreciate learning about Bill 86, Our London Family Act which will aim to combat Islamophobia and Hatred.  With the upcoming June 6th anniversary of the attack on the Afzaal, this bill is timely and important.

We teach our students about the importance of debates, how to craft meaningful arguments to support a position within a debate, how to deliver an effective debate and how to react appropriately during the rebuttal component of a debate.   I recall when I was in grade 8 and we were asked to debate the impact of watching television.  I was given the “pros” of watching television.  We used the argument of the importance of educational TV shows such as Sesame Street and David Suzuki’s, The Nature of Things.  At no point were we allowed to accuse, to demean or to disgrace our opponents.  The learning objective was to inform our audience with facts and then let them make an informed decision.

I cannot help but wonder if tonight’s candidates could have learned a thing or two from an elementary school debate.

Thoughts on tonight’s debate?

Come write with me….

The Great Equalizer

I have recently discovered Channel 77 on Sirius XM ~ On Broadway! Depending on the timing of my scanning/searching I have landed on hits from the classics of Camelot to the recent additions of Hamilton and everything in between. In amongst the songs there are rich conversations between the hosts and their guests. Yesterday I happened upon one such conversation. The host was recounting a childhood memory of arriving in New York City to see a live performance. Her family had been traveling during the summer in a motor home and on this occasion, they landed tickets to a Broadway show and decided to go. Her initial concern (even though she was just six) was that all she had in her travel wardrobe was a pair of cut-off jeans and a T-shirt. Even at a young age she had made the connection between going to the theatre and formal attire. But it was her reflection that, “As soon as the house lights went down and the show started, it didn’t matter what I was wearing as the Arts are the great equalizer” which resonated so deeply with me. The phrase reminded me about a recent episode of, This is Us, where Rebecca reminisces about visiting the Metropolitan Art Gallery as a child and watching in awe as this woman spent hours looking at this one painting.  The emotions evoked by the painting are reflective of the experiences and emotions of the viewer.
That is what is so magical about the Arts ~ whether it is a song, a painting, a dance routine, or a live performance ~ each person who interacts with it is going to experience something personal, something unique and something poignant. No two reactions will ever be the same. The artist never discriminates against their audience. You do not need a tuxedo, a sequined gown, or a degree to be moved to tears, to be provoked or even disturbed by a composition, a collage or a choregraphed routine. There is no magical bank account balance, shade of skin colour or cultural background that prevents spectators from losing themselves or alternatively finding themselves within the Arts.

So, in knowing that, as we reflect on the important work of Equity in our schools, it is more important than ever that we ensure that our students are provided with as many opportunities as possible to not only experience all forms of the Arts, but to be encouraged to explore their connections and reactions.

There are so many ways to include the Arts into all of the curriculum areas.  When you reflect on your programming and the experiences that you are offering your students, how often do you infuse the Arts?

Come write with me….

Dandelions as a Learning Tool

Each spring, as the world is reborn, lawns that have lay snow covered and dormant for the past six months begin to morph into lush meadows; deepening in shades of green as the days lengthen and the sun strengthens.  Yet to the chagrin of most green thumbed gardeners, those flourishing fields more often than not become infused with the most commonly identified plant, the bright sunshine yellow petalled dandelion.  As the spring season shifts into summer, the yellow petals transform into wispy puff balls which attract the daydreamers who softly close their eyes, inhale, make a wish and with a concerted effort send the delicate seeds into the air in search of new lands where the cycle begins once again.

Like many of our current gardening practices, our desire to eradicate our lawns of dandelions is a relatively new practice.  Our ancestors understood and appreciated both their medicinal nutritional value.  Ironically, they are actually quite good for our lawn’s health and yet we pluck, pull and chemically treat them.  For more information about dandelions, check out this website.

This past week, a number of classes took to our field and decided to use dandelions as a learning tool.   Our kindergarten students practiced patience and fine motor control by creating 3D lion heads and a variety of crowns and bracelets.   Our grade 8s deepened the crown creation activity by determining the circumference of their dandelion designs. And of course, as I enjoyed the sunshine and connections during our nutrition breaks, I was gifted a number of dandelion bouquets.

Upon reflection of this activities, I was reminded that sometimes the best learning tool is right there in our own backyard ~ in this case literally!  Blossoming, changing and tempting us to pick it. In our quest to ensure that we are doing what is in our students’ best interest, we forget that our students don’t always need the pre-packaged set of numbered fraction tiles, needle and thread activites or multi-coloured linking cubes in order to meet the curriculum expectations.  We know the value and power of student voice and choice and yet sometimes we look past the simple tools, those that students naturally gravitate towards when selecting materials to create authentic learning experiences.


Have you had similar experiences with simple tools?

Come write with me….