Dumb Rules

A comment I made yesterday brought back a bizarre memory about rules.

There was a time when our two older kids were in daycare together.  Depending upon my wife’s and my schedules, you’d either drop the kids off in the morning or pick them up at the end of the day.  Because of their age difference, they were in two different rooms.  Between the two rooms, there was a cloak room where the kids’ clothes, boots, etc. were hung up and the doorways were such that you could see from one room into the other.  Each of the rooms had an outside door for entry and exit.  OK, stage set.

Dropping the kids off was no big deal.  They were always excited to see their friends and get involved in the play activities.  Often it was hard to even say goodbye to them as they were off like a shot once their coats and shoes were off.  It was picking them up that was the issue.

And where the rules came in.

Rule #1.  You have to pick up the older child first.  I’m assuming that the rationale was that they could dress themselves but it would take longer than if Dad did it.  A big shoutout to whoever invented velcro.  So, you enter their room, takes your shoes/boots off and take the child into the cloakroom and get them ready.

The problem was that the younger child could see you coming and would come to their entrance to the cloak room which was blocked by a see-through gate.  He was excited to see you, knowing that the family would be going home for supper soon.  In a perfect world, I could just reach over the gate, grab him, dress him and we were gone.  But the rules prohibited that.

Rule #2.  You could then pick up the younger child.  But, I had to leave the first room by its exit, walk around the corner into the second room, take my shoes/boots off and then get him.  The situation was always the same.  He was standing at the gate looking into the other room crying, just knowing that he’d been abandoned again.

Ever the inquirer, I asked “Why do we have to do it this way?”

The answer?  “That’s the rules.”

The response?  “Why?”

The comeback.  “That’s the rules.”

The situation helped me with my own understanding of rules.  The bottom line should be – if you’re going to have rules, you need to know why.  There are good reasons for rules – I get that – and if you could explain why, it would go a long way to understanding.

It made me think of rules in my own school.  My Computer Studies classroom was in one corner on the second floor.  The gymnasium was on the ground floor way on the other side of the school.  Some of the students would have Phys. Ed. before Computer Science (as an aside, if you have a chance to get involved in scheduling, try to avoid the period after Phys. Ed. – just sayin’) and were constantly late.  In our school, we had a rule – there was five minutes transition time between classes.  As a first year teacher, I tried to follow the rules and would regularly try to deal with it.

“Siiiiir, Why?”

My answer?  “That’s the rules.”

Later one day, I picked up the kids from daycare and realized that I was using the same lame reason myself.

It got so frustrating – the next night after the school had emptied, I timed it myself.  It took the best part of five minutes to do the walk.  Stop for a drink of water and you’d be late!

So, I decided to drop in on the vice-principal for a chat.  As a first year teacher, I was really nervous – I didn’t have a permanent contract – how dare I question things that have been established for years?  I explained the situation and got this incredulous look from him. 

“If it’s impossible, it’s impossible.  Bend the rule”. 

I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.  I’ll make the new rule “five minutes and a drink of water”.

In education, we like to have rules.  I suppose in some ways, we rationalize it by thinking that we’re making kids better citizens and keeping things safe.  In practical terms, we probably do many of them to make life easier for ourselves.

But, if we can’t think of a good reason to have and enforce the rules, do we really need it?

OTR Links 08/29/2015

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Every week, I gather from my reading blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers to include here.  Folks, you never fail to amaze me with the depth of your thinking and abilities to pull it all together.  Here’s some of what caught my eye this week.

Standing for Principles or Shooting Myself in the Foot

Before shooting herself in the foot, Diana Maliszewski puts in down in a stance about the Microsoft acquisition of Minecraft.  Now, she’s been a big fan of Minecraft for as long as I can remember, a regular presenter about its benefits, and I remember her blocky outfit at an ECOO Conference a couple of years ago.  She takes her time to explain her thoughts about corporate presence in education.

I stepped back and looked around the labs here.  Sony laptop, Wacom tablet, Logitech mouse, HP keyboard, Bose speakers, an Apple looking at me from the top of my iPad.  The only thing non-corporate would be that I’m writing this post in Linux.  It’s too late to close the barn door here.  We buy by brand and each of the products has built upon the nature of the previous technology.  It’s not just a mouse, it’s sculpted to fit the hand. The tablet has wrist recognition.  The keyboard is noiseless.  Where would I be without corporate involvement and making things easier, more productive, more ergonomic, and ultimately better for me?

So, I wonder about her stance on Minecraft.  Will it being branded and supported by a corporate entity change the experience?  How much change would affect her abilities as a classroom teacher to get the best from it for her kids?  Is this a fight worth fighting or is it just a natural evolution?  I would never have predicted that her views would have changed.  It was an insightful read for me; she really nicely shares her opinion about this.

Big Hairy Plans… with a Slower Start

Talk about your outwork visibileness.  (I know – that’s not a word but it’s the first thing that came to mind.)

There were a couple of big takeaways for me from this post by Heather Theijsmeijer.

    1. Great planning and exploration can be stymied by a work action.  It would be great if negotiators could read this and understand the impact that labour disputes have on the most important elements of education – students and progressive educators;
    2. In the post, Heather has laid out her plans for her courses for next year.  By being this open, she’s made herself accountable to herself and the parents/students who follow her blog.  She’s set the table with the comment “I want to blow this course wide open.”  Who wouldn’t be excited to have a teacher that can make a statement like that!

    There is No Road Map to Teaching Success

    If you need to read another blog post about changing everything and taking chances in your profession, then this one from Enzo Ciardelli should be on your reading list.

    My Teachers’ College experience goes back a little further than 12 years but I suspect that I’d say the same thing.  It’s a rather conservative experience while you learn the theories and practice from days gone by.  Practice teaching has the potential of being less conservative when you’re out in the “real world” which is still a contrived environment with students on better than normal behaviour.  Your first couple of years teaching are pretty conservative too.  You don’t want to upset the apple cart until you get that permanent contract.  After that or, after 12 years?  It is time to improve on your practice and take those risks.


    Every teacher should have a chance to raise a child.  Sure, you learn about human growth and development in Teachers’ College and you smile as you see your students grow and mature under your classroom watch.  But, as Danika Barker points out in this post, there’s something completely different and special about your own mini-me.

    After a year for parental leave, she’s returning to her classroom and will soon learn another side of parenting.  It’s hard to see your own kids learn and grow while under the care of someone else!  And it continues – first day of kindergarten, first day of high school, first day of college/university, first day at a job…

    Editorial Comment – and they learn some really dumb rules that don’t apply anywhere else than at daycare. 

    It’s good to see her back online and blogging.

    Creating Interactive Math Tasks With Google Sites

    One of the powerful things about working in the Google world, after you get past the wide variety of options (See Peter Beens’ Alphabet/Google A-Z document), is the ease and consistency across the tools.

    Kyle Pearce is constantly writing and sharing ideas and was recently asked a question about implementation with something other than iPads.  Chromebooks makes for a natural question.

    The post is a tutorial about how to extend his original content and extend it to other platforms.

    Step by step, you’ll work your way through an example with lots of screen shots.  He demonstrates his way through the creation and then invites you to test the final product.

    As summer winds down, it’s evident that great thinking from Ontario Educators continues.  Check out all these posts and all of the Ontario Edubloggers here.  If you’re an Ontario educational blogger and not on the list, please do use the form and add yourself.  Lots of people would love to read your blog.

    OTR Links 08/28/2015

    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    Be More Visible

    I had an interesting interaction with a former, and recently reconnected thanks to Twitter, colleague just yesterday who was telling me that there were amazing things happening in her schools.  That’s awesome and a great message for everyone in the community to hear so I asked “Where can I read about it?”.  Well, “it is definitely not visible online”.

    That’s a shame.

    Especially when everyone is espousing the benefits from “visible thinking” for students.

    It doesn’t take long poking around educational resources to find lists of benefits for students from making their thinking visible.

    I really like the Visible Thinking NZ website and a quote from there…

    When thinking is visible in classrooms, students are in a position to be more metacognitive, to think about their thinking. When thinking is visible, it becomes clear that school is not about memorizing content but exploring ideas. Teachers benefit when they can see students’ thinking because misconceptions, prior knowledge, reasoning ability, and degrees of understanding are more likely to be uncovered. Teachers can then address these challenges and extend students’ thinking by starting from where they are.

    That nicely summarizes things for me.

    But, let’s step back a bit.  Replace the word student with teacher.  Imagine what can happen when a teacher makes her/his thinking visible to colleagues worldwide.

    • Imagine how richer their understanding of topics and would be.
    • Imagine the feedback.
    • Imagine the connections that could be made.
    • Imagine a learning community helping with details and providing resources that would otherwise go unknown.

    If you’re not connected, how do you get started?

    Just start poking around.  And being visible means being actively engaged doing something.


    For Ontario folks, look at the wide variety of Ontario Educational bloggers.  I try to keep up with who is blogging here.  When you start blogging on your own, there’s a form to submit your details.


    If you’re looking to make connections, check out the continuous flow of wisdom from Ontario educators on Twitter.  I try to keep up with things here, here, and here.  I take pride in acknowledging that it’s a losing battle.  I add to the lists as soon as I find them but freely admit that it’s just scratching the surface.  Why not find someone whose thinking you respect and see who they follow?  It’s the perfect way to share wisdom.


    Stay connected 24/7.  Or, if you can’t look for alternatives.  There are some awesome newsletter creation tools to do the job for you automatically.  Consider Rebelmouse or Paper.li to do the heavy lifting for you.  Rebelmouse collects my shares and Paper.li collects those that I value – here, here, here, and here.


    Forget cat pictures.  Facebook is a great place for connections and learning.  Search for groups that exist and join them.  Some may be private and require permission but that’s OK.  Usually, it’s worth the effort.  You might check out:

    Even search out your district’s name there.  There may already be specialized forums and areas in operation.

    Leadership MOOC:

    It’s the nature of the beast.  We’re all leaders – that’s what education is about.  Check out the OSSEMOOC project at their WordPress site.

    Quite frankly, this is just scraping the surface and a list of things that I know exist.  I just know that there’s more to be found.

    Returning to the origin of this post, it begs the question – why aren’t you open and sharing?  We all understand the concerns about oversharing and certainly nobody is recommending that you put head and shoulders pictures in public forums if you don’t have the permissions or are not comfortable doing that.  Even more powerful though are your thoughts, ideas and wisdom.  Others can benefit from your openness and sharing and you’ll benefit with the feedback and leads to additional resources.

    Isn’t this the year to be more visible?

    Finally, one last bit of inspiration from the CBC – Why teachers and principals should be on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

    OTR Links 08/27/2015

    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    Watches and Smartphones

    My reading this morning featured a number of stories like this “Apple retail chief Ahrendts thinks covert Apple Watch use in the classroom is a good idea“.

    I see a couple of sides to this.  First of all, if the facts in the report that this logic is used to sell a product, it’s as despicable as can be.  If this is a good product, it should be marketed on the value that it provides, not as a product to encourage cheating or other less than honourable uses.  You’ll notice that Android watches weren’t included in the stories.  <grin>

    On that level, there’s no excuse.  As noted in many places, Apple owes so much of its popularity to education.  This really serves as a disservice.

    On the other side …

    Are people really that stupid to believe this?

    It’s the same argument that we’ve heard for years about computers in the classroom, then smartphones in the classroom.  I wonder if Samuel Morse went through the same slings and arrows when he developed his code.  After all, you could conceivably tap, tap, tap on a desk while writing a test and have a friend pick up on your answers.  Or cough, cough, cough appropriately.  Or drop a pencil or paper.  Or click a pen.

    Let’s give the teaching profession a little credit for understanding their trade.  If you picture the scenarios in the article, it’s of the traditional vision of a teacher/professor standing at the front of the room rambling on about something with no regard for what’s happening or caring about learning.  Give me a break.

    Today’s contemporary teacher is up and around the room, concerned with the learning more than the traditional lecture.  The teacher knows her/his students abilities and skills long before sitting down to any test and can usually estimate +/- 5% what each student will achieve on the test.  That is, if they give tests – period.  Modern classrooms feature collaboration, projects, inquiry, and activity where the technology is a key partner in the learning, not an adversary.

    I read the stories, picturing so many classrooms that I’ve visited.  That scenario doesn’t play out.  For the most part, I know of professionals that would be so pleased to have such a tool to make a good learning experience better.