doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s starting to look a lot like Spring around here.  Muddy yard and foggy mornings offer a promise of what is to come.

And, since it’s Friday, it’s time to take a wander around the province to see what thoughts are being shared by Ontario Edubloggers.

Class size changes – my perspective

The announcement from the Minister of Education sure closed off the March Break on a certain tone and got teachers into thinking about what this actually means.

The first thing I read from a blogger was this post from Ian McTavish who went to the province’s Open Data initiative to pull secondary school enrolment figures, by district, and then did his own analysis on how many fewer teachers would be in secondary school classrooms by the time things are fully implemented.

He “shows his work” in the form of a Google Spreadsheet that is viewable by all via the link in his post.  His answer – well, you’ll have to click through and check his work.  That’s a lot of teaching positions.

As Ian notes, this should cause everyone from teacher to administrator to think about how this will be reached in any individual school.  The worst possible fallout from this is pitting teacher against teacher and pointing figures at which program a person thinks is dispensable.

I hope that it doesn’t come to that.

Since the announcement, the Ministry and other educational leaders have appeared on radio around the province answering questions about her message.  It’s good listening to help you get an understanding of some of the issues in these early days.

Why he comes to class

From Amanda Potts, a post that will tear at your teacher heart strings.

Kids aren’t numbers, although it’s easy to crunch numbers if you consider that they’re all the same and you can treat them that way.  If you read and understand Amanda’s post, you’ll realize that nothing could be further from the truth.

This is great reading for current teachers:

  • consider your own classroom – why are students showing up?
  • do you have a student(s) who is/aren’t showing up?  If so, what changes can you make to make it more appealing to attend?
  • do you have a student in your class that is very much like the one that Amanda describes?  Do you have any additional ideas – I’m sure that Amanda would appreciate reading them via comment.

It’s also great reading for current teacher candidates:

  • as you do practice teaching stints, what techniques does your associate use to make the classroom friendly to his/her students?
  • is the class just “being there” enough to bring everyone in?
  • if you end up with a student who is not showing up in your classroom, what strategies are you willing to try to change this behaviour?

Cell Phone Ban in Classrooms

One of the announcements from the Minister was the province-wide direction for the banning of cell phones in the classroom.

Except under certain circumstances!

When you look at those circumstances, it’s like the Ministry of Education had focussed on the ways that Matthew Morris uses them in his classroom.  The word “rules” appears six times in Matthew’s post but largely apply to school rules.

In his classroom, it’s more about his expected behaviour when using the technology and not a dictatorial approach.  Isn’t that what we would like to see in our graduates as they become the “digital citizens” that we hope and plan for?

The one thing that Matthew has an expectation for that wasn’t in the announcement was the listening to music.  I really empathize with this.  When I’m working (as I am right now), I always have music on in the background.  My preferences may be different from yours – I’m listening to Bob Seger at the moment – but that’s not the point.  The point is respecting individual’s right to choose and let music work its magic.

I have to smile when I think back – I always allowed music to be played in the computer room while students worked if they chose to listen to it.  Inevitably, there was a disagreement about what channel to use.  We’ve come so far now with personal devices that people can have their own preferences and, as long as it helps them and doesn’t bother their neighbour, it’s a great concept.

Beyond Behaviour Charts

I continue to learn from my elementary school colleague, Lisa Cranston.  I can honestly say that, in all my years of teaching, I’ve never used clothes pins in my classroom.

In her post, she starts with a use of them in a concept called a behaviour chart.  I’ll bet that it’s seen as a terrific tool in some camps.

Now, that’s not to say that awareness of behaviour and its impact on others isn’t important.  There’s definitely a tie-in to self-regulation here but I’ve worked with teenagers and adults enough to know that an attempt to publically humiliate anyone won’t give the desired results – or anything near that.  If it doesn’t work for them, how can you assume that it would work for anyone?

Lisa provides a well thought through list of alternatives that will do the job much better and in a more human manner.

I just have to say that my fur was ruffled a bit with the original post with the reference to teacher “training”.  I’ll say it again – you train dogs, you provide professional learning opportunities for teachers.

Take 10 Minutes

This post, from Colleen Rose, is one of those that you have to be careful about and heed the advice and not make assumptions on the other end.

It’s a bold post, my appreciate to Colleen, and a reminder to all that Mental Health awareness cannot be limited to one day of the year and then we’re back on track.  People struggle daily and sometimes need a little help.

All school districts and many employers have the services of an EAP and awareness of the services that it provides should be high on everyone’s list.

I thought that this question, embedded in a series of questions from her, at the end of post was important.

Are there people you feel more comfortable talking to? 

I would suggest that, if you answer no, that you need to start looking harder.  There may come a time that you do need that person.

In the meantime, as Colleen notes, it’s important to take some time to go for a walk and get some fresh air.  The picture she includes shows her pups taking her for a walk and the roadway shows promise that spring is on the way.

Descriptive Feedback: The Engine that Powers Learning

New to this area of the blogosphere for me is the team of Hélène Coulombe and Joanie Causarano and their blog devoted to assessment.

The topic in this post is about descriptive feedback.

The content here is provided in detail and shows that they’ve done their research into feedback in its various forms and for various purposes.  It’s a nice refresher and also a reminder that it’s possible to have good intentions and then things slide.  There may well be a few tips in there for even the more experienced educator.

In their call to action, there’s a thoughtful question…

  • What kind of feedback are they primarily receiving – descriptive or evaluation?

Your thought for the day!

Helping our Girls Reframe Anxiety – it’s not all bad!

If anyone questions the value of teachers, send them this sentence from Laura Elliott.

To this end, I have found myself immersed in ways to assist students in finding joy in their daily lives while simultaneously maintaining balance in competitive academic settings and social media landscapes that demand perfection.

Multiply that by the number of students in your charge.

The inspiration for this post came from a book Laura ordered and read from Lisa Damour.  The descriptions there could apply to any classroom in the world.  It’s tough being a student and a teenager.

But that’s nothing new.  We all had challenges weighing on us all the time.  That really hasn’t changed all that much but what has changed is the world around today’s student.  There are higher expectations, more peer pressure, the joys and challenges of social media, and the anxiety and stress that goes along with it.  If you pause for a moment, you could come up with a long list.

The book offered Laura some ideas, not only for girls in her charge, but for herself.

It sounds like a great read.  You might want to check your district’s professional library and see about borrowing a copy.

Coming back from a March Break is always a challenge but the end is in sight.  Thanks to all of these great bloggers for taking the time to share their thoughts.

For more, follow them on Twitter.

This post appeared on

If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.


One response to “This Week in Ontario Edublogs”

  1. […] It’s starting to look a lot like Spring around here.  Muddy yard and foggy mornings offer a promise of what is to come. And, since it’s Friday, it’s time to take a wander around the province to see what thoughts are being shared by Ontario Edubloggers. Class size changes – my perspective The announcement from … Continue reading This Week in Ontario Edublogs […]


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