About being “Doug-like”


I had to smile at least a bit when I read this Twitter message from Aviva Dunsiger the other day.

A “Doug-like thing”, eh?

That got me thinking. I’m not sure that it would call the action a “Doug-like thing” but more like my own personal routine. I often wonder where I’d be without it and I think the answer is that I wouldn’t be on the blogging map at all.

When I started blogging years and years ago, things were much different. The blog posts were motivated by who knows what and blogging was something that I did when I had done everything else I wanted to do in the day. At the time, I picked up a bunch of followers and for that I was so grateful. It would hurt though when other things pushed blogging off my to-do list and I’d get inquiries about whether or not I had given up on the blog.

It was around this time that I decided that I would elevate the priority for blogging in my routine. Chances are, you don’t know me, but I hope that you believe me when I said that blogging or writing anything but “Doug-like”. Growing up, I hated English class and any class that required essays or major writing / research projects. Of course, this was long before computer and writing was accomplished by using one of those pen things or later on, a typewriter. I would much prefer to solve a mathematics problem or write a computer program. Yes, I was the person in the class who wanted to know how long or how many words were required for the assignment. Don’t you just hate answering that question?

Blogging really started as a coping tool in my job. I had to reach out to all the elementary and secondary schools in the district and things like new OSAPAC software just couldn’t wait – everyone needed to know and blogging to let folks know worked out well for me. Eventually blogging became a major habit for me and I forced myself into making it a regular habit. Unlike essays or research papers, it was my forum and I could create and do what I wanted in terms of style, the actual writing and it was as long or short as I wanted it to be! I am personally impressed that I retained enough from English classes to actually put sentences and paragraphs together, mostly literately.

Like any good habit, it requires work and personal commitment to make it happen. If you’re a follower of this blog, you probably know my routine – Aviva certainly does. I write, then later proofread and edit, and ultimately schedule a post for 5am. Most weeks, it’s eight posts. A double check can be found in my weekly summary which comes out Sunday afternoons at 5pm. That’s actually a very satisfying post to write as it lets me revisit what I had written the previous week. Before that, often posts were made and then forgotten.

My routine also has a couple of other things – Friday, it’s “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” and Sunday, it’s “Whatever happened to …”

I like to thing that the routine makes me a regular blogger but the reality is that I can end up writing any various parts of the day. Sometimes, the topics are of interest to others, other times not. The key is that all have at least some personal interest and investment on my part to make them happen.

A 5am deadline just ensures that it happens.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Good Friday morning! Hope you have a quick Friday (at least it’s a Friday the 14th) and on to the weekend. Oh, and check out some great blogging from Ontario Edubloggers.


Love the Interview Learning!

From Sue Bruyns, some thoughts about interviews. Personally, I hated them when I was on the being interviewed side. I was always afraid that I’d say something stupid; sometimes my speaking exceeds my thinking ability. What the heck, most of the time that happens. That’s why blogging and the ability to proofread and edit suits me well.

I did have occasion to sit on the other side of the table and it really isn’t any better watching the interviewee squirm. Apparently, Sue enjoys the interview process and explains why in this post. What I found interesting was the approach of asking interviewees to bring in an artefact and share that with the interview team. I think it’s a great approach as it shifts the control away from the people doing the interview and lets the person being interviewed take control over something they’re very comfortable talking about.

So, Sue walks us through the interview. I found it interesting and brought back memories for me of times when I sat in one or the other chairs. It’s a necessary process, I suppose, but I still get the shaking nerves when I think about it. Of course, Sue has such a wonderful style about her, I’m sure that she would make you comfortable for the interview.


Friday Two Cents: Daily Routine

If there’s one way to maintain sanity and get results in education, it’s having a healthy and regular routine. Paul Gauchi writes about a personal experience when that happens to fall off the rails.

I think he speaks for most people in the province when he says

During these past months there has been nothing but turmoil from the government: are we going into virtual learning or are we staying with the in-class option?  It goes back and forth, back and forth.

It’s pretty difficult to build a regular routine when that is your reality. He notes the shortage of occasional teachers and that only adds to the situation.

I think we all look back at the past year with a critical eye and that’s done here, in the concept of a routine. What happens when that routine stops? What happens when you rebuilt the routine?

Read about it in this post.


Windows #SOL

I’ve been sitting on this post from Melanie White for a bit because it’s kind of sad, kind of insightful, kind of nostalgic, …

She starts by talking about cleaning windows which immediately made me think of this Safety Last! scene.

There’s a husband story here about cleaning windows to start the post but she ends up with a thought about classroom windows. Supposedly, they let you look outside, but you really only see a subset of what’s out there. In my teaching experience, most of my time was spent in a windowless classroom. The outside was neither a distraction nor an inspiration. When I did get a classroom with an outside window, it was one of those tall windows that you’ll find in an air conditioned building. It was slightly better.

But, I got thinking … all that comes into play when teachers and students are in the same room looking out the same window. What happens these days with remote learning? Everyone has a different window, if they have a window at all. What’s missing as a result? Can there be a meeting of the minds?


Thoughts on online teaching

Every0ne in education is reflecting on this and Lisa Corbett adds her thoughts. Particularly with the oddities of teaching online, planning and maintaining a schedule is crucial for success.

As Lisa notes, there are other things to remember to schedule – feed your own children.

It’s the teacher mentality and we’re all guilty of it. Everything about those students in our charge is important. We’re supposed to know them, be a social guidance, mentor, inspiration, and sometimes the more important things are devoted to whatever time is left over. Sure, we all know that’s wrong but we all do it.

Time is such a big deal in education and Lisa notes another upcoming time crunch – five weeks of teaching content and four weeks until report cards are due.

Gulp.


Les moments décisifs

Joel McLean gives a nice discussion about decisive moments, at the same time revisiting the notion of routines.

He works with the premise that we are a society of instant gratification – but what happens when it doesn’t come right away … The Valley of Disappointment!

I think we all go through this daily. What’s so frustrating is that horizontal axis. You plod along it never knowing what’s going to happen next. We rely on the fact that there will be an upturn —- but when?

I’m going to give a shout out to educators. We may not be able to see the future but we absolutely know that, if we stay the course, that curve will bend and we will see results. It’s just disappointing, even frustrating, until that happen.

Joel’s formula for success?
Patience + Perseverance + Effort = Decisive Moment


Anti-oppressive student placement cards

I’m a bit out of my element in this post on the Heart and Art Blog from Deb Weston. She tagged me in it and there was a ton of responses to it so I know that it resonated with many. It never really affected me – I was the only computer science teacher in the school so if you wanted that subject, you got me. Full stop.

Of course, the world isn’t all like that and Deb shares her thoughts.

She identifies past practices for placement of students in classes.

Past Student Placement Cards:

  • Gender: Blue cards for boys, Pink cards for girls
  • Academic success: High, Medium, Low (circle one)
  • Language: High, Medium, Low (circle one)
  • Math: High, Medium, Low (circle one)
  • Special Education Support: formal/informal IEP (circle one)
  • English Language Learners: Steps of ELL for Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing
  • Students to place in same class with:
  • Students to not place in class with:
  • Attendance issues: Yes/No Reasons for absence:
  • Student Behaviour: Big “B” and little “b”
  • Parental issues: Big “P” (big parent problem)

Then, she addresses the assumptions and issues with this approach and puts forth an alternative way of looking at things. It’s an interesting and informative read. You might want to pass it along if you’re able to influence the process.


The Annual End of Year Pressure

I guess it’s an annual event – summer is coming and there’s pressure to ensure that all that needs to be addressed in the class is, in fact, done.

Kelly McLaughlin takes a look at her world and feels that there is more pressure than normal. I think that’s perfectly understandable. How many times have educators had to shift gears this year? Then, there’s the whole “are schools going to re-open in June” thing.

One of the things that educators have had to learn on the fly is assessment in its current form… i.e. at a distance. Never mind the actual teaching, consider the whole assessment picture. All of the traditional techniques and observations have been rethought in the current reality.

Kelly shares her plans for the month of June and the things that she has planned – coding and health among others as well as some of the approaches and resources that she has been using just to get to this point.

I like the fact that she was so open with this – the more that people share good ideas, the more we realize that the wheel truly doesn’t need to be reinvented.


Please take some time to click through and read these wonderful posts and drop off a comment or two.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Sue Bruyns – @sbruyns
  • Paul Gauchi – @PCMalteseFalcon
  • Melanie White – @WhiteRoomRadio
  • Lisa Corbett – @LisaCorbett0261
  • Joel McLean – @jprofNB
  • Deborah Weston – @DrDWestonPhD
  • Kelly McLaughlin

This week’s This Week in Ontario Edublogs podcast can be accessed here:

Blog wars


Just for a little fun.

We’ve all seen those sign wars that have been going on. A bit shoutout to the town of Listowel for starting the lastest round.

This brought back great memories for me since that Dairy Queen was a go-to place to take a date. I love the fact that it’s still there.

I can’t wait until we’re able to travel again. We definitely will be by for a treat.

The signs have started some back and forth among businesses and now it’s spread to other communities. It’s the sort of thing that we all need at this time.

So, I thought … why not extend it to blogs?

A few minutes with Canva and I had my own.

So, I challenge you.

If you’re reading this and you own a blog, how about creating your own Blog Sign? It just takes a moment and a quick one or two liner.

Tag it with #BlogSignWar and let’s see what happens.

Don’t have a blog? This might be a great time to start. Don’t want to start – just tack one on to the comments below.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Stephen and I had a guest host this Wednesday on the voicEd Radio live This Week in Ontario Edublogs in Vicky Loras. Vicky is teaching and working on her PhD in Switzerland and I took a chance that our 8:45 start time would be later in her afternoon and she’d be free. As it turns out, she was and was a great addition to the show. Here’s what we chatted about.


How Should Leaders Spend Time In a Pandemic?

Anne-Marie Kee comes at this topic from a school leader and does a terrific job. But, leaders are everywhere and how they react to events of the pandemic are noticed by others.

Who can forget Justin Trudeau who was isolating and yet managed to come to the front steps and address the nation as we all were trying to figure out what was going on? In the beginning, Doug Ford did the same thing but as of late, he just hasn’t been visible. Right now, #WheresDougFord is trending on Twitter.

I suppose the easiest thing would be to hunker down at home and drop out of sight. In education, that would be horrible. Teachers and students look for guidance and leadership from their principal. To that end, Anne-Marie has made the decision to be very visible. Now, her school is residential and so there are other opportunities than virtual classrooms to do so.

In the post, Anne-Marie took me back to my time playing air guitar as she talks about keeping the popular air band tradition alive at her school.

As she notes, a leader’s job is to be the biggest cheerleader of the organization.

And it appears that she is.


Failure

It’s something that every teacher dreads. That moment when the student has not proven to your satisfaction that they’ve complete the course work and requirements sufficiently to received a passing grade.

I suspect it’s a great deal easier in the college / university setting where the class environment is different. In K-12 though – and more likely 9-12, as Amanda Potts point out, you make a call home to the parents in advance of the report card to let them know. As one of my vice-principals once noted, report cards are no placed for surprises.

She notes the best of practice for assessment techniques – running records, encouragement, accepting lates, extra support, nagging, prodding, etc. What do you do if none of this works? Well, you know.

Things are different in this environment for kids as well. You have to wonder and worry about the workload that these unique class arrangements have on the stress level of students. And, heck, teachers too.

Amanda tells a story about how it weighed so heavily on her. I think every educator would relate and hope that it never happens to them.


“To Take the Road or Not to Take the Road… That is the question!” – Robert Frost Meets William Shakespeare

From the TESL Ontario blog, this was an interesting post from Setareh Dabbagh.

Since I’ve never taught in an ESL classroom, I was a bit out of my element but fortunately guest host Vicky Loras wasn’t. It turns out that she was totally onside with Setareh when it comes to using poetry in the ESL classroom.

One of my wonders going into this was whether you needed to provide poetry from the original language translated to English for the student. For interest, I took the poem snippet provided in the blog post, translated it to Greek using Google Translate and then back to English.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Becomes

«Δύο δρόμοι απέκλιναν σε ένα ξύλο, και εγώ—
Πήρα αυτό που ταξίδεψε λιγότερο,
Και αυτό έχει κάνει τη διαφορά. “

which becomes

“Two roads deviated from one tree, and I—
I got the one that traveled the least,
And that has made a difference. “

There definitely is something lost in the translation and I expected that. I can see it though because poetry is a different beast than text. Yet, for the well rounded student, poetry would be equally as appropriate for the classroom. Choose wisely.

I really enjoyed the description of how to use poetry in the classroom including the observation of unity while reciting. Poetry is a different communication skill and perhaps that makes it even more important to include in a complete and rounded program for the ESL student.


Focusing On My April Word Made This Word Late

If you follow Aviva Dunsiger on Twitter, you might have been as amused as I was as she tried to guess which of her posts were going to use on the show. She didn’t think that it would be this one; I’m not sure which one that she thought would make it but I’m guessing it was her post about vaccinations.

But I like this one for a couple of reason.

First, she’s being true to herself in following Beth Lyons’ lead of a word for the month as opposed to a word for the year in these times.

Secondly, her choice of word is completely different from the sort of thing that I would associate her with. She’s always been so generous and giving. Now, a little self care.

Aviva’s work had impressed Vicky and she made sure that she said so on the show. It was only afterwards that Aviva tweeted the update that her plans had fallen through.

Curious? Head over to her blog and see what she had planned.


Enough About Me – #PaidSickDays

On a good week, a blog post from Diana Maliszewski might take you into gaming, libraries, media literacy, working with students, or educational issues but what happens when the post happens the day after March Winter April Break?

In this post, she shares her thoughts about the latest issues surrounding the Ontario populace – COVID and the Premier’s announcement about stay at home, enhanced police powers, science, and paid sick days.

This post will give you another insight into what makes Diana tick with her concern about social issues, including a wish for Paid Sick Days for those that don’t have them. And, throw in better leadership and an end to the pandemic.

She wishes on a star for the type of change she wants.

As it turns out, things may be changing on the Paid Sick Days front although perhaps not to the extent that people were hoping.


The Promise of Early Learning and Child Care in Canada

Writing in the Linkedin space, Stephen Hurley shares his thoughts about these programs as announced in the recent Federal Budget.

What had me particularly reflecting on this is the comparison between my life and those of today’s 4-6 year old.

My mom didn’t work outside the house. That allowed her to stay at home and be the full-time caregiver. While I wasn’t the perfect child, I don’t think I was the worst of the worst. But, I’ll admit that there were times when being with me 24/7 would wear on a person. These days, many of those issues wouldn’t even come to the attention of the parent unless it was bad enough to be reported by the school or day care. My early learning space would have been devoted to those things that my parents could afford and they would have been chosen for their entertainment value and not necessarily any academic choice. The rest would have been available for play in the side yard. When I went to school, it was to Kindergarten. It was a one year induction to education and I have no recollection of the sorts of things that you’ll see in today’s rooms.

After 50 years of talking about it and fighting for it, we’re finally going to get it done.—Hon. Chrystia Freeland

It’s taken us 50 years and the kindergarten classes of today really bear little resemblance to what I remember. Vibrant in colours, stimulation, freely chosen activities and exploration, the learner is truly in charge. We understand better how students learn and thrive.

If only I’d had that – quoting from “On the Waterfront”

I could have been somebody

But we’re not done yet and Stephen looks forward to what the future might brings and refers you to a Podcast to support your thinking.


About a name

I went to school with a Sheila. She was a year older than I was and was the daughter of the principal of our school. So, you had to be careful about what you said when she was around….

Sheila Stewart reflects on her name and that got me thinking that she may actually be only the second Sheila that I have met. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought of it as being a unique name but maybe it is. And, this Sheila claims to be OK with that.

And she asks a bunch of questions…

Readers, were you named after a song or a famous person? Your children? Do you have a good story about how you were named, or any good story about a name to share? How about a favourite song that is based on a name?

Me? My name was my father’s middle name. It’s kind of a tradition that we stepped away from with my son since my middle name is something that nobody would wish on anyone. My daughters were just great names.

I can’t complain about my name. A favourite comic comes from the Far Side.

There are far more available similar cartoons as the result of a simple search. Later this morning “Thanks Doug” may be trending on Twitter. Believe me, it’s not for me because there are other Dougs getting that attention.


Thanks for dropping by this post. I hope that you can take a moment and click through and read these posts in their entirety and drop off a comment or two.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Anne-Marie Kee – @AMKeeLCS
  • Amanda Potts – @Ahpotts
  • Setared Dabbagh – @TESLOntario
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Stephen Hurley – @Stephen_Hurley
  • Sheila Stewart – @SheilaSpeaking

The Wednesday morning This Week in Ontario Edublogs podcast is available here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I always conclude this Friday post with an encouragement to click through and read the posts highlighted here. You can’t miss them; I make them large, bold with a live link. I’ll do that first this week just to encourage you. There’s nothing like the wit and wisdom of Ontario Edubloggers.


Online Instruction of Students with Learning Disabilities

Deb Weston does a nice analysis of online instruction for students with learning disabilities. This is her particular area of expertise. Her conclusion appears at the bottom of the post.

Online learning does not support the needs of most students with learning disabilities

I suspect that we all saw that coming.

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go through and read the entire post. She does a pretty fair and balanced approach to the topic. I think that you’ll find that you’ll agree that students with learning disabilities don’t have a monopoly over the points she discusses. They apply to all students.

The big takeaway since online is going to be around for a while is to look at the positives and work to reinforce them. Then, look at the negative issues she lists and see if there’s not a way to mitigate them.


Tips for Teaching Online

The duo of Lisa and Steven Floyd team up with a post that includes a dozen tips for teaching online. This is a nice followup read to Deb’s post above. So, what can you do and what can you avoid doing?

All of the points discussed are important and I’d encourage thinking about all of them. Three really leaped out at me.

Develop a “one-stop-shop”
I think that this is crucial. Even after a year of on again off again teaching and learning online the skills that are necessary aren’t fully developed everywhere. In particular, having to “go here”, then “go there”, then “go here”, … is a recipe for failure. A portal where everything is in one spot is so helpful. If you know how, have any link open in a new tab or a new window so that the student is back “home” to the portal when they close it.

Only use new tools if necessary
As educators, we know that there are so many really valuable tools out there to address various things. You really do need to think carefully before introducing new tools. In a face to face classroom, it’s easier for success because students can just look at the person next to them if challenged. Not so online. The key is to focus on what’s really important and necessary to address curriculum expectations. Knowing a gazillion different tools really isn’t in the curriculum.

Constant feedback to students – don’t need to submit everything
If there’s one thing that is really unique during times of teaching and learning online, it’s feedback. Face to face there are more ways to provide that feedback – through body language, a look, a word, … you do it constantly and probably not consciously. Feedback when online is an intentional act for the most part. I love the tip that not everything needs to be submitted for marking. Save everyone a little stress!


Belonging

There’s a world of advice is this post from Ann Marie Luce.

It’s sad to read the story of a friend with a “personal loss”. Reacting in times like that is what makes us human and hopping in a car to provide the support is something we do all the time. Obviously things are different these days.

Ann Marie then turns this into the concept of “belonging” which is always a big deal in education. There’s nothing worse than not belonging to a group when you really would benefit from being a part of it.

In a former job, I remember going from school to school and would appreciate the invitation to go to the staff room and join a group for a coffee or lunch and a chat. That isn’t happening now. Even staff members on the same staff can’t pull that off. There’s a challenge for principals to make up for this.

Ann Marie identifies a number of different topics surrounding the notion of belonging. They could be used as a challenge by leaders within a school or a rubric by educators about the leadership provided to them. And, if you’re the teacher/leader in the classroom, there’s lot to think about there.

Professional Learning opportunities are a shortage these days but reading Ann Marie’s questions and relating them to your situation may be the best thing that you can do for yourself today.


Numbers.

With a title like that for a blog post, there really was nothing given away so I had to click over to Mike Washburn’s blog to see what was up.

I enjoy reading people’s interpretations about numbers as they apply to communities or social media. It opens up all kinds of questions about just how big a community should be to make it worthwhile or worth your while to contribute back. Or, some people judge their own value by community size. Or, does it really matter? Mike offers his thoughts in the context of the size of a conference keynote session. Big crowd size can indicate an appreciate for just who the speaker is and the organizers will appreciate that the money they spent to hire a keynote was worth it.

He turns to the concept of those enduring understandings and asks whether you’ll remember a message from a keynote speaker or a message from a colleague that you worked through a problem with.

It’s an interesting concept and might just put the whole mindset of a conference with keynote speakers in the past. So, is the important number here not necessarily the size but the number one as in that person with whom you made the connection and the learning?


Cultivating. Cultivation. Cultivate.

In the beginning, Beth Lyons’ concept of a word for a month versus a word for the year seemed like a quaint oddity.

Over time though, it has taken on considerably more value to me as a reader and fan of her blog. She very clearly outlines her thinking about the word of the month. For the month of April which is quickly ending, it’s “cultivate” and a number of words derived from that.

By itself, it’s not a unique word for education. My agricultural background had me thinking of the word “tiller” instead. (it was easier to spell) It’s a tool used by farmers and gardeners to further break the soil after it has been ploughed. It’s only then that the ground is in a position for seeding and the actual growing of any crop.

Of course, Beth didn’t take the agricultural route in her explanation; after all, she’s a teacher-librarian but the parallels between the agriculture and the library are very apparent and so reasonable to me.

And it just wouldn’t be Beth if she didn’t recommend a couple of books along that way.


“How can I help?”

Michelle Fenn takes this question and addresses her personal educational world and that of “imposter” which quite frankly, I don’t buy into. If a person wasn’t constantly learning, growing, and researching maybe I would. But her description of her work life is anything but that.

It was in the last paragraph of this blog post that really brought back memories and appreciation for the topic.

The four small words, “How can I help?” can make a powerful impact.

For a number of years, I had a job similar to hers and reported to a number of different superintendents. Like anything else, they all had their strengths and management styles. Perhaps the one that had the largest impact on me professionally fit into Michelle’s description. I don’t think the relationship started that way but it certainly evolved. We were both early to work and late to leave types and would drop in on each other unexpectedly and we often would use these words on each other when we’d see the other one working through a dicey problem. We weren’t necessarily experts in each other’s portfolio but asking the question always seemed so full of empathy and just having another set of eyes or resources available made all the difference in the world.


My mom in dementia

Every now and again, a post will come along that does make me tear up a bit and this story of Paul McGuire’s mother is one of them.

One of the things that truly sucks is getting old. And, it’s not necessarily that you’re getting older but everyone else around you is and you’re there to see it. In this case, Paul reflects on the way that this horrible disease has impacted his mother.

I like the way that Paul honours his mother; after all she’s not in charge here. The real villain is the dementia and it really doesn’t care.

I think that I know enough about blogging to know that getting it written saves that moment in time and gives you the opportunity to really work your way through your thoughts. Paul does so nicely here.

My sympathies to you, my friend.


OK, just a final reminder – click the links and read these great blog posts.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Deb Weston – @DPAWestonPhD
  • Lisa Ann Floyd – @lisaannefloyd
  • Steven Floyd – @stevenpfloyd
  • Anne Marie Luce – @turnmeluce
  • Mike Washburn – @misterwashburn
  • Beth Lyons – @MrsLyonsLibrary
  • Michelle Fenn – @Toadmummy
  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp

This week’s podcast can be listed at:
https://voiced.ca/podcast_episode_post/cultivating-learning-and-community-on-and-off-line/