This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to another Friday edition of This Week in Ontario Edublogs. #twioe It’s cool here but I’ve heard reports of you know what in other places. Stay warm and read some great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers.


Living in the age of incivility Part 3 – The Iron Cage that is the school system

This is a rather longish post from Paul McGuire and even longer if you click through and read about “The Cage” and I would encourage that and thank Paul for including it.

As teachers, I think we’re all aware that a school district sets a direction and all teachers are expected to follow those directions. There are consequences for not playing along. I couldn’t help but think about this skit from Monty Python.

On one hand, people are encouraged to be creative but one the other hand, only when it’s within the rules.

As teachers, we always had the ability to contact our federation if we felt that we were treated improperly. Paul’s experience reminds us that principals are not part of any federation and are basically on their own.

In my mind, “The Cage” has become more of a thing with the amalgamation of school districts into super boards. More than ever, it’s easier to manage from the top if everyone follows the dictated rules.

The question should be asked – what type of school system results?


Back to Life, Back to Reality…

When a blog post starts with bad news and then good news and there’s still a great deal to read, it’s hard to predict!

Jen Aston lived with the message that she would be in a portable classroom for the school year. That really isn’t good news. There was a glimpse of sunshine when she was directed not to do too much setup. Because things change. In 2020? Really? <grin>

It sounds like she ended up in a better than expected classroom – a large room in the primary area of the school. That’s good news.

What’s in the rest of the post? It’s an interesting discussion about what’s happening in Mme Aston’s classroom in the various subject areas. If you know Jen, you just know that beekeeping would end up being part of the discussion.

Click through to see how!


Student Virtual Room Tutorial à la Bitmoji Classroom

Larissa Aradj shares with us an idea that she used from earlier this year. She had students design room; not with a drafting tool but in Google Slides.

She includes some pictures of what has been done by her students. They don’t need to maybe draw their own personal room but the room they’d like to have? It’s interesting to explore these images. As you might imagine, if you take a quick look, you might miss a great deal. Take some time, blow up the pictures, and see all the messages that are there.

Since it’s done in Google Slides, it seems to me that there are some interesting additional things that could be done. Make some areas hot spots so that you could open the books on bookshelves or any of the other objects in the room.

I’m also thinking that if this just one big collaborative slidedeck, the teacher could be hiding that Elf on the Shelf within student’s rooms and have them looking for it regularly.


Deciding whether or not to make the switch…

This really is a sign of the times in the fall of 2020. Some students have elected to start the year face to face and others have decided to do it online.

Depending upon the first decision and how it’s going, it should come as no surprise that students may wish to change their mode of learning. No surprises there and the rise in number of COVID people in the province might be forcing a new reality.

To manage this, school districts have set a date by which families must declare how it is that their children will go to school. That date determines the last date that they can switch, at least for now.

Kelly McLaughlin lays out the reality in her district where the date is November 3. To help parents, she’s created a pro and con information resource for them.

Of course, I know just what everyone is thinking – another reorganization of the schools and classrooms.


7 Reasons Why I’ll Miss My 7s

I fell for Diana Maliszewski’s teaser for this post

So I cried at school on Monday and I cried again at school on Friday. Different reasons; apologies to my in-person colleagues who were worried/alarmed at 1st. (Consider this a “teaser trailer” for this Monday’s blog post.)

— Diana Maliszewski (@MzMollyTL) October 10, 2020

and I held a spot for it.

You can feel her emotions come through in the post and I wish that I could be there to give her a hug. Split grades are a reality more than ever but imagine a school that looks like this…

JK-SK, 1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7 and 7-8

The staff got together and reorganized as

JK-SK, 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8

In this reorganization, Diana ended up having to pass off what sounds like a great group of Grade 7 students.

Now, keep in mind that in the TDSB, things have been in a flux so she hasn’t had a stable classroom since the first day of school. And yet, she is able to identify a bunch of attributes for these students and how they wished her goodbye. Hence the tears.

You just have to read the post.


Slice of Life: ***

I gained even more respect for Lisa Corbett after reading this blog post. Truly.

It brought back advice from my father – you can do the wrong thing and you can do the right thing. The wrong thing might make you friends or help you through a situation but doing the right thing will let you sleep at night.

The bottom line is that you have to live with yourself when things are done and you should never have to apologize for doing the right thing.

Do the wrong thing and you might be doing some explaining for a long time to come.


Bicycles for the Mind

It was great to see Helen DeWaard back blogging again.

This time around, she reflects as a result of watching the Social Dilemma.

This film, ironically warehoused within the Netflix collection, is touted as a “must watch” docudrama bringing a critical view to the impact of social media on the cultural fabric of society

She makes the connection for analyzing the moving using resources from the Association for Media Literacy and shares her questions with us.

A discussion of this also appeared on #OnEdMentors. Read the post for her analysis of things and check out the podcast on voicEd Radio for the group discussion.


Please take the time to read these posts in their entirety.

Then, follow these educators on Twitter.

  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp
  • Jen Aston – @mme_aston
  • Larissa Aradj – @MrsGeekChic
  • Diana Maliszewski  – @MzMollyTL
  • Lisa Corbett – @LisaCorbett0261
  • Helen DeWaard – @hj_dewaard

This post originates from:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

Tracking COVID


I read a number of articles recently about how Google has added a COVID layer to its Google Maps application on mobile. So I had to check it out. In my community, it showed absolutely nothing.

Now, that would be great news but I know that it’s not true. So, I took a look across the Detroit River and found the info. According to information about the layer, the source for information comes from:

And, as I look across the border, I see the statistics from southeast Michigan.

And, of course, as you move further out and around, you see even more.

If I was doing some travelling in the United States, this would be good information to have on hand.

As Google does, it rolls out features in various locations. Hopefully, this information will become available in Ontario soon.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Greetings from my remote location – in my house. If you’ve listened to the voicEd Radio show on Wednesday mornings, you’ll know that I’ve been bumped from Studio A to Studio B because of a bathroom renovation. I’m on a different computer, different network, but I did bring my chair to sit at this relatively small desk. So, I’m good to go but am staring at a wall instead of looking outside on this beautiful Fall day. Here’s my weekly wander around the province looking at Ontario Education blogs.

The voicEd Radio archive of This Week in Ontario Edublogs podcasts is located here.


Teachers Are Still Rocking It-

It’s easy to read about the challenges that Ontario (and everywhere) teachers are having as school buildings re-open in the time of COVID. It’s less easy to find something motivational but Michelle Fenn does in this post on the ETFO Heart and Art Blog.

It’s great to read that educators from her district are interested in refining their technology and pedagogy abilities on their own time during the summer and now continuing into the evenings.

She draws a parallel in education to a series that she watched on Netflix about an exploration to Mars and the unexpected things they found. I’ll bet that describes your classroom.

It’s a good read and she mentions something that needs to be repeated and repeated. It doesn’t lessen our opinions of doctors, nurses, firefighters, grocery and other store and service workers but

Every educator is a front line worker, doing their best, making a difference, being brave beyond imagination and truly an inspiration.

I challenge all readers to repeat that on social and other media often.


A Dichotomy of Words

Elizabeth Lyons gives us a lesson in language in this post all tied to education’s current realities. As she notes, “dichotomy” is a word that we don’t use all that often. But, it was the inspiration for this post as she shares what she sees as dichotomies in our current reality.

  • Masks or no masks?
  • Physically distanced students or collapsed classes?
  • 1m vs 2m?
  • Online learning or face-to-face?
  • Hand sanitizer or soap and water?
  • Google Classroom or Brightspace?

Then, she takes off and gives her interpretation of each.

It’s an interesting read and important that it’s from the keyboard of an educator. We see these terms used casually by those in politics and on the evening news. Their true meaning goes much deeper.


“Somewhere the Hurting Must Stop” – Terry Fox

Patti Henderson is an incredible photographer and a valued person that I’ve met through my social connections and I’ve had the chance to meet her in person a couple of times.

I will apologize up front though; I went to her blog and looked at the pictures and was captivated and blown away with what I saw. I’ve mentioned it many times that artists like Patti see things that I miss. Certainly, this sticks out for me in this photo essay.

It wasn’t until I got to the bottom and saw the map that I realize that this wasn’t some sort of random collection of images. She had participated in a Terry Fox run/hike and took pictures along the way. I even thought that she had taken a picture of the set for Kim’s Convenience until I realized that there are thousands of corner stores in this world.

The pictures and her corresponding commentary puts the whole experience into perspective. Thank you, Patti, for doing this.


Body Breaks at Your Desk – for students too!

In a perfect world, there is so much movement in the classroom. Even when students are writing a test or a quiz, you’re up and walking around. This is certainly not a perfect world and people are supposed to sit at desks for the most part of the school day.

Laura Wheeler takes on this notion and lets us know that there are things that can be done to get the blood moving even in the current reality.

In the post, she explains why it’s important to have some movement in the classroom and shares a playlist of activities she’s curated to be done during breaks.

This is yet another example of how educators are seeing puzzle pieces strewn on the classroom floor and are taking the time to put them all back together. Using this metaphor, I think that it’s important to realize that you may have to smack some of those pieces to make them fit at times.


The 500 – #404 – Dr. John’s Gumbo – Dr. John

I really enjoy this series of blog posts from John Hodgkinson as he takes us through a list of great 500 albums. I hadn’t through of Dr. John for a while and when I do, I think naturally about

The song would be so important in our current time and place. If nothing else, turn up the volume and play it loud.

It’s not on this album (Iko Iko is) but there are great tunes nonetheless.

John gives us a description of the influences in Dr. John’s music including the connection to voodoo. It’s an interesting read and, he’s inspired to think about how to greet students in his classroom.

  • Everything is an influence for good or bad. I’ll remind my young charges to be mindful of the world around them and tap into its inspiration.
  • The teen-years are a fertile time for passionate pursuits…pursue your passions.
  • I will continue to foster the academic and artistic pursuits of my students. Unlike Mac’s Jesuit teachers, I’ll never give them an ultimatum.
  • Persevere and Adapt. Challenges are opportunities for greatness in disguise.
  • Quirky, flamboyant, wild and weird are positive descriptions. Be what you are meant to be … Let your freak flags fly!

Some inspirational thoughts here. Could you use them?


Networking in a Pandemic (key to survival)

OK, I love anything that Zoe Branigan-Pipe writes and when I’m in the first sentence of her post, I’m over the top!

My favourite Beauty and the Beast photo from a OSLA Superconference where led the Great OSLA Faceoff

I’m glad that I wrote that reflection post about my experience. In her response, Zoe takes us through her network and the value that it brings to her. I’m impressed with how our networks overlap.

If you’re new to networking or if you’d like to tweak your own network, take an opportunity to “meet” those in her post. You can only get better connected when you include them in yours.

In closing, hi Zoe, you’re not the only one to read your post and we’ll hold you to your promise of blogging at least once a week!


Commiserating With Others Over Their Technology Woes

Finally, back to the Heart and Art blog and a post from Tammy Axt.

This is another photo essay – about teaching this time. Technology works well except when it doesn’t.

Tammy is teaching in a hybrid environment and so is being observed with a couple different set of student lenses and everything just needs to work.

What happens when it doesn’t? It happens for all of us. I can just image the Help Desk at her district when she sends in these images to report problems.


I hope that you will take the time to click through and read these terrific blog posts. There’s great stuff there for all.

Then, make sure you’re following all these people on Twitter.

  • Michelle Fenn – @toadmummy
  • Elizabeth Lyons – @MrsLyonsLibrary
  • Patti Henderson – @GingerPatti
  • Laura Wheeler – @wheeler_laura
  • John Hodgkinson – @Mr_H_Teacher
  • Zoe Branigan-Pipe – @zbpipe
  • Tammy Axt – @MsAxt

This post appears first on:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Not surprisingly, there is a focus on teaching in these troubled times on the posts from Ontario Edubloggers. I’ve tried to bring a bunch of them together for your Friday and weekend reading.


One Size Fits All, Even When It Doesn’t

Tim King leads off with a confession that he has a big head. I hadn’t noticed. The point of Tim’s post was that he requires a medical mask and couples that with sinus issues to make things ugly. The mask isn’t sized to accommodate him and that makes for an uncomfortable day.

Couple that with the life of a technology teacher in a warm shop area setting up and dealing with the tech and you get the picture that he’s trying to paint.

The plot thickens as the topic turns to computer technology and his need to fix things so that his students have a place to work. Renewed Computer Technology of Ontario may be part of the answer to his dilemma of getting parts these days.

Then, there’s the whole concept of the long, extended class periods and the need for a break …

I suspect that Tim speaks for hundreds of educators across the province.


I’m on the phone

Amanda Potts tells of a story that I can only interpret as loneliness in the days of school building re-opening.

So, we know that social distancing is the rule these days but this is how it plays out for an LST.

“Hello, this is Amanda Potts, calling from Canterbury High School. I’m your child’s Learning Support Teacher this year. Is this a good time to talk about their IEP?”

It’s just her and parents on these calls when she gets a request from a colleague. Of course, it’s from a distance but can’t be entertained as she’s setting the stage for her parents and the students she’ll be supporting.

Although I’m sure that it adds another level of concern, I like the fact that she’s concerned about family life as she calls to talk to parents.

I just have this vision of going into B41 and working on things in the summer all by myself. A school or a classroom without students is really a lonely place.


School Online – Journal – Day 12

Terry Whitmell has a collection of blog posts that’s documenting her experiences and observations for re-opening in her part of the world. She is one of a team of principals for online learning in Peel.

I think we’ve all read and heard about stories of teachers who didn’t have classes or timetables ready to go. Here’s a look from the other side.

However, with student timetables a priority, the entry of teachers next to courses didn’t begin until near the end of the day, and is ongoing as I write.

I used to help our principal and vice-principal with timetabling and conflicts can be maddening. Sometimes, it takes a second set of eyes to see something that was staring right at you! She also takes into consideration teacher preferences. It’s an interesting read – particularly if you think that it’s all computerized and all that’s necessary is to click on GO to make the magic happen.

Of course, there are all the technical nerdy things that students will have to learn like the choice of LMS and video conferencing software – I can’t believe that the system offers a choice. Despite that, her wish is for community building first.


Friday Two Cents: Be Grateful

Lest we think that it’s just teachers and principals that are affected with everything that’s going on, Paul Gauchi reminds us that there are others in the system too.

He’s a long term occasional teacher and has been watching the comments coming from teachers in the classroom.

However, the more I read posts on social media and hear stories from them, the more I cannot be silent.

He’s taking on those who have complained about:

  • having to wear PPE
  • having collapsed classrooms
  • teaching a new grade level

and reminds us that there are many out there still looking to get hired.


Managing virtual and in-person synchronous instruction

I’m not the only one who uses dog-walking time to do some thinking. Jennifer Casa-Todd recently did the same sort of thing. She’s collaborating with a group of teacher-librarians to provide a resource for their teachers, doing their teaching online. I’m hoping that she looks at the resource that Elizabeth Lyons created (and I shared on this blog earlier this week). It would be a nice product to replicate and provide additional local resources.

She brings into the conversation a number of technical solutions, all the while in typical Jennifer style, keeping students at the centre of the conversation.

  • Peardeck
  • Padlet
  • Jamboard

Those are leading products in their genre but certainly aren’t the only ones.


Why Do We Share As We Do?

I enjoyed reading this post from Aviva Dunsiger. It’s a question that people asked “back in the day” when social media was new as a way to justify diving in.

In her post, Aviva shares her reasons for sharing

  • We share this way because it allows kids and families to benefit from each other’s thinking and learning
  • We share this way because it encourages the social
  • We share in this way because it helps us remember and celebrate the positives!
  • We share in this way because of the implied message that it also sends
  • If all thinking and learning is just kept private, what do our actions say about our beliefs?

I actually read her post when it first came out – because she had tagged me in the announcement (I do appreciate it when that happens) – and I had written a reply that I continue to stand by.

We share because it makes us more observant to what is going on and we share so that we don’t forget.

To me, the proof lies in the actual implementation. Right now, I just picked up my MacBook Pro and I’m in search of a Twitter message that I shared this morning about the new Safari so that I can poke around. I was using a Chromebook when I read the original message.

My original share may not mean anything to others but it’s a chance to share my learning with anyone who cares to join me and now I get the benefit myself by going back and finding it.

There was a time when I would just bookmark it and go back but I’ve learned that that approach teeters on selfishness. If it’s good for me, it has the potential to be good for others.

That may have been the first time ever I’ve used the word “teeter”.


Push & Pull

Finally, from Alexandra Woods, a post that will break your heart. It’s not unique to her; I just happened to read hers first. It’s from the perspective of a mother and teacher.

She had a moment with her son that caused her to pause and focus on what’s really important.

Teaching is all-encompassing and professionals are doing their very best to make sure that it’s going to be positive for students. Kudos for that; that’s what good teachers do.

And yet, there’s another factor in all this and that’s the family at home. Those of us who are parents know that we turn over these little ones to someone else for the time spent at work teaching. In a normal world, the time spent not teaching is easier to manage but many teachers are observing that teaching and planning to teach is creeping into that time not officially devoted to working.

There’s always this sense that you should be doing more and sometimes a wakeup call to reality is needed.


Please take the time to click through and read these posts in their entirety. There’s great inspirational stories there from a number of different members involved in education.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Amanda Potts – @Ahpotts
  • Terry Whitmell – @TerryWhitmell
  • Paul Gauchi – @PCMalteseFalcon
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @jcasatodd
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Alexandra Woods – @XanWoods

This post appears on:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

Same story, two takes


It was a different #FollowFriday. As I was looking up and down my Twitter lists of Ontario Educators to see who was active, there seemed to be a common thread. Tired, exhausted, and stressed out at the end of a long week. People are coping with their new job assignment reality.

Jennifer Aston put it this way.

Those that know me know that I’m an early starter to the day – 4:44 usually. Unless it was my turn to put the kids on the bus, I was early in to work – the most productive time of the day for me. Like most teachers, I start the day tired and coffee makes it better before crashing later on. On my drive in, my level of exhaustion (and the length of cars in the drive through) determined whether I got a coffee at the Tim Horton’s on Malden Road or held on to the one on Tecumseh Road.

Sadly, the big COVID news in the province was the closing of the Fellowes High School due to an outbreak there. It was reported on in a couple of ways.


The Toronto Sun had this on their landing page.

LILLEY: Teachers responsible for first Ontario school shutdown amid COVID-19 resurgence

Here, we got a chance to read the opinion and teacher bashing that is all too common. Oh, and a slam at the president of OSSTF’s educational background which had nothing to do with the story.

The CBC reported the story differently.

Pembroke school staff with COVID-19 thought they had allergies

Reporting here came from an interview on the CBC News Network with the Director of Education for the Renfrew County District School Board. He paints a story of doing things appropriately and taking action.


There is a difference in presentation between the two sources; the Toronto Sun allows for anyone to comment on the post. This lets you take the temperature of those who read the story.

According to the Government of Canada self-assessment tool when looking at symptoms,

Most common symptoms:

  • fever
  • dry cough
  • tiredness

Less common symptoms:

  • aches and pains
  • sore throat
  • diarrhoea
  • conjunctivitis
  • headache
  • loss of taste or smell
  • a rash on skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes

Serious symptoms:

  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • chest pain or pressure
  • loss of speech or movement

The advice, as we all know, is to stay away from work if you suspect anything. I’m looking at you “tiredness”.

I can’t imagine what the media coverage would be if all of those who, feeling the tiredness and exhaustion of the times, had called in and requested an occasional teacher. According to the CBC article, the staff felt they had allergies which are quite common this time of year.

We hear over and over again how “we’re all in this together”. If these are examples are taken, it’s clear that we aren’t.

The Province of Ontario assessment tool is located here.

https://covid-19.ontario.ca/school-screening/

The Ontario scoreboard is located here.

https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-cases-schools-and-child-care-centres