What I heard and didn’t hear

The dog was dragging his tail Thursday afternoon. I had turned on CP24 to see what the topic de jour was going to be from the Premier. When I saw the Minister of Education was standing in the background, I knew I wanted to stay for the entire session. Jaimie could wait.

The two big topics had been released the previous couple of days so the content wasn’t really a surprise but the way it was delivered and response to the reporters questions had me wanting to hear more.

Fewer primary suspensions

What I heard – The Minister announced that there would be few suspensions of students in the primary grades. There would still be some when the action calls for it.

What I didn’t hear – The concept of suspensions really hit the radar during the work interruption with ETFO. Stories of teachers being attacked by students hit the headlines. I still remember the image of the protective gear that a teacher had to wear to protect herself. I’ve talked to many principals about suspensions and, particularly in the primary and junior grades, they are so hesitant to pull the trigger because of the position that it puts parents in for care. If the concept of the suspension was so wide-spread, I think that most educators would be in favour of alternative ways of addressing this. So, what would the approved ways be? Suspension rooms? More childcare workers to help students work things out and learn to handle issues properly? Or do teachers just suck it up?


What I heard – In 2021, Grade 9 Mathematics will be destreamed for students. The big bad system forces kids into life making decisions at age 13. These decisions dead-end student futures.

What I didn’t hear – So, once again, Mathematics becomes the bad subject area. It’s not the only subject area that has streams; how long before English, Science, etc. follow? When I left my school, I was Director of Business Education and our Grade 9 course was not streamed and we had a great deal of success with it so the concept definitely will work. There isn’t a teacher alive who wants to steer a student in the wrong direction. What was missing about the assertion was that students are not forced into a stream; it’s a decision that they make with their parents come course selection time. I remember our Head of Guidance telling students and parents during Grade 8 nights to take the Advanced option, knowing that they could always shift gears later if it became necessary.

Another thing I didn’t hear was how this course would be developed and, for management, what would the class sizes be? I would hate to be cynical and think that this would be a way to get around clauses in collective agreements. After all, Applied courses have smaller numbers. What happens when those courses disappear? While we’re at it; there was no discussion about French Immersion, Gifted, and Essentials courses.

Another thing that I heard was that the College of Teachers would get more involved with teacher discipline over discrimination. All that it takes is a review of the website or the Blue Pages to know that discipline has always been there. There was no idea of “how” they were going to be involved except that there will be stronger sanctions but this is an issue that no educational professional should need a memo about. Period.

A reporter asked what I thought was a logical question and that was whether School Districts would be receiving more funding for portable classroom or renting space in community buildings. The Premier responded by telling the reporter than per district spending is up. Details are short; we know that salaries have increased and cleaning expenses are going up too. Is this a case of announcing the same money over and over again.

I’m sure that there were more things that I could have included and I should have taken notes!

But you know the biggest thing that I didn’t hear?

That teachers were consulted and had input on these moves.

Just consider recent history – they weren’t consulted about closing schools this spring but they made it work. Teachers are dedicated professionals and have the insights and abilities to juggle so many priorities and issues. They’ll make these initiatives work. Had they had some input to the implementation and refinement of ultimate goals along with their safety in all of this, they could make them work better.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

This Wednesday, Matthew Morris joined Stephen Hurley and me for This Week in Ontario, the Podcast. You can listen to it here. With Matthew’s insights, we took on a few new topics. You can read my thoughts about them below. As always, insights from great Ontario Edubloggers.

5 Things Every Teacher Should Do During Summer Break

This was a post from Matthew Morris. Here, he takes on the very popular blogging format “# Things …” and shares some advice about what to do during this time off.

  • Sleep
  • Purge Your Classroom
  • Un-Plug
  • Reflect on the Year
  • One New Thing for Next Year

Fortunately, for the podcast, he woke up early and plugged in, thereby breaking at least two rules on his list! But, as you work your way down the list, you’ll undoubtedly agree with them. Most support the notion of mental well-being.

I found that the “Reflect on the Year” to be one of the more interesting things when you consider that most people would consider this a year to forget. To be certain, we don’t know what the fall will look like so consolidating them with the on the fly learning that’s happened in the past few months could be very important.

It’s also advice that Subject Associations should be heeding. For the most part, teachers made it work but I’m sure that many of them could provide guidance to make things better. Just this morning, ACSE member Lisa Rubini-Laforest indicated that she will be leading a panel discussion at their virtual conference this summer about teaching online. All Subject Associations should be highlighting their expertise in this area and the sooner the better.

Take the lead; do them early, record them and place them online so that they’re accessible when most school districts do their end of August professional learning.

Cancel Culture and our students

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding that social media has got meaner over the past few months. Personally, I have isolated some people from me because of a number of reasons. I’m emotionally happier as a result.

The concept has not gone unnoticed by Jennifer Casa-Todd and she takes on the topic in this post from the perspective of students. They can be brutal at times. She asks about various things that will get you thinking. One in particular struck me as needing to be answered.

If we are talking about adolescents, will their entire future be marred by one mistake?

Of course, Jennifer has many other thinking points and that will make reading her post worthwhile.

Trending this morning is this post from Margaret Wente

It’s an insight from the other side, from one who was “cancelled” due to pressure from Social Media.

6 Similes to describe how it felt to teach during COVID 19 Quarantine

During the podcast, I mused that only teachers and students would be able to use the word “similes” properly. Matthew indicated that rappers could as well!

In this post on the Heart and Art blog, Will Gourley does a top six list…

“Teaching during a quarantine”

The similes are certainly worth the read and has to bring a smile to everyone. I know it did for me. I also learned that AWOL doesn’t always have the meaning that I thought it did after watching years of M*A*S*H.

It seems to me that the best of the six was comparing learning to eating an ice cream code with a hole in the bottom. Read the post to see Will tell you why he feels that way.

It’s a great read and I get a sense that it might have been healing for Will as he got a lot off his chest. Read and share.


Where students come from a family to school, the insights from With Equal Step are really important.

Over and over again, we heard about how parents had a renewed appreciation for teachers (or a first appreciation) and how teachers had appreciated the support received from families.

The observations in the post about silos and bridges are important. There’s wisdom here for everyone.

While teachers and parents may be frustrated that they can no longer easily hand off our child to the other at the door, our new immersive connection reminds us that, “Diverse groups make better decisions than homogenous ones.”

How do research plans change in a COVID context? #MyResearch

I think that everyone could learn something from the observations in Anna Bartosik’s post.

I think that most people can envision the days of going to the library to grab some books or microfiche and doing the research. Since Anna made the reference to OISE, I remembered a couple of coffee places and the cafeteria at FEUT where many of us would meet and work together on things.

So, now you take all that away.

Well, we now have different/better tools. Just open a shared online document and a video conferencing window and take it from there. Anna shares her experience working in this environment.

microphone icon from noun project

Sure, we have the tools, better tools but …

And, I also learned about the Noun Project.

Is This When We Change Our View Of Planning?

I love it when Aviva Dunsiger says I’m right.

As Doug indicated in his comment, many people might be preparing for worst case scenarios right now. While I was quick to reply that my teaching partner, Paula, and I are not doing that, maybe that’s not completely true.

Well, maybe not in so many words but I’ll take what I can get.

So, Aviva is doing some planning

  • I’m planning for possibilities
  • I’m planning with connections
  • I’m planning to connect
  • I’m planning through reading
  • I’m planning to blog

Knowing her as I think I do, none of these come as real surprises.

Probably all teachers could say they’re doing these things and they wouldn’t be wrong. But I would point to the one in the middle. (Mental note: should have used a numbered list)

The value of connecting needs to go further than “I gots me a Twitter account”. Connecting means building that account to have a critical mass of wisdom both supporting and challenging your assumptions and more importantly to put yourself out there, offering advice, asking for suggestions, working collaboratively, being humble…

Just don’t get yourself cancelled.

MakerEdTO 2020 Virtual Conversations

I’m really liking it when organizations are rolling with the punches and coming out the other side winning.

MakerEdTO is one of those groups and Diana Maliszewski shares with us how it was done.

Of course, they couldn’t get together and make things happen by all being in the same place at the same time. It wasn’t talking heads; they worked on giving everyone selection and used online breakout rooms to make it happen.

There’s a great deal to be learned from this post and I’m sure Diana would be more than accommodating for those who want to ask questions to make educational gatherings like this work, even in these times.

Please take the time to click through and read all these wonderful posts and then follow these educators online through Twitter.

  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @jcasatodd
  • Will Gourley – @WillGourley
  • With Equal Step – @WithEqualStep
  • Anna Bartosik – @ambartosik
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL

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

Secondary schools in COVID

There has been much written about how schools might look like if/when they re-open in September. The CDC has listed the following common sense measures. Ontario school districts are to look at one of these three plans.

Like shopping malls and supermarkets (or any store, for that matter), movement of patrons is a key to how they function. Schools are no different. Unlike shopping malls or supermarkets though, lining up outside the building, socially distanced, before a math class isn’t going to work. Before school start entry to the building itself will have to be made to work. Schools love rules.

But inside the four or more walls, it’s going to be a different story. From the Ministry or the Board Office, having students sitting in the same desk, socially distanced, and subjects integrated seems to be the plan. Many elementary school teachers do the integration piece already so are undoubtedly visioning how it might work. Of course, kids can sit for six hours in one spot focussed on their work!

Discussion is difficult to find about how a secondary school might work. Over the weekend, I read about one suggestion that the secondary school year might look like a series of summer school sessions. You go to school, in one classroom, and you work at the same subject for day after day until the credit is earned. Then you move on to the next subject. In theory, that would get rid of the need to get up and move between classes. In my old school, students had five minutes to socialize, er, transition between rooms. That transition was always a challenge and we were all supposed to be out in the hallways keeping the flow moving.

But I can’t imagine taking one subject for an entire day. To revert to four or more classes results in four class movements which isn’t ideal either. This, in addition to the movement to the buses or parking lot bookending the school day.

There might be value in, as they say on Pawn Stars, meeting in the middle. Saw the current schedule in half and do one subject in the morning and one in the afternoon. With a bit of creativity, the classes in each half of the day could stagger to minimize the number of bodies in the hallways. The classes would be a mixture of teaching, reinforcing techniques and would take 150 minutes rather than the traditional 75. It’s still a long time but appropriate pedagogy could ease the pain a bit. Keeping the class sizes small enough for suitable distance between students remains a challenge. The concept of a mix of at-school and at-home work would undoubtedly have to suffice. With schools already requiring portable classrooms, it’s not like there’s any extra space lying around.

Lunch remains a wildcard in any vision I have. Unlike elementary schools where students bring their own for nutrition breaks, secondary schools typically have a vibrant cafeteria where you get the nutrition from the starch food groups – french fries, pizza, shepherd’s pie, fish and chips. … (OK tongue in cheek here … there are salads too). Are we talking the end of the cafeteria or will we see the educational version of touch free delivery? – orders emailed in by 8, pick up in the hallway by 11 with your name on it. Cafeterias would stop being cash only places.

Oh, the mind hurts. We haven’t even talked about busing, sanitizing washrooms, courses with shared instruments and work spaces like shops or music rooms.

There are so many different things that go into a solid academic experience for students. The logistics must be so heavily weighing on the minds of those in charge of a district.

Oh, and then there’s this announcement about de-streaming Grade 9. My initial thought is that this may well be the best thinking to come along in a long time. I need to read more details.

Planning for success

With the Learn at Home reality this past spring, there has been a great deal of ramping up and learning about online teaching that took place. It doesn’t take long to follow educators to find some that did well in the reality and others that really had to do a great deal of learning on the fly.

We still don’t know for sure how every school district will handle the 2020-2021 school year. There have been all kinds of suggestions and ideas speculated to date and I suspect that it will get fast and furious over the summer. The Ministry of Education has provided three scenarios. Pick a card, any card…

Some things seems to make sense; if elementary schools are back in close to regular routine, the common wisdom seems to be to keep students in one place with no movement and move teachers if that’s required. Many suggestions about taking classes outside where possible are appropriate.

I still have difficulties seeing how busing will work via my crystal ball so will continue to think about that one.

One glaring shortcoming of society that impacted students was the lack of technology / quality technology at home. That seemed to catch many schools off guard and struggles were made to distribute school computers and internet access as needed. It truly was a band-aid solution which probably worked as well as it could. Then there was the directive to do synchronous teaching which logistically isn’t possible with one computer and more than one student using that computer.

We all live in fear that there will be another surge of outbreaks of the virus, resulting in yet another case of Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, …

There needs to be a plan in place to ensure that all students have enough and appropriate technology at home along with the connectivity to make it work. Things are pretty quiet right now about this topic. Ever the optimist, I really hope that serious thinking and planning is happening at the Ministry and District levels. Not having it addressed last spring is excusable. Who saw this coming? But not having a plan in place to address the worst case scenario for the fall would be educational malpractice.

There are all kinds of solutions that are available.

  • I’ve always been a proponent of tax credits for parents who purchase technology for their children to use for homework. Regardless of any pandemic, it is just something that needs to be in place if we believe that technology skills have a place in a child’s future
  • School technology needs to be easily repurposed to work outside the confines of the school. That means that images applied over the summer need to be made with this in mind
  • If new computers at home are not possible, then initiatives like Renewed Computer Technology need to be seriously considered and promoted and not just seen to be as a cute alternative

Of course, just having technology in place doesn’t guarantee success. To the credit of teachers and students, they kind of made it work this past spring. All school districts need to be designing and making compulsory learning about whatever Learning Management System they will be using for all involved for the first week of school. They shouldn’t be caught again without a plan. It should also provide skills for the future even if school resumes in a somewhat normal fashion.

If you’re an educator and reading this point, how about sharing your own learning that happened this past spring? What are you and your district doing to ramp up for the fall and beyond? Are there writing teams in place right now to provide support for moving courses/subjects online?

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

July kicked off the summer months and This Week in Ontario Edublogs was there to enjoy the day. On the voicEd Radio show, guest Amanda Potts joined Stephen Hurley and me for the hour. You can listen to the show via Podcast here.

Who’s anti-racist?

Our guest Amanda Potts took us through this very personal post. Because of the issues happening in the US and indeed, Canada, at the moment, people are taking the time to write about their feelings and sharing their own view of their personal privilege.

There was an interesting reflection on her view of the difference between n0n-racist and anti-racist and we had a chance to discuss that on the show.

In the post, Amanda shares two wonderful stories and paints a vivid picture in each. One was about a student whose mother kept her at home when she got angry to keep her from getting into trouble. The other story was about accidentally assisting a person who she had cut out of her social media life. Of course, both were learning experiences.

Throw in reference to a couple of podcasts on the topic and it’s quite easy to see that she has done considerable thinking about this.

It’s a long-ish post and very rich in content. I’ve read it a few times now and fine something new each time through.

Slice of Life: Routine

One of the truly remarkable things about being a teacher is that, in a thirty year career, you have 30 different starts and stops to your workflow. I can’t think of any other job that can make that claim.

School is full of routine. We know that students succeed better because of this. And, because teachers are there every minute, they run through the same routine, at least while at work.

I can recall the end of school years gone by. You run for an entire school year living and breathing the routine of daily life. Then, on that last day, it all changes. The school year routine goes away FULL STOP and summer begins. Some people take the first week or so to kick back and relax. I always liked the concept of continuing with the energy and going on a holiday or attend a conference at the first of July.

As we know, this year is different. Lisa Corbett claims that she has a lot to do and shares some of it with us. She admits that, upon proofreading, she found her post “aimless”. As a result of teaching at home, the home part continues, sans students. I hope that her family helps reset her priorities.

 That was what I needed to reset my school brain so I was ready for summer brain. Somehow I need to convince my family to do this on Friday night.

She does call the post “aimless” and I can understand. I also suspect that there are thousands of teachers that are feeling the same way and will need to kick start the summer months differently somehow this year.

Storage War$ Learn at Home Editon

As I was doing the show yesterday, I looked at the title and noticed the spelling mistake. I thought that was odd and that I had typed it incorrectly. But, Larissa Aradj, it was a copy/paste job from your post.

The post is about a terrific classroom activity that uses a Google Slide presentation to provide choices for students to select, based upon what they might find should they beat Brandi and Jarrod to win a locker.

What was unique about this was Larissa didn’t share her original template. Instead, another teacher, Leslie Mott, had taken Larissa’s concept and ran with it and Larissa chose to share Leslie’s idea in her post.

That stuck me as really unique. So many of us create and share concepts on social media. But, do we ever get a chance to share what someone else did with our idea? (Think about it for a second) It seems to me that this is how good ideas become great as a result of community improvement.

There actually was a bit of discussion on Social Media where Leslie identified Larissa as a mentor and a sharer of great ideas. I’ve been in a PD session led by Larissa and completely agree.

The 500 – #419 – “Dummy” – Portishead

I hadn’t heard any Portishead for years until I read this post from Marc Hodgkinson. He’s working his way through a top 500 list and sharing his thinking with us.

It was a great re-listen to me. It seems so long ago.

What’s interesting is how Marc goes through and shares his thinking about the music and ties it to what was happening in his personal life at the time.

And, just like last time I featured one of his posts, I did follow the link to the list of the top 500 to re-discover #1.

COVOID-19 and the Return of the Memory Thief

Well, this has to be one of the more emotional blog posts that I’ve read in a long time. Many of us have dealt with family members struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s incredibly tough.

As much as I had to deal with it, it pales to the way that Judy Richards is. I had the advantage of being face to face, hand to hand, hug to hug. I can’t imagine the pain of being locked outside looking in at someone who is locked inside dealing with it.

Staff do try to make an effort by doing the communications via iPad thing but assuredly, it’s not the same. That’s even true if both ends of the communications are effective users of the technology.


There is a brigade of fire fighters caring compassionately for my mom, doing their best to comfort her, and keep her safe. 

PowerAutomate, Forms->Excel
PowerAutomate, Forms->Excel Part 2

The above is actually two posts from Cal Armstrong. I know that it looks a bit messy with the formatting but I don’t want to point to one without pointing to the other.

As I read both posts, I’m impressed with the support that Cal is providing for staff members in this. Lots of details, lots of screen captures. When I worked with a group of CAITs, we did this a lot and called them “One Sheet Wonders”. The rules were to make it clear, make it efficient, but keep it to one sheet of paper so that people are able to easily follow through the concepts.

In this case, Cal is showing readers how to connect resources using Microsoft’s Flow. I like his analogy to IFTTT which has been around and so functional for so many people. The comparison is immediately obvious.

Both examples were really easy to go through. The first one shows how to easily manage Microsoft Social-Emotional Check-In via Forms through to Excel and the second one features how to be smarter than Excel. (Cal’s words)

I know that many people are really handy with Forms. They’re probably equally as handy with Excel. The value from this post comes from showing how to connect the two, making you that much more efficient.

Crazy Hair Day

As a result of the COVID virus and the Learn at Home initiative, a lot of people are thinking about a lot of things that are happening and things that are hard to make happen. In this post, Arianna Lambert thinks about things that maybe shouldn’t be happening at all.

She got me thinking of my own high school. At Grade 12 graduation, I got a School Letter. In Grade 13, I got a Major School Letter. The “Letter” wasn’t actually a letter; it was actually a crest of the school mascot. At the time, the school mascot was a profile view of a character that we wouldn’t even consider these days. The school has since changed its mascot retiring this one. If only professional sports teams would follow the same lead. Getting a letter was important at the time. It was one of those institutional things that the school had always had. I can’t remember the numbers now but if you joined X number of clubs, Y number of sports, or Z number of honours, you got a badge. Get enough badges and you were eligible for a letter.

In her post, Arianna Lambert identifies things that are common to many schools in a way to encourage spirit. She shares a story of a little girl who felt the activity made it hard to participate in. Of course, nobody asks students how they feel about the activity. It is just assumed that what was done in the past is good going forward.

Now on the other side of the desk, she’s asking good questions that the institution and those that support it need to consider and possibly act on. If there is no good and equitable way to make it work for all, why perpetuate it?

I really enjoy sharing my thoughts about the great posting from Ontario Edubloggers. I hope that you can take some time to click through and enjoy the original posts.

Then, follow these great bloggers on Twitter.

  • Amanda Potts – @Ahpotts
  • Lisa Corbett – @LisaCorbett0261
  • Larissa Aradj – @MrsGeekChic
  • Marc Hodgkinson – @Mr_H_Teacher
  • Judy Richards – @redknine
  • Cal Armstrong – @sig225
  • Arianna Lambert – @MsALambert

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