This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Welcome to July! I hope that everyone is enjoying the beginning of summer. I hope that you can fit reading these fabulous blog posts into your day.

Leadership Lessons from Baseball

Charles’ post takes me back. Not only a memory of Tony LaRussa coaching but going to a Phillie’s game while in Philadelphia at a conference. I’m in the picture here with another Doug from across town.

Charles gets to LaRussa’s retirement and then being brought back to coach and making the decision to walk someone with a 1-2 count. That does seem a little bizarre!

There are great questions at the end of the post that Stephen and I talked about during the Wednesday radio show.

  • Can you think of a public figure who owned up to a mistake in a timely and totally contrite manner?  
  • Can you think of a leader who moved on to let the next gen leaders come forth? 
  • Can you name someone who made a successful and inspiring comeback after a ten-year gap?

They’re great questions. If you have answers, swing over to Charles’ blog and share them there.

Teachers Make Mistakes: Here’s What To Do When You’ve Made One

Kristy’s post was so appropriate to read after Charles set the stage. Do you want to do something scary? Do the math here. (No, it’s not the math that’s scary, it’s the result!)

Years ago, a mentor teacher explained the reality of teacher imperfections. He pointed out that teachers are in the business of communicating – we say, write, and teach a lot of things every day – and if each of us makes only one mistake per day and we multiply that by the number of days in a school year and then by the number of years we spend in the classroom, that works out to many thousands of mistakes and missteps over a career. 


She discusses the topic in some detail that offers a what-to-do when it happens.

  • Admit Your Mistake
  • Hold Yourself Accountable For Your Actions And Remedy The Situation
  • Make Your Admin Aware of Big Mistakes
  • Everyone Makes Mistakes

On the show, Stephen made reference to an incident where he needed to talk to his admin immediately after he shared something in class. He shared it with me privately afterwards and yeah — the administration would want to know when the parents start calling!

Ode to our Guest Educators

I held off on this post from Sue for the last show of the school year. I hear so much about how teachers are moving on but I never hear about administrators moving on.

There will be teachers becoming vice-principals for the first time; there will be vice-principals moving to the big office. Come September, they will have the opportunity to set a mindset and environment for their school.

There will be regular visitors to classrooms who aren’t the regular teacher. We used to call them Supply Teachers and I don’t recall them being treated all that well when I went to school.

In Sue’s school, they don’t use that expression; instead, they’re known as “Guest Educators” which immediately changes the mindset and Sue uses the post to describe what it means to be a guest educator in her school.

I can’t help but think that this is a mindset that should be expected everywhere. So, if you’re making a move this fall, read and consider what you might do.

What you think you know

Cal’s post will have you thinking.

Certainly, as educators, we are well aware that some students do well in other classes and are challenged in ours or vice versa. When you do the math, there are all kinds of students that you interact with daily and as Cal notes, “you can only know so much”. You’d have to be a permanent shadow to understand everything about everybody.

That’s just in the classroom.

Take that to the next step and think about the administrators in the school. They’re even further away from understanding everything about everybody.

My first superintendent was really inspired by the writing of Tom Peters and the philosophy of management by walking around. That is a good step but often an administrator needs that formal feedback from staff and students as well.

Cal had an interesting observation that often administrators only hear about the positive things. But, they’re only human. How should they handle criticisms?

And, … if you’re like me, you’re going to want to look up umwelt.

Create Safe Spaces

I loved the insights from this post from Nilmini. Of paramount importance is the concept of stories. She sees the classroom as being a safe place for students to have a conversation and be comfortable in doing so.

She addresses areas where stories can be used.

  • History
    • This got me thinking; I still know so much about my childhood community and I can tell you stories about it!
  • Reflection
    • For me, the big advantage of blogging is to reflect on something that’s of importance to me. If it’s helpful for you, then great
  • Journalling
    • We were told to keep a journal when I was in school and it should come as no surprise to regular blog readers that I did so to the bare minimum. Now, if blogging had been a thing back then…
  • Graphic Organizers
    • This is so important to computer programming where you lay out your logic. These days, I also do that in preparation for the Wednesday show and this blog post

Last Day of Teaching – Ever!

There have been lots and lots of sentiments of this type on social media. As my dad always said “it’s time to call it a day”. Since I’ve found Marie’s blog, I am an avid reader; she’s frequent and so open and I hope that she continues in her retirement.

I’m envious as I always thought that I’d like to teach in the same school that I went to as a student. That wasn’t to be and I had to learn all about a new community over three hours away.

In Marie’s typical style, it’s not a short post but is so rich in details. She tells a great story. As someone who has gone through this, I do admit to having a tear or two on my keyboard reading this. When I left my school, I got a set of bookends; when I left the Program Department, I got a plaque. As luck would have it for this post, I was cleaning my bookshelf and my wife wondered why I kept those up there.

I think, and it rings solidly in Marie’s post, that there’s something extra special about being in education. Yes, it’s like banging your head against the wall; it feels good when it stops. And yet, there’s something about being an educator that never, ever leaves you. I will always treasure those gifts.

That comes across so clearly in this post and you can see and hear her thoughts here.

How did she hold it together?

Looking Back Over the Year

Gary gives us another look at a reflection as the year ends. It’s really been a year like no other. Could this have been the worst of the COVID years?

He identifies

  • start the year by working at home
  • getting a new central position
  • getting shifted to a new role
  • becoming a blogger

This truly is a unique year. I like the fact that Gary indicates that he couldn’t have done it on his own. But, it’s not just about him; he acknowledges that so many others struggled through it as well.

Gary, I agree with your plans of kicking back and really, really recharging. We’ve talked about this so often but never has it been so important as this year.

Please take time to read this and follow these great bloggers on Twitter.

  • Charles Pascal – @CEPascal
  • Kristy – @2peasandadog
  • Sue Bruyns – @sbruyns
  • Cal Armstrong – @sig225
  • Nilmini Ratwatte-Henstridge – @NRatwatte
  • Marie Snyder – @MarieSnyder27

voicEd Radio Show

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Happiest of Fridays to everyone. Enjoy some good blog reading!

So You Are Going to Be A Teacher Librarian… now what? Part 1

Is there any location in a school that changes so frequently in response to resources, understanding how students read, or just a conducive place for learning, reading, making, or just a place for lesson planning as the library?

Elizabeth has started a series of blog posts about what goes into her thinking about design and I like how she’s generous enough to share it with us in this post and has shared it with colleagues and administrators from other schools over the years.

Today’s library is so far removed from the libraries that we enjoyed going to in schools. Certainly, we enjoyed going there and it was a favourite place for a number of reasons. Mostly, I recall, it was for books and a quiet place to work.

Things have changed. How do you make it a success? There’s lots of planning, design, and thinking that goes into it and you get a sense of it in this introductory post.

  • Things to consider – layout of the room
  • Beginning readers
  • Picture books
  • Chapter books and graphic novels
  • Non-fiction
  • Dual language

If you’ve been paying attention to education, there’s much more to come as we think about makerspaces and all the other things that happen there. As she notes, the library environment is the third educator in the room. If you think it’s just another room with books, you’ve got another think coming.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming posts.

Researcher’s Journal: Living in a post-truth world

Now that Paul is working on his PhD, he’s taking us deeper in thought as we tag along with his research.

This time, he’s looking at “post-truth“, ironically the definition that I’m sharing is from Wikipedia! This resource even has a post about mis-information.

It doesn’t take long when you turn on the evening news broadcasts from the south of the border that this concept blows up in your face. There was a time when an expert carried an expert label; now it seems like anyone who is willing to stand in front of a camera and scream gets the air play. Truth used to be so binary.

Paul’s current thoughts are influenced by Sam Weinburg and he’s good enough to give us a glimpse of his research reading.

These days, it seems anyone can be a journalist and you can start with a blog and share whatever information you want! Later, I’m going to talk about a blog post from Bonnie Stewart and she has a link to a resource on eCampusOntario about Information Abundance. Good reading and I can’t help but think that Paul’s work is important but how will it be judged objectively? What does objective mean anymore?

Minds Moving … For Adults And Kids Alike!

All teachers have a way to start their class. There’s a phrase that you often hear “minds on” to describe things. You’d like to think that students come in, sit down quietly, and get to work. About the second day in this profession and you know that they need help; it doesn’t come naturally.

Aviva shares how she personally starts her day. With an early start, she’s into the popular word puzzle games. I know that many teachers are now using it as a fun start to the lesson (psst don’t tell them that it’s good for them) but Aviva uses it for herself to get her mind going.

Then, what would an Aviva post be without pictures? She shares how her students get started independently.

It seems to me that the key to all of this is to find a bite-sized activity that’s engaging and enjoyable to do. That’s not always easy but finding it will have huge payoffs.

Redesign for online: 3 easy steps to questioning everything you do as an educator

My RSS Reader brought up this two-year-old now post from Bonnie. I don’t know if she updated it or if it was just fortunate luck but I read it and really enjoyed it. There’s so much wisdom in here that, after COVID, we can get a better understanding of now.

Warning – the title is a bit of a bait and switch but not in a bad way. As she notes, there is no such thing as three easy steps.

Online teaching is her thing so she does write from a strong background and credibility. After two years, everyone has built up a bit of expertise so her experiences have added importance.

There were a few big takeaways for me.

  • “Redesigning for online is a confronting process. It forces you to pare down both your course content AND your course communications to the bits that matter most” – Yes! Not everything gets ported over. It’s also a good idea as you prepare for F2F next year
  • “the infrastructure of the internet is actually designed FOR two-way participatory communications” and she gives terrific examples of what to do. I thought that the concept of knowledge creators versus consumers was particularly helpful. With YouTube and the like, I think everyone has got the consumer part down pat
  • “My partner, on the other hand, worked ten hour days, wrote half an Online Teaching textbook, and created an entire site of video resources and interviews about digital pedagogies” This is a rich resource

There is a presentation and the irony of the tools used isn’t lost on me but it will be a good hour of professional learning for all.

Grad Prep

After the fact, I had some regrets about sharing the post. The content was about the work that Diana puts in to support her colleagues in a couple of graduations in the school – from Kindergarten and Grade 8. She’s using her technical skills to build a presentation using green screen and a story for each student.

It was a little sobering when she mentioned that this might well be the first time for the kindergarten students to see a big audience. I never thought of that.

The regrets came from responses to the voicEd show where the concept of graduations was discussed in not so glowing terms. That wasn’t the point of Diana’s post and I hope that she missed it. Graduations are a school or district decision; not an individual teacher’s.

Having said that, I can’t recall any course where things abruptly ended after the last class. Even at the Faculty of Education just taking a single course, there was an invitation to go out or over to someone’s house to celebrate the end of things.

There have been so few things to celebrate these days that a formal graduation may just be the shot that people need, for that moment in time. There may be a time and a place to have this discussion but to tag onto this blog post isn’t it.

And don’t forget the parents – this from a friend of mine this morning…

So proud x 2 🎓🎓🎉🎉! Congratulations to both XXXXXXX and XXXXXXX on their Grade 8 graduation from XXPS! 🙌🏻 10 years in the making!

I’m sure that also the kids will get a DVD or a link to the presentation that they can enjoy for a lifetime. I sure wish I had that to look back at.

And on to LongCovid

“Masks are all but gone in my neck of the woods.”

Ditto here. In the past while, I’ve had an optometrist and doctor appointment and I’ve worn a mask. The sign on the door says so and I know that these are occasions where you’re going to be closer than ever to someone not in your immediate family.

We also wear masks to the drug store where it’s about 50/50 with staff and Walmart where the ratio is less. I’ve convinced my wife that self-checkout isn’t bad because you don’t have to stand really close to anyone.

I’d like to go with the sentiment that it’s all over. But it isn’t, by a long shot.

  • A good friend, wife, and inlaw all got it
  • Friends on Facebook have checked in with the sad news
  • Baseball was cancelled because they couldn’t field a team

Then, there’s the concept of longCOVID (longCovid) that Marie talks about in the post. It’s not pleasant and she doesn’t sugar-coat it.

Somehow, so many have bought into the concept since vaccination centres are shut down and there isn’t a frenzy to get a jab.

I had to smile a bit at her thoughts about style. Like so many, I just wish we could get to the point where it’s not here and we don’t have to worry about writing about it. We’re not there yet.

They haven’t the foggiest

I’ll give Doug some cred by pairing him with Monty Python.

Hey, Doug

If you’re looking for a little smile and some play on words, this will be your Friday morning read.

Please find some time to enjoy these posts. Then, follow the authors on Twitter.

  • Elizabeth Lyons – @mrslyonslibrary
  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Bonnie Stewart – @bonstewart
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Marie Snyder – @MarieSnyder27
  • Doug McDowall – @dougzone2_1

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


This will be a “post from the past” from seven years ago. It came to memory this morning as I was chatting with a secondary school student neighbour who was waiting for the bus. In typical teacher fashion, I asked her “are you ready for exams”? She actually had a philosophical leaning about exams being dumb memory recall exercises.

So, here’s a repeat of my post. It is geared to my teaching as a computer science teacher and, as noted at the end, a bit of a rant. Think of your experiences both as a student and now as a teacher – where do you stand on the topic of exams.

As an aside, it was interesting to read an old post. I did a great deal of editing and repairing. Apparently, I didn’t use Grammarly back then!

There was a picture in the student newspaper when I was at the University of Waterloo that I wish I’d kept.  If you went there, you’ll remember the desks set up in the PAC.  The picture was taken from the upper level showing hundreds? of people writing exams and the caption was “At Waterloo, you’re a somebody”.  Don’t ask me why I remember that image from so long ago but it’s stuck with me.

As a first-year teacher, there came a time when I had to create an exam.  They had to be drafted and then sent to the office so that they could all be formatted in a consistent manner, duplicated, and locked in the vault until exam time.  Then, the seal (well actually a sheet of paper wrapped around them with the number of copies therein) was broken and it was distributed to the students.

For my first couple of years (probation, don’t you know…), I followed the format of my predecessor.  I’m sure that we’ve all written exams like this – multiple choice, definitions, problems, and then write three programs.  All of this was to be done in the two-hour time slot allotted to the exam.  Students were not allowed to finish early or I guess more appropriately put, not allowed to leave the gym until 90 minutes had passed.  This kept them in place, I guess but more importantly kept the noise level down.  The exams were supervised by our teachers although we weren’t allowed to supervise our own.  We were allowed to come in about 45 minutes into the exam to answer any questions that had arisen.  I do have a remembrance of supervising a History exam where a student asked me “How would you answer this question?”  My answer – “incorrectly”.

There were oddities in the scheduling of the exams.  English teachers always had their exams at the front of the exam schedule and those of us with “niche” subject areas at the end.  The logic was that the English teacher had so many essay questions to mark and our exams were somehow easier to mark.  Then the marks had to be submitted a day or two after the exams and a final grade was determined.  There was a certain percentage of the final mark that was required to be generated by the performance on the exam.

In the days preceding the exams, there was always time for review.  The most popular question “How many will be multiple choice?”  I guess they were perceived to be easier and you had a 1:4 chance of getting the right answer.  Actually, it was probably 1:3 with me because I’d always have one throw-away answer, usually with a bit of humour to break the tedium of the exam.

I always found creating an exam in Computer Studies difficult.  I think that it’s because, unlike conventional wisdom, we don’t teach a second or third language for the sake of the language, we pride ourselves in teaching thinking and problem-solving.

Multiple Choice Questions:  I always found students enjoyed knowing that there would be some of these on the exam.  Part of the logic is explained above but I think that, even for the unprepared, there’s some comfort in knowing that the right answer is actually there.  You just have to find it.  And, if you look around, you might see what answer your neighbour had circled.  Not that any of my students would do that.

Fill in the Blank:  These would be tough to create “The left mouse button is the one on the ____”.  I don’t recall ever creating a question like this.

Definitions:  These are straightforward memorization types of questions.  All that’s required is that you parrot back something we talked about in class.  In today’s terminology, we call these “Google-able”.  Other than knowing how to remember something, I don’t see the point.

Spot the Error and Fix It:  In this type of question, you provide a piece of code to the student with a mistake in it and ask them to identify the problem and how they would solve it.  You might throw some code that does weird things like divide by zero or do a variable mismatch type.  I actually like this type of program as it shows that they understand at least parts of the language and it addresses problem-solving.  It is a better test, for example, to know if they know the difference between an integer or a floating-point variable than to ask for a definition.  Another benefit was that I didn’t have to deal with the many permutations of spelling the word “integer”.

Trace the Program:  For me, this was probably the best type of question.  I would provide a complete program and ask the students to generate the output.  You could test their ability to understand formatting, logic, calculations, logic, sequencing, repetition, and all the other good things that we do in Computer Studies.

Write a Program:  I guess one of the biggest expectations from any Computer Studies class is the ability to write a program.  That’s why they take the course, right?  But writing a program under a time constraint and stress of an exam is far removed from the rest of the course activity.  Normally, students work in groups to solve problems; they test their logic and get feedback from successful tries on the computer; and can see and get immediate feedback on how well they, or their group, are doing to solve the problem.  In an exam setting, it’s perform and be right about it.  The funniest anecdote that I have about this goes back to a Grade 12 class where we had talked about reusable code and the importance of building a library that could be used in a program rather than coding from scratch every time.  I had a student include a routine that was backed up on computer somewhere….  Nice try

I’ll admit; it’s frustrating to create the perfect exam.  It’s increasingly bizarre when we talk about differentiated instruction, different learning styles, “not the same way, not the same day” and yet expect that for two hours at the end of January or June we can test all the good things that we claim to do in Computer Studies for every student, all at the same time, in the quiet of an exam room.

Once I had my permanent contract, I recall going to a meeting at the board office with my vice-principal and we were talking about the shortcomings of exams in Computer Studies.  He shared some of his frustrations – it’s no walk in a park for the administration either.  They have to deal with claims of cheating, forged sick notes, real sick notes, claims for leniency, and complaints about unfair exam questions (We didn’t even take this!)

He then asked the million-dollar question “Why do you have an exam then?”
My answer – “School policy”.
His response – “Show me where policy states that”.
Me – blank look.

That started a complete change in my outlook.  Why indeed?  I’d written (and marked) my last exam. The downside was that I had more exams to supervise because I didn’t have any marking but it was worth it.

Instead, I revamped the course so that there was a big problem that required a solution near the end of the course.  It gave me a much better sense of satisfaction in my teaching.  Any Computer Studies teacher will tell you that you can actually see students think and problem solve as they write, test, and re-write code.  This is what the discipline is about.

In Ontario, over the years, policy about Assessment and Evaluation has changed and I think for the best for students and learning.  We’ve recognized and got a great deal better about recognizing how to do assessments.  While there’s no EQAO assessment in Computer Studies, that end-of-the-semester exam sure was certainly high stakes for my students.

So, to wrap up this rant – in Computer Studies, I have no defence for exams.  There are much better ways to assess and evaluate the expectations from the course.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Sit back and enjoy some writing from great Ontario Edubloggers.

Becoming a Better Person for Others: Faith into Action

I really appreciate when bloggers are so open and transparent. In this case, Rolland shows the best of this. He takes a look at his role as re-engagement teacher and marries it to his understanding of social justice.

In particular, he identifies four things in his role.

  1. Dignity of the Human Person
  2. Call to Family, Community, and Participation
  3. Rights and Responsibilities
  4. Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

With each of these, he analyses making connections to his job and to education. Then, for each he provides a next step for himself. I couldn’t help but think that blogging about it and making it public really makes himself accountable for these changes to his approach.

The word “brave” kept running through my mind as I was reading.

Learning from Each Other — Destreaming Across Ontario: Waterloo District School Board

This is another very brave and open post about learning and planning for action. Alexandra thinks that there are three things that will make destreaming effective.

  1. Smaller class sizes to support students
  2. Equipping teachers and administrators with the correct tools and professional development
  3. task force to “inform the design, implementation and monitoring of de-streaming

Ultimately, any success will result from the practice and acceptance of classroom teachers. After the past two years, it’s going to take a great deal of effort to do the necessary learning and then implementation of new approaches.

Alexandra shares her notes and thoughts from a Google Meet conducted by Jill Hicknell and Jillian Waters and some reading to support their thoughts. A big takeaway is a Google Resource site and a Twitter handle to follow.

Check it out.

New Twitter Communities: Will this better our Twitter experience?

Do you ever have one of those moments where you’re thinking something but you keep it to yourself and it’s only when someone else notes it that you realize you’re not alone?

I had that moment as I read Jennifer’s post. There are times these days when I feel like I should be getting more from my Twitter community than I am. It was somehow comforting to note that she felt the same way.

Lately, I have been a little dissatisfied with my Twitter feed to be honest. Unless someone tags me, I feel like I have been missing out of many of the powerful voices I once had access to. And whereas I felt like my own voice reached many before, I feel like unless I tag people, they rarely see my tweets either.

At about the same time that I started to feel this way, Twitter rolled out the concept of Communities. I took a look and felt it was too much like the Twitter lists that I’ve been curating. But, again, Jennifer takes it a bit further and offers a way that we may fall back in love with Twitter again.

Nicely done, Jennifer.

Self-Reg Havens

The big takeaway for me from Susan’s post was that her concept of a haven isn’t necessarily

 just a location

For the longest time, a safe haven for me was a place to think and I guess I’d always put it in personal terms as a location. With a busy life, often the thinking was done in my car commuting to and from work.

The post is a look at what that haven just might be and Susan takes us to these attributes

  1. Safe
  2. Rooted
  3. Balanced
  4. Capable
  5. Trusted

If nothing else, it will give you lots to think about.


From Wayne’s World…

I think that most of us did our quality observation as student teachers having placement with an experienced teacher. I don’t know about you but it was one of the first times that I thought that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. Thankfully, I persevered.

It shouldn’t stop there and Setareh talks about observing a colleague in their teaching. I did that a couple of times and I think that you get a new lens when you are in the profession. Setareh talks about observing a very extroverted teacher, knowing that that would be a real challenge and maybe an impossibility.

Still, there are lots of things to learn and we should never stop.

Coding Fireworks!

From the Fair Chance Learning blog, Barb offers a project (along with a solution) for creating a program that will emulate fireworks on a Micro:Bit.

Now, if you’ve already done something like this for Victoria day, you might want to move along.

Or, how about setting off some fireworks to celebrate the end of the school year?

Importance of Context and Concrete Manipulatives From Kindergarten Through Grade 12

Kyle shares a wealth of information here that’s applicable to all grade levels.

I like his start and confession. We all had it. When we started teaching, we wanted to be copies of the very best teacher that we ever had. If you’re honest, you’ll realize that their classroom often doesn’t resemble the successful rooms we have today. We’ve learned so much about effective teaching and learning and it’s just not the same.

This is a long resource but well worth the read and thinking. We want the best for everyone after all.

Please take some time to enjoy these posts and then follow these bloggers on Twitter.

  • Rolland Chidiac – @rchids
  • Alexandra Woods – @XanWoods
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @jcasatodd
  • Susan Hopkins – @susanhopkins5
  • Barb Seaton – @barb_seaton
  • Fair Chance Learning – @FCLEdu
  • Kyle Pearce – @mathletepearce 

This Week in Ontario Edublogs Show

Ghosts and abandonment

There’s a post coming but let’s cut to the classic Strawbs song.

Ah, ghosts. Another side track before I get to the post. Our town has ghosts and an application to find them. The advantage of being a regular blogger is that you can dig back in posts just for moments like this. The post was called “Meet our ghosts” and goes back to 2020. If you visit that old post, you’ll see screen captures of a couple of our ghosts. The actual link to the application is here.

Anyway, I was reading about ghost towns in Canada this morning, which was interesting in itself, but there was a link referring to the newly listed ghost town LeMieux according to

And I was off on another tangent!

I went back to my home town where there are 35 abandoned places listed.

I had to visit them all! Some I knew of and remembered and others were new to me. With COVID, it’s been far too long that we’ve had the opportunity to head there and poke around. There’s even reference to the former community centre in Moncrieff where I went on a date once. In my hometown, of course there was a reference to Sloman’s School on Wheels. There are lots of cemeteries and somehow I remember most of them.

There are fewer points of interest around here but Boblo Island Amusement Park made the list. We spent lots of time there with the kids when they were younger and the island was in operation. Now, it’s a place with very fancy homes and the tower was torn down. The big dance hall was still there the last time we went over there.

If you’re looking for some nostalgia, take a wander around your community. You might just be inspired to go and do some exploring – in real life or via Google Street View. Oh, and educational as well, like the Puce River Black Community.