An Interview with Deborah Weston


Deborah Weston is a teacher of 20 years having taught the gamut of special education grades in elementary schools.  She “is an advocate/ally for issues dealing with Workplace Health & Safety, Special Education, Mental Wellness, LGBTQT, and Aboriginal topics.”

During these difficult times, she took time from her advocacy and lesson preparation to be interviewed for this blog.  I thank her for that.

Doug:  My first question for these interviews is always this – do you recall when we first met?

Deborah:  Although we have never met in person, I’ve spoken to you online. As I had significant stage fright of speaking and getting recorded on line, it took time to be brave enough to do this work. I had a speech issue when I was a child and I hated hearing my recorded voice. 

I appreciated your August 2020 invitation to comment on other’s blogs. I’ve recently been involved with the Education is a Right Podcast and made new teacher friends through the process. Invite me back!

Doug:  You are a very frequent blogger on ETFO’s Heart and Art of Education Blog.  I find that you write on a wide variety of things and I’m always learning something new from your posts.  Why do you use the blogging medium for delivering your messages?

Deborah: Due to my learning disability, I’ve been an apprehensive writer in the past. Now, after getting over many hurdles, I’ve found my voice in writing about issues that concern or inspire me within education. 

I also have published several children’s books about kids with issues such as dyslexia, ADHD, and anxiety disorder. I tell my students, who also have learning disabilities, that they need to choose their words well as the written word is more powerful than swords!

The Girl Who Couldn’t Read by DPA Weston
(my daughter is reading the book)

Doug:  Have you ever considered starting your own personal blog instead of writing for teachers through ETFO?

Deborah: I did have my own blog which had a very limited audience and it did not inspire me to go further in my writing. 

With an audience of teachers, I word hard to make sure that my posts are relevant to their interests. I also receive a stipend for my work … so I am paid to write!

Doug:  What’s your inspiration and source of topics for blog posts?

Deborah: I write about educational issues that hit me hard or piss me off … can I say this in a podcast? 

Doug:  Because I am such a fan of your blogging, I often include blog posts from you on my Friday “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” post and have talked about you on the voicEd Radio show with the same name.  Do your ears burn when Stephen and I talk about a latest post of yours?

Deborah:  I am too busy writing to have burning ears. I am currently writing articles for LD@Home (teaching math to students with learning disabilities) and ETFO Voice (Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Right to Read). I am also writing an eLearning course for ETFO. 

Doug:  During the summer, we had you on the show as a special guest host and were also featuring one of your blog posts on the show.  “School Re-opening Smart Policy Design”.  Did you find it different/weird to talk about your own work with the two of us?

Deborah: I enjoy talking about my own work as long as my school board or school is not mentioned. I “was spoken to” after an article was published in the Hamilton Spectator. 

https://www.thespec.com/opinion/contributors/2019/09/23/special-needs-integration-requires-adequate-support.html

Thinking back to our conversation, I underestimated how many students would switch to online learning thus delaying a school shut down. My school had 45% of its students switch to online learning. 

My estimation of school closures was to be the 3rd week in September 2020. Now that schools have active cases, they still stay open. With crowded classrooms, students are only about 6 inches instead of six feet apart. In the Ontario Ministry of Education, I believe there is more “smart political policy design” than “smart education policy design” and our staff and most vulnerable students are facing the consequences of this approach.

Doug:  Of course, all educators are having difficulties trying to teach during the time of COVID.  I think we all know the challenges and you’ve mentioned them yourself on Heart and Art.  It’s all tough but do you find it even more of a challenge as a Special Education teacher?  Why or why not?

Deborah: Even as a former Geologist and Marketing Manager and now teacher, this year has been the most challenging year in my history of work. 

I’ve dealt with a great deal of stress trying to meet my students’ needs while synchronously teaching online and in class. I had to work out my own technology issues while paying for a microphone/webcam to replace the Chromebook I was using as a mic and camera. I’ve cut back on the hours I work each week as I cannot sustain this workload. Sometimes things don’t get done as I am so taxed by my work.

I also get few breaks during the school day as the staff room is closed. I refuse to eat my lunch in my car so I eat with my five in class students. We are also short on teaching staff so we are asked to cover classes without teachers. Some classes have monitors instead of certified teachers. My tech also stops working sometimes and I get calls on my cell phone from students’ parents at home.

Doug:  Have you “lost” any students as a result of what’s happening?  Did you end up “finding” them?  How?

Deborah: During the lockdown, a few students stopped attending our online sessions. This was very concerning for me as they are highly learning disabled and need to be “in school” completing work to maintain their literacy. 

In my current hybrid class, I have excellent attendance. I think it is because I work with my students to ensure that they are part of the planning of assignments. I make their learning fun like using a Gingerbread House to calculate perimeter and area in a real life context. For social studies, my students wrote a play on the Underground Railroad in which all students participated (even the students online.) In using Universal Design Learning and Assessment, students can have a say in how they learn and how they show their learning. Ultimately, I teach how I would like to learn.

Doug:  How do you lesson plan for students requiring your assistance?

Deborah: Each of my students needs intensive one-on-one support in learning due to their disabilities. As discussed above, I include my students in the instruction and assessment of the curriculum. Since all my students have very specific learning needs, I fine-tune each interaction with an approach that will work best for them as a learner. Learning how to teach and assess each student is my greatest superpower in developing their literacy so they can return to mainstream classrooms as empowered learners.

Doug:  Despite the challenges, there must be some tremendous rewards that you’ve had assisting students during COVID times.  Obviously we can’t name names, but can you generically share some of these successes?

Deborah: My hard work pays off. It is hard work worth doing.

When I see students increase their reading level by several grades, I know that my work makes a difference. This year, I’ve also had students advocate for their own learning by suggesting different approaches to instruction and assessment. This has given the students a drive to work harder to go beyond their work from the past. I’ve seen some excellent work this term and know, when the students return to mainstream classrooms next year, they will advocate for their own learning needs and produce solid ways to show their learning. 

Many of my students will be returning to mainstream classrooms with reading levels at or above the grade they will enter. Last year I had two students, now in grade 6, return to the mainstream at a grade 10 and 12 reading level.

Doug:  Has COVID arrived at your school community?

Deborah: There are at least two cases in my school with two classrooms shut down. We are not told which class has been impacted so I do  not know if I was in contact with a person in the closed classroom. Several students in the classes also spend time in the Behaviour Teaching Assistants room which is right beside my classroom.

I am in the process of awaiting Covid testing results. As supply teachers are rarely taking jobs in our school now,  I hope my students have a teacher while I am off waiting for results.

Doug:  The Premier, Minister of Education, and School Districts are trying to keep schools open and running the best they can.  If you received a phone call from any of them tomorrow looking for high impact advice, what would you suggest?

Deborah: I would suggest that the PM and MoEd visit some schools so they can see the crowded classroom conditions. Not only do some classrooms have over 25 students, they also have all the coats, winter boots, and lunch bags in the classroom as students cannot use lockers. 

My advice, to keep schools open, is to:

– provide hard caps for classroom of up to only 20 students

– check staff and students temperatures twice a day (as some parents send their child to school with a dose of Tylenol)

– stop using lunchroom monitors as ad hoc classroom teachers for weeks at a time 

– hire more long term occasional teachers as permanent supply teachers to ensure that schools have certified teachers in class to accommodate permanent school based teachers being away for Covid testing and illness

– have every qualified teacher employed in school boards teach students either online or in class to decrease the deficit of available qualified teachers (BTW not all teachers with board position do not want to teach students)

– give principals some time off as they are working very long hours sometimes seven days a week and they are soon to burn out

– give hybrid teachers more planning time as it is twice the work to plan for  online and face to face instruction due to very different formats

Doug:  There will come a time when we emerge from all of the immediate dangers of COVID.  What will school look like post-COVID?  Are there positive learnings that teachers and the education system take away from this experience?

Deborah: A positive outcome in post-Covid would be to provide equal access to technology for all students regarding technology and the internet. This way, all students can take advantage of the assistive technology like Google Read/Write … an app I use to write all my blogs. I cannot see any future in which teachers will be appreciated more by ministries of education nor can I see teachers being compensated more for their time. Teachers may be treated more like a commodity and instead of a profession.

Other trends I expect

More online learning, especially in the upper grades – I believe there will be a greater online component to teaching and learning as students will be doing more work online. This will impact students from lower socioeconomic communities who lack the tech resources and reliable internet to fully participate. These students will not get the teacher support and encouragement to go further as parents are not teachers. More online instruction will mean that parents (i.e. mothers) will have to spend more time supporting their child in doing the work of education as unpaid teaching assistants.

More monetization of education – I see companies in the educational industry taking advantage of online learning by providing more paid Secondary courses. School boards may offer more online courses (as these online teachers get paid much less). Students will likely get the first try at the course for “free” but then have to pay if they fail the course. 

More privatization of school – I see more private schools, online and in class, starting up promising a higher quality of education and a more personalized approach to learning. They will sell their schools based on small class sizes and “no special education students” so teachers will have more time for each student in their class. Further, more private special education schools will open promising more individualized attention from teachers as public school classrooms can have up to 30% of the class with special education needs (i.e. IEPs) with no extra support for students’ needs.

Doug:  Can you recommend to readers of this blog, valuable people to follow on social media or worthwhile blogs/podcasts to follow?

Deborah: I recommend the heartandart blog as it is written by teachers for teachers. The heartandart.ca would also be a great forum for their own podcast!

Doug:  Thank you so much for taking the time to complete this interview.  I appreciate it.

You can follow Deborah on Twitter at:  @DPAWestonPhD

The ETFO Heart and Art of Teaching and Learning blog can be found at:  https://heartandart.ca/

Periodically I have the opportunity to interview interesting people like Deborah.  All of the interviews are available here:  https://dougpete.wordpress.com/interviews

An Interview with The Staff Room podcast


A “new-ish” podcast (at least to me) has been added to the voicEd Radio broadcast team.  Called The Staff Room Podcast, it’s hosted by educators Pav Wander and Chey Cheney.  They took a break from the heat to agree to be interviewed.  So, thanks!

Doug:  I always start with the same question – do you remember when we first met – face to face or digitally?

StaffRoom: We know for certain that we first met you on Twitter by seeing your Follow Fridays featuring Active Ontario Educators. It was such a pleasure to be featured on that list for the very first time by you!  

Doug:  And, why would you ever want to follow me on social media?

StaffRoom: Doug, we think of you as a big “connector” of people. We have made so many valuable and incredible connections because of you and your recommendations. We feel like you will be promoting teachers and educators that have so many good things to say, and this is very valuable to us, as relative “newbies” on the scene! 

Doug:  For those that don’t know you, can you give us a little background about yourselves?

Pav: I’m an elementary school teacher in the northern part of Toronto, Ontario. I’ve been teaching for 15 years, most of which has been in the middle school area, all in the Rexdale area of Toronto, which is also where I was born and raised. I will be teaching a grade 1/2 split this year for the first time, which is a huge change! An interesting tidbit is that my very first teaching job was in the very same middle school that I attended as a student! Many of my teachers from that time were (and ARE) still teaching there! It’s all come full circle!

Chey: I’m from the Ottawa area and moved to Toronto when I was offered a chance to interview with the Toronto District School board. It was my first interview, and I got it right away. It was a blessing to be able to move to such a richly diverse place to start my teaching career, but it has taught me so many things in my 20 years of teaching. I teach middle school Health and Physical Education, and I teach 8th grade core subjects. 

Doug: What was your inspiration for creating your own podcast?

StaffRoom: The podcast was essentially born out of an idea to do a podcast as a culminating task for a Genius Hour project in Chey’s class. Pav has a friend she attended middle school with that has a very successful podcast, complete with a copy editor, a producer, a graphics designer, and full-fledged professional studio, that was interested in giving back to the community in which we teach. He asked if we would be interested in collaborating and we agreed without hesitation! We did a small interview with him first to set the scene for the listeners before the students did their podcasts, and we fell absolutely in love with the idea of being able to talk about teaching so openly and freely. We thought for sure we needed to start our own – and we did! 

Doug:  What is your intended audience?  And what’s your inspiration for topics?

StaffRoom: Our intended audience was teachers when we first started. And although that still is our major intended audience, we have received lots of feedback from educators working in central roles, administrators and even parents that have found our insights to be very helpful in assisting them in understanding what is happening in education and in our schools day-to-day. 

Doug:  Since your show is relatively new to me, I did some research and saw that you’re all over the place as noted here – https://linktr.ee/StaffroomPodcast.  Do you have an idea as to where your biggest fans come from?

StaffRoom: Firstly, we don’t like to think that we have fans. We KNOW there are people out there that share our thoughts, and our messages often resonate with teachers because we are often going through many of the same obstacles. We like to be able to have these conversations with as many educators as we can from all over the world. We have really grown our professional learning network (PLN) since we’ve been on Twitter, and I think it’s in part due to the fact that we love to have conversations with educators from all walks of life. 

We have built a huge network from participating in chats – almost nightly – so that we can meet as many teachers as possible and interact with their content as much as they have interacted with ours. The Drive on VoicEd Radio has really been doing so well consistently since we started the show, and it is growing every week, and we have a very strong and consistent following with The Staffroom Podcast as well. We love to see interaction with every avenue we go in, and it’s really always been about sharing in the experience together, rather than collecting a particular following. We think we are doing pretty well with that goal. 

Doug:  Given that you have a great deal of experience in this field, the million dollar question is – just how does one learn to be a podcaster?  And why would someone want to be a podcaster?

StaffRoom: We will answer the first part of this question first. Why would anyone want to be a podcaster? To share your voice. We all have a story to tell. We all have personal experiences and anecdotes that allowed us to become who we are today, and that is something that is ever-changing. We decided that podcasting was the way that we were going to archive our thoughts and feelings, but this isn’t the only route that individuals can go with sharing their voice. Many teachers and educators also share their voice through blogs, poetry, video blogs on youtube, short video clips on youtube, and other means as well. Regardless of what method we choose to express ourselves, it’s important that we do, even if we are the only ones reading this work. Reflection is a beautiful byproduct of podcasting and it has ultimately made us better teachers and citizens along the way. 

Doug:  I have really slow internet access so often streaming doesn’t work that well but I did listen to your show The Drive live (at least until it gets unlistenable).  I did hear most of one of your dedication shows and have had to just download the others.  So, some questions about the shows …

Where do you get your energy?
Chey gets his energy from scoops and scoops of pre-workout in the mornings, and Pav just feeds off that energy. We are both exhausted by the end of the show! All jokes aside, we really do feed off of the audience. The adrenaline starts pumping the night before The Drive, when people are sending in their requests. The fact that we know people will be listening in to hear their requests really gets us amped up and ready to give the audience an amazing show. 

Do you ever have creative differences?
We do, but often we can communicate through them to find a happy medium. We are usually not so far off that we can’t find a center for all of our conversations. The differences really do offer us some additional talking points. Usually, it just means that there is a perspective that we haven’t considered and so we always bring it into the mix. The show would be very boring if we both thought in exactly the same way. So far we have done a pretty good job with staying afloat, so we think it’s working! 

What kind of equipment do you use for the show?
We use a macbook and the software “Audio Hijack” for recording and also for broadcasting. We use two Apex Condenser mics with portable booms and pop filters. Our most prized piece of equipment is a RodeCaster Pro, the ferrari of soundboards. It allows us to be able to record 4 different mic tracks, plus we can attach our computer as an input device, a cell phone, and any other bluetooth device. It has made our lives so much easier when it comes to recording and broadcasting. 

How do you handle copyright issues?
Stephen Hurley, the founder of VoicEd Radio, has taken care of the copyrights for the music. The license belongs to him, and as broadcasters on his station, we have the creative permission to play what we like. 

Do you have a scripted show?
We only use an outline for the Podcast, and we usually develop that outline 30 minutes before the show. We really prefer an authentic and raw conversational feel to the podcast, so often times, our topics and points will arise during the recording, and we think it adds to the quality of the show. 

For The Drive, we decide on a topic together, we release that topic to our Twitter audience on Thursday evenings so that people can send in requests, and then on Friday morning before the show, we make a few notes on talking points. There are no scripts anywhere, and we think it works better for us that way. 

Do you listen to other podcasts?  Which ones? 
For educational podcasts, we love Teachers on Fire, as Tim Cavey has given us so much direction and has helped us out so much along the way. We also listen to Teach Better. Jeff Gargas and Rae Hugheart have been so helpful. We also listen to some non-educational podcasts like “Revisionist History” by Malcolm Gladwell, or Pardon the Interruption, just to get some ideas on how to build on our authentic conversations the way the hosts do. We really wish we had more time for more podcasts.

Doug: Were you inspired in style or content by someone else? 



StaffRoom: We would say our biggest inspiration was probably the “Pardon the Interruption” podcast, which is a sports podcast, but we really liked the way the hosts provide analysis on so many different topics. We try to do something similar on our podcast. 

Doug:  Since we’re all working at a distance these days, what impact did that have on your show?

StaffRoom: Working from home actually gave us a little more opportunity to record and broadcast a bit more, since our timing was a little bit more flexible. The Drive used to be a 30 minute show from 8:00-8:30 on Friday mornings, and now we broadcast from 9:00-11:00 on Fridays. It will be quite tough to go back to a 30 minute format once face-to-face school starts again! 

Another impact was the fact that we had so much more content to talk about with distance learning. We really were in crisis at the start of it, and many teachers were expressing frustration that they were struggling and so were the students. The podcast and radio show really gave us an outlet to express not only our own concerns, but the concerns that so many educators were also expressing. 

Doug:  As middle school teachers, you lived the teaching/learning at a distance life these past months.  I think we all know of the challenges that everyone has.  Feel free to comment on that but I’d be interested in knowing if your past experience as podcasters gave you a leg up on others.  How so?

StaffRoom: Podcasting didn’t necessarily give us a leg up, but the network we have developed on Twitter really did. We have made so many great connections that we have really utilized to help us navigate through our feelings, and create a plan on how to get through distance learning effectively and efficiently. 

Doug:  What lessons from podcasters could educators learn if they’re back to Learning at Home at least in some way, shape, or form for the fall?

StaffRoom: We all need to be reflecting on our practice more. We need to have more conversations with other teachers, not just in our building (although that’s a great place to start) but also within networks that we can build outside of our buildings. Now is such an amazing time to connect with people across the country or the world, and so we should try and do as much of that as we can so that we can continue to better our practice! 

Doug:  Thank you so much for the interview and I wish you continued success with your podcasts.  If people were to follow you on social media, where would they go?

StaffRoom:
We are on Twitter: 
Staffroom Podcast: @StaffPodcast
The Drive: @TheDriveVoicEd
Chey: @MrCCheney
Pav: @PavWander
We are on Instagram & Facebook: the_staff_room_podcast

Periodically, I interview interesting people like Pav and Chey.  You can visit all the past interviews here https://dougpete.wordpress.com/interviews/

An Interview with Neerja Punjabi


Neerja Punjabi is currently seconded to TVOntario as Director, Educational Partnerships K-12.  Previously, she was a principal in both the Peel District and Toronto District School Boards.  During this very different time, she took the time to have a discussion with me. 

Doug:  My first question is always this – do you recall when we first met?

Neerja: I have been active on Twitter since 2011, which was my first year as a new elementary school principal. I wanted to learn and connect with educators who were sharing ideas in an open forum. I started following you on Twitter during that time because you posted amazing professional learning resources, which I was interested in reading and learning from. You have always modelled the #NeverStopLearning philosophy.

Doug:  You seem to be a regular on #FollowFridays which is always an indicator that you’re actively sharing content.  I’m guessing that our connector in common would have been Urs who I worked with in OSAPAC days.  Would that be your guess, or was it someone else?

Neerja: I met Urs Bill when I joined TVO last year. But you Doug have been a big part of my professional learning network for a very long time, even though we had never formally met. The #FollowFridays feed was another reason for the connection to meet like-minded educators who added value to my professional growth.

Doug:  I’m always in awe with people that manage to converse in multiple languages.  You would certainly be in that category.  Can you share your level of fluency and your languages spoken?

Neerja: I was born and brought up in Hyderabad, India, and we had to learn at least three languages in school. Attending a convent school where English was the medium of instruction, we also learnt Hindi and Telugu as second and third languages. I am very fluent in speaking these languages. In addition, Punjabi is my mother tongue, and I learned it at home. Urdu is very similar to Hindi, and because of that, I can speak it very fluently.

This article from @npr resonated with me. It specifically mentions a research study done in Hyderabad, which highlights my upbringing and exposure to several languages:

https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2013/11/14/244813470/new-study-shows-brain-benefits-of-bilingualism.

Doug:  Wow, that is so impressive. As a former principal, how was your fluency in these languages an asset?

Neerja: Being fluent in all these languages was a definite asset for me as a principal in Peel District School Board. It helped me to build meaningful relationships with parents and grandparents in the community. I could share my experiences and stories of resilience as a new immigrant with new families immigrating to Canada, particularly from South Asia, giving them a message of hope and a sense of optimism. Speaking in one’s native tongue helps build trust and creates a sense of mutual respect.

Doug:  Now, you’ve been seconded to TVOntario, one of the real education gems in the province.  Your role involves Educational Partnerships.  What does this involve?

Neerja: I would like to give you a little bit of background first about why I decided to take up a secondment with TVO, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary – ‘50 and Never Stop Learning’ this year. TVO has held a very special place in my heart. As a new immigrant coming to Canada 31 years ago, I was fascinated by the broadcast programs which were offered by TVO. When we decided to immigrate to Canada, we knew we had no friends and family here, and the one TV channel we relied on was TVO. Saturday Night at the Movies was a weekly television series on TVO, the public educational television network in Ontario with Elwy Yost and my husband and I watched the two back-to-back Movies. We have many fond memories. Also, my children were avid watchers of the Polka Dot Door (with Polkaroo) and Arthur which were very popular programs. They learned so much through these two shows. TVO played a big role in supporting our immigrant family’s successfully acclimatization to the Canadian values and culture.

My secondment to TVO has been a wonderful learning journey. As Director, Educational Partnerships, I have developed and led TVO’s strategy to coordinate partnerships and outreach activities across the K-12 educational community, including communication and liaising with school districts, federations, affiliations and employee group partners, EDU, and Faculties of Education. We have promoted awareness and adoption of TVO and TVO’s digital products and services in targeted professional learning sessions across the province.

Doug:  You and your team had a big presence at the Bring IT, Together Conference in Niagara Falls last November.  Who is on your team and what are their roles?

Neerja: Our ‘small but mighty’ team comprises both TVO employees and educators who have been seconded from either a Board of Education or from the Ministry.

Here is a list of our phenomenal team members:

  • Urs Bill, Manager of TVO Mathify and Educational Outreach (seconded from the Ministry of Education)
  • Natalie Perez, Outreach Support Officer
  • Jenny Cadena and Tony Yeung, Resource Coordinators for TVO Mathify
  • Albert Wisco, Community Manager for TVO Teach Ontario
  • Kyle McCreight, Digital Media Producer
  • Jennifer Montgomery, Education Officer (Seconded from YRDSB)
  • Leah Kearney, Pedagogue/Instructional Liaison (seconded from TDSB)
  • Maureen Asselin, Instructional Liaison (seconded from HCDSB)

Doug:  In advance of the conference, you and your team submitted a guest blog post here: https://dougpete.wordpress.com/2019/10/26/bring-tvo-into-your-classroom-2/

I’ve been an exhibitor at that conference, and I have a not-so-fond memory of exhaustion from standing so long and repeating the same message over and over.  What is your memory from the event?  Was this your first time at this conference?

Neerja: First, let me thank you for sharing our blog on your WordPress and Twitter. Your support has meant a lot with expanding our outreach efforts across the province.

In 2019, I attended the BIT conference for the very first time. My team members who had participated in the conference before were very enthusiastic about this opportunity for networking and connecting with so many like-minded educators who were the early adopters of digital learning. There were so many teacher-leaders who participated in drop-in sessions to learn more about TVO resources. Many explored the TVO carousal and registered for TVO mPower and TVO Mathify. Many educators were inspired to join our TVO outreach team as TVO Ambassadors to continue to spread the word.

Doug:  TVOntario hosts so many wonderful resources for education.  Can you share a link to where they are and a quick overview?

Neerja: Here is a link where you will find copies of one-page support guides (toolkits) for TVO mPower and TVO Mathify, as well as a one-page overview of all TVO resources:

bit.ly/TVOVirtualLearning

Doug:  I’ve always been a fan and supporter, in particular, of the Mathematics support that TVO offers.  Can you give an overview of those specifically?  I think that, in these times, they are even more important.

Neerja: I will talk about two TVO resources in particular that offer support in Mathematics.

TVO Mathify is developed for Ontario students and educators, and this resource seamlessly supports the learning of grade 6-10 math. Mathify helps educators to boost math engagement, confidence and reduce math anxiety. It enables students to extend or support their own learning through live, individualized 1:1 math tutoring sessions with TVO Mathify tutors who are also Ontario Certified Math Teachers.

TVO Mathify addresses and accommodates the different scheduling needs of you, your students, and their families during this time. Teachers and students can engage in math lessons and learning at times that work for them and their schedule – over and above any pre-planned lesson times. 

TVO Mathify is also: 

  • Intuitive to use for teachers and students.  No big learning curve required. 
  • Safe and secure.  No ads, no pop-ups, no purchases, no downloads, and no one collecting data on you or your students for potential sale to for-profit organizations. 
  • FREE to Ontario teachers and students and available. 
  • 24/7 access to prepare, post or access questions  
  • Extended tutoring hours for students: 
  • Mon-Fri 9 am-9 pm ET
  • Sun 3:30-9 pm ET

TVO mPower: is a fun and innovative online game-based resource that builds problem-solving, critical thinking and math skills for students K-6. It is an award-winning, ad-free children’s content that supports the Ontario curriculum, developed with a commitment to diversity. Creative online math games support the development of foundational K-6 math & STEM skills in the classroom and at home.

We use a variety of resources to develop TVO mPower; these are foundational to our work: Curriculum Documents – The Kindergarten Program, The Ontario Mathematics, Science and Technology and Social Studies Curricula are used in the creation of the math games, STEM games, and TVO mPower narratives. This ensures the alignment with Ontario curriculum expectations and best practices. The game iterations are based on feedback from classroom teachers, ongoing playtesting and the ongoing research and development process at TVO.

In summary, TVO mPower has 65+ free, creative online games that support the development of foundational K-6 math and STEM skills while fostering positive attitudes towards math. TVO mPower is:

  • Learner-centred
  • Assessment-driven
  • Ontario curriculum-based
  • A safe, advertising-free play space
  • Free for all Ontarians
  • Available on laptop, desktop computers and tablets 

Doug:  Have TVOntario and your team ramped up your resources and support during these times of school closures?

Neerja: Educational partnerships team continues to be innovative in providing outreach virtually through webinars. We have conducted several online webinars for interested educators. Recently we have been asked to deliver two webinars to over 100 educators from a Board of Education to their educator community. Also, educators can access support by registering on TeachOntario

https://www.teachontario.ca/

-an online community for Ontario’s educators. We share our resources, and new content is posted regularly. We also share our resources through social media.

Doug:  Is it safe to say that you and your team are working from home these days? 

Neerja: Yes, you are right – we are currently working from home. We use digital collaboration platforms for our meetings within the organization, and we connect with educators across the province through scheduled synchronous and asynchronous webinars. TVO TeachOntario has been an incredible resource for connecting our team and connecting Ontario educators. In terms of the bigger picture, here is a Blog which highlights some of the ways TVO is conducting business as an organization:

https://www.tvo.org/about/tvo-announces-covid-19-response

Doug:  Have you noticed an increase in the number of students/teachers/parents taking advantage of all that you offer?

Neerja: TVO’s Digital Education Resources

https://www.tvo.org/education-tools

have been featured on the Ministry of Education’s Learn at Home site:

https://www.ontario.ca/page/learn-at-home.

Over the past few months, these FREE TVO resources have had a significant impact and benefit on our educators, students, parents, and guardians. Many students continue to actively use resources such as TVO Kids, TVO mPower, and TVO Mathify. We will continue to serve our communities during these difficult times and have our resources available for anyone who needs the support.

Doug:  During all this, you remain connected to your network on Twitter.  What value do you see in staying connected?

Neerja: Twitter is a platform where I am continually learning, sharing and connecting with educators. At TVO, we share a commitment to lifelong learning and the belief that learning has the power to ignite potential and change the world. My engagement and use of this platform truly align with this deep-rooted value to #NeverStopLearning, which I fully imbibe.

Doug:  I asked Superintendent Hazel Mason this when I interviewed her

https://dougpete.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/an-interview-with-hazel-mason/ 

– if you had to identify 10 “must follow” users on Twitter, who would they be?

Neerja: I was overwhelmed when I saw my name mentioned on this list from Hazel Mason (@Hmason36 on Twitter) in June 2017. Hazel was my Superintendent, a fantastic leader who had high expectations for all her team members, and I hold her in very high regard.

There are so many phenomenal educators and leaders that I continue to learn from regularly on Twitter. Here are the names of those who have helped me and continue to help me on my learning journey:

  • Rose Pillay, @RosePillay1
  • Bill Ferriter, @Plugusin
  • Jackie Gerstein, @jackiegerstein
  • David Culberhouse, @DCulberhouse
  • ONT Special Needs, @Ontspecialneeds
  • Zohrin Mawji, @ZohrinMawji
  • The Agenda/TVO, @TheAgenda
  • Edutopia – @Edutopia
  • Mindshift – @MindShiftKQED
  • NCTE – @ncte

Doug:  I know that you’re a very positive person.  When do you see us getting back to normal, or whatever “normal” will become?

Neerja: Thank you, Doug, that is very nice of you. Yes, I am a positive person, and from what I know is that this too shall pass. In the meantime, we need to focus on ensuring that all safety measures are in place and follow the Public Health advice diligently. By taking personal responsibility, we can collectively flatten the curve. In addition, we need to keep track of the regular updates on COVID-19 shared on the Ontario.ca website. It is an excellent idea to be mindful of what is being expected to keep us all safe.

Doug:  If you were returning to one of your former schools as principal, what sorts of changes do you see having to be made for everyone’s safety?

Neerja:  I understand that returning to school at this time would require a deep reflection and a call to action to support all learners, especially those who are underserved and who may have big gaps in their learning. Providing students with the best learning opportunities will be the highest priority for me as the lead learner in the school. In addition, my focus will be on building positive and trusting relationships with my staff, students, parents, guardians, and extended community partners​.

Doug:  Thank you so much for taking the time during all this to share some of your thoughts, wisdom, and insights. Stay safe.

You can follow Neerja on Twitter at @PNeerja

Make sure that you check out the TVOntario resources at the link above.

Thanks for reading.  Periodically, I interview interesting people like Neerja.  You can read them all here – https://dougpete.wordpress.com/interviews/

An Interview with David Garlick


David is a retired principal from the Greater Essex County District School Board serving at three different secondary schools.  In isolation like most of us, he took the time to tell us a little bit more about himself, his career, and his interests.

Doug:  First question, as always, do you recall when we first met?

David: To be honest, and I hope you won’t be offended, no I don’t.  I remember getting you confused with Superintendent Rod Peturson, and Consultant Bruce Dureno.  But I found, over time, that I liked all three of you. As you were in technology and computers, you were the one I had the most contact with.

Doug:  I think I “met” you on that 8.5 x 14 sheet of paper that our employer put out (and still does) listing all of the schools, Principals/Vice-Principals, Secretaries, phone numbers and fax numbers.  I remember seeing the name “Garlick” and thinking that had to be a typo. I’ve known a lot of people but no “Garlicks”.

What’s the history / story behind that name?

David:  I’ve done some research.  It’s a profession name, like Miller, or Smith.  It’s Norman French, my oldest named ancestor was a garlic seller who came to England after the conquest.  Actually, the name is more common than you’d think. There are several David Garlicks in Canada. I’ve never met one though.

Doug:  Did it pose any challenges as a child?

David: All the ones you can think of, yes…  Nicknames, that sort of thing. I got used to it, and took a great interest in people’s names and their meanings when I grew up.  It also made me very sensitive when pronouncing students’ names in class. I’m proud of the fact that many students told me, “You’re the first teacher to pronounce my name correctly!”

When I taught English as a Second Language, it was great when students laughed at my name.  It meant they had that much understanding to begin with.

Doug:  Two of the three schools that you were principal at are great historical locations.  (We’ll ignore Delisle’s Corners) Can you share a bit of the history from Walkerville Collegiate and Forster Secondary School?  How did this history impact the school culture?

David:  Both Walkerville and Forster were established in 1922 and are coming up on their centennials.  In Windsor, both are storied institutions. Walkerville is in a much more wealthy area of town, and of course, Walkerville wasn’t closed in 2014, like Forster was.

Forster was named after its first Principal.  John L. Forster, who ran the school from 1922 until he retired in 1954.  I knew Mr. Forster. He was a daily customer at the McDonald’s Restaurant I worked at in the 1970’s and early 80’s.  In what I now see as an odd karmic coincidence, my first day of paid teaching was at Forster, and was the day that Mr. Forster died, in April of 1983.  

Like many schools, Forster was justifiably proud of its sports teams over the years.  Our wrestling team won the city championship six years in a row in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  In its final years, Forster was a basketball powerhouse, winning the Provincial championship in its last year.  However, from my personal perspective, the thing that Forster was best known for was its music program. From the 1960’s on, Forster had a tremendous band, known as “The Travelling Redcoats.”  They travelled throughout North America, Japan and England, performing for the Queen. I was a member of that band, but started the fall after they went to England, so I didn’t meet the Queen.  

In 2000, Forster became the Board’s magnet school for English as a Second Language, educating students from around the world.

I don’t know as much about the history of Walkerville.  It has been the Board’s magnet program for the Arts since the mid 1980’s, and they put on some of the best performances and concerts and recitals in the province.  I was amazed at the talent I encountered at that school. One of my students had put out four albums of original music by the time she graduated. Several others have put out albums since, one has written and produced a musical, and much of our local drama scene is staffed by our grads.

I hope their reunions won’t be held on the same weekends, as they have in the past, so that I can attend both in two years.

Doug:  Of the three, I especially remember warm receptions by students at both Western and Forster.  Like many secondary schools, Forster was always a jigsaw puzzle for me to navigate and there always were students who seemed happy to point me in a particular direction.  Were they instructed to teach visitors like this or is it just the culture of the school? Western, in particular, was (and is) famous for its Hospitality program and it seemed to spill over.  It was much easier to navigate!

David: Forster was a jigsaw puzzle!  It started out as a  smallish grade school, and then, as time went on and the neighbourhood grew, they simply added additions higgledy-piggledy.  To make the building completely a ccessible, it would have needed something like seven elevators! But you’re right – at both Forster and Western, and I hope Walkerville as well, the students were all helpful with visitors. It’s just the way they were.  I like to think the adults in the building had something to do with it, but it just seemed to happen that way.

Doug:  Can you brag about a couple of school signature events and your involvement – The Pumpkinfest at Western and the Walkerville Centre for the Creative Arts?

David:  I love Pumpkinfest!  I may have missed one or two over the last eighteen years, but I always try to get to it.  It’s the area’s largest free craft show and features exhibitors from as far away as Nova Scotia.  It’s the school’s main fundraiser each year. Exhibitors purchase table space, and the entire school, for one weekend each year, is turned into a massive craft mall.  The cooking program provides food to the thousands of visitors, the bake shop sells fresh bread and pies and cakes and (and I gain a lot of weight each year as a result!)  When I was Principal there, my wife and I called it ‘The Lost Weekend.’ After helping set up on Friday afternoon and evening, I had to be back for five a.m. to turn on all the lights, turn off the alarm system, let the vendors into the building, and then stay for the whole day.  I then repeated that on Sunday, and then stayed to help clean up and turn the building back into a school for Monday morning. It’s a lot less responsibility to just attend, as I do now.

The Walkerville Centre for the Creative Arts is the arts program within Walkerville Collegiate.  It’s the magnet program for our Board for students with interests in music, dance, drama and visual art.  Think Fame, but without kids dancing on cars in the streets.  I had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented and driven students in our city.  The plays, musicals, concerts, recitals and art shows were and are always top notch. There is, quite literally, something happening for a Principal to attend and enjoy almost every week of the school year.  And then, if that’s not enough, the kids themselves asked me if they could hold an Open Mic Coffee House three or four Friday evenings each year. (Why would I say no?) These events were run as mini can drives for the area food bank.  I can’t say enough about these kids and this program!

Doug: When I think of Forster, I think of the great food in the West end of Windsor.  In particular, Hurricane’s Cajun Wings are my absolute favourite. Was it the same way with staff?  Staff meetings?

David:  We held two pot luck luncheons each year, and they were always wonderful.  Like most schools, we’d have pizza on Parent-Teacher Night. And my wife always baked for our School Council Meetings.  Just for fun, about four times each year, we would hold a “Completely Voluntary Off Site, Agenda Free, Staff Meeting,” usually at Rock Bottom Bar and Grill, which I think has the best wings in the city.  I loved making the announcement at the end of the school day.  “Staff are reminded of the non-mandatory off-site staff meeting.  We hope to see you there.” We still get together, as a staff, twice a year, for these meetings.

Doug:  Speaking of Forster, it’s no longer with us.  In that community, there are also so many houses that have been purchased for Ambassador Bridge expansion and sit there boarded up.  For those of us who drive by, they’re just boarded up houses. As a principal from that area, they have to represent former students.  How does that impact you?

David:  They don’t just represent former students.  They represent a former community. This was the neighbourhood I grew up in.  I went to Forster as a student, taught there, was Vice-Principal and then Principal.  When I was a kid, I’d hoped to one day be wealthy enough to live on Indian Road. When I returned to the neighbourhood as Principal, those houses were vacant and boarded up.  Now they’ve been torn down. Those boarded up homes represented more than a hundred families that could have attended my school. It’s a major reason I had to close my own high school.

Doug:  Principals know their community.  Although Forster is closed, many families still live in the neighbourhood, and of course, Windsor still has a large number of recently arrived Canadians.  How do you think those families are faring with the Learn at Home initiative?

David:  I’m certain those families are struggling.  Most English Language Learners come from families in which no one speaks English at home. Asking those parents to teach their children foreign curricula in a foreign language to them is almost nonsensical.  Plus many in the area do not have the financial means to acquire the access necessary to learn from home. The Board is doing what it can, loaning out the hardware necessary, but I’m concerned that these kids will not be able to take part over the coming weeks. 

Doug:  Both Walkerville and Forster are in historic sections of Windsor.  You’ve elected to get involved with the Forster neighbourhood, which includes the Duff-Baby Mansion.  What was your interest in this and what do you do to contribute to the history of the building?

David: As I mentioned, this is the neighbourhood I grew up in.  The Duff-Baby Mansion is a beautiful Georgian structure, named for the first two owners: Alexander Duff, a Scottish fur trader, and James Baby, one of the Province’s pre-eminent French Canadian politicians of the 19th century.  It was built in 1798 and is the oldest building in the city. It has the distinction of having been visited by Generals Brock and Proctor as well as native leader Tecumseh during the War of 1812. It was also the Canadian headquarters of American General William Henry Harrison, who would later become President of the United States.  How many homes can say all that? It’s owned by the Ontario Heritage Trust.

In 1990, the Trust held a meeting to announce their plans for the building.  My wife and I attended. They said they were going to take this almost two hundred year old building and make it look like it did in 1927. (Not 1827).  They were going to cover it in stucco and give it green awnings. They said they had done extensive historical research and the oldest they could restore it to, and be confident that’s the way it looked, was 1927.  I remember asking them what research they were referring to, because I had at least two published books at home with photographs of the house in the 1880’s. Their answer? “It’s our house, we’ll do with it what we want.” (Were we upset!)

That evening, we set up a group called Les Amis Duff-Baby.  We launched a letter writing campaign, a petition, and enlisted the aid of politicians at all levels of government.  Less than two months later the OHT returned to Windsor to tell us that they were, of course, going to restore the house to its original appearance from the 18th century.  They asked us, “Where did you get the idea we were going to restore it to 1927?”

I’ve been a member of Les Amis Duff-Baby for 30 years, and am currently Vice-President.

Our mandate is to assist in the physical restoration and preservation of the house and site and to promote public awareness, to educate and to assist in the interpretation of the building. 

Doug:  At your encouragement, my wife and I had a chance for a tour of Duff-Baby – twice.  I didn’t know that it was open to tours. You were our personal guide and you seem to know the place intimately.  How did you learn all this and from whom?

David:  You can learn a lot in thirty years, but it started even before that.  I was a history major at the University of Windsor, and took every local history course I could, learning from Dr. Larry Kulisek and museum curator Alan Douglas.  I was also a member of the Essex County Historical Society for almost forty years, and am a past President. Les Amis have published two editions of a book about the house, and for the last year my wife and I have been on a small committee researching and editing a third edition.  It’s kind of in my blood, I guess.

Doug:  The West end now also has an outdoor maritime museum and those historical images.  I can’t wait to get out of the house and explore them. To this date, I’ve just driven by and thought “I need to check these out some time.”  Do you have any priorities when we’re allowed out of our houses to explore?

David: Les Amis actually developed two of the panels in that museum.  It’s a great museum! And really, you don’t have to wait. If you drive by and see that it’s empty, or reasonably so, just park and go check it out!  Just don’t touch anything and be sure to maintain social distance!

When ‘all this ends’ I look forward to getting together with small groups of friends, inviting them into our home for dinner and going to their homes as well.  I miss that. Windsor has some wonderful little restaurants. I miss those too. I also look forward to seeing the Coffee House Combo, a young jazz group fronted by one of my former students from Walkerville (Man, she’s good!) at Phog.  That’s how my wife and I spent many of our Sunday evenings for the last four years.

Doug:  You now have a presence on Social Media via Twitter.  If I had to label what I see as your interests, it deals with social justice at many levels.  So many of us have our own Personal Learning Network. What does it take to get into @garlickd13’s network?

David:  I hadn’t thought of things in those terms before, but I guess that works, along with education, politics and history.  And dogs. Initially I got involved in Twitter to establish a connection with my school community and to advertise the events taking place at Walkerville.  Now that I’m retired I use it to maintain that connection. A large number of my followers are former students, staff members, colleagues and parents. To get into my network, all you really have to do is follow me, and then be sure to post or retweet something every once in a while. I’ll usually follow you back. Your Follow Fridays are a great way for me to expand my group!

Doug:  If you had to identify one or two significant learnings from your work online, what would they be?

David:  The single main thing is the commonalities of issues around the world, and just how small Twitter makes the world.  I have Twitter friends throughout Canada and the world, and we’re all dealing with the same sorts of things. And as interesting, or unusual, or sometimes upsetting as things can seem, here in Ontario, for example, there are colleagues throughout North America, and the rest of the world, that are dealing with far more.  Getting their viewpoint can change the way you view things happening at home.

Doug:  Do you have advice for principals that are wondering whether or not to go online and get connected with others?

David:  Absolutely!  Do it! I remember a colleague describing the internet to me in 1994.  “Dave,” he said, “It’s like the largest shopping mall in the world, but nobody has any idea what all is in it!”  That’s still true today, but Twitter has the ability to connect you with teachers, and educators, and entertainers, and politicians, and writers throughout the world! One minute you can be reading something by one of your own students or teachers, and then the next you can be interacting with J.K. Rowling or Michael Fullan!  It’s amazing! If you’re struggling with a particular problem at school, I can guarantee you that someone else, somewhere in the world, has dealt with it before. It’s also very satisfying when you can help a colleague out in New Zealand, for example, or South Africa. There is so much to gain by getting involved!

Doug:  Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts David.  

David:  No. Thank you, Doug!  And please, keep doing what you do.

You can follow David on Twitter here – @garlickd13 
(David: My profile picture will always be of Mitzy the Wonderdog.)

For more information about the Duff-Baby house, click here.


Periodically, I interview interesting people like David. All of the interviews are archived here.

10 Questions for Alfred Thompson


Ontario teachers are about to embark on a “Learn at Home” initiative with the extended closure of Ontario schools.  The situation will mean different things depending upon the school district that you work for and your subject area. 

At Bishop Guertin School, they moved their classes online three weeks ago and are trying their best to replicate what would normally happen in a regular classroom.  Alfred Thompson (@alfredtwo on Twitter) is a computer science teacher at Bishop Guertin and I asked him over the weekend to share his experiences and inspiration for Ontario teachers as they start this new adventure. 


The Decision – This had to be a big decision.  Who made the decision?  Is a school day scheduled the same way? 

Alfred: Our school administration made the decision. We draw from a wide range of cities and towns in two states. The area south of the city we are located in was starting to see a lot of COVID-19 cases and we decided that moving online was the best thing for our students, faculty, and staff. We moved online a week or two before most surrounding schools. 

We are having our morning homerooms (we call it advisory) meet online every morning. Being a Catholic school, we start the day with a prayer, morning announcements, and the Pledge of Allegiance.  We usually hang around for a few minutes of chit chat as well. 


The Students – At the heart of education are the students.  How are they handling being at home and handling the technology they’re using?   

Alfred: Our students all seem to have reasonable technology and connectivity at home. Our school is committed to helping students who don’t but for privacy reasons I would not necessarily know about that. Our usual tech support people are available via email and phone. Students have their contact information available to them. 

I think our students are really missing the personal contact with each other. In some of my classes I have just left the microphones open so they can chat among themselves for a while. 


Timetables – How important is having a regular timetable?  I know that you have a couple of students overseas.  How are they handling things? 

Alfred: I have two students who have returned to China. They are quarantined in hotel rooms. It’s lonely for them so I think they like “coming to class.” Being alone they are sort of still living on Eastern US time. They get up late and go to bed late. Their first class is 9PM local time and the last class is at their midnight. I don’t know how well that will work for them after quarantine. 

For my students who are still in the US I suspect that having a regular schedule helps. Though they do tell me that learning online is harder than learning face to face. 


The Tools – What are the tools that you and the students are using?  Are they working as they should? 

Alfred: Students need an internet connected device that can run Google Meet and Zoom which are the conferencing tools we are using. We have an integrated content management and student information system that we have been using for several years. It was developed by a company that Blackboard bought out some time ago. Students and teachers are used to using it for attendance, giving and returning assignments, and even creating and taking quizzes and tests. So that works out well. 

Discipline has been less of an issue if only because it is harder for students to distract each other. I did switch one class to Zoom because Google Meet didn’t do enough to let me keep in control of the microphones.  But other than that things have gone very well. Student seem to want to learn and make the most of the time. 


The Content – What courses are you teaching?  How have you had to modify things to accommodate the new reality? 

Alfred: I am teaching three courses. Our freshman Explorations in CS course, a Programming Honors course, and a section of Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles. We’ve dropped a few topics from the freshmen course but I feel good that we will cover enough to make it a solid course. I was running ahead of my schedule with Programming Honors and feel confident that we will cover all the material. Will we get as deep as I would like? I’m less sure about that. My AP CS course uses the curriculum from Code.ORG which is largely online anyway. We’ll cover that completely.  

One thing we have been able to do is give access for a virtual machine at school that students can connect to over the Internet. This gives them full access to all the software and tools they would have if they were physically in one of our computer labs. I cannot imagine teaching these courses without that. Not switching in the middle of the semester. 

So no asterisk next to anything. Full credit. 


Assessment – Since Bishop Guertin is a college preparatory school, you’ll need to provide a mark at the conclusion of the course.  How do you handle tests, quizzes, and later on exams?   

Alfred: Personally, I have been doing all my quizzes online for years so no change there. A decision about final exams has yet to be made. For most of my courses I evaluate a semester end project. That is still possible if we decide to have a final because of the virtual machine students can access. 


One-to-one – as any Computer Science teacher will attest, there are times when you need to sit down beside a student and work your way through an issue or two.  What does that look like online?  Do you use any group-work strategies that work effectively? 

Alfred: This is tough. What I do when I can is ask a student to share their screen by taking over as a presenter. This is not ideal but it works and it also lets me model problem solving for the whole class.  When that doesn’t work I can open the student’s project directly from the shared network drive and look at it that way.  

I really need to figure out some group work. On the other hand, I have had students ask me a question and another student will give the answer faster than I do. That’s pretty cool. 


On-going feedback – Every teacher knows of this question – particularly for those mark hungry students.  “Did you mark our tests/assignments/quizzes yet?”  Since you don’t have commute time carved out of your day, do you have more time for this and return things prompter than you might otherwise? 

Alfred: I have been getting to some things faster than I used to. Losing that close to an hour drive each day does give me some extra time. Students are being very patient with teachers and each other. There is a sense that we are all in this together. 


No screen Wednesdays – I remember you sharing that teachers (and students?) were to stay away from electronic things like this one day a week.  How’s that working out? 

Alfred: We did that as an experiment this past week. The feedback is that it went well.  We will have a four-day week this week because of Good Friday as well. There is some thought to keeping a Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday schedule after that. I managed to spend a lot less time on the screen Wednesday. It was a good break even for a computer addict like me. 


Personal Workspace – Can you describe your own personal workspace that gets you through this?  Is there anything other than a computer, microphone, and camera that is needed to be successful?  In a previous profession, you used to travel far and wide helping teachers so you may have seen it all.  What advice could you give everyone at this time? 

Alfred: I have two laptops set up on my dining room table. I find that two screens are very helpful. I might even say essential. Both of my laptops have cameras, but I only use one camera at a time. I have a headset with a microphone that I wear constantly while “at school.” It has noise canceling features which is helpful to avoid distractions. I highly recommend a good headset for teachers. Less echo, better hearing, and sends a message to everyone else in the house that you are working. 

My wife retired in January, so she is not teaching. She does have her own setup in the family room which she uses. You know me well enough to know that there is no shortage of computers in my house. 

A second screen and a headset are two hardware recommendations. Setting out outside the main traffic area in your house is a second recommendation. Ideally you should have a place where you can leave your computer set up and not have to constantly set it up and break it down.  Our dining room is mostly for when we have guests so that works for me. It might not for everyone. 

Mostly, I would tell teachers to do what they can and not expect to be able to do all that they would in a normal classroom. These are not normal times. All you can do is the best you can do. 


Thanks so much, Alfred.  I know that your insights are comforting and insightful for educators. 

During this time, Alfred has picked up his blogging pace.  You can read his ongoing thoughts and observations here – http://blog.acthompson.net