Digging deeper


Yesterday was a big day for us. Essex County (or most of it) is out of Stage 1 and into Stage 2 with the COVID recovery. We celebrated by going out to dine on a patio that’s part of the downtown open air plan. You may have read about it here.

It started out delightfully, hand sanitizer as we entered and we were seated on the patio quite a distance from anyone else. It was clear that the restaurant had taken this very seriously. We watched our server as she waited on people and the sterilized their tables and menus with each group of customers. Now, truth be told, the server is a family member so we got the entire story and how she’s had to enforce the “put on a mask” rule to go into the restroom. It seemed to work well.

Then, as we were enjoying our lunch, a BIG group of people came walking down the street. This was either the biggest family ever or a group that really didn’t understand the concept of social distancing. There wasn’t a mask in sight but everyone was dressed incredibly nicely. My wife guessed that it might be a big wedding until we saw some mortar boards. This was a big graduation event.

They all walked past the bylaw officer without comment so I guess he thought they were distanced. We were across the road so maybe our perspective was wrong.

Essex County claimed to be wronged when the rest of the province had the chance to move to Stage 2 and we were left behind. There was a review and since the number of positive cases came from migrant farm workers, most of the county eventually got to move to Stage 2, except Kingville and Leamington. I feel for those folks; I have good friends in Leamington and we meet monthly for a lunch. That hasn’t happened since February.

It’s the numbers and the statistics that are curious. As the Premier noted, the workers were not positive until they got here so we can’t point fingers at them. In trying to stay on top of this, I’ve been following the news media which gives kind of a fuzzy overview of things. Inevitably, it’s noted that Toronto is happy but we’re not.

So, I decided to go deeper with statistics and ended up finding this fabulous resource from Public Health Ontario. The overview map lets you mouse over counties to see actual numbers. I found this so helpful as news tends to be local or Toronto-based.

This data tool is so flexible with all the data that’s available.

When looking at data by health unit and digging into the spikes you can see the big story by district.

There’s no doubt that there’s a visible leap in numbers here. Of course, the y-axis allows you to put the numbers in perspective. I can see the Premier’s concern for our area.

I just wish that everyone would take the time to realize what’s happening. We see the numbers from US and European sources all the time. The graph shows how sensitive to change in numbers that we’re experiencing.

This tool lets us dig into our community. We need to be smart about what we’re doing folks.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


What a week! It was so warm hot here. I guess that I can’t complain too loudly though. The Sun Parlor was not the hottest place in the province. It looks like it’s going to get cooler for the weekend. Isn’t that doing things backwards?

Read on to enjoy some of the recent posts from Ontario Edubloggers.


Simple Steps to Reopen Schools

This post comes from the mindfulness side of the Stillnesshub blog and written by Safina Hirji.

I’ve read a lot of blog posts recently about how to re-open schools. They’re typically full of ideas about the mechanical and logistical side of things. All of that is really important for safety and I’ll admit to reading many of them.

This post takes a different tact though.

It focuses on students. What a concept! But, it’s not the sort of thing dealing with assessment and evaluation, content, and other teacher things. True to the theme, Safina deals with student mindfulness. She touches on four areas.

  • Mental Health and Well-Being through Mindfulness
  • Individualized Learning Opportunities
  • Mindfulness with acquiring knowledge and building skills
  • Accessing the right Tech Tools for Collaborative, Synchronous Learning

It’s a good read and a powerful reminder that opening schools is more than unlocking doors.


How Not to Start Math Class in the Fall – 2020

Mark Chubb’s post is a nice followup to Safina’s. Like her post, he’s got a great deal of concern for the student and their re-introduction to school, specifically for mathematics.

I suspect that most teachers go through a process of pre-testing to assess strengths, weaknesses, and current levels of understanding in the first part of a mathematics class.

But this is not a regular year, whatever that is. We know that things have been less, far less, than idea over the past while. Then, add two months for summer holiday.

Mark takes these notions and expands with recommendations about just how to start and a list of things to reflect on.

We’re still an unknown period of time away from knowing when and how things will open but there’s some great inspiration here to get things going in the back of your mind at least.


The Way I Felt

Amanda Potts says she “hate the poem I wrote” and that’s a shame because it’s a very power piece of media.

Inspired by the recent announcement that schools would remain closed for the rest of spring, her first reaction was that the air had been sucked out of the room.

I’m not a big poetry critic but I really felt that she laid her teaching soul bare with her thoughts and I’ll bet that you’d feel the same way.

It starts…

No more waiting
for people who don’t know me
to make a decision about
my life
my family’s life
my students’ lives
my community’s lives.


TEACH LIKE A DAD

From the Our Dad’s Shoes blog devoted to issues about Fathers and Fatherhood comes this post, from Will Gourley. It is actually a post he’d written in the past and brought forward at this time. It fits nicely into the theme.

He discusses four attributes of fathers:

  • Consistent
  • Fair
  • Honest
  • Protective

and does a great job about it and offering a tribute to his father.

There is a natural connection to teaching because, as we all acknowledge, our first teachers were our parents.


My List Of 10 Self-Reg Things That I’ve Learned

From the Self-Regulation blog, Aviva shares a list of things that she’s learned about self-regulation and herself at these trying times.

  • Exercise
  • Breaks
  • Fidget toy 
  • Too much social media
  • OK to put yourself first
  • Social stressors are online
  • Why and why now?
  • Stress behaviours multiply online
  • Saying hello
  • Importance of routine

Aviva joined Stephen Hurley and me as a guest host on This Week in Ontario Edublogs, did a nice job and got a chance to elaborate. There were three of these topics that I singled out to hear her speak about, in addition to writing about it.

Fidget Toy – she sees a need for one of these in her future as she hesitates to jump into discussions with students. I had to smile, I play with my mouse when I’m listening to others

Social stressors are online – we all know about the stresses due to social media but what about the social interaction that goes on in the online classroom. When to jump in, when to lay back, …

Saying hello – Aviva notes that it’s OK for some students to jump into a class and not necessarily be active for the entire session. It’s OK just to say hello and sit back and watch. Just being there can be enough at times


Good Coffee Activity

From the STAO blog, this is a really interesting resource unit.

Who doesn’t get up and get a daily charge with coffee?

This is a free to download secondary school curriculum complete with the expectations that can be addressed with its use.


Pandemic Reflections: Surrender as a Survival Technique

I know that Tim King speaks for thousands of teachers in this particular post. He lashes out at many things, many people that are players in this “absolutely terrible school year.”

I like the success story that he shares (and had pictures on Facebook documenting it) when he and family were allowed into the school to put together some computers for colleagues.

I can understand his feeling of exhaustion but was taken aback when he indicated that he was feeling defeated. I’ve never heard that from him. Then I look at my own household. My wife is delighted when she needs to leave the place to address some essential service in town.

There are so many lessons to be learned from those on the front lines during this time. As Tim notes, our leaders had assumptions about the readiness for a shift in teaching and it’s been proven wrong over and over again.

For me, the low point of all this was the political statement about expecting teachers and students to be regularly engaged in synchronous communications. For that to work, so many assumptions had to be made. I know that many teachers have tried and some have been successful but I suspect they would have been successful without the directive anyway.


Please click through and enjoy these posts in their entirety. There’s so much great thinking.

Then, make sure that you’re following these folks on Twitter.

  • Safina Hirji – @SafinaHirji
  • Mark Chubb – @MarkChubb3
  • Amanda Potts – @Ahpotts
  • Will Gourley – @WillGourley
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • STAO – staoapso
  • Tim King – @tk1ng

This post originated on:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

A lot about prime


Fact: All teachers of mathematics will have taught about prime numbers at some time. A lot of teachers of computer science will have assigned the problem of determining whether or not a number input is prime or not.

It’s a relatively straight forward concept. A number is prime if:

From https://www.mathsisfun.com

So, just about every positive number is either prime or composite.

The site number.education has just about everything you’d ever want to know about Prime Numbers in one spot, as well as a way to test to see if any number is prime.

All of this is accessible via the menu on the landing site.

I’ve long known about prime numbers. It’s just one of those things that you learn early in school and it sticks with you. It’s also a nice time waster to start with 3 and see how far you can go in your head, picking off prime numbers.

From a computer science perspective, it really is an interesting concept. The mathematics is so simple and you can introduce/reinforce many programming concepts by writing a program or two. Integer division, remainders, test for valid input, etc.

Yes, these are slow times so I did write a couple of programs here just for old times sake.

Oh, and there is one positive number that isn’t prime. This page catches it nicely and so should your program, if you elect to write one.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


After a quick check to make sure this is Thursday morning and if I schedule it properly, it will come out tomorrow, here’s a sampling of the great thinking from Ontario Edubloggers.


So you’re teaching from home. How’s your back?

You know how your feet hurt when you get a new pair of shoes?

It might be that you’re experiencing different pain now as a result of teaching online from at home. I suspect that many people will be jumping in worried about teaching, worried about kids, worried about isolation, worrying about a lot of things except their own well being.

Will Gourley gives us a sense of the pain that he’s feeling in his particular work situation, along with pictures of folded clothes indicating that his desk doubles as a laundry space or that after allocating all the good spaces in their three stories to others, he’s left with this.

He offers five good suggestions for taking care of yourself and they’re all worth considering if you find yourself dealing with discomfort or outright pain these days. Or, use it as a check so that you don’t end up in that case.

What he didn’t include was taking a break and folding laundry…


Remotely Speaking

As I said during the This Week in Ontario Edublogs podcast, Melanie White could be a poster child for effectively trying to engage all students.

She’s pedagogically savvy enough to try and ensure that all students are engaged in class activities and technically savvy enough to recognize that it may take more than one strategy to reach everyone.

I love this image from The Mentoree that she includes in the post.

I really appreciated the fact that she shared how all students don’t follow the formal conventions of writing when using email. I think it’s a nice reminder that the technologies that are often available and in use are our technologies and may not be the ideal solution for a new generation.

Of course, everyone just got thrown into the middle of this; it will be interesting to see if more relevant tools emerge that are more easily embraced.


Skyscraper Puzzles – printable package

When I think back at the Mathematics that I studied (and I studied a great deal of it), there really was a focus on Algebra and Geometry. For the longest time, Geometry was really about two space and it wasn’t until the later years that we got into three space.

Ironically, though, three space was represented in two space via the blackboard.

This post, from Mark Chubb, offers up free materials that he’s made to help students with the understanding of space. They’re called Skyscraper Puzzles and a link will let you download and work with them. The resource is in PDF format.

By itself, that would be worth the read of the post. But, Mark takes it to a new level. He indicates that he had some helpers with the work. Anyone who believes in the maker concept will immediately realize that they just wouldn’t be creating materials – they’d be learning the concepts as well. As we know, you never really know something completely until you teach or make it.


Ça va prendre un chapeau d’apprenant!

Anyone teaching from at home at this time will definitely identify with this observation from Marius Bourgeoys.

The comfort zone has left the building.

Marius includes a number of observations that are hard to disagree with. Towards the end of the post, he offers 12 suggestions for checkins with students.

I found number 7 particularly interesting.

Quelles nouvelles responsabilités as-tu à la maison?

We all know that it’s not life as usual. In some cases, though, it may be substantially different for some students other than just taking their schooling online.

Mom and Dad may be essential workers and that student is picking up additional responsibilities to make sure that the family continues to thrive. I think it’s a very powerful question to ask student and could easily be a great writing prompt.


Sandie’s Music Teaching Blog

Students in K-12 are not the only ones dealing with the current reality of teaching/learning. In this post, Sandie Heckel is looking for advice from the field to give to prospective music teachers.

It’s a good advice to be sought at any time, for any subject.

I would suggest that it’s particularly relevant in these times. Many of the school re-opening plans that I’ve seen specifically name music as a subject that won’t be there when school resumes.

Those providing the advice are looking beyond that. They recognize the value of music in a child’s life and offer ways to consider your own personal growth planning.


Math at Home: Week 1

There have been a lot of memes circulating about the learning at home situation and one of the funniest was a couple of kids complaining that not only were they being schooled at home but that their mother was a math teacher.

Lots of that ran through my mind when I read this post from Lisa Corbett. Her son’s doing the math and she’s giving us a blow by blow account of how it’s going. And, they have a blackboard to do math on. Who has a blackboard at home these days? Got to be a teacher!

It’s a good accounting of what’s happening. I think there will be a big payoff when all this is over by re-reading blog posts and learning about the learning that everyone experienced. Journaling this experience is good advice for everyone. They didn’t prepare you for this at the Faculty of Education. You’re living history as it happens so why not document it.

There’s another element to this that can’t be lost. Not only is she working with her own kids schooling at home, but there’s still those from her day job that are learning at a distance too. Double-dipping.


Teachers Reminisce

This post, from Albert Fong, goes back to the beginning of March. It seems so long ago now.

Speaking of a long time ago, Albert relates a story of a youngster coming to Canada and learning to grow up in his new reality in different schools. This new reality includes fighting amongst schoolmates. That part, I could relate to. I suspect we all can.

But, what happened when an older student got involved was not something that I had ever experienced.

Albert learned from that moment and that experience and had an opportunity to apply his learning when he was a bit older.


For a Friday morning, please click through and enjoy these blog posts. There is some great inspirational reading to be enjoyed here.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Will Gourley – @WillGourley
  • Melanie White – @WhiteRoomRadio
  • Mark Chubb – @markchubb3
  • Marius Bourgeoys – @Bourmu
  • Sandie Heckel – @SandieHeckel
  • Lisa Corbett – @LisaCorbett0261
  • Albert Fong – @albertfong

This post appears at:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I hope this is Friday. All the days seem to be the same anymore. If it is, it’s the weekend ahead. What are you doing to celebrate?

I might have to cut the grass again.

It was a major sense of accomplishment here to roll the calendar forward a day to schedule this post for a new month. It’s the little things.

Anyway, enjoy some of the recent works from Ontario Edubloggers.


If you aren’t still in a school library…

Beth Lyons shares a reflection about life as a school librarian who isn’t going into a physical library these days.

And then she asks

Am I still a teacher-librarian?

It’s an important question to ask. For many of our who were out of the classroom during major disruptions to the normal, it is something that we always pondered “You wouldn’t know; you’re not in the classroom”, “You don’t have to do report cards”, …

I think it’s natural to see yourself as having a bulls-eye on the forehead at times like this and to do some self-examination.

But step back a bit. There are thousands of teachers who aren’t in their traditional classroom. That doesn’t make them less of a teacher. More that ever, being in a school isn’t the defining factor of teacher. Similarly, being in a library doesn’t define who is a teacher-librarian.

The rules have changed, to be sure. But the things that make a school a school continue. The same applies to Teacher-Librarians. While a classroom teacher knows her/his curriculum backward and forward, a Teacher-Librarian typically knows everyone’s expectations. It seems to me that they can be the best resource a teacher working with a class online can have. While all the resources many be digital for a while, the Teacher-Librarian can be working harder than ever providing research and assistance for colleagues. Beth shares what she’s doing in the post.

Here’s an excellent read to support that notion – School Librarians Take the Lead During the Pandemic.

I think it’s normal for everyone to ponder their abilities with these new situations. Now is not the time to pull back; it’s more important than ever to be visible to others and supportive like never before.


Setting Up Communication with Students in Distance Learning

Alanna King shares an insight to the learning space that is carved out of the King household where she and Tim are now working with their classes.

This post is a wonderful story and truly answers the question “Can students get involved in community service during this time”?

And, it comes from Tim King’s Computer Engineering students. He shared a form with staff members indicating that his students could offer some technical support. In Alanna’s case

I would like a secure Google Doc/Form way to communicate mark updates with students. I’m wondering if we can use something like DocAppender on a spreadsheet to mail merge a column to users with a specific email address e.g. 72 goes to aking@ugcloud.ca and then to have the recipient create a read receipt/digital signature to confirm that they have read it.

One student stepped up with a solution and documented it via a YouTube video.

In these days with all kinds of stories swirling, this is just so inspirational. I hope that the rest of the staff is tapping into this resource. It just has to lighten their load and put their mind at ease knowing someone has their back if they run into problems.

Where do you look for support at this time?


Leadership and Learning under Lockdown

Sometimes, it definitely are the little things that we take for granted and Sue Dunlop reaches out with her experience during the lockdown in her section of the world.

When you think about it, Education is all about timed events. The morning bell is at #.##, National Anthem and announcements at #.##, Every class is ## minutes long. You have exactly # minutes to travel from one room to another otherwise you’re going to be marked late. Lunch is at ##.## and final dismissal is at ##.##. Everything is programmed and timed down to the last minute.

If you’ve ever tried to make an appointment with a superintendent at her/his office, you have to go through a support staff person and will be given a time slot during the course of the working day.

For the most part, the classroom or office door is closed (literally or figuratively) while work is happening. It’s what we do. It’s what we’ve done since kindergarten. Education is no place for a timetable non-conformist!

In light of all this, there are special moments and that’s the point of this post from Sue. You go to the mailroom or the staffroom or out into the hallway between classes or a whack of other quick moments when you’re not switched ON. Those happenstance moments are what Sue is missing at this time.

She’s trying to replicate it during lockdown. And yet, it’s still not the same. Even to have an informal chat on a video conference, you typically have to schedule a time when all participants are able to be there.

Sue concludes with a call to action for leaders to contemplate once they’re back together. I suspect it will be a part of a long list of reflections about this experience. If nothing else, I’ll bet that we all have a deeper sense of appreciation of those moments.


It isn’t a pivot, it’s a giant leap

When I coached football, we had three quarterbacks and one of them was left-handed. We had one play that required a “pivot” and what should have been simple (I thought) wasn’t for everyone. One took too it easily and the other two had challenges. It didn’t come across as a natural action for one and for the left-handed one, it was difficult to even describe because the play was a mirror reflection. I am right handed and there’s no way that I could gracefully demonstrate what was needed.

I learned there that things aren’t always easy and transferable. Peter Cameron has a very distinct edge in voice with his advice to the Minister of Education calling the transition from regular classroom teaching to “Emergency Distance Learning” a simple pivot. His words brought back that football memory immediately. It was almost surreal because I can’t remember the last time I actually ever used the word pivot.

If I had to select an educator that I would think could make the move to distance learning relatively easily, Peter would be high on my list of choices as I consider him well connected. But, like so many, he notes that his misses the daily interaction with students. So, he definitely hasn’t simply pivoted to the new reality.

In other news from Peter, he shares a reminder of the upcoming MAD (Make A Difference) PD event this weekend. Details are here.


Math Links for Week Ending Apr. 24th, 2020

David Petro is always good for some resources for Mathematics and, with his deep understanding of it and the Ontario Curriculum, shares resources and ties them directly for classroom teachers.

This week’s collection resources, video, and images featured a flash back to FEUT Professor Fraser who was part of my teacher education. He shared this puzzle…

It was a wonderful puzzle and I was thinking about coding a solution when I scrolled down and saw that someone had created a moving example illustrating why it works.

The other important takeaway from David’s post announces that, although the annual OAME Conference is cancelled, there will be a “virtual OAME” in its place. Everyone is invited and it’s free.

I look through the sessions and was proud to note some names from my former school district and most certainly many folks that are part of my #FollowFriday posts. It’s a nice replication of the traditional conference including door prizes.


DigCitTO and the future of conferences

DigCitTO had dropped off my radar. It’s a short duration event normally held face to face. Driving all the way to Toronto, finding parking, etc. really makes it prohibitive.

But, the organizers went ahead and held the event anyway, shifting to the online world. Editorial Note: microwaving something from M&M pales in comparison from the great downtown Toronto food.

As it turned out, I could only drop in a couple of times for a few minutes to see what was up.

In this post, Diana Maliszewski shares her conference attendance (or partial attendance) including a session that she co-presented. All in all, good reading.

She did close with some musing about the future of conferences. Some, perhaps, could live in an online presentation world. I think that those of us who have attended sessions know that online that they can easily turn into a “sit ‘n git” with the worse of them. It really takes a skilled presenter to bring interactive elements into such a session. I look to Speaking Bureaus to provide learning into engagement techniques because this will be our future for a while anyway. Diana has a question mark beside the OLA Superconference. Gulp.

Regardless, there are so many things that I would miss – exhibit halls, interactive sessions, hugs from friends, first meetings with new friends, walking a strange city, finding old friends and meet up for dinner, sitting in a pub or bar sharing war stories and so much more. Organizations use the opportunities to foster partnerships and use attendance fees to fund themselves. So much would change if this format was lost.


Classrooms After Covid-19

How’s this for coincidence?

Shortly after I scheduled my post for Re-opening questions, I got a message from Deb Weston that she had written this post.

Like my crystal ball, Deb took the opportunity to envision what classrooms might look like once teachers and students are able to return to them.

She has a nice discussion on the various elements as she sees them. There are just so many concerns and decisions that have to go into the planning. While my approach was largely from my thoughts in a secondary school background, she brought into focus what an elementary school might have to plan for.

What comes through in both of our posts is the concept that schools are a large mass of humanity compressed into small facilities. Bizarrely, the media seems to be spending more time reporting on how baseball might open or hockey might wind down than what schools re-opening might look like.

The biggest cost item (other than hand sanitizers) would be staffing and she takes some time doing the mathematics and predicts that a 42% increase in the number of teachers would be needed.

I’d like to suggest that both posts would be good reads and “look fors” when the bell rings. You can’t just flip a switch.


Please find some time to click through and read the original posts. We live in interesting times and there are some great thoughts generated.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Beth Lyons – @mrslyonslibrary
  • Alanna King – @banana29
  • Sue Dunlop – @Dunlop_Sue
  • Peter Cameron – @cherandpete
  • David Petro – @davidpetro314
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Deb Weston – @DrDWestonPhD

This post originated on:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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