This Week in Ontario Edublogs


And, …, it’s time for another wander around the province looking at some of the great writing from Ontario Edubloggers.


Juris My Diction Crap

If you’re a parent, this post will tear your heart apart. We want all the best for our kids and certainly, during COVID times that means that vaccinations and boosters are in order. While there are nay-sayers who don’t want part of it, this is a story about a mother who wants the best for her 17-year-old. Marie shares her research and analysis of guiding documents in the post.

In addition to the story of her running into walls, there’s a strong message there that Ontario is making up rules as time passes. We’re now hearing of the importance of vaccinations and boosters for kids from 5-11 and the need for those over 18. Doing the math, we have high school students. They tend to travel in flocks and, around here, are unmasked when they’re on the streets. She’s even willing to go state-side to do it but we have rules about travel there as well.

There was a bit of a smile in here for me as she uses the word “eviscerated” in the post. I think that’s the first time I’ve read that word in a blog post and it’s a reminder that we’re a big province. Click through and ready what the problem was.


Slice of (Pandemic) Life

Lisa shares a story of perhaps a kinder and gentler Ontario. A year ago, you wouldn’t dream of picking up and visiting Grandpa’s house but now with a few tests, there’s a confidence that you’re not taking anything other than goodies with you.

I’m glad that she was able to make that happen. I smiled when she mentioned the debate about whether or not to take her laptop although I suspect that a smartphone would have done in a pitch.

It was to keep her connected to the latest news about COVID, back to school, and all those things that change people’s lives in a heartbeat. Along the way, she reflects that it’s also made her a good online teacher and that’s a good thing in itself. It’s probably nothing that many had aspirations for but were forced into it.

We live in such a different world; I grew up in a town with a weekly newspaper and everything that you need to know came out every Thursday. That wouldn’t cut it today. I’d be so behind the times.


5 Things I Learned in 2021

I’m with Matthew’s analysis of time passing. Is it fast or slow? That’s really a good question. But, 2021 did pass and he uses this post to share five things he learned.

  • Don’t Try To Do Too Much
  • Stay Consistent
  • The Kids Are Resilient
  • Your Mental Health Over Everything 
  • Teachers and Students Are People Too

On This Week in Ontario Edublogs, Stephen and I each cherry-picked one of the points to discuss. Stephen went with the third one and I opted for number five. In particular, parents and guardians are seeing more of the inside of a classroom and the mechanics involved while their child is at the kitchen table. Schools aren’t really a black box.


OneWord 2022

Marc takes a bit of a break from his top 500 music countdown to celebrate the new year with his “One Word”. In the past, he’s gone with Revitalize, Mindfulness, Cultivate, Persist, Discomfort & Ameliorate. This year’s choice is a well-thought-through single word.

He could have stopped the post there and we’d all be happy but he didn’t.

He takes the notion of the “One Word” into the classroom and makes it an activity for his students. In a generous manner, he shares the lesson and suggests tools that would end up with the students making a banner for their word.

It’s not a quick and simple activity. There’s a lot of richness there that really would make it worthwhile to replicate.


Here we go again…

Writing on the ETFO Heart and Art Blog, Kelly is reliving teaching from a year ago. It would be easy to dwell on the challenges because there is so much of that.

There’s some good reading there in an external link to a McLean’s article that talks about the challenges that students have while online.

Kelly uses the bottom of the post to talk about some of the successes that she’s had. I think that it’s pretty important to recognize this. Even in these less than ideal times, the kids are thriving and some are doing some things that they might not have otherwise. Did someone mention resiliency?

All of these are good observations but the one that lept out at me was:

Two of my students who rarely complete tasks in the classroom completed many tasks this week

We now know that school is planned to resume on Monday. It’s got to be running through Kelly’s mind that there has to be a reason why those students changed things around and are doing well. I hope that she can identify it and encourage them to continue this success.


Books For Middle School Students

I have this middle school-aged student who hangs out around here periodically. He’s not a reader in the traditional sense. He can sure read the instructions on his tablet when playing games but that’s not the same thing.

I’m going to pass Kristy’s list along to him and see if there’s something there that will get him interested in book reading.


Day in life of a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) – submitted by Leila Knetsch

Leila has her students researching careers and jobs in Biology. Before I clicked through the links at the bottom of the post, I was wondering what I would search for if I was a student in that class.

My ideas were pretty traditional! I was thinking of beakers, microscopes, test tubes, etc. One of the students in her class researched and submitted a couple that really are well done and made me feel kind of narrow-minded.


I hope that you can click through and enjoy all of these great blog posts.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Marie Snyder – @MarieSnyder27
  • Lisa Corbett – @LisaCorbett0261
  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Marc Hodgkinson – @Mr_H_Teacher
  • Kristy – @2peasandadog
  • Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario / L’Association des professeurs de science de l’Ontario – @staoapso

The Wednesday voicEd Radio show can be found here.

https://voiced.ca/podcast_episode_post/jurisdiction-online-learning-and-a-oneword-2022/

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I just got back from my morning dog walk and am reflecting on how I’ve written this post in my mind. I still have the tabs open from the Wednesday morning voicEd Radio show and I refreshed my memory about them as we took off. My only regret is that I’ve probably forgotten most of what I had thought about. I smiled when I thought I should turn the voice recorder on on my phone but then I’d have to listen to Jaimie complain as he enjoys a quiet walk.


Digital Footprint 2.0

This is a fairly long post by Tim and I’ll admit that I was drawn to it because of a pingback to one of my blog posts. From 2012! Uh oh. What did I say? I was pleasantly surprised to be in the same post as mentions to Diana Maliszewski and Melanie McBride.

The post is an interesting reflection on Tim’s part about online presences. I thought that Diana nailed it when she talks about teachers and being relevant to students with their connections. Tim kind of agrees but then notes that good people have been overlooked in their applications for principalship because of being vocal online. I’ll bet that those that did get promoted did a lot of singular research in a library sans a social learning network.

I think that Tim’s post is a great year-end or year-beginning read for educators and particularly those that are in these hiring positions. Do you want your system to become increasingly distanced from students and their families?

Personally, I have bought into the notion of a learning network and I value it every day. In fact, I’d doubt that I would have met Tim or his wonderful family Alanna and Max or got the incredible Christmas card from them in the mail. It’s one of those really nice ones that you don’t want to recycle, because well, it’s a great card! More than that, when I’m at a conference I will attend one of Tim’s sessions because he goes places in his thinking that I would never go. I so appreciate people that push my thinking.

On the other hand, I think we all know people, including educators, who don’t contribute to the learning of others but exist solely for those “look at me” moments. Somehow, some of them have parlayed that into speaking careers. That, I don’t get.


Quiet

If you follow Aviva on social media, she does truly use it to meet her purposes. The parts that I particularly like is how she documents student learning in her classroom. She does it correctly; she takes pictures of the activities and not of the kids. There’s a big difference and I know that it’s hard for those of us who grew up being told to “smile for Grandma”.

For December, Avia has decided to take a break from this, although it wasn’t a complete stoppage. She still is sharing pictures and her reading as she finds her quiet time in books and uses that to gear down for the end of the year. If that’s what works for her, then I think that’s a good approach. We all need to find what works for ourselves.

Sadly, she notes that there are things that are on the horizon that are going to interrupt her routine so I hope that she enjoys it while she can.


The Trickery of Insufficient Data

As I said on the show, Peter missed the opportunity to title this “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”! I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of the first five minutes of any newscast talking about the latest updates in COVID.

For the Wednesday show, I found these to be the top stories from a few news sites that I frequent…

  • Toronto Star – Today’s coronavirus news: Several provinces considering allowing COVID positive health workers to stay on job; Global cases up 11% last week, Omicron risk high
  • Toronto Sun – Doctors urge Ontario to scale back isolation, quarantine rules
  • Toronto Globe and Mail – Nova Scotia delays students’ return, Ontario school announcement coming on COVID-19 measures
  • Windsor Star – COVID-19 in 2021: a look back at the pandemic’s second year in Windsor-Essex

I think the answer to Peter’s absolutely correct analysis of a couple of graphs is that reporters are under a great deal of pressure to get the next great COVID story out. They’re not statisticians by trade and so do the best that they can. Typically statistical reports have a summary at the beginning and then get into the details later in case you’re interested or having difficulty sleeping. I remember a third year Statistics prof telling us that you can make statistics say darned near anything you want. Is this the case? We seldom get the information about sample sizes and confidence levels which are really important to know and understand.

Numbers are numbers are numbers; I get that. I think that the shock value of huge numbers and yet another story about cases has worn off. Of more importance now, I think, comes from the contact tracing and a warning for us to avoid these particular places.


Moving Day

If you think your December was rough, put yourself in Ann Marie’s shoes – having to find a place and then move a school to those places to continue the learning for the students. She gives a big shoutout to her staff

Things are looking up in her school’s world. They’re packing and the movers are coming in to move them “home”. I wish them all the best and just can’t imagine having to go through that or to lead an entire school through that situation and recovery.

I love this quote from her post.

“Social support is not merely being in the presence of others. The critical issue is reciprocity: being truly heard and seen by the people around us., feeling that we are held in someone else’s mind and heart. For our physiology to calm, done, heal, and grow we need a visceral feeling of safety.” Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keep the Score


How my class is spending their last day together before potential school closures.

Amy Bowker writes a very short blog post about the last day of school with her and her students. I always hated the last day before a break as the kids were very clear that I was the only teacher that they had that wanted them to do something academic. Compared to these days, I had it easy. We knew that we were coming back after the Break and we’d continue on.

The only thing I can remember in common with Amy was the cleaning out of desks. (althought I did bribe with a big bag of candy canes ….)

Today we are cleaning out our desks, making gingerbread houses, and watching Space Jam. We are also going to participate in a community circle where we reflect on our class and all the things we love about being at school. We are going to enjoy today. Celebrate each other. Tell each other how important they are to our class.

That fact that they celebrated each other and appreciated each other brings a bit of emotion here. Of course, we all like to think that we do that regularly but any context that I can think of pales to Amy’s world. And to all the classroom teachers, your world too.

As I write this post on Thursday morning, we still don’t know what direction Ontario will be taking.


Waiting No More: Lessons from the Lake

This post from Debbie really resonated with me. Except for going away to university, I’ve always lived within easy driving or walking distance of a lake. There is absolutely something remarkable and powerful about walking the beach or even just sitting in a car watching the waves move.

I could watch the waves for hours. To me, it parallels living that one year in Toronto and going down to Yonge and Dundas. So much action, and every part of that action has something important to do and somewhere important to be. There’s something remarkable about picking up a wave from as far away as you can see and then watching it roll into the beach. You can seldom predict its actual path or the disturbance that it makes when it hits the shallows and then the sand. No two waves are exactly the same.

So, Debbie now has a new house and shares a nice collection of photographs from “her” beach. It’s calming to just look at the pictures but it’s even better in real life. She likes sunrises (who doesn’t) but don’t overlook sunsets!

Beyond this moment in time, this is another reason to blog. Memories might fade but she’ll always have this collection of images and her reflections at this point in time.


Avoir un impact sur ma culture d’apprentissage

For this week, I bookended this post with a couple of powerful messages about learning networks. Left alone, they can do things without a strategic direction or meaning and so it does take some effort to make that happen. You do need to work it. But how?

That’s the big takeaway for me from this post from Joel.

He identifies three areas of importance to him

  • Influencer (élément leadership)
  • Être intentionnel (élément stratégie)
  • Activer (élément action)

I can’t help but think that these are the attributes that Tim would see in a leader and I know that he exhibits in himself as a leader. Make sure to click through and read his complete discussion on each of these. There’s so much there.

The post is a powerful message that all leaders would be wise to read and ponder.


Do yourself a favour and add these people to your own learning network to see what they’re doing daily and become just a bit smarter!

  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Peter Skillen – @peterskillen
  • Ann Marie Luce – @turnmeluce
  • Amy Bowker – @amyebowker
  • Debbie Donsky – @DebbieDonsky
  • Joel McLean – @jprofNB

You can find the voicEd Radio show here.

https://voiced.ca/podcast_episode_post/quiet-time-data-literacy-and-looking-ahead-to-2022/

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


And, it’s another Friday. Actually, it’s Thursday morning as I write this post but that’s the way things roll around here.


Writing a SPOOKY Story!

I’ve written about Cameron Steltman’s writing activity for his students many times before. I think it’s truly unique, inspirational for both students and parents, and easily borrowed by others who want students to write for a purpose and write for an audience.

It’s straight forward.

He starts a new blog post with a theme and instructions for his students. Their job is to read and understand his post and then do some writing of their own in the replies. There’s so much right with this activity.

This time, he uses this image to inspire.

The student job? They look at the image and write a spooky story telling Mr. Steltman, their classmates, their parents, me, you, and anyone else who drops by how they interpret the image and turn it into their own spooky story!


Negative TikTok Challenges and Student Digital Leadership

The typical approach to dealing with bad things in education comes from a long time ago from the Baretta theme song .

“Don’t do the time if you can’t do the crime.”

Or maybe something more contemporary.

We know how well that works out. Jennifer Casa-Todd has a different take on things. In a school where there is one principal and one vice-principal for 1000 or more students, those enforcing the rules are really outnumbered.

Consistent with Jennifer’s message in SocialLEADia, she sees another way. Put the power of students to work to address this. I feel that it honours their leadership and an innate desire to do the right thing.

The prompt for this was the Negative TikTok Challenge and Jennifer includes them in her post.

  • September: Vandalize school bathrooms
  • October: Smack a staff member
  • November: Kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school
  • December: Deck the halls and show your balls
  • January: Jab a breast
  • February: Mess up school signs
  • March: Make a mess in the courtyard or cafeteria
  • April: “Grab some eggz” (another stealing challenge or inappropriate touching)
  • May: Ditch day
  • June: Flip off in the front office
  • July: Spray a neighbor’s fence

Her approach is an interesting turn on things and I think she may be on to something. Your school needs to have this book in their library. There’s so much wisdom here and it’s all based on the premise that people want to do good things and things for good.

Disclaimer: I did help Jennifer with advice and proofreading of this book.


Leadership and the matter of judgement:An open letter to Prime Minster Trudeau

I enjoy reading Charles Pascal’s writing and insights. Given his past career choices, he’s gone places and seen things that the rest of us in education only get to hear about third or fourth or more hand.

Many of us “could” write to our leaders and get a form letter back (or nothing in the case of around here) but taking your message public could be powerful in that we’re seeing his insights if we care to read them. And I did.

In this case, it’s an letter to our Prime Minister about his choice to go on vacation during the first Truth and Reconciliation holiday. Charles uses the analogy to baseball as commitng an unforced error. There were a lot of things that could have been done on that day. I would think that he would have been welcomed to many communities across the country to address them and the nation.

As we know, we’re just off an election that was controversial in itself. There’s some great advice in Charles’ post

Prime Minister, it is not too late to close the gap between your many worthy and important publicly stated aspirations and meaningful actions. 

Will he follow Charles’ advice?


It’s That Time of Year…

One of the powerful voices helping people understand how media works, its power and influence, and how we should interpret that media is Media Smarts. This year, Media Literacy Week is October 25 to October 30.

Anthony Perrottta is a regular speaker during this event and this year is no exception. He’s doing to give a talk about Digital Portfolios and The Power of Story.

His presentation is on Wednesday at 4:30 and you can sign up from the link in the post.

One of the advantages of COVID for professional learning is that we don’t have to go anywhere except to our computers to take in quality professional learning so do it.

The post also includes links to Anthony’s past presentations.


Talking Like a Teacher

I don’t often disagree with Diana Maliszewski and I’m not sure whether or not I do this time around.

She was asked to co-present a lecture on “Finding Trusted Sources and Evaluating Information” but was advised to not “talk like a teacher”.

In the post, she takes the time to address both the pros and cons of “talking like a teacher”. Maybe I’m narrow minded but I don’t see both sides. I replied to the post on her blog with:

Thank you for my morning smile, Diana. It’s a phrase around here when I correct my wife and kids over language errors “Daaaaad, you’re such a teacher”. I wear it like a badge of honour.

I don’t think you should ever apologize for being a teacher. You’ve devoted your life to your craft and I’m guessing you were asked to speak based upon your skills and reputation. It’s a great compliment. Consider the thousands of people that could have been asked, it ended up being the two of you. I can’t believe that it was a random choice.

My wife is a nurse and when I have a boo-boo, I go to her for her skills; I don’t rely on what I’ve seen on television.

Nobody can have it all but you can certainly relish in the parts that you do have and you will always be a teacher. That’s to be celebrated.

It’s a few days later since I first read Diana’s post, I talked about it on the voicEd Radio show and now I’m writing and I remain every bit convinced of my position.

Either way, knowing Diana, the presentation would have been fun and full of great information, I’m sure.


NETWORKING AT THE TESL ONTARIO ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Probably something like this has never been so important as it is during these days. Networking has always been an important part of conference going and was an important concept for Cyndie Jacobs and I when we co-chaired the Bring IT, Together conference in 2013 and 2014.

Dave Fraser starts off this post with the familiar approach.

When we think of “networking” at a conference, we tend to think of coffee breaks and catching up with colleagues in hotel lobbies and banquet centre hallways.

Been there, done that, and it’s a great chance to catch up with old friends from all over the place. But, that’s only part of the potential. Cyndie and I realized that there was a lot of “other” times with potential for participating in other things. In this post, Dave outlines a bunch of other opportunities that they’ve planned for other than the sessions. I think that’s incredibly important as well as the sessions and it sends the message that the conference is more than a money grab from registrations – that the organization places value in making connections to take away from the event.

It’s tough to pull off when everyone’s online but they seem to have thought through this to give attendees the chance to meet up with others with similar interests. Round table discussions would be interesting.

The platform that they’re using is a new one for me to look at and explore.


Math Links for Week Ending Oct 15th, 2021

The mathematics person is me always looks forward to posts from David Petro. I find it just plain interesting to work my way through them, smiling at his interpretation before I right click and open in a new tab so that I can return and continue my trek through his post.

This past week, regular readers of this blog will know that I was so excited with one of his curated items that I used it as inspiration for a complete blog post here.

He runs the gamut of classes and grades so not all of the links will be immediately useful for everyone except those that like to play with mathematics just for the sake of playing with mathematics and who doesn’t? There’s nothing wrong with a little side learning and this blog covers that nicely.


Please take the time to follow these great Ontario educational bloggers.

  • Cameron Steltman – @MrSteltman
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @JCasaTodd
  • Charles Pascal – @cepascal
  • Anthony Perrotta – @aperrottatweets
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Dave Frazer – @teslontario
  • David Petro – @davidpetro314

This week’s show on voicEd Radio.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Wednesday was another live voicEd Radio show for This Week in Ontario Edublogs. It was great to talk about the blog posts from others before I get to blog about them here!


Mentoring Moments: Importance of Our Names

Writing on the Heart and Art Blog, Nilmini Ratwatte Henstridge takes us on a discussion about names. I’ve mentioned before; a wise person once told me that it’s the most important thing that we own. Teachers need to respect that and call students by their correct name, or if it’s going to be different, it’s because of student choice.

Nilmini has an interesting spin on the concept where she suggests that the student “Names Stories” should be identified and celebrated in class. Especially these days, it’s so important.

In my case, I’ve always gone by “Doug” or a nickname of “Andy” after my father. It’s only when someone calls me by my official name that my head snaps a bit. A standard joke around here is that only a police officer or a doctor calls me “Douglas”.

To help the cause, Nilmini provides a list of books that can be used with students. There’s something powerful about reading about it. Just the fact that it’s in a book adds an air of credibility to the process.


The Mirror’s Reflection

If you do nothing more that just click through on this link, you’ll end up on the new Matthew Morris website which features his blog. It’s been a work in progress for a while now.

It’s looking good.

As Matthew continues to write, I’m finding that he’s revealing more and more about himself and I’m finding myself immersed where he’s been in situations that I I’ve never been. In this case, it was being one of a group of 4 in a class of 60.

There’s a great deal of wisdom in this post for all although Matthew is definitely very open and public about his approach to learning and being honest with himself.

I mean being authentic in your relationships with the children you are charged with teaching but I also mean rigorously reflecting on your shortcomings or blindspots as a person, and by extension, an educator.

We all have shortcoming and blindspots. Sometimes they keep us from reaching where we want to go and other times it shuts out things that we’d rather not see and/or deal with.

This post has really got me thinking about so much. I suspect there will be more to come in subsequent posts.


Contexte déficitaire: changeons de paradigme

Reading Joel McLean’s posts always slow me down as my Grade 10 French kicks in. Ultimately, I do rely on a translation program to make sure that I’m close to his meaning.

In this case, I really was and he takes on the statement that I know that we’ve all used.

j’ai fait de mon mieux / I did the best that I could

How many times have you used that expression? For me, it was probably more often that I care to admit.

As Joel notes, it can be used as an excuse for not getting the best results. After all, you did the best that you could, right? The fault lies with someone else. Somehow, it allows us to accept failure or at least not reaching the ultimate goal.

In the post, Joel suggests a different way to respond and look at things with an eye towards a solution that helps you get better.

It’s a lesson that everyone should take to heart.


Where’s the joy?

From Amanda Potts, a post that exhibits her own humility and vulnerability.

Just where is the “joy” in education?

Her context is a new course that she’s teaching “Understanding Contemporary First Nation, Metis and Inuit Voices”. a Grade 11 English course.

Now, anyone who has ever taught Grade 11 knows that it’s one of the more challenging years in a student’s and, by inheritance, a teacher’s timetable.

She’s taken a ton of professional learning opportunities and yet still feels like she needs to do more to actually do the course justice. From her description, I feel her message and yet I’m wondering how many other teachers are teaching the same course without the background that she’s acquired.

I love the statement that she shares that she won’t allow herself to get this wrong. I can’t help but think that this will be a very long year for her and I do hope that she can find some joy in her efforts.

It’s not just her post that’s important here; it’s garnered all kinds of comments from visitors to her blog so she can start with the comfort that there is a network of people behind her.


Halloween Costumes for English Teachers

My immediate reaction to this post from Kristy was this was more for elementary school teachers until I paused and remember that we did dress up a bit as well. The only restriction in my class at Hallowe’en and Christmas was that you couldn’t dress up with tinsel as that would do a number on computers.

I was lucky, I guess, in that my school colours were orange and royal blue. Often, Hallowe’en would land on a football game day or before/after and we could wear a jersey along with some other things.

In the post, Kristy gives us a list of 21 suggestions. Three of them seemed doable for this computer geek…

  • Go as an E-reader (14)
  • Go as a Banned Book (20)
  • Go as a Copycat (21)

Interestingly, on the news tonight it was reported that school boards are encourage people not to dress up for Hallowe’en.


Friday Two Cents: Comic Strips: Shepherd

The latest comic strip from Paul Gauchi brought a smile to my face. In fact, it might bring a smile to many who are struggling with going back to the face to face classroom and are considering alternatives.

With the return to in class learning, many educators have to reteach basic social skills, such as walking in a straight line or using “please” and “thank you”.   

So, is there an alternative to this noble profession?

Check out Paul’s comic to see a spin on it.


Student Perceptions of Gamification: A Comparison of Research Studies

Gamification is a word that I haven’t heard used in education for quite some time now.

It’s more common to hear words like “sanitizer”, “social distancing”, “masks”, … as a result of the return to schools while dealing with COVID.

So, it was with interest and a fresh outlook that I read this post from Mike Washburn.

It was interesting to see this topic addressed after such a long bit of absence. I suspect that there are still those that don’t understand the difference between gaming and gamification.

Gamification for gamification’s sake is as Ian Bogost has so eloquently said, bullshit (Bogost, 2015)

As classrooms return to near normal, I have a feeling that the usual suspects will be back at it as they understand the power when done properly. For others, it might be starting at the ground floor. The one thing that has change as a result of all the learning at home is that students are far more familiar with computers than ever before.


I hope that you can click through and enjoy all these posts.

Then, follow the authors on Twitter.

  • Nilmini Ratwatte Henstridge – @NRatwatte
  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Joel McLean – @jprofNB
  • Amanda Potts – @Ahpotts
  • Kristy – @2peasandadog
  • Paul Gauchie – @PCMalteseFalcon
  • Mike Washburn – @misterwashburn

The voicEd Radio show is available here:

An Interview with Rabia Khokhar


Through Social Media, I’ve made connections with Rabia Khokhar just this year.  She had written a powerful blog post that I brought to the This Week in Ontario Edublogs show and this blog.  The depth and the wisdom told me this is a special person that I need to follow and I was delighted to learn more about her via this interview.

Rabia is an Occasional Teacher at Toronto District School Board. (for now!) She is also a Consultant in equity, anti-oppressive education.

Image copyright – Rabia Khokhar

Doug:  My first question is always the same and helps to set the stage – do you recall the first time our paths crossed?

Rabia: Thank you so much for the opportunity to do this interview, it is such an honour! I remember coming across and reading your blog/tweets on Twitter especially your #FollowFriday. But what I remember as our first interaction was your kind support this summer of my Summer Reading Challenge that centers Muslim characters. I think that’s when I got to know your work more in depth. Thank you for your support.

Doug:  Now, you describe yourself as a Teacher-Librarian, but when I looked at your qualifications with the College of Teachers, you seem to be taking AQ courses in so many different areas?  Is there a master plan for all this work?

Rabia: haha! No master plan really, but what I am interested in is thinking critically about what equity and social justice education looks like in different subjects so I think that’s where my passion for the different AQ courses comes from. I am really interested in learning first how equity and social justice education must be something happening all the time across all subjects and then trying to model for others as well.

Doug:  It was the end of June when you wrote and published the post that really caught my attention.  It was called Reading Challenge: Centering Muslim Characters.  

https://www.rabiakhokhar.com/reading-challenges

I remember being struck by the focus – it was a collection of 25 books.  Did you go out with this project in mind or had you just been collecting books all along and finally decide to publish it?

Image copyright – Rabia Khokhar
From: rabiakhokhar.com

Rabia: This is a great question and something I have been thinking about as well. It was definitely a process and a project I had been working on for a while but then put it on the back burner since school became busy. Since there are so many misrepresentations of the Muslim community, I wanted to use books to counter the stereotypes and monolithic representations. But when the recent rise of Anti-Muslim hate and Islamophobia was happening, I really wanted to do something to counter this hate. My work involves a lot of children’s books, so I saw them as a tangible tool to engage in this work. So I spent some time finishing it up and then sharing it on my social media platforms.

Doug:  The response to your publication was phenomenal from my perspective.  I don’t know how far the spread went but I remember that you were highly sought after for interviews by both social and traditional media.  Can you share a little about where you got your message out?

Rabia: I agree, the response has been phenomenal! It is definitely not something I had imagined but so grateful that this reading challenge found its way into the hands and hearts of so many people, all of different identities and backgrounds committed to creating more just and inclusive communities. It was so incredible to see the Reading Challenge travel all over the world and to do interviews/reviews for Canadian, American, South African news outlets/magazines and podcasts! I love that this connected people and I think this is the power of working together for justice. It is about coming together, building bridges and ensuring interconnectedness and dignity for all. I am humbled that my reading challenge can play a small role in this big commitment. 

Doug:  I went back to my notes for the show and this is what I had written to jog my mind as Stephen Hurley and I discussed the post on This Week in Ontario Edublogs.

Important post
Reading challenge for summer where Muslim characters are featured in books
Announced the interview on Facebook

It was posted 3 minutes later
The spread on social media 

  • People want it
  • Retweeted or favourited by people from all over the world
  • New people for Ontario Educators list
  • Would it be important if I hadn’t gone into education?
  • Shared with Lindsey
  • How do kids get access over the summer?
  • Little libraries – Colchester, Essex, and Leamington

To explain a couple of things from my notes – 

  • “New people” were folks that retweeted the #FollowFriday post where I’d mentioned her name and post
  • “Lindsey” is a friend of mine who is a librarian at a local library
  • Little libraries have been a go-to for us during lockdown – I find it an interesting summary of community curation

At the time, the big question for me was “how” kids would get access over the summer with schools closed.  After all, this post came out towards the end of June.  I’m assuming that you would see students go to their local public library?

Rabia: I did envision that these could become books kids could access from their local library and hoped they would make it into school libraries and bookstores. What I learned through this and upon reflection was the importance of accessibility of resources. I believe that all kids need books about all kids and the library is a space where all can have access and benefit. I hope that these books and even more make it to all schools, libraries and bookstores. In my own experience as I travel to more libraries and bookstores, I see things changing in terms of what is displayed and available. I feel so happy seeing this because I believe this is how we create change in communities that can create impact. Small intentional choices and actions by those who have power in these spaces (schools, libraries, bookstores etc) to curate responsively will create ripple effects!

Doug:  With a return to school, the collection should garner more attention by educators.  If you were to visit a school in the Toronto District School Board, how many of these books would you expect to see on the shelves?

Rabia: I think that as we push towards more justice and equity especially in terms of issues of representation, school libraries are at the forefront leading and advocating for this important change. I would hope to see quite a few of these books and I would hope that this reading challenge can be something educators can use to continue building a responsive, relevant and contextual collection in their schools that affirms as well expands student’s identities, experiences and thinking.

Doug:  Have you ever considered writing or collaborating with others on a book of your own with this type of focus?

Rabia: I would love to write a book…oneday! I am learning that writing a children’s book is hard and complicated. It has to be just right! I have some ideas and hope one day they will make their way into a book.

Doug:  I wish you well with that project.  You’ve done the research and made it a passion so it should be a natural next step.  With the new school year starting in a couple of weeks, what are your plans?  Do you have a full-time placement for September?

Rabia: I can’t believe that the new school year is almost here! Postings for jobs came out a few weeks ago so I am applying to some and hoping something comes up! Overall, I am excited to work with students and to continue considering equity and critical thinking in any teaching assignment I may end up in.

Doug:  Good luck with the application.  I hope that you are soon able to remove “Occasional” from your descriptor. 

What are your personal goals for the upcoming school year?

Rabia: I am starting a Flex time Phd program and so far have enrolled in two courses. I am hoping that I am able to manage the course and continue bringing theory to practice in the different spaces I have the privilege to be in. I also hope to continue reading and doing some book reviews on my website as well as expand my consulting services especially in the professional development category. 

Doug:  I see that you’re back at it.  Just a couple of days ago, you curated a collection of books about families and shared it to your blog.  https://www.rabiakhokhar.com/post/must-have-books-about-families

How has the response been to this post?

Rabia: There have been many people who have really shown this post  love. I am so incredibly grateful for the support. In this post, I really wanted to center and show all of the beautiful and diverse families that make up our communities. I think being seen builds a sense of belonging and all people need to feel like they belong and are welcome in their communities. Family is an important and big topic we think about in schools and if we can continue to expand our ideas around families through listening to our students and then bringing forward inclusive books, I really think we can create a change by fostering respect. 

Image copyright – Rabia Khokhar

Doug:  Congratulations need to be extended with your recent recognition from ETFO.
Toronto teacher Rabia Khokhar wins ETFO Anti-Racist and Equity Activism Award

https://www.etfo.ca/news-publications/media-releases/onto-teacher-rabia-khokhar-wins-etfo-anti-racist-and-equity-activism-award

What does this award mean to you?  Are you inspired to continue your activist role?

Image copyright – Rabia Khokhar

Rabia: This award means the world to me! It is such an honour and really a dream come true.  I think it affirms for me the power of equity work and the power of bringing it from theory to practice. I feel very happy about it because equity is deeply foundational to my work as an educator but also as a human being as I consider my role to create positive change in the spaces I occupy. It also means so much to me because of my family and the wider community’s support I have received. I have always been passionate about equity and to receive this recognition is humbling and energizing for me to continue doing this work. I think this award is also really important to me because it counters the many stereotypes I experience because of my identities. In many ways it helps me make space for myself-with all of my identities, thoughts, experiences and expertise. This award is a reminder for me that equity work is deeply hopeful work, it is us coming together to create inclusive communities. It is an honour to be part of this journey.

Doug:  The award should lend credence to your abilities and consulting services.  Are school districts doing enough to support equity in their systems?  

Rabia: I think what is positive is that in many school boards this is a central conversation and commitment that is being centered. I think this is a good start. From what I can see there are initiatives being taken to bring equity from theory to practice at all levels and for various stakeholders. I think the message needs to continue that equity is not an add on, it is really the reason we are all here. We need to continue using our positional power and spheres of influence to center and work towards this change which benefits all students.

Doug:  I think your observation about “add ons” is so important.  Education is bad for piling on. What additional things could/should be done?

Rabia: I think that to truly ensure an equitable education system for students of all identities and lived experiences there needs to be individual as well as systemic commitments to change. I think there needs to be policies that guide and frame our work. There needs to continue to be structures in place that ensure accountability and measuring where we are, where we need to go and how we will get there. As well as continued opportunities of professional development for educators because our pedagogy impacts the experiences students have in their learning environments. Overall, I think equity needs to continue to be prioritized and centered at all levels for all stakeholders so that the message that is sent is that it is not an additive approach but rather a shared responsibility for all people.

Doug:  Thank you so much for the interview, Rabia.  I wish you well with your various initiatives and look forward to reading more on your blog.

Rabia: Thank you so much for this opportunity and for all of your support! I really appreciate it!  It has been so great reflecting and sharing with you. I look forward to staying connected.

You can follow Rabia on social media.

Twitter:  @Rabia_Khokhar1
Facebook:  Rabia Khokhar
Website:  https://www.rabiakhokhar.com/
Blog:  https://www.rabiakhokhar.com/blog-1

Periodically, I interview interesting people like Rabia.  You can check them all out on the Interview Page at https://dougpete.wordpress.com/interviews/