You Still Matter


This is a repeat of the first of the school year post from a year ago. I think it’s as important today as it was then so I’m doing a repost.  Actually, given the political situation in Ontario, it may even be more important.

I’ll just change the title a bit from “You Matter” to “You Still Matter”.

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If there’s one motivational video that you need to watch or share with staff and others as a new school year begins, it’s Angela Maiers’ TED Talk “You Matter”.

For anyone to succeed, they need to know that people care and nothing says that more than explicitly or implicitly sending this powerful message.

School can be a daunting place and it’s easy to see the opposite message but everyone needs to be involved in sending the positive message loudly and clearly to students.  When they hear it, positive things can happen.

You send the message “You Matter” when:

Teachers – you learn everyone’s name and something special about each student within the first week;

Principals – you remember that you’re the principal teacher, learn the above, and work the timetable for the benefit of teachers and students so that everyone can succeed;

Support Staff – you understand that every student is an individual and supports need to be adjusted for each student;

Caretakers – you know that the physical environment needs to be in as good as possible condition.  Learning spaces in spotless condition, basketball nets replaced, windows cleaning all contribute to an environment conducive for learning;

Technicians – you make sure that all of the computers and other technology equipment are cleaned and outfitted with the latest software over the summer, tested, and ready for classroom application on the first day of school;

Bus Drivers – you ensure that the vehicle is clean and each student welcomed on board daily whether it’s a first ride or the start of the 12th year of rides;

Parents – you recognize that back to school is stressful and yet so important.  New clothes, lunchboxes, backpacks send the message that this is a new beginning and you’re in full support.  Become just as excited as your child for the beginning of the new school year and show it!

Yes, it does take a village to raise a child and results will appear when that child realizes that everyone is sending the message “You Matter”.  Thank you, Angela, for your so inspiring talk.

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Another Vote Against the “Good Ol’ Days”


I had to smile yesterday morning.

On Facebook, @doremigirl shared a mother’s thoughts as her daughter got on the bus for an orientation day to Grade 9.  It’s an emotional day for her and many more moms and dads everywhere as students head off to the great unknown.  Ditto to the younger ones headed to Kindergarten.

I reflected back on my own orientation to high school.

Orientation?  Hardly!

We didn’t need to know the layout of the school.  We moved as a class.  I was in the B&C (Business and Commerce) stream.  Our teachers would just tell us where the next room was and we headed as a pack to that room.

We didn’t need no orientation.

Instead, we had Initiation Day.

Thankfully, it wasn’t the first day of school or we’d never return.

It was organized by the Student Council and I’m sure that they convinced the administration that this day was good for us.  In fact, the rules were given over the PA at the end of the day before.  There was also a extra warning from the principal that attendance and participation was mandatory and that there were extra punishment for skipping or being sick.

Here’s the deal.

Initiative Day started 15 minutes before class.  The only safe havens were washrooms and classrooms.  In the hallways, or on the school yard, we “Grubby Grade Niners” were open game for any Grade 12 or 13 student.  If they caught us, we had to do what they instructed us.  It involved carrying books, opening their lockers, getting stuffed into lockers, eating dubious looking food, drinking dubious looking drinks, and maybe other things that escape my mind at this time.

How did they know who the Grade 9 students were?

We had to dress up.  The boys had to wear their mother’s nighties.  I don’t recall what the girls had to wear.

The whole day was a nightmare.

It was over fifteen minutes after the day ended.  Thankfully, I walked to school so I didn’t get the additional joy that must have come from taking the bus.

I suppose that the logic was this was an activity to welcome us to the school and to build some sort of community.  I didn’t get any of that.  But, I did learn how to quickly get from one class to another and learned where all the staircases were.

Given our decencies of 2012, how many things are wrong with above scenario?

So, remember your own initiation days the next time someone talks about how good education used to be and they pine for a return to the good old days.

In the meantime, I’m sure that students’ first visits and orientations are exciting as they embark on a new part of their lives.  And, for any that return home with a bad taste, just remind them that it could be much worse.

Much Better Than Cats


YouTube has an incredible selection of videos that can fit nicely into lesson plans, home study, visual presentation of content, and so much more.  For some students, this can also be a problem.  There are also videos of cats doing funny things and can sometimes hijack attention.  Anyone can create and upload a YouTube video.  What if there was a service that was moderated and searchable for only the good stuff.

There is.  It’s called Knowmia.

This is a new startup by the people that developed the Flip Camera.  The Flip Camera made video in the classroom easy and affordable.  It really was a game changer.  Times move on and most laptops or tablets come with their own cameras and Knowmia would like to be the place where you create, post, and share educational videos.

The service has three levels of access:  student, teacher, and parent with teacher being the only level that you can post content to.  According to their splash page, there are already 7000 videos in place.  You can get a feel for what the service can offer.  Visit the website and search for a concept.  You’ll be presented with results ready to preview right away.

In the screen capture above, I did a search for “Computer Science”.  The search isn’t quite perfect yet, I did have to wade my way through some content that was clearly not what I was looking for.  Of the 61 results in the area of technology, there were some interesting things and also a collection of tutorials for A+ training.

With your teacher accounts and students logged into your class, you’ll be able to assign video to your class.  Parents will also be able to get a flavour of what’s happening in the classroom by watching the video.  The service will only get better and more useful as the teaching masses buy into the concept and create all kinds of videos to support the curriculum.  As with all curriculum resources, careful preview of the content is necessary to make sure that you’re getting what you want.  If you’re an iPad user, there’s an app for that.  Download it from the iTunes store here.

This is definitely a site that you’ll want to check out to see if it fits.