Prepping & Reflecting

So today is my day to pull everything together in preparation for a workshop I am facilitating at QPAT’s teacher convention on Friday, November 23. My session is called:

OurPads: Using iPads to increase student engagement and enhance learning in the FG classroom.

**Adult education in Quebec is rife with accronyms. QPAT = Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers. FG = Formation Géneral in French, which basically stands for general education. It’s the academic side of adult ed.**

While prepping I decided I needed some food for thought, so whipped up a batch of these (I used the molasses and butter, added cinnamon and ginger directly to the dry, and threw in some raisins and ground nuts/seeds for good measure. Oh and used 1/2 cup almond and 1/2 cup chestnut flours. Otherwise, exactly the same ;) ) They are baking now and I have a few minutes to reflect on my session’s title.

I’m realizing that the secret to increase student engagement and enhance learning lies not with the iPads, though they are a great tool to get there. It lies with the teacher-centred PD that accompanied their introduction.

How crucial it is to focus on teacher development when we want to create change in learning. It’s not about the fancy tool/technique/methodolgy. It’s about the people.

Cookies are ready. Rather dry. I think next time I’ll go with the honey and coconut oil to make them chewier. They’ll do fine dipped in my coffee, though.


Back to work.
See you soon.

Respectful guidance

In everything. We can’t go around trying to do new things without someone to guide us. And we can’t go around asking people to try to do new things without ensuring the guidance is there for them: guidance that is offered in a way that respects us as learners, as people.

challenge me to stand on my own but remain close so I know you’re there if I need you

There is nothing worse than to walk into a classroom and see students scrambling to ‘get’ what it is they are supposed to be doing. More often than not they just end up doing something else or not showing up – that’s when you get the acting out, distracted, and distracting behaviour. If I were given a text to read and answer questions about in Hebrew or about electrical engineering without anyone there to guide me in the learning of the language or science I’d probably look for something else to do pretty quickly.

There is also nothing worse than to participate in PD with a group of educators who know that there will be no follow up, that the topic is just one in a long line of topics designed to keep everyone busy and tick off some boxes in terms of pedagogical development. Again, no real guidance here. At least none that is based in learner respect.

On the flip side, there is nothing better than to walk into a classroom and see students who are being challenged at exactly that point – you know the one, the one where they are right on the cusp of what they know and what they don’t, that zone of proximal development point – where learning is magical.

There is also nothing better than to participate in PD with a group of educators who are directly involved and invested in what they are doing. Who are learning for a reason that comes from within and not from external goals.

The first instances are insulting and disheartening, barren of respect and guidance. The second, enlightening and full of heart because they involve respectful guidance.

I’ve been blessed to have been able to experience both in my teaching and consulting practices. Blessed because the former ensure that I help create more instances of the latter.

Professional Development at any level

(disponible en français à

Whatever the level of instruction, the issues related to professional development remain pretty consistent. PD has to do with bettering ourselves as teachers and, since our clientele and curricula are constantly changing, this practice of self-improvement must be an ongoing endeavor as well.

From SweetLeighMama on Etsy

Here are some topics of professional development that we can see at any level, from elementary through university:

My belief is that at the core of all professional development there needs to be a connection to why we teach, to who we are as teachers. If my love for teaching remains at the forefront then PD is authentic. If I am reminded that I became a teacher because of my unassailable hope for the future and how I can find instances of that when teachers work together to create the best learning environments for students, and if I can see how whatever the subject of the pd (ongoing assessment, differentiation, classroom management…) fits into that core value then I am more likely to want to participate and to apply what I learn to my own teaching practice.

So I firmly believe that professional development needs to be about making connections with teachers and their passions in order to create learning situations for teachers that are authentic.

On Motivation. On Learning. In Ourselves.

Last night, at 10:39, I found out about the midnight deadline for applying to the Google Teacher Academy taking place in New York this October. How was it that I only clued into the application process in the, practically literally, 11th hour? That may have a little something to do with this kind of thing:



I decided to apply.

A few years ago I wrote a post inspired by a line from Michael Wesch: it’s basically about shifting from getting people to love you, to you loving them.

Last year I wrote about how I motivate my students and manage my classroom without reward systems.

And I’m realizing that me in 2012 is not much different from the me when I started teaching 16 years ago. Nah, actually I am a lot different. I’m more focused, I have more knowledge when it comes to working with a diverse student group, more knowledge about pedagogy and curriculum and integrating technology but that focus and knowledge are steeped in the same locus of care that brought me into teaching in the first place.

So my application video is nothing fancy. Really. Nothing. Fancy. It’s 50 some odd seconds of me sitting on my bed looking like I am talking to someone off screen because I still haven’t mastered the iPad video feature (I tend to want to look at my eyes when I’m talking to a camera…) but it is honest and it reflects what I believe needs to be the starting point for anything to really happen in education: the recognition that motivation and learning come first from ourselves. The educators. Discover what motivates us as educators and stay true to that.

Interesting conversation about teaching and technology

I had a very interesting conversation with a colleague the other day. She is a teacher in adult education with upwards of 35 years in the classroom and she said to me that the model we recently used in her class and others, with me going directly into the classroom and working with students, makes sense to her.


I love this drawing of a classroom. It was done by Todd Berman, a substitute teacher in San Francisco. Click it to go to his website.

(I visited her Economics classroom and talked about technology and advertising. Then I returned on 3 different occasions to work directly with individual and small groups of students as they created advertisements for virtual businesses.)

She said (and these are her words) that she will never know enough about tech to be able to teach her students anything new about tech. She said that it is a waste of time to send her off to do workshops to learn a new technology in the hopes that she would then teach it to her students, and that it is best to show the tech to the students so they can use it within the context of her curriculum and that, if anything, they should be the ones showing her how to use it.

This model
a) keeps teachers in the classroom as opposed to sending them out of the classroom for PD.
b) allows teachers to focus on their curriculum while offering different pathways to students to get through it
c) allows for professional collaboration between teachers and consultants
d) fosters student leadership as they learn new tools from a consultant and can show it to each other and their teachers.

We went on to talk about how the big work is in creating teachers like her who are willing to let something like that happen in their classrooms.

I like that idea – the idea of classroom as a site of professional learning.