Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

WE’RE NOT OUT TO GET YOUR KIDS- often you’ll hear “Mr. So-in-so doesn’t like me, that’s why I got that grade.” Or “Why are you centering out my kid? You must not like him” Here’s a fact. Teacher’s get into teaching because they love kids and want them to be successful. Even more so now that is the case. To land a teaching gig now, you’re looking at a 7 year wait, if you’re lucky. People who don’t love the job don’t stay with teaching. The amount of crap from parents and students, paper work, time and effort needed is only worth it if you love it.

Something I found interesting was sharing a prep period with the “meanest teacher on staff.” Students were always saying how she didn’t like them etc. Throughout the semester I got to know this teacher well and I was amazed in talking with her how much she cared for her students. She was a little old-school and strict, but she really wanted these students to be successful. Sure, she demanded full sentences and handing in assignments on time, and the reason that was is because she wanted them to be prepared not just for later education but expectations in life as well.

So, as a parents always assume that the teacher is on your side and loves your kid and wants them to do well. We see things that you don’t- think of us as another set of loving eyes that can offer advice to help your child grow.


I’m going to post this in seven parts over the next two weeks!

Back to school is almost upon us! So, this blog post has to do with school. Now, I’m a teacher, not a parent, so this is why this post comes from the teacher perspective. I would love to hear what parents would like teachers to know!

One thing is clear, teachers and parents both play an integral part in shaping a child’s mind. Both serve as guides and examples of how to navigate this journey that is life. And, with the ultimate goal to create independent people by the time they graduate, it is imperative that both parent and teacher do everything they can to support, encourage and guide our future adults.

I’m going into my eighth full year of teaching this September and I think I’ve seen it all. I have met some wonderfully supportive parents and I have been raked over the coals by others. Here are seven things as a teacher I (and my teaching friends) wish parents knew and understood about teaching/the education system. Again, I’m sharing this to help facilitate a partnership between teachers and parents. Because ultimately we want what you want-for your child to be successful, both at school and at life.

1. Every teacher is different- Teachers, like people, are different. They have different personality types, they have varied interests and strengths, have had different experiences and communicate in different ways. That is what makes teaching so great- when you are dealing with a variety of children and a variety of subjects, you need more than a cookie-cutter definition of what a good teacher is. There are always a few funny and vivacious teachers on staff that all the kids love and clamour to get in that teacher’s class. That being said, there are some amazing teachers who are quieter and all around good at delivering solid teaching. They may not be one of the “cool” teachers, but your kids will learn so much from them.

Teachers are like shoes…

Comparing teachers is like comparing shoes. You just can’t. Some are instantly comfortable, and others hurt your feet. But, each has their purpose and even those high heels that pinch will help you with your posture! Each teacher you have will teach you something if you are open to it. Sure, some teachers you will connect more with and you’ll enjoy their teaching style more. But, there are others that you shouldn’t just write off because you don’t like them as much as another teacher. Encouraging your child to see the good in whatever teacher they have will help them to be successful.

I remember teaching an academic English course where the kids were constantly complaining that I wasn’t as fun as their teacher from the year before, mainly because I made them do some serious reading and writing. It’s hard not to take comments like that personally, because as humans we all have a desire to be liked. I told my kids, “I don’t care if you like me. My goal is to make you better readers and writers and to have you rock the essay form. I care that when you are at college or university you have a moment where you think, thank you Ms. B.” And, it’s been cool to have kids come back and share how a skill or strategy we worked was useful to them in other courses and later on in life and post secondary studies. My job as a teacher is not to make friends.  My job is to teach your kids.

A word about technology and communication here. Every teacher’s experience with technology is different. Every classroom is equipped with different technology and every subject is different. I’ve taught English in a computer lab, but I’ve also taught it with limited computer access. Some teachers are able to do a weekly email update to parents. Some teachers have all their lessons online on a website. Others still break out the overhead projector. Some have classes where there are a lot of difficult students, so you may never get a phone call if your kid is one of the ok ones. All of these scenarios can allow for good teaching, if you have one thing: a good teacher. A teacher’s merit should not be placed on how many smart board lessons use, how many foldables they create, or how many lights and special effects they put into their lessons. Sure, when used effectively- they breed great results. But, I’ve seen some amazing teacher led pencil and paper activities. The worst thing you can do is say, “Last year, Mr. So-in-so did this,” or “Ms. So-in-so was so much more engaging.”

Embrace differences and encourage your children to so as well.

Don’t believe me?  Check out this post:


7 Tips for Teaching Applied Students 

I think it’s the fact that marks are due this week and I’ve been marking English stuff like a vandal, so this week’s post is a teaching post. I’ll post to my teaching blog too, which sadly, I have not done a super great job keeping up.

 For those who have been out of the school system for awhile, high school students can pick from three streams in their courses: academic (which is quite, well, academic), applied, and essentials/modified. Sortof, like the advanced, general, and basic we had when I was a student.

 Applied students are interesting. You always have an “interesting” makeup of students. Students who are constantly late or non-attenders, really intelligent kids who are too lazy to do academic work, lazy students in general, weak students, students with learning disabilities, students who don’t want to work, are all put together in a class, usually at max, usually all boys. There are usually a few hard working/wonderful kids, but sometimes they get overlooked because of the rest of the clientele. So, a mixed bag that’s for sure. How do you teach a class full of those students and still keep your sanity?

 I think out of the 21 or so English classes I’ve taught, only 2 or 3 have been academic. So, I have a lot of experience, especially with Grade 9/10 Applied English. Also, I’ve worked with some rockstar teachers when I was working at Eastview as a classroom tutor (Mr. Welch literally is a rockstar- and, did you know our beloved OAC English teacher said his favourite course to teach was Grade 9 Applied English?) I think I have a little bit of insight to share. That’s not to say my period 2 class isn’t a bit of a gong show on occasion (I’m still learning too!), but hopefully I can offer some insight to those teachers starting out.

 And this is going to be good, solid pedagogical advice. It’s not going to be “airy-fairy” advice like “make a foldable” or “here’s a cool app,” which all could be all good things, but with the absence of good teaching, they won’t save you!

"Dude, you going to English?"

“Dude, you going to English?”


1.  Your thinking about teaching has to shift- Think about it. Any teacher has gone to university, which means they took academic courses in high school. What motivated you in school and what you found interesting is NOT going to work with these guys.

 Applied kids are DIFFERENT than academic students. As a teacher you have to realize this to teach this students. They are not fans of homework, they aren’t driven by marks, and they will shut down if you are mean or scare them. With these classes it has to be about giving students opportunities to gain marks, not about taking away marks. I always collect their work on the due date or the end of the period. I don’t care if it’s incomplete. I will mark what they have done to give them some marks. Also, we recently had a quiz, and I had students come up while I marked it to go over the answers with me. Questions that were left blank, I asked them about to see if I could get them a few more marks. More often then not, they didn’t understand the question. These are good kids that are trying and they were so thankful to have the chance to demonstrate what they knew. Also, it was a nice reward for them since 8 other students skipped that day. They won’t get the Ms. B special treatment when they return.

Again, all these things are DIFFERENT than our traditional academic upbringing and some of you won’t agree with these examples. But, I assure you this shift in thinking saves you a lot of headaches, breed better results and relationships with these kids, and honestly, saves you a lot of paperwork in the end!

 2. Keep them organized! You have to go a little old school. Tomorrow we are having a binder check (you know where you fill in the organizer with the worksheet at the front?). I use checklists for assignments and for units. I have a slide show on the board reminding them of the tasks to complete and hand in for the day. I’ve even tweaked assignments I’ve used for years to make them more clear, chunk down the expectations, and usually have an organizer to make it easier to complete the writing task later. Also, the rubric is very clear and we always work up to big assignments.

 For example: It took us two weeks of small little lessons and filling in organizers to complete our five paragraph personal essays in my 2P English class. But we did, and they were quite good. But it wasn’t just: here’s the assignment- go. Each step in the process was chunked down. The first day we did a guided brainstorm about ourselves, the next day we filled in an organizer with 3 points and supporting examples, the next we worked on topic sentences in general, and then different types of introductions etc. As we did this, everyday we filled in a part of our graphic organizer and continued our study on paragraphs. We even did a lesson on formatting- and behold- perfectly double spaced, centred, and titled essays. But, this only happened because that was a separate lesson one day before we spent the rest of the period typing up our essays.

 3. Talk less and let them do more/Keep them busy and working. This was life changing for me when I realized this. I was so frustrated that I would explain the task and expectations and then almost every student would ask, “What are we suppose to do?” Now, I just give them brief instructions and direct them to the slide show/instruction sheet to figure it out. One on one conversation to explain things yield better results. I spend most of the class going around and helping students, checking in, and marking their organizers on the spot. You cannot sit at your desk and mark with these kids. You have to prompt them, encourage them, and assist them.

4. Be proactive. Give these students no excuse not to work. Anticipate the “problem” (or in this case excuse) before it happens. If I see a student arrive without a pencil, I keep talking and just hand them one of the many golf pencils I keep at the front. I also always collect work that we will be working on for multiple days, especially if it’s group work. (Why is it, whenever one group member is away, they are the one who always has the hangout?) Also, if I know Johnny needs help getting started on a task, I’ll go straight to him and make sure he’s clear as to what he’s suppose to be doing. If I know Sally is going to fly through a worksheet, I’ll have another task ready for her. If kids are busy, you’ve just eliminated most of your behaviour problems, guaranteed!

5. Be clear in your expectations and follow through. Don’t be a tyrant, but be clear. This is what you are to accomplish today, and I will collect it at the end of the period. If you talk once more, I will move you beside me. And always, always follow through. But, as the Great Wendy Jackson said, always focus on their success “I think you will be more successful working over here away from your friends who are distracting you from your success.” Even better when you give them a warning, “Do I need to move you to a more successful seat?,” usually gets them working, because they don’t want to move. Or sometimes they just do because they know they will be more successful there. But you’ve now made it their choice, and you’ve made it about them. These kids want to be successful and they want to have someone take an interest in them and their success. Actually, if that’s the one thing you take from this blog, it’s that point right there. That was my mind shift moment and that’s driven my teaching ever since!

What your students would rather be doing...

What your students would rather be doing…

6. Tap into their interests/Get to know them- I love teaching 2P right now; we’re doing the hero quest and looking at superheros. It gives me an excuse to wear my Batman t-shirt! It’s perfect because I have a lot of boys in that class who are into that sort of thing. To hear the debate one group had as we ranked superpowers was amazing. It was deep. Students who would barely write a sentence are now coming up with epic projects. We also did a graphic novel assignment where they found examples and cut and pasted them into a project. Almost silence for 3 days. I’m not saying everything you do should be about their interests- even having conversations with students and getting to know them is such a great thing for behaviour and willingness to work.


But give them meaty tasks. Don’t just pick something because they’ll like it. Make sure it has value. This is key. Often, we want to engage our students by giving them “cool things to do” but kids see through that, if there isn’t something “meaty” to it. Like, we did a Hero Quest foldable, which I explained would be used on a few tasks, and our exam. They took it very seriously and they all did a great job with it. It was the same with our Batman movie (which I explained was going to be used as our example in our foldable as an intro to the Quest). We don’t just watch movies for fun. These kids are up for the challenge and want to complete something meaningful.

 7. Always be kind, patient and respectful. Choose your battles- who wants to fight with a kid when they are late? Sometimes I’m happy they’ve shown up to class at all! Let’s just get down to business. Remember, you are the adult and always give second chances.

As much work as these kids are, I love teaching them. To see the excitement on their faces when they get something, or do a great job, or like today, when they get a Star Wars sticker on their assignment for handing it in on time, is the best feeling in the world. And these students have personality- class is never dull or quite what you’d expect!

What are your tips/challenges for applied students? Share your thoughts in the speech bubble at the top of this post.