Thursday, February 15, 2018


During a leadership program I am involved in within the Hanover School Division I was shown a video from Ben Zander called the Art of Possibility. So much resonated with me. Ideals such as joy, passion, leadership and all the things that matter when it comes to teaching and learning. The following clip isn't the video we watched but it contains some of the message (Shining Eyes).

One thing that Ben Zander said that resonated with me was the fact that the only person in an orchestra that doesn't make any sound is the conductor. To me, this is the same as the principal of the school. Without the staff, the principal is just a person waving his hands madly in front of an empty room. Without the teachers I get to work with, I'm not much use.

I have always had the chance to work with a great group of teachers. Always. We may not always agree on everything but every person has always had something strong to bring to the table. Before Christmas I had the chance to thank my staff with a small gift of mittens (the whole warm heart, cold hands kinda thing)... I also thought of, and shared, one word for each staff member that I think of when I think of them. Below are those words. I am not sharing whose word is whose... because it was meant just for them. It's just one thing I value in each of them. It wasn't meant to define them. Just something I appreciate in each and everyone of them (EAs, teachers, office staff, student teachers and custodians)

Kind Hope Humour Care Creativity Artist Dedicated Faith Advocate Positive Passion Imagination Leader Craftsman Integrity Principled Service Energy Strong Selfless Honesty Courage Kindness Brave Giving Optimism Perseverance Patient Hardworker Creative Hardworking Diligent Fixer Tireless Energy Focused Ready 'Gentle'man

Natural teacher Imagination

These are the people in the school that make the music. Without their dedication and love of what they do, I would be lost. I very much appreciate each and every person I get to work with. I have always been lucky this way. This year is no different.

After a brief conversation with one staff member who had been reflecting on the word that I thought she embodied I came to a realization. She told me that she didn't see herself that way. But after a couple conversations with colleagues she saw it too and she was very appreciative. It helped her feel good about what she does everyday.

Since then, what I’ve come to realize. Every quality shown above are all qualities that I need to grow in. These are all things I rely on others to help me be better. So, I appreciate everyone I get to work with. They help bring out my best and challenge me to get better at my worst.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Day 2 November 8, 2017

5:20 am Up before the cutest alarm clocks. Check email. Twitter.

552 am The littlest is stirring. 
Dress her. Get her a bobble. 

600 am outfit decided upon

Yes. That’s an ostrich mug shot. 

615 am breakfast with E. 
625 texts from a teacher who is sick. Emails with sub clerk to clarify what sub is needed

645 the boy is up. Momma takes care of him 

715 reminders on phone to do some stuff later in the day. Update school blog. Get info out about day Wonder round 2

742 off to work 

830 arrive at work. Erin bought me a hot chocolate at Tim’s!
840 am respond to an email to a teacher. Clarifying my approach to a number of incidents. 

845 welcome a sub to the building. Get them started. 

846 helped our caretaker find the YouTube announcements. 

847 walked around school confirming staff shirt orders. That’s done now. 

850 am in halls welcoming kids

855 am drop in parent meeting with a student who is struggling. A good start to his day. 

9:00 am ROEs done encouraging kids to get to homerooms. And saying goodbye to kids going curling for Day Wonder. 

9:05 am respond to two text message for parents excising their child for the day. 

918 am attendance follow ups with staff who haven’t done it yet

920 day Wonder is starting. My kids getting their ukuleles to get started. 

922 am visiting each day Wonder session (17 of then) to say hi and take some pics to share on social media 

935 Post Day Wonder quations on the Wonder walls. Asking kids what they learned during the first round of Day Wonder. 

1000 am talk to a teacher about subs coming up. 

1015 am playing ukulele with kids and watching them play in Day Wonder. Not a kid in the hallway during Day Wonder

1030 grade 7 microwave meeting. 

1050 am send in golf shirt order for staff, approves invoices and sign cheques. In office now. Turning on computer for the first time today 

11:00 am Post Day Wonder pics to social media feeds 

1115 emails emails emails 

1130 discussion with a teacher about school class culture. Importance of how we welcome kids back into class after an issue

1140 Chromebook malfunction. Explore ways to fix it. 

1150 get ready for lunch. Get microwaves into place. 

1155 supervise hallways at the start of lunch. 

Noon grade 8 Boys Volleyball Practice 

100 work with a student who had an issue at lunch. Resolved quickly. 

105 visit 6 teachers to talk about attendance. 

110 pack up clothing samples to get sent back to supplier. 

115 fix Chromebook 
120 lunch 

130 begin visiting class. Post pics of kids engaged in work. Visited 11 classrooms. While walking in halls work with kids and discipline issues that have come up. 

2:00 pm back in office looking at emails. 

208 call to our learning coach about the agenda for our committee that meets tomorrow 

210 more emails. Crossing off things on my ‘to do’ list in Google Keep. Got a few things done!

2:15 pm iPec coaching session. 

251 pm done coaching call. Went better than expected. 

255 pm recess issue clean up. Will try our restitution form. 

325 two parent phone calls made.  Meeting with students done. Meeting with one of the parents after school. 
335 phys ed issue with subs. Meeting tomorrow to discuss with kids to figure it out. Will call home. X2

Meeting set up tomorrow with both kids to discuss. 

348. Meet with a sub who will be here for a few days to talk about discipline. What are they expectations etc.  

400 called both parents with kids with the PE issue 
Meeting tomorrow am set up

415 adjusted meeting agenda for tomorrow’s meetings.

418 read a number of discipline referrals that were submitted. Student care team to respond. 

420 cleaned up inbox and desk

435 just hit 10000 steps for the day
445. Heading home 

535. Got home. Made calls to the vet and calls for a trumpeter for our Remembrance Day service

600 family supper 

630 numerous phone calls to try and find trumpeter for our Remembrance Day service. No luck.

700 pm Bedtime for the little one.

7:30 - 9:00 pm Feet up. Going through emails. Creating forms for a restitution process for kids experiencing difficulty. Testing eventbrite for our Day Wonder set up. A couple of emails reviewed and sent.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A day in the life... part one. November 7, 2017

Some days I get home and I think, what happened, where’d the day go? What did I exactly accomplish today?

I’ve seen some other administrators do this, so today, I’ve decided to keep track of my next two days.

This is more for me than anyone else. But to take the advice I often give my staff and students is, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth sharing, so  I’ll share it.

I’m going to keep track of my next two days. From home to work and back again....

So it begins.

November 7, 2017

4:30 am World’s cutest alarm clock goes off. Quickly settle her. I’m up. Check emails and Twitter. 

5:15 am Snooze button on the world’s cutest alarm clock goes off. Get milk and bring her to the big bed. 

5:45 am Super mom takes over with Emilia (aka cutest alarm clock ever). I start this blog after looking for the Blogger app, which no longer exists? Download this app - wants me to pay $6.99. Uhm. No. Going with the free, limited version

6:00 am Time to get up. I’ll save the details. But two of my hardest decisions of each day were made. Which socks? which tie? 
Tie in honour of Movember.  Take care of yourself gents!

Socks in honour of our Winnipeg Jets who are flying high right now. Go beat Vegas on Friday!

6:25 am  Mom now resting with Bennett. Emilia slowly (and when I say slow, it’s not slow at all) pulls all of her toys out. So, it’s breakfast time in front of the news with me and Emilia (and Meeko, our ever so patient pooch). 

6:30 am It appears our 3 year old is up. Nope. From his bed to our bed. It’s cold out. Who can blame him. 

6:45 am Post to our social media feeds the recess cancelling policy. We are a hardy people. Also set up a scheduled email to all families reminding to bundle up because it’s cold out! But not cold enough. It’s an outside recess kind of day. 

7:20 am Find the boy in bed watching Paw Patrol. Accident in the bed. Him. Not me. Mom takes care of the kids. I throw a load of sheets in the laundry. Time to get ready to head to work. Start the car. Brrr. 

7:31 am Out the door and off to work. Podcast on. Stopping for a Hot Chocolate on the way. Brr.  Garage door remote not working. Grr. Really need to get winter/snow tires on. 

8:22 am Arrived at school. Slow drive because of icy highways in parts. 

8:35 am Run up to the roof to take a comparison picture of what the farmer’s field next door looks like to today compared to what it looked like on this day last year

8:45 am Walk around school to say good morning to staff and confirm staff shirts sizes we are purchasing. 

8:50 am  Welcoming kids as they come in. High fives all ‘round

8:55 am Welcome a new sub to our building and walk her classroom for the morning and help get her set up. 

9:03 am Quick hallway meeting with 3 students involved in a conflict yesterday. All did a good job reminding me what they will do to have a better day. 

9:08 am Write on the Wonder Walls - What’s the best part of winter? Positive comments only. Then on to the PA to remind teachers to do attendance. 

9:15 am Quick chat with a teacher to confirm that the app she requested is the one she wanted. It’s a flyer app for Unit Pricing in math. All is good. 

9:15 am Phone call coaching session with a principal who is doing the iPec coaching training with me. She is coaching me through an issue I need to work through.

9:18 am Received a very kind email from my Superintendent about a newsletter we recently sent out. Nice that he reads it and takes time to send a message. 

10:15 am. Coaching call over. Positive phone call

10:16 am Student sent to the office for ‘not working’. Helped him get started. Finished problems easily and showed off how smart he was. Good way to connect with a kid who needs something extra.

10:30 Met with all the grade 8s to go over microwave safety. New microwaves for student use starting today with grade 8s. Due diligence. 

10:40 am Began visiting classrooms. And posting to social media showing off kids learning. Visited 12 classrooms and posted kids learning from 5 different classes. Great stuff going on. Kids are making, hands on and making work public. This brings my class visits that I’ve logged to 99 visits for the year. 

10:50 am Quick chat with a teacher who submitted a discipline referral. Confirmed that her response was perfect. Asked her to contact home. 

11:30 am Back in the office to look at emails. 

11:35 am Followed up on google doc of latest discipline referral so teacher knows how I responded. with the student 

11:37am Same student back in office for not working will help him get started. 

11:43 am Walk Student back to class. Did great. Quick chat with teacher who has this child on his workload about how to support the teacher to best help the child to keep him in class. Dropped into one more class to see grade 5s in action. (French class) 100th classroom visit for the year 

11:46 am Quick chat with a teacher who was given the morning to visit another teacher in the division about a Day Wonder project our school is doing. (Photography). He’s excited to get that started. 

11:50 am Approve invoices for purchases that were made for our Makerspace through an Imagination Grant. 

11:52 am Help our grade 8 helper get the microwave to its appropriate spot. Go through expectations of his new job. 

11:55 am lunch begins! Quick check in with all homerooms. Make sure microwave is being used well. It is. Kids are great.

12:13 pm off to visit another principal in the division to have a coaching session. I’m coaching him (iPec coaching training). Working lunch. Picking up lunch along the way. 

12:38 pm Arrived at the other school. 

1:36 pm. Back in to the car. Chat was excellent. Good to see a new school (new to me). Off to staples to pick up a few items for teachers and secretaries. 

2:03 pm Back at school. A few notes about kids and discipline that need responding to on my desk from lunch time. Plus a couple of phone calls to return while I was out. 

2:07 pm Spoke with a person from the Pistons hockey club (Steinbach). Set up a meeting with 2 players that will visit MMS regularly to mentor some grade 5 students. 

2:10 - 240 pm spoke to 3 groups of students about incidents at lunch. Will call home to inform parents. Parent meeting set up for today to discuss one of the incidents. 

2:45 pm Parent phone calls x 5 regarding behaviour. Spoke to all 5 sets of parents. Excellent conversations and support. 

3:05 pm Finished phone calls informing about lunch behaviour. 87th phone call home logged this year.

3:10 pm Another student discipline issue. Good chat. Lots going on with this boy.  Good chat and a plan made moving forward. Sending to fitness class to get a good run in. 

3:20 Another incident with a student. Will set up a meeting with a parent after details are sent to me. 

3:25 pm Parent meeting. Re: behaviour of child. 

3:50 pm. Parent meeting done. Positive outcome with a plan moving forward about how to connect the kid to school positively. 

3:55 pm Staff meeting in 5 minutes. 

4:00 pm - 5:00 pm. Staff meeting. 
I've been so lucky to work with amazing teachers in my career. MMS staff is no different. Not afraid to have hard conversations for the benefits of kids. Conversations start with simple enough question but never simple solutions and staff get it. Staff get that it's messy and growth is what it's all about.

518 pm. On my way home after a positive staff meeting with some good hard conversations about stuff happening at school. Meeting was done at 5:03. Didn’t get through entire agenda. Oh well. 

559 pm Arrived at my kids music class 30 minutes s late. Will be able to catch the last 15 minutes. Fun to watch them play,

9243 steps for the day. A bit shy of my 10000 daily at school step goal. 

625 pm. On the way home for supper with the family. 

6:32 pm Erin (momma) makes a great supper in about 45 seconds for both kids before she has to run out for her curling game. I change out of work clothes. Supper time for the kids

7:00 pm Bath time for the little ones. The littlest one is a trooper. Went to the doctor today with mom and big brother. Got 4 big shots. I don't know how Erin manages her job and everything the kids need. We are all lucky to she is who she is.

7:21 pm Bath time done. The boy cleans up his room and then watches a show while I put the girl to bed. First, the girl attempts to sabotage the boys show. Bottle time for both. Bed time for the girl. 

752 pm. The littlest one is asleep. One of the best parts of the day. The littlest is such a snuggler. Such a happy little person.

755 pm Make bed from the mornings mishap. The boys. Not mine. Throw in my supper into the oven. 

807 pm. The boy’s bedtime. A couple of stories the lights out. Amazing little man. 

825 pm The boy is asleep. Supper time for me while watching Life in Pieces. Then CNN. Should have stuck with Life in Pieces. 

915 pm Clean up kitchen after all the suppers. 

9:25 pm Make sure announcements for tomorrow are up to date. Look at Twitter for a bit while having a ‘coke’.  Updating this blog.

9:50 pm Get caught up on the world's events by checking Twitter. Part inspiring. Part terrifying. So many smart people out there... 

10:00 pm Bedtime soon. Will try and read 1 chapter of the book What Kind of Citizen for the HELP (Hanover Education Leadership Program) I'm in (being a new admin in the HSD). Great book and group to be a part of. Focus is ethical leadership. Definitely having an impact on what I think schools need to be for kids. Also re-affirming many of my thoughts.

'til tomorrow...

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Ultimate Warrior

An Introduction to ‘The Ultimate Warrior’

An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.  ~Author Unknown

On Monday, February 27, 2017 we introduced something called ‘The Ultimate Warrior’ to all of MMS. These are grade level values that we will expect all of our Warriors to live up to daily to become ‘The Ultimate Warrior’.

The core value for all grade 5 students is to be ‘BE READY TO LEARN’. We will talk with grade 5s about this in the coming weeks to determine what this exactly means at MMS. To me it means to come to school with an open mind, to try new things, have supplies, listen, and question and so much more. When talking with grade 5s we will focus the conversation on what it means to ‘be ready to learn’.

The core value of all grade 6s is to ‘BE READY TO HELP’. Since our grade 6s have been at MMS for a year they know the school expectations, rules, and the people. We will expect our grade 6s to help themselves, their classmates, their teachers and the environment in and around MMS. The grade 6 circle also includes the grade 5 value so this means our grade 6s will also be expected to be ‘ready to learn’. Again, we will speak with our grade 6s to come up with what this will look like at MMS.

The core value for our grade 7s is to ‘BE READY TO PARTICIPATE’. When our kids reach grade 7 a number of new opportunities open up. Grade 7s have more choice in their classes, athletics, arts and we will have a higher expectation for students to be active citizens in classrooms, school and community. Grade 7s will also be expected to ‘be ready to help’ and ‘be ready to learn’. Grade 7s will also be given the opportunity to help us define what this means at MMS.

Our last, and greatest responsibility lies with our grade 8s. Their value is ‘TO BE READY TO SERVE’. We will get our grade 8s feedback to what this will look like as well. The expectation will be for our grade 8s to serve our school, community locally and globally. Expectations for grade 8s will also include ‘be ready to participate’, ‘be ready to help’ and ‘be ready to learn’.

School culture is of utmost importance to me. If we can get our students, staff, and community to be using common language as the year goes along, we all grow. In ‘edu-speak’, this is a variation of a PBIS or Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports. The goal is to get our entire school talking about what we should be doing and what we want to see rather on what we shouldn’t be doing.

This may change and evolve over time. The goal is to positively an already great school culture. By using common language and focusing on positive behaviour we will make sure that everyone associated with MMS has the best chance to learners and thrive everyday.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A day maker

We work hard at my current school to create an atmosphere where kindness and acceptance matter more than anything else. Some days are better than others but once and a while you are reminded that focusing on kindness and the positive stuff is the best way to go... A student who recently left to go to another school sent this email to our staff... This is a message the student wants me to share with the students currently at George Waters...

George Waters Middle School is the best school I have ever been to and ever will have been to. I have never been excited for the first day of school until GWMS, I also have a better perspective of learning, and I think you will too.  George Waters is such a different/amazing school. No school I have ever been to could even compare. 
The teachers are so sweet and so awesome. The students, yeah there may be a couple you don't get along with but the substantial amount of them are really nice and once you get to know them, they make some pretty awesome friends if you ask me. Friends that you will have until your old and wrinkly!
Sometimes I don't even remember that George Waters is a school. The work is so fun, (if you understand and get invloved)! And the classes are great too. 
Don't get me started on the principals! They work there Butt's off trying to make the school a better learning environment for all of us. They do such a good job! So don't forget to thank Mr.Mead and Mr. Abram, and dot forget about your teachers. (Maybe even your classmates) 
Always try your best, if you don't succeed, don't give up! 
Get involved, stand up for others, and be a Philanthropist. 
and don't forget, Make someone else's day better because you never know what someone's going through and a nice compliment or even a smile in the hall could really put a smile on there face too. 

I spoke yesterday at an Ignite Talk (see previous blogpost) on exactly this. What kind of school do I want for my kid? What an amazing email and gift to get from wonderful young person.


Ignite Your Passion for Discovery

I got the chance, last night to do an Ignite Talk with a bunch of incredible educators from in and around Winnipeg. Listening to their stories was inspiring to say the least. I was asked to talk about what I am passionate and curious about… this is my slideshow followed by my notes that I didn’t really stick to… What are you curious about?

If you aren't sure what an Ignite Talk is all about check out this link.Thanks to Dean Shareski, Andy McKiel and Discovery Education for this chance . Congratulations to all the other speakers who did such an amazing job. This was the line up brilliant minds that spoke.

If you get the chance to be a part of an Ignite or go watch one, take advantage!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Reaching Every Student – Everyday

I was recently asked to write about this topic by CEA/ACE - 'Students who leave school early are more disadvantaged now than ever before. What can be done to improve graduation rates and better meet the needs of kids who are at risk of dropping out?' Please check out the blog post here on the CEA-ACE website. It is also below.

Reaching Every Student – Everyday
Four essential factors for developing an alternative school for at-risk students

From 2005-2010, I was an administrator involved in developing and expanding an alternative program to support students who had either dropped out of high school or were on the verge of dropping out. My school district acknowledged the fact that there are situations when an alternative school is necessary to encourage students at risk to persevere and complete their diplomas. So Jameswood Alternative School (JAS)  was developed and prides itself on making the school fit the child by trying to reach “every kid - every day" while maintaining high standards for all of its learners for daily attendance, academic performance, and appropriate behaviour.

For at-risk students, the focus is often on their stresses and distresses rather than on their educational goals. A major reason why students drop out is due to a high absentee rate. The reasons for missing large amounts of school can be, but are not limited to illness, mental health (either their own or a family members), problems with the law, substance abuse, behavioural concerns that lead to suspensions, or just a disconnect to their school. Most often, the students who are most likely to drop out have a feeling that they’ve lost control of their education. Therefore, setting an appropriate emotional climate is essential for at-risk students.

Educators need to orchestrate learning environments that are emotionally safe, providing freedom from rejection and intimidation – a classroom that has a low student-teacher ratio (12-1) with students choosing a schedule and courses that best meet their pace of learning. Within one class, all students may be working on different subjects at the same time. For at-risk students to gain the confidence back in their learning, they need to feel that they have a sense of control, have sufficient time to learn, and the ability to deal with or get assistance with their stress. In these environments, they are more likely to be successful. To effectively support at-risk students, it’s important that programs have high academic standards and a culture of positive expectations. Learning is relevant and often occurred in conjunction with work experience opportunities.

To provide students with a climate that gives them a sense of control and optimizes their learning, the development of the alternative school was based on these four factors:

1.    Learner-Centered Classroom
All people learn through experience and a learner-centered classroom pays close attention to the knowledge, attitudes, and skills that students bring with them. It respects cultural differences and provides an environment that challenges students with developmentally appropriate learning experiences. As much as possible, subject material should be personally relevant and just challenging enough to encourage risk taking, but not so difficult that it encourages avoidance. Teachers must work hard to reach every child every day. Student schedules are flexible and choice is provided in the manner in which students meet curricular outcomes. Two methods for ensuring that the classroom is learner-centered are a self-paced module style or a big picture project based style. The module style of completing a course is generally set up by the teacher, but the student chooses the pace and can even pick the order in which modules get done. In the project-based method, students complete big picture projects of interest to them and with the help of the teacher, determine how curricular outcomes are met while completing the project. Key in both of these methods is the teacher working hard to build a strong relationship with the student by ensuring they are in contact with them every day even if the student is not at school. [MC2] 

2.    Knowledge-Centered Classroom
Our brains learn by making connections between what has been experienced and what that experience means to us. While student interest is important in the learning process, it should be a springboard for a deeper understanding. A knowledge-centered environment provides metacognitive strategies that further facilitate learning about things that matter to the student. Students should be encouraged to apply their learning to things beyond the four walls of the classroom. Encouraging students to engage in work experience, volunteerism and/or apprenticeship opportunities is important to help them realize that learning happens outside the school as well and is often just as – if not even more valuable. Classroom settings that provide ways to include the learning that happens outside of the classroom helps engage at-risk students and makes their learning relevant.

3.    Authentic Assessment
Ongoing authentic formative assessment provides the most accurate picture of a student’s ability. While standardized tests cannot be eliminated, they’re not the only form of assessment that should be used in classrooms. Multiple methods of assessment should be used because behaviour is influenced by the setting in which it occurs and the skills that students possess may not necessarily be evident in a single test or assignment. Assessment should be learner-friendly; it should allow students to see their progress, and it should help the teacher identify problem-areas that should be addressed. Students must also be present in their own assessment. Ensuring students think about and are aware of where they’re at in their learning is key.

For example, in the first years of Jameswood Alternative School, students wrote – with support from the teacher – their own report cards and kept track of their own marks. Students reported that knowing exactly where they were in the course, how they were doing and what they had left to do was very motivating to ensure successful completion.

4.    Community-centered Programs
Finally, programs for at-risk learners should be community-centered. Learning should have a direct connection to life. Students need to own the learning by doing something meaningful with the knowledge that they’ve gained. The organization should provide a number of  learning opportunities for each student inside and outside the school.  This allows the student to learn how to work cooperatively in school and in the workplace. Providing students the support of different organizations to allow for different opportunities is key to help them find something they are passionate about.

The location of Jameswood School was unique. Within the school there was an adult education program, daycare, a job finding program and many social services workers. There was always something for the student. If they didn’t finish their program at JAS, they could easily continue into a different program that fit their needs. So, instead of dropping out of a program, they simply drop into another one that works for them.

A culture of care and support is necessary for the success of at-risk students. A comprehensive support system needs to be in place to respond to all of their needs.. Reaching every child every day is key to reducing the potential for students to drop out. An important message that staff at Jameswood Alternative School often spoke about was ensuring students, who had dropped out or were on the verge of dropping out, was the inherent value of ‘school’ in whatever form it takes. This, in turn, will have implications for these student’s siblings and or their children.