Thursday, December 29, 2011


A lot of what is taught to students bores them because it has no relevancy. If it has no relevancy, the message is lost. Many feel like Peter Griffin.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An education like this nobody needs. Kids need to learn to think for themselves.

Another Brick in the Wall

“We don't need no education
We dont need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!”

An education like this nobody needs. Kids need to learn to think for themselves.

Monday, December 26, 2011

They couldn't be bothered

I shot these two pictures today while I was shopping. They are signs for two different businesses. My question is simple: Why were these signs allowed to be posted without some editing? I guess they couldn't be bothered.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It does not have to be this way?

-Shouting teachers

-rows of desks

-tests based on memorization.



-flipped classroom

-lack of teacher input on decisions

-lack of student input on decisions



You may agree with some and disagree with others. However, it is good to challenge and question your beliefs regarding education.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What is good PD in 140 characters or less.

What is good PD? I asked that question using Twitter and received many responses. The responses are posted below. Can you detect any common themes?

@JPPrezz: Good PD is engaging, relevant, and participant-driven

@runfardvs: IMO good PD is aimed at classroom practice, adaptable for each teacher's situation, and has follow-up

@skipvia: A structure for providing your own PD. No institution can provide everything every teacher needs.

@mountainteacher: individualized and convenient with time to apply and reflect

@nathanpitt: interactive activities (have people DO something) and opportunities for "projects" that last beyond time of PD "class."

@erringreg: Good PD is relevant, purposeful, pushes you beyond your comfort zone enough to shift your thinking. My MEd was good PD.

@monicaannebatac: Conversations reign supreme.

@northeagles: Simple: educators spending time together discussing kids/education/professional practice-then setting goals 4improvement

@ShawnMcCusker: good PD helps teachers deliver an improved classroom experience to students.

@sonicgeekette: Good PD is learning from other educators in Twitter!

@christensen143: Brian I think good PD ties in Technology. I'm biased as the Tech Dir but we throw so much tech at teachers with little PD.

@erniec: job embedded, inquiry based, purpose driven

@techyturner: PD that is relevant and timely.

@Michelle_Horst: One that interests and motivates you as a teacher! Perhaps one chosen, and not prescribed? Ask: Will I learn as a result?

Thanks to all who responded!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Guest Post: When you REALLY Reflect Upon Awards by Chris Wejr @MrWejr

I recently read an excellent blog post by Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp titled, "Awards for All Means Students Still Lose - No Matter How Well Meaning They Are." I read the comments on the post and the comment that most aligned with my thoughts was made by Chris Wejr's @mrwejr. I asked for and received permission from @mrwejr to share his comment as a guest post. He wanted me to do a little "tinkering" so that it would be a partner post. I have added a little but the bulk of this post is his. Thank you Mr. Wejr.

When you REALLY Reflect Upon Awards by Chris Wejr @MrWejr

Awards are always a hot topic. As you know, Kent Elementary School ended our awards ceremony in 2009. When you REALLY reflect upon awards, it is quite silly what we force our kids to sit through. Most awards ceremonies highlight the achievements of a select few (mostly the same students each year) and force others to sit and watch. Those that watch are NOT recognized for their efforts and this further disengages the watching majority.

When we tell people that we have ended our awards and that we honour each child throughout the year, people assume we give awards to everyone. Since when do we need awards to honour? Speaking publicly about or privately to a child about their strengths is what we do.... without tickets, prizes, medals, or trophies.

As soon as you offer an award, the focus goes directly to that. We get parents and students fighting for this honour chosen by teachers. Furthermore, teachers often argue about who should be chosen for said award.

What are we trying to teach kids? To go for an award? ...or... To see the value of working hard to complete a challenging task? Indeed, student achievement is not the same as student learning.

We do not give awards nor do we have a honour roll or student of the month. Our "marks" are still great for those who previously did well... and we still have those who struggle. We have not seen a significant change in academics since the ending of all of this. BUT - we have seen a HUGE shift in school culture where it is ok to take risks. More academic risk taking will create conditions for more learning.

It is far easier to give an award or many awards than it is to honour a child's strengths and challenge them to be better. So if our "top-achievers" (and students that would have won an award) do just as well AND we have improved culture since we ended awards, why would we have them?

In closing, when we praise students we need to make sure that it is meaningful, relevant, and effort-based (growth mindset). Awards most often put the focus on results (fixed mindset). If everyone gets an award, they may not be as harmful in the losing factor but they lose meaning... so again, why have them at all?

Be a child's coach - praise them for their efforts and challenge and support them in areas of their struggle.

November 22, 2011 9:22 PM

Saturday, August 6, 2011

First day of school: How do you show your class who you are?

When you meet your class for the first time, how do show them who you are? Do you outline all of
the things you expect and give the consequences if expectations are not met? Or do you sit and talk to your students and ask for their input for expectations. Both are different ways of doing things and can set very different tones for the year. Which do you prefer?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Are you stuck in 1987?

It amazes me the new content that is created every day through teacher blogs. Moreover, the connections made through Twitter is equally outstanding. Blogging and Twitter means growth to me. I wonder what teachers were doing in 1987 when these things did not exist? Are some still stuck in 1987?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Four things I would include when interviewing potential teachers and principals.

1. How do you use your Person Learning Network (PLN) to learn?

2. What are your views on rewards to control classroom behaviour?

3. Share your thoughts on using “punishment” (like detention) in a classroom.

4. Share your views on homework.

No more original ideas?

I’ve heard people quip that there are no more original ideas. On the surface it might seem so. However, when I saw the movie Flash of Genius starring Greg Kinear I began to think a little differently about the topic. The following clip demonstrates what I mean:

Click here for video! Embedding was disabled.

Friday, July 8, 2011

What’s all this Blogging and Twitter business?

It’s almost been a year since I started my blog, Against the Wind. I’ve been tweeting for longer than that, about 2 and a half years. Blogs and Twitter were born ready for one another. I use one, Twitter, to “advertise” my blog. Why would I want to “advertise?” Reaching as many
followers as I can is not my goal. Making connections is the point of this. The count does not matter. Those connections not only include people that agree with me, which is great, but also those who do not. The disagreements can lead to changing the way I think about a topic or cement my feelings about my beliefs. Indeed, this business is about connecting which leads to learning.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I prefer reading shorter blog posts; That's just the way it is with me.

Most of my favourite blog posts are short. Seth Godin and Joe Bower write excellent short posts. I love short posts; Much more so than long posts. Why? I like brevity; I like things to the point; Just tell me what you think. Write it short and I will read it; Write a long post and, unless you are an amazing writer, my mind wanders off. In the end I only skim. I know you don’t want me to skim your post so just give me the juice. That’s just the way it is with me.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Give Me Respect

I always thought that I would automatically get respect from students when I walked the coridoors of a school because I was a teacher. That was not the case. You have to work hard to get respect. You have to say "hi" and get to know names of kids. You have to pay attention. You have to stop and talk to students during recess or any chance you get. Don't be an authoritarian. Respect will come. Things become easier.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My shortest post on motivation.

Rewarding students and punishing students can be exhausting and counterproductive. Focus on the intrinsic, not the extrinsic motivators. Building relationships and discovering what motivates students is the best “classroom management” I can think of. Just imagine the growth.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Is teaching all about Control?

“Do you have control over your class?” “ She does not have control over her class.” “ He does not control his class at all.” “ You need control over your students.” I have heard questions and statements like these a lot in my teaching career. It would appear that teaching is all about control, control, control. It is not. It is about building relationships with students. Learning follows. Get away from the “mind set” of control. Then sit back and watch the results.

For more on this topic see Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community, Alfie Kohn, as recommended by Scott McLeod below. @mcleod

A Short Conversation With...Greta Sandler @gret

How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been an English as a second language teacher for about 8 years. I used to teach young adults at the university level and then moved into elementary education. Teaching kids has made a huge difference for me. It’s such a gift to be able to reach out for them and help them flourish!

Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
Yes, a lot! I’ve always believed that connecting with our students was really important to build a safe learning environment in the class. I’ve always thought that teaching was way more than just following a curriculum. However, it wasn’t until I was really able to reach out for a kid that I felt the power of being a teacher for the first time. Since then, I’ve been way more focused on bringing out the best in each of my students.
I also used to think technology wasn’t important in the classroom. To be honest, I was totally clueless about the amazing things we could do with it. The world has changed and it keeps changing. I’ve become aware that we need to connect our students’ learning with the world in which we live in and technology can help us bring the world into the classroom and expand our classroom walls. Thanks to technology, we can recreate the world in our classroom and create meaningful learning opportunities for our students. What’s more, technology can also help us connect with our students in a stronger way and it can help us build a better learning environment.

Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?
Yes! It has! Thanks to Twitter, I’ve built my PLN. My PLN has had an essential role in my professional and personal growth.
I started tweeting actively about a year ago. I was too shy to get involved in conversations at first, so I just lurked. I spent a lot of time reading blogs and I slowly began commenting on them. This led to conversations on twitter and soon after, I began participating on twitter chats such as #elemchat, #ntchat, #edchat and #eltchat. I have also taken part in great online educational conferences and webinars. I always find out about these amazing opportunities on Twitter.
I have learned about the wonderful things we can do with technology in our classrooms, I have connected with incredibly inspiring educators from all over the world and I ended up writing my own blog. What’s more, I got my students blogging and skyping with experts and other classes. Let me tell you, these have been the most amazing experiences in my teaching career.
My PLN keeps challenging and inspiring me to reflect on my teaching. I keep learning and growing thanks to it. I interact with the people in my PLN mostly on Twitter. That’s why I feel Twitter is my staff room; a place where learning takes place 24/7.

What's the best advice you have received as a teacher (or can give to a new teacher)?
My first year as an elementary school teacher, I heard a teacher say we should love our students before actually meeting them. To be honest, I didn’t really understand what she meant at first. It was at the end of that school year that I became aware of how powerful what I had heard was. I had a student who had been a victim of sexual abuse and he was about to be kicked out from school. His behavior was really bad and his performance wasn’t exactly the best. All I heard about him were awful comments. That boy became my favorite student right away. When I met him, I felt he had always been my student. I showed him how much I cared and we connected right away. At the end of the year he was a total different kid. Not only did his behavior improve, but also his performance.
Our job is so powerful! I seriously believe we can make a difference for our students and help them flourish. It’s way easier to reach out for our kids, if we have a strong connection with them. The key to a successful connection with our students is to love them before we know them.

Greta Blogs here

Monday, June 6, 2011

Are we just here to bore each other?

Meetings, presentations, speeches, ceremonies, etc. can be interesting; Most, however, not so much. I know that not everything can be exciting all the time. That is a given. However, I often wonder why we, as humans, continue to bore each other with long ceremonies, drawn out meetings, and uninteresting speeches/presentations. Can we at least question the value of how we do many of these things? Can we change some of these things or are we just here to bore each other?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I'm still here, thinking.

I haven't blogged much lately. However, I did have a very productive blogging period from January to April. I don't have much to say right now but I'm still here, thinking. The end of the year is always busy with exams, paper work, etc. I am tired. We have lots of daylight, too. This always throws off my sleeping habits a little. I am sleepy a lot, as well as my students. But I'm still here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Having a little fun: I got a Pie in the Face.

Here is a little fun I had while visiting Montreal recently. Yes, I get a pie in the face.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Short Conversation With...Shawn Ram @sram_socrates

Shawn Ram

How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching for twelve years and have taught all grades and subjects from grade one up to grade eleven.

Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
My educational philosophy has grown placing more emphasis on student achievement and understanding, rather than the completion of a set of objectives. In addition I have realized that the use of technology is not to be a novelty that is one used for projects and research, but that technology is a learning tool that helps students in their understanding of concepts. There is also a very large emphasis in my philosophy on relationships, not just relationships with colleagues and with parents, but more importantly relationships with the students in my classroom and in the halls of the school.

Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?
Twitter has been an amazing networking tool and resource, and I would hope it continues to be a significant influence in my evolution as a teacher.
Twitter has allowed me to connect with hundreds of other teachers, whose passions for teaching and technology align with my own. Twitter has also connected me with many colleagues, that although I don't work with and have never met face to face, I could call friends. Twitter has altered my philosophy, that teachers and their classrooms are independent islands. I have seen and come to the conclusion that you can choose to remain an island and disconnected, or you could connect and reap the rewards.
Finally, twitter being the tool that it is and the professional development opportunities that exist with in it have allowed me to grow in one year more than I had in the previous eleven.

What's the best advice you have received as a teacher (or can give to a new teacher)?
You are a teacher, but this inherently means you are also a learner. Ask questions; ask for help. Many of us have been there will not see it as a sign of weakness of inability. Join Twitter you increase, because your staffroom will increase from what it is to infinite possibilities. Reflect, not only in your teaching, but in your relationships and other aspects of life. This reflection helps you grow personally. Finally, the most important piece of advice I could give is - BALANCE - learn to balance work life and personal life. It took me a little longer to understand and apply this, but now that I have, I am baffled as to how I lived previously.

Shawn blogs here

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Short Conversation With...Katie Hellerman @theteachinggame

Katie Hellerman

How long have you been teaching?
About six years if you put it all together. I pretty much have taught all ages: two years high school, one year middle school, two years teaching sustainable design courses to adults, and a whole lot of junior kindergarten through high school substitute teaching in between.
Out of all of those, I think I learned the most being a substitute teacher. As a sub, you have to get really good at thinking on your toes and building trust quickly.

Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
I think that if you were to ask me this question when I first started teaching, I probably would have given you a very academic response and quoted Stephen Krashen or Howard Gardner. With time, I’ve become more pragmatic about teaching. I’ve come to really internalize that fact that not every method is going to work for every student. Sometimes you just have to throw your philosophy out the window and do what works for the individual student.

I have also come to understand how important it is to make the effort to really get to know your students. Teaching is not a perfunctory profession. You have to be fully invested to do it well.

Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?
Yes! It took a while for me to build a solid posse. But now I have a great group of people who are really creative, inspiring and supportive. You know how they have fantasy football teams? Well, I have my fantasy faculty team (FFT). If I ever can’t find the inspiration, materials, or support I need in my physical school, my FFT comes in handy.

What's the best advice you have received as a teacher (or can give to a new teacher)?
“Only get uptight about issues that you will remember in ten years.” I got this advice from one of my first mentors and it has served me really well. For some reasons, a lot o teachers I know tend to get super worked up about silly things like, bulletin board backgrounds and students borrowing their staplers. Save your emotional energy for the causes that are really important to you.

My advice for new teachers, is to be extremely proactive in finding mentors, observing other teachers and communicating with all your consitutants. Don’t wait or expect anyone to be able to predict your needs or sense what you are going through. Schools are busy places. Admins and other teachers are happy to leave you alone if they don’t hear screams coming from your classroom. It’s less work for them to believe all is well. Building strong networks of support is as important as having a good lesson plan.

Katie Blogs here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

5 Quick Things about...@newfirewithin

Justin Stortz

1. Old -school NES games (along with The Simpsons) are near and dear to my heart. So much of my childhood is buried in that 8-bit contraption. It makes me warm and fuzzy. I still play them on my Android phone. Some of my faves were /are Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, StarTropics, Contra, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Mega Man 2, Super Dogde Ball, hmmm. I could probably go on, but I won't.

2. I'm a frustrated drummer. I still play guitar quasi -regularly. But, the drums are difficult to bang around on due to space constraints and many small children running around my house. Here's a video of me and my fake band, Staff Infection, jamming a Guns 'N Roses song for my school. Staff Infection on Vimeo.

3. Photography is another interest of mine, although I pretty much suck at it right now. My wife gave me a great DSLR camera for my birthday last year. I'm reading, watching, and learning, but it's a crapshot anytime I take it off of auto.

4. I almost only read non -fiction. Although I do actually enjoy reading many of the same books my 4th graders like. Fantasy is my favorite kind of fiction.

5. I truly live my Twitter bio. I'm passionate about helping kids read and write better. Jesus is changing me into a better person every day that I let Him. My wife and I were married before we were 20. I love her more than any other person on the face of the Earth. We have four amazing children that leave me breathless every time I stop to think about them. Yeppers.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

5 Quick Things about...@debbie_birchett and @MrMacnology

5 Quick things about...Debbie Birchett

1. I tend to talk excessively and my AD/HD “loves” this chatter! (I really do have AD/HD.) At times I have so much to share and say, excitement takes over and I talk non-stop. All through elementary school my report card stated “if Debbie would spend more time listening and less time talking she would be an excellent student”.

2. I’m a bit of an insomniac - secretly wishing that the days were actually longer so I could have more fun!

3. I wanted to run track professionally! I used to sign my friends’ yearbooks in high school “Debbie - Atlanta ‘96” followed by the Olympic Rings. I could not fulfill this dream due to an injury that honestly baffled doctors on many levels.

4. It took me 13yrs to realize that everything I do involves working with children! I not only teach, but I teach Sunday school, tutor children from various schools, and coach High School and little league sports.

5. I would love to pursue my coaching career and move to the next level (collegiate level)....but I don’t know what I would do if I could not teach young children everyday. Professionally I know I would be equipped, but I think I would miss the joys of teaching children with special needs.

5 Quick things about...Jeremy Macdonald

1. My number one goal in life is to be a good dad.

2. My number two goal in life is to drive 200 mph.

3. My favorite movie is Fletch.

4. I still have the penny I stuck in a socket when I was 4 years old.

5. I’m an Eagle Scout, just like Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver).

Friday, April 15, 2011

Why are we not teaching students to be responsible digital citizens?

What I write in this post is not original; it is a reminder. Banning Facebook in school is not a solution to anything. If you think banning it will make it go away, you are mistaken. Students are using Facebook, blindly. They are building their online presence, now! Why are we not teaching them to be responsible digital citizens?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A short conversation with...Sean Banville @SeanBanville

Sean Banville

How long have you been teaching?
I've been teaching for 18 years. I had a few jump-in-at-the-deep-end introductions, which I loved, prior to my deciding to become a teacher. The first was at an orphanage in northern Thailand to do voluntary work. I had no idea what to do. I found a dusty grammar book in the library. I think my first lesson was on abstract and concrete nouns. Probably not the best thing to start with. My next pre-certificate assignment was an 11-week, 7-day-a-week, 10-hour-a-day stint at a language school in Bangkok. The school owner gave me a book on TOEFL and wished me luck. I loved lecturing from the book for 50 minutes non-stop. Definitely not the best method :-0. But, I decided ELT was pretty cool and would help me travel forever. I did my CELTA with the British Council in Izmir, Turkey in 1993 and earned my Master's in TEFL/TESL in 2003. Have spent the past 18 years overseas. Must do the DELTA one day…. and perhaps a PhD.

Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
Of course. The CELTA was amazing in showing me in four weeks how much there was to teaching for a beginner teacher, and the importance of the communicative classroom, authentic materials, PPP (presentation, practice, production…) integrated skills, etc. And then joining a school in Japan that relied on the audio-lingual method showed me the importance of drills and controlled practice. And then learning Japanese the Silent Way and introducing the Silent Way into my own teaching showed me the importance of subordinating teaching to learning and trying to understand what each student needs next to move their interlanguage forward. And then working at another school in Japan that gave me total freedom to experiment in class and with lesson preparation showed me how important it is to listen to student needs and create lessons based on the topics they ask for - a great way to increase motivation. And then my Master's showed me the importance of understanding that there really is a scary amount of stuff to know, and how important task-based learning, lexical approaches and project-based learning are in one's classroom arsenal. And not to mention the realization that grammar translation and dictation really can be quite useful and that the use of the L1 in the classroom isn't the big monster I was told it was. Oh yes, let's not forget differentiated learning, teaching unplugged and personalizing the course book - or throwing the damn thing away. And then coming across CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) and realizing the importance of independent learning for students and the power of Web 2.0 and social media. And then if all that wasn’t enough to make me rethink my teaching philosophy for the 958th time, iPhones and iPads came along and I'm now struggling to keep up with how important m-learning (mobile learning) is and will be. Am now wondering what's next - Web 3.0 and the as-yet-not-invented technologies and tools that will further change our classrooms and philosophy. So has my educational philosophy changed since I began teaching? Yes and no. Here's the biggest 'no': I began teaching knowing I had a deep sense of empathy with students who had a desire to learn something that was very important to them and probably quite difficult. I knew each learner was different and that I had to try and focus on the needs of each student. The toughest thing to do as a teacher. That’s still central to my teaching. And here's the biggest 'yes': I thought I knew everything about teaching ESL/EFL after my CELTA in 1993. My first week in the classroom after the course taught me otherwise. Each year, conference attended, journal read, educator talked to, social media site engaged with… since then has changed my thinking on the "how-to" in the classroom and the "what-with". I think empathy and a willingness to experiment and accept change are essential as a teacher. Also, a liberal sprinkling in your lesson plan (that you always deviate from) of the techniques and methods above will inform the permanent and evolving parts of your philosophy.

Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?
Twitter has been the main source of my PD (Professional Development) since June 2009. I knew very little about Web 2.0 before Twitter. I knew very few people in ELT before Twitter. Now I know lots of stuff about teaching using social media, Web 2.0, m-learning, e-learning… I was also invited to speak at conferences (in person and online) and even shared a taxi to the airport with Jeremy Harmer (hope I remembered to tell him his was the first book I read on ELT) and had an evolutionary (for me - I just listened) breakfast with Ken Wilson, Gavin Dudeneye and Lindsay Clandfield - to drop just four names :-)

Twitter has been an endless source of new ideas, links to cool tools, advice from experts and very cool people to share ideas with. I'm sure there are other ways to keep one step beyond being up to date, but Twitter does it for me and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Now all I have to do is keep up to date with applying what I learn and pick up on Twitter in the classroom and on my websites. I'm lucky that there are younger whizzes in my Twitter PLN (Personal Learning Network) for whom incorporating interactive tools and stuff into their online lessons is second nature. I need to learn from them. Some of them are (by Twitter handle) @shellterell @davedodgson @harrisonmike @ozge … and many more.

I have been following your Breaking News English blog for awhile now. I am amazed at the amount of material you have amassed and the swiftness of your posts as events happen. How long does it usually take to make a lesson?
It takes between three to five hours to make a lesson, depending on how well the topic lends itself to quickly generating discussion questions and ranking activities. I have built up a handy array of shortcuts to help me cut the time down. I've made over 3,000 lessons for that site and I still like making them - haven't quite figured out why. I guess that means I'm up for the next 3,000. I hope lesson # 6,000 looks quite different to lesson # 3,000… more tools and interactivity, and... stuff.

Sean Blogs here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

6 things about my school.

1. We don’t have any cross-town school rivals. We are the only game in town.
If we want to play a sport against another high school, we have to fly to them or they fly to us.

2. We do have buses. Some students, however, choose to use their snowmobiles or 4 wheelers (in the fall) to get to school.

3. We do not get as many snow days as people might think. I think we had 1.5 so far this year.

4. Students call teachers by their first names. They call me Brian, not Mr. Barry. (I love that.)

5. My students’ first language is Inuktitut.

6. The grade nines go on 2 "day" trips a year. The first trip we learn how to build an Igloo; The second trip we go ice fishing. This happens in April.

A short conversation with...myself @nunavut_teacher

Chris Wejr demanded that I put this up on my blog. It was originally posted on Edna Sackson's blog What Ed Said back in March 2011. Here you go.

Brian Barry

How long have you been teaching?
I am in my 12th year of teaching in Nunavut, Canada. I have taught Grades 4 (4 years), 7 (2 years), 8 (2 years), 9 (4 years).

Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
Yes. It used to be based on extrinsic motivation. I used rewards and punishment to control students. Now it is based on intrinsic motivation. I try to tap into my students natural curiosity. Their motivation now comes from within (intrinsic). They control themselves, not me controlling them.

Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?
Indeed. It has helped me grow by making connections with teachers of like mind. Moreover, I have connected with teachers that have changed my mind on specific topics.

What’s the best advice you have received as a teacher (or can give to a new teacher)?
Teaching is all about students and not subjects. That means it is about relationship building. Get to know your students; ask them plenty of questions about themselves. The rest will follow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A short conversation with...Jeremy Macdonald @MrMacnology

Jeremy Macdonald

How long have you been teaching?
This is my 5th year in the classroom. I also had the opportunity to work as an Instructional Technology Coach part time this year, but I am looking forward to going back full-time in the classroom next year.

Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
Like a lot of teachers I left college thinking one thing and through my experiences in the classroom I’ve began to shape that one thing, or philosophy, into something more meaningful and much less scripted. The more dramatic changes have come in the last two years of my career. I’ve been able to meet and learn from a lot of great educators that have challenged my thinking and pushed me to rethink my purpose as a teacher in the classroom. Students need more opportunities to create their own learning experiences. I try to be more of a guide through the process than the source of the information. By giving students opportunities to create, problem solve, and investigate, with peers and on their own, I hope to provide them with far more learning opportunities than their text book or my teacher’s manual intends to “teach”.

Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?
The ability to connect and collaborate with thousands of educators blows my mind. Twitter has provided me opportunities as an educator that I don’t think I could have found on my own. The infinite resources and sometimes insightful debate allows me to reflect on my own practices and see what I can do differently to improve the learning experiences of my students. And what I love most is when I get to actually meet and break bread with so many of my PLN. As much as I love Twitter, that human connection is something that will endure.

What's the best advice you have received as a teacher (or can give to a new teacher)?
A couple years ago a veteran teacher was moved to our school for his last year of teaching before retiring. He was a gruff man and rather old-fashioned in his thoughts of teaching and learning. He didn’t put up with a whole lot in the classroom and most of his routines were regimented and military-like. I wasn’t a fan of his teaching or management or the way he spoke to students. We taught in the same grade and I worked with him quite a bit. Before the end of the school year, he took me aside and spoke with me for almost a good hour. During that conversation he told me to speak up. Not speak up, like talk louder, but to speak up in front of my peers and stand up for what I believed to be best for our school. It gave me that needed confidence that I had lacked for the first three years of teaching. I wasn’t always sure of myself or of what I was doing in the classroom. As I continue to learn, I feel a need to defend learning in the testing-infested pools we now swim in. I may have not learned much about how to be a teacher from him, but I did learn what it takes to believe in what I do.

Jeremy blogs here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

5 Quick Things about...@4thGrdTeach and @shannoninottawa

5 Quick things about...Pernille Ripp @4thGrdTeach

1. I am an introvert hidden in an extroverts body, which means most people think I am really outgoing but I am just being loud to cover how shy I am. I am very loud with my students in order to get them excited but among people I sit and listen.

2. When I met Brandon I knew he was my soul mate; it just took me a year to convince him as we worked together (he was a bouncer, I was a bartender). I am romantic to a fault so every year for Mother’s Day he makes something for me. He outdoes himself every time and his last present can be seen here.

3. I have 9 siblings (I think, I always have to stop and count). There are 2 whole siblings, 5 half, and 2 step. They are spread out in the world and 2 of them I have never met.

4. My mother , sister, Thea and I now speak a sort of Danglish to each other. We speak in Danish but when we forget a word or can’t find the right word, we substitute for an English one. Our conversations therefore sound a bit crazy and my daughter, Thea, makes no sense to anyone.

5. My first name is mispronounced by everyone that meets me and I don’t bother to correct them, unless they call me penile (has happened) or Penelope. In Danish it is much prettier than Purrneil; it sounds more like Pair-Nee-Leh

5 Quick things about...Shannon Smith @shannoninottawa

1. I am the daughter of two educators, sister of two more and wife of another. When I was small, people would ask if I was going to teach like mom and dad and I ALWAYS answered an indignant, “NO!”

2. When I was completing my Master of Arts in English Literature, I became fed up with the competitive post-graduate atmosphere and opted for teacher’s college instead of pursuing my PhD.

3. From 2000 - 2005 I took 5 years off from teaching to be home with my kids. During that time I started a business as a certified doula (labour and birth support). This is when I learned how to create a website, which proved to be where 95% of my clients found me.

4. I’m a sucker for poetry. The likes of Bronwen Wallace and Nikky Finney can move me to tears at any given moment.

5. I cannot tolerate wet socks.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

5 Quick Things about...@arcticlass and @justintarte

5 Quick things about...Sharon Somerville @arcticlass

Sharon Somerville

1. I’m coming up for 63, but retirement doesn’t interest me! Not until I know what I want to
be when I grow up.

2. I had a previous career as a social worker; did my teacher training in Scotland where I
lived and worked for 26 years.

3. I love teaching in remote places: Highlands of Scotland; the Cdn Arctic; now moving
on to teach kids on farms in the Falkland Islands.

4. My favourite sweatshirt had a motto: ‘Be Bold! Colour Outside the Lines!’

5. I believe we have to maximize the use of tried, tested and proven technology in the
classroom. My goal: to teach kids how to teach themselves!

5 Quick things about...Justin Tarte @justintarte

Justin Tarte

1. I really enjoying working in the yard. I completed a butterfly garden last summer and I look forward to improving and enhancing its appearance this year. I am also an avid bird watcher.

2. My favorite movies include: 300, all of the Predator movies, Alexander, The Last Samurai, Gladiator, all the Transformers movies, Black Hawk Down and any movie with a Hans Zimmer soundtrack.

3. My wife and I have an almost two year old Yellow Lab named Maddy. My wife was a little hesitant at first about getting a dog, but now she really loves Maddy. I have several pictures of Maddy up in my classroom, and I also have an entire page on my Herr Tarte German blog dedicated to her: Maddy Tarte

4. When I was in college I started to collect coins. I would definitely not call myself a full blown numismatic, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the hobby of coin collecting. About 5 years ago I bought a 1914-D Lincoln Penny for $165.

5. I will be completing my Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership in December. I will be 27 years old when I graduate, and I am extremely proud to have progressed so far with my education in a rather short time.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

5 Quick Things about...@Dwight_Carter and @mrwejr

5 Quick things about...Dwight Carter @Dwight_Carter

Dwight Carter

1. Married for 6 years

2. I’m a twin

3. Yard yard is therapeutic

4. Jostens Renaissance Educator Hall of Fame

5. Two dogs named Lilly and Lola

5 Quick things about... Cris Wejr @MrWejr

Chris Wejr

1. My wife and I met when I was a high school PE teacher - she was a guest hip hop instructor for my PE class, she saw my ‘sweet’ moves and BOOM! it took off from there. Ok, maybe my dance moves weren’t so sweet but the effort was there...

2. In order to impress my future wife (at the time, a new girlfriend), I participated in her Dancing Dads dance group. After that, I couldn’t get out of it and have “danced”in a total of 5 Dads groups as well as played a lead role as Daddy Warbucks in a local production of the musical “Annie”. Videos of dancing dads available upon request ;-).

3. My wife and I welcomed two beautiful baby girls into our lives on December 10, 2010... and have not slept since... and we are loving every minute of it! They have 8, count’em - 8, grandparents. You think they get spoiled?

4. I am a huge sports nut - love the Vancouver Canucks, BC Lions, and Chicago Cubs. Have coached volleyball, basketball, hockey, rugby, track and field. I played hockey, baseball, golf, basketball, and volleyball in high school. I continue to golf and play hockey.

5. Nobody has ever pronounced my last name correctly on the first try. It is pronounced Wee-jer. My family is originally from the Czech Republic and the name went from Vejr to Wejr with the move to Canada.

Friday, April 8, 2011

5 Quick Things about...@joe_bower and @Mrs_P_teaches

5 quick things about Joe Bower @joe_bower

1. I live to play baseball with my brother Jeff. I'm on the mound and he's patrolling second base.

2. I love building Lego with my daughter Kayley

3. I love to see how happy my wife's puppies make her.

4. I'm a goaltender because I’m the one Canadian that can’t skate very well.

5. A cold beer is a beautiful thing.

5 quick things about...Crystal Pelletier @Mrs_P_teaches

1. I am an enthusiastic person! I enjoy helping others & love being a teacher! I really am thriving & loving the instant PD that comes with my new connections on Twitter!

2. My other loves are my husband (he's an engineer, not a teacher)and spoiled dog Zeus. We are from Saskatchewan originally (go Riders! Woohoo!) but Alberta is now home! Love it here!

3. I am new to using twitter for my PLN & for educational reasons. Only been at this just over 1 month! Started my first blog this week too! (told you I was enthusiastic)I had been using twitter before for personal stuff (see # 5, twitter is used well by UFC!) so I had a little experience before I jumped in!

4.I have completely revamped how I do things in my classroom and have really embraced change this year! We are exploring literacy through the Daily 5 & CAFE framework (from the 2 sisters @gailandjoan).

5. My husband is an avid sports fan. Warching sports with him has sparked my interest too! We both really love MMA (mixed martial arts) and follow UFC and other promotions. I have been to 6 live UFC events and will be attending the first UFC in Ontario at the end of the month! Go GSP!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

5 Quick Things about...@MmeVeilleux and @intrepidteacher

5 Quick things about...Ingrid Veilleux @MmeVeilleux

1. I have an enthusiastic personality so I can get very carried away with projects I work on. One of my mottoes: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well!

2. I am multi-lingual. I speak English, French and Finnish but mostly teach in French. I am fascinated by how the brain works especially with regard to language acquisition. A favourite quotation: Monolingualism is curable.

3. I am a mathie wannabe. I love to teach math. I love #mathchat. I read math ed research voraciously.

4. In my free time, I go to my community church, have a constant flow of people coming and going from my house, love my mini-Schnauzer, Maggie, and love spending time with my kids and husband.

5. I give a lot of workshops in the Lower Mainland particularly in the areas of literacy, fine arts integration, instructional strategies and dialogue strategies. I current teach pre-service teachers at UBC.

5 Quick things about...Jabiz Raisdana @intrepidteacher

1. I have had three near death experiences. I survived the Tsunami in 2004. Story here. I was in a car crash in Mexico that sent two friend to the hospital. (Writing story as part of my book, and was passed out when two friends drove a car into a tree and seriously damaged it and themselves. (Not in the car, but would have been had I been awake)

2. I have been trying to gain weight since I was 12 years old, but nothing seems to work. One time tin NYC I would eat a pint of Ice Cream and some donuts every night before bed for a few weeks. Nothing.

3. I played football in high school. Every year except my senior year. I was a strong/free safety. I was too small but hit like a truck. I loved the feeling of hitting someone without any fear.

4. I played Clarinet and saxophone as a kid and loved gymnastics. Broke my arm on the high bar in 8th grade. Stopped doing all of that when it wasn’t cool anymore= High School.

5. Vegetarian Sushi and Vegetable tempura Ramen or Udon is my favorite meal. I eat it once a week.

A short conversation with...Karl Fisch @karlfisch

Karl Fisch

How long have you been teaching?

23 years

Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?

Yes. When I began I taught fairly similarly to the way I was taught, with perhaps a little more humor - but otherwise, pretty similar. I think I was a decent “traditional” math teacher. (And I don’t equate “traditional” with bad necessarily, it’s just the easiest way to describe it.) But when I started teaching was when the NCTM Standards were first gaining traction and I fairly quickly started changing my instruction to a somewhat more constructivist approach. (Note: true constructivist teachers would laugh at how far away I was/am from a constructivist approach, but it was/is at least trending in that direction). I then transitioned into a part time math teacher/part time tech guy, and then went full time technology coordinator in my high school for 14 or so years. Then, due to budget cuts, I picked up one section of Algebra this year (in addition to my tech duties) and I’m trying to implement much of what I’ve learned/thought about over the last 14 years.

How did the video “Did You Know” come about?

You can read through a few blog posts to learn more, but the sort-of “short” version is that through some grants I had written we had started some staff development efforts at my building around technology and 21st century learning (before that was a buzzword). We were having some really great conversations in my building, and I was reading many books and blogs that were contributing to my thinking. I then went to two conferences, TIE (which is our statewide ed tech conference in Colorado) and for the first time NECC (now ISTE), where I saw many amazing and motivational speakers.

So by August of 2006 I had a ton of ideas swirling around in my head and my administration asked if I wanted to speak at a faculty meeting at the beginning of the year. This is something I’ve done before where I update folks on the tech in the building, but this time I really wanted to have a conversation around all these ideas. Unfortunately, a faculty meeting - especially one a few days before the kids arrive - is a horrible place to have a conversation, so I almost said no. But instead I asked for the weekend to think about it and then went home and created the original Did You Know? that weekend.

Normally I would say showing a PowerPoint in a faculty meeting, with no discussion, is the worst pedagogical technique known to mankind. But my hope was that it would be thought-provoking enough that the conversations would occur outside of the faculty meeting. Turns out I was right.

Has the popularity of that video series impact your “educational life” in any way?

Well, in some ways yes, in others, no. Certainly it has given me my 15 minutes of fame, and that has led to some opportunities to go to other schools/districts and lead some professional development around all these ideas that we’ve been talking about online. And it’s certainly increased the amount of email I get!

But in other ways, no. In my building I’m still the same guy, and I’m still responsible for the same things, and - at the end of the day - it’s still about trying to meet the needs of our students. As it should be.

What's the best advice you have received as a teacher (or can give to a new teacher)?

Best? Yikes. I guess two things. First, that it’s not about you (as the teacher) - it’s about the kids. That sounds cliche, but it’s true. We are part of it, certainly, I don’t want to minimize our role, but I fear that too often we make decisions that are best for the adults without realizing their impact on the kids. Second, something I’ve said for a long time but I honestly can’t recall if I heard it from Chris Lehmann first or someone else, but that when I asked what I teach I try not to answer “I teach math” anymore but, instead, say “I teach students” or “I teach students mathematics.” I think the distinction is more than just semantic.

Karl blogs here

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Terry Fox: The best example of determination and intrinsic motivation I know.

If you want to know about intrinsic motivation, just look at Terry Fox. He had an idea: He wanted to raise money for cancer research by running across Canada. He would do it by running a marathon a day. He would do it on one real leg and one artificial leg. He was not paid. All donations went to cancer research. In the end he ran 3339 miles in 143 days and had to stop; His cancer had returned.

He did not have a special skill. He was not a stand out athlete. It was his determination, his intrinsic motivation that inspired a nation. He is a Canadian Hero.

A short conversation with...Nancy Hniedziejko @NancyTeaches

Nancy Hniedziejko

How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been teaching for 29 years! I’ve taught everything from four year olds through the college level. I’m a teacher that loves to learn.

Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
Absolutely! In the beginning I relied on teacher’s guides and I felt I had to follow every prescription. Now, I follow my students’ lead and incorporate as much project based learning and technology as I can.

Has Twitter and #elemchat played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?
When I was at my most frustrated point and considered leaving teaching I discovered Twitter. Through my PLN, I was rejuvenated and inspired to learn again. It was as if I were a new teacher again. I am forever grateful to Twitter!

As for #elemchat, with the team of moderators, we founded and continue to moderate the weekly #elemchat. Collaboratively, we help each other (and hopefully others) strive to be the best educators we can be as well as share experiences, techniques and resources. Each week the #elemchat keeps all of us working to continue to grow as educators.

I really enjoy your blog. How do you come up with ideas for posts and does it help you with your teaching?
Twitter led me to blogging. I recently passed my one year anniversary. In this past year I found that blogging helped me grow as a teacher. Slowly, I found my voice and developed more confidence about sharing my passion and opinions about a variety of issues. It is a venue for me to reflect and share my teaching adventures. My posts are usually from a combination of experiences or a specific event that happens during my day. Sometimes when I read another blog, it will inspire me to write. Nothing makes me happier than when someone writes a comment or tweets my post.

(I”m glad you like my blog!)

Nancy Blogs here

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Love is Louder - National Bullying Week

Seth Godin on intrinsic and extrinsic motivators at work

The following is an excerpt from Seth Godin's book Linchpin.

What's in it for me?

Author Richard Florida polled twenty thousand creative professionals and gave them a choice of thirty-eight factors that motivated them to do their best at work.

The top ten, ranked in order:

1. Challenge and responsibility

2. Flexibility

3. A stable work environment

4. Money

5. Professional development

6. Peer recognition

7. Stimulating colleagues and bosses

8. Exciting job content

9. Organizational culture

10. Location and community

Only one of these is a clearly extrinsic motivator (#4, money). The rest are either things we do for ourselves or things that we value because of who we are.

The interesting thing about money is that there's no easy way for an employee to make it increase, at least not in the short term. Most of the other elements, though, can go through the roof as a result of our behavior, contributions, attitudes, and gifts.

And yet, cynical management acts like a factory, figuring that the only motivators are cash and freedom from scolding.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A short conversation with...Tyler Rice @MrTRice_Science

Tyler Rice

How long have you been teaching?

6 years

Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?

Yes and no. I’ve always believed in patience, caring and student-centered instruction. I’ve always adhered to the importance of inquiry in all content areas, not just science. I’ve always wanted to integrate technology into my instruction.

I think the biggest change has been the move towards project based learning. Although I had some vague understanding of this concept early on in my career, I still felt like I had to do a lot of those “teacher things” like lecturing and giving big tests.

Another big change has been the evolution of my beliefs and practices about assessment. Early on in my career, I had little idea that there were other options out there besides just giving kids grades and using grades to reward the behaviors I wanted and to punish those that I didn’t. I knew I wanted to move to portfolio based assessment eventually but couldn’t see how that would reconcile with my traditional experiences with evaluation. It wasn’t until the last 2 or 3 years that this really changed for me. I have people like Alfie Kohn, Sir Ken Robinson, Dan Pink and Joe Bower to thank for that.

Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?

Absolutely. I have been exposed to so many new ideas and practices through Twitter that it’s hard to remember what I got from Twitter and what I came across via other avenues. Twitter has also led me to outstanding blogs that I have learned a lot from. Finally, Twitter and blogging have given me an outlet for my educational voice. The affirmations that I have received via Twitter and blogging have helped me to become more confident and secure in my educational philosophy. I work in a very small school with mostly very old-school colleagues. I really didn’t realize how many like minded people were out there prior to Twitter.

Can you share a few thoughts about how you use Project Based Learning in your classroom?

My use of Project Based Learning is constantly evolving. That being said, I am confident that I’ve hit on a great model and just need to get better at it. My students experience science via an inquiry based, real world oriented context that I feel is ideal.

In a nutshell, my students learn science content in the context of projects. These projects involve a significant amount of choice and inquiry. Although I teach some lessons and facilitate certain learning experiences (we call them milestones) along the way, the project is theirs. I try to deliver the content that they need when they need it. Ideally, each project culminates with some sort of presentation or performance for an audience. This increases effort and engagement dramatically. After each project, we reflect on the project and they evaluate themselves. Unless I feel the grade they’ve given themselves is way out of line, they get the grade they claim.

Although I think Project Based Learning is absolutely the right way to go, I am still learning how to facilitate it effectively. I feel that I get better at it with each and every project that my students tackle. Three things about Project Based Learning that are important to get across to many teachers are: 1. CONTENT DEPTH OVER BREADTH: there are certain concepts that my students will not be exposed to in my classroom. I’m okay with that. Some teachers are not. 2. STUDENTS WILL LEARN A LOT OF CONTENT within the context of a well designed project - they just won’t all learn the SAME content. 3. YOU HAVE TO DIVE IN AND DO IT! You have to accept that some of your projects will bomb. You have to learn from every project, good or bad, and move on to the next project.

Tyler blogs here

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A short conversation with...M.E. Steele-Pierce @steelepierce

M.E Steele-Pierce

How long have you been teaching?
Since 1984, first teaching teenagers and, later, adults. I believe that good leadership is teaching. One of my favorite quotations is from James MacGregor Burns:
“Leaders shape and alter and elevate the motives and values and goals of followers through the vital teaching role of leadership.”

Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
That’s a wonderful question. When I was teaching high school English I learned that when I was able to give up having to control the class, the best teaching and learning occurred. I didn’t need to be the one driving discussion of a short story or novel, aiming for a pre-determined answer, for the conversation and thinking to be rich. That said, I believe it’s my responsibility to offer some direct instruction with modeling, guidelines, and parameters, then release the responsibility to the learner. (“I do it. We do it. You do it.”)

Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?
Oh yes. You’ve heard this over and over, I’m sure. I’ve learned more in my 22 months on Twitter—thanks to a robust Learning Network—than in years of other traditional classes and workshops. Social media can really change the shape of learning. I believe that the best adult learning is personal, social, and voluntary.

What's the best advice you have received as a teacher (or can give to a new teacher)?
Don’t be embarrassed to “not know.” I’d advise new teachers (all teachers, really) to find an area of passion and follow it and to find a source of connected learning to help build a support network. That can be a Ning like the Educator’s PLN or the English Companion, a great blog like The Daring Librarian, or a social media site like Twitter. Work with a digital-savvy mentor to learn the ins-and-outs of navigating this new kind of knowledge creation.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

My 100th Post: My Teacher Checklist

1. When students ask me for something, am I saying “no” for a good reason or because it is automatic and I don’t question why I say it anymore?

2. Do I ask as many students as I can what they did the night before or what they ate for lunch to help build relationships?

3. Do I ask them in a respectful way when I want them to do something or just give orders?

4. Do I threaten them with a consequence when they don’t do what I ask or do I have a conversation with them to find out the problem?

5. Do I reward them with a treat when they do what I want or do I celebrate with the class unconditionally. (Ex. Having a pizza party with no strings attached)

6. Do I teach them about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?

7. Do I ask their opinion and accept their input about the physical set up of the class or do I set up the class?

8. Do I offer students a choice on how to meet a learning outcome or does everybody do the same thing?

9. Am I patient?

10. Is my classroom competitive or is it set up for collaboration?

11. Do I know what my students do for fun?

12. Do I know what they are good at outside of school?

13. Do I know how many brothers and sisters they have?

14. Am I meeting the needs of my students every day?-->> Survival, Fun, Freedom, Belonging, Success.

15. Am I recognizing the strength of each student instead of just a few with awards?

16. Am I informing the parents of my students with good news about their child?

Is Twitter and blogging all about narcissism?

Is Twitter and blogging all about narcissism? I came across a couple of “regular” blogs today that were not education related. I did not know the people. They wrote about their lives and I thought it was boring. I thought it was what people who do not blog or tweet think about these tools: narcissistic. This got me thinking. Is what we (educators) write perceived the same way? I definitely think it is perceived that way by some. I lose about 20 followers a week. However, I gain a little more than I lose. Even if I lost more than I gained I would keep writing what I believed in. We have to put our ideas out there so that we can be challenged and grow. It’s not about popularity but, as Tom Whitby once told me, the value we add to the conversation. Indeed, from the outside it all seems a little narcissistic; However, once you find what you are looking by defining your purpose for blogging and tweeting, those feelings go out the door and the learning happens.

Friday, April 1, 2011

10 pictures of my school: My "10 Picture Tour"

Cale Birk called on educators to take 10 pictures of their school so that "we will learn a little bit about what your learning environment looks like." Here is my submission.

Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada with Frobisher bay in the background.

The Inuksuk and sign at the front of our school.

Front entrance to the open area. Qayaq on the wall.

Our open area. Table Tennis is very popular.

Very old Ski-doo in our open area. Students use it for sitting.

Student art work.

Trophy case.

Library upstairs from vantage point of hall way.

Qamutiq (sled) in shop hallway. It is getting a few repairs.

Pictures of elders.

Soapstone sculpture at front entrance to the open area.

Upstairs Mural