The Expectations are … DAUNTING.

You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.

~Pat Schroeder

Thanks to Pixabay for the Public Domain photo!

Thanks to Pixabay for the Public Domain photo!

A few weeks ago, a good friend, (and colleague), mentioned to me that she had FOMO. To be honest with you, I was not familiar with that acronym and neither was my nineteen year old son. I actually had to google it, (not the first time, not the last, I am certain). Fear of missing out.

Now, she was relating this to the feeling of being relatively new to Twitter. I remember once, when I first began my love affair with Twitter several years ago, that someone said it was like “learning to drink from a firehose”. How true this is. What an AMAZING learning opportunity. A PLN that spans the globe. A chance to be a fly on the wall in the classrooms and learning spaces of everyone you follow. Wow. And, to be honest, it is EASY to walk away feeling like you are not doing enough, trying enough, incorporating enough, etc., into your own classroom.

I am a life long learner. My husband, many years ago, affectionately labeled me a “LERD”. Not REALLY an acronym … but … an absolutely fitting description of me. I am a learning nerd. I probably shouldn’t admit this publicly, but I begin each day over a bowl of porridge … and … TWITTER. You don’t need to know how I end my day. I am sure you can guess.

Luckily, I am pretty good at prioritizing. Age, I guess, has taught me that. That, and teaching for over thirty years. But, I get it. I completely understand FOMO. It took me a long time to learn to pick and choose my own personalized learning adventures. Don’t get me wrong. I read the most amazing links, daily, and frequently think, “wow, I’d love to try that with my students” or “gosh … I’ve got to pick that book up for some deeper professional reading on this topic”.

But, all these things don’t keep me awake at night. I am moving forward. I am not the teacher I was when I first began. That is growth in the right direction.

What keeps me up at night? My students. (Well, that … and my OWN kids … sometimes!!!) What am I thinking about? The list is long.

  • Be the kind of teacher you would want for your OWN children.
  • Meet your students where they’re at and PERSONALIZE their learning.
  • Build relationships of trust and respect.
  • Student A needs extra support with reading/writing/math/confidence … are you giving them everything they need?
  • Create a learning environment that is engaging, FUN … yes … I said fun … but at the SAME time … ugh … RIGOROUS, (yes, I said the “R” word).
  • Help them LOVE learning.

I worry that I’m not giving them enough. That I’m not giving each of them everything they need AND deserve. How can I help student A while I’m working with student B, or C or D? Am I letting anyone fall through the cracks? (One of my WORST fears.) Sometimes it feels like there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything I need and WANT to do for my young learners.

Sometimes the expectations are daunting.

Whose expectations ARE they?

Well, they’re … MINE.

Sometimes I can be my OWN worst enemy! For now and, I suspect, always, I practice. Practice mindfulness … and … acceptance that I do my personal best, each and EVERY day to be the kind of teacher my students deserve. The kind of teacher I would have wanted for my OWN children.

Thanks to Pixabay for the Public Domain photo!

Thanks to Pixabay for the Public Domain photo!

That the birds of worry and care fly over you head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.

~Chinese Proverb

I am working hard to prevent bird’s nest in my hair! Now … bedhead? I can’t promise that!

I wonder:

  • How do you manage to shut your brain off in the wee hours of the morning, when your head is filled with thoughts about how to be the best for the students in your care?
  • How do you measure up against your own worst enemy – you?

We ALL Do It … But HOW Do You EXPLAIN It to an EIGHT Year Old?

You were born an original. Don’t die a copy.

~John Mason

Thanks to Pixabay for the Public Domain photo!

Thanks to Pixabay for the Public Domain photo!

I’ve just finished my first round of Learning Conferences. Actually, it’s hard for me to believe the summer is already THAT far behind us. I always LOVE this opportunity to sit down with families …  to get to know a little more about each of their precious children through THEIR eyes.

The wonderful thing about teaching in a community school is the chance to occasionally begin the year with an already established relationship after teaching many siblings in previous years. Watching these children grow, sometimes out of diapers, and suddenly greet you, one day, with their excited “ready for grade three eyes” is a blessing. I love the new relationships with new families as well … especially when there are younger siblings because, well, the circle begins again!

Every so often, you’ll encounter a child, sitting across from you during Learning Conferences with his or her parents … and a sibling you have been blessed to teach in the past. Their skills aren’t always the same … neither are their personalities. They’re not SUPPOSED to be. Although you can see the “twinkles” BEHIND the eyes, somehow you can ALSO detect the lack of confidence … the belief that they feel “less than” their brother or sister sitting beside them. It doesn’t MATTER to THEM that these siblings are one or two or FOUR years older than they are. OR even that they are different people. At SOME point in their early journey they have deemed themselves LESS than. Maybe they don’t READ as well. Or, maybe they can’t SPELL like their older sibling. MAYBE they don’t think mathematically like the ones they look up to.

Thanks to Pixabay for the Public Domain photo!

Thanks to Pixabay for the Public Domain photo!

It breaks my heart. I get it. We ALL do it. Sometimes it takes us YEARS to figure out that we EACH bring special gifts to the world. As a society we work SO hard to raise our children to be healthy, confident adults and I’m always still SO surprised at how poorly we seem to do despite our best efforts.

How do you explain all this to an EIGHT year old? Well, you can’t, really … not in so many words. You can love them, you can support them, you can help them find their strengths and passions … you can be a cheerleader in their corner. You can invite wonder and curiosity into their lives and you can help them to BELIEVE in THEMSELVES. I want to scoop this child into my arms and say:

“You know what you’re better at than your sister, your brother, your friend, your mom, your dad … your “fill in the blank”?

YOU are better at being YOU!”

This is when the serendipity, (one of my most FAVOURITE words), comes in. Because, on THURSDAY morning … the day I BEGAN my Learning Conferences, one of my amazing twitter PLN members shared one of my most CHERISHED TedTalks:

Thank you Patrick Johner, because your tweet was MEANT to be. It was serendipitous!

For now, I will do EVERYTHING in my POWER to help EACH of my learners discover their strengths … the unique gifts they bring to the world. I will help them to BELIEVE in themselves. To celebrate their uniqueness and EMBRACE it!

When you dance to your own rhythm,
Life taps its toes to your beat.
~Terri Guillemets

Learning to Dance in the Rain

Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated. 


Heart in Bragg Creek

A heart … sitting propped up … on the riverbank in Bragg Creek.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass …it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

~Vivian Greene

It’s been a rough journey lately. Within the span of one month, we’ve lost both my husband’s mother and father. Both such amazing people. Such beautiful people. Their loss leaves such a deep emptiness. Over time we know, from too much experience, that this emptiness and sadness, the pain of letting them go, will begin to be filled with the remembrances of special times. The tears will flow less frequently and the happy memories will replace the aching sorrow. For now, it’s about learning to dance in the rain again. 

We were lucky with Joyce. We spent days reliving special memories, telling stories, sometimes sitting in silence together, holding hands, crying, laughing, celebrating our lives together. With Brian, it was not so easy. Since Christmas, his dementia had progressed rapidly. And, although we spent our moments together reliving special times, telling stories, sometimes sitting in silence, holding his hand and stroking his forehead, laughing and crying and celebrating our lives together, we honestly don’t know how much of those moments he was able to process. Dementia. I will never understand how this disease can rob some people of their kindness … their gentleness … their inner beauty.

I will never be able to remove the memory of my beautiful, gentle husband fiercely hugging his mother, days before she was to pass, sobbing in her arms. He begged her to tell dad to not be mad at him anymore. While we all understand that it was the dementia that made him so volatile and angry, somehow it just doesn’t soften the pain and confusion. I hope, with all my heart, that he left this world knowing just how incredibly loved he was. I hope that my incredible husband knows how deeply he was loved by BOTH his parents … even THROUGH the confusion and the debilitating dementia.

I am so thankful that we got the CRAZY idea to “break them out” of the hospitals they were both in this past Christmas in order to be together as a family. Somehow we just knew in our hearts that this would be our last with them:

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 10.44.59 AM

I will NEVER forget the two of them sitting together on our couch. Holding hands. Staring into one another’s eyes. It still brings tears to my eyes.

Holding hands at Christmas. So much emotion. So much love.

Holding hands at Christmas. So much emotion. So much love.

So now, as we learn to cope with their losses FAR too close together, we find peace in nature, the family that surrounds us and in the world beyond.

Even in ROCKY terrain there is life. Bragg Creek flower finding its way amid the rocky struggle.

Even in ROCKY terrain there is life. Bragg Creek flower finding its way amid the rocky struggle.

I am so thankful for so very much. I am thankful for the life I share with the amazing man they brought into this world. So thankful for the beautiful boys we have raised together who are growing into such beautiful men. They have learned the importance of giving comfort, even when they FEEL discomfort. Saying goodbye is such a painful lesson to learn. I’m SO thankful for the way these two incredible people embraced me and welcomed me into their family like a daughter. So thankful for the laughs we’ve shared and the memories we’ve made together as a family. So unbelievably thankful that we were able to spend their last moments together as they moved beyond this world. So sad but so grateful. They blessed our lives. It is for them that we learn to dance again … even in the rain.

Even in the dark there is light. Bragg Creek rock peeking out of the darkness and finding the sun.

Even in the dark there is light. Bragg Creek rock peeking out of the darkness and finding the sun.

Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.

~Albert Einstein

Lost and SOON to be Found!

Wisdom BEGINS in Wonder


One typical morning, nearly three weeks ago, I sat at the dining room table eating my porridge prior to heading off to work … while checking my twitter feed and emptying the spam from our much loved classroom blog. A highly satisfying routine, often filled with the discovery of a new and exciting comment left on the blog for my curious third graders. It seemed like such an ordinary start to the day.


In hindsight, and after copious emails, heat tickets, queries from my passionate and curious learners, and … yes … tears, (largely mine), when I arrived at school, less than 45 minutes after deleting our spam from the classroom blog, THIS is when the foreshadowing horror movie sound track SHOULD have begun. A warning. A signal that all is NOT well … and, well, cover your eyes!

Now, this classroom blog has ALWAYS been lovingly called “The Little Blog that COULD” because it began as a pilot project after seeing the POSSIBILITIES. I joined twitter at the encouragement of someone I HIGHLY respected, knowing that Tannis would NEVER steer me in the wrong direction. Together, we discovered that classrooms around the WORLD had been blogging with their students for YEARS. After investigating SEVERAL, we were CONVINCED of the powerful learning that could occur if we were ENTRUSTED to flatten the walls of our classroom and learn with a GLOBAL audience. We WERE granted permission to pilot … and … Global Grade 3: Learning Beyond Classroom Walls was born.

It’s been FOUR years now. Each year, the blog has taken on a life of its own … changing EACH September with each new group of Grade Three students. THAT’S a GOOD thing. Although it began as a way of sharing our collaborative work with Mosqoy, helping to build a library in a tiny, very, VERY poor weaving village in the Andes Mountains of Peru … it needed to be personalized and meaningful to each new group of spirited, curious learners arriving at the door to their new classroom at the start of the school year. Fresh starts ALL the way around!


It’s been THREE weeks since our blog fell off the face of the earth. EVERY day someone asks, hopefully, if it’s back online. It’s funny … in a STRANGE sort of way … not laughable in the LEAST. I miss it. WE miss it. Yes … the learning has continued. The WORK has continued. But, SOME how, we ALL feel that something is missing from our journey each day. The contact with the OUTSIDE world. The ability to share our WONDERS and our AH HAs with our families and followers BEYOND our classroom walls.

Luckily, we have OTHERS who believe in “The Little Blog that COULD” … and … we have PERSEVERED. After all … withOUT that perseverance … Global Grade 3 would have ONLY remained a DREAM … a hope … a wish for more … but NOT a reality … right from the VERY beginning. This blog, and my learners and I, have TWO of the MOST amazing Fairy Blog Fathers. While Global Grade 3 remains OFF line, archives currently UNavailable to me because I am not the owner of the multi-user site, our two AMAZING Fairy Blog Fathers have FOUND a way to locate the archives and uncover our MISSING blog in the LOST and, now, SOON to be found!

Connected, Engaged, Inspired = GLOBAL Citizens.

I BELIEVE in the power of a FLAT class … transparent learning … wondering … discovering … connecting … LIFE LONG learning. We are SO excited that THIS part of our learning journey WILL begin again … very, VERY soon! I think EVERYONE needs at LEAST one or two Fairy Blog Fathers in their lives! THANK you, Fairy Blog Fathers! Move OVER, Fairy Godmothers … these two have the skills AND the passion to take OVER the world!

It’s TIME to cue the HAPPY ENDING sound track!

“In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

– Eric Hoffer

Math … the BEAUTY of MAKING Meaning.

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”

~Albert Einstein

The "New" math seems to be an "elephant in the room" for many people. To me, it is a BEAUTIFUL thing.

The “New” math seems to be an “elephant in the room” for many people. To me, it is a BEAUTIFUL thing.

As a kid, math seemed like a foreign language to me. I remember being mystified … and NOT in a GOOD way … about the concept of fractions. And, quite frankly, my mastery of basic facts was shoddy. Although that was YEARS ago, those helpless feelings remain vivid in my memory. It’s funny. Who would have EVER thought that I would grow to LOVE something SO much when it all seemed so ELUSIVE to me as a child?

I’ve had the blessing of being a teacher for almost thirty years now. WHERE did THAT time go?!? Over the span of nearly three decades, I’ve worked with children who are just as stymied and fearful of math as I was … and … OTHERS who just have a SENSE, an AMAZING understanding, of how to make numbers work for THEM. That ability to see patterns and RIP numbers apart. And, what’s MORE, the confidence in themselves to persevere UNTIL they have found their way around a problem to arrive at a suitable solution.

While I don’t profess to understand HOW that happens, I DO know that the “new”, but really NOT so new, discovery-based method of exploring mathematical concepts IS a BLESSING. The beauty of math is the ability to seek and discover patterns. It is a magical way of making sense. And … if you DON’T understand the “formula” or “algorithm” in the FIRST place … it is NEVER going to be a logical way of thinking for you, for me … for our children.

I don’t remember being exposed to the freedom to play with numbers … or problems, for that matter, as a child. The beauty of the “new, not so new” way of learning math, through discovery and multiple perspectives in arriving at solutions, is the flexibility in thinking. There is often more than one way to find your answer. Sometimes the path is long and winding … sometimes it is efficient. If you don’t understand the “reasoning” behind short and efficient … then you are NOT in control of your thinking. The ability to make PERSONAL sense … the idea that a little struggle, making mistakes, understanding and explaining your thought process … IS a good thing because it EMPOWERS our learners as thinkers who UNDERSTAND the process with OR without the “formula”.

This “new” way of looking at math doesn’t mean that the foundational skills are thrown out, like the baby with the bath water. Those foundational skills are CRITICAL and provide the confidence we ALL need in order to be able to effectively approach “mental math” by ripping numbers apart in our heads. I will be forever grateful to my Grandparents, who spent an entire summer working with me to master my “basic facts”. That, in itself, helped to “open the mathematical door” just a crack. Teaching helped to throw the door WIDE open! While it sounds like SUCH a trivial thing, I am TERRIBLY proud of the fact that I no longer rely on my CALCULATOR to tally the monthly book orders! What I know AND understand about numbers, patterns, rounding and calculating has made me COMPLETELY self-sufficient in this area!

I’m not deluded enough to think that ALL my students will become mathematicians. But, I am hopeful that they learn to love the “process”. Sharing their thinking with others, being exposed to a variety of methods for arriving at a solution … from using concrete manipulatives, to drawing pictures, to making tables or T-charts or solving it in the “traditional” style with an equation … these experiences ALL help us to “make meaning”.

“You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way.”

~Marvin Minsky

My BIGGEST dream? That my seven and eight year old wonders no longer SEE themselves, at SUCH a young age, as “no good in math”.

“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it

than we do from learning the answer itself.”

~Lloyd Alexander

Talking About Autism

“I am different, not less.”
Temple Grandin

Ian's Walk: a Story About Autism  by Laurie Lears

Ian’s Walk: a Story About Autism by Laurie Lears

It was after gym. We stood in the hallway, taking a drink break. Faces hot and sweaty after an amazing workout. A sweet young man walked past the group with his assistant. I could visibly see the looks on some of my young students’ faces changing. Some curious. Some staring. And … some openly asking. “What’s wrong with him?” “Why is he making those sounds?” “What is he doing?”

Their faces took me back, into the long ago past, when, as a young teen I FELT those same stares and unspoken questions continually with my brother. You see, my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumour when he was twelve. Back then, surgery was MUCH different, and the radiation treatments MUCH more invasive. He lost ALL of his hair and his shunt was visible to anyone who looked. Most people did. Some secretly, others much more obviously. His toupee, an attempt to help him feel “normal” and “blend in”, actually served to make him stand out more. Like the radiation treatments, toupee creation was not as advanced as it is today.

Who KNEW this tiny bundle would teach my family SO many life lessons?

Who KNEW this tiny bundle would teach my family SO many life lessons?

The stares made me feel uncomfortable. As a child, myself, I didn’t understand. I can’t even BEGIN to imagine how it made my beautiful brother feel, although now, with some age, experience and understanding, I see that many people are uncomfortable with “different”. Children are curious. MOST don’t mean to be hurtful. They are learning about the world. Some, on the other hand, are maybe scared and they react with actions that ARE hurtful.

The day I watched my brother, surrounded by a bunch of “classmates” in his Junior High School hallway, trying to catch the toupee they had ripped off his head and were tossing around in a mock game of “Pig in the Middle”, will FOREVER be etched in my memory. It STILL makes me sick to my stomach. Luckily, the majority of us are JUST curious.

Michael, recovering after his THIRD surgery. We were lucky to have had him as long as we did. He taught me SO much about perseverance and spirit.

Michael, recovering after his THIRD surgery. We were lucky to have had him as long as we did. He taught me SO much about perseverance, spirit and LIVING.

My life with my brother is a HUGE part of who I am today. Maybe THAT’S why I walk through life believing that knowledge IS power. Understanding is KEY. I think that Temple Grandin said it best when she said, “I am different, not less.”

And so, rather than sweeping it under the carpet and choosing to ignore the curious looks and the openly asked questions, my students and I talked. And read. And talked. And … asked MORE questions. This time, though, the questions were even more insightful … an attempt to FURTHER deepen their own seven and eight year old understandings.

Looking After Louis by Lesley Ely

Looking After Louis by Lesley Ely

Our Wonder Wall has begun to grow. Some students talked about their OWN personal experiences with cousins. We now have seven or eight AMAZING questions that will require our further investigation. If they ASK, we WILL talk. We’ll talk even if they DON’T ask! Francis Bacon is right: “Knowledge IS Power.” Understanding takes us BEYOND tolerance and into ACCEPTANCE.

We are ALL unique. We are ALL different. Some of us are good in Math. Some are not. Some find spelling easy. Some do not. Some are shy. Some are not. Some wear glasses. Others do not. Some flap their hands when they are excited or overwhelmed. Others do not. Some have words to express themselves. Others make sounds because they do not have the words. Some like broccoli … MANY do not.

The ONE thing we DO have in common is that we ALL need to feel loved. To be understood. To feel accepted. After all … we ARE all “different”. NOT more. NOT less. Just different. And … that’s … OKAY.

“It is time for (us) to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” 

― Maya Angelou

Amateur Fossil Hunting

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

— Albert Einstein

Trent River, Vancouver Island - full of magic and mystery.

Trent River, Vancouver Island – full of magic and mystery.

I was blessed to spend an entire day, with my parents, in a place with such beauty … searching for keys to the past. Last year was our very first fossil hunting experience together; an amazing surprise my father had “pulled out of a hat” prior to our Vancouver Island visit with them in August. He knew how much I enjoyed searching for rocks and fossils … and it was an experience that ignited excitement in BOTH of us! Since that amazing day, last August, my Dad has spent hours researching NEW and exciting places to explore … frequently dragging my Mom along with him! Now, I KNOW that this is probably quite LOW on her scale of “things I love to do”, but I know for a FACT that my Mom would do ANYTHING for the two of us … including trekking deep into a river canyon, sitting patiently on rocks while we hunt and pick, handing the “tools of the trade” to us when we discover a “concretion” tucked safely in the shale … yup … she LOVES us!

My Mom is a REAL trooper!

My Mom is a REAL trooper!

Many of the concretions we discovered held very little “concrete” evidence of the life encased within … unless you knew, like we did, that each concretion is the result of a living creature that died and, as it decayed, a chemical reaction occurred to create the special “mud balls” we were finding. *Don’t laugh. That’s about as “scientific” as I can get with THAT explanation!

Once you know what to look for, spotting concretions is the EASY part.

Once you know what to look for, spotting concretions is the EASY part.

It doesn’t take long to figure out what you’re looking for. We found THIS concretion on the river valley floor. The river was VERY low because of an unusually hot, dry summer. MANY of the concretions we locate are in the shale BANKS of the river … but … you can find them EVERYWHERE once you’ve found the right shale bed formations.

Armed with the proper tools for the job, just about ANYTHING is possible.

Armed with the proper tools for the job, just about ANYTHING is possible.

I can’t explain how exciting it is to “find” a mud ball deeply encased in the earth … but, for me, it is such a magical experience to spot one and begin the process of slowly “freeing” it from its cocoon. Using the chisel and the pick? Well … that’s just PART of the magic. While I DON’T know that I could do this for a LIVING, I DEFINITELY know that it is ONE of the passions that make me tick!

THIS particular concretion had me SO excited! Just LOOK at the striations on the righthand side of it.

THIS particular concretion had me SO excited! Just LOOK at the striations on the righthand side of it.

Earlier this year, while scoping out some future spots for us to dig, my Dad found a couple of OTHER fossils that looked like this. We are speculating that they just MIGHT be BONE! The verdict is out until the professionals take a closer look. One can ALWAYS hope!

MOST concretions yield mud balls like these. They most likely contained a soft bodied animal like a jellyfish or a worm.

MOST concretions yield mud balls like these. They most likely contained a soft bodied animal like a jellyfish or a worm.

But, the find of the YEAR goes to my Dad. Actually, in the two years that we have been doing this together … this is the BEST find EVER:

A PERFECT shell. 85 MILLION years old. UNbelievable!

A PERFECT shell. 85 MILLION years old. UNbelievable!

The day certainly WASN’T without its casualties. My Dad, in his quest to unearth a particularly LARGE concretion, whacked his hand not once but … FIVE times with the hammer. He could NOT be stopped, though, and CONTINUED his hunt for several MORE hours! Finally, after a week of swelling and intense bruising, he went to the doctor to see if anything was broken. Wouldn’t you KNOW it? The doctor sent him away with GOOD news AND another potential spot for NEXT year!

This is WELL over a week of healing. His entire hand and arm was swollen and bruised. I CAN'T believe we didn't get a picture when it was twice this size and in TECHNICOLOUR!

This is WELL over a week of healing. His entire hand and arm was swollen and bruised. I CAN’T believe we didn’t get a picture when it was twice this size and in TECHNICOLOUR!

In the BLINK of an eye, the day was over. The scenery … spectacular. The company … even better. The MEMORIES … will be FOREVER etched in my heart and mind. I cannot WAIT to share these specimens with my new Grade Threes. I cannot WAIT until my NEXT adventure with my amazing parents.



I know, in my SOUL, that I need MORE days like this. Days of low tech … armed only with a camera … spent with family … and MAYBE some fossil hunting tools!

“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.”
— Maori proverb


For some reason, I’ve hit a DRY spell and haven’t written a personal post in MONTHS. I’m not sure why this is. I LOVE to write. Maybe it’s been a bit of the “busy year” syndrome … with lots of changes, things to do and, sadly, not enough hours in the day. Maybe it was feeling like there wasn’t anything I had to say that wasn’t already being expressed well by someone else. Some years are like that. Whatever it is … Jana, you’ve helped me to find my writing voice today. THANK you!

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. And … there are so many ideas rolling around in my head it’s hard to tame them all. So … this ONE time … I give myself permission to write about it all. I can’t promise that it will leave you with ONE concise thought, as you walk away, but I can promise that you’ll walk away knowing me … just a LITTLE more! For better OR for worse. I JUST needed a LITTLE push, a conversation with @stevewclark about his NEW 53 Pencil, a little sharing of our “creations” with these cool tools and some JOYful INSPIRATION from my twitter friend @janaslindsay this morning! PHEW … thank GOODNESS for my AMAZING PLN.

Near the start of summer I FINALLY decided to give “sketchnoting” a try. Inspired by the AMAZING sketchnotes created by @langwitches and @Braddo over the past few years, and after doing some intensive research on my beloved Macbook Pro, I “borrowed” my husband’s iPad while he was at work one day. It was sitting there BEGGING me to “give it a go”! Now, to be fair, BEFORE you groan, I DID ask permission before I added the app!

Together, my husband and I spent that AWESOME Friday night just “mucking” around doodling side by side on the couch … with a Bamboo stylus we’d raced out and picked up, MINUTES before Best Buy was to close, after quickly deciding that if we were SERIOUS about giving it our BEST shot, fingers just WOULDN’T cut it!

Honestly, my goal was NOT to use this app as a drawing tool. My HOPE was to use it as a way to “tame” some of the professional reading I planned to do while off for the summer. My FIRST goal was to “master” printing as BEAUTIFULLY as @langwitches as I documented my learning and processed my thoughts.

This was playing with Bamboo Paper ... setting my goals! Not good ... but ... FUN!

This was playing with Bamboo Paper … setting my goals! Not good … but … FUN!

And THEN it happened. Oh oh. SO much for my “professional reading” and expanding my neuron connections while exploring the latest research in spelling and meta-cognition. Gulp. My need to “create” and “explore” and actually DRAW kicked in. I LOST myself in my art. THANKS, Grandma!

My mentor. My teacher. My inspiration. I miss her SO much. And … EVERY time I sit down and feel a WAVE of creativity hit me I can feel her WITH me even though it’s been TWELVE years since she passed. Spending my summers with her EVERY year from the time I could barely walk until I hit eighteen, I learned SO much from my amazing Grandma … right down to her LOVE of artistic creation.

Almost Done!

My first real attempt at using 53 Paper. It’s not finished … I see lots of things that still require some work. Playing with this app brought me JOY.

Never, in a MILLION years, did I EVER think “I want my OWN iPad” would come out of my mouth. There. I said it. I LOVE my Mac laptop. I’m on it EVERY day. 53 Paper changed that for me. Not only can I use it to document my learning … I can blend my love of sketching and drawing in with it as well. I have MILES to go before I become proficient. But, I can DEFINITELY tell you that they will be JOYful miles!

This is the start of a sketchnote documenting my learning around some reading I'm doing on the brain. I've used 53 Paper with an actual 53 Pencil ... and ... ALREADY I can see growth in my printing skills!

This is the start of a sketchnote documenting my learning around some reading I’m doing on the brain. I’ve used 53 Paper with an actual 53 Pencil … and … ALREADY I can see growth in my printing skills!

I have a LONG way to go. I DO know that 53 Paper, and its little friend Pencil, and I are going to have a LONG love affair. SORRY, Roger! THANK you for SHARING your iPad!

And, Grandma … I KNOW you’re there. You are there in EVERYTHING that I do. THANK you for being such a HUGE part of who I am and always WILL be. Thank you for your guidance, your LOVE and for being the AMAZING woman you were. (P.S. Your Great-Grandson has your passion for drawing TOO!)

The Magic of Math … or … HOW I LOST the Bet!

Math. I remember hating it as a kid. It took actually TEACHING it to have the “lightbulb” turn on for me. I OFTEN tell my students how much I wished I’d learned math the way they get to experience it now. They giggle at that. I LOVE the way we now acknowledge that there are different ways at arriving at an answer and that understanding is key, rather than the memorization of formulas and only using the “teacher’s” strategy for solving math.

I LOVE that math should be a living part of our daily experiences … making meaning, sharing our insights and our personal strategies. When we’re comfortable with ripping numbers apart, because we TRULY understand what they stand for … the door to mental math and confidence begins to open. It’s all about seeing the patterns … and you find math EVERYWHERE. Not just during Math class!

Today, I had an awesome mathematical experience planned for my grade threes. But … we never got there … because … something else even MORE awesome came up “just in conversation”. It involved our classroom blog, which we check every single morning to see how many more HITS we’ve received on the revolver map, since the day before, and if there are any new COUNTRIES to visit.

This Revolver Map has provided us with MANY amazing AND meaningful mathematical experiences!

This Revolver Map has provided us with MANY amazing AND meaningful mathematical experiences!

Some mornings, we use the Revolver Map to count up to the next group of ten, or one hundred … or EVEN the next THOUSAND. Mentally … using what we’ve learned about numbers … in our heads! This morning was a little different. You see, we had a BET … would we reach 20 000 hits by March 7th, or AFTER March 7th.

It began innocently enough! “Can anyone read the 5 digit number on our Revolver Map?” “19 391″Awesome! Hmm. “I wonder how many more hits we need until we get to the next group of a thousand?” “609!” “You BET … how in the WORLD did you figure that out in your head?” “Well, I made 391 into 400 and I knew that 6 more hundreds would take us to the next thousand. But … it’s really 9 more than that because 391 needs 9 more to be 400 so … it has to be 609!” Wow! “You guys are AMAZING! I wonder how many of you still feel like we will REACH that target by March 7th?”

It was interesting to see how they really started to “wonder” … COULD we do it … hmm. Some, including me, guessed yes and SOME guessed NO … not for any REAL reason in particular. And … then … someone said … “I don’t know … that’s like 17 DAYS away!” “How did you figure THAT out?” I LOVED watching the wheels turning. I LOVED listening to the conversations and how this student explained to us that he’d used the calendar. Suddenly, someone piped up … “that means we’re gonna need a WHOLE bunch of hits EACH day!”

We counted 17 tens, using the calendar to keep track. 170. Nope. THAT wasn’t going to work. Not enough. Someone suggested we try by 25s … nope THAT wasn’t going to be enough. What about 100s? No WAY … that was WAY too high! What about 50s? That was WAY too much, TOO! LET’S try 30s! Hmm … not QUITE enough! What about 40? Nope … TOO much! Watching these seven and eight year olds challenge their thinking was truly goosebumpy. After some discussion, someone suggested counting by 35s. Some of us groaned because counting by 35s isn’t as natural as counting by 5s, 10s, 25s or 100s!

We created a chart to keep track … so that we could VISUALIZE what was happening with our numbers as they began to grow. 1 = 35; 2 = 70; 3 = 105 … that all seemed easy enough … we calculated with our partners … we began to rip the numbers apart, (no more “old school” formulas … we were RIPPING the hundreds, tens and ones apart)! 4 = 140 … you get the picture!

Oh my GOODNESS … LOOK at our chart! Does anyone see any PATTERNS? Hey … ALL the numbers in the ONES column end with 0 or 5 … that’s SO cool! Did we see any patterns in the TENS column … nope … not YET! What about the HUNDREDS column? Nope! WAIT … yes we DO! It went 00 111 222 333 444 555 … MAYBE the NEXT hundreds would be 666 … let’s write it down, we can ALWAYS change them if it DOESN’T work out! WOW!

What a MAGICAL moment in learning. A FEW students were even comfortable enough to look at the 3rd day with 35 hits, the 6th day of 35 hits and ACCURATELY calculate what the 9th day with 35 hits would be without doing all the calculations in between!

A look at our blog hits … that’s ALL that it took … to discover MORE number patterns, to rip numbers apart for mental math, to learn more about the passage of time through the calendar, to uncover the magic of a T-chart … AND discover that we  WOULDN’T make 20 000 in 17 days, with 35 hits! But … we’d be very, VERY close and, if some days we had 35 visitors and some days we 36 visitors, it just MIGHT be possible!

WHAT? It’s RECESS? Just WHERE did the time go? Well … that’s a GREAT question for ANOTHER day! I LOVE it when math is lived!

Oh … if you’re WONDERING … I probably DID lose the bet … but … it was WORTH it!

Teacher Burnout


Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow”.

– Mary Anne Radmacher

Stress Reduction Kit

 Flickr Creative Commons Photo by programwitch

There have been a LOT of posts about teacher burnout lately. I mean a LOT. It breaks my heart to read these heart-on-sleeve reflections written by people I admire, people who have inspired me daily since tentatively beginning my twitter journey three years ago.

Teaching is a HARD job. It is, contrary to common public opinion, most definitely NOT a 9 to 3:30 profession … WITH summers off. Evenings aren’t free and, true, often your OWN family takes a second seat.

This summer, I spent several days working on a program I use to share curriculum resources, (links, inspiring tid-bits, etc.), with my students and their families. And … then … the system was “upgraded”. All that hard work was gone … in a FLASH. Early in September, muddling through it in the evenings, after teaching all day, the “frustration” was MOUNTING. I will NEVER forget the moment when my youngest son said, “Mom, I like you WAY better when you’re NOT teaching.” Gulp.

I am 100% certain that I am working harder NOW than I did when I first STARTED teaching … 27 years ago. Somehow, it seems more complex. MUCH of it is self-imposed. I am a perfectionist.

While twitter has been a BLESSING in my life, both professionally AND personally, I am CONTINUALLY pushed. CONTINUALLY learning … for myself AND for my students. I’ve learned to “sip more slowly” from the proverbial “firehose” that twitter can sometimes be. There are a LOT of “should”s, tools I would like to explore, things I want to learn. It is SUCH an exciting time to be a learner … but it can ALSO be VERY hard with only SO many hours in a day.

New policies come in. The curriculum, HUGE as it is, changes. Students with special needs, some you’ve never heard of before, enter your room deserving of EVERYTHING you can give them. The HOURS of personal time spent READING, in order to meet the needs of these learners, of EVERY learner, in your daytime family … so that you can be the BEST you can BE for them. Meetings are frequent, committees and Professional Learning Communities are the norm. IPPs, (IEPs), take special attention and a life of their own. Supervision … an expected duty … trains your bladder in ways that no other profession is capable of. 😉

It’s hard to live in the moment. To enjoy the immediacy of what is happening around you. Yes, if you’re wondering, I’ve read Echert Tolle … and STILL I fight to be “in the now”! Because … so often we’re thinking about where we’ve started and where we need to be. Goal setting, planning … sometimes, no … OFTEN, at 3 am. Some moments are better than others. Some DAYS are better than others. And, if the truth be known … some YEARS are better than others.

What keeps me going? My students, the relationships, and the magic of learning. No two days are EVER the same. I LOVE that I can be a Lead Learner in a classroom FULL of curious eight year olds. They keep me young and excited … even through most tough days. For me, this is ENOUGH … for now.

Balancing Act

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Digitalnative

I am striving for balance. Family time, work time, time for me. In teaching, this is a balancing act that challenges ALL of us. I am STILL learning to prioritize … after ALL this time.

I wish I had more answers. I cross my fingers for ALL those amazing teachers out there, struggling. As Angela Maiers would so powerfully tell you … YOU MATTER.

What DOES it take to be a COMPETENT writer?


Have you ever sat pondering WHY a student who is a strong READER is NOT a strong writer? Competent, yes, but not “functioning” at the SAME level as their reading skills?

Inventing my own letters.

 Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Mikael Wiman

I have. EVERY year, once the year end achievement results are shared with us. If truth be know, this is not a new phenomenon for me … nor for many of us. I have witnessed this gap, time and time again, over the 27 years I have taught.

So … I decided to do some research to see I could find some articles that would help to EXPLAIN the reasons for WHY writing proficiency often developed at a different rate than reading. I was SURPRISED at how LITTLE seemed to be out there.

Like a pit bull on a QUEST, I decided to put the question to my AMAZING Twitter PLN. It took a bit … but … I was rewarded with several inspiring conversations with people around the globe. That’s what I LOVE about my incredible colleagues on twitter!

It was not surprising, but it was also reassuring, to know that I was not the ONLY one looking for answers:

A variety of thoughts were shared:

It’s funny, because OFTEN children begin to “write” LONG before they begin to read. I experienced this with my OWN children. When Heidi began to talk about thinking about it from the perspective of writing computer code, producing, versus reading on your computer, consuming, the “differences” were becoming clearer. I wondered WHY I was finding SO little research on this common phenomenon.

Cristina Milos said something SO profound that, for me, she truly hit the nail on the head:

How true is that? Inspired, really. I am sure that MANY of us are able to enjoy and “read into” an artistic masterpiece. Painting one, on the other hand, is TRULY out of reach for MOST of us. It was through my inspiring twitter conversation with Cristina that I began to refine my search for documentation that would help to explain this gap and why it is COMMON.

If you are interested in reading MORE about this topic … and some of the reasons WHY writing develops differently than reading, here is some of the awesome reading I’VE been doing lately. Truly, if you’ve EVER wondered … these links are worth the time:

It can take DECADES to become a proficient writer. The metacognition involved is FAR more complex than the skills required to become a proficient reader. Most of us NEVER become published authors … and THEY are in a league of their own! The analogy could be likened to becoming a concert pianist, or violinist. The difference between the amateur and the expert … THOUSANDS of hours of practice.

Personally, I believe the ability to write an INCREDIBLE piece of narrative writing comes from YEARS of LIVING … life experience … something that our eight year olds have YET to do. Can we MODEL? You bet. Can we create classrooms FULL of rich opportunities to write for a variety of reasons? ABSOLUTELY. Can we create SAFE and ACCEPTING learning environments where children and adults ALIKE feel secure in their ability to take risks? To be BRAVE? YOU bet.

My mission? To explore the possibilities of “lessening” this gap. Will it be through more research on meta-cognition? Likely! I am the LEAD learner in my classroom … and … I want the best for EACH of my students, no matter WHERE they are on the learning continuum. Wish me luck!

I wonder:

  • Have you experienced this same gap?
  • Have you found specific techniques which help to strengthen our young learners’ abilities to express themselves effectively through writing?
  • Do you know of any research out there that will help me to FURTHER understand and explain WHY this gap is common?

Recharged and Ready to GO!

Take Some Time

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by jessicahtam

UNplugging, to recharge, seems counterintuitive in this “plugged in” world. “Have you seen my phone charger?” or “Better plug the computer back in … it’s down to 5% battery!” are common conversation threads heard in our home. It is RARE for me to be away from my computer … from twitter … from my amazing online PLN … for such an extended period of time. I didn’t think I “needed” this down time, but it is apparent that it was EXACTLY what I needed.


Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Quinn Dombrowski

We’ve been away for the past two weeks, my family and I. I am amazed by what we were able to fit in during those fourteen wondrous days.


Kayaking with my “youngest” – Vancouver Island Magic!

IMG_6153 (1)

Sitting, surrounded by family, watching the sun set over the ocean in awe.

There is something rejuvenating about hanging out by the water. Actually, I don’t TRULY feel like I’ve had a holiday UNLESS I have spent time at the ocean. Don’t ask me how I ended up in Alberta, so FAR away from the ocean I love … life works in MYSTERIOUS ways! Walks on the beach with my Mom … around the neighbourhood … even a trip to Coombs … to see the goats on the roof! Family time. It doesn’t happen OFTEN enough. Once or twice a year … definitely NOT often enough.

There were MANY highlights on this trip. Making cards with my Mom. Searching the beach for special treasures to glue to these cards. And … a SURPRISE trip, through the Courtenay Museum, to hunt for 85 million year old fossils in the shale beds along the Browns River. A dream come true, for me!


Hunting for ammonite fossils on the Browns River on Vancouver Island.


A “mud ball” … tucked safely in the layers of shale … just WAITING to be discovered!

Prior to arriving at my parent’s house, my Dad had been doing some researching. He knew how much I enjoyed rock hounding and discovering various fossils on the beach. Actually, we share the same passion … something I didn’t realize quite to THIS degree! When he discovered this incredible tour and actual fossil digging opportunity, through the Courtenay Museum, he signed us all up immediately! And, what an AMAZING experience it was! Pat Trask, our paleontologist guide, was FANTASTIC! If you are in the Courtenay area … this is an experience that is worth its weight in gold.

Fossil Tours at Courtenay & District Museum from Courtenay & District Museum on Vimeo.

Sitting in the dirt, with a chisel and small hammer, “sifting” through the layers of shale by the river was PURE heaven. I learned SO much through this process and loved every second of it. We managed to find ammonite, animal “trails”, small shrimp claws … how you would “recognize” these tiny fossils without expert support is beyond me! I had NO idea that you wouldn’t find the ammonites tucked nicely between the layers of shale, just ready to be “plucked out”. Instead … our expert guide, Pat, showed us how to locate the “mud balls” pictured above. The shale would just peel away and, with a little persistence and perspiration, you could eventually arrive at something “rounded” in the shale. Easy to see, once you know what you’re looking for! Working carefully to remove the surrounding shale … an entire mud ball would sometimes magically appear.

If you gently hammered on this mud ball, it would crack open … just like a KINDER surprise … sometimes with a tiny, or NOT so tiny in the case of ammonites, fossil hidden away inside. Not all mud balls produced an actual visible fossil. Some were formed around soft tissue animals, which would “dissolve” over time in it’s 85 million year old cocoon, leaving the mud ball behind as evidence of its existence.


A fossil “kinder surprise” for paleontologists!

I didn’t have this rock or fossil passion as a kid. It took teaching the Grade Three Science Curriculum to push me BEYOND gathering up “pretty” rocks … into a HUGE interest in fossils, rock formation, and actually SEARCHING for fossils. I guess it’s NEVER too late to teach an old dog new tricks! The BEST part, aside from spending some WONDERFUL time with my parents, my Dad is ALREADY passionately scoping the area for NEW places to explore NEXT summer! I CAN’T wait!


My Dad … safely on the ground … still searching!

My ONE regret … not being FAST enough with the camera as my Dad clung, spider-like, to a steep shale cliff and uncovered a RARE ammonite that even excited our GUIDE! I hope that image stays as clearly etched in my memory as the true magic of the day!

Yup. UNplugging was JUST what I needed!

Citizenship, Respect and Safety are NOT Lessons to be Checked Off!

“I have no country to fight for: my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world.”

~ Eugene V. Debs

172/365  I Want to See the World

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by martinak15

When we first began our blogging journey with eight year olds, two years ago, a HUGE amount of groundwork was laid prior to our very first post. Looking back, those first building blocks seem SO insurmountable … but … we’ve done it, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it! Learning WITH the world has proven to be a POWERFUL way to personalize and DEEPEN our curiosities.

Prior to beginning this “new” way of learning, we spent a great deal of time exploring other class blogs to see all the “possibilities” and to get a sense of our hopes for our new blog. You see, this was a pilot project – the very first classroom blog in our system. We knew that, if it was going to be a success, we needed to be VERY clear about what success would LOOK like!

As I write this post, I see this process much like the steps needed to build a strong, durable, long-lasting structure. There is the “planning stage” … drafting the vision out; it is an extensive AND intensive process that is necessary to ensure a successful project. Next, there’s the building stage … from the ground up.

The foundation, for us, included extensive thought around how we would keep these young students safe. Because this was a pilot project, we were responsible for drafting a permission form for parents so that they were very clear about the blog being available, online, for all the world to see. Some of the information in this consent form included:

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 2.37.54 PM

Once all consent forms were completed and returned, it was time to begin the process of “getting our feet wet” as a class. This included activating background knowledge to see how many students knew what a blog was. It was no surprise, that first year, to see that only one or two students could explain what a blog was. This was because family members had personal blogs! Gathering this information, as a class, allowed some students to share their personal experiences as we moved toward the unknown.

Within the safety of a classroom setting, we began to explore a variety of educational blogs with our young learners. What did they notice? What did they like? What would they change? These first steps, laying a solid foundation together, proved to be valuable learning experiences. It was exciting to listen to their conversations as they explored, and heartening to hear their critiques and compliments as they surfed through a variety of classroom blogs.

We knew immediately, that our blog would NEED to include a “flag counter” and a revolver map … this was a HUGE hit with our learners. They LOVED the idea of collecting flags from around the world and SEEING who was checking our blog out on the revolver map. The visual nature of these two tools helped to foster greater curiosity about the world we all share.

Digital Citizenship and Freedom

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by John Spencer

Safety, both on AND off line, was ALWAYS at the forefront. Blogging with these students provided authentic discussions, lessons and experiences DAILY. What made these lessons AUTHENTIC was the fact that they were not isolated lessons … they were woven in and through our blogging journey each and EVERY time we engaged in learning online.

Early on in our connected learning, we lost ALL our flags. There was HUGE disappointment with students AND adults alike. When I say “lost”, I mean I had to disable the flag counter widget. I was heart broken … but … at the same time I KNEW that I could not have my eight year olds exposed to the “less than appropriate” advertising that would come up if they “clicked” on this widget to learn more about the countries that were visiting us. I actually DREADED having to go into the classroom on Monday morning to tell these excited students what I had done.

After a few tears, and an AMAZING conversation about WHY … we began to “problem solve” together. They fully understood the importance of safety and the responsibility we ALL shared for being safe and thoughtful bloggers … SUCH amazing eight year olds! In the end, I ended up paying for a yearly subscription to our amazing flag counter. It has been worth EVERY penny to continue our learning AND our safety!

he's got the whole world

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by eren

Introducing your students to learning WITH the world, by FLATTENING your classroom walls, requires on-going thoughtfulness about safety and citizenship. These issues have ALWAYS been a part of classroom life … but … now … it ALSO includes how to be safe and responsible while learning ONLINE. I truly believe that the YOUNGER we begin discussing these issues the more personally responsible decisions our children will make for themselves as they get older.

There are SO many wonderful sites available to support these conversations with our learners:

A Simple Guide


Digital Citizenship Livebinder

Digital Citizenship Development Guide (Alberta Education)

Digital Citizenship Resources

Early Learning in a Digital World

Learning Lab

Social Technology and Digital Citizenship

Student Blogging Guidelines

21st Century Learning and Teaching

More 21st Century Learning and Teaching

UpTo12 Learning

These are just a FEW of the amazing resources out there to support going global. What works best, though, is continual discussion, thoughtfulness and reinforcement of these concepts in and THROUGH your daily learning experiences.

ANY time we’re working with learners, there are opportunities for valuable mini lessons:

  • first names only
  • what personal information IS okay to share?
  • how to respond respectfully to comments left behind on your blog
  • how to LEAVE a respectful comment on ANOTHER blog
  • using someone’s photos and ideas fairly, (creative commons attributions) … yes … even eight year olds understand this!
  • how do you know whether to trust a site’s information or not

These are just a FEW of the possibilities for discussion that come up NATURALLY through your connected learning experiences. The goal is to help our learners develop an effective filter between their ears. We won’t always be with them. They WILL go online when adults aren’t around. These tools are NOT going away. We will CONTINUE to learn with the world … so … the SOONER we start with our children, the BETTER. After all … we want them to be SAFE, THOUGHTFUL global citizens … both on AND offline  … and for GRANDMA to be PROUD!

“The most important thing an institution does is not to prepare a student for a career but for a life as a citizen.”

~ Frank Newman

TRUE Confessions of a “Global Classroom Teacher”!

“It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” 
~ Albert Einstein

What follows are my TRUE confessions as a “global classroom teacher”. Oops … did I say that? I meant “reflections”! Ahh … well … maybe this will be a BIT of BOTH!

I have JUST completed my SECOND year in a “flat classroom”. What does THAT mean, you ask? Well, for the past two years, I have been FORTUNATE enough to have been BLESSED with piloting a classroom blog. It came about innocently enough … as a way of sharing the connection we made, the year prior, with an NGO working in Peru. Along with my partner Tannis Emann, who was taking her Masters, we began to delve into some of the amazing classroom learning being shared through Twitter. Suddenly, it struck us … blogging would be a PERFECT way to share our Grade Three learning journey! True confession #1 … prior to that … I had NEVER given blogging a first OR second thought. Yup, you read that right … we were SHOCKED to discover that people had been blogging with their classrooms for YEARS before we tentatively began to wade into the water. I STILL can’t believe that it took me THIS long to discover the POWER of learning with a global audience once you have flattened your classroom walls.

Connecting and learning with the world = engagement + deep powerful learning.

Connecting and learning with the world = engagement + deep powerful learning.
Photo by Global Grade 3s

True confession #2 … it’s not always easy. This is where the “frogs” that @iEARNUSA talks about come in! Often, you have to eat a  LOT of frogs, as @iEARNUSA so aptly says! There will be problems … Skype connections won’t always work, technology will fail. Sometimes your PEOPLE connections aren’t as reliable as one would hope. These are all FANTASTIC learning opportunities for our students. I like to call it “grace under fire”! That’s not to minimize the frustrations this can create, because these issues can ALL cause angst. But, as Einstein so brilliantly stated, “It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” With persistence, patience, passion, perseverance AND occasional perspiration, the ENTIRE adventure is absolutely worth it. I will NEVER go back to teaching alone within four walls EVER again. There, I said it. I am a complete and TOTAL advocate for blogging with children. I firmly believe that the YOUNGER they start, the SMARTER they will be … responsible, aware, safe GLOBAL citizens with a CLEAR insight into what it means to be a MEANINGFUL member of the GLOBAL community.

There are SO many incredible books out there to help you learn ABOUT the world ... learning WITH the world DEEPENS that learning. Photo by Global Grade 3s

There are SO many incredible books out there to help you learn ABOUT the world … learning WITH the world DEEPENS that learning.
Photo by Global Grade 3s

After all, connecting and learning with a global audience provides both you AND your students with immediate experts in the field … it’s like a global PLN, (professional learning network), for your classroom. Who WOULDN’T want that? This global connection, whether it’s from comments left on your blog, or people you are Skyping with, can push the learning within your classroom deeper than you could have ever imagined.

True confession #3 … it’s OFTEN messy. Learning IS messy. When you pursue student questions, you connect with experts in the field, you learn … and …  INEVITABLY … you walk away with MORE questions. Talk about personalized, meaningful and engaging learning! FURTHER pursing their questions and curiosities is where the passion, enthusiasm for learning, personalization for your students and deeper understanding comes in. It’s a WIN win situation. Again … who WOULDN’T want that?!?

True confession #4 … time will ALWAYS be an issue. For us, it was finding a balance between the prescribed curriculum mandated by our Province AND pursuing, in depth, our inquiries and global “focus”. From the beginning, it was ALSO important for us to model effective skills for replying to our readers … and … this commitment gained us some faithful and INSPIRING readers who OFTEN pushed our learning even DEEPER. You would be RIGHT if you recognized that THIS commitment ALSO took time. This was truly time WELL spent! Surprisingly, although there was amazing learning shared in each of the posts, even DEEPER learning frequently occurred within the comment section through our interactions with readers!

During these two years, my students and I have been TRULY blessed to interact with and learn from the BRILLIANT Ross Mannell. Although a retired teacher, this AMAZING man frequently leaves comments for children on their classroom blogs. When I say comments, this does NOT do them justice. As a matter of fact, Ross has a SPECIAL blog he writes to provide students with EXTENDED comments. IMAGINE my students’ SURPRISE at reading this extended comment … AND receiving a VERY treasured surprise in the mail … all the WAY from AUSTRALIA! Echidnas have nothing what so EVER to do with our curriculum. But, animals and life cycles sure do, and … you should have SEEN the fingers flying on our iPads, as students conducted FURTHER research on our new echidna! The excitement in discovering MORE about our new class pet, Spike, was palpable!

A SURPRISE pet ... all the way from AUSTRALIA! Photo shared by Ross Mannell

A SURPRISE pet … all the way from AUSTRALIA!
Photo shared by Ross Mannell

Although time will always be an issue … many, MANY skills can be woven in and THROUGH each and EVERY global classroom  and blog post experience. For us, having a global audience … an AUTHENTIC audience … increased our skills AND our desire to write. It was THRILLING to see students begin to develop their voices … and slowly gain command of “reeling the reader in”! Although our blog has primarily focused on issues in Social Studies … Ross has helped us to delve even DEEPER into some of our SCIENCE and MATH curriculum. I am SURE that, because of his thoughtful and detailed replies to us, SOME of these bloggers may EVEN become GEOLOGISTS!

Scree samples from New Zealand ... thanks to Ross!

Scree samples from New Zealand … thanks to Ross!

True confession #5 … it is SO worth it. If you haven’t tried blogging with your students … do! I have NEVER looked back. Instead … I look FORWARD, in GREAT anticipation of where this journey will lead us.

It is NEVER too late to connect your classroom globally. Go on ... GIVE it a try! Photo shared by Global Grade 3

It is NEVER too late to connect your classroom globally. Go on … GIVE it a try!
Photo shared by Global Grade 3

I wonder:

  • what is one of the most POWERFUL lessons you’ve learned through blogging with your students?
  • what are some of YOUR true confessions as a result of becoming a “global classroom teacher”?
  • what advice would you give to someone THINKING about flattening the walls of their classroom?

This blog post has been cross-posted on The Global Classroom Project.

What’s MOST Important?

There is a WORLD of possibilities for EACH of us … reach for the STARS!
Photo from Global Grade 3s

I am struggling.

I know the teacher I want to be. I strive to be the kind of teacher I would want for my own children. I am a learner and I know I was born to teach. It is HUGE work but, oddly, I bounce into school each and every day, excited for my next adventures with my amazing Grade Threes. We learn a LOT from one another. I CAN’T imagine a MORE rewarding career.

I am a reader and I am always growing. Why am I struggling? I am torn. I am inspired by all that I read through my UNBELIEVABLE twitter PLN. I see ALL the amazing possibilities. There are just NEVER enough hours in the day to truly accomplish everything I would like to experience with my students.

At this point in the year, I know my learners pretty well. They are my “daytime family”. I know where they are as readers, as writers … how comfortable they are with math … but I know them BEYOND where they are “academically”. We share who WE are … what makes us tick, what EXCITES us, what scares us … we’ve developed trusting relationships.

Still, I’m struggling.

Within my classroom is a wide range of abilities and interests. I see them BEYOND their marks and “current functioning”. Some of us are strong mathematicians. It’s just the way we think. Some of us have the gift for writing and can express our written thoughts with ease. Some are readers … I mean AVID readers who LOVE it. And, some of us are incredibly artistic. Some of us are even lucky enough to have it ALL!

It’s report card time. We don’t all FIT into “reading at level O” at this point in the school year. Developmentally, we’re just NOT ready yet. Maybe reading won’t EVER be a strength … but … there are strengths in OTHER areas. Ugh. I HATE giving 2s. I want to BUILD learner confidence … I want to delve DEEPER  into our curiosities … and passions. No matter HOW I weave all the student learner outcomes into our inquiries I ALWAYS have those Provincial Achievement Exams sitting at the back of my brain. But my heart says we’re NOT cookie cutter learners … NONE of us are.

At the end of the year, they’ll have to write a narrative story based on a picture prompt. They’ll probably do okay … most of them … but that writing won’t even BEGIN to compare to the amazing writing they do when they write for their “authentic” global audience on the classroom blog. Already I can hear their voices SHINE through into these pieces.

What’s MOST important? Relationships. Trust. Developing a safe and nurturing learning environment together where it’s GOOD to take risks with our learning.

I struggle with what I know in my heart. Helping students develop an understanding of who they are as learners … their strengths, passions, helping them to SEE that life long learning can be joyful and fulfilling … this is what I strive for … while trying to support their individual learner needs. They are, EACH of them, SO much more than a mark on a piece of paper.

How do I fit it ALL in?

I have a DREAM … I am REACHING for the stars … but … how do I fit it all in? Maybe I need LONGER teaching days … or FEWER student learner outcomes, (although I do see their value), or maybe each grade should last for TWO years … IMAGINE the possibilities with more TIME to fit it ALL in? I do!

I wonder:

  • How do you fit it all in … and find a balance?