Pancake Lessons


Every Sunday morning, I make pancakes for my family.  From scratch.

A huge part of me wants to appear like the cliché Mom from magazines in the 50s, doing everything right & making everyone happy.  This includes cutting up my children’s food. (forgive me)

For the past 2 weeks, this has been one of the things my children are trying to do: cut their own food.  This sounds crazy, but I think that, as parents, we get used to our roles as caregivers and forget to help our children develop the skills they need to be independent.

We celebrated a new skill (& patience/determination displayed by my kids) at the breakfast table with a round of high-fives today.

How does this relate to our role as educators?  Are we still ‘cutting up their food’?  How much control are we willing to give up?  Does it take more patience to allow students so much independence, because it’s easier to do certain things ourselves?

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A New Beginning?


My son and I discovered a seed inside a nectarine over a week ago.  A special seed.  For some reason, it had started to sprout, so we decided to see what would happen if we encouraged it to grow a little bit more.

Educators love metaphors, so my mind wandered as I began to watch this little seed begin to take on a new life.  You would think that the nectarine had done all the work it needed to do.  It grew, ripened, and served a purpose.  Isn’t the same true of us?  Aren’t we satisfied if we manage to ripen and serve a purpose?  Why bother with more?

Don’t settle.

If we assume that we have learned all we need to learn, we do ourselves a disservice.  We will lose the spark that ignited our love of education, and our students will see that learning is finite.

*thanks to Karen Grose at TVO for sharing this clip

As we look forward to a fresh new school year, remember the all the reasons why you fell in love with learning.  What was it that captured your attention?  What kinds of projects or lessons allowed you to become so focused that the rest of the world began to fade away?  What excited you so much that you couldn’t wait to share what you discovered?



I’m thankful to TVO for providing educators with a new platform for sharing knowledge throughout Ontario; a way to connect across our vast province, to meet leaders & learners, and to provoke conversations as we reevaluate the services we provide for students.  I would encourage teachers in Ontario to visit TeachOntario, create an account & start connecting!  It’s so nice to have access to a great resource that enables us to learn from each other.



Posted in Ed tech, Education Reform, Ontario | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments


I’m pretty sure that #ArtBusking is one of the coolest art projects.  Ever.

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**Listen to my interview on CBC’s Superior Morning with Cathy Alex *HERE*

The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation has been so incredibly supportive in our #ArtBusking endeavour.  They created a website dedicated to the project, and have allowed me to paint in the hospital lobby, where my new friend Lindsay (who works at the Foundation) keeps me company & continues to take pictures and share our progress using social media.


Dan Bissonnette, Jason Bociurko (my awesome cousin), me & Lindsay Doran

I really have to thank my cousin Jason, who introduced me to Dan Bissonnette and his team at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation earlier this year.  After we had the chance to discuss our ideas and what we hoped to achieve through #ArtBusking, they worked so hard to make our plans materialize.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 9.00.37 PMToday was one of our most exciting days, because Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, was visiting the hospital.

My Mom, who happened to be visiting at the time, waited until the Premier came through the lobby on her way out & asked her to come see our #ArtBusking project.  (Mom:  you’re awesome.)


Lindsay Doran, Kathleen Wynne and myself


Me & my wonderfully supportive Mother

Here are a few extra photos we’ve collected throughout our #ArtBusking adventures:

What amazes me about this experience, is the level of support from friends, community members & family.  There are so many wonderful people who come to visit, and share their stories  ~ I’ve never been part of an art project that has filled me with so much happiness before.  I never want this to end.

I’m looking forward to this year’s Folk Festival in Red Rock, where I’ve been invited to do a little more #ArtBusking.  It’ll be great!


Not far to go now…


This painting (and hopefully one more… if I can create it in time) will be auctioned off at this year’s Luncheon of Hope in October.

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The Perks of Being an Art Teacher

Official warning:

Like a grandparent who is armed with a pile of baby pictures, I am awfully proud of my students.  This post is dedicated to them.


It’s awfully tempting for a teacher to stick to a regimen.  It would be so easy, so safe, to rely on the lessons from the good old days.  Besides, who wants to ruffle any feathers?

 Placation will leave you stranded on the road to discovery.

As a young man dances to share his culture, a young woman hopes to shatter glass and bones for an artwork, and a group of teenagers work together on the potter’s wheel, my heart swells with pride that students are finding a way to share their ideas with the world.


I can’t deny that I’m getting something out of this.  As students unveil their interests, their questions and turmoil with me, it’s an honour to help them dig deeper to uncover new depths of understanding.  They constantly teach me.

If I don’t step out of my comfort zone, how on earth can I expect students to step out of theirs?



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Crowdsourcing… a Lesson Plan?

Remember the term Team Teaching?  It was a pretty cool idea, but it faded away into a bit of a foggy memory once the world of 2.o caught the attention of collaborative teachers everywhere.  Online PD is all the rage right now, which is a good thing (actually a great thing), but I want to revisit the practice of team teaching.  Now, more than ever, we can use technology to connect with other educators who can add some spice to our daily teaching recipes and whip up an entirely new dish.

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In a discussion regarding the best book to teach art history, my friend Ian Sands vehemently defended ‘Secret Lives of Great Artists’, so I decided to download the sacred parchment to check it out.  Official admission:  Ian was right.  It’s absolutely awesome.

The stories were so interesting that I was inspired to create a new project for students that is based on research, but appeals to their interests (hopefully):

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Go ahead & click on the picture. Fill out the form — it’s not just for students. :)

After having some serious fun making up the questions for the Google form (who needs hand-outs anymore? They just get lost in lockers & backpacks), I thought I’d have some more fun & use our class hash tag to drop some hints for budding art historians.

Screen Shot 2014-05-17 at 10.39.26 AM

After sharing the project with my #artsed PLN & getting some nice feedback, I thought it would be neat to have them participate too… and they did!

Screen Shot 2014-05-17 at 10.43.33 AMThese teachers were able to help my students with their assignment, providing information that I wasn’t familiar with.  Techy team teaching.  Now, Ian’s class has joined up & is submitting responses on the same form as my class — responses that I can share with my students to review & maybe even use to encourage them a bit.

Am I guilty of having way more fun with this than my students?  We’ll see.



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Art & Integrity

My students and I explored the work of Andy Goldsworthy today by soaking in the footage from “Rivers and Tides”.  His interactions with natural materials captured our attention, and his commentary invited us to deepen our understanding of the creative process.  It was so refreshing to listen to an artist explain his intentions, his struggles, and his reflections.  We even got to see some of his mistakes.

This is the first time that I’ve seen an artist present his work in a way that can benefit students, because it’s so honest and real.  Yes, we still got to see the finished product, but we also saw the process.  Too often, students are presented with a polished work — the kind you see in galleries & textbooks.

If we present nothing but perfection to our students, we are starving their creative spirit.

Students need to know that it’s okay to explore, to experiment, and to fail.  They need to know that their learning environment welcomes mistakes while they play with ideas and materials.  They need to see that you’re willing to mess up, that you’re not perfect, and neither are great artists.

“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.”  ~ Michelangelo

If we can push students past their fear and encourage them to play, they will begin to understand the joy of art.  If we can push past our fear of losing control and allow students to play, the classroom can become a place where creativity thrives.






Posted in Art Education, Education Reform, Genius Hour | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Teacher Learning and Leadership Program

The Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) is an annual project-based professional learning opportunity for experienced classroom teachers.  ~ Ontario Ministry of Education

I just returned from Toronto, where Jenni & I participated in the TLLP Leadership Skills for Classroom Teachers Training Session.  I hope it’s ok to admit that I had no idea how significant this program was until these past few days.  The Ministry of Education and the Ontario Teachers’ Federation worked harmoniously to provide an excellent introduction for this year’s TLLP “newbies”:  resources, presentations, advice from experienced participants, tips for success… and great food. 


My notes from day #1

One of the things that impressed me most had to be the emphasis on support for teachers.  The TLLP is designed to allow educators to embark on their own learning path, to collaborate with others, and to benefit from the nature of inquiry.  All the while, we are encouraged to share our discoveries with other participants using the TLLP Ning, a place to meet, discuss ideas and help each other.


Ann Lieberman’s session on Thursday was inspiring.

I could have listened to Ann Lieberman all day.  She has a wonderful ability to encourage aspiring leaders to take a leap of faith, and begin to learn the leader identity.  Her assertion that teacher-leaders are not “big shots”, they’re just sharing something they know, provided a refreshing perspective for those who may be intimidated by the notion of leadership.

IMG_0292A few highlights:

IMG_0295 #TLLP2014Selfies:


Listen to a fantastic discussion provided by ECOO with some fundamental & important information about the TLLP:


More information on the TLLP from TVO:  Teacher Learning and Leadership Program






Posted in Education, Ontario, TLLP | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments