Walk The Walk

When I began teaching, did I stop learning?

I certainly hope not.


I wonder if any other teachers ever question their position as ‘teacher’?  Is the role of teacher better (or different) than the role of student?  

Are we missing out by limiting our job description to one who instructs?

Before I became a teacher, I loved learning, and I loved school.  Whenever I discover something new, it’s like a tiny piece of the universe has been revealed to me.  Why would I act as if I know everything in front of a class of students?  Learning continues, as does the joy.  If I don’t continue to learn, I’m sapping the life out of my own education.

Besides, kids can spot a faker from a mile away.  If I’m not enjoying myself, they’re not going to buy anything I’m selling.


Learning can be scary.  Anything new can be scary.  My students and I have been talking about fear, and how it holds us back from so many new experiences.  It’s kind-of freaky how many opportunities are lost when we started to think about it.

Listen to Norman Seeff discuss his findings, and compare the creative process with the learning process:

Isn’t it interesting to listen to successful people talk about facing their fears and committing to their work?  I’m grateful to Norman for documenting these experiences, and for presenting his findings — my students and I were mesmerized by the ideas and reflections shared between Norman and his subjects.

His “Seven Stage Diagram of the Creative Process” helps us to consider how important it is to recognize the factors that stall our progress when we attempt to create (or to innovate… or even learn).

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 11.03.57 AM

Last week, some of my students met with our Director to talk about these ideas (and many more).  I’m so proud of them for sharing their questions and concerns… and so happy to be part of a school board where we are encouraged to learn together.





This post is pushing my thinking: “Personalizing Our Approach To Supporting Change” **make sure to read through the comments (and links)**


Posted in Art Education | 4 Comments

Lego Literacy

This morning, I read “LEGO Handwriting Mats — Read, Build, and Write“.  The idea of using Lego to encourage kids to improve their handwriting skills is so helpful!  I gathered some supplies together and asked my son to try the activity with me.


The activity went well, but I noticed that Ethan was still having difficulty with spacing and orientation.  I decided to try something different, so I grabbed my iPad & opened up SketchBook Pro.  I took a picture of his Lego pieces we had used to spell the word Titanic.


Then, I added a layer so that Ethan could write on top of the picture of the Lego pieces.


Finally, I made the “Lego layer” invisible so that he could see if his letters were spaced correctly.


Not bad!  He was pleased with his progress and I was glad to see him gain confidence with printing.

I wonder if Lego would consider making an app that allowed users to drag & drop Lego pieces to form letters, and then write on top of them.  It might help kids develop their printing skills while having fun!


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Who’s The Teacher?

Last week, I decided to bring my guitar to class.  I had hoped to share what I was learning with my students, but the demonstration developed into something much richer than I had expected.

Our class teaching our art teacher chords on the guitar #NipRockArt @ColleenKR pic.twitter.com/oKFEkzW4Xb

On a whim, we experimented with Periscope, allowing us to share our discussions and lessons with anyone who tuned in.  Unfortunately, our first broadcast wasn’t recorded, but with a simple adjustment to the settings on my phone, I was able to save the rest of the videos to my camera roll.




When we were asked if the camera man was the teacher, it gave us something to think about. It was a case of mistaken identity… or was it?


Our school board has been learning about growth mindset & conditions for learning.  We’ve also considered the shift from teaching to learning.  I thought it was pretty cool that it’s happening with my students.  Somehow, by exposing my weakness, we became stronger together.







You get discouraged [from] failing.  That’s what I don’t like about school.  … You have to learn how to fail to progress.  ~ Bordie



[Teachers] are so used to being a teacher, they’re not used to learning.

You’re teaching kids, but you can learn a lot from them too. ~Bordie



Our discussions brought some great insights and questions.  This one is our edgiest (as seen on “Teacher Learning pt. 4” at 19:28):

“How do you teach your teacher a different way to teach?”

We immediately wanted responses, so we sent out a few tweets…



Some people would see this as a waste of time.

But it’s not.



It helps to have a bit of encouragement from friends too…

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Our Superintendent, Nancy Petrick, stopped by to find out about our project!


Posted in Art Education, Education, Education Reform, Growing Success | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

SeLNO 2015

A few days ago, I had the chance to attend SeLNO, the Symposium for e-Learning in Northwestern Ontario.  What a great opportunity to listen to fabulous presentations and share our knowledge.  George Couros started things off with a keynote that emphasized the personal connections we can make with technology.  It was absolutely lovely, but I could have used some tissues!

As with any conference, it is so difficult to select which sessions to attend.  No matter how informative they are, you want to be in a few places at once.  I’m looking forward to seeing reflections from other participants, to learn about a variety of topics that were covered at the conference.

Mark Carbone‘s presentation was incredibly useful; I learned about trends in education, SAMR, OSAPAC, OSSEMOOC, and so much more.  Take a look at my sketchnote, which summarizes my thoughts:


I’m glad I took notes, because there are so many resources & ideas that I want to explore!

Kudos to the organizing committee ~ your hard work helped us all so much!


Resources I must remember to look at:




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#MakeSchoolDifferent: 5 Things to Stop Pretending

You would think that a simple question would be easy to answer.

Heather Theijsmeijer and Doug Peterson challenged me make a list of 5 things we need to stop pretending in education, but this post has taken me days to write!  What’s harder:  reading their posts, agreeing with their points, and then trying to create my own without copying their ideas.  I vowed not to read any more #MakeSchoolDifferent blog posts until I wrote my own.

We need to stop pretending

1. that change is easy.  It isn’t.  We know that we are encouraged to embrace change:  to shift from teaching to learning, to embed technology into our lessons…  Rather than explain how I see it, watch this video:

(thanks to George Couros for sharing the story of this bike at #SeLNO today)

2. that students will see failure as a good thing.  When I fail, my first thoughts aren’t very pleasant.  I get frustrated and angry, and sometimes I’m tempted to give up.  The thing is, I was never taught the skills associated with growth mindset, especially grit.  These skills need to be explicitly taught so that students can apply them to new situations.  Read about my son’s experiences here.

3. that all students will use technology to learn.  I live and work North of Lake Superior.  We face some pretty tough issues regarding access to technology.  Many of my students don’t have any sort of personal device.  Many of my students don’t have access to the Internet at home.  Wifi just became available in our school this year, but we struggle with bandwidth, which directly affects what we can do in class.  I know we’re moving forward, but oh how nice it would be to get there a bit faster.

4. that our “super cool” lessons are going to suit the needs & interests of our students.  We may think that our ideas are great, but we are very different than our students.  Rather than telling students exactly what to do, consider teaching concepts and themes and allow them to choose how they will show their learning.

Just think if this guy was your gym teacher:

5. that our students aren’t interested in reform.  Invite them into the conversation and ask them how we can #MakeSchoolDifferent.  I know I will, and I hope they respond to my post.

I would like to tag @JMarciski, @LCosta_Miller, @NickiMC40, @WallwinS & @CDaviesLeroux to think about 5 things that would #MakeSchoolDifferent.  Your turn!



Posted in Education, Education Reform | Tagged , | 8 Comments

What is My Role?

This morning, I read Nicki Morden-Cormier’s post about applying the ‘C4L’, a.k.a. conditions for learning.  She reflected on our school board’s Learning Leadership Team meeting last week, and I was glad to re-live the experience through a different lens; one that focuses on our collective understanding and progress.  This is so valuable, because educators are working very hard to understand how their roles are changing.  If we can take the time to see ourselves as part of a group of learners, perhaps we won’t feel so much pressure to make changes in isolation.

We were spending significant time teaching and evaluating, rather than learning and assessing. (Nicki)

Nicki’s observation is helpful for two reasons:  1) “we” indicates that I am not the only one struggling with the shift from teacher to learner, and 2) there is a goal to work toward.  Up until this point, I had assumed that we were focusing on improving conditions for learning to improve student success, but teachers are learners too…

“The artificial system we call school”  
(Linda Darling-Hammond)

How can we make our classrooms relevant?  How is the role of teacher evolving?

Most Likely to Succeed Trailer from One Potato Productions on Vimeo.

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Teaching and Growing

Each semester (or year, if you’re an elementary teacher) is a fresh start, a new life.  You have new students, new personalities, and new dynamics.  There is so much to learn, and it’s all so exciting!  Wonderful young minds come into your classroom every day, and you are thrilled by the challenge that they present:  what wild, fun and clever ways can you meet your curriculum expectations, make learning fun, and explore the personalities of every student in your class?  Like a child, everything is a wonder; you are a sponge, soaking it all in with an unquenchable thirst.

Impossible as it may seem, childhood gradually fades away as adulthood becomes your new reality.  The semester is well under way, and your students have begun to make themselves quite comfortable in your classroom.  Their personalities, as lovely as they are, become that much more real, exposing not only the teacher-pleasing qualities they possess, but perhaps some of their less-than-stellar traits as well.  But this is a good thing! Now you’re really getting to the good stuff, growing past the frivolous nature of learning activities that would suit any group of students, your projects begin to be shaped by students’ interests.

Your golden years set in toward the end of the semester, and you begin to reflect on all of the experiences you have collected and treasured.  You remember the good times and think of all the wisdom acquired in the tough times.  The relationships with your students have developed because of so many shared adventures.  You smile because this journey has been a good one, and in so many ways, you have all learned so much.  The grey hairs have a brilliant shine in the silver that is reflected in the light.  On the last day of class, your heart swells with pride when the last student walks out your door.

and then,

a new semester begins again.


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