Monday, December 29, 2008

Could vs. Should

As I reflect on the progression of my calling, I am reminded of a time, early on in my career, when I actually thought that children “should” behave a certain way and that children “should” be at a certain developmental milestone at a particular time on a particular schedule. I now believe that should, is one of the most destructive words in our vocabulary. It denotes that something is amiss or wrong. I once had thoughts like, she “should” know her alphabet by now - or he “should” be able to tie his shoes by now.


If we, instead, consider that these developmental milestones are simply guidelines, we begin to open up to genuinely honouring each child for their uniqueness and we in turn create and discover ways to reach and teach each individual. If we replace “should” with “could”, we are open to many more possibilities with our wee ones.

She could learn her alphabet if…

He could tie his shoes if…

Could, takes the pressure off and we are then never in a battle between right and wrong – instead everything If we insist on using the word - should, I fear we will also continue to instill that marks in school and judgment from others determines our self-worth. (Ahh, but that is a dialogue for another story and time...)


Thank you to the writings of Louise Hay for inspiring these thoughts in me…

Friday, October 24, 2008

Each Child...

Each “child is a unique blend of talents, personality, and ingredients nowhere else to be found.” (Greenwald, as cited by Braun, 2008) This is the belief I hold that resides in the very core of my being and resonates throughout. This is why I do what I do.

Because I believe that each child possesses his or her own unique blend of genius, I feel that to be an effective educator and honour the calling that has been presented to me, I have a responsibility to never stop using an assortment of professional resources; I have a responsibility to engage myself in collegial sharing; and I have a responsibility to orchestrate opportunities to emerge and continue along the path of professional development that has melded into my entire way of being. For this I am truly grateful.

The following is a link that I encourage all to visit. I am grateful to Sydney for being one of my educational mentors. Please peruse her site -


Greenwald, R. as cited by Braun, E., 2008, Retrieved from

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

School Valued Intelligences

Many of us know that there are school-valued intelligences. A child who exhibits a primary learning preference for linguistic or logical/mathematical type activities, tends to do well in school. But does this play a role in how a child views his or her overall intelligence? How does a child who is a natural learner or a tactile learner, who does not seem to fit inside this box we call school, estimate her or his intelligence? I invite you to join me in this discussion.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

For Max's Mike - Wherever he is...

As a young teacher I used to peer out at the little people before me and even prior to having any babies of my own, I tried to keep in mind that those little beings were somebody else’s precious babies and that I needed to treat them as such. After I had my own children, I felt this even more intuitively.

Many five year olds entering Kindergarten bring their imaginary friend to school with them. As a teacher, I would set extra places for these friends, offer them snacks and give them a push on the swing with as much verve as I would their real counterparts.

My son Max had one such friend. Mike. However, after spending three or four years with us, he was suddenly gone. I missed Mike immediately. Even though on hurried days it was difficult to clear an extra car seat for him and buckle him in too, even though I almost missed catching him fall off of the playground glider, and even though I tossed his uneaten food in the dog’s lunch after every meal, I was so sad when he left us.

Why is it that some children have these friends while others do not? I am not certain. What I do know is that I am grateful for Max’s Mike. I invite you to offer me your thoughts on imaginary friends.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Shift

I feel the shift of fall. My friend Carrie has offered me the word and says that she can smell the shift. I see it in the colour of fall. The way the sunlight bounces orange like over the dinner table and causes me to think that it is time to retire for the evening. It is the season of the year that I am compelled to buy bouquets of yellow HB pencils for friends. It is also that time when I find myself fortunate to be able to walk through institutional steel doorways, effortlessly, like I have been doing it all of my life. I almost have.

I started school forty-two years ago and there has been only one year that I haven’t started school, either as a student or a teacher. That was my first year out of high school. I was working for a hotel and when I rode the student packed city bus to work that morning, I yearned to be one of those backpack-clad bodies with new clothes and a fresh new outlook.

School is not just a place but plays one of the most important roles in our lives. As teachers we must honour this so that our students will as well.

Enjoy and envelop the shift...


Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Minute Depiction of my Multicultural Educational Journey

In 2008, Eugene Garcia states, if “part of the context of how I approach everything, begins with me” then I need to be well versed in the cultures of my students in order for them, to be not only successful with their studies, but also with new language acquisition.

Ji Sung was a wee four year old that I had the privilege of teaching many years ago. Her name became Jennifer and her Korean parents quit speaking Korean in the home when Jennifer started school, in order to help her acquire English proficiently. I was heartbroken for her. I felt that they were acting as best as they knew how, but also felt that she was completely lost in this foreign atmosphere. I never met her mother as all of my dealings were with Jennifer’s father, who was a gracious and cooperative man and only wanted what was best for his daughter. I was still at the stage in my teaching career where I thought, “Who am I to say?”

The day Jennifer arrived, I noticed her cheerless little eyes peering everywhere, hoping to discover something familiar with which to grab onto. That day, I chose to read a Mem Fox story to the KinderKids entitled, Hattie and the Fox. I used to have a different voice for all of the animal characters in the story; and each animal character has the same words it repeats throughout. Many students have loved that this simple and predictable patterned book was one that they could imitate and take to their art and drama centres.

Jennifer sat with the other students silently. She laughed when they laughed and continued to look around to take cues from them. When I gathered them for the second story time that day, again I read Hattie and the Fox and again Jennifer laughed when the other students laughed and she smiled at me lots. When I gathered the students for the third story time that day, I again read Mem Fox’s book. Following the story, Jennifer vocalized the cow’s speech perfectly with what words the cow utters, and she and I laughed and had a very warm moment.

If the child is young and is in the Silent/Receptive or Preproduction Stage of language acquisition, then I believe that if that child is engaged in age appropriate activities with respect and support for who the child is in that moment, the child will then find her comfort level with when she is ready to vocalize. I think that new language learners need to have lots of visual and tactile support resources for the spoken word and for young learners, song and story is a wonderful combination with which they can envelop in order to find their voice.

I am not sure why this story has remained with me all of these years. Maybe it is because I have taught very few children that have not come from the same culture as I, or maybe it is because I love how the account is a defensive narrative for reading and rereading good books. However, I think that maybe it is mostly about my multicultural educational journey and how I came to embrace other cultures in order to facilitate positive learning environments for all students.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Leadership Hopes

"The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born––that there is a genetic factor to leadership. 
This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. 
That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born."

––Warren G. Bennis

Like a merry-go-round, teacher leadership is circular in motion with no beginning and no end, moving up and down and round and round. As a child I spent hours at the playground and my favorite activity involved getting on the merry-go-round, going so fast and then standing still on one of the triangular platforms until I was ready to jump off - while it was still spinning. My goal was always to land successfully on my feet. Sometimes I would get so dizzy that I would have to stay still for quite a time, shake my head and then, of course, I would go again. Playgrounds do not have these wonderful devices anymore because apparently, they are unsafe. During my teaching career, I have mainly ridden the merry-go-round of classroom leadership by myself, but now feel obligated to honor my beliefs and have jumped off. Or have I jumped in? One thing I do know is that I am still on my feet but at times also feel quite dizzy.

Taking chances is something I marvel at in young children. Says Ken Robinson, “Kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. They’re not frightened of being wrong”. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have lost the ability to feel this and we are terrified of being wrong. “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” (Robinson, K.). Unfortunately, I believe that it is formal education that is mostly responsible for generating this phenomenon, and as an educational leader I want to see some changes. It seems as if we have stigmatized mistakes and children are frightened to make them.

Is litigation so prominent and severe that we think of this before we think of what is crucial and needed for all ages of children and for their overall development? My passion and my hope is to work back towards allowing children to assess risk for themselves and trust that with a caring and competent adult nearby, they too can learn from their mistakes and take charge of their own learning.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Voices - A Reflective Essay

As I reflect on the progression of my profession, what resonates throughout my being most is Sonia Nieto’s (2003) comment, “teaching as [an] autobiography”. I feel fortunate to have been able to recall why I do what I do, closely explore my story of teaching, and more fully discover another voice.

During my first year of teaching, I encountered a unique young student. I realized that after the first two weeks of school, she still had not spoken. She was a lovely and cooperative little girl, but I had not heard her voice. I began to ask around and discovered that she had spent her entire first year of school not speaking. She was now in Grade One, and I was required to teach her to read. I was terrified and puzzled. When I met with her mother, she told me that Michelle had been frightened of school but that she had finally wanted to go. I knew then that Michelle was beginning to feel as if she belonged, so I wanted her to know that she belonged not only in this place called school but also with me. I sensed that she had created a role that she was having difficulty breaking free of and that I needed to offer her a supportive way to do so. I turned to my suggested reading list from university and reintroduced myself to Sylvia Ashton Warner. Over the years, her work with Maori children has helped me to polish my own work with young children.

I decided to accept Michelle for exactly who she was. Her mother invited me for dinners, and I skied and skated with her periodically on weekends. Still Michelle, would not speak when I was present. When she laughed, she covered her face and laughed silently. By first reporting period, I struggled with how to document her reading ability as well as her knowledge in social studies and French. Because her mother and I were in close communication, she told me that Michelle could read well, so I decided to give her every appraisal in writing. She had to read everything and answer questions. I thought that I was placing this six-year old child in a dreadful predicament; however, Michelle was an extraordinary reader, and she excelled at all of the assessments I presented her.

The school year was continuing, but Michelle still was not vocal. Although I struggled inside, I chose not to demonstrate this outwardly. Instead, I consulted with speech pathologists and psychologists, and I asked them to assist me without their meeting with the child. I did not want her perceiving, nor anyone else viewing the notion, that I thought she needed fixing. The other professionals supported my handling of the situation, and they offered me suggestions, which was affirming, because my administration did not.

The Christmas concert came and went, and I still had not heard Michelle’s voice. I consulted many people during my vacation, and I again turned to my suggested reading list from university. I discovered a wealth of knowledge through a series of books by Vivian Gussin Paley. After the Christmas break, all of the primary students were invited to a pep rally that the high school basketball team was holding at our school. Older students joined with my little ones and led them to the gym. I followed. When I arrived, I noticed the mayhem that surrounded us, and I immediately panicked because I could not see where my wee ones all were. Just then, I felt this smooth little hand in mine and a soft, sweet voice that said, “I don’t know where I’m supposed to go.” I looked down and held tighter, and I asked Michelle if she would like to just stay with me. She said, “Yes.”

This is but one story by one teacher. However, I feel that this venue has given me the opportunity to see my teacher story on the page and to see how it has formed me as an educator. Professional reflection and writing has provided me with a foundation to discover that even though my educational voice is important in this world, it is just one voice. I am seeing how imperative it is for good teachers to move beyond the classroom, and I feel alive with excitement as I connect and collaborate with so many professionals engaged on this common path.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Adding an "s" to Intelligence

Dr. Debra Pickering talks about one of the most important occurrences in recent educational history being when Howard Gardner added an "s" to the word intelligence. Although I enveloped children having many varied learning styles long ago, I didn't have any research to back my belief. When Gardner published his works on multiple intelligences, I felt a sense of relief. I felt immediate affirmation by my practise of using a variety of instructional strategies in order to reach more students, from the one young fellow who was so physical, to the environmental learner that needed to delve into nature to make sense of his world.

The strong physical learner was so active that every time he and I conversed about the learnings, he was in constant motion. He was five years old and when the KinderKids recessed, he would be so immersed in his physical play that he would go out of his way to save a ball from entering the soccer net by diving towards it, often getting cuts and bruises and breaking his glasses - yet again. Benson was such a unique physical learner and if he would have been asked to "sit and git" he would have struggled to be successful.

The environmental learner, Donovan, was also a unique youngster who came to school immaculately dressed and went home with dirt caked to his knees, sand under his fingernails and may have had a conversation with a butterfly that day. He could become so involved in his messy work/play that he would not hear others around him.

Both of these boys needed to be honoured for the learners that they were, possibly are, in order to feel success.

One of the strategies that I used was that time outside had to be at least 30 minutes long. I refused to recess with the rest of the school and ignored bells. The students who needed less physical time, were offered books and clipboards with paper to sit and draw, write or read and I would happily sit in a shady spot to do this with them if they needed me to or requested this of me.

I feel fortunate that I have been able to stand firmly for what I believe to be so and feel that, as a society, "we worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today." (S. Tauscher)