Why I don’t rely on Math textbooks

As a student in elementary school, I hated the problems and questions that arose in textbooks, especially the ones in math. They were totally irrelevant to what I’d ever do and the language was so jargony that it was difficult to understand. Some staff members here at the beginning of the year had asked me what math program I was going to use/liked using such as Nelson Math. I said, “None.” I don’t like using prescribed programs at all in my teaching, especially when it comes to my math program. I hate it. It doesn’t suit the students’ needs and it only allows for us to touch on the subject for a small amount of time, hoping that all students got it. It doesn’t allow for me to properly spiral the math so that we are constantly coming back to topics such as patterning, skip counting, or multiplication that require a concrete understanding for their later years and that are essential life skills. In life, we don’t just use a math skill like multiplication or mental math addition once and then just abandon it. Nope, we continue to use it on almost a daily basis in some way or another.

It also doesn’t allow them to practice real-life related math situations. Like I said above, the questions I had growing up were so irrelevant, “Mike had to buy 35 watermelons for his party.” First off, what type of party is he having and why that many? Most kids wouldn’t relate to that. Man if I checked out with these types of questions, why wouldn’t our students today? It isn’t like the questions in textbooks has changed much. Besides if we make the math relatable all the time, then they are more likely to remember how to apply those concepts when a relatable situation arises outside of school. Plus for those students who are more hands-on, it allows another layer to allow them to be engaged. Besides wouldn’t you rather have your students understand how the math they are doing really matters to what they’ll do with it outside of school? It’s always that impending question of, “When will I ever use this?” Well, this is one way we can deal with it.

By not relying on textbooks, it also allows us to integrate technology into our lessons and tailor our Guided Math groups to our student needs. Textbooks are written in generalities. If you were to tell your struggling student, “go to page 23, and do the math problems and read the scenario. It will help you through it,” we’d be crazy and the kid wouldn’t be any farther along. So why do we rely on these mundane paperweights to be the primary focus our planning, programming and student success?

Now to say that textbooks are completely unreliable would be whole-heartedly discrediting them. I have from time to time besides referencing my Number Talks, Big Ideas and Good Questions books, have gone through our Western Canada math textbook to get a sense of what is meant by these curriculum outcomes/expectations. Heck, I have worked in three different provinces and sometimes the expectations are jargony for me. For example, we were doing patterning using input/output tables, but I wasn’t sure how far with the changing variables I needed to go with it, so I referred to the textbook to know where my limit was. Yes, I didn’t get too far with the tables this year because we struggled with skip counting patterning sequences, but it did give me the idea of that we don’t go farther than the input table of being a steady count.

So yes, I believe textbooks are irrelevant to the primary purpose of our teaching even though it can be used as a reference point it shouldn’t be our go to, relied on source of our lessons, “worksheets” and daily math pedagogy.



Why I am struggling with Canada 150 (especially as a teacher)

This year is Canada’s 150th “birthday”, “anniversary”, or whatever why you want to say it joined together under British rule to become a country.

For the past 2 years I have worked in First Nation community schools. To clarify before I start writing. I’m White. I am from Scottish and English blood. My parents are Canadian and American and my family didn’t come over to Canada/the United States until the 1920s/1930s. So no my family wasn’t apart of the colonization that originally started. So being a White person, it may seem odd that I am having issues with Canada being “150”, and the celebrations surrounding it. I’ll also add that I’m a teacher in a First Nation school.

Canada as a country has been around for 150 years, yes. Officially on paper signed by a bunch of old white guys, but it was a nation long before that. There were a bunch of smaller nations, who would from time to time, bind together to help each other out. Isn’t that truly what nationhood is? Where the collective works as one to help each other? Yes there were points where not all the nations of the First Nations agreed, but do the provinces currently all get along all the time? No. They have disagreements and don’t always see eye to eye because their priorities are different. I did have a boy actually ask me how come Canada was 150 years old and not older? Fortunately his sister immediately answered, “it is older.”

When Canada became a country, these nations were thrown a curve ball bigger than anyone could have ever expected. It’s the part of Canada’s history that I never learned about in school and am very disappointed that we never did. Then again, who would openly discuss parts of your history that was shameful and had a lot of wrong doing? I didn’t even discuss it when I was in Canadian History classes in university at Lakehead. Confederation was more focused on in that class. These wrong doings are only coming out of the woodwork and being more openly discussed now. That is the violations of the Treaties, Residential schools, the 60s scoop and the major issue of the misappropriation of funds on reserves and the high lack of mental health services for youth. Now some of these are major headlines and you are probably thinking, well they did it to themselves, they could just leave the reserve, they need to keep their Chiefs accountable. However, as an outsider, you aren’t seeing the true picture you are only painting it from what you have seen on the news and your general assumptions. These shameful acts have all happened in that 150 years, so why are we celebrating it? I feel that I can’t especially with my students.

Treaties were something that was signed before Canada had Confederation. Agreements that were intentionally broken. These white men thought that these First Nation peoples were too dumb to understand it, and that they wouldn’t get caught taking First Nation peoples off their traditional lands and putting them on a reserve, often being less than ideal conditions. Treaties were meant as an agreement to last forever, as a way of appropriately sharing the land. We today are seeing the effects of the violations of Treaties, because who is going to live in a good situation when where you have been placed by foreigners in an area that says, “live here.” So as a teacher, how can I celebrate Canada Day, especially its 150th, when it is a mark of saying that my people came to your land and took you off of your land and broke trust?

Residential schools are one of the worst things in Canadian history. Worst part is, it isn’t something that stopped early on in our “150” years/time since Confederation/since those white guys sat down to make sign something. The last residential school closed in Saskatchewan in 1996! That was 21 years ago. It may seem a long ways away, but being that it is within the last 20 or so years and I was around during that time, it isn’t that long ago. Residential schools were made to “get the Indian out of child.” Kids weren’t allowed to speak their language, they were abused and made to feel worthless. It was the biggest way of saying, “Hey we came here, we are the foreigners, you conform to us…” (odd to say we have this mentality as Canadians to those who immigrate to Canada now…kind of backwards thinking). A lot of children died in residential schools because of suicide, abuse, starvation or terrible conditions. They stayed in these schools and didn’t go home daily to visit their parents and often they were far away from their homes. The missionaries would often go into communities to find these kids, the kids were rounded up and loaded onto a train and sent to these schools far away from everything they knew. Where I currently am, residential schools have had some effect on some of the Elders, but it is such a hush hush thing, not many talk about it. It is like soldiers coming back from war, they often don’t talk about those experiences either. We know terrible things happened, but we don’t ask. After Residential schools were decommissioned these schools were handed into the First Nation band’s hands for them to do with as they pleased. Mostly they were turned into band operated/federally funded schools, but in most cases where the government still had a hand in the school’s running, it left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths. Why wouldn’t it? The government just ruined a lot of lives through education, why couldn’t it happen again in these schools? Come present day, a lot of First Nation schools are band operated, or operated by an Education Authority run by a collective of First Nations, with federal funding to help keep them open. A lot of their teachers in these First Nations schools are white or non-First Nation. That is where I am. I love where I teach, and I am not here to force assimilation, but rather I’m interested in their culture, their ways, their teachings. But, because of Residential schools, I can’t celebrate 150 years of torture, abuse and attempts at assimilation through education. That isn’t what education is meant for. Most of these schools are teaching their culture, language and ways in these schools because residential schools made a generation of people feel shameful about their ways, meaning it wasn’t being fully passed on; it started to die.  How am I supposed to be all cheery and excited and teach First Nation kids about it, especially in a school setting, after all of this?

The 60s scoop as a secondary way of assimilating First Nation kids and getting rid of “the Indian” (man writing that seems so derogatory), but through removing them from their “toxic, abusive, neglectful” homes. Often these children weren’t, but when you take social workers from downtown Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, wherever and throw them onto a reserve it is like culture shock. My goodness, I came from a small town, but when I went north last year, I had culture shock, but didn’t try to change their ways. They saw things that they believed were neglectful, and actually weren’t. So they took these children out of their homes and put them in white homes or the foster care system where they were abused and made to believe being First Nation was bad. Sometimes they were placed in homes across the border, their names were changed and further loss of language and culture all at the hands of foreigners. (Yes we are foreigners).  Seems difficult to say hey let’s celebrate us continuing the assimilation up to 30 years ago.

I’m not going to get into the keeping leaders in check, because as non-First Nation people we can’t even do that. However, I am going to state that yes, it is nice to celebrate that we live in a free country, free from war, free from a lot of terrible things that are currently happening, but we need to look on ourselves as Canadians come this 150. I work with First Nation kids who I love working with. I love learning the culture, the language and their ways. This year it was hard celebrating 150 years of Canada existing because I know in my heart it existed much longer than that and the “official time stamp” only marks the beginning of problems that we caused. The geography hasn’t changed, and nations existed long before it was made a country. During this time though it hasn’t been free from discrimination and violence. This is where I am struggling. I couldn’t teach my Grade 4s about Canada Day this year, because it didn’t seem appropriate, heck it wasn’t appropriate. Let’s teach you about how my people signed your land into a country, then decided you weren’t worthy living here for that whole time. Let’s force a celebration of something that is only showing the good parts of being a proud Canadian? Yes Canadians can be proud for lots of things, but you can’t be a true Canadian if you can’t acknowledge all of the history and realize that you need to take it in stride and move forward with it.

We need to look at this 150 years and how we as outsiders have done things. We need to take it as a note and move forward towards reconciliation and ensuring this upcoming generation has a solid basis to go forward on.  






Why I don’t focus on what students did over Xmas break

I have worked in places where kids have dreaded having a break because there is no structure to their day and the break is literally tormenting because they have nothing to do, and being home isn’t the best of places. I know that this isn’t the case for all kids but there is a larger percentage of children that I have worked with, that well when asked what they did on their break they say, “Nothing,” they really mean it. When I taught Grade 2 last year, some of them I knew actually didn’t do anything but they were too embarrassed to say, “I took care of my younger siblings, fed them and watched them,” because who at 7 years old wants to admit that? None. Besides who would expect that to come out of a 7 year old’s mouth? No one. Some kids, literally sat and watched TV, didn’t go out to family or friends houses, because they had no way of getting there. In where I am currently working, if your family doesn’t live in the community, and you don’t have a car you are stuck. There isn’t public transportation (Greyhound isn’t close, and we don’t have taxis or buses) and we are a rural community with houses being fairly spread apart so you’d have to walk. With the temperatures that we have recently had (-30 Celcius) it doesn’t make it very inviting to walk a couple of kilometres to see someone. So when the kid honestly says, ” I watched TV or played Xbox,” they might not be lying. In some cases where they are one out of many upon many, these breaks aren’t something that they want to openly discuss because it probably wasn’t what we know as a typical Christmas. They might have not got anything under the tree, Christmas might have not even have been celebrated for that reason (yes it seems like a stretch but I have seen it happen, sad but true). So bringing that up again, is like reliving a bad dream for some.

As educators we are supposed to teach kids to make connections, share stories and learn about celebrations. But when these moments, like the winter break that we so look forward to happens and when it is time for us to return, we need to be mindful when asking, “What did you do during your break?” and “How was your break?” I’m not saying don’t ask it, but instead I’m saying don’t make your community circle, or morning meeting about it. Don’t do an activity about it, like a retell of their break.  I know that tomorrow I will be focusing more on what 2017 has to offer and thinking of positive words for what we are going to try to achieve. I won’t be asking what exciting things did they do for 2 weeks when I was in Ontario because I know that for some kids that I have these past 2 weeks have been nothing but torture. So tomorrow or next week when you enter your classrooms and get into the New Year with your kids, focus on what the New Year has to bring not what 2016 had. 

How I do Spiral style Math Centres

So two years ago, I heard about the term spiral planning at a board wide conference during a break out session. To me being a supply teacher it didn’t mean much. However, when I acquired my own room for a full year for the first time, I was able to include it in my own way. I didn’t like the way it was rolled out when I worked for Frontier, so I decided to have a focus strand which I’d base all my main lessons on, but the concepts that we had previously covered we’d always revisit in our centres. The beginning of the year I do not do these centres, but instead use Number of the Day and focus exclusively on Number Sense/ Numeracy as I believe that is the foundation for anything else in math. Then I introduce my centres after the first 6 weeks.

I provide 6 centres (NUMBER):

Number Work: Always is addition, subtraction sheets for practice

Using Manipulatives: Any hands- on activity with manipulatives related to what our focus strand is. We are currently working on 2-D and 3-D shapes. I have a group of 4s this year, but they are all over the map when it comes to their prior knowledge and understanding so I include something that will touch on things that should be review as just because it was learned the year before doesn’t mean that we leave it behind.

Meet with the Teacher: This is my Guided Math Group. This week have been working on interactive math journal entries about our 3-D shape attributes. Sometimes it is more hands on activities. Depends on the current student needs and what we need to focus on. Sometimes it is around our current focus strand, sometimes is to review and work on strategies.

Buddy Games: They have a game that is often related to a strand or math topic that we have covered previously. In the past if I have had access to computers or devices in the classroom, I have allowed them to go on Prodigy or Sum Dog as it is fun and interactive. However, this year I do not have consistent access to devices so I have more interactive, cooperative games. This is also a good thing for my class as we struggle with appropriate social skills.

Expressing Our Ideas:  This is our Math Journals. It primarily focuses on them expressing their thinking and being able to fully explain their ideas. I often will default to using content that we are currently discussing, but if I notice that we are still struggling with explaining our thinking when it comes to Numeracy perse, then I will circle back to that.

Reasoning: Problem solving galore! I will use word problems, or open questions so that students can demonstrate thinking outside of the box. This is always based off of content that we have learned about before that I know my students are more confident with their understanding.

Since I am blessed with a class of only 20 students, I only group my students to groups no more than 3 to 4 students as it makes my Guided groups to be more effective, especially when a student from another centre requires clarification.

Currently I have my centres stored in a pocket chart. I had them in bins last year, however hated it as I didn’t have storage in the first place so it just took up essential space. I go over what they do for each centre everyday as they will forget and those students who have processing or cognitive disorders. As I do this, I hand out their items so that they can get right to work. My centres always review what we have done in the past and they are on topics that they can do independently.


Class Dojo

Class Dojo is something that I have had a love for since it came out/became known. I had tried using in a short contract position with my 5/6 class that I had 3 years ago, however it didn’t go over so well as I was the 4th teacher and by that point they were checked out with whatever I was trying.

This year with my Grade 4s we are trying it using goals, which they set every morning to earn something at the end. So every morning during morning meeting, we set our goal ( # of points per person/whole class for Outside/Movie/Free Time/ # of Just Dances/Board Games, etc.) They fair vote on it (eyes closed, hands up – so no one can see who is voting for what). I do tell them that I have some input as there are days where they are like, “1 point total for the whole class for extra recess,” and I’m like, “No way Jose! Come on that is way too easy.” They know it too. So we find a middle ground, such as everyone has to have 1 point. If it is a split vote – like 1/2 want to get extra recess and 1/2 want some free time inside, I will be fair and say I’ll give you 10 extra minutes outside during last recess if you earn it and then at the end of the day you will get free time inside. Our school days go from 9-4 so I give them a half hour for this, which includes them cleaning up. The quicker they make the room tidy, the quicker they get their reward.


Ways they can earn a point:

  1. If they are trying something new. A lot of mine pretend that GoNoodle or a Just Dance or a Brain Break game we are playing is too beyond them. So if they try, they earn a point. It feeds into a Growth Mindset and the concept that we have been talking about of making our brains stronger by trying things that are new.
  2. If they line up to come in after the bell rings or I blow my whistle (our recesses are pretty flexible as we go out with the kids for every recess – minus lunch, so instead of me calling them all individually and using my voice to holler for them to come in – I blow it twice and they know to line up). They get to pick their point here. They love this as they get to touch the teacher’s phone!
  3. If they are using their Wise Leader (Minds Up curriculum lingo) and I catch them.
  4. If they are working collaboratively and respectfully with their peers. There are few that I have who have taken it upon themselves to help their peers out as they know that I am only one person and if they get it – they can be leaders.
  5. If they are working quietly.
  6. If they are listening during a lesson or participating. We do a lot of collaborative lessons where I give the concept and kids input their ideas. So if they give an idea for what landmarks are in the province of Alberta. They get a point. Now you’ll say what about the kids who are more introverted that don’t participate? They have other ways to earn points too. This helps the extroverted students use their ideas in a more mindful way.

Ways they can loose a point:

  1. Blurting out the answer or interrupting others.
  2. Not making mindful choices (i.e. stealing a flexible seating choice from another student)
  3. Talking back – mine are getting bad for this recently because they can do it at home, so they think it will fly with me and any other adults in the school.

Now if they don’t line up with the rest of the class I don’t take a point away, but instead, I just don’t give it to them. They chose not to line up, they also chose not to earn one. Also because I have a variety of different learning needs in my classroom, they don’t loose a point for being off task. We all get distracted from time to time and it shouldn’t hurt us. I try to align their points with the most realistic, real-life things. I also try to make sure that it is more positive then negative that can be earned.

I like Class Dojo as it allows students to develop self-regulation as they can see what behaviours they are demonstrating. The little monsters that they have are pretty cute too.

I love how Class Dojo allows parents to connect with it so they can see what behaviours they are demonstrating. It almost helps with the line, “My child would never do that,” or, ” I have never seen them do that.” It is only helpful however, when parents have a way to connect such as a smartphone, tablet or computer with internet access. In previous schools where I have worked, this is difficult. Last year, I didn’t get internet until April and most families didn’t have a home phone, so I don’t rely on this method for sole parent communication anywhere. Even when I’m now in an area with decent cell phone reception and most families have a phone, there is never a guarantee that parents will ever check it or use it. It does help for the fact that students know that parents/guardians have access to it too, so they know/think that those at home are aware of what they are doing at school (or with my 4s, what stunts they are trying to pull).



The Best Year Ever Sale!

Teachers Pay Teachers has given me the opportunity to expand my creativity over these past few years. I am hoping that this year is the Best Year Ever! (even though I’m sure that it always is…optimism helps!) I am throwing my first ever giveaway of a $10 Teachers Pay Teachers gift card! 

Fill out the Google Form below to be entered! Winner will be picked and announced on August 2nd through random selection!

Thank you for following Swimming with the Rest of the School!


Virtual Field Trips

This past year while teaching in Northern Manitoba, Virtual Field Trips were a blessing. It was nice to be able to explore the different parts of Canada, as we were unable to access anything. Our next town was an hour away and our next major centre was Thompson, which was about 3 and a half hours away on an unpaved road. Try taking a bus loaded with kids on it for a trip…it isn’t easy and Gravol is a necessity (trust me we did it for the Shriner’s Circus and because of the road conditions we took 5 hours instead of the usual 3 1/2).

This is where technology becomes a blessing and virtual field trips are the next best thing beyond sliced bread. Virtual Field Trips can be done at any age. I remember being little (like Kindergarten/Grade 1) and my Dad bringing out the globe and pointing out places on it and getting us to try to figure out the name or having us find a place based on clues he gave us. Sometimes he’d also point out places to us on the globe that were recently in the news. It never hurts to let our students know what is happening in the news. It is better that they are informed vs. ignorant citizens.

This year with my Grade 2s they were required to learn about the different parts of Canada. Where I was teaching a lot of things were blocked by our technology dept. (like TVO Kids was blocked!) but I was lucky that Google Maps wasn’t. We learned about each province through Street View and searching Google Images to find aerial and close up views of the major cities. The first trip we did was from where we were in Northern Manitoba to Thompson by plane as we could do the aerial view and discuss the multiple lakes and land that we have in Manitoba. I projected this onto my SmartBoard. How I got them engaged was by each having a boarding pass made up from LearnCreateLove.com and their great pretend play set and left it on their desk. I asked them to stand behind their desk (as I stole all their chairs for our pretend airplane) and then said that they were ready to board. I “checked” their boarding passes and on the SmartBoard had a picture of the inside of a large plane. Most of my class had never been on a plane and some had never left our community, so this was very exciting. I played a clip of a taking off sound effect (the funniest part was that just as we were  taking off 2 of my kids were coming in and one shouted, “Teacher we need to stop the plane! We can’t leave them behind!..They determined all the other late comers could hang out in baggage or teleport to Winnipeg…haha) We talked about Thompson as we flew over and I marked it out on a map. Then we went to Winnipeg and used Google Maps and then dropped the yellow man on Street View and explored the Forks. Each time we went to a major city in Canada we did something similiar (got onto a train, a ferry, a plane, a bus) and then explored the area. This was difficult when it came to the territories as we didn’t have access to Street View for that.

Benefits of using Virtual Field Trips 

  • students can explore places that they would never be able to (i.e. uninhabited/protected areas)
  • compare historical maps to modern day maps
  • students can plan their own “trips”
  • promotes critical thinking skills
  • opens up the four walls of the classroom
  • gets students to witness historical events or world impacting ideas

Tools for doing a Virtual Field Trip in your classroom

Street View

You can go through maps.google.com or www.google.com/maps and then drop the Peg Man pegman where it lights up blue.

You can also go to www.google.com/maps/streetview/explore/ as it will give you other options to explore such as rock faces and glaciers, etc., a whole sort of unconventional places. It often gives a 360 degree or close to it so that you can get a good look around.

Map Maker

Using Google Map Maker students can make their own virtual field trip mapping out their points. A teacher can also use it to map out where students are going on a trip, important places that are in a community or mark out landmarks that students are going to visit on their own. They can do this by going to: www.google.ca/mapmaker


Zeemaps is an interactive tool that doesn’t require a login. Students can pin a place on the map such as have them pin where their family origins are from, have them pin where they think their community is on a zoomed out map, or have them pin where they think a current event has occurred.

Google Treks

Google Treks is a really cool tool as it has already mapped out journeys with photos, and appropriate background information. It goes to places like Churchill, Manitoba and discusses the effects global warming/climate change has on the polar bears because of the sea ice melting earlier. It gives you the chance to walk around the tundra a bit and learn a bit more about the community.

Google Cardboard

I am in love with Google Cardboard. If you have heard of Pokemon Go, it is like that, it puts the world in a 3-D virtual reality way. You can download the Cardboard app and explore the Arctic Tundra, go to certain cities like Chicago in Google Earth, or explore artifacts. There are other apps out there too that you can access that are compatible with your Cardboard. All you need for Cardboard to work is a Cardboard viewer and a compatible phone (which I am sure most are!)

Google Expeditions

Google Expeditions connects students together to go on a virtual field trip to places like coral reefs, and space. You can download the app, and then lead the whole class together using multiple viewers. There are kits that you can buy with a teacher device, a router, multiple viewers and chargers, but they are very expensive (like thousands of dollars).

Goofy ways to spice up Virtual Field Trips



It gives you a visual of a random spot on a map. You have to locate where it might be on the map. It then gives you points based on how close you are to where it actually is. It will show it on the map. They now allow you to play single player or against others.

Smarty Pins


Smarty Pins is like Geoguessr, however instead of giving you a visual, it gives you clues like you are playing a trivia game. It allows you to pick where it might be on a map and you keep playing until you run out of distance (kilometres). The good part is that it doesn’t go and land you in the middle of nowhere, but will afix you somewhere  close to where you need to pin it, like in the same country, county or continent and you can get a hint (but that does take away your bonus points). It does allow you to do it by category too such as Arts and Entertainment, Historical and Sports so for those like me who really don’t know their sports trivia can skip that and focus more on the Arts and Entertainment part or the Historical part.

Build with Chrome

This is a great tool for students who love Lego! My students would have eaten this up if our bandwidth had allowed it! It basically gives students a lego board template and allows them to build on it. Now you are saying how does this tie into Virtual Field Trips? Well it does because students can create their own community, or the setting from a book that they have read and lead other students through it. They can publish it and use it in a blog post and it is all wonderfully able to be signed into from their Google Account so no pesky passwords to chase after!

I did a Google Hangout showing these tools last week, so feel free to check out my YouTube channel for more information about the above websites and how to do a Virtual Field Trip in your classroom!

I will be doing another Google Hangout on Wednesday evening. It will be about Google Extensions at 7 p.m.! Check out my YouTube page to tune in!


An Open Letter to my Grade 2s

Dear Grade 2s,

Holy Cow! I cannot believe that it is the end of the year. Like tomorrow is it! This time has flown by. It feels like yesterday you were entering my classroom all nervous about this “new teacher” and what she would bring, because well you are used to teachers that don’t stay for very long (sometimes not even until first recess) and why would you trust those new people? But hey you trusted me and even with the challenging bits (which were many), you were truly a great group. There were days you made me cry and want to quit because it was impossible to get any of you to listen, be respectful (like the days that I saw you drew a penis on the floor, or wrote swear words on the wall). You also made me cry tears of joy, because some of you were so, so, so determined to become at reading,  math, a being a better person and when you achieved those goals, it was such a proud moment. ( I don’t think you parents/guardians understood my excitement when I’d call to tell them about it… they were probably thinking that this isn’t normal to be this excited…) You might not have realized it though, but I am very proud of what you have accomplished this year. You have all become better in some way.

This year has had its definite ups and downs. I have been concerned for your welfare. I have been concerned that something is bothering you, but you aren’t comfortable sharing it because you think that you will get into trouble. I have been concerned that you aren’t getting something in math/language/science/Cree/social studies. I care about your success. It may not always seem like it but I do. My goodness sometimes I can’t turn my Memory Saver and Security Guard off because I am thinking about something that needs fixing or doing in our room.You would understand how frustrating that would be, not being able to turn those guys off…why do you think Teacher does mindful listening or mindful breathing with you? Where else did her yoga practice come from? Because she knows that is her way to turn her brain “off” for about 2 minutes, while you are all finding your space of peace too, which I know a lot of you need and enjoy (even though some of you would deny it openly, especially the yoga part – because dolphins are hard to do, and sometimes it is hard to do mindful listening when someone farts and all you want to do is giggle).

You have been a great group. Yes you have been challenging. You are probably one of the most challenging I have taught (and trust me I have taught really difficult groups of kids). But through all of it, I can’t believe how you have grown. Some of you have gone from kids who refused to listen to respectful and helpful individuals. When we were taking down your work and packing up the classroom, it was sad to see all the work to be taken down. The classroom looks bare. It makes me sad. Your enthusiasm this year to learn, collect and share thinking was infectious. You were excited to bring in things from outside or collections to look at with the magnifying glasses and explore further (like the clay which for a time I was sure was dog poop). You were excited to share stories, no matter how much you thought they would scare me (no more Jeff the Killer or Slenderman please). You weren’t afraid to tell me how silly, weird or crazy I was. Honesty is a great trait. You’d laugh at my odd jokes then be just as goofy. I loved your fascination with our globe. Trying to figure out the different names of the countries, mapping out where our pen pals had come from and trying to determine where we lived/ where I used to live and making up stories about the people that lived in Antarctica (which doesn’t include the research teams). You learned to code and then loved it (and I was very surprised that the girls loved it more). You loved to play and dress up and then loved me getting out my camera so you could pose, get your picture taken and put on our wall in the hall. You had such imaginations and I hope you keep those imaginations for a long time.

People in these last months would measure how our day was going, based on how many times I was in the hall chasing after some of you. I apologize to those that missed out on good learning opportunities because of these instances. You were probably confused and/or angry, but I appreciate how “go with the flow” you were. I’m not sure if this is where your fascination with colouring came from. But this shows how resilient you are as a class. That resiliency is amazing, most kids your age, don’t have that. Also keep being the accepting group that you are. You welcome anyone no matter their differences. Yes we had our bullying talks, but your bullying was more due to exclusion because you didn’t feel like playing with them. Differences didn’t really phase you or you really just didn’t care. Please pass that onto others around you. They could use some of it.

Lastly, remember what awesome, amazing, wonderful, marvellous, judgment free, caring, kind, mindful and unique individuals you are. You have a lot of potential in this world and I can’t wait to hear what rukus and change you create.


Your Teacher – Ms. Fiddler


There is no space in the world for Hatred


As teachers we try to teach our students to be loving, caring people with tolerance, compassion and respect for others. We try to teach them that we are all different and that is okay. When I turned on the news today, my heart was broken. Someone decided that they didn’t have even enough tolerance or compassion for others. They were willing to hurt others. My heart goes out to those who were affected by the Orlando shooting. I am hoping that as those who work with students who may have thoughts that are filled with hate, intolerance and a lack of compassion we are able to address them. Yes, we can fill our classrooms with creating a community, with teaching our students that it is okay to be different and using character education as a way to ward off and teach our students how to be compassionate, caring and thoughtful individuals. We can read books like the Sissy Duckling, The Skin You are In, and King and King.

There will, however, be those students who will still find hate in their minds towards others. This is something that isn’t a product of our classrooms, however from the outside community that they are influenced by. We can try our best to reach out to remove the hate, but that is often out of our reach. The best we can do there is address it as getting the community into the school, to show them how inclusion and a hate-free environment works. We as teachers and educators need to model this in our classrooms and out in the community.

This school year I had to address this issue in my classroom as my Grade 2s were bullying an LGTTBQ student in my class. I do not stand for bullying at all, and it gets even further under my skin when students hate because someone is different and they expect them to conform to their “norms”. We turned it into students being able to celebrate being different vs. using it against others. Then recently students starting calling each other “black” and then dropping the n-word and calling each other racists because that is an okay insult in their minds. Again brought up the discussion of it is not okay to use someone’s skin colour against them. My Grade 2s also had no idea, like a lot of the kids using the word racist of what it meant. However, this in this case it was a community wide issue because this was an insult that was stemming from home. So we have tried reaching out to the homes, mentioning that this isn’t an okay way to talk to or about others. To remind them about what the meaning of the word is. To remind them that they need to watch what they say around their kids and what they expose them to.

So we as teachers can teach and model our students tolerance and respect for all we come into contact in our lives. We can also teach them to have an optimistic mindset about the world and towards those they encounter.

Like the Beatles said, “All You Need is Love.”




Sketchnoting as a way to summarize

We started reading Gernomino Stilton books. I am surprised that my kids are not as excited about listening to this series then I thought. They love Magic Treehouse and they loved Stink and Judy Moody (can’t keep those 2 on my shelves)!

I had learned about sketchnotes last year at Microsoft’s Camp 21. I fell in love with it because I am always the person doodling in my book.

The YouTube video below gives a good reasoning as to why sketchnoting is a great way for students to demonstrating understanding and is a great avenue for students who just don’t learn with “traditional” methods.


My Grade 2s have been using it has a way to summarize our chapters in our Gernimno Stilton book.

We did a make up your story version first which resulted in a wizard getting turned into a frog by the witch and I, the teacher had to kiss the frog because “I needed to be kissed.”

We went and read our chapter and they were able to draw as I read. I have a very artistic little boy in my class who would love to draw versus write and would love to draw vs. anything else in the world minus go outside and play. He ate this up. Getting him to describe to me what happened in that chapter was like pulling teeth because he is not a very talkative kid. Getting him to sketchnote what  happened…man the page was covered and it was in detail! My class was a little hesitant at first because it was bizarre that I would let them draw while they were reading, but I figured they were listening in their own way. The first few times they had definitely checked out and I ended up with one girl drawing her interpretation of a rhino on the page (or was it a unicorn?) followed by a bunch of flowers.

Someone was clearly not following the instructions. But they are now getting it. I love how for those students of mine that currently have a goal of working towards just basic phonemic awareness (alphabet sounds only – and maybe th, sh, and ch) this is great because it doesn’t require them to write. It just requires them to listen and be aware – or what I call “tuning in” as we connect it to mindfulness (which reminds me I need to get a picture of them practicing mindfulness as they were so peaceful and quiet doing it today even when I had to hold a student’s hand while we were doing it to keep him still and not poke his neighbours).