She Returns!

This September, I return to the classroom after taking a year away.

The decision to step away from the classroom was not an easy one.

Uncertain as to whether or not education was the right path for me, I took a risk, a leap of faith, stepping away to explore and learn about myself both personally and professionally. Wanting to try something a little different, I honed in on my recently completed Masters in Educational Leadership and Management, and took on a management role at the University of British Columbia. This was my crash course in organization management and systems thinking, 

The RISK was worth the REWARD. The lens to which I now bring to my educator life has completed SHIFTED, bringing a new appreciation and understanding for the administrators that support front line staff.  I walk away from my year contract with UBC, with a new set of skills, a new perspective, and stronger sense of self. I AM an EDUCATOR.

I have SET INTENTIONS for my return… 

This year I am committing to PRACTICE what I PREACH…both personally and professionally

I ask of my students to TAKE RISKS and be vulnerable in their daily practice, so I shall work to model this alongside them, taking risks in my practice and daily life.

I create an environment of NO STRESS, so I shall embrace change and adversity as the constant learning moments they are. With change comes opportunity and learning.

I encourage my student to BE BRAVE and to BELIEVE in themselves, so I shall remember to appreciate my own growth.

I mentor with hopes that my students will learn to better understand themselves and their emotions, therefore I re-enter the teaching world with a mindset of LIFE BALANCE, embracing professional challenges and growth, whilst honouring my personal passions.

I am riddled with excitement and nervousness.
Excited for the adventure ahead.
Appreciative of time I had away to learn and reflect.





To Stream or not to Stream?


DISCLAIMER: Streaming and Integration both have value,  I only aim to offer a different perspective and begin a conversation about how best to meet the needs of all our students. Should we invest resources into streamed programs, as a way to more effectively target our intervention efforts?

There has been a constant be tug-a-war of opinions as to wether or not to stream students within the education system. This conversation tends to revolve around students that bring a specific, and most often, a challenging set of needs to the classroom environment. Although both streaming and integration of students comes with advantages and disadvantages, I have seen first hand the positive results of having a class tailored to target intervention toward a specific set of student needs. 

Why not stream?

There seems to be a stigma attached to the concept of streaming. People argue that streaming can be harmful to a students social well-being, as the child is ‘labeled’. People also see streaming as a form of exclusion, as students are seen as being separated, and isolated from their peer group.

As a teacher of a streamed grade 6/7 intensive literacy class I recognize that I have a bias toward having the option to stream. A program like intensive literacy offers a smaller class size where students receive regular 1 on 1, or small group support with an fully adapted/individualized program. Comments from students and parents, have indicated that the small, targeted class sizes has not only facilitated academic growth, but built confidence, and reignited a love of learning.

For students like mine, that bring a specific set of needs, a traditional 24 student classroom was not meeting their academic or the social/emotional needs – and this is not for lack of effort on the teachers part. The nature of our streamed class has allowed me, as the classroom teacher, target intervention, without removing students from the classroom community on a daily basis – instead, the intervention is embedded in whole class practice. Because my students all entered the program with similar struggles, they have grown to understand each others frustrations and stressors, and have been able support one another both academically, and emotionally.

I feel the general outlook on streaming needs to shift. It is time to remove the negative stigma, a stigma views streaming as potentially harmful to students. As a society we need to recognize, value, and accept diversity in learners and design a system that more effectively targets the needs of the students. Standardizing classrooms is not the answer.  Students are unique, as is their learning style, and set of needs. Classes need to mirror this diversity. Our system needs to offer a variety of options to better target and support intervention efforts & effectively meet the needs of our students.

What are your thoughts on streaming students to target intervention efforts?

When it Sticks…

Mindful Breathing

How do we know if it has stuck?

The driving force behind each decision made for our students is the hope that beyond a surface understanding, that students find value and meaning in what they are learning, and that the lessons learned nurture the whole child. The current shift in education, moving away from content specific learning, towards ‘big ideas’, is an intentional stepping stone that supports the development of life skills, and relevant, meaningful, and applicable learning opportunities that address individual student needs.

But, how do we know if what we are doing is sticking?

As some of you may know, a significant focus in my practice this year has been to better support my students in developing self awareness, self regulation strategies, and self advocacy. As the year has unfolded I have seen growth in my students, but there is always fear that this behaviour is contextually specific. Our classroom atmosphere facilitates the development of self regulations strategies; our living motto of ‘no stress’ is strong and present, we consistently reference and model strategies, encourage class discussions, brain breaks and fidget tables, and offer alternative environments and student choice.

Next year my students will be returning to their home schools, or will be moving on to high school. These environments may not facilitate self regulation in the same way.  Will my students take what they are learning and apply it in the REAL WORLD? Have they connected and found value in any of it?

Well, it is sticking…

My story…the scene unfolded as such…

My EA and myself were puttering away in the classroom over the lunch hour, and overhear one of ours students outside the classroom door, as his anger is escalating (This student in particular is one we have been working with to develop strategies to manage his anger). As I slowly walk towards the door to do a check in after hearing some colourful vocabulary spout out of this young boy’s mouth, I hear his fellow classmate say – well, slightly yell – “MINDFUL BREATHING, MINDFUL BREATHING”.

All went quiet outside.

As I stood, ear pressed against the door, hidden and uninvolved, I could sense the de-escalation. Moments later the bell rang, the students walk in, and the energy was calm.

I started laughing as my eyes watered with tears of pride and happiness.

It’s sticking. My kids flew solo, they practiced self regulation, they supported one another.

The social and emotional growth of my students this year has been profound in my eyes. Although they still struggle with their academics, they are becoming aware of who they are as a learner, and what they need to be successful. Our conversations have shifted away from individual awareness and success, toward developing a strong sense of collective success. Success of a class and community is rooted in understanding self and others, and supporting diversity.

I cannot wait to find out what else has stuck…

“Hey, No Stress” – Living Motto

This year I am teaching the grade 6/7 intensive literacy program. Each one of my kids struggles significantly with reading and writing, and the traditional classroom approach has thus far not worked for them.

Along with focusing a large portion of our time on literacy… my goals of the year focus on…

  1. Rebuilding confidence, by offering opportunity for students to feel successful everyday
  2. Developing strategies, with the students, to self regulate and self manage. Encouraging students to be independent thinkers, learners, and problem solvers 
  3. Reigniting a love for learning, which for most had been dampened by their daily struggles.

Each of my kids, much like yours, walked into class with their own story. But unlike other years, they were strangers not only to the classroom, but the school community as well. A huge piece of having a successful start to the year, was making them feel like this school, and this classroom was theirs.

I gave students the power and control to determine classroom arrangement and expectations, and I have slowly watched as the walls have come down. The guards they have built to survive the traditional world of academia are softening, as trust and community is being built.

A memorable moment…

During the first few days of school I consistently used phrases such as “no stress”, “take risks” and “be brave”,  to the extent that the students have now embraced these as their class mottos. These mottos have since been posted up on our class wall, and are referenced consistently.

Last week, I was about to begin a reading assessment with one of my students, when another boy walks by, pats the student on the shoulder and says “Hey, no stress!”… what a moment!

“No Stress” has become a living motto…

By creating an atmosphere of trust and openness, my students have begun to rediscover themselves as learners. I see the walls coming down, as their confidence grows, and I see students making gains in self regulatory practice. By balancing challenge and support, I can help build their capacity to be resilient, independent, and confident learners. I feel that my students have grown to trust me, to understand that everything I assign or ask of them is within their capability, and if they struggle, that it is okay, because we will find a way for them to be successful. 

On a daily basis, I look around and see students working in groups, students with ‘muting headphones’ on, or with a cup of tea, students curled up on beanbags reading, some working in small groups with our EA at the red table*, and others taking their 5 min brain breaks.

Each student is beginning to find ways to learn, that best suit their needs. They have grown to understand that each learner is unique, and learning is not a linear process. This is a huge step in developing self awareness and self regulatory practices – for students to acknowledge when they need support. Once this trust has been established, I can challenge/scaffold students to be more independent.

*Our class has 3 “collaboration tables” (big rectangle tables), each table corresponds with a colour; red, yellow, green. Depending on how students feel about what we are working on, they can move throughout the 3 tables, as a way to indicate to me how much support they would like.

Reignite the fire…


If you are like me, and feeling as though you have lost yourself in the mess, there is no time like the present to start the search,  to rediscover who you are and reignite the fire within… 

I finished my first year of teacher walking the picket lines with my colleagues, experiencing first hand the influence of politics on the education system…

I has been hard not to feel lost in this mess, to be pulled down by the constant questioning and negative comments. It has been heart breaking watching as education, teachers, students, families and community members have been pulled through the ringer, as we all try to improve education..

Amidst all this chaos, I began a new stage of my own educational journey to complete my masters at Royal Roads University. Reflection is a huge piece of learning for me, as it is in my program, and during my stay in Victoria I was asked to complete visual reflections, taking steps to developing ourselves as reflective practitioners.

The reason why I share this with you now is, I was taking a moment to reflect on all that has happened, all that I have learned, and how I feel about the upcoming union vote, and I realized how disconnected with myself I have become. I have allowed anger, confusion, hurt and frustration to take over, but I am not that person.

It is time I rediscover who I am…

My hopes are that by sharing these two reflections (whether you watch them or not), that you take a moment begin the process of healing those wounds…to rediscover yourself & reignite your passions

My reflections…

1. Who Am I?…  

2.  As an Educator…

I know that many people are wounded by what has happened, take a moment, remember who you are and why you do what you do, and let that guide you…





This post is long overdue…but here it is…


It may sound strange that the one statement I needed to hear, to settle my nerves as I began my residency stay at Royal Roads, was that I would feel UNCOMFORTABLE.

“Feeling uncomfortable means you are in a place to learn”

My Residency stay in a nutshell: two jam packed weeks, 12+ hour learning days, deep thinking and purposeful questioning, laughter and tears, extreme exhaustion, brain break adventures, and the start of amazing friendships.

From the moment we arrived, as a group of strangers we were thrown into a whirl wind of learning and collaborating. From ice breakers, and class discussions, to late night papers ands and group presentations, we explored the vast world of learning and leadership.

Class discussions fuelled the flame of my curiosity. My cohort being incredible diverse, offered unique experiences and perspectives broadening my view on leadership and learning…You learn more when you surround yourself with diversity…

Thus far this journey has forced me (in the most positive way) to reflect on who I am as a leader and as a learner, to better be in tune with who I am in order to support those around me.

I was challenged and I felt uncomfortable

Video Share: What it takes to be a Great Leader

Screen shot 2014-07-05 at 8.40.38 AM

This is a wonderful video discussing some ideas about what it takes to be an effective Leader (Roselinde Torres: What it takes to be a great leader)

Video Link HERE

Some points that stood out for me:

1. ‘Shape your future, don’t just react to it’  – Don’t be a ‘head down leader’ but instead look around corners – anticipate change, and make a decision to change ones course of action in the present moment. I am still working my way though Stephen Coveys book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” — but this really links to Coveys idea of being proactive, not letting your environment control take control.

2. A reflecting point, what is my capacity to develop relationships with people different than myself? A more diverse network offers more solutions, alternative perspectives and new insight

3. Be Brave! Creativity, innovation & risk taking, “Great leaders dare to be different”. This reminds me of the video ‘Making a movement’ (TED talk by Derek Sivers) and the idea of a lone nut! If you haven’t watched this clip, it is a must.



Critical Thinking Challenges!

Credit: Brenden Riley

Over the past couple months I have participated in a “Critical Thinking Dinner Series”‘ hosted by Surrey’s own Stefan Stipp – a discussion based workshop looking closely at creating ‘critical challenges’ and scaffolding the development of critical thinking skills into everyday classroom activities.

Check out The Critical Thinking Consortium for more resources and ideas. The tools of critical thinking must be explicitly taught, and students need opportunity to practice and continue developing these skills across the curriculum.

As I began this adventure of scaffolding ‘critical thinking’, I posed a question to my French classes — “what is critical thinking?” to which students responded with statements such as….

  • Critical thinking is hard
  • I dont like critical thinking
  • We had to do that once
  • I dont know what it is…
  • Looking at a topic from different sides
  • Thinking really hard?

As I only see my French classes twice a week from anywhere between 50 minutes to an hour, I introduced critical challenges in three stages – even though I wasn’t able to directly integrate it into other aspects of their educational program, my focus was to expose the students to the idea of critical thinking.

I linked my ‘critical’ challenges to one of my French PLOS “responding to creative works from the francophone world”.  What I found most interesting during this scaffolding process was how the students thinking began to change.

My Observations…

During our first class discussions students were very concerned with not having the “right answer” – but after a while students began to realize that as long as they could support their response, there was not ‘incorrect’ answer — the creative juices began to flow, and students began looking closer and closer at the details within the paintings, coming with the most spectacular and deeply reflective ideas.

Below I have briefly outlined the 3 activities I tried with my classes…

1. Group Challenge I found a series of paintings by a Francophone artist, and as a classes we had a group discussion about the paintings. I posed questions to the class that almost forced them to make connections – “what story is the artist trying to tell?”,  “who are the people in the painting?”  and with each response students needed to support it with evidence from the painting, a reason WHY.  To close our off our discussion students had to give the painting a title (with an explanation)

2. Independent Challenge #1 Paralleling the first activity students picked a painting out of a bag, completed a brainstorm of ideas (what they see, feel, think, wonder), titled the painting and justified why and explained what story or emotion they felt the painter was trying to tell.

3. Independent Challenge #2 As an extension of the first two challenges students researched and choose a piece of art from the francophone world. This could be anything from a painting or sculpture, to a song and even fashion design. Depending on what the student chose they had to find the title of the piece and discuss WHY they think the artist named it that and again, what story was being told. As an extension, students looked at world or personal events that occurred during the years before the piece was created and discuss how those world events could have been an influential factor in the piece.

Closing thoughts…

  • Be patient… start small
  • It is okay to be unsure as to whether or nothing something is a ‘critical’ challenge. Try it anyways! You are probably doing these already and may not know it!



“Read as a teacher”

ImageI recently started reading the high acclaimed “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.

As I am about to start reading about the ‘first habit’ Covey makes a point to suggest that I, the reader, read with the purpose to share what I am learning… and then to recognize how that shift in thinking/absorbing the material impacts my understanding…

“…shift your paradigm of your own involvement in this material from role of learner to that of teacher”

I suddenly became hyper cognizant of what, and how I was reading. If you’ve ever see my copy of the book, the margins are covered with commentary.

With Coveys statement came a purposeful/intentional shift in my paradigm – reading to teach – reading to share. It restructured how I read and absorbed the text, deepening my understanding.

Instead of reading purely for personal development/enjoyment, I began to reflect on how the ideas and questions surfacing could be reiterated and put into practice/modelled. How will I take my thinking and my learning and express it/bring it to life?

It has been proven that by asking students to teach each other about what they are learning, they significantly deepen their learning – this pays true to teachers and our own professional development and learning as well.

Teaching is not meant to be an isolating profession.  Connect, Share, Learn

  • Is it time to shift your paradigm?
  • What have you been reading lately — time to share!




Don’t take that tone with me…

The power of ‘tone’….

Tone of voice.. an element of communication that can often be lost or misconstrued, whether that be through the use of devices or during face to face conversations. Tone, whether we like it or not greatly influences a conversation – it can be used as a a tool to convey empathy and kindness, to intimidate or induce fear,  or to highlight ones position of authority. Tone has power to change the meaning of a statement…

Through a recent occurrence I recognized that although ones ‘tone’ amidst conversation is a pivotal, so is ones perception and reaction – especially if the tone is perceived in a negative light. The way one choses to perceive and react during conversation is within their control…

It is important to speak and listen with purpose and consideration – to be self aware and socially aware, recognizing we are all human; with experiences, triggers & emotions, that influence our perception and reaction to conversation & day to day life scenarios. 

My learning moment… 

Earlier this week I had a doctors appointment and was asked if it would be alright for a medical student completing her ‘practicum’ to take the lead – understanding the value of a practicum experience, I of course agreed. Part of this appointment was to review some blood work, blood work which revealed I have high cholesterol. Although I was not entirely surprised by this news given my family history I was still not happy with these results…

To provide a little context for readers who do not know me personally, I work out anywhere between 5-6 days a week (grew up a competitive athlete) and eat a diet that has minimal to no dairy/gluten, zero red meat & I cannot remember the last time I had a fast food meal… To add a layer of emotion to this scenario, I will share that 5 years ago my Dad had emergency open heart surgery after finding out the main artery of his heart was 100% blocked. 8 months prior to these he completed a 25 day trek through the Himalayas. He was by every definition fit and healthy, and to many his surgery came as a shock.

 Needless to say,  genetically – I kinda lost the coin toss on this one…

Unaware of my family history or current life style, this new doctor chose to use a tone I perceived to be very demeaning and inconsiderate when asked “what can I be doing to lower my cholesterol?” … A question to which she responded “well you should probably start exercising more and watching what you eat, try and eat healthy”… Whether or not she meant it to be said in a negative tone, I, the recipient took it as such. Recognizing that my reaction to this statement was rooted in emotion as I held back tears…she excused herself to retrieve my long term family doctor – who understanding my family history reassured me the number was not high enough to be concerned as of yet, that we will continue watching it, medication was not necessary at this point and there are things we can try to hopefully lower it naturally….

In retrospect I recognize I could have handled this situation differently – I reacted out of frustration and fear… I observed first handedly the impact that tone truly has…. 

Things to think about…. 

  • How self aware are you in regards to your tone of voice? How does it change? How may people perceive it?
  • What purpose does our tone have in different situations?
  • How do our students perceive our tone?
  • How often is tone lost and messages misunderstood through the use of text and emails?

INTERESTING VIDEO TO CHECK OUT David Coleman Talks about… Tone of Voice

Be a Duck… let it go

                                  “Be a Duck”

“Be a Duck..” A metaphor…how  to handle all that life throws at you – A ducks waxy feathers allow them to sit in the rain without really getting wet… the water just slides off. Stress, emotions, expectations, uncertainties that we hold onto can become toxic and unhealthy, putting a strain on relationships, clouding judgement and hindering personal awareness and growth… and like a duck, we must allow ourselves to let it slide off 

Hmmm, things to think about…. 

1. How do you cope with different types of stress? Reflective Runner? Worry Relief Workout? Emotional Eater? Girls Night Gab? Dear Denial Im Back?  

What about IN the moment?  

From now on, I am going to be a Duck… let the stress slide off my back

2. How can we develop this self awareness and self management in ourselves and our students?  Social and Emotional learning is making its mark on  todays educational system. A large component of this centres around the idea of “Self awareness” & “self management” – being able to identify how we feel, the root causes & then how to manage these emotions – ideally nurturing resilience and capacity to cope with stress in a healthy way. 

George Couros recently shared an article that very much ties into the idea of “being a duck”,  LETTING THINGS GO, releasing thoughts/personal critisms/stressors that may be holding you back…

Article:  “50 things to let go before your next birthday”(Angel Chernoff) 

What are you going to let go of today?Quack Quack…

My Debut…


Last night, I was one of 4 “IGNITE” speakers at the monthly Digital Learning Series Dinner hosted by the Surrey School District. 

I am calling this  “My Debut into School District 36”  and although there are things I would definitely change and improve on – like slowing down and remembering to breathe….I am proud of myself and am very humbled by the experience. I may have stumbled over words and spoke at a mile a minute – but that didn’t seem to matter. What mattered was that I was willing to try, to be brave and take a risk…I felt unbelievably supported. 

As I always say…. “you gotta start somewhere”

My topic of the evening was that of professional development, something I have become extremely passionate about over the past 5 years. 


  1. I thrive off of  being challenged to think in new ways & to reflect on my practice
  2. I see value in making connections with individuals who are passionate, who believe that change is possible and bring new perspective and unique experiences to a conversation 
  3. Equally important to making connections is maintaining these connections, and developing relationships even friendships that I can continue to learn from 
  4. Sparking new passion – professional development exposes me to new things and sparks new interests
  5. Emotion: I begin my pro-d journey feeling eager and curious. I leave feeling inspired, revitalized, sometimes angry or frustrated with myself — which I convert in to MOTIVATION & ACTION
  6. Bringing what I learn to LIFE! Why go to pro-d if I am not willing to try new things, take what I learn and put it into practice. I take risks so my students feel safe to take risks …. every moment is a learning moment. 










The Art of Conversation…


Just as other forms of art & expression deserve time, patience and practice, so does…

the art of conversation

Disclaimer…  I am the first to vouch for the value of technology and social media in allowing us to make and maintain connections with others, this post is merely to express my recent reconnect with face to face conversation…

With all the technology we have at our finger tips, I have really began to see the   value in face to face  ” hey lets grab a coffee and catch up” conversation…

Over the christmas break as people flooded into town, returning from school or work, visiting family or even just taking in the beautiful BC landscape… I sat in a coffee shop catching up with some friends observing the handshakes, the hugs hello, the body language,  the tone of voice, the stories, the expression, the laughs and the moments of silence…

It is easy to get swept away in the world of technology, to type, delete, ponder and retype… taking the time to send the perfect witty response…

Value technology – use it, learn from it, connect with it…. but don’t forget the power of face to face conversation… the ability to communicate and to express ones self without a ‘backspace’ button…

Penny for your thoughts?

  1. Are young people getting enough opportunity to develop these skills of face to face conversation and expression?
  2. Is ‘over use’ of technology stunting the development of emotional intelligence?

Just for fun… BLAST FROM THE PAST… My technological upbringing…

I consider myself to be a ‘technological hybrid’ – I wasn’t necessarily born in the world of technology – 95% of my childhood was spent outside, while the other 5% I was at school or sleeping… but today many aspects of my life, the way I connect, communicate and learn are largely dependent on the use of technology

  1. I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was 17, can anyone say T9?
  2. A lap top was a luxury I received as a university student…
  3. Dial up… Need I say more
  4. TV channels… 28
  5. VHS & Cassettes
  6. Phones with curly cords
  7. My first email address — swimmer_chick15 <- WOW
  8. Nexopia + MSN Messenger

Reuniting with my Passion…

I am now just over 2 months into my very first ‘official teaching position’…. I find that when I am reunited with a colleague, a friend or a family member the same question is asked..

So… how are things going so far? 

There is no simple way to describe my current emotional or mental state. The best way I can describe it is…. I feel like a new born baby giraffe, I want so badly to reach up for the highest leaves – to maintain my “go big or go home’ mentality, but my legs are wobbly, I feel uncertain and am still working to find my footing and walk with confidence. The safety net that was my practicum no longer exists…

For a while I have felt in a rut… feeling slightly unmotivated, adjusting to such a change in lifestyle – from full time independent student, to a working professional…

I fully admit that I miss university, but I feel selfish saying it out loud… I miss being a student, miss having my days filled with group discussions, projects and presentations – having peers question my way of doing and thinking and vice versa, I even miss reading academic articles  with the sole purpose of dissecting their meaning.

Please don’t misread what I am saying, I enjoy being a teacher and working with students. I have been indirectly and sometimes directly challenged to reflect and adjust on a daily basis. Being in the teacher role I am constantly evaluating my practice, questioning what I am doing “what is the purpose, what will my students gain….”, BUT I do miss being the student….

With all of this being said, I recently I attended my second “Digital Learning Series” event, and after a series of IGNITE presentations, it hit me… I KNOW that I am passionate about professional development & learning , I know that I LOVE being a student… so, what am I doing to pull myself out of this rut…

I need to reunite myself with my own passions

1. ACTUALLY read the amazing books I have purchased, but have failed to make time to read…. “Drive” by Daniel Pink, being first on my list

2. I have always hoped to one day complete a masters degree, why wait? After months, even years of researching programs. I have finally found one that my gut tells me has potential for pure AMAZINGNESS – SO applications are in progress

3. Attend a CONFERENCE! For those of you who don’t know me, I come alive at conferences… networking, sharing, debating, learning…. *Sigh…Smile* They reinvigorate me.

Do you have some reconnecting to do? 



Well, its happened…

As fast as my adventures as a Teacher on call began, they came to an end…

Last Tuesday I started my first day as a 0.80 French and LST teacher. These past 2 weeks have been a blur, memorizing the names of my 5 french classes & LST students… assessing and coding my kindergarten kidlets… and trying to fit in time to eat, sleep, socialize & exercise.

I have to be honest… I had a moment yesterday at school where I felt extremely overwhelmed, full of self doubt and uncertainty…feeling the heavy weight of responsibility…. but with some good ol’ country tunes, some pretzel m&ms and an afternoon organizing, and an evening of visiting with students & parents… I finally feel able to breathe again… This year has offered me so much already, with every moment of self doubt or uncertainty comes a moment of reflection & learning 🙂

My ‘class’ blog is underway… so stay tuned to see what is happening!

Upcoming events … ILD Release day  – hope to see you there!!

Technology, Education, & Trust

I laughed at the irony of sitting in a workshop on self regulation … ON my iPad tweeting away… sharing my learning, to then see a rule that so clearly dictates student use of their technology… 

Before entering my education degree I was really torn about where I saw technology fitting in the classroom. I felt that students were already over exposed to technology outside the classroom walls (video games, facebook, texting etc) and therefore needed to be exposed to nature & human relationships…
But thanks to the amazing educators I have met throughout my program I have grown to see value in technology in the classroom… BALANCE is key! … there is a time and place for technology 

Day one of my practicum, my school advisor Diana Williams suggested I start a blog & create a twitter account…  2 things I now think I was subconsciously avoiding – not feeling fully confident in my technological abilities. Overcoming my technology insecurities enhanced MY learning…. 

I posted this image on twitter, and George Couros really hit the nail on the head with his comment…

The use of technology, just like every aspect of education needs to be about TRUST and about the LEARNER …. 

Take a minute and reflect on your classroom policies … who are they designed to benefit?

I also recommend checking out George’s post about kids & technology in the classroom – great insight as to technology as a TOOL 

Employee number and all!

The adventure continues from here… 

I am proud to say I am now officially a member of the Surrey School District 🙂 I have been fortunate enough to meet and converse with many SD36 staff on many occasions … ConnectEd Canada and other PRO ‘D sessions and even the world of twitter. It is because of these positive connections and conversations that I felt SD36 was the place for me – a district of innovation, community and life long learning.

I am product of the Surrey school system…

A graduate of MB Sanford Elementary & Frank Hurt Secondary – I look forward to working alongside teachers who inspired me… challenged me… and mentored me…

Let the learning continue… 


Understanding Self

While enjoying my early morning Starbucks soy chia latte this morning… I continue my reading of …..The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies To Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind – by Daniel am Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson…When I come across the phrase “foster self understanding”

I begin to think….

We give opportunity for students to learn about each other, diversity and the
ways of society….but are we purposeful in giving students opportunity to learn about themselves… And not just about where they came from, or what foods they like… But instead looking at how and why they react or feel…
Experiencing a recent loss put things into perspective for me. I see young children exposed to a world of stress, lacking effective coping mechanisms, unaware of how to identify and manage their emotions…

My story of self understanding…

As some of you may or may not know at the end of June I travelled back to New Brunswick to celebrate the life of my grandfather….The reason why I am bringing this up is that during my brief 4 day visit I experienced a spectrum of emotions. My Grampy passed away in April during my practicum, and knowing his funeral was 2 months away I shifted into auto pilot… Not wanting or ready to react. I knew the time would come, but I also understood my triggers were in New Brunswick.
I feel I have a strong understanding of myself and managed with these emotions as best I could…I recognized what my triggers were and understood myself enough to know how I best coped with sadness and grief….

But I was not expecting this…

At one point during my Grampy’s service…I could hear his voice as if he were standing right next to me saying (pardon the language) “Jesus Christ! You are staring at a hole in the ground crying!”…..

At this moment my internal laughter began and I found myself holding in extreme hysterics, during the service (Standing beside my Great Aunt – his sister, I might add!) Fully knowing that this type of response would be completely inappropriate for a funeral I held it in, but not without my cousins noticing, who then had to hide their own laughter – at that moment in time, I had to remember him with happiness, it was either I laugh hysterically or cry hysterically…

The following day after my family was finishing up sorting through all of his belongings when my cousins/aunts and uncles left to visit their other grandparents in town… And the grief finally reached its breaking point.

I had my melt down – I had no grandparents to visit in town, my Grampy was gone.

Left at his house with my mom and my Aunt, they recognized that this moment was bound to happen.

I was finally alone…. alone with my emotions, and I let them release.
My friends back home provided brief YouTube clip distractions or stories from back home… I walked through each room, his bedroom where we watched judge Judy and I tricked him into eating, the kitchen where we played crib, his shed were he taught me how to carve, his chair where his spied on the neighbours…

This release brought me peace….

I am still learning to understand myself, as I grow and experience new things. Could I have handled my emotions in a different way, 100% – but I took this event as a learning moment.

Students need opportunity to understand themselves… And we can help

Inspiration found within the walls of your own school

Take a moment and reflect…

When was the last time you visited your neighbour? Or a classroom at the opposite end of the school?

When was the last time you asked a coworker what are they were up to with their class?

Inspiration can be found right next door…

A conversation could be had that reaffirms or redirects your way of thinking/doing…

A conversation that motivates you to alter your practice….

An alteration that could benefit the learning of you students.

During the last week of my practicum I had a chance to explore my practicum school,

It was a chance to collaborate with my neighbouring educators…

Continue reading


I am starting to breathe ….time to slow down, to breathe and to reflect.

Growth – in my students, in myself — and our plants.

I smile… those amazing ‘ah ha!’ moments, when it finally clicked – connection made! Seeing that light bulb go off, over coming an obstacle, a moment where the lessons became meaningful and the learning became real. The light at the end of a tunnel.

I take pride in lessons that made my students excited, recognizing that teaching is creating a space for curiosity and inquiry, a space where students feel empowered to take responsibility for their learning, and feel engaged.

I held close to me a piece of advise my school advisor, mentor and friend game me day on one … “build connections and the teaching will come” … it is true – know your students, where the come from and what they need. Building those connections and better understanding each student will allow you to challenge and support them as individuals. Taking the time to connect with each students builds mutual trust and respect.

Practicum has allowed me space to grow as a professional, and help me search for answers to the big question ‘what kind of teacher do I want to be’…. what I have discovered..

I want to be a teacher that my students see as being a learner alongside them, a teacher that cares… that is human and makes mistakes. A teacher that engages, challenges and supports – that helps students realize their own potential. A teacher that opens a world of opportunity and exposes my students to the world beyond the walls of the class that has yet to be discovered…

Div 11 Vegetable Garden! — harvesting next week!!

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Connect Ed Canada … 

I was surround by passionate educators,  welcoming me with open arms, into their world of learning… 

Connect Ed Canada  …  A weekend full of thought provoking conversation, collaborating, and sharing.

As a student teacher I often struggle being in a stage of transition, and if you know me at all you know how much I am revitalized by professional development and conference opportunities…. Connect Ed Canada could not have come at a better time…

I witnessed an incredible representation of student centred learning at Calgary Science School. Observing students fully engaged in learning how to learn…

I left feeling inspired & motivated after meeting and conversing with so many educators who are working so hard to change and better the education system…

But feeling slightly overwhelmed by the opportunities and potential that lie ahead…

I laughed, I sang, I learned, I networked, I collaborated, I shared… I got all fired up!

To hear more about the workshops I attended, I have blogged about two already “risk taking” And “my ah ha moment”

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Continue reading

My “ah ha!” moment….

A powerful statement made by Joe Bower in a session focused on rethinking “discipline” has resonated with me all weekend…And has made me rethink my own practice and experiences..

“When a student walks in not knowing how to read, we teach them to read… When a student walks in not knowing how to behave or problem solve, we punish them…”

Continue reading

Risk Taking – “the lone nut”

Blog post inspired by an amazingly mind stimulating workshop on “Leading an Innovative Culture” lead by George Couros

My thoughts…

Historically the idea of “failure” has been seen as an end, a path of no return – a black hole we feared approaching.
Today we have begun to challenge this view, recognizing the learning that comes from “failure”
As educators we encourage students to “try new things” to “challenge themselves” …to take risks, to be creative and open to share….and we work to convince them that making mistakes and taking risks opens doors for learning…

Moment of self reflection…

Are we as educators modelling this “try new things” attitude to our students? How?

Are we as educators stepping outside the bounds of our comfort zone…adjusting our own teaching practices… Trying new things… or even acknowledging our own mistakes with our students, colleagues and self? Why…why not?

When as the last time you admitted to your students you made a mistake…and then actually tried to change things?

Are we ourselves being creative and innovative in our own teaching practice? And if we are… how are we sharing and collaborating?

When do we take risks?

The willingness to take risks, to be vulnerable and be challenged is rooted in the development of a safe, supportive and trusting environment – through the creation of a learning culture that places value in being innovative, trying something new and accepts “failure” or “mistakes” as stepping stones to AMAZING!

I believe…
Making mistakes is human, it is a natural, self reflective process that encourages problem solving and collaboration.

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”
Vincent Van Gogh

My final thoughts…
Be “the lone nut”…. take a risk, see what happens – sharing new ideas, trying new things, being innovative and creative is how movements begin… recognizing that “failure” and “mistakes”. Model to your students what you expect from them…

I have posted this video before, but I really believe it is representative of the message I am trying to highlight …. Taking risks can lead to change and growth in self and in others.
“The Lone Nut – Starting a movement”

‘neutral’ teachers – Protect Bear Creek Park

A current event has left my grappling with the idea of ‘teacher neutrality’.

Below is a letter I submitted… expressing my concern with a parking lot proposal put forward, triggering further inquiry into teachers as a neutral subject.

Dear Public…

I am writing to express my distress, as a I see another attack to Bear Creek Park’s green space slip from public view. There has been yet another proposal put forward that will result in the destruction of Bear Creek Park Green Space, that I as a life long resident of Newton have grown to love. To the unknown eye, what may be assumed to be ‘scrub brush’ is in actuality an invaluable ecosystem vital to the local biosphere. I urge the city of Surrey to deny the proposed expansion of the 8300 block of 140th street parking lot. 

This parking lot expansion would pave over irreplaceable natural habitats. 

What message are we sending to our community and to our younger generation if we are prioritizing a parking lot over the protection of a park that has been central to Surrey for so long. 

On a global scale there has been a push to be ‘more green’, to be conscious of our footprint and work to reduce environmental degradation – we as a community are failing to recognize the detrimental impact that such things as parking lots have on our local environment. 

I ask the public to take a stand, to protect this fragile Park. 

Last I checked Surrey is the City of parks, not the city of parking lots. 

Sincerely, Sarah Dalzell Age 23

— TO ALL MY SURREY FOLKS! Please feel free to email to help protest the parking lot extension if you’d like 🙂 

My questions then are….

To what extent should teachers be ‘neutral’ in and out the classroom?

Is it appropriate for me as a student teacher to be publicizing an opinion about a public issue so openly?

My thoughts..

Teachers are in a position of influence and it can be risky expressing an opinion to the class – But there is a difference between forcing ones opinion / promoting a one sided discussion, and allowing for students to create and support their own opinion while also being able to accept differences in opinion.

I feel that it is important to help students develop critical thinking skills that will allow them to construct their own opinions and in that demonstrating real life situations – people have different opinions, and that is OKAY!
I feel that expressing ones view point and modelling an open & accepting attitude towards differing opinions is important for students to observe, and what better place than in a safe and trusting classroom environment!.. WITH THIS IN MIND — I do recognize that a safe and trusting classroom environment needs to be established first and the conversations that involve the creation and expression of opinion need to be developmentally appropriate. 

I feel I am a global citizen, and fighting for what I believe in – giving a voice to the voiceless (like the environment) is my social responsibility… I will continue to appropriately, professionally and respectfully address concerns I have – and stand up for what I believe in. 

Thoughts… should teachers be neutral?

Clarence Johnson.

Coping with change, managing all aspects of life.

The true act of balancing.

This week, I faced my toughest obstacle, attempting to balance my learning life with my personal life.

Managing grief while working through my practicum, I authentically experienced the power of a support system, and of self awareness. I recognized the value of time, in the face of change. Change can often disrupt ones emotions, but in time the dust will settle.

To my loving family, my supportive friends, and to my empathetic advisors and colleagues…

I wish to express my appreciation for the unwavering support, love and understanding you have given me during this time

My story..

Bright and early Monday morning, I am ready and excited to start my 3rd week of practicum, when my family received news that my Grampy, recently hospitalized,  had taken a turn for the worse.

“Sarah, you may want to update your school and university supervisors, Grampy may not last the day”

My heart was aching and my mind was racing…

Do I fly to New Brunswick and see him? Will my school let me go? Will I have time? What about my students? What about the lessons I am to teach today? Can I handle this?

I managed to make it through the day, giving full credit to my school and family support networks that allowed me to go through the motions of the day, and understanding that my spirit was dampened.

“Just make to the bell Sarah…”

While my students were at library, I managed to get a hold of my Uncle, who was with my Grampy at the time – I got to say my final goodbye. For one last time I told my Grampy how much I loved him, he called me “his girl” and expressed his love. My heart swelled with sadness as my eyes did with tears.

Monday,  just as we had decided I would fly out to New Brunswick to see him one last time, we got the call. My Grampy had passed in his sleep.

Tuesday was spent watching movies with my mom, understanding we were in the ‘denial’ state of grievance, we chose to ignore phone calls and eat cookies… We were in a fog, not knowing how to react.

Then Wednesday came, and life had to continue. I arrived at practicum with a heavy heart, knowing the day would be hard, but the distraction necessary.

As my week continued I felt bombarded with emotion. My afternoons became a struggle as I was being swallowed by waves of emotional exhaustion. Grieving the loss of a man I held so dear to me, trying to survive an already life consuming practicum, while simultaneously attempting to navigate through the rigid politics of a program that limits days one can be absent, even for bereavement.

Thank goodness for a staff bathroom. Thank goodness for my support network.

Friday Came. I survived. Not without my moments of smudged mascara, not without my moments of reminiscing laughter. But I did it, I taught my lessons, I had my evaluations. I did it.

In retrospect, although this week was extremely challenging and emotional. It was a learning moment. Take each day at a time, overcoming obstacles will only make you stronger and more capable. You are never alone in your journey.

The people close to me, well aware of the amazing relationship I had with my Grampy dreaded the day I would lose him. I have the most amazing support network. We sometimes forget how valuable a support network is until we need one.

Rest in Peace my Grampy, Clarence Johnson.

I will always be “your girl”.

May you be reunited with your wife, and continue watching over all of us like you always have.



Garden Based Learning!

First and foremost I have a confession to make … The only plant I have ever successfully grown was basil – and that was out of a can… on the sill of my bedroom window (where it currently lives as it is only a couple months old!)

I have always had a passion for environmental protection and have worked toward advocating for local and organic eating – but until now have struggled to find my ‘inner gardener’.

Being my stubborn…independent to a fault self… I RESISTED.. even AVOIDED gardening as a teenager… as my parents (who are avid gardeners) wanted to ‘teach’ me and wanted me to “be involved”… NU UH! I wanted to learn and be interested on my own terms with my OWN garden — typical Sarah moment… (not one I am proud of!)

But alas, as I transition into a new stage of my life, as an educator…. settling into the lower mainland after my four year undergrad, my inner gardener has begun to flourish!

I have come to the realization that technology has begun to saturate all aspects of human life and that  many of my students the environment has become ‘abstract’ – a foreign unexplored idea.

I saw gardening as a way to reconnect my students with nature and shift their thinking — Nature is ‘the natural’ in a world of invasive entities 

This long winded introduction leads me now to introduce a project I have chose to taken on throughout the duration of my 10 week teaching practicum – Garden Based Learning

No garden at your school.. NO PROBLEM! … Trouble shoot!

I am using home designed PORTABLE GARDENS, that can be transferred in and out of my classroom each day by my students. My goal is to integrate multiple subject areas into the garden project – so far I have managed to integrate science, math, language arts, healthand career and a small branch of social studies – Not too bad eh!

Day 1: Prepare the gardening site – AKA… the kids get DIRTY!!

Ideally I would have LOVED to do this outside, on a gloriously sunny day.. BUT no such luck! RAIN RAIN RAIN! I forged on! ((I am on a time crunch… 10 weeks!))

In 12 tupperware bins my students will be growing 5 types of vegetables:  radishes, carrots, lettuce, spinach, and Sugar Peas (all to be fully grown between 30 and 60 days — Fingers crossed!!).

What happened next….

48 Dirt covered hands

24 Students

12 Gardening bins

10 Weeks

5 Vegetables types

1 Ms Dalzell with dirt smudges on her face… Relieved – The planters are ready!


The time has come…

Tomorrow is the day I have been waiting for…For the next 10 weeks I will be fully submersed in the classroom.

Teaching and observing, soaking up as much information as I can…

Am I nervous.. HOLY HECK YES — BUT each moment is a learning moment. I have the support of the most amazing friends and family & advisors willing to share their wisdom 🙂

Boy do I have some BIG THINGS PLANNED! Whether or not they all work.. WELL that is a small “to be determined factor”

One the my MOST EXCITING under takings will be GARDEN BASED LEARNING – through the use of PORTABLE GARDENS! My hope is to reconnect students with nature and its beauty by allowing them the opportunity to grow their OWN vegetables! 

BUT Stay tuned!! More photos to come!! My students will be planting this week!

Professional Development :)

As many of you may know, I love conferences and professional development….. LOVE.

I hunger for  professional development…. crave case studies and am absolutely reenergized by networking!

Most recently I attended the BCTF-NTC: British Columbia’s Teachers Federations, New Teachers Conference where I was exposed to a whirl wind of new ideas and met some amazing people willing to share their stories of learning and growth!

Below are the sessions I attended with a BRIEF taste of what I learned, as you can see.. IT IS A LOT!!

1. Managing Stress in School Aged Children – Building Resilience!

Ah Resilience, such a meaningful word sweeping through our society! Promoting mental health and social emotional well-being.

What can we do to help build resilience in our students? AND in OURSELVES!

– Focus on inner strengths

– Build your support network! NETWORKING!

– Be AWARE of yourself and of others

– Work to develop social competencies such as effective communication and problem solving skills

2. Strategies for Discussing Controversial Issues

Some food for thought…

Discussion controversial issues in the classroom allows students the opportunity to think critically, increase awareness of self and of global circumstances, develop and communicate their opinions.

Some tips for discussing controversial issues…

“Set the Stage” by developing Ground Rules with your class!

1. Respect all views

2. Listen to others carefully

3. Take turns talking

4. Give opinions in a respectful manner

Give your students a chance to develop their thoughts and develop their ‘background knowledge’ and be sure to debrief with your students as to what strategies they found to be effective in expressing their POV.

3. Project Heart

This session what quite moving.. and quite overwhelming. Two First Nation Elders shared their stories with us, revealing the harsh realities of  a residential school experience and life after. They made one request to use as educators…

“We are asking you to care, and acknowledge where aboriginal students are coming from”

The session facilitators introduced us to Project Heart, a program designed to honor the courage of residential school survivors//intergenerational survivors, as well as acknowledge the lives lost. To educate the public about injustices of the past and work toward building trust and empathy in a movement forward.

4. Socializing Justice: Taking Action on Racism 

How do we discuss racism that has happened in the past?…

Just as discussing ‘controversial issues’, when discussing racism or reflecting on past events keep in mind the following:

“4 agreements of courageous conversation”

1. Stay engaged

2. Experience Discomfort

3. Speak ‘your’ truth

4. Expect and accept non-closure

How do we respond to racist actions that happen now in our own school and classrooms?

Food for thought – Respond to what a student DOES .. not who they are

– Responding to what a student does does not make assumptions about a students character but are statements based on FACTS/EVIDENCE/PROOF

– Reflect on how you can make your response a ‘learning’ moment – ex. Disect the language, where did it originate from..

– How can we make people aware of racism? CELEBRATE diversity through cultural events… PROMOTE EMPATHY and ACCEPTANCE of DIVERSITY!

5. Teaching Models for Sustainability  –  “Be the Change – Earth Alliance” 

Learning Locally… making REAL WORLD connections

Looking at PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with your local and global…



What can YOU do in your classroom?…Composting? Looking at where things come from and how they arrive? Gardening? Reconnecting with nature?

6. Professional Development – Giving Purpose to PRO-D-Days 

Professional Development has to be ABOUT YOU.. this your chance to be SELFISH//

What do YOU want to learn about, in what areas do YOU want to grow…

Most Importantly… what are YOU going to do to make it happen…You must be a SEEKER of opportunity…

Professional Development is YOUR RIGHT and YOUR RESPONSIBILITY

6 Purposes of Professional Development (paraphrased from presentation)

1. Building and strengthening self as a professional body

2. Development professional relationships

3. Being exposed to new teaching methods

4. Being exposed to new educational theories

5. Encouraging life long learning/professional development

6. Promoting collegial conversation – Collaboration and







Educating the Heart <3


Empathy – A deep understanding and acknowledgment that all citizens of this world, creatures and environment included deserve a life of happiness. Empathy rooted in action and compassion recognizes that peaceful cooperation & collaboration will only succeed if we as individuals live and work for the well-being of the global society.

Empathy so often slips through the cracks as society travels through life at the speed of a runway freight train targeting capital gain…

Must empathy now be taught…? Has it become the role of educators to create empathic citizens?

Living in a world so fuelled by innovation, growth, consumerism and capitalism we as a society are drifting away from our natural empathetic tendencies. Our life focus has been narrowed by desire to ‘move up the ladder’….

Now is the time to broaden this focus, to recognize the interconnectivity of the world we live in. 

Imagine what a world we could live in, if  selfishness and discrimination were NOT an option… 

I PLEDGE... to forever work to create a world where acceptance, tolerance, empathy and compassion are second nature to all. A world where the environment takes precedence over capital gain, where discussion of war and poverty are followed by actions of resolution, and where words of hate are nulled by waves of kindness…

Will you join me?…..

Educators, Parents, Neighbours, Strangers… Educate the HEARTS of  ALL PEOPLE , we all play a role…

Global citizenship & social responsibility are rooted in EMPATHY…with EMPATHY and ACTION comes POSITIVE CHANGE


Thank you for the inspiration Karmatude:

Mind Blown by MindUp

Mind Blown by MindUp! Working to build mindfulness, emotional intelligence and resilience in students! Ah HOW INSPIRING!

Today I had the incredible opportunity to be trained in MindUp – a curriculum rooted in Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) which aims to help students understand how their minds work and how emotions impact their learning

MindUp infuses academic learning with the promotion of self awareness by giving students a sense of control over their state of mind. The curriculum gives opportunity for students to develop strategies to ‘quiet the mind’, resulting in,  increased clarity and problem solving ability when faced with stress and therefore increased RESILIENCE. 

– My goodness how I could have benefitted from the MindUp strategies growing up!

MindUp recognizes the need to provide students with skills and strategies to be aware of self and to be mindful of their their emotions. It is about educating for student overall well-being as an avenue for academic success and social development. It makes links to brain physiology, the power of our senses, living with optimism, gratitude and kindness!

As I am a student in the Social & Emotional cohort I have observed throughout my BEd experience that there is a push to develop pro-social behaviour within the classroom and that “21st Century” learning highlights the importance of developing emotional intelligence – MindUp being an incredible launch pad for this movement in the classroom!

What is so amazing about the MindUp Curriculum is that it is not a single entity that taught alone, it is meant to be infused and integrated into teaching practices. I hope that one day these practices of de-stressing become infused into society and normalized, so many individuals move through life at such a pace that the value of life experience pass them by.

De-stress…recognize the beauty of life, spread kindness — make the world a happier place.

Education is the front line for these positive movements. So I am jumping on board!

If you haven’t checked it out already! Here is the MindUp site!

Bloggers Catch Up

As I enter into my 2nd B.Ed semester I find myself here playing ‘bloggers catch up’, a repercussion of being swept away by semester final projects and swallowed easily by the relaxation that the holidays brought.

2012.. What an amazing year, … graduated university… explored 12 European countries, where jumped out of a cable car in the swiss alps, river rafted in Austrian waters & experienced classical music (Mozart concert, Vienna)… visited my lovely new brunswick (twice!)… spent the summer camping on the sunshine coast, biking the seawall, exploring capilano suspension bridge, and being Gumby for one more year 🙂 ….came out of a 6 year soccer retirement… started the Bachelor of education program at UBC- a process of self discovery.. went skiing up Grouse, snow shoeing up cypress… met some of the most amazing people… Thank you to all of the incredible people in my life, for making my 22nd year of life so absolutely unforgettable!

This year… I will work my way through 13 weeks of practicum – learning in its most authentic form, being supported and challenged as I discover who I am as an educator… I will coach a volleyball team with my best friend…I will travel across the country to reconnect with family and friends, I will try as many new things as I can… I will SKYDIVE.. and Hike the Chief..because why wait another year?

If I hurt I will have support, when I am full of sunshine it will be spread like wildfire…

I live and love through every minute of the day.

But what mustn’t I forget… ahh to breathe and to reflect…

2013 here I come.

Community Garden Workshop Series #2

“In order to care for nature we have to know it, and to know it we have to experience it” – Stacy

Curriculum Connections!

It is all about interdisciplinary lessons!

Your garden is your CO-Teacher!

Community gardens have the potential to reconnect students with nature. For some students nature and gardens are an abstract/foreign concept as some have had little to no exposure to the natural environment, lets work to shift this notion of nature being abstract and allow students to care for something so core to health living – a healthy environment.

Feed into the curiosity and wonder that comes so naturally from students! Follow their enthusiasm and all them to be the teacher. Guide students to find the answer by creating an environment of wonder and exploration.

Brainstorming! In what ways can a community garden be integrated into lessons!
(I have just listed a couple ideas here, so PLEASE feel free to share more!!)

– Math! Geometry, symmetry, fractions, business/marketing/buying & Selling

– Art! reflection, poetry, advertising, design/draft (green house/garden design)

– Science! plant cycle, life cycle, food chain

– Health & Nutrition! Cooking & recipe reading, nutrition,

Here are a couple things to think about!

WHY do you as an educator want to bring a garden to your school… My thoughts,

– Experiential learning!

– Real world project with real world responsibility  (rewards and consequences)

– Strengthen community (school & surrounding area)

– Self Reliance! An opportunity to foster student confidence and ownership

– Reconnecting with nature and the land

– Promote understanding of where our food comes from, and what we are putting into our bodies
(healthy body, healthy mind, health spirit – happy heart)

– Project Based Learning to promote critical thinking

– Domino effect of reconnecting with nature into families and community

Today we had an adventure out to the Orchard Garden, learned all about the different types of kale and even did some ‘blind’ contour drawing to tap into our tactile senses. We tromped through the rain and the mud, dug in the dirt, smelled the fresh air and soaked up the knowledge!

AND! Yummy Potato leek soup for lunch made from herbs and veggies grown in the Orchard Garden!

Green Thoughts!

Have you been thinking Green today?

Thanks to an amazing professional day session I attended back in October, I was introduced to this idea of “green thoughts” or “positive thoughts”. I took this idea and integrated it into my year citizenship and RAK’ing project…Who doesn’t love random acts of Kindness!

I put together a bucket of “Green thoughts” – quotes of positivity, motivation and inspiration for my students to enjoy! On a day they are feeling bummed and need a pick me up, or wanting to make an amazing day even better, they can pick a thought and enjoy!

Spreading the sunshine (Newest aspect of my blog — Why not spread the love?!)

“You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. you can steer yourself any direction you choose”    – Dr Seuss

Today I facilitated a ‘reflection’ lesson as a way to get into the heads of my students. What have they been taking away from my lessons on citizenship and RAK’ing… have they been taking away anything at all? I was pleasantly surprised to receive reflections of art work, poems and written responses all about what it is to be a good citizen. After some PERSONAL REFLECTION time I began to question my motives… what was I as an educator… a teacher hoping to gain from this reflection… what was I hoping my students gained? My lens is shifting….

My students are young, creative and thoughtful… but sometimes their creativity needs a little guidance when I an educator am looking to assess or check for understanding of a specific goal . It is kinda of like ‘bumpers’ one uses while bowling, the bowler can choose to use any style chosen to bowl – granny style or even Fred Flinstone style, but not matter which style, the ball is always headed in the desired direction (hopefully). As much as students need and deserve creative license, there also needs to be guidelines (bumpers) to ensure that the goals of the activity are being met.

Lessons of the day

1. Before taking on a lesson or a unit… think about what you as an educator are hoping to assess or understand as well as what you would like your students to gain

2. Everything you do as a teacher needs to have a purpose, be intentional with your actions


Submersed in Learning

Over the past 2 weeks I have been fully submersed into the world of teaching as I made my way through my two week practicum.

I have been finding it extremely challenging to fully sum and explain my two week practicum experience, every day I took away something new – in hindsight blogging after every day would have been helpful, but alas I found my brain had consistently turned to mush by the end of the day, and stringing words together would have been a struggle.

As a quick overview – I taught the following lessons 🙂

– 4 Gym Lessons: It was so wonderful being able to bring one of my sport passions to the classroom, or gym in this case – VOLLEYBALL! I learned very quickly that teaching 23, 8 year old students how to play volleyball is extremely different than coaching club volleyball – POLAR OPPOSITES! But super fun none the less. I observed that while managing students in gym class, your voice needs to be that much slower, clearer and more concise and you need to be purposeful and direct with instruction. You really need to get used to waiting, even though “wait time” feels to last a LIFE TIME!

– 2 Health and Career Lessons: My very first ‘in class’ lesson took place on HALLOWEEN! A lesson introducing the concept of ‘citizenship’ and introducing a new ‘secret’ class project (random acts of kindness – so if you are reading this.. SHH!!). Much to my surprise, and quite contrary to the energetic festivities of the day my students were FANTASTIC! They listened eagerly, came up with some amazing ideas about citizenship and worked hard to complete their ‘citizenship project’. The 2nd lesson acted as a continuation on the citizenship lesson, linking in the idea of positive language (do vs don’t) and then following through with our very first class ‘random act of kindness’ … You’ve been RAKed!

Remember … SHHH!! My class quite enjoys that these Random Acts of Kindness are their thing 🙂

– 1 Math Lesson! The morning of my math lesson my creative juices were flowing! And I designed a MATH GAME! That would allow my students to use their team work skills to physically represent place values. Imagine if you will – all the desks pushed to the side … the class divided into two teams, masking tape on the ground in the shape of a ‘T’ to divide the ones and tens places – I yell out a number and the students rush to place the appropriate number of bodies in each section proceeded by having the students number off out loud.  ex: 23, 2 bodies in the 10’s place & 3 in the ones place. The students LOVED IT! I found it to be a great game to work not only to review place values but to work on team work skills as well – I even introduced a ‘challenge question’ yelling out a number that required a ‘100’s’ place value spot – a true test of critical thinking as the ‘T’ does NOT have a place for the 100’s value. What was even MORE interesting was that the team who struggled initially with the game was able to look beyond the provided 10’s and 1’s “T” and create their “100’s” number MUCH faster than the other team who was successful with every other number.

– 1 Daily Literacy Lesson: Making a Mental Picture to increase understanding. I introduced the topic of ‘making a mental picture’ in ones imagination and then read bits of a story to the class, having them close their eyes as to not see the pictures and then we discussed as a class what images came to mind. I then read them a poem and had them silently draw out the images that came they were creating in their minds. I was able to create a connection with the students as I brought in books from my childhood – they loved the sharing moment!

– 1 Art Lesson: MONSTER BOXES! Thursday afternoon, no class Friday… what better way to end the day then with an art activity! My lovely school advisor announced to the class that she would be ‘ invisible’ for the rest of the day and that I, Ms Dalzell was fully in charge! I wrote step by step directions on the white board, walked them through each step – and then gave them creative license. This ALSO meant that Ms Dalzells crazy side got to come out and play for a bit. I had made a playlist for the students comprised of some good old high school musical and one direction songs (and some jazzy songs of my own) that were to be played as long as the students showed me they could work hard and keep their voices down – AND THEY DID! We had a couple dancing moments, and some sing along time – while also managing to get work done!  What a day!!

Lessons Learned…
1. Connections! Access prior knowledge and allow students to find connections with the lessons

2. Catch their eye! With each lesson have a ‘hook’ something visible or physical that will allow students to access their prior knowledge or that will build background knowledge

3. Be patient! When you pose a question allow each student time to think and reflect, it will seem like an eternity, but the wait will be worth it

4. Find the Balance! Find that balance between ‘teacher talk’ and ‘student talk/work’, teaching is not about what the teacher has to say, it is about providing opportunity to hear what the students have to say or show through their work.

5. Be systematic and purposeful in your classroom management & praise those who follow instruction

6. Validation – If i a student struggles to answer a question that is okay, but be sure to give them a chance to boost their own self esteem, allow them to answer a question they willingly put their hand up to answer. Show them you care that they are learning.

7. Modifications – work to incorporate every learning style within a lesson; auditory, visual and kinesthetic – again linking back to the idea of the ‘hook’ – giving each student equal opportunity to find their connection.

Community Garden Workshop Series #1

Moving through my most recent stage of life, I find that I am being shifted more and more towards living a green and sustainable life style, and reconnecting with my environment. I have always been a little bit of a tree hugger, loving the outdoors doing anything from a camping to beach clean ups!  BUT I have not really found my niche with getting my ‘hands dirty’ and growing my own garden. Contrary to my parents who have green thumbs — well more like green souls! Growing their own vegetables and maintaining an immaculate garden, I have slain my share of plants.

An opportunity came forward at my university institution to attend a workshop series to support education students in implementing Community Gardens at their future schools of employment – HOW EXCITING! Using gardens as a basis for integrated and experiential learning!! Through this workshop I will gain practical tools that will allow me to utilize a the creation and maintenance of a community garden through the lenses of multiple subjects – health & Career, Math, Language arts, Social Students, Science!! AH!

Community Gardens will provide opportunity for students to reconnect with their environment and the ‘natural’ way of living – very similarly to the path I am traveling myself right now.

How could I POSSIBLY pass this up!?

So…. bright and early on a rainy  Saturday morning, I pulled myself out of bed, pulled on my rain boots and trekked onward to a day of finding my inner artisan!

The day began with our crew circled out in the rain giving thanks to the land and what it has provided and discussing our own personal experiences with gardens, shifting into academia – looking at the extensive history of community gardens and then THE FUN PART…We as a group actually worked together to make flour, harvest & prepare vegetables which were used to make CREPES! ((that we then ate! yum!))

We also had an opportunity to weave wheat!


“Our Sunshine”

This weeks ‘Thursday Practicum’ was needed…

I find that I am in constant state of soul searching, emotions running ramped – what to do with my life, what am I meant to do… AH!!!

Being in the classroom this week reaffirmed why I am in the BEd program… to be a positive role model for young students – to support and care for each student as individuals, be honest and open with the students, learning from them as I hope they learn from me.

Following the usual Thursday routine, I was parked in the comfy swivel chair of ‘teacher’ desk, marking spelling tests, recording marks, and selecting stickers as Mrs W. walks on over… places the FM transmitter around my neck and the mic over my ears… “i am just in the hallway”…

Calmly I continue marking… reminding myself to breathe – “she is in the hallway, you are not alone”.         I answer student questions, allowing the organized chaos and energy to fill the room with learning. Lunch rolled around and I was instructed to take a moment to settle energy and instruct the students to prepare for lunch — And there we have it… “this is teaching”. Allowing the students to chip away at their work, fully knowing that you are there to support them as they need it…

I believe I was just the subject of what they call.. gradual release in the teaching realm…

I have to say… the highlight of my day occurred as my students were lining up to head home for the day and there were some inquiries made as to when I would be returning to their class…

Ms D: “well I will actually be back on Monday! And will be with you guys ALL next week! AND I will be helping teach!”

Response from one of my little men:  “YAY! We get our sunshine back on Monday!”

The positive reaction I received from these students as they found out I would be returning warms my heart…I had been so wrapped up in my own fears and insecurities – fearing failure. Rome wasn’t built in a day… and just like anything else… learning comes with time and experience. I need to stay true to who I am… use my passions to my advantage… Teaching isn’t about the teacher, it is about the students. The connections I have been able to establish thus far with this grade 3 class and my mentor have motivated me to push beyond my insecurities….I cannot fear mistakes or failure as they are the launching pads to my growth.

Lets just say… 2 week practicum…. here I come… Challenge Accepted! 

Advice Needed

As I transition into this new and unknown stage of life… becoming a teacher, I find that I am often overwhelmed with the reality that I have the potential to greatly influence the mind and childhood experience of a young person.

To be honest…

It is a little (extremely) terrifying…

I know I will make mistakes, which I can learn and grow from. I will have my ups and my downs.

But… it is scary to think that my mistakes have the potential to impact the lives of others – that feels like a huge and heavy responsibility…. am I over thinking things?

I have taught before… I have taught teachers…. university students.. and even young elementary students.

But never in the context of a true preservice educator, only ever as a guest… an ‘expert’ in a topic…

How does one overcome the fear of failure?…


Responsive Lesson Planning

Today I had an opportunity to experience first hand the challenges of being a TOC. You are entering a class to which you have very a very limited time to create a connection and teach a lesson.

I found my “protective momma bear instinct” kicking in as my students struggled to grasp the math concept being taught by the TOC… students were all looking at me, the familiar adult in the room, to guide them in the right direction. But being a student teacher I bit my tongue not wanting to step on the toes of the TOC, instead acted as a support system by redirecting the students attention to the TOC, and then answering questions and providing guidance & reassurance during the work period.

Today was a day full of learning … tips and tricks of the trade

Lessons of the Day…

1. Leading students along a path of academic success should not be guided solely by the PLO’s of the curriculum, but instead guided by the NEEDS of the students …RESPONSIVE lesson planning.

2. Transition Periods from unstructured learning to structured learning = CHALLENGING!
How can I bridge that gap, to allow students to experience both structured & unstructured styles of learning… relaxing breathing? Chimes?

3. Assessing the needs of your students provides a base line for lesson planning
Assessment  FOR learning…Assessment OF learning… Assessment BY learning (self reflection).

Again it all links back to RESPONDING to the needs of your students… building CONNECTIONS which allow you to better observe and understand these NEEDS

4. Tap into prior knowledge… students love to share… and you will always be impressed and surprised with what they have to say

Consistently Flexible

Today was my first day as an official member of a Grade 3 class, it will be my permanent home!

I observed a conundrum of teaching…. Being consistent while simultaneously being flexible.

Consistency in language — “respect your learning”… “gathering place”. When teaching a lesson that spreads over more than one day using consistent terms will bridge the gaps.  Consistency in how you choose to get the classes attention – if your students are familiar with your tactic, they will know how to respond.

Consistency & flexibility in your day planning.

Flexibility in recognizing when your kids just need a run around the field or an impromptu recess to channel their energy. Flexibility in being OKAY if a student moves at a slower pace, rushing them or penalizing them for not keeping up is not providing a supportive environment for learning, the work will all get done in time. Encourage risk taking.

One of today’s lessons involved writing poetry. Students were asked to pick a topic and write a poem about it WITHOUT naming the topic. HOLY MOLY! I was beyond impressed with what the students were able to create. There was no specific criteria other then ‘not naming the topic’, they could rhyme.. or not….it could be 5 lines.. a paragraph… a list of words… this is true creativity – boundless.

Respect. It is earned as you make connections with students, it does not come with the title of ‘teacher’. Students respond when they feel respected, safe & supported.

Lessons of the day:

Find a balance between consistency & flexibility

Creativity comes when students are given opportunity to express themselves without boundaries or set expectation

The Dalzell Dance!

What a fantastic day!

Grade 7s, P.E, Science, Soccer time at lunch with my grade 3s…AND after school Zumba with the staff!

It was just so lovely to be back in the school, real authentic experiential learning.

HOLY Grade 7 compared to grade 3… what a difference! Allowing for independent and collaborative work act as a stepping stone into high school. As a teacher you cannot force students to do work… but what you do is provide them the tools to complete it.

The highlight of my day being able to connect with 3 young girls in grade 7 science. They were chatty, chatty, chatty… and thus not being the MOST productive they could have been, and after some surface conversation between the 3 of us observed that there was an underlying fear of NOT doing the assignment correctly, but after a little encouragement and some girl bonding… the work commenced! One of the young ladies bunkered down and got a significant amount of work done!

This highlighted the fact that I don’t just want to be a teacher, I want to be a positive mentor and role model for young students. Just like working with those 3 young grade 7 girls, I want to help other young girls be courageous, confident and independent, and to treat themselves with respect.

I want to take advantage of my love for sport and adventure to guide students to find what they are passionate about! If students find what they are passionate about and have the confidence to follow it, how amazingly healthy and adventurous their lives will be!

Building connections… and the teaching moments will come 🙂

Lunch time! What a blast! Last week I was able to connect with a particular young gentleman through his love of soccer, so I was invited to join in on the grade 3 lunch time soccer game (what an honor!). It warmed my heart to hear “MS DALZELL IS HERE” being yelled out as I approached the field. Being my normal self, I displayed my spastic dance of joy after scoring a goal, to which was deemed the ‘dalzell dance’ and the students began to join in. I have been requested to return to the play every time I am back at the school for practicum.

Thoughts from my grade 3 soccer boy “I didn’t think you would be THAT good Ms Dalzell, can you play next thursday?…are you going to stay in our class for the rest of the year?” — Building connections and the teaching will come 🙂

Lessons of the day:

Allow your students both independence and collaboration, it is just as important for students to learn the content as it is for them to learn to think for themselves!

Teaching is not a 9-5 job… coach a team, head up a club… these after school activities are prime time teaching moments that could benefit students the most!

Ms Dalzell…

Reality has hit…my adventure has truly begun!

Today I entered my practicum school not only as a student, but as a preservice teacher.

I could feel eyes full of curiosity on me, as Mrs Williams introduced me, “Ms Dalzell” to her 3rd grade students…I was to become a member of their class.

Thanks to a little hand in the air… and a “can you help me with this”… my nerves began to settle. I was seen as someone who could help… and during that short period of explanation.. I was a teacher.

So… feel free to follow along as my adventure as a student teacher unfolds…

Lessons of the day:

*Obviously not all, but these ones warmed my heart* 

“Make connections with the students first, and teaching will come” Mrs. W

Respect your learning… and respect the learning of others. Being a teacher is about allowing students to take ownership of their learning and education.