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

Suckered in….. blog chain

It has happened, I have been suckered into the chain mail blog posting — thank you VERY much Diana Williams for this early morning homework assignment!

Well, here goes nothing!

11 Random factoids about myself…. 

1. When I was 6 I told my parents I wanted to go to Lawrence Welk Town instead of Disney Land… We haven’t gone to either – child hood dream crushed!

2. I cried at my first symphony, I really love classical music….

3. My starbucks drink… grande extra hot no foam soy chia latte. At work I drink peppermint tea …daily… hourly… yum 🙂

4. I grew up playing ‘metro level’ water polo, volleyball and soccer

5. I have been kayaking since I was 5

6.  Smart & successful men … in suits or dressed up… Hawt damn (and YES that is a fact about myself I decided to share)

7. I dont like escalators…. if you can walk, take the stairs…. one day you may not be able to walk, and won’t have the choice

8.  I LOVE professional development and conferences… so much so that I want to make a career out of it… Educational/Motivational speaker? Is that a thing… I am going to make it a thing…

9. I can very insecure about my appearance, one of the reason I work out 5-6 days a week….

10. I used to have a stigma against seeing therapists/councillors, but after experiencing a personal traumatic event and battling the stream of extreme emotions and instability — I will fully admit it is a huge part of what brought me out of the dark….

11. Chocolate chip mint ice cream… my favourite, my kryptonite, it is going to be the dessert at my wedding…

Questions for me From Diana…. 

1. If you weren’t in education what would you do instead?  —  Student Affairs Professional

2. Pencil or Pen? — Pen, specifically Bic round stic, or Bic crystal… blue

3. Last book you read? — “12 revolutionary steps to a whole brained child” Daniel J Seigel & Tina Payne Bryson

4. Guilty Pleasure? — OMG so many….  The TV show MASTER CHEF!

5. Has tech made your life easier or harder? — Easier to communicate on a larger scale, but has made realize how much I value face to face interaction.

6.  If you could give your younger self advice what would it be?… Stretch & take care of your body now… so when you are 23 you don’t need to get hip surgery…

7. What is your favourite blog to read? — I read every single post George Couros shares… I appreciate how his posts challenge me to reflect, rethink…

8. Share something funny — My Grampy referred to the “part” of a persons hair, as the crack in their head…. and when talking about political persons within Canada he would often say “and their head was cracked right down the middle!” — apparently that greatly influenced his vote….

9. Would you ever wear orange pants? Yes… with my grey toms, a creme coloured shirt …and my hair in a braided pony tail — I can picture it now….

10. What is one thing you hope to do in the future? I hope to find a kind hearted gentleman to share my life adventures with…

11. Favourite thing to do on a Friday night? Hang with friends… making home made pizza and watching cheesy movies…

Share with other Bloggers (Only naming 6 sorry if this is a repeat for you!!)

1. Beverly Bunker

2. Michelle Hiebert 

3. Alyssa Parfitt

4. Kain Moons

5. George Couros

6. Joe Bower 

11 questions for you to answer from me… 

1. Favourite breakfast meal?

2. One CD/Album you would take with you if you were trapped on a desert island for 10 years?

3. If you could live a day in a movie, which movie would you pick?

4. Cats or dogs?

5.  If you could spend the day with anyone (deceased or living) who would you pick?

6. Weirdest thing you have ever eaten?

7.  You have a round trip ticket that will take you anywhere in the world, where is it taking you?

8. Share an embarrassing life moment…

9.  Favourite season?

10.  If you could/had to live in another era for a week…which era would you choose?

11.  What is your karaoke song?

Here’s how it works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

Post back here with a link after you write this. Go on, you have homework to do.

You can thank me later.