Monday, April 30, 2018

What qualifies as success? Measuring musicals, reviewing reading

Last week, our big production experiment came to fruition. Usually, our school holds a Winter Concert and a Spring Concert, where we showcase different classes in their own performances. This year, our music teacher, Wing-Chee Lee, felt that we were ready for something new; a school musical. Everything would be connected and interrelated. For it to work, we needed an even greater commitment by the staff and students, and to paraphrase a quote from Peter Pan, "faith, trust and pixie dust".

I know how intense it is to put on a school musical. Even though I have very few memories of my own time in elementary school, I do recall being actively involved in our school operettas. I was Tinker Bell in Peter Pan, Puss in Puss 'n Boots, and Pinocchio in the play of the same name. Practices and rehearsals were just part of the huge effort behind the production.

Diana as Pinocchio, circa 1983

My role in 2018 with our musical involved photography, creating costumes and makeup for many of the main stage performers and helping the drama club with their mime. Mme Awara also designed costumes, worked with the drama club, and organized the prop and set design club. Additionally, Ms. Clarke and Mr. Roberts (our videographer) made sets too, with and without students. Ms. Wadia was the stage manager, an often thankless, behind-the-scenes job; she and her crew fetched classes so they would appear at the right time quickly and quietly. She and Ms. Daley coordinated the Student Council Me to We bake sale that happened before and after the musical. Ms. Daley also rehearsed with the drama club. So did Mrs. Commisso, who helped make things run smoothly backstage and helped train the Recorder Club. Ms. Lee (and her partner, Mr. McCartney) wrote the play from scratch and composed all the music and songs used. She choreographed the moves by the class groups and with a small team of student helpers, built their props.

I'd say that the musical was a resounding success. The gym was packed and everyone we spoke to afterwards had positive things to say about the event. An endeavor of this scale is always a big nerve-wracking. Somehow, it all came together. The makeup looked better than it did the first time we attempted it. The treats were all sold to eager audience members. I can hardly wait to examine all the photos taken so we can select a few to include in the yearbook.

The very next day, it was Voting Day at our school for the Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading. I tweeted out this photo of our first experiment with an online voting booth / polling station.

Was this an indication of success, or just that I just had a single computer up? Then I looked at my numbers - specifically the ratio between the number of participants that initially signed up and the number of readers that qualified to vote. Last year, I wasn't pleased with my statistics. This year, my Red Maple numbers reached a record high - 95% of the participants who expressed interest initially actually qualified. This is directly related to the efforts of the classroom teachers AND the regulation that students had to qualify to vote to go to the Festival of Trees. My other numbers, which you can see here from past years, were higher for fiction compared to 2015-16, and lower for non-fiction and express when contrasted with that same year. Does that mean my Forest of Reading program was partly a success?

Numbers can be deceiving. As I lamented the low percentages, my colleague Renee Keberer (and beyond-board friend Lisa Noble) gave me a metaphorical kick in the butt - she asked me if I should be sad that not as many qualified, or happy that more students decided to try. Was I so hung up on the quantitative data that I was missing some of the excellent qualitative data? What about that Grade 7 that used to be a uninspired reader, who became so enamoured of the options that he loaned his public library copies out to classmates so they could qualify, and whose passport tribute led to his selection as the sign carrier for the 2018 Red Maple Festival of Trees?

Forgive the calls to a higher being, but the student was impressed

What about the Grade 2s and 3s in Room 117 that accepted the challenge even when it wasn't expected of them? What about the students in Room 112, 111 and 113 that worked together to ensure that 50% of their class qualified, thereby giving their class teachers a spot on the Festival of Trees trip? What about D, who told me that he's been at our school since Grade 4 and that THIS was the first year he actually managed to qualify?

So the 2018 Forest of Reading WAS a success at my school. I just needed to reframe, and not get hung up on the numbers. (I can't help it - I'm a data nerd. I kept track of the number of chats I conducted from January to April, and guess how many I did? 320! I know I missed writing some down, but I had 95 in January, 114 in February, 45 in March, and 66 in April.)

I think it's a good idea that I'll be presenting with Kerri Commisso at an upcoming Symposium May 11 for TDSB Learning Coaches with the theme "Measuring What Matters Across the Curriculum". Kerri is an excellent educator and during our most recent collaboration, she did a wonderful job of reminding me that there are different ways to assess success and it isn't always numerical.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Learning to Let Go

My friend Lisa Noble has a knack of sensing when I need to hear a message before I even realize it. She posted this on Twitter on April 20 and tagged me.

Sometimes, teacher friends will talk to me about things, and there's an urge to try and "do something" to help out, to rectify or correct situations that we as individuals may see as "not right". Is that always the proper response? I decided to do some research before I offered advice (unsolicited and/or requested).

I contacted the Ontario College of Teachers, and their professional library is in the process of sending some books they thought might be useful. I also contacted the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.

The more time I spend with people from my teachers' union, the more I appreciate what they have to offer. I spoke with someone at ETFO, who is a professional relations counsellor and also a teacher. My phone conversation with her was some excellent informal professional learning!

The professional relations counsellor mentioned "18.1.A" and I didn't know what that was. It's part of the document called We The Teachers, published by the Ontario Teachers Federation and it refers to the Duties of a Member to Fellow Members. You can locate the entire document at  It says:

Duties of a Member to Fellow Members
A member shall,
avoid interfering in an unwarranted manner
between other teachers and pupils;
on making an adverse report on another
member, furnish him with a written
statement of the report at the earliest
possible time and not later than three days
after making the report;
notwithstanding section 18 (1) (b), a
member who makes an adverse report
about another member respecting
suspected sexual abuse of a student by
that other member need not provide him
or her with a copy of the report or with any
information about the report. (WB02)

The professional relations counsellor said that, if the conduct or practices of another teacher is not negatively impacting you or the students, then it's not your business to interfere. She showed me a great technique about using yourself as the example when describing a situation, so I'm going to try it here with myself as the person being discussed. For instance, if another teacher saw me, Diana, playing video games with my students on the interactive white board, he or she may think, "Ugh, that is such a waste of instructional time! How irresponsible!" However, that teacher is not obligated to scold me or complain about me, because this is not a case where students are in harm's way.

If a teacher's conduct or practice is such that you feel like it needs to be addressed, then the important consideration is to approach the situation from the role of a concerned fellow teacher who cares about the colleague. If I want to return to the example from above, a teacher might ask to talk to me, Diana, privately, and say something like "I noticed that there was some video game playing in your class for the past few weeks. I am just worried about what the parents might think, if they believe you aren't covering the curriculum." The conversation is not accusatory or judgemental. It's meant to show that you are looking out for your colleague's best interests and hopefully will avoid anyone getting defensive. It also gives the teacher in question an opportunity to explain the reason for their actions if they choose to share it. Another possible scenario: if another teacher heard me screaming at the students in the library, he or she may quietly ask me into the hall and simply say "I heard some yelling. Is there anything I can do to help?"

I really appreciated the ETFO employee's time and I think it was an important reminder that we don't all teach the same way. It's easier to gripe to our friends about Ms. X or Mr. Y down the hall, but if our concerns are genuine, assume positive intent and have a caring conversation.

Monday, April 16, 2018

#ECOOCamp Reflections - Far From Home, Near to Learning

This past weekend, the big news was the ice storm that hit Ontario. On Saturday, April 14, 2018, I drove to Owen Sound for the first ECOO Camp. Beginning my journey at 6:00 a.m. meant that I didn't have much traffic trouble on the way there and the roads were not yet treacherous. It took a typical 2.5 hours of travel time. Going back was a different story. Despite the fact that I had to shorten my time there due to the weather, I still got a lot out of the experience.

The neat thing was that ECOO partnered with Teach Ontario for this event.
The site can be found at

Confirmation that I was a speaker here!

8:45 a.m. - Opening Keynote by Emily Fitzpatrick

Summary & 3 Key Points
  1. The future is amazing
  2. There are so many cool and exciting things to discover and explore
  3. Technology makes a lot of neat things possible

So What? Now What?

I felt like Emily's talk was supposed to be directed more to the heart than the mind. It was a feel-good way to begin the conference.

9:15 a.m. - Making Space and Time for a Maker Space in your School by Velvet Rollin

Summary and 3 Key Points
  1. Don't just think about it. Do it! (They just launched in November.)
  2. There can be a noticeable reduction in the amount of negative behaviour when students are visiting the makerspace instead of getting in trouble at recess.
  3. You don't have to buy a lot of expensive stuff for your makerspace.

So What? Now What?

I've been "doing makerspaces" in my school library for a while now, so a lot of the information was not new to me. I was quite disappointed that, although their makerspace was in the school library, there were no school library professionals (aka teacher-librarians) there to guide and support it. I can't change the amount of school library staffing there, but at least my presence reminded people about why teacher-librarians can matter.

10:15 a.m. - Making Movies by Diana Maliszewski

Love this photo of my participants snapping a shot of a slide!

Summary and 3 Key Points
  1. Making movies hits a lot of curriculum expectations as well as learning skills / global competencies.
  2. Students care about YouTube (and so do many of us) and sharing there is cool - just remember to consider privacy / media release forms / copyright and user permission levels (visual and audio).
  3. Green screen is fun because you can use any person or character with any background - just don't dress someone in green unless you want their body to be invisible!

So What? Now What?

Next time, I should put my contact information and YouTube account name on the first slide or on the bottom of all the slides, so that people don't have to ask or wait to get that data. I'm glad that we had time to tinker with the mini-green screen set-up because that was the point where I believe that people became the most excited. I was relieved that the information I shared with satisfactory to elementary and secondary teachers because there were quite a few high school representatives in the audience. (Either that, or they were too polite to say that the material was irrelevant to them!)

11:15 a.m. - There is no shushing in this library! by Julie Reay / The A-Z of Online Tools by Jen Apgar and Emily Fitzpatrick

Summary and 3 Key Points
  1. There are a lot of free tools you can use to engage your students.
  2. There are a lot of tips you can employ to make your job easier (I'm thinking the random group generator in one of the examples I forgot to write down - Flippity, maybe?)
  3. Be willing to "just try stuff", like Jen and Emily did with this presentation (wing it!) because you never know when even ninjas like Emily will learn something new.

So What? Now What?

I learned quite a few handy little tidbits from this talk that I wasn't expecting to - I had originally hoped to hear from the originally scheduled speaker but the ice storm kept her away. I also tended to stay away from the brand-name strands (ECOO Camp had a Microsoft strand, a Google strand, a pedagogy strand, and administrator strand) but maybe I should not have done so, since this was Google-focused but was still productive. I also used Twitter to take notes during this session, which was both good and bad; good for sharing, bad for occasionally missing stuff as I grabbed a photo to go along with the perfectly worded tweet.

12:15 p.m. - Lunch

Thank you cafeteria staff and Nadine Osborne! I had a quick lunch, chatted with Nadine (who teaches the ETFO Kindergarten AQ course and is a long-time friend of my beloved Lisa Noble), and then packed up with extra bowls of soup for the yucky drive home. There were so many kind people who offered me places to stay (in their hotel rooms, at their houses, or with relatives nearby) but I'm glad I spent the 4 hours slowly driving back. I'm sorry I missed Derek Tangredi's closing keynote - the tweets I saw indicated that it was a good one. I would not have applied to present at this conference had it not been for Doug Peterson, current president of ECOO and connector extraordinaire. Thanks Doug and the entire team for a great conference.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Go Together

It's so much better when you go together!

This is true whether it relates to exercise or professional learning. I have examples from this week to prove both types.

A) Go Together to Exercise

I took a four-month hiatus from my Cross Fit exercise classes so that I could focus on my sewing lessons. I thought I'd have to choose between returning to Cross Fit and continuing sewing class (which I was inclined to do because I was finally seeing progress) but I decided to try and do both, since they are on different days. Returning to Cross Fit would have been excruciatingly difficult had it not been for my new exercise buddy - my husband James.

James' shoes on the left, mine on the right - brand new for class!

No lies - the break away from this sort of physical activity was too long and I was super-sore after the first class on Easter Monday. The benefit was that I wasn't the only one in the household with aching muscles. James hurt in different places (his triceps vs my quadriceps) but we both felt like we accomplished something together. James says he's taking the classes with me "to become more fit and to encourage you [Diana, aka me] so you [Diana, aka I] don't slack off". I appreciate this level of accountability. There were only a few classes in the fall that I skipped just because I didn't feel up to exerting myself. I suspect that now there will be even fewer missed sessions.

The funny thing is that when I returned to school on Wednesday, April 4 (two days after my first 2018 Cross Fit Sweat 60 class), hobbling and limping, my discomfort motivated two of my colleagues to sign up for a class at the same location! I'm not sure if the normal response to witnessing the physical suffering of another human being is to say, "Ooh, give me some of what she's having!", but it inspired them. One had to back out at the last minute, but the other - Kathleen - attended the class and was pleased enough with the experience that she chose to register too.

If you'd like to see exactly how challenging everyday tasks like walking was at that time, go watch my MADPD promotional video where I crawl up the stairs. The URL is

B) Go Together for Professional Learning - #tdsbul18

Visual of John Malloy's opening keynote at #tdsbul18

Last week's blog mentioned that I was busy preparing for the 2018 TDSB Unleashing Learning conference on Tuesday, April 3 (which is why the staff and students at my school didn't see my altered gait until the next day). 1500 educators swarmed the Beanfield Centre on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition to hear about how Global Competencies intertwine with some neat teaching and learning opportunities. It was also the site of the DLL (Digital Lead Learner) Marketplace, where everyday practitioners share some of the tips and tools they use when integrating technology in their classrooms. That translates to a lot of people, which can be pretty overwhelming. I checked out the schedule beforehand and attended a great workshop by April De Melo and Erin Persad about supporting kindergarten STEAM inquiries in the library.

Thankfully, I found my co-presenter, Denise, at lunch and we buddied up for the rest of the afternoon. That didn't mean we stuck to each other's side like glue; it meant that we had another person to compare notes, discuss observations, analyze talks, and make connections. I hope that the photo below won't be the last I see of teacher and author Peyton Leung - he likes games just as much as Denise and I do, and I hope that morphs into a teacher gaming outing.

Denise, Joel, Peyton, and me - selfie with Peyton's cool book!

My friends Diana Hong and Rob Reyes made a point of attending my workshop and tweeting about it to support me, for which I was surprised but grateful. I didn't realize my principal was also attending the conference; he dropped by just before I had to present to give his best wishes, which was very nice. The next day, I discovered that our school's chairs went to the same conference as well. I'm sorry we didn't get to hang out in quite the same way Denise and I were able to, because then we could share our "ahas" from the day. Turns out I got an opportunity to do that with Diana Hong later in the week.

C) Go Together for Professional Learning - #tdsbEd 2nd Anniversary
When you go somewhere you've never been before, going with someone else makes it less intimidating. Thursday, April 5, 2018 was the second anniversary of the #tdsbEd Twitter chat. Diana Hong had never participated in one before, despite the fact that she is the Technology Goddess I often turn to when I'm stumped. She agreed to come with me to TDSB headquarters at 5050 Yonge Street to mingle with some of the #tdsbEd participants. Many of the new faces at the anniversary party came with a colleague. Even some of the veteran tweeters brought someone else along. It makes the situation socially safe and more comfortable. We chatted with others, we nibbled on food, and we even tweeted. We didn't have time to stay for the entire event, and so it demonstrates another advantage to going somewhere together - it's not as awkward leaving an occasion in the middle of it when you aren't the only one. (We were also lucky we left when we did because I neglected to inform my family that we left Ms. Hong's car in my driveway so we could carpool and the parking enforcement division of Toronto Police was notified about this mystery parker. Luckily the officer that arrived on the scene was very understanding and did not ticket or tow my friend's car.)

Hopefully these examples will help you find a friend to accompany you somewhere instead of going solo. Too bad I can't find anyone from the GTA heading to Owen Sound next Saturday. Anyone?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Get Ready, Get Set, Present!

Happy Easter to those who celebrate the holiday. I spent the long weekend at church, but also with family for Easter dinner, and in front of the computer preparing for a few upcoming projects and events.

Some of these projects aren't new to me, like creating the school yearbook, designing workshops with one of my favourite co-presenters, Denise Colby (we appear at the TDSB Unleashing Learning conference tomorrow and the ETFO ICT Conference in June), reviewing presentation notes (I go to ECOO Owen Sound April 14) or planning for the annual MakerFestival Toronto extravaganza in July. Others are new approaches that are making me closely consider what it means to present.

TDSB Unleashing Learning, April 3, 2018
Maker Festival 2018, see

We want you! Fill out the interest form at
Driving north to share some thoughts and tips

I'm really excited about my new volunteer job with the Ontario Library Association, as the co-chair of the OSLA branch of the 2019 Super Conference. Alanna King is my experienced co-chair and I'm so happy to be a part of this experience with her. On Tuesday, March 27, all the volunteers involved with planning Super Conference met at the OLA headquarters to officially begin planning. Did I mention that the 2018 event was early February? It takes 11 months of behind-the-scenes work to make a conference of this size a success. The new theme has been chosen ("For the People") and today, the call for proposals link went live. (Consider presenting! Go to ). What I really enjoyed during the launch meeting was the destruction of "silo thinking". Alanna and I were busy networking and chatting with the other library sectors and their representatives throughout the day. Even though some of our concerns and needs are exclusive to the school setting, there are many more commonalities than you'd expect. There were a lot of tasks we undertook that helped us to gel as a group and I think this will be a rewarding process and end product for all involved.

The only downside to being on the Super Conference planning team is that I will have no time to present at the conference itself. Thankfully, there are several other conferences that I can apply to - and one of them will be quite different. As described on MADPD:
is a virtual “unconference” with one goal to make a difference for the greater education community. On May 6, 2018 over 100 educators from across the globe will share one idea that makes a difference in their classrooms! YOU can attend the conference, virtually, FREE, from the comfort of your home
Peter Cameron invited me to submit a proposal and I made the commitment. This is going to be a big departure from my usual kind of talk. It's using YouTube Live and I'll need to do some set-up in advance. Promotions will be done through FlipGrid, which I'm familiar with thanks to some teacher karaoke challenges. I will also need to get permission from my students to show some of their work. It sounds like a lot of fun, and with 100 people presenting over a 12 hour period, there should be something there for everyone! I won't have the same sort of feedback loop that I often get when being in the room physically with others, but I'll try and channel my experiences doing webinars into this event. I hope to see some of my friends at one or more of these conferences. See you there!