Monday, June 30, 2014

The Most Popular Tweet

Last week, one of my tweets received a flurry of retweets and favourites. What topic could possibly elicit such interest? Food.

I chatted with my brother (who is on Twitter himself) and my sister (who isn't on Twitter but is visiting from Calgary for the Canada Day long weekend) about the potential reasons and he suggested that cute or attractive visuals often prompt people to share. Case in point: my brother gets quite a few reactions when he posts photos of the family dog, Moshi.

Are we flighty and superficial, ignoring pressing current events to "like" trivial things? I'd like to think that sometimes, we just need something (often a picture) to make us marvel or coo. Educators need to remember that, and share a cute picture with a parent of their child doing something sweet, or an awesome piece of artwork created by a talented student, so we can marvel or coo too.

(By the way, if you want the phone number or email of that amazing parent baker, send me a private message and I will share. She gave us a great deal and we were really pleased with the results.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Vicki Woods and the Little Things

The final week of the regular school year is thundering to a close, with huge events every day of the week. On Tuesday, we are holding an assembly to honour our school's French teacher, who after 37 years of service, is retiring.

Mme Woods at last week's Grade 8 graduation ceremony

Vicki Woods, otherwise known as just "Madame" to many of our students, is a great teacher. She had the skills that she could have just coasted through her last years on the payroll, but she didn't. Last year, she obtained an interactive white board for her classroom and spent a lot of time learning how to use it well to help teach language acquisition. As a specialist teacher, she has had to teach many subjects in addition to her main focus of FSL, and she devoted just as much energy to the assorted dance, drama, and music class as she did to her regular core French program. She will be missed.

Mme is fit! At the Jump Rope for Heart kickoff

What I think I will miss most about Vicki is "the little things"; all the tasks that she did on top of her teaching assignment that the staff will notice when she's gone. For instance, we have a rotating kitchen duty schedule for the teachers, and when certain forgetful individuals were in charge (*cough cough ME cough cough*), Vicki would always cover the slack by wiping the tables and emptying the dishwasher, all without complaint. To make the staff washroom more eco-friendly, she would hang towels and launder them weekly. For our LEWIS lunches (Lunch Every Wednesday Is Salad), she would organize the buffet chart, so we knew what we had to bring that week. Vicki ran the monthly assemblies, the Terry Fox Run, and the Christmas singalongs. She was a part of the social committee and Track and Field Committee and used to organize the annual ski and snowboarding trips as well as the intermediate division excursion to Ottawa. Vicki collected all the evidence for our Eco-Audits and her efforts resulted in Gold certification. It was her student clubs that emptied recycling bins and it was her car that took the staff room organics bags home (frozen to minimize the stench), long before organics collection was even considered as an option at school.

No one can be obligated to replicate Vicki and all her extra jobs. We have hired a new French teacher, but it will take the entire staff to realize all the "little things" she did and either volunteer to take up the mantle, or let them fall to the wayside. Hopefully, her legacy will be that teachers will continue to do the "little things" that make school a special place.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Vote for Philo

Last week, we had a provincial election. I was surprised by the results (a Liberal majority?) but now my attention is on a different election - and I need your help.

My students participate regularly in the Toronto East Heritage Fair and this year, one of my students attended the Provincials (June 14-15, 2014 in Toronto). He is also part of the Young Citizens Program. To quote the description,
The Young Citizens program focuses on citizenship and is a complementary component to Heritage Fairs, an annual event where students present the results of their research on Canadian heroes, legends and key events in Canadian history. Participants in the Young Citizens program make a short video about their heritage fair topic, much like an evening news report or short documentary. The student videos are posted online and reviewed by a panel of judges for a chance to win a trip to Ottawa to attend the Canada’s History Forum.
Part of the selection involves receiving online votes here at the Canada's History website. The link goes live on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 and voting ends on July 11, 2014.

Rob Mewhinney congratulates Philo

Philo's profile and video can be seen here. There are a lot of reasons why I believe Philo deserves this honour. He's a hard-working, thoughtful student and his video and research touched on an important issue. Selecting a winner is not going to be an easy choice. There are 139 entries from all over Canada. Helping Philo gain votes is going to involve mobilizing all my social media contacts and those of the students and staff at our school. I think this is definitely possible - we can encourage people to vote for our favourite candidate. After all, a group of our students won the 2014 Red Maple Marketing Campaign competition because of their wonderful work wielding digital media tools for promotion.

Individuals and groups are eager to capture the passion of large numbers of Internet users to help their cause. There is no denying that having a video go viral equals a lot of exposure. For instance, I was pleased to hear this talk show by John Oliver on HBO explaining Net Neutrality (in a comedic way but with methods that made the complicated issue understandable) actually crashed the website for the Federal Communications Commission of the United States when people responded in droves to give their opinions. The video is embedded below - but warning, some of the language is not appropriate for elementary school audiences.

So, like John Oliver, I'm appealing to those who pay attention to the media texts I produce online - if you can help me, and my wonderful student Philo, then please go to and cast a vote.

Monday, June 9, 2014

What's Good for the Goose...

On my blogs, I try very hard to respect the privacy of my own children. I play a part in the creation of their digital footprint, and I do not want anyone searching for information about them online ten years from now to find a rant or excessively personal post about them, especially if I was the one who wrote it. This article on parents oversharing online was a good guideline for me, and prior to writing today's post, I checked with my son for permission to write about this topic. He's given the go-ahead, and this portrays him in a positive light as an insightful guy, so read on.

My son has screen time limits during the week. It was from reading articles like this on the impact of unlimited screen time that influenced this decision. How much, what, and when is irrelevant.What is important to this discussion is that he absolutely despises screen time restrictions and last week, he approached me with an interesting proposition.

I'm paraphrasing here, but essentially he said, "Mom, why am I the only one with screen time [limits]? I think, to be fair, that everyone in the house should have it too."

How can I argue with that logic?

We had a family meeting and we all agreed to the terms - for instance, in our household, doing required schoolwork on a computer would not count towards allotted screen time. (If this was the case, report-card writing or editing for the magazine would use up all my time!) I think he was hoping we'd drop all screen time restrictions instead, but we are all now closely monitoring the amount of time we spend glued to our electronic devices.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Does that mean ...
What's good for the student is good for the teacher?
What's good for the son or daughter is good for the father or mother?

I've been searching my brain for examples to show that a double-standard is necessary, but I'm having a hard time coming up with serious contenders. A good night's sleep? According to this chart, growing children may need a bit more, but we all need a decent amount and my pre-teen, teen, and I all need roughly about 10 hours per night. Exercise? Once again, the specific numbers may vary based on your age, but we all need to be physically active. Drinking water? Eating a balanced diet? Using appropriate language / reducing swearing? Listening attentively to others? Reading for pleasure? The quantity may differ but I can't insist that my children or students do things and I'm exempt just because I'm an adult.

I hope my children (and to a different extent, my students) continue to remind me to be consistent and that any rules or regulations I enforce be ones that I'd be willing to follow myself.

At my girl's confirmation May 29, 2014 - 3 of my greatest teachers!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Minecraft Negotiations

Last Tuesday, May 27, I attended a Teacher Leader Network workshop to learn more about the role of teacher-leader as facilitator. It was an excellent professional learning opportunity, but I was booked to go in the afternoon ... which meant that this affected my weekly Minecraft Club meeting. I told my club members about my back-then-upcoming absence and the negotiations began, fast and furious.

1) "Can we just have the club without you?"

I'm glad, on some level, that my Minecrafters don't see me as a pivotal piece to their play; however, since I am the one with all the passwords, and I am the staff supervisor responsible for them from 3:30 until 4:45 p.m. during our club time, this option just wasn't feasible.

2) "Can't you reschedule and go in the morning?"

This was a valid suggestion, and because I anticipated the negative reaction from my Minecraft Club members if I cancelled too many sessions, I actually did try to arrange my first Teacher Leader Network session from May 13 in the morning. The problem was that, based on how I filled out the supply teacher request forms earlier, I was obligated to attend in the afternoon.

3) "What about we just hold it on Wednesday after school?"

My reply: I can't - I have Hacker Space Club then.

4) "What about Thursday after school?"

My reply: I can't - I help train the athletes for the 100 m dash for Track and Field on Thursdays after school.

5) "What about Friday after school?"

My reply: I can't - I have to work out all the schedules and timetables for the entire staff with the other chairperson and after school on Friday was the only day we could find.

I really have to credit this group with their level of perseverance - it reminds me a lot of Denise Colby's team of young students so keen to join Minecraft Club at her school that they bombarded her with reminders, notes, and pleas. I admired their innovative thinking, coming up with several different options (that I, unfortunately, had to shoot down). I predict that they will be quite irritated with me when they hear that I have one more Teacher Leader meeting on a Tuesday afternoon (June 17), but maybe then, one of their negotiation tactics will come to fruition.