To Westdale’s Class of 2016


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Dear Westdale Class of 2016,

I feel like I am one of you. On Tuesday, September 4, 2012, we all walked into the castle together for our first day at Westdale. For me, it was the beginning of my fourth year of teaching, and I was already entering my seventh school. I was especially hopeful, though, that that would be the year, that Westdale would be the school where I would finally be able to lay down some roots and stay for longer than one semester. I was beyond thrilled to teach French Immersion for the first time, combining my passion and love for each of my subject areas by teaching them in French. And I was surprisingly delighted to be entering a timetable of entirely grade 9 classes, with the hope that you would be the first students I would see through from the first day of grade 9 to your grade 12 graduation.

Watching you all walk across the stage last night filled my heart with pride. The intensity of emotion I felt was almost overwhelming. I’ve taught grade 12 classes in the past and attended grad every year at each school where I worked, but last night was so very special for me. To have even played the smallest part in your passage through the halls of Westdale has been the greatest honour and privilege I may ever know. To have witnessed you learn, grow, and become accomplished young adults has been the most gratifying journey I have ever travelled. To have learned so much from you about teaching, coaching, and mentoring, and about myself, are some of the most important lessons I will ever learn.

From day one, with my Grade 9 French Immersion Drama class on the fourth floor, to my Grade 9 French Immersion Geography class on the third floor, and my Grade 9 Girls’ Physical Education class on the second floor, you kept me constantly on the move and on my toes. I had at least one class of your grade and coached at least one sport for your age level each year. Some of you I have taught two, three, or four times, some of you I have coached in one or many sports, and some of you I have met only briefly. Each one of you has made an impact and holds a special place in my heart as my first group of students I’ve followed all the way through.

I ran early morning and after school practices with you; offered morning, lunch, and after school help sessions for you; chaperoned every one of your school dances, formals, and your prom; took you on athletic and extracurricular field trips; spent hours pouring over, evaluating, and commenting on your inspiring work; spent countless more hours planning lessons, units, and courses. I’ve invested four years in you, and I would never dream of taking back any of those hours for myself. There were wonderful days celebrating your successes, and there were difficult days where I wasn’t giving you my best self. You made me cry both tears of joy and frustration. You made me laugh every single day. You’ve given me more confidence as a teacher and as a leader than any group of students I taught before you. Each and every one of you is beautiful, intelligent, unique, and important.

To the class of 2016: I would wish you good luck in your next endeavours, but I know that you don’t need it. You will all achieve your best wherever you go and in whatever you choose to do. Thank you for being my first true graduating class. You have defined my experience at Westdale since we all started there together in September 2012. Thank you for teaching me so much.

My Favourite – Getting Students Talking to Each Other about Math #MTBoS Week 2


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So “my favourite” in my math classes is really quite general: student-to-student conversation. This does not entail formal math talks per se, but activities or investigations in which we engage that naturally encourage, or even necessitate, students working together and discussing the concepts or strategies.

A lesson where I talk too much is usually a boring lesson. Even though I put on a show and extol the wonders of math and get overly excited when introducing a new topic, when I’m spending the majority of the period “on the stage”, it is somehow not as energizing as when students actively engage in an activity and take the lead. In addition, in a me-focused period I don’t get the chance to collect as much assessment data or to give as much feedback to students, so I’m often not as certain about how much learning has actually occurred.

When I step into the background and circulate in the room, listening and observing, questioning and probing, I can directly see the learning, I can record observational and conversational data, and I can provide direct feedback during the process rather than a few days later. Here are two general examples of things I do to encourage these student-to-student math conversations:

1. Daily Warm-Ups

Each day I have a warm-up exercise on the screen when students enter the room. Inspiration for this comes from Mary Bourassa who has blogged about her warmup regime here. I do something similar, where each student has a “cahier” (exercise book in English…I teach math in French) that stays in the classroom purely for warmups. Some days I do activities like Mary’s such as Estimation 180, Would You Rather, etc., and some days I do a lagging concept. For example, it could be a question based on what we did the previous day, but I like to reach back a bit further sometimes and select something that we looked at two or three days before.

While students are working on the question, I circulate and select a group of students each day. Depending on the question and what they are doing, I sometimes just observe their process, sometimes I listen to their conversation, or I engage them in a conversation by asking questions such as: “How do you know that your answer is correct?”, or “Can you explain your process to me?”. From there I record a level for each student I observed or conversed with for that overall curriculum expectation. At the end of a unit of study, I look through their cahiers at all of their solutions and provide written feedback as well.

2. Group Challenges/Manipulatives

This one really forces the students to interact because they have a common goal to reach with their group. I like giving them something to touch and move around to elicit the conversation. Some examples:

  • for exponent rules, I have matching cards with the original and simplified expressions
  • for solving linear systems by substitution, I have cards that have different steps of the solution that they need to put in order
  • for factoring and expanding, I like to give them algebra tiles to physically create the rectangle
  • for word problems, I give the problems on cards, the unlabelled diagrams on cards, and the solutions on cards, and students need to match the three by completing the solutions

Again, these activities always seem to initiate student-to-student talk, usually within the mathematical processes, as students try to prove to each other that their answer is correct, or explain their thinking, or suggest a process to complete the challenge.


So in very general terms, these types of activities are my favourite activities in my math classes. Especially when teaching math in French, getting students to speak about the concepts in the target language is key for both the development of their understanding of the math, and the development of their second language skills.

One Day at a Time: #MTBoS Week 1 Post


So I’ve chosen today (Thursday) as my day in the life, but I can’t truly say it’s a typical day with some extra after school events. Regardless, I made the commitment and I’m sticking to it!

5:28am My alarm goes off for the first time. I snooze 2-3 times before rising.

5:50am Out of bed. Make and drink my breakfast smoothie while sifting through Twitter and checking email. Get dressed (in the outfit I preselected last night), do my makeup and hair (I have a lot of hair…thick, straight, and past my waist. Hair alone takes 10 minutes on average), get my pre-packed lunch out of the fridge and bundle up. Clean the snow off my car and quickly shovel as some snow has fallen overnight.

7:15am Finally get in my car and leave for school. Usually I leave at 7, but the shovelling delayed me slightly as did deciding in which style to do my hair today.

7:30am Arrive at school. I’m a little later than usual and I’m slightly annoyed because someone has parked in the spot where I usually park. They also haven’t parked straight because of the snow covering the lines. I begrudgingly pull into the next spot.

7:32am Enter the building with my bags and make the climb to the third floor. Unlock the French Immersion department office and drop my things on my desk. I’m always one of the first staff members to arrive. I like the quiet of the building in the morning – it’s somehow different to me than the quiet after school. I also usually take advantage of the photocopiers not having lineups at this hour, but today I had nothing to copy. I instead delved into some marking.

8:20am Start heading down to my first classroom down the hall for my Grade 10 Academic/Applied French Immersion math class. Class begins at 8:40, but I like to be in the room to welcome my students and set up any materials.

8:40am Period 1: National anthem, announcements, and then down to business. Today is a work period and students have multiple choices of task: the first part of their course culminating which involves creating a portfolio of examples to demonstrate the course expectations, a set of word problems from each area of the course to solve, and some exam review questions. I circulate to answer questions, ask questions, and encourage. I’m always on my feet in this class.

9:55am Bell rings. I head back to my department office to drop my bag.

10:03am Period 2: my prep. I head down to Student Services on the first floor. I’ll be staying late tonight for a grade 8 transition event, and administration is buying dinner for those of us participating. I have to place my Pita Pit order. I meet up with my department head down there and we talk to one of the guidance counsellors about the stacked classes in French Immersion and timetabling for next semester based on some staffing changes that are occurring.

10:50am Back up to the third floor to my department office. Now that my mind is on our timetable I start playing with the Excel Document moving courses and rooms around giving us some options based on who we might get to fill some of our open lines. Check Twitter and email.

11:18am Lunch time. My colleagues begin joining me in our department office. We eat and socialize.

12:13pm Period 3: I head down the hall to a different classroom than my math class for my Grade 12 French Immersion Writer’s Craft class. It was another work period with students completing practice questions for their final exam. We also just had some relaxed life chats and told stories to each other about weird nicknames and then just went on some tangents from there. They’re definitely a fun group of students.

1:28pm Bell rings. Normally I would now be rushing to the second floor gym to change for my gym class, but this week I’m in health, so I head towards the health classroom. On my way, I remember that we have been in the library all this week, and I forgot to tell my class yesterday that we’d be in the classroom, so I hurry to the library to collect the students.

1:35pm Period 4: We all arrive in the health classroom for my Grade 11 Co-Ed French Immersion Health and Physical Education class. And you guessed it, we had a work period! Students are completing some research and investigations related to food choices and their effects on different illnesses as well as larger issues related to food and nutrition in our world.

I like “work periods” in that they allow me to engage and connect with individual or small groups of students and get in some good observations of and conversations about what they’re learning.

2:50pm Final bell. Back to my department office on the third floor for a quick email and Twitter check, and then down to the cafeteria on the first floor for a staff meeting.

3:00pm Our monthly staff meeting today begins with Learning Team time. I’m on a team with two other math teachers and an English teacher, and the four of us have been wrapping our heads around Inquiry-Based Learning in our various disciplines. We have some really rich discussions about instruction and assessment and I enjoy the time we have together.

3:45pm The whole staff meeting begins with agenda items related to a school fundraiser for Syrian refugees, the upcoming Ontario Literacy Test, and our AER committee.

4:30pm Staff meeting wraps up. I linger to discuss triangulation of data in different disciplines with one of the chairs of the AER committee.

5:15pm I head to the staff room on the first floor for the dinner I ordered this morning during my prep. I sit down with my principal and vice-principals, my department head, and some of the guidance counsellors.

6:00pm Grade 8 Course Selection Presentation: Tonight is a presentation run by our Student Services Department for grade 8 students and their families who will be coming to our school next year. We outline graduation requirements, course codes, course offerings in grade 9, and the process for selecting courses. I’m there as a representative of French Immersion as that is the largest program at our school. Following the main presentation, my department head and I give a brief overview of Immersion certificate requirements as well as the courses we offer, and then we field questions from a pretty packed auditorium. I address hesitation about pursuing math in French as in general, I find the students benefit more if they take more courses in French.

7:30pm I climb the stairs back up to the third floor one more time to collect my bags and coat from my department office. The school is quiet again as it was 12 hours ago when I arrived.

7:45pm I arrive home and check my work email. I reply to messages from two of my math students who need help with their culminating portfolios. I have a quick snack and sit down to blog.

9:30pm Time to prepare for tomorrow. I pack my lunch, pick tomorrow’s outfit, set my school bags by the door, and set out my ingredients for tomorrow morning’s smoothie.

10:30pm (hopefully!) Bedtime, and dreams of beautiful math equations.


Staying Inside the Lines: Reflections on Learning from my Adult Colouring Book


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I have never been very good at art. Dramatic Arts yes, music definitely, but visual arts were never my cup of tea. Despite this, I asked for and received an adult colouring book for Christmas, and I must admit that I’ve become slightly obsessed with it. I have spent so many hours flipping through the pages, trying to select which one to colour, then agonizing over which colours to choose, then engaging in the slow and meticulous process of filling in the design. And although colouring is not visual arts per se, my somewhat meditative hours spent in the book have brought me to reflect on my very first statement and the nature of learning.

Reflection 1: On the Messiness and Scariness of True Learning


I began this post stating that I’m not good at art. Most of that is my own fault. As a child and a teenager, if I wasn’t good at something right away, I stopped pursuing it. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately?), at the risk of sounding braggy, I had a natural aptitude for enough things that I had the luxury of avoiding those areas where I struggled.

I have always said that I love to learn; as a child, as a teenager, and as an adult, I have never strayed from the desire to discover new knowledge and skills (I mean, look at the title of this blog!). But reflecting now, the learning that I loved as a student was the easy, neat kind: the kind where the next piece of knowledge followed logically from the previous and fit perfectly into my cognitive construct, where the next part of the skill flowed perfectly and built directly upon the foundation I already had. When learning was too challenging or messy, I ran for the hills. Again, at the risk of sounding braggy, I was a gifted identified student and considered by my peers and teachers as one of the top students in my grade, but my mindset was so narrow and fixed. So many of our students, especially those who are gifted or who usually pick up on new concepts quickly, do respond as I used to and avoid the struggle.

It wasn’t until my math courses in university that I encountered a situation where I couldn’t avoid the struggle anymore. This was the first time that I found math to be truly difficult, and I couldn’t just pick another course as math was my chosen minor. I had to engage in some productive struggle and stretch myself in order to understand, but in the end, some of that learning was so much more satisfying than any of the learning I had done before. Again, even though colouring is not me creating a visual arts piece from scratch, I’m considering it my first small step toward stretching myself in that area and truly learning some new skills.

Reflection 2: On Perfectionism


Every time I have gone outside the lines on my drawing so far I have cringed. The patterns are so intricate that sometimes a small error is unavoidable. But when I zoom out and look at the whole image, those little imperfections fade away, and all I see are the beautiful colours and patterns.

As a teenager, you guessed it, I was a pretty hardcore perfectionist. Those tendencies still rear their ugly head from time to time now in my adult life, but as an educator my mindset really has changed. It was always so important to me to pour hours and hours into each project and task, to script and time oral presentations exactly to the teacher’s specifications, to check and double check and triple check math questions – all with the mindset that the final product was final, the endpoint, and there would be nothing more to take from it once it was completed and submitted.

Now I know, and try my very best to demonstrate to students, that there is still learning to be had and that perfection is not the ultimate, nor really an attainable goal. Instead the focus should be on continuously learning and improving, reflecting on those products that were thought to be final. In French classes, so many students are afraid to speak in discussions because they don’t want to make a mistake (totally the teenage me). As a teacher, I always call attention to my own oral production. As a bilingual person and a teacher of the language, I still make the occasional grammar mistake when writing or speaking, or can’t find the word I want to say and need to talk around it or use a more basic word. Obviously my students (and myself) are working toward more grammatical precision, but at the end of the day, if their message is clear despite some mistakes, then the goal of the communication has been accomplished – just like when I zoom out of my coloured image and my scribbles outside the lines become less and less evident. As long as we are improving each time we engage in a task: whether that task is a math problem, engaging in a second language conversation, or colouring, then perfection ceases to be the be-all and end-all goal. Learning instead takes its place in the forefront.

Funny the thoughts a simple colouring book can provoke.


How do we teach culture?


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This is the third article in a series dedicated to the Enduring Ideas presented in the front matter of the revised Ontario FSL Curriculum.

In the document, this enduring idea is titled: Interdependence of Language and Culture. Culture has not previously held such a prominent place in our FSL Curriculum as it does in this newest version, so many educators are stuck on my titular question: how do we teach French culture effectively when it encompasses so many different things?

In my test run with my FIF2D (Grade 1o French Immersion) classes last year weaving the old curriculum with the new, I focused on intercultural awareness with a biais towards pop/youth culture and arts culture, mainly in France and French-speaking Europe. I wanted to start with something to which my students would readily relate. Here are two ways I exposed my students to French pop culture:

1) Music Videos

Each week, we watched and analysed a music video. I used my personal knowledge of popular French artists as well as a Google search for current Top 10/20/50 songs in France (many of which are English-language songs from North America – interesting how our culture crosses more into theirs than vice versa). Depending on the song and video, our approach differed:

  • Watch/listen and then discuss meaning/theme/reaction in small groups or as a whole class
  • Watch/listen, do an individual quick-write or some form of written response
  • Watch/listen, read along with a copy of the lyrics, discuss how the video does or does not represent the lyrics
  • Watch/listen, read lyrics, rewrite sections of lyrics for another purpose or audience
  • Compare/contrast songs/videos from the same artist or from different artists

My students enjoyed all of these activities and readily participated. Many of them actually downloaded songs and albums of these French artists from iTunes!

2) Festivals

I had a student teacher last year, and she was excited to explore teaching culture to the students as well. Her unit was based on festivals (music, art, food, etc.) in French countries/regions. She researched and presented to the students a variety of festivals from all over the world. Students analysed posters and videos promoting these festivals, planned a visit to a festival of their choice, and then had to create and promote their own cultural festival. Again, this was a strong unit for cultural awareness.

Growth Areas/Future Plans – Cultural Inquiry

As much as I am proud of the work that my student teacher and I accomplished in terms of exposing students to and leading them to interact and engage with different French-speaking cultures, both of these examples are teacher-driven. The next time I have an FIF course on my timetable, my personal goal is to approach culture through student inquiry. My student teacher found so many festivals and resources which were so wonderful, but how much more wonderful would it have been if the students had asked the question about French festivals and celebrations of culture, conducted the research, synthesized the information, and shared the findings with each other? What about having the students find the artists and music videos and taking a lead in the discussion and analysis rather than being guided by me? This is one of my own personal goals as a teacher not just in FIF language classes but in all of my classes – take a step back, and let go of the reins a little more often. Every time I do, my students rise to the occasion.

Authentic Oral Communication in FSL – Part 2 of Ontario FSL Curriculum Transition Series


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So my second (and very long overdue…) post in my series about the new FSL curriculum will address the enduring idea of Authentic Oral Communication: Reception, Production, and Interaction. There is so much that could be said here in terms of methods and tools, but I will highlight three strategies that I used this past semester to promote spontaneous oral communication and interaction in FIF2D.

  1. Scaffolded Discussions (Chart Paper, Chalkboard, Padlet)

For the first three months of the semester, just about every whole class or small-group discussion we had involved some sort of scaffold to engage, encourage, and involve all students in the interaction. This also allowed for a bit more pre-thinking time so that it wasn’t always the quick-processing students dominating discussions. Although this makes the initial offerings less spontaneous, I find this method invites students in so that myself or their peers can then ask probing questions to allow for an actual spontaneous conversation based on their semi-planned opening.

As stated in the heading, I used the traditional chart paper and sections of the chalkboard for students to gather and display their thoughts of a small-group pow-wow before sharing with the whole class. I also discovered Padlet which is a web-based cork-board. I create the board, and then students can double click anywhere on the board from their device and begin typing ideas. I can display the padlet on the projector so students can see their own thoughts and everyone else’s being added instantaneously. To give you an idea, here is a Padlet I used in the first few weeks of the semester where I pre-created the five boxes, each with a different question, and each group added in their ideas before presenting their assigned question to the class. Here is a second one used later in the first month where I created the board with one question, and each group created their own box to gather their thoughts. This second style was more interesting as students could easily see what other groups were typing which forced everyone to think more creatively in order to have a unique response.

  1. Debate

I only held one debate at the beginning of the semester, and looking back, I wish I had planned for more. When structured well, students really get into the debate and it offers a wonderful balance of prepared and spontaneous oral production. I mentioned in my first post in this series that the subject of our debate was which educational program (French Immersion, IB, SHSM, etc.) is the best. I compiled a list of seven such programs, I allowed students to select their own groups of 3-4, and then each group indicated their top three preferences of programs to argue for.  I compiled their choices and assigned each group either their first or second preference, and then they researched arguments for their program, and if they so desired, arguments against any of the other programs.

On debate day, each group received up to three minutes to present their case for their program. From there we jumped into free debate! I kept a speakers list, and granted a group 1-2 minutes to argue against a program, followed by the “attackee” having a chance to defend their program, and then moving on to the next “attacker”. My students LOVED this part and just about everyone was active, engaged, and speaking French spontaneously. I definitely need to brainstorm some more topics like this where there are multiple points of view rather than just two sides so more students are pushed to actively participate.

  1. Oral Interviews

Over the course of the semester, I conducted four oral interviews: 1) an end of the first month self-assessment conversation, 2) a small-group interview based on our reading of the play Cyrano de Bergerac, 3) an interview in role where my student teacher was a journalist and each student acted as a real or invented artist, and 4) a final oral interview based on the content of their culminating tasks and their learning over the whole semester. They take up a lot of time when you have a large class, but they are totally worth it. I also think it was important for me to vary the type of interview and not just follow the same formula each month. The more contexts in which students are able to practice speaking in the target language, the more vocabulary they encounter and use, and the more learning they experience. Also, similarly to our discussions, the first two interviews were much more scaffolded with some of the questions being given in advance, whereas the last two interviews were entirely spontaneous. The final interview took the most planning on my part, as it involved me reading each student’s culminating task and pulling out questions to ask them based on what they had each individually written. It was time-consuming to prepare, but I really enjoyed how the interviews were truly differentiated and personalized, and each student comfortably and confidently expressed their thoughts to me. It was a wonderful way in my opinion to finish off the semester.

Goal-Setting, Reflection, and Metacognition in FSL – Part 1 of Ontario FSL Curriculum Transition Series


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For the first official post in my blog series about transitioning to Ontario’s new FSL curriculum in my classroom, I begin with some context. I have been teaching in a secondary French Immersion program for almost three years. This semester is the first time I have had an FIF course on my timetable. During the first two and a half years, I taught the other courses in the program, such as Mathematics and Dramatic Arts, in French. Right now, I have two FIF2D courses and a PPL3OI (Co-ed Immersion HPE). I have been experimenting with aspects of the new curriculum in my two FIF2D classes and that’s where my reflections will be coming from.


Speaking of reflection, the new curriculum now has a metacognition expectation in each strand, and goal setting and reflection comprise one of the Enduring Ideas addressed in the front matter of the document. I spent the first two weeks of the semester simply engaging in diagnostic learning activities with my students. We listened to French (mostly through videos), had small and large group discussions in French, read two short stories in French, and wrote two short compositions in French. After these initial diagnostics addressing each strand, students consulted their feedback – written comments I had made on their work, assessment rubrics indicating their levels of achievement in various aspects of oral and written communication, and their own impressions of their strengths and growth areas. I then asked each student to set a small, specific goal for improvement. They each wrote their goal on a post-it note (in French of course), and stuck it to the wall of the classroom, so that all of our goals were visible and so that we could hold each other accountable. (Side note: writing goals was a great opportunity to review futur simple [“I will…”], futur proche [“I’m going to…”], and verb + infinitive [“Je veux faire/atteindre…”]).

At the end of February, I had a one-on-one oral interview with each student as an evaluation of their oral communication and as a check-in on their goal. Each student took their post-it off the wall that day and brought it with them to the oral interview. They were also given a self-assessment organiser with a short rating scale and some questions to guide their reflections about their progress over the first month (this tool was developed in conjunction with the French Immersion Department). During the interview, each student justified their choice of goal – why was it their choice, where did it come from – and then also explained what steps they had taken so far, and if they had been successful in achieving their goal.

Many students set a goal that was too large and complex to accomplish in two weeks, but all students had at minimum made progress towards their goal. This shows me that I need to be more purposeful about explicitly teaching goal-setting as a skill, as well as breaking down your big goals into smaller ones to make tracking progress simpler.

In addition to this multi-step process, I have been including reflection pieces at the end of evaluation tasks, a practice that I had already been using regularly, mostly from the influence of teaching Dramatic Arts and Physical Education where reflection and self-assessment occurs constantly. For example, we had a class debate on the topic of which educational program (French Immersion, IB, Coop, SHSM, etc.) is the best course of study. Following the debate (which occurred in teams), each student completed an individual written reflection discussing their personal opinion after hearing everyone’s arguments, which other students they found to be the most persuasive and convincing during the debate and why, and a self-assessment of their personal performance in the debate. Most students gave quite an honest appraisal of their level of achievement for the debate, and some were even more critical of themselves than I was.

Finally, I often ask students in all of my classes to self-assess when they are about to submit an evaluation. They take out their rubric (or grab a new copy from me) and either circle or highlight the levels of achievement they believe that they have demonstrated and submit this along with the task. Then I use a different colour pen or highlighter when I complete the evaluation. Sometimes I also have students complete a justification, either in writing or through a conversation. This works best when the rubrics have either been co-created with students, or are designed with clear student-friendly descriptors for each criterion.

If you are curious to see any assessment tools or the tasks that I have discussed in this post, please feel free to visit my class website at What have you done in your classroom to promote metacognition, reflection, goal-setting, and student self-assessment? I’d love to hear ideas from other teachers, FSL or otherwise.

Blog Series – Transitioning to Ontario’s new FSL Curriculum


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Last month, I presented at my school’s School Council Meeting, and it was a new and interesting experience for me. Our principal has initiated the practice of inviting a different teacher each month to present to parents what they have been learning and working on. Parents have heard about Problem-Based Learning, new Assessment & Evaluation practices, and even the learning goals of one of our Vice Principals. I was surprised when the principal reached out to me and asked me to be the presenter for the March meeting.

It took some time for me to settle on what to present. As the title of this blog suggests, my personal philosophy and mission is to always be learning. In addition, with teaching such a variety of courses at the school, I have quite a range of experiences and different learning that I do with each discipline. My principal’s suggestions to help me narrow my focus were to concentrate somehow on my recent Leadership 1 course, and to talk about current learning with the classes I have this semester.

I was able to springboard from there to the very broad topic of transitioning to the new FSL curriculum in my FIF2D classes (this semester), and in general with the French Immersion Learning Team (as a potential informal leader on the team). I was nervous to so openly speak about my learning and how I am experimenting with new activities and ideas, but it was a rewarding experience to hear support and engagement from the parents in attendance.

Based on my presentation, I’m starting a new series of blogs about my foray into Ontario’s new FSL curriculum in a secondary French Immersion classroom. Each entry will be based on one of the seven “Enduring Ideas” identified in the front matter of the new curriculum:

enduring_ideas(From page 8 of the 9-12 document)

Stay tuned for the first post later this week!

Facilitating Learning Teams – Reflection on my Eighth Session of Leadership 1


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The eighth session last week centred around learning teams, collaborative inquiry, problems of practice, and how to facilitate, lead, and share leadership within learning teams and communities.

During our first main activity I decided to be brave and volunteer for the unknown! Each group needed someone to volunteer to be the red personality (the details of which were not disclosed before the activity), and then everyone else in the group received other coloured personalities. We each read our information (without sharing with each other), and then were given the scenario that we were a team planning our final leadership course session celebration, including guest list, budget, menu, seating, greetings, etc. It turned out that the red personality for which I volunteered was the facilitator of the group. At first I was pleased, as working on my facilitation skills is a personal goal of mine. However, I quickly realized that all the other personalities around the table were going to be very difficult to bring together and actually facilitate once everyone took on their roles. We had a snacker, a very intense time-checker, a constantly distracted member, someone constantly on their cell phone, basically every nightmarish behaviour that we have all experienced (or maybe even participated in!) during staff meetings. I actually found that I used some of what we learned in the previous session about managing conflict, as the time-checker and the distracted person were losing patience with each other. I also tried to redirect my phone user to actually look things up for us to try to make their phone use valuable to the task. I will say that it was almost exhausting trying to keep the whole ship afloat and make decisions within this group, and we only worked for 15 minutes. I did however very much enjoy the opportunity to attempt to hone my facilitation skills, even with such a difficult group!

One other takeaway from this session is the different types of questions that facilitators or team members can ask each other to resolve cognitive conflicts and move towards solutions. We looked at examples of clarifying, specifying, and exploring questions, specifically in the context of a problem of practice or inquiry question to expand or refine thinking as necessary. They were great question starters for teacher teams, but they also reminded me to focus on my questioning techniques with students when they are engaging in collaborative and inquiry-based learning in class.

Another thought-provoking session, as always, with only two more to go!

Cognitive Conflict – Reflections on my Seventh Session of Leadership 1


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The title of this session was “Managing Conflict”, and I think many of the course participants (myself included), came into the evening with a preconceived notion of what the session would entail. I personally was a bit apprehensive and excited to discuss this topic as I know that conflict is not something I deal with in the best way. I tend to either avoid conflict entirely when possible, which often simply exacerbates the situation, or if avoiding is just not in the cards, I tend to retreat into myself and become very uncomfortable but also unable to extricate myself from the situation.

However, I was surprised and intrigued when personal or affective conflicts were only a small part of the agenda, and that there was a much more clear focus on cognitive conflict. I hadn’t actually heard this term previously, but now I know that I have most certainly engaged in many a cognitive conflict, and always to my benefit. Cognitive conflict was explained as being a conflict of ideas or approaches in which the issues are separated from the people. Cognitive conflict is an essential characteristic of high performing groups and teams because they push each other into new realms of understanding through the challenges of differing perspectives.

We were also given a framework for facilitating cognitive conflict in a group or team, which I want to bring to my learning team this semester to encourage deeper thinking and to clarify the positions of team members. Moving into more facilitator roles is something I want to try as a personal leadership goal, so I definitely see the framework as being an applicable tool for me.

Finally, the next day at school, my department head asked me about the session the previous evening, and I shared with her the focus on cognitive conflict. It was a PD Day for secondary schools and we were having learning team meetings that morning. My department head encouraged me to try to push in our group with my new knowledge of cognitive conflict as we would be discussing some hot topics such as triangulation of data and using professional judgement in determining our final grades. I was reminded how wonderful my department head is and how much she encourages me to take on small leadership roles on our French Immersion Department. Maybe I’m not so terrible at managing conflict after all!