The lies we tell our adult selves

If you don’t think that students in grade 5 have stress,
You are lying to your adult self.
They do.

If you don’t think that stress is affecting the health of our youth in school,
You are lying to your adult self.
It does.

Today, an entire class of grade 5 students raised their hands when asked if they had ever felt overwhelmed by stress and anxiety –  reasons shared too many to mention:

  • family discord
  • too much free time
  • too little free time
  • pre-adolescence
  • over-consumption of media
  • over worked adult(s) in the home
  • body image
  • fear
  • loneliness

Today, the lies we tell our adult selves about how everything is fine and that it’s only a phase revealed themselves out loud and clear in these students. Will more lies be necessary to help or will the honesty of this moment be the start of something better?

We listened, we shared, tears were shed, and we rallied in support of one another.
The bell rang and we went our separate ways. The students to their lives outside of school. Me to my computer.

Hoping that the lies we tell our adult selves will be absent tomorrow.




New Kintsugi by Kate CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via

     Courage.             Voice.

     Meraki.                Now.

Four of the many #OneWord2018 offerings from educators via Twitter.

With the retrospective rose coloured goggles secured over my eyes, it’s time to dive into 2018 because it is going to be better. This is not a flippant cliché to elicit the feels and aahs of readers. 2018 will be better.

My one word for 2018 is better.

Whether written, spoken, or withheld on purpose my words will be better in 2018.

They will edify not nullify.
They will appreciate not devastate.
They will lead not supersede.

My lessons will be better in 2018.
They will envelope my students with ownership of their learning.
They will inspire confidence, resilience, and compassion for others.

Failures will be better in 2018.
They will be spectacular and educational.
They will be welcomed into a safe space with room for everyone.

Otherliness will be better in 2018.
Kindness will trump self-centredness.
Students will know how much I care before being asked to care about what I know.

Student voice will be better in 2018.
They will be given a place at the table where their futures are decided.
They will tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear.

In 2014, I heard poet/rapper D.O. Gibson share a powerful message about getting 1% better each day.* Once all of the feels and aahs were gone, the power of his message hit home. I began to imagine how to apply it to my approaches to pedagogy and personal learning.

This got me really excited about how we could all get better, and at a pace that would not overwhelm anyone. The next day, I began including this philosophy into my instruction. First, it was in French class with vocabulary, then to Math with problem solving, and soon afterwards all of my subjects. The best part of being better by 1% everyday means everyone is able to work towards an individual and common goal.

I wonder if you would even realize it when someone is 1% kinder from one day to the next, but after a month 30% increase would be difficult to ignore. Even if better only meant 1% per month; 12% per year is still excellent growth. Just ask your fund manager.

So 2018 is going to be better.
I’ve done the Math and even at a modest 0.25% per day.
I am almost 1% better than last year. So far…

What’s your #OneWord2018?

Please share in the comments section.
If you liked this post, please follow and tell a friend.
Thanks for reading.




the rocks


[[File:Rioters Throw Rocks near Nabi Saleh.jpg|Rioters Throw Rocks near Nabi Saleh]] CC BY 2.0

We are rocks.
We are witnesses to all that has passed in front, under and over us, and all that will surely come.
We wait.

Our once jagged edges smoothed by time, wind, and water.
We have been used as hammers, as walls, and as weights.

We have become weapons; thrown back and forth between sides who no longer remember, or understand the original reasons why.

Too many times, we have been plucked from a peaceful place only to be thrown in anger. We land as far as rage and fear can fling.

We have broken windows and bones.
We have been used to punish and frighten.
Our pores hold on to the skin and blood of those whom we’ve struck.

There are nicks and pocks about our surfaces from millennia of contact and conflict.
Each time we are hurled, a piece of us gets left behind as we, too, become battered and bruised.

Praying, like all of the other rocks, to become piles of dust that rest in peace
– to be thrown no more.


I(n) tune

This is the companion to my post The Groove for The Heart and Art of Teaching blog. I am writing it here in order to keep my blog posts reading times reigned in. It was originally occupying several paragraphs elsewhere, but was moved here to take on a life of its own.

I love music. I’m listening to it right now(Dave Matthews Band – Live in Rio). In my classroom, I sing, quote song lyrics, hum tunes, and offer students the chance to use music as a means to demonstrate they’re understandings of learning. I have an obscure record collection that includes speeches by Mussolini to  songs by Cookie Monster.

From the earliest moments I wanted to be a DJ on the radio. As a kid I was always pressing the presets on our car radio. I loved the idea that one person could curate the soundtrack for so many people. There were countless times I’d dial the local radio station to request a song. And for a very brief while, I believed that the performers were actually in the stations performing live.

It was the late 60s in Hudson’s Hope, BC. Most of our family welcomed the addition of my little sister. Not me, I was officially the middle child and it was time to occupy my time plotting against my siblings. Most days were spent outside playing in the dirt, wandering around the limits of our trailer park, and learning to cruise along, the lone stretch of driveway, on an over-sized trike.  Inside, our little black and white television warmed our temporary double-wide home with its futuristic glow. The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan. I was hooked.

Uprooted, moved, and transplanted over the border to New York state. This was followed by the revelation that Buffalo, NY is probably the snowiest equivalent location possible to the Peace River in British Columbia. What did I care? I didn’t have to shovel it.

The move brought with it a home, and some new gear. A colour TV now bathed our living room with light and entertainment. Ed Sullivan was still  hosting his “Really big Shoow!”, but not for long. The soundtrack was changing, evolving, and definitely becoming more interesting. My parents listened to the radio wherever and whenever they could.

Whether we were in the house, the yard, or in the car on the way to somewhere – music was there. You couldn’t help but sing along to the grooves and rhythms of Rock n’ roll, the twang of Country, the hooks of Pop music, or the heart and soul of R and B. In our space, no musical genre would be denied. Although, I think my dad had a limit on how much “hippie” music he could handle.  😉

In 1972 we moved again. This time, it was to Wyoming where cattle outnumbered people 2:1. It is still that way today. Once again a score to soothe the worried mind of a middle child filled my ears with Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye, Carole King, and Tammy Wynette. A new home, same TV, but only Ed Sullivan reruns to watch until we discovered Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.

Queen, Bad Company, Van Morrison, and Linda Ronstadt had become household names. Everyday on my way to school I’d be humming one tune or another heard on KWYO AM or KROE FM( now talk radio), which played album sides and a greater selection of performers.

My parents loved music too, and had amassed quite a record collection of their own. To a young audiophile, it was a gold mine of sounds to accompany my musical education.  The album covers alone served as part of my daily reading regimen. When my brother became a wage earner, the collection grew even larger and wilder with his contributions of BTO, Guess Who, Styx, and Elton John.

Wherever I ambled, music made the journey better regardless of what was going on in the world around me. And there was plenty. I remember my first albums, Kiss Destroyer, and Peter Frampton Comes Alive. I nearly wore through that vinyl from playing it so often. Then another move in 1978.

Arriving to Toronto in the late 70s meant having my ears opened to a buffet of musical offerings. Bands like the Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, and Rush began to consume my adolescent times with guitar heavy riffs and intelligent lyrics. Radio became the means by which I got to know my new city.

As a grade 8 student at St. Gaspar Elementary School(closed 2002), I began slowly amassing a collection of vinyl records. Countless hours of my youth were spent listening to albums, reading liner notes, and getting to know about the artists/performers making the music I loved. No genre was excluded. If it was on vinyl I’d give it a spin. Music videos were just creeping into our sound consciousness with shows like the New Music.

The Tubes, Peter Tosh, The Police, and the Clash.

I remember studying the albums themselves and wondering how a diamond stylus needle that get’s dropped into a groove translates the contents into such glorious sounds; complete with crackles and pops. It was as if I was in the room when I could hear fingers sliding across the strings of a guitar or when stereo headphones made it feel like the sound was going right through my brain.

In short the soundtrack to my life to this point was accompanied by amazing music, lyrics, and performers who poured their talents out for the world to hear. I still remember skateboarding and listening to Sultans of Swing  cranked up on my portable transistor radio sans headphones.

Let’s call this the first side of the album…
I will flip it and press play on another post covering the early 80s to present next time.

If you like discussing music please comment and keep the conversation going.
Happy listening.

Header image by Mr.choppers (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons


This post is written in order to explain some of the back story for a blog post on ETFO’s Heart and Art of Teaching and Learning blog.

In 1978, my family packed up and moved from a very small western town in Wyoming to Toronto. At the time, it was a devastating life event. Everything and everyone I knew was in flux. Where would we live? Would the people there be nice to us? Even though I was Canadian by birth, I feared being treated like a stranger in my own country.  Needless to say, I was not thrilled to be uprooted and then replanted. Worse than that, I felt alone.

Who knew, in hindsight, that a new learning adventure would unfold in the Summer of 1978?

A home in a new neighbourhood – Jane and Finch.
A new school(my 3rd in as many years) – first experience with multiculturalism.
A new grade(7 – awkward).

On the first day of school, I am taken outside to my new class which was located in an L-shaped porta-pack. By this point, some doubts were forming. Why the heck, can’t this school afford real classrooms like back in Wyoming?  The door opens and I am nudged in. Suddenly it felt like a new prisoner being thrown into general population. The eyes of my new classmates glared as if they’d been rudely awakened from a deep sleep. Why wasn’t anyone wearing bell bottoms like me?

I missed my home, my friends, my town. I missed being able to walk to the YMCA after school. I missed my dishwasher job at the deli, and I missed the mountains. Where were the mountains? When we left Canada in 1970 there were mountains.

That first week I realized that some people were nice, others indifferent, and that others were just mean. It took time to find a friend, and that came with many awkward lessons. What did any of us have in common at first? I had a western drawl, a bowl haircut and wore hand me downs. With time, I found out where I fit in thanks to two friends named Jerry B and Terry L, where the Becker’s store was along the way home, and how to hold a hockey stick.

There were tears, fist fights(sorry mom), angry words, and frustration that eventually gave way to acceptance, understanding, and friendships. And then there was my first school dance. DON’T ask! That was more about pre-adolescent survival than anything else. Although, the Led Zeppelin was a welcome relief to overcome the Disco.

And new subjects, like French and Italian. Did I mention that the history was completely different from what I was taught? Where were the rockets red glare and waving flags? Or, that I had to use something called the Metric System for measurement?

And then we moved again and it started all over again at new school in a different neighbourhood of Toronto. I remember my dad saying how adversity was character building and that there is always something to learn through all of these opportunities.

Fast forward to 2017, I’m loving every minute of my 8th year as an educator, and not much has changed since 1978. A charismatic Prime Minister named Trudeau leads the country. Gas prices hover around a dollar – except that’s per litre instead per gallon. The world continues to become a smaller place as technology connects us all. Immigrants continue to make Canada their home and we become a stronger nation from our depth of diversity.

Disco still sucks. Standardized tests continue to be a reviling option in education. Dictators are still dictating in some familiar and not so expected places. Rush is still rocking, Quebec is still threatening to separate every now and again, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are still trying to hoist the Stanley Cup again.

I’m glad we moved back because Canada is the best country on the planet by the metric equivalent to a country mile (1.62 km). Thank you.

OK. Back to the Heart and Art blog.



3 things

Warning: Do not read this post for more than 3 -4 minutes.

2016 is hurtling towards its calendar end and thoughts turn to a highlight reel retrospective heading for the history books. My mind is counting down around a repeating loop of ideas and reflections like a Space X reusable rocket. Well, maybe the baking soda and vinegar in a bottle type.

As the countdown approaches, I wanted to ask educators around the world to answer this question. If you’d like, think of it as a wishlist.

What would you change in education for 2017?

If you could change 3 things about education in 2017, knowing you wouldn’t fail, what would they be? I’m talking Astro Teller moon shot type changes here.

We use the word “moonshots” to remind us to keep our visions big — to keep dreaming. And we use the word “factory” to remind ourselves that we want to have concrete visions — concrete plans to make them real.  Astro Teller

Here are my 3 cannot-miss-the-spot-moonshot-thoughts.

  1. End the school to prison pipeline. My wish would be that schools could be funded with the same amount of money per student as the prisoners of our world. I believe that if we provided more funding for our schools, then our prisons would soon be very different and under-crowded spaces.I also believe that by stopping the flow of students from classrooms to courtrooms to cell blocks there would be a better standard of living for our entire society with opportunity for all. Imagine what could be done with all of the extra money if it was spent educating instead of incarcerating? Did you know that the students receive on average only 1/3 of the funding of prisoners?
  2. End standardized testing. What good is asking students to cram 10 months of learning into 9 months, only to stresst them out?  Why are millions of tax dollars being spent on tying up instructional time and resources in order to administer and assess students in grades 3, 6, 9, and 10. Is it worth quantifying education annually as a soapbox for politicians?Has anyone thought that the questions being asked are not considerate of skills and understandings required for the future? Cynical me asks, if there is a correlation to test results and real estate value? This appears to frequently be the case in my own province of Ontario, Canada. My own home price benefiting from strong results in neighbourhood schools.When I look at results by district in the U.S and compare facilities and funding I am left with many questions around equity and distribution of assets. In 2012, 1.7 billion dollars were spent on standardized testing in the U.S.A. If the financial cost doesn’t get your attention, how about the anxiety and mental health issues that result from many educators who feel they need to teach to the test instead of to the needs of their learners?
  3. End the global desk-wagging contest known as PISA and invest the money shelled out back into the students.Are you noticing a trend yet?To whose benefit do these tests and rankings really serve? How come the sample sizes are so small? Why are students and schools used as collateral/capital for international bragging rights? Did you know that schools can be recruited or selected to participate? How does this not scream of yielding a skewed sample? Why are so many countries not taking part in PISA? There are students learning on dirt floors or without access to any education at all. All the while a bunch of people in suits are deciding to see which privileged country’s students are number one.

It’s your turn to share 3 things. Shoot for the stars because you can. It will not be marked.
Countdown in 10, 9 … 3, 2, 1.

If you have made it this far, thank you for your interest in this topic. You are now past 3 minutes. Why not read on? Here is a very worthwhile reading list.

Pipeline to prison –

School-to-prison-pipeline –

Project Liberty: School to prison pipeline –

How High-Stakes Testing Feeds the School-to-Prison Pipeline Infographic –

US should nix its federal department of education –

School performance rankings from the Fraser Institute –

How does a school district affect the value of your home (don’t miss comments) –

The standardised test debate. Is EQAO good for education? (don’t miss comments) –

School choice not the right choice for our kids –

Pisa and the creativity puzzle –

The tower of PISA is badly leaning –

Remembrance and gratitude

Today I sit, move, teach, and learn without fear of war in the place I call home. Today I stand. Tomorrow I will do the same, and each day hereafter.


photo by Hobvias Sudoneighm – Flickr, CC BY-SA2.0,

This week I seek to honour those who have sacrificed so much while never knowing the countless lives that were made better by their actions. This week I stand with those who have served.

This month I receive a torch; as mine to hold high to guard the flames of bravery, selflessness, virtue, and kindness that make our nation a light on a hill. This month I stand for those who serve.

This year I pause, again, to remember that those who have come before me have not served in vain. This year I stand for those who will serve in the future.

In my life there is still work to be done.

But for now, I am taking time to be still, to look back, and give thanks.
Lest we forget.