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Monday, July 20, 2020

Professional Reading in the Summer

If you are an educator, there is no better time than the summer to do some professional reading.  What I mean by professional reading is to read articles or books that pertain to your professional practice.  The reason the summer is the best time to do this type of reading is that you have TIME to read in the summer and you have TIME to think critically about what you teach, how you teach it and how you assess it. 

Some people would say, "Why would you read books about educational practice in the summer? I just want to read for fun and read something totally unrelated to my work."  While I agree that reading for fun is a must in the summer (I read for fun all year long as well), I find that reading books and articles related to one's teaching is a great way to learn new things, reinforce the great things you are already doing in your classroom and to get excited about the next school year.  Almost every summer when I read books on educational practices I get excited about what I have learned and cannot wait to try those things with my students in September and talk about my new learning with my colleagues.  The other thing that summer reading helps me with is to plan my personal, professional growth plan for the upcoming school year.  What I have learned and plan to try in my classroom in the fall becomes the basis of my growth plan.  I am not dreaming up things to do so I can put them in my growth plan.  My growth plan just becomes a written record of the changes I plan to make in teaching and assessment practices.

Some people say they find it hard to get motivated to read in the summer.  To help you with this, I will outline what I do.  Once I have picked an educational book to read and it has arrived 2 days later from Amazon, I then set a goal of reading one chapter per day of this educational book.  Most educational books have chapters that are 15-30 pages long.  This usually takes me less than one hour per day to read a chapter.  Do I always read one chapter per day?  No!  Other things get in the way, like a trip to the beach, a round of golf, visiting with friends and family or going fishing.  If I miss a day I do not sweat it, I just try to read a chapter the next day.  Usually, I start reading my book in early July and I have finished reading this educational book by the third week of July.  I also read for fun as many days as I can in the summer.  Those fun reads are relaxing and help me enjoy the beautiful days outside just lounging in a chair.  Where does a person find the time to read in the summer?  You might enjoy reading in the morning while enjoying that first cup of coffee, it may be a middle of the day practice that you do in the afternoon or it may happen after supper as a way to work into an evening of relaxing.  Find a time that works for you and you will form the habit of reading daily.

So, I would like to encourage all of my educator friends and colleagues to read at least one educational book this summer.  I hope you take up this challenge and enjoy it as much as I do.  It is a great way to refresh myself professionally and to get me excited about the upcoming school year.

If you are looking for some educational books to read her are three I have or am currently in the process of reading.  The first two pertain to any teacher while the third one is specifically for Gr.5-12 Mathematics teachers.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Response to Education Minister's Message

Here is my response to the the message that the Education Minister sent out to Alberta teachers today.

"As a high school teacher and academic counsellor I thank you for sending out your message today.  While I agree that we all need to work together to transform education, I am disappointed about actions you have taken in the past few weeks.

1.  Floating the idea of Merit Pay for teachers is nuts!!!  There is so much research out there that indicates Merit Pay does not work why would you even suggest the idea??

2.  Asking school boards their opinion on legislating teachers contracts is even more crazy!!!

These two items have gone a long way to eroding teachers belief and trust in you as the Education Minister.  When you first became Education Minister I was refreshed by your message and your vision.  However, it feels like you have done a complete 180 degree turn.  This is greatly disappointing to me.

It really appears that you have become a puppet for the Conservative party.  I thought you were better than that.

It is time for yourself, Genia Leskiw, Dave Hancock and others to stand up to the Caucus and do what is right for Education.  If Inspiring Education is to be implemented in its true vision, then we cannot use old school politics to run a 21st Century Education Dept.

It is time for you and others to do what is right for Education.  The education of our children and the future of Alberta depends on it!!"

Let me know if I got it right.

Message from the Alberta Minister of Education

So, today, in my email, I received the following message from our Alberta Minister of Education:

"Good afternoon! I'm personally reaching out to as many teachers as possible to let you know how much the Premier and I appreciate all you do. As I travel the province and meet with teachers, I am encouraged to hear how many of you are implementing the vision of Inspiring Education. Thank you.

Recently, I met with a group of teachers in a staff room in Lac La Biche. We had an excellent conversation and I promised to look into some issues they raised with me. That conversation made me realize that we need to have a more open and transparent way to communicate.

I also know that in order for you to be innovative and creative, you need a less prescriptive curriculum; you need time and space; and you want to ensure kids have equity in terms of access to opportunities and resources. These things will be a priority for me in the coming year because at the end of the day the kids have to come first.

I know we have more work to do. We want to move even more toward the Inspiring Education vision and develop changes in curriculum and assessment. We will also have to address the province’s fiscal challenges and the ATA contract negotiations.  I know many of you would also like to talk about the changing role of the teacher in the 21st century – something that came up often during our two years of Inspiring Education consultations. All of this means we need to have open communication and ensure you have access to accurate information. 

Especially now. It's my goal to make sure that as we move through this difficult budget time we are investing our limited dollars in the programs that are critical to ensuring the success of our kids, that we are protecting class sizes and inclusion funding as well as jobs for teachers to the greatest extent possible. You have told me that’s what is important to you and I am listening.

You will be hearing from me on a regular basis. But, please contact me anytime at Please share this information with your colleagues. I know my current list may not be comprehensive and I want to reach as many teachers as possible. So, if you received this from a colleague, it means you aren't on our list. Please email me or go to our existing engagement tools on the web at Engage. A new Teachers' link will help us connect with even more of you. Eventually, this is where we will post ideas for us to share.

I hope you will participate in this dialogue with me.

Talk to you soon.


Jeff Johnson
Minister of Education
MLA, Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater"

 Interesting that he took the time to send this message out to teachers AFTER he floated the ideas of "Merit Pay" and legislating teacher contracts.

Two items that teachers are vehemently opposed to.

Why didn't the Minister consult with teachers on these issues?

 Does he realize what kind of a hornets nest he has created amongst teachers and now is he trying to settle things down?

While I appreciate that he wants to hear from teachers, he is going to get quite an ear full after discussing implementing Merit Pay and legislating teacher contracts. Let me know how you feel about the Minister's message.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reflections on a Semester of the Flipped Classroom

I have now spent an entire semester teaching my Math 20-1 students using the Flipped Classroom Model. I have learned a lot using this model. Some of it good and some of it not so good. This post is going to outline the good, the bad and the ugly. I distributed an end of semester evaluation this week and had my students reflect on their semester in the flipped classroom as well.

The Good:
1. I now have every lesson in the course in video format.
2. About half of my class really likes the Flipped Classroom model. If I was to guess, these were the students that are doing well in the course.
3. The Flipped Model allowed students to progress at their own pace. Some sped through the video lesson. Some watched it twice.
4. The Flipped Model allowed me to spend a lot of time with those students that were struggling.
5. The Flipped Model transformed me from a lecturer into a facilitator.
6. I had lots of students and teachers in many different locations use my videos to supplement their learning and they thanked me for it.

The Bad and Ugly:
1. About half of my class did not like learning under the Flipped Model. One student said, "I don't learn this way!". Interesting comment. I need to reflect on it.
2. I feel like I have lost or have not been able to use a number of good teaching practices I have employed in the past.
3. The facilitation part of my role was mostly just answering questions that the students could not solve.
4. Almost everyday in my classroom felt the same. Not nearly as much variety as in the past.
5. A couple of students dropped the class because of the Flipped Model.

I realize that this is only one semester of implementing the Flipped Model. However, I am really thinking hard about whether or not this model is worth continuing. It definitely needs revising.

The following questions are running through my head:
1. If half of my students do not like the Flipped Model is this model meeting ALL of the students needs?
2. If my students continue with the Flipped model in their next Math class will they adapt to it more?
3. If I stop using the Flipped model am I doing so to the detriment of the students that say this model works for them?
4. Could I run a hybrid flipped and non-flipped model in the same classroom?

So, as I reflect back on an entire semester of using the Flipped Model, I have lots to consider. In the coming weeks I will decide if I will continue with the Flipped model or not. Right now it is 50-50. Your feedback might help me make my decision.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

LEGO - My New Hobby

In June 2010 myself and Jared Nichol had the privilege of attending ISTE in Denver, Colorado. While at ISTE we took a shopping trip to a mall and hit the LEGO store. I had never been to a LEGO store before but it was amazing. LEGO has come a long way since I was a kid back in the 70's. After the visit to the LEGO store, I thought I would look into purchasing a few kits for myself and start a LEGO collection. Well, 2010 came and went and I still had not bought any LEGO.

In the Fall of 2011 I was looking at the curriculum for the Workplace and Apprenticeship Math course (Math 20-3) here in Alberta. Lots of curriculum outcomes on scale factor, 2D and 3D diagrams etc.. While reading the curricular outcomes I thought that LEGO would be a good tool to use with my students in learning these curricular outcomes. That triggered the idea that I wanted to start my own LEGO collection.

So, I said to my wife this fall, "I want some LEGO for Christmas!!!" She looked at me kind of funny but after I explained the multitude of kits available she kind of understood my request. I asked for Star Wars LEGO for Christmas.

Christmas 2011 has come and gone and I DID NOT receive any LEGO. I was kind of upset. I asked my wife why I did not receive any LEGO for Christmas. She explained that when she went in search of Star Wars LEGO she found kits from $20 - $300. She had no idea what I would want. She instructed me to, "Go out and buy whatever LEGO you like." She did not want to buy something I would not like so she felt it was best if I bought my own.

This past week we headed to Edmonton and Red Deer for some post Christmas shopping and to visit my brother-in-law. While in Red Deer, I hit the Toys R Us store and headed straight for the LEGO section. When I started looking at the Star Wars LEGO I was having trouble deciding what my first purchase should be. Most of the Star Wars LEGO I liked was over $100. I thought that might be a bit pricy for my first purchase. So, I started looking at the rest of the LEGO. I discovered a number of Transformers LEGO kits and they were on sale for $35 each. I was sold. I would make my first LEGO collection Transformers. There were 6 different kits that I saw and I decided to buy Megatron for my first kit. Why? My oldest daughter's name is Megan and her nickname at school is Megatron.

I have spent a few hours working on the Megatron kit and here is the Megatron Truck!!!

I will keep the truck around for a week or two. Then I have to tear it apart to build the actual Megatron Transformer character. Stay tuned for more posts about my LEGO collection. I have a birthday coming up in January and hope to receive another Transformers LEGO kit to add to my collection.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Yahoo!!! University of Alberta Changes Admission Requirements for Nursing

My good friend John Scammell tweeted the following today.

Here is the email announcement with details. It is good news for students trying to enter Nursing!!!

Subject: Admission Requirement Change - University of Alberta - Nursing
Importance: High

Good Afternoon Counsellors!

Please note the following important change to admission criteria for our BSc Nursing program.
Nursing will be accepting either Math 30-1 or Math 30-2 for admission to the BSc Nursing Collaborative and Bilingual programs (for Sask, BC, Manitoba, please see equivalents below). This change will impact students applying for Fall 2013, as we are currently only accepting Pure Math 30 or Math 31 for Fall 2012.

BSc Nursing

English Language Arts (ELA) 30-1
Biology 30
Choose one of Chemistry 30 or Science 30
Choose one of Pure Mathematics 30 or Mathematics 30-1; Mathematics 30-2; Mathematics 31
Choose one of Chemistry 30; Science 30; Pure Mathematics 30 or Mathematics 30-1; Mathematics 31; Physics 30; Computer Science- Advanced Level CTS (5 credits); Social Studies 30-1; 30-level language; Fine Arts Course

BSc Nursing Bilingual

English Language Arts (ELA) 30-1
One of French 30, French 30 (9-year), French 31, Français 30, 30-1, 30-2; French Language Arts 30, 30-1, 30-2
Chemistry 30/Chimie 30 or Science 30
Biology 30/Biologie 30
One of Pure Mathematics 30/Mathématiques Pures 30 or Mathematics 30-1/Mathematiques 30-1; Mathematics 30-2/Mathematiques 30-2; Mathematics 31/Mathématiques

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Observations About Students Thinking

Over the past month and a half I have had the opportunity to scribe for one of our Pure Math 30 students. They recently had surgery and they are unable to write. So, when it is time for an exam in Block 2 Pure Math 30 this student asks me to scribe for them. I have a prep at that time and am more than glad to scribe for this student.

Scribing for this student has been an eye opening experience for me. As a scribe, you cannot assist the student in any way. All you do is write down what the student tells you. I have been amazed at how much I can observe about a student's thought processes as they talk through what they are thinking. They have to tell you everything to write down, everything to label etc.. Because this student is unable to write on their own, they have to tell me all of the work they wish to do but they need me to write down for them.

Just by listening to the student think out loud I am able to really tell if a student understands a problem, process or a concept. The light bulb has really gone off in my head. I need to find time to sit with all of my students and scribe for them. Listen to their thinking and observe what they know and do not know.

In terms of assessment, scribing for a student can be very informational to me as their teacher. I also need to think about how I can document my observations in some sort of Google Form or check list.

I love it when I come across great ways of seeing into the minds of my students!!!!