The Failings of Leadership

Posted in Leadership,Uncategorized by iwonderstand on July 9, 2016
Tags: , ,

I entered my WordPress editor intent on writing a post about the importance of work-life balance, the importance of visioning for the future but taking care of today… and then the title just wrote itself. Now where did that come from? Do I think I am a failure? Do I think that my leaders are failures? Not at all… so what is rumbling around in my mind on a Saturday morning??

Just like expertise does not imply that someone is an expert, failings do not imply that someone is a failure. I have been fascinated by root words and word origins lately (my FB post on awful is another blog post entirely), but I think that failings in leadership are important to consider, analyze, and learn from. Life is not a Lego Movie, where “Everything is Awesome”.

Life is real, and leaders are continuously trying to vision and step forward. If we look at failings as learnings, we can move away from deficit thinking for ourselves and others.

As a full time professional learning facilitator, I firmly believe in “Walking the Walk” rather than simply “Talking the Talk”. One example is facilitating workshops on differentiation. I remember having a long discussion with a school division leader who was frustrated that “we have told our Principals over and over again for multiple years that their teachers need to differentiate. Differentiation is the key to student learning.” I am sure you can spot the irony in this statement. It is the irony of attending a lecture about how lecture is one of the most ineffective teaching methods. My question back to that school division leader was “how are you differentiating the learning for the Principals in your learning time with them?” Unfortunately, we know that too often the answer is – we are not. We have all attended professional learning about math tasks without ever engaging in a math task; we have attended professional learning about formative assessment without the facilitator ever using formative assessment and responding appropriately. So, in a workshop on math stations, you should experience stations; in a workshop on comprehension strategies, you should use them to learn the content of the workshop. This is my firm belief, and we in our professional development unit work hard to live that belief in every workshop that we do…

How is this related to the failings of leadership? I think about another strong belief that I have – that family and life and people are more important than tasks and email and work… and my failing as a leader is that I don’t “Walk the Walk”, I simply “Talk the Talk” about work-life balance or whatever other analogy you use. I encourage my staff to have work-life balance, and then promise that I will work on it after I get caught up. I don’t model that it can actually be done. I don’t provide a living example that my team can say “Hey, she gets her work done within the confines of the work day.” or “Look, she has taken ALL of her holiday time!” or even “She hasn’t sent an email at 10:00 PM on a Friday night lately!”

So… a failing is something to consider, analyze and learn from. I need to consider the gap between belief and being a living example. I need to analyze what actions are within my control that I can do less of/more of/stop/start. I need to learn from that analysis, and for the sake of the most wonderful team and family possible, I need to learn and change. I need to begin the Walk…


Photo by Auzigog – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License https://www.flickr.com/photos/8039488@N07

Curriculum Leadership

Posted in Uncategorized by iwonderstand on December 22, 2015


There are many resources that support instructional leaders in Saskatchewan. This page is meant to supplement the SPDU “Curriculum Leadership” workshops occurring in January, 2016. Eventually, a complete list will be available on the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation website http://www.stf.sk.ca

General Instruction and Assessment

Formative Assessment

Clarifying, Understanding, and Sharing Learning Intentions

Eliciting Evidence of Student Achievement

Providing Feedback that Moves Learning Forward

Activating Students as Instructional Resources for One Another

Activating Students as Owners of Their Own Learning

Early Learning

Better Beginnings, Better Futures

Emerging Literacy Checklist

SPDU Early Learning Dec, 2015


Understanding Curriculum English Language Arts


Grade K to 4 Curriculum Conceptual Through-lines

Grade 5 to 9 curriculum Conceptual Through-Lines

Continuum of Essential Learning Outcomes Grade K – 10

NCTM: Figure This – Families and Math

Arts Education:

Arts Education Across the Grades 6 – 9

Arts Education Across the Grades K – 5

Renewed K-9 Arts Education and Treaty Essential Learnings

The Capacity of Asessment in Arts Education

Physical Education:

Building Stronger Citizens through Physical Education

Physical Literacy Summary

Senior Science:

SK Science Curriculum Topics 2015

Saskatchewan Senior Science Curriculum Renewal Parent Presentation

Inquiry in Science Education

Assessing Inquiry

Science Education Outreach Organizations – NOV 2015

SPDU Science Workshops Dec, 2015

Senior Mathematics:

Grade 7 to 10 Curriculum Conceptual Through-lines

Grade 9 to 11 Curriculum Conceptual Through-lines Including Modified

Grade 9 to 12 Workplace and Apprenticeship Conceptual Through-lines

Grade 9 to 12 Foundations Conceptual Through-lines

Grade 9 to 12 PreCalculus Conceptual Through-lines

Continuum of Essential Learning Outcomes Grade K – 10



Sharing for Learning

This post may seem a bit odd. While my professional self is inextricably linked to my TJTerryJo self (because I am just one person, after all), my iwonderstand space is usually my personal professional musings of the world that I interact with every day. My official Terry Johanson self, Director of the Professional Development Unit, exists on our official Saskatchewan Teachers Federation and SPDU websites. Today, my two selves will merge as I post about one of my recent workshops. This is to show my  team what it might look like to create a workshop support page that would be viewable to the world. It might also help us to save a few trees along the way. The following post is what I call a ‘clickable agenda’ and is one form of online professional learning.

Comprehension Strategies in All Subject Areas

This workshop will have us examine how we might explicitly teach comprehension strategies in all subject areas. It was held in July as part of the STF Summer Programming.Some workshop artifacts that may help you see the general flow of this day together, you can see the Facilitation Guide, Powerpoint, and Core Handout. You are welcome to use and modify any of the materials on this page, I would just ask that you give attribution to the Saskatchewan Professional Development Unit for this work.

This web page’s purpose is to share the learning that occurred on that day, as well as make all of the documents and resources available to you, regardless of whether you were able to attend. SensemakingThroughout the workshop and as you read through the information associated with it, learners were encouraged to examine thought processes in order to classify what strategies we are using as we make sense of new information. We emphasized that a teacher will choose a specific tactic for students to work with, but it is the thinking that goes on inside a learner’s head that determines which comprehension strategy they are actually using.

There are many different researchers who write about comprehension strategies. This workshop is loosely founded on the work of Ellin Keene’s seven strategies. A brief  Comprehension Strategy Overview is a good way to begin our thinking. Here is an Anticipation Guide: Comprehension Strategies for you to complete before you go any further in your learning of comprehension strategies.

 Activating Prior Knowledge

There are many strategies that allow learners to activate and connect to prior knowledge. Activating Prior KnowledgeThis comprehension strategy involves you connecting your learning to your experiences, events in the world, and to other knowledge you may have in and out of school. We simply can’t understand what we hear, read, or view without thinking about what we already know.

  • A Snowball is a safe way for learners to share what they know and clarify misconceptions about a concept. It is often combined with a whole group synthesis of answers to questions posed on a page.
  • When teaching vocabulary, it is important that we use Vocabulary Building Strategies that allow students to make connections to words that they already know. One way of doing this is through the use of a Visual Dictionary. A visual dictionary combines a visual, connections, and definition of a word in student language.

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  • Think Aloud is often thought of as an explicit teacher-centred instructional strategy. It can also be used as a student:student tactic where they expose their connections, ask questions, or make predictions in pairs or small groups.

Determining Importance

Learners are bombarded with high volumes of information every day. Determining Importance

This comprehension strategy involves evaluating information, making judgments about information, and identifying key ideas and concepts. When we read nonfiction we are reading to learn, understand, and remember information.

  • One useful way to have students learn to be concise and categorize information into main ideas is using The Frame, which is part of the Content Enhancement Series out of the University of Kansas.
  • A more open-ended note-taking organizer is a tactic called Cornell Notes. Here is a editable template that can be used for any topic.
  • Using a Text Mapping Scroll can reveal text features to students. By asking them to mark up their scrolls, they can see that authors put text features into their books to help students. A useful activity is to have students use markers to note:
    • Things that are important.
    • Things that help you know if you understand.
    • Things that help you understand.


Visualizing is not limited to students making a picture in their heads.

VisualizingThis might also be a body feel, scent, emotion, or sound. This comprehension strategy involves you making mental pictures and/or mind maps of ideas and how they interconnect.

    • Having students visualize mathematics problems can help them to make sense of what is being asked for. In Grayson Wheatley’s Lantern Problem, students can be given a lantern to enable them to solve the task.
    • When learning about historical events, having students role play moments can enable them to make connections that they otherwise would not. For example, when learning about the creation of Canada’s healthcare system, giving students a role as either FOR or AGAINST publicly funded health care prior to learning Canadian History and watching video from that era can help them form a perspective.
  • Consistently asking students what they are thinking, what they are feeling, what they might be saying if they lived at this time, and what their hopes and fears are . This prompting might help them to visualize the state of society in that time period. Moving into an informal debate set in the 1960’s can help them understand our current health care system.

Summarizing and Synthesizing

Sometimes these two ideas are used interchangeably, but they are not the same action.Summarizing and Synthesizing

Summarizing is the breaking down of information into smaller bits, while synthesizing is the ability to bring an idea back to a whole. Thoughtful readers merge their thinking with information to come to a more complete understanding.

  • A Comparison Routine is another Content Enhancement routine that allows students to break down two ideas into those characteristics that are the same and different. The important feature is that the routine also has learners synthesize those similarities and differences into larger statements. An editable version is available to you.
  • Metaphors and analogies allow learners to connect specific characteristics of known ideas to new ideas. This can be done in many ways, including visually and through video.
    • Example: students may be asked “How is one of these images like comprehension strategies?”Slide42
    • Example: students may be asked “How is this video like news media?”


This comprehension strategy involves you predicting, estimating, hypothesizing, interpreting, and making conclusions.

Making InferencesInferential thinking allows learners to grasp the deeper essence of text and information. Readers infer by taking their background knowledge and merge it with clues in the text or visual to draw a conclusion or arrive at a big idea that is not explicitly stated in text.

  • Sometimes it is important that students are able to make ‘risk free’ predictions. It is useful to have mini white boards or scrap paper available for students to put their guesses on, and then check to see their accuracy after the ‘answer’ is revealed.
  • Using visuals may be a good entry point for students to make inferences. Prompts such as “what is happening here?” will allow students to look at details and create a story about what they believe its context is.


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Asking Questions

This strategy involves learners actively wondering about topics, and questioning facts and information.

Asking QuestionsQuestioning is the strategy that propels learners on and is at the heart of inquiry- based learning. Humans are driven to make sense of the world, and questions open the doors to understanding.

  • It is important to both provide students with skills for Questioning, it is also important to set up Opportunities for Wonder. By setting up situations in the learning environment such as a demonstration, reading, video, or other experience, you can prompt wonder in an area of learning that meets curricular outcomes.

Monitoring Comprehension

This is often considered to be the most powerful comprehension strategy, and often uses other strategies in tandem.

Monitoring ComprehensionThis comprehension strategy involves you recognizing and acting on your own confusion, and self-questioning to determine understanding. We monitor our comprehension and keep track of our thinking in a number of ways. We notice when text makes sense and when it doesn’t. We ask questions, infer, activate background knowledge, and make connections, all in the effort to promote understanding.

  • Card sorts are a useful tactic when having students make sense of either new or existing concepts. This can often be done in combination with a gallery walk, where students from different groups come together and discuss the ideas that they had generated separately.
  • An Anticipation Guide can be used at the beginning of a learning experience, and again at the end of that concept. It is a check to see what learners know before and after, and can guide instruction, review, and reteaching.

Take a moment and recheck your anticipation guide. What has been your greatest area of growth? What more do you need to learn about? What are your strategies to find out more? Other useful resources for you to consider accessing are:

So… My wonder is, would posts similar to this one be useful to you as a professional learner? Would it be useful to have access to something in this form before, during and after a workshop? Or available to you if you cannot attend in person? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Celebrating Citizenship with Nancy’s Class

Posted in Mathematics by iwonderstand on June 3, 2014
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I have been ‘almost done’ my blog post for #DCMOOC for almost a week, but there was something just not quite right about it. I had been reflecting on “Being the Me I Want to Be” and it seemed very inauthentic and trite. Then I was talking to my friend Nancy, who I wrote about in “Just Like Nancy” and I realized what was wrong. I was writing about a hypothetical person reflecting on their contributions, and I should be writing about a group of children who are reflecting on their contributions.

This morning, I have the chance to go into Nancy’s classroom and share a math lesson. Not just any math lesson. This is a math lesson that will have Nancy’s Grade 3/4 class reflect, celebrate, and realize that they have influence all over the world. We will use statistics from this blog to show how they are helping others to Learn About Citizenship. They will learn how reading statistics can help us understand how much they have contributed to the world beyond Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

World Stats

And then looking at the bigger picture. This is the power of active digital citizenship – moving beyond our own community to reach others who are miles away. Again, I draw the parallel between citizenship within my community of Saskatoon, and digital citizenship.

There are quiet citizens in Saskatoon – those who do no harm, but also don’t contribute to the greater good of their neighborhood and larger community. There are also active citizens in Saskatoon – they are the people who volunteer, are on charity boards, do fundraising for the child next door who needs to travel out of province for an operation. There are people like Nancy’s class that do good things, not for themselves, but to make others’ lives better.

There are also quiet online citizens – those who do no harm, but also don’t contribute to the knowledge, understanding, or enjoyment of others. I think about my online world up until a few years ago. I had locked down facebook (admit that I still do!), ‘lurked’ occasionally on blogs but did not post, read my twitter feed but did not tweet, I had this blog but did not post. I was a quiet online citizen who did not hurt others, but I certainly did not contribute to my online community. I did no ‘good things’ online to make others’ lives better. By participating in #DCMOOC, I am thinking more and more about how I can use my online presence to build community and move towards being an active online citizen.

Thinking ahead to my morning in Nancy’s mathematics class. My hope today is that they will see the power of positive contributions to their community. I am also hoping that they see that by taking their story beyond their community, they have influenced others and their thinking about what positive, active citizenship can look like. I am hoping that they are further empowered to continue making a difference, even when they grow up beyond Nancy’s classroom.

Just Like Nancy

Posted in Technology by iwonderstand on May 22, 2014
Tags: , , ,

Last night’s #DCMOOC class kept me up all night – well, actually it may have been the coffee I had afterwards, but nonetheless I was thinking for many hours about the implications of digital citizenship. It was interesting to read Kelly Christopherson’s post this week, Everywhere Citizenship, as he zeroed in on many of the things from our online discussion that were part of my own reflection on digital citizenship. Both of us connected to the same tweet. Citizenship

Of course digital citizenship is just citizenship. So what are the implications of that statement? Some people tend to view citizenship in the world as the list of  ‘do nots’:

Do Not List

I tend to look view citizenship as what we SHOULD do in this world. I think of my friend, Nancy Barr, who teaches Grade 3-4 at one of Saskatoon’s Community Schools. She is teaching her students to be good citizens. Today, I had a chance to look the display that she and her students created to showcase their learning this year. Grade 3-4 Citizenship Display

Rather than focussing on what NOT to do, Nancy creates an environment where her children learn and create and contribute – they exemplify what TO do, how to be good citizens. Rather than simply focussing on “Don’t Hurt Others”, one of Nancy’s students writes “If you see someone being bullied, don’t be a bystander, speak up. Be kind and respectful.” Rather than admonishing “Don’t damage property”, one young student writes “Keep the Earth Clean. To keep the Earth clean, you could clean up outside if you see garbage just lying around pick it up.”

Random Act of KindnessNancy starts the year building community with her students so that they feel empowered to make a difference beyond the walls of their school and classroom. This Grade 3-4 class created ‘random acts of kindness’ where they performed good deeds, even going so far as to raise money to buy shovels so that they could shovel the walks for community members in need. Their cards read simply “This random act of kindess was so you could have a better day.”

Being a Good CitizenThese young citizens support people in need – everyone from residents in their neighborhood convalescent home to executives in the offices of Potash Corp to members of their own school community who just needed a warm cup of coffee on a cold day. Nancy’s students have performed good deeds just because they are good deeds and they give to their community. By learning and experiencing citizenship as an authentic act of giving, these children strive to make the world a better place. Nancy does not need to focus on the ‘do not’ list, because her children understand what it means to be positive, contributing citizens. As one student wrote “Being a good citizen feels good. When you are a good citizen that means you are doing good deeds for the world and other people and when you are done you feel good about yourself. It is awesome to be a good citizen.

And now I think of the ocean of technology that I wrote about last week. What has happened is that our world has expanded out beyond the concrete, grass, and houses that we see around us. While it is true that this ocean of technology is almost limitless, it is still filled with people. Because technology connects people, our view of citizenship needs to be the same. We adults will often focus on the list of ‘do nots’ – it has slightly different words and phrases, but it is essentially the same list as the one above: Online Do Not List

Last night’s discussion and an article written by Jeff Dunn helped me to see that it is not good enough to just focus on the ‘do not’ list. It is imperative that we focus on what citizenship looks like online. Just like Nancy does with her class in our physical community, we need to provide opportunities for our children and ourselves to create, influence, and do good things in the online community. Let children experience using their knowledge, skills, and power to do good things for those that need support. Let’s stand up against online bullying – let’s follow the example set by Nancy’s students – let’s not be bystanders! We need to model and provide the environment where children are creative contributors to the world. By learning and experiencing citizenship, digital version, we and our students can authentically make the world a better place. If we create the same environment online that Nancy has done with her Grade 3-4 students, we do not need to focus on the ‘do not list’ so much, because our children will understand what it means to be a positive, contributing citizen within the larger world. Let them experience and feel how good it feels to do good things. Let them feel how awesome it is to be a good citizen.

The Ocean and the Tide

I am inspired by Jade Ballek’s post on What Do Our Students Need Us to Learn? I find as a leader of professional development, I am constantly asking the teachers I work with “What do you need?” or “What do you need to learn to best support your students”? And then my own learning stems directly from that question. For example, if my teachers identify that they need to learn about effective ways to identify where students are in their understanding of multiplication and division, and how to teach from where students are, I get my research hat on, look at books and resources by key thinkers, and learn a whole TON about multiplication and division that I never thought I would ever need to know, remix it with what I already know and *Shazam* we have a learning opportunity around the topic that teachers have requested.

But… what if there is something that is larger and more pervasive than those learning needs identified by the teachers I work with? What if there is an ocean that everything we do and learn and communicate is suspended in? And what if that ocean is something that I actually know very little about other than “it’s blue and it can be pretty and it can be deadly”. For me, that ocean is technology and the tide is digital fluency.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not usually techno-phobic and I am pretty proud of my prowess with Excel, Inspiration, and I make pretty awesome graphic organizers in Word. So I can USE tech tools at a pretty OK functioning level. But… what do I actually know of my responsibilities, rights, and privileges in the digital world? Here is where life gets sticky. My fatal flaw is that I trust that everyone in the world is helpful and truthful and kind. I swim through the ‘click click click install’ messages on my computer, and happily sign up for apps and profiles without a care in the world. I don’t wonder why my Google Search is different than my friend’s Google Search on the same topic. Back ‘in the day’ digital citizenship seemed to be confined to:

  1. Don’t say mean things.
  2. Keep your Facebook page private and be careful who you are friends with.
  3. Check your sources – don’t believe everything you read.

And now… there is so much to be aware of. I need to be aware of how I am being influenced by the data profile attached to me. I need to be aware of… well, sadly, so much that I don’t even know that I need to be aware of. And this is the point. When I don’t even know the potential, I don’t know what to be aware of. I don’t know how to be safe. I don’t know how to model and teach my learners.

And so I turn to the #DCMOOC and the community it has created. Through community, we can navigate this ocean together. This is important to not just KNOW, but to LIVE, to MODEL, to BE.

What My Mother Taught Me About Leadership

Posted in Leadership,Uncategorized by iwonderstand on May 12, 2014
Tags: , ,

Mom and Dad in HawaiiOf course, it is Mother’s Day and my thoughts go to my Mom. Actually, my thoughts turn to her and my Dad often. Just last week I referred to some life lesson that my parents taught me. Now well into their wonderful retirement, life wasn’t always ‘all about them’. My parents sacrificed many comforts so that my brother, sister, and I could have what we needed (and often what we wanted as well!). Through it all, my parents modeled characteristics that we didn’t even know we were aspiring to. My parents taught each of us how to be leaders, preparing us for the careers and life that we  now have.

Leadership Learning #1:

Do your best. Always. Regardless of whether the job you are doing is flashy and fun, engaging, or something you want to do – work hard. Someone is depending on the work you are doing whether you think it is important or not. People deserve better than a bare minimum effort. This means that we as leaders need to have high expectations for ourselves and for our colleagues. It is not sufficient to expect others to perform at a higher level than we do ourselves, or worse yet expect others and ourselves to achieve a lower standard. Leaders need to be role models.

My Mom always worked – in an era that many of my friends had Moms that stayed at home. My mom worked for the last decades of her career taking care of senior citizens. Mom’s work was physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding – she worked hard every day, even when lifting residents almost destroyed her shoulder; even when the shifts were so long that she sorted her life by ‘days on, days off’ because on her work days all she could do was work and sleep. No matter how big or how small the task in front of her, Mom did it because she knew that what she did made a difference in the comfort and quality of life for the people she cared for.

Leadership Learning #2:

Love people and let them know you love them. The world is based on relationships. Wearing your heart on your sleeve – laughing, crying, being joyful, and sharing pain is all a part of the humanity we live in. Showing your own vulnerability will help others to reach out and ask for and accept support when they need it.

My Mom was the person whose colleagues would come to for conversations, sharing, bouncing ideas off of one another. She was like a mother/counsellor/sounding board for her colleagues. She also cared so much for the senior citizens she cared for. She used to call some of the gentlemen “crusty on the outside and tender on the inside” because they had harsh exteriors that she would see right through. Mom was never fooled by the crust – she could see the heart and soul of the residents in her care and made a connection to them.

Leadership Learning #3:

You have the right to question everyone and everything around you, no matter who you are, or what position you hold. Without questioning actions, policies, or mandates, we can follow structures and people that are hurtful. If we don’t believe something is morally or intellectually right, we should not follow. History tells us that following blindly is as dangerous as leading a hurtful initiative. As leaders, we need to question in order to ensure that where we are leading is in a morally and intellectually ‘good’ direction.

My Mom and Dad encouraged me to question them, the media, and social norms. They believe that we all have the right to our belief and opinions, as long as we are not hurting others. As a result, I believe that we have the right to question when others’ beliefs and actions are imposing on our own freedoms and actions. I remember when the Colin Thatcher Trial was on the News, and I went on a rant that only a 14 year old can have around the media and society prejudging him simply based on his political position. I questioned “Who are we to judge and declare him guilty?” Needless to say, my parents listened to my ideas and questions without ever hinting that I was “just a kid”.

And so, on this Mother’s Day, I celebrate my Mom. I celebrate all that she has taught me about humanity, about learning, about leadership and about myself.

Every Teacher Needs a Champion

Whether we are teachers of teachers or teachers of students, we need to build relationship with our learners in order to understand and know our learners. I am reminded of Rita Pierson’s talk.

Through relationship with our learners, we can figure out WHAT they need to learn and HOW they learn best. Relationships also help learners and their teachers understand WHY they are learning something. Without having a ‘why’ that links what learners want and need to learn with the learning expectations of curriculum, administration, or school division leadership, it is less likely that learning will be authentic and meaningful. We know this for student learning. What about adult learning?

In her talk, Rita Pierson says, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”. Is this not true for us as adults? Is it not difficult to pause and open our minds up to new possibilities when the person speaking is someone we don’t like, respect, or trust? I would argue that adult learning must be built on relationship as well, and refer to the mindset of facilitators in Wonder #7: What Does it Mean to Be a Community Facilitator. Rita quotes Stephen Covey’s idea that “We need to seek first to understand, not seek first to be understood.” This is the premise of Jim Knight’s Partnership Principles, where facilitators approach colleagues as partners in learning, and actively believe that we will gain knowledge from our peers rather than expecting that we as experts have nothing to learn from the teachers we serve.

Know LearnerRelationship is built on listening. Listening is possible when you have relationship. Relationship and listening allow us to know what our learners need. In Rita’s talk, she asked herself, “How do I raise the academic achievement and the self esteem of a child at the same time?”. We need to ponder this question as facilitators of adult learning as well. We need to ensure that we build (or at least not damage!) the self esteem of the teachers we work with, and at the same time allow them the opportunity to learn in the area they need. Rita encouraged children to have the mantra of “I was somebody when I came, I will be a better somebody when I leave.” This needs to be the mindset of professional development facilitators as well – that our teacher learners are good and know how to teach, and our only role is to support them in becoming ‘better’, remembering that ‘better’ needs to be defined by the teacher themselves.

Without relationship, it is hard for adult learners to feel safe to discuss their foundational fears, worries, and issues they face. Without that deep and honest conversation, facilitators and leaders cannot support teachers authentically. Through relationship, facilitators and teachers hold joint responsibility for learning and making changes that students most need us to make. At the end of her talk, Rita said that teaching and learning should bring joy. To requote her statement in the context of adult learning, replacing ‘kids’ and ‘students’ with ‘adults’ and ‘teachers’…

“How powerful would our world be if we had teachers who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion. Every teacher deserves a champion, a leader who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be. Is this job tough? You betcha. But it is not impossible. We can do this, we are educators. We were born to make a difference.”

Learning Together – SUM 2014

The ability to share wisdom at SUM Conference 2014 through twitter allows me to go back and reflect on my own and others’ learning. Looking back at the storify I am able to see how others’ synthesis of the days together was the same and different than my own, offering me new insights into keynote and session presentations. Contributors to the reflection and sharing of learning were:


While most of the presentations will be posted on the SMTS website, the following is a reflection of my own and others’ tweets throughout the two days. As David Coffey would say, this reflection is helping me to consolidate my learning so that I can use it moving forward.

Steve Leinwand started us off by laying the responsibility for student achievement squarely on our shoulders. As teachers, if we notice that kids can’t do something, it is our responsibility to figure out how to teach them how. Accessibility for children is not an achievement gap, it is an instruction gap. If children forget, we need to review. If they see things differently than a standard algorithm we need to encourage multiple representations. Teaching by telling is no longer good enough – if it ever was. From this learning, I then make the leap to professional development. Teaching teachers by telling is no longer good enough, as well. And if teachers who participate in professional development are not able to do something, it is our responsibility as leaders of professional development to take on that responsibility and figure out how to reach our adult learners. Hmmm this is big and important both.

As mathematics teachers, we were encouraged through our two days together to think about how we encourage active struggle in our students. To have them reflect on their learning, and not let them off the hook when they think they don’t know. The phrase “If you did know, what would you say,” rang through the twitterverse. As educators, we need to do less of what doesn’t work and do more of what does – and know the difference! As one tweeter observed “If most kids in class are not ‘getting it’, maybe it’s not the kids. We teachers need to take the responsibility for kids learning.” and “If we care about kids’ learning, we need to stop with power trips and MAKE SURE they learn. Give them what they need.”


There was some discussion in our days together about the importance of collaboration and trust. Noting that we can achieve more together, one tweeter wondered “How can we get innovative educators to share so they become the norm?” This is a good question, and a discussion about building trust and being trustworthy ensued, where you not only need to be trustworthy yourself, but show your colleagues and students that you trust them as well.


Learning about instruction is what we love most as math teachers! While Steve Leinwand pointed out that we may get aggravated when kids ignore us and do what makes sense to them, isn’t instruction really about trying to have best first instruction so that our classrooms are open enough to allow students to generate their own ways of thinking? We need to support the active struggle of students within our math classrooms, and move our focus away from rigid rules to encouraging reasonableness in student thinking. Lisa Lunney Borden reminded us that while Math concepts are universal, it’s the numbers that is the language. For our First Nations and Metis learners, one tweeter observed that “The characteristics of how FN kids learn are just straight up good teaching practices. Collaboration, logic, hands on, connections.”  Lisa Lunney Borden has her framework and teaching ideas on her website, Show Me Your Math.

Some ways that were shared via twitter in sessions to achieve this were:

Suggested Strategies

There were many Classroom Structures for Differentiation shared in sessions that help teachers to individualize instruction. These included Math Workshop created by David and Kathy Coffee, an adaptation of Daily 5 in Math created by Sandi Neufeld and Jennifer Brokofsky, Explore +4 created by Kira Fladager, Sharia Warnecke, and Lori-Jane Dowell-Hantelmann, and Responsive Stations to Build Readiness created by Terry Johanson, Sharon Harvey, and Michelle Naidu. As well, Strategies for Differentiating Math in whole class instruction, including Parallel Tasks, Open Questions, and Games were shared.


Assessment is a huge part of instruction. Some shared wisdom was the idea that you should not ask for formative feedback unless you have a plan to do something with it. We were also cautioned that assessment often implies a test – feedback for learning is the important part. The evaluation of the assessment to diagnose learning levels is crucial in order to plan for instruction.

Goal Setting

One important task for educators and administrators is to have goals for student learning. Without classroom-based goals, school and division goals will not move. Teachers and students need to identify their areas of strength and growth and map them out. This process is summarized in a Developing a Math Goal Powerpoint. Starting with a process of ‘dream student, dream teacher, what do we need to learn’, you can identify what is most important.

Dream Student 1

A Math Goal Logic Model Blank is a useful tool to jot these ideas down, referring to an Exemplar. As one tweeter observed “Once we have a logic model, assessment becomes a piece of cake – focus on the observable indicators.” One participant reflected that Goal setting was a useful consolidation of two days of learning. You can learn more under ‘Wonder #2“.\

Where to from here? A new SMTS executive that is energetic and raring to go, beginning preparations for next year’s Saskatchewan Math Challenge in March, and SUM Conference in May. And who knows, maybe other adventures in between.

Building Trust or Being Trustworthy?

We often hear about the importance of building trust within a community of learners. Community members need to trust each other, they need to trust their facilitator, and a facilitator needs to trust their community members. How does this occur? As I reflect on the qualities of a leader, I re-watched a TED Talk that helped me differentiate between increasing trust and increasing trustworthiness.

So, how do facilitators of professional learning show that they find their community members trustworthy? How do we show trust?

Showing Trust

And then there is being trustworthy ourselves – how are we make ourselves worthy of the trust that community members place in us as facilitators?

Being Trustworthy

Building trusting relationships is imperative to building strong communities of learners. Showing trust and being worthy of trust as a facilitator are foundational steps.

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