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How to keep the trust students have placed in you

Having spent 15+ years running my own classroom, I have become well-versed in the aspects of community-building, collaborative rule-creation, and concise teacher-language which are the tenants of best practice in education. These foundations have become so integral to my teaching that they became a matter of course. What I have noticed since moving across the country and returning to Teaching on Call (that's substitute teaching), is that these foundations do not change. In other words, the way you interact with children does not change wherever you go. Kids are kids and you can trust them to act and act-out in developmentally predictable ways. And, schools are schools, that is to say that every school is bound to have a set of expectations that aim to reasonably protect student safety, require respect and encourage academic effort.
  What strikes me, which I seem to have taken for granted for the past 15 years, is the trust students give you. Maybe I hadn't taken it for gran…

Unit Planning: It’s Not What You Thought It Would Be

During university professors drilled this process into me: read the curriculum, plan the unit, plan the assessment, reflect on your teaching. It was a cycle repeated in every Curriculum and Instruction class. My friends and I could site curriculum outcomes and whip together an impressive series of lessons in a flash. Through 16 years of experience, I have learned that this is certainly NOT all there is to it. Unit planning remains one of my favourite tasks in teaching. It is the dreaming phase. It is that time before instruction, that time before you may have met your students, that time when all is fresh, exciting and possible! But do you know what it also is? It is the time for focus, restraint and actually…leaving things just a little un-planned. Let me explain. What so many of my university professors failed to teach me as an undergrad is that teacher reflection should be about two things: 1) what are the students learning and to what degree are they learning it?, and 2) what have …

I am Thankful for my Children

Truly, I am thankful for my children. My daughter's arrival changed us from a couple to a little family, and my son's arrival almost two years later - to my feeling - completed our family. We have so much to be thankful for, including good health and great friends. But sometimes I have to remind myself like this: I am thankful for my children, I am thankful for my children, I am thankful for my children.
    Here is what transpired in my home this Saturday, heading into our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. I woke up and poured cereal for the kids and over breakfast, I mentioned to them that I noticed several kids' items around the kitchen and living room, which needed to be tidied up. I got changed and headed out to the gym for my Zumba class, reminding the kids and my husband on the way out that there were several items that needed to be put away.
    I know you can already guess. When I got home over an hour later, not one item had been put away and it seemed that wit…

Welcome Back to School!

The following blog post is an exact replica of the Welcome Letter I sent to parents last fall. The purpose of this letter is to set up some structures and expectations for the home-school connection. I believe that homework should only be about practising a known skill. I also believe that daily reading is the main activity families can do to ensure success at school. Check it out and let me know what you think!


September 6th, 2016
Dear Parents and Guardians of Grade 3 & 4 Students,
  Welcome back to school families! The kids call me Mrs. M.G. and I am excited for another year of helping the kids grow and learn in Grades 3 & 4. Along with our neighboring Grade 3 & 4 class, we will have some exciting learning experiences and fieldtrips. Early in the school year students and I will create the classroom rules and routines. Here’s what you need to know for now:
Student Agenda   Students will have time each day to record work and important upcoming dates in their agenda. The agen…

Lake Winnipeg is Dying

We have been lucky to enjoy my in-law’s cottage at Hillside Beach on Lake Winnipeg for twenty years. They’ve been enjoying it for even longer, but times, they are a-changin’. If you’re not a Manitoban, then maybe you don’t know this, but Lake Winnipeg is one of Canada’s largest fresh water lakes after the Greats! It also has some unique properties such as being shallow and sandy, and having a very large watershed area. This watershed brings in all kinds of contaminants and over time, the algae population in the lake has had massive growth. All of this means that our beach becomes un-swimmable – and sometimes so thick with green, stinky algae – not even safe to paddle a kayak in. The diminishing health of our beach has made cottage-going somewhat less appealing, which made us daydream of a cleaner lake. We even talked from time to time, about moving home to our rural roots near beautiful Riding Mountain National Park, where the aptly named Clear Lake is nestled. However, we …

How to Build a Classroom Library Your Students Will Actually Use

Students will spend a greater amount of time reading if they have books at an appropriate level which are suitable to their interests. Fellow teachers, this means there are 2 things you must know: 1) the reading levels of your students, and 2) the interests of your students.
          Books will get borrowed from your shelves more often if they are facing outward. I use plain plastic bins with genre labels, and stand all the books facing outward. Think about yourself, browsing at the bookstore. Aren't you more likely to pick up the books that face outward? See. don't make it too much work for the kids to find the books. Face them outward and they can browse the rest of the bin by walking their fingers through it like a filing cabinet.
          Fill your library with quality literature AND some of the fluffy, movie- and merchandise-based books that the children like to read. Sometimes award-winners go over, and sometimes they do not…the lists of Manitoba Young Readers’ C…

Greener Pastures

I have always been one of those people who defended Manitoba. After high school my fellow graduates scattered like panicked insects, heading far and wide…and mostly west. Western Canada drew these Manitobans with the promise of less taxes and more pay for labour jobs like heavy construction and drilling for oil. Some of my high school friends went to college or university in Alberta and B.C. All the while, I stayed in Manitoba and scoffed at their “grass is greener” mentality.           It`s beautiful here! I love summer! Look at the fall leaves! Cross-country skiing is awesome! I love to watch a thunderstorm rolling towards us across the prairies. You don`t even understand what it is to see the sky until you`ve stood in a canola field on a summer day. Ìf you`re not from the prairie… is one of my favourite children`s books by David Bouchard. Manitobans, read it. It will fill you with such nostalgia you will nearly cry.           Twenty years later I find myself daydreaming…