Monday, 3 September 2018

Why morning meetings?

I have been looking into the concept of morning meetings. Being tribes trained a lifetime ago makes me familiar with the idea of community circles but the morning meeting that comes from Responsive Classroom has 4 distinct components:

1. Greeting
2. Sharing
3. Group Activity
4. Morning Message

The morning meeting was created with the intention of spending 20-30 minutes in a circle each morning.

So, the question I have been pondering is can I dedicate 20-30 min of the day to morning meeting? Will the outcome be worth it? Will students benefit from the time we spend in morning meeting?

One of the pros of morning meeting is the goal of merging academic, social and emotional learning and the reinforcement of sense of belonging. Especially in a time where we see an increase in student difficulty with self regulation, emotional well being and increase use of technology.

My gut says try it and analyze the results to see if students are meeting the intended goals. 

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Tar Heel Reader - Easy to Read books

I was introduced to this website at a conference: Tar Heel Reader. The best news is that access to the website is completely free! Who doesn't love free resources.  I would suggest pre-reading the selection of books you would like your students to access. 

You have to email for a registration code if you would like to be able to write a book.

You can access books written in a variety of languages. I chose French books and found that I would have to be fluent in French to ensure the pronouns were correct before allowing students to read the text. However I was thinking I could publish my own books. I could see using this for social stories!
Excerpt taken from website: "Tar Heel Reader, a collection of free, easy-to-read, and accessible books on a wide range of topics. Each book can be speech enabled and accessed using multiple interfaces, including touch screens, the IntelliKeys with custom overlays, and 1 to 3 switches. Click here to learn more about alternative access methods."
"You may write your own books using pictures from the huge collection at Flickr or pictures you upload. All books should be complete, edited, and revised to the best of your ability before publishing them to the site. While you are working on them, please save them as drafts."
Here is a sample page from the book "Busses"

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Digital Meanderings: #EpicPals

Digital Meanderings: #EpicPals:  EpicPals is a collaborative reading project that utilizes Epic! Books for Kids,  Padlet, and Flipgrid. I can't wait to try this in the classroom. Great resource for teachers and Epic is free for educators - Bonus!

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Caring and Safe Schools in Ontario

What do you want to know more about to create a caring and safe school?

I am always looking at ways to learn how to identify the range of needs of students in my school and determine how those needs influence student behaviour. 

If, like me you are seeking to understand student behaviour in the learning environment it will be helpful to keep in mind the following facts:
✦ Behaviour occurs in a context.
✦ Behaviour is learned.
✦ Behaviour serves a function for the individual. 

✦ Behaviour can be changed over time.
(Surrey Place Centre, 2008, p. 7) 

The challenge is being able to identify the cause of the behaviour. It is easy to identify what the student is doing (yelling out in class instead of raising his/her hand) but if we focus only on what the student is doing and try to stop that behaviour it is possible the another behaviour will arise. The key is determining the function the behaviour serves for the student. Thinking in context of Ross Greene, kids do well if they can, it is our job to figure out what the student is trying to communicate through the behaviour. Think in terms of gardening we know that in order to eradicate the weed we must pull out the root otherwise the weed will grow back. 

The challenge within a school of numerous educators is defining behaviour. The defining characteristics of challenging behaviour will differ from individual to individual depending on an educators cultural background, childhood experience, relationship with the student, and classroom and school policies. 

Aside from personal schema one must also consider mitigating factors. Below is a diagram from "Safe and Caring School" that suggests different needs and types of conditions affecting student behaviour. 

Some behaviour effectively meets the needs of the student, reflects the student’s interaction with the environment, and is understood and considered appropriate by others. Other behaviour may be ineffective but may occur because it is a student’s best available strategy for interacting with the environment and having his or her needs met.

So know that we know there can be a variety of factors affecting student behaviour how can we become more understanding and gain knowledge to be able to support students.

Student and Parental Voice:

Allow our students to do the the talking and the sharing. Learning from the student can be very effective. We have used student surveys to ask students what they need to be successful and what they feel when they are stressed out.

School Team Meetings:

Observation and data can help to determine the underlying cause of the behaviour. Discussion and having more heads look at the situation can be helpful when reflecting on possible scenarios.

Guest Speakers/Experts:

Bring in an expert in different fields to talk to staff about student needs and conditions that affect student behaviour. Your special education consultant, Mental Health Lead, and Government agencies (CMHA) may be willing to come in and speak about a topic.


There is a plethora of information on the Internet that can be used to share information with staff.

Student Profiles:

Creating student profiles and sharing those profiles amongst staff can help others to reflect on student behaviour and the cause of the behaviour.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Progressive Discipline

Progressive Discipline

Policy/Program Memorandum No. 145 describes progressive discipline as the use of “a continuum of prevention programs, interventions, supports and consequences to address inappropriate student behaviour and to build upon strategies that foster positive behaviours. 

When inappropriate behaviour occurs, disciplinary measures should be applied within a framework that shifts the focus from one that is solely punitive to one that is both corrective and supportive. Schools should utilize a range of interventions, supports, and consequences that are developmentally appropriate and include learning opportunities for reinforcing positive behaviour while helping students to make good choices” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2009g, p. 3).

School leaders and staff have two responsibilities:
  • Assess student behaviour and the effectiveness of existing supports and interventions and
  • Develop a response that takes account of mitigating circumstances and other factors that may have influenced the behaviour.
What are Mitigating Circumstances? 

Factors, identified in Ontario Regulation 472/07, “Suspension and Expulsion of Pupils”, that must be taken into account by a principal when considering whether to suspend or expel a student. The absence of risk to others in the school and/or the student’s inability to control his or her behaviour or understand the consequences of the behaviour are examples of mitigating factors. 

The goal of any school is to have a disciplinary system that maintains a safe and violence-free school, but still protects the human rights of all of our students. The introduction of the Mitigating Factors Regulation protects the rights of our students in need. A principal must consider the following factors when looking at the misbehaviour. 

  • Does the student have the ability to control the behaviour? 
  • Does the student have the ability to understand the foreseeable consequences of the behaviour? 
  • Does the continuing presence of the child in the school create an unacceptable level of risk to the safety of any other person?
Making decisions regarding student discipline is not easy or taken lightly by any administrator. My number one question that I ask myself before making a decision regarding discipline is "What is going to change their behaviour?" Suspension is not my go to for discipline simply because most of the time suspending a student is not going to change the behaviour. Of course there is board policy that must be followed and sometimes you don't have a choice whether to suspend. 

Reducing the number of suspension does not always make you the favourite with staff. My response to that is lack of understanding. If you want someone to be on your side they need to know and understand your decision making. The following activities below will promote discussion, reflection and questions regarding progressive discipline. 

This poster (available at the link below) is a visual representation of students' view of bias-free discipline and would be a great graphic to start a conversation with staff about progressive discipline, mitigating factors and caring and safe schools.

The case study below taken from the ministry guide "Supporting Bias Free Progressive Discipline at School" can be used at a staff meeting to promote reflection, discussion and review of current policies and practices in regards to discipline.

Daniel, a Grade 8 student, has been having difficulty paying attention in class. He has stopped doing his homework on a consistent basis, and his grades have dropped considerably. His homeroom teacher brought Daniel to a meeting of the in-school resource team, and Daniel is now on a waiting list for a formal assessment. Recently, Daniel started to yell out in class. The principal has met with Daniel on several occasions, but the homeroom teacher reports that his classroom behaviour has not improved. The principal is concerned that Daniel’s outbursts may have something to do with an underlying learning disorder. On Friday, Daniel swore at the homeroom teacher and threw his books in his direction. The principal suspended Daniel for two days. Daniel’s parents are not pleased and believe that the principal does not know how to manage teachers who simply do not understand their son. They plan to appeal the suspension and no longer want Daniel to be formally assessed.

 Questions for consideration:
1. What are the issues in this scenario? 
2. What information and what mitigating and other factors, should the principal have considered when Daniel swore at the homeroom teacher? 
3. What information might the principal have considered previously that would have warranted providing early interventions? 
4. What preventive measures could have helped Daniel?
5. What supports and interventions would you consider for Daniel and his family? 
6. How would you respond to the parents? 
7. What action is needed to improve existing practices in order to prevent similar incidents in the future? 

Here are suggestions for school and system leaders to promote progressive discipline. Handout:

Review policies and practices related to progressive discipline to identify and remove, or prevent, bias and discriminatory barriers

Review various types of data for evidence of the effect (positive or adverse) that progressive disciplinary practices are having on students, including students identified in the Code, and determine ways to achieve more positive effects

Collaborate with staff, students, parents, and community members to address perceived biases and stereotypes

Expand knowledge among members of the school community and guide them in the development and implementation of a bias-free approach to progressive discipline

Promote positive peer interaction, healthy relationships, and a positive school climate 

Engage members of the school community in actively supporting positive student behaviour

Establish with staff the practice of taking into account mitigating and other factors when responding to inappropriate student behaviour

Apply policies and practices consistently and equitably, taking into account that equity does not mean treating people the same without regard for individual differences

Below is a four page handout that can be shared with staff. Be aware that some of the links no longer work.

Progressive Discipline: Part of Ontario’s approach to making schools safe places to learn.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Kids can Learn

Key learning from Shared Solutions and Learning for All.

  1. Conflict can be avoided with effective communication and a positive community.
  2. Collective Teacher Efficacy is the number one influence related to student achievement. 
  3. Positive Relationships improves student learning.
What do they all have in common?

The deeply held belief that all students can learn despite their circumstances!

Just to confirm there is a lot of staff that might say superficially that they believe that all students can learn but to truly be of that opinion you have to understand that if the student is not learning it is because the adult has put up barriers.

What? Did I hear that correctly? The teacher has put up barriers causing the student not to learn. Let's dissect what it means for the education system to put up barriers. 

If all kids can learn then why do we end up sitting in meetings to discuss the students who are struggling to learn? If we are a strong believer of the statement, then the meeting will be focused on what the teacher needs to do to adjust the learning environment instead of what the child is doing to stop themselves from learning.

When the conversation shifts to the student's choices and inability to want to learn then the problem lies in the belief of the staff and not in the children. 

Think about a recent team meeting you have sat in. What statements do you hear during those meetings? Do they sound like the following?

He doesn't do his homework.
The parents are not helping her at home.
She doesn't practice reading at night like I suggested.
The parents have asked for homework and it never comes back completed.
He is never paying attention in class.
I'm constantly telling her to stop talking and to listen.
She never puts in effort to complete her work.

The message in these statements are the same - the student is not learning because they are choosing not to participate in their learning. If that is the argument being made then can we justify the belief that all students can learn?

The statements above absolve the teacher of their responsibility for student learning. The message is that the student is choosing not to learn and it's not my fault they are failing.

In contrast, a teacher who truly believes that all children can learn will use the meeting to ask what am I doing to stop the learning and what can I do next. I have done everything I can and I'm here to get more ideas. The focus shifts from the student choosing not to learn to the adult wanting to break down barriers in the learning environment so that the child can learn. 

How can administrators build a positive community whereby the core value "All children can learn" is put into practice?

Provide an engaging and safe space to take risks. A positive community of co-learners is built over time by fostering relationships where educators "feel safe to be vulnerable" and take risks as they learn.

Have high expectations for all learners that includes yourself. Staff need to know you believe in their potential.

Staff need to see themselves as co-learners and be willing to:

  • exchange learning and insights within and between roles
  • engage in focused conversations about learning
  • ask thoughtful questions and reflect on current practice
  • come to common understandings about instructional and collaborative practices


Sunday, 29 July 2018

Learning profiles and how they help with challenging behaviour

Teachers that have the most success with behavioural students are able to establish a relationship with the student. So how to you develop a relationship with a student in your class that is particularly challenging?
  • Find ways to interact with the student one-on-one. I learned really quick to never discipline or call a student out for their behaviour in front of their peers. The same applies to building a relationship with a student. It can be difficult in a group setting to make a connection with a student. Invite the student to play a game of cards, have lunch together, join a club you are running etc. 
  • Find ways to connect to the student through one of their interests. 
  • Be a good listener. Do not judge or point out the negative.
  • Show the student that you believe in them and that you like them despite the behaviours they demonstrate
  • Be consistent 
  • Show interest in their personal life, empathize, listen and offer support
  • Bottom line in order to develop a relationship the student must be able to trust you and they need to know that you have their best interest at heart.

Developing learning profiles for students in your class will be especially helpful in getting to know your students and what they need to succeed. Also, if the student does not know how to advocate for their needs or what they need to succeed then you can support the student in their learning journey.

" The more we understand our students, the more efficient we can ensure their learning successes." McCarthy. When we have in-depth understanding for how our students learn, there is a major impact on diagnosing student needs and planning effective supports. When a student can see that you are advocating for their needs, helping them to succeed and giving them an equitable opportunity to succeed, your relationship with that student will grow. When students are constantly in a learning environment that is above their zone of development the student is going to be frustrated and could present challenging behaviour. Thus in learning about your students' needs and differentiating the learning experiences in your classroom you are in fact killing two birds with one stone: building relationships and diminishing unwanted behaviour.

I came across an excellent site with activities to use with students to create learning profiles. 

The website was referenced in the article "Welcome to Learner Profiles" at

John McCarthy posted strategies for collecting learning profiles on his blog: