NCTCA Presentation – How to Support French Immersion Teachers



Thanks for taking part in my session today. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this topic further  please contact me.


Click here for the full presentation.

UbD your PGP

I had a thought the other day as I was struggling with my professional growth plan. Why not use the concept of Understanding by Design/Backward Design for this process?

I started my PGP by looking at the Alberta Principal Quality Standards and trying to speak to them directly. This was not personal and I found it uninspiring. I felt I was focusing on the statement as opposed to what I wanted to work on.

When I started to think about the aspects of my practice I wanted to work on first (my goals), then tried to link them to the Quality Standards, the process felt more worthwhile.

I was surprised by how compatible my goals and the standards were, but it took me looking at the end result I want to achieve to see the correlation.

I am sure that everyone has found themselves uninspired by a required activity. I like this strategy to make these tasks meaningful.

The Pleasure and the Pain



Educators often say they want to prepare students for life after school. This usually entails trying to pass on concrete skills related to work and production. This week I was reminded that there are also other aspects of life that students need to learn how to deal with, namely the emotional highs and the lows of life. I like to think of this as “the pleasure and the pain” of living. Through living we experience events that make us incredibly happy and incredibly sad. These events are often the ones that mark us the most. My question today is how are we preparing our students to deal with the great and not so great events in life?

There have been two events that have made me think about this question in past week. Event one was the start of school. The smiling faces and positive energy made this a great event. There was a genuine positive outlook in the building that made me feel like we could achieve anything. Event two was the funeral of a former colleague. This was emotionally draining and very sad. Both the highs and the lows of this week made me think of the ways that I have been taught to deal with extreme ends of the emotional continuum. Did anyone really talk to me about ways to deal with sad moments in my life, as they did on how to edit an essay? I really can’t say they did.

I do not have answers to this question, but I am thinking about character education and psychological well-being for our students and society.

September Resolutions

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Per Ola Wiberg ~ Powi

To me, September has always felt like the start of the year. It seems to be the point where I look at the whole year ahead and think about the changes I want to make. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do make September resolutions. Here are two that I have made this year.

First resolution: get my students connected to the world. One thing that I find motivates students to learn is when they are able to see how concepts we are learning about apply outside of school. I am going to work hard to get my students to see and experience the concepts I teach outside of school. So far, I have made contact with a Sports Editor to Skype with my students about writing. Others ideas are still coming.

Second resolution: To remove barriers on how students demonstrate their learning. There was a time when I was quite particular about the activities that students could do to show me they had met the outcomes of a course. When it comes down to it, I needed to ask myself if the format was important or if student understanding was important. I chose understanding. I am hoping that flexibility in format will allow students to focus on the outcomes we are targeting.

I read an article saying that if you share your resolutions with others they are more likely to stick as people keep you accountable. I guess this would qualify. I’ll try to give an update later in the year to tell you how my September resolutions are going.

This blog post also appeared in PSD 184 days of learning blog which can be found at

Why Learn a Language?


Image courtesy of

I overheard an interesting conversation the other day about language learning. There was a middle-school administrator who was having difficulty with student motivation in Core French. The students were saying the class was boring and that they did not see how they would use French in their lives. The solution proposed by the administrator was to cut language learning and offer something else.

immediately had an issue with this argument. I admit, I am biased when it comes to this subject, but I will try to reason why I feel that cutting language learning is not to the benefit of students.

Firstly, the last time I heard a student saying these same things it was in regards to a Math class. Would any middle-school administrator consider for a moment cutting their Math course because the students thought it was boring and irrelevant to their daily lives? I would say that the chances are low. The reason for this is the importance of the subject. Both Math and Languages have benefits beyond the actual subject. Alberta Education even goes as far as to say that language learning has an impact on ” intellectual potential, scholastic achievement, first language skills, citizenship and the economy”(

Secondly, where is the role of the teacher in the student engagement piece of this debate? Generally, when a class is seen to be “boring” we would look at the activities being asked of the students, the way they are interacting with the subject and the overall engagement being encouraged by the teacher. I feel that in this case because the administrator feels they can cut the course, they can overlook the pedagogy question. I know of teachers who make language learning fun, just as I know of teachers who make Math fun, despite the general opinions of our middle-school population. These teachers use the students interests to make it interesting, they choose activities that engage the learners, they reach out to other people and interact in a meaningful way, they teach culture as well as language. The kids adore their language classes.

In our current globalized world, where companies do business anywhere, I believe there is more reason than ever to introduce the concept of language learning. Language learning will also bring openness to new cultures and people, a requisite skill in today’s world.

I did not say that teaching languages is easy, just as I would never say teaching Math is easy. The argument I am making is that languages are important and need to be treated with the same rigor and professionalism that other subjects do. We would be doing our students a disservice if we were to cut language classes.

Caring + Intervention + Monitoring + Patience

It is the time of year when we are seeing a bunch more teachers who are looking to increase the level of intervention with their students for various reasons. Many are asking, “What should I do?”. They have tried many of their own strategies and have improved the situation, but they have run out of tools in their toolbox. Here is a thought that passed through my head while thinking about these situations:

Caring + Intervention + Monitoring + Patience

Ultimately, the worst thing one can do is nothing, but sometimes we forget that patience is a needed part of any change. It is when we find the balance between intervention and patience that we see results and are most effective. While we are being patient we must monitor and support, this way we are ready to react to any major issues. All of this comes from caring and doing what we think is best for our students.

Pretty basic and simplistic really, but it spoke to me… Well actually at that point I was speaking to myself I guess. Yikes! Maybe I need an intervention, or perhaps just some patience. I’ll just monitor for now.

I ♥ PTI’s

A few weeks ago we had our first round of Parent-Teacher Interviews. I was speaking with some staff and said it was one of my favorite events of the year. They looked at me like I had lost my mind (this admin thing finally got to him), but I really do love the conversations that happen at these events.  Although they can change names and format (Student-Led Conferences, Educational Team Conferences, etc.), I think Parent-Teacher Interviews are one of the most important times of the year. Here are a few reflections on why I love PTI’s.

Most good ideas become great ideas throught discussion, also most problems are solved by talking about them.  PTIs give a structured time for great communication and sharing. We can easily get “busy” and put some conversations off as they might be difficult. PTIs give everyone a chance to catch-up on the converstions that we usually say are important.

Familiarity brings comfort to most people. From a school perspective, when people come to the school they become more familiar with it, therefore more likely to come back and engage in different activities there. This process develops the sense of community and the support for the school. In short, PTI’s (as well as many other events) benefit the school by increasing community support.

We have all heard that it takes a village to raise a child. Whereas I don’t necessarity think you need the whole village, you do need a pretty big team. This starts with getting some key people on board and developping the relationship between these key players. By establishing and improving the relationship between people who have a personal interest in the same goal (to do what is best for students) we are more likely to achieve our goal.

I have the privelege to work in a school where we have a very active school community and excellent staff that communicates well and are invested in doing what is best for our students. I know that PTI’s have contributed to this reality.