Saturday, 22 October 2011

My First Website

I'm very excited to have finally completed my first website - a Google Site that can be found here -

I have never made a website before and have always thought that this was a job for "professionals". I was quite amazed when I was introduced to Google Sites and how easy it is to set a Google site up.

If you navigate to my site, you will see that I have been able to use a variety of different resources. I have a tab labelled "About me" and this links to my page. As well, I have a tab that navigates to this blog of mine.

I will begin teaching at my practicum school (in Burlington, ON) on Monday and I have geared my Google site to the class I am teaching - Grade 11 Chemistry. On my site there are a variety of general chemistry resources as well as resources specific to the unit which I will be teaching. I was able to organize the wealth of resources I found on the internet via LiveBinders ( and have found this to be an invaluable resource! I have created 2 different binders of e-resources, organized with tabs and sub-tabs (like a real binder!)

I have also discovered Google Calendar and have linked my practicum teaching schedule to my Google site.

When I start teaching on Monday morning, the first thing I will do is introduce myself to my students and tell them about me. The next thing I will do is direct them to my Google site. I hope they take advantage of the variety of resources that I have compiled for their use!

I am still figuring out the Google site and would love to hear any tips you may have. I would like to have a forum for my students to post questions but I am not sure that I am able to do this with my Google site. It would be nice if I could share a certain part of the site (question/answer page) - similar to a wiki - but leave the rest of the site "locked" so it cannot be modified. If anyone knows how to do this with Google sites, please let me know.

I look forward to my students using my site and will be posting their views on it.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

All This in Just 7 Weeks!

This week is our last week of classes - starting Monday, we will begin our practice teaching by actually teaching 1 class in our placement schools. I will be teaching Gr. 11 Chemistry at Burlington Central High School. As the week progresses, I am reflecting on all that I have learned in the past 7 weeks.

I have been introduced to brain chemistry and the teenage brain being "under construction". I have discovered student-centred/constructivist learning. I have learned about the Ontario Curriculum Expectations, Instructional Strategies, Educational Psychology theories/research and many aspects of Educational Law. I have been cautioned about Lab Safety and discovered strategies for teaching Chemistry and Biology. I have learned all about Assessment as, for and of Learning and about Evaluation. And of course, I have tried my hand at lesson planning - "Brock University style"!

However, the most surprising of all has been my tech course. This optional course (I/S Technology in the Classroom)is one that I had struggled with due to a variety of reasons - time constraints, completely new material and working outside of my comfort zone. On multiple occasions, I had convinced myself to drop this course. Yet, I stuck with it and what to I have to show for this? A lot more than I thought I would! In the span of 7 short weeks I have managed to accomplish the following:

-join Twitter (@shailjaguelph) and follow/communicate with educators & colleagues via Twitter;
-create and maintain a regular blog;
-partner with a Virtual Associate Teacher (VAT), follow her on Twitter and keep up with her blog from which I learned a whole new perspective to teaching (see earlier post);
-join the class "Ning" and use it for networking
-use the above resources to develop and maintain a PLN (professional learning network);
-understand the importance of being "tech-savvy" in the classroom and learn about 21st Century fluencies;
-use Google Docs, Google Forms, Google Reader and Google Calendar;
-create my own website via Google Sites;
-use LiveBinder and About Me;
-learn about the importance of our personal "Digital Footprint" and how to educate students of the importance of this.

Overall, I feel that what I've accomplished in this course is invaluable to my career as a Teacher. I especially realized this today when I met a friend for coffee and she asked me about school. I told her what I have learned about constructivism and student-centred learning. I proceeded to launch into a long spiel about my blog, website, PLN and digital footprint when she stopped and asked me "what's a blog?" 7 weeks ago, I asked the same question! And here I am now, with my own blog, google site, live-binder etc. I've come a long way in 7 weeks and look forward to using my new-found tech resources in my new-found teaching career!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Shelley Wright - "Super-VAT"

Through my technology course, I have had the valuable opportunity to be paired with a Virtual Associate Teacher (VAT). My VAT is Shelley Wright, who is a high school educator in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. She says “I love learning more than anything else; this blog is part of that journey.”

While we have been expected to contact our VAT regularly with problems or concerns regarding our teaching, I have not yet had a need to do this. I did contact Shelley for an interesting idea (“hook”) on how to introduce the concept of cells to a Grade 8 classroom and she was kind enough to suggest some osmosis and diffusion experiments and to direct me to her class wiki.

At this point, I thought “what’s a wiki?” and I explored the link she sent me. The Biology page of Shelley’s wiki can be found here and she blogs about her wiki and how she uses it here .

Shelley uses her class wiki (website) to build a “virtual” textbook and consolidate a variety of resources that would be helpful to her students. What an exciting idea!! This is the perfect way to go beyond the constraints of a paper textbook and provide information to students through a variety of media. For example, when teaching students about cells and cell structures, Shelley has used a video as well as a “live and interactive” cell diagram. Basically, she has constructed a multimedia textbook for her students to learn from. Before meeting up with Shelley, I had never heard of this! This is something I will definitely implement in my teaching practice. I am currently working on compiling resources for the Grade 11 chemistry class that I will be teaching during my 1st practicum block.

Though Shelley’s wiki was quite informative and “ground-breaking” for me, her blog was even more so ( Reading Shelley’s blogs have truly revolutionized my thinking regarding a teacher’s role in the classroom, teaching practices, a teacher’s impact on students and vice-versa. Earlier in my blog, I posted a video clip (RSA Animate) on a lecture by Sir Ken Robinson. I understood his views but remember thinking “how in the world do you incorporate this into every day teaching??” Reading Shelley’s blog posts has answered this question for me. It has also shown me real life examples of how to implement “student-centred” learning in a classroom.

So while I may not converse with Shelley Wright on a regular basis, I find myself reading her blogs and conversing about them with my friends, family, instructors and classmates. She recently blogged about Inquiry Learning and boggled my mind! She described how, for one class, she dumped a large bag of sand, salt and pepper in a large bowl, mixed it all together and then asked her students to separate the mixture – “Go”. What? No instructions? No procedure? I was baffled! The fact that her students embraced this problem and worked on a variety of different techniques to actually accomplish this, is a testament to the value of this type of instruction! The students learned that the scientific process is all about the journey, not so much about the results! I read this blog and presented this same “problem” to a couple of classmates and a teacher friend. They all had the same reaction I did “Hmmmm, I don’t know”. Shelley’s students had to think through this “problem” and apply their knowledge and skills to solve it through critical thinking and collaboration. I can’t imagine how rewarded they must have felt when they were able to separate the mixture! Shelley explained more inquiry-based activities in detail in her blog “Inquiry Learning: This Isn’t Scary At All” -

From this VAT’s blog alone I have learned so much about the reality of teaching, student-centred learning and the fact that teachers are human after all and can and will make mistakes. I must admit that I have been recommending this blog to everyone I meet and have emailed the link out to many of my friends who are teachers.

So even though I have not yet needed to solicit specific advice on a variety of different topics from my VAT, I feel that I have benefitted from Shelley Wright’s blog and amassed a large wealth of learning from her anyway. Trust me, you really need to read this blog! Check it out at

Monday, 10 October 2011


On Friday, I went to my placement school (Burlington Central P.S.) for my second observation day, which happened to be a PD session. The first part of the session was on Numeracy.

The 1st thing we were asked to do was define “numeracy”. We were given a pile of “math” problems and asked to classify which ones were “math” problems and which ones were “numeracy” problems. I participated in this activity with a group of seasoned high school teachers and was relieved to find out that I wasn’t the only one who did not quite understand what “numeracy” is.

Numeracy is equivalent to literacy. Literacy is considered an essential skill in our society and illiteracy has a stigma associated with it. As educators, we feel a major need to eradicate illiteracy. However, the same enthusiasm is not extended to numeracy. Numeracy refers to an individual's ability to understand and use mathematical information at school, at work, and in everyday life; for example, handling money and budgets, using measurements for cooking, or reading a map.

We may take numeracy for granted, however the statistics are shocking! A study in 2003 found that 50% of high school graduates were not numerate! They measured at Level 1 and Level 2 – Level 3 numeracy is considered a level at which an individual can function in Canadian society! According to HRDC Canada,

“In 2003, roughly 45% of Canadians aged 16 years and older attained numeracy scores at or above Level 3. This means that over half of adult Canadians did not demonstrate levels of mathematical skills and knowledge associated with functioning well in Canadian society. The proportion who achieved Level 2 numeracy (30%) was the same as the proportion who achieved Level 3 (30%). The proportion with Level 1 was only slightly lower (26%).”

WOW – what a shocking statistic! Can you imagine if these numbers applied to literacy in Canada? Everyone would be questioning the foundations of the education system! As teacher candidates, we must be prepared to teach numeracy in our courses, no matter what the subject matter is.

As a challenge to my fellow teacher candidates – especially those of you NOT in math or science – how can you incorporate numeracy (basic, functional math skills) into your lessons? Remember, numeracy skills are math skills at a Grade 8 or 9 level.

Have a look at the video clip below. A real life example of why basic numeracy is so important! Warning – you will need patience to get through the entire clip!!

Monday, 3 October 2011

My Annual Dose of Inspiration...

Yesterday, I had my annual dose of inspiration. I almost missed it, but I managed to squeeze it in – thank goodness! Yesterday, I joined 1300 people in Guelph and 170,000 Canadians in supporting the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s Run for the Cure.

October snuck up on me and even though I have participated and supported this event for the past 6 years, I hesitated this year. I defaulted to the standard excuses – “I’m just too busy juggling school and home”, “its going to be cold and raining”, “I have homework”, “I’m tired” etc. etc.

On Thursday, I stopped at my friend/neighbour’s house to ask if she had signed up. Secretly I hoped she would say “no” – no such luck. Her co-workers had assembled a small team and she was going to join them – way to give me a kick in the butt, Carolyn! I joked about how I’d “just register” this year and pay my $40 fee to walk & spend time with Carolyn, who I haven’t seen in ages.

Sunday morning – drag myself out of bed to a dreary, windy, VERY COLD morning. Dressed in layers and made my way downtown Guelph to find parking. As I walked to the “square”, I heard it……bagpipes. My heart wrenched. How could I have possibly thought not to come??

I hurried to the square and waited for the opening ceremonies. As always, my vision blurred with tears as the bagpipe band played and led a small group of women in pink T-shirts – the Warriors – the Survivors. These women marched and I cheered and screamed for them as they past me in a blur of pink. I managed to wipe my tears and shake off my goosebumps, only to brace myself for the variety of speeches that followed. One speaker was a woman currently fighting breast cancer. She called herself a “Warrior”. She told us of seeing her doctor and being told she had breast cancer. Her response was “I have a meeting in 20 min and 2 proposals due tomorrow – I don’t have time for cancer!” WOW. She was given 1 week to get her affairs in order after which she started aggressive cancer treatment. Her story was amazing and she is still fighting.

I looked around at the people surrounding me – all had tags on the back of their shirts “I’m running for…” and they all had a variety of names and relationships on them. Some had photos of their loved ones who have been claimed by this disease. One lady pushed a stroller with an infant seat covered with a canopy to which a tag was pinned – “I’m running for…my Grandmother whom I never had a chance to meet”. Cue the tears….

How could I have hesitated to support and participate in this amazing event?? How could I have gotten so caught up in my busy life, that I forgot about the “big picture”??

I stood there in the cold and tuned out the speeches of the sponsors and politicians as I scanned the crowd, looking for my special friend Sandi. The first time I joined the Run for the Cure, I showed up with my 1 year old son in his stroller and was going to walk the 5K alone. I knew that I was joining a worthy cause, but it was one that I thought affected “older” people. The first person I met (in the parking lot) was Sandi and her family. She asked me to join her team and I walked the whole way with her. Her story was the most shocking and inspirational story that I heard. She is my age and her son is the same age as mine. She was diagnosed with the most aggressive form of breast cancer while she was pregnant with her son and she had to deliver her baby prematurely in order to start very aggressive treatments to combat her cancer. 7 years later she is a happy, healthy, cancer-free Mom of a beautiful, healthy little boy. Her story hit me so close to home and made me realize how blessed we truly are to have our health. She faced all adversities, battled her cancer and won and is living a normal life just like you and me. Her courage, strength and enthusiasm for life have always inspired me to be grateful for what I have been blessed with. She has put a real face to this cause.

Every year since that year, I have canvassed my neighbours, friends and family to raise money for Breast Cancer Research and have captained a team of friends to participate in the Run for the Cure.

This was the first year that I haven’t met Sandi. Thanks to Facebook, I know that she and her little boy are both healthy and happy. This was also the first year that I hesitated to register for the run, I didn’t collect donations and I didn’t captain a team. I lost the “big picture” while I muddled through my busy life. I resolve to not let this happen again! I am blessed to have my health, a wonderful husband, two great kids and loving family and friends.

I am determined to not lose sight of the “big picture” again. If I do, feel free to remind me! I will try to remember Carolyn’s wise words every day – “There is a beautiful sunrise on the horizon - look up and enjoy it! Don’t get caught up in the weeds and garbage at your feet”. You are wise woman and a great friend Carolyn. Thanks for showing me the big picture, once again!