One Word- LEARN

It has been a challenging Fall in education.  My main job as Superintendent of Early Learning and Elementary School Improvement is to plan responsive professional learning for educator teams in our board.  Well, this fall there was no professional learning due to the Work to Rule situation.

So, I’m sure you’ve been wondering what I have been doing?  I’ve been learning in many different ways.  I’ve been in many schools; listening, observing, watching, feeling the tone, the mood.  I’ve done yard duty and I’ve listened and watched.  I’ve read books and I’ve synthesized and made connections to the work and learning happening across our system.  I talked to teachers and listened.  I’ve talked to administrators and listened.  I’ve talked to Instructional Leads (ILs), Teacher Researchers and consultants and I’ve listened.

And now I’m ready to learn.  Learn is my ONE WORD that is going to keep me focused for the remainder of the school year.

We engaged in an opportunity with our ILs recently and we invited each person to identify their one word to focus their work for the year.

Some of our teams words were:

Impact  Passionate  Listen  Uniqueness (yes that is a word)  Connecting  Deliberate  Intrepid  Balance  Flexibility  Gratitude  Possibility  Ignite  Serve  Thrive  Appreciate  Why  Simplify

These words filled me with great hope and optimism.  As we start to plan and think about professional learning that is responsive to our system I want to think and remember these words.

I would invite educators to give us feedback about the type of professional learning that works best for them.  We are listening.  We want to hear from you.  We need your voice to ensure that our learning meets the needs of everyone in our system.

So, let’s learn together.  Let’s listen to one another.

Let the learning begin.


A Little Funeral Humor: A Slice of Life Story

This did really happen. I am glad my sister wrote about this funny weekend moment.



After my father’s funeral on Saturday, most people were going back to my eldest sister’s house for a reception. I drove there with my twin sister, her husband and my mother, who wanted to stop at her place on the way home so she could change clothes and drop off the flowers and urn.

When we got to her apartment building, we dropped Mom at the front door so we could park, telling her we’d carry everything in. After parking my brother-in-law, Tom, took the flowers, my sister, Andrea, took purses because she had a key to Mom’s building, and I carried the urn. Once in the building, we pushed the button for the elevator and got on as soon as the doors opened. We didn’t realize it was going down until it started. No matter. It was only one floor down.

When the elevator doors opened in the basement, a…

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What I’ve been learning about math

I’ve had a wonderful last two days visiting some of my schools and engaging in conversations with students, educators and administrators about what they are learning about math.  I’ve used an organizer to gather my learning and thoughts with 4 simple questions:

1)  What are your students learning in math?

2) What are your teachers learning in math?

3)  What are you, as a leader, learning in math?

4) How have you modified your leadership practices to impact what you are learning?

What I’ve seen and heard have me believing that we are making steady progress in mathematics.  Our board math goal is focused on supporting and improving student thinking in Number Sense.  In support of this goal, many of our schools have been using Number Talks with their students.  In a Number Talk, based on the book by Sherry Parish,  children are asked to communicate their mathematical thinking when presenting and justifying solutions  to problems they solve mentally.  These exchanges lead to the development of more accurate, efficient and flexible strategies.  Across the 8 classrooms I visited, I saw consistent processes and procedures used: an intentional use of wait time for students to think about more than one strategy, a gesture used by students to demonstrate to the teacher the number of strategies they have used and  a visual recording of a series of Number Talk threads.  What really struck me was the labelling and naming of strategies for students.  What we label and name gets noticed.  See the tweet below:

One school has even invited parents into the learning they are doing about Number Talks:

So I’m feeling optimistic about math in board.  I commend our students, educators and administrators for the hard work, dedication and focus they are giving to math and the math goal in their classrooms and schools.

If you want to learn more about Number Talks, check out this article:

Happy Math-ing!




Remembering…Christmas in the Trenches

Nothing can bring me to tears like a Remembrance Day ceremony in a school.  Students so solemnly welcoming veterans into their gymnasium and learning spaces.  The students are so respecful and in awe of our veterans who are so proud to be sharing the day with our students.

About 5 years ago, a group of students from Pine Glen, with teacher Jeninfer Clark, told a story of WW1,  the story of the Christmas Truce. Done in tableu style, the haunting music and the story the students brought to life left not a dry eye in the house.

Here is John McDermott’s version…almost as good as the grade 6’s at Pine Glen from a few years ago.

I hope you are able to remember this week.  And I hope you are able to find a ceremony at a school where you can see students and veterans sharing a moment.  It will give you hope.  It does for me every year.