Sunday, 27 November 2016

Disneyland, Differentiation & Self-Determined Learning
Have you ever been to ‘The Most Magical Place on Earth’? I remember arriving at opening time and being one of the last to leave Mickey’s Magical Kingdom. I experienced a new level of excitement and enthusiasm for exploring. But I know what may be exciting and engaging for one, may not be felt by others.

So why am I remembering the excitement level of Disneyland? I have been fortunate to work with a teacher who candidly shares her level excitement about teaching regularly. She proudly says, "I just love my job!" It is not only her words that display her excitement but also her actions and reactions to her students and their learning. Her passion is evident. Hattie (2012) maintains that teachers’ beliefs and commitments are the greatest influence on student achievement over which we can have some control. According to Steele (2009), passion relates to the level of enthusiasm that the teacher shows, the extent of commitment to each student, to learning, and to teaching itself. When teachers talk about student learning, their passion is evident and as a coach, I'm fortunate to be privy to this passion. According to Hargreaves and Fullan, (2012) the level of enthusiasm and passion largely depends on the school community in which that teacher operates. Coaches dedicate themselves to the cascading effect of enhancing others, which results in the progression of student learning (Costa, Garmston, Hayes & Elison, 2016, p. 5).

It would be unrealistic to expect all students to be passionate and excited about everything they are learning, but the long-term goal is for them to be excited, engaged, and vocal about their learning. Simply put, we want them to love learning! Students are located at different points on the learning continuum regardless of the subject. So teachers differentiate accordingly. We all have our strengths and challenges and it’s important for us as educators to recognise and accommodate through differentiation. So how well do we differentiate teacher learning?
We know differentiation is essential in the classroom and it is also essential in the staffroom. Teachers' professional learning needs to be personalised and self-determined. Wiliam (2016, p. 3) states that the major contribution for improving teacher quality must come from improving the quality of teachers already working in our schools. We use the viewpoint that 'one size does not fit all' for our students and this is applicable to our teachers too. Substantial evidence indicates that the typical kinds of professional development being provided to teachers are known to be ineffective (Darling-Hammond, Wei, Andree, Richardson & Orphanos, 2009). Coaching values self-directed learning and what is vital in this professional learning approach is self-reflection and goal setting. We encourage students to hold ownership of their learning, by promoting metacognition (thinking about thinking), reflection and goal setting. These skills are also applicable to teachers.

To sustain their passion and excitement for learning and teaching, it is vital to respect teachers as professionals and provide ownership of their learning. According to Hattie (2012), school leaders and teachers need to create schools, staffrooms and classrooms environments where errors are welcomed as a learning opportunity. Additionally, teachers should feel safe to learn, re-learn and explore knowledge and understanding. As a coach, my goal is to sustain that passion for teaching, by supporting and promoting self-directed learners and leaders with the disposition for continuous, lifelong learning.


Costa, A., Garmston, R., Hayes, C., & Ellison, H. (2015). Cognitive coaching. Victoria: Hawker Brownlow

Darling-Hammond, L., Wei, R., Andree, A., Richardson, N., & Orphanos, S. (2009). Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: A Status Report on Teacher Development in the United States and Abroad. National Staff Development Council. Retrieved from

Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital. New York: Teachers College Press.

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers. London: Routledge.

Steele, C. (2009). The inspired teacher. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wiliam, D. (2016). Leadership [for] teacher learning. Victoria: Hawker Brownlow

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Women Role Models

I grew up in an era when some mums worked part time while their children were at school. They were always there when you left and there upon your return. And somewhere in between they managed to cook, iron, clean, sew, shop and the list goes on. Times were changing as women were permitted to work but also expected to keep house & raise a family too.

Yet there were those who believed that women should be at home during the day to make sure everything was 'just right' when the husband returned home from work. I remember hearing someone say that women don't know how to look after their husbands anymore.

Years ago, I met with a male leader in an education system to inquire about a PhD scholarship. He responded by saying, "But you have 3 children and a husband, don't you think you should just do a masters?" Clearly, he hadn't taken the time to read my CV and I wondered if a male would have received the same response.

October is Women’s History Month in Canada where they recognise the contributions of women. On social media they are using the hashtag #BecauseOfHer to show how extraordinary women, both past and present have great influence. 

When I listen to Michelle Obama, this week and Malala and Women Leaders in previous times, I am confident that gender equity is progressing. Do you have role models or mentors in your life? Role models don't have to be famous; they don't necessarily need a platform, but their voices need to be heard. We are moving forward but is it fast enough and are we ALL contributing? 

I do believe my daughters have a more equitable future because women are projecting their voices, challenging the norm, and slowly being heard.

Please feel free to list your role models or mentors in the comments box.


Friday, 9 September 2016


Do you know someone who has had their integrity questioned? Do you ever stop and think how you would handle the same situation? Would you have sympathy, empathy or apathy?

Many emotions would surface-

Insulting … especially when it’s done publicly.
Shocking … does someone actually thinks that about them?
Confusing…where is this coming from?
Hurtful … one reflects on their actions and asks why?
Frustrating … one's reputation could be marred.
Creates anxiety … who controls their reputation?
Heartbreaking … people work (sometimes) a lifetime to establish their integrity.
Personal … that’s it…It’s PERSONAL!

If we care about the person, we'd be sympathetic.
If we had walked in their shoes, we'd be empathetic.
If we have no concern at all, we'd be apathetic.

It could be argued that we all should think before we speak, blog, text, present, tweet but that solution simplifies the problem...or does it? 


Friday, 2 September 2016

When the verb becomes a noun.

I experienced something new last week. I have always encouraged my students to take risks. If you fail, learn from it, move on, but make sure you take actions so you don't repeat the same mistakes. I've shown my students Famous Failures video, shared Famous Failures posters on my portal page, and always aimed to create a growth mindset culture in my classroom.

But then, last week, I experienced something new! I am currently studying advanced research methods at university. I have always believed that if I work hard, put in the effort, I will learn and achieve. But this was different. I felt completely isolated. Completely lost. Out of my learning zone. I've seen this visual, I've shared this visual but until last week, I had never connected with the visual. 

My learning history-
  • I finished school in Year 10,
  • Attended university at 30.
  • Awarded Dean's academic prize. 
  • Completed Masters in education (focus on primary mathematics)
  • Completed Graduate certificate in gifted ed (COGE). 
Last week, all this meant nothing! I was now in the PANIC ZONE!

I sought help from everyone. I wasn't afraid to ask for assistance, but very few people knew about multiple regression. All those feelings in the panic zone were felt. While the marks aren't worth much, there was that part of me that wanted to learn, to understand, and to not be defeated.

Then I thought about the students. Is this how some feel? I recently read Lucy Clark's, 'Beautiful Failures' and now I have a better understanding. I have taught students with high anxiety in maths. As a teacher, I always wanted to create a classroom that promoted a love for maths. Songs, books, games, technology, anything and everything to change the students attitudes toward maths. Change their attitude and self-perception, and their ability may follow. How many of you have heard a student say, "I'm no good at maths"?

So now, I understand. I get it. This experience generated a rich conversation with my adult children. We discussed the pressure, the expectations, developing resilience, and the teachers, and how they influence the student's self-efficacy. I can't imagine having those feelings day after day, year after year. It's not sympathy but empathy that I have for the students who don't see themselves as more than a grade.

So yes, it's ok to fail but we also have to recognise that failing for too long can leave some without hope. I may not receive a great grade for the multiple regression responses but what I did learn this week was more important. I felt what some students experience on a daily basis. And I didn't like it!