Who’s Your Donnie?



At the first Staff Meeting at a new school I told a story about a student named Donnie.

I met Donnie many years ago when I was a Vice-Principal. Donnie had been sent to the office for some [mis]behaviour I can’t even recall. Over the course of the year Donnie was sent to the office on a regular basis. I used every carrot and stick I could think of to help him make different choices. However, more importantly to me, I used each opportunity to work on building a relationship with him. Almost every time he was sent to the office I explained, regardless of the consequences I had to apply, that my goal was to keep him in school and eventually shake his hand when he crossed the stage at Graduation.

I was only at that school for a relatively short time before I was transferred. A few years later Donnie was transferred to my new school. I suspect Donnie (and his mother) were fairly nervous about not only a new school, but a new school where the Vice-Principal knew much of his school history. When I met with Donnie and his mother I emphasized this opportunity for a fresh start.

It wasn’t long before Donnie was visiting my office again. Perhaps not the frequent flyer he was at our previous school when he was younger, but we did have the opportunity to reconnect more than once. Each time I tried to remember to remind him of my goal to help get him to Graduation and to shake his hand after he crossed the stage.

As Donnie got older and matured his visits to the office were less and less frequent, and we didn’t have the opportunity to interact as much with the exception of connecting in the hall or during classroom visits.

Donnie made it to Graduation. When his name was called and he crossed the stage with his diploma he came out into the audience and shook my hand. I had the opportunity to connect with Donnie and his mother after the ceremony. There was a little reminiscing, but more importantly a moment to celebrate this very significant achievement.

I would never claim to be the reason Donnie made it to Graduation, he did the heavy lifting himself, but I like to tell myself that our connection at some point over the years made a small difference.

At that first Staff Meeting I invited Staff to find their Donnie (or Dawn) for the year.

After the Staff Meeting it was time for an orientation with our new Grade 8’s and their parents. After the welcome and introductions we sent Grade 8’s and their parents with some of our senior students for a walk-through of students’ timetables. As students and parents began moving out of the gym, a dad approached me and said hello like he knew me. When he reminded me of his name, I immediately remembered him from, again, my early Vice-Principal years at the same school where I got to know Donnie.

When I first got to know John, he was in Grade 12 and he had already established himself as a regular visitor in the office. Grade 12’s were not my responsibility, but neither the Principal nor his Counsellor wanted anything to do with him. Over the course of the year we spent a great deal of time connecting, not as a result of his being sent to the office, but over my concern that no one was advocating for him or offering support.

The Principal told me that I was spending too much time “counselling” students, and in particular John. I was stuck. I knew my career would be affected by how I proceeded as a result of this feedback and direction, but I also had concerns for students like John who had limited support at this very place where they spent the majority of their days.

I continued to look for opportunities to work with John. How I believe that affected my career is a whole different post. However, I continue to believe that the time I spent with John was the right thing to do.

We often don’t know the impact of our efforts with each student, and sometimes the students who need the most support are the most difficult with whom to work. However, I agree that, “Every Kid Needs a Champion.”

This year, who is (or will be) your Donnie (or Dawn)?





photo credit: daystar297 via photopin (license)


Debwewin – Speaking Truths

Wab Kinew at CG.jpg-large

Image via @bradleyrbaker

I recently saw Wab Kinew speak to students at a local high school.

The findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are significant.  However, what do we do with them?

I could never properly do his presentation justice by attempting to summarize it here.  However, there were some important take-aways in his message to the students:

What can students do?

  • Start with the culture
    • Start from a position of strength
  • Learn the history
    • Next go to the more challenging aspects
  • Get involved
    • How might I get involved to make things better?
      • Hold government to account
        • make sure they make good on their pledge
      • Think local
      • If we want to change the country, we have to change the attitude
        • Listen before we speak
      • Honour, commemorate, hold them up
  • Commemorate
    • Plaques, sculptures, poems, Orange Shirt Day
    • National Day in commemoration of Residential Schools survivors???
    • Let’s not end with the trauma and pain, let’s remember the success stories
    • What a Time to be Alive
      • The past era was a mistake
      • Success of our present aboriginal youth is the best form of reconciliation
    • If we learn a little about one another and how each other lives, the better we can get along together
    • Learn from the strength of the past, learn from those who came before us,

Wab Kinew also, in responding to a question from a student about Kids in Care, advised that it is not an issue that is going to be resolved quickly, and it will take some time to reverse.  He stated that Child & Welfare needs to start collecting and publishing data, and that the Government needs to step up to fund support.  He also drew attention, as an example, to the “life changing efforts” at the University of Winnipeg which offers tuition waivers for children in care.

Here are some of his videos:

Soap Box: Wab Kinew

8th Fire Wab Kinew 500 Years in 2 Minutes

Surviving the Survivor

Wab Kinew is also a musician, and at the conclusion of his presentation he performed one last piece in response to a student’s request, “can you drop some bars….”  While not the piece he performed, here is an example of his work and message:

Good Boy

Applying & Hiring – Part 3

Job Interview


It’s that time of year during which our interactions with student teachers change as practicums have concluded or are in the home stretch.  Attention for many, besides upcoming university classes, now turns to the application process.

Like many other districts, we receive hundreds of applications.  Not all are considered for an interview.  However, we want each applicant to put their best foot forward and increase their chances of a successful application.

Below are some of the topics which have arisen during our meetings with student teachers and the advice specific to our District:


Cover Letters

    • Consider what you want to highlight in your cover letter and how this information will set you apart from other applicants
    • Ensure the necessary changes are made if using the same cover letter for applications to more than one District
      • “I’m applying to theFeilding School District because….”
        • (our HR Department hires for the North Vancouver School District… and Feilding is in New Zealand – nice place by the way….)
    • Pay attention to details
      • “To:  Mr. key, Superintendent of scho0ls” (as opposed to “Mr. Kee, District Principal”)
    • Smelling Spelling counts
    • Fancy fonts not necessary


    • If more than 1 page is necessary to illustrate qualifications and related professional experience…
      • use more than 1 page
    • Provide relevant information
    • Pay attention to details
    • Spelling counts
    • Fancy fonts not necessary


  • Receive permission from your professional references before their names and contact info are submitted
  • Use your Faculty Advisor and School Advisor(s) as references
  • “References available upon request”
    • *** This is our request ***



  • We are aware that upcoming school district interviews will be among the first professional interviews for many applicants
    • Marks are not deducted for nervousness
  • We use behavioural based questions
  • Questions are not designed to trick or stump
    • We want applicants to show us who they really are
  • Questions will cover a number of different areas including curriculum, instruction, assessment, social emotional learning, and classroom management
  • Portfolios
    • If bringing a portfolio to the interview consider how it might be used when answering specific types of questions as opposed to a show-and-tell at the end of the interview
    • If using an e-portfolio make sure the technology works before the interview (including Wi-Fi if needed)

Looking forward to receiving applications!




Related Posts:

Teaching in Public Schools???

From Student Teacher to Teacher/TTOC

Applying & Hiring – Part 2

Applying & Hiring



photo credit: Application – pen via photopin (license)

“Student Involvement in IEP’s” – EdCampDelta


Recently I had another great opportunity to attend EdCampDelta. [Storify] The first session I attended was on “Digital Literacies/Tattoo.”  An excellent choice. [Notes] The second session I attended was on “Student Involvement in IEP’s.”  At last year’s EdCampDelta I attended a session on “How do we identify and teach students with learning difficulties” [Post].  There was a strong student presence and voice which was impressive to hear, but it was also enlightening and instructive.  This session this year had a greater educator presence – both classroom teachers and special education teachers. Many of the comments & thoughts in the session resonated:

  • “How do we make IEPs more effective? Start with student involvement.”
  • Sometimes we feel we have to own IEPs. Positive/effective student involvement changes the game
  • “Writing IEPs – are they about the child or the funding?”
  • “Looking forward to moving away from mtgs about students to mtgs WITH students”
  • “We need to involve Ss early in the IEP process so they can self-advocate for how they learn best.”
  • The more students w/ IEP’s can self-advocate, the better. How do we help students build those skills and confidence
  • “Talking about working together with families. Imp for school to share ‘we care about your child too – we’re on the same team.’ “
  • Is an IEP a stigma? Do parents think it closes doors vs opens doors?
  • “IEPs can create a fear of closing doors from the parents perspective when it’s about keeping as many doors open as possible.”
  • “We need to demystify the IEP process and stress a team approach in building a learning plan. This should include student voice.”
  • “Having Ss involved in IEPs can help getting the goals simplified and attainable.”
  •  “Students are so much more empowered when they have all of the information when helping create IEPs.”
  • “IEPs – let’s move away from deficit model to starting with strengths.”
  • Need to help build advocacy skills in students w/ IEP’s
  • “Students will better understand their learning needs if they can be part of their IEP process.”
  • If we embraced personalized learning, would we blink an eye at IEPs?
  • ” ‘collaborative problem solving’ model for writing IEPs. Kiddo – what do you need to be ‘successful’? “
  • “Student involvement in IEPs = building self advocacy.”

Last year’s blog post following EdCampDelta described the story of a young student in elementary school who went from being incorrectly labeled as an ESL student, to being assigned to a class with what appeared to be limited in-class support for her diagnosed learning difficulties and limited communication with her parents, to a situation in which the classroom teacher worked parallel and together with the student’s resource teacher to create a situation in which she flourished. Particularly impressive was the student’s involvement in leading her IEP meetings.

In the Spring of that year the student’s classroom teacher announced her retirement.  The announcement must have had quite an impact on all the students in the class and their parents.  It clearly had an impact on the parents of this particular student.  On one hand they were of course very happy for the teacher, but, at the same time, distressed, for their daughter had become a different student.  Still struggling – but a confident student who had a greater awareness of her strengths and her challenges, and an emerging understanding of the need to self-advocate.

What followed were subsequent meetings with the classroom teacher and resource teacher and also meetings with the principal.  Had the classroom teacher not been retiring there would be no question that the student would continue in the same multi-grade class until grade 7.  However, not knowing who the incoming teacher would be to take over the class, a special program for students with learning difficulties became an option.

The process of trying to make a decision between keeping the student in a regular classroom with resource support or placement in the special program was very difficult.  Would she struggle in a regular class with a different teacher and teaching style?  Would the teacher in the special program be a good fit?  Would placement in the special program set her up for success or failure in Grade 6 and 7?  Secondary School???

In a meeting with both the classroom teacher and resource teacher, the parents, and the student, the teachers suggested that they would work with the student on a plus/minus chart.  Good, but the suggestion was also that the parents give their daughter a week to work it through without discussing it at home and that “she” would then make the decision about her placement for the following year….

The parents in the end agreed to give their daughter the week, meanwhile discussing what to do if their daughter made the “wrong” decision.

After a week had passed the student went to her parents with her pluses and minuses.  The positives in staying in a regular classroom were focused on friendships, an aspect which could not be minimized.  The positives in moving to the special program were focused around the individualized support she would receive, but concerns about missing her friends.

Ultimately, the student decided a move to the special program was the way to go and that she would have to make new friends.  The parents supported her choice.

This year she has continued with confidence, clearly enjoying the class and her new friends and conscientious about her homework – reportedly getting up at 5:30 a.m. if she realizes she’s forgotten to do her homework the night before….

The parents have taken a leap of faith. Time will tell if the move will lead to success… but what growth they have seen in their daughter since she has become actively involved in her education – including her IEP.

Whatever Happened to “Vintage” Social Media and Recruiting?



(Image via Edudemic)


I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with Teacher Candidates last month {Teaching in Public Schools???}.

My presentation included a number of tweets and also links to blog posts which I thought might be useful to illustrate the points I wanted to make and as a resource afterwards.  During a Q & A period one student asked if he would be at a disadvantage when applying for jobs because he wasn’t on Twitter.  Another asked who to follow to increase the chances of getting a job.

In retrospect, perhaps I needed to frame my presentation differently.


Is Twitter use essential/required of applicants to our District?


Do we use social media for recruiting?

A little.

Is an understanding of and a facility with technology expected of our new teacher applicants?



For those drawn to social media, each person has their own reasons for being engaged through the use of technology.  In the education world, Twitter and blogs have become very popular.

Twitter for me has become crucial for professional development in staying connected to and current with teaching and learning conversations.  In HR, my interactions around teaching and learning are mostly connected to the hiring process and teacher evaluation.  In the world of hiring, how do I determine what constitutes a great teacher ready to work with today’s students?  How do I support my school-based colleagues in evaluating teacher competence above and beyond explaining the Collective Agreement processes?



A by-product of using social media for my own learning is also the connections initiated by teacher candidates.  It is interesting to get a sense of their journeys during their university education classes and practicums.

I am looking forward to seeing the experiences and growth of these teacher candidates.  Maybe these social media connections are their foot in the door as they prepare for the application process.  Perhaps this is an aspect of networking I discussed in the presentation. So, maybe there is an advantage for some teacher candidates in making that initial connection.

However, in the end, we’re still looking to hire the best teachers {Don’t Wait for Superman}, and there are many different ways of demonstrating excellence just as we have several different ways to assess it.

Is social media one of my go-to tools for recruiting?

I don’t know yet.


I still like face-to-face interactions.


But I am paying attention to my new connections.


While technology is not my world by nature, I am surprised to the extent it has become woven into my day to day work and personal life.  I can see how easy it would be for the time spent on social media to become all encompassing.


I appreciate the perspective this video provides.


How connected are we wanting to be?





vine (2)linkedin (2)tumblr (2)appstore (2)googleplus (2)etsy (2)  (Vintage)



Teaching in Public Schools???




Last July I received an invite from one of our local universities to speak to teacher candidates again in September.

Public speaking and presenting is not my passion, but investing in teacher education… our future… is.

At that time our teachers’ federation and provincial government were in the heat of the contract battle, but I agreed to present, optimistically thinking that by September there would be labour peace and that I’d have the opportunity to provide a positive and encouraging message for our future colleagues.

My topic?

“Teaching in Public Schools”….

… and I’d be followed by the presenter on…

…teaching in independent schools…..


When I returned to work in mid-August there was still no end in sight. The Labour Day weekend, which normally signalled the return of students and teachers to school, came and went. Besides sweating the day-to-day work in assisting schools in preparing for the upcoming school year, whenever it was to begin, I was now also becoming anxious about the timing of my upcoming presentation.

Right up until the night before the Secondary session, I attempted to revise and tweak the presentation in hopes that I could help make sense of this turbulent time and somehow leave student teachers with a positive optimistic message that would help propel them forward as they prepare to join our profession. At some point that evening I hit the wall, and realized I could do no more.

After a restless night I got up early to discover a reason for hope:


Baldrey Tweet


I had no time to change the Powerpoint, but knew I had to quickly change my plans for the delivery.

The presentation to Secondary student teachers was a bit rocky, but I knew I had a day before repeating the presentation to Elementary/Middle School student teachers. I’m not sure what led me to believe that I would have any time to work on the presentation given that we would have only a few days to get schools up and running.

The result: only a minor change to the Powerpoint, and once again the need to change the delivery on the fly.

In the presentations I tried to convey what led me to teaching, and how my personal experiences shaped who I became as a person and as an educator; how interactions early in my childhood would shape the focus and purpose of one of my missions in schools {Mosaic, Melting Pot, Tolerance…. Which is it?}; the issues that became priorities {What got our students there?, We are not cookie-cutter kids. Cashing in on Opportunity = Responsibility, On “How Do We Identify & Teach Students with Learning Difficulties” and #edcampdelta}; and the need to be open to how our careers paths may evolve and change.

However, most of all, I wanted to leave a message of the importance that teacher candidates stay focused on, and to not forget, the passion and purpose that has drawn each of us into the world of education.



Teaching in public schools – UBC 2014 from M. Kee


And by the way….

My slide, “Your attitude will determine your altitude.”…

– I didn’t come up with that. Others have also used it.


…I got it from Big Willy on MasterChef….


Think Like a Proton.jpg-large


From Student Teacher to Teacher/TTOC


I was recently invited to speak to Elementary and Middle Years Teacher Candidates at one of our local universities about the application and hiring process in our school district.

The application and interview processes for getting that first position shouldn’t be a surprise, trick, or a mystery.  It’s important to set the stage to enable applicants to best show who they really are and what they can potentially bring to not only the school district but, more importantly, the students in our classes.

Establishing opportunities for success for each student in our schools/classes is so important.  Likewise, we want our applicants to have every chance for success as they apply and interview for their first teaching opportunities.

While I was speaking from the context of our own organization, the intent was to offer guidance and suggestions as Student Teachers prepare to apply anywhere.  There are great things happening across the province in every school district, and I hope that university students who are preparing to join our ranks are provided not only quality opportunities through their job searches, but opportunity and encouragement to pursue their passions.

The presentation is shared below.

Other helpful posts for those applying and hiring can also be found here:

Applying & Hiring

Applying & Hiring – Part 2

Please share your thoughts, links, and recommendations for our future colleagues.

photo credit: jon.liu via photopin cc