Oops I Did It Again!

I think this tweet sums up my story best.

As a creature of habit, yesterday morning, I arrived at school at 7:00 to set-up the classroom. I was thinking about everything I wanted to get accomplished during the day, and so, as I walked to the door, I didn’t check to see if the caretaker’s car was in the lot. I used my access pass as I always do, and I entered the school.

That’s when I heard a little “beep, beep, beep,” coming from the alarm panel near the door. I then looked down both hallways and realized it was dark inside the school. My mind kicked into overdrive: hmmm … did I see our caretaker’s car? Is somebody else here? Just as I’m asking myself these questions, I hear, “Eee — ooo — eee — ooo!” Imagine the loudest sound you can possibly think of on repeat. Oh no! How is it even possible that I did this again?!

This is when I messaged my teaching partner, and asked if she could text the principal letting him know what happened. I also emailed him, so that he realized that I was the source of the alarm. As if … #OnlyAviva. 🙂 Then I stood in the hallway outside of our classroom door, listened to the very loud sound, prayed that I wouldn’t be explaining my great big oops to the police, and laughed. Like really, really laughed! I guess that I would have another “amusing Aviva story” to share. As Kristi Keery-Bishop, a previous vice principal of mine, pointed out on my last alarm blog post, the only thing more amusing that my parking tweets are my alarm posts.

I share all of this here because I can’t help but think of our Board‘s focus on “mental health and well-being.” During a recent meeting with principals and vice principals, leaders tweeted out different things that they do for their well-being. This is when I thought about the benefits of laughter. We all have stressful situations in our lives. We can worry. We can get scared. We can get upset. Or we can find a reason to laugh. I’m not going to say that I always remember to laugh — or that it’s always an appropriate option  but a good hearty chuckle yesterday morning made me feel a whole lot better. When my principal, John, asked me today if “my morning was a lot less alarming,” I couldn’t help but share a laugh with him again. 

So this year, as life becomes stressful, I’m committed to finding those opportunities to laugh — with my family, my colleagues, my teaching partner, our parents, our students, and my friends — because life is better with a good giggle! And with some luck, I won’t be setting off any more school alarms. 🙂 How does laughter help you? School begins on September 5th, and I don’t know about you, but I want to start off my year with a big smile and no alarms! 🙂


Are we all seeing the world through a mathematical lens?

Earlier in August, I sent out a tweet one morning as I was preparing my breakfast. 

I happened to have a really large jug of milk at home, and I noticed how much of it was still left, even though the expiration date was less than a week away. As I poured the milk, I started to think about how much milk I use for each bowl of cereal, and I began to estimate if I would be able to finish the jug prior to the milk expiring. I couldn’t help but plan a Three Act Math task in my head as I also prepared my breakfast. 

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and I was eating breakfast before heading into school. I love to read blog posts and books while I have my breakfast, and this is exactly what I was doing yesterday morning. I happened to look down at my cereal bowl just before I finished the cereal, and again, I was struck by the “math” staring me in the face. 

The question that I added to this Instagram post is one that I’ve been thinking about since I wrote it. Just in the past couple of days, I’ve stopped to think about the different ways that I “think mathematically.”

  • Whether it was sorting the utensils into the correct spot or figuring out how many more stacks of plates I needed to carry over to the cupboard …
  • Estimating how much the school supplies would cost me at Walmart, while also calculating the best deals …
  • Figuring out how many pounds of sand I was carrying from the shopping cart into my trunk and from my trunk into the school …
  • Figuring out how many more chairs we needed before moving the additional ones next door …
  • Figuring out how to put together a painting easel with my teaching partner‘s leadership, the use of a diagram, and many, many parts …
  • Or figuring out how to organize (sort) the books, and make three disorganized shelves of books into 2 1/2 neat shelves of books.

Make sure to swipe for more photographs.

And this list is just a snapshot in time, and doesn’t even include the “parking math” that I engage in every single day. 🙂 

I share all of these examples here because what struck me is that these are all ways that I think mathematically without anybody creating a problem for me. 

  • Sometimes I create my own problems, ask questions, and share mathematical wonders.
  • And sometimes, it’s just about looking at a situation through a mathematical lens … even if that situation involves cereal and milk.

If we want people to see themselves as “mathematicians,” do we need to also create the conditions for ongoing mathematical thinking and wondering? How do we help everyone — adults and children of all ages — see the world “mathematically?” I think that the updated Kindergarten Program Document that emphasizes “noticing and naming math through play” is a great way to get started, and could truly happen in every grade. But what else? Do we spend enough time talking about math? Theorizing about math? Taking the time to really notice and appreciate those everyday mathematical moments? Parents, educators, and administrators, as we get ready for another school year, I’d love to hear about how you’re not only planning for mathematical learning, but celebrating and extending the math in the unplanned. 


My “Five-ish” Defining Moments

Earlier this week, I was mentioned in a tweet by Jonathan So, where he shared a blog post that he wrote. Jonathan decided to blog about the top five moments that changed him as a teacher, and he was curious to hear what others would list as their “top five defining moments.” 

Matthew Oldridge, another Peel educator, chimed in quickly with a post of his own, and this inspired even more discussion on Twitter. I loved the idea of also blogging on this topic, but I needed to really spend some time thinking about my five points. As the educational troublemaker that I am, I’m also going to add my own little twist to this post. With that said, here are my Top 5-ish Defining Moments.

1. Stuart Shanker and Self-RegFor anyone that regularly reads this blog, it will come as no surprise that this is my first moment. Stuart Shanker, Susan Hopkins, and The MEHRIT Centre totally changed me as an educator. I now look at everything in my personal and professional life through a Self-Reg lens, and definitely view student behaviour differently. Not only do I often ask Shanker‘s question of, “Why this child and why now?,” but I also look more closely at how my actions impact on the actions (and reactions) of others. I’m far more attuned to my own stressors, and consider what I need to self-regulate, so that I can ultimately give more to my students. 

2. Rethinking Relationships. I used to think that I spent time forming relationships with students, but now I wonder if many of these connections were superficial ones. After spending the year watching my teaching partner, Paula, in action, I’ve seen what “relationships” can really mean. I watch how she talks to children, makes time for children, connects with children and parents, has fun with children, and shows the children over and over again how much they matter. I keep thinking back to our morning time conversations. Just before we head outside to meet the class, Paula and I usually have a quick debrief about the day. The Before School Program is in the classroom next door to ours, and often as we’re talking, some of our students come over to say, “hello.” I love how Paula stops everything to take the few minutes to connect with kids. She listens to their stories, she answers their questions, and she always has time for a hug or a high-five. There’s something to be said for the feeling of safety and connection that comes from these kinds of relationships. Paula’s definitely helped me improve in this area!

One more lunchtime selfie with our fabulous Grade 3 milk helper. #fdk #earlyyears #iteachk

A post shared by Aviva (@avivaloca) on

It’s hard to all cram into a selfie! #teachersofinstagram #iteachk

A post shared by Aviva (@avivaloca) on

3. Play. Play used to scare me. Unstructured time caused me stress, and I questioned how anybody learned anything in this kind of environment. I actually left Kindergarten for six years because of the introduction of the new play-based program model, and my uncertainty on if I could deliver this kind of program. Then I moved to teaching some junior grades — Grades 5 and 6 — and I saw what was possible when we allowed children to play. That’s when I knew that I wanted to go back to Kindergarten, and I made the move a couple of years later. My “play” approach has changed even more since then. Now I truly understand the value in “free play”: in letting children make the decisions, in observing the learning, and in knowing when to step in and when to just watch. This is a delicate dance — and one that I continue to navigate with the help of my amazing teaching partner — but the results are incredible. As scary as it may sometimes be, I wonder if we all need to give a little more value to play

4. Get outside. Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to teach at a school with a fantastic outdoor space. Not only do we have an outdoor classroom, but our property is surrounded by a forest, which we get to visit every single day. I’m a planner, and while I love to plan, I also love how our outside time is not planned. We watch and listen to students, and then we make connections and extend learning based on what they share. (Yes, in many ways, this also happens inside, but it’s different outdoors.) We go outside in all weather — from cold and snow to rain and sunshine — and children do everything from examining bugs to climbing trees. We often spend over an hour outside every morning, and we all love it! Not only is there something incredibly calming about this outdoor space, but the questions, theories, and thinking that happen outside, amaze me every single day. This is where children persevere, problem solve, and connect with each other in a way that’s so different from what happens inside. Maybe it’s the space, freedom, and time that are all special gifts in this outdoor space. All I know is that if I were to teach another grade, I’d be looking at how to also make this forest time a part of our learning time. It’s just that wonderful!

5. This moment is yet to come … This is where I become the “troublemaker.” I was going to list five moments, but I decided to just do four, with the thought that I can keep my mind open for a new moment for this year. If I think about it, all four of these other moments encapsulate learning that really happened over the course of this past year, and I probably would have felt differently about all of these points in previous years. That’s what’s great about education: as we learn more things, read more things, and interact with more people, our thinking changes. So maybe my last defining moment is being open for more defining moments, and let’s see what those moments are when another school year comes to an end.

What are your top five moments? As we head back to school, I think there’s value in reflecting on the learning we’ve already done as well as being ready for the new learning that will happen in the coming months. Thanks Jonathan for the push to reflect on my “defining moments,” and I hope that others take your challenge to share theirs. Here’s to another great school year with many more special moments and new learning!


A Cicada, A Cup, And A Great Big Smile!

This morning, a child came to camp so excited. He found a cicada on the road on his way to Camp Power. He was thrilled that he was able to help rescue the cicada and share it with his friends. I loved the excited chatter so much that I had to record this little video. 

This cicada experience took me back to my “slug sitting” memories from years ago. That was the year that we had everything from a slug to a snail, worms, and even cockroaches, as class pets. I love all of the wonderful questions, theories, and learning that comes from nature!

It was these memories that I thought about when the child wanted to hold onto his cicada today, even when he was encouraged to leave it outside. One instructor mentioned that cicadas eat “tree sap,” so I took the child with me to try to find a tree on our property. We found one, but he was reluctant to leave the cicada on it. He wanted to bring it home and let it eat off of one of the trees in his yard. While I tried to convince him that we could check on the cicada throughout the day, he was worried that the bug would move when we went inside. How could I argue with that?! I saw how upset he looked, so together, we found a little branch with some tree bark on it — to hopefully provide some sap for the cicada to eat — and put it inside my Tim Horton’s cup. The child made sure to dump out every last drop of coffee “so that cicada doesn’t drown.”

I promised to bug sit … and I did (all day long)! The cicada even made it down to the gym to listen to the amazing musical talent of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. There may have been a small mishap down there, but I think that the bug recovered. 

I share this cicada anecdote here because throughout the day, this child checked in on me and his pet bug. He thanked me profusely for watching the cicada and keeping it safe, and he left camp this afternoon with the biggest smile that I’ve ever seen. All I did was hold onto a Tim Horton’s cup for the day, but for this child, it was so much more than that!

Today was a great reminder for me that sometimes it’s the small things that matter the most. What are some of your “small moment” stories? As another school year begins, I’ll be thinking about what happened today, and hopefully, trying to find other ways to make children smile. A happy child is truly one of the best gifts of all!


Rethinking The Principal’s Office

I’m not a principal, and I’ve never had any interest in being one, but this summer, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for administration. Being a coordinator at one of the Camp Power sites has made me the first person that instructors approach when there are problems. Now instead of me being the one calling for support, I’m the one that people call. Over the past 12 days, I’ve worked with various children, and each experience has made me view the office differently. Yesterday, I had an epiphany. I wonder what would happen if each principal’s office was equipped with a variety of sensory materials (i.e., play dough, clay, water beads, kinetic sand, etc.), some building materials (particularly blocks and Lego), beads, a small container of books, drawing materials, and a tent (or a blanket for draping over a table). Couple this with “time” and “building relationships,” and I wonder if the need for punishment would/could be drastically reduced. 

Over the summer, every time that somebody’s approached me with a problem, I’ve tried to think of Stuart Shanker‘s words: “Why this child? Why now?” I’ve attempted to see the problem through a Self-Reg lens, and respond accordingly. I’m not going to say that this is always easy, or that I haven’t made mistakes, but something interesting happens in the “library office.” As children come in, sit down, and play, they slowly start to calm down. As they start to feel calm, they talk. It’s through this discussion that I begin to see the problem from their perspective. We work out solutions together and find a way to make it back to the classroom.

  • Sometimes the child just needs a healthy snack.
  • Sometimes the child needs to bring back an activity from the library to continue in the classroom.
  • Sometimes the child needs a pair of headphones: a way to make any room quiet.
  • Sometimes the child just needs to know that you’ll check in again and make sure everything’s okay.
  • Sometimes the little break is all the child needed and can go back without anything else. 

Punishment was not my goal this summer, and I’m thankful to say that it wasn’t necessary. I realize the camp program is different from a school. We have fewer children. Groups are smaller. Our age range is a lot less. I also don’t have the same additional responsibilities that a principal would have at school. But being on the other side of solving these problems this summer gave me a whole new perspective on what’s possible when time, love, and self-regulation combine. 

While my summer experience made me rethink the principal’s office, it also made me rethink the classroom. What if sensory materials, building items, beads, books, drawing materials, and a safe “hiding space,” were present in all classrooms? Couple all of these with “time” and “relationships,” and I wonder if many problems could be solved in the room and without the need for punishment. In yesterday’s Ontario Edublogs post, Doug Peterson highlighted Sharon Drummond‘s classroom design post. As we get ready to go back to school, I wonder what impact self-regulation will have on classroom design, and how we can design learning spaces that reduce problematic office visits, increase success for all children, and help create a feeling of calm that children and adults both need and deserve. What might you do?