Category Archives: My Scribbles

You can find blog posts, articles, videos, and comics relating to issues in education here!



love-my-studentsHave you ever had one of those mornings? The kind of morning where your alarm clock doesn’t go off, you spill your morning coffee down the front of your crisp white shirt, your car doesn’t start, and a torrential downpour manages to drown you just as you run into work late? Yes… those mornings.

I had one of those mornings recently, and a particularly bad one at that. But within seconds of entering my classroom, every inconvenience of my morning was all but erased as soon as I heard an excited voice call, “Miss Sarah! You’re here!” In that moment I felt overwhelmingly grateful for my always slightly too-warm classroom, for the familiar smell of sweaty socks and salami sandwiches, and for that set of 19 eager faces waiting for me to lead us into another day.

Educators often reflect on the impact that they have on their students. They consider how their attitude, creativity, organization, flexibility (the list could go on forever) will help or hinder their students’ success. That night, my reflections shifted to considering the impact that my students have on me. I thought back to earlier in the day when one of those mornings threatened to derail my entire day but was saved by a group of five year olds, and I realized just how much I appreciate my students. Now, I know that not everybody would appreciate a group of germ-filled, hyperactive, painfully dependent kindergarten students – but I do. So, this one goes out to them:

Thank you for attentively listening while I read you my favourite childhood stories; thank you for asking me if I want to play with you and making me feel included; thank you for showing such a genuine interest in my life, from why I drive a red car to why my pants have so much cat hair on them; thank you for excitedly bringing me gifts from your home that I then have to awkwardly return to your parents; to the ladies, thank you for copying my hairstyle – after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; thank you for mysteriously knowing exactly when I could use a hug; thank you for loving nature and animals so much; thank you for not being afraid of getting dirty; thank you for always being completely, unapologetically honest; thank you for reminding me how important it is to appreciate the little things in life, like enjoying popcorn during a movie or seeing a rainbow after a storm; thank you for noticing every single new thing about me; thank you for boosting my ego with your daily barrage of compliments; thank you for making me want to be a better teacher; thank you for giggling when somebody, uhm, passes wind… because honestly, it’s funny; thank you for trusting me with your secrets; thank you for somehow always sharing the notion that clowns walk a thin line between being silly and scary; thank you for having an endless supply of self-confidence; and finally, thank you for your unconditional love – I am a better teacher, and a better person, for having known every single one of you. Thank you.

Edtech Cartoon

Is This Thing On? One Teacher’s Edtech Journey

Edtech 2 ComicTechnology in education is big right now. Really big. Today, buzzwords like “classrooms in the cloud,” “E-learning,” and “MOOCs” are the “overhead projector” of 1986 when it comes to staff room hot topics. I’m going to let you in on a secret – I struggle with using technology. Not in the way where I get frustrated if I can’t prevent cross-site scripting or DDoS attacks, but in the way where I get frustrated when my printer won’t print, only to remember after many hours of troubleshooting that I unplugged it two days ago when I vacuumed the living room. A lot of things come very easily to me, but using technology just has never been one of them.

Technology has changed the education experience throughout many schools, and undoubtedly helped countless students achieve success in areas where they previously struggled: adopting technology has been vital in providing differentiated instruction for learners with special needs; the use of multimedia has heightened learning by engaging students in new and exciting ways; and Edtech has introduced online options for homework help and tutoring that allows students and their families to continue the learning process from home. Edtech continues to pick up steam, as developers and educators partner up to create more software, apps, and tools designed to help students and teachers alike.

If you are like me, using these valuable tools can be a challenge – just setting up the microphone for my voice-to-text software was a two-hour ordeal, which included skipping dinner, a few tears, and the uttering of some choice words that are not appropriate for a blog that children could be reading. Yet despite the time, planning, and energy often involved in implementing technology into the classroom, countless teachers continue to embrace the challenge. So why do we do it?

For me, the answer is pretty simple – because I care. I care about how the potential success of my students could be improved by helping them become comfortable with technology. I care about giving my students with special needs equal opportunities in their education. I care about meeting the needs and interests of my students by engaging them in their learning with relevant materials. And I care about these things more than I care about spending my weekend completing tutorials on how to use my new laptop, learning how to run and update our classroom e-newsletter, setting up and monitoring online homework reading programs, or spending my evenings fighting with installing speech recognition software. Do some educators go through these efforts for a better teaching position, a raise, or recognition? Maybe. Do some educators stubbornly refuse to integrate technology into their practices? Definitely. Fortunately, all of the teachers I know are embracing Edtech for all of the right reasons, no matter how difficult it may be.

So, to my fellow tech-challenged colleagues: if you have ever had to Google what a “wordle” is, arrive in class an hour early to connect your tablet to a projector for the first time, or ask, “is this thing on?”, yet you continue to, sometimes painfully, take on these challenges for the sake of your students – you are not alone. I understand your struggle, and I applaud your perseverance in the quest towards successfully integrating technology into your classroom. At the end of the day, I think we would all agree that the effort is undoubtedly worth it.


For The Love Of Reading


What can we classify as meaningful literature for today’s youth? Is it time for parents and educators to broaden their definitions of what they consider “reading” in our changing world of media?

I have many parents ask me for advice on how they can encourage their child to read more. When I ask them how often their child reads, many of these parents reply “She doesn’t read. She hates books and just spends all evening on the computer looking at One Direction websites…”

I see many of my students engaging with information contained in different forms of literature every day, including graphic novels, recipe books and the profiles of sports stars; but some of these same children will also grudgingly work their way through our book studies of popular novels. So is the student who enjoys reading print books and novels any more engaged with literature and the information contained within it than the student who spends two hours each night reading about the private lives of her favourite boy band members?

The way we share and convey information has evolved dramatically throughout human history, from cave drawings to oral storytelling to the creation of text to that text being available on a screen that fits in the palm of our hands. I think it is important for educators to also evolve by considering how our students are engaging with these different forms of literature. Students learn and retain information best when they find it engaging and meaningful, and some small tweaks to traditional literacy projects could help make material much more relevant for today’s students: perhaps using a book study to assess for literacy comprehension could extend from just a selection of novels to include multiple forms of literature, like blogs, graphic novels, or websites; maybe a spin on teaching students about dialogue could involve students conversing via instant messages; I can’t think of a better way to teach the value of concise writing than by challenging students to write a descriptive sentence in a 140 character tweet.

Don’t get me wrong – I have always loved books. The multiple bookcases in my office overflowing with picture books, novels, and textbooks is a testament to my unfettering love of books. I also believe that there is a great deal of value in classic literature – I still can’t see a spider web at a farm without a small piece of me wanting to believe that the resident pig and spider are somehow magically best friends. But I think we need to cut our youth a little bit of slack. With the massive changes in technology that our world has experienced in the past few decades, reading, storytelling, acquiring information, writing and literature now come in many different formats, and our children and students are trying to find which of these formats they find the most appealing and comfortable to engage with. Let’s not discount their attempts or discourage their journey, but rather let’s celebrate reading and literacy in all of it’s different forms.

kindergarten classroom

Totally Normal Chaos

Kindergarten has a bit of a reputation. I have had friends, family, and even other teachers say to me, “How can you complain about being tired at the end of the day? Don’t you just sing songs and eat snacks and read stories and finger paint and play all day? Don’t they just run around and play? What do children even learn in kindergarten anyway? It doesn’t sound like all that difficult of a job…”

I’m not going to lie – those things do happen in kindergarten, and they happen every single day. To the untrained eye a kindergarten classroom must resemble a disorganized battlefield of crumbs, legos, puzzle pieces, paint, books, doll limbs, and wounded soldiers. But I think it’s important to set the record straight that those kindergarten activities happen on a daily basis for purposeful reasons, and that the inner workings of a kindergarten classroom is totally normal chaos.

We sing songs because using rhythm, rhyme, and tune helps young children remember important information, like the letters of the alphabet and other foundations of literacy. We eat snacks because kindergarten brains are going through one of the greatest periods of growth a human will experience outside of the womb, and all of that growing needs a lot of fuel.

We read stories because children learn how to predict, feel empathy, identify with others, connect, explore, deal with life’s difficult moments, and imagine through picture books – all very valuable tools that we use throughout the rest of our lives. We play because young children create friendships, experience emotions like anger and jealousy and how to handle those emotions effectively, act out different roles, problem solve, and learn that the job gets done quicker when we share responsibility. Play helps set the foundation for healthy social interactions with peers as we get older.

We finger paint because exploring through touch helps create connections between sensory information and the brain, and because with a limited vocabulary art is one of the earliest tools children use to express themselves after graduating from temper tantrums. Not to mention that the feeling of paint squishing between your fingers is surprisingly satisfying.

Yes, we have a lot of fun in kindergarten; but our day is also organized to provide children with the greatest opportunities for learning delivered in the most effective ways. Kindergarten exists in it’s own world within a school – it has it’s own rules, it’s own schedule, and a very delicate balance that not everybody can understand. If you ever have a chance to be accepted into a kindergarten classroom, you will see that it is a world full of wonder, whimsy, innovation, imagination, curiosity, love, exploration, fun, tough lessons, and teamwork. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it will surely give you a renewed sense of appreciation for just how special our world is. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go have some cookies and a nap…