Monday, 6 October 2014

Manitoba Provincial Report Card Pressure

“...teachers indicated that, on occasion, they had to phone in sick in order to complete their report cards on time and they acknowledged that others did so as well.”[i] In 2010 the Manitoba government announced the development of a provincial report card that would standardize assessment reporting across the province using both a parent-friendly format and plain language.[ii] While provisions were put in place to gain meaningful feedback from teachers, parents, and administrators before the mandatory implementation in the fall of 2013, an unstandardized execution has left many Manitoba teachers feeling the pressure.

In a 2014 survey conducted by the Manitoba Teachers’ Society sixty-five percent, of a total eight-hundred survey participants, shared that they spent more than ten hours writing detailed comments for the new Provincial Report Card and forty-two percent shared that they prepare report cards for more than one-hundred students.[iii] Furthermore, “too many job demands” topped the list of sources of stress for Manitoba teachers; up four percent, to sixteen, since 2004.[iv] I argue that a mandate like the Provincial Report Card needs to be implemented effectively and efficiently in a manner that allows assessment reporting to shift towards a more standardized template while providing educators with sufficient support to allow a continuous transition.

When introducing the Provincial Report Card mandate school divisions were forced to address the logistics of appropriate training, the technology utilized to generate their gradebooks, and continued support for staff, among other matters. Sufficient training, however, appears different depending on which school division or even which school a teacher works in. According to the survey mentioned previously, completed by the Manitoba Teacher’s Society, only thirty-nine percent of teachers received division-wide training from a Manitoba Education representative and sixteen percent of teachers received no training at all.[v] The remaining fifty-five percent received training in various formats including sessions hosted by their administration and independent-training from Manitoba Education support documents.[vi] When addressing technology the issue is not any more standardized as school divisions across the province are using software such as Edline, Power School, and Maplewood, or developing their own personalized systems to develop their gradebooks. As each platform offers its own unique formatting options and features, divisions have been forced to work independently to support the various glitches that can occur with any technology system. With the shear amount of time the reporting process can take, teachers have felt pressured to do multiple-copies of their documents to work around some of the programming problems, “I have had the program freeze mid-reporting. Crash and delete all my records and then have to re-write all my reports (I’ve since been writing them in Word and saving the file – just in case).”[vii] With one year of mandatory implementation under their belts, teachers and divisions are still seeking continued support as the November report card period is on the horizon.

As a new teacher, who entered into the profession in the same year as the introduction of the Provincial Report Cards, I have felt the frustrations of insufficient training and unreliable technology. Is Maplewood transferring my records onto the report card correctly? Should I spend the extra time writing and saving my records in a word document incase the program crashes? Is this comment appropriate and free of any superlatives? What about my next eighty comments? While the template of the Provincial Report Card is standardized the uniformity has stopped there and, unfortunately, this leaves teachers and divisions to address how to meet the unique needs of their situation.

[i] Dr. David Dibbon. (2004). “It’s About Time – A Report on the Impact of Workload on Teachers and Students”. Page 18. Available online at:
[ii] Manitoba Education. (2010). “News Release: Premier Unveils Innovative Changes To Report Cards, In-Service Days”. Available online at:
[iii] Judy Edmund- Manitoba Teachers’ Society. (2013). “Wild Cards: Many Teachers Feel Lost In The Shuffle”. The Manitoba Teacher. Canada. Volume 92. Number 7. Pages 13-14. Available online at:
[iv] Judy Edmund- Manitoba Teachers’ Society. (2013). “Stress Tops Class Size Concern”. The Manitoba Teacher. Canada. Volume 92. Number 4. Page 7. Available online at:
[v] Judy Edmund- Manitoba Teachers’ Society. (2013). “Wild Cards: Many Teachers Feel Lost In The Shuffle”. The Manitoba Teacher. Canada. Volume 92. Number 7. Page 12. Available online at:
[vi] lbid.
[vii] Judy Edmund- Manitoba Teachers’ Society. (2013). “Wild Cards: Many Teachers Feel Lost In The Shuffle”. The Manitoba Teacher. Canada. Volume 92. Number 7. Page 13. Available online at:

Monday, 22 September 2014

Flip Your Clothes Pin!

This summer I came across this pin while scrolling through Pinterest:

keeping track of who hands in work, clothes pins to track student work
See who handed in work. (Accessed 2014). Pinned to Teacher Life Hacks by Teacher Created Material. Available online at:
     I actually had my homeroom Grade 8s last year when they were in Grade 7 Science and even though it was only one class I feel like I got to know them quite well. Specifically.... their habit of misplacing their work and/or forgetting to hand-it in!

     While I realize it doesn't take much time to flip through my hand-in box and see what is there, we were often busy and I'd have students walk out without realizing they didn't hand-in their work. I loved the visual aspect of this and modified it somewhat to work with the hand-in box system I already had in place.

keeping track of who hands in work, clothes pins to track student work

     Viola! I made two sets of clothes pins (one for my homeroom and one for another class) that hang on ribbon lengths directly beside our hand-in box. When a student hands an item in they flip their clothes pin over so their name isn't showing and I can see with a quick glance who hasn't handed-in their work!

     It did take about a week to get my students into a routine but we are now using the system seamlessly. For a few of my students it has actually helped them become more organized because they know I will ask at the end of each class... EVERY time (no more slipping through the cracks!). For the others, it helps me keep track of them and lets me know who might need extra help to get things finished.

     What do you use to keep track of student work? 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Have You Checked Out ManACE!?

     Today I spent my first day out of the classroom attending the annual planning meeting for ManACE (Manitoba Association for Computing Educators)

Manitoba Association for Computing Educators

Being that I am almost 4 hours out of the city I don't get to attend many meetings in person so it was awesome to catch-up with those that I only see once or twice a year! Furthermore, we are welcoming four new members to our board so I am adding new contacts to my circle :)

Here are some of the awesome things you want to know about!

1 ) SAGE Sessions
- ManACE is the only SAGE group to offer PD opportunities
  across the province rather than centralized in Winnipeg or
  Brandon! In fact, this year we are offering sessions in:
     - Winnipeg
     - Warren
     - Oakbank
     - Decker Colony School
     - Lorette
     - Swan River
     - Portage la Prairie
- Check out the any of the 17 session descriptions here or
   register for a session here

2 ) SEED Grants
- Every year ManACE offers up eight grants of $900 to promote
  ICT Literacy in Manitoba schools. These grants can go towards
  hardware, software, professional development, etc and are 
  available for early years, middle years, senior years, and admin
- This year's SEED Grant applications will be available in November!
- Check out our webpage to read over information from last year
  to get you thinking!
3 ) How to FOLLOW Us
- Website
- Instagram @manacemb
- Twitter @manace_manitoba

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Welcoming a New Set of Grade 8's to the Blogging World!!

     Today my Grade 8 Science class joined the blogging world with the official 2014-2015 launch of Mrs. T's Classroom! This blog is one that I actually started last year with my Grade 8 homeroom, who ended up blogging regularly for their science class as well as featuring a weekly "Mathlete Friday" post.

     This year we are maintaining our online presence at Mrs. T's Classroom as opposed to starting all over again with a new domain. Some of my students have already been checking out last year's posts and are excited about the potential of competing for page-view statistics!

     We will be using their blog to:
- Share their learning with an authentic audience
- Catch up on lessons that were missed due to absences
- Review lessons to get a better understanding
- Connect with other classrooms around the world
- Integrate multimedia of all descriptions 
  (text, images, videos, podcasts)
- Practice responsible digital citizenship
- Receive feedback on their thoughts

     To celebrate we had a full-out Launch Party complete with whole-school announcements, a count-down to our first post, a visit from our school secretary, and pizza! I was also pleasantly surprised to be visited by the Grade 9's who were already waiting to post comments on this year's posts. It was so awesome to see them interested in the project and volunteering to take on some leadership positions to help get this year's Grade 8's started.

blog launch, grade 8 science blog, Mrs's T's Classroom, student blog
A heated "Rock-Paper-Scissors" competition over who got
to be the first official blogger!
blog launch, grade 8 science blog, Mrs's T's Classroom, student blog
A group shot to commemorate the event
     I have a very diverse group this year so I am excited about incorporating more multi-media options on our blog compared to last year. I can't wait for my students to share their learning with a broader audience and get a chance to make a larger impact!

     If you are reading this post, please head over to their blog, read their updated "About Us" page, and comment on their first post; I want them to realize the audience they have!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Classroom Reveal!

     During the last week of school in June our school began major renovations which included redoing the exterior walls of an entire wing of our building, some roofing restructuring, and a brand-new science lab/classroom. While everyone in our building was (and still is) excited about these upgrades, the construction may continue all the way until January. Understandably, this is creating a lot of inconveniences as we all adjust to new classrooms, half-finished classrooms, unavailable resources, loud noises, etc.

     Amidst all of the craziness, however, I was surprisingly able to keep my classroom! I am so thankful that I didn't have to pack-up and move to a whole new area. The science lab construction is directly beside me, which makes for some loud days, but I am very fortunate compared to some of our teachers.

     With that being said, here are the official pictures of my room for the 2014-2015 school year! While I've maintained a lot of the basic themes and ideas from last year, I feel more organized this year after experiencing the routines of a classroom:

View looking in from the door!
Last year I had to seat enough for 30 students but
this year I only have to accommodate 20; I love how
much more room there is!!
My Math Area at the back of the room.
For a close up of my "Do You Think Like a Mathematician"
posters and a free download, check out my classroom revealpost from last year!
The Student Supply area in the back-west corner of the room.
The bookcase against the wall houses our Mental Math, Interactive
Notebooks, textbooks (hidden behind the black curtain), and will eventually
include student binders. The other shelf holds our microwave for lunches,
paper, and general supplies. (see close-ups below!)

Bookcase close-up
General Supply close-up.
View of the west wall of my room. I added the curtains as an
accent this year and made them out of plastic tablecloths and duct-tape!
The Chill-Out Area!
This year I was able to add a beautiful carpet depicting the
seven teachings! I love how the colours through the carpet and
my posters tie the room together.
The front of my room.
This year I added the numberline along the top of the whiteboard.
The News Area section of my whiteboard. Each class has their
own area but I've also housed the master Interactive Notebooks
for each math class to keep track of.
I also got a new filing cabinet so I'm no longer holding supplies under
Information Central!
This area holds all of my teaching resources since I got rid
of my desk last year. The top of the counter holds our hand-in box,
my out-box, and an area for extra photo-copies.
Our Tech Area!
This area is used for our blogging projects and is where the
hook-ups for the SMART Board are.
     While not a lot of large-scale changes occurred this year, I am loving my classroom and feel way more prepared this year!

     Wishing all the teachers out there an awesome back-to-school start!

Monday, 1 September 2014

September Currently

    If you haven't encountered a "Currently" post before, it is just a fun post at the beginning of each month that serves as a way to share what is Currently going on in your life! You can link up and share your own "Currently" post by visiting the wonderful Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Aboriginal Education & Universal Design for Learning - Chapter 7 of U.D.L

   To help us work towards our school goal of purposefully implementing the Universal Design for Learning approach to our formal planning (sometimes referred to as "Backwards by Design", "Understanding by Design", or "Planning With The End in Mind), my principal has provided our staff with a copy of Dr. Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. As I make my way through the book, I will be summarizing my learning as a means of organizing my thoughts and getting clarification on particular ideas.

Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis
Teaching to Diversity Cover. (Accessed 2014). Uploaded to Amazon; Portage& Main Press. 
Available online at:

- Non-aboriginal teachers often feel nervous and unqualified when
  it comes to teaching about aboriginal culture

Challenges to Social and Academic Inclusion
- History of Racism
     - Once Canada became a country, education was divided into two
        1 ) Status Indians had their education regulated by the federal gov.
        2 ) Non-status/Inuit/Metis were under the provincial gov.
     - After several years of inadequate programming, with little focus
       on academics or cultural integration, the Indian Control for
       Indian Education asked for:
       1 ) Local community control
       2 ) More First Nations teachers
       3 ) Creation of relevant curricula & resources for F.N students
       4 ) Instruction in F.N languages & culture
     - Suicide among F.N use is higher than those of other backgrounds
- Underfunding & Dehumanization
     - Funding is regularly lower for F.N communities than others
     - Many times issues jump between the federal and provincial
       governments and things fall through the cracks
- System Does Not Reflect Aboriginal Experience
     - Most on-reserve teachers are not from a First Nations background
     - Teachers should make education a priority for themselves and
       acknowledge their lack of background
- Lack of Awareness & Misunderstanding
     - Students coming from reserve schools often have large gaps due
        to lack of educational environments & are placed in exclusive
        learning spaces

Opportunities for Social & Academic Inclusion
- Elders recognized that every person could contribute to society in
  some way

Connecting Block Three: Systems & Structures
- All provinces & territories have policies in place in regards to
  Aboriginal perspective and education
- Teachers have to hold the bar high & challenge students to
  meet the high expectations we see them to be capable of
- Some Aboriginal teachers do not have a memory of a compassionate
  teacher to model themselves off of

Connecting Block Two: Instructional Practice
- All students need to learn about F.N culture
- Each province/territory has educational resources and supports to
  assist in this if you do not know where or how to start

Connecting Block One: Social & Emotional Learning
- Model respect with all students and families
- The Medicine Wheel
- The Seven Teachings