Monthly Archives: June 2015

Happy Canada Day!

Tomorrow Canada turns 148 years old! We are a relatively young country but have plenty to be proud of. Below are some super interesting facts about Canada (as of 2013). Wishing all my fellow Canadians a relaxing, FUN, and warm Canada Day!



Happy Pride Weekend

This is pride weekend in Toronto. There are a huge number of activities – runs, parades, dinners …. Toronto has truly embraced pride weekend with upwards of 1,000,000 people attending the parade. My (Clare) friend Linda Kooluris Dobbs is an amazing artist and photographer. She is truly a remarkable person: Linda Dobbs

A native of New Jersey now living more than half her life in Canada, Linda has done extensive work in both painting and photography. She has had many solo exhibitions and has been featured in national and international publications. Her portraits, landscapes, still lifes, limited edition prints and photographs are found in corporate and private collections worldwide.

Check out her website at:

She sent me the photo below. Happy Pride weekend Toronto.

Iage_Rainbow Colors-koolurisdobbs-15 (1)

A Message to Graduates:  Choose Love or Choose Fear

I (Cathy) was deeply moved by a key note address presented at Maharishi University in Iowa that was captured on Youtube (link below).  The convocation address was delivered by funny man Jim Carey who, quite unexpectedly, revealed a rarely witnessed serious and profound side of his personality. During the speech, Carey unveiled a compelling 20 foot-high painting that he claimed took him thousands of hours to complete.  He said he was “weeks and weeks alone on the scaffolding” painting the picture. The painting depicted the metaphoric players in our lives (and in our minds) that drag us down or keep us from reaching our dreams (e.g. misery, the party host, the clinger).  Carey told the graduates that “painting is one of the ways I free myself from concern.  A way to stop the world through total mental, physical, and spiritual involvement.”

Beyond the painting, Carey’s words were also stirring.  Carey stated:

“As far as I can tell it’s about letting the universe know what you want and working towards it while letting go of how it comes to pass. Your job is not to figure out how it’s gonna happen for you, but to open the door in your head and when the door opens in real life, just walk through it.  And don’t worry if you miss your cue, because there are always doors opening.  They keep opening. And when I say life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you, I don’t really know if that’s true.  I’m just making a conscious choice to perceive challenges as something beneficial, so that I can deal with them in the most productive way.”

Cary concluded the speech by challenging the students to choose between fear or love to guide them in their life choices when they left the auditorium.

Thank you, Jim Carey.

Teacher Educators’ Perspectives

At AERA this past year, Division K dramatically changed their Business Meeting. Rather than do “administrivia” they used the time to get feedback from teacher educators. In the Division K Summer Newsletter they reported on the feedback. I have copied and pasted some of the report below and included one chart on the most warranted criticisms of teacher educators. Here is the link to the newsletter so that you can read the entire report which provides good feedback for teacher educators. DivKSummer2015-1 Thanks Lin Goodwin our Division K Vice President for moving the discussion forward.

Teacher Educators Talk By: Roxanne Greitz Miller

Division K Program Co-Chair

Chapman University

At our Division K business meeting, we took things to the next level on last year’s theme – Not Business As Usual – and embarked on some original research with the members in

attendance as well additional ones who responded after the meeting electronically. Prior to the meeting, the following questions were posed by our Vice President, Lin Goodwin, as points to consider:

 Of the many criticisms leveled against university-based teacher education/teacher

educators, which do you feel is most warranted?

 Of the many criticisms leveled against university-based teacher education/teacher

educators, which do you feel is least warranted?

 What is one thing you think we should do to address the negative perceptions of university-based teacher education/teacher educators?

During our meeting, attended by 269 people (thank you!), members considered these questions and were able to enter their open ended responses via electronic polling, using either URL or QR code. After the meeting, the URL was distributed to the entire Division K membership for additional participation, and it was posted to our social media links as well. Polls were left open for a week after AERA, and, once closed, the open-ended responses were categorized into common themes and tabulated.

Most warranted criticisms of TE, poll results


“Tech isn’t a shortcut”


An article in Time Magazine makes an interesting case for why iPads should be left out of the classroom. Author Jervey Tervalon from Los Angeles argues that his school district (and perhaps several others) after spending millions “saw the iPad as a magic talisman that could just about transplant knowledge into students’ brains directly, bypassing teachers.” Through classroom teaching experience, Tervalon understands that “teaching isn’t always efficient. Often it’s messy, and because it’s messy, the process can produce epiphanies, and sparks of creative thinking.”

Tervalon warns that technology isn’t a shortcut to major educational reforms:

“An iPad is an amazing device but it isn’t so amazing without content or the right pedagogical context. School reform isn’t expensive tech and high-stakes testing; it’s the incredibly difficult task of creating highly functioning, transformative educational communities.

Link to the article:

FDK update: A note of thanks

And so, this week marks the last week of school for my Sylvia Clare. For those who have read my (Yiola) FDK blog posts you may recall that this year my daughter, Sylvia Clare, attended school for the very first time. As a four year I could only imagine what thoughts and ideas ran through her mind as she entered the big institution of schooling.

Here is an image of Sylvia Clare on her very first day:

1st day of school
1st day of school.  The teacher purposefully crouches to be at the same level as the child — smiles and gentle demeanour go a long way in the early years classroom.

This little human being, with only four years experience in the world, ventured alone into an unfamiliar place with strangers for full day school. How grand is that expectation? I imagine in the mind of my Sylvia Clare it was a significant challenge. And yet, from the first day there was calm and there was success. What is success you ask? From my (a parent’s) perspective it is this: a child who is confident and competent in her environment;  a child who is provided opportunities to play, explore, inquire and make decisions about their own learning; and success is when a child is able to manage her day in ways that are comfortable, productive, and enjoyable. This is what full day learning in Junior Kindergarten (JK) means to me. Through this, I have witnessed Sylvia Clare develop skills: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and of course literacy skills.

When Sylvia Clare began JK she could not spell her name, she was just learning her ABCs and 123s, and there was no experience with print. Reading was one dimensional, where mommy or daddy read to her. Somehow, by the end of JK, things now are quite different.

The following example sums up just how much Sylvia Clare has changed. The other other day she stumbled across some of my old school supplies from back when I was a teacher. She helped herself to a journal book and immersed herself in activity.  Independently, this is what she produced:


While I was thrilled to see that YES Sylvia Clare understands the beginnings of language, how to write, how to spell, how to produce a sentence, how to tell a story!!!  This experience told me so much more about my daughter as a learner: the initiative, confidence, risk, and desire “to do” were even more thrilling for me to witness.

From this simple experience I see the work that has gone into bringing Sylvia Clare to this point. I wish to tell her teachers this:

Thank you for fostering a learning environment that is safe, secure and open for exploration.

Thank you for encouraging Sylvia Clare to speak and to be heard.

Thank you for fostering friendships and encouraging inclusive play in the classroom and the playground.

Thank you for modelling respect and kindness and expecting that from all children in your school.

Thank you for teaching phonemic awareness and for providing direct instruction.

Thank you for listening to Sylvia Clare’s stories about “Old Man’s Lake” and asking her questions.

Thank you for encouraging her sense of invention and creation (I have more cereal boxes than I know what to do with!)

Thank you for using your smart board in ways that enhance students’ awareness of technology and literacy.

Thank you for developing fun games that helped her develop her literacy and numeracy awareness.

Thank you for encouraging Sylvia Clare to sound out words and to try reading books on her own.

Thank you for instilling a love of reading.

Thank you for teaching in ways that are so transparent that Sylvia Clare is able to come home and tell me exactly what she did in school. In fact, she clearly instructs me on what I need to do to have her prepared for the next day!

Thank you for fostering a love and care for the environment. We will be sure to visit “Woody” (the tree) in our local forest.

Thank you for the consistent routines and systematic communication with parents.

Thank you for celebrating my child and every child in the class.

Thank you for caring so deeply about my Sylvia Clare.  Your care is evident in her development.

Thank you for working with me to ensure Sylvia Clare is happy, secure, confident, and learning.

You see, teaching literacy is not only about teaching phonics or repetitive worksheets as the proven way to acquire language… or whether direct instruction is proven to increase awareness… without the thoughtful consideration and doing of all of the above, that is the “teaching of children”, something is missing in learning development.

And so here we are, the final week of JK.  It has been a remarkable year for Sylvia Clare.

Here is Sylvia Clare during her last week of school with her teachers:

Last week of school
Last week of school- standing tall, Sylvia Clare feels comfortable in hear learning environment.

In the image immediately above, I see comfort and trust. I see calm and happiness. I see a readiness to enjoy a day filled with learning. In my teacher education classes I work hard to share with student teachers the nuances of teachers’ work in order to understand that these elements of school are not innate or simply exist. These elements are crafted with thoughtful consideration on the part of teachers. Our research on literacy teacher educators and on  classroom teachers over the years demonstrates these nuances well.

This post present one story, of one child, in her early years schooling experience. It is not the experience of every child. It is, in my opinion, an exemplary experience because of the teachers. We know from research that teachers’ work is the leading factor of student achievement: what teachers plan, do, say, and develop within a classroom often dictates how children experience school and learn.  Sylvia Clare’s teachers are an incredible team — and we also know from the research on early years classrooms that the relationship between the teams of teachers is paramount to the success of the program.  Teachers, partnerships, pedagogy, and content all come together to form a young child’s experience.

In my final FDK blog post, I want to say, Thank You teachers for bringing all of the above together, for making Sylvia Clare’s (and my) first year of schooling such a wonderful experience. Wishing all teachers and parents and children a wonderful and safe summer holiday.

Women in Science Speak Out- Using Humor

As my (Cathy’s) daughter is a research scientist and director of a private laboratory, the recent sexist comments by Nobel Prize-winning British scientist, Sir Tim Hunt, was quite a topic of discussion in our home.  Hunt, a biochemist who was a joint recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize made the offensive remarks while speaking at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea.  Hunt stated that mixed gender laboratories are “trouble” and “”you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry”.  According to the BBC, Hunt later apologized for his comments during a phone interview, but then went on to say:

“I did mean the part about having trouble with girls … I have fallen in love with people in the lab and people in the lab have fallen in love with me and it’s very disruptive to the science.”

Hunt’s “retraction” only led to a much stronger public response and initiated his resignation from his honorary post at University College London.  The social media frenzy that followed, particularly through twitter was intriguing.  Female scientists from around the world spearheaded an ironic Twitter campaign to mock Sir Tim Hunt’s sexist comments about the need for single-sex laboratories.  For example, Allison Sekuler, AVP & Dean Grad Studies and Prof of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour @ McMaster University tweeted:

Can’t do any science today because – like all women – I’m too busy making #TimHunt fall in love with me and crying …

Archaeologists, biochemists and mathematicians starting posting “distracting ” photographs of themselves at work:



And male scientists demonstrated solidarity by posting new signs in their labs:



It was satisfying for me to see women in science not only display a strong voice, but be able to maintain a sense of humor.  This sense of humor will bode us well as we move forward in our crusade to combat sexism and other forms of oppression in the work place and in education.



Favourite Quotes from Literature

spring-flowers-wallpaperflower-wallpaper-background-hd-desktop-widescreenFor my book club I (Clare) had to find some special literary quotes. Huh! Yes that is how I felt too. Well anyway I went searching on the internet and found a few sites that had collections of quotes (organized a zillion different ways – authors, themes …). I know this was cheating (sort of) but the quotes I picked were from authors and books I have read. Here they are:

·      Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights)

·      There is a sense in which we are all each other’s consequences. Wallace Stegner

·      For poems are like rainbows: they escape you quickly. Langston Hughes

·      It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that. J. K. Rowling

·      Let the wild rumpus start. Maurice Sendak

·      Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering. Nicole Krause (The History of Love)

Creating “Legible” Cities

In preparing for the 2015 PanAm games, Toronto is installing new signage to make the city an easier place to navigate. A wayfinding approach is being used which is defined on Wikipedia as: “ the ways in which people and animals orient themselves in physical space and navigate from place to place.” In addition to traditional maps, the wayfinding strategy uses multimodal approaches to make a city more “legible.” Landmarks, new media, public art, and street furniture are examples of ways the wayfinding strategy uses multimodalities. The project is currently being piloted in 21 locations around the Toronto.

Below are examples of Wayfinding signage in cities:

Interactive signage up currently up in Toronto, Canada
Interactive signage up currently up in Toronto, Canada
Wayfinding public furniture in a London, U.K. shopping centre.

Brent Raymond, a partner at the design firm responsible for the new signage, commented on in the Globe and Mail on the wayfinding approach:

“It isn’t just about signs. It’s about helping people navigate space. The best examples are always places like airports. People who aren’t familiar with a place at all, they need to be able to find information quickly and feel confident about their environment.”

Read more about this approach to city living here: