Category Archives: celebrating teachers

Teachers go to the Academy Awards

I (Clare) was watching the Academy Award last night and I was struck by the image_academy_award_trophynumber of winners who thanked their teachers. I recently had an unusual experience. My nephew ran into a former student teacher of mine from 20 years ago and they started talking and somehow made the connection. The former student teacher said that I had had a profound
impact on him. Huh! So teachers and teacher educators you never know the difference you are making. You may be thanked at the Academy Awards. We make a difference often in ways we do not see or know.

Year 13 of Our Longitudinal Study of Teachers

Clare and I (Clive) and our wonderful research team are now in year 13 of our longitudinal study of 40 teachers, 20 of whom began teaching in 2004 and 20 in 2007. Every year we interview them and, wherever possible, observe them in their classroomClive Becks. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) continues to provide funding for the project and will do so for at least another 2 years. We are now gearing up for the 2017 interviews beginning in late April.
Of the original 45 teachers, 3 have left the study and 2 have dropped out of teaching, a remarkable retention rate. As the years mount, interest in the study grows. Four of five proposals based on the study for the 2017 AERA Conference in San Antonio were accepted for presentation. We were also asked to write a chapter on Longitudinal Study of Teachers for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education, to appear this year. For their part, the teachers continue to show resilience despite the increasing challenges of teaching (which they tell us about), including: larger class sizes, reduced special education support, increased standardized testing of students, and top-down control of teachers’ practices.

Based on the study, perhaps the biggest problem we see in education today is this ill-conceived, top-down monitoring of students and teachers, which does very little good and a great deal of harm, and ignores the steadily developing expertise of teachers – which again our study reveals. We can only hope that governments and school systems soon begin to realize the harm they are doing. Meanwhile, we work to encourage teachers to look for the many opportunities for decision-making and professionalism that still remain in school classrooms.

Brilliant Statement on Public Education by Canadian Teachers’ Organizations


The Presidents of 21 Canadian Teachers’ organizations – national, provincial, and territorial – have released a belief statement and call to action developed at their May 29-June 1, 2016 Meeting. The statement arose out of “overwhelming concerns about education reform, inclusive education, austerity budgets and teachers’ mental health and wellness.”

otf-brandmark-en-CA Receiving the statement courtesy of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, I (Clive) was truly blown away by it. It is brief, to the point, and timely, and ties in with so much of what researchers and practitioners around the world are concluding about teaching and schooling today.

The five-point Belief Statement is as follows:

  1. Austerity budgets undermine the strength of our public education system as students and their teachers lose out, and families are left out.
  2. Publicly funded public education must be fully funded to support student learning.
  3. A successful inclusive education model requires sufficient funding and teachers/educators to ensure student needs are addressed.
  4. Assessment of students is best left to the professional judgment of teachers.
  5. Fiscal deficits must not be solved at the expense of the public education system or on the backs of our children.

The Call to Action calls on governments across Canada to take immediate action to address the above concerns.

Some may argue that public funds are becoming scarcer today and everyone must cut back. However, assessment of students by teachers rather than by standardized tests (point 4) would save a lot of money and make schooling more effective: less time would be spent on test preparation. As for the adequate funding of public education, in the long run that pays for itself in terms of student success, economic productivity, societal well-being, and teacher retention and effectiveness.

A major reason for the past and present success of Canadian schooling – as seen in its solid PISA rankings – has been the relatively high status and funding of teaching in Canada. This has helped attract able people to the profession and keep them there. It is incredibly important not to erode this advantage. Let’s stand with the teachers’ organizations as they pursue this line of action.


JICS: Outstanding Laboratory School of the Year Award

As many of the readers of this blog know, I (Clare) am the Director of the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (JICS). It is an amazing place — Lab school, teacher education program, ICSand research centre. The Lab school has been given the Outstanding Laboratory School of the Year Award. A HUGE HUGE HUGE congratulations to our teachers and leadership team. I have looked at the list of lab schools in the association and there are some mighty prestigious schools in the group. And for our school to be given this award is truly an outstanding accomplishment.
Below is the press release done by the OISE Communications Team
OISE/UofT’s Laboratory School Named World’s Best in 2016

The International Association of Laboratory Schools (IALS) has named the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (JICS) winner of the 2016 Outstanding Laboratory School Award.

Richard Messina, JICS principal, will accept the award in Puerto Rico on April 27, 2016, at the International Association of Laboratory Schools annual conference.

“The JICS school community is very excited about this award. It recognizes the hard work and creativity of our teachers, the involvement of our parents, and the guidance we receive from our scholars,” noted Messina.

Watch JICS in action: Password: kidscodingfinal

The Jackman ICS lab school, part of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and University of Toronto, is widely known for its innovative and integrated approach to applying the latest research evidence to ensuring leading edge teaching and learning.

A leader in education, the keys to its success are the partnerships among and between students, teachers, parents, and world-class professors from OISE and the University of Toronto.

For more information about the Outstanding Laboratory School of the Year Award, please visit:
For more on the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute for Child Study, please see attached for background details, or visit:

Media Contact Information:

Richard Messina, Principal, JICS: or 416-629-1018
Chriss Bogert, Vice-Principal, JICS: or 416-702-1093
Lindsey Craig, Media Relations Coordinator: or 416-458-2136

International Literacy Association

The International Literacy Association (ILA) has its annual Conference coming up in Boston in July. An inspiring organization that works to build global capacity in the area of literacy, pre-service and experienced teachers alike have much to gain from learning about ILA and attending the conference.

Check out the website for more information and be inspired!

I am inspired by the advocacy piece:

From local issues to global issues ILA provides resources for professional development.

Check it out!



You think you know what teachers do. Right? Wrong.

I (Clare) was sent this article from a friend and it truly captures the complexity of teaching and the misconceptions about teaching. All parent, politicians, and journalists should have to read it. A shout out to all teachers! Here is the link to the article from the Washington Post:

By Valerie Strauss February 22, 2014


You went to school so you think you know what teachers do, right? You are wrong. Here’s a piece explaining all of this from Sarah Blaine, a mom, former teacher and full-time practicing attorney in New Jersey who writes at her parentingthecore blog, where this first appeared.

By Sarah Blaine

We all know what teachers do, right? After all, we were all students. Each one of us, each product of public education, we each sat through class after class for thirteen years. We encountered dozens of teachers. We had our kindergarten teachers and our first grade teachers and our fifth grade teachers and our gym teachers and our art teachers and our music teachers. We had our science teachers and our social studies teachers and our English teachers and our math teachers. If we were lucky, we might even have had our Latin teachers or our Spanish teachers or our physics teachers or our psychology teachers. Heck, I even had a seventh grade “Communications Skills” teacher. We had our guidance counselors and our principals and some of us had our special education teachers and our study hall monitors.

So we know teachers. We get teachers. We know what happens in classrooms, and we know what teachers do. We know which teachers are effective, we know which teachers left lasting impressions, we know which teachers changed our lives, and we know which teachers sucked.

We know. We know which teachers changed lives for the better. We know which teachers changed lives for the worse.

Teaching as a profession has no mystery. It has no mystique. It has no respect.

We were students, and therefore we know teachers. We denigrate teachers. We criticize teachers. We can do better than teachers. After all: We do. They teach.

We are wrong.

We need to honor teachers. We need to respect teachers. We need to listen to teachers. We need to stop reducing teachers to arbitrary measurements of student growth on so-called objective exams.

Most of all, we need to stop thinking that we know anything about teaching merely by virtue of having once been students.

We don’t know.

I spent a little over a year earning a master of arts in teaching degree. Then I spent two years teaching English Language Arts in a rural public high school. And I learned that my 13 years as a public school student, my 4 years as a college student at a highly selective college, and even a great deal of my year as a master’s degree student in the education school of a flagship public university hadn’t taught me how to manage a classroom, how to reach students, how to inspire a love of learning, how to teach. Eighteen years as a student (and a year of preschool before that), and I didn’t know anything about teaching. Only years of practicing my skills and honing my skills would have rendered me a true professional. An expert. Someone who knows about the business of inspiring children. Of reaching students. Of making a difference. Of teaching.

I didn’t stay. I copped out. I left. I went home to suburban New Jersey, and a year later I enrolled in law school.

I passed the bar. I began to practice law at a prestigious large law firm. Three years as a law student had no more prepared me for the practice of law than 18 years of experience as a student had previously prepared me to teach. But even in my first year as a practicing attorney, I earned five times what a first-year teacher made in the district where I’d taught.

I worked hard in my first year of practicing law. But I didn’t work five times harder than I’d worked in my first year of teaching. In fact, I didn’t work any harder. Maybe I worked a little less.

But I continued to practice. I continued to learn. Nine years after my law school graduation, I think I have some idea of how to litigate a case. But I am not a perfect lawyer. There is still more I could learn, more I could do, better legal instincts I could develop over time. I could hone my strategic sense. I could do better, be better. Learn more law. Learn more procedure. But law is a practice, law is a profession. Lawyers are expected to evolve over the course of their careers. Lawyers are given more responsibility as they earn it.

New teachers take on full responsibility the day they set foot in their first classrooms.

The people I encounter out in the world now respect me as a lawyer, as a professional, in part because the vast majority of them have absolutely no idea what I really do.

All of you former students who are not teachers and not lawyers, you have no more idea of what it is to teach than you do of what it is to practice law.

All of you former students: you did not design curricula, plan lessons, attend faculty meetings, assess papers, design rubrics, create exams, prepare report cards, and monitor attendance. You did not tutor students, review rough drafts, and create study questions. You did not assign homework. You did not write daily lesson objectives on the white board. You did not write poems of the week on the white board. You did not write homework on the white board. You did not learn to write legibly on the white board while simultaneously making sure that none of your students threw a chair out a window.

You did not design lessons that succeeded. You did not design lessons that failed.

You did not learn to keep your students quiet during lock down drills.

You did not learn that your 15-year-old students were pregnant from their answers to vocabulary quizzes. You did not learn how to teach functionally illiterate high school students to appreciate Shakespeare. You did not design lessons to teach students close reading skills by starting with the lyrics to pop songs. You did not miserably fail your honors level students at least in part because you had no books to give them. You did not struggle to teach your students how to develop a thesis for their essays, and bask in the joy of having taught a successful lesson, of having gotten through to them, even for five minutes. You did not struggle with trying to make SAT-level vocabulary relevant to students who did not have a single college in their county. You did not laugh — because you so desperately wanted to cry — when you read some of the absurdities on their final exams. You did not struggle to reach students who proudly announced that they only came to school so that their mom’s food stamps didn’t get reduced.

You did not spend all of New Years’ Day crying five years after you’d left the classroom because you reviewed The New York Times’ graphic of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and learned that one of your very favorite students had been killed in Iraq two years before. And you didn’t know. Because you copped out and left. So you cried, helplessly, and the next day you returned to the practice of law.

You did not. And you don’t know. You observed. Maybe you learned. But you didn’t teach.

The problem with teaching as a profession is that every single adult citizen of this country thinks that they know what teachers do. And they don’t. So they prescribe solutions, and they develop public policy, and they editorialize, and they politicize. And they don’t listen to those who do know. Those who could teach. The teachers.


5 More Years for Our Longitudinal Study of Teachers

In mid-December, I (Clive) received a nice holiday gift: word came that we had ethical approval from the University of Toronto to continue our longitudinal study of teachers for another 5 years (news of the extended funding by SSHRC came earlier). This is not a “high risk” study, but it is always a relief when the approval comes. We can now look forward to following the first cohort of 20 participants into their 16th year of teaching and the second cohort, also of 20, into their 13th year. This is a welcome development, as a longitudinal study obviously becomes more significant as the years pass.

Clive BeckThis study, co-directed by Clare Kosnik (who also directs her SSHRC study of 28 teacher educators) – and involving a wonderful team of researchers – began in 2004 with 22 new teachers; the second cohort of 23 was added in 2007. Over the years, 3 participants have left the study but are still teaching, while another 2 have left teaching and hence the study; so the total is now 40. This is an unusually high retention rate both for teaching and for a longitudinal study.

It is likely the high retention is due in part to the teachers’ participation in the study itself, which they often tell us is very beneficial to them; sometimes they say it is the most useful PD they experience all year! This is a limitation of the study, since it means they are a relatively motivated group (although it is not something we could have avoided). However, it is interesting that teachers would find it so helpful to have someone listen to their experiences and views about teaching for an hour of so once a year. Perhaps it is a form of “PD” that should be used more often, as an alternative to top-down lectures by “experts” on how to teach!


Teacher Researcher Group Celebration

I (Clare) was approached by Rosemary Evans, the principal of University of Toronto School IMG_0885IMG_0873(UTS), to assist with forming a teacher research group. Rosemary had received funding for the Eureka Fellowship program from Newton Foundation to start a teacher researcher group. Clare happily accepted Rosemary’s invitation then invited  current and former doctoral student (Pooja, Elizabeth, and Shelley) to co-facilitate because they had much to offer and the team approach would model collaboration. .Over the next two years we met on a monthly basis for approximately two hours. IMG_0879

The teacher researchers presented their findings last week and it was one of the most IMG_0867special moments of my professional life. The teachers did an amazing job presenting their research. Their research was high quality and it informed their practiceWe plan to turn their reports into an ebook. Here is a list of the projects that the teachers completed: IMG_0874


  • An Examination of Admission Profiles and Early Student Success at UTS by Garth Chalmers –
  • Exploring the Use of the Fort McMoney Documentary-Game in Grade 9 Geography Classrooms by Mike Farley
  • Using Digital Tools in the Guidance Classroom by Catherine Wachter
  • Maximum City by Josh Fullan
  •  Integrative Thinking in a Classroom Setting by Christopher Federico
  • Self-study of My Work as a Vice Principal by Heather Henricks
  • Reflections on Being a Member of the Eureka Fellowship Program – Amy Parradine
  • Reflections on the Eureka Fellowship Program for Teacher Researchers Clare Kosnik, Pooja Dharamshi, and Shelley Murphy
  • Final Thoughts – Susan French


Secret Teacher

The Guardian has an ongoing column titled Secret Teacher. It is a series of blogs by anonymous teacher-insiders revealing what really goes on in schools. This week the anonymous contributor wrote a short yet powerful piece on returning to the classroom after years in administration and remembering how tough  teaching is. An excerpt from the essay on the contributor’s move from admin back into the classroom:

I was certain that my move would buy me more time; no more endless piles of admin, no more mind-numbing meetings until 7pm, no more grim governors’ reports to write, no more dour disciplinary panels to attend. But I had forgotten that the windows in the ivory tower are obscured by pot plants so tall that you can’t see the stressed faces of the teachers as they race past. If you do chance to look up from your paperwork, your rose-tinted glasses made their lives look quite romantic. Oh, how the students adored them! How much fun they had together in their teams! I remembered those days …

I had forgotten that my multitudinous leadership tasks were generously accommodated by my timetable. Yes, I had a lot to do, but I was given a lot of time to do it. How did I forget that it’s impossible to plan adequate lessons in five non-contact periods a week? How did I forget that as I reluctantly sat in meetings, angry that I had failed to see any daylight for the majority of winter, my main-scale colleagues were marking and planning in their classrooms or at their dining tables? How did I think that I had it harder than them?

To read this essay or others from the Secret Teacher series, click here:

Happy Teachers’ Day

I (Clare) know that many of the readers of our blog are teachers — whether in primary/secondary schools or in phone1higher education. October 5th is World Teachers’ Day. I found the articles below which I thought I would share with you.
Happy Teachers’ Day!

IMG_0038October 5 is World Teachers’ Day, a global opportunity to show appreciation for the meaningful roles teachers play in our education and lives. Celebrate World Teachers’ Day by finding an event near you (or creating your own!), sending an e-card to an inspirational teacher in your life, or sharing pictures, stories, or links with the hashtag #worldteachersday on social media. Thanks to all the educators who have inspired us and who continue to enrich the world by sparking their students’ passion for learning. For more celebratory stories, read on!
I found this inspirational letter to a teacher which I want to share with you.

To Those Who Give It Their All on a Daily Basis:
Let me start by saying thank you. Thank you for showing up each and every day, not just on holidays, and giving it your all. You are magnificent and deserve a moment to celebrate YOU.
Being a teacher, particularly a teacher of reading, means sharing so much of yourself in addition to your knowledge of strategies, letter sounds, and authors. As teachers of reading, you help breathe life and joy into books during a time in education when learning can too often and too quickly become rote and lifeless. You celebrate student success and embrace their frustrations, pushing them gently to overcome obstacles that feel insurmountable in the moment. You constantly doubt yourself, wondering if you are doing enough, planning enough, reaching your students enough. But it is that doubt and self-reflection that makes you a better and stronger teacher who is able to give it your all.
You give it your all in terms of your instruction, and you also consistently give of yourself. You share your reading life and preferences with your students. You share your students’ favorite authors and books as well as their struggles when encountering an unfamiliar and challenging text. Being a teacher of reading does not just mean giving students access to instructional best practices, it means giving students some insight into who you are as a reader, a teacher, and a person.
All too often, I hear “rigorous practice” separated from discussions of “fun” activities. Yet so many of you strive every day to reconnect “fun” with “rigor” by coming up with new ways to engage your students with difficult concepts and texts. This type of instructional savvy doesn’t just happen, nor is it inherent in every curriculum. It comes from teachers who give it their all, just like our friend Pete the Cat.
So know that at least one person out there knows how hard your job is and how much of yourself you give to your students every day.
Happy Holidays!
Mrs. Mimi
Mrs. Mimi is a pseudonymous teacher who taught both first and second grades at a public elementary school in New York City. She’s the author of IT’S NOT ALL FLOWERS AND SAUSAGES: MY ADVENTURES IN SECOND GRADE, which sprung from her popular blog of the same name. Mimi also has her doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

For more info on World Teachers’ Day check out the UNESCO site: UNESCO