How can we spark discussion? (Poetry in Secondary School)

Yesterday I was fortunate to be called out to work at a secondary school for an English teacher. I taught two blocks on English 11 and two blocks of English 10. The format was the same with each class, SSR, read aloud poems, discuss, individual work time for assignments. My favourite part about the whole day was teaching the same lesson twice in a row – it gave me the opportunity to tweak my approach a little bit with the second group and also boosted my confidence or sparked ideas on how to encourage more student engagement.

I encouraged students to read the poetry aloud to the class, but only two brave souls volunteered out of all four classes. This left me to read the peoms aloud, which is actually a bit nerve-racking. Being in the class and watching students creative ideas flow onto paper inspired me to try my own hand at writing some poetry, which I may sharehere in the future! I used to love reading and writing poetry, but life always seems to get in the way. It is a great perk of teaching to be reminded of some great forms of art and expression and become inspired by works created by students.

The main difficulty for me yesterday was sparking a lively poetry discussion with each class. Two out of the four classes contributed well and responded to the Think Pair Share activity. As a result I  was able to facilitate some intriguing group discussion. However, the other two classes left me feeling stranded. What are your thoughts? How can we,  as teacher’s on call, make sure  each student has an equal opportunity to learn the material well and engage with the material on more than a surface level? Does anyone have any ideas or tricks to start converstations and more in depth analyses?

Mrs. L

A 21st Century Assembly

Last week was a bustling week back to the grind. I worked a .4 day at an elementary school and a 1.0 a middle school in Coquitlam and worked a 1.0 day at an elementary school in Maple Ridge. It was great to be back to a couple of familar schools because I knew what to expect and it was equally fantastic to experience a new school for the first time.

One of the elementary schools has a fabulous assembly routine followed by group aerobics lead by the intermediate students. Looking back I remember dreading assemblies for all the boring conventions of announcements etc. To my surprise and happiness this assembly much different. To begin the principal came on and gave an update about Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (which we, the Canucks won) and allowed the crowd of students and teachers to share in the excitment of such a big win by cheering! It was interactive, included class demonstrations of student work, a science club demonstration with student volunteers, music, and a slide show of the students from the previous month – a great way to keep students engaged and showcase student work! The aerobics after the assembly is a great way to release engery after students have been sitting for such a long time and all of the teachers at Hammond were involved and enouraging students in the aerobics exercises!! So fun to be a part of 🙂

In between working I was getting my home back in order after my accident.

What I Learned:

Events at schools are continuously evolving. Don’t be afraid to try new approaches to learning, teaching, or hosting an assembly. Remember it is about the students – that’s why we are here!!

Mrs. L

A Mini-Me Update – Go Canucks Go!!!


I have been neglecting my blog, but for a good reason. I was in a car accident a couple of weeks ago and I have been trying to get my life back in order. Everyone was able to walk away from the accident but our poor truck is still in shambles and awaiting its destiny upon the approval of repairs or not from ICBC. I am also still waiting for liability clarification. I believe it was not my actions that caused the accident but the other driver has also made this same claim – it has become a battle of “she said” versus “she said” – thank goodness for wonderful witnesses who will sometimes take the time to stop and take the time to make a statement. I am just back to work this week and so far things are going well. I do find driving painful and scary at times as I am not much more paranoid on the road after my first accident. I start physio next week and I have to start swimming – my busy life just got a little more busy. I hope to be healed soon for summer activities with my son so I am going to be diligent about my stretching, strengthening and exercising.

My life did not flash before my eyes when we were about to crash, but the colour purple did … I am not sure what that means exactly. I will tell you one thing for sure – this accident sure put my life into perspective. It also put a new angle on how I perceive my life as well. It started new and powerful questions surging through my consciousness. What do I really want out of my life? Am I living up to my full potential? If I died tomorrow what would I be leaving behind? If I died tomorrow, would I be happy with my life? What can I do to be more consistently happy in my present life? Will I ever feel safe again? These are all pretty serious questions and questions that merit the time to ponder and potentially answer. Answering these questions in turn could change my life course … Have you asked yourself these questions?

Man the Canucks game had me on the edge of my seat – Round 2 here we come. I can only begin to imagine how many people will be watching tonight. It will be the first game Logan will be awake to watch a bit the game!! During game 7 I couldn’t contain my excitement and I almost woke up our littlest Canuck. He managed to sleep through my screeches of joy and dismay 🙂

That’s all for the mini update on my life. I will post again soon about my experiences as a TOC first week back after my accident.


Mrs. L

“Faces of Learning” – Website that Shares Important Learning Experiences

Faces of Learning LOGO

Faces of Learning LOGO

I read about a great website called Faces of Learning from a great resource Larry Ferlazzo. It is a fabulous place where students can write to an audience in answer to question prompts. One such question they must answer is powerful and indeed an important one: “What was your most powerful personal experience in a learning community – regardless of whether that experience took place inside or outside of school?” Students and educators must register for the site or they can login with their Facebook ID. Another important question of exploration is, “What does an ideal learning environment look like?” I believe the answer to this question is mutable and constantly shifting and is completely dependent on the current classroom community; however, looking at other student and teacher experiences can aid in helping to create a more supportive learning environment. Click on the links in the Cloud Tags on the left hand side of the pages of this website to view some real life stories!

Students can share about how they learn best and specific experiences in their learning community. Teachers can learn more about individual learners and how to best reshape the classroom environment to suite our students and children of the 21st century.

Mrs. L.

A TOC in 2 Districts (Maple Ridge and Coquitlam)

Just when I thought no one was really reading my blog I had a couple of people inform me that they have been following my posts. I then felt guilty because I haven’t been posting often. So here is another post about something that can happen during your TOC experience. I have been posting mostly positive or funny experiences because I don’t want to make myself look like a person that complains all the time; however, there are instances, that are less than positive, that I think are worth discussing or blogging about so that my adventures are presented as reality and not as some perfect fantasy TOC world!!

I recently got hired onto the Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows school district as a teacher on call. I am now working in two districts! This may seem like the dream because I should be working every day now, but, sadly, I am not. This week (the first week after Spring Break for Coquitlam and the second week back for Maple Ridge) I have only worked two and a half days (2 full days and an afternoon (.4)) in Maple  Ridge/Pitt Meadows. I did not get one call from Coquitlam this week. I am a bit confused but also thankful that I worked at all because I just started in Maple Ridge Monday April 28th. Thank you Maple Ridge.

I will be working in Coquitlam next week because I have had a request from a middle school that I work at often. They have called me to work from Tuesday to Friday in the mornings (.6). I am blessed to have worked so many times at this school. Their requests have literally helped me pay for my son’s daycare 🙂  So Thank You.

When working as an on call teacher it does take awhile to get used to the rotation schedule … all par for the course I guess 🙂

Does anyone know if working in two districts will affect your rotation or status in one of the districts!? (Off the record, is this frowned upon?)

When you set out to be a T.O.C. ask a lot of questions – especially at your orientation. I didn’t because I was so thrilled to be hired that I was naive to the reality of being a TOC and did not ask the important questions. How does the rotation system work for the the automated disbatch system? If you refuse a call out does this affect your position in the rotation? If you get hired by another district does this affect your rotation (because I feel this may have been a possible reason for not getting a call from Coquitlam this week)? How can you apply for contract teaching positions so you can work toward reaching the quota of 10 months of contract work before finally getting your very own classroom? (There are more, I am sure, that I will add as I experience them myself in my journey)

When you set out to be a T.O.C. highlight your abilities – If you really feel you are an elementary teacher, don’t be afraid teach Secondary if you have a teachable major. Usually (remember I said usually not always or often!!) Secondary classes are quite easy to manage (especially if you get to teach the senior grades) and teachers leave projects and work for students to do individually. I was terrified at first when TOCing at the Secondary level but after a few test runs I am okay. Of course I still get the TOC jitters, but that just means I care enough to be a bit nervous. Also, if you are good with computers offer to teach computers or tech education or business education – I have been called out three times for tech related TOC opportunities. If you are an avid reader and catch onto systems quickly offer to teach or TOC for the librarian. Even if you aren’t trained as a PE teacher but have played numerous sports are athletic and believe you can manage your class in a more relaxed atmosphere then offer to teach PE.

Thats all for now!

Yours in Learning,

Mrs. L

I got Fooled … Happy April 1st – Polleverywhere

So forgetting that today is April first I allowed my husband to trick my gullible or, let’s say, trusting self. It was harmless if you think that getting your spouses hopes up and them crushing them is a harmless thing to do – its a little worse than the confetti in lockers some students are prepping this morning at a secondary school!! I have recovered after a couple of hours. Beware it is the day of fools today 🙂

My first week teaching in Maple Ridge, I believe, has been a success!! I have taught Monday, half day Tuesday, Thursday, and first day in a high school today Friday. The staff in Maple Ridge have been welcoming and friendly

Yesterday I got introduced to a new tech tool (well new to me) – … It is amazing – you can create various types of polls for free and collect data or answers from students while integrating the use of their cell phones in a educational manner. I tested it out on one of the grade 12 classes and it is a concise way to collect data even from simple questions: “What are you doing to fool people on April 1st?” Most students replied telling people I am moving away. One student gave an inappropriate answer, but if you tell students they have to include their names (as necessary to the poll working) then the responses are not anonymous. This was a great way for me, as a TOC, to connect to the students in our tech-savvy world.

Mrs. L.


Today was my first official day as a TOC in the Maple Ridge School District! WooHoo! First, I have to say that I love the hours (8:30 to 2:10 officially) because it gives me some time to do an errand or two before picking up my son! Second I have to say that I threw my checklist out the door today because I was not in a typical classroom – I was the computer teacher/librarian for the day. It was yet another fantastic way to meet many classes and teachers within one school. This is not to say the morning was particularly smooth.

We have switched my son’s daycare to Coquitlam because we were supposed to move there; however, our move went south and we stayed in Pitt Meadows. So I had to drive Logan to daycare in the morning. His daycare opens at 7:30am – this does not give me much time to get back to Pitt Meadows for 7:45am so I can prep for my morning classes at a school that I have never been to before. With the traffic gods on my side I made it with time to spare (the third car in the parking lot!!).

Wall Keyboard in the new and improved Apple Lab!!

Wall Keyboard in the new and improved Apple Lab!!

So what is a computer room without a key to turn on the power?? … I engaged the students in a think-pair-share discussion about the current events in Japan and then turned my attention to the key hunt. It took many staff members looking for an obscure key about 15 minutes into the first block to finally find the key hanging about knee height behind the teacher’s desk. I grabbed the key off of the thumb tack where it was hanging in a lonely fashion and rushed it to the switch. I put it in and click … BUZZZZZ. The sound of electricity was music to my ears and relief to my quick beating heart.  The rest of the day went smoothly as I got to work with students from Kindergarten to Grade 7. I started off each block with a simple getting to know you activity during attendance. This allowed me to make immediate connections with some students in the class. I believe these connections make me, as a teacher, more approachable and more trustworthy (these are two important factors, especially for TOCs).

One cool program that I thought you might like to know about is called TuxType. It is a fun way students can learn how to use the keyboard.  (Tux4Kids also has a Tux Paint and a Tux Math program that you can download). I think it is a fun way for people of all ages to learn how to type and its Free!!

What I Learned:

  • You can never EVER be prepared for everything.
  • It is worth your weight in gold to be able to ride the waves of teaching surprises.
  • Taking the time to connect with students at the beginning of your time with them can make a major difference in classroom management for the rest of the day/block. Something as simple as sharing one or two interesting things about themselves or something they love during attendance can make students feel important in the eyes of a new teacher. It also opens doors for the teacher to make more personal connections with students if there is a commonality in likes or dislikes. Today, I had two different students from two different classes directly state that they really liked this simple activity.

Mrs. L

General Elementary TOC Checklist (for the sometimes forgetful teacher)

Admittedly, I have lately run into some forgetful mistakes when TOCing at new schools. This has happened twice where I have needed a reminder to hand in the afternoon attendance at the elementary school level. I have decided over the past few days that a checklist would not only prevent this from ever happening again but it would also improve efficiency and ensure minimal levels of forgetfulness. There is so much to remember when you are a TOC (especially a beginner) and sometimes your days are not filled with easy schedules. Some days you may have to organize and lead an afternoon field trip or you will have unruly students who pull your attention elsewhere. Or you may even have some really great moments that also beg for your attention. We all know that divided attention is not efficient or effective so mistakes will inevitably happen. I have put together a general “TOC Checklist” for the Elementary school level which I will laminate and reuse each day I am teaching at this level. I hope that by referring to this checklist I will have “backed up” my memory. Feel free to comment and add some suggestions to either remove or add anything to this checklist as I believe that out of collaboration we can create masterpieces of educational art 🙂

Mrs. L

Elementary TOC Checklist

Elementary TOC Checklist

St. Patrick’s Day @ an Elementary School

Little Green Friend on a Mushroom

Little Green Friend on a Mushroom

This morning at 5:35am I received a call from CADS to teach at an elementary school. I was a floater of sorts. It was a fabulous day full of fabulous students and welcoming staff members. I have to say the Secretary at this school was the most welcoming and friendly I have met so far in my journeys as a TOC. I had luck to work on St. Patrick’s day and be a part of the fun school activities (dancing, class skits, art projects, and more). Also, being a floater does have its advantages (you get to meet many teachers and make many more connections). This day couldn’t really get much better other than the fact that I get to go back tomorrow!! WooHoo!

I got the privaledge of working with a few classes and one performed their samba music for my lucky ears! Click below to hear a clip of musical talent (some of the instruments played were home made!).

Teacher X’s Grade 4 Samba Music

Tomorrow I work with the VP’s Friday grade 3 class and we are doing more fun projects (newspaper strong vs. tall structures, dance practice, and school performance).

Thanks for having me and I hope to be back again soon. Have a fabulous Spring Break and I hope there is gold at the end of your rainbows!

Mrs. L

Ice Skating Field Trip w/ a TOC … What!?? Oh, and a Shout Out to the 80s

Okay so I really don’t know how else to explain this day but “funtastic” exhaustion!

I arrived quite early to an elementary school to teach grade 5. This was my first time to this small but, I found shortly after my arrival, quite enthusiastic school. Today was a day where forms were due!! All teachers know, and many TOCs are soon to know, the terrors of collecting multiple permission forms and money, while simultaneously organizing for a fieldtrip (parent volunteers, checklists, first aid kits, walking routes, umbrellas, gear, etc.). This is just one of the many expected multi-tasking non-teaching jobs that teachers sign up for when they become classroom teachers.

Our morning was to be quite lovely Language Arts and Art (80s Art (grafitti) for their 80s inspired musical concert) – I LOVE the 80s

I "Heart" the 80s

I "Heart" the 80s

This picture is another project the students did around the 80s theme. Our morning, however, turned into Spelling Quiz, reading and writing responses, and line-up prep for the concert next week. WOW!!! It was a crazy task trying to quietly organize an almost-entire elementary school onto a performance stage. We only had half an hour for art – which a teacher then suggested students stay in for lunch to work on their projects because they had to be ready for the following week. No break for me – but I didn’t mind supervising the students while jamming to 80s tunes!! I felt relaxed in a semi-stressed environment. Then we went ice-skating: Try to keep track of 25 unfamiliar faces while skating for the first time in 10 years and maintaining some sense of dignity and sanity!!! Well, with the support of 4 wonderful parent volunteers I survived!!!

Until next time 🙂

Mrs. L